Friday, November 14, 2014

We Go To the Movies

Or, rather … we don’t.

We here at The Jade Sphinx must confess that we rarely go to the movies.  (I hear they talk now.)  There are several reasons for this, and I’m sure I am not alone in my feelings on them.

Let us not even discuss the simple, depressing fact that the majority of major American films are not fit for adult consumption.  If your idea of cinema is Pacific Rim or The Avengers, you have problems beyond the scope of this blog to fix.

No, instead, let’s talk about how unpleasant it can be simply to go to the theater.

At one time (and certainly in the living memory of many readers), going to the movies was simple and a joy.  It did not cost much, and if one got caught seeing a bad or indifferent film, it was not too much of an investment to simply leave and go to another theater and see a different film.  With ticket prices upwards of $15 here in New York, that course of action is a little less likely.

Also, theaters were not always so sold out in advance, so there was no need of getting there 15-to-20 minutes in advance to ensure a good seat.  Better still, there was no need to sit through 15 minutes of commercials.

Yes – commercials, not trailers for other films.  How often have you been trapped in a theater and subjected to commercials for Coke or other revolting products?  If I wanted to watch commercials with little-or-no intrinsic merit, I would stay home and look at them for free.  To pay top dollar and get stuck with commercials is adding insult to injury.

And the trailers are no better.  Either they provide all the major plot points in advance (or all of the laughs), or they show that the film to come will be so horrific as to save us the trouble of going.  But we still have to sit through them.  Think we are kidding?  Look at the trailer for the upcoming Avengers film.  It has science fiction and comic book fans salivating – when actually, it is a coarse, ugly and noisy piece of work.  (You have been warned.)  You can see it here:

Who in heaven’s name would see rubbish like that?

Worse still, since the rise of the multiplex and the thudding, eardrum-bursting event film, it is almost impossible to see a smaller, more introspective film without hearing the latest mindless blockbuster through the wall of the neighboring theater.  Somehow, the sound of gunshots, explosions and various fart jokes do not improve all movies.

However, the very worst aspect of going to the movies today is the people in the theater with you.  Raised on television, raised without simple manners or even common human decency, one goes to the theater today with people who talk back to the screen, discuss the movies with their friends, and who text or make phone calls during the film.  Finding someone in New York who actually bathes before going to the movies is always a pleasure – and an increasingly rare one. 

The last time we visited the cinema was to see The Lone Ranger – which, because it was an (undeserved) flop, the theater was empty except for my friend and myself.  And it was the Ziegfeld, one of New York’s flagship theaters.  All theater visits should be so pleasant.

New York revival houses are no safer – to “sophisticated” New York audiences, anything more than 15 minutes old is camp.  It is nearly impossible to enjoy films from the 1920s-through-the-1950s without witless catcalls and derisive hoots from unwashed hipsters.  For the cineaste, digitization and the Internet have been a blessing – it means we can catch rarities without the hipsters.

Perhaps, really, the problem isn’t going to the movies, but going to the movies in New York.  The city is a teeming, seething, pulsating mass of putrescent offal, malodorous and greasy by turns, and unfit for civilized human habitation

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