Turn Off Your Phone

I noticed a blogger posting early thoughts of a movie he/she was reviewing, while watching the movie. I replied, urging this person to put the phone down and watch the movie uninterrupted. The person told me how they paused the movie to post the tweet – this person also told me that the movie was paused so that he/she can respond to me. We exchanged a few messages, where I informed this person that I was affecting their experience with the movie. How can this person write a proper review if they are stopping and starting the movie constantly? The movie cannot be that enjoyable if this person gives priority to a notification on their phone. I’m being vague with identifying this person for a few reasons: This is not a witch-hunt, I don’t care to give that website any traffic, and nobody should read anything that person writes.

A few days later I posted a tweet, asking if its common practice for online writers to live-tweet films while they review them. A few friends told me it’s common practice, one even told me about a writer who fell asleep during a film, then wrote a glowing review. Why are people doing this? How can they claim to enjoy movies if they only half-watch them??

This interaction reminded me of a tweet from one of my favorite writers, Matt Zoller Seitz:

Not speaking on his behalf, but this applies to home-viewing as well. I asked Matt about tweeting during a first-time viewing, which triggered an interesting discussion on Twitter. His followers exchanged horrifying stories of people behaving poorly during theatrical and home screenings.

If you’re half-watching the film, your opinion is invalid. It’s flat-out disrespectful to only give the film a fraction of your attention. Have you ever been in a one on one meeting and the other person pulls out their phone and sifts through their e-mail? They think they’re multitasking, but the message is this, “Whatever I’m looking at on my phone is more important than you.” FUCK THAT. If you’re not in the mood to review the film, don’t watch it.

The subject gets into murky territory when it comes to home viewings for people that aren’t writing a review. They spent their $5 to rent the movie, or paid their online subscription, they can consume it how they please – that doesn’t make it right, though! I should pump the breaks and offer this – I am not 100% innocent when it comes to this topic. When I’m at home there are several distractions: my cat, running appliances, outside traffic, MY PHONE! This is why I prefer to see movies in a theater. There is 0% chance that my cat will scratch my foot, or jump on my chest because she craves food or attention. In a nice dark theater my focus is on the film I’m watching.

For the love of cinema and those around you, please turn off your phone. One of the reasons we watch movies is to escape the real world for 90 minutes. If we cannot have that escape for a fraction of the time, what’s the point?