All those girls who turned me down when I was single and asked them if they’d like to go to a movie with me don’t know how fortunate they were.
I’m a lousy movie date.
No, we’re not talking about libertine behavior in a dark theater. The Pollak men are gentlemen.
It’s my totally defensible and warranted reaction to the whole movie experience that makes going to a movie with me and — in particular — discussing it afterwards such a drag.
I don’t squawk much at the cost of admission, and I can even tolerate having to take out a second mortgage to purchase a small bag of popcorn and some Raisinets. But if I’m going to pay for the experience, I want to enjoy it.
And, you know, it’s really hard to do that when the couple sitting behind you thinks they’re in their living room and free to comment about everything they’re seeing on the screen.
My first reaction is always the old “turn around and stare” technique to let them know that their running commentary is disturbing me, but that rarely works. If they had any sensitivity to something that subtle they wouldn’t be yakking in the first place.
A “shush” not only sounds silly, but only tends to make them talk more, as if to say: “Who is this guy who thinks he can ‘shush’ us when we paid good money just like he did to see this movie?”
Leaping over my row of chairs and grasping a kibitzer’s neck in search of an artery is frowned upon in polite society, so I invariably induce my companion (almost always my 35-years-long-suffering bride) to move with me to another row. As this ritual can repeat itself two or three times in the showing of one movie, it’s easy to see why she attends so many films by herself.
Another reason is how persnickety I’ve gotten about what’s on the screen. For instance, great amounts of money, time and effort are spent by Hollywood directors to produce the most harrowing car chases imaginable.
Except I don’t feel the least bit harrowed.
There must be some rule dictated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that requires at least one car chase in every film, which might explain why you don’t see a lot of Shakespeare’s stuff turned into movies these days.
The thing is, no matter how many collisions eventuate, how many autos fly great distances off improbable makeshift ramps and land safely, how many bridges collapse and how many pedestrians scoot out of the way to miraculously avoid being crushed, you and I know that nothing bad is going to happen to the good guy.
And that’s just boring.
The same Motion Picture Academy principle is obviously at work in any movie that involves gunfire: Bad guys can’t hit anything when they shoot. Oh, not that they don’t try. Hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds are dispersed in the direction of the hero or heroine, but you know that the absolute worst thing that’s going to happen is a flesh wound.
Any wound won’t, of course, prevent the good guy or good gal (usually with a mere handgun against the bad guys’ automatic weapons) from ever missing what they’re aiming at.
Again, I’m sitting in the dark … bored.
But the thing that seems to annoy my loved ones and rapidly shrinking number of friends most is what they call my refusal to suspend reality when watching a movie.
This is, in my view, a base canard.
As evidence, I see nothing illogical about musicals, whether it’s Anne Hathaway’s character singing while she’s dying in “Les Miz,” or Riff and his fellow street-hood Jets doing ballet moves on the playground in “West Side Story.”
And I’m perfectly willing to concede that Iron Man can fly because he has little rockets in the soles of his feet. If you go to a movie based on a comic strip character, you’ve got to go along with that sort of thing.
But it’s in the post-movie analysis of a “real” movie where I’ll get into trouble. To wit: “Now You See Me,” a film that lost whatever flimsy hold it had on reality early-on, just got more absurd as it went along. The climax was enabled by a vast amount of sophisticated pyrotechnics and other special effects that were somehow expertly planted in a huge building without anyone noticing.
My bride — who is a far more tolerant member of the species than her husband — enjoyed the film and then made the mistake of asking my opinion.
“I’m just wondering,” I said thoughtfully, “if that was the worst movie ever made.”
Envying all those girls who had turned me down for movie dates, she shook her head.
“I’m never,” she said, “going to the movies with you anymore.”
At last reckoning, “Now You See Me” had earned more than $80 million in this country alone and was still going great at the box office.
And I’m still a lousy movie date.
Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at email@example.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.