22 April 2011

Actually I Blame Myself...Not Loving the Film, Hating the Audience An Aging Filmgoer Grumbles

I'm really annoyed with the cinematic experience these days.

Sunday the missus and I went to see Jane Eyre. The theater is a historic one which has  been showing films since 1917. Of course well enough couldn't be left alone and following a national trend the conversation was made some time ago from a movie palace to cinemaplex. In other words the balcony was sealed off, cut in two and screens were wedged into each.

Jane Eyre was playing in one of the closets, rather than downstairs in what is still a nice place to watch a film.

It was crowded. The person sitting in front of me was approximately eight feet tall. I had to stand perfectly erect to see over the tip top of his head. Thank God he didn't sport an Afro.

I've mentioned before that I'm getting increasingly annoyed by people who treat a bag of pop corn as the first meal they've had in three days or those who chomp their snacks rather than chew or rifle through the treats bag brought from home, ripping and tearing open bags of goodies. They were out in full force.

The movie itself was, from my perspective, the very embodiment of a mediocrity. I found it generally diverting but forget about it once the closing credits had at long last closed. Speaking of closing credits, why so long? I think it should have been a clue that they were getting excessive when a second song needed to be tacked on to them. I understand why we should be shown who the casting director and key grip and make up artist was, but the caterer? The driver? The on set medic? How about the aroma therapist and the dog whisperer?

I met a a friend for coffee the next day and we shared our increasing displeasure with going to films as we approach dotage. We swapped stories of rude audience members and ways to avoid crowds. He goes to the very last showing on a weeknight. I try to go to midweek early matinees.

I went to a matinee yesterday to see In a Better World. Just as I hoped, I walked into the theater to find I was the only one there. This continued through the ads (there's another indignity, we must suffer through ads before enjoying a film, without benefit of the mute button) and the previews. Then just as the film started a couple walked in and preceded to argue about where they were going to sit. I took out a gun and shot them. (Okay I made the part about the gun up.)

My experience is that people who arrive late to a film are far more likely to be inconsiderate yakking morons than those of us who are prompt. These yokels were a case in point. When someone talks during a film, they not only take you out of the moment but the next few moments as well. Particularly if you find yourself contemplating a course of action such as moving to another seat or sushing them.

After some initial whispers the couple was mostly silent the rest of the way. Mostly can be good in some circumstances but when it comes to being quiet in a movie theater only totally and completely will do.

In a Better World is a Danish film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film two months ago. I feel confident in saying that this could no more have been the best foreign film of 2010 than A King's Speech was best English language film. I suppose its nice to see that the academy has taken to opting for lesser efforts in foreign films as well. Why get all snooty about films from other countries when you don't give a toss what Americans or Brits are making? If only I had read this from the Village Voice's Ella Taylor before deciding to see In a Better World:
If The King’s Speech was a comfy middlebrow choice for Best Picture of 2010, how much more depressing was the Academy’s squandering of Best Foreign Language Film on Susanne Bier’s In a Better World? Displaced tykes and bullies both macro and micro abound in this relentlessly pandering drama about a saintly Danish doctor (Mikael Persbrandt) who ministers to feuding Africans in a refugee camp while failing to notice that the suffering child (Markus Rygaard) of his broken marriage courts danger back home. Slick moralizing grows exponentially as the plot, wrapped in travelogue photography, transparently expository dialogue, and cheap thrills, drives home spurious parallels between the first and third worlds. Can’t we all get along? Bier surely means well, but the road to compassion porn is paved with noble intentions, laced with a nakedly commercial appeal that flatters moviegoers with a vision of the West as Africa’s savior from itself. 

But I didn't and I was out eight bucks when I could have stayed at home and enjoyed something from my DVD collection.

I am not quite ready to give up going to movies in theaters. The Pacific Film Archives is a perfectly wonderful place to see a movie. No food allowed. No ads. The sort of film goers who don't spoil the experience for others. With other theaters I will just have to be more careful and more selective. I'm generally a lot better at picking movies. The worst I usually endure is something mediocre, rarely subjecting myself to something I genuinely dislike (last Summer's The Kids Are All Right was an exception). My increasing annoyance with fellow film goers will necessitate being especially careful that the movie will be enough to offset boorish audience behavior.

This afternoon I will enjoy a film from the comfort of my own sofa. If an earthquake or bombing raid interrupt I can always hit the pause button and resume when given the all clear signal. This evening oldest daughter and I are off to the ballpark. There I will be perfectly happy for people to make all those noise they want and eat to their hearts content at full volume even. (Plus, when the game ends I don't have to sit through closing credits.)

1 comment:

Martin Keller said...

There's a theater by me that has matinee showings as early as 10am and cost only 6 bucks. I saw The American with only one other audience mate: True Cinematic Bliss. I don't know if film is really a community experience. Maybe if we leave some people from the community out, a sort of audience eugenics.

Also, the only Best Foreign Film nominee I saw was Dogtooth and it was amazing. See it if you haven't.