Dear Cinema Lovers,
There have been moments at movie theatres that have moved, inspired, and thrilled me. But I’m not here to talk about any of them. If I’m being honest, my favourite movie theatre experiences have nothing to do with the films themselves. They just happened to be playing when something random, hilarious, or embarrassing happened in the audience that sent things completely off the rails, moments I laugh about every time I think of them.
The Mask of Zorro
Date: July, 1998
Theatre: Warden Power Centre, Toronto
The last time I went to the movies with my dad was when he took me to watch Antonio Banderas whipping his sword around. Why was it the last time? WELL.
I knew my dad was a fan of swashbucklers, but I didn’t realize how much until Zorro’s first fight scene. During all the clanging and swooshing on screen, I suddenly sensed movement beside me. I looked over, and my dad was writhing around furiously in his seat, miming sword thrusts and excitedly whispering, “Yeah! YEAH!! GET ‘EM!!” and he did this for the entire. flipping. movie. Hilarious at a distance of 20+ years, but teenaged me wasmortified.
Incidentally, not long after this, I was at a movie with my mum when her phone rang, and instead of scrambling to turn it off like a normal human being she ANSWERED IT RIGHT THEN AND THERE – like, comically loud stage-whispering, “Helloooo???”
Was that the last time my family made me want to fall through the floor in a movie theatre? Oh no.
The Lovely Bones
Date: January, 2010
Theatre: AMC Kennedy Commons, Toronto
Obviously, I stopped going to the movies with my parents, but they somehow passed some invisible baton to my sister. We had both read the book. We both knew exactly what was going to happen, and exactly how it was going to end. And yet. When the very tragic thing that occurs in the story occurred, my sister absolutely lost her shit. She was crying so hard her face was red and contorted to the point where no less than three people sitting nearby got up to ask if she was still breathing, or if they should call an ambulance, and make other very helpful suggestions like laying her out in the aisle or making her breathe into an empty popcorn bag – basically tossing any hope of supporting a quiet moviegoing environment right out the window.
Date: October, 2006
Theatre: Bytowne Cinema, Ottawa
Anticipatory pearl-clutching by media and politicians up the street on Parliament Hill ensured that every last seat was full for the opening screening of “that dirty movie with ACTUAL sex!!” I spotted many friends, classmates, and professors in a crowd whose energy was Rocky Horror Picture Show but without costumes. This would turn out to be early days in the Harper government’s panty-bunched attempts to clamp down on ‘morally questionable’ content in Canadian film, and we repeated this exercise a few years later when Young People Fucking made the Heritage Minister mad, but I remember that night for its sense of solidarity and sheer madcap hilarity as we all cheered for orgies and feats of autofellatio like it was the Olympics.
300: Rise of an Empire
Date: March, 2014
Theatre: Cineplex Cinemas Fairview Mall, Toronto
I am often curious as to why some parents are fine with their children consuming media depicting graphic violence but get real squicky about innocent little eyes beholding any kind of naked hijinx.
It reminds me of the time I went to see Sullivan Stapleton’s impeccably muscled torso insult my Persian heritage or whatever. In walked a family of mum, dad, and two kids who both looked well under 10 years old. They ‘eeked’ and squeaked through the first couple of battle scenes, both of which were pretty over the top in terms of violence and gore, and the parents were absolutely unfazed. And then Eva Green doffed her robe and shit hit the fan. As Stapleton and Green greedily chewed on each other’s limbs and grappled like cage fighters in heat, I saw the parents suddenly dive across their seats like a couple of goaltenders, sending snack bags flying, flinging their hands in front of the kids’ faces, hissing, “DON’T LOOK DON’T LOOK!”
I had just managed to regain my composure towards the end of the (delightfully, awkwardly lengthy) sex scene when, from the silent darkness of the theatre, a tiny little voice piped up, “But mommy, what’re they doing??”
A Decent Woman
Date: September, 2016
Theatre: Scotiabank Theatre, Toronto
I sometimes like to wander into a movie theatre at random, with no clue about the film playing. At the Toronto International Film Festival one year, I found myself in the audience for this Argentinian film set in a nudist colony. If you are in any way uncomfortable with two solid hours of full-frontal (and full-rear and full-sideways) nudity, do what I did and sit yourself down next to a septugenarian who sounds like the cat lady on The Simpsons and allow her to put you at ease by yelling out a running commentary of all her questions and concerns like, “I wonder if they wipe themselves properly” and “Do they have to show all the scrotums like that?”
Did she repeat her questions for the filmmakers during the Q&A, you ask? Oh boy, did she ever.
The World’s End (2013)
Date: August, 2013
Theatre: Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas(?), Toronto
This was the first film I reviewed for Dear Cast and Crew, so already memorable in a good way. Right before the screening, a moderator announced that director Edgar Wright was in the house and would take a few questions after. Exciting.
There was a shaggy-looking bespectacled guy sitting a couple of seats away from me, and beyond a cursory glance when he sat down, I took little notice of him. And so we sat there, chuckling happily through the film, and when the lights went up and the moderator asked the director and the person interviewing him to come up to the front, the shaggy one suddenly muttered, “Oops, that’s me!” and it was Guillermo Del Toro.