TIFF Bell Lightbox Goes ‘Back to the ’80s’ For Upcoming Saturday Matinee Film Series

A scene from 'The Dark Crystal'. Courtesy Sony Home Entertainment.

A scene from 'The Dark Crystal'. Courtesy Sony Home Entertainment.

I knew Todd Brown from the popular movie site Twitch was working on a series for the TIFF Bell Lightbox when we chatted back in the summer after a roundtable interview with Eli Roth we were both participants in. Todd is an interesting guy, and his knowledge of cinema is astounding, especially when it comes to horror, cult, and foreign films. So when he informed me the series was going to be movies from the ’80s, and that it would be directed towards families and kids, I was a bit shocked and thought he might be bluffing. Turns out he wasn’t, as the Lightbox announced the Todd Brown curated ‘Back to the ’80s‘ Saturday matinee series this week.

Kicking off February 5 and running until April 2, the series has quite a selection of wonderful films lined up, including Back to the Future, The Goonies, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, Gremlins, Krull, The Last Starfighter, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, The Princess Bride, and Monster Squad. The final film has not been announced yet as they are still working on securing it, but from the list of titles released I see myself spending more time at the Lightbox the next few months with my family.

Criticize This! spoke with Todd about the series and how he got involved with the Lightbox. Read our Q&A below.

Criticize This!: What prompted the Back to the ’80s film series?

Todd Brown: The short answer is my son. He’s nine now and just before his last birthday I showed him The Goonies for the first time. His brain melted so I showed him Gremlins, too. Same result. And seeing how excited he was by these really drove home to me what a special era this was for kids films and how this is really a dead genre now. Kids films are much more processed and safe now than they were then. Did you know Gremlins triggered changes to the MPAA ratings system? The PG-13 exists because of Gremlins! Can you imagine a kids film these days triggering that kind of shock? It’d never be allowed.

CT!: Was it difficult getting the Lightbox to see your vision and allow you to run with it?

TB: No, not at all. the Lightbox people actually initially approached me and asked if I had any ideas. This was the first one I suggested and they jumped on it immediately. These films are incredibly beloved by my generation, they’re the films that turned all of us into film geeks. So it wasn’t hard, no.

CT!: Did you have any rules around your selection process?

TB: Only the ones I imposed on myself, really, and those were pretty loose. I set a time frame and, as friends made suggestions, kind of narrowed down my concept of what I felt fit. You’ll notice there’s only one film in the entire series that does not feature a child protagonist, that’s intentional. As is the lack of parents. I think you can make an interesting subtextual argument from these films about a few things that were going on in the ’80s…

CT!: Were you conscious about appealing to the regular Lightbox audience as well as families and the average moviegoer?

TB: Nope. I chose the films that I would want to see if I were paying for a ticket. Simple as that.

CT!: Any films you wanted to include that you couldn’t?

TB: Yes, but not for any political reasons, it’s purely a matter of print availability. I submitted a prioritized list of fifteen as a starting point and the TIFF print people have been going through in order trying to source prints. I shouldn’t really say what else is on there, though, because I don’t know yet what the tenth title is actually going to be.

CT!: Have you seen the prints you’ll be playing? How do they compare to the DVD or Blu-ray releases?

TB: No, but we’ve looked for the best possible quality. Back To The Future is screening from a restored digital DCP copy, so it’ll be exactly what was used to master the Blu-ray. I believe the rest are 35mm. I imagine the prints will have a certain amount of grain and wear but so do my memories of the films so that’s fine by me.

CT!: No mention of any special guests. Did you reach out to anyone or did you want it to be about the films only?

TB: This program has been about the films only. If we were to expand into other areas my goal would be to actually use some of these films to bring school groups in and teach the kids a bit about basic media literacy.

CT!: What’s your favourite movie memory from your childhood?

TB: That’s tough. My earliest movie memory is of my uncle taking me to the theater to watch the original Christopher Reeves Superman. I would have been five when it released, so he would have been in his late teens. I don’t remember a thing about the actual screening but I very clearly remember the feeling of just being in awe of how big it all was.

CT!: Are you working on any other projects with the Lightbox?

TB: Yep. I’ve pitched three other concepts to them and it looks like two are going to go for sure. One will be late 2011 and is probably destined for the Cinematheque programming, though it’ll be an unusually geeky Cinematheque experience. I have a frightening amount of work to do for that, still, it’s big and complex and international and I have an awful lot of screeners I still need to chase down and watch. The other one will be a summer thing, either 2011 or 2012, and will be big, brawny and gleefully stupid.

For more info on the Back to the ’80s series, visit tiff.net. To read articles by Todd Brown, visit twitchfilm.net.

Brian McKechnie

About Brian McKechnie

Brian McKechnie is the founder and editor of Criticize This! Email him at brian@criticizethis.ca.