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Subtitles and the Subconscious
The Return of Mad Mel

I Have Seen the New Mel Gibson Movie and Am Filled With Righteous Fury That Has Nothing to Do With Mel Gibson

  • 1/26/10 at 10:41 PM

The majority of you have probably come up against this often, but critics who live in a bubble and go to advance screenings peopled by other critics and sundry media wretches haven’t quite gotten it yet that cell phones and texting are a threat to what we prize about the moviegoing experience. When you enter the cinema and the lights go down, you hope to enter fully into a dream world — sometimes opening yourself up the way people did/do in houses of worship. And I know, there are babies crying and idiots who won’t shut the fuck up, but at least they are in that space at that time, present, so you can still keep up the illusion if you so desire that there is not a world elsewhere and what you see is what is happening at this instant. But now …

You sit in your seat with the urge to merge and the loser in the next row checks his messages every five minutes, scared he’ll miss some “yo where r u” and primed to type with his newly dexterous fat thumbs, “film whats up”; and the bright-blue light intrudes on your peripheral vision (there should be no peripheral vision in movie theaters, that’s the point) and the spell is broken ... and broken ... and broken. And so what we’ve always loved cinema for being — a sanctuary, sometimes holy, sometimes pointedly unholy — turns out to be as pregnable as our goddamned living rooms while we’re watching TV and the phone is ringing and car alarms are going off outside. What is to be done? Hissing “Turn that off!” brands you instantly a nerd. “What’s your problem???” they say, as if you're the one who's breaching protocol. And so, if you can't stand it, all roads lead to the privatization of culture and the end of movies as a public medium. Apocalypse now? Maybe. But I say, Focus, people. If you cannot endure the hellish pressure of having to be in the moment with no access to the world outside, multitask, have a dialogue in your heads — develop the “dual self” of the critic who can be immersed in the experience and yet outside it — and not in ways that fragment your attention span and, far more important, piss me the fuck off in ways that Mel Gibson has never dreamed of. I ask you again, because I don't know: What is to be done? What should we cinephiliacs (bleeders of precious movie experiences) do? Talk amongst yourselves. E-mail me (but not from a movie theater).