Friday, May 24, 2013

Cinematic cold feet

I love it when things work out perfectly.

Last Saturday night, my wife, my sister-in-law, my son and I stayed in a hotel in Encinitas, in order to hit Legoland in Carlsbad (about seven miles up the road) the next morning. All three of them had been going to bed pretty early, so I knew Saturday night would be a good opportunity to catch a movie -- a "vacation movie" at that, which is all the better.

Earlier in the day, I'd done some research and discovered that Encinitas boasts a single-screen theater, which was playing The Croods earlier in the day and then The Place Beyond the Pines a single time at 8:15. The Place Beyond the Pines had been one movie I was certain I was going to see in the theater, except it was starting to look like that wasn't going to happen. Then, bam! Along comes this opportunity. And it even started during my preferred window for an evening movie: 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. The 7-8 time slot is often too early, the 9-10 time slot often too late.

However, I still wanted events to play out naturally over the course of the day, rather than broaching the idea of me seeing this movie at 10:30 in the morning. Odds were that my son would be asleep by then and my wife and sister-in-law would be content to part ways with me for the evening, but I didn't want to take that for granted. So imagine how nice it was when we drove by the theater naturally, and they both pointed it out to me before I had the chance to point it out myself. Score.

We wrapped up our Mexican dinner at about 7:45, and I was on my way. I couldn't buy my tickets right away, though. In a perfect sign of small-town quaintness, the box office was empty, with one of those little signs in the window with a clock and adjustable hands, indicating the time the box office would again be occupied by a person. The hands of the clock were set to 8:05.

I returned at about 8:10 and found about five people ahead of me in line -- which is this town's idea of a crowd. I knew I obviously wasn't going to miss anything, but I was excited enough by the opportunity to see this movie under these circumstances that I felt a bit antsy nonetheless.

So it was with some about of impatience and, in fact, incredulity that I listened to the guy ahead of me ask the following question to the woman sitting in the box office:

"Have you seen The Place Beyond the Pines? Is it good?"

You're at the theater, you're in line, you've got your money pulled out ... and now you're not sure you're going to go?

He may have just been making conversation, but come on. You're already here, and now you're going to let someone else's opinion dictate whether you're actually going to plunk down your nine bucks?

First off, this woman is trying to sell you a ticket to see the movie. It's a small-town single-screen theater, so chances are, it loses a ton of money. They need that nine dollars, and they need it bad. So it's not even in her interest to tell the truth.

However, this woman did indeed tell what seemed to be the truth -- that she hadn't seen it, but that her brother had seen it and it was supposed to be great.

The guy bought the ticket.

What I found annoying was that he wasn't only spoiling his own viewing of the movie, but possibly spoiling mine. What happened if this woman had said she didn't really care for it? I'd already decided to buy my ticket, even if he hadn't. I didn't want my own excitement to be tainted by a negative appraisal.

And what if the woman had said she didn't care for it, and he went in anyway? Then he would have proven that this whole exercise was just a waste of everybody's time.

In truth, I did already have some tempered appraisals of the movie under my belt, because I'd already heard the movie discussed on Filmspotting -- meaning I already knew about the movie's unconventional structure. (If you don't know about it, I'll just leave it at that.) However, everyone agrees that at least one part of the movie is incredibly great -- myself included.

One other funny/charming thing about this small theater? The movie started ten minutes late, but then didn't include a single commercial or trailer. Just straight in to the action.

And what action it is: The movie starts with a two- to three-minute unbroken take that ends with what appears to be Ryan Gosling riding a motorcycle inside an enclosed sphere with two other motorcycles, defying death in front of our very eyes.

This shot is reason alone to see The Place Beyond the Pines.

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