• unk./Wikimedia Commons
  • No multiplex audience could be this bad.

Last week I made the mistake of catching up with Zero Dark Thirty at an early-afternoon screening rather than at night. There were maybe a dozen people in the audience, all of them middle-aged men who had come on their own. It felt like sitting in a diner during the off hours—hardly the virulent atmosphere I anticipated from the countless op-ed columns the movie’s inspired. (And is it just me, or did Brokeback Mountain initiate a new class of Oscar-bait movies: the film that anyone can write an editorial about without actually having to see? At least the extracinematic debate surrounding Kathryn Bigelow’s movie stems from a complete sentence—Can one take a neutral stance toward images of torture?—and isn’t totally divorced from issues related to filmmaking.)