Traditions were made to be broken: and eagle-eyed readers of this site may have realised by now that I broke a couple of them last Christmas. For one thing, there hasn't been an article about VidBinge 2010, because there wasn't a VidBinge - it proved too difficult to get enough of Spank's Pals in one place at the same time last December. For another, I still haven't got around to writing about what The Belated Birthday Girl and I did over the festive season, mainly because I've been too rushed off my feet to get the words together. (Short answer? We stayed at home. We made ourselves a rather lovely stuffed pumpkin as illustrated with some nutty Brussels and roasties on the side, watched a series of carefully-chosen thematically-linked double-bills, and had a very nice time all round. There, that's 2000 words you don't have to plough through now.)
But our big Easter tradition has evolved slowly over the last decade, and is proving more difficult to shake off.
2002 – The Happiness Of The Katakuris, Cinema Image Forum, Tokyo
Our first Easter coincided with the first of our Japan holidays. Although Easter Sunday that year was most notable for the Bad Manners gig we attended that evening, earlier in the day we'd tracked down the latest piece of Takashi Miike wrongness. Without subtitles, naturally, because we are hardcore. Katakuris has already been reviewed on this site on three separate occasions, so I'm damned if I'm going to tell you what I thought of it again. But at this stage, it wasn't a deliberate plan to see a film on Easter Sunday: and although Miike frequently shoots in and around Tokyo, Katakuris has more of a rural setting anyway.
2003 – Fat Pizza, George St Cinema, Sydney
I've discussed this piece of crap before, when I covered our Australian adventure. Just to pick up on one point I mentioned back when we saw it: I talked about "a surprisingly abrupt ending that's either a piece of post-Godardian anti-narrative genius or a cockup by the projectionist." I ended up importing Fat Pizza when it came out on DVD several months later, just so I could find out: and, for those of you who've been waiting eight years for the answer, the projectionist had simply turned off the film twenty seconds too early, thus losing what turned out to be just one more lame punchline in a movie that was already crammed with them. Still, at least I ended up getting entertaining hate mail from a Fat Pizza fan ("ur website is shit, reminds me of an art gallery full of old people unknowingly wasting their lives drinking scotch"), which was retarded enough to make the whole experience worthwhile.
2004 – Brighton Rock, Joogleberry Playhouse, Brighton
This, if we're honest, is where the tradition started properly. I couldn't have told you till I looked it up just now that Fat Pizza was shot in and around Sydney: but it's pretty obvious where Brighton Rock was filmed, and this was a special Easter Sunday screening held to celebrate that. The Joogleberry Playhouse was a sweet little cabaret venue which served a Sunday roast in its upstairs restaurant area, and then opened up its downstairs bar so they could show Richard Attenborough's naughtiness via a DVD projector. Sadly, the venue isn't there any more, but it looks like the people behind it are still organising events, which can only be a good thing.
2005 – Trainspotting, Rick’s Hotel, Edinburgh
So up until now, we've been at the mercy of whatever films have been showing in the local cinemas. The next stage was to select our own films. So, when we spent a rainy Easter in Edinburgh, in a hotel where each room came with its own DVD player, there seemed to be only one course of action open to us: go to Princes Street, pass the branch of John Menzies that Renton nicks stuff from in the opening scene of Trainspotting, buy a copy of the film from the nearby HMV, and then go back to the hotel to watch it while using their tea and coffee making facilities. They do say that heroin's a bit moreish, but Tunnock's Caramel Wafers must run it a close second, surely?
2006 – Alien Autopsy, Stratford Picture House, Stratford-upon-Avon
This, unfortunately, is the year where the plan didn't really happen. To be fair, cinema wasn't our prime focus this Easter: it was the year when the RSC was attempting productions of every Shakespeare play, and we'd already planned Romeo & Juliet and Antony & Cleopatra for that weekend (with more to follow later in the season). With all that theatre on offer, we hadn't really got around to planning a Stratford-set movie: to be honest, they're rather thin on the ground, although apparently this year's Gnomeo & Juliet is set there if we ever need to try this again. Anyway, we were stuck with whatever was on at the cinema at the time, and this was it. It was theoretically Ant & Dec's bid for international stardom, but the only thing I can remember about it now was what a terrible actor Jimmy Carr is, a fact that 10 O'Clock Live nowadays seems to be intent on proving twice weekly.
2007 – The Third Man, Burg Kino, Vienna
Slightly safer ground here, I think you'll find. As I mentioned back when we saw it, The Third Man is such an integral part of Vienna culture that the Burg Kino cinema regularly shows it a couple of times a week. We'd spent the morning at the Prater, and even got to ride on That Ferris Wheel just a couple of hours before watching Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten trading lines on it in the film. Four years later, they're still showing it four or five times a week, and it's a lovely cinema to catch it in.
2008 – The Italian Job, Malmaison, Oxford
Obviously, this whole thing about "seeing a film in the place where it was made" requires a degree of flexibility in the interpretation of the word "place". This one has to be the closest we've ever come, though. You know the prison scenes in The Italian Job, with Noel Coward doing his remote plotting and all that? They were filmed at Oxford Castle. You know Oxford Castle? Parts of it's been converted into a Malmaison hotel, and we were staying there. We watched the film in our hotel room, and just after seeing Coward walking down the prison stairs to a terrace chant of "ENGLAND! ENGLAND!", we could stick our heads out of the door and actually see those stairs.
2009 – Performance & Notting Hill, Electric Cinema, London
Yes, you're right: this is probably the most unsuitable double bill of films ever constructed, with only a West London location in common. Which is presumably why West London's prettiest cinema chose it for their Easter Sunday double bill that year. Surprisingly, it's not an area of town we tend to visit very much - after this particular screening, our next visit was two years later to see Duncan Jones talking about Source Code. (He's very enlightening when it comes to the ending, by the way. Anyone who tells you it's a soppy romantic copout is an idiot who hasn't been paying attention, or possibly an actual psychopath.) Anyway, it made for a very nice Sunday afternoon - brunch at the Electric Brasserie next door, and then Sixties Freakout plus Nineties Slop back to back.
2010 – Danny The Dog, Premier Inn, Glasgow
This one was a bit of a struggle, to be fair. We'd spent the weekend with the lovely people at Mugen Taiko Dojo for another two day session of banging the crap out of things. By six o'clock on Sunday night it was all over, and we'd booked a cheap night at a Glasgow Premier Inn so we didn't need to make the journey back to London till Monday. Posh fish supper at Gamba, and then back to the hotel for our movie - and we'd had to dig around like hell to find a suitable Glasgow film. We ended up with one of Luc Besson's interchangeable action movies: this is the one with Jet Li working as a human attack dog for gangster Bob Hoskins, set in a totally anonymous city populated with citizens of no fixed accent. They do everything possible to hide the fact that it was actually filmed in Glasgow, but there are enough clues here and there if you're looking out for them. (Depending on where your DVD comes from, it might be titled either Danny The Dog or Unleashed: ours came from Hong Kong.)
2011 – Lady Jane, Victoria Guest House, Dover
Which brings us to the present day, or more accurately the weekend just gone. Having made the decision to take a south-eastern holiday with some recurring motifs from previous Easters (a beach, a castle and so on), we had to dig around the web to find a movie that had been shot in Dover. This site pointed us in the direction of Trevor Nunn's 1986 historical flick, promising "scenes shot at Dover Castle, and many locals still remember being used as extras in the film!" Well, I'll take their word for it: but to be honest, several castles are used for both interiors and exteriors throughout, and it's hard to tell one from another. As a movie, it's a patchy old thing. David Edgar's script has some sharp lines, and a 19-year-old Helena Bonham Carter shows early signs of the bonkersness that's made her such an interesting actress a quarter of a century later. But no matter how much of a genius Trevor Nunn is theatrically, he can't direct movies to save his life: zooming in and out of every shot like he's Michael bloody Winner, and failing to make Cary Elwes look like a convincing romantic lead. (Although the following year's The Princess Bride may have had more to do with that.)
Still, even though Lady Jane didn't really give us the "ooh, we've been there" frisson that previous years' films have done, we're still counting it as part of our ten-year tradition. But where do we go next Easter, and what film should we watch? Any suggestions?