I never thought I would say this, but one of the things I miss about back home sometimes is going to the movies. It’s not the actual buildings I miss, although the all-in-one multi entertainment package that is MovieTowne/ Ruby Tuesday/PriceSmart is perhaps worthy of emotional attachment. So too the newly improved Palladium and at $10 (I think) for a double feature and cup holders, well, what more could you want? What I miss though is the experience of watching a movie in a cinema in Trinidad.
Mind you, nothing beats the quiet appreciation that is English cinema going. No matter how emotive the film, the greatest reaction it might provoke from the crowd would be a suppressed snicker or a gasp of surprise according to the genre. This of course comes after patient queuing and moderate snack purchasing – no plastic bag containing every snack sold in the concession stand plus the box of KFC you’d stopped and bought before.
The English are notoriously polite and although this is changing, it has not changed to the point where they forget the fact that one person’s appreciation of a movie should negatively affect that of others. That was one of the things that used to drive me bonkers back home – the person/persons that enjoy the movie so much that you resign yourself to renting the DVD when you get home and you end up just closing and “resting” your eyes instead.
But now, sometimes – just sometimes – I find myself actually missing this. Audience participation is a guarantee in Trinidadian cinemas; having never gone to see a movie in Tobago I don’t know if it’s the same there. But we need to find a better phrase to describe the Trinidadian experience – “watching a movie” implies a passivity that does not include the real sense of involvement that is a fundamental part of the event.
Even in the supposedly more upscale MovieTowne you encounter the moviegoer who refuses to observe the consideration that you’re paying $35 for. I used to date a guy who only went to MovieTowne and only watched comedies. It was a terrible combination. The movie would start with people sitting next to us and by the end of the first half hour there would be a neat little clearing of about six, seven seats all the way around us, brought about solely by his guffaws of appreciation and sometimes rolling in his seat and often all over the persons seated next to him. Talk about embarrassing!
And then you have the roughneck crew that sees the combination of darkness and a ready audience as a chance to show the heights of badness under which they operate. So out comes the ganja and the inert movie critic that they might have become under different circumstances. Usually their critiques are quite succinct, consisting of the phrase, “That is movie boy!” or – and this is more common – a one word expletive that starts with s and ends with t and usually represents an entity nobody wants to step in when on their way to work. This is usually reserved for any movie whose main character doesn’t brandish a mini rocket launcher for the three quarters of the show and whose biceps measurement is higher than his IQ
This – oh, I’ll just call it community spirit – makes for some great memories though. I remember going to watch The Mummy in Globe when it first came out. The cinema was packed. It was during the first scene where the characters were walking through the inside of a pyramid. It was eerily quiet, both in the movie scene and the movie theatre when suddenly, from near the front row someone said, “The sta, the sta, the statue just talked to me Bert!” The entire cinema broke down. It was comedic gold – the perfect line combined with the perfect situation and presented to the perfect audience – everyone in that cinema was acquainted with that classic Sesame Street skit.
Not everyone can get away with this though. The downside to this is when someone has given a one liner and gotten a laugh and then spends the duration of the movie trying to knead out that same response. Over and over and over again. And let’s not forget the young mothers who, rather than hire a babysitter, bring their children in to watch such child friendly offerings as Basic Instinct, Blade and the go in clean-shaven leave with a beard Lord of the Rings. Any one of the three, it doesn’t matter. Of course, how can you top the typical Trini response of “Put a breast in that child mouth nah!” when the child starts to cry. But don’t let this column fool you – although I miss it sometimes, there’s no way that I prefer it. The least tempted I am to throttle a fellow moviegoer the better my appreciation for the “flim”.