A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

PEOPLE JUST AIN'T NO GOOD, part infinity

I don't go to the movies very often anymore. Now that I review stuff, I can usually get in on a press screening. I particularly like the press-only ones they have in the middle of the day, because it's just ten people and you know everyone is going to actually be watching the movie and keep their yaps shut. You know you aren't going to get that lucky anymore at an actual public screening, and it's so damn expensive, I am not sure how it's worth it. With technology the way it is, is the theatre experience offering us much more than size?

Price probably wouldn't matter to me all that much if people still had manners and the good graces to shut up when the lights go out. I know home video is blamed for this, because people are now used to watching movies at home and talking all they want. I've always thought that's true, and even though I think manners have fallen across the board in modern society, it makes sense that certain mores have dropped away for specific reasons. I have also started to wonder if maybe the decline in reading has something to do with it. Maybe if people read books more they'd be used to engaging with art on the interior, stay inside their heads and not express their reactions out loud.

Today I went to see Last King of Scotland. Having watched Babel last night, Last King was pretty much the last thing I needed to see to be fully Oscar aware. Even though I don't agree with a ton of the Academy choices, I think I am more informed about what is competing this year than I have ever been. Forest Whitaker had some decent moments last night on SNL, and it got me thinking I should give him his due. Plus, as a fan of the documentary General Idi Amin Dada, I was curious to see how deep into the man's skin Whitaker could get. I have to say, it was an impressive performance, going beyond being a mere impression and really bringing the historic figure to life. If you have any doubts about the veracity of the portrayal, rent the documentary.

The movie itself was so-so. Whitaker was really the best reason to see it, as the script was fairly standard as these things go. I'm amazed I could enjoy it at all, though, because I was stuck in a bad spot in a rather crowded theatre. I thought I had lucked out because I was one of the few sections where there were any empty seats, and they both happened to be on either side of me. So, people were all around, but I wasn't boxed in. In the row in front of me, one woman's cell phone went off twice during the previews, but someone actually leaned over and said, "Can you figure out how to turn that off?" Smartly, he did it loud enough for all to hear, so she had no choice. She was shamed!

Next to the empty seat on my right was an African American couple. The woman was closest to me. Right from the get-go, they started talking. It was somewhat respectful at first, just a whisper, but the volume of their conversation would rise at different moments in the movie. I could also catch hand gestures out of the corner of my eye as the woman pointed out stuff on the screen or started dancing in her seat during a club scene. That can almost be as distracting as talking, because you sense the movement and it takes your gaze from the screen. I swear, this couple had a comment every two or three minutes, and it wasn't just a comment, they would discuss it. The guy who shushed the cell phone user turned and looked at her once, but otherwise, no one else seemed to be reacting.

I started to really wonder about this woman when Idi Amin gave a speech to assembled dignitaries about the history of Africa and the developments that the rest of the world took from their soil. The woman started cheering the things he said. "That's right," she proclaimed. Now, I won't dispute the truth of his statements, but Idi Amin was a mass murderer. You don't cheer him, right or no. Hitler is a worn-out example, but even he had some good ideas about government. No one would ever consider applauding him anything but bad taste, however.

But still, fine. I can ignore that. I could even ignore when the white doctor, who becomes one of Amin's aides, strips down to his birthday suit to change his pants and she shouted out, "Ewwww!" I wanted to turn to her and ask, "What? Are you 8?" but I didn't. She still had yet to go too far.

As Idi Amin began to lose grasp on reality, he decided he needed to expel any possible contrary element from Uganda. So, he goes on television and declares that all the Asians must leave. The woman next to me says, "Right on." He then says the reason they have to leave is because Asians take from the country and don't give back. Again she says, "Right on."

Now, this I can't believe. I'm appalled. So, the next time she makes a comment, I shush her. Boy, oh boy, the look she shot me, I can't believe she didn't leap across that empty seat. She turned to the man with her and said very loudly, "He shushed me!" as if it were the most insane thing she could have imagined happening. He didn't respond in any way I could hear, and my action hadn't done any good, but at least I had gone on record.

Where was everyone else, though? I had gotten the ball rolling, I had started to try to shut this woman down and stop her from being so annoying, so why didn't anyone else chime in? I know I am probably more sensitive than most to the noise, but she can't have been bothering just me. No one wants to cause trouble, so we endure a lot more than we probably should, but how come when someone takes the chance to try to quell the chatter, the rest of us don't back that person up? Even one person could have followed with, "Seriously, shhhh," and then there would have been two of us. Think about that next time you hear someone like me speak up. If you agree with the sentiment, throw in your support. At the very least, you be the shusher next time that same person makes noise. Build the troops!

Thankfully, as Last King of Scotland was heading toward its climax, apparently the filmmakers took too much liberty with the facts for her tastes. I have no idea how historically accurate the film was overall, but the basic premise of a young Scottish doctor going to Uganda to work in a clinic and becoming Idi Amin's personal physician is apparently an invention of the author of the novel the movie is based on. So, yeah, there can be some complaint that once again Western audiences are handed a white point-of-view character for a story about Africa. When Amin is freaking out in the movie because the Western press is smearing him, and he turns to the Scot and insists he tell him what to do, the woman declared, "This is bullshit!" and stormed out, man in tow. As she passed, I muttered, "Thank God," but she didn't hear me. I could now enjoy the finale of the film without her yapping.

With a sigh, I look now at the three empty seats to my right...and I see that the next person over, the one who had been the couple's other neighbor, is an Asian woman. Yikes! Could she hear this stupid person praising the pyscho dictator for throwing Asians out of his country? Just when I thought it couldn't get any more hellacious....

I may never leave my house again.

Current Soundtrack: Little Steven's Underground Garage radio program

Current Mood: irate

1 comment:

Craigery said...

The talking, combined with the smell of what I can only describe as feet and hot dogs, are the reasons I prefer to avoid the theatre and watch movies in the comfort and silence of my own home.

I'm a shusher as well. A well-timed 'Could you please let me enjoy what I paid for?' usually does the trick. On one occasion I had the bright idea of going to grab a manager to deal with a particular rowdy pair of forty year olds. The only supervisor I found was about 18 years old. Not so intimidating.