Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Thursday night at the movies


As you know, my buddy Colin is one of the middle managers at a sizable theater chain. Periodically, he is required to venture around the southland doing pricing surveys on all of his firm’s competitors. It’s essential that his team keep their pricing of concessions in-line with their competitors. He’s usually only given a few days to do the surveys. SoCal is a big place. Driving all over SoCal in a few days is no small task. Hitting 80 to 100 theaters in 4 or 5 days is daunting. Consequently, I am frequently called upon to help him out. I get free movies. He gets to be in two places at the same time, doubling his efficiency.

Thursday night at the Muvico

My mission last night was to hit the Muvico in Thousand Oaks. For those who don’t know it, the Muvico is probably the greatest single theater in Southern California. Everything is state of the art. It’s a larger-than-life, Las Vegas style Resort Theater.

Just don’t eat the junk food. More in a moment.

The Survey

The mission kicked off with a length phone call to Colin, detailing their selection of candies, drinks, frozen treats, popcorn, sodas, and junk food combos. As per usual, I was astounded by the prices. Can you believe that a 32oz paper cup of soda will now set you back $5.75? Preposterous! Can you believe a so-called large sack popcorn will now set you back $6.75? This is nothing shy of highway robbery. We are obviously dealing with evil, criminal minds here. This form of banditry ought to be against the law.

The dinner

Since it was well past 6:00pm, I had driven to Thousand Oaks straight from work, I forgot to pack a diner with me, and I had a $10 complimentary budget for goodies, I made the deadly mistake deciding to eat dinner at the concession stand. I should have gone upstairs to the Bogart Grill, but this would certainly have exceeded the $10 budget, and it would have made expense collection difficult for Colin. I should have just bought my own damn dinner. After all, my health is worth something.

After surveying the collection of junk food on the menu, I decided that the chicken tenders & curly fries looked like the least treacherous combo. This may indeed be true, but it is damning with faint praise. I couldn’t believe how terrible it was. I literally felt sick afterward. I had an upset stomach with heart burn. I didn’t finish, and I really should have ate less of it. In truth, I should have taken it back and demanded a refund. However, something inside me said “This is par for the course given this style of crap-food”.

Fried food doesn’t have to be absolutely terrible, but it does if you intend to make an obscene profit on it. Given the quality of the crud stuck on the chicken, I would guess their batter was at least 5 or 6 hours old. I would guess it had not been properly refrigerated either. Further, there is no telling how rancid the frying oil was. It must have been pretty far gone. Fresh peanut oil rarely produces a fry that tastes this bad. Based on how dry and overcooked the stuff was [it was hard and plastic-ish] I would guess the oil temperature was over 400 degrees during the cooking process. 350 to 375 define the sweet-spot for oil frying. You have to keep your oil inside those boundaries, or the product won’t be any good.

If there was a silver lining on this black cloud it is this: My gastric bypass surgery is coming up soon, and I will never, never be able to eat fried food like this again. Given this last experience with fried food, I am never going to miss it.

The mistake

I purchased a ticket for the Black Swan, and I was there way ahead of schedule to allow plenty of time for the price survey and dinner. As you know, I wasn’t feeling well after dinner. I actually wandered into the wrong theater at first.

Usually they kill you with 15 or 20 minutes of previews. The previews were already underway as I walked in. I was surprised at how quickly the movie began. It was actually 5 minutes before show time. This was my first tip-off that I was in the wrong place. When medieval priests began hanging witches, I was pretty sure that I was not viewing the Black Swan.

This was Season of the Witch, a movie utterly annihilated by the critics. Since I was well ahead of schedule, I figured I should watch the first 15 minutes. They didn’t do anything overtly terrible in opening sequence, so I am a little surprise this movie got destroyed by the critics as savagely as it did. Don’t read too much into my statement. Given another 15 minutes of footage, I might well have been annoyed and perturbed.

The Black Swan

For those who don’t know about the Black Swan, it is the movie currently garnering the greatest Oscar buzz. Come the Golden Globes and the Academy Award ceremonies, we should see this team walk off the stage with a lot of golden statues. [Editors note: This was written before the Golden Globes went down. Not much gold for the Black Swan.]

Folks, I don’t want to play coy with you or beat around the bush: I walked out of this movie after one hour of play. I was bored out of my skull. I kept waiting for the director to do something interesting. It never happened. I ran out of patients. He ran out of time. I never connected with this movie on any level. I never bought in. There was no place for me to get involved. After one hour of play, he was headed for parts unknown, and I didn’t care where. He was going somewhere, and I wasn’t going to go with him.

Sorry bitches, I give this one an F, for failure. Some would object, saying I didn’t finish the movie so I can’t issue a grade. Nope, you’re absolutely wrong there. You have to give me an incentive to finish. If you can’t hold my attention long enough to reach the finish line, you failed miserably. Black Swan now joins the ranks of ignominy that includes such films as Transformers #2 Revenge of the Fallen, Twilight New Moon, The Expendables, The A-Team, Season of the Witch, and most recently: The Green Hornet. I walked out of all of these.

So why didn’t this movie work for me? It’s way too New York. It’s way too high society. It’s way too artsy-fartsy. It’s way too chick-flicky. It’s way too shee-shee. It’s way too posh-posh. You do realize that this is a fucking movie about Ballet Dancers doing Swan Lake? The only dramatic question he presented in the first hour is how long it would take the half-fag dance-director to bang the Prima Donna. If you bought that, I have a bridge on the moon I would like to sell you. Did you really think I would enjoy this movie?

I knew there would be problems the moment I reviewed the audience. The place was filled with post-menopausal women wearing lots of diamonds and pearls. They looked like they were dressed for a social function. I was the only dude there, and I was wearing a Chris Long #72 Jersey. I was quite out of place, I assure you.