Lame Adventure 454: The Black Hole of Film-going

My friend Milton saw 168 films in 2014. I barely saw 35. My film-going energy is not what it was when I would see two or three films every week. In recent years, I have developed film-going apathy. So many movies are disappointing and tickets here in New York cost about $15. Some theaters offer discounts before noon, but I’d rather power sleep on my weekend than watch Selma at 9 am for $8.49.

Great cast. Zero interest in this.

Great cast. Zero interest in this.

The Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, February 22nd. Thus far, I have seen half of the films nominated for Best Picture: The Grand Budapest Hotel (on a plane for free), The Imitation Game at a test screening (also for free), Birdman and this past weekend, The Theory of Everything. Milton has told me that if I set up my DVD player, he will order the Best Picture nominee, Boyhood, using his Netflix account. We have been having this conversation for a month, but I have yet to set up my player. Why I have been dragging my heels on doing this, when I purchased a flat screen TV last July, confounds him. When I think about figuring out what plug goes where, I want to take a nap.

Last week, a fairly new friend wanted to get together with me this weekend. She suggested that we play ping-pong. Clearly, she does not know me that well yet. Because I sorely lack any ping in my pong, I suggested that we see a film instead and listed several nominated for Academy Awards. We settled on The Theory of Everything that has five nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress (Felicity Jones), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.

We decided to go on Saturday, when it was frigid cold.

It felt much colder than 24 degrees.

It felt much colder than 24 degrees.

The multiplex we were seeing it at, the AMC Lincoln Square 13, is near my sanctum sanctorum. I hightailed down to the theater to buy our tickets in advance. The first thing I noticed was a tent outside the theater indicating that there was going to be a premier screening.

Tent city.

Tent city.

When I entered the theater, the lobby was so crowded, it posed a challenge to find the end of the ticket buying line. Two older women appeared to be standing at the end of the line, so I approached them. They insisted that the end was at another line. I moved to the end of that line. As I’m standing in this other line, they gesture at me.

Women: Come back! You’re in the wrong line!

I return to where I was first standing. They explain that the line they directed me to was for customers who had bought their tickets on the web. What incited that revelation eluded me, but I thanked them for realizing their mistake. A guy they’re with, who has a head similar to a packing crate, scowls.

Women: People behind us are mad that you’re cutting the line.

The only person who is mad is Cratehead, who surfaced after they insisted that I move. Was I cutting when I returned? These dingbats misguided me into losing my place. But I can tell that steaming Cratehead is the type who if he were a car, he’d be a Ford Pinto i.e., you rear-end him and he explodes. This was not a battle I wanted to fight. Once again I left the line in search of the end. When I finally purchased my tickets, the clerk rings up $29.98. I hand her $40.

Me: Why doesn’t the theater just charge $15 a ticket?

Clerk: I’d like to know that, too. Sometimes, it’s a pain making change.

She hands me a ten and two pennies. I figure that it’s retail psychology: charging that penny less to fool the buyer into thinking that the ticket price is $14, instead of the inflated $15. If anything, that 99 cents makes me more aware of the ruse.

As I’m leaving the theater, I notice a clerk with the crew setting up for the event. I ask what’s being screened tonight. She explains that the crew is breaking down.

Clerk: The screening was last night.

Me: What film was that?

Gala screening with Spongebob. Glad I missed it.

Gala screening with Spongebob. Glad I missed it.

This does explain why the red carpet was yellow.

This does explain why the red carpet was yellow.

The Theory of Everything reminded me of why I see so few films. It’s a standard uplifting paint-by-numbers biopic. The subject is acclaimed theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, who was stricken with motor neuron disease while a graduate student at Cambridge, but he beats the odds of succumbing to his plight through his marriage to Jane, who was instrumental to his survival and his success. Whenever the film strayed from the travails of Jane bolstering Stephen and tried to explain Hawking’s work, discovering the origin of time, I had difficulty grasping what any of that was about or why it matters to my existence when I have to struggle to simply find the end of a ticket buying line. I left the theater feeling dumber than when I entered, but the acting was good.

I will never spend my shekels on this.

I will never spend my shekels on this.

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57 responses to “Lame Adventure 454: The Black Hole of Film-going

  1. Our movie total for the year 2014 was likely less than 12. It is slowly increasing now that we have cut the dish cord and use a Roku with NetFlix and Hulu. We watched All Is Lost with Robert Redford two nights ago. It had a few spoken words, but no dialogue at all. He was stranded in the Indian Ocean when his boat sank.

    Movies here are closer to $8 not $15. We have a small venue in town that might seat 50. They show some good stuff for less. We saw Selma there for $6.

    I taught physics. Hawking is a big deal person. I know a lot about him and his life already. Sounds like I might be disappointed in the movie.

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    • I liked All is Lost very much, Jim. I saw it in a theater in 2013. Robert Redford was terrific and I very much liked the open to interpretation ending. I think I’ve seen all, if not most of J.C. Chandor’s films. His current one, A Most Violent Year, is very good. Too bad that it got so snubbed by the Academy Awards people.

      I am sure that you will recognize that The Theory of Everything is theory light for a physics professor, as it was theory huh? for this physics ignoramus. It’s central focus is the relationship between Stephen and Jane, something familiar and easy to grasp. It confounds me why this unoriginal film got an adapted screenplay nomination. I would have given that nom to Gone Girl instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed the movie, Then again, I usually judge movies on the level of enjoyment. … but didn’t get caught up with the time stuff because some people are just out there on another level.

    Given Milton movie expertise … and given the upcoming Academy Awards … it’s time for the Milties!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hate those long lines where it’s unclear what line is what. We encountered one of those last week trying to get on the gondola on a Saturday at Breckenridge. People get cranky if they think you’re breaking in, even when you’re not.

    I’ve been wanting to see the Theory of Everything just because I like Eddie Redmayne, and I’ve read some of Hawking’s books. Hawking’s survival (with ALS) for all these many years and his ability to continue to write, theorize and be a powerful leader in physics is still astounding. But most popular films seem to need a romantic twist or some maudlin theme to attract theater goers. I’ll probably see it, but maybe wait until it comes out on Amazon Prime.

    Oh yeah, and only in some very alternate universe could I ever see you sitting through Spongebob (or me either, for that matter.)

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    • I hate that sponge and his voice drives me completely over the edge, Cathy! If my niece, Sweet Pea, have gotten into him I would have considered disinheriting her. I gave her one pass: that went for her Barney worshipping. Wise kid, she used it well.

      You nailed it: “But most popular films seem to need a romantic twist or some maudlin theme to attract theater goers.” Exactly! But, if you like Eddie Redmayne (and I do, too), this is his My Left Foot (remember Daniel Day-Lewis in that one?) moment. He delivers. I would not go into shock if he takes home the sword-bearing shiny naked gold guy.

      It’s very true that long lines bring out the cranky. A few weeks ago when my market, Fairway, was insanely but not weather-related crowded, I witnessed a guy completely lose it at a man with his leg in a cast for moving too slowly. Angryman headbutted Legcastguy! Yes, he assaulted him right in front of most of the Upper West Side. Several shoppers flocked to Legcastguy’s aid. Angryman stormed off in a steaming huff. I hope it was in the direction of an anger management course.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I would have gone to SquarePants. But really ping pong sounds more fun than Any of it.

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  5. MONKEYS. No thanks. One tried to steal my purse in Jaipur. Little fucker.

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  6. I highly recommend you get Amazon Prime and Netflix- so much incredible content available in the comfort of your home- pause whenever and leave your seat when you need- you control the play. (Just watched “The Fall”- incredible!!) And in terms of the set up-you could always invite my very kind tech-savvy spouse over who will probably set you up in about five minutes- just sayin’….

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    • I subscribe to Netflix and through my bud, Beagle, I have access to Prime, Dorothy, but I much prefer seeing films in a theater than on my 32 inch TV. I’m quite sure I can do my own setup if I just follow the color codes, but thanks for offering your mate!

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  7. You’re way ahead of me, I think I went to one movie last year (the newest Hunger Games one).

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  8. I really liked Imitation Game. Boyhood is On Demand so I should just demand it.

    Um, I like Spongebob. There. I’ve said it.

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    • Everyone I know who’s seen Boyhood liked it so I will make an effort to see it. Race you, pal! Right now, it’s looking more and more like American Sniper is being positioned to win the top prize. My sister saw it and emailed me a pretty scathing review. Dovima did not hold back on what she really thought. It made me think that I’m in no hurry to see that one, so that should guarantee it will win Best Picture.

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  9. I’m way behind on my Oscar-nominated viewing. I just haven’t mustered the enthusiasm lately. I think the only film I’ve seen is Grand Budapest Hotel, which I enjoyed.
    What on earth would you have done if you’d gone to the theater on the same night as Spongebob? On second thought, movies like Spongebob are probably why I haven’t gone to the theater lately.

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    • So many films are so trite and formulaic, it’s why I’ve switched gears and see so much theater on weekends now. As you know, I get to see many plays for free because of my off-Broadway volunteer ushering. Falling into that when I did six years ago was one of luckiest Lame Adventures. My friend hates that AMC theater, and she vowed that she’d never go there again. Clearly, she’s a good sport, but a yellow tie event featuring Spongebob might have triggered her breaking point.

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  10. I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. After taking a couple of screenwriting classes, a lot of movies are very predictable.

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    • You have that right, Susie! Predictable bores me. Of the four Best Picture nominated films that I’ve seen, only Birdman struck me as fresh and original. That one is so out there, I could easily see twice. Make that three times. It was a lot of fun and the ending was thought provoking. Micheal Keaton and Edward Norton are both spot on. The cinematography and special effects are great. And I loved the Jean-Luc Godard-inspired music score: a jazz drummer who often appears on camera. Plus, it’s about movies and theater and it’s set in New York. Truly, a film tailor made for me. Milton and I saw it at the New York Film Festival — my favorite place to see films in the world.

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  11. You still beat me by a long shot with 35 films. That’s like more than one a month… I probably saw like 5 movies and most kid movies with interruptions, etc. So, I would have had to go to a Sponge Bob. 🙂 I heard Boyhood was really great! I am going to try to see that one! In general, movies have become so expensive, like you said.

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    • I power watch movies when the New York Film Festival is happening in the fall, Amy. Milton and I saw around twenty at it last year. I enjoy that festival immensely. But to just blow fifteen clams on any piece of mindless crap, like I used to do, those days are long gone.

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  12. Haaaaa!!! No ping in my pong! If that was the name of a film I’d plunk $15.99 down to see it! The best films I have seen on the big screen this year was this past frigid Saturday night at the Landmark Loews in Jersey City – a double bill – White Heat with Cagney and Dog Day Afternoon with Pacino – wow!!!!!! All I can say is “Made it Ma! Top of the World!!!”

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    • You’re such a high roller, Max. I saw both of those films on a big screen, too, but quite a while ago. Dog Day, when it was first released (“Attica! Attica!”) and White Heat, when it was screened at SFSU, back in the day when universities had access to actual films, before the advent of VHS, DVD and now, streaming. I’m a film purist i.e., I prefer to see movies in a theater rather than in my thumbnail-sized hovel.

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  13. The Theory of Everything doesn’t appeal to me enough to go out and see in at the theater. Possibly Redbox when it becomes available. I know nothing of the Spongebob Squarepants because I don’t have children but many swear it’s hilarious. We watched Malificent on DVD–it was okay I suppose. And This is Where I Leave You, which I really enjoyed. We saw American Sniper at theater. It was very good, great acting and disturbing.

    We did see Boyhood. It was very longgggg but had some good points here and there. I found it a bit depressing and I’m not sure why.

    I’d stay clear of anyone getting mad at cutting in lines and such. You seem to always manage to keep your wits about you when others are losing theirs, V. I think this must be both your personality and your keen survival skills.

    I so hope you guys get some warmth (and less freaking snow) soon.

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    • I doubt that I’ll like any of the other nominated films I have yet to see more than Birdman, Brig. I appreciate knowing what you thought of the ones you’ve caught. And I also appreciate that you’re Spongebob Squarepants-free. It’s one of those cartoons that I find utterly ridiculous. It’s definitely not my generation in the department of cartoon humor. Pile on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies over here.

      There are times to bleat and there are times to just resume looking for the back of the line. Yeah, I think I’m pretty good at telling my times, too.

      More winter weather is heading over here soon, but keep up the warm thoughts, pal!

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  14. I agree with you there… a paint-by-number biopic. I don’t think it should be in the Best Picture category, or Felicity Jones nom for Best Actress. Eddie Redmayne is good and deserves the nom, and so’s Jake Gyllenhaal of Nightcrawler but is snubbed. Personally, I’m rooting for Boyhood. And even though Budapest Hotel won’t have a chance for Best Pic, it should win production design, costume, make-up, and music. BTW, Milton’s movie score is impressive… My number is around 110 and I consider that a high figure for ‘amateurs’. Just wondering, does Milton work in the film-related industry such that watching films is almost a full time job, or else, where would one find the time? I remember reading a year-end article on the NYT, A.O. Scott mentioned he had viewed 600+ movies that year… movie watching must be his full-time job to account for that number.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you, Arti: I never would have nominated Budapest for Best Picture, either. I would have given that nom to Interstellar. It seems that the Academy loathed Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic. How it bent time was so much more imaginative than Theory. Milton is an amateur film-goer, too, albeit one with extremely critical opinions. He knows a lot, but never seriously pursued a career in the film industry. He’s just a hardcore cinemaniac (remember the documentary with that name?).

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  15. My son is begging to see Sponge Bob this weekend. He’s five, though, soooo … go figure.

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  16. I still working on an early draft of Green Acres – The Movie. I plan on casting you and Milton in the lead roles of Lisa and Oliver Douglas and yours truly as Mr. Haney. There are plenty of extras here in Arkansas that we can use for the bit roles and I was thinking of asking Jim Carey to do a cameo as Arnold Ziffel. We should be finished editing in time for an April 1st 2016 release date. Better make room on your mantel for an Oscar.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I only saw about eight films this year. I don’t have the patience for them anymore so don’t ask me why I’d rather plow through a book of a movie than go to it and really I don’t even want to read the thing. Sorry about no ping in your pong, but aren’t you the one who mastered the exercise machine?

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    • Sure did, Rebecca, and I rode it for forty sweat-soaked minutes like a demon straight out of hell this morning. But once I fall off of it, I’m back to being my regular laggard self. As for film-going, my friend is like me: a glutton for punishment. I’m pretty sure that we’re going to see another one this weekend.

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  18. I used to see a lot of films, but like NY, the prices are steep in London. And I’m tired of all the remakes and such. I saw an ad for this one and I’m afraid I just won’t get into it. Inspirational story, no doubt, but just doesn’t do anything for me. I feel horrible writing that. But I rather spend fifteen quid on something I’ll like.

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    • Please, don’t feel guilty about how you feel. Theory is such a paint-by-numbers formulaic film. Save your shekels for something genuinely worthwhile like Selma (my friend and I were so into it; a gripping account of recent history) or original like Birdman (Milton loved that one, too).

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  19. I’m impressed with all your different reviews. I understand from your degree.
    We saw A MOST VIOLENT YEAR. It was different than I thought it would be from the previews. Our cinema is noted for being shot dead by retired cop for texting during the previews. Sponge Bob is numero uno at the box office. I find it amazing since this cartoon figure has been around a long time. Economy must be good. I don’t have an interest in seeing AMERICAN SNIPER. Not for or against it. I’m just sick of these because of how WE handle foriegn conflicts.

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    • You and I are on the same page about American Sniper, Tom. I have no interest in seeing that one, either, but if it wins Best Picture, I will probably catch it when it plays on HBO or Netflix. One of the reasons why I enjoyed A Most Violent Year as much as I did was that it was packed with tension and anxiety, but it was far from a bloodbath. I thought it was a very intelligent film — that’s such a rarity. As for Sponge Bob’s wild success, he’s been around since 1999, so a lot of younger parents are very familiar with his brand of silliness that I find irritating. I recall that shooting incident in a movie theater in Florida. That was insane anger. I hope you always sit in the no shooting section.

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  20. Even 35 films seems like a lot to me (to say nothing of Milton’s staggering total). I went to the theater about five times in 2014, three times to see the same movie (which had more to do with my situation than with the movie itself–Guardians of the Galaxy). I’m just not that into movies, because so many of them disappoint. I have middlebrow tastes, but highbrow expectations sometimes. It’s not fair, I suppose, but that’s me.

    I LOATHE SpongeBob. I haven’t seen much of it, but it seems silly for silliness’ sake–zany, antic and pointless. Sadly, my kids have recently become aware of him. We don’t watch it in my home (I don’t expressly forbid it–that’s its own kind of foolishness–but I never remember to tape it). Glad you missed that movie.

    Now that my older boys are able to (mostly) sit through a feature film, I may be going to more movies. They’re likely to be of the Big Hero 6 (one of the five in 2014) variety, however.

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    • My parents were not fans of kid films, Smak, so from a very early age they took me to see adult movies. I immediately got into them, and so they kept taking me. It was a great arrangement for all of us. My parents were avid filmgoers. We went almost every Saturday. Last year, Milton and I saw All About Eve at a special screening at the New York Film Festival. It was released in 1950, the year my parents met, premiering in New York in October before opening wider across the country in November. My parents were Bette Davis fans. I’m sure that it was one of their date films. No way did they miss seeing that one! Almost 65 years later, it remains a Hollywood masterpiece. I highly recommend it.

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  21. Dude. You and Milton are rockstar movie going peeps. I think I saw five or six films last year and three of them were for my kids, the last one being SpongeBob. Dude Dude I can’t even tell you the sacrifices I make. But I saw Boyhood and thought it was a pretty great concept, that kid is great. And I saw the Grand Budapest Hotel and thought that was funny. But I haven’t seen Birdman. It’s still playing down the street and I’m thinking of making a run for it in the evening. Can’t wait to hear your Oscar reactions.

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    • I hope that you’re able to see Birdman, Guat! I’ve heard good things about Boyhood. Eventually, I will see it, but in the way I least like watching a film: on my TV. I’m not going to shell 15 clams on that one. If you can come around again this weekend, I might post a little Lame Adventure with Milton’s Oscar predictions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Duuuuude I would love to hear your Oscar breakdown, I actually rented Birdman on PayPerView last night but got so sick I didn’t even watch it…got sick on Friday so I didn’t post and now I’ve lost my voice and think my body has raised the threat level to urgent care red. Hopefully I can recover in the next 48 hours so I can at least watch it.

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