ME & THE MOVIES: A CLARIFICATION
I've been to a number of social events recently where the topic of my unusual taste in movies has come up.
I wrote about this previously, but I feel the need to clarify my position, once and for all (hopefully).
While I do prefer old movies, I do not dislike current movies. I dislike going to see current movies in movie theaters. This seems to me to be a somewhat logical position. But when people hear that I have essentially stopped going to mainstream movie theaters they often look at me with a mixture of shock and befuddlement.
"You don't go to the movies?" they say, with a sadness in the voice usually reserved for victims of natural disaster.
"I didn't say that," I clarify. "I go to the movies all the time. I just don't really go to see current movies anymore."
"Why?" they ask, still baffled. "Have you seen Slumdog Millionaire? It's really good."
I have no doubt that Slumdog Millionaire is really good. I'm pretty sure that I would enjoy watching it, and I feel the same way about Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler and most of the Oscar-nominated movies this year.
But I have a finite number of chances to go to the movies nowadays, and I would rather use those opportunities to support theaters like Film Forum and the Loews Jersey in Jersey City -- small, independently owned and operated venues that serve classic film buffs with smart, fun and innovative programs.
Honestly, I have lost the ability to enjoy seeing a mainstream movie in a gigantic, sticky-floored, hangar-like, concrete bunker-style chain theater. I find the whole process to be frustrating and depressing.
Just today, in fact, I broke my de facto no current movies rule and went with my girlfriend Maggie to see Coraline at the Regal Union Square in Manhattan. We chose a 12:15 PM show in hopes of avoiding the young crowds of chatting, texting, cellphone-gabbing idiots that we normally find at a Friday or Saturday date night flick.
Good news: nobody was talking on their cellphones at Coraline. I guess those people all went to see Madea Goes to Jail instead. But what we did have was an overweight, pre-teen girl sitting next to Maggie, loudly eating cellophane-bagged, smuggled-in snacks for the entire duration of the picture.
It was dark, so I could really see what this poor creature was eating. But it sounded to me like bag after bag of roasted chestnuts from a sidewalk pushcart vendor. Roasted chestnuts are great on an open fire (or so I've heard), but not so great when you have to listen to a future Type 2 Diabetes-sufferer chain-eat them like a stoner in a Doritos factory. And pay $15 for the privilege.
That's right $15. The movies may be the so-called "cheapest form of entertainment" during our living epic called Great Depression II: Back on the Breadline, but Hollywood has realized that 3-D=3 extra Dollars per ticket. At least. Sometimes it's more.
And that's the only reason we went to see Coraline in the theater. I may have a 50" plasma at home, but I still can't watch movies in 3-D. Nor can I sit next to Maggie and listen to her shush some ignorant tween 12 times in the course of a 90-minute film -- each time, apparently, with absolutely no success.
Last summer I took my visiting nieces Emily and Laura to see Kit Kittredge: An American Girl on a Friday afternoon out on Long Island. We sat in the back row. In the middle of the movie (which was pretty good, by the way), a guy a few rows ahead of me pulled out his Blackberry and started clicking away. I gave him a minute but, when the device stayed out -- creating this distracting blue halo around him -- I got up and walked over to his seat.
"Can you put that away, please?" I asked, and then headed back to my row as undistractingly as possible. I never gave the guy a chance to respond but, if I had, I'm sure he would have been a dick about it. Those guys always are dicks about it.
He probably would have said something like, "Oh, I'm sorry if I'm distracting you from this movie based on a line of dolls for little girls," or something equally dickish. And then I would have been even more of a dick in return. I know the way this goes down. It's been happening to me at the movies for my entire adult life.
And that's why I like to go to theaters that cater to film aficionados. Yes, it's about the movies those theaters show, but it's also about the audiences to which they cater. As a rule, people at Film Forum, for instance, are more more reverent when it comes to the moviegoing experience. They respect the art of moviemaking and moviegoing in a way that someone attending Friday the 13th doesn't -- and perhaps shouldn't.
So, as a point of clarification, I'm not one of these aging weirdos who think that all current popular media is "not as good as it used to be, back in the old days when (fill in the blank)." I have always been, and remain, a fan of popular entertainment. What I am not a fan of, however, are the people who consume popular entertainment - or the venues in which it is consumed.
Yes, Slumdog Millionaire will probably win the Oscar for Best Picture tonight. And no, I will not have seen it when it does. But I will see it, once it comes out on Blu-Ray.
And there will be no Blackberry usage, awkward altercations or roasted chestnut consumption, unless it's part of the plot.