Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things You Should Know About Me: Backwards Movies

When I was a kid, my family and I used to watch movies backwards.

Well, maybe not backwards, but definitely out of order.

Back in the day my parents and I would often go into town and take in a movie. My Dad usually picked what we'd see so I saw a lot of westerns, war stories and spy thrillers as a kid.

Unlike normal human families, when we went to a movie we didn't consult the show times in the newspaper and plan our trip accordingly. Nope, we'd just show up, buy our tickets to whatever was playing (there were no multiplexes in those days) and barge right on into the theater. No killing time in the lobby waiting for the next show to start for our family!

This meant that the majority of the time we walked into a movie that was already well in progress. Sometimes we got there just a few minutes late, but most of the time we'd arrive over an hour into the run time. I'm sure the other patrons appreciated this as we blindly groped around in front of them, feeling for our seats in the inky darkness and disrupting the entire theater. We'd finally locate some empty seats, take a few more minutes to remove our jackets and get comfortable and then we'd start watching what was left of the film. Of course we had little to no idea of what was the hell was happening onscreen, so we'd sit there watching in puzzlement.

When the movie was over, we'd stay in our seats as the cleaning staff came in and straightened the theater around us. Then we'd watch the coming attractions and finally the beginning of the movie. When it got to the part where we first came in, we'd usually get up and leave. For many years I assumed this was how everyone watched movies.

There were some drawbacks to this method of movie going though, specifically in the areas of plot comprehension, character recognition, motivation and most of all suspense. It's hard to feel the tension that the director intended in a scene when you see the hero escape a trap before he falls into it.

For example, take the original Poseidon Adventure (Spoilers ahoy!). Naturally we arrived over halfway through the movie. As near as we could tell, a group of cruise goers were unhappy that they'd booked a trip on an ocean liner that was inexplicably upside down and were searching for the travel agent to get a refund. Shelley Winters' character consumed too much at the all-you-can-eat buffet, had a heart attack and died. This apparently made Gene Hackman very angry, causing him to question his faith in God and yell at everyone. Stella Stevens was so upset by the proceedings that she rent her garments and had to wear a men's dress shirt for the rest of the picture. Or something like that.

It all made a little more sense when we finally got to see the beginning of the movie and watch the ship tip over. Some of our initial assumptions about the plot were then proven inaccurate.

When the movie got around to Shelley Winter's death scene again, my parents realized this was where we came in, so we had to get up and leave, causing a big commotion and no doubt ruining the film for everyone else. As normal as it was for our family, I had to admit it wasn't the ideal way to watch a movie.

I have no idea why we went to the movies this way. To find the answer you'd have to ask my Dad, as he was the activities director and driver. I was just a kid and had no say in the matter. All I know is that most of the movies I saw during my childhood were seen out of order, Slaughterhouse Five style. I just assumed that this was how everyone saw movies.

As I got older and the day came when I could drive myself to the cineplex, I looked up the show times in the newspaper and arrived before the movie started. That way I actually got to see the beginning, middle and end of the movie, instead of the other way around. What a novel concept!

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