I”m not the most refined person in the world. I leave my socks in my living room for days on end I sometimes forget to raise my hand in class I occasionally mock the New Testament maybe I “haven”t mastered the fork.” I don”t claim to be Mr. Manners, but there is one sacred arena in which my gentility and good conduct know no bounds: That hallowed ground that is the movie theater that wondrous place where dreams come true, lessons are taught and monkeys talk. For you uncultured rogues who don”t understand the delicate code of behavior required for movie viewing (and you are great in number), here”s your first primer.
n The Speculator This is one of the most common and irritating cinema criminals, and he deserves swift and merciless punishment. The speculator makes all of his predictions and hypotheses (as well as painfully late realizations) as vocal as a preacher in church, and he does it completely sans tact. There”s one in every theater. I think I speak for all my fellow cinema-nerds when I say: Hey, douche-bag, no one cares if you think you know how “The Usual Suspects” ends or what “Rosebud” really is or even what formation the Mighty Ducks are going to use to tie up the big game. This infraction can also take the form of the loud instant replay, e.g. “Oh man, did you see that?” If we wanted foolish, uninformed commentary on movies, we would look at the Internet. I bet every single one of you who saw “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” last winter heard this nugget of wisdom: “God, that looks so fake.” Urge to kill, rising
n The Buffer Zone You”ve all seen it: The two guys at the movie theater who are sitting with one seat between them. They sit there, their heterosexuality dangling precariously in the air over the vinyl and plastic that separates them, worrying that if their elbows accidentally touch, everyone in the theater will think they”re, y”know, light in the loafers. Guys, first of all, you”re only calling attention to yourself and proving your lack of security beyond a shadow of a doubt. Secondly, sitting together in a movie theater is not some abnormally intimate situation. It”s not like you”re sitting on the same side of the booth in a restaurant when there are only two of you (you freaks know who you are). And, OK, if you”re watching something like “Acock”nLips Now,” “Hairy Porker and the Sorcerer”s Bone” or, umm, “Glitter,” then maaaybe someone might start suspecting, but even so, it”s a dark movie theater full of strangers, i.e. people you don”t know so grow up, settle down and watch your Steven Segal movie in peace.
n The Half Turn This is actually not a cinema crime. Rather, it is the first line of defense when the guy behind you decides that everyone in the theater needs to hear his asinine comments about the plot, the characters or the fact that he doesn”t understand that “Memento” is actually going backwards (see above). The half turn is when you look over you shoulder in the general direction of the loud-mouthed miscreant but don”t actually make any eye contact. This gives him a chance to save face and shut his big yapper. Next comes “the ventriloquist”s ssshhhhhhh,” in which you try to shield your mouth while shooshing them so they can”t tell who”s doing it (don”t deny that you”ve tried it). If this fails, you must resort to the full turn plus eye contact. Finally, there”s the combo full turn, direct shoosh and a severe beating with a half empty box of Milk Duds, which makes a surprisingly good club. A word to the wise: Always make sure the object of these tactics doesn”t happen to be some no-necked goon who looks like he”d kill his mother for a nickel and a tin of Skoal.
n Answering the cell phone Letting it ring is borderline. OK, it slipped your mind, you weren”t paying attention when that kick-ass jingle at the beginning of the movie walked you through all of the etiquette and features of the theater (has anyone ever actually rented an entire theater?) and you left your phone on, subjecting everyone to whatever clever little phone ring you picked to show your individuality (Beethoven”s Fifth Symphony is totally cooler than Joplin”s “The Entertainer”). But, when you have the minerals to answer that phone and proceed to have a conversation, you have guaranteed yourself a few years in Purgatory as well as a visit from Mr. Milk Duds box and Captain No-Neck, who have now put their differences aside to make sure you are silenced, with a vengeance.
So the next time that you have an inkling to utter the phrase “I think that guy is a spy” (when you”ve just seen the guy go through spy school), please just think before you act. Commandments, Shmommandments, the big guy is keeping score of everything.
Andy Taylor-Fabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org