The last movie I saw at a theater was ‘Training Day’ for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar as the less-than-ethical Hot Dog cop whose only job (it seemed) was to maintain a respectable level crime in the city of Los Angeles by battering, manipulating, intimidating and killing under the color of authority. It was my birthday and a few Homies thought it would be great to undo the usual and take in a new flick on its opening weekend. It was not too bad an experience, but, neither was it enriching, fulfilling or at all necessary. But the screen was so huge there was no one place I could fix my eyes whereby I could take in the entire visual presentation I had come to watch.
Let’s face it, aside from the roaring soundtrack, sticky floors and cell-phone glow emanating from the seating rows, the only real attraction to movie theaters is the humongous screen. Unless one were to be seated at least 75 yards from the thing, the experience is somewhat less-than-worth (at that time) the $7.50 we each shelled out to be there.
Don’t get me wrong, I love movies. Always have. From ‘Cinderfella’ to ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ I relish in the cinematic mystique from the opening sequence to the very last line in the rolling credits. I believe that movies are the pinnacle of Pop Culture craftsmanship and worthy of every accolade with which they’ve been honored. But the endemic decay of the citizenry of ‘Anytown, USA’s’ sense of community, the innate, volcanic hostilities among (and between) its constituent parts — here, I’m referring to the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting and the infamous Florida Fatal Popcorn theater incidents — makes every trip away from home less of a pleasurable outing and more of a Wild West Safari excursion.
It’s really difficult to focus on, (and immerse oneself in) the mayhem portrayed on the screen when one is consciously wary of the mayhem that may be unleashed at any moment in a theater packed full of total strangers by some deranged lunatic — or a group of them — with AKs and sidearms recently purchased for just such an occasion. I know that sounds fretful and paranoid, but since living through an unprovoked violent event where seven out of eleven 9mm bullets went through a car I was riding in, the specter of random violence in situations of close confinement with so many persons unknown to me is a daily fact of life for me. Plus, I’m not interested in being one of the millions who turn out every Opening Weekend to vault whichever new blockbuster to the top of the earnings chart. It’s just not that serious.
My real problem, however, is that I like to enjoy movies where I can comment on the dumb moves a character might make in a scene, (“Don’t open the trunk of that car!”); anticipate (and say out loud) what’s likely to happen next, (“She’s gonna pick the murder weapon up and be charged for the crime.”); or fill-in dead space with commentary and comedic quips, (“Who the hell did Homegirl’s hair, anyway?”). I know this rattles most movie goers and the last thing I want to hear on any given occasion is, “Shhhhh! I’m trying to watch the movie!” So am I! And this is how I’d like to not only watch the movie, but enjoy it as well. My repression of my own viewing habits limits my enjoyment of the spectacle at hand. And, for what reason? So that those seated within earshot of wherever I may be can enjoy the same movie on their terms with my blessings. Fool that I am.
I suppose it’s because I got used to watching movies at Drive-Ins where you could yap about the movie (or anything else) without intruding on someone else’s viewing experience unless they’re in the car with you; (at which point we can call the whole thing off if it makes that much difference to you). But, alas. Drive in Theaters are a dying breed not to regain their long-lost glory days from the late 50s to the late 80s. Those days are gone for good.
But to be totally honest, I really don’t need the crowds, the deafening THX1000 Dolby Enhanced Audio Assault and Overkill, the halting passage through crowds of meandering fellow patrons who can’t decide if they need more butter in their ten pound bucket of popcorn or yet another glimpse at the Coming Attractions posters conveniently placed near every access door to more effectively inhibit orderly traffic flow, or the Super Huge Screen. It’s all too dense, too loud and too large to compliment my own simple desire to see the art, yes, Art that Producers, Directors, Actors and Technicians have collaborated to present for MY viewing pleasure. This is no illusion of confusion. It’s the real deal. I hold no derision for, or set my tastes above those whose mode of cinematic enjoyment necessarily includes those extreme elements; but they are not for me. I can watch and enjoy movies on an Old School 19″ RCA TV with 5.1 audio accompaniment or on computer screen streamed into my freaking lap with ear buds. You’ll get no grief from me; unless the movie itself ruthlessly sucks.
Give me a soft chair, somewhere to rest my feet in a reasonably cool room with a locked door and a hefty supply of munchables and beverages so that I can watch movies the way I like to watch them and with whom I like to watch them. Nothing else matters…