Thursday, August 23, 2007

Warning Shots

Something is happening. Something horrible. There is a plague in our midst, movie fans. It is reportedly happening everywhere and if it's not too late it must be stopped. I have my doubts. I think it's already too late. In our complacency and our fear, we've let them take so very much already. They roam our places of enjoyment and are taking over our cities like a dreaded zombie horde. I'm referring to one of the most vile creatures ever to walk our streets. I'm referring, of course, to people in movie theater audiences who won't shut the hell up .

It's to be expected that whenever a populace gets together there will be a select group of idiots who will -- without care for the rules of society and common decency -- have a little too much fun and ruin things for others. Be they schoolyard bullies, family barbecue drunkards, soccer hooligans or Lindsay Lohan... the right to free speech is forever locked in battle with the right to behave like a blithering fool. Things seem to be coming to a boil, at least in the city of Boston. And not just at the movies.

Back in May, fisticuffs famously broke out in, of all places, an orchestral performance by Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall -- not the sort of place you'd expect to encounter a battle royale. But it happened and it was in fact stirred by one patron's refusal to deal with another patron's refusal to stop talking during the performance. Onlookers were shocked... including Lockhart, who reportedly "stood there quietly" for a moment. Which is a pity, really. I like to think that if John Williams were still there, he might've had the orchestra begin playing a few bars from Episode One's "Duel Of The Fates."

At a recent screening at Davis Square's Somerville Theater of the Chuck Norris 80's actioner, The Delta Force, those of us who went to have a great old time watching Chuck kick ass for God and Country were forced to deal with five, gel-haired, polo-shirted, receding hairlined, aging frat boy, pseudo accountants who seemed to think they were hosting their own private episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Now sure, something as cheesy/fun as a Norris flick should be enjoyed by all and one can understand the desire to poke fun at the jingoism in the politically charged but unabashed-entertainment film. But post 9/11 there's a lot of the film that just isn't really very funny these days and even more that wasn't meant to get laughs to begin with, such as the uncomfortable sequence where an airplane in Greece is hijacked by Lebanese terrorists and they begin to call out a list of Jewish-American and Israeli passengers to be used as hostages. The aforementioned social misfits in the theater audience a few feet away from us had been snickering and howling inappropriately since the opening credits but it was at this point that I couldn't take any more. I walked up behind them and had to grit my teeth at the fact that I was living in a world where I had to say to five people, "Excuse me boys, I'm gonna have to ask you not to laugh out loud during the parts of the movie where they're rounding up the Jews."

Does the behavior of these people come from upbringing? From theater management's refusal to get involved and police their own patrons? I worked in a suburban cineplex (just out of high school) from 1988 to 1994 and we would regularly throw out troublemakers -- once, the first two rows of people who were acting up during the opening night of a Halloween sequel. Granted, that was some time ago. Nowadays you're likely to suffer an after-work beatdown (or worse) in the parking garage if you reprimand someone with a "crew."

Perhaps it's technology. We humans have become so dependent on our gizmos that we can watch a movie wherever we like -- on our phones, our game systems, even our goddamn refrigerators -- that maybe we feel that we're owed something if we deign to pay for a full price theater ticket. And with our HDTV/digital surround home theater systems, we're used to being in charge of our own theaters and saying whatever we like as loudly we like. Are we (reminder: by we I mean they) becoming so comfortable and so used to the world being our entertainment oyster that we no longer give a damn about the person next to us if they're not our bud, our kid or our sexual conquest?

I mean... friends of mine just told me about a midnight showing of another 80's classic, Tron, coming up in a week or two. But I can't imagine it going anything but badly as the wonder and delight of those who love the film will most likely be drowned out by beer-drunk tools who will yuk it up to one another and moistly shout things like, "Hey look, it's "Dude" from Lebowski!" and "Videogames sucked back in the day, bruh."

I'm starting to think that film attendance should be as difficult as buying a handgun. There should be a five-day waiting period for movie tickets. We've gotta take back the night and I'm gonna use a golf club if I have to. The zombies must be stopped. "Kill the head and the body will die," someone once said. But then again, that smacks of violent overthrow and that's no good for anybody. Not when you can just as easily bring an extra twenty dollars with you to the theater for after the show in the parking lot. Some crackheads will urinate on anybody for twenty dollars...

...Or so I've heard.

Now please rise for our new National Anthem...


Joseph Luster said...

The subtle glow of open phones is almost as grating to me as movie talkers in general!

I think theaters in America should employ phone jammers. People always bring up the argument, "but what if there's an emergency?" What do they think we did BEFORE cell phones!?

--mcc said...

I also read that some theaters are in cahoots with studios (or the MPAA, or whoever whoever) and allowing the use of nightvision scopes in cinema audiences in order to stop in-audience piracy.

I wonder how common this really is, and if people would be such tools if they knew they were being watched.