Thursday, August 1, 2013

Theater Etiquette 101 (or shut your damn mouth and other thoughts)

If I were to hold any place holy it would hands down be a movie theater. Sitting in that sticky floored, artificially flavored butter smell permeated seats, nothing makes me more giddy and tingly than when I hear that projector whirl up. Granted, now most theaters are making the leap to digital projectors but still. Once those house lights go dim down, it's transformative. No matter what movie I am there to see, be it great cinema or a shitty blockbuster those two hours are sacred .
Some people, including me however, tend to be tentative at best. Friday night crowds can be dicey at best. This is where all those movie goer stereotypes bubbles up to the surface, I'm sure you can name at least one of the many that populate your average Friday night crowd. Time and time again I've had nights ruined by annoying patrons selfishly destroying the enjoyment of everyone around them. I love watching movies in the theater house so I rarely want to hear anything from my fellow movie patrons, with exceptions of those teenage girls lone scream at a sort of scary scene in a horror movie or the entire sold out theater bursting out in laughter or cheering.
Normal conversations  being carried out having nothing to do with the movie, that annoying little glow of kids texting, little children in R-rated movies or being subjected to someone's personal commentary are all clear cut blasphemy in my eyes. The last in that list I was only once happy to hear while in the balcony of The Uptown theater watching "The Darjeeling Limited" when I had some woman translating a scene where it was all in a foriegn language without the benefit of subtitles. So during that scene I was happy to have being able to overhear that women's conversation. And then she was quiet the rest of the film.

As much reverence as I have for the theater, there are some movies NEED to be screened in the sanctity of one's own home. Finding gems when they are well past their theatrical runs can be make the difference between loving a film or it being as dull as steamrolled thumb tacks.
This is a huge fundamental split between quality and enjoyment.
The Clive Owen movie "Shoot Em Up" is a wonderful example of this theory.  Had I paid $9.50 to see this movie I would have thought it was a hugely stupid and a waste of money. Instead I discovered it by chance while visiting a friend. Basic plot with minor *spoilers*... is a guy at a bus stop sees a pregnant woman being chased by a man with a gun. Chewing a carrot he follows them and he dispatches the man following the woman only for her to go into labor and more armed men burst in. She gets shot so he has to keep the baby away from some crazy Paul Giamatti character. It has every action movie cliche' just ramped up to batshit level complete with one liners that would make Looney Tunes jealous. Somehow I found myself loving the over the top dumb that is this movie. Watching it I saw through cliche's to the way it straddles the line between taking itself seriously and sucking, and knowing it's hitting on every action beat for laughs. Its not parody, its just a movie happy to be almost an homage to all those Stallone, Schwartzengger and Lethal Weapon flicks.
This theory extends to indie films that would have seemed pretentious on the big screen but seeing one of these movies, be it a Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch etc..., with in a dark theater with strangers just doesn't hit home like viewing at home. It can make a movie feel more personal, akin to coming across a great find at buried in the racks of Goodwill, it's special and accrues more enjoyment than it otherwise would have opening night. Watching Memento for the first time with a group of friends in a basement brought this feeling on and gave me much more appreciation to Christopher Nolan's other movies from that moment on.
Total quick side note about seeing an almost lost gem of a so bad its good movie on Netflix Instant called Miami Connection. It's so lame that if you watch it with friends you will all immediately act out your own personal version of Mystery Science Theater 3000/Riff Trax. I don't want to say "you will enjoy this movie" but when we watched it we had so many great barbs and asides that made it a very fun experience. Also the title has NO correlation to the movie itself until a teeny thread of a side story pops up at the end. Oh and its from the 80's if that makes it any more enticing. I digress to my larger point.

I've never been one of those types that dress up on opening night, waiting in line looking truly goofy but I understand them. Seeing a movie with this type of crowd can be the most enjoyable experience one could have. Their excitement and energy makes watching the newest Harry Potter for instance so much fun. Those times where it's collective laughs at the right time or a breakout of applause at the climax of those fan favorite flicks actually add to the good time atmosphere. Movies who get the geeks out in droves are the ones where everyone shuts the fuck up until its absolutely called for. This is "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" effect. (*though in Rocky Horror yelling back at the screen is ALWAYS called for.

A couple days ago I had a status about how much I hate people recommending comedies to me. I said something about how comedy is far too subjective for the chances that what one person finds side splitting and doesn't  have me, I don't know... say, falling asleep during "Dude, Where's My Car". I can't find another genre that is like the comedy genre. If you are an action movie fan, most high budget exploder movies that come out will please you. If you like horror then as long as there is blood soaking the screen and a few jump scares the movie goer is generally satisfied. But not in the comedy realm two people can laugh and quote Anchorman til they are blue in the face but put those two watching "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and more than likely there will be a huge discrepancy in how funny it was. Maybe those" Madea Does Something..." movies would be a much greater example. Hyping up hilarity is only a set up disappointment. Just the small act of telling me how hilarious some movie is, puts the bar higher than otherwise would be for me to laugh if I do take the recommendation. Also there are some comedies that MUST be watched on a rainy afternoon on TBS because the commercials give you a break to decide whether to bail on viewing or no, any Adam Sandler movie fits this. If a movie is in my taste wheelhouse I'll already want to see it or will ASK someone I know if it was worth watching.
Asking means I trust the advice of said person.

Its really tough determining which movies are holy dimmed multiplex worthy or I need to come across it on my comfy plush couch. I have sat through some shit-tastic movies because I paid too much to justify walking out. And thanks to Netflix Instant I've cowboy'd up and watched some awful b-movies hoping for that gem but instead get putrid dumb-ocity. Taste is no science, it's all about what state of mind you are going into watching this or that movie.
If you want recommendations beyond what has been mentioned in this celluloid sermon, just ask. I'm sure I'll have a suggestion or two for you.
And if you are in the theater with me, just shut the fuck up and stare at the big screen in front of you.

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