Marijuana and the Movies

The 1970s was the decade where I changed from a kid who liked movies to a true cinephile. It was also the decade where I smoked way too much pot.

I don’t regret smoking pot; I still imbibe occasionally. But I do regret smoking so much of it.

In those days, there were movies that I saw stoned, and movies that I saw sober (the term then was straight, but that has other meanings now). Broad comedies, swashbucklers, children’s movies, musicals, fantasies, science fiction, rock concert movies, and funny-bad movies were best enjoyed in an altered state. Dramas, thrillers, epics (the good ones) and realistic comedies would best be seen sober.

Those old rules came to my mind recently. In the last few weeks, I’ve revisited several movies that, in the old days, I would have seen stoned: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Yellow Submarine, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Jason and the Argonauts. I chose to see them sober because I knew I was going to write about them. I can’t properly review a movie that I saw while stoned.

20,000 Leagues is an exception to the group in that it’s the only one I haven’t seen high. I did see it once in the ’70s, but that was during the 50-hour science fiction movie marathon – an experience was weird enough sober. The other three times I’ve seen it were as a young child, with my own young child, and last Sunday on a Castro double bill with Jason and the Argonauts.

I could have seen Jason stoned, since it was the second movie in the double bill and I’d already written about it (most recently in this week’s newsletter). But I chose not to. I just didn’t feel like it.

Which isn’t to say that I never, ever see movies high. On April 20, my wife and I visited the Castro for a 420 screening of The Big Lebowski. It was playing in several theaters that night, but the Castro was the only one showing it in 35mm (Lebowski‘s DCP transfer is awful). I felt I could watch it in an altered state because I’d already written about the movie and didn’t have to read about it again.

We didn’t stay for the second feature, Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke. I saw it when it came out in 1978. Even back then, very stoned, I rarely laughed.