I went to the cinema yesterday

I went to the cinema yesterday, did I say that already? Anyway, I went and it was actually a little odd. It doesn’t really matter what I saw, although we will get to that later, because I didn’t really care what the film was. I just wanted to get back to doing what I love and I wanted to see how everything was being managed in light of the current situation. The idea with not particularly caring about the actual movie was that if I wasn’t comfortable then I could leave with little concern. Besides, there are no new releases yet so of the mix of twenty or so recent and classic films on offer across the week I had seen all but two of them already. Sonic the Hedgehog just missed selection. I should also mention that I have one of those unlimited membership cards so it wasn’t costing me anything either, apart from my time and possibly my health.

Well, I went to test the waters and I am pleased to say that they didn’t seem to be contaminated. I can’t speak for all of the chains but the one I went to (one of the smaller ones) appeared to have things in place pretty well. At the booking stage I found that they were selling seats in blocks of two with the two either side, in front and behind being left empty. It seemed to me, and this was confirmed when I arrived, that this would effectively keep people at a safe distance from one another.

There was actually a couple sitting right in front of me, I suspect they had moved to be more central to the screen and there was no one else in the row. It would have been nice if when I arrived just before the film started, they’d have moved to the seats they were sold but they were still a good metre away and they had their backs to me so any small risk was to them not me and I wasn’t coughing, sneezing or spluttering so no harm no foul. If it had been busy then people would have to walk past others to get to where they were sitting but it really wasn’t busy.

This is what was a slightly weird; there was barely anyone there. I’m used to going to the cinema early in the day and often have the screen to myself but this was a Sunday evening and there was not a soul in the foyer of the bar, beyond the three or four people working there. There were only about fifteen people in the screen as well. I walked in through the propped open front door, cleaned my hands at the automated sanitiser dispenser, showed my ticket to the guy, declined the invitation to buy any food and drink, walked down the deserted corridor, through another wedged door (which was closed and opened on our behalf at the start and end of the screening) and found my chair. The start times across the cinema had been staggered so I have no idea how many people were going in and out of Little Women and 1917 upstairs but it felt like a ghost town. Also, and this may have been all in my head, but the staff also seemed a bit too conscious of the small response they’d got from the local community on opening weekend. They welcomed me profusely when I arrived (I know I go a lot but I’ve not yet achieved my dream of them knowing me by name so this is not as normal as I’d like) and they repeatedly thanked me for coming as I left. I felt a tiny bit sad for them. They gave everyone free popcorn too but this might have just been to test if we were prepared to eat it with all those hands that had been in it.

It was also strange because everything like this, things that were once so normal, have become strange. Our parameters and perspectives have changed and, for good or for bad, it’s going to take a while to come back from that. I for one am now prepared to fight that battle in the cinema though and face the real test when Tenet opens and it there are crowds to navigate too.

So, it was my wish to return to the joys of life with Will Smith’s return in Bad Boys for Life. It certainly wasn’t poetry but it was diverting enough, just. Do you remember that spoof scene at the start of Robert Altman’s The Player when the guy is in the film producer’s office pitching The Graduate 2? That’s where it feels we are now with all the belated follow ups to previously dormant movie series. What would be the most unexpected franchise to restart? How about Bad Boys? Ha ha, funny. I don’t mean to be uncharitable but seriously, who was asking for this? Martin Lawrence you might suggest but that guy was happily living off the profits of Big Momma’s House 1, 2 and 3.

The parody extends into the film too. The movie feels like its riffing on all those series that created deep unnecessary, almost supernatural, mythologies in their later parts, stuff like John Wick and The Matrix. One of the characters in this gritty L.A cop drama is genuinely presented as a witch. It also does this by picking up on themes and legacy around the true nature of Smith’s Mike Lowry, grown from seeds that they never planted. It has backstory where it wasn’t there before and where it doesn’t fit.

I also don’t know why they didn’t make this in 2004, right after Bad Boys II, but they are pretending that they did racing ahead like sixteen years of genre progression never happened. It’s all rampant violence and fast cars without a hint of irony (maybe a hint). To be fair, there is a nod toward a modern social consciousness but that’s taking the piss too, only not deliberately. This may all be an unfair reading of a film I’m not the target market for but at the very least it has all turned into Lethal Weapon with Smith as Riggs and Lawrence as Murtaugh.

As I said at the start though, I’m not worried about on the fact that these guys are back. I’m focusing on the fact that I am and it was okay.

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