Friday, December 16, 2005

‘Tis the season to avoid the multiplex!

Okay, my movie-going friends, the holiday movie season is upon us and with it comes a huge number of winter blockbusters mixed in with a whole whack of Oscar-bait offerings. You’ve been inundated with ads and commercials and merchandising tie-ins for giant gorillas and noble lions and wacky families, and – sometime between December 19th and January 3rd – you’re likely going to find yourself tempted to head to a theater to see what all the fuss has been about.

I’m here with a caveat, dear film lover: don’t. If you love movies and relish the experience of sitting in a darkened theater as magical images unspool before your eyes, stay home. Seriously. Your trip to the local multiplex will, I promise you, be more stressful, irritating and infuriating than humanly tolerable right now. Why? Because this is the prime time of year for everyone and their ill-mannered cousin to pack the kids into the minivan and lumber to the movies with their boorish behavior in tow.

I don’t know why, but it seems that this time of year always brings out the worst in the movie-going public. Or, perhaps, brings out the worst members of the movie-going public. These are the people who see films at theaters only once a year, or who (it seems) have never actually been in public with other people before. How else to explain the stupid things they say and do, and how wildly inappropriate they become once they’ve paid for their tickets and bought their trough-load of concession snacks?

You’re going to get the BFFs. Not the “best friends forever,” the Big Fat Families. You know the ones. It’s usually mom and dad and about four (or more) children ranging in age from 12 down to the newborn who will, without question, scream and cry throughout the film despite its parents’ assurances that their angelic infant always sleeps through everything. They’re the ones where said children are inevitably horribly behaved – and that horrible behavior quickly escalates once the parents decide to leave the kids alone at Harry Potter while they go see something else. The BFFs can be counted upon to engage in ridiculously complex snack-distribution rituals once the movie has actually started. This usually involves assorted rugrats arguing over popcorn and candy while mom and dad try to figure out a diplomatic way to make sure everyone gets his or her fair share. All of this, and much more, will take place in the row directly in front of, or behind, you…guaranteeing that your blood pressure will rise in direct proportion to how moronic the BFFs are. Good luck.

Failing the BFFs are the PALS – the Perpetually Audibly Limited Seniors. They’re the select members of the over-65 crowd whose hearing difficulties result in them talking, loudly, throughout the film in order to get clarification (on character, plot, dialogue, whatever) or voice opinions or complain about how the hard seats are aggravating their bursitis. They usually flock to the theaters at this time of year, either with the kids and grandkids or as an outing with other PALS, and you’re likely to find them at The Serious Oscar Contender films. While not nearly as problematic as the BFFs, you may want to steer clear of the PALS if you encounter them at movies like Brokeback Mountain. Trust me.

In addition to the rest of the usual suspects who can get one’s blood boiling at any time of the year – like the ASKs (Annoying Seat Kickers), LUGs (Large Unruly Groups), ESPs (Extremely Smelly People) and the always exasperating CPUs (Cell Phone Users) – you’ll find no group more hated or more prolific than the FCCs (F**king Chatty Cathies). They’re the ones who talk. A lot. Before the movie starts. During the trailers. During the credits. And then all through the movie. Members of this repellent species are evidently under the assumption that they’re not actually out at a movie, but that they’re really sitting in their massive, 300-seat living room. Alone. So they can talk and talk and talk and talk all they want at completely unacceptable volume levels. Sure, you’ll politely ask them to please keep it down…or to please be quiet…or to please, for the love of humanity, shut their freakin’ pieholes, but it won’t work. And, even if it does, the FCCs are like roaches – where there’s one, there’s many. So you might stomp out a few when you go see The Chronicles of Narnia, but a dozen more will spring up at King Kong or The Family Stone or Rumor Has It.

And, really, God help you if you’re going to see Cheaper By the Dozen 2, where you’re likely to suffer through not only a mediocre movie, but also every single one of the groups listed above.

So, my advice to you? Rent some DVDs. Or, if you really must go to a theater, avoid anything that was released after December 2nd. Check out “smaller” movies – foreign films or stuff you’ve never heard of. Let the uninformed masses queue up for Fun With Dick and Jane while you wander into, say, Down to the Bone or Transamerica or Good Night and Good Luck. Hell, even a matinee of the little-seen Aeon Flux will be emptier, more civilized and more enjoyable than 10 minutes of fighting for peace and quiet at Memoirs of a Geisha.


Jennifer said...

You are so right. Oscar bait movies do draw out the cave dwellers, and it's with a heavy heart that I bring you this news: the freaks are starting to breed and mutate.

After Seabiscuit got so much Oscar buzz, I found myself sitting beside an older woman at the theater with NO concept that she was watching a movie. Whenever anything bad would happen, her hands would fly to her face, she'd gasp deeply, then begin clucking things like, "Oh no. This is horrible. Oh. Will you look at that?" I'd call her a TIR (Thinks It's Real). At first her ridiculous overreaction made me feel silly about my own silent hand-over-the-mouth move and teary eyes, but then started to feel I wasn't reacting enough - as though I was standing at the scene of an accident, doing nothing.

She pretty much killed that experience for me, and leaves me fearing for the future. What will evolution bring us next? How long will it be before the entire audience is filled with brutes and simpletons? All I can say is, thank God for DVDs.

Linda said...

I'd like to offer a very specific branch of the FCCs (F**king Chatty Cathies)... I'll call them the CBWs (Channeling Barry Whites). If I were say, at a candlelight dinner in an intimate restaurant, and this person was talking to me in a smooth, low, sexy voice, well, that would be different. But having this person sitting alone, behind me, offering his honey-dripped sexy mutterings to CHARACTERS ON THE SCREEN? Well, that's just creepy.

And I think my most memorable encounter with a CBW was at a decidedly not sexy-oriented movie, like Million Dollar Baby or Dark Water or something. Mr. CBW was saying things behind me in perfectly conversationable tone like, "Mmmmm... yeah...", "Oh, don't you know it girl...", "That's right, uh-huh, that's right." ... Leaving me to sit there baffled, thinking, "Well, now, what the f...???"

Vickie said...

Um, Linda?

If someone was behind me saying things like that and they were alone (as I'm assuming the CBWs you cite probably were...?), I'd move for fear of what they were doing to themselves whilst whispering those sweet nuthins.


Skillz said...

I went to see the latest Star Wars and this teenage girl and her friends all brought in light sabers which, when hit together, made the "wong wong" noise. They did it throughout the movie until I yelled "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" to which they replied. " rude."
This is a group I'd like to call the GYA (Generation Y Assholes)