Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Overpriced by roughly $2.25

Walking to work this morning I passed the discount movie theatre, as is the case every morning that my homemade balsa-and-saliva wings are on the fritz.

"The Two-Dollar Theatre", as it is commonly known about town, is quite the apt nickname. As in, some enterprising junior Trump could probably buy the fucking thing with that much money and still have enough left over to use a public pay phone to tell someone about their ruthless corporate takeover.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's a shithole. I've walked into the various screening rooms of the two-dollar theatre and immediately felt a deep and searing empathy for, and kindred with, Abu Ghraib inmates. There is no movie-going experience at the two-dollar theatre which one could not improve upon by sitting in the adjacent alleyway and staring at the exterior brick wall for a film's estimated running time instead. Because as you're sitting in an alley staring at a brick wall, using your imagination to dream up the film you're now pretending to watch, you can also burn off some of that surplus imagination to no longer feel the myriad discomforts and inhospitalities that lie on the other, interior, side of that brick wall, and for that you are a much better person.

Walking into the darkened screening room at the two-dollar theatre always makes me feel like Nicolas Cage in some of the darker scenes midway through the film 8MM, when he was lurking in the dingiest parts of town looking for snuff films for his murder investigation. If I turned on a blacklight in this screening room, I'd likely be blinded by the spuriously spattered seminal supernova.
You wish.

On a good night there might only be eight or ten seats covered in black trash bags, a helpful notice to patrons that the seat is out of order AND a subtle reminder of just how horrid an event and/or liquid must have occurred and/or landed there to make just THAT particular seat worthy of the bag, when any junior health inspector would take one look in the room and throw out his back trying to stretch a black trash bag over the entire building and perhaps the adjacent Jack In The Box for quarantine purposes.

The seats are all fused together by rows, as well. I am a big fucking ox of a dude, but that matters not; Calista Flockhart could be sitting in one of these seats, and if she adjusted in her seat in even the most minute ways, to cross her legs or scratch her nose or ovulate, her entire row of seats would move, including my tubby ass. Protozoa shifting on the armrest is noticed by everyone in that protozoa's row (not to mention the fucking protozoa talked ALL THE WAY THROUGH Hot Fuzz, the damned micro-prick).

Distracting oneself from the accommodations by partaking of some snack bar goodness is also a crapshoot; the cola seems fine, though my taste buds are admittedly dulled at this point to the introduction of strange new scrotal dippings, but I'm reasonably certain that the popcorn is whatever was left unsold at the end of the previous night at the real movie theatre across town, owned by the same folks. I'd place the likelihood of that at maybe 30 percent, with an easy 30 percent of THAT being the possibility that the two-dollar theatre's popcorn stash also includes that swept up from the aisles after the previous night's showings at the "good theatre."

Pictured: the popcorn to be served at the 2:00, 3:45 and 6:30 showings of The Da Vinci Code, tomorrow.
The theatre always, and I mean ALWAYS, smells of some vague stale olfactory assault perched between urine and death. Spend some time at a retirement home and you've got a pretty good idea of the stench, minus the outside chance of the odor of strained peas and partially digested Scrabble tiles. What, that's what old people eat, isn't it?

When I saw Adaptation at the two-dollar theatre, I was appalled to notice that there was a rip right in the center of the screen, which some jizz rivulet had chosen to patch up with shiny reflective tape.

To then project a billion-watt bulb onto it to show a film.

Yes, the center of the screen shines now, like at any second the whole wall could open up and show me the portal to Narnia or something.
Pictured: every second of the film Adaptation, according to the Two-Dollar Theatre.

I tell you all of this, unbelievably, as a tangent to the story I meant to tell when I sat down, though it is an amazingly cathartic tangent to relay.

It is a well-known fact that the two-dollar theatre is a fetid mephitis which threatens to swallow all that is good in the world. That's not just my opinion; that's actually a direct quote from the San Marcos Visitor's Association's pamphlet on the page marked "Sights To See."

It is the Dachau of movie theatres.

I say this to you because it seems like someone, at some point, would take the initiative to either renovate the damned place or burn it to the ground to collect on the insurance. I'd vote heartily for the latter if I wasn't already painfully familiar with the unpleasant aroma of burnt carpeting, scorched black-trash-bag-semen-stains, and seared celluloid from the long-forgotten reel of You, Me and Dupree sitting under dust in a back room after no one at the studio responsible for the film noticed it was missing. I don't want that heady elixir hanging over the breathable air in this town for weeks at a clip.

So that leaves renovation, or at the ABSOLUTE LEAST, making appearances. You know, I grew up flirting with the poverty line for my entire childhood and adolescence, but Mom and Dad still went through the rigmarole of keeping a cabinet filled with fancy stemware on the off chance that we'd be hosting a fancy dinner at some point in our tin-roof shanty. Okay, I'm exaggerating the shanty part, but it always amused me that my parents went to the trouble to maybe impress some hypothetical guest who might foolishly endeavor into our home expecting even the slightest whiff of opulence.

That's all I'm asking for, from the management of the two-dollar theatre. Give me the illusion that you give a shit, and aspire to be more than you are.

Is that asking too much? A bridge too far? I can already hear your arguably sober rejoinder: "Coop, you're asking an awful lot of a discount theatre that only charges two bucks for tickets, and even LESS than two bucks on some weekdays, and maybe you oughta take that into account before you launch a diatribe such as this." And to that I can only say that you haven't endured watching a film while feeling a particularly energetic (and sharpened?) spring digging into your ass as you sit in what you are categorically certain is the same seat that someone else died in as recently as that morning, if your senses are to be trusted. Well, that, and good use of 'diatribe' in your rejoinder.

Today on my way to work I passed the theatre and regarded the posters under glass at the front foyer, as I often do. These are carted straight over from the actual theatre across town, and shoved into the two-dollar theatre's lightboxes regardless of whether they're actually cut to fit; often this leaves the posters ragged, creased, folded over on the edges, or even torn down the sides in order for some minimum-wage kid to say he replaced the posters for the week so he could go home that night.

The two-dollar theatre has three screening rooms, yet four poster boxes on its front wall. Based on everything I've told you thus far you'd not be surprised if I told you the fourth box was littered with remnants of birds' nests and Whataburger cups, but this is surprisingly not the case. Instead management chose to assign that box the dubious title of "Coming Soon."

Which should fill you with the appropriate terror.

This is remarkable for two reasons. First, the letter 'i' in the word "coming" is maybe the only letter 'i' the theatre owns. I am constantly impressed and amazed by the creativity the minimum-wage kids have to deploy in order to update the marquis every week with such a vast vowel shortage; I've been treated to more backwards 'L's and upside-down 'T's as vowel surrogates than I can hope to convey for you. I can't fathom what this theatre did when they had to advertise the opening of "MTSSTSSTPPT BURNTNG."

Secondly, the Coming Soon lightbox is a blatant lie to all who behold it. Maybe it's wishful thinking on someone's part that, yes, maybe one day they actually WILL be showing Georgia Rule, but until that day comes, damnit, we're gonna keep on believing and let the Georgia Rule poster occupy the Coming Soon box unless we can convince Lenny to stop masturbating in the projectionist's booth with his freshly popcorn-buttered hand and come change out the featured Coming Soon poster for something a little more attainable and realistic for our means. Maybe License to Wed, just to keep expectations low.
Not that they could get much lower.

I really want to know who's driving slowly past the two-dollar theatre every Friday and being newly crestfallen with disappointment every time upon seeing that Georgia Rule hasn't yet moved into one of the three Now Playing lightboxes. I have no doubt they lead very fulfilling lives.

Now, believe it or not, I am only just now getting to my original point which was the genesis for this blog. Passing the theatre this morning I took in the banquet of movie poster goodness they had prepared for me to try to entice me to enter The Seventh Circle of Celluloid Hell; I could not suppress a snort of derisive laughter at what I saw.

On the far left, of course, was Georgia Rule, with the beguiling faces of Ms. Fonda, Ms. Huffman and Ms. Lohan teasing all of us with their ever-pending status at the two-dollar theatre.
It Blohans.

Just right of that were the Now Playing lightboxes, and sandwiched between I Now Pronounce You Ninety Minutes Of Shitty Homosexual-Panic Themed "Comedy" Safe Enough For Middle America Adam Sandler Fans To Still Feel Comfortable Watching, and the unforgettable epic Billy, Do You Like Gladiator Movies? No? Well, What If We Told You Colin Firth Is In This One And That It Sucks?, was a poster whose majesty I cannot hope to harness with mere words. Even words like "I'm being sarcastic, this poster smelled of duodenum" fail to make the desired impression.

The two-dollar theatre is now showing the alleged comedy Who's Your Caddy?, starring Big Boi of the rap group OutKast, and yet they were unable to scare up an actual poster for the "film," so instead the minimum-wage kid's final act on Thursday night was taping up three 11x17 sheets of paper, each with one word of the film's title on it, and arranged in a nice stair-step pattern to pleasingly lead the eye down the bountiful cascading waterfall of bland greyscale text and into the bubbling brook of someone's urine that has collected and dried on the sidewalk in front of the lightboxes.

I spent as much time putting together this mock version as they did with the real one.

I can't even get my mind around this.

Granted, the type of people who are likely to spend any amount of time even considering going to see a painfully unfunny and strained race-relations comedy about a black caddy showing up the stuffed shirts of the establishment at an all-white country club, starring a rapper most well-known as "the other, less charismatic one from OutKast," aren't people who are likely to be able to read the name of the film they're seeing on a proper poster to begin with. The minimum-wage kid could have rubbed a stick of butter on the inside of the lightbox and just told the film's target demographic that the eventual pattern of stuck houseflies and gnats spelled out the film's title, and no one would have been the wiser.

Starring Not The One You Were Hoping For!
 Now, I have not seen Who's Your Caddy?, I assure you. I won't go see it, I won't rent it, and if I happened across it on cable I'd flip by it so quickly that my thumb might actually pass THROUGH my remote control and into some blessed alternate reality outside the fabric of our time, wherein no such malfeasance as Who's Your Caddy? exists to debunk popular belief in the existence of a god.

So the film might be a real hoot. I'll never know. I will conjecture with some confidence that the unseen film features at least a three-fifths majority of the following:

a) a scene in which a golf cart is outfitted with shiny spinning rims and/or jacked up on hydraulics, offset by reaction shots of disapproving elderly whites.

b) the less-charismatic one from OutKast sinking an unlikely putt in a way that does not jeopardize his street cred, followed by a declaration that such an approach to golf is "how he rolls," offset by reaction shots of disapproving elderly whites.

c) copious nasal impressions of stiff white people by members of OutKast's entourage who were cast in the film due to their proximity as the only other black men on the golf-course set during filming, including but not limited to scenes in which white golfer's (admittedly absurd) choices of attire are ridiculed by men who then willfully go out in public with forty-three inches of visible underwear above their beltline, faux-gold fronts on their teeth, one-and-only-one pantleg hiked up past their knees, and perhaps worst of all, Oakland Raiders jackets. All offset by reaction shots of disapproving elderly whites.

d) at least one moment where one of the formerly disapproving elderly whites decides that the less charismatic one from OutKast is okay after all, then either makes an intentionally (?) horrid attempt at showcasing his/her rapping ability or refers to a black person as 'dogg' while swallowing thickly and hoping not to be beaten for it.

e) no less than nine Wayans brothers, if you count the stagehands who worked on the film without actually appearing on camera.

f) a jumpin' soundtrack far, far surpassing the quality anyone could expect from a film whose benefactors actually looked at the title Who's Your Caddy? and nodded with unironic approval.

g) a valuable life lesson about the benefits of being yourself and keepin' it real.

h) a very warranted feeling of seething, swelling outrage from intelligent black moviegoers as they are once again confronted with Hollywood's notion that this shovelware is "the only sort of entertainment we know how to make for you" now that out-and-out minstrel shows are largely frowned upon.

For the most part.

In reaching the end of my tirade I have come to realize that all is actually right with the world, here. The levels of quality and care behind both Who's Your Caddy? and the two-dollar theatre mean they're truly made for each other, and both are perfectly symbolized in the pedestrian, creatively bankrupt presentation in the lightbox, of the pedestrian, creatively bankrupt title of the 'film.'

If there is any justice in the world, everyone involved in either the management of The Two Dollar Theatre or the production of Who's Your Caddy? is being peed on as I'm typing this sentence.

If only Georgia Rule had been about representin' and keepin' it real, it might actually be Now Playing. If only.

(originally posted to Myspace September 2007)

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