Monday, 4 January 2016

Seat Of Shame Awards (2015)

Time for something a little different. See, in all the different times that I’ve gone to the cinemas in the last 12 months, I’ve seen some… interesting audiences. While a lot of them have just been a little annoying, and some of them even ended up improving the film for me like with San Andreas, there were some that were so bad that my experience of interacting with them hasn’t left me since and probably never will. As such, to commemorate some of the worst film-goers that I’ve had to contend with over the last year, I bring you the Seat Of Shame Awards for 2015.

Our first spot goes to Big Eyes. Now, one of my local cinemas has developed a pretty unhealthy reputation in terms of its audience. It’s mostly older couples who feel like they’re in on a joke that everyone else isn’t. Because of this, there is a weird pattern of events on film being laughed at when they are in no way funny. Out of all of the instances I saw of this, easily the most bizarre was with this film. During the scene where Christoph Waltz is trying to burn down his home, with his family still in it, they were laughing it up the whole time. Well done, Pyromaniacs, for making me worried about the people I’m sharing a confined space with for an hour and a half.

Next up is Macbeth. Shakespeare, especially if you aren’t completely familiar with the original text, requires a fair bit of concentration in order to digest everything that is happening on screen. So, imagine how difficult that same task must be if there is a woman audibly snoring in the aisle across from you. Yeah, I know that Shakespeare can be a bit boring for some people, but not that boring. And this wasn’t mock sleep done for a cheap laugh, as I initially suspected; she was well and truly asleep. Then, later on when I noticed that the snoring had stopped, I looked across to see the same woman sitting on the literal edge of her seat wide awake. I’m guessing this Hare was just trying to catch back up.

Crimson Peak, I knew, was going to be a difficult sit, although it ended up being so for different reasons than I thought it would. Shortly after I got to my seat, and noticed the surprising lack of other patrons at the session, in comes a group of about 20 older teenagers at once to their seats. There was a lot of bickering about who was sitting where but, since this happened while the trailers were still going, I didn’t take issue with it. Thankfully, once the film started, they all quieted down and I got to enjoy Del Toro’s cinematic genius at work. Then, about halfway through the film, four teenaged girls came in and sat right in the front row. For the next several minutes, they would not stop giggling and muttering to themselves. Since I’m one of ‘those’ people, I go out of my seat and, as politely as I could, said “Would you please be quiet?” After realizing that I startled one of them who didn’t see me approach, I got back to my seat and got the thumbs-up from a few people across the aisle. I didn’t care; I was just glad I could get back to the film that I paid money to see. Then, about half an hour later, the girls left. Apparently, these Oreo Eaters just stuck around for the middle and then proceeding to make it difficult for anyone else to enjoy it.

It Follows made for a rather surreal viewing experience, and considering it was at the same theatre that I saw Lead Me Astray and semi-regularly go to The Room screenings, that is saying something. It started out with a mini film festival of a bunch of horror shorts, which ranged from intentionally laughter-inducing to unintentionally laughter-inducing. There was some attempts at live riffing, but they quickly got shut up; shame, because I wouldn’t have minded another interactive screening experience at that place. The film went on well enough for a long while, until I noticed a group of older women sitting behind me who were audibly talking. Again, being that guy, I told them to please be quiet. Then, one of them said in response “What? It’s not the Oscars!” One of the other woman asked what she had just said, she repeated it, they laughed, and a bit of me died on the inside. I’m grateful that they kept relatively quiet for the rest of the film, but even still, that was pretty fucking rude. I have no patience for Genre Snobs at any time, let alone when they’re right the hell behind me.

Going to see Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Road Chip might have been the single worst decision I have ever made in my life. Not because of the film itself, although it certainly wasn’t one that I was looking forward to. Instead, it was because I made the oh-so-wise decision to see a kids film, on my own, during the day time, during the school holidays. I was in the seat of Hell for that whole 90 minutes. I normally try not to pick on kids in the cinema because, well, they’re bloody kids that don’t know any better. However, if parents are going to take children to the cinema, it is with an understanding that they need to sit down and keep quiet while the lights are off. This screening was far beyond that: Between the kids sitting either side of me that didn’t keep quiet, kept standing on their seats and occasionally kicked me in my seat, and whoever it was behind me playing with his McDonald’s drink straw and playing it like a violin, it was like a nightmare sandwich. I’ve been in theatres with kids before, but never to this degree; in terms of sheer irritation, this wins for worst movie-going experience of the year, if not ever. But, even with that said, there was one little moment that gave me some hope: It was when the Chipmunks had to hide from Suggs in a car lot. The little girl said that they should hide under the cars. The film, rather than doing something sensible like that girl suggested, hide on top of the cars as hood ornaments. That child was smarter than the filmmakers thought she was; in a screening that was that draining on my patience, something like that was just golden to witness for myself. However, even with that little ray of hope, that experience with those Hellions is not something I’m likely to forget.

But those were (arguably) kids who just needed to grow a bit more before going to the movies in public again. Compare this to my experience when going out to see Truth with my grandmother. Now, my policy with talking at the cinemas is that it’s fine during the trailers and ads and so forth that don’t really matter; during the film, completely different story. This is the rare exception to that rule, as the packed row of women behind me were, even for trailer talk, shockingly loud. My grandmother, whom I went to the screening with, picked up on a lot more of the conversation than I did. For her, she overheard conversations about how someone that was supposed to be watching the film with them was always late and kind of badmouthing her, then being all nice and civil once she actually turned up. For me, all I heard was just a wall of noise that I shouldn’t have to put up with. She repeatedly tried telling them to keep quiet, which they never quite managed. I so desperately wanted to tell them off myself, but chances are I’d end up pulling a George Costanza and just yelling at them in the middle of the theatre; I take my work seriously, but not that seriously. Still, the more I think back on it, I think I should have said at least something to those damned Hyenas.

However, even with everything that I’ve mentioned previously, nothing could compare to the sheer disrespect I witnessed while going to see Aloha. Now, unlike every other screening on this list, the cinema here wasn’t chockers; it was about 1/8th full. Then again, it was for a screening of Aloha; I watch everything and even I didn’t want to be there. Shortly before the film started, I noticed that two teenage girls were sitting in front of me and muttering quite noticeably. Because I wasn’t in that great a mood to begin with, I skipped the please and thank yous and went straight to “I’m going to ask you once to be quiet.” A tad extreme, I know, but to my credit, they did keep quiet for the rest of the film. What happened a bit later on, though, is what warrants them on this list. Every so often, during the film, they would take selfies of each other. How do I know that they were taking selfies? Because, every time they did it, the bloody flash on their camera phones would go off. I am dead serious; this is what these people thought was suitable behaviour for a movie audience. Even though there was plenty of space for me to move to, that flash meant that it wouldn’t make a lick of difference if I did; I’d still see that damn light go off every few minutes. Knowing that I had already told them once to be quiet, and expecting a smart-arsed “What? We’re not saying anything” response if I brought it up again, I gritted my teeth and stuck to just occasionally kicking their seat if the flash went off directly in my eye, which it did a few times. I can only hope that I never run into any more of these vapid Chainsmokers again, because even I’m scared about what I might do in response.

So, that was my collection of horror stories from this year’s trips to the movie theatre. If you’ve got any of your own to share, feel free to comment them below; I’d love to know if anyone else has gone through crap like this as well. For now, though, join me next time as I delve into a fresh batch of films that I just plain didn’t agree with some people on.

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