Last week, in a weird coincidence, I watched back-to-back syndicated reruns of SEINFELD and MAD ABOUT YOU that both spotlighted my #1 pet peeve at the movies: idiots who talk through the whole thing. On SEINFELD, George's doomed fiancée Susan went to a movie with Jerry and Elaine and got pissed at them for chatting during the film. On MAD ABOUT YOU, Paul shushed a raucous guy sitting behind him, and the guy challenged Paul to a fight (worse yet, the guy was in a wheelchair and took advantage of Paul's hesitance to fight by popping him one).
How many movies have I seen in the last year or so that weren't marred by noisy idiots? Not too many. If it's not loud teenagers (any youth-oriented movie), it's old people constantly clearing their throats (PRIMARY COLORS) or idiots who take their screaming babies to a movie and stubbornly refuse to take the brat outside so the rest of us can hear the movie (THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK). Forget about the secondhand-smoke controversy in restaurants -- what about secondhand conversation in theaters? We need two sections in plexes: Assholes and Non-Assholes. Put the Assholes in a separate section behind soundproof glass and let 'em talk and kick chairs and bring all the squalling babies they want.
Let's take these annoyances by category:
--> Moronic teenagers. They go to movies in packs and usually don't decide what to see until they're in line. To them, a movie is no different from TV. Therefore, they behave as if they were sitting in their living rooms. Do they grow out of it? No, they just grow up to be moronic adults who make just as much noise. And then they have kids who become moronic teenagers and yadda yadda yadda.
--> Old people. You'd think that at a movie like PRIMARY COLORS, you'd be safe from distractions. You'd be wrong. An audience of old people is like a symphony of phlegm. You want to walk around with a bucket before the movie and say "Hawk it up, spit it out, get it over with now." Then you get the deaf old people who don't realize they're talking so loudly. Do I have one iota of sympathy for them? I do not: Why talk at all?? Why not just watch the fucking movie???
--> Screaming babies. Babies do not belong in movie theaters. Babies belong at home with babysitters. My mom tells me, "When you were a baby, I never brought you to a movie. I left you with a sitter, and if I couldn't find a sitter, I stayed home." This also applies to assholes who bring their four-year-olds to R-rated movies -- cheap bastards who'd rather pay $4 for the kid's ticket than $30 (or whatever) for a sitter. The baby at MAN IN THE IRON MASK screamed for, like, six days until someone finally went to get an usher. And just yesterday, another annoying toddler ruined THE NEWTON BOYS for me. As the Ramones said, "Beat on the brat/Beat on the brat/Beat on the brat/With a baseball bat."
--> Pretentious twits. You sometimes get these at art movies. The conversation going on behind you would be witty and erudite and enthralling if only it weren't going on while you're trying to watch the movie. Art-house twits are the easiest ones to intimidate, though, so you can feel free to turn around and say "Shut the fuck up or I will fuckin' end you right here and now."
In fact, art-house theaters offer the perfect opportunity to get some payback, because you ain't gonna get your ass kicked by no Atom Egoyan fan. So do what I do. Go to a movie like MA VIE EN ROSE, sit behind a particularly tweedy baby-boomer couple (but only the pretentious-twit kind described above; don't make problems for quiet folks), make noise, kick their chairs, be a total dick. Go to WINGS OF THE DOVE, the movie in which Helena Bonham Carter shows her bonhams; wait until a really quiet and intensely emotional scene, then shout "YO, WHERE THE TITTIES AT?" (If you're a woman, this works even better.) When they shush you, use your best bad-ass voice: "Something wrong with your lips, motherfucker?"
I'll tell you: That shit feels goooood.