Tuesday, April 10, 2012

From Forgotten Gems To Polished Turds

And no: it doesn't matter how carefully you polish a turd. It's still a turd.

I got an invite to go out for a bit of a birthday thing with Chris Rattray, one of the Cool Shite team, and a boon buddy. Chris is edging his way up the ladder towards middle age, and I felt that moral support from someone a few rungs ahead of him was in order, so I agreed to go.

Tragically, Chris is a genre cinemophile -- and the only genre-type movie playing on the night of his birthday was Wrath Of The Titans. In 3 fucking D.

I'll digress a moment here, and point out that this is pretty much  the last time I'll actually go to the cinema. Prices had already risen to the point where cinema outings had become a very rare treat for the kids... but last night, I actually forked out $20.50 to see a movie. Yeah, sure... I got a pair of shoddy plastic goddam 3D glasses in that price, but honestly, who the fuck cares? That's more than the price of a sixpack of very drinkable, very decent premium Tasmanian beer, and I can tell you that very, very few movies are more entertaining than a sixpack these days. So yes: the price of a cinema ticket has officially climbed so high that I've pulled the plug. The boys and I will see The Avengers, because I promised them we would -- but that will be the last one.

The simple economics are too obvious, but I'll run through them once more for folks who haven't looked in here on the topic. First, I have to drive about fifty km to Launceston. Round-trip is about a hundred km, therefore. Costs about ten bucks in fuel, takes an over an hour to make the two-way trip because of the winding road. Second: for three kids and myself, the ticket price alone is now something like sixty or seventy dollars if the goddam film is in 3 fucking D, and not a whole lot less if it's shot in simple Sanityvision.  Third: the kids want popcorn... and it costs a fortune, and tastes like shit. Fourth: like as not, the cinema will be full of nimrods with mobile phones. Fifth: there will be at least twenty minutes of bullshit advertising. Sixth: parking will cost me about three bucks. Seventh: when you're in town for two hours for a film, plus another hour or so travel time, you have to expect to feed the kids, and a meal out will cost probably fifty bucks again.

And finally, chances are the movie will be shithouse anyway.

So, you know -- I'm a little saddened, but I've hit the point where I can't find any plausible reason to justify supporting the local cinema any farther. Not when we can wait a few months for the DVD version of the film and watch it in our loft with the dropdown screen and the digital projector and the home-made buttery popcorn and a sixpack of beer -- and still save a buttload of money on the deal, and even better, keep a copy of the film to see again if it's actually worth the effort.

It's tragic, in a way. Movies, cinemas, drive-in theatres - they were a big part of my childhood. They were a special treat, and there was a genuine excitement in going. But the social side of cinema has been dying in the arse since the advent of multiplexes, and frankly, I can't even justify the expense for my kids any more.

Cinema in the sense of going out to a movie centre is dead, folks. Maybe it's still on its feet right now, but that won't last. Diminishing returns and the simple cost of running those multiplexes will kill them off. The only ones that survive will be the ones smart enough to change their business model so they can sell an all-around experience, not just a crappy seat for yet another crappy movie.

I know what I really wish, though. I wish I could take my boys to see rough-and-ready Hong Kong action flicks at the old Chinatown Cinema in Fortitude Valley, like I did with my friends back in the early nineties, before the Fitzgerald Inquiry identified the place as a hotbed of drug dealing and shut it down. The movies were shite, of course, but we'd smuggle in a couple bottles of cheap booze plus mixers, buy a bunch of bizarro Chinese snacks, and then sit in the old upstairs balcony. Christ... there were times we laughed so fucking hard I don't know why nobody choked to death.

But that's what I  mean by an all-around experience, you see? We didn't really go for the movies, though they were a big ball of badly-dubbed furious kung-fun for sure, yeah. We went to sit up there in that decaying balcony, sneaking drinks, cheering for the good guys, booing the bad guys and making snarky comments about the fucking awful Engrish subtitles -- and it was worth every goddam cent we spent.

My kids aren't going to get that experience. Nor will I have the chance to do it again. Such is life -- right, Ned? Well, cinema had its run. It'll be interesting to see what comes next. I hope it's not just sitting alone in the house watching movies off the 'Net, though. We're already isolated enough. All the old social experiences have been commercialised or privatised or brutally organised or even flat out illegalised, and there's fuck-all left for people who want to get together and just kick on, have a good time. I really don't know where my kids are going to find the kind of bonding experiences that I found with my friends at college, and that makes me sad. I'm not prone to idealising the past, but the truth is that I just don't see how the fuck the poor bastards are going to have fun.

Oh, that's right. I was going to say something about Wrath Of The Titans, wasn't I? Well, it doesn't really rate much. Sam Worthington has a fluffy new hairdo. Rafe Fiennes and Liam Neeson are still fucking ridiculous, playing Greek gods. The CGI is groovier than ever. To be fair, I was expecting a dog of a movie, and I got one -- but where the last Titans flick was a scabrous, mangy, dysenteric stray mongrel lying in the gutter after being hit by a car... well, Wrath of the Titans is still a dog. But it's a dog with a home and a collar, at least. Even if that home is a half-wrecked caravan up on blocks in front of a burned-out Housing Commission hovel.

Nevertheless, there's no fucking way it's worth $20.50, and I'd urge any of you who really feel the need to see the sequel to the remake of a campish 80s film best known for Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion work to wait until you can rent it on DVD. Or even download it, if you've got the bandwidth.

But if you do -- invite a few friends, grab some booze, and take the piss out of the damned thing, eh? Because I can imagine few sadder, lonelier, more soul-destroyingly masturbatory acts than watching this fucking dog of a movie at home, by yourself.