Film critic’s notebook: A cautionary tale

Posted on 02 Mar 2011 at 5:02pm

My review of The Adjustment Bureau will be in Friday’s edition of the paper, so I won’t preview it here, but I wanted to share a story that happened while I was watching the movie at a preview screening.

Now, I’ve been reviewing film in town for almost 17 years (geez). This is a job to me — fun, yes, but still a job. I bring a notepad and pen; I go to my seat and hunker down. I like to enjoy it and the people I share the experience with (many of the critics know each other pretty well). But that’s not always the case.

If you’ve ever attended a preview screening, you know they rope off a few rows for critics, studio reps, media professionals, etc. Sometimes they put our names on individual seats, but last night they did not. I found a seat that was unoccupied and started to sit.

“I’m sorry,” said a man I’d never met before. “Those seats are taken by folks from Gordon and the Whale.” Those people were giving the curtain speech, so it was cool with me. But I still needed a seat.

“Is the one on your right free?” I asked the gentleman. “Yes,” he said. He turned to the woman sitting two seats away from him. “This seat isn’t occupied, is it?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “But I’d like to keep it free. I don’t like anyone sitting next to me.” The seat on her other side was empty, too.

“Well,” I said, “not wanting a neighbor isn’t a good reason. Move your bag — I’m taking it.” “What did you say?” she said, insulted. “I said, you don’t get to claim three seats in the middle of a row simply because you don’t want to sit next to somebody.”

“I see six movies a week!” she sniffed. “So do I,” I responded (actually, it’s more like three). “And I’ve been doing this a long time.”

“Who do you write for?” she asked. “Dallas Voice,” I said. “Never heard of it,” she said. I wasn’t surprised — hard to experience media with your head so far up your own ass.

Funny thing is, ask most of the critics in that room who I was, they’d know. I’d never seen her before. Six movies a week? For how long, since Valentine’s?

I sat. And the man now sitting next to me turned and extended his hand. “My name is Alexander Pappas,” he said. “I’d like to get to know you. You don’t seem to give a shit.”

Got that right.

Here’s the kicker: This woman who likes no neighbors, who is so experienced she’s never heard of me? She waited till the lights went down and the movie started to rip open her purse and unwrap ungodly amounts of contraband food, all of it noisy. She also checked her text messages at least three times during the movie. Apparently, six movies a week hasn’t taught her the basics of moviegoing etiquette.

But at least her behavior won me a new friend in Alexander Pappas.

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