The best movies in theaters during 2012 were classics made decades ago

Published: Thursday, Dec. 27 2012 12:30 p.m. MST

The eye-popping scenery and spectacle in "Lawrence of Arabia" is illuminated on the big screen. The home-video version doesn't compare to the way it was meant to be seen.

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As we come up on a new year, with 2013 (gulp) right around the corner, I realize I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the early 1990s are two decades old.

When someone says something happened in 1993, I don't think, "Wow, that was a long time ago." I think, "gee, shouldn't that still count as 'recent'"?

Time flies, as they say. Actually, these days its seems to teleport.

Electronic gadgets, those that get bigger, those that get smaller, big-screen TVs, IMAX theaters, 48 frames per second, smartphones, smarter phones, smartest phones, Kindles, Nooks and crannies. Who can keep up?

If my peers, the baby boomers, are the "me" generation, today's up-and-comers must be the "i" generation. Small "i." As in iPod, iPad, iPhone, iMac … ai-yi-yi.

Whatever happened to the notion that people should try to simplify their lives? Sorry. Even as I write that I realize it's so 1990s.

Maybe it would come out better if it was texted?

But enough of my annual e-bewilderment. What about the movies?

The best films I saw in theaters this year were "Lawrence of Arabia," "Jaws," "The Sting," "North By Northwest," "Singin' in the Rain," "It's a Wonderful Life," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Ben-Hur," "The Great Escape," "Shane" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai" — and the best IMAX film I saw was "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

OK, you see the pattern.

Oh, I loved "Lincoln," "The Avengers," "Skyfall," "Life of Pi," "Looper," "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," "The Dark Knight Rises," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Bernie," "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and a few others.

But this 2012 trend of reviving beloved classics in movie theaters couldn't be more welcome.

Of course, I had seen all of the vintage titles listed above many times before — but seeing them in a theater for the first time in a long time was a real treat. No phone interruptions, no knock at the door, no sunlight peeking through the window shades and making the night scenes hard to discern, no lawnmowers or snow blowers outside forcing you to crank up the sound.

Let's take "Lawrence of Arabia" as just one example. Here's a film that is so vast and has such eye-popping scenery and spectacle that no matter how large your TV is, it's not nearly as accommodating as the floor-to-ceiling screens at the Draper Cinemark or the smallest auditorium at the Megaplex District or the single-screen Tower Theater.

My wife and I saw vintage films in all of those venues this year, and it made each one seem brand-new. "Lawrence" may be huge in scope, but its story is intimate and nuanced, and the attention to detail that is illuminated when it is seen the way it was meant to be seen — well, there's just no home-video comparison.

What's more, the movies that were quite lengthy had intermissions.

That may sound like an unimportant thing, but, be honest now, by show of hands, during the last 15 minutes of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," how many of you were thinking more about wanting to make a beeline for the restroom than how the film was going to end?

I've said this before, but I'm truly grateful to live in the home-video age, to be able to pull any of these films from the shelf at my leisure and watch and enjoy them again and again at home.

But I also hope that showing classic films on local theater screens continues to be a trend in 2013 and beyond.

These vintage flicks are not only a nice alternative to modern fare but they offer a great inducement to (younger) family members who might not otherwise sit down to watch these "old" pictures. Once you get them there, they're trapped. They have to stick it out.

And so far, no one in my family has been disappointed.

EMAIL: hicks@deseretnews.com

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