Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I just had the greatest movie experience ever, and I want to tell you about it

I constantly find myself stricken with jealousy over people with great stories. I never can wrap my head around the idea that these ridiculous things keep happening to the same people. I had assumed they were liars, or at the very least, gross exaggerators. But on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 20th 2013, I experienced what can only be described as the greatest movie-going experience I will ever attend.

Let me back up. I had a rare day off of work, and decided it was about time to see Django Unchained, a film I had been trying to avoid since it's release last December. My friends wouldn't stop talking about it, and I heard it won an Oscar, so it couldn't be that bad, right? Luckily for me, the movie was still hanging around low-end Los Angeles theaters. I have never had any qualms about low-end theaters; sound and picture quality has come such a long way that spending literally four times the price so that I can hear people talking very clearly doesn't seem like a worthwhile investment.

And so I headed to the Valley Plaza 6 in North Hollywood to catch the 11:30 AM showing of Django. Upon arrival at around 11:10, I was met with a distraught elderly woman outside the theater doors. As I drew closer, her frustrations came to light. The theater was yet to open and she needed her popcorn! It was company policy that the doors would not open until ten minutes before the first showing. The visibly-shaken ticket taker, clearly new at his job, was having a hard time properly conveying this piece of information to the woman. "BUT I NEED TIME TO GET MY POPCORN!" the woman pleaded, trying to convince the employee of the terrible strife he and his terrible company were putting her through. The ticket taker tried to muster a rebuttal through his nervous stutters, but popcorn lady had already won.

Noticing I had drawn closer, popcorn lady then shot me a look that I can only describe as the non-verbal equivalent of a heavyset construction worker from the Bronx screaming, "HEYYYYY, YOU BELIEVE THIS JAG-OFF?" Caught off guard, I mutely shrugged my shoulders and headed back to my car for 10 more minutes of the latest "Comedy Bang Bang" podcast. I can only assume the popcorn lady did the same.

After a brief time out, I headed inside for my three dollar ticket and dollar hot dog. Ticket in hand, I began my short trip to theater one. Outside the large double doors, I awaited aside the ticket taker's podium, patiently searching for the theater employee. After seeing a few patrons walk right by me, I quickly realized the podium's existence was purely aesthetic. "How clever!" I said aloud.

Chuckling to myself, I headed into the bowels of the theater. It was much larger than I expected and in surprisingly good shape. Having only a half a dozen fellow moviegoers in attendance (including popcorn lady, SHE MADE IT, GUYS! HAPPY ENDINGS DO HAPPEN!), I had my choice of seat. Opting to settle in the direct epicenter of the theater, I plopped down, ready for some coming attractions.

Younger readers may not be aware of this, but in a time not too long ago, movie theaters used to have a kind of slideshow feature before the previews. These stills would include movie trivia, fun facts, and advertisements. Since the days of yore, these slides have been replaced by full-length commercials and behind-the scenes looks at upcoming movies. But in this hidden theater in North Hollywood, the art of the pre-movie slideshow was alive and thriving.

But this slideshow was like none I have ever witnessed. Foregoing all of the pesky interaction of a trivia format, this theater decided that two features were good enough to entertain the early birds: "fun facts" and a single advertisement for concessions. Alone, those two would have made for a conventional pregame to the movie, but these were no ordinary "fun facts." No, these facts were the funnest of them all. Take, for example, this actual fact they were nice enough to provide the eight of us with:
"In the movie Bridesmaids, puppies were given as a gift to attendees at the bridal shower."
Now I know what you're thinking: "Isn't that fact just something that happened in the movie, and anyone who saw those movies would already know that? How is that fun?"

Well, clearly you don't understand the point of facts. We don't listen to facts to learn things. We listen to facts so that when hear one we already know, we get to turn to the other person and boast, "Oh, I already knew that." I mean, what's the point in having a brain full of facts when you can't proudly disclaim your pre-existing knowledge of those facts?

Which brings me to the couple behind me. I never found the courage to turn and actually identify them as human beings, but based on their voices, I feel safe in the claim that they were indeed Homo sapiens. One (presumed) woman was having so much fun with these facts that she decided it was her civic duty to narrate every single one of these knowledge nuggets to the illiterates of the audience. Her male counterpart would then provide deep, thoughtful evaluation of his new-found knowledge. The entire sequence unfolded like this:

[Image of a "fun fact" appears on screen]
Human Woman [reading]: In the movie Transformers, Bumblebee was a Camaro.
Human Man: That's a nice car.

[Image of a "fun fact" appears]
HW: "Skeeter" was the nickname of Emma Stone's character, Eugenia Phelan, in the movie The Help.
HM: That's weird.

I was fully expecting to spontaneously combust from all the fun that these facts were filling me with, but the facts thankfully gave way to "coming attractions." But a few seconds into the preview for the upcoming biopic on Jackie Robinson, 42, it became apparent that the sound was not working. My suspicions were confirmed when Human Woman announced to the theater, "THERE'S NO SOUND!"

Frequent moviegoers will be familiar with the moment after trailer ends when you turn to one of your peers and whisper something like, "That looks terrible" or "Can't. Wait." or "I think this Paul Rudd guy is going to be a star." But with the lack of sound, this intimate, private conversation was made public to all. And thank God for that. Because when the Jackie Robinson trailer came to an audio-less conclusion, Human Man uttered the greatest statement I have ever bore witness to:
"I have no interest in a Jackie Robinson movie. I already read all the ESPN articles."
The statement: ordinary. The rationale: grandiose. Human Man wants no part in your Jackie Robinson film, because what can a motion picture offer that isn't covered entirely by The Worldwide Leader in Sports? I constantly use the same justification to avoid certain movies. I didn't see Jurassic Park because I have read all sorts of dinosaur books since I was a kid. People always ask me why I haven't seen the movie Titanic. Um...I used to play with boats in the bath tub, I think I know what a sinking ship looks like. In fact, I was weary to see Django, considering I had already read the wikipedia article on slavery several times.

And it's not like this man has just done a little bit of research, he has read "all the ESPN articles." He has a google alert for all things Jackie Robinson. His home page is the first page of results on Ask Jeeves for "Jeeves, has ESPN written anything about Jackie Robinson today?" Are you listening, Hollywood? The Jackie Robinson well is dry, try something new (preferably something with a monkey)!

Eventually, the sound was restored, and the rest of the movie went off without a hitch. As for the movie itself, my biggest fears were realized. Here's a shocker: the guy that was a slave was free by the end of the movie! Get a grip, filmmakers. If you want to make the next moneymaker like Grown Ups, come to Valley Plaza 6: home of the three dollar movie and the pulse of America!

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