Is there a right or wrong way to watch a movie?
According to experts at RunPee, a cute bladder-centric website dedicated to the proposition that we’ve all got to go some time (even while at the movies) so we might as well plan ahead, it’s safe to take a four-minute bathroom break approximately 40 minutes into Inglourious Basterds. That’s when (I promise I’m not giving anything away) a young woman stands on a ladder, changing the sign on a movie marquee. The RunPee correspondent suggests that missing the scene, a self-contained exchange between two characters, “won’t jeopardize the movie.” That is, you’ll still understand what’s going on after you’ve flushed and returned to your theater seat. (For other movies/other stall tactics, click around the site.)
Hey, it so happens that if you take RunPee’s Inglourious advice, you’ll miss one of Quentin Tarantino’s zingiest lines of dialogue. But that, I think, is the least of what’s lost when we fit a movie to suit our whims and schedule, rather than the other way around. All compassion and understanding to folks with serious issues who would otherwise be deprived of equal access to the pursuit of movie happiness if they couldn’t step out of the movie theater when need demands; by all means do what you gotta do. But admit: That’s not most of us, for whom reasonable run/pee (not to mention run/popcorn and run/TXT message) planning ought to result in a block of time cleared for uninterrupted attention to what’s on the screen, unspooled at the pace the moviemakers intended.
The way I see it, noting when I’m bored or distracted during a movie is no less interesting a part of the movie-watching experience than recognizing when I’m excited or absorbed; observing when time seems to stand still or the pace feels like its dragging is as important a part of the experience as getting caught up in a whoosh. And that also goes for watching movies at home–on demand, on DVD, on VCR, you name the delivery system. Not that I’m a saint with a home theater designed to be as distraction-free as a chapel! I’d be lying if I said that I never used the all-powerful pause, rewind, and fast-forward functions of my remote (at least when sampling stuff on my own time, off the job). But inevitably, I lose in the process.
A few weeks ago, introducing a friend to the oddball British romantic comedy The Tall Guy with a living-room showing that marked the first time I’ve (re)watched since it came out in 1989 (when I thought the gangly sex scene between Emma Thompson and Jeff Goldblum was the funniest bedroom moment ever), I paused the DVD for Chinese food delivery, a beer-from-the-fridge run, an additional-hot-sauce-from-the-kitchen run, and a more-napkins-from-the-cabinet maneuver.
Mistake. With all the stopping and starting, my friend couldn’t understand what I found funny about the movie in the first place. Embarrassed, I took a bathroom break.
Am I being hopelessly old school? Do you multitask at the multiplex?