David Lynch once called film “a magical medium that allows you to dream in the dark.” Walking the carpeted hallways and miniature lobbies of a Times Square megaplex, then, is like stealing between people's private visions. I've paid $12.50 for admission into a movie theater with lax security, giving me freedom to roam the various screenings, and the movies I see constitute a Lynchian avant-garde composite. I glance at the audience’s faces before I sit. It’s comforting to see people laugh at the same time at the same punchline; comforting that an emotional majority can still be measured inside a multiplex.
Knights of Rod, I misread the marquee ticker for the first film
I sneak into. It’s about to start. But why does Rod get knights? Are
Bleached stock. A girl runs on the beach. Her father swings her in his
arms. Nobody is in armor on horseback. The Warner Bros. logo appears,
followed by jaunty folk-pop. Richard Gere and Diane Lane’s names appear
in the credits. The odds of spontaneous jousting decrease by the frame.
A title card reads, Nights in Rodanthe. Diane Lane’s husband is
there. He asks for her back. Her husband is not Richard Gere. I see
where this going. (Rodanthe, most likely.) At least I didn’t misread
the marquee-ticker’s abbreviation as Nights in Rod. And, I’m out.
Up the escalator, I duck into The ?Duchesslike Natalie Portman, but isn't. She gazes meaningfully at something on
a chair. The crowd has nearly audible conversations. “You must leave
and be with me,” a dashing actor says to Nearly Natalie. I see. The
game of discerning a plot and then leaving the theater is alarmingly
In Flash of Genius, some guy in the ’60s has apparently just invented
the windshield wiper. A crazy and mildly endearing notion. A true
story, probably. Which means he will succumb to either corruption or a
tragic fall (or both) before redemption. There is unmuffled yawning
nearby. A card appears on screen: “Four months later.” “Ford wants
out,” someone tells the Genius.
Eagle Eye, at least, engages. I walk in during a scene I remember from
the preview. The writing is tight: A mysterious, totalitarian entity
tells the leads to do stuff, wreaking havoc if they don't. A manic car
chase begins. A classical trope, but still exhausting. After the chase,
the filmmakers electrocute a character for good measure. This is the
only film I’ve seen today that seems conscious of its own power.
self-contained preview for Gus Van Sant’s ?Harvey Milk biopic, I feel
nothing. A nearby marquee-ticker announces Miracle at
Somethingsomething. I don’t bother to read the rest. I need a miracle,
whatever it is.
?Hollywood's manipulations to my own needs, but after all these movies
my emotions now run on shuffle.
Eventually, I find Burn After Reading, the Coen brothers’ latest. I’ve
seen it already, but now their voice—all the broken sentences and
borderline slapstick —shines through the smog. I stay for 20 minutes,
laugh a lot and finally relax.
When I leave, there’s machine gun fire from inside the Miracle movie. It fades as I descend the empty escalator.