Celluloid Atrocities September 2015: Good News and Bad News

Apple 75If you look at things objectively, it seems like they’re making a concentrated effort to ruin movies.





Spike Lee 500

To start off with, a few bits of good news for St. Louis film nerds that have arisen since the August installment of Celluloid Atrocities: One, Spike Lee is speaking at Webster University’s Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts on September 28th at 7:30 p.m. Mr. Lee is no stranger to St. Louis, having spoken at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on UMSL’s campus back in 2005, and, more recently, attending Michael Brown’s funeral last year. Still, the opportunity to see him speak shouldn’t be missed. And, if you need a longer lead time on this kind of thing (come on, your schedule isn’t that busy!), John Waters is returning to the Sheldon on December 3rd at 8 p.m. to do his Christmas show, which differs from his more common “This Filthy World” show, which he performed at the Sheldon back in 2008 and at Webster University in 2004. As an aficionado of standup comedians, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve never so consistently laughed at a stand-up entertainer as John Waters, and he doesn’t even qualify as a “stand-up comedian” by many definitions of the term. Elsewhere, we’re entering into my favorite time of year as a St. Louis moviegoer: SLIFF comes in November, smack between the two aforementioned events; we start seeing the on average more intelligent fall/winter theatrical releases starting around October; good movies are released on physical media in a glut around November in time for being bought for gifting purposes; etc.

But, what would a Celluloid Atrocities column be without me complaining at length about something? This time around, I am in the mood to bitch about something everyone loves, including me, to some extent: Apple. It’s true that it’s a typical Pete thing to up and refuse to patronize a certain store or buy a specific brand or something like that (see the July 2014 CA for further evidence of this tendency), and Apple hasn’t alienated me to this point yet. Still, if you look at things objectively, it seems like they’re making a concentrated effort to ruin movies.

If you think of the worst things that have ever happened to the movie industry, where would cell phones rank? They’re right up there with TVs and, later, VCRs, in terms of things that really caused serious damage to the industry in one way or the other. These days I’ll almost always prefer a theatre-goer who talks throughout the duration of the movie over the theatre-goer who’s playing on their goddamn cell phone the whole time. And yes, I know that Apple had nothing to do with the invention of the cell phone, but they did introduce us all to the smartphone. It’s true that I got an iPhone before just about anyone else I knew (my first was an iPhone 3G, bought the first week of August 2008) and felt at the time that it seemed like an object from 20 years in the future. But can you think of anything more annoying in a movie theatre than a smartphone? As if cell phones weren’t bad enough themselves, iPhones light up the whole auditorium, and draw their users in with not only phone calls and text messages, but with the whole of the internet as well.

But yes, duh, this is all old news; this column would have been much more timely if I’d written it, say, around the time I bought my first iPhone. What makes me write it now is the pattern that’s emerged—is it me, or is Apple the company that has spearheaded the trend of computers (be they desktop, laptop, or tablet) not having DVD drives? Of course they would, because Apple wants you using iTunes, which is no friend to physical media. But of course iTunes is redefining ownership—hey, you know that movie you “bought” a year or two ago? A few new devices later, sorry, you don’t own it anymore. And even when you do still have the thing you “bought” at your disposal, it’s often not of the quality that physical media can offer you: poorer picture quality, fewer special features, etc. They’ve magicked us into thinking that physical media is obsolete, when in most cases its replacement is actually the demonstrably worse option.

Okay, full disclosure: I’m currently writing this column from a Sony laptop, which laptop has a factory-installed Blu-ray player, with Blu-rays being a Sony format—everyone’s always serving their own interests. The real impetus behind this column, though, is the introduction of the Apple Watch, which from the standpoint of a moviegoer is basically an iPhone you wear on your wrist. Think of how annoying iPhones are—they still require a hugely inconsiderate person operating them to make them a problem, and more aware iPhone users (like yours truly, hopefully) know to keep the damned things put away and made completely silent while in a movie theatre. As of this writing I’ve had the singular displeasure of sitting next to someone with an Apple Watch in the theatre only once, but based on that small sample, it’s basically a nightmare. Sure, it doesn’t light up the entire auditorium as a phone would, but also you’re not expected to put it away or turn it off, which leads to it consistently going off every few minutes throughout the movie’s runtime, driving those in near vicinity batty in the process. In the one instance I was exposed to an Apple Watch user in this scenario, he wasn’t particularly inconsiderate—only once do I recall him actually doing anything with his watch, and never actively seeking it out to do things. In general when it went off it seemed to attract my attention much more than it did his, which is its own problem.

So let’s look at this, then: of the most annoying things you can encounter in a movie theatre, Apple has invented, what, half? They didn’t invent small children, and they didn’t invent cell phones, but they did find new and exotic ways to make both things more irritating, which is quite a feat. (Have you ever encountered a small child with a cell phone in a movie theatre? Shudder.) Meanwhile, they’ve been instrumental in the regression of the home theatre format. What the hell are they up to? At what point do we call them out for conspiring against movies? | Pete Timmermann

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