Monday, July 27, 2009

Movie Hating Public

There’s an interesting discussion at both Raquelle’s “Out of the Past” and at the “Back Alley Noir” message boards on the disappointment of seeing classic films in a public theater when some of the public ruins the experience by ridiculing the film while the movie is playing.

Others have chimed in with their own similar experiences and I would encourage our readers to go have a look. I can’t add anything new to what has already been discussed, except perhaps to acknowledge that it can be frustrating to attempt to share an old movie with someone who fails to be equally enchanted by it.

We’ve all known the eyeball-rolling response from otherwise good friends when we gush over a really, really old film they’ve never seen and don’t want to see.

The vocal ridicule and guffawing over a film noir classic like “In a Lonely Place” (1950) which Steve-o describes (also have a look at his great blog “Film Noir of the Week”) can be attributed to more than just a lack of appreciation for an old film, however. Even passionate film buffs disagree on what it is that makes a good movie.

This problem seems less about the old movie and more about the public. We’ve entered an age where people aggressively demand respect but who feel they are not obligated to respect others. The importance of self esteem seems to have eclipsed the virtues of humility and courtesy. The desire to make one’s own opinions known has evolved into a bullying need to not only refute anyone else’s opinions, but to destroy them from existing.

There are still enough people in the world who would sit in that same theater as the one Steve-o describes and think, “This movie seems pretty stupid and ridiculous to me, but I’ll let the others who paid as much as I did to see it just enjoy themselves.”

But the loudmouths, the classless morons who think that their price of admission allows them to ruin the movie for other people, they exert their power, brave and bold in the dark for 90 or so minutes, and then morph into nobodies on the street again. Meanwhile the film that was made over half a century ago will still be seen, and even enjoyed, half a century from now, so paltry is the loudmouth’s actual influence.


Raquelle said...

I'm glad that this spurred a discussion and thank you very much for the link.

I really like what you say about people demanding respect but not feeling obliged to show respect. That is so true. And also about how people feel empowered by ruining a movie for others. That's so true too! These are things I had never thought about but will do next time I have this experience (which I hope will be never!).

I usually don't watch contemporary films at packed theaters because I know someone will be there to ruin the experience. Usually watching a classic film at a repertory theater, you have a better chance of being surrounded by a respectful audience because most "classless morons" would rather shell out their money for some blockbuster. But there is always a risk of a bad experience, as I know full well.

Thank you so much for writing this Jacqueline!

Kate Gabrielle said...

exactly!!! your description of current "courtesy" is perfect. Although, it's funny, the person who feels the most need to give me an honest opinion about films I like and she doesn't is actually my 72 year old grandmother, someone who was supposedly a product of a more polite society. It's exactly like you said, if she thinks her opinion is right and more important, she feels like she has to steamroll over all my opinions. It's bizarre!

Tommy Salami said...

Well put. I'm tired of every moviegoer thinking they're the Rifftrax crew or that their heckles are somehow validated. Most older movies seem "corny" because we've become so acclimated to commercial advertising and quick cuts; before visual media took cues from psychology, our attention had to be earned with emotional investment in the story and characters.

Operator_99 said...

Yup. They are still in their living rooms, staring at the tube, while chatting, talking on the phone, and generally being doltish...wait, they are now in the theater, but didn't notice the venue change. The word slug, both the verb and the noun comes to mind.

Matthew Coniam said...

I walked out of a screening of The Black Cat back in 2007 and wrote about it here:
I've also been with audiences hooting with laughter at Hitchcock's Rebecca and Welles's Touch of Evil, and the problem can only get worse. I go to see old movies now with deep foreboding, and my enjoyment is halved, even if nothing kicks off.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Raquelle, I hope you never have that experience again. But if you do, sometimes it helps to groan, "Geez, what was in that taco? I feel like I'm gonna throw up!" People generally move away from you in fearful silence.

Kate, the reason Grandmother can express her opinions so forcefully is simply because she is 72. It's a law. When you get really old, you get an automatic Get Out Of Jail Free card when it comes to polite manners. I have taken enough elderly relatives on errands and outings to know that it's impossible to get them to stop saying things like "That man over there is really ugly" in a loud voice in a crowded and very small doctor's waiting room. Just remember, when you get to be 72, you can do it, too. That's one of the perks when you get your Senior Discount Card. I, myself, am looking forward to it. I'm going to make a list of all the insulting things I can say, so I'll be ready when the time comes.

Tommy, this is a great comment, "before visual media took cues from psychology, our attention had to be earned with emotional investment in the story and characters." That says it in spades.

Operator 99, "slug" is a good word. And Matthew, I'll hop over to check out your post on this issue. I hope everyone else will, too. Maybe you're right, maybe it will only get worse the farther away we get from those sensibilities of past eras, the more remote those days become.

Meredith said...

this is incredibly sad, as you've said more for the lack of respect shown than whether or not people enjoyed the film. your commentary is spot on. now i'll always think of how lucky I am to have gone to screenings where people have been polite, when really it should be a common courtesy! this makes me think of the time we watched a clip from mr. smith goes to washington in one of my government classes. people seemed more focused on laughing at jean arthur's voice than taking any time to appreciate what the film was saying and how it fit in historically if nothing for the great performances.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks for commenting, Meredith. Laughing at Jean Arthur's adorably squeaky voice. Well, I guess some people are more easily distracted than others. It's interesting that the film was used in your government class. I'd often thought some of these old films would be a great intro to different topics, and different eras, if only the kids could get over the fact that things are different now.

Once you get over that hurdle of not getting hung up on the superfluous (like Jean Arthur's voice), a classic film can be a great learning experience, and a fun adventure.

panavia999 said...

I seem to be overly sensitive to people's voices and Jean Arthur's is hard for me to take. Also Blythe Danner, get a sinus opperation already! Fine actresses both, but something in my inner ear hates their voices.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, Panavia, thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean about certain voices, but though I can't think of any off the top of my head right now, I know there are certain actors and actresses whose voices are grating. I tend to be drawn to actors and actresses not on the basis of appearance as much as their voices.

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