Monday, January 20, 2003

How stupid are people? Pretty damn stupid. Especially when it comes to movies. Let me explain.

First of all, people talk during movies and make noise and generally behave as though they were watching TV in their underwear in their living room. If I had the Michael Valentine Smith-like power to make people disappear instantly, there would generally be way fewer people coming out of movies I attend than there were going in. At some point in the last year or so I just gave up. Now I just go EXPECTING to hear two moronic teenagers laughing their asses off as Gollum debates ferociously with himself whether to betray and kill the Hobbits. If I see a movie without anyone bothering me, I am pleasantly surprised. That's one reason people are stupid. I've known that for a long time. But recently other events have showed a new dimension to movie audience stupidity.

As I write this, "Kangaroo Jack" is the #1 movie in America. Who, and I mean to say WHO?! sees the ads for this movie and says, "Oh yeah, opening weekend, baby! Must see!"? I can enjoy stupid comedy as much as anyone. I fully intend to see "Old School". I have enjoyed "Road Trip", both "American Pie" movies, and the granddaddies of the current poop joke set, "Caddyshack" and "Slap Shot". All great. But, my fellow Americans, as a first step on the long, long road to making the rest of the world stop hating us and thinking we are stupid, we must not make films like "Kangaroo Jack". And if we do make them, they must not become the #1 movies in America. They must leave the theaters within three weeks, publicly rejected and disgraced, just like "Solaris" did but shouldn't have. Are we clear?

Finally, when a good movie DOES reach a wider audience, the wider audience responds in a stupid way. I was made aware of this fact when viewing "About Schmidt" at a multiplex in Lakeville, Minnesota recently. I originally saw "About Schmidt" when it was in its first week of limited release at the Uptown Theater in Uptown, Minneapolis. People there waited in line outside to buy tickets. Then, during the film, they laughed, gasped, cried, and generally loved the movie, as did I. They seemed to respond as intelligent individuals. Then the dopes got wind of it. I take you now to the home of Jack and Jill Duhmerican.
"Oh, people say the new Jack Nicholson movie is good."
"I thought that was an art flick."
"No, honey, it's at Lakeville 18."
"Oh, well, let's check it out."
So the dopes go.

The audience reaction in Lakeville was totally different from the reaction in Uptown. There was a scene where a character is discovered lying on the floor, having tragically died. People were laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. People talk and crumple their bags of popcorn during quiet scenes that require attention and invite emotional involvement from the viewer.

I also heard ridiculous comments during and especially after the movie. Comments like "I didn't like the ending. It was a good movie up until the ending. That ending was terrible." I don't know what movie these people watched! Did they want something to blow up? I stared at the woman who said that with a derisive uncomprehending smile on my face. Her companion noticed me and I hope that in that moment she came to understand what an idiot her friend is. Another dope said "It was okay, but I don't know what the big deal was about. It wasn't that great." I want to forcibly and painfully tattoo "I am a moron!" on these people's foreheads and deny them entrance to movie theaters showing anything more complex than "The Care Bears Movie".

I remember way back in 1988 or so my high school band director told me that he didn't go to movies anymore because television had ruined people's ability to shut up and be considerate while watching filmed entertainment. I remember thinking that on that score at least, he was a sad, embittered old man. But now I find his words on this subject (and several others I won't go in to here) ringing down sagely through the years. And I am not a sad old man. I am not even all that sad of a young man anymore. I'm thirty-one and happy most of the time, especially when I go my financially imperiled small local theater (three screens) on a Tuesday night for a late show and I'm the only one there. Heaven. Idiots.