On Acting Good at the Movies

Last Updated: February 11, 2012By

Ann Hornaday, the film critic at the Washington Post, wrote about what she perceives as strange phenomena taking place in movie theatres (read the article here http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/movies/essay-of-manners-movies-and-the-sorry-state-of-spectatorship/2012/01/30/gIQALMc3mQ_story.html).

She talks about some moviegoers’ lack of civility in texting during a movie or better yet, the sheer madness of others in confronting movie theatres about a movie’s disappointing quality. I had recently mentioned in Screen Comment British filmgoers demanding a refund after watching The Artist, claiming that they did not know it was a silent movie. On the reverse of it, some movie theatre owners had posted advisories around their cinemas about that movie Tree of Life, to explain that rather than free-form entertainment this was more of a meditation on the meaning of life—as it turned out, it was a hoax perpetuated by a reclusive con-man by the name of Terrence Malick. But I digress (the situation in Syria has got me on edge).

Hornaday at times sided with the moviegoer, an outing to the movies costing more nowadays, and their expectations should therefore be be satisfied. At others, she bemoaned their inflated sense of entitlement with regards to a movie’s value (production, entertainment extras, etc.).

What stayed with me most was that mention of people texting inside the theatres, and some movie owners taking aggressive action to curb the problem (and it is a problem), having security throw out repeat offenders, etc.

To me this kind of behavior on the part of texters always brings back the old logic (because logic should win over everything): if you’re texting, then why are you at the movies? If you respond “because I’m bored and this movie is not satisfying my curiosity,” then I would say, be discreet about the texting, don’t disturb the rest of us. I’ve checked my texts during a movie before, sure. But I would hold my Blackberry way low.

And what happens if you find the movie boring and there’s someone texting two rows ahead? If you extra-sized that popcorn and soda, a little tar and feathering moviegoer-style might be called for. Creep up to him, pour your cup of soda and then top him off with the popcorn. Then, run as fast as you can. You will have effectively ended a boring movie fast, earned a little bit of homemade entertainment, and put a misbehaving moviegoer back in his place.

All joking aside, rather than some deep-rooted problem about civility and society I think the Ann Hornaday article illustrates the symptoms of a generalized discontent and boredom following a terrible year for American cinema—Ryan Gosling or no Ryan Gosling. Here’s hoping for another year 2008 this year (There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men—remember those?)—and yes, less texting at the movies.