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.
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.
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.
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?
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.