Each entry on the list you are about to read/skim represents an instance of 2011 movie-going for me. Kids: Unless your last name is "Ebert," don't try this at home:
SEASON OF THE WITCH
THE GREEN HORNET
NO STRINGS ATTACHED
JUST GO WITH IT
I AM NUMBER FOUR
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU
BATTLE LOS ANGELES
MARS NEEDS MOMS
RED RIDING HOOD
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
TREE OF LIFE
THE HANGOVER 2
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
ATTACK THE BLOCK
COWBOYS & ALIENS
CRAZY, STUPID LOVE
KUNG-FU PANDA 2
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
30 MINUTES OR LESS
FINAL DESTINATION 5
CONAN THE BARBARIAN
OUR IDIOT BROTHER
THE IDES OF MARCH
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS
That's 80 movies in total, which is simultaneously impressive and depressing. And the list doesn't take into account the movies I saw on Blu-ray and Apple TV, or the movies that I took my girlfriend to see. Last night she and I went to see My Week With Marilyn. A few weeks before that, we saw Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In. Pro tip: If you want to sound sophisticated at your holiday office party this year, inform everyone within earshot that you've just seen "Almodovar's latest." Everybody will be all like, "Wow, that guy in [INSERT YOUR DEPT. NAME HERE] is pretty sophisticated."
|Not pictured: jacket caves.|
Now, here is some math that is probably wrong: Assuming an average runtime of 90 minutes per movie, that's 7,200 minutes--or 120 hours--of theater-going. There are 168 hours in a week (24 hours per day multiplied by seven days), which means that I spent the equivalent of five back-to-back 24-hour days watching movies.
I was going to do even more math for you, breaking all of this into fractals, perhaps even work out a pie chart for your enjoyment. Then I remembered that I am a product of the U.S. public school system, and that my math skills, after several decades in hibernation, have degenerated to the point where I can no longer perform such feats. What those math feats would have displayed was this: I spent a not-insignificant chunk of this year sitting in the dark.
Because Vancouver receives more than its fair share of rain, I usually take a daily vitamin D supplement. Since I started reviewing movies, I've doubled my dosage, lest I find myself on a downward spiral of misery and popcorn.
I do not look forward to the movie screenings. Not because I dread seeing all of these terrible movies, an act which I'm certain is eroding my terrible math skills even further. I dread the screenings because of the people. Put a bunch of people together, lower the lights, and bad behaviors inevitably occur.
Once, in New York, I found a seat in a packed West Village theater, only to realize, when the lights went down, that the man sitting next to me had trojan horsed a dozen hot wings into the theater with him. He noisily began eating them in the dark, gristle taking flight all around him, the pungent smell of Frank's Hot Sauce searing my nostrils. Beside myself with fury, I moved to the only remaining seat in the theater--which was in the front row, of course--where I sat quietly fuming (and, worse still: craving hot wings) for the rest of the movie. I couldn't tell you the name of the movie that I saw that night. But, for as long as I live, I will never forget that a-hole and his hot wings.
My biggest peeve these days is the phone-checker. I do not understand for the life of me why one would spend $12.50 on a movie ticket, then choose to text throughout said experience. And no matter how discrete these people think they are being, no matter how skillful they are at constructing elaborate jacket caves in their laps, the light always seeps out at some point, searing the faces off the skulls a la Raiders of the Lost Ark of myself and everyone else in the vicinity. Number of times in 2011 that I asked phone checkers to cool it: 16. Number of times they actually cooled it: 16. Because they know, even before I give them the shoulder tap and the would-you-mind whisper in my nun voice, that what they are doing is rude and wrong. Today's life lesson: people will do all kinds of rude and wrong things until they are caught and/or someone tells them not to. See: Herman Cain.
Another story: During a recent early morning screening of The Three Musketeers (I know) at the Tinseltown Theater, a man with a Bluetooth earpiece blinking in his ear and a military-style haircut sat in front of me cracking and gobbling pistachios that he had smuggled into the theater with him. He really wolfed them down too, eating with wild abandon. People always eat with wild abandon in movie theaters, myself included. (Side note: The only time that I wish I had a third hand is when I eat popcorn. Well, there is one other time when I wish that I had a third hand, but I won't be going into it here.) As this guy cracked and gobbled away, I seethed and seethed. I no longer watched the movie. Instead, I tried, in vain, to think up some stern but gentle words that I could whisper to him post shoulder-tap. "Sir, would you mind not cracking those pistachios so loudly?" "Excuse me, but could you eat your nuts a little more quietly?" Everything I came up with sounded plain ridiculous.
In the end, I did nothing. I glared and fumed and seethed at Dr. Pistachio, which is what I had dubbed the man (I imagined him as a small-time Batman villain for some reason), wishing with all my might that his pistachio-eating head would explode.
After the movie, the lights came up. Dr. Pistachio, when he rose from his seat, turned out to be far shorter than I expected him to be. And he had two teenaged boys with him--obviously his sons--who, by the number of eye rolls-per-second they delivered in his direction, no doubt gave Dr. Pistachio hell early and often in his days. In the darkness, the man was a nut-hoovering fiend who gleefully destroyed my movie-going experience; in the dark, he had become larger than life. But in the post-movie light, I realized that the man was simply a beleaguered dad wearing an old jacket with a hole in the sleeve who was out with his kids to see a free movie on a Saturday morning. Dr. Pistachio, if you're out there reading this, I am sorry for seething and fuming at you that day.
My most memorable movie-going experience of this year happened in late March, on a brisk, clear morning. My colleague and movie-going partner Victor Lucas and I hustled over to the Park Theater on Cambie Street for a 10 a.m. screening of Insidious. Of the four venues we typically see movies in, the Park Theater is by far the oldest, creakiest, and most cavernous. It's a throw-back theater that shows--how quaint--only one movie at a time. The Insidious screening was press-only, which meant that the movie was being shown inside this airplane hangar-sized theater to six shivering writers, Vic and me. Pro tip: If you attend an early-morning screening at The Park, wear an extra sweater. It's cold in there.
This was also one of those rare screenings when I knew almost nothing about the movie I was about to see. This is the ideal way to see a movie. The less I know, the more surprise I get. All I knew was that Insidious was a horror movie, a genre which makes me prone to writing phrases like "laughably terrible" in my notebook. That's not to say that I don't like horror movies. I do like them. But the number of good horror movies out there, the ones that are not laughably terrible, the ones that give me, as I say, a "good creep," can be counted on two hands (while my third, fictional hand busily shovels popcorn into my mouth).
So the lights went down inside the Park, the Psycho-like violin shrieks--WEET, WEET, WEET--began coming from the Park's old, blown out speakers, and the word INSIDIOUS appeared on the screen in 11,000-point font. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" I said, elbowing Vic who was shivering next to me and sipping his tea. "Look how laughably terrible this is!"
Then I stopped laughing and elbowing. And then I started quietly cursing at the screen, which is what I do whenever I experience a good creep. There is a five minute stretch of this movie that was so difficult for me to watch that I briefly considered leaving the theater altogether. No kidding. If you're wondering what stretch I'm referring to, here's a hint: It begins with a late-night knock at the front door. You're right, the last act of Insidious goes to hell--in more ways than one--but the first two-thirds of the movie got under my skin, where it continues to reside to this day.
Getting under my skin is no small achievement. Of the 80 movies I saw in 2011, only about 10 managed to really get under my skin: Bridesmaids, Rango, Insidious, X-Men: First Class, Source Code, Hanna, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Drive, Moneyball, Real Steel, J. Edgar. OK, so that's 11 movies. Of those 11, four would probably qualify as drop-everything-and-go-see-it events: Bridesmaids, Rango, Drive, Hanna. And of those four, the only movie that I would whole-heartedly recommend, the only movie that doesn't require any caveats or disclaimers from me, is Bridesmaids. Boy, did I ever enjoy that.
Did I nod off a few times? Sure I did. Hey, you try and sit through Cowboys & Aliens, or Mars Needs Moms. But what surprises me the most when I look back over this list is how little I experienced in the way of real feeling when I saw these damn things. There isn't much in the way of bona fide escapism here. Nothing really moved me much, or captivated me. Hell, most of these movies barely held my attention. Most of these movies left me feeling empty and numb. They went into my eyes, and my ears, but they sure didn't stay for long. Now that I think about it, maybe people are building those jacket caves and buzzing through bags of pistachios for a reason.
I've got a few more movies to see before I can wind down for the year: Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol, the new Sherlock Holmes, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Adventures of Tintin, David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. So my work isn't quite finished, not yet anyway. Sure, I'll do it all again in 2012. I'll spend another five or six of the ensuing 365 days sitting in the dark. Here's hoping I feel more--much more--in the coming year.