The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Rainer has a great piece up on movie manners, deploring how everyone from teenagers to movie critics have lost all semblance of manners when watching movies these days. As someone who sees a lot of movies for a living, I have to agree with him. Cellphones, crying babies, talking teens, chatty groups of women out for a mom's night, rowdy frat boys, you name it, they're out in theaters set on annoying those of us who actually want to watch the movie. When I went to a screening of Hellbent, we even had a pack of gay guys tripping on acid (though in that case, they actually kind of added to the ambiance). Film festivals, which you would think would be attended by movie lovers who have some manners, are actually where you find some of the worst offenders. Film critics and filmfans alike think nothing of loudly offering their erudite opinions during the show. People get up and loudly walk out in the middle of a film if they don't like it. Cinematical is going to Sundance next week, and we're going to be covering the heck out of it. But we're also going to be dealing with a lot of rude moviegoers. So to that end, I'm getting prepared, with this list of ways to deal with rude moviegoers.
- The Hoarse Whisperer - This person knows enough not to talk out loud during the film, but they haven't figured out yet that voices carry, even in a whisper. In fact, that raspy whispering from behind you can be more annoying than the person who just says what they have to say out loud. If dirty looks don't do the trick, try a little duct tape.
- The Shining - Film critics are the worst offenders here, but they're not alone. Pen lights, PDAs and cellphone screens - even laptops - are frequently seen at movie screenings, especially at festivals. A can of black spray paint works nicely to eliminate those glowing blue screens.
- Walk the Line - These folks abound at film festivals. They sit through the first ten minutes or so of a film, maybe a little more, decide it's not worth their time, and then get up to leave, noisily gathering all their rustling belongings and talking loudly to their friends about how much the film sucks and how it's not worth watching. A strategically placed piece of piano wire tied across the aisle, pulled taut just as the loudmouths make their way to your row, makes for a more entertaining exit.
- Living Out Loud - A close relative of The Hoarse Whisperer, this offender does everything loudly. He laughs too loud, even when a scene's not funny. He explains to his girlfriend everything in the film, as though she's an idiot. He makes comments like "Whoa!" and "Oh yeah baby!" like he thinks he's at a Baptist revivial with a preacher asking who loves Jesus. A shot to the back of the head with a ping pong ball gun should shut him up, though he's so dense it may take several shots before he gets the point.
- The Brat Pack - Nothing spells double un-fun at a movie screening like a pack of teenagers. One on one, teenagers are tolerable, but in packs? Annoying, loud, and irritatinglydetermined to one-up each other to increase their perceived "cool" factor, they are not who you want to be sitting near you. The worst Brat Packs are mixed sets of boys and girls of about middle-school age. There was a time when I might have been intimidated by Brat Packs, but I'm old enough now not to care. Subtlety does not work on teenagers; you have to be direct, and you have to get their attention, because as an adult you don't register on their radar unless you're handing out cash. I've had the best luck with Brat Packs by identifying the ringleader, tapping him or her on the shoulder, and then saying loudly enough for all of them to hear me, "Hey! Teenyboppers! Shut the hell up!" The combination of an adult they don't know telling them to shut up and using mild profanity in the process tends to shock them into submission. If that doesn't work, I tap the ringleader again and tell them if they don't shut up NOW, I'm getting the manager and having their butts kicked out. That's usually enough to do the trick. They may mutter and give me dirty looks, but who cares as long as they're quiet?
- The Professional - This guy is probably majoring at film studies at your nearby university. He wants desperately to be Roger Ebert when he grows up. If you have a film festival in your city, he buys the pass and wears it around even when he's not going to a movie, just so people know he has one. At every film he goes to, he pontificates about this and that, dropping names lots of obscure French and Hungarian directors. He's making up or mispronouncing half of what comes out of his mouth, but that doesn't stop him from assuming he knows everything there is to know about film and then some. Best thing you can do in this situation? Move to a seat far, far away.
- Star Snores - Falling asleep during a movie is a little rude. Falling asleep during a movie and snoring so loudly people near you think King Kong must be playing in the adjacent theater is practically unforgiveable. If you sound like a pair of moose mating when you fall asleep sitting up, you should never, ever, go to the movies when you're tired. If you have the misfortune to be seated near this annoying individual, you might as well amuse yourself by picking up random bits of popcorn and candy off the theater floor and dropping them into his mouth.