This past Christmas I found myself with some time to kill between the morning festivities and the evening hijinks, so I decided to treat myself to a matinee showing of Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s newest film. I thought it was a safe choice, as the film had been in general release for a couple of weeks, and theaters were full of new, fluffy holiday fare like Little Fockers and the Jack Black vehicle Gulliver’s Travels (or period pieces like True Grit and The King’s Speech for those without kids). It seemed unlikely there’d be much turnout for a psychosexual drama set in a professional ballet company.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I arrived a good twenty minutes before show time, and the theater was already half full of people all over the approximate age of sixty, doubtless thinking they were there to see a nice film about ballerinas. I wondered with bemusement how many of them would be blind sided by the much ballyhooed Natalie Portman/Mila Kunis sex scene, and wind up walking out.

Turns out the old folks weren’t the problem. That dubious honor belongs to the extended family who walked in loaded with concession stand snacks just as the coming attractions began rolling and took up the entire row directly behind me. While the rest of the audience sat spellbound this group proceeded to munch, joke, and converse through the film: “What’s going on?” “What is that?” “Hee-hee, I dropped popcorn down my boobs.” “The mom must be poisoning her.” “Did you get it out?” “This is just like that episode of [insert title of asinine reality show here]!”

Black Swan, like all of Aronofsky’s films, is a study in obsession, in this case told entirely from the perspective of Natalie Portman’s character Nina, who I’m fairly certain is in every scene. While it’s less labyrinthine than his earlier film The Fountain, it’s still a tricky, nuanced, and at times breathtakingly beautiful picture, the kind you find yourself thinking about afterwards regardless of whether you liked it or not. It’s the kind of film that demands the viewer engage in a behavior that is increasingly becoming anathema to American audiences: thinking. In short, it’s the exact kind of film that I love, and one that was demonstrably smarter than the jerks sitting behind me.

I tried to be tolerant; really, I did. Christmas Day, goodwill towards men and all that. But few things in day-to-day life raise my ire faster than rude behavior at the theater. I’ve snatched cell phones out of hands and clambered over rows of chairs to confront talkers; heaven help you if you keep kicking the back of my seat. So after forty-five minutes of their babble I could take it no longer. “Really?!” I growled at them, loud enough that the rest of the audience could hear. “You’re going to be THOSE people?”

Not exactly Oscar Wilde, but it got the job done. There wasn’t a peep out of them for the rest of the film, and when it was over they left without a word.


Behavior like this has become more and more pervasive and socially permissible over the last several years, I’ve noticed. I’m not entirely sure why, and I don’t understand it, since as a child I was emphatically taught not to talk in the theater. It’s the principle reason why I (a confessed film junky) hardly ever go to the movies these days, the rising cost of even a matinee ticket being the other.

It’s also part of why my once-gregarious taste in film has become more selective of late. The only big-budget Hollywood movies I recall seeing in the theater during 2010 were Iron Man 2, Inception, and The Social Network, and more and more I find myself eschewing the big studio fare for smaller independents and foreign films. Thanks to the monopolistic stranglehold theater conglomerates like AMC have on the market, I usually have to go of my way to one of the smaller art house venues scattered around town, but I’m not complaining. I’m lucky to live in a city with enough cultural demand for this sort of film that these theaters can stay in business despite the presence of the megaplexes. Many, many others haven’t been so lucky.

I said before that I don’t know exactly why obnoxious behavior in the movies is becoming prolific, but I have a theory: big-budget films are getting stupider, and as a consequence so are the audiences. So many movies released these days are gee-whiz-bang! vehicles of action and special effects that require no engagement from their audience whatsoever. They’re purely passive entertainment, designed to allow the viewer to disconnect for two hours. Movies like these are the filmic equivalent of a Big Mac: tasty, perhaps, and a nice treat from time to time, but ultimately just a mass-produced product of dubious nutritional value. And they’re having just as destructive an effect on our minds as fast food is on our bodies.

Think I’m wrong? Think about how many people you heard say the plot of Inception or the third Pirates of the Caribbean was too complicated to follow. More complex than they needed to be? Perhaps. Too complex to follow? Not at all.

Or, alternately, ask someone at random what they think of silent or black and white films. If, like me, you’re a lover of both mediums, the answer will usually dishearten you.

Consider Casablanca. While not quite the flawless masterpiece it’s often held up to be, it’s still a damn good film, and one that assumes the viewer has pretty good grasp of current world events circa 1941. Aside from a brief (historically inaccurate) opening narration about European refugee paths into Morocco, the film offers no expository history lesson; either you’re informed enough to keep up, or you’re not. I once had to stop the film halfway through showing it to a girlfriend who’d never seen it before to explain why the French police captain played by Claude Rains takes orders from the Nazis. Would a film like this find an audience if it were released today? I doubt it. Those that did show up would probably get bored after ten minutes and start tossing half-chewed Milk Duds at each other.

Because this is what we have now, thanks to all these hyperkinetic special effects extravaganzas, formulaic thrillers, and insipid rom-coms: audiences unable to intellectually engage with more challenging material, who resort to juvenile behavior as a mask for their boredom and unease. Audiences conditioned to accept a movie as an insular experience that provides visual stimulation without provoking critical thought – or, at best, the illusion of critical thought. Why in the hell else would the likes of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich continue to find employment?

It’s not even generational, either; I snapped at a pair of adults during a showing of Let the Right One In who seemed under the impression that, because the film was in Swedish, it was perfectly fine to talk over it. I’d go so far as to say children these days seem better behaved at the movies than adults do, at least in my experience.

I don’t mean to suggest that there should be an IQ requirement for appreciating a certain kind of film. Far from it; anyone should be welcome to view any film they want, and I’m all in favor of people trying to broaden their perspective. But in a market where more and more movies are being measured solely by their varying degrees of Awesome!, that’s seldom ever the case.

Yes, I’m familiar with the argument, “My day was hard. I just want something I can turn my brain off for and enjoy for two hours.” I get that, and it’s fine – on occasion. But why do you need to go to the theater to do that, especially if your inclination is to act like a hyperactive child when you do? Hours and hours of mindless visual junk food are piped into your TV every night, lots of it for free. So why spend a bunch of money just for the luxury of inconveniencing other people?

I love the movies. I really, really do. Lowbrow, highbrow, classics, current…doesn’t matter. I don’t believe any one type of film is automatically superior to another. Because, at it’s best – and I mean, at it’s very, very best –  moviegoing is the act of gathering with a group of strangers to share a collective dream. I’m just so damned tired of how many movies these days are being described as “Exactly what you’d expect a film about _____ to be, and nothing more.” Why this is considered praise, as it so often seems to be, is beyond my understanding. All that statement says is, “Congratulations on rising to meet an already low bar! Good for you for not trying to excel!”

The hell with that, I say. I want to be challenged. I want to be tantalized. I want my expectations grabbed and subverted. I want to respond with emotion, not apathy. I want to reward my brain, not turn it off. At the risk of sounding like an utter film snob, what I want is to see is a piece of fucking art.


OK, dummies, here’s the deal I’m prepared to make with you: if you don’t like the movie, or don’t “get” it, just…leave. That’s it. Don’t start talking, don’t play on your cell phone or with your Game Boy. Just calmly walk out. No one will judge you for it, since we’re all too busy enjoying the film. Go to the ticket office and ask for your money back. You’re a consumer and the theater is a business like any other, and if you’re not happy with the product you’ve paid for you’ve every right to ask for a refund or an exchange. Odds are good they’ll be playing something else you’d rather see anyways.

But if you do choose to remain, well, consider yourself duly warned.

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MATTHEW BALDWIN is a writer, martial artist and all-around misanthrope living in San Diego, California. He's published fiction and poetry in several small literary journals, most of which went out of business soon after. Make of that what you will. He currently holds a fourth-degree black belt in karate, a B.A. from the University of California and an M.F.A. from the University of New Orleans. In his free time he serves as a professional martial arts instructor, working mostly with teenagers. He's currently at work on both a first and second novel, and can be followed/harrassed on Twitter. And please, call him Matt.

124 responses to “When Stupid People Go To 
Smart Movies”

  1. Tom Hansen says:

    Bravo Matt. Luckily I usually don’t have that kind of problem–people tend to see my scowling face and my cane and know they’d better shut up–it works well for panhandlers too, I can’t remember the last time I got asked for a ciggie. They see me and move on the the next ‘nice’ citizen. Let The Right One In was good, no? I freaking loved that movie. As for movies inducing an audience dream state, I experienced that recently with Never Let Me Go, which was utterly amazing. And if you want a movie that will make you think, THINK think, try Von Trier’s Antichrist. Wow.

    • Matt says:

      You know, I once saw a group of young teenagers (12-14, I’d reckon) harrass someone in a wheelchair (who was parked in the designated wheelchair seating area) just because he asked them to move to seats farther away if they were going to act all squirrely during the movie. That’s it. He wasn’t even rude about it. Assholes.

      Loved Let The Right One In utterly. Wanted to see the American remake as well, but I missed it in the theater.

      I’ve had Antichrist in my rental queue for a while now, but I’ve been procrastinating watching it, as I’m not entirely sure I can handle it. One day I’ll work up the gumption.

      • Zara Potts says:

        Antichrist is well worth the watch….

        • It is. I had a lot of problems with ANTICHRIST (don’t want to get in to them for fear of spoilers, Matt), but the performances were so brilliant and the material so debate-worthy that there’s no question it’s worth watching. Man, it’s not for the squeamish, though. At one point, my friend and I were literally hiding under a blanket yelling, “NO!”

        • Zara Potts says:

          Gina – speaking of movies – I was so impressed that your mum had seen ‘Once Were Warriors’, that was an awesome way to start our day in Chicago, with a little taste of home!

        • sheree says:

          Sorry to butt in. I just had to say, Once Were Warriors, is one of my favorite films ever. What a story!

        • Matt says:

          Butt away, sheree!

  2. Gloria Harrison says:

    I went to see Black Swan with a man I’m dating – a college drama professor. I couldn’t wait. If I’d only known that Aronofsky was the same guy who had done Requiem For a Dream, I would’ve begged off. I don’t mind films that make me think (love them, in fact) or that make me squeamish, but I do mind films that make me feel violated emotionally and that make me – literally – scream out loud no fewer than four times in a theater full of strangers. I would like to see these films in the comfort of my own home where I can have my panic attack in private. Yes, the movie made me think and my friend and I were able to have a brilliant discussion as we drove to my house afterwards – while I huffed into a paperbag…

    You mention the cost of theater tickets and is this reason precisely that I very, very rarely choose to go to the big theater. (I prefer second run theaters. I can wait three months to see a movie on a big screen. Portland has a stupendous selection of second run theaters that serve beer and don’t allow children. Such a pleasant experience.) If I’m going to see a show, I want to see a show! Avatar was not a great work of cinema in my opinion, but I had a delightful time seeing it on the big screen (well for the first two hours, then I was like COME ON!) Ditto for Tron: Legacy – so much fun.

    All that said – you’re right. People need to remember their theater etiquette. Well, they’re manners in general would be nice, actually.

    • Greg Olear says:

      There’s a big push in the movie industry — much opposed by the theaters — to release movies in theaters and DVD the same day. Would save a shitload on marketing expenses. This is after a long and expensive piece of research by the industry found that — and you won’t even believe this — often, people who buy DVDs ALSO see the film in the theater!.

      I love Aronofsky, but I bet I’m one of the few people who want to see the flick because of Winona Ryder.

      Finally: you’re dating someone? Cool!

      • Matt says:

        Not only will they go to the theater, but they’ll often go to ridiculous lengths for the privledge to do so. When Blade Runner had a limited theater release in 2007 I made the trip up to L.A. to see it, as it was the only place in the state that was showing it. There were people in the audience who’d come down all the way from the California/Oregon border.

        Wasn’t Ryder great? Still stunningly lovely, too.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Haven’t seen it yet. For us to go to the movies requires logistical maneuverings more complicated than CIA black ops. But I’m looking forward to it.

          Oh, the director’s cut of Blade Runner, on the ginormous screen at Uptown Theater in DC, while I had the flu so bad I was hallucinating…one of the better cinema-going experiences of my life.

    • Matt says:

      So what exactly set you off? The film is intense in parts, sure, but nowhere near as heavy as Requiem For a Dream or The Wrestler was.

      I hated Avatar. I would’ve liked to have been able to say it was at least interesting to look at, but I’m one of those people who gets a huge splitting headache from watching 3-D longer than 20 minutes or so. I’ve yet to see Tron: Legacy, mostly because it’s been twenty years since I saw the original, and I wanted a refresher before I dived into the new one. Disney, like morons, pulled the DVD of the original off the market before the sequel came out.

  3. Aaron Dietz says:

    I’m so pleased by your response to the annoying movie-goers. I want to be able to do that someday. Maybe. I mean, learning Chinese comes first. But still, this should be on my list.

    Nice point about Casablanca. Actually I had a similar thought while about some works of literature–while reading Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. There were these two people talking, and they were having this conversation only they both also had secrets that they were skirting around, and there was just this incredible depth to what was going on, and I thought, I don’t see this in literature these days.

    • Matt says:

      Well, I’m six feet tall, 225 pounds, and frequently wear a long black trenchcoat during the winter months. Not a sight you want coming up over the seats at you. So I’ve got a bit of an edge when it comes to that sort of thing.

      We as a society don’t seem to have much patience for subtlety in our arts these days, do we?

  4. Lenore says:

    i sorta like it when people get into fights in the movie theater. it’s usually better than the movie.

    • Tom Hansen says:

      I bet you start them, don’t you, and then stand back with your psychiatrists pencil and take notes on primitive human behavior

      • Lenore says:

        every time i go see a movie like “Crank II” there’s a big fight.

        Big Guy: get your feet of my woman’s seat, motherfucker!

        Other Big Guy: you wanna go, bitch?!

        Big Guy: If you’re not gonna get your motherfucking feet of my motherfucking woman’s motherfucking seat, motherfucker!!!!

        Me: He’s not gonna! He’s not gonna!

        Other Big Guy: You wanna go, let’s go!

        Me: He wants to go! He wants to go so much!

        • Matt says:

          A fight broke out at a showing of one of the Star Wars re-releases I went to at the end of the 90s. A Wookie and a Stormtrooper punched out someone who was shining a laser pointer on the screen.

          It was kind of awesome.

        • sheree says:

          Ahahahaha. Oh man, that is priceless. Stormtrooper and Wookie punching someone out over a laser pointer.

          I live in an half a horse town. Most of the movies shown here are big budget blow’em to hell movies. I used to really love going to see films, but nothing captures my attention these days.

          Great post.

  5. Joe Daly says:

    A fairly cut and dry case of, “desperate times require desperate measures.” It is indeed a teensy bit amazing that there are people who are so self-absorbed as to think they can roll into a cinema and carry on as if they’re the only ones there. It takes a lot of work to go to a movie- you have to determine what you want to see, where you’re going to see it, and the showtime for your movie. You then have to leave your house, get to the theater, perhaps wait in line if it’s a new movie, pay for your ticket(s), and then walk through the building to your particular theater, which is dark or dim, and into which you stroll to select your seats.

    With all those steps, I simply can’t accept that someone might actually be clueless, and not realize that what they are doing is disruptive and offensive. You know you’re entering a quiet room full of ticket-buying strangers. Put the courtesy hat on and shut the fuck up.

    You go, Matt! Terrific rant.

    • Matt says:

      It’s the cluelessness that really sets me off, I think. The complete inability to think about the other people around you.

      Especially considering the cost these days, too. Last time I took a date to the movies it cost me near $60, and that’s not counting the drinks afterwards. That way too much money to have to put up with uncivil behavior.

  6. Greg Olear says:

    First, I think TV has killed the cinema experience. People are so used to talking in front of the TV, they forget they’re not supposed to at the movies.

    Second, movie theaters are partly to blame. Just show the fucking picture; after 20 minutes of sitting through commercials and previews, I want to throw Milk-Duds, too.

    Third, I think the dumbing-down has to do with comedy (and I pretty much ONLY see comedies in the theater, when the crowd adds to the experience; BORAT was improved immeasurably on opening night in a room packed with stoned SUNY students). Used to be, smart comedy was the thing. Charlie Chaplin to Billy Wilder to Woody Allen to Monty Pynthon. Somewhere along the line, the “dumb” comedy came along: Beavis and Butthead, Dumb and Dumber, and any number of Fockers. When you try and write a smart comedy and fail, you get a not-smart-enough comedy; when you try and write a dumb comedy and fail, you get “Meet the Parents.” Big difference.

    Fourth, “Casablanca” is perfect in every way, if you allow for a bit of wooden acting that was in style back then (I maintain that Claude Reins invented modern acting in that movie, although I’m sure Duke will disagree and provide earlier examples…that movie belongs to Claude Reins). I refuse to nitpick and bow to its greatness. I remember the first time I saw it (in a theater!), when Rick pulls the gun on Louie toward the end, thinking, “Where the FUCK is this going?” And yet the ending is so fucking perfect and, in retrospect, inevitable. Geen-ee-us.

    • Matt says:

      You might be right, considering that TV has undergone something of a Renaissance in the last decade or so. There are some damn good, well-written, well-acted series out there.

      I hate those commercials. The promo trailers are bad enough; why the fuck do I have to sit through a bunch of car, soft drink, and commercials for television programs before them? Luckily, I think theaters are starting to figure out that people don’t like those; the last couple of films I went to see haven’t had any.

      What bums me out about comedies is that it’s become so rare to see those that are actually really smart movies masquerading as dumb ones, and when they do occur (Tropic Thunder and The Hangover come to mind), most of the audience they cater too doesn’t recognize it. The genius of Borat was that most of the knuckleheads who went to see it were the butt of the joke.

      My grumbles with Casblanca are mostly due to the historical inaccuracies and editorial gaffes. The Nazi characters frequently wear the wrong uniforms/rank bars for their position or rank. But I love the film, and agree, Reines steals the show.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Better make it ten thousand. I’m just a poor corrupt official.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I’m not sure what you mean by “modern acting,” Greg. It can be defined a number of ways. But I recently learned that Rains taught Olivier at RADA (I think it was), and I don’t consider Olivier a particularly modern actor. He’s part of that great British tradition that also includes Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I mean that if you someone lifted his performance in “Casablanca” and put him in a modern movie, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Whereas Bogie and Bergman have that old-style, kinda wooden way of talking that is peculiar to the movies; if they were in a flick now, we’d laugh at them. In short, Reins was realistic.

        • Matt says:


          Sidney Greenstreet gives a pretty enjoyable performance too, I think. Nice bit of eccentric color.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Whenever I take a French fry from one of the kids’ plates, or snag a bite of their ice cream, I always mutter, “Carrying charges, my boy…carrying charges.” Obviously they don’t get it…

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  8. I agree with everything you’ve written. Part of the hassle of going to the movies is dealing with the people (similar to the hassle of going to the gym and dealing with the people…at my gym–warning: digression–there are people talking on cell phones which drives me crazy, especially since there are signs literally everywhere that read, “Cell phones are for emergencies only; do not disturb other clients by talking on your cell phone.” I also get really annoyed when I am on the arc trainer and trying to read something highbrow, such as The Economist, and the lady next to me is yakking to her friend about something really stupid, like shopping).

    Anyway–yes, good films are appreciated by thoughtful people. It surprises me that those who cannot behave would even attend a film that they have to read or think while viewing.

    Some people must think the film is loud enough (certain films can be positively deafening, but those are the action films, usually) that their talking won’t even be heard by others. That’s all I can guess.

    There was once an entire obnoxious family right behind my husband and I while we watched “Cold Mountain” (which I didn’t love, but that’s another story). These people literally got up and “excused” their way down the row of seats every five minutes for nearly three hours. Getting food, hitting the rest room, whatever. It was positively insane.

    When we left the theatre, my husband said, “I know who that was,” and he theorized that their obnoxious behavior was a feature of their inherent sense of entitlement. So there’s that.

    But I feel for you, Matt. It’s hard to be the nearly lone art/film aficionado when others tend not to be so serious in their appreciation of a film. At any rate, we all just need quiet to absorb things and process them.

    I have not seen “Black Swan.” What’s your ultimate verdict?

    The best course I took in college, though, was a film appreciation one. Taught me so much.



    • Matt says:

      I realized as I walked out of the theater after this particular experience that I’d seen three seperate reminders during the promo reel for patrons to turn off their electronic devices, and not a single one asking them to refrain from speaking. Sad to see that it seems we need one.

      I scratch my head at some of the people who turn up at the arthouse films thinking they’re getting another type of show. Didn’t they bother to read up, even a little bit, on what’s playing. That’s what all those critical reviews are for, after all.

      Though as lazy as our nation has become, I guess not.

      I enjoyed Black Swan a great deal, myself. If money weren’t so tight at the moment I just might go see it again.

      I took an entire year’s worth of Film Theory & Composition courses in college, and loved them; still have a couple of the textbooks. Completely broadened my understanding of film as an artistic medium, and about how use of subtext can make a seemingly “bad” film a much richer and more enjoyable one than a bland, Oscar-winning one.

      • Matt, a lot of people have told me that they “figured out” the film’s punch line in practically the first scene . . . and even though I haven’t seen the movie, I suspect that I myself know what that punch line IS, just based on the preview. I’m curious: what did you think about that? If you “knew,” then did knowing change how you saw the film? Is the film in any way contingent on NOT knowing, and believing the world view with which the viewer is presented?

        • Matt says:

          OH, I think I knew walking in, but I don’t think the “punch line” is as pivotal a plot development as it is in something like The Sixth Sense or Fight Club. This, ultimately, is film about the consequences of pursuing art to perfection when you have no passion, and the what of it is far less important than the how. It’s like walking into one of Shakespere’s tragedies; you know pretty much everyone’s going to be dead by the end of the final act. The pleasure is in watching it unfold.

          As I said above, I’m pretty sure Portman’s character is in every scene, and the camera exclusively represents her POV, which is demonstrated to be unreliable at best fairly early on.

  9. Sorry, “…right behind my husband and me…” My dog is barking in my ear as I type, and I am rushing. Forgive any other typos!

  10. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Amen. I haven’t been to the movies, per se, in years. The only place in town that would occasionally show independent films closed, which left the multiplexes and their rowdy milieu.

    Here’s the opposite of a dumbed-down movie and its intended audience:
    I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey on a big-ish screen at our performing arts theater last year. People chatted politely and fiddled with their electronics before the movie started. The minute the room went black, all noise hushed. The only sound for the next 2 1/2 hours was a guy who laughed at a part during the Dawn of Man. (Okay, and the two goofy couples next to us who left before intermission because one girl was cold and the other was bored.)

    Speaking of movies that make you think and you’re not sure you liked it…Did you see Synecdoche, New York? I literally had to take a bath after watching it to wash the sorrow off. Crazy thing is, once my psyche bounces back, I might watch it again.

    • Matt says:

      That’s a terrible shame. 2001 is the perfect kind of movie to see on a big screen. Such a wonderful feast for the eyes – even before the hyperspace sequence in the final act.

      My then-girlfriend and I went to see 28 Days Later when it came out in 2003. It’s not a boring film by any means, but I guess the rest of the audience thought they were there to see something along the lines of Resident Evil, and got restless when they got something else. There was so much chatting and talking on cell phones that I finally stood on my seat and shouted “SHUT THE FUCK UP, ASSHOLES!” at the top of my lungs. Worked!

      Haven’t seen Synedcdoche, New York yet, but it’s in my Netflix queue. I’ll report back when I do.

  11. Alison Aucoin says:

    I too went to the movies on Christmas and it was a very different experience. Ella’s first time in the theater and we went to see Tangled. Obviously, just folks with kids. Kids who do not celebrate Christmas. It was like the UN in there! All Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, and a few Jewish families (I can identify them because I know them from our temple). Everyone was beautifully behaved. I’m a bit frightened by what this might imply but it was an utterly enjoyable movie-going experience.

    PS I’ve chosen to wait and see Black Swan when it comes out on dvd so I can pause when it gets to be too much for me.

    • Matt says:


      I had pretty much the exact same experience I had when I went to see Up!. Lots of parents with their kids, all of whom were engergetic and playful, as kids are. And all of whom completely lost themselves in the experience of the movie once it started.

      Too bad adults can’t seem to do that these days.

  12. Judy Prince says:

    “I want my expectations grabbed and subverted. I want to respond with emotion, not apathy. I want to reward my brain, not turn it off. At the risk of sounding like an utter film snob, what I want to see is a piece of fucking art.”

    Matt, I agreed with you throughout—–not about disruptive moviegoers (I haven’t been to the movies since 2003)—–but about hackneyed films.

    Like any other art form, films aren’t easy to do well; in fact, like other art forms, some 99% are likely to be way off the mark of excellence.

    That might be the sole reason for the proliferation of passably entertaining, but not truly fine, films.

    Yet, like you, I suspect that something’s become a major clogging-cog in the machine of the industry. Since there’s no ONE movie industry power that decides what gets done and what doesn’t get done, my assumption is that the press for films to feed a global money-paying public precludes the time-taking, earnest, persevering, nurturing of writers necessary to high-quality, meaningful films.

    TNB has several sensitive and wise film reviewers, writers and commenters whose analyses continuously add fresh insights into story lines, themes, directing and acting. I’m glad you’ve weighed in with your thoughtful comments, and I’m eager to see TNBers give us more of their best critiquing “shots.”

    • Matt says:

      I’ve stayed away from tossing my hat into the TNB film club ring just because I didn’t want to tread on Cynthia’s lovely toes, though I AM willing to risk stepping on Simon’s (wear your Blunnies, amigo). But I just might have to do more of these. I didn’t take all those film courses for nothing!

      • Judy Prince says:

        ***Let’s have an Ebert-Siskel kind of video every week!!!!*** And have it be for us netflixers as well as moviegoers. YES!!!!!

        Matt, who’s to say that Simon doesn’t have lovely toes?

        Yes, jump in the movie circle of TNB folk, for goodness sakes!

        And the critiquers don’t have to have lovely toes or great beards (like yours). The more critiquers, the merrier, I’m thinking.

  13. Oh, this is just my luck too, as we’ve discussed a little before. I would compare it to the way cats always pick the lap of the one non-cat-loving person in a room to curl up on for hours. Somehow these people just *know*, and they seek you and me out.

    In True Grit some guy parked his kid right next to me. Maybe he was twelve? And he apparently did not understand the unwritten law which dictates that the armrest shared between two strangers is a no-man’s land into which one’s elbow should never enter. And also he blew bubbles in his Coke, made celebratory noises when people were shot as one might do when playing a video game, and laughed raucously when things weren’t funny. Of course I didn’t blame the kid. I blamed his dad who was doing the exact same thing one seat down.

    • Matt says:

      I was the first person in to see True Grit in a large theater. I was early, and alone in there for almost half an hour. So where did the next people to come in sit? Directly in front of me, of course.


      At least they behaved themselves.

      That father and I would have had words, for damn sure.

  14. Dana says:

    We wanted to avoid an awkward invitation on Christmas Day (with our neighbors?!), so we pretended we had somewhere we had to be and took in a matinee. We couldn’t wait and see True Grit because a winter snow event (seriously – that’s what they call them here in Hampton Roads) was coming in and if we were caught out in it we probably would have perished. But that’s another rant for another day. So we haphazardly chose a movie with Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd with an early start time.

    We got there early and got the best seats in the house – 2nd tier of seats, behind the handicapped area so there are steel rails to use as foot rests. By the time the movie started there were probably 2 dozen people in the theater. All within 3 rows of us. What IS that?

    I’d bitch about the constant up and down to the snack bar and bathroom that ensued around us for the next few hours, but really it was the only thing that kept me awake.
    The best thing about the movie were the wood floors in Owen Wilson’s apartment.

    But thanks Matt – I appreciate your good fight on behalf of us too meek to speak up when confronted with the chit chatting tools who are too self involved to notice the other paying customers around them. This past summer when we went to see Iron Man 2, once again got the primo seats, when two young women came in and rolled their INFANTS IN STROLLERS into the handicapped spots. Movies are LOUD, especially movies like IM2 and infants generally don’t like that (in fact it’s probably awful for their tiny ears), so they cried and fussed and cried and were rocked and coddled and strolled for the first two thirds of the movie. And then their mothers finally gave up and left. Awe. Some.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Don’t a lot of places do “mommy matinees” especially for this reason? Like one or two shows a day where’s there’s mommy/baby discounts and where the whole theatre is filled with moms and babies, so no one has any right to get mad at anyone else and everyone is sympathetic to everyone else’s plight?

      Isn’t this best?

      • Dana says:

        That’s certainly a step in the right direction, but what would really be better is the moms got a sitter for two or three hours and left the kids at home until they’re old enough to understand what’s going on, on the screen.

    • Matt says:

      God, the trailers for that Wilson/Rudd/Witherspoon movie looked terrible. Though I suppose it’s preferable to being caught in a snowstorm.

      I don’t understand parents who take infants to the movies one bit. Movies are bright and loud, things infants don’t like…OF COURSE they’re going to cry! If mom and dad need to get out of the house for a bit, hire a damned sitter. You’re infant isn’t going to get a single thing out of the experience.

  15. Becky Palapala says:

    I’m always the crabby bitch in the movie theatre telling teenagers to shut up. Literally. Like, “HEY! Shut up!”

    I’ve been chastised for admitting this before–sentiments like, “I bet you are.” I mean, my response was, “That’s a solid bet.” But my response was a curveball to a comment that was meant to make me feel oh-so-bad and ashamed for being a wicked shrew.

    Fuck that. Do not talk in my movie. Do not fucking text message so that I get an after image of your blackberry screen burned into my retina. I’m going to yell at you. And if you don’t stop, I’m going to go get the usher. If it continues, I will not stop until I get you kicked. the fuck. out. It almost never comes to that, though. Usually people (especially teens) are so startled by the active, unabashed rebuke that they do shut up. If public shaming is what it takes, then public shaming it shall be.

    I just don’t feel bad. My feeling is that if you can’t behave according to the rules of social etiquette for a given public context for the measly period of 2 hours, you should not be out in public.

    Anyway, I don’t know that movies are any dumber than they’ve ever been, but I do think people are less and less willing to take strangers (especially kids) to task about their disruptive or impolite behaviors. I don’t know if it’s the product of a litigious society or what, but everyone would just rather suffer in silence than get involved. So people are just accustomed to behaving like that and never suffering any consequences.

    • Becky, I think you are truly awesome. Below, I mentioned wanting to see a movie with Matt and Lenore. I am now adding you to that list. Some thoughts: 1. I’ve got your back. And: 2. I’m bringing a video camera.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Okay, but I’m not going to any of Matt’s B&W snooze-fests. And none of that self-consciously edgy Tarantino stuff. And nothing about boxers. Or uterine solidarity. Or blowing things up.

        When does Pirates of the Carribean IV come out? 😉

        • Matt says:

          Well, damn. I just bought us all tickets to an anniversary showing of Raging Bull. Black and white, about a boxer….well, I guess that plan’s out!

          The theater I went to see Black Swan at had a huge promotional display for Pirates 4, so I’m guessing it comes out pretty soon. Maybe even as early as this spring.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Yaaaaayyyy!!! *claps stupidly and dons pirate hat*

    • Matt says:


      I should probably feel bad for yelling at that family on Christmas, but I don’t. Not one bit. After all, I paid my $10 to see the movie, not listen to a bunch of assholes yap about spilling junk food down their clothing. And I don’t like wasting money, so if a public shaming is what’s required, than a public shaming it shall be!

  16. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    Like Gloria said, Black Swan was panic-attack inducing, but probably one of the best movies of the past year. I too still have its themes and imagery bouncing around in my head and have since heard multiple, sometimes widely varying interpretations from people who liked it, always a sign a good film.

    I hate talkers though, unless the movie is bad at which point I feel it’s appropriate to loudly chuff and comment on the wrong turns happening up on screen. One thing I do like on occasion, and this is sometimes a delicate balance for an audience to achieve, is the collective reactions of the crowd. Especially for horror movies and comedies this can, at times, go a long way toward enhancing the overall experience. The chattiness you encountered, however, is never welcome.

    • Matt says:

      The collective experience can be the best part of seeing a movie in the theater, when people are laughing, crying, gasping in unison. That feeling is wonderful, and has helped sway my opinions on films that I otherwise might not have liked. Case in point: the Star Trek reboot. I saw that in a pretty full theater, with a cool crowd, and was totally down with the adventure.

      Then a few months later I rented it on DVD and watched it at home, by myself. And my response was, “Wow, this is really a piece of shit.”

  17. Poor movie theater etiquette is such a pet peeve of mine. (Also see: library etiquette.) It seems like I always end up angry. I’ve developed an aversion to seeing movies in the theater because someone always ruins the experience. Disappointing humanity is disappointing.

    One of my husband’s friends from Los Angeles is in True Grit, so we braved the theater recently to see it. The movie exceeded my already high expectations, but we had a crowd of giggling, talking people behind us, and somewhere in the theater, a baby was crying off and on throughout the entire movie. It repeatedly pulled me out of the story.

    Once, while at the theater for Spider-Man 3, we watched a guy in the front area with a crying baby, and a three-year-old who was running in the front, actually smacking the movie screen with his hands. In addition to being annoyed that we had found a babysitter so we could have a break from parenting to see an adult movie, we were horrified that this man was subjecting his young children to the loud noise and scary imagery. My husband walked down to the front and said something in the man’s ear, then walked back to our middle area seats. I don’t know exactly what he said, but the guy packed up the baby, chased down the wandering toddler, and was gone in less than two minutes.

    I really love your thoughts on embracing challenge and complexity in movie plots. This piece is great, Matt. I want to marry it, divorce it because we just adore each other too much, and then shock our adult children by marrying it again because we can’t stay apart. Also: I really want to go to the movies sometime with you and Lenore. (:

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Yes. Pet peeve. That’s what they call those.

      I don’t like the theatre, either. I’ve attributed my contempt to a lot of things, all of which probably play a role, but as a friend recently pointed out–almost dissmissively and totally matter-of-factly as if it went without saying–when I pondered the reasons for my contempt out loud:

      “It’s the other human beings.”

    • Matt says:

      Your True Grit crowd would have hated me. And Lenore and Becky, it seems. Though it’s possible the three of us would cause such a ruckus we’d end up getting the boot. But at least it’d be more entertaining than Spider-Man 3.

      Like I said above, I just don’t get parents who bring a kid that young into a theater. Yes, I know, I don’t know what it’s like to be stuck at home night after night with the kid(s), but still. There are plenty of eager, available babysitters out there, like I was when I was younger (Secret to being a successful babysitter: work cheap, work well, work often. You make the most money in repeat business).

      I was about five, I think, when my parents took me to see my first movie (The Neverending Story, to the best of my recollection). I was mesmerized, but that was because I was old enough to have an attention span. At three or four? Not so much.

      • I do know what it’s like to be stuck at home night after night with a kid, and I would still never subject other moviegoers to my bored (and therefore obnoxious) four-year-old. Nor would I subject my child to the mature subject matter of a movie intended for older people. It is unfathomably inconsiderate and completely inappropriate to bring a young child to adult movies. I’m truly sorry you’re stuck at home, parents who can’t find a babysitter, and I can relate, but that’s just part of the deal you signed up for when you decided to procreate. Rub some dirt in it.

        Awww. I loved The Neverending Story. You just reminded me that I need to show that one to my son.

  18. angela says:

    in New York, i would actually get tense before going to a movie, anticipating all the loudmouths who somehow got it in their heads that the theater is their living room. once a woman behind us not only didn’t turn off her cell phone after the film started, but ANSWERED it. we gave the old half-turn, and she said, “What the fuck are you looking at?”


    and during the opening sequence of Let the Right One In – the silent, snowy sequence – one girl whispered at the top of her lungs, “IT’S SO QUIET!”

    not anymore, dumbshit.

    i thought if there were only headphones at the movies. then other people could make as much noise as they wanted, and i could still hear.

    in SF it doesn’t seem to be as bad, but it could be just a matter of time.

    • Matt says:

      I had the same response when I lived in New Orleans. At the time I moved there, there was only one indie theater still open (the Prytania, a large single-screen), and it got by only by showing whatever film was big that week. N.O. crowds can be rowdy, thanks to the 24/7 availability of alcohol, so I got in the habit of going to see first of the day matinee shows, though that still wasn’t a guarantee of an easy time.

      I’ve never seen a movie in SF, but my friends who live in the East Bay tell me the hipster crowds who gather for open-air showing in the park can be…obnoxious….

  19. Dana says:

    “not anymore, dumbshit.”


  20. Greg Olear says:

    When I went to see Das Boot — the extended version — at the last instant, some enormous guy sat right next to me (although there were plenty of good seats still available), which, let me tell you, dadded quite a bit to the sense of claustrophobia…I think maybe they paid him to do that.

    • Matt says:

      Imagine what job placement ad would look like:

      “WANTED. Plus-sized individual to facilitate creating atmosphere of unease and claustrophobia among theater patrons. Must be willing to work flexible hours. Snacks provided.”

      Wonder who Quid Pro Quo had him bump off to get the job…

  21. Zara Potts says:

    I think that manners on the whole have pretty much gone out of fashion.

    This depresses me.

    I think a lot of the world needs a damn good lesson in etiquette. It seems strange that there are such a lot of instances of bad behaviour in movie theatres – particularly when the tickets are so expensive. Maybe that’s the key – make it horribly expensive to see a show and people will make damn sure they are getting their money’s worth and maybe then will shut the fuck up.

    I don’t know about movie going. I used to really enjoy it and then I went to Film School and got movied out, I think. Plus, I hate sitting next to strangers who do gross things. I went to a showing of a particularly brutal Australian film called ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead” by John Hillcoat and sat next to a neanderthal who repeatedly punched his hand during the shower rape scene. His behaviour was more distressing than what was going on on screen.

    By the way -you should watch ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead’ its a terrifying and intense movie – starring Nick Cave and.. My Dad!!!

    • Matt says:

      Okay, that – the rape scene thing – is really bothersome. I think at the very least I would get up and move to another seat, even if I had the best one in the house.

      I think your extremely high price plan might backfire. People would be, “I paid a lot of money to get in here, so I’m entitled to act how I want. Yak yak yak yak yak.” That’s certainly how they behave in a high-end nightclub. I think we’d have to school them in manners first.

      I would love to watch your pop act in a film with Nick Cave, but alas, Ghosts of the Civil Dead isn’t available in the U.S. yet. Can’t even find it listed on any rental service, as a matter of fact.

    • Ghosts is always in any critic’s top 10 prison films. I saw it looong ago, I just remember it being pretty brutal, and the prison having a very interesting design.

  22. Lish McBride says:

    It all comes down to being considerate of others and it seems that, in general, people are so focused on themselves and their own needs that it doesn’t even occur to them to think of others. My mother would have hauled my ass out of the theatre for talking. Even my six year old knows that, should he need to tell me something or ask a quick question, he needs to whisper quietly so as not to disturb the other patrons.

    I once saw a man not only use his phone in a theatre but he MADE A CALL OUT. Did he get up and walk the ten feet to the lobby? No, he started to chat about how he was seeing Hulk, and while I wasn’t enthralled with the movie (this was Ang Lee’s version) I was still pissed that a grown-ass man couldn’t think for two seconds beyond his own needs.

    My theory? We’re spoiled. As a people, we’ve decided that the world owes us something, not because we’ve worked hard or earned it, but simply because we exist. I think we’ve become entitled, and I think that’s a dangerous thing.

    If I want to talk during a movie, and sometimes I do, then I rent it and I invite people over with the understanding that we are going to dissect the film that we are watching. Otherwise it’s just rude.

    • Matt says:

      Yes, exactly. There are rules – unspoken or otherwise – about how you comport yourself in public. Courtesy towards others is a pretty big one.

      Talking on the phone in the theater will set me off like a Roman candle tossed into an open fire.

      And yes, dissecting a film is an absolutely enjoyable experience. But just as you don’t workshop a novel or story while the author is reading it, you don’t critique the film while it’s still playing up on the big white screen. Save it for the coffee shop afterwards or when you’ve rented a copy for home use.

  23. pixy says:

    i feel blessed and spoiled by having lived in (and will live in again, dammit!) austin, tx where they have the most wonderfully awesome chain of movie theatres ever: the Alamo Drafthouse.
    the alamo drafthouse does not smell nauseatingly like burnt fake butter on popcorn.
    the alamo drafthouse has “baby day” (tuesdays), the only day where children under the age of 6 are allowed.
    the alamo drafthouse has a rule where you can “flag” the waiters there and quietly tattle on loud annoying people – they get one warning. the second time they get kicked out without a refund.
    the alamo drafthouse has fun movie night themes – i especially enjoyed “terror thursdays” and the “jesus christ superstar” sing-a-long on easter.

    the alamo drafthouse is cinema experience perfection; i’ll never go to a “big” chain theater again. now that i’m in portland, i prefer the laurelhurst.

    i miss the alamo like i miss the ocean. 🙂

    • Gloria says:

      The Laurelhurst is absolutely superior to the McMenaminn’s chains – though the McMenaminns in St. Johns is really great. The Living Room theater. Have you been there?

      • pixy says:

        i went to see “catfish” at the living room theater over thanksgiving. it’s not too bad, but (and i SO hate being this person) it’s no alamo.
        the theaters are SUPER small! i was surprised – no more than about 25 people total will fit in there, right? and we didn’t get any food when we went, but i kind of didn’t like that you had to order outside before you went in the theater.

        but i totally admit to nit-picking because i refuse to think there is an awesomer theater than the alamo. 🙂 there are VERY few things i won’t budge on, that i have to be pushed on, and this is one of them.

        the laurelhurst got me when they were showing “night of the hunter”. it was the first week i got to town. i knew then that we were going to be fast friends.

    • Matt says:

      Ah, I’ve heard stories of the greatness of the Alamo Drafthouse. One day, if I ever find myself in Texas again, I’ll have to stop in.

      • pixy says:

        it truly is a magical gnome land of awesomeness where gnomey unicorns fart cotton candy and blow. i love it lots.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Plus you can order dinner and drinks. It’s the only time I ever went to a sold-out movie that I didn’t mind all those other people.

          They really should go national. Although maybe that would spoil the specialness of it.

        • pixy says:

          i love their theme menus. the 3rd best $100 i spent was thanksgiving at the alamo with the lord of the rings trilogy. all 3 movies and a five course meal to go with the five groups of life and a wizard dessert! AWESOME!

          my goal is to, one day, get into the butt-numb-a-thon.

    • My local independent has mother-and-baby days, but they are literally babies (under 18 months) and the films are for adults. The theory is that very young children don’t absorb any info from the screen, so the mums can breastfeed and natter while enjoying a showing of Antichrist or Shortbus.

  24. Amanda says:

    Further to this, I believe the reason theatres install increasingly head-blasting sound systems isn’t so much to woo us and wow us with how much it really totally almost sounded like that truck just blew up in the seat next to you, but to drown out the drone of audiences that won’t shut up.

  25. Did you douse that (presumably ex) girlfriend with Vichy water, Matt? If not, you should have.

  26. Richard Cox says:

    I have a feeling Christmas Day brings out the worst movie goers, and the worst in us as movie goers, as we’re all trying to escape the cloying and too-warm holiday houses full of too much food and too much noise.

    I’ve seen Black Swan twice now, once on a Monday at 2 o’clock, which was virtually empty, and the second time at 5 on a Friday, which was more packed but still manageable and surprisingly quiet.

    Anything I care about seeing in peace, I go on a weekday, and usually Monday or Tuesday. Reduces the likelihood of unwanted audience interaction.

    • Matt says:

      What a horrible thought: what’s supposed to be the most kind-hearted, loving day on the planet and will all turn into a bunch of assholes. Fuck it, next year I’m just going to kill myself.

      I used to rock the early weekday matinee shows when I was in school or working nights, but now that I’m a regular 9-5 guy that isn’t really an option anymore. Best I can usually do is the early show Sunday morning, but others seem to have gotten wise to that trick as well.

  27. Okay, seeing as my original comment disappeared, here goes round two: I agree with you. Completely and wholeheartedly. And I thought this was well written.

    Hmm. There was more than that, I’m sure, but it looks as though various others have echoed my thoughts.

    Oh yeah, I think I was ranting about idiots and how people with little to say are usually louder than actual intelligent people, and so when you combine idiots and movies, it’s bound to make them seem even worse than they already are.

    Having said that, I’ve made an ass of myself in movie-theatres before. When I went to see… can’t remember the name of it or the plot but it starred Keanu fucking Reeves… Well, it ended up with me getting my head stuck in an elevator door. Which I suppose means that I’m one of the aforementioned idiots… but at least I did it quietly!

  28. D.R. Haney says:

    I don’t know that things have gotten worse in this way, Matt. We think it’s so, obviously, but I’m currently reading a book entitled A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen, which includes slides that were projected back in the 1910s that say: LOUD TALKING OR WHISTLING NOT ALLOWED, and WHY HAVE ALL THE LADIES REMOVED THEIR HATS BUT — YOU! And have you by any chance ever seen A Place in the Sun with Monty Clift and Liz Taylor? There’s a sequence that takes place during a movie, and the kids in the theater are talking and throwing popcorn and so on, and I expect that scene was inspired by real-life behavior in 1950, when the movie was shot.

    I’m not shooting you down; I suppose I’m just playing devil’s advocate (O wretched phrase). Meanwhile, here’s a story about me annoying people around me. When Burn After Reading was released, I went to see it at a theater in Silver Lake with a group of friends, and when the movie was over, the two guys in front of me and stood and one of them said, “Every time I come to this theater, there’s always some guy behind me laughing in the wrong places.”

    He clearly meant me because, yes, I’d been laughing when no one else was laughing — but that was because I could see the joke to come, or because I was savoring a fleeting look on an actor’s face that, apparently, no one else found funny. I was shocked that this guy had said what he’d said, but my friends were pissed. One of them said, “Yeah, it happens every time you come to this theater because it’s patronized by people smarter than your fucking ass.” I won’t go that far, but, still, the wrong places? What, we’re only allowed to laugh when the LAUGHTER sign flashes?

    That was one of the rare times I’ve been to a movie theater of late. I don’t go because there’s just so little I want to see. Sure, there are good films released here and there, but they almost always seem so non-essential, as the Clash once said of the Damned.

    • Greg Olear says:

      BURN AFTER READING is a hilarious movie. The more you see it, the more you laugh. I LOVE that movie. So yes, that guy was a moron.

    • Matt says:

      First off, fuck that passive-aggressive asshole. He was obviously insecure at the idea of you laughing at humor that was too sophisticated for him to get. I would have said something very similar to what your friend did. Twerp.

      I did absolutely no sociological research, hence why this is presented as a rant (though the Movies header shows up dominant for some reason). Based solely on my experience as a frequent moviegoer since 1994 or so, I’d say audiences are lately getting stupider and more obnoxious, but it’s entirely possible these things are cyclical. If so, we’re certainly on the downswing at the moment.

      A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen sounds like an interesting book. I love those slides. Rather wish something similar would play for modern audiences. HEY, JERK, PUT YOUR SMARTPHONE AWAY etc.

  29. I’m not sure how or why or how it happened but I once read a tweet by Pink. She’d been at an outdoor screening of…a film…and someone had asked her to stop talking. Her (Twitter) response was something like “Sorry hon, but if I’m at a show with my friends I’m gonna talk a bit. If you want to watch the movie in silence watch it at home on DVD.”

    Now I realise Pink is a spoilt, fame-addled brat who doesn’t mix with the peasantry much, but that’s totally arse about face. Pinky dear, if you want to talk, you watch the film on DVD at home, with your friends, in your big fancy home cinema. If you’re in public, STFU. People paid to hear the film, not your gob.

    Both David Sedaris and British film critic Anne Billson have lived in Paris, and they’ve both written of the joy of having dozens of cinemas within walking distance, in which the audience sits quietly and watches the film. Sounds good, doesn’t it? And isn’t it strange and disappointing that it’s remarkable?

  30. Matt says:

    People paid to hear the film, not your gob. Indeed.

    What a right cunt. I’d be deleting her music out of my iTunes right now if I actually owned any. Nice to see what she think us poor plebes should be obligated to put up with if she wants to go see a movie.

    When I was a university student I had a film class TA who’d just gotten back from a stint in France. He used to talk about how he missed the film viewing culture in Europe. At the time I thought it was just pretentious fiddle-faddle, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m starting to understand what he means. Sad.

    • She has almost three million followers, most of whom are probably teenagers, who would read her nonsense and think “Yeah, that’s the way to behave.”

      Actually I just looked through her tweets and she’s generally pretty thoughtful. Maybe that was an aberration.

  31. Irene Zion says:

    (Ahem, we loved “The Black Swan” and we are both over 60.)
    But, that aside, the way we avoid these types of theatergoers is to go to the very first show on a weekend. The little shits are all asleep and you have the theater all to yourself.

    • Matt says:

      Irene, you don’t look a year over a sprightly 52, and you know it! And as I said, the older folks were fine – it was the younger ones who wouldn’t shut up.

      I usually do the early morning weekend show myself, but that’s becoming less and less foolproof a solution, alas. The jig, I suspect, may be up.

  32. Darian Arky says:

    I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the other members of the audience at the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC, for shouting “Fuck you!” at the screen three times in rapid succession while getting up and walking out of “Redacted”…

  33. jmblaine says:

    I’ve seen two movies
    in the theater in the last 8 or so years.
    I’m not trying to be cool,
    I just don’t like sitting in
    a dark room
    with strangers.

    Movie going surely is due
    for a big slump right?
    Do people still go?
    I heard something somewhere
    about a prediction that the next big
    terror strike would be a backpack boom
    in a crowded theater & then
    that would end that business.
    Or just the fear of it
    would end going.

    • Matt says:

      If the crowds at my local theaters are any indication, humanity is fully willing to risk death (at my hands, if not a terrorist’s) just to get a couple of hours’ entertainment.

  34. My mother has this lovely memory of taking the train into Manhattan from Pelham when she was barely a teenager so she could see foreign films that they didn’t show at the tiny “Pelham Playhouse.” This was the fifties and she couldn’t get enough of French cinema and would plan her week around her next trip into the city. When I asked her why she never went with a friend she said because the movies took her so completely away from the ordinary life she was living – -that she didn’t want to be reminded until she got off the train in Pelham – that she was still that girl. She wanted that time alone to dream about the film she had seen, to imagine that it was a part of her life.

    Today’s movie going experience is nothing like that at all – and I wonder — if the people who are incessantly talking, who are texting, who are eating popcorn and candy and god knows what else like it is their last meal, I wonder what kind of magic those people are missing. To forget, to dream, if only for a scant 90 minutes. Wasn’t that the original purpose of the movie?

    • Matt says:

      That’s wonderful. And not unlike what some friends and I used to do in college. We’d drive to out-of-the-way arthouse theaters in other cities just to see independant or foreign fare that wasn’t playing in the bigger metroplexes. Some of these would be all-day events: we’d drive out to our destination, see the film, and then get dinner on the way home, where we’d discuss the film over our meal. Sort of like a mini-cultural salon.

      This sort of thing – a dialog – is exactly what modern movie audiences are missing out on. I rarely hear descriptive words about a film’s quality other than “cool,” “sucks,” etc.

  35. Erika Rae says:

    I’ve never started a fight in a movie theater – but I’ve unfortunately been the shooter off of my mouth at bars before. Oddly, it’s for the same type of behavior that you describe – stupid people making too much noise. I’m suddenly fascinated why I would think that people need to be polite, calm citizens at a bar. One instance of sitting around a table sipping margs with a table full of friends comes to mind. A woman next to us kept making this loud, prolonged noise not unlike an Afghani warrior on horseback who also happened to have a hole punched through his windpipe. I couldn’t take it anymore, stood up, flailed my arms open at her (as in, what the fuck – you gonna keep at this all night?) and said, “Lady! Seriously? We can’t hear each other over the war cry!” Friends are now embarrassed and pulling me back to a seated position, telling me shut up or she’ll hear me, etc. etc. at which point I’m realizing she couldn’t even hear me enough over the din in the bar to turn and see me carrying my flag of pointlessness.

  36. So, I went to see the King’s Speech last Sunday. Two fifty-something ladies start yapping it up. I turned around a shushed them. My friend with me started laughing at me. I just shrugged. You just don’t talk during movies!! I don’t mind if people text as long as their brightness is turned all the way down and they half hide their phone.

    When I think of talking in movies I think of my dad about to throttle me. Not a good thought at all.

    I liked Black Swan! Natalie. Hubba.

  37. […] in the mainstream media and even here on TNB. It was an important feature of Matt Baldwin’s “When Stupid People Go To Smart Movies,” and was also mentioned in “Legacy, Lightcycles, and Lady Gaga,” a discussion between […]

  38. Greg Olear says:

    Was thinking of you last night, Matt…Steph and I finally made it so see the movie, and there were maybe six other people there (early show), and this one woman kept crinkling her fucking potato chip bag, and I finally had to ask her to stop. (This was early on, before the film got dull and crunching would have been a welcome distraction from the “action” on the screen).

  39. […] no shortage of cinemagoers quite happy to spoil the viewing experience for everyone else in When Stupid People Go To Smart Movies. Here’s the website of the Literary Death Match. And here’s the slightly disturbing video for […]

  40. […] no shortage of cinemagoers quite happy to spoil the viewing experience for everyone else in When Stupid People Go To Smart Movies. Here’s the website of the Literary Death Match. And here’s the slightly disturbing video for […]

  41. Captain Con says:

    I live near a five screen Odeon cinema and can’t obviously go inside unless its some brainless action movie. What is good though is watching people arrive and figuring out whether they are on a first date or whether they are work colleagues not admitting they are on a first date … I think I’d like to watch a film of people arriving for a movie and all the little mannerisms and clues about them and their relationship with each other.

    People who hate each other don’t generally want to sit next to each other so won’t be going to the cinema. That means that most couples anyway are in the early or discovery stages of a relationship.

    If you really pay attention you can work out which relationships will work and which ones are going to be dud dates.

    Best of all there is a coffee shop across from the entrance to the cinema so I can sit there and become outraged because some guy opened the door and walked through and just let go of the door forcing his date to (a) swerve so she doesn’t get the edge of the door in her face and (b) see her hesitate for a second with this ‘This isn’t going to work’ thoughtbubble over her head.

    If I see a couple who are both anxious and obviously have a first date and they look like nice people I’ll order black forest gateaux to go with my coffee. For luck.

  42. Joi Brozek says:

    Matt, you’re my hero. I barely go to see movies in the theater these days because I just can’t bear it. I also have been known to shout at people to knock it off (most recently during a *live* performance, no less).

    Plus, you like Black Swan, my favorite movie of recent times. I remember when I saw Requiem for a Dream in the theater (three times), and as the closing credits rolled, people were saying, “I’m sorry” to each other if they hadn’t walked out. This was in Union Square in NYC.

    I really enjoyed reading this piece!

  43. Jesse Dziedzic says:

    This post couldn’t be more correct..

  44. Uhx says:

    I was searching on google for what are the medical reasons that explain why a person gets furious when talking to stupid people and ended up here.

    I liked you article and while I can’t be considered a film lover I always felt that using my time to see “intelligent” movies is a really good use of it, and yes the behaviour in theatres can very annoying sometimes.

    It’s fairly obvious why humans get furious with other people’s behaviour, usually that’s only because those people are ultimately responsible for producing a shittier world, but stupid people, if you scream at them and they stop, it’s because they’re in fear of something, not because they actually learned.

    As an example, if you try to argue with a stupid person and supply proof against some misconception that that person firmly believes, usually no amount of proof will change his/her mind, I mean, I got invoved in a discussion with a “flat earther” the other day, I didn’t even thought this “species” existed anymore, and yes, he knew how to use a computer and google stuff and had some education, no amount of proof i could supply could change his opinion, out of the top of my head I had a pretty good collection of “proof of why the Earth is round”, none would work.

    I got nervous, usually when I do I just berate that persons intelligence and humiliate them, maybe they’ll feel bad for being ignorant and actually grab a damn book when nobody’s looking, but this time, I got so nervous inside, that i just left calmly and wandered for 5 minutes, my hope in humanity sunk too low that day.

    And I find some people sometimes, that just know everything, even if they have to make it up, even if they have to ask you and then say “I knew that…” or “oh I was forgetting that…”, this kind of things gets on my nerves, but getting nervous and trying to reason with people like this is useless, they just don’t listen.

    There has to be a better way of doing things, same goes for shouting at people that are rude in theatres, they stop talking alright but you’ve just put a band-aid on the problem but the problem is still there, they’re the same aberrant beings just quieter for 2 hours.

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