Saturday, May 30, 2015

Not knowing

I did something extremely rare Thursday night: I went to a movie theater without knowing what movie I was going to see.

Usually my trips to the theater are dictated by a particular title, sometimes with a backup in mind should the one I want to see sell out, or if I get a flat tire on the way to the theater. (See: The United States, when I had a car.) But Thursday night, I was going for an entirely different reason. I was going to acquaint myself with the theater.

You see, I'm applying for a job as a part-time marketing assistant at Classic Cinema in Elsternwick, a century-old arthouse cinema that these days is forced, by financial necessity, also to screen the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland and the movie I ended up seeing, Paul Feig's Spy. If a marketing assistant job sounds like a rather lowly position for a 41-year-old, it's intended as an entry point to returning to writing about movies in a full-time, professional capacity. (Er, part-time.) As my wife make "the big bucks" (compared to what I make nowadays, anyway), I can afford to do something like this, if they'll hire me. My earning potential is somewhat capped, anyway, by the fact that I'm working only three days a week, so now is the time in my life to try something like this.

The application is due on Monday, and I've been procrastinating big time on writing the cover letter. I actually wrote it this week and was prepared to send it off, but my wife asked to look at it to make constructive criticism. I knew my heart wasn't in the version I'd written -- I was doing it just to finally get it done -- so her recommendation to customize it more to this particular theater was a welcome one.

And then it hit me: I could never write a convincing application to work for a theater where I'd never even seen a single movie.

The reason I haven't been to Classic Cinema is that it's pretty far from my house. It takes the better part of an hour to get there, which is certainly a consideration when applying for a job. But I'll cross that bridge when/if I come to it. For now, I just needed to get to the Classic, to help with my cover letter mojo.

If I went straight from work, the choices of movies to see, that I had any interest in seeing, were Tomorrowland, Partisan and Spy. If I came home first and made a separate excursion out later, the choices expanded to include A Royal Night Out. But my wife insisted that I go straight from work -- absolving me of nighttime child duties, bless her -- so I was left with the first three.

And I had an odd kind of thrill riding the train out there, not knowing which one it would be.

One of the questions was whether I'd be ready for Tomorrowland and Spy, which started within five minutes of each other at 6:40 and 6:45. But getting to Elsternwick an hour early removed that as a concern. (And the theater is right outside the train station, so there was not even any poking around and asking for directions.) I leisurely had a drink in a pub and explored a little, at which point my pad thai dinner did actually endanger me for making the start of Tomorrowland. But I finished with five minutes to spare and less than five minutes to walk, so Tomorrowland remained a possibility. But the word has mostly been bad on this one, so I decided against it. That left Spy or Partisan, and the beer I'd consumed (combined with staying up until all hours the night before watching Blue Velvet) told me that I didn't want to twiddle my thumbs for another 30 minutes while waiting for a foreign language movie to start. (Only later did I learn that Partisan is actually in English.)

So, Spy it was.

And one of the ways "not knowing" applies to Spy is that I wasn't actually sure, until earlier in the day, what it was about.

As it turns out, it's a pretty prominent film, so I blame my ignorance on a) no longer living in the trailer-happy U.S., and b) trying not to watch trailers in general.

When I saw it on Classic's roster of films, I looked it up on wikipedia. Reading that it was the latest Melissa McCarthy vehicle directed by Paul Feig (there have been three now, with a fourth one coming), I was inclined to rule it out. But reading further into the wikipedia entry, I discovered that it currently boasted universal acclaim on Metacritic and that "the surprise comedic performance of Jason Statham" had been singled out for praise. Suddenly, this seemed like a strong contender -- even though I have not been a fan of McCarthy, pretty much ever.

Glad this is the one I chose. A bag of gummy worms was there to ensure I didn't fall asleep, but I didn't need it. The relentless spate of action and laughs -- not just comedy, but actual laughs -- took care of that plenty well for me.

Yep, I've finally found a genuinely enjoyable use of Melissa McCarthy's talents.

I have to say that this has been eating at me a bit. I feel like I come by my distaste for McCarthy's cringe-worthy shtick legitimately, but I have always been worried that others would think I don't like her because I don't want to sleep with her. But you can't give comedians points out of mere political correctness. Either they make you laugh or they don't.

Finally, McCarthy really made me laugh, and I couldn't be happier.

The whole ensemble is really good, with Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, Jude Law, Peter Serafinowicz and delightful newcomer (to me, anyway) Miranda Hart there to lend help. And let's not forget the aforementioned Mr. Statham, who takes the piss out of his typical screen persona with a lot of good humor and genuine comic timing.

It's basically a cavalcade of great physical action-comedy, delightfully complicated yet perfectly observed insults and out-and-out raw vulgarity. And it made me laugh a ton.

Sometimes, not knowing what you're in for is just the ticket to a great night at the movies.

And maybe, just maybe, I can now write a credible enough application to work in the marketing department of a hundred-year-old movie theater.

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