Screening: Popcorn Taxi And Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Interview: Chris Murray)

In 1982 I was 7 years old and had seen Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, as it is now officially called, 3 times at the cinema. It was pre-DVD/Blu-ray, and video was just in its infancy. At that time you had to wait around 3 or 4 years for a major blockbuster to make its debut on TV, which would usually arrive around Christmas time and eclipse the normal festive period celebrations themselves. The excitement of watching a film of this kind was as exciting as getting that Millenium Falcon that I always wanted. With the advent of home viewing, some may say that cinema attendance is in decline and this reviewer, being an avid film buff, will often stay at home and plunder new or old treasures from my DVD collection, snuggle up on the sofa and have a nice cup of tea. It’s not that I don’t want to go anymore, it’s just that I am more selective in what I see and I reckon by the time I travel to my local cinema, watch the previews and then come back home, I could have enjoyed watching 2 films. There is something to be said about seeing a film on the big screen though, and enjoying it with the audience. There’s certain energy in the room, that no matter how much technology advances, cannot be replicated. And therefore it was an absolute pleasure to watch the first outing of the world’s premiere adventurer in glorious widescreen with a remastered print and sound mix in glorious HD.

Ben Burt’s sound design has never sounded better with the rolling boulder thundering through an abandoned temple, countless arrows flying through the air, the old-school gun shots, and of course the classic Wilhelm scream. But it’s the accentuation of dialogue from minor character Col. Musgrove (Don Fellows) delivered to Dr Jones near the beginning of the film that I revelled in:

“Tanis development proceeding. Acquire headpiece, Staff of Ra. Abner Ravenwood, US.”

There was something about those few lines and their delivery that I will always strangely remember. It basically sets up the premise of the whole film. Search for the headpiece and you will find the Ark. Genius.

The highlight of the evening (or for me personally) has to be that fly entering the mouth of Paul Freeman, not CGI or by any means planned. No one would have picked it up on the camera monitors of the 80s but now it adds an extra unintentional element of humour to a somewhat tense scene. If Lucas decides to re-release the film in 3D then I’ll be there to further my enhancement of this truly exceptional moment in modern cinema.

There really isn’t much else to say about this film that hasn’t already been said in hundreds of articles and other reviews. Needless to say, if you haven’t yet, Indiana Jones – The Complete Adventures is available to buy on Blu-ray now from Paramount.

Afterwards there was a live Q&A by the hugely entertaining and affable John Rhys-Davies who played Sallah in both this film and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The delightful 75-minute foray into his insights on working on the film and the film business was pure gold. Amongst the discussion was: his upbringing in East Africa, nearly being killed whilst filming King Solomon’s Mines, Shakespeare (which included a recital on stage), ponderings on the universe, what he thought about the premise of ET, turning down a cameo for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and advice to women about varicose veins. You simply had to be there!

Amongst the myriad of retro screenings that are in Sydney at present (which is no bad thing), Popcorn Taxi is the most engaging in that audiences can meet the filmmakers and actors like our guest Mr Davies and get an insight into the films that they have just seen for the first time or watch them again for the umpteenth time. Popcorn Taxi Creative Director, Chris Murray, being the film aficionado that he is, refers to the film at tonight’s screening at the Randwick Ritz by its original moniker, Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s clearly a big fan of the movies having also launched and edited the internationally respected movie magazine, Empire, for Emap Australia. Music Feeds caught up with him to chat about Popcorn Taxi.

Music Feeds: Popcorn Taxi has been on the go since 1999. How did the idea come about?

Chirs Murray: Huge quantities of alcohol and ignorance, I imagine…

MF: I get the ‘Popcorn’ part of the name but can you explain the ‘Taxi’ element?

CM: Not wanting to shatter the ideals of our name to our fans, but I will say this: it’s always about the journey…not the destination.

MF: You used to host the Events at Event Cinema in Bondi Junction. Why the move to Randwick Ritz?

CM: We haven’t moved anywhere, yet we move all the time. Horses for courses. We’ve actually had an event in just about every cinema in town at some point or another, but the Ritz keep bribing us with kindness and flexibility, so I fear we’ll be there quite a few times more. It’s really about seats and having enough for the event we have at any given time. The Ritz has 800, a bar, and a really good vibe.

MF: How many events do you programme a year?

CM: As many as we can! We’d do one every night if we could, it’s in the hands of the gods whether our outlandish plans come to fruition.

MF: Do you approach the distributors about obtaining a film for a screening or do they come to you?

CM: Both. As well as direct to the talent. No rules.

MF: If you heard that a name actor/director/crew member was going to be in Sydney, would you approach distributors with a suggestion that whilst they are in town, perhaps they could screen one of their films and that guest could do a Q&A?

CM: Of course, that’s how we had the late great Dennis Hopper. Jerry Lewis was another, however, we were lucky he remembered me from an interview some 10 years earlier.

MF: Name some of the best guests you’ve ever had and why. For me personally it was Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with Paul. That was worth the admission price alone, and it was for charity!

CM: Rob Zombie – A gentleman with many stories; 
Jerry Lewis – It’s Jerry Fucking Lewis;
 Andre Williams – Just a goddamn living legend who didn’t disappoint.
 Quentin Tarantino – All he wanted was a case of VB; The Cast and Crew of Mad Max – THAT was a night!; Eddie Izzard – A true human and a funny bugger after a few drinks; Anvil – They broke my heart, really sweet guys.; Ray Winstone – A diamond geezer; and Jason Schwartzman – His favourite musician is Ringo Starr, says it all really.

There’s really too many. But truly the best, Danny Boyle, easily the nicest guy alive in the film business today. He’s like a lost relative.

MF: And some that have maybe not turned out so good!

CM: Bryan Singer. Seriously, he needs to invest some money into personality training and pull that champagne cork out of his ass.

MF: What has it been like winning the prestigious ‘Byron Kennedy Award’ for excellence and innovation in the Australian film industry at the 2000 AFI Awards? That’s some mean kudos!

CM: Gary Doust (Popcorn founder) won that sucker. Best you ask him, I’m sure he was very proud, and rightly so.

MF: Do you see the format changing in the foreseeable future for the event or is it a case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’? For example, would you have a dedicated autograph session after a Q&A for the fans? Would you do a specific event whereby people pay a nominal fee and watch an exclusive event online and have the chance to participate during it or afterwards? Perhaps in the similar vain of the recent The Lord of the Rings Live Online Event that took place on 8th September, albeit with live cast and crew!

CM: I will never, NEVER, charge people for another’s penmanship. I find that a disgusting pastime that is parasitic and demeaning to those who accept. If someone gives you an autograph, it’s a gesture, not a transaction. Rob Zombie happily signed posters, books, boobs and all manner of stuff for about an hour after his Q&A, whereas Jerry Lewis bolted out the door. It’s always up to the talent and I like to leave it that way. As for other ‘event’ style stuff, trust me, we have many plans afoot!

MF: Would you ever consider running a weeklong festival/event of some kind? For example over 6 evenings we could watch the Star Wars saga on the big screen and have a different guest for each screening.

CM: Sure, but it would really have to have a significant point of difference to the cliché. Again it depends on the environment and the access we can get to talent. That’s really what we’re about.

MF: Any plans to expand the format to run in other areas such as the UK?

CM: The short answer is yes.

And with that and my personal vow to see more films on the big screen and chat to some of those filmmakers, I peruse the Popcorn Taxi website. Confirmed guests for future events include Killing Them Softly with Andrew Dominik and A Fantastic Fear of Everything with Simon Pegg. Chris also tells me to look out for a special screening of Mad Max 2 and a few other guests, including Karl Urban and Oliver Stone in the not too distant future.

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