Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sherlock Holmes, or Where Did Movie Ushers Go?

I went to see Sherlock Holmes yesterday. I liked the movie, but not the movie-going experience. More on the movie later. For now I have to get this rant off my chest.

Two things seriously fucked up my ability to enjoy the film fully. One, the film was out of focus. Not crazy blurry, but noticeably out of focus. I sat through a dark, blurred trailer of Iron Man 2, but for some reason thought maybe either the projectionist would notice or that the film was on a different reel. Nope, when the movie started, it was still out of focus. So I had to get up, walk all the way back to the front of the theater, and complain. About 5 minutes later the film was put into proper focus.

Of course, someone had brought two small children to this PG-13 film. One kid was probably about 1 1/2 to 2 years old, and it started squealing in the last 30-45 minutes of the film. The mother took the kid to the walkway area. I thought if the kid kept it up, they would do the sensible thing and go outside. But no, they stayed there through to the bitter end. It's uncomfortable to have to complain to a mother's face that her child is ruining a movie for you, and frankly I shouldn't be put in that position.

So movie-going has become such a crappy experience lately that I'm almost wondering if it's even worth it to go to theatrical releases. I don't think I'm being unreasonable here. If I'm going to pay $10 for a movie, I want the damn thing to be in focus and I want to enjoy it in a reasonable atmosphere. I don't expect audiences to be completely quiet, but I also don't expect wailing toddlers when the main character is explaining and intricate plan in hushed, heavy dialect.

Which leads me to the next point...when the hell did ushers completely disappear from theaters? There was a time not too long ago when you would see theater employees before a show started, occasionally stick their head in during films, and then be at the door when you leave. Now the only time you see them is when they clean the theater. If there's a problem, you have to walk all the way back up to the box office. It's probably a cost-cutting measure, but it's making movie-going shittier and shittier. How expensive is it to pay a teenager minimum wage to walk between 3 or 4 theaters and make sure the film looks okay and there isn't someone jabbering away at the top of their lungs on a cell phone or a crying baby?

Anyway...the film itself was very good, in spite of theater management and irresponsible parents. Kudos for effective use of slow motion (used to illustrate Holmes' mental planning).

They may have taken great liberties with the Holmes canon, but all the main tropes were there and this version was something that I'd never found Holmes stories or film to be: funny, action-packed, and enjoyable. The actual explanations of things were ridiculously complex and silly, but the film did something else incredibly portrayed a skeptical, rational protagonist engaged in the search for the truth against an adversary who used the means of science as a mask for pretending to have supernatural powers and gain power by preying on others' superstitious tendencies.

That's pretty rare these days, so it deserves some extra praise (especially when drivel like Twilight is playing on the next screen over). Anyway, a very good film, nearly spoiled by a crappy environment. I'm looking forward to watching it again on DVD, in the peace of my own home.