Sunday, January 21, 2007

Three for the price of one

It's only been five minutes, and I've already been told to buy some candy, some popcorn, some pop, watch "Heroes" on NBC next week (as well as "My Name is Earl", "The Office" and everything else that's no longer on Must See TV Thursday nights but something else on Thursday nights), and turn my cell phone off.

And I wonder how many more things I'll be told to do since this is only the first of three movies in a row I plan to see today. As long as one of the things I'm told isn't to leave the theater I won't mind, since I'm only paying for one of these movies today. You see, I'm at the Cinemark at Valley View in suburban Cleveland and I'm going to watch three movies for the price of one, only without telling anyone who works here.

I've snuck beer into a movie before, but I've never snuck myself into a movie before. But I've cased this joint. There's a ticket-taker at the front entrance but no one to see where you go when you enter the hallway to the 12 theaters on the left or the 12 theaters to the right. And as soon as the ticket-taker takes the ticket of one of the children waiting in line in front of me and then mistkenly tells a different child's mother in which theater "Arthur and the Invisibles" will be playing, well, I know this Cinemark will be no match for my skills.

I'm starting my day just before high noon with "Babel", the likely Academy Award nominee starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. That should end just in time to slip into the 2:30 showing of "Children of Men", featuring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine. When that ends, I'll have just enough time to get to the just released adult fairy tale "Pan's Labyrinth", featuring a lot of Spanish actors and subtitles. I know very little about all three, except that many good things have been written about all of them.

Now I wait through the commercials. I already have my Sprite -- and, no, I did not want to upgrade from medium to large for 25 cents more, though I would have done it for free! -- but they aren't going to seduce me into buying any of their $3 candy. Haha, that's already in my pocket, the forbidden outside food brought into the theater. For now I'm legally in the theater, having paid my $6 matinee fee; my only worry is making it through the 142 minutes of "Babel" without having to go to the bathroom.

And I do, because the film is engrossing and exactly the kind of film Oscar voters love. Think last year's winner "Crash" only on a global scale with a smaller story. "Babel" has already won the Golden Globe for best motion picture drama, so it most likely will be among the Academy Award nominees when they are announced on Tuesday. And also because I believe going to the bathroom after the show will be a great cover for slipping into the next theater for "Children of Men". The cleanup crew will forget all about me in the two minutes I need to relieve myself of my 32-ounce Sprite!

Panic sets in when "Babel" ends at 2:28 -- only two minutes until "Children of Men" starts. Not only do I have to make my way down the corridor and find the movie, but I still have to go to the bathroom. No way can I wait another 109 minutes without going. So I slip into the bathroom, notcing that there are really no Cinemark employees in the hallway at all. Still, I practice my excuses just in case a pimply-faced teenager tries to play hero: "Oh, I'm sorry, I am looking for my friend." "Where's the bathroom?" (Just in case he doesn't notice I just came out of it.) Or pretending I'm deaf.

But you would have thought I had purchased a ticket for this movie. No one says a word when I leave the restroom and march right back where I came from, back down the hallway past "Babel" and around the corner to theaters 17-24. I find "Children of Men" with no help from the ticket-taker, thank you.

Thank goodness for previews. By the end of the day I've seen 16 previews, and only Jim Carrey's upcoming "The Number 23" shows twice. That's an average of five previews per movie. By the time I slip into "Children of Men" -- unnoticed by anyone, of course! -- it's five minutes past the posted show time but just two previews in. My only worry is that the guy eating the Subway sandwich behind me will continue to chew loudly and smell up the theater for the entire movie.

He doesn't, and I enjoy my second movie of the day even more than the first, since it's free. And since I know that it will be very simple to sneak into "Pan's Labyrinth" which is not only right across the hall, but right next to the OTHER bathroom!

When "Children of Men" ends, I do my now patented bathroom move. This time when I come out I head to the front lobby under the pretense that perhaps I'll buy some Milk Duds, or maybe even popcorn, although that would require another medium Sprite that I will NOT make a large for 25 cents more. Fortunately the lines are too long so the temptation subsides. I make my way back to "Pan's Labyrinth".

And disaster! I notice a man wearing a name tag standing at the edge of the first row of seats, just down the aisle from the theater's entrance. He's watching the screen, which is showing a preview of "300", but I know he's really looking for me. There's no doubt that this is the Cinemark manager and scofflaws like me, scofflaws like me who aren't even writing a blog, are his target.

I duck back out. Thankfully there are two entrances to each theater, and I take the one on the left. This leads to the balcony. I tuck myself in up there, happy to have both a new vantage point and eluded the movie policeman. Oh, he'll be looking for me again on my next trip, but I am onto his tricks.

For the next two hours, I twist in my seat. Don't let anyone tell you that movie watching is easy. They've got comfortable chairs and all at the Valley View Cinemark, but even the great Roger Ebert would be exhausted after a 6½-hour movie marathon. I'm not sure if I'm ready to fall asleep halfway through "Pan's Labyrinth" because I don't like the movie or because I'm uncomfortable. Somehow I find my second wind and enjoy the second half of the film, leaving thoroughly satisfied with my day at the movies.

I'm grateful when it's over, even though I know I could walk to the other side of the theater and watch "Rocky Balboa". Yo, Adrian, I'm tired!


"Babel": Absolutely grand
"Children of Men": Visual pleasure
"Pan's Labyrinth": Sadly fulfilling

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