Moviegoing 101: Behave Yourself!


This week I had two bad experiences watching TV in the cinema and both of them had to do with other people’s behavior (or misbehavior) during the movie.

Manners, people, please have them.

On Wednesday, I went to watch Michael Mann’s Blackhat with a friend. We both knew that we were going to be slightly late because we had an appointment with someone else so when we got tickets we made sure to get seats next to the aisle. That way we won’t have to disturb other people’s viewing by trying to get into our chairs in the middle or the end of the row. Nothing is more annoying than people coming in late and trying to squeeze their way in between your knees and the chair in front of you, hitting your bag, stepping on your toes, blocking your vision and loudly saying, “Sorry!” (Or worse, not apologizing at all, which has happened several times!) in the middle of a scene in the movie.

We went in a few minutes late and quickly located our seats. When we got there, there were plastics of food (Shin Lin chicken, the Taiwanese snack, which was so very pungent with all the spices it had on the slab of meat) and handbags on our chairs. When it was obvious that we were going to sit there the people on the two seats next to us immediately cleaned their crap out but my friend’s mood was ruined. I remained calm for a while longer… until these people continued to eat in LOUD noise. Quite honestly, it was disgusting. I have nothing against eating food inside a cinema, but as a rule, I expect those foods to be eaten with mouth closed. It’s utterly disgusting to hear people chewing loudly and talking with food inside their mouths. And these people did exactly just that with that chicken.

During the course of the movie, these people not only ate in a really appalling manner, then proceeded to loudly exclaim and interject comments at every single scene they saw. “Oh look! Chris Hemsworth is in prison!” “Wow, Korea looks dirty… what? Koreatown is not in Korea? Where is then?” “That’s Indonesian dialogue!” “where is this in Jakarta?” “Her make-up makes her look like a ghost!” and so on, all the way throughout the movie until the end. Also, one of them kept checking their smart phones with glaring LCD display, hurting our eyes in the middle of the darkness of the cinema. My friend went, “Could you please turn that off? The light is very distracting.” All she got was a giggling response, “Oh, the movie’s about to finish anyway.” Which is not the point, you rude and mannerless heathen. 

The exact same thing happened at another screening the next day. On Thursday, I went to watch The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death. I expected a noisy cinema – it is a horror movie, after all, and people tend to get shrieky during horror movies, myself included – but I never expected to see or hear people eating a goddamn box of rice (or whatever it was that smelled like a goddamned Padang restaurant, complete with yet again the pungent smell of spices) AND CRACKERS. Yes, they were eating crispy crackers and didn’t bother masking the sound. If you’re ever going to eat something inside a cinema, couldn’t you stick to popcorn and/or nachos? Really.

Those were the people two seats over. The person to the seat right next to mine? Kept turning on his phone and checking messages during scary scenes. Dude, if you know you’re going to be scared inside a horror movie, close your damn eyes.

These incidents got me thinking. They happen so often that I suspect that the majority of people I meet in cinemas really have no basic concept of etiquette. I’m not even being condescending because it just seems like they really have no clue. I’m not expecting people to be all prim and proper as they do at a formal dinner party or anything like that but some things are just so simple that to ignore them or comply with them just show how much of an idiot they are.

1. Be on time.

We have only 3 cinema chains in Indonesia: XXI, Blitz and Cinemaxx.
The time printed on the ticket in XXI Cinema is usually the time the movie starts. They open their door to the screening studio at least 10 minutes before the movie starts. So if you have your ticket, you should know to get into the room before the time printed on your ticket. They also have PA system where they announce door opening and movie starting times. How and why you can be late with the movies with this system, I have no idea.

The time printed on the ticket in Blitz Megaplex is usually the time the door to the screening studio opened. You get another 10-15 minutes (or even longer) to wait inside and watch the trailers and commercials before the movie starts. Blitz Megaplex (or at least the ones in Grand Indonesia and Pacific Place) don’t have announcements from the PA system. You have to manage your own time when watching a movie at Blitz but now that you know this – because I just told you – it’s supposed to be simple to do.

I know nothing about Cinemaxx so anyone who wants to enlighten me, feel free.

2. Be quiet.

Pretty sure people are not supposed to talk inside the screening studios. All cinemas usually warn you of this on their big screens before the movie starts. If you can’t pay attention, then you’re an idiot.
‘Being quiet’ means not only trying to keep your voice low when you address people inside the studio, whether to excuse yourself when you’re going to squeeze yourselves to get to your seat or when you’re asking anyone a question. Reacting to a movie itself by laughing, sobbing, shouting or shrieking might be acceptable to a certain point but, no, people generally don’t need to hear you pointing out what’s happening in every single scene. You think Chris Hemsworth is hot as a convincted prisoner in jail? Fine. Keep your admiration down to a sigh. Just stop making any loud noises that will disturb people.

3. Don’t discuss a movie DURING the movie.

This happens a lot, too. It’s bad enough when people react to certain scenes in a grandiose way, it’s even worse when you hear an actual conversation being carried out during the movie. I’ve lost count of how many times I hear people asking their friends/dates/family members to explain a plot point or what was happening during a scene. It’s so ridiculous that it should be illegal.

You don’t know what an Orc is? Go out and read a J.R.R. Tolkien book before you buy a ticket to The Hobbit. You don’t know what happened to Tony Stark in The Avengers? There are DVDs. You don’t know what a robot is? You poor thing; please open Wikipedia. You don’t know English and the subtitles are not helping you? Don’t watch Hollywood movies and stick to Indonesian films. But please stop asking someone else to explain all these things to you while they – and the rest of the world – are trying to watch something. 

If you happen to be the person someone is asking to explain stuff like these to them, please refrain from launching into a half an hour lecture during a movie just to impress them. Your date is not likely to comprehend your inoheren explanation and the people you’re sitting next to definitely won’t be impressed.

4. Sit on your own seats.

When you buy movie tickets in Indonesian cinemas, you get assigned a seat number. Stick to it. I don’t care if it seems like nobody is coming when the studio lights are dimming and the opening credits are rolling. You bought tickets with seat numbers on it, that’s where you should sit. You don’t sit on seats whose numbers are not printed on your tickets, and then question or complain to the people who do have those seat numbers printed on your ticket.

5. Eat lightly.

Close your mouth when you chew. Popcorn/nachos/chocolate bars/small fried stuff are acceptable, but NOT anything fragrant with spices. NOT crispy cracker stuff. NOT steak or soup or cereal or whatnot that require proper cutleries. And, again, chew with your lips sealed, mouths closed and all that.

6. Lay down your phones and watch.

I don’t understand people’s obsessive need to turn on their phones during a movie. If you’re going to be busy checking your messages, emails and social media accounts, then what the hell are you doing watching a movie in the first place? Unless you’re checking the time because you don’t own a watch, you should NOT be opening your phone inside a movie studio when the movie is playing.

Not putting your phone on silent mode during a movie is not acceptable. Taking calls during a movie is also not acceptable. Playing a game or Tweeting or using social media during a movie inside the studio is not acceptable. At all.

7. Don’t get angry when people remind you to do the stuff listed above.

It’s never nice to be reminded of your shortcomings by people, especially when they act all superior towards you, but the fact is: if you inconvenience people in public places, you’re going to get told off and it’s your own fault. The least THEY can do is be nice and polite to you about it, but if you don’t get their message, don’t blame them for calling you out on it. Most Indonesians are probably too afraid/shy to remind you to stop doing stuff that ruin their movie experience (or they’re clueless about it) but some people WILL. As long as you stop inconveniencing other people, you’ll be okay. Otherwise, these people (like me) won’t hesitate to have you kicked out from the cinema. Believe that.

Season Of The Witch

I finally watched my first movie of 2011 in the cinema and I’m glad to say that it was Season Of The Witch, starring Nicolas Cage, Stephen Campbell Moore, Robert Sheehan and Ron Perlman. Directed by Dominic Sena, this is a sword-and-sorcery fare that is reminiscent of Solomon Kane but with a bit more ‘American/Hollywood’ sensibilities.

Before watching this, there are already so many negative reactions for it and critics are putting this movie down… which is understandable. It’s not like the movie is anything epic and I’m quite sure everyone is wondering, “What the hell is Nic Cage doing now?” So I went into the cinema without any expectations at all, or a very low one at that, and was only hoping that I would be entertained enough so I could write an Abridged Script for it.

As soon as the movie started, though, I was immediately absorbed by it. The opening scene, with the witches hanging and drowning, and the priest getting killed before he could completely banish the demon, was exhilarating and frightening enough to captivate my attention. To be honest, the rest of the movie was not bad either. There was a good enough mix of talented actors, substantial dialogue (for once, Nic Cage didn’t try to sound smart or funny, which works quite nicely for him) and a thrilling plot to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout the film. What I liked from the plot especially was the way it didn’t try to be twisty or intelligent. It was linear, straightforward and honest.

There were scenes from the Crusades that could be interpreted as something political or religious or such nonsense like that… but to be honest? The sequence went by pretty quickly – too quickly, in fact, and in a PG-rated manner without an overdose of gore and violence, thus making Season Of The Witch a family-friendly offering – that I didn’t even have time to find any hidden heavy-handed message about anything in it. It was so low-key that this was clearly designed as a plot device and timeline setup by screenwriter Bragi F. Schut that I couldn’t even cynically say, “Ah, here we go again with the Crusades…”

Again, the movie’s strength is its simplicity. It didn’t try to be anything other than a source of entertainment that I couldn’t help but be entertained by it. Now this is not to say that the movie didn’t have any problems… there were, in fact, plenty of problems with it. The crude special effects, for one. It was as if the movie didn’t get any budget to make decent CGI screen things that I was wondering whether they’d skimp on it just to pay Nic Cage. The set design and costumes were rather underwhelming; for a period movie, oftentimes these would be one thing that helped salvage it from utter boredom, but Season couldn’t boast even this. Hair and make-up were slightly better but only by a thin margin (with the exception of Christopher Lee’s epic black plague prosthetics, though. That was pretty disgusting.) The action didn’t have that “Epic Movie” vibe that Solomon Kane had, so I once again wondered if they couldn’t get a good enough fighting choreographer… And, really, the American accent? I am pretty sure that would raise more than a few eyebrows.

Despite all that, however, the acting, the story and the theme of “faith” and “belief” were compelling enough to make me want to buy the DVD when it comes out. I also like the way we, as viewers, were made to question the truth of the witch’s so-called “witchiness”. Up to the halfway mark, we were still wondering, “Is she or is she not a witch?” And as it turned out, at the end of the movie, we find out that this was not about the witch at all. I have no idea if this is intentional or not, but I thought it was pretty damn clever.

I would even go as far as to say that this is one of the better Nicolas Cage movies, seeing as how he didn’t look like he was trying so hard to look cool. I was reminded, in fact, of how wonderful his performance was as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass. Here, as Behmen, Cage was in character all the time and managed to even convey that sense of heroism through his low-key acting. Yes, there were the occasional bad lines, but he managed it well and came out relatively unscathed from this story.

The one who truly stole the scene, though, was Cage’s co-star, the man who plays the priest Debelzaq. And while at first I failed to recognize who the actor behind the robes, the laughable haircut and the pathetic mustache was, it immediately came to me that this actor was in fact Stephen Campbell Moore.

Remember him?

If you guessed he was the young professor Irwin from The History Boys, then you are 100% correct.

But this man… this actor who so wowed me with how pathetically cowardly his Irwin in THB was impressed me so much in this movie. He was so subtle and yet at the same time convincing in his role as a priest who may or may not be evil, whose belief in God is absolute, and who stares at evil straight in the eye without flinching. Don’t even get me started on when he started uttering the prayers in Latin – who knew an ancient language could sound so sexy? Not even The Misfits‘ Robert Sheehan (who is obviously made to be the “dashing young hero” of the movie) can pronounce the words as convincingly as dear ol’ Stephen. You have to hand it to English theater actors: they really do know how to give Hollywood movie stars a run for their money.

This movie will definitely appeal to fans of the genre. It’s not as well made as some others but the talents alone are undeniable. Fans of British TV series will definitely be happy to see their favorite stars (Claire Foy from Being Human is also here as the witch girl) and the movie will hopefully serve as their doorway to bigger, better Hollywood movies, if they’re seeking for more popularity. I for one don’t need to see them anywhere else to be convinced of how amazing the actors are. They are easily my favorite part of Season Of The Witch.

Some will argue that this is not the best movie to start the year with but I personally am pretty satisfied with it. It’s an entertaining start to my life in the cinema this year. If any other movie can provide a talent half as good as Stephen Campbell Moore, it will already be a movie worth watching. And I do think that it can only get better from here.