Going it alone

So as many of you may have noticed, or may have heard from the dozens of film critics shouting in your face over the last 2-3 months, 2007 was a great year for film. Of course, I didn’t see what the big deal was until well into 2008, when I finally caught up with “There Will Be Blood”, “Zodiac”, “No Country for Old Men”, “Juno”, and “Once”. I felt moved by all the aforementioned films, even despite the cynical response the latter two have received (and I think that’s prickish… which says a lot, because I’m a cynical dude). There was also more good cinema this year: the one-two punch of “Knocked Up” and “Superbad” (though albeit a weak, vaguely pro-life punch followed by a significantly “That’s more like it!” punch) and… well, that was it, as far as I know. Really.

Not that there weren’t more that I would have liked to have seen/ still would like to see; it’s simply that before early this year, the last movie I saw in a theatre was “1408”.  It was actually a rather fun experience, and I’m not taking a shot at the experience or with whom I saw it. It’s just the fact that it was the last in a long line of movies I’ve seen in a theatre for the sake of something to do. And “1408” came out in that dreadful valley between blockbuster season and Oscar handjob season, so the sole reason I saw it was because the person I saw it with and myself wanted to get out of the house and do something. There’s nothing wrong with this in theory; hell, you could even be pleasantly surprised by something when expecting it to be dreadful. At least there was nothing wrong with it when movies cost $4.

I’m not trying to make this a “Movies are too damn expensive nowadays… did you know there was a time when you could see the new John Cusack movie and get a Butterfinger for $5? And not those new fives they have today, but the old ones where Lincoln’s face was in the middle and smaller. Your new-fangled five dollar bills frighten me” issue; I’m more concerned about this in that if it costs so much to see a movie, why spend it on one you’re not going to like? When I was growing up in the leafy suburbs of Western Massachusetts, there was literally nothing to do on the weekends except see a movie in West Springfield or drive 45 minutes up to Northampton to have everything close an hour after getting there. So I saw a lot of movies for the fuck of it, and I can tell you that a very small handful of them were anything remotely resembling “good.” Part of this is that apparently no one wants to see the movies I want to see unless they’re a film critic or someone who thinks they’re cool enough not to see movies with me. The other part is basically that Oscar handjob season coincides with buying your friends and loved ones gifts for the sake of Jesus, the Maccabees, Allah or… Colin Powell… which doesn’t lend itself kindly to your expenses. And blockbusters have an uneven suck-to-good ratio, so seeing a gigantic film may as well be seeing “27 Dresses” in January. So, thanks to Blockbuster Video and (more recently and conveniently) Netflix, I’ve seen most of the movies I wanted to see months after they’re theatrical run is over with.

“So why didn’t you just go see those movies by yourself, Shaun?” you may ask, and you’d be right to. Up until a month ago, I had never gone to a movie theatre on my own. When finding people I liked spending time with, I unfortunately rarely-to-never took whether or not they’d see the same movies I wanted to see into account. And up until a month ago, I considered making up an application for prospective friends so I could see more movies. But instead, I considered saving the time it would take to go to Kinkos and sparing myself the frustration that would arise were they out of goldenrod card stock, and after reading the 94th glowing review of “There Will Be Blood”, I decided to throw caution and possibly my dignity into the wind and catch the 3:15 showing of the film.

What’s the big deal about seeing a movie by one’s self? I’ll tell you: nothing. People go to movies by themselves all the time; this particular showing of the movie had 2 or 3 single dudes, I’m assuming much like myself, sitting in the audience.  Because the act of going to a movie takes so much more effort than watching one at home in the dark in raggedy sweatpants (putting on actual pants, driving/taking the train to the theatre, standing in line behind loud/smelly families, figuring out which showing of what movie you’re asking the person behind the ticket counter for, having your ticket torn in half then torn in half by people with the disposition of an orphan giving toys to other children with two happy parents, navigating your way around seats and rows until you find the perfect/best available seat, how to best cross your legs without kicking the seat in front of you, etc.) that I assumed it should be combined with others as to justify it as a social event so all your effort wouldn’t be in vain. Make sense? No, but I didn’t know that until I went to a movie on my own.

While going to movies with others is still fine and is still my preferred method of moviegoing, there’s a certain romance to going to a movie on your own. My first question after walking up those sticky-ass stairs and seeing if they’ve started showing previews yet (because I need to leave my house to find out what Steve Carell is doing this holiday season) is, “Where do you want to sit?” If the question is asked of me, I always prefer the aisle, being that I always think for some reason I’m going to vomit in the middle of the film and don’t want to have that mar the event, be it date or platonic. When you’re on your own, you sit wherever the fuck you want, and this is great because you’re only concerned with your own view of the screen, not the legally blind douchebag you brought along to the movie with you (assuming you go to movies with legally blind douchebags). For “There Will Be Blood”, I sat halfway up the theatre, 2 or 3 seats away from other people, and put my elbows and both arm rests. That’s the other great thing about going to movies by yourself: none of those awkward armrest moments. Say goodbye to those “Will she or won’t she mind if I rest my forearm on hers? Is she using the other armrest, because we’re both entitled to one…” instances. I was a little petrified that I may have taken off my pants and let out a loud satisfied sigh, because I was so goddamn comfortable that I could see myself crossing normal social boundaries to be as satisfied as I was.

Which leads me to the real reason I waited 26 years to go to a movie dateless: people will talk! He’s alone! Why would someone go to a movie alone when they have friends? Doesn’t he have friends? What’s wrong with him that he doesn’t have friends? Why the hell does that child molester have to ruin this movie for me?!  The fact is, seeing a good movie in its natural habitat– spread across a panoramic screen with all the characters and scenes impossibly bigger than you–is something to be enjoyed, and whether or not that something is in the company of another human being is inconsequential. I obviously don’t go to movies by myself at 8 PM on a Saturday, because nothing leads to loneliness, Hagen Daas and blackberry schnapps faster than being alone in a room full of whispering, canoodling couples and packs of ugly, possibly canoodling teenagers. But that being said, being in a room in the middle of the afternoon with a few other couples spread out across the capacity of a movie theatre is nothing bad. In fact, it’s liberating. Some movies need to be seen in as much grandiosity as possible; why should the fact that no one wants to sit through a character-based greed allegory based at the turn-of-the-century starring a literal total of no women (or many other people other than Daniel Day Lewis, for that matter) limit me to watching it on my roommate’s Wal-Mart TV in my darkened living room drinking lukewarm Honey Brown because it was the cheapest non-shitty beer they have at the A&P? There’s no answer to that. Thus begins the new phase of my cinematic development: seeing movies I want to see in the environment in which I would like to see them as often as possible. God for-fucking-bid, right?

So as I mentioned earlier,  I’m not done seeing movies with other people. In fact, that’s how I would still prefer to see them. But if this year, like any year, there are movies that I would like to see that none of you want to spend your time on, I’m still going to see them. But I might as well ask now: Does anyone want to see “Iron Man” in May? Because that movie looks pretty fucking awesome.

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One Response to “Going it alone”

  1. MK Says:

    Just when I thought it was safe to go to the movies alone, you happen along with warnings against canoodling, ugly teenagers and smelly families.

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