July 12, 2003

Oh No! Itís Time for Another Installment of Ö

A Semi-Regular Feature

Todayís Film: 28 Days Later

To be fair about things, I suppose I should note right away that ď28 Days LaterĒ is an excellent film. I would guess that horror-movie fans, of which I am not one, would likely be disappointed with it due to the relative lack of gore. However, if you take 28 Days with that grain of salt, then youíll probably be pleased with the end result: a very nice film of the world-gone-to-hell genre, and probably the best of its kind since ďThis Quiet Earth.Ē

Given this, regular readers may wonder why 28 Days thus merits inclusion in the Bad Cinema with Ben Pantheon. Thatís a simple question to answer. For despite the quality of the film, my Movie-Going Experience thoroughly sucked eggs. It was so unpleasant and horrid that the English language barely has words to express the trauma it caused me.

Anyway, hereís 28 Days' plot. Animal-rights activists invade a research facility at which the British Government is doing clandestine research on primates. These primates are infected with a contagious virus that causes them to go insane with rage. So while this leads to an enjoyable scene in which one of the monkeys tears off an eco-terroristís face, it also means that the fast-spreading virus gets out into the mainstream. Hence, nearly everyone in Britain turns into an uncivilized, screaming, pitch-drunk Arsenal fan.

About half-way through the film, I couldnít help but wonder if such a virus had infected the other people in the theatre.

I mean, my God! is it that hard for theoretically-intelligent people to shut the bloody hell up during the feature presentation? Is the concept of turning off oneís mobile telephone so difficult to grasp that audio-visual reminders about doing so are ineffective? Finally, what does it say about us as a society, when such uncultured imbeciles pointedly refuse to see the error of their ways?

Iím seriousóthis is the type of thing that makes me fear for the safety of the American polity. As a nation, of course, we have decided that people too stupid to master common-sense manners, such as respecting their fellow theatre patrons, can somehow use those same brains to figure out a coherent view about things like Medicare reform or our armaments budget. Donít get me wrong: I like universal suffrage. Itís just that Iím just despairing for the future.

Further, as if to add insult to injury, it wasnít as if these conversations were actually interesting. Oh, no. That might have mitigated the offense. Instead, they involved loudly explaining obvious plot points that could only be missed if the other parties were in fact blind. If it wasnít that, it involved details of personal lives that I really, really had no need to know about.

What was amazing about last night was my frustration was not confined to the scene inside the theatre itself.

For one thing, when I arrived at the theatre and I was walking towards the box office, I passed by a purple Japanese mini-van. This mini-van was not only unlocked, its sliding door was left open. Now you should know that it rained rather hard here yesterday, and that yesterday evening there were threatening clouds in the skies above. So it amazed me that anyone could forget to shut the door to such a nicely-appointed vehicle (leather interior, nice dashboard, that type of stuff).

What also amazed me was that this mini-van had clearly been left unattended for at least an hour. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people had likely walked by. Yet no one bothered to close this door. So after I dragged it shut, I thought to myself: what kind of apathy has taken hold on people that they wouldnít do the right thing?

Iíll admit that I did think about the issue for a minute. I mean, if I closed the door and it wasnít shut all the way, would that somehow make me liable if the door were to fly open on the 293 and the occupants therein were sucked out onto the highway? Would I find myself caught in a classic Good Samaritan case: no good deed goes unpunished? Then, there was another thorny moral issue: should I let these people be victims of their own forgetfulness, just so they would take more caution in future?

Still, I think I did the right thing. I donít know if it rained when I was inside the theatre, but at least I think I saved the owners of that van a bit of headache.

But that wasnít all that bothered me.

You should also know that here in Manchester, all the movie theatres we have are owned by the same large cinema operator. As such, this means it is difficult to find a movie that would not be considered a blockbuster first-run Hollywood film. This means that while I have ample opportunity to see movies about talking fish or robot assassins, I have little opportunity to actually see independent films or even niche films out of Hollywood.

For instance, when I wanted to see ďNarcĒ back in January, it was only playing on one screen out of about forty that we have in the city. 28 Days was also playing on just one screen in Manchester this weekend.

Now, I donít want that to be seen as a complaint. That is merely capitalism at work, and far be it for me to criticize the unstoppable engine we call market force. But since Iím part of an underserved market when it comes to film, I have to make an extra effort to see the movies I happen to like: even if that means going to a particularly hideous theatre.

For I positively detest the theatre in which I saw 28 Days. Itís not merely that the concessions are overpriced or that the sound system is a bit dated: itís that there is not one shred of beauty in it. The place looks like it was built in the mid-Seventies, and from an architectural standpoint, itís just awful.

I donít know which is more noteworthy: its awful outdoor box office or its monstrous concrete faÁade. Both these things were bad ideas: for the box office doesnít mesh well with our eight months of winter, and the concrete faÁade is in a section of the city full of concrete facades. You can stand it in the summer or the fall, which are gorgeous here; but in winter you feel as if youíre in Pyongyang.

The combination of all these things was incredibly depressing: so much so that I was ready to swear off movie-going altogether and stay at home with a growing DVD collection. But fortunately, 28 Days was excellent: great cinematography; good acting; interesting plot.

Just think how much I could have enjoyed it had my fellow movie-goers given me the chance.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at July 12, 2003 12:24 PM | TrackBack

I, too, enjoyed that movie a great deal. I have been fortunate not to run into too many moviegoing situations like that in my life, but it does happen. Typically, when it does happen, I tolerate one or two incidents before issuing a menacing "SHUT UP." which usually solves the problem. I think the real problem is one you seem to have hit upon, if not explicitly stated: most people are stupid and/or terminally ignorant. They are devoid of any sort of manners or consideration for others. If indeed the universe is a just one, I will someday rule them all. In the meantime, however, we have to deal with the consequences, like American Idol and poor-driving-related traffic problems.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at July 12, 2003 08:17 PM

I'm way ahead of you: http://www.nepentheisland.com/archives/000035.php

I'm not sure I would have closed the van door. How can you be sure it had been there an hour? Did you leave it unlocked? Granted, I wasn't there and I don't know how things actually looked, but at any rate I would have proceeded with caution.

Posted by: Kevin White at July 14, 2003 01:02 AM