For the benefit of my sanity and that of others like me, let me regale you with tales of wonder and awe. Tales from the dark corners of the world that will shock and horrify you. Or make you laugh. Hopefully one or the other.
One of my jobs is as a film critic. I watch movies and critique them when the mood (or the pay check) strikes. I’m even on Rotten Tomatoes! Being a film critic has allowed me a certain advantage in that I get to see many movies for free and in relative quiet at advance press screenings where most of my fellow critics know not to pull their phones out or engage in conversations about, like, just how cute the guy at the yoga studio is.
These experiences have somewhat heightened my sensitivity to rude cinema etiquette. Why, just last week I went along to a public screening of a new horror movie titled Deliver Us from Evil with friends and nearly ripped the phone (and the hand attached to it) out of a young woman’s grip and threw it in the bin because she thought checking Facebook and Instagram every few minutes was the appropriate way to experience a creepy movie about atmosphere and Satanic curses. I mean, she literally opened her phone up during the pre-film commercial asking patrons to turn their phones off. That’s some real idiocy right there. By the time I gave her my umpteenth glare of death some 30 minutes in, she asked me “What are you starin’ at?” To which I replied “Your phone!” Needless to say, the omnipotent glow of an iPhone disappeared for the rest of the movie.
Once in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia, while friends and I were watching famed 1970 cult movie El Topo, one said friend told a man to turn his phone off, to which he responded she had no authority. Except she did. She was the theatre manager and that didn’t go down too well with his sense of entitlement, even threatening the staff by saying if any of them came into the hospital at which he worked he would refuse to treat them. Lovely man, I know.
The best cinema-going experience since moving to America was in fact the first. I was staying with friends in California for a week and we wanted to see the R-rated Disney-moppets-go-mad Spring Breakers on opening weekend. The waft of marijuana smoke lingering around the entrance to the building was so strong I swear I got a contact high, and upon entering the cinema two young parents had their newborn child scurrying around on the floor of the Monterey Bay multiplex. Sanitation was clearly not in the forefront of their minds.
As the crowd of predominantly ill-advised young people finally shut up long enough to see the movie was beginning, two young scantily-clad women jumped up in the front of the theatre and began shaking their booties and waving their hands to the Skrillex soundtrack. A man in the row behind my friends and me must’ve clearly had a bad case of the tums because he was up and down multiple times throughout the short 90-minute runtime. At one point, before gracing the back of our heads with his oaf-like stomping, he stretched his arms up and audibly yawned without a care in the world for other peoples’ existence.
Later on, a man from the back and a man from the front appeared to get up in unison, meet in the middle of the theatre and engage in what I can only assume was a drug deal. It was around this time that the baby that had just 45-minutes ago been crawling around the floor starting crying at decibels that Celine Dion could truly appreciate. One man stood and yelled – and, er, spoilers if you still want to actually watch the movie – “You can’t kill James Franco!” like he’s a sacred cow of fictional violence. Then one man who had previously walked out of the movie shouting how bad it was returned and cheered “Spring Breakers is a lie!” for ten minutes straight. Cue end credits and several young audience members cry in unison, “that was the worst movie I have ever seen.”
Then there was that time a man flipped me the bird during a movie for asking his wife to put her phone away. They both then refused to let me out when the movie ended and I virtually had to climb over them. Furthermore, upon exiting the building the man threw popping rocks at my group of friends’ feet. Did I mention he had his hair in a bun? Need I say more?
I’ve had the man rustling through his plastic bags. The woman who brought a box of smelly Chinese food into a movie. The ignorant college students who laugh through classic movies because they’re “old” and “dated.” Outside of unleashing Cthulhu, I think I’ve experienced the broad spectrum of rude cinema-goers. Looking back, sure, they’re funny, but at the time they were deeply frustrating. What I’m trying to say is unless you want to become the punchline in somebody’s anecdote about that rude pig at the movies, keep your phones away and shut up. And maybe keep your babies at home, too. It would be greatly appreciated.