NOVEMBER 5 — This originally began as a review of Killers of the Flower Moon. I got through about three paragraphs before doing a complete U-turn because of an incident which occurred about an hour into the movie.
So there I was watching Martin Scorsese’s latest — which is an absolute masterpiece, by the way — thoroughly enjoying the chemistry between Leonard DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone, not to mention Robert de Niro’s subtly evil character, when all of a sudden the phone belonging to this guy two rows in front of me started ringing.
He picked it up after four seconds or so and, loudly, said “Uh,” “Yeah,” and “I’m free only tomorrow afternoon”.
He then continued talking for about half a minute during which a few things flashed across my mind.
One was: Why are educated adults still behaving like Mafia big shots with absolutely zero manners? Haven’t guys like the guy in front of me received numerous memos over the past 10 years (and more) about not being a nuisance to other movie-goers? About not answering the phone in a callous I-don’t-give-a-s***-how-others-feel manner which interrupts and disrupts the experience of everyone else in the cinema hall?
Long and short, isn’t answering a phone call — and doing so loudly — in the middle of a movie more or less the same as littering or spitting in public? Why do people not care?!
Two, would it have killed him to say something like I’ll call you back, walk out of the cinema, and call back his friend?
Alternatively, unless he works for the Health Ministry monitoring a brand-new virus which just landed on Malaysian shores, why is it impossible to turn off the phone so he can enjoy Scorsese’s brilliant film-making unencumbered by a potential phone call?
Why do Malaysians in general have to be 'online' virtually 24/7?
Why are we so afraid of missing a call which, in any case, can surely be remade or resent? Why do we structure our lives like wannabe air traffic controllers or fire-fighters?
Do we feel good living on edge all the time? Does being “on call” every second of our waking lives make us better people or give us some cool “identity”?
If we feel guilty or afraid of turning off our phones for just two or three hours during a day, what does that say about our society?
Scrolling the phone 'in broad darkness'
After his phone call, the guy proceeded to scroll through his WhatsApps. So, essentially, after inflicting his voice on everyone in the cinema, he also didn’t mind inconveniencing us all by making “phoneshine” in the darkness.
This is, granted, less annoying than yacking like a tai-kor in the middle of a movie, but c’mon do we realise how distracting it is to see little squares of light pop up in our visual frame whilst we’re watching a movie?
You’re enjoying a great scene of drama or action then suddenly a small oblong-ish glow pops up not unlike the kind of flash you get when you’ve been smashed in your face or have a bad headache. Talk about subtly ruining a movie.
And of course the guy couldn’t reduce his screen brightness to something near imperceptible to all but himself. And of course he couldn’t bend down (to scroll his phone) and so be more considerate in blocking his phone light from spilling everywhere.
No, he simply had to check his WhatsApp messages “in broad darkness” in a way which distracts everyone’s (those around him) attention.
In the middle of the movie.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.