Friday, May 27, 2005

Boo Hoo Hoo

This New York Times article looks at the serious decline in movie attendance this year that even Star Wars hasn't arrested. The article hits most of the reasons I hardly go anymore, but I'd like add some of my own thoughts.

One thing they miss is the quality of audiences today. I simply can't go to evening showings any more. Loud, rude, stupid people who have cells phones and conversations, who talk with their friends right through the movie and then have to ask what they missed, have ruined it. I like to get lost in the movie, to give in to the seduction, and these idiots keep yanking me out of the experience. Then there are the perverts. I went to see Interview With the Vampire, back in my see-every-movie-playing days, in a very crowded theater and the old creep next to me kept pushing his leg up against mine, no matter how much I moved to avoid it. Sadly, I didn't have the strength to yell, "Cut it out, you freak!"

Even afternoon showings aren't immune. I went to see some hard-R horror movie and the couple across the aisle had their five year old there! I was stunned, as the movie scared the kid and they kept having to reassure him until he finally got tired and fell asleep. Then there are the people who walk into an empty theater and have to sit right near you, apparently afraid to be alone in another part of the room.

Anyway, I do try to make a point to see certain movies on the big screen: science fiction, which frequently demands the big screen to appreciate the special effects and the spaceships; super-hero movies, for the same reasons, like Spiderman, the new Batman Begins and Superman Returns, The Incredibles; and certain foreign movies like Zhang Yimou's Hero or House of Flying Daggers, which are such works of cinematic art. Romantic comedies, dramas and suchlike can be seen at home just fine, but sometimes seeing something forty feet high by ninety feet wide is the only way to go. For example, the scene in Hero where the two women fighters battle it out in the forest and the entire forest -- every leaf of every tree and all the leaves falling like rain around them -- quietly turn from gold to magenta. That one shot is so achingly beautiful it took my breath away, almost brought me to tears. Literally! Seeing it later on the small screen wasn't quite the same.

But most movies don't require that kind of experience. And a lot of movies I'd like to see -- foreign and independent -- aren't on screen long enough for me to get there. Like Ong Bak, which only played a week in town and was gone. If I can't get the money together or the time, or I can't be there at the start time, I just have to miss out.

It's true, when the article talks about having a home system. I only have a twenty inch screen, but it's good enough for my small apartment; and I have a top-notch stereo system to tie in with it. I finally have a quality enough home setup that I don't have to fool with crowds and for 90 percent of movies I'd like to watch it's more than adequate. Plus I get audio commentary tracks and extra/delected/extended/bonus scenes! Some movies just don't make sense until you can listen to the director's commentary to find out what they were trying to get at. Donnie Darko, Songs From the Second Floor, Prime, A Snake of June, Hero, I'm looking at you.

There are times I don't want to see a new movie, but a familiar and loved one, like Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Wallace & Grommit, The Rocketeer, Battle Royale, or Elephant Man. I don't want new, I want comfort. I skipped the VHS thing, but with DVDs and the home setup, it's easy to scratch that itch now.

But the biggest thing, and why I watch almost entirely just independent and foreign movies these days, is that Hollywood produces CRAP! I spent the best part of last year trying to find funny comedies. I failed! Failed?! Anchorman, Harold and Kumar, Napoleon Dynamite, Team America: World Police, none were especially funny. (Anchorman was really bad.) I prefer the smaller scale action movies from Hong Kong to the bloated monstrosities Hollywood releases. Too many good ideas get rewritten to suit the egos of the stars involved. And too many old movies are being remade, frequently pointlessly.

Ah, don't get me started. I'm just glad to have Midtown Video right around the corner. They've made a real committment in the past couple of years to appeal to DVD viewers like me, and I appreciate. You should give them your business. Tell them I sent you. I'll also plug Black Lodge video in Cooper-Young while I'm at it. They cater to fringe, psychotronic, rare old, anime and oddball movie lovers. Great people. Give them your business, too

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