Thursday, 25 April 2013

Your Local Multiplex: The Ultimate Experience In Gruelling Terror

There is a scene midway through the film God Bless America that I probably shouldn't admit to finding as hysterically funny as I do, given the events of the past year. But to hell with it, it is only a movie, and if one can't laugh along with a work of fiction simply because it happens to mirror recent real life tragedy, then surely the bad guys have won... or something... right??

The scene in question involves the films protagonists, Frank (Joel Murray, brother of Bill) and Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), taking a break from their cross country, reality-television-celebrity-murder-spree to kick back and enjoy a film within a seemingly quiet multiplex. What eventuates within those cinema walls - rude, ignorant, inconsiderate asshole patrons being violently dispatched of one by one, is darkly funny, especially to those of us who have ever had to sit smack-bang in the middle of a cinema overflowing with groups of loud, obnoxious bastards fucking up the experience for the rest of us.

Now this is certainly not to say I would ever think of disposing of these jerks in such a grisly manner - a more realistic and relatable example of where my mind drifts to in these unpleasant moments can be found within the pilot episode of Californication, where, during a solo-trip to the cinema struggling writer Hank Moody (David Duchovny) angrily removes a phone from the hands of the obnoxious douche-bag cinema parton talking loudly in front of him, eventually hurling the offending handset across the room and smashing it into a million pieces. As a grand finale, he then wrestles the owner of said phone to the ground, much to the delight of the audience in attendance. Classic stuff.

Now, I count myself as a fairly serious movie goer/buff/nerd, with my visits to catch a flick on the big screen being on the upper-end of regular. Yet, no matter how many times I've been made to sit next to some ghastly cretin intent on destroying my afternoon, I  still naively continue to hand over my hard earned cash in exchange for a cinema ticket, deliriously optimistic that the experience will turn out to be a positive one.

Unfortunately, more often than not, there will be all manner of horrors waiting for me beyond those cinema doors.

It can all be a bit of a bummer at times, given the fact I love nothing more than experiencing a great film by a great director on a massive screen, backed up by an absolutely kick ass sound system, just the way the filmmaker intended. Sadly, it's starting to feel as if the days of sitting down with an audience displaying any level of respect for the entire cinema-going experience are quickly disappearing into the ether, and that once-obeyed message played in cinemas all over the globe advising those in attendance to "please turn off their motherfucking mobile phones" is now as ignored as anti-drug warnings at a Summer music festival, or Paul Shore at an Academy Awards Ceremony.

So, who or what is to blame for the alarming increase in horrible patrons? I mean, obviously, people have always been dicks, and dicks enjoy movies as much as anyone else. It just seems that lately, the dick/non-dick ratio has shifted, with a higher percentage now positioned firmly over on the dick side of the fence.

The most blatantly obvious reason for all this, to my mind at least, appears to be the shortening of attention spans the world over. In the age of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram, sitting down to watch a great film on a big screen while consuming bucket loads of buttered popcorn simply isn't enough. Things have been steadily tumbling downhill, and fast, to the point where now, a great deal of the population can no longer so much as take a dump without tweeting about it (or heaven forbid Instagramming it).

Even those who are able to manage a little social-media self-control during a films runtime can still be both visibly and audibly restless.  A large of the modern movie going public, it seems, have grown so accustomed to watered down, lifeless, CGI-crammed crap, that anything produced with a little heart or originality is usually dismissed out of hand.

I still remember one particularly painful Sunday afternoon back in 2011. I had decided to make my way to the nearby moron-magnet of a multiplex to catch Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, a film I had been looking forward to for quite sometime. Twenty or so minutes into the film, I began to notice awkward shuffling throughout the crowd. It soon got to the point where any scene in the film not involving a fast car was met with either sighing, whispering, or flat-out conversations about the lack of fast cars.

The only time the audience actually shut the fuck up and sat still was during the sudden bursts of brutal violence scattered throughout the film. I guess there's nothing like the sight of Ryan Gosling crushing in some dude's skull with his boot to force an audience to behave.

A couple of days after the screening, I stumbled across an article about a useless waste of space from Michigan who was suing the distributors of Drive for what she claimed was a "misleading trailer". The preview in question had, according to this zombie, presented the film as a "Fast and the Furious" style action piece, not the stylish cinematic triumph it actually turned out to be.

My reaction to the story was neither surprise, nor amusement, nor anger. It was acceptance. This is the headspace a great many members of today’s cinema-going audiences now reside in.

Another recent, similarly asinine example is a story involving some senseless dumb-fuck who thought it only fair to file a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority against Hollywood Studio Paramount Pictures because... wait for it... an explosion that made a split second appearance in the trailer for the film Jack Reacher did not find its way into the final 130 minute cut of the film. A COMPLAINT. FILED. FOR A MISSING EXPLOSION. Yes. This. Actually. Happened.

If the above stories serve any purpose at all (besides providing fleeting amusement), it is to help to make sense of why certain people or groups act the way they do within the cosy confines of the local multiplex. It's because of the very same reason shows like The Biggest Loser remain ratings mammoths, why Justin Bieber continues to sell millions upon millions of albums, and why planking was once "a thing": Simply put, a great percentage of the human race are insufferable morons. Nothing new, really. The late, great George Carlin said it best decades ago: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realise half of them are stupider than that". Disturbing, depressing, true.

The whole "Drive" scenario has continued to happen countless times since that particular cinema outing, and while it is annoying, I have found ways to minimise the possibility of having another great film ruined, mainly by avoiding big-time modern multiplexes altogether. While smaller cinema chains and boutique art house theatres may be steadily decreasing in numbers, they are still out there, and are a refreshing alternative, especially considering that, more often than not, the audiences in attendance are there because they fucking well wanna be, not because they are just "killing time." It's hard to imagine finding a  tweeting teen sitting in the audience of an art house cinema watching Michael Haneke's Amour, correct?

If you pride yourself on being even a semi-serious cinema goer, isn't it best to give the film you're planning on seeing the respect it deserves, by watching it with an audience worthy of it's time? Where possible, why not leave the larger commercial multiplexes for the uncaring tweeters, tweekers, texters and talkers, happy to sit and barely watch the latest in a never ending line of crap-tastic crowd pleasers.

If, however, you're only choice is the multiplex, as is the case in many parts of the country, then you had better hope to high hell that you have your own Hank Moody in the audience, ready and willing to knock the problem patrons on their fat asses, and hopefully before the start of the Coming Attractions.

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