I don’t get to the cinema as much as I used to, and apart from the fact that I’ve got a young family and an evening job, that might be due to my having a lovely big telly. But there’s more to going to the cinema than seeing a film on the big screen, isn’t there? Everyone loves the trailers, I for one relish the opportunity to horse an incredible amount of popcorn, often sprinkling it liberally around me as I go, and the cinema is also a very real opportunity to be profoundly irritated by strangers.
So it was like old times on Sunday, when I went to see a film before a gig in Nottingham. I only had a couple of hours, so I just rolled up and saw the next thing that was starting; the arbitrary nature of the choice – combined with the early Cure singles playing in the lobby – made me feel young again, as did the fact that I was comfortably ensconced and a third of the way through the aforementioned large salty before the lights went down.
And how was it? Well, there were no tiresome talking teens, but I still found plenty to be irked by; apparently my days of desperately needing to see all the adverts, trailers and elaborate demonstrations of the sound system have long gone. Maybe that’ll be the last time I see all that stuff – I certainly hope so, because my cinema experience was not a good one. Before my feature presentation began I had been offended three times. I wasn’t offended in a Daily Mail reader way – I was enjoying myself, I wasn’t going to walk out in a huff or anything, but offended is the word; I was appalled by rubbish stuff, and it was rubbish stuff that challenged my very beliefs. Three times.
Bad Cinema Experience #1: when the Vodafone advert began I thought I was ready, because it had been slagged off in the Guardian the day before, but they hadn’t told me the half of it. Have you seen it? A man walks out on a very important business dinner where he’s about to give a speech because his grown up daughter is crying on the phone. They were going for ‘we’ve got comprehensive network coverage’ but inexplicably hit ‘men are unreliable bastards’ bang on. This guy strolls out of the most important moment of his working life on a whim. Committed father? Commitment-phobic typical man more like. He’s everything his daughter needs him to be on the phone – like he was at work during the run up to his promotion no doubt – and when he gets to her in real life he immediately lies to her – ‘I was just filling the dishwasher’ – as easily as breathing. Soon he’ll break his daughter’s heart somehow, just like her boyfriend did, and just like all the men in her life will, because she is the doormatish enabler he brought her up to be. Why did the people who made this advert not see it this way? Because it was made by the generation of cynical, self-deluding haircuts-in-suits you see on the Apprentice. Cineworld/Vodafone assumed my heart would be warmed by this fable, however.
It was not.
Bad Cinema Experience #2 was the trailer for a new film called Our Family Wedding. It turns out that the wedding in this movie is a bad experience for the families in question, because the groom is black, the bride is hispanic – and all their relatives are racists. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Can’t wait. I’ve missed that strain of comedy since it finally disappeared off British TV thirty years ago. What’s that? You’re not convinced? How about this: at the wedding a goat has a load of Viagra and runs amok. Amok. Forest Whitaker is in this film. He won the Best Actor Oscar for playing Idi Amin in the Last King Of Scotland, but now he’s finally getting to work on the good stuff. Was I tickled or tempted by the prospect of this laugh riot? No. I live in London in 2010. Cineworld seemed to be confusing me with the late Sid James, who I’m sure would have laughed, in his characteristic, bigotty way.
Bad cinema experience #3: I’m telling you these in chronological order, so I was pretty appalled by this point. That might be why I was definitely not in the mood for Cineworld’s advert for going to the cinema. First of all, why were they trying to convince us, of all people, to go to the cinema? We were IN THE CINEMA! It’s like having an advert for cornflakes inside the bag with the flakes. That, however, was only the beginning. Along with thankfully-yet-pointlessy brief clips from all this summer’s big releases – and thank god for those, because if we don’t see any newspapers, magazines, websites, TV shows, buses, bus stops or billboards we might not know what’s out – people began to pop up in the corner talking, not about the films in question, but about the cinema-going experience. Their comments were not enlightening; ‘I like action’ ‘you can get a large bag of popcorn and share it’ ‘the sound is loud and the pictures are big’ ‘there are soft seats where your bottom can go’ ‘if your bladder is full you can wee into the toilet’ ‘the film goes in through your eyes’ etc. etc. It would have been cheaper to just fill a blank white screen with the words WE THINK YOU’RE ALL IDIOTS for five minutes – or slightly longer, so they could be sure everyone had read it.
So as my film began, It seemed that my place in the screen had been intended for a vapid racist fool. So much for the cinema experience; my viewing pleasure was not enhanced. I hardly enjoyed Hot Tub Time Machine at all.