Sunday, January 20, 2013

‘Grunts With Effort’

My old Italian grandmother hated loud noises.

Whenever she thought the TV was too loud she’d mutter “shut up” when she walked by, as if this machine, this lifeless pile of tubes and wires, would fall silent at her command.

I remember she once told the ice cream man to quit ringing the bell on his truck. I was terrified because as a kid I couldn’t bear the thought of being in trouble with the Freezer Fresh guy.

I could only imagine what grandma would think of today’s non-stop attack on the eardrums, ranging from car stereos and revving engines, to really stupid people who talk too loudly on their goddamn cellphones.

In many ways, I feel like I’m taking grandma’s place in the quixotic crusade for quiet because I, too, have grown to hate loud noises.

There’s only thing where grandma and I differ—the television.

I don’t know if it’s due to my aging eardrums or my TV’s sound system, but I’m having trouble hearing the dialog in many of the DVDs that I watch.

“Speak up!” I shout at my TV to no avail.

I first noticed this problem while watching British movies, but the contagion has spread across the pond and now I don’t know what the hell anyone is saying on either side of the Atlantic. It’s the TV of Babel.

I’ve tried pumping up the volume, but then it gets too loud and I wind up getting knocked off of my couch whenever there’s an explosion, a car crash, or an extremely energetic love scene.

So lately I’ve been hitting the subtitles button on my DVD player so I can at least read what the actors are saying.

God, I feel like such a geezer. All I need is a shawl and a cup of cocoa and I’ll be ready for the rest home.

I’ve been reading subtitles for foreign movies ever since high school and I'm very comfortable with it.

I want to hear the actors’ voices even I can’t understand what they’re saying. The subtitles may not tell us the whole story, of course, but it certainly beats dubbing, which is only suitable for spaghetti westerns and kung fu movies.

But it feels weird reading titles for an English language film.

The subtitles are intended for hearing impaired people, so not only do they relay the dialog, they also describe the sounds in a particular scene, like “bird chirping” or “violin playing.”

Bite This

A few weeks ago it was my distinct displeasure to sit down and watch a movie called “Snow White and the Huntsman,” a modern twist on the beloved classic. And it was pretty twisted all right.

In this movie (I refuse to provide a link), Snow White has been reengineered into some kind of medieval drag queen Rambo who kicks ass happily ever after. Marone! What would grandma say?

I don’t know why I bothered switching on the subtitles for this flatulent fairy tale since the dialog was painfully faux-classical. I would’ve been better off not hearing any of that tripe.

Come to think of it, I would’ve been better off throwing the DVD out the window and reading the phone book.

Late in the picture, a character smashes through a door and the subtitle dutifully provides the description “grunts with effort.”

Jesus, I grunted, the whole movie is grunting with effort—an effort to remain logical and entertaining.

And all those grunts went for naught. It was so bad I could almost hear violins playing as birds chirped themselves to death.

The only reason I bit into this poisoned apple of a movie was because I had read with eye-bulging envy about the screenwriter who pocketed $3 million for writing the screenplay and I thought I might learn something about the movie business.

And I did learn something. I learned that I don’t want to write a piece of crap like this. And if this is what producers want, then maybe Hollywood isn’t for me.

It looks like the grunts will be coming even faster now. There’s an action version of “Hansel and Gretel” coming out this week, which, I swear, features the grown-up siblings as a pair of witch-kicking bounty hunters.

Even Gretel says in the trailer “you’ve gotta be kidding me.” Oh, if only…

There’s also a sequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman” grunting its way through production right now. You were right, grandma, the only possible response to this dreck is “shut up!”

Now where did I leave that phone book…?


Ron said...

Rob, this post had me CRACKING UP all through it!

"I’ve tried pumping up the volume, but then it gets too loud and I wind up getting knocked off of my couch whenever there’s an explosion, a car crash, or an extremely energetic love scene."


Same here! And it's NOT because we're getting older, but rather because I truly think that when they transfer things to DVD, they must lose something on the audio track. I have no problem hearing, because I could hear a cotton ball hit the floor. So I'm telling ya, it's not your ears, it's these DAMN DVD's.

I spend most of my time while watching a movie adjusting the volume. Up, down. Up, down. Up, down.

And now you have me SO curious about this film, so I'm going to google it the second after I publish this comment.

Have a grrrrrreat week, buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron:

That bit about audio transfer sounds plausible--especially that part about us not getting older. I really liked that idea!

I'm tired of the up and down routine, too. And if you see this movie and hate it like I did, well, don't say I didn't warn you!

Take care, buddy!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

' ... bit into this poisoned apple of a movie ...'

Ha!! Priceless! And a perfect description by the sound of things (pun intended).

You know, I'm with you all the way. It's horrible the way they dish up movies with unbalanced sound tracks which allow the sound effects to drown out speech. It's all very well for cinemas with their multi-channel adjustable soundtracks, but here in the home it's a nightmare.

OH is, as you probably remember, a bit deaf. This means that the TV has be quite loud for his to be able to hear speech (even with his hearing aids, though not as loud as we needed it before he got them, thank heavens!). We also have a sound bar to help with with understanding of speech, but unfortunately, this wonder of modern technology amplifies the noise effects as well. If we turn it off, the speech goes fluffy. If we turn it on, it's an assault. The dogs tend to leave the room.

Wouldn't it be nice if someone came up with a way to turn the speech channel up independently of everything else? I'm sure it's technically possible - and I for one would pay good money for it!

Rob K said...

Turn up the speech independently of everything else--that's a great idea!

I think I've seen that sort of thing on cop shows, but they're usually trying to solve a murder. They should make that equipment available to us, too, the poor doggies won't have to leave the room!