The Sound of Silence
Depending on who you ask, reactions to the idea of talking during a movie tend to be mixed. Some people feel like it’s perfectly fine, others feel there should be a special level of hell for violators of the “Silence is Golden” theatre policies. Some people don’t mind so long as what’s being said is funny or subtle, and some people prefer watching movies at home for the exact reason that they’re at greater liberty to speak/eat loud snacks/go to the bathroom, among other things. Ask me sometime about my idea of splitting movie theaters into “making out” and “non-making out” sections so that the lip aficionados don’t interfere with the film aficionados, and vice versa.
While plenty of people consider themselves amateur movie-talkers, only a handful get to go professional. The most widely-known (and perhaps most successful, though not the first) example is Mystery Science Theatre 3000, an 80’s-90’s television show centering on mocking or “riffing” on bad science fiction films. The food-for-thought du jour, then, is whether the quality of the movie makes it more legitimate for vocal disruption.
For example, when I saw Mamma Mia! at LSC, I probably would have been more miserable than merry if the film hadn’t been presented in sing–along format, and in much the same vein, if I’d had to watch Plan 9 From Outer Space, a key contender for “Worst Movie Ever Made,” without the former MST3K cast riffing on it (live), I probably could have lost my mind. If you think I’m joking, try walking around with your inner elbow to your face Dracula–style for an afternoon and see if anyone you interacted with that morning still thinks you’re normal. For those of you who haven’t seen Plan 9, let’s just say that the filmmakers chose a less–than–brilliant means of dealing with the death of Bela Lugosi during shooting.
At the same time, even though the MST3K cast had the blessing of the audience to talk during the movie, one person (“That Guy”) seemed to believe mistakenly that he did, as well. We relieved him of that assumption by the time the trailers were over, but it’s nonetheless worth noting that, contrary to what one might expect, even a group of people intent on listening to people talk during a movie have standards for what they will and won’t allow. Professionals talking for entertainment good, That Guy talking for self-aggrandizement bad, and so on.
Other parties with potentially legitimate reasons for talking during a movie are those directly related to the film, a la cast and crew commentary. Depending on how excited a person gets over behind–the–scenes information or listening to actors talk like themselves, one might find commentaries incredibly entertaining or incredibly dull. Personally, I like commentaries, but I can understand how some might not care for what’s basically talking heads without the heads.
And, of course, some commentaries are more entertaining than others. The interaction of personalities is one possible draw — the film adaptation Holes has a commentary by the young stars of the film, and half a dozen teenage boys in the same room is bound to be entertaining in one way or another. Alternately, sheer deliberate uniqueness can make a commentary worth hearing — Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog has a musical commentary, which I’m hoping will become common practice if only because the thought of a horror movie being punctuated with sprightly song from the hapless victims strikes me as mildly hilarious.
I confess, I have often been guilty of talking during a movie, but in my defense, it’s usually relevant to the movie. Usually. Granted, my moviegoing companions aren’t always interested or amused, but I feel like whispering film trivia to a friend (as opposed to proclaiming to everyone in a three-seat radius my digestive response to what I had for dinner) has to have some legitimacy, at least in relative terms. Movie purists may disagree out of a desire for complete lack of distraction, but then you’re looking at a ten–dollar trip to the movies just to be silent and antisocial. I could stand outside Fenway Park in a Yankees cap and get basically the same experience, keeping my ten bucks but forfeiting all protection against grievous bodily harm. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work to do. Daddy Day Camp isn’t going to laugh at itself, you know.