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From the Wire: Awkward Moviegoing Experiences

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by Matt Singer
August 23, 2012 5:37 PM
21 Comments
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"Boogie Nights."

At her blog, film critic Carrie Rickey has a post on her "strangest screening experiences" -- though it might be more accurate to describe them as "awkward" screening experiences, since the three stories she shares are all squirmers about watching movies in uncomfortable situations, like seeing "Violette," a flick about parricide, with her parents, or watching the raunchy "Ted" with her 16 year old daughter. And then there's this story from the Toronto Film Festival premiere of "Boogie Nights," where Rickey sat between exhibitor Ray Posel and critic Roger Ebert:

"From the moment porn director Burt Reynolds tells dishwasher Mark Wahlberg that he had a feeling there was something wonderful in the younger man’s trousers waiting to get out, Ray shrank in horror from the screen as Roger inched forward in his seat. It was almost comical. I felt like a seesaw fulcrum balancing them. I couldn’t filter out Ray’s disgust or Roger’s enthusiasm. I didn’t know what I thought of the film. Had to see it a second time in order to review it."

Rickey's post got me thinking about my own awkward screenings. The one that immediately came to mind was a trip to the multiplex about five years ago to see "Knocked Up" with my future wife and parents. What followed was entirely my fault; I'd seen "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and I absolutely adored "Freaks and Geeks," so I had pushed the group to see "Knocked Up" thinking it would be a nerd-friendly affair. Had I known about the rampant drug use and -- even worse -- surprisingly graphic sex scenes, I might have suggested alternate arrangements. The discomfort hanging in the air was so thick you could cut it with an armrest, which I distinctly remember gripping for dear life throughout the movie. It was a scene of shame and embarrassment worthy of a Judd Apatow film.

Beyond that, I'm not sure I have any other memorably awkward screenings -- or maybe I did at some point, but I've since blocked them completely out of my mind in the interest of psychic self-preservation. The "Boogie Nights" story is interesting, though, since it's less about feeling mortified than feeling uncertain about your own reaction to a film as the result of less-than-optimal viewing conditions. That I can relate to.

I've actually written about this experience once before. At South by Southwest 2011, I was in the audience for a midnight screening of "The FP" that began with a cast and crew Four Loko chug race. It was entertaining, but it may have left a couple of its participants too drunk to sit still; one of them proceeded to spend the entire film heckling the screen. It's one thing to watch a movie while someone in the audience rudely insults it; it's something else entirely when that someone actually worked on the movie. If they think so little of their work that they're willing to insult it, how should I feel?

Like Ebert and Posel did to Rickey, that heckler clouded my perceptions. It was hard to separate my thoughts about the interruptions from my thoughts about the movie. "The FP" is a bargain basement spoof of apocalyptic gang movies; the longer the heckling went on, the more I began to wonder whether the real joke was on the audience, rather than the cheesy sci-fi flicks of yesteryear. I'd need to see the movie again to know for sure, at a screening I can promise you will not be catered by Four Loko.

So those are my strange/awkward screenings experiences. Now it's your turn. Share yours in the comments below. Can you top seeing "Knocked Up" with my parents?

Read more of "My Strangest Screening Experience. Yours?"

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More: From the Wire, Carrie Rickey

21 Comments

  • Nick | August 29, 2012 10:07 PMReply

    I watched Enter the Void with my mother.

    1. Nothing else needs to be said.
    2. You can probably just close this thread right now.

  • Mike Marino | August 27, 2012 10:50 PMReply

    Took my mom to see "A Dangerous Method" all she could say was that it was "interesting" and uncomfortable. We didn't really talk the rest of the day and I don't think she will be letting me treat her to a movie anytime soon.

  • Jette Kernion | August 26, 2012 1:52 PMReply

    I was in college, visiting my aunt and uncle in Santa Monica, and they suggested we all go to a movie. We went to a multiplex and then picked out the film -- they were eager to see "Ghost" and I agreed. We knew very little about the movie, which had just opened. It was the third anniversary of their son's death from a drunk driver. My aunt got very visibly upset during and after (writing this, I'm not sure why they didn't just suggest we leave halfway through). Since then, I have harbored an irrational hatred of that movie for upsetting my aunt and uncle, and their having to deal with it in front of me.

  • Egg Davers | August 24, 2012 8:54 PMReply

    Sitting between my 14-year-old-son and my 77-year-old mother-in-law during the opening scene of "Away We Go" — when John Krasinski deduces Maya Rudolph's pregnant because her vagina tastes different when he's going down on her.

    And an earlier experience of renting "She's Gotta Have It" with the same mother-in-law. She's a cool lady, but that was uncomfortable.

  • Brando | August 24, 2012 4:08 PMReply

    I watched MACGRUBER with my mom, which was awkward for me until I realized she didn't get the jokes. But the most awkward moviegoing experience for me in recent memory was seeing SHAME, as somebody who shares the first name of Fassbender's character. It was weird for me and the girls sitting next to me as the webcam girls spoke to the audience: "Are you Brandon's girlfriend? Do you wanna play with us? Brandon would like that. We knooooow what Brandon likes."

  • Adam | August 24, 2012 2:51 PMReply

    I went to see Pulp Fiction with my GRANDMOTHER and her boyfriend, who had dragged her to it because he read how fabulous it was in the New Yorker. When the "Gimp" sequence began I was nauseous, not just because it's a horrifying scene, but because my grandmother was sitting right next to me. We never spoke about it except to all agree loudly that the movie was terrible. I like the movie now, but it's been very hard for me to separate the memory of that night.

  • Keith | August 24, 2012 12:13 PMReply

    "Summer of Sam" with my mom when I was 12, neither of us knowing beforehand that it was a couple shots of John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino banging shy of being NC-17. Nor were we aware that it would come to hold the record for most "fuck"s per minute. The film was a near constant stream of sound and images which are awkward to watch with your mom, ESPECIALLY when you happen to be going through puberty at the time.

    A close runner-up would be the time I watched "Martyrs" with my girlfriend, and it nearly caused us to break up.

  • Steve Denney | August 24, 2012 10:26 AMReply

    Saw "Love Actually" with my 80 year old grandmother. The porn stand-in scenes were incredibly uncomfortable.

  • Mike McGranaghan | August 23, 2012 7:23 PMReply

    While covering the Maryland Film Festival in 2000, two colleagues and I became friendly with noted film restoration expert Jim Katz and his wife Marti, who is the mother of "ER" actor Noah Wyle. We sat next to them at a screening and had a lovely time. When the film was over, Jim had to be at another location for a Q&A about one of his restoration projects, so we told Marti that she was welcome to stay with us to watch the next film screening in the same auditorium. That film was "The Girl Next Door," a documentary about Stacy Valentine, a small-town housewife who entered and won a Hustler magazine contest at the prodding of her husband. Despite the slightly naughty subject matter, "The Girl Next Door" was presented in the festival guide as being a probing look into how this woman went from a June Cleaver-esque existence to something completely opposite. What we didn’t know until the movie started was that Stacy Valentine also went into very hardcore porn – a fact the filmmakers were quite willing to convey in incredibly graphic behind-the-scenes detail. (There was stuff in there I'd certainly never heard of before.) One of my colleagues grew embarrassed and quietly snuck out within the first half hour. About 15 minutes later, so did the other one. Not wanting to be rude, I forced myself to stay put, as it seemed inappropriate to completely abandon this woman after inviting her to sit with us. I’m pretty sure I breathed a sigh of relief once the end credits began to roll. Not surprisingly, she and I talked about everything EXCEPT the movie we’d just seen. I’ve long joked that if Noah Wyle ever wants to see a dirty movie with MY mom, I’d have to let him.

  • Albert | August 23, 2012 7:15 PMReply

    I saw "The Blue Max" with my younger brother and my grandmother. For those who don't know this film, it was released in 1966, and I saw it around 1967. I was a young teenager then and movies with sex scenes were not all that common yet. No one in my family, myself included, knew that it was going to have two scenes with a nude couple in bed. At that time, I had never been allowed to see a film which had that.

  • BILL THOMAS | August 23, 2012 7:00 PMReply

    I had an extremely weird experience recently when I went to see MAGIC MIKE.
    As related here:
    http://adrivingfool.blogspot.com/2012/07/magic-mike-mania.html

  • Brian | August 23, 2012 6:21 PMReply

    True story.

    My freshman year of high school I went to see Romeo + Juliet opening night with a date. It was our second date and I had only lived in this new town for about two months. As she and I find our seats, another guy came and started talking to her, before sitting down and introducing himself as, "Her boyfriend."

    It was a confusing time.

  • Kate | August 23, 2012 6:09 PMReply

    I watched Kinsey with my mom.
    Yup.

  • Paul | August 23, 2012 5:59 PMReply

    This is a little off-color, but I once went to the movie "Monster" with my wife (then girlfriend). There was maybe 25 people in the theater, around 10 of which was a group of mentally challenged people on what I presume to be some sort of ill-advised field trip. Needless to say, the film did not exactly reach them. There was lots of shouting and hooting, particularly during the lesbian sex scenes. It was awkward.

  • Steve | August 23, 2012 5:57 PMReply

    I watched "Happiness" with my Dad.

  • Keith | August 24, 2012 12:20 PM

    So did I! We were flipping around the premium movie channels late at night, and he landed upon "Happiness," which was somewhere in the middle. He told me, "Wow, you've gotta watch this!" And so we did, and the very next scene was Dylan Baker drugging his family and raping a small boy. Strangely, this didn't seem all that awkward at the time even though it was probably grounds to call child services.

  • Hackett | August 23, 2012 5:55 PMReply

    Not having enough money for Mexico or Miami, my friends and I decided to spend our last under-21 Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale. Not only were there 0 tourists our age, but it ended up raining 5 out of the 7 days we were there.

    We decided to see The Hunted ( a Tommy Lee Jones and Benecio Del Torro film) in a Dollar Theater south of the city. As previews began to hit the screen a group of teenagers began to start smoking joints in the middle row.

    Families began to shout at the kids and one person went out to contact the manager (who was on a lunch break). As the movie started , a fairly well built guy got into words with one of the kids and a fight broke, causing people to call the police.

    Things settled down and two of the kids left.

    As the movie continued everyone spent more time watching the kids than the film. Two cops entered the theater... and then things got brilliant.

    One one infront of us was a sad looking teenager who was seeing the film with his dad. The cops pulled the kid away from his dad and put him in cuffs on the ground. The whole audience tried to explain that the police had the wrong kid and pointed to the junkies in the front row.
    The junkies saw that the cops were going to arrest them and flew out of the emergency exit.

    50 minutes into the film the manager turned on the lights and offered us tickets to a future showing as we were going to be questioned by the FtL police about the situation at hand.

  • Dan Gvozden | August 23, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    I have to say that my most awkward moving-going experience had to be when I went on a date to see a screening of "The Break-Up." It was on a first date, already a bad idea, and there was another couple behind us. That couple decided they were going to bring along a remote-controlled vibrator into the theater. The woman must have inserted the vibrator because she moaned loudly many times over a faint buzzing during the movie. I only figured out what they were doing when I turned around to see the man holding a dial.

    We sat for a few more minutes before moving. Eventually it was ruining the experience and I had to go get the manager to ask them to stop. I was embarrassed to even admit to what was occurring (I could hardly believe it myself) and eventually he got them to leave the theater. Needless to say, it kind of put a wrinkle into the date and was a contributing factor to awkward conversation and a non-existant second date.

  • Carbine125 | August 23, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    I once went to see "Milk" with my dad. I honestly didn't think it would go that gay but honestly in hindsight I should have seen it coming. But later we went to see "Black Swan" and all was in balance again.

  • Josh | August 23, 2012 5:45 PMReply

    This is easy to answer, sadly: I was at the theater, watching The Bourne Identity. I'm with my dad, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend. It's the weekend of my high school graduation. My uncle is in his mid-forties and is something of a dead ringer for George Costanza, a poster boy for the New York schlub. I mention that to enhance the supreme discomfort my father and I felt as we realized, about 10 minutes into the movie, that my uncle and his girlfriend were making out with each other. Loudly. And they were not interested in stopping. So...yeah. That was pretty awful.

  • Dan Gvozden | August 23, 2012 5:51 PM

    That is brutal man.

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