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Captions Are Essential for Hard of Hearing Movie-Goers

By Shanna Groves /

And the nominees for best captioned movie for the Deaf and hard of hearing are…

Okay, the Oscars don’t actually honor captioning. But in this day and age of many American movie theaters now showing first-run films captioned, it is a treat to visit the cinemaplexes where I live.

For the next 30 days, I am on a mission to see as many of the 2013 Oscar-nominated films with captions as possible. Here is the list, thus far, of flicks I have seen on the big screen using two captioning devices on the market—Doremi’s CaptiView and Sony Entertainment Access Glasses. The first gadget requires your drink cup holder at the cinema. The other commands the cooperation of your eyes and head.

Argo – My husband and I saw this movie at a Cinemark Theatre using Doremi CaptiView. This cupholder captioning device, with its fluorescent text and flexible crane ‘neck,’ was absolutely essential in understanding key plot developments in Argo’s true story of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. Plus, the main character, played by Ben Affleck, wore a mustache that covered his lips. Even a master lip reader could not see the moving mouth behind that facial hair. If you plan to see the movie captioned, get to a theater quick. Since Argo has been out for a few months, your time to see it on the big screen is limited.

Life of Pi – This was my first experience using Sony Entertainment Access Glasses, as well as my first captioned 3-D film experience. Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee, involves an adolescent Indian boy, a Bengal tiger, a small boat, and lots of peril. How would I ever understand a heavy-on-the-accents movie or talking animals without captions? The glasses rested on the bridge of my nose for the opening credits. The lenses were outfitted with a special 3-D film so that I could watch Mr. Tiger in the opening montage leap off the screen fangs first. Then the actors began talking, and I searched everywhere for my captions.

After sliding the glasses up and down my nose, I finally located the words at the bottom of my spectacles. They were minty green and only visible at the blackened bottom of the screen. No problem, right? I’d just sit with my neck craned to an awkward angle in order to read the words dancing above my nose. Then, ferocious Mr. Tiger jumped out of the shadows again and nearly scared the glasses right off my face. That’s when the words disappeared yet again. POOF! I slid the glasses up and down my nose until I caught up with those pesky green letters. I spent the next two hours at the Regal Theatre alternating between sheer wonder at my high-tech 3-D captioning glasses…and the seated position at which to best read those captions.

Lincoln – When actor Daniel Day-Lewis spouts off one of Lincoln’s famous speeches, it’s not too hard to lip read his over-enunciated words despite his scraggly facial hair. But the CaptiView device allowed me to fully understand the other characters. Southern accents can be a challenge for Lipreading Mom (even though I hail from Oklahoma, not too far from the South). If I couldn’t lip read actress Sally Field portraying Mary Lincoln’s Southern drawl, I relied on my CaptiView. It was more fun to read my CaptiView and the witty banter between Lincoln and his staff than to stare at the president’s uncombed hair.

My 8-year-old daughter, who attended the movie with me, didn’t have such a positive experience. Bored to tears with the rambling speeches, she resorted to bouncing on her seat.  Inadvertently, she kicked the patrons’ seats in front of us. Finally, I moved my CaptiView just a smidge to allow her to sit on my lap. She bounced on my legs so much, the CaptiView came crashing to the floor. Fortunately for Cinemark where we saw the flick, the device was okay. Lincoln, on the other hand, not so much by the end of this tragic movie.

Zero Dark Thirty – My husband and I ventured to our local AMC’s Fork and Screen, a movie and dining experience for contemporary cinemaphiles. Hungry we were when the opening credits to this suspenseful true story rolled. The server placed our plates on the dimly illuminated table as the big screen faded to black. I leaned back toward my CaptiView, located in my comfy recliner’s cup holder, and saw words flashing across its tiny screen. A mishmash of phone conversations from 9/11 survivors and victims were spoken as the movie continued in blackness.

Without my CaptiView, I wouldn’t have had any idea that anything pertinent was being spoken since nothing revealed so on the big screen. My dinner plate of buttery salmon awaited, and I did the unthinkable—I placed that plate in my lap and ate in pitch darkness, while fiercely staring at the CaptiView’s words. It was a riveting and delicious moment. The movie’s true story of finding terrorist Usama bin Laden was as compelling and awe-inspiring as that plate-in-the-lap dining experience.

And the winner of my favorite 2013 captioned Oscar-nominated movie experience…

Life of Pi.

All in all, my movie experience with the captioning glasses and 3D film was state-of-the-art, Oscar-caliber exciting. Until my nose flinched and I momentarily lost sight of the captions. A close runner-up is… Zero Dark Thirty. That’s because I can still taste the buttery salmon on the roof of my tongue. And (spoiler alert) actress Jessica Chastain’s tears at the end of the film were so real, no captions were needed to move this Lipreading Mom to tears.

For a list of captioned first-run movies in your area, go to

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