We live in a wonderous age. Having the ability to watch Hollywood feature films in the comfort of our own homes on 52 inch plasma screens in high definition with Dolby surround sound is a revolution for cinema lovers. Especially because many of us grew up only being able to see films in the theatre - in the dark ages before there were video tapes, DVD's, video on-demand and pay-per-view.
And if we wanted to see a film a second time, we had to pony up the cost of another ticket at the box office, or wait years before the rights to the film were negotiated by one of the three (count em, three) television networks for replay on the Sunday night movies. This surely gave us respect for the art and pleasure of watching films in the theater.
Fast forward 20 years. Now, we don't have to see a movie when it's released in theaters. We can wait until the DVD release, and watch the movie whenever we want, with the kids and the dog running around, the dishwasher running, the phone ringing, and the notebook computer on our laps while we text our friends on our cell phones.
This is far from the proper environment to watch a film, though.
I prefer the movie house, the golden temple of film, where crowds sit in silence as the lights fall, the sound swells to a crescendo, and the film flickers brightly onto a giant screen, pulling the viewer into a total "film experience." We're no longer in our homes, with familiar surroundings and easy distractions. Our sole purpose is to enjoy the film - and maybe a slightly salty or sugary snack.
But unfortunately, the line between the movie theatere experience and the home movie experience has blurred in the last decade or so.
As the father of three, I rarely get to go to the movies anymore. I am forced to wait for cable or rental releases. That's the price I must pay at this stage in my life. But when I get the chance, I take the opportunity to actually go to the theater, which still undeniably remains the best place to actually watch a film.
I have to admit, however, that the last few times I went to the theater, the experience has been tainted by those who don't understand the rules.
Case in point - I went to see "Beowolf" in the 3D Imax format, because that's the best format in which to see this particular movie. I paid the $12, got a fine seat, and prepared to enjoy myself. I researched the movie online ahead of time, read the reviews, went to the website and saw the trailer, and knew what to expect.
The family next to me did not bother to do their homework before plunking down their ticket money. First off, they brought several young children with them - one couldn't have been more than two-years-old. For those of you who haven't seen Beowolf yet, I won't spoil anything if I tell you that Angelina Jolie, while merely animated, is completely nude in the film, with only sparse liquid effects covering her, shall we say, "mommy parts." And it doesn't look like a cartoon at all. Ten minutes into it you forget you're watching a computer generated character.
The lead character of Beowolf is also naked, with some Austin Powerish effects used to hide his, well, "daddy parts" tastefully and cleverly. Still, there are sexual references in the film, as well as monsters literally tearing men in half in full view. This isn't Shrek, and it isn't a Disney film. It's animation for big people.
Not the type of film I would take my children to. And you can be sure that they jabbered, and cried, and gasped, and complained for the ENTIRE LENGTH of the movie. And they had plenty of questions about the adult things that were happening on the screen. It wasn't only bad for the kids, it was bad for those in the audience who were distracted by the presence of innapropriately aged children.
Another experience I had recently was in a different theatre - I can't recall which film - it's really irelevent to the major infraction which was committed there. Here's what happened.
Just as the fifteen minutes of previews were ending, and the film was finally starting, someone's cell phone rang. First off, this guy is a total idiot for not turning it off. And granted, it is a mistake that anyone could make - once.
But here's the kicker. Instead of turning it off, or hitting ignore, the guy actually TOOK THE CALL RIGHT IN HIS THEATER SEAT. I couldn't believe it. He started talking to the person in his normal phone voice right there in row three, seat two. Just as the entire audience collectively groaned, I opened my mouth to say something, since the guy was sitting just a few rows below me and to the side.
But thankfully, someone else beat me to it. A rather burly gentleman behind me said something to the effect of "turn your g*& damned phone off now or I'm coming down there."
It was awesome. The guy stopped his call, put his phone away, and didn't make another peep.
I wonder what would have happened if he would have kept talking? A part of me almost wishes this would have happened so I could find out, but then I would have missed even more of the film's opening dialogue.
Then there was my most recent movie experience. This was during the film, "No Country for Old Men," a fantastic flick that I would recommend to anyone. You totally get sucked into the plot, gripping the edge of your seat as you hang on every scene of the film, waiting to see what happens next.
That's why, when the rotund woman behind me felt the need to react to each and every aspect of the story, I was dissapointed and annoyed. Every country witicism that Tommy Lee Jones uttered was to her the single most hilarious piece of scripted dialogue ever imagined. Each time a person was shot, maimed, or received a paper cut on screen, she gasped as if she had just personally witnessed the Manson murders. And for some reason, each time they showed a dog that was injured or dead, she let out an obnoxious, loud, "aaawwwwwwww."
I almost - biting my tongue several times - gave in to the urge to jump up onto my chair and shout at the top of my voice "ITS JUST A FREAKING MOVIE LADY!" each time she pulled her shenanigans. But I didn't, and she continued her annoying display for the remainder of the film. I still enjoyed myself, but would have had a far better time without her in the gallery making her comments.
What I'm getting at here is that there are different modes of behavior for watching a film at home as opposed to the movie theatre. At the theater, please turn off your phone (I leave mine in the car). Also, keep your mouth shut unless your pants are on fire, or you're having some type of seizure and need medical attention.
At home, though, feel free to eat dinner, text your mom, yell at the kids, and discuss the finer points of the film's wardrobe with your dog - beacause that's the apropriate place to do those things, not at the cinemaplex.
I will thank you, and movie fans everywhere will thank you.