Saturday, September 26, 2015

Really putting my AFCA card to the test

Like Tangerine earlier this week, Sicario is too good a movie to "waste" on talking about a phenomenon completely tangential to it, which has only to do with me and my own viewing anecdotes.

Fortunately, I wrote a review of it that should be linked on the right within a couple days, so please, check back.

Now, on with today's anecdote.

It's been a steady process of training Melbourne's cinema box office staffers to recognize my Australian Film Critics Association card without looking at it quizzically, or at first thinking it entitled me only to a $3 discount. I've never been denied entry into a film I've tried to see with it, but a couple managers have been called, and sometimes with reluctance.

I've been a dozen times now, though, and the last five or six times, it's been a breeze. And sometimes I don't even need to sign the little free ticket voucher, which they probably just stick in a drawer and never look at again anyway.

Like Friday night. Friday night, I decided I was really going to push the bounds of the ticket sellers' good humor.

It was my night to make my second attempt at Pan, the movie I had to leave early (very early) on Sunday when my son found it too scary. I was still expected to review it -- by myself, if not my editor, who would have gladly let it pass without a review -- and I wanted to get to it soon after its Thursday opening, so it wouldn't become too stale. (And more later on further discoveries of why he thought it was scary.)

But I thought it would be a waste of a night out only to see the 6:50 showing. I had been expecting to wait until Tuesday night to watch Sicario, which I was also reviewing (as I told you above). But Sicario also opened on Thursday, and the same logic of trying to get it up on the site as soon as possible applied here. So the perfectly timed 9:15 screening at the same cinema was a great option for me.

The trick was that I had never tried to see two movies in the same cinema in the same night using my AFCA card. I'd watched Trainwreck on the back of One Floor Below at this very cinema about six weeks ago, but One Floor Below was a MIFF movie, for which I'd paid my full $19.50. I thought the wrong kind of ticket seller could become grumpy over such an apparent abuse of the system, and there was no option of waiting until after Pan to buy the second ticket, because I didn't want to risk Sicario selling out on its second night open.

Then there was another complicating factor, which was that the 6:50 showing of Pan was in 3D. Some of the cinema chains participating in AFCA strictly forbid the use of the card for 3D, while others just charge you just the additional fee. Palace Cinemas, of which Cinema Kino on Collins is a member, did not seem to specifically forbid 3D, but it could certainly be a source of confusion or calling of managers if I got a squeamish ticket taker who sensed I was trying to get away with something. And given that I was on a pace to arrive only five minutes before the show started, there wasn't particularly time to wade through red tape.

Fortunately, the woman I got couldn't have had a friendlier smile on her face when she rung up both tickets. I didn't need to tell her what the card was, and we didn't have to wrangle over whether it was free or just a discount. I was just handed two tickets and told to enjoy my night.

There was a bit of confusion, I guess, in that somehow the woman thought I had asked to see consecutive showings of Sicario. I couldn't see any logical reason why a person would need to do this -- and that really would be an abuse of the spirit of the system -- but she was only too happy to produce me two tickets for the same movie. "That'll be in the same theater," she told me.

"Really?" I said, unable to imagine why Pan and Sicario would be sharing the same screening space, but only too happy myself to shrug and go along with it. It was then, of course, that I noticed that both tickets said Sicario on them. "Is that okay?" I asked, thinking she was circumventing best practices even more than she was.

The confusion was quickly sorted out, and she produced me two distinct tickets for two different movies.

And once Pan started, I finally learned why my son thought that a pirate was going to kill everyone, as discussed both here and here. It turns out that in the movie's actual foreword, so to speak -- a short bit of female narration that never repeats itself during the movie -- it says as much. In trying to explain to us that we're seeing a prequel to the events in the Peter Pan timeline that we're familiar with, it talks gently and poetically about "the boy who could fly and the pirate who wanted to kill him" starting out as friends. The tone is so gentle, and the images are a bunch of stars in constellations twinkling and taking on shapes, that the word "kill" went in one of my ears and right out the other. Not my son, I guess. It lodged right in there and colored those crucial ten minutes of the movie that made him want to leave.

Wish I could say that this was Pan's only misstep, but I surely cannot tell you that in good conscience. In fact, this was one of my least favorite movies of the year, as the review (which will also be posted in the next few days) on the right will tell you.

How glad I am that my son didn't end up seeing this junk, I can't even tell you.

Next up in testing my AFCA card: three consecutive movies.


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