A Night At The Movies

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Strangers On A Chorus Line

The episode opens with the desultory establishing shots, and a melodramatic soundtrack. It sounds like a panicky movie dame, trying to talk her way out of an express ticket to the Pearly Gates with, "This won't help you! Don't you see? After me, there will be others! You'll keep on killing -- on and on, until they catch you! I won't be the last! There will be others after me!" Boy, talk about getting all meta about this show. The scene shifts from the Vegas skyline to the panicky dame in question, twelve feet tall in black-and-white on the silver screen, emoting at someone who's dressed like Mister Rogers. The woman on screen begins screaming, "You can't help yourself because you're mad! Mad! Mad!" and then we shift to the irritated film snobs in the audience sending the glares of death to whomever has been so thoughtless as to keep their cell phone on during the screening. Normally, I'd be rooting against the film snobs because my cinematic sensibilities are closer to Joe Bob Briggs than to Elvis Mitchell, but in this case, I share their pain. Cell phones in the theatre are the number-two reason I wait for most movies to come out on DVD; the number-one reason is parents who haul their screaming children to rated-R movies after dark.

But we're not here to read one of my "how other people always ruin all my fun" screeds. We're here to figure out why someone has been so foolhardy as to leave their cell phone on in an art-house cinema half-filled with passionate movie geeks. The answer becomes apparent in a moment when an usher comes in to chide the cell phone miscreant and discovers that he's bleeding dramatically from the mouth into his popcorn. The usher -- who looks extremely familiar, but damned if I can place him -- looks taken aback that a real murder took place during a movie about murders.

Cut to Catherine coming into the now-empty theatre and commenting, "[Movie] theatres are like nightclubs -- they should always keep the lights off." Well, those crappy AMC googolplexes, sure, but genuine art-house theatres are often lovely when the lights are on. Gil comments, "This is the last art house left in Vegas; I saw Baraka here, on a double bill with Koyaanisqatsi." Catherine asks, "Was anyone else there?" Gil replies, "Sure." Catherine persists, "With you?" Gil looks at Catherine and says matter-of-factly, "No." I'm not even sure Gil would ask anyone to go to the movies with him. Brass, meanwhile, reveals that he's been reading a lot of Raymond Chandler in his spare time: "Thursday night is noir night. The poor sap was slumped over like a sack of potatoes, oozing blood like a broken bottle of ketchup." Gil looks up, startled; he's probably thinking, "Well, it's not 'a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window,' but it's not bad for improv." Then the eyebrow hooks up, and Catherine joins in with a skeptical look of her own. Brass sighs and abandons the lurid metaphors of 1950s noir for his usual Captain Exposition spiel: "His name is Gus Sugarman. Runs a dental practice in Henderson. Cell phone went off three times during the movie, so an usher finally came over to shut him up." Catherine states the obvious with, "Yeah, somebody beat him to it." Gil notes the single puncture wound to the base of the skull; Catherine wonders if anyone saw anything. Brass points out that all the witnesses were watching the movie. Gil muses, "Dark room, loud music, four exits, everybody looking the other way." Catherine flings her hair back in a move last made by Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia and asks, "Professional killer?" Gil brings us to the credits with, "Movie buff."

The Who want to remind us that they made a movie too.

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