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Tuesday, January 03, 2006 
brokeback mountain
first off, let me say that the film is excellent and worthy of all the hype. this isn't just some movie about gay cowboys; it's an epic, tragic love story that really makes you empathize with its characters—not just ennis delmar and jack twist, but their families, whose lies are also torn apart by the lies that ennis and jack must tell. the performances are great and after this, nobody will be talking about ang lee's previous film, the horrible misstep that was the hulk.

and the theatre was sold out! it's a great sign that a movie like this would do so well, even in relatively backward markets like indianapolis. we arrived at 4pm for the 4:15 showing, only to see a long line in front. almost immediately, the general manager announced that the 4:15 showing was sold out, but we stayed in line and bought tickets for th 5pm showing. virago noted that there seemed to be a lot of cutting in line, more than she'd ever seen. i posited that this was a result of the theatre's snooty northside location: the people who shop at the fashion mall are not used to doing plebian things like standing in line.

by 4:10 we had our tickets, then grabbed some refreshments and queued up in the next line, waiting to be admitted into the actual theatre itself. we probably waited 40 minutes, as the place was packed with people wanting to see brokeback mountain, and we wanted to get good seats. eventually we were admitted, and the theatre filled up. at first i was afraid that the people around us wouldn't shut up, but they did, and at 5pm the trailers began, a welcome reprieve from the banal "indie guy" shorts that were playing before the movie began.

most of the way through the film, right before 7pm, something strange happened. the screen went black and an alarm began to sound. for a brief moment i thought this might actually be part of the movie, but of course it wasn't. an automated voice came over the loudspeaker and announced that an emergency had taken place in the building; that emergency personnel should go do their thing and the rest of us should evacuate.

just like the flock of sheep that jack and ennis tended that summer on the mountain, we moviegoers herded ourselves out of the theatre and back into the halls of the mall. the alarm was still loud and the blue lights still flashed, but nobody really seemed to be evacuating. rather upset by the interruption in the middle of a good movie, virago & i hung around nearby and eventually went back, where we were waved back into our theatre. many of the other moviegoers were making their way back too, though some surely left, angered by the experience.

the weather had been stormy (yes, good old midwestern weather: thunderstorms in january), so i had wondered if the storms could be the cause for alarm, but it didn't seem to be that rainy. i told virago that i would be surprised if we got an explanation. soon someone showed up to tell us that as soon as the alarm was shut off, the movie would resume right where we'd left off. after 10-15 minutes total, the alarm was off and the movie did resume, though not quite at the same place. i don't know how much we missed—probably just a minute or two, but it was a bit confusing and i'm still not totally sure what was going on during that scene. i don't think we missed too much, though.

at most another 10 minutes later, the alarm went off again and the screen went black once more. this time, we knew not to go anywhere. quickly someone came around to tell us that we would get to see the rest of the movie, and we would also be compensated for the inconvenience. this elicited applause from the crowd, who were justifiably upset but also very understanding. we were also given what i thought we would not: an explanation. apparently one of the popcorn machines was setting off the fire alarm. i was impressed that they actually told us what was going on (or, at least, a believable story in which the theatre was at fault... now that's good public relations). a couple minutes later the general manager showed up and profusely apologized for the inconvenience, asking whether we wanted to finish watching the movie or just get free passes to come back some other time. everyone wanted to see the last of the movie, though we were a little concerned that they would try to back out of their earlier promise to compensate us in addition to seeing it all.

soon enough, the lights dimmed and we watched the last 15 minutes or so of the movie. this time, it even started in the right place. and right as the movie ended, theatre employees were there handing out "cancelled show passes", little pink tickets that will give us free admission to a future movie (except when advertised as a "special" or "no-pass" engagement).

so all in all, it was my worst moviegoing experience in years. but the film was great, and the staff of the landmark theatre reacted to the crisis about as well as we could've hoped. we got to see 98-99% of a great film and got free passes to come back. so despite the bad experience, i don't harbor any ill will toward landmark theatres and will be perfectly happy to go back there in the coming months to go see something else.

and you should go see brokeback mountain. it's really good.

the hype kind of bummed me out - i was actually hoping that i could see this film in a theater full of rednecks that came for a cowboy movie but got more. a lot more. i just remember how much fun it was seeing throngs of disgusted senior citizens walking out of boogie nights... i doubt the same will happen for brokeback mountain. it's not due to open here for another couple of weeks and people already have their minds made up (via the opinions of folks like pat robertson or james dobson, natch).

hey, did you read larry david's "op-ed" piece in the new york times about brokeback? the man's hilarious. ¶

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