I want to briefly take a step back with this column and its vast scope. Many subjects can qualify as "brutal." But what of the invisible brutalities? What of those glacially-paced offenses, hiding in plain sight, that sneak up on us over the course of many decades? Modern-day movie going seems like one such subject. Two, actually.
1. MOVIES ARE GETTING WORSE
Worse as in The Opposite Of Fun. Unpleasant. Futile. Paying cash money to sit in a dark room and be humiliated by two hours of shrieking and explosions and grunts and rap-metal.
"So what?" you are thinking. "Great. Movies stink. Go start a book group. What's the big deal?" The big deal is that Hollywood took an invention that coalesced 50,000 years of human cave drawings and oral history and literature and CAN ACTUALLY SHOW YOU DREAMS and then converted that invention into a giant reverse piggy bank that spews Technicolor diarrhea INTO THE VERY SAME SPACE WHERE THE DREAMS USED TO GO.
2. AUDIENCES ARE GETTING WORSE
It's impossible to see a movie now without also sharing a dark room with people who have brought cell phones and video games and babies. Sometimes they make babies. Occasionally they have babies. Talking leads to sushings, sushings lead to shouting, shouting leads to stabbings. The rules of cinema have evaporated. Earlier this summer, during Captain America—a film I saw, with a pal, as an elaborate game of Emotional Chicken—I had to pledge a street gang halfway through.
At first glance, this seems like an open and shut case of cause and effect. Movies are getting worse, therefore audiences are getting worse. I would think this myself if I didn't live where I do. But I frequently avail myself of LA's fine selection of revival movie houses, and I've noticed a corrosion of civility in all sorts of venues. Last year, I drove to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood to catch 1954's Human Desire. During the opening credits, a man the size of a Mini Cooper plopped down next to me, produced a flask and martini glass, and proceeded to narrate his rich inner life to the entire audience. There were no other seats. Leaving mid-film would've felt like surrender. I learned a lot about myself that night, but if you factor in snacks and parking, it wasn't a cheap lesson.
And yet there is hope: Occasionally these two ominous trends—bad movies vs. bad audiences—cancel each other out. Seven years ago in Pasadena, Warner Brothers held a sneak preview for Exorcist: The Beginning. Ten minutes into the showing, someone in the audience roared, "The people who made this piece of shit are in this room!" Another voice in the darkness cried out, "where?" The first person stood, turned to face the back of the theater, and said “THERE THEY ARE!” In the last row of seats, a group of grown men in suits abruptly bolted for the exit and were chased out into the streets by a vengeful mob.
Since the truthfulness of this rumor is up for debate (I've heard versions of this story involving every Exorcist sequel, each of which could stake a claim on Worst Film Ever), I'll add my own epilogue. The audience caught up with the execs two blocks away, stripped them, flayed them, and wore the poor men's skins around Hollywood Boulevard in a horrific display of mob violence. Shaken to its core by this act of senseless barbarity, the movie industry vowed to only make quality movies from here on out, a promise they would have long since kept if it weren't for unions, taxes, and excessive government regulations. So thanks, Obama.
Previously - The Weird Period