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These days, the things that go on at the movies are hard to swallow


LADIES AND gentlemen, we have reached a crisis situation in our nation's movie theaters, and I am not talking about the fact that you can get gunned down in some of them or that nobody shuts up anymore or that there are so many cell phones and beepers going off you'd think it was the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

I am talking about the food.

There was a time when you went to the movies and bought snacks such as popcorn, Jujubees, Milk Duds, Pom Poms and so on.

These were nice foods.

Quiet foods.

And (OK, forget the popcorn) odorless foods, too.

Now they sell hamburgers, hot dogs, Buffalo wings, curly fries, tacos and pizza at the movies, and the joint smells like the food court at the mall.

And it ain't gonna end there, I can tell you.

Pretty soon you'll be able to buy eel at the movie theater. I really believe that.

Or you'll be able to walk up to the concession counter and say: "Let me have a Peanut M&M;'s and an order of scrod."

And the vacant-eyed kid behind the counter won't bat an eye. Instead, he'll say something like: "How do you want that scrod? Baked? Breaded lightly? Sauteed? Braised in cream? "We also have a wonderful scrod in aspic you might want to think about."

And if they start selling eel and scrod at the movies, what's next?

I'll tell you what's next.

Next you'll be able to bring a live chicken into the theater, butcher it yourself and cook it over a flaming pit before taking your seat.

The point is that apparently there is no food that is off-limits at the movies anymore.

I was reminded of this the other night when I went to see "Shakespeare in Love," which my wife loved and I found to be strictly OK.

My main problem with "Shakespeare" was all those British accents. The Elizabethan-era speech didn't help, either.

Quite frankly, I didn't know what the heck they were saying.

Time after time, Joseph Fiennes would say something to Gwyneth Paltrow and everyone on the screen would break up and everyone in the theater would be rolling in the aisles.

And I'd turn to my wife and whisper: "What'd he say?"

I don't see why they couldn't have had Fiennes play Shakespeare with a nice, flat Midwestern accent.

A Cincinnati accent, maybe. You can always understand people from Cincinnati. Not that they have a whole lot to say.

(Then again, what do I know about critiquing a movie? Because I see in the paper where "Shakespeare" is up for, like, 110 Academy Awards and they're talking about Paltrow like she's Katharine Hepburn or something.)

Anyway, the movie had just started when suddenly the unmistakable odor of seafood came wafting from the seats behind us.

As discreetly as possible, since I had no interest in being gunned down, I turned to see what was going on. And there behind us was a man and woman eating deep-fried shrimp.

This is probably neither here nor there, but this man and woman were enormous.

Now when I say enormous, I do not mean that in a nasty, disparaging way. Look, some of my best friends are enormous. And I myself am no jockey. Believe me, when you try to go around me, it's like trying to go around a piano.

But this couple, they were very large. (There, maybe that's a better way to put it: very large.)

Anyway, the movie starts and Fiennes is saying something I can't understand and Paltrow is saying something I can't understand. And to make matters worse, these two behind me are crunching their shrimp and chewing loudly and smacking their lips.

And when they're not chowing down on the shrimp, they're taking long, slurpy gulps from their jumbo, trash-barrel-size Pepsis.

And all of this, due to the modern miracle of stadium seating, is taking place directly behind my head. About three inches behind my head, if you took out the tape measure.

It would be nice to report that Mr. and Mrs. Loud were sharing an order of deep-fried shrimp, and that things quieted down fairly quickly.

But, no, each had an order, and so the crunching and lip-smacking and gulping and slurping went on for some time.

Then again, by the time they stopped eating and I could actually hear again, the British accents were even more annoying than before.

Anyway, the movie will probably win a bunch of Academy Awards.

I'll remember the shrimp.

Pub Date: 2/11/99

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