Are Movies Best Seen by Yourself?
Is going to the movies by yourself the best way to experience a movie? That's the assertion made by Hayley Schueneman in an opinion piece posted on TheCut.com and published in New York magazine.
Watching a movie is best as a solitary experience, which is something that we just need to admit to ourselves.
When you read a book, you read it by yourself and later discuss it with other people who have also read that book. This is how we should watch movies. Whenever I watch a movie with someone else, I find myself watching it through their eyes and brains and emotions in addition to my own. Sometimes this is enough to ruin a first-time viewing of a movie experience (The Aviator). I want my first impression of a movie to be filtered through my brain and my brain only.
Over the years I've gone to quite a few movies alone. I remember seeing "Spies Like Us" by myself when I was a kid. The first "R" rated film I saw underage in a theater, "Something Wild", I saw alone. Not to mention many films when I was going to college, and later in life, when I lived in Lubbock and Kathy was living in Dallas.
There certainly is less distraction. For example, Kathy knows me so well she can tell from my body language if I'm unhappy or bored with a movie. And that distracts her. While we're not big talkers during movies, at least not in theaters anyway, at some point she'll whisper something to me which I'll have trouble hearing and need to ask her again. At which point I've distracted us both and our neighbors from the film.
I like Ms. Schueneman's snacking ritual too. I can appreciate how she'll unwrap her Twizzlers completely so we don't hear the package rustle every time she reaches for one of them. And pop corn, I believe movie theater pop corn is a must, especially since I don't go to very many moves at the theater anymore. (You can't nuke that stuff at home in the microwave.)
That said the rustling of candy wrappers or a hand rustling the popcorn bag or bucket doesn't really bother me. It's, in my opinion, part of the movie going experience. I'm much more bothered by sold out theaters and people who have to talk through the whole film than someone trying to pour a handful of Snow Caps or Goobers in their mouth.
What's lost by going to the movies alone is the communal nature of the experience. Not the sharing of the film with the other audience members, you can experience that as a solo moviegoer. I mean the experience that surrounds going to a movie with your friends, your family, your spouse or a date.
It teaches you how to compromise. Especially as a kid or teenager. We went to a lot of movies, and many of them I'm glad I had an opportunity to experience. I know as a solo movie goer, I would have made different choices.
Yeah, I may have wasted two hours of my life sitting through whatever Steven Seagal or Jean Claude Van Damme martial arts movie my friend Kevin was obsessed with. But the conversation about the martial arts, or more precisely how it related to his experience learning martial arts was priceless. It was the time cruising up or down Harlem Avenue to the dollar theaters with a car load of my friends and the good times we had that's actually the nostalgic memory, not that we saw "The People Under The Stairs" or whether it was a good film or not.
Contrary to what Ms. Schueneman believes, movies are fine for dates. Maybe not first dates. However, it's not a horrible way to spend the evening with someone you're getting to know. And when you do know them well, there's nothing wrong w
Watching movies have provided Kathy and I with no end of conversations. From conversations about why we didn't walk out of "Solaris" staring George Clooney because it was so bad, to what we refer to as "The Ice Storm" incident. The movies themselves, the role they play in the conversation is incidental. I can tell you this, when we chat about "The Ice Storm" incident, it has nothing to do with the movie.
When it comes to seeing, watching, absorbing a movie and it's meaning Ms. Schueneman is probably right. Like a book, it's probably better as a solitary experience free from distraction. However, the solitary movie going experience doesn't provide the opportunities to make memories. Good and bad memories. Sweet and ugly memories. Memories that will live on, in many cases, long after the impression the movie made on you fades.
Like the epic story Bill, Dave and I told to some friends over pizza about the time we snuck a six pack into a late night screening of "The Doors" when we were in college. The three of us can tell you in epic detail and embellishment how that went down. As to how good or bad the film was? I don't know. That hasn't come up in years.