Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

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Minority Report:
Keep it up!

Or going downtown and feeling vulnerable and gay
when all you want to do is watch
captions and descriptions like a normal person

Seen: 2002.06.24 (partly) & 2002.06.26   ¶   Reviewed: 2002.06.29


Another Movie Night. Nobody showed. I’m OK with that.

I was slightly early. Had an espresso. Kept noticing redheads. I always notice redheads; I track them. I was up to a highest-ever seven redheads in 45 minutes. (I would later hit eight.)

Shouldn’t this have been a sign?

Shouldn’t it have been a sign that I kept thinking I should be jotting down these sightings, as I always do? But I didn’t have either of the official RhCP notebooks I carry in either purse. I had my nice Moleskine that I use for MoPix and extremely impressive business meetings. Why didn’t I use it?

(An aside intended to accommodate visitors with reduced reading comprehension, some of whom shock the sensibilities by actually working in captioning: The Redhead Cluster Phenomenon venerates redheads. It beggars the imagination to conceive of my “hating” redheads, as has been alleged in extremely impressive business meetings. My first boyfriend was a magnificent redhead who loved me beyond words. I’m sposta start up entire hate sites ten years after that fact? What am I, Ernst Zündel? Is this how closely you read things? And you work in captioning, a trade based on the written word?)

Erectile dysfunction

There were two managers at the Guest Services™ desk. I don’t know why – probably it was Something in the Air – but I was overly cranky. They hadn’t done anything wrong. But I gave the poor man a hard time making him dig up a reflector that was not (surprise) banged to shit. He brought a second reflector out. (Oh, here’s a problem: The reflectors and headsets are inside a locked room that only managers have keys to. How stupid is that? No manager, no equipment. The following has actually happened to me: Wait for a manager to show up; manager leaves; manager is immediately radioed back to give me a better reflector.) This second reflector is still NFG.

You got 20 of these, I told him, brandishing what is no longer insider knowledge. Can’t you find one that’s not banged... up? Nº 3 was fine. In all honesty, he could not see the scratches. You do have to turn the panel to see them, as with a watermark.

Manageress told me that they protect the reflector panels with tube sox (they do), so they couldn’t possibly be scratched. Besides, “they’re hardly ever used.” I nearly went ballistic. “They’ve been used 80 times in a month!” I told her. “Check the book!” She checked the book, and declared that the selfsame book is used for hard-of-hearing headsets, so there is no way to differentiate what system was signed out. “You have not had 80 hard-of-hearing people here this month,” I told her definitively.

In I went. I defied common practice and the Woman’s Intuition and did not set up the reflector during the previews. Why not? Why not?

Movie starts. Gooseneck won’t stay put. Why? Yet again:

Also, plastic panel won’t stay put.

I keep pushing and pulling. I get it stationary, but it occupies a triangle covering 2/3 of the screen. I can’t budge a centimetre in my chair or the captions fall off the corner of this Flatland-like event horizon. I also can’t take notes easily (and because Minority Report was a rush job, the captions are rife with typos, which I try to notate).

Thirty minutes into it, thirty minutes of near-continuous adjustment including trying to get the thing to work in the unnatural left-hand cupholder and trying it in surtitle mode (obscuring the entire screen), I... give... up. I had had enough of its erectile dysfunction. Also, people behind me are murmuring constantly. I am bugging their shit. If I’m bugging their shit by simply using the equipment, honey, get used to it. But bugging their shit because the equipment doesn’t work they can make a case about. I am, in fact, totally with them.

So I bail. I bail from a movie I am enjoying. I do not walk out of movies. (Except Scanners when I was 16.) I sat through Reds, Atanarjuat, Dune, everything.

Bad MoPix – bad mojo – made me walk out of a picture for the first time in 21 years.

On the way down the eternal stairs, I soften. Maybe I’ll just trade in.

I trade in. Oh, but first, another impossible, unforeseeable event. At the desk is a very smart young fella with blond hair and normal glasses (fashionable rectangular glasses, in fact). He’s a geek, and so is his friend. But he’s holding one of the description headsets. I come upon their conversation. He’s verifying that the 8:30 show has description. No, it’s just the 7:30 show, and I just walked out of it, I told everyone. Manageress checks the computer (as though she has to – the sign for Cinema 2, the only “equipped” cinema, is 20 feet away). Blond fella complains that he came to see Star Wars here and the descriptions weren’t working.

I saw it twice, I told him, and it was working both times. Well, maybe you had the hard-of-hearing headset, the manageress says. Blond fella is all, It was Cinema 2 and it wasn’t working. I go, You should have gotten right up and complained. I woulda except there were 20 people in my way, he says. (Indeed. How does a blind person get out of a pitch-black, packed-to-the-rafters theatre to exchange a headset? And then get back to exactly the right seat again?)

We all kept talking for a minute. I seem to recall regressing to age 11 and blurting “You’re both wrong!”

The fella gave up on the headset and dashed in to the movie. I guess he has enough vision to get by.

I hated the whole thing. The guy misread the schedule (or could not read it in the first place!); “playaz” at the cashier desk didn’t tell him he was in the wrong hall at the wrong time; manageress was on this headset kick; and I sounded like a know-it-all grouch. (“As opposed to when?” you ask. As opposed to a whole lot of the time. None of you really knows me, so please stuff it.)

I went back in. But I was too chickenshit to go back to the same seat. (Among other things, the young d00d to my left had not been not wild about moving his legs to let me pass. I didn’t want to tangle with him again.) One seat had captions at an angle. Another seat, in the very back row, had captions in anamorphic distortion.

I had had enough.

I asked the manageress to call over the head manager. It’s the same man as before. I explain everything. We then investigate whether or not the description headset really is the same as the hard-of-hearing amplification headset. (It isn’t in any other Famous Players cinema I’ve been to.) Walking back into Cinema 2, we heard descriptions. Walking into Cinema 1, we heard amplification (weak, staticky, and useless). Yes, the manageress is right: You wear the same gear and it works according to the way the cinema is outfitted.

I copiously apologized, explaining that it was nobody’s fault. Nobody, in turn, felt as though it was. He admitted he has my picture up on his wall (in the top-security locked room), so he knows who I am.

I left. I felt totally stupid, like I had done something wrong. I guess I had: I should have taken the very first reflector.

Oh, but it only gets worse

I wanted sushi. Got to drown my sorrows in wasabi, right? But the Woman’s Intuition told me to head straight home.

Walking down Queen St., I am faced with 15 homunculi in identical bleach-blond haircuts coming my way. By the pasty faces and unremitting ugliness and the black-and-white uniforms, I conclude they are a marauding English rugby team. Hooligans, shurely. Just the people an obvious homosexualist – wearing a purple-and-black hat, no less – needs to try to squeeze by on a sidewalk hemmed in on both sides by a construction scaffold. In effect, they could gaybash me 15 to 1 within a convenient steel cage.

Nonetheless, I don’t give a frigging inch. I did a Truman Capote researching In Cold Blood in podunk towns in the Bible Belt.

At the restaurant, a Smart car is illegally parked on the pad by the door. They’re illegal in Canada. Never seen one before. And it’s covered in decals for Italpasta; it’s obviously a promotional car, like the Fords parked downtown. I try the door. It’s open. I look inside. No airbags. Boy, would I not ride in this thing.

Inside, the Woman’s Intuition tells me not to sit at the bar. I try sitting next to this fellow at the bar. D00d behind the bar tells me not to sit there. I am admonished to sit two chairs away. Fellow’s friend comes back. Ah. They’re overglitzy, belligerent Italians, with the too-tight ribbed T-shirts, the long hair, and the jewelry. You can just tell they’ve got money clips in their pockets, but not wallets, because money clips are more money.

Hey, did you look outside? one of them asks the guy behind the bar (who knows me – I’m his only vegetarian regular). Did you see the car parked outside? Go. Go take a look, he exhorts. I say, quite out loud, “And the door is unlocked. And the door is unlocked. I tried it.”

What are you doing opening my car door? one of the belligerent Italians asks. Ah. I see. I’d never seen a Smart car before, I told him. Don’t let me see you do that again. You didn’t see me do it the first time, I said. Now both of them are like: What, if you never saw something before you can touch it? You can open it up? How would that go over in a court of law? That’s a hypothetical question, I replied. Aw, don’t waste your time talking to this guy, the other one says.

Try locking your car, why don’t you? I thought but did not say.

Three minutes later, I spill my tea across the bar. Not my night, I say to no one in particular.

And these two fellas are in fact brothers, heirs to the Italpasta throne (“Largest pasta company in Canada. All the other pasta companies, they’re American or German or European. We got 300 employees”). They represent the future of the Italian diaspora. Aren’t you all proud?

I eat. Very much later, I want to go to the can. It’s through a door, down a hall, and downstairs. The brothers are halfway to leaving. Halfway down the stairs, it occurs to me that I’ve seen too many movies in which the hero gets beaten up in a secluded hall and/or in the can (Cf. Shallow Grave). I decide to go back to be safe.

And the door is locked. (What is with the locked and unlocked doors tonight?)

Two full minutes of knocking, pounding, and kicking finally elicit a Japanese waitress.

– The door is locked.

– Really? she asks, all innocent.

Yes, really!

D00d behind the counter, who, I repeat, knows me, because I am a regular, tells me I probably did it myself.

They never noticed the fact that I nearly got into a fight with the Italians. (It was the second fight nearly missed that night. If nothing else, these two had their natural hair colour.) They locked me in the purgatory between resto and restroom. And for that, they got a 7¢ tip and a personal vow never, ever to return.

The Woman’s Intuition told me to take a cab. Instead, at the streetcar stop, a slightly-inebriated troublemaker, through tone of voice and choice of words, suggested he would punch out the homeless guy who was hitting him up for change. They were standing six feet away from me at the time.

Worst night of 2002.

Length issue

When I recounted relevant portions of this story to a potentate in the MoPix demimonde, complete with the term “erectile dysfunction,” I was told “Lucky I’m not easily offended.” It turns out that 13-, 15-, 17-, and the existing 19-inch goosenecks are available and have always been. I’m having luncheon with Famous this week and by God there’s gonna be some shorter goosenecks in the system real frigging soon. Mark my words.

Second time lucky

Of course I went back. I organized another Movie Night for the Wednesday. Mr. X was able to come. I decided not to push my luck and changed the location to Yonge & Eg.

Very crowded. Only one playa at the cash desk. But we get in no problem. We do the standard song and dance getting a pristine reflector. (Our sign-in procedure today? Playa looks at my ID and jots my name down, asking for my number and giving back the ID.) Lo and behold, they now have a brochure on the system, which lists a TTY number. (I later rang it twice and got voicemail twice. It isn’t really a TTY number.)

Inside the auditorium (Nº 6; hadn’t been there before; they can and do move the caption display now; Famous Players rocks pretty hard, you know) it was jam-packed. “We’re fucked,” I told Mr. X. We seemed destined to sit apart. Oh, well. But at the last minute, d00d moved over one seat, and there we were, jammed in together.

Fella to my right finds it very interesting indeed when we set up the gear (in Pulp Fiction terms, “get in character”). I jeer loudly at the trailer for XXX, a vehicle for Vin Diesel’s heterosexualized homoeroticism, which I am not buying. (Still, the movie ought to be MoPixed.)

The movie starts, and what does this fella next to me have the temerity to do? He waves his hands in a plane parallel to my face to get my attention. I look over. “I can hear,” he tells me, pointing to his ear and referring to my headset. Oh, bullshit! Let’s just recap: They’re solid plastic headphones; speakers aim soundwaves into the soft tissues of my head; ambient theatre sound is notoriously loud; his ear is a foot from mine. Give me a break.

I guess he left his dramatic rectangular eyeglasses at home, too, because he later revealed himself to be an extremely important film intellectual by opening a notebook and jotting shit down. I had a reason to.

Minority Report was a rush job, as the captions especially showed. But a few things first:

Caption quality

“This will be case number 1-1-0-8”: Here we frigging go again. They even did this for a street address! Do not throw hyphens into numbers articulated digit-by-digit. Why is this not obvious? Why can’t you learn this?

" "Now we are engaged in a great civil war: What’s this about nested double quotes with a space between them?

Lots of quotation-mark errors, actually. "..but in a larger sen..." needs a proper ellipsis. "...And that this nation... needs an end quote.

Got him in the Foxhall.

I think we need a colon there.

“The nation’s capitol”: The Capitol is a building. The capital is Washington.

When John views the projection of his conversation with his son, it was just barely possible to figure out which of John’s utterances came live in the movie or from the projection. (Note for notebook-bearing, notetaking film intellectuals: They’re both diegetic sounds.)

More of this slash nonsense: (coughing/gasping) is but one example. (coughing, gasping) is the correct way. A slash can mean “or.”

There seems to be a serious problem in misnaming a minor character, Lycor or Lycon. It’s the latter. It was captioned as Lycor and described (in reading the credits) as Lycon.

Description quality

Miles Neff, perennially.

I am pretty sure I have not mentioned the fact that DVS describers are in love with the word “gape.” I hear it in every movie – three times here! What about “stare,” “gaze,” “regard”?

The Warner Brothers bumper at film opening is described from a canned script, claiming it is gold. It is not – here it’s a denatured grey, like everything else in the movie. It’s distorted by swimming scanlines, too.

“John greets an African-American man”: Also stated about John’s assistant, “an African-American woman.” I guess we’re finally overcoming our denial that failing to specify the race of people essentially states that they are white.

“As he jumps on, the cops jump down on identical tethers”: Bit of an echo. (I tried jotting this sentence down twice and I think I flubbed it twice. Jump was nonetheless echoed.)

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (captioned as such when it was played) was credited at the end but read as though it were Spanish: “Hésu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It’s “Jeezu.” It doesn’t follow the pattern of “Jesus” or even “Jesuit.”

A set of inhalers is described as “black.” One of them is obviously white.


I now inaugurate a new section on discrepancies between captions and descriptions, none of which are necessary.

(Sarah and man laughing) read the captions, but the descriptions had consistently IDed him as Donald, and that’s who he actually was.

(inhaling deeply) said the captions, but the descriptions said “John sucks deeply on his inhaler.” Inhaling on his inhaler or sucking on his inhaler? I continue to agitate for more consistency between captions and descriptions.

“Lamar’s wife,” as declared by the description, is actually Celeste.

Exit interview

Well, nothing much, really. I pointed out the wanker who falsely claimed to be able to overhear the descriptions. I did complain about the sign-in system, which isn’t much of a system. I think the manageress mentioned that they had eight reflector users in for a single show once.

I suppose there is another detail to report. A while after the wanker bitched me out, a fellow right behind me got up and calmly walked out of the theatre. I thought: Either he’s going to the can or he’s gonna rat on me. He returned later in great haste, as though he had indeed taken a leak and was anxious not to miss another minute. I have since suggested to Famous that they develop policies to handle people complaining about those using the MoPix systems.

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