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« True Art School Tales | Main | "City Comforts," the Book »

October 29, 2003

Beyond Annoying

Dear Friedrich --

Some Great Recent Moments in Annoying Public Behavior:

* The woman sitting a row behind us at the Film Forum who brought in an entire bagful of different snacks, each wrapped in its own paper or plastic packaging. She had so much food that it took her 45 minutes (and six separate ripping-and-tearing bouts with paper and plastic) to finish it.

* The fat, arthritic older man at the end of the row at "In the Cut" who decided midway through the film that he needed to put on his windbreaker. What with stiff joints and a huge tummy to contend with, this process took him a good ten minutes -- ten minutes of tugging, muttering and gasping, and of the zip-whizzzz sounds of nylon on nylon.

* I was in the waiting room at my eye doctor's, waiting for the eyedrops he'd given me to do their pupil-dilating thing. In walked a glittering, slim, Upper East Side woman. She sat down, rustled through the shopping bag she had with her -- and brought out an entire meal. Three or four courses, each in Tupperware. She placed the containers on her lap, opened them, pulled out plastic utensils, and dug in. That was the first time I've seen anyone eat a meal in a doctor's waiting room.

I sometimes feel that I'm a wimp if I don't try to scold these people into behaving better, and I do sometimes crane my neck and glare in annoyance. But I never get any satisfaction, and so retreat back into silence and irritation. Cowardice and lack of spine explain a lot of this, of course. But also: well, this is New York, and the general policy here is, if you're criticized or scolded, attack back with both barrels blazing.

Back in the late '70s, I was at a screening of some old classic movie at the Bleecker Street Cinema. It was a cold winter day; there were lots of parkas and coats to accomodate; the theater was nearly full and the heating was turned up 'way too high. At some point in the middle of the movie, a few rows in back of me, there was one of those hushing/shushing/whispering commotions you register semi-consciously. Then it erupted -- the voices got profane and angry, the rows of chairs shook. It was enough to make you turn around in alarm and curiosity. But things settled down ... After the movie was over I asked a couple of people from that part of the theater what had happened. It turned out a guy had been so offended by being told to shush by some other viewers that he'd pulled a gun on them and told them to shush themselves.

When I was a young whippersnapper, the moviegoers I found most annoying were the ones who find it impossible to stay quiet and still during sex scenes and nudity. I love erotic scenes in movies myself, and, generally speaking, the artier they are, the better I like 'em. (I find it fascinating that there are people who have no problem with the nudity in something lowdown like "American Pie" but who find it next-to-impossible to keep still during highbrow art-nudity. Any thoughts about how to explain this?) There are always a few people in a movie theater who, once the sex or nudity begins, feel compelled to cough, or fidget, or whisper to their next-seat neighbor. To me, a devotee of aesthetico/religio/philosophico erotica, this kind of behavior used to be infuriating. It was like someone misbehaving during a church service.

With age, though, I've grown fond of taking note of the ways those who can't handle movie sex discharge their uneasiness. My favorite response to movie sex occurred during a showing of Mira Nair's "Kama Sutra." (I don't recommend the movie, by the way; though it was full of NC-17 nudity and had a lot of sensual qualities, it doesn't have much else working in its favor.) The Wife and I were at a mid-afternoon weekday showing at the cineplex -- bargain-matinee time. About midway through the movie a scrawny old gent tottered in, evidently having skipped out on another movie. He looked around the dark, shuffled his way to a seat, and only then looked up at the screen, which was full of dusky, damp, humping flesh.

"Jumpin' Jehosophat!!!" he said, very loudly. "Would you look at what those young people are doing!!!" And he kept up the old-coot commentary throughout what remained of the movie. "That's quite a keister on that princess!!!" he'd squawk. Or "Good lord almighty, what are they doing to each other?!!!"

Not quite in the same league but still pretty amusing was an older Chinese man sitting alone in the row in front of us at "In the Cut" yesterday. He was a small guy with an armful of snacks -- cans of soda, boxes of candy, a huge container of popcorn. I checked him out with concern before the lights went down, but he turned out to be OK -- a discreet and lowkey spectator. Or he was until Meg Ryan's first sex scene, that is, when he began eating his popcorn faster and faster and faster. And louder and louder. The chomping got so frenzied that I looked over at him in alarm; he was moving popcorn from the tub to his mouth about as fast as a human being could. He clearly wasn't doing this to be funny; it was his way of handling the intensity of the scene. I turned my own attention back to the screen; Meg was doing a swell job with her character's erotic moment. And then -- honest to god -- just as the scene's climax was reached, the little Chinese guy popped open a can of soda. Pffffssssst!

Have you endured any memorable bad public behavior recently?



posted by Michael at October 29, 2003


Alas, I'm afraid that nowadays I'm most likely to annoy. In particular, I have this loud, insane-chipmunk laugh that people either love or hate -- but for my own part, I can't help the way it comes out.

Since my laugh used to sound like an asthmatic jackass (see Revenge of the Nerds for example), I figure the tittering chipmunk might represent progress.

BTW if you like good old-fashioned sex scenes (and what red-blooded American male doesn't?), check out an upcoming movie with William Macy called The Cooler. I think I saw the NC-17 version, but the R-rated cut coming to American theaters should still pack plenty of heat. Maria Bello could make this Gay boy start batting for the other team.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on October 30, 2003 01:39 AM

Ok, now my goal for the day is to use the phrase "Jumpin' Jehosephat!" in a social situation...

Posted by: jimbo on October 30, 2003 09:43 AM

My only real ambition left in life is to live long enough to start conducting "old coot" real time movie criticism. I'll have to remember:

"That's quite a keister on that princess!!!"

Question for Michael: Do you ever find public remarks uttered during movies to be appropriate? In the right mood I have no difficulty with them (granted that mood doesn't usually occur during highly serious movies, unless they are laughably bad).

I remember watching a set of trailers back in the late 1970s or early 1980s that included one for the movie "Heart Like a Wheel." At the end of the trailer, somebody said, quite loudly:

"Heart?...Like A WHEEL?!.

(As best I can remember, the simile wasn't explained in either the trailer or the movie.)

And one of my favorite moviegoing memories was listening to blaxploitation films with a black audience on 42nd Street. Ah, those were the days.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 30, 2003 11:13 AM

I don't know if the essay is available on line, but Joe Queenan wrote a piece titled (I believe) Confessions of A Cineplex Heckler that is one of the funniest things ever written. In it he goes to the movies with the goal of being as obnoxious as possible--shouting out "He's a Guy!" the moment that the Jaye Davidson appears in The Crying Game, and shouting "Eat Vincent Spano first" when the plane crashes in Alive. Hilarious.

Posted by: Tom on October 30, 2003 12:02 PM

Michael asked:

(I find it fascinating that there are people who have no problem with the nudity in something lowdown like "American Pie" but who find it next-to-impossible to keep still during highbrow art-nudity. Any thoughts about how to explain this?)

I think maybe it's the fact that in American Pie and movies of that sort, the nudity is about sex and yet the tension of staring at naked people having sex is deflated by humor. When it isn't deflated, people tend to feel strangely voyeuristic; this is not like pornography, after all, where the focus is sex, or perhaps masturbation. It's not humor, either. What is the focus? It cannot just be beauty, especially sexual beauty, people feel, because, well, that's just uncomfortable, it needs to be deflated when presented in public... and so they act all jittery, distracted, or they make jokes. It's a way of containing what they are seeing, and changing the focus from something weirdly ambiguous into something simple and controllable. I'm not getting aroused at this: I'm making comments about the princess's keister!

That's what I think, anyway. Notably, people do the same thing with avant garde music, I think for a similar reason; it's musically overwhelming, strange, and so, since one cannot simply sit still and listen, one creates a new context by acting shocked, joking, or fidgeting. Discomfort registered recontextualizes an experience. It's okay to listen to weirdo modern music if you openly display discomfort and distrust. And often my Korean students learning English also offer me resistance even when I am asking them to say something in English that they can say perfectly well... it's how we shape identity and manage comfort level adjustments, all of that, I think.

Posted by: gord on October 30, 2003 12:14 PM

I always talk through movies (pointing out likely direction of plot, inconsistencies, mocking the characters,etc) but the movies I go to are so loud I can barely hear myself. However there's something like a double standard; I went to see Lord of the Rings with my dad and I think it came to "Shut... er, I'm trying to watch the movie!#"

I also remember going with friends to see Mission Impossible when I was thirteen or so. We had to wait 20 minutes for the movie to start, so being 13 and bored, naturally we threw candy at the heads of people 10 or so rows down, then tried to keep a straight face when they turned around. But your post was about people who probably aren't aware they were being rude.

Nowadays, I'd like to think that I would put someone in their place, but just today I was trying to take a nap in the library and some dude 5 feet away was busy loudly ripping up newspapers for ~40 minutes. I imagined throwing him through the window, but instead pretended to sleep the entire time.

Posted by: Shai on October 30, 2003 01:59 PM

I have to admit that when I took my then 8 or 9 year old son to see "Godzilla" I waited for the exact right moment of suspense and then leaned over and said "Here lizard, lizard, lizard" in my best Taco Bell dog voice. Every adult within hearing distance started to chuckle.

Posted by: Deb on October 30, 2003 02:31 PM

But I'd just like to add that I used to be a lot more uptight than I am now. I think there's a threshold where annoyance is unacceptable; that is, when it demands your attention. However, there's a lot of relativity in "demands". According to my threshold, people chewing popcorn loudly are easily ignored if you would only pay more attention to the movie. But maybe that's just me: it might be because I read or listen to books and lectures on the subway, where good selective attention is a prerequisite.

The lady eating in the Doctor's office I don't understand, unless you really wanted to read that article in the magazine, but to me the distraction would only last a moment. Maybe I'm more empathic? I tend to think, if she's hungry and the appointment is interfering with lunch, why not? I think the "don't eat in front of others who don't have food" rule should only apply to friends and acquaintances, not strangers. What are the good reasons to believe otherwise?

Posted by: Shai on October 30, 2003 02:32 PM

A reversal on this topic:

Back when Aliens was first released (the James Cameron sequel) my parents took me opening day. The line was around the block, the concession stand was packed, the theater was muggy and chattering with excitement. Everyone was a diehard fan thirsty for the latest Alien fix. The theater darkened and it became reverently hushed.

The opening scene rolled ... a laser piercing the darkness as Ripley is discovered in the hibernation tank on the ship from the previous film. All was silent as the tension built ... and as the light found the glass enclosure of her pod a voice broke the quiet with a slurred “I wanna see those panties again!” ... referencing the way we last saw her. The offender was drunk and -loud- and didn’t give a shit. There were a few strained chuckles, some sneers, head turning, whispers, but mostly it was the quiet of “... oh boy, we’re in for a long one.” He was oblivious.

As the movie progressed the tide began to change ... his commentary was not met with as much silent contempt and his base observations actually seemed to play off the feel of the film. Who could argue against the honesty of “Don’t trust that bastard!” when Ripley was trying to get conned into a return visit to the alien infested planet? How could we tell a man to restrain himself from the cheerleading cry of “those are bad motherfuckers!” when the Marines entered the vacant remains of the colony base with their weapons drawn. And why would we want to pacify the hysteric shriek of “Shut your mouth!” when the “face hugger” slapped the glass from it’s holding tank threatening a would-be victim on the other side.

His commentary punctuated each major scene of the film ... and it surprisingly was met with a growing warmth as he rose beyond the stereotype of obnoxious audience member to the inebriated battle cry of the collective ID. We laughed because we agreed ... and we even -encouraged- his bad behavior.

The best was when the Queen Alien was revealed in a slow pan from egg laying orifice, along her extended abdomen, up her torso and pausing on that ornate skull that her face extends from while looking over her sea of eggs. All was silent ... and then our designated cheerleader cried out in perfect timing “Alien fucking one thousand, man!” ... his verbal pompoms vibrant with cinematic euphoria ... and we ... cheered. He should’ve been hired at every screening of the film by the studio. I later watched it on tape and felt I was missing half the experience without that sloshed fool in the background. Maybe he could be added as a DVD commentary track.

It was one of the only experiences like it ... or ... maybe I was just young and saw the whole thing wrong ... maybe everyone actually hated him ... and I just liked him because he cussed in public.

PS. There was also the time at Superman 2 when the front row was filled with the mentally handicapped ... they would synchronize with Reeves every time he took to the air and ran back and forth across the front of the theater’s screen ... then would sit back down as soon as he landed. At one point one of them became engrossed by his popcorn and refused to get up for the flying ritual ... the whole line was backed up and they ran in place with arms held high. Somehow these experiences were very similar.

Posted by: pinky on October 30, 2003 03:43 PM

People who suddenly have the unstoppable urge to start choking or clear their throats or make all sorts of other head noises once a symphony hits a quiet section always make my eyes roll and exasperate me. Are they even paying attention?

Once I had to sit near a real mouth-breather. I felt sorry for him - he was very fat and couldn't breathe like a standard-issue person anymore. He had very short and labored breathing. But still, I only go to the symphony to hear my favorite pieces and I don't want some guy panting 5 feet away from me. heeee-huuuuuh, heeee-huuuuuh continuously. Fortunately I got a reward for the 2nd half of the night. I spied some seats down in the middle of the orchestra section and moved down there during intermission for the next piece. Tenth row near the middle for Debussy's La Mer - bliss! (and the Boston Symphony Orchestra is no group of slouches - they played it beautifully!)

When I was 13ish I went to see The Car. This was a pretty silly movie and during the first 5 minutes or so everyone was trying their luck with a wisecrack. At one point (I'm going way back in the memory machine here, so details of the movie could be less than perfect) you see a crunched bike (perhaps with the wheel still spinning) and a shoe on a bridge (implying that the rider and the other shoe were struck by The Car and have gone over the side) and I tried my luck with something like, "Hey, my shoe!" or "So that's where my shoe is!" I was immediately shocked, horrified and relieved. I was shocked and horrified that I just blurted something out so stupid; and horrified and relieved that it got the best laugh of the day! Go figure.

Posted by: mroberts on October 30, 2003 06:01 PM

At least everyone you guys have mentioned is actually talking ABOUT THE MOVIE when they are talking. I'm always amazed by the people who talk a good 5-7 minutes into a movie about their neighbor's duaghter's birthday party or something, like they're visiting over dinner instead of in a dark movie theater.

I always shoot a glance at them.

Posted by: annette on October 30, 2003 06:19 PM

It seems to come from the inability to distinguish the movie theater (or restaurant, or whatever) from their living room (or bedroom, or whatever).

Does anyone have any good cell-phone stories?

Posted by: Mike on October 30, 2003 07:45 PM


I was lucky enough to see IN THE CUT at the AMC 25 in times Square, in a gigantomongous theater equipped with stadium seating. My friend and I chose to sit in the center of the place, in the aisle with the extra-wide row of footspace. Just as the movie started, a withered octogenarian plunked himself down--quite noisily--to our immediate left. (Sure, you can sit anywhere you like. But in a theater with 800 empty seats, why do you have to sit right next to me???)

Right around the time Meg started getting her freak on, this old douchebag started mumbling to himself, coughing scratchily, and decided he'd better get up and have a stroll. I shit you not: he stood up, walked slowly down the aisle, sat down to our extreme right, stayed for a minute, got back up and returned to his original seat. I had to laugh out loud at him. It seemed the only sensible reaction. (And by that point, the movie was becoming so ludicrous that the old coot was far more entertaining.) Weird nonetheless.

Posted by: Dick Ranko on October 30, 2003 07:52 PM

I was at a nearly empty, mid-afternoon screening of the Kenneth Branagh version of "Much Ado About Nothing," and this couple came in and sat down directly in front of two women who were having an animated conversation. When the trailers started, the women continued speaking, and the man in front of them told them to "please shut up," in a very aggressive tone of voice. One of the woman told him it was just the previews, and he should move to another seat (it was an almost empty theater), and they argued for a bit before the man just said, "well, I'll just stand here until you move." So he stood up, and the woman behind him leaned to the side to see the movie around him, and this went on for about the first third of the film. Eventually the man's date convinced him to move. It was the most uncomfortable displays of hard-headedness I've seen, but it did make that film-going experience much more entertaining.

Posted by: Rob on October 30, 2003 08:35 PM

The worst breach of etiquette I encountered re the use of a cell phone in a public place involved a woman at the local Whole Foods. She was standing in the produce department and loudly relating funeral details of her best friend's husband to some absent being.

Posted by: Sheri on October 30, 2003 09:09 PM

Hilarious stories, many thanks. You're reminding me of something someone told me recently, which is that in Hong Kong (or Taiwan? hmmm, no memory any more) movie theaters, people in the audience routinely make and receive cell phone calls. No sense at all, apparently, that you're there to be quiet and pay attention to the movie.

Like some of you, I've had a lot of great and hilarious times with black audiences too -- lots of sassing back at the screen, breaking the suspense with wisecracks, etc: "Ooh, no, now don't you go opening that closet door!" That kind of thing. A few times I've been in audiences when things have gotten tense -- when some black people wanted to be vocal and some white people wanted silence. I asked a black acquaintance about black people talking back to the movie once, and got this explanation: that the basic metaphor for black art and entertainment is call-and-response. You go somewhere or to something fully expecting to give as good as you're getting. He maintained that black art and entertainment is mainly participatory -- that there are few models for going to a show and sitting there politely and attentively and showing your appreciation only at the end. Instead, the expectation is that it'll be like church, or standup comedy, or a jazz concert -- you're expected to pitch in and work up a little sweat of your own. FWIW, of course -- but the guy who told me this is an eminent scholar, so I was grateful for the explanatioin.

Eating, eating in public, etc ... Hmm. Am I really the only person who's struck by how entitled Americans seem to feel these days to eat whenever and wherever they please? It's as though the convention of "the meal" has come to be seen as oppressive and in need of rebelling against. Professor friends tell me they're amazed by how many kids show up for lectures with bags full of food, and Euro friends tell me they're amazed by the way Americans seem to go everywhere with food in their hands and are forever putting things in their mouths. No one else has been struck by this?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 30, 2003 11:38 PM

Actually, I am. I've been living here for more than 10 yrs now, and it still struck me as sort of infantile and totally inappropriate, when grown-up and otherwise smart-looking people eat in public (restaurants and buffet presentations are natural exception, of course.)
Notice how it shocked you with lady eating in a dentist waiting room, but popcorn and coke at the movie-theater brings no surprise?
I always associate eating while watching movies with somewhat private activities- OK when you are on your living room sofa, possibly with a friend/dog/blanket. It's similar to eating while reading an engaging book - OK at home, but not in public library- reveals something personal about you, that you might not prefer to exhibit.
But, of course, who am I to criticize? There is a Russian proverb, translated loosely as " don't bring your own code of rules into strange monastery[religious order]".

Posted by: Tatyana on October 31, 2003 09:17 AM

Well, since I am sitting at my desk at work eating a Holloween doughnut right this minute...

But your story about the prof whose students show up with food DOES make me think times have changed. Remember how outrageous it was in "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" when Spiccoli ordered a pizza to be delivered to his highschool history class?? Now, apparently, Spiccoli (sp?) fits right in!

Posted by: annette on October 31, 2003 10:26 AM

I was at The Fellowship of the Ring its first weekend, and almost the entire audience was roughly 18 years old and geeky in some way, shape or form. At the moment when Frodo woke up in the elf palace and saw Elrond leaning over him, literally a third of the theater or more suddenly gasped and said "Agent Smith?!". It was hilarious.

You're reminding me of something someone told me recently, which is that in Hong Kong (or Taiwan? hmmm, no memory any more) movie theaters, people in the audience routinely make and receive cell phone calls. No sense at all, apparently, that you're there to be quiet and pay attention to the movie.

Could movie audiences be evolving toward what theater audiences were in the 19th century? The Charterhouse of Parma really surprised me with its depiction of how almost nobody at La Scala in the 1830's was really paying attention to the opera; it was an occasion for them to see and be seen, and indulge social conventions. To deal with masses of people getting up and moving from one friend's box to another friend's box there were actually designated visiting times during the show (I think it said 9 o'clock?).

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on October 31, 2003 11:09 AM

My wife loves vampire movies, so we see'em all. At the screening of "Blade" was a family who brought their downs syndrome adult child. Well, "Blade" is pretty scary (for kids at least) and amazingly graphic, so after the opening scene, the poor guy started to keen in absolute terror. His mother told him to shut up, which only made him weep quietly. During every scene of extreme violence or terror, this pathetic guy would just moan and wail in sheer fear. They made his sit through the whole thing. Gad, it was terrible.

The best disturbance at a movie award goes to Harlan Ellison, in his "The Three Most Important Things in Life":
(In the "Violence" section - though the whole thing is a great read.)

Regarding the sex in serious vs. comedy films, as I say in my post here (, I think it's because it crosses an intimacy line. Since we can't (or don't want to be) intimate with strangers on the screen, when we are put in that position, some of us become uncomfortable about it.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on October 31, 2003 11:22 AM

>> A few times I've been in audiences when things have gotten tense -- when some black people wanted to be vocal and some white people wanted silence. I asked a black acquaintance about black people talking back to the movie once, and got this explanation: that the basic metaphor for black art and entertainment is call-and-response. You go somewhere or to something fully expecting to give as good as you're getting.

Exactly so. Your explanation reminds me of a Wynton Marsalis concert I attended at Lincoln Center some years ago. Apparently, the predominantly white crowd was way too uptight for Brother Wynton. He stopped his performance mid-note and delivered a somewhat scathing speech to the audience, reminding us that this was *jazz*, after all, and a little hooting and hollering wouldn’t hurt. Didn’t go over too well with the dowagers seated to the left and right of me, however – a deafening rustle arose from the wrappers on their Brach’s Crystal Mints.

I did get into the call-and-response thing once, when I was the only white guest at a black wedding. Quite liberating, actually.

Posted by: Maureen on October 31, 2003 11:47 AM

Your old coot at the movie reminds me of an animated short, The Critic, dating back to about 1970.
The screen images were the usual "experimental" animation of the time – sub-Norman-McLaren abstractions made of moving dots.
But the sound-track – an old guy saying "Vot's dis? Dots? I paid two dollahs to see dots?"
But then he gets interested. "Say, dat dot really likes dat udda dot."
The dots merge: "Hey! Dis is a doity picksha."
Also on the soundtrack, shushing noises from the audience. And the old guy's rebuttal: "Don't you shush me. I'm old. I'm gonna die pretty soon."
And so on, for about five minutes. Just long enough.

Posted by: Allan Connery on October 31, 2003 12:24 PM

Oh, more concert problems: 20-somethings who want to hang out and "chat" during a show. I understand the desire to socialize when you are out at night with a drink in your hand, but to do this during a concert, you must shout at the top of your lungs and annoy everyone else within 15 feet.

I was driven bonkers by a couple of guys behind me in the House of Blues during a Taj Mahal show and had to ask them as politely as I could muster that shut it. It didn't help much, they went of for at least 20 minutes, shouting to each other approximately 2 feet behind my head. At least one of them explained to me later that they had met about a year before in Europe and were happily surprised to bump into each other (in Cambridge, MA). But for crying out loud, go to the bar at the back...

This also happened to me when I went to see David Byrne (ex front guy for the Talking Heads). A group of maybe 7 people, mostly guys, wanted to hang out, drink and socialize. So there they were, laughing, telling stories all at about the sound level of a jet taking off while I'm trying to catch a concert by one of my favorites. (Now, I'm not remotely violent, but) where's a shotgun when you need one? It was only about a 20 foot walk to the lobby where they wouldn't have disturbed anyone and would've had a much easier time hearing and being heard.

Whoo! Feels good to rant about that!

Posted by: mroberts on October 31, 2003 03:01 PM

At movie theaters, I heckle the commercials that come before the previews. The geekier the audience, the better the jibes go over. Oddly enough, wisecracks and comments from the audience seem to build a sense of community usually missing at the cinema.

The only commercial I've ever heard actively and roundly booed, was an anti-drug spot that depicted a kid on a bike getting run over by a pot-smoking auto driver. I've never seen that commercial in a movie theater since. So I suppose our wisecracks and responses have some effect on theater managers.

So I propose that instead of boycotting theaters that show commercials prior to previews, we boo, hiss and jeer at them. If audiences show our hostility in such uncompromising terms, we might get them to pull the commercials altogether. Sometimes an affront simply demands a rude response.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on October 31, 2003 03:30 PM

What drives me nuts is going to concerts, movies, meetings, whatever and sitting somewhere in the vicinity of a woman who has drenched herself in perfume. I'm not particularly smell-sensitive but every once in a while someone will do it and I just want to tell them to bathe more often instead. One time we actually had to get up and move because both mine and my husband's eyes were watering. And our clothes smelled like her perfume when we left the theater.

Posted by: Deb on October 31, 2003 05:03 PM

Perfume!!! I'd forgotten all about that, and it's so true. I'm not at all over-smell-sensitive and rather like gentle scents, but there seems to be something in some perfumes (the alcohol, maybe?) that doesn't agree with me: headaches, watery eyes, etc. I've found that the women most likely to wear the hardest-to-bear perfumes are the ones who attend events at Lincoln Center -- the ballet, the opera, big classical-music concerts. Maybe it's something about the semi-formality of the scene there? Maybe some women feel they aren't really dressed until they've doused themselves with heavy perfume? Whatever the explanation, It's bad enough and common enough for me to think twice about attending Lincoln Center events ....

Similar: behavior on planes. What's worst, I find, is something I've run across a few times: women who think it's a good idea to use their time on board to either apply or take off nail polish. What would make them think that an enclosed vehicle with bad air circulation is the right place for that? Do they have no idea how strong and harsh an odor they're introducing? Grrr.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 31, 2003 05:30 PM

Regarding perfumes: I find Annick Goutal scents to be among the least offensive. I admit, however, that I did do my nails on a flight to Australia. Guilty as charged. Via this forum, I apologize to all men everywhere.

Posted by: Maureen on October 31, 2003 06:03 PM

In the short film "The Critic," mentioned above, the voice of the old coot is Mel Brooks.'

Posted by: Bud Norton on October 31, 2003 09:07 PM

Your "old coot" story made me laugh aloud -- a real treat.
My husband & I were at the late lamented Worldwide Cinema (there was nothing more wonderful than descending into the bowels of the earth to watch for $3 a movie that had just ended first run) watching the movie, whose title I can't remember, that featured Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin & a bear. When they had impaled the bear on a stake & made fur vests for themselves after having eaten only one squirrel in several days, I turned to my husband & stage-whispered, "It's okay, he's in the garment trade".
I got a lot of satisfaction & a few laughs from those around us.

Posted by: Susan on October 31, 2003 09:30 PM

I've read that the idea of people sitting quietly in the dark looking at a lighted stage was invented by Wagner. If so, then "just watch the show" is anomaly in the history of drama.

Posted by: Nancy Lebovitz on November 2, 2003 04:15 AM

I tonight went to see 'The Human Stain.' This was the opening day for 'Matrix Revolution' and at least half of the theatre must have been waiting to go see that film (slouching behind the cordons were lines of fatigue wearing middle aged guys with giant coke cups), because twenty minutes into my film, they were talking, ruffling, shuffling, cell phoning, before getting up to leave. It is always highly annoying, but what else is to be expected at a big city theatre showing first run Hollywood bombast on multiple screens against a more or less art house film that hasn't gotten its due. By the way, I would recommend 'The Human Stain,' contrary to the slam it seems to have gotten from the general film critic community (I'm thinking of the New Yorker review and a few others I've seen), it's a great movie. I've read the book, which is brilliant, and the movie does a great job of bringing that story in and conveying it with phenomenal acting by Anthony Hopkins, Kidman, etc. Forget the silly criticism about Hopkins and Kidman as miscast. Not so. These folks are worth watching. As we were leaving, my partner said, "Wow, rather amazing for Hollywood." Initially, my expectations were low...I almost didn't go see it based on reviews. Forget those reviews, if you have any inclination, go see it. Some wonderful, arty sexy scenes in it, also.

Posted by: mr snuggles on November 6, 2003 03:30 AM

I read all the stories and enjoyed them. I really resonated with the call-and-response idea with the black audiences. I first experienced that with a showing of "The Matrix" in St. Louis.

My two friends and I (all white) were sitting directly in front of three very animated black women. Whenever the protagonist would commense with the kung-fu, they would go off. "Ooooh yeah boy! You show dem!". "Dey didn't even see it comin'!". Or my favorite "Ooooh Doggy!". Plus the standard "Don't trust dat boy, don't you do it!".

Being a loud action flick, the commentary didn't really take away. In fact, I think I enjoyed it mroe that way.

Posted by: dave on November 6, 2003 09:46 AM

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