Movies require logic in order to succeed. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri lacked that logic.

The thing that upsets me most about a film is a failure of logic. 

A movie is supposed to transport the audience to another world. At its best, it should make us almost forget our own world. I brought Charlie to Paddington 2 a month ago. In the middle of the movie, he bolted upright in his seat and shouted, "Wo! I almost forgot who I was!" 

I loved this moment so much. What he really meant was that he forgot where he was. In his mind, he was existing within the movie. 

That is magic.

This is why we cry at scenes that our objective minds know never happened. Two people - actors who we've already seen pretending to be other people in other movies -are pretending to be two people in a moment that never actually happened.

We know all this, yet still we weep. 

This is what makes stories great. It's what makes movies great. It's magic.

A failure of logic destroys that magic. When something illogical happens in a movie, you find yourself wondering questions like:

Why did that happen?
Why did she do that?
Isn't anyone in this movie going to notice this?
Why don't they just do that?

The magic is broken. I don't get to almost forget who I am. Instead, I find myself wondering what is wrong with these people.  

I watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri last night with Elysha. A film that scored a number of Academy Award nominations and a handful of victories. 

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Boy did I love the performances in that movie. Woody Harrelson the most.

Boy did I hate that movie.

Why? Logic. Or a lack thereof. 

Without giving away any spoilers, below is a list of fallacies of logic that ruined the possible magic of the movie for me. They are the fallacies of logic that I believe should've ruined the movie for everyone.

  1. Police stations have back doors. All buildings have back doors. This is a basic fire safety requirement. No building in the world has a single exit. Especially a public building. 
  2. People who commit assault - in some cases multiple times - are prosecuted for their crimes. This includes assault against dentists, teenagers, salespeople, secretaries, and former police officers. You don't get to walk through the world unscathed and unfettered after brutally assaulting other human beings repeatedly. 
  3. Crime victims and their assailants are not placed in the same hospital room during their recovery.  
  4. Police officers whose employment has been terminated are not encouraged to return to station late at night after everyone has gone home in order to retrieve their mail using keys that no one has bothered to collect. Also, do police stations ever really close? Even in a small town, doesn't someone answer calls at all hours?
  5. People who are dying and leaving behind a beloved wife and small children don't spend large sums of money on amusing acts of petty revenge. They leave that money for their family.  

For all of these reasons, I never believed this movie. At every turn, I found myself saying:

"What? This makes no sense?"

At that point, I was no longer captivated by the magic of the film. I was distracted by the obvious fallacies of logic. 

Movies also are permitted a coincidence, but they only get one. One coincidence per film. More than one coincidence causes the audience to wonder what the hell kind of world these characters are inhabiting. More than one coincidence reminds the audience that this story isn't real. It was written by human beings who chose to manipulate events in a way that feels unreal and dishonest.

More than one coincidence makes it feel like the writers cheated, because they did.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri relies on a hell of a lot of coincidence. More than the permitted one. 

The movie was also nominated for best screenplay.

That makes no sense to me.  

The performances were brilliant. The cinematography was top notch. I loved the score.

But the screenplay? No. You don't get to put a police station in your movie with no back door and be nominated for an Academy Award. You don't get to create a world where assault goes ignored again and again and be considered great. 

Movies require logic. This movie did not have any. 

Just one writers opinion. 

7 things that we all agree should exist but still don't. Unless you're four years old.

Seven things that we all agree should exist and are within our power to bring into existence but still don't.

  1. A vacation from a vacation
  2. The four day work week
  3. The elimination of all dress codes
  4. Cellular telephone jamming technology in every movie theater
  5. Decent rest areas along the Saw Mill and Taconic Parkway
  6. Five more seasons of The Office
  7. A national holiday on the Monday following the Super Bowl

We all yearn for these things that seem within our reach and are yet so far away. 

Except for my son.

This was the start of his vacation after a vacation. 
He also has a zero day work week, and he doesn't work on the Monday following the Super Bowl.

Being four years-old is amazing. 

My son is starting to like Star Wars. Also, he calls it Star Whores, which led me to Ken and his dad.

Charlie is starting to come around to Star Wars. His sister is not a fan (only because the boys at school love Star Wars), so he has assumed the same position out of blind loyalty. But he is beginning to crack. 

  • He likes R2-D2 a lot. 
  • We are constantly battling with our faux lightsabers. 
  • He recently saw a photograph of Chewbacca and asked me lots of questions about him.  

Eventually we'll watch the films together and enjoy them.

Another thing that will sadly change in regards to Charlie  and Star Wars (but hopefully not too soon): He doesn't call the movie Star Wars. 

He calls it Star Whores. It's hilarious.

Out of curiosity, I looked to see if there is a movie called Star Whores.

Of course there is. Actually, it was the an adult sci-fi comedy pilot that never went beyond a pilot. The IMDB description of the show goes like this:

Follows the adventures of Commander Nymphette and her droid, Six-of-Niner, aboard the SS Deep Thruster.

Reading the IMDB page for this TV series is quite entertaining. I won't share all of the amusing tidbits found on the page except for these two:

  • The producer of the film is listed as "Big Jim."
  • Special effects on the film are credited to "Ken and his dad."

Strikes me as a tad informal.

For the record, I also have an IMDB page (which I rate as one of my greatest accomplishments ever). I'm listed as a writer for the film Unexpectedly, Milo, which is currently under development. 

I'm hoping that someday soon, we will move past development and into production. And with people other than Big Jim and Ken and his dad.

It's better to love because it makes you better than other people, which is extremely satisfying.

I have friends who didn't like the new Star Wars film. Despite admitting that there were moments of enjoyment while watching the movie, they nitpicked it to death after the fact and declared the whole thing a failure.

I think they're crazy. 

I embraced my inner child (which is admittedly a sizable part of my interior) and adored every bit of the film. It made me feel like a boy again. It brought back memories of sitting in the carpeted aisle at The Stadium in Woonsocket, Rhode Island in 1977 and seeing Star Wars for the first time. My heart soared at the appearance of Han Solo. I felt absolute joy upon seeing the X-Wing fighters fly into battle for the first time. I experienced genuine heartbreak at moments that will go unmentioned here in case you haven't seen the film yet.

But I didn't try to argue with my friends about the greatness of the movie. I didn't attempt to convince them that they were wrong. I didn't defend my opinion in any way. 

Why?     

I'm always extra happy to discover that I love something that someone else cannot.

Never be embarrassed about the things that you love. If you adore the music of Justin Bieber, then the world is a little brighter for you than it is for me. If you think Taco Bell makes the best tacos in the world, then you have inexpensive, readily-available, world class food available at thousands of locations across America. 

Lucky you. 

It's a wonderful feeling to know that you're living in a bigger, brighter, more beautiful world than the next person. 

 

The best use of cell phone jamming technology is not being utilized, and I don’t understand why.

In an attempt to ensure safe driving conditions during his commute to work, a Florida man used a cell phone jammer in his car to keep nearby motorists off their phones. 

After two years, Metro PCS reported to the FCC that every day for two years their cell towers had experienced unexplained interference near a stretch of I-4 between Seffner and Tampa during the morning and evening commutes.

The FCC investigated and detected wideband emissions coming from a blue Toyota Highlander SUV belonging to cellphone vigilante Jason R. Humphreys. Humphreys admitted that he was using the jammer, and this week the feds slapped him with a $48,000 fine.

I understand why motorists should not be allowed to use a cell phone jammers. Not only can these jammers interfere with 911 and law enforcement communications, but passengers are free to use cell phones in automobile, and some motorists use their cell phones as GPS devices.

What I don’t understand is why we aren’t deploying jamming technology in movie theaters. Why can’t each individual theater include a cell phone jammer to keep the idiots off their phones during the film? I know many people who no longer go to the movies because of the idiots who text and sometimes even place phone calls during movies. Eliminating the ability to use these devices inside the theater seems like the best use of a cell phone jammer ever.
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If you need the phone, go to the lobby. Go to the restroom. There was a time, not so long ago, when going to the movies meant disconnecting from our friends, family and babysitters completely during the duration of the film.

Is it unreasonable to ask that we maintain this same level of disconnection within the actual theater?

Would any rationale person object to the jamming of cell phones inside the theater?

Can someone please make this happen? Or at least create an app that identifies movie theaters where cell service is spotty or nonexistent?

Stop the madness. Allow cell phone jamming technology inside movie theaters.

Software company Toluna QuickSurveys polled 2,000 adults from across the United States, asking them in an online questionnaire about less than savory behaviors. Included in the results was this:

Nearly 60% leave their cell phone on at the movie theater. Females were more likely than men to neglect the off button, at 75% compared to less than 40% for men.

I’m not surprised.

Cell phones have become a scourge of movie theaters. Idiots who can’t stay off their phones for two hours have ruined the movie going experience for many. 

People suck when it comes to their phones.

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There is a solution:

Legalize the use of cell phone jamming technology in movie theaters in order to stop these morons from their infantile behavior.

Other than a few lunatics who would claim that they need their cell phones available at all times in case of an emergency (what did these people do 15 years ago when they didn’t own a cell phone?), is there any downside to jamming cellular signals while inside a movie theater?

I don’t think so.

The technology exists. It’s simple to deploy. Why not use it?

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Why would anyone ever oppose this idea?

I know of at least one movie theater that has no reception inside one of its theaters simply because of where it’s located within the building, but people continue to fill those seats without complaint (and probably rejoice the freedom from these morons on their phones).

Many auditoriums in my school district possess a similar lack of reception.

What’s the difference between a theater with no cellular service because of unintended construction specifications and a theater that jams cellular service for the enjoyment of those who want to attend the movie?

With some easy-to-purchase equipment, movie theaters could disable cellular technology completely, preventing idiots from texting, making phone calls, accessing social media platforms and more.

Seriously, why hasn’t this happened already?

Love me a drive-in movie

It’s the 80th anniversary of the drive-in movie theater. From LIFE magazine:

It’s been 80 years since a New Jersey auto-parts store manager named Richard Hollingshead Jr. hit upon the idea of a drive-in theater. The wonder of Hollingshead’s concept, of course — as with all of the world’s greatest, most inspired, most life-affirming inventions — is that, despite how obvious it seems in retrospect, no one had thought of it before. Or, if anyone did think of it before, they hadn’t bothered to get a patent on the idea, as Hollingshead did on May 16, 1933. And no one had the wherewithal to actually envision, build and then open to the public this modern marvel, as Hollingshead and three other investors did when they cut the ribbon on the world’s first drive-in movie theater in Camden, New Jersey, on June 6, 1933.

On the anniversary of that landmark night 80 years ago, LIFE.com offers a series of photos celebrating the ingenious confluence of two of America’s abiding obsessions: movies and cars.

At the height of its popularity, there were more than 4,000 drive-in movie theaters throughout the country. Today less than 400 remain in business.

There are three within 30 minutes of my home.

Pleasant Valley Drive-In Southington Drive-In Mansfield Drive-In

When I tell this to people who live in Connecticut, they are often surprised. Three drive-in movie theaters within half an hour of their homes and no one seems to know.

I don’t understand it.

I consider these drive-in movie theaters a blessing.

When I was a boy, my parents took us to the drive-in movie theater in Mendon, Massachusetts. It is one of two drive-in movie theaters in Massachusetts that remains open today. When I was a child, the theater charged by the person, so my father would stuff us into the trunk and sneak us in to save a few bucks.

Today the theater charges $25 per car.

No sneaking in anymore.

Mendon Twin Drive-In

We would always arrive extremely early and eat a picnic dinner before the show. We’d toss a football around in front of the massive screen and watch the stars appear in the sky, one by one, until it was dark enough to show the first movie.

When the film began, we’d climb atop the hood of the car and lean back against the windshield, wrapped in sleeping bags. If the temperature dropped too low, my father would start the car and warm us up by the heat of the engine.

There was also a drive-in theater called The Rustic in North Smithfield, Rhode Island that showed rated X movies. The screen directed away from the street, tempting passersby to try to catch a glimpse of that film as they sped down route 146. The Rustic is also still in operation today, though apparently they have dispensed with their more racy film choices.

rustic drive in

When Clara was an infant, Elysha and I spent our summer at the drive in, watching movie after movie while she slept soundly in the backseat. We saw more than 20 movies that year, exceeding my goal of a dozen and proving to naysayers that a child did not spell the end to our movie going past time.

Clara is four years old now and considers almost every movie, regardless of age range, too frightening to watch, so it might be a while before we bring her and Charlie back to the drive-in.

Ninjas to the rescue. Seriously.

I enjoy the movies a lot, but I have begun to enter movie theaters with great trepidation, knowing that it takes just one moron to ruin the experience.

The idiots who text during the movie are bad enough, and the people who actually make and receive calls on their cell phones make the experience untenable.

Then there are the extreme, albeit seemingly common, cases:

On Valentines Day this year, I found myself sitting next to a couple and their infant. The baby was noisy, cried at least twice, and at one point the couple changed the baby’s diaper while still sitting in their seats.

I don’t care what anyone says. Infants do not belong in movie theaters.

Then there was the toddler sitting in the front row for Cloverfield until the parents finally decided to act responsibly and remove their terrified child from the theater. 

There was the roving band of teenagers who I had to threaten in order to convince them to leave and the time I rallied an entire theater of moviegoers against two women who would not shut up.

All I ask is to watch a movie in peace and quiet, but people seem so willing and capable of screwing this up.

Unfortunately, movie theaters do little to prevent these distractions even as they watch their ticket sales decrease year after year. They have no policy against bringing a baby into a theater and they rarely monitor the behavior of their patrons as they are watching the film. And even if a person wants to complain, it means missing a significant portion of the movie to do so.

I’m happy to report that someone is finally doing something about this problem, and the solution is almost too good to be true:

Ninjas defending your right to a quiet, distraction-free theater.

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The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square has joined forces with Morphsuits — a manufacturer of skin-tight zentai suits — to launch an army of volunteer "cinema ninjas" who get to watch the movie for free in exchange for donning a black body suit and pouncing on misbehaving moviegoers from behind the cinema's shadows.

The "ninja taskforce" stunt has been met with critical acclaim, and was recently picked up by two other British movie theaters.

While I would prefer that the ninjas be professionals, capable of actually removing unwanted patrons from the theater (and inflicting a modicum of  pain in the process), this is at least a step in the right direction.  

It’s also the only step I’ve ever seen any movie theater to ensure that their customers enjoy a disturbance-free experience.

I have a few suggestions as well:

  1. Install cellphone jamming devices in a designated number of theaters in the establishment and declare them phone-free zones. Even though people went to movies, plays, concerts, sporting events and monster truck shows for decades without the benefit of immediate access to the outside world, I understand that some people feel the need to be connected to babysitters and other outside entities at all times in the event of an emergency. I think it’s a little crazy, but I’m willing to accommodate their need. Place jamming devices in half of the theaters and make the rest jammer-free.

  2. Prohibit infants from all movie theaters except for those showing rated G films.

  3. Prohibit all children 5 years old and younger from all movie theaters after 6:00 PM except for those showing rate G films.     

I think these three suggestions are reasonable in scope and would be fairly simple to enact and would be greeted with near-universal appreciation.

Most important, these three steps (in addition to heavily armed ninjas) would go a long way in providing movie theater patrons the kind of experience that the high cost of a movie ticket should guarantee. 

Tickets prices and fatherhood are not the reasons that I see fewer movies today

TIME reports that “Last summer’s blockbuster movie season was considered a bust, with the fewest movie tickets sold at theaters since 1997. Despite recent hits such as “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” by the time Labor Day rolls around, the summer of 2012 will fare even worse.”

TIME attributes this loss to the rising cost of tickets. While ticket prices may play a role, the average ticket price in the US in 2012 is $8.12. In 1995 it was $4.35.

Has $4 really created a barrier to keep audiences out of the theaters?

Maybe.

I haven’t seen as many movies this year as in previous years, but there is one primary reason why my attendance is down:

A decline in the quality of the movie-going experience

Patrons using cell phones during the film and bringing babies into the theater have created an untenable movie experience for me. While I am still willing to risk these two potential distractors in order to see a movie that I am excited about, I am far less likely to risk two hours of my life on on a less appealing movie if I’m concerned about being confronted by a person texting or talking  in the middle of the movie or a baby sitting next to me.

It’s that simple. These inconsiderate idiots have ruined the movie-going experience for me.

I’ll also add that the lack of television viewing, combined with the fact that everything I watch is time-shifted, has also resulted in my complete lack of awareness over what is playing at the movie theater. There was a day when I would see a movie trailer on television and potentially become excited about the film. Today I only see movie trailers while watching sports, which is the only television program I watch that is not time shifted.

For me, the issue has less to do with cost and much more with the inconsiderate morons who I find myself sitting beside at an alarming rate. When movie theaters are ready to get serious about the actual movie-going experience by eliminating infants from the theater and finding ways to reduce cell phone use (I would not be opposed to the use of a cell phone jammer inside every movie theater), then I will return to the movies with the frequency that I once enjoyed.

I questioned why there were young children at the Aurora theater, and there was nothing wrong with me doing so.

In a piece entitled Stop Wondering Why There Were Young Children At The Aurora Theater, author Lisa Belkin asks “What is it that led so many people to dwell on a question of parenting when so many more sweeping questions loomed?”

I would like to answer Lisa Belkin’s question.

We dwell on the question of parenting when so many more sweeping questions loom because human beings are capable of thinking about more than one thing at a time.

We can grieve for the dead and for those who lost loved ones in this tragedy.

We can send positive thoughts to the survivors and hope that they find peace in this time of tragedy. 

We can question our nation’s gun laws.

We can demand change.

And yes, we can also worry about infants and small children who are brought to a midnight showing of a Batman movie, because as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and teachers, it is our natural instinct to worry about children, and this can include worrying about the wisdom behind exposing small children to a violent film in the wee hours of the morning.

As avid movie goers who want to watch a film undisturbed, we can even find the mental capacity to protest the presence of these children in our theaters simply on the grounds that it is inconsiderate to our fellow patrons.  

Like most human beings, I am not a single minded organism. My thoughts need not occupy only one stream of consciousness. I am capable of thinking and feeling and even acting upon more than one thing at a time.

It’s true. As the parent of a three year old and a two month old, and as an elementary school teacher with fifteen years on the job, my thoughts eventually drifted to the presence of children in that theater and the wisdom of parents who made the decision to bring them, not because they might be exposing their children to a potential gunman, but because it’s at minimum a questionable parenting decision. I did not contact these parents directly or wish any more suffering upon them than they have already endured, but as a human being who cares deeply about kids, this is one of the many aspects of this tragedy where my thoughts settled in the wake of the tragedy.

Perhaps the fact that this is a subject that I wrote about earlier this year influenced the direction that my thoughts took. This was not a new issue for me. 

I even took the time earlier this year to investigate the problem and write about it.

Twice.

So do me a favor, Lisa Belkin. Don’t tell me what I should and should not wonder about, because I am perfectly capable of wondering about many, many things at the same time, including why you might think otherwise.