California Literary Review

The Fourth Wall

A Film and Television Blog

QUIT IT! (A Moviegoer’s Pet Peeves)

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June 1st, 2010 at 10:14 pm

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In the last year or so I’ve become almost as comfortable in the local theater as in my own living room. I’m what you’d call a frequent filmgoer, and am reclining in front of a theater screen once a week whether or not I write a review. The rest of the time I’m streaming something on Netflix or trying to keep up with the myriad addictive TV shows airing right now. I confess I sometimes feel like a blank-faced robot sitting in front of screens most of my waking hours. (C’est la vie, or La vita è bella, depending on your viewpoint.)

Theaters: unlike anywhere else.

Seeing a movie in the theater is a singular experience. It’s seeing a movie the way the filmmakers want you to see it. When the lights go down, the screen becomes the only brightness in a dark room, and all eyes focus on the eerie glow. Word of mouth fables are a part of human cultural evolution; our ancestors sat around campfires reciting tall tales, and the theater is perhaps the modern equivalent of those campfire stories. It’s one of the only ways in which a large group of strangers gets together to enjoy something together, and yet separately–because films affect each of us differently (which makes my job difficult sometimes). With the advent of home theater technology and the internet, the theater experience is (sadly) becoming unnecessary. I still prefer it, even when the movie’s terrible.

YouTube Preview Image

John Goodman tells it better than I do in the criminally under-seen Matinee.

No matter the value of the theater “experience,” there are times when I bite my tongue against chiding my fellow viewers or have to restrain myself from smacking them upside the head. I won’t bother going into seat-kickers and unnecessary talkers, because we’re all familiar with those. What follows is a list of my own personal moviegoer pet peeves.

Gauged ears notwithstanding, just…put…down…the…phone.

1. THE CELL PHONE ADDICT. You know those commercials that air before movies requesting in some sugary-sweet way that you should be courteous and “set your phone for no sound and no light”? They’re not for your entertainment. I’m not even referring to jerks who actually talk on their phones, or someone whose phone accidentally rings, causing them to scramble red-faced to shut the thing off (although that happened during the suicide scene in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, nearly ruining the whole experience for me). No, I mean the one who can’t seem to get through a two-hour movie without checking his phone every two minutes. You are NOT that popular, and we all paid far too much for this movie to watch you giggle in your green-tinged LCD light at whatever super witty thing your friend just sent you. That light you think is really dim? Yeah, it’s not. We can all see it.

2. THE REPEATER. We just heard the line when the actor said it. You really, really don’t need to repeat it. Laughter will suffice to express your entertainment and admiration for a great script.

We get that it’s funny, really.

3. THE ONE WITH THAT GUY WHO DID THAT THING. This one isn’t regarding a theater experience, per se, but a type of moviegoer who can never seem to remember the name of a film or anyone who acted in it. “It’s that one where that guy did that thing with that other guy!” she says, staring at you like you know, that one! My generic response has become, “Oh yeah, where they did that one thing and that other guy came in and saved the day!” Perhaps this is a bit snarky, but usually the offender then provides the details needed.

Please, spare us, and spare your baby.

4. THE ONES WHO CAN’T FIND A BABYSITTER. I’m not referring to that baby who wouldn’t stop crying during Up or How to Train Your Dragon, but those parents who really wanted to see, say, A History of Violence and brought their two-year-old along. First of all, way to scar your baby for life. Secondly, I know how tough it must be to have kids and want to be an adult for two hours, but please, for our sake and theirs, leave your children at home for that.

Really, we don’t need to hear it, I promise.

5. THE SMART-ASS. Okay, buddy, we get that you think you’re awesome. There’s really no need to make jokes loudly enough that the whole theater can “appreciate” them. We are here to see a movie, and not to listen to your arrogant self complain, snark, or joke. So quit it.

What pet peeves have you, fellow cinema viewers?
Come on, everybody’s got ‘em, and the internet’s the best place to vent ‘em.

All photos copyright their original owners.

  • Ross

    My biggest pet peeve is going to the movies and realizing you’ve just paid to see Transformers 2.

  • http://calitreview.com/author/william_bibbiani William Bibbiani

    You pretty much nailed it, Julia. I also hate that guy in the almost completely empty theater who sits in front of you anyway. Or that guy in the completely crowded theater who you don’t want to sit next to but have to out of necessity, who then takes up both arm rests. Everybody gets ONE, pal.

    Oh hey, guy who brings his own snacks? I appreciate that movie theater concessions are expensive, and as much as I wish you would shell out the cash to keep your local theater alive I’d settle for you not bringing glass bottles that clink together constantly, or worse, topple over and roll all the way down to the bottom of the stadium seating, REALLY SLOWLY, spilling sticky sugar water or booze all over my date’s purse (which I then have to deal with as well).

    Another favorite: The Girl Who’s Never Seen a Movie Before. I find this is usually a girl (not a slight, just my personal experience), although there’s often at least one guy during a big summer action-packed blockbuster. At a recent screening of “Just Wright,” during the romantic climax, two girls behind me just starting squealing, “OH MY GOD SHE GETS TO KISS HIM!!!” Really? REALLY?! I realize that we’re not all film critics but you do know it’s a romantic comedy, right? You appeared to be at least in your late teens, and you haven’t you got the gist of this by now??

    Regarding #4: That goes for little itty-bitty kids as well. God help me, I just wanted to see March of the Penguins in peace but these two four year olds were literally crawling all over the seats in front of me. Screw you, kids. And why they hell were there over a dozen pre-teens seeing Scary Movie 1? I’m no prude (my Dad took me to Total Recall at a tender young age and I turned out just fine), but that movie was particularly inappropriate for youngin’s.

    Regarding #5: I’m a little more lenient than you are, but only during the trailers. The trailers are cool but unless they’re spectacularly well done we’re still being forced to watch commercials. If you want to talk during the trailers I’m not going to bitch about it, but only about half of those people actually shut up during the movie.

  • http://www.mushycat.com Ken Morton

    oh, the person who sits there and points out continuity errors and the improbability of the on-screen action. It’s like, Hello! I’m enjoying my suspension of disbelief thank you very much!

  • apkl

    yee gads I don’t go to movies. But I do go to the symphony. I usually get the cheap seats in the second tier. (2nd tier, left hand side, best sound quality.) One day, someone offered to trade an orchestra seat for my 2nd tier ticket so he could sit with a friend. Two women behind me had a long discussion about playing tennis and did not stop even when the music started. Perhaps they thought the prelude was like a movie trailer. I had to turn around and tell then to shut up. A similar event happened when I got an orchestra seat “upgrade” because I’d purchased so many tickets. After that I decided to stay up in the second tier with the music lovers like me who just want to listen to music.

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