Sunday, February 22, 2009

Movies: Who can possibly save us?

Last night, I caught the F13 remilkshake at the Court Street Theater in downtown Brooklyn.

Regular readers should recognize the name, but ANTSS newcomers might not understand the locale's significance. Court Street is home to Brooklyn's, if not the world's, finest cinema-going audience: a collective we at ANTSS lovingly call "the Courtesans."

The Courtesans are to film what the groundlings were to Elizabethan theater, only with more loud cell phone use and less livestock. (In fact, the receiving and placing of high volume calls is so common that the funniest moment of any film at Court Street is the most certainly ironic "Please silence your cell phones" slide that appears before the trailers roll.)

Because this was an 8:25 showing of a movie filled with brutal acts of violence and extended sequences of partial female nudity, about a third of the movie's audience consisted of tots aged 4 to 12. It isn't that Courtesans are, perhaps, liberal to a fault when it comes to their whelps' media intake. They are just frugal: A movie ticket costs considerably less than a night of babysitting. The potential cost of years of therapy for the children is cleverly avoided by revealing to the child the fictional nature of the filmic construct. That is to say, you simply tell the traumatized tike that they are dumb for being scared and laugh at their delightful displays of extreme distress. This is what educational theorists refer to as a teachable moment.

I bring this up because it was just such a mind-raped little nipper that provided the new Friday the 13th repackaging with its finest moment.

About three-quarters of the way into the flick, Jason gets around to dispatching the lone African American member of the victim set, a dude named Lawrence. Now Larry seems like a clever enough cat. Sure, like all African Americans in horror flicks, he feels the need to constantly remind his friends that he is, in fact, African American. Sample dialog from an as-yet untitled slasher project featuring an African American character:

"Anybody want a beer."
"Yeah, the black guy will have a beer."
"Do you have a preference? PBR or Sam?"
"Would you have asked that of a white guy?"
"Um, probably."
"What, you'd deny me the essential disconnect of my experience as a African American in a white man's world?"
"Look, I just wanted to give you a choice."
"You can't give me anything. Freedom can only be demanded and taken. A black man learns that early in life."

If you're writing a slasher novel or film script, feel free to dumb that down a bit and plug it right into your work. Free of charge.

That quirk aside, Larry's displayed average intelligence throughout the film, which makes it odd that he ultimately decides to not listen the two characters that have their crap together and venture out to the tool shed to find another member of this doomed troupe, a character we've already seen Jason send to the Great Beer Pong Game in the Sky. To assure the remaining Jason fodder that he will emerge from this quixotic mission unscathed, he gestures to a wok and fire poker he is using as his buckler and bodkin and says, "Don't worry, he won't touch me."

With friends and audience put at ease, Larry marches off.

After some musical ominousness – the score consists mostly of what sounds to be an instrumental version of Nine Inch Nails "Something I Can Never Have" played at sub-Codeine speeds – Larry and Jason find one another and Jason tries to make with the killy kill, ma ma ma. But, Aw NO! Larry ain't havin' it! After a short scuffle, Larry gives Jason a smashing elbow to the face mask.

At this point . . .

Horror filmmakers, nota bene.

The audience went abso-freakin'-lutely bonkers. The Courtesans were – every man, woman, and child – in agreement that Lawrence's elbow smash was the single finest moment ever committed to cinema. The crowd, firmly in Jason's camp when he was trimming the unsightly edges off the Caucasian and Asian American community, suddenly turned on their taciturn hero. Larry was the man.

Jason, temporarily dazed (not so much out of pain, but simply due to the sheer audacity of Larry's behavior), let's Larry slip out of the shed. Once clear, Larry makes with all do haste to the MVHA. Sensing a historic shift in the paradigm of predator and prey, the audience cheered Larry on. People stood up to holler their support. I think I actually saw two young men, overcome with the immediacy of the moment, spring up and begin running too. It was a riotous outpouring of support.

When Jason, also booking it to the MVHA grabbed a hatchet, the audience began trying to warn Larry. Sadly, Larry didn't even it see it coming when Jason launched the hatchet straight into his back. Felled, the audience's avatar collapsed on a pile of chopped firewood. The Courtesans were stunned. For a brief moment, they'd dared to open their hearts up to the possibility of hope. And now, it had ended, as so many dreams had, in a big honking hatchet in the back.

From the silence, some young kid, his voice straining in anger and dismay, screamed out, "Save him, Obama! Save him!"

And everybody laughed.

And that was about the neatest thing that happened in the film's hour and 30-odd running time.

As a side note, E! reports that F13 history making box office take on opening weekend has been followed up by another record-breaking weekend, in the other direction:

Ticket sales for Friday the 13th fell dropped plunged 81 percent from last weekend. According to Exhibitor Relations, that's the steepest-ever descent for a film playing at more than 3,000 theaters. The record previously belonged to the aptly named Doom, which went skydiving without a parachute in 2005.

That's more informative than just about anything I could say about the flick.


The Igloo Keeper said...

Fuck me that was funny. "the audience began trying to warn Larry"... who says there's no atmosphere in the cinema these days, eh?

Wings1295 said...

Funny stuff! The flick may have had a steep drop, but it is doing great for a Jason movie. Can't wait for the next one! >:)

wiec? said...

i work right down the street from that thaetre and have seen many a flick with the Courtesans. It's almost like getting 2 shows at once. the one on the screen and the Rocky Horror call and response with the crowd.

i saw the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake there. You'd think you were there to see Shrek 2 with all the kids and strollers present. It says" Chainsaw and Massacre" in the title but Jr can take it I guess. it was also the only time i watched a baby get his diaper changed during a movie in the row in front of me.

Stay classy Court St.

Anonymous said...

Well guess there's no surprise on the box office fall.. But it's competing with the academy awards, oscars, emmeys or whatever the @!#$@# crap award shows Hollywood is putting out. Guess which I'd rather watch -- blood and guts, or some gutless hollywood sack give a political rant acceptance speech ?

Anonymous said...
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CRwM said...


Despite never having actually influenced the outcome of a cinematic event, the Courtesans feel it's their duty to try to warn every horror character off their fated path. It never works, but hope springs eternal. In this way, they are the least cynical horror film watchers I've ever seen.

CRwM said...


It's all class at Court Street.

One of my favorite things about the Courtesans is the way that they, not content to merely sneak candy into the theaters, will bring in entire take-out meals. It's been a running tradition that, during the course of watching films there, somebody usually offers me part of an egg roll. It happened during Dead Silence and two different Saw flicks. Sadly, about a third of the way into this flick, I was really jonesing for an egg roll, but nobody had one to spare.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Sassy,

I can't speak to the national market, but at Court Street its chief competition wasn't the Oscars, but the latest installment of the Madea franchise. To the Courtesans, a new chapter in the saga of America's favorite outsized tranny is greeted with almost an almost religious fervor. The semi-annual pilgrimage to watch the latest opus of auteur Tyler Perry – the writer/director/actor that Courtesans justly believe to be the Orson Welles of men-dressed-as-fat-old-women films - is the fifth pillar of the Courtesans' faith. In the local market, Jason didn't stand a chance.

Shon Richards said...

"Save him Obama,save him!" might just become my new battle cry. That was awesome.

I was interested in seeing it till I saw one of the guys from Supernatural was in it. I actually like Supernatural but I knew it would be distracting to watch one of the Winchester boys somehow lose to a psychopath.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Shon,

I've never seen Supernatural, so I didn't suffer any cognitive dissonance regarding any of the "teens." Though, to be fair, the idea that some of these people have careers already and yet still found themselves in this flick is considerably more disheartening than watching anything Jason does to them.

spacejack said...

About 1/4 of the way into this film, I couldn't shake this feeling that I had just handed over a bunch of bailout money to keep a zombie horror movie franchise afloat.

We went post-dropoff, so there were only about a dozen people in the audience. The row behind us nitpicked logical details and sarcastically analyzed its cinematic merits (or lack thereof.)

A missed opportunity I regret: had I read your article beforehand, I could've shouted "Save him, Obama!!" just at the right moment.

No kids in the audience though. I don't think we have a Court Street-style theatre here in the city.

Anonymous said...

So, if I'm reading this right, this Courtesan crowd is the closest we have to still maintaining and, uh, enjoying, any sort of legitimate "grindhouse" experience that Tarantino and Rodriguez was hoping to re-capture.

Great post, stud!

CRwM said...

Screamin' Spacey,

That gag may fly even better in foreign countries. I'm thinking that budget wrangling and other unsexy things are taking away some of Obama's new president smell - but in other countries, I'm told by the papers, he's still very much the Man Who Can Fix America!

I don't know how to explain it, but among the teen set in Brooklyn, Obama's name is becoming something of a stand-alone gag. You just say it aloud and at an odd time and the other kids bust up. I don't think its meant to be disrespectful to the pres. I have a theory it might be a parody of adult political preoccupation with him.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Cattle,

There's some of that there - but the Court Street experience has a distinct feel due to the fact that Courtesans love bring their whole family to the movies, regardless of the film's content. That sort of family fun night aspect wouldn't seem to fit the grindhouse paradigm.