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Copyright The Weinstein Company

Movies are awesome…

I love movies. They can be visually stunning, intellectually stimulating, and just plain old fun. There is nothing quite like the experience of standing in line for your ticket, getting snacks, finding your seat, checking your watch repeatedly to see how soon the movie will start, and then getting that little jolt of anticipation as the lights dim for previews. The movies return us all to the imaginative days of childhood, when we could ignore the world around us and be mesmerized by an engaging story. Unfortunately, many movie goers are apparently transformed into children in another way– lack of manners. This is not a post all about how incredible silent movies are. This is a post about how annoying unsilent movie theaters are.

This week I saw two movies in theaters: The Artist and The Descendants. Both were absolutely outstanding. The Artist was clearly deserving of the best picture Oscar, and Jean Dujardin’s acting is some of the best I have ever seen in recent memory. The Descendants was poignant and entertaining, and George Clooney remains one of my favorite actors of the past few decades. If only the movies were being considered, I would have a tough time choosing which I enjoyed more. The movie-going experience was very different between the two.

Copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures

…but shut up!

I saw The Artist in the middle of a weekday, in a theater that was nearly completely empty. The three other people in the theater were very quiet, and I can’t remember hearing a sound that didn’t come from the movie for the entire two hours of the film. That was an especially important detail as the The Artist is largely a silent film. My wife and I saw The Descendants during the evening, in a surprisingly crowded theater for a movie released months ago. The noise was unbelievable, and the experience was much less enjoyable as a result. For that reason, I have crafted a list of guidelines for moviegoers who might forget the laws of decency.

    • Don’t let your snacks become a distraction. Before the movie even began we noticed a strange rhythmic sound, something akin to an army of caterpillars devouring the produce section at a grocery store. It was the popcorn chew. I’m not sure if people were chewing with their mouths open or if the popcorn was plated in aluminum foil, but the volume was ridiculous. This rule also applies to those of you rustling your candy wrappers or shaking your box of Junior Mints to get the last few stragglers that escaped the vacuum that is your mouth.
    • TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE!!! I can feel my blood pressure spiking as I type this rule. I understand that when cell phones were new, you might occasionally forget to turn them off. That excuse died more than a decade ago. How many times does the theater have to play the request to turn off cell phones for it to penetrate your thick skull? I could even be forgiving if it rang and you immediately silenced it and turned it off. What I can’t forgive is the lady sitting behind us last night who answered her phone and proceeded to talk on it. It is a minor miracle that I am not on trial for cellular homicide.
    • Keep Your Reactions to Yourself. Part of the fun of movies is allowing yourself to be taken in by the world on the screen. Movies engage your emotions and can evoke strong reactions. I get it. If you get scared, gasp. If you think something is beautiful, murmur admiration. If something is funny, laugh. That does not mean you should repeat your reaction ten times (I am talking about you, lady who said a dozen ‘Wows’ every time there was a shot of Hawaiian scenery). That does not mean you should repeat the joke or discuss with your companion how scared you were, especially not at your normal speaking volume!
    • React appropriately. This is an addendum to the previous rule. I recognize that we don’t all react to the same scene in the same way. What I find funny might not amuse you, and what you find sad might not seem so touching to me. That said, it is not difficult to recognize moments that are meant to be sad. Do not ruin them by reacting inappropriately. For example, there was a heartbreaking scene in The Descendants in which one character gives a very emotional speech to a woman in a coma (I won’t ruin it with specifics). In the middle of the speech, the camera cuts to the woman in the coma. Her eyes are closed, her mouth is open, her cheeks are sunken, and she looks every bit the part of a brain-dead patient. It was extremely sad. Half of the audience laughed at the dying woman’s appearance. REALLY?! YOUR ONLY REACTION TO SEEING A PERSON BARE THEIR SOUL TO A DYING WOMAN IS TO LAUGH BECAUSE THE COMA PATIENT LOOKS STRANGE?! If that wasn’t bad enough, soon after that scene the dying woman’s husband says his goodbye. After speaking to his dying wife, he leans in and kisses her on the lips. This touching gesture was greeted by a chorus of “EWWS!” If you can’t contain your childish reaction, then don’t go see a movie that requires adult emotional responses. Stick to Michael Bay’s special effects spectaculars, there is much less thinking involved.
    • Do not finish the lines for the actors. I go to the movies to see good actors reciting well-crafted dialogue. I do not want to hear you finishing lines with what you either expect the actor to say or wish they would say. The Descendants won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. If memory serves, you weren’t one of the people who accepted that trophy, lady sitting down the row from us. It is a very simple rule: SHUT UP DURING THE MOVIE!!!

In case you didn’t notice, I am a little bit irritated. Call me old-fashioned, call me grumpy, or call me unreasonable. Whatever you call me, wait until after the movie to open your trap! Here endeth the rant.