Column: Movies, old and new, can be fun but lose the cell phone

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

My mother loved movies. After my father died, I came up with a plan. I would take my mother to the movies on a regular basis. I knew that Mom would enjoy getting out of the house and seeing a good film, but my reasons for doing this were not completely unselfish. You see, my wife and I enjoy watching movies very much.

Why, it is nothing for us to see one or two movies a year. We used to go to more back when we smooched during them. Looking forward to some enjoyable cinematic experiences, we took my mother to movies, but the plan did not work as well as I had hoped. It was difficult to find a movie to watch where I felt comfortable sitting next to my mother. I would search for a movie purported to be mild, yet interesting. In most cases, by the time we were five minutes into the movie, we had already heard more obscenity than I had ever heard in a lifetime of real life. I would slide down in my seat, unable to look my mother in the eye. I would end up on the floor, firmly stuck in the ooze and goo that had accumulated during a day of moviewatching.

I like movies. I prefer those with a plot, dialogue and character development. Such characteristics are more prevalent in what I think of as old movies. Much of these traits necessary to a proper movie have been replaced by vile language, violence and special effects. The special effects are amazing, so much so that at times I wish that I were wearing a seatbelt and a crash helmet. Imagination is no longer important while watching a movie; they show everything. This bothers me. Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. And I believe him because he was a regular Einstein.

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Oh, there are still good movies made. Many of the good ones are remakes of old movies. I love movies that make me laugh. My favorite movie is “Arsenic and Old Lace.” It stars one of my favorite actors, Cary Grant. Grant is right up there with Jimmy Stewart, Claudette Colbert, Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne when it comes to people who light up the screen for me. Yes, these are all actors from the past, but they are talented. I don’t want to live in the past, but it is a great place to visit. I love Laurel and Hardy. Give me a little Stanley and Oliver along with some Three Stooges’ shorts and I am a happy camper. “Groundhog Day” and “Beetlejuice” brighten my day.

I like movies in which I recognize the songs. I do enjoy the occasional tearjerker like the classic, “Penny Serenade” and others like “Old Yeller” and “Where the Red Fern Grows.” I like movies that I find myself thinking about weeks, months or years after I saw them. “Saving Private Ryan,” “Elmer Gantry” and “On Golden Pond” come to mind.

Recently, my wife and I went to see a movie that shall remain nameless. We sat down in our seats and watched the commercials. I would rather have subtitles than commercials. My neighbor Crandall hates movies with subtitles. He says that if he wanted to read, he’d buy a book instead of going to a movie. We were in a theater that offered more screens than my hometown has bathrooms. We were ready to make an afternoon of it as we had five bushels of popcorn and several swimming pool-sized containers of soft drinks.

I listened to the sounds of crunching popcorn coming from every direction. It sounded like cattle chewing hay. The movie wasn’t a very good one. It was something often called a “chick flick.” This one was so bad that my chick didn’t like it. She suggested that we leave. I wasn’t about to leave. I had a lot invested in the movie &045; $9 in Milk Duds alone. Moviegoers talked out loud throughout the movie. One guy was on his cell phone several times. They must have all been long distance calls, as he had to yell. I believe that everyone should be required to pass a test on manners before receiving a license to go to a movie theater. As the dreadful celluloid droned on, I had an epiphany. I realized that movie stars are no better and no smarter than the rest of us. They are just movie stars, just as someone else is a plumber or a waitress. The only difference is that movie stars can afford more plastic surgery.

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.