POSTED August 23 2012

My strangest screening experience. Yours?

Mark Wahlberg and eponymous toy in "Ted"

The great pleasure of watching movies on the big screen is that others share the experience, which can magnify it. For instance that night in 1983 I went to an all-media screening for Tootsie, which had negative advance word-of-mouth, and the sound of 1000 people roaring with laughter multiplied the laughs a thousandfold.

But sometimes seeing a film with others has the reverse effect. I’m mostly able to filter out the reactions of others, but certainly not the day I saw Claude Chabrol’s Violette with my parents. They wanted to go to the local art house and the choices were Autumn Sonata, about an estranged mother and daughter, and Violette, about real-life parricide. “Let’s go see Violette,” Mom insisted. “Wouldn’t want your father to feel left out.” So we did.  The experience of watching a teenage girl poison her parents while sitting next to my own was…curious, like killing your parents and having them, too.

Even curiouser: the 1997 press screening of Boogie Nights at the Toronto Film Festival. The positive buzz was deafening and there was a crush to find seats. I found one next to the late Ray Posel, owner of Philadelphia’s art house chain the Ritz theaters. And invited Roger Ebert to sit in the vacant seat on my right.  I’d seen dozens of films with each of them without incident, oblivious to their reactions.

Not that afternoon. From the moment porn director Burt Reynolds tells dishwasher Mark Wahlberg that he had a feeling there was something wonderful in the younger man’s trousers waiting to get out, Ray shrank in horror from the screen as Roger inched forward in his seat. It was almost comical. I felt like a seesaw fulcrum balancing them. I couldn’t filter out Ray’s disgust or Roger’s enthusiasm. I didn’t know what I thought of the film. Had to see it a second time in order to review it.

Curiousest: Last night , to my eternal embarrassment, I took my 16-year-old daughter and a friend to see Ted, another Mark Wahlberg movie. I knew it was raunchy, but not that raunchy. As I stifled laughter at the sight of telltale cocaine dust below the button nose of a plush toy, Daughter sat rigid in her seat. I enjoyed the movie, but every time I laughed I felt my daughter’s discomfiture at the inappropriateness of seeing this while sitting next to Mom.

Your strangest movie experience?




  1. Michael says:

    My most awkward moment has to be seeing “Black Swan” with my grandparents. They knew it was a dark movie about ballet but they didn’t know how dark/twisted it was. Let’s just say a certain scene had the three of us very uncomfortable.

  2. Stephen M. Silverman says:

    Taking my grandmother to “Cotton Comes to Harlem.”

  3. Alice says:

    Seeing explicit films with inappropriate viewing partners, particularly during one’s formative years, tend to stick in one’s memory. Seeing Leaving Las Vegas with my mom (I think I was 16 at the time) was no picnic. We had no idea what we were getting into, but it was recommended to me by one of the guys who worked at TLA Video (I took the words of these individuals as gospel as a youngster, and actually still do to this day). I also saw Boogie Nights in highschool with my best friend at the time, who happened to be a guy, and after it was over we couldn’t make eye contact for the rest of the night–awkward, to say the least.

  4. I suppose it was seeing Last Tango In Paris with my parents. I don’t like thinking about it. Dinner afterwards was awkward. Bonus, however, was that this happened in Rome where the film was called Ultimo Tango a Parigi, which seemed cool and has stayed with me. Also, I dislike the fact that when I tear up at movies (which is all the time), my daughter finds this funny.

  5. admin says:

    This is from Carrie: Can’t top you, Michael or Stephen, but I will say that having to explain “Blue Velvet” to my grandmother, 90. after she went to see it alone was a hoot. Grandma: “Such a nice title and with Ingrid Bergman’s daughter. But what was that man inhaling from those tanks?”

  6. Richard says:

    Having been told that it was acceptable for families, we went with friends to see 8 MILE, with a total of 5 kids between the ages of 9 and 13. As Eminem and Brittany Murphy were screwing up against the drill press my friend leaned over to me and said “When I was our kids age my parents took me to see “The Sound of Music….”

  7. Charles says:

    Top “Cries and Whispers” as a first date. Booya!

  8. Miz Val says:

    When my father was alive he and my mother use to go to the same AMC I would frequent.They always went on a Friday for the bargain 5p showing.There were several occasions I would run into them going into the same R-rated movie I just saw.I look at them and say to myself ..Really???

  9. Björn Flóki says:

    Possibly when my grandmother walked in when I was watching Point Break when I was 14. It was during the love scene between Keanu Reeves and short-haired Lori Petty. My grandmother gave a serious and pensive look before saying: “Aha. Is this one of those homosexual movies?”

  10. Gary Kramer says:

    My mother still have not forgiven me for taking her to see MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE. She was expecting a comedy–not a “stinging social comedy. Awkward in all kinds of ways.

  11. David Cohen says:

    1980, saw WOODSTOCK in a midnight showing at the Echelon Mall – bunch of folks from my high school scattered around the theater. When Sly and the Family Stone came on, some folks started chanting “disco sucks.” When some bearded Eastern holy man came on, his words of love and friendship were drowned out by a guy from my school standing up in front of the crowd, raising his fist and hollering, “F*ck Iran.” … not a great day for tolerance or diversity among my generation.

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