Note: Avoid this entry if you haven't seen or plan to see Citizen Kane, Dick Tracy, The Usual Suspects, Seven, The Sixth Sense, Presumed Innocent, or The Crying Game.
I don't go to very many movies. Many of my friends tend to go to the cinema with their significant others. I'm hyper-critical about filmed entertainments. Plus, I don't "date" much. I'm not in a "relationship." I spend most weekend evenings "crying into a pillow."
The other factor in my movie non-attendance is that I seem to attract spoilers like a souped-up Camaro at a white trash discount auto parts fair. I can clearly remember being ten years old and hearing my friend breathlessly describe the shocking Madonna-related plot twist in Dick Tracy. I learned that Rosebud was the name of Charles Foster Kane's sled before I even knew what Citizen Kane was. My parents took me and my sister to see The Crying Game about an hour after I found out that Jaye Davidson had been nominated for Best Supporting Actor in that same film.
I've also witnessed a lot of spoilers given to other people. Many years ago, my friend Adam gave away the ending of a movie to our friend Brad. Brad bided his time. Months later, we rented Seven. Brad and I had already seen it, but it was Adam's first time. After the scene where Brad Pitt shoves Kevin Spacey, disguised as a photographer, my friend Brad loudly exclaimed, "Boy, if someone did that to me, I'd kill his wife and his unborn child!" Adam laughed at first, and then went white as he realized the movie had been ruined for him.
A few weeks later, Brad was retelling the story to our friend Dan. He remarked on how perfect the revenge was, how helpless Adam had been. "It would have been like the credits for The Usual Suspects had said, 'Starring Kevin Spacey as Keyser Soze.'" Dan, who hadn't seen The Usual Suspects yet, silently wept.
As a result of this, I'm always on my guard when anyone is discussing movies. At the slightest mention of a suspense film, I'm ready to jam my fingers in my ears and yell, "I'm no-o-o-ot lis-ten-ing!" Still, sometimes, all preparations are for naught.
When The Sixth Sense came out, I heard right away that there was some secret to the film, a great surprise ending that left everyone who saw it shocked and amazed. Knowing that, I was on my guard. I couldn't see it on its opening weekend, but I was planning to see it the second week it was out. After class one afternoon, I boarded an AC Transit bus. The driver was trapped in a conversation with an eager graduate student, who mentioned in every other sentence that he was a linguist. I relaxed. The bus driver didn't really know what a linguist was, so the graduate student searched for an example.
"Have you seen the movie Stargate?" he asked.
The bus driver shook her head.
Disappointed, he continued on this new conversational tack. "OK. OK. Hey, have you seen The Sixth Sense? It's good."
Instantly, I froze. The bus driver answered quickly.
"Oh yeah. Wasn't it surprising how Bruce Willis turned out to be dead the whole time?"
I threw down my copy of the Berkeley Daily Planet in disgust. I left the bus, cursing under my breath, wishing there was a way I could go back in time and avoid the whole conversation, or, failing that, ring the "Stop Requested" bell loudly and angrily. But there isn't. Time travel would lead to many dangerous paradoxes, and the "Stop Requested" bell sounds wussy no matter how hard you pull the cord.
Presumed Innocent isn't really covered in this blog entry, but the ending is pretty unexpected, if you haven't read the book already like I had.