Archive for February, 2009

Feb 14 2009

Shouting in the cinema

The Background
I, like many other people, have recently started using Twitter, the latest craze to sweep the internet. I actually signed up quite a long time ago, but never really got into it until I visited NoRM and got the feel of it from him updating on his iPhone.

So I started having another look at it, and picked up on the BadMovieClub phenomenon that started about a week ago when Graham Linehan (of Father Ted, Black Books and I.T. Crowd fame) had the brainwave (inspired by watching ‘A Few Good Men‘) of getting together a load of people at once to watch a ‘bad’ film and comment on it as they go. A lot of people seemed to like the idea, among them Phil Jupitus (Never Mind The Buzzcocks etc.), who volunteered to ‘run’ a second showing as he couldn’t make the first.

This was all organised remarkably quickly. The online community can either be masterful at procrastination or quite direct and to-the-point when it comes to getting things sorted out, and this was a great example of the latter. In only about 4 days, hundreds of people were lined up to watch M. Night Shyamalan‘s ‘The Happening‘. I was among them.

I’m not really that familiar with Mr Shyamalan’s work, having only seen ‘The Sixth Sense‘ (which I quite liked), but many people commented that this film truly deserved the ‘bad movie’ tag. They were not wrong.

The Event
At 9pm last night, a lot of people (estimates vary from about 400 to 2000) sat down to watch ‘The Happening‘ and give their comments on Twitter. Talk about sensory overload! Hundreds and thousands of Tweets flooded the network. I was using twIRC to follow the flow, partly because each Tweet takes up less screen space, and also it’s a somewhat familiar look from years of IRC experience 🙂 It was, as a few people have commented, quite hard to follow both the comments and the film, and Graham commented that it would have made sense to watch the film beforehand – he is possibly right. It certainly isn’t a way I’d want to watch a good film, but it actually made a bad film something of a pleasureable experience. There were plenty of simple jibes at the film (a bitch-fest as someone quite accurately described it), but a lot of witty and biting comments as well. Everyone had their own take on the film, and it was certainly noticeable that a lot of people picked up on certain moments that stood out for their comedy value.

It was something of an intense experience, and I was actually quite exhausted, particularly as I hung around for the second showing at midnight, although I didn’t watch the film a second time – just read the Tweets. There were a few hiccups – although we didn’t manage to kill the Twitter servers which I half expected. Graham disappeared after about an hour due to a little-known limit on the number of Tweets you can send in an hour, and the timing of the film was a bit off for a few people – but nothing that really created big problems.

Everyone seemed to enter into the spirit of the thing, and everyone’s tongue was firmly in their cheek. One thing that would be interesting to know was how Phil Jupitus felt coming in halfway through, because the #badmovieclub crowd were on a massive high, and I definitely got the feeling of a huge rolling mass that just rolled on from the 9pm showing to the 12 midnight showing, an unstoppable force that just swept everyone up with it. It was a great way to spend an evening, and one of those events that you just love to have been part of.

Will it work again? Who knows. The choice of film is certainly key. The Happening was a good choice because it’s a relatively simple idea, with enough going on on-screen that you can actually comment on things without being bored out of your mind. With too much going on it would be impossible to follow the film and the comments at the same time.

I had a really great time (I even bought a T-Shirt!), and look forward to the next one, which will no doubt be different (in good ways) and a changed event from this first one – but that is a good thing, and things need to evolve to improve. Things can, and need to be, tweaked, but in concept it seems like a really cool idea, that people have taken to heart and may just have legs…time will tell.