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"At the Movies", an Essay
Okay, so yesterday I went to go see High Tension, a French horror movie imported to the United States I'm guessing solely because it has a twist ending and it has French women set in France which in American terms equals indie allure, which in business terms equals money, which in Hollywood terms equals oxygen, which in normal couch potato terms unfortunately equals a pretty bad TV channel for women. =(
I had a LOVELY conversation with the concession girl who criticized my medium cherry coke purchase because SHE always gets the 25 cent upgrade to the large, because she likes to drink a lot when she's in the theater and always gets at LEAST one refill. Damn, woman! Do you have your own private treadmill in the projectionist booth or something? You'll be pleased to know I stuck with my guns and kept my medium drink on order. In my fucked up world, I like to think there's a financial difference between medium and large. Somewhere there was a corporate meeting at AMC where some bright-eyed bushy-tailed young upstart raised his hand, stood up, and broke down the complicated economics of movie theater drink price elasticity being inflexible within 50 cents for three different sizes, after incorporating labor, logistical, and production costs of flavored, carbonated soda. He probably got a promotion, a window office, and a sushi lunch provided by the company for his efforts. He might have even got to write the protocol for the new price/soda format, with a five page block on how concession employees need to encourage the discount that upgrading from a small to a medium to a large to a venti to a grosse venti to an ultra uber venti small provides!
So I sat down in the theater. Our local theaters run the same ads before each movie, so I've gotten pretty used to seeing the smarmy lawyer throwing his hand out repeatedly (what can only be called "the Bill Clinton") as he tells us that at an accident, "a picture is worth a thousand words". Even better is the local realtor ad with these three stereotypical realtors/wives to rich husbands women dancing to "if the van's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin'". The grand poobah of these ads is a tie between a local church's ad preaching "if you want to be part of the greatest production ever made, come to our church" (fit with a green movie trailer intro with a G rating) and the promotion for "A Father's Love", an album by a bunch of shitty musicians like Jon Secada and Richard Marx singing love songs to their children. I feel sorry for those kids because they're going to grow up and see how their dads filmed them chewing on a microphone in the production studio to the tune of sappy, HORRIBLE music.
Well, it was a weekday night and it was pretty empty except for a smooching high school couple sitting in the very back. I wasn't expecting a lot of turn-out for a French import anyway, even though it had a slick gritty Nine Inch Nails industrial-look promotional poster with some horror movie overtones and washed out text, which is usually enough to get movie-goers to like a film even after seeing how badly it sucked. Today I was standing around and overheard a conversation that went as follows: "So we rented some movies last weekend. We rented... Uh, what's that one called? Ocean's Twelve?" "Oh yeah, that was really good!" "Yeah, it WAS good..." No, no, NO!
I've witnessed some real travesties of movie-goer moments.
When I went to go see Hero, that Jet Li movie that was imported with English subtitles, the packed Friday-night audience broke out laughing the first time the dialogue started in Mandarin, one guy yelling out "ching chong chang" as everyone else laughed approvingly.
During the Oscars last year, they had an on-location humor spot to ask "normal" (what they wanted to say was lower middle class black) people what they thought was the best movie of the year. One woman said "White Chicks" and the Oscar A-list audience unbelievably died laughing. This is one fucked up country. =P
Anyway, so the theater was pretty empty. Until yes, that group of six adults and one young child and one newborn came in. Hey honey, I have an idea! Let's go see a movie featuring slasher blood gore, a woman masturbating, and a guy ejaculating into the beheaded head of his victim! Sound good? The kids will LOVE it!
Okay, maybe you're thinking I'm being sarcastic. Naw. Hey, there's six adults here; no one to spare not seeing the movie and stay home with the kids!
Shit, I'm pretty laid back. So when it comes to a guy getting hit in the face with a barbed-wire-laced wooden peg before he wrestles a girl to the ground and gets horny putting his bloody fingers in and out of her mouth, my kids will be there to see it as soon as their eyes open for the first time! But dubbing American-accented English over French and then having one of the girls say in dubbed English, "Be easy on my dad, his French is horrible"? No, that is one thing my children will NOT be subjected to, sir. EVER. Goddamn communists.
It was actually a pretty scary scene when the family's getting murdered and the girls are screaming and then the babies behind me start screaming. They must've had the Dolby DTS surround sound turned on in the theater because all I heard was screaming and shrieking and killing and wailing and parents saying "SHHHHHH". Or maybe that SHHHHH was the knife sliding into someone's belly. I'm not quite sure. It's amazing what they can do with sound editing these days! I mean, when I saw Star Wars 3, I thought all that warbling and stuttering in the music was the theater's messed up system, but it must've been John Williams' creative after-editing to emphasize Anakin's conversion to the dark side. And when I saw The Interpreter with my girlfriend (our first movie together!), I could've sworn I heard pangs of love! It was like they can read your mind and reproduce it into a mood-setting movie experience! No wonder they charge $10/ticket in Times Square!
So is it just me or is the end of a movie like the most awkward, embarrassing, insulting experience ever? You know the end of a movie's coming. Some people leave early. I used to think they were just impatient and dumb, but maybe they realized something the rest of us only intuitively feel. Take any movie for example. Any movie. At all. Okay, take Mummy Returns. At the end, they're all flying away into the sunset in this cobbled-together dirigible that somehow survived being hit by a tidal wave and from the implosion of an incredibly evil pyramid temple that somehow, with all its evil, created this massive, lush Eden in the middle of the desert inhabited by Tomb Raider pygmies. The scene has all the required moments. The corny joke from the comic relief characters (of course, one is black, one is British...COMEDY GOLD!), the kiss and words of love for the main couple, the hugging of the dear child who they now appreciate and may not have to go to the orphanage or maybe just the private school where he'll fall into selling cosmetic drugs to bored suburbanite kids before becoming a coked-out corporate executive for Enron. You're watching all this thinking to yourself, "this is the corniest ending EVER" when intrinsically you know that you've seen hundreds of endings just like this one, and you feel like hitting yourself in the face with an armrest or dumping the 2 gallons still left in your (large) soda on the person's head in front of you, just to remind yourself you can still feel after watching this ending.
Then you stand up, stagger around in the dark, bumping into people who can't see where they're going down the stairs, boxed in as the elderly persons' brigade corners you from all sides, and make your way to the exit as you listen to brilliant comments by other people similarly dazed, confused, and shaken up by the experience.
Getting into your car and leaving is like limping away from an embarrassing, public breakup. You wish no one saw you involved in it. =P
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