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The Last Samurai

Seen: 2003.12.10   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.12.28

Theatre experience

Worst. MoPix. Ever. (I mean it this time.)

The playa at the desk, with multiple piercings, responds to my request for a headset and an unscratched, unsmudged reflector with the question “Can I have the names of the two people who’ll be using the system?”

Then there’s the issue of signing in. I mention that she shouldn’t have me sign myself in. She askes to see ID. I show her my Big Card, which should be the highest possible level of identification inside a Famous Players theatre for the simple reason it is issued by Famous Players and bears my name. She demands photo ID. I protest and show her such a card. “That says Joseph,” she unhelpfully points out, not quite accusing me of presenting fake ID.

“New at this?” I ask (or something very similar). She immediately gets on the walkie-talkie and asks a manager to come over. I am then accused of having been rude. I explain that if she thinks asking a manager over will de-escalate things, she’s in for a surprise. The playa refuses to dig out the gear while we’re waiting; obviously she thinks I’m about to be ejected from the theatre for having been “rude” to Her Royal Labret. I also mention that my two friends will be coming along shortly to ask for reflectors.

A manageress, never before encountered, walks over and I take it from the top, recounting exactly what happened, including everything I said. The manageress, with genuine professionalism, explains that is indeed what playaz are supposed to do, apologizes, and, after I point out that the playa had refused to assemble the gear, asks her to do so. The play then gives me grief about ten- versus seven-digit phone numbers.

I go in and find a seat. Later I head downstairs to locate Mr. X and Mr. Y. I have them do an experiment and request the gear without my presence. “She accused me of being rude,” I said to Mr. X. “Oh?” he replied. “Which I was. But still.”

It’s the same scenario over and over again: Famous Players staff show incompetence and I don’t put up with it. How un-Canadian of me.

At any rate, Mr. X reports no trouble at all with the playa. We watch the movie. A person to my left and another behind me crane their necks to look at the gear. “You could just ask,” I say according to formula. “They’re reflectors for the captions.” “I was hoping you’d hear me,” the nice fellow says. He thought I was listening to the game or something. Good line. No, it doesn’t cost extra, and no, I don’t have to sit in that specific seat, though I prefer to due to distance and angular distortion, I tell him.

And of course, lo and behold, there are no descriptions.

Caption quality

(bugle plays "The Charge"): “Call to the Post,” shurely?! (I’ve seen this as “Charge” in other WGBH captions.)

Little Bighorn is three words, isn’t it?

Says I,
"What's this 'we' stuff?

Correctly handled. (It continues in another caption.)

I am to receive three years' of Captain's pay: It’s not possessive. What is this, Grocer’s Apostrophe (Apple’s and Pear’s)?

(harrumphing): Be careful where you do that. Petits fonctionnaires will rat you out.

(frenetic percussive rhythms play): True.

Also handled with full correctness: (shouts) then (men respond). ((speaking Japanese) is insufficient much of the time.)

(rickshas approaching): That would be a highly nonstandard spelling.

A very odd interaction between caption and subtitle: The character starts speaking before a shot change. The subtitle appears only after the shot change.

“Algren-san” seemed to be uttered twice in this rendering. It was not. Exact synchrony is not always required in captioning.

(noise muted) was a bit odd. I think it was one of those dreamlike sequences with reduced sound volume and slomo.

Description quality

Broken. What we hear is amplified main soundtrack – never before encountered and otherwise useful in, say, a captioning-only movie or in a properly-set-up theatre. I give my headset to Mr. X, and can I ever hear sound spillover from it during the movie.


Not applicable.

Exit interview

Well, we re-emerge at Guest Services and I ask the playa to call over a manager. “Is it a problem with the RW®C?” she asks. Yes, I tell her. A second manageress walks down the long hallway and all the way around us to the back of the desk.

I explain that there were no descriptions. She’s surprised, because the much-put-upon-and-now-very-embarrassed projectionist had checked the system that very day and it was “100%.” I mention that we got amplified main soundtrack, which we’d never heard before even when we could have used it. I gave my standard spiel that there are constant technical failures at this house, and her response was “We’ve had several conversations before.” Really?

The manageress thinks the problems are caused by moving the displays. They don’t like to be jostled, in essence. She may be quite right, I think.

I was at all times level-voiced and rational. “We’re being extra-nice,” I said to Mr. X. “Pardon?” “I’m being extra-nice,” I self-corrected for accuracy. “It’s a strain.” (Actually, it was fine.)

Usually in cases like these, the manager(ess) is writing out passes for my friends while we’re still talking. Two or three each in most cases. Not tonight. “Passes for my friends?” I asked with a question tone. She dug out one each.

Quite separately, I sent a letter to Famous asking for my Big Card to be renewed and listing the myriad technical and procedural problems in the MoPix system. (This was the umpteenth notice the organization had received of such problems.) The Monday after viewing The Last Samurai, Famous Players called to bitch me about about having been rude to their staff. I was also accused of having “demanded” passes for my friends, who were in turn accused of receiving multiple freebies. (They don’t. We have a system.)

You’ll note that at no time was I asked what actually happened. There was no attempt to get my side of the story. Much more importantly, the constant technical failures at the cinema were unaddressed. Famous Players is more interested in complaining about my personality than getting the system working properly.

Famous Players renewed my Big Card. I have an agreement with them that, at even the slightest problem with a player, I am to immediately call for a manager, and if that doesn’t work, the general manager, and if that doesn’t work, then complain to Famous itself. I am implementing this protocol, which will result in much more staff time. (I’m also taking it upon my own separate initiative to E-mail every single incident, no matter how minor, to Famous.)

The test will not be whether or not I become less “rude,” in real or perceived terms. The test will be: Do the systems work at least 99% of the time?

(See my conversation with the general manager at the next show.)

On the way out, one of the other fellas in the auditorium who had asked about the gear was right ahead of me on the escalator. I had to explain what captions were, and he wondered if I was reading lips. I then had to out myself as a hearing person.

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