I am the worst person to go to the movies with.
Not because I'm a critic, and feel the need to analyse and contextualize what I'm watching. "This scene is evocative of early Bunuel. Yeah, right. I'm much more likely to say, "Fuck, that Michael Bay sure knows how to blow stuff up real purdy!
And not because I'm Homer Simpson. ("What'd he say? What'd he say when I said, ‘What'd he say?'")
No, I'm the worst because while I appreciate the communal experience of going to the cinema - the shared joy of watching Quantum of Solace or Slumdog Millionaire, say, the ease created by being part of a group that encourages laughter or crying - it's still an individual experience, and I'd rather none of you were there to share it.
Don't get me wrong, I love the popcorn, the big screen, the giant sound. Could do without the sticky floors, though. (You'd think after more than 100 years of cinema they'd have found a way to clean them so my shoes don't get stuck.)
And it's got nothing to do with getting the seat I want - I get enough of that at press screenings when there's only a handful of us spread about the entire theatre - although I'll snap your wrist if you try and take the armrest.
Therein lies the problem.
I'm a temperamental, even ornery, moviegoer. So what makes me a horrible movie companion is, well, you.
You kick the back of my seat.
Your hair is too damn high.
The wrapper on your licorice makes too much noise.
You make frequent trips to the bathroom (either tie a knot in it or don't by the 60-ounce bladder buster to go with your bucket of popcorn).
And you talk.
And you text.
Oh, how you text.
A couple nights ago I went to see Twilight. Never read the book. Some kind of Harry Potter type phenomenon. Something to do with vampires. Vampires are pretty cool, at least when they're not being cheesy (see Dracula 2000). Thought I should check it out.
Now, I've learned to accept that people talk. An occasional whisper now and then is forgivable. Although in the past if the people behind me are talking I've been known to stand quietly in front of them, explaining to them that if I can't hear the movie then they can't see the movie. A fair trade in my book.
Then again, if you're the person who feels the need to either -
a) explain to your friends what just happened, even though we all watched what just happened and besides it's a Ben Stiller movie so how lost could I possibly be if I happened to nod off for an hour or so?
b) tell your friends what's about to happen, cuz your sense of storytelling is so fine-tuned and the filmmaking is so predictable (yes, Bruce Willis is dead, but you never saw that coming you fuckin' liar!)
- then might I suggest that you stay the fuck home!
So I'm at the Twilight screening. As expected, I'm surrounded by teen girls and a few fat, middle-aged women (Twilight's primary demographic).
Knowing how agitated I can get when my moviegoing experience gets disrupted, my companion gently places her hand on my arm and whispers, "Remember, this is their movie."
Point taken. I force myself to relax, put up with chattering and giggling throughout the trailers, the louder giggling when 17-going-on-1,700 vampire heartthrob Robert Pattinson first appears, obviously fake amber eyes beneath six inches of forehead beneath six more inches of hair.
I was just settling into the movie, realizing that, hey, this isn't bad. Actually, if you can get past the TV-quality special effects, the lack of bloodletting and the occasional THUNK! of dialogue, this Heathecliffe and Catherine romance is actually pretty good. Forbidden vampire love as a metaphor for abstinence, go figure. I'm liking the high school dynamic being created, almost believable, at least enough to allow me to accept that this uber-pale group of ultra-chic teens who are never seen in sunlight wouldn't be immediately pegged for bloodsuckers.
Then the phone rings. And the girl next to me answers it.
And she talks. A conversation.
By the time she's done, Pattinson is glistening in the sunlight like a sweaty cologne salesman.
Then she sends a text, the keys clacking, and for a second I thought she must've hidden an old Selecta in her purse.
Then another text. And another phone call.
I can feel my heart pounding like Edward when he first catches the scent of Bella, and I have a similar impulse. I don't know whether to vomit or rip her throat out.
I lean over.
I consider my first option, to vomit on her.
"Would you mind finishing your novel later?" I say, rather calmly.
"Ah, it's kinda important."
Fuck. My legs taken out from under me. By a 15-year-old with a crackberry habit.
Round about the third text, I lean over again, speak a little more loudly, a little more firmly, a little less calmly.
"Have you read the book?" I ask.
"Yes," she says, a bit surprised.
"Well I haven't. Stop talking, stop texting, so I can find out what the hell's going to happen next."
She punches a few keys - a last act of defiance, I suppose - before putting the cellphone away. And I notice others doing the same, cellphone screens blinking out around the theatre.
Was I wrong? Maybe I'm just becoming the cranky old fart at the movies and I should stay home.
What do you think? Ever been pissed off at a fellow moviegoer? Ever pissed someone else off? Got any horrible movie going experiences?