Showing all posts tagged: movies

Would watching films be more fun if smartphones were banned?

10 August 2023

Photo of a person looking at smartphone

Image courtesy of Startup Stock Photos.

Blockbusters such as Barbie and Oppenheimer have been a windfall for cinemas struggling as a consequence of the Covid lockdowns of recent years, and stories of packed auditoriums are surely good news.

But the news hasn’t been all good. In staying home to watch movies over the last few years, some film-goers appear to have forgotten their cinema etiquette. Reports have emerged of people taking phone calls, scrolling social media, and, incredibly, giving their children phones to amuse themselves should the main feature not be of interest.


While there might be a generation of young film-watchers to whom cinema-going is a new experience, that cannot be the case for their parents. And it seems only a couple of short years of viewing movies from home have been enough to make some forget how to behave at the movies.

Perhaps though, as people begin to come re-accustomed to seeing a film in a communal setting, their conduct will improve. But I wonder. For some time, years prior to the pandemic, I’d been noticing a change in the behaviour of cinema audiences.

While it now seems to be a granted people will glaze at their phones during a film, I would have thought they’d draw the line at taking, or making, calls during the screening. Of course there have always been issues with people arriving late, going in and out of the auditorium repeatedly, along with being baffled by allocated seating.

But talking on the phone during a movie? That’s a whole other level of film-watching misery.

I wonder though, how much of the audience behaviour problems we see today can be attributed to smartphones, and our umbilical-like dependency on them? In the past I’ve been to film preview screenings where we’ve had to leave our phones outside the auditorium, in a secure locker. This to prevent a yet to be released feature being recorded, and leaked.

For sure, it seemed strange to be temporarily separated from our phones, but I wasn’t aware of anyone suffering adversely as a result. These screenings were quite the spectacle though. Everyone, for the most part, sitting still for the duration, focussed only on the film. Of course most of those present were film critics or journalists, at what was effectively a work event.

Still, it’s tempting, if futile, to conject here. Imagine if everyone had to leave their phones at the box office, prior to sitting down to watch a movie. Sure, there’d still be people turning up late, sitting in someone else’s seat, and opening bags of food in the noisiest way possible. But if music festivals can operate phone-free, why can’t cinemas?

For the benefits, and audience comfort, of phone-free movie sessions though, sadly I can’t see any cinema even dreaming of imposing such a demand on customers. After the last few difficult years, movie house owners would be reluctant to do anything that might dissuade patrons.

Over the course of the pandemic, and the lockdowns, I became quite the fan of streaming films at home. Doing so certainly has downsides, such as the waiting time for some titles to become available for streaming, but at least we can engage in all those irritating film-goer behaviours I’ve described, without annoying anyone else.


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Ridley Scott blames oblong obsession for The Last Duel’s poor showing

26 November 2021

It seems Ridley Scott’s latest feature The Last Duel isn’t doing too well at the box-office, and the celebrated director is pointing the finger of blame at smartphones, and millennials apparent obsession with them:

“I think what it boils down to – what we’ve got today [are] the audiences who were brought up on these fucking cell phones,” Scott said. “The millennian, [who] do not ever want to be taught anything unless you told it on the cell phone… This is a broad stroke, but I think we’re dealing with it right now with Facebook. This is a misdirection that has happened where it’s given the wrong kind of confidence to this latest generation, I think.”

By that rationale though wouldn’t most movies, not just historical dramas, be doing poorly at the box-office?


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Robert Pattinson steps up as The Batman

18 October 2021

Ok so I’ve been a little sceptical about the upcoming (rebooted?) Batman film, The Batman (trailer), directed by Matt Reeves, and starring Robert Pattinson, as the dark knight. Must there be another Batman film? Isn’t there another story about someone else to tell? But from the teaser snippets I’ve seen so far, Pattinson seems to make for a fine brooding superhero. Zoë Kravitz stars as Catwoman, and Paul Dano as the Riddler. The Batman premieres on 4 March, 2022.


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Trailer for Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World”

15 October 2021

The Worst Person in the World (trailer), the latest work by Norwegian film director Joachim Trier, stars Renate Reinsve as a young woman named Julie who has trouble finding a balance between her love life and professional life. Peter Bradshaw, film writer for The Guardian described Trier’s feature as an instant classic. The Worst Person in the World screens three times as part of the Sydney Film Festival in early November.


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The Power of the Dog, by Jane Campion

14 October 2021

The Power of the Dog, the latest film by Sydney based New Zealand director Jane Campion stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank, a rancher living in the American state of Montana in the nineteen-twenties.

When his brother George (Jesse Plemons) marries the widowed Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a furious Phil takes to tormenting Rose, and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Quite abruptly though, he seems to soften his stance, and begins warming to Peter. But is Phil’s change of heart sincere, or does he have an ulterior motive? The Power of the Dog screens at this year’s Sydney Film Festival on Friday, 5 November.


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The French Dispatch, by Wes Anderson

13 October 2021

The French Dispatch is the twentieth (or so) film by prolific American filmmaker Wes Anderson, and will be the closing feature of this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Set in the offices of a fictional American magazine, in a fictional French town named Ennui-sur-Blasé, the story follows the ins and outs of the paper’s journalistic staff.

Long time Anderson collaborators Owen Wilson and Bill Murray are among the star studded cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber, Saoirse Ronan, Jeffrey Wright, and Léa Seydoux. Count me in then for the closing night of the Sydney Film Festival.


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Petite Maman, the new feature by Céline Sciamma

12 October 2021

The Sydney Film Festival opens on 3 November 2021, and hopefully heralds a hopefully welcome return to seeing movies at the cinema, after months of COVID enforced lockdowns. To mark this momentous occasion over the next few days, I’ll be posting trailers for some of the films screening at the festival this year.

Petite Maman is the latest feature by French filmmaker Céline Sciamma, director of the exquisitely heartrending Portrait of a Lady on Fire. At first glance Petite Maman appears to be a story about two young girls who become friends, but as we learn one of the girls is the mother of the other, who through some quirk of space-time has moved through time as a child to meet her daughter.


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Here Out West, the Sydney Film Festival opening feature

11 October 2021

Here Out West, which screens on the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival, on 3 November 2021, is an anthology film, combining eight stories which merge into one feature. Set over the course of a day, in Blacktown, a suburb in the west of Sydney, the story follows events precipitated by a woman who kidnaps her grandchild from a hospital, and goes on the run. Five directors, Leah Purcell, Fadia Abboud, Lucy Gaffy, Julie Kalceff, and Ana Kokkinos collaborated in the production of this feature.


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Is home streaming films the new normal cinema experience?

11 October 2021

People watching a home streaming film, photo by Yousaf Bhutta

Image courtesy of Yousaf Bhutta.

Life in this part of Australia, New South Wales, begins to return to some semblance of normal today. After months of lockdowns many residents will no longer be subjected to the restrictions they’ve become accustomed to recently. Cafes, bars, and cinemas are among a slew of businesses re-opening, which will be welcome news to many people.

While getting out to a cafe, and maybe a bar, is something I’ve been looking forward to, I’m not so sure about going back to the movies. And it’s not because of the possible risks of being seated in a confined space with several hundred people for two to three hours. If the past eighteen months has shown me anything, it is how convenient streaming films online is.

Home streaming films may not offer the big screen experience of a cinema, or the enjoyment of being out with other people, but it’s still going to be hard to walk away from. For one thing, you’re not bound to a schedule. If say you’re streaming the latest James Bond movie, the show starts exactly when it suits you, not someone else.

There’s also advantages I’d never thought of until we started streaming regularly. Unlimited pauses are one. Anything goes; there’s time to grab a snack, take a phone call, text someone, google a point of interest in the film that’s on, or tap in a few notes for the article I need to write for work tomorrow. And then there’s the in your own home comfort of the whole thing.

Imagine no inconsiderate fellow patrons, talking loudly, texting incessantly, scrolling their socials (with the screen set to maximum brightness of course), or making or taking phone calls mid-session without leaving the auditorium (I’ve seen it happen). And let’s not get started on noisy food wrappings, or people who don’t understand allocated seating.

Of course the comforts of our would-be home cinema causes me to feel some guilt. Staying home could have an impact on a cinema’s viability. Staff may have to be let go. Their bottom-line is still being affected even though I may be paying to watch films from said cinema’s stream service, but they’re missing out on my vital for them coffee and pop-corn purchases.

But who knows what might happen? In six months we may have traded the simple joys of watching movies at home for the big-screen, cinema auditorium extravaganza. Regardless, I think the post pandemic lockdown period will be pivotal for the cinema industry. And if the worst comes to the worst, it could be the home cinema will become a permanent feature after all.


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Barbara, by Mathieu Amalric… will the real Barbara stand up?

5 October 2021

How best to describe French actor and filmmaker Mathieu Amalric’s 2017 feature Barbara? A movie within a movie? So frequently do the lines between the real and the portrayed blur, it’s not always easy to tell.

Amalric, who also stars as a director making a bio-pic about a cabaret singer named Barbara, becomes enamoured with Brigitte, the actor portraying Barbara. But is it really Brigitte (Jeanne Balibar) he’s obsessed with, or her representation of Barbara? But he’s not the only person on set who’s confused. Brigitte, in learning what she can about Barbara, almost comes to believe she is the late cabaret singer.


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