Movies Suck Because Audiences Suck

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Adam-Troy Castro
Posted on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 06:32 am:   


Because audiences suck.

This thought is prompted by my Friday viewing of Cronenberg's latest, A HISTORY
OF VIOLENCE. This is the movie about a small-town family man, who kills the
pair of gun-toting spree killers who have invaded his diner; he becomes a local
hero, but his family is menaced by gangsters drawn by the publicity who think
they remember him from the old neighborhood. The film has three violent shootouts
and one violent fight scene, but it's not an action movie, by any means: the
focus is how this peaceable fellow's uncanny talent for killing wreaks havoc
on his previously idyllic family life. It's less about escalating violence than
that violence's psychic price. (Though it takes place in contemporary Indiana,
I have called it a western.)

Now, you might think this movie worked, and you might think it didn't.

I happened to consider the movie very good, probably one of the best of the
year. But that judgment is irrelevant to my basic point, which is that the audience,
itself, illustrated why movies are so often made for morons.

To wit: they jabbered throughout the first twenty minutes of character interaction,
cried "whooh!" and "yo!" during that first violent gunfight in the diner, laughed
and hooted as that scene ended with a shot of a bleeding corpse, complained
bitterly when the focus returned to the man and his wife, cheered when a subsidiary
problem was met with excessive violence, grew restless again whenever the story
ended with character, complained whenever dialogue lasted more than ten seconds,
cheered when violence returned at the climax, then walked out laughing about
all the cool shooting and killing, but agreeing with each other that all the
"other" stuff was "too drawn out."

They would have much preferred a film of the same length where the same opening
catalyst resulted in a twenty-minute car chase and a climactic battle in a warehouse
among machines that sprayed lots of photogenic sparks. They would have preferred
a hero who not only killed the bad guys but then sneered a climactic pun. They
would have preferred a great big explosion, shot from three angles with stinging
guitar chords.

Because that, friends, is what every single movie is supposed to look like.

The same audience hooted in response to a coming attraction for Ang Lee's upcoming
film, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, about two contemporary cowboys who spend a long winter
in the mountains, have a homosexual fling, then marry women and backslide when
they encounter each other once again. (As a synopsis from trailer, this may
be off by a few details.) It matters not whether this is a movie that interests
you. It interests me very little. Nor does it matter whether it's any good.
It might suck. But it's clearly sincerely meant, clearly a film that departs
from the usual formulas. I don't even want to describe the catcalls this trailer
received. Raspberries. Boos. Cries of "Gay!", in what I believe to be the schoolyard
rather than sexual connotation. Loud hilarity. The throwing of popcorn.

Movies suck.

Because audiences suck.
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Posted on Monday, October 03, 2005 - 10:35 pm:   

Happened to read Harry Knowles's review of HISTORY at Ain't It Cool. I think you guys must have been at the same showing. At any rate, the audience behavior elicited a similar rant from him.

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Rick Schulte
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 05:26 pm:   

I just saw "Brokeback Mountain," and it was fantastic. The audience, though, comprised largely of gay men and lesbians, behaved as badly as any I've seen. Inappropriate laughter at important dramatic moments, talking, cheering etc. At "Good Night and Good Luck" the middle aged couple behind me conversed as though they were on a road trip through Nebraska. I believe that audiences often behave badly because they lack the emotional maturity and attention span necessary to appreciate a well-made film. I give up. Come January I'm getting a home theatre before I hurt someone. Because audiences suck.
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Adam-Troy Castro
Posted on Friday, November 03, 2006 - 06:44 am:   

Last night, Judi and I went with friends to see a comedy show starring Pat Cooper (whose material seems forty years out of date -- literally, "today's long-haired kids" and "twist" jokes), and Robert Klein (still funny, though he's been better). Though I've paid money to see Klein twice, the first time in 1978, we probably would not have gone this time, had the venue, the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida, not called us up, as regular gamblers there, and offered us free tickets. We said sure and took friends celebrating their fifteenth anniversary.

The venue was only about 60% occupied, and I know that many of those, like ourselves, were attending on "free tickets" offered us by the management -- the casino essentially giving away huge blocks of seats to regular gamblers in order to avoid the embarrassment of a a totally empty arena. (This is a common occurence, I understand, in Vegas.)

The size of the audience, in contrast to the size of the venue, was indeed embarrassing. And, as we walked in, Judi and I noted that we were younger than the vast majority of the people there by at least twenty years -- sometimes, thirty. Okay, understood. Pat Cooper is 77, Klein 64 (both mentioned their ages in the course of the show); both are comedians of past generations, but both are very capable of being funny.

I'll tell you, however, what was more embarrassing: the large number of the elderly audience members, up close near the stage, and for that matter right in front of us, who left during Klein's performance. For a long time I just felt saddened by this, but understood it. Klein's style is less bombastic, less punchline-driven, than Cooper's; he's also a smarter comedian (though he too has become dated, as he's still telling Bush the Elder jokes, and never mentioned Bush the Younger at all). His rhythms are slower, his demands smarter. I can understand an audience with a short attention span losing patience with him, EVEN IF I would rather see him than Cooper any day of the week. (For one thing, he has a helluva singing voice, Broadway-quality, which he used last night to belt out a love ballad to his colonoscopy.)

What totally horrified me was the sheer number of people who, having stuck it out to the end, decided to get a jump on the crowds and leave immediately before, and DURING, what was clearly Klein's closing song, an ode to the Bronx.

I mean, there were entire rows of them, from the middle of their respective rows, who decided that easy access to the urinals, ahead of the crowd, was not worth sticking it out through those last five minutes.

And then, he finished the song? And while he bowed and the rest of the audience applauded, the first five rows of white-haired old folks, en masse, just got up and started walking.

I mean, they just wanted to go and play the slots, and were taking even this moment of less-than-enthused applause as just closing credits they could walk out on, without even acknowledging the performer at ALL.

It wasn't that he was bad. Nor was it disdain for his performance, which was good if not great. It was that these people -- all of whom had grim, put-upon expressions stamped on their faces, as if their perpetually grumpy moods had not been pierced at all, by 90 minutes of performers who, if not at the very top of their game, at least showed professionalism and skill -- could not be bothered to so much as acknowledge him. They were just too eager to get up and leave after 90 minutes in a seat. So they could pee. Or gamble. Or just stand outside and suck tobacco.

They turned their back on him, and started pushing their way to the center aisle, while he was still on stage.

I had already muttered to Judi, during the exodus of the closing ten minutes -- when Klein was clearly wrapping up -- that I felt this audience to be one of the most obnoxious I had ever seen at any live performance.

When a couple of dozen people in the first four rows just got up and started hurrying to the exit, while Klein was still bowing to the rest of us, Judi gasped in horror. "HOW RUDE!"

I certainly think so.

Folks, I have noted this before, about behavior in movie theatres, but it applies even more to behavior at live performances: the cliche about young people who do not know how to behave in a theatre may carry some weight, but it is even more true of some folks who have passed seventy. In movie theatres, they are even less capable of shutting up than pre-pubescents and teenagers. They chat away and wrinkle their candy and conduct their "who's-that-again?" conversations at full volume. At public performances like this one, they sit in the center of their row and march out, in groups of four or five, not because what they're seeing is bad, but because they're eager to move on to the next thing, and the man on stage isn't real. He's 3-D television.

They, honestly, suck, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

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