Going to the movies

Going to the movies

We decided at random yesterday that we needed to do something fun, so we took off from work and biked down into Boston to watch a matinee of the new George Clooney movie.

I’m not ordinarily a big fan of legal thrillers, and I didn’t have particularly high expectations going in the door—but this one is more “thriller” than “legal,” and I was pleasantly surprised. Though Michael Clayton (Clooney) is not a likely hero, he is gritty and pragmatic and realistic, and I found him far more compelling than the typical courtroom stooge.

Indeed, one of the best aspects of this movie is that it never actually enters the courtroom, and the sticky sophistry that comes along with it. George Clooney’s acting is excellent throughout, and well-placed among a well-chosen supporting cast. The role of corporate attorney Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) was played with particular effectiveness.

My only real complaint about the film is that I thought some aspects of the story were under-developed. Sometimes it felt as if some of the back-story got left on the cutting-room floor. For the most part, however, director Tony Gilroy manages to reveal what is necessary without too much ham-handed overt narrative—there is no obviously-contrived expository, nor any last-minute voice-over, a la the original release of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In fact, this film felt to me a lot more like a novel than a typical film, and I found that a little bit strange at times, though it turned out to work very well for this mix of story and characters.

Since the movie is still playing, I won’t spoil it for you by posting plot details, but I will say this: Although the plot is not particularly original, the movie is compelling straight through. This is definitely worth seeing, in my opinion. Unfortunately, it seems to be playing in a limited number of cities at the moment, but hopefully it will eventually get a somewhat wider distribution.

Watching the movie turned out to be a small yet unexpected adventure of its own. We arrived too late for our intended showing, since we had taken a lunchtime diversion to eat the best Thai food in Boston and to pay a visit to REI; so we were late for one show, and early for the next.

We locked up our bikes and wandered around on Boston Common, poked our noses into some shops, and arrived a the theater in plenty of time to get excellent seats. Although I often bemoan the ticket prices, I have to say that the modern trends in theater design are usually worth the cost, especially for folks like us who don’t go to out to the movies that often (thank you, NetFlix).

Unlike the low, flat, uncomfortable aisles of the movie theaters I went to as a kid, the trend now is toward big, comfortable seats with cup-holders, leg-room, and broad aisles, all set at a fairly steep angle so that you never have to worry about sitting behind someone tall. The screens are large and clean, and the sound systems have improved vastly since I first watched Star Wars many years ago.*

Maybe two-thirds of the way through the movie, the whole theater went suddenly dark, the projector shut down. I figured the power had gone out, but then the lights came back up, and there was a beeping alarm over the public-address system. Momentarily, we were treated to a recorded message on a loop informing us that something was wrong in the building, and we might have to evacuate.

Most of the folks in the theater got up and left at that point, but since there wasn’t any obvious sign of trouble (e.g., smoke, flames, gunfire, explosions, masked men shouting in Arabic and waving Kalashnikovs, etc.) and the message said we’d get another alarm if we actually needed to evacuate, several of us just hung out there for a while.

Eventually, the theater staff came in and told us that the Boston Fire Department had ordered the building cleared, so we trooped downstairs with everyone else toward the street. We figured that was probably it for the movie—but even before we had made it to the exit doors, one of the men from the BFD sounded the all-clear, so we never even made it out to the sidewalk.

There was a bit of confusion and milling about at first; nobody was sure what to do. We waited a few minutes while the patrons shrugged at each other and looked at the staff, who shrugged at each other and looked worried. Finally, the management made some decisions, and announced that they’d resume the movies once everyone had a chance to get back to their seats. Well, why not?

So, we went back up to the theater, sat back down—in about twenty minutes or so they resumed the projection, and we got to see the rest of the film. All in all, the event was more of a distraction than an adventure, just a bit of a shake-up to the usual routine, but it was enough to add a little spice to the day. After the movie, we had a pleasant bike ride back to Cambridge for some ice cream and a good night’s sleep. 

All in all, a very successful venture, and a much-needed diversion.