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Jeff Simon: What happens to great movies when you're too comfortable?

Jeff Simon

So help me, it wasn't the movie's fault. There is, to me, nothing the slightest bit sleep-inducing about Adam McKay's movie "Vice."

I consider it, in fact, the best and truest and most creative American political film I've seen since Warren Beatty's "Bulworth" (and that includes "Wag the Dog").

It wasn't my old friend's fault, either. We've been going to the movies together for decades and she's as attentive a moviegoer as I know. It's common for her to be vibrantly alive to details I miss.

Wonderful stuff was happening onscreen during "Vice," the Dick Cheney story, but the old friend with whom I went to the movie drifted off and briefly missed some of it.

21st century moviegoing had struck again.

The details of "Vice" are incredible things no one should miss. There are two moments of stunningly loose creativity in McKay's portrait of the – literally – unfathomable influence of Cheney.

One of them is that two-thirds of the way through, McKay stops the movie dead at a certain moment in Cheney's biography and pretends it's over. From then on, we're encouraged to believe, Cheney went on to become just a happy and hugely successful business executive rather than, arguably, the most powerful vice president in American history.

As the "closing credits" roll and McKay pretends it's "happily ever after" epilogue time, the intermittent narrator suddenly shows up again to tell us that, no, the story isn't over yet – not by a long shot. The "W" presidency was still to come.

At another loosey-goosey moment, Christian Bale as Dick Cheney (extraordinary) and Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney start declaiming to each other at bedtime in quasi-Shakespearian language.

It isn't just the pseudo-Shakespeare that makes the scene, it's that it all takes place conspiratorially in the suburban marital bower.

A truly amazing thing has been achieved by "Vice." It has achieved comedy without discarding facts or wallowing in political rhetoric. It chooses, at every important moment, to emphasize how little we know about Cheney – and, in fact, the inner workings of politics in our time.

So all this wonderful stuff is happening during the movie "Vice" and the old friend with whom I went to the movie drifted off briefly and missed some of it.

I went, over the past week, for the first time to the newly refurbished downtown AMC Market Arcade 8 Theatre. I also got my first look at some of the radical remodeling of the Regal Elmwood Center 16, the theater I've always delightedly found closest to my home (literally 10 minutes away).

Comfortable to the max is moviegoing in the 21st century – seats whose footrests rise like La-Z-Boys and, before they're finished, practically have you prone in your seat watching the movie.

On top of that, at the new AMC Market Arcade, you can have a cocktail to quaff as you watch your movie, and, at the same time, chow down on real food, not just popcorn. We're talking chicken and waffles here.

The comfort seating was enough to do it for my friend. As much as she was into the movie, the comfort of the chair proved too much for her and gently carried her off briefly into dreamland during what was, otherwise, one heck of a movie.

I must say I certainly wouldn't dream of blaming any one of the movie exhibition corporations that are so successfully simulating home watching behavior that people can be lulled into snoring at the screen the way they might on the couch at night while "NCIS" is on.

That was by no means the case with my silently napping friend, but if it had been, I'd have understood.

I'm of two minds about all this movie comfort in theaters these days.

What's not to love? Who doesn't love to put feet up and watch something really good at the movies – "The Mule," say, or "Widows" or even the creative, animated, meta-comicbook movie "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse?"

But it's redefining the movie audience in ways that might be more than a little regrettable.

It's turning moviegoers into all-powerful consumers to be lulled and catered to from the moment they sit down.

Which is lovely. But what if you also cherish the challenges some movies offer – and the incredible gift they give us of filling our eyes and ears with things that have never been there before?

Yes, of course, I'm a senior moviegoer used to roughing it sometimes at the movies under conditions that, quite, realistically, approached genuine squalor.

I didn't mind roughing it a little if the movie was good. I came to think of it as a price you sometimes paid to love movies that much.

Well, no more, it seems. "Roughing it" sometimes means chancing an unwelcome snooze. You pay your money these days and you can get a movie, a chair that's practically a bed, a Maker's Mark on the rocks and an order of chicken with waffles.

As we all know, you can now watch movies on your phone on screens 3 inches long.

The truth, of course, is that these are not the optimal ways to see movies. You're too comfortable for a movie with as much off-the-wall creativity and as many fast reflexes as "Vice."

But then consider Elizabethan drama and what we know of Shakespeare performances in his era. Do we really imagine that alcohol and snoozing and lord-knows-what were peevishly prohibited on all premises while Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were discussing the vast quantities of blood oozing from King Duncan?

We're just going to have to persevere through all this comfort and get used to all manner of new seductions in the 21st century.

So let the grumbling continue – or begin, as the case may be.

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