The Movie Diary: Call me maybe
By Dom Cioffi
Arts Correspondent | February 27,2013
Scientists and philosophers have been studying the phenomenon of consciousness for centuries, and while profound strides have been made to better understand the “I” that we all experience, it still remains one of life’s greatest mysteries. I go through phases where I ingest any and all information related to this subject, whether its advances in MRI imagining that point to the foundations of consciousness or thousand-year-old practices of mindfulness that help focus consciousness.
I’m also intrigued how levels of consciousness vary between individuals. Some people seem to walk around in a semi-conscious haze while others appear hyper-aware of everything in their presence. I’d like to think that I’m on the latter part of that spectrum. When I walk into a new environment, my eyes immediately start scanning, taking in as much information as possible. I want to be completely aware of my surroundings — the sounds, the smells, the colors, etc.
My father-in-law, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. When he walks into a room, he couldn’t care less who was there or what was happening. Subsequently, we call him Mr. Magoo because of his compete disregard for the world around him.
And while this bumbling approach to life can appear endearing at times, I’ve also seen his semi-conscious state infuriate strangers when he inadvertently bypasses them in a line or cuts them off in traffic. His seemingly oblivious nature has taught me that some people simply aren’t as aware as others. He doesn’t do this to be rude or mean; it just doesn’t occur to him.
I was forced to remember this recently while I was in a theater watching this week’s feature, “Dark Skies.” The movie centers on a middle-class American family that begins to notice strange phenomena occurring within their home during the night. Eventually they realize that something “otherworldly” is responsible.
The film was delivered in a believable fashion and had its fair share of tension and uncertainty. Unfortunately, when the climactic moment of the story arrived, everything fell apart. But I cannot blame the film in this instance since something entirely unrelated was responsible for the demise.
Here’s the scenario: The film is approaching its apex with everyone in the audience on edge. The music is intensifying; the lighting is growing ominous. As the beautiful mom is inching down a dark hallway with a knife raised in hand, the viewer suddenly becomes aware of a mysterious figure lurking just behind her. There it is — the first look at the creature who has been terrorizing the helpless family; an obvious alien life form with gangly appendages and a long, almond-shaped head. Its features are disguised by the nighttime shadows, but it is no less horrifying as a silhouette.
At this point in the film, I am completely enveloped in the story. These are the moments that make me love motion pictures — those precious minutes where I cease to exist and my consciousness is one with the action on screen. Depending on the quality of the film, this can happen for a short time or for the entire length of the movie. In the case of “Dark Skies,” my disbelief was beautifully suspended.
And then some guy’s cellphone goes off.
In this day and age, it’s hard to forgive anyone whose cellphone rings in a theater. There are signs everywhere, and prior to the film’s start a special notice is displayed on the screen with a booming voice stating, “Please silence your cellphones now!”
But honestly, it’s just common sense.
Nevertheless, this guy’s cellphone rings, which completely rips me out of the drama of the film. As I stated earlier,
I’ve gotten better about giving people the benefit of the doubt, so while I was irritated, I opted to refocus on the film and not this gentleman’s indiscretion.
But just as I was implementing this forgiving attitude, he actually answered the phone!
I’m not lying. It was as if he was sitting at home in his living room. “Hello? Hey, what’s going on? Uhhh, I’m watching a movie. What are you up to?”
I am in shock at this point and completely removed from the action of the film. I keep trying to look back at the screen, but then every bit of my attention is drawn to this guy’s conversation, not only because of his level of rudeness, but also because of the volume of his voice. I’ve been going to the movies every week for 19 years, and I have never had this happen. I’ve heard phones go off and listened to kids have inappropriately loud conversations, but never anything as rude as this.
In the end, I resisted saying anything, but another guy sitting just behind me didn’t restrain. “Are you kidding me, dude?!” he shouted.
I caught the look on the guy’s face who was on the phone, and it was one of complete shock. He was obviously taken aback by the reprimand and unaware that his actions would be construed as annoying.
So, while the kind warnings are copious in every theater in the world, let me restate for those whose level of consciousness may be somewhat stunted: If you’re going to the theater (or any social event), please silence your phone. That ring (or ridiculously inappropriate conversation) could ruin the experience for the rest of the crowd.
A disrupted “C+” for “Dark Skies.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.