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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Film reviewer and former occasional co-host of At The Movies (who, I've heard, will return as a regular reviewer on that show soon), Michael Phillips wrote an interesting article yesterday about the huge difference between the kind of round-house, near universal reaction to a funny or scary moment in a movie when seen with a theater audience vs watching it at home in the living room.


I remember being a kid sitting in a theater watching Psycho and being delighted by the sight of grown men rising from their seats and hearing the kind of screams from grown women that would be suitable at a real-life train crash when Norma Bates flew out of her bedroom to greet the detective at the top of the stairs, followed by everyone laughing their butts off about what they'd just experienced together.


There was the big, prolonged howls of laughter when Paul Newman's unarmed Butch Cassidy asked to go over the "rules" of a knife-fight with the giant guy who then said, "Rules? In a knife-fight? No rules!" and immediately got a swift kick in the nuts that brought him down before Newman could turn around and seal the deal with a double-fisted whack across the face. The laughs were so loud and prolonged, it was years later before most of us found out what the next two or three lines in the movie were.


But I'm not sure either of those moments would generate much of a reaction among people you know in the comfort of your living room.

Laughs and screams all around!

By Michael Phillips

August 20, 2009
http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune....king_pictures/
Quote:
We forget sometimes just how much a movie interacts with a crowd.


The other week I visited Michael Moore’s film festival in up in Traverse City, Mich., where writer-director Paul Mazursky was being feted. At the downtown State Theatre, with Mazursky in attendance and Jeff Garlin doing a Q&A afterward, the festival presented an excellent print of Mazursksy’s debut feature, “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” (1969), a film I’d never seen with an audience.


In the post-show talk, Mazursky told a story about how the studio execs, nervous about the comedy’s then-daring sexual content and unsure of the sly social satire (to say nothing of Robert Culp’s wardrobe), knew they had it in the bag when they held a sneak preview in Denver. The turning point, Mazursky recalled, came in the key early scene between a sexually frustrated Elliott Gould and his distraught wife, Dyan Cannon.


“You wanna do it like that, with no feeling on my part?” Alice (not in the mood) asks Ted (in the mood). After an exquisitely judged pause Gould deadpans: “Yeah.” And everybody broke up, women, men, ushers, everyone.


That moment detonated a huge laugh in Traverse City in 2009, same as in Denver, 40 years earlier.


A few weeks later, I’m back in Chicago and someone asks me about my most treasured memories of seeing movies with a big crowd. It was a good question. The most explosive burst of laughter and applause I’ve ever heard, mid-film, was for Buster Keaton’s waterfall rescue sequence in “Our Hospitality” (1923) in a revival at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, sometime in the mid-’80s. I’ve never forgotten it.


Best scream therapy? Seeing “Jaws” in the summer of 1975 and “Carrie” in the fall of 1976, when my high school-addled hormones were screaming every second of every day to begin with. Late show, Capitol Theatre, West Racine, Wis.: Some friends and I are on the sidewalk, in line for “Carrie.” The 7:30 show’s about to break when, from inside the theater, we hear this freakish roar, hundreds of people shrieking in terror and then laughing at their own screaming, and then the doors open and everybody comes out and some of them are still screaming, because the ending of “Carrie”—the gravesite visit finale, with the little flute melody playing on the soundtrack as Amy Irving leans down with the flowers—is the “gotcha!” ending to beat, still.


Well. By the time we got into the 9:30 show and began watching Brian De Palma’s maliciously manipulative classic (I love it still) we’d forgotten all about whatever was coming at the end. Until the end came. And the screams were louder than they were the summer before, when “Jaws” played for weeks and weeks and weeks.


It is a wonderful thing to see a film at home, with the distractions coming only from people you know, or from dogs who need to go out. It is more wonderful to me to see a film with others. You may feel differently.

Tell me. Share your memories of the biggest laugh you ever heard in a movie theater. And the biggest scream.

Seriously. When was the last time a moment in a movie was so funny or so scary people were still laughing, giggling, recovering from it or chatting about the experience all the way into the lobby?
 

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Hands down, DIE HARD. Sgt. Al Powell saved the day by blowing Alexander Gudonov away and 400 people went completely berzerk. Then when Bonnie Bedelia punched William Atherton (reporter Richard Thornberg) in the nose at the end of DIE HARD, it was like an orgasmic release. The audience, which had been in a virtual frenzy for two hours, just exploded in laughter and cheers. Then, he says, "Did you get that?" to the camera and it was just a complete hysteria of gut busting laughter followed by cheers and HUGE applause when the credits rolled that had everyone just buzzed and alive as they walked out. I'll never forget that experience. It was the sneak preview, where they showed the film one time the Saturday before the official release. No one knew what they were in for. How could they? I mean, Bruce Willis was that dude from Moonlighting! I was back a week later for the opening weekend, my sister and parents in tow and it was exactly the same. Before the film started, we were all in line and could hear the laughter and cheers through the doors. That got the waiting crowd worked up. Everyone knew right then and there they were going to see one hell of a movie. Two hours later it was 400 people in a frenzy that exploded with laughter and applause during those last minutes. To this day my parents say it was the best time they have ever had at the movies.


There have been some amazing experiences in theaters over the years, like DEAD AGAIN (the entire audience gasping in shock when the murderer is revealed), CROCODILE DUNDEE (an ending that had every cheering), THE NAKED GUN, GLADIATOR at the Ziegfeld Theater in NYC opening night. However, none can touch the first DIE HARD for me. How I wish I could repeat the experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Die Hard. Yes, it had a great finish. I remember thinking the filmmakers really knew what they were doing with that one. Real cheers in the audience.


Another big scream:

- The girl popping up in the freezer in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre.


Another big mid-film applause moment:

- When Michael does the deed and remembers to drop the gun in the Italian restaurant in The Godfather.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hitchfan /forum/post/17041397


Seriously. When was the last time a moment in a movie was so funny or so scary people were still laughing, giggling, recovering from it or chatting about the experience all the way into the lobby?

For me: the opening night of ALIEN (1979). Wrenching, exhausting experience. Excited, motivated SF audience, superb theater. When walking out people in line wanted quick reviews and we said...absolutely nothing.


The strangest audience reaction I recall was while on vacation in Ann Arbor (not that that matters) and going to see the Curtis/Grant/Roberts rom-com NOTTING HILL. Opening lines:


"Can I get you an orange juice?"


[wild hysterical laugther...]


"Oh, well, why not a capuchino?"


[explosive guffaws, grown men rolling in the aisles and crying, everyone jumping up and down and clapping...]


...and so on.


The article points out that some movies don't work on small TV without an audience. I think ERASERHEAD is like that. It's not the same unless the image is much larger than you, with that deep grayscale from a film projector and an audience of fellow mutants.


-Bill
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain /forum/post/17047736


The article points out that some movies don't work on small TV without an audience. I think ERASERHEAD is like that. It's not the same unless the image is much larger than you, with that deep grayscale from a film projector and an audience of fellow mutants.


-Bill

Yes, I agree, that is essentially Phillips' point. Perhaps not so much that some movies don't work at all, but that so much is missed in the comfort of your living room that comes across like a brass band in a theater. Part of the goal of those filmmakers was to get me and all the other strangers (mutants) in the audience to share a common emotion or reaction that we wouldn't otherwise.


It isn't even a level of sharing that is possible when you're sitting among friends in your house. Much of the pleasure is in the discovery that you and these other people in the audience, who you don't even know, have all reacted the same way to the same stimulus. And done so in a big way.


Movies, particularly older movies, are filled with the raised eyebrow, the slight stammer or the otherwise innocuous line that is sure to bring down the house in a theater and almost as sure to be lost in the low hum of your refrigerator and go totally unnoticed at home.
 

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I remember seeing grown men in tears after "Platoon", obvious Vietnam Vets or people who had lost loved ones. I felt like we'd all been somewhere else for a few hours and we were lucky to be re-emerging back into the real world.


I saw a sneak preview of "Schindler's List" before I (or anyone else) knew anything about the content of the movie. The entire audience was cold-cocked over the head, I felt like I was leaving a sacred site when we walked out of the theater. Nobody was saying anything but the silence itself spoke volumes.
 

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The biggest audience reaction I ever witnessed was in '77. Of course, it was Star Wars. When Han swooped down to save Luke, you'd have thought the ceiling was about to come down. Good stuff.
 
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