We all Deserve (aka: Movies are for Everyone)

Around a week ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and purchased a ticket to see Avengers: Endgame. Not just any ticket, either. Since I was going to see the highly anticipated movie by myself, I decided to splurge and see the movie in 3D XD. The ultimate film-going experience, with a giant screen and unbeatable surround sound. The price? $19 per seat.

I know. Way too much money. But it was my Solo Date Night. I wanted to have fun luxury-style, with cushy leather reclining seats, extra butter topping on my popcorn, and a frosty-cold cup of Blue Moon beer with a twist of orange. (Because that’s how we do cinema in my neck of the woods).

As the previews were beginning, I was vaguely aware of a trio of people taking their seats just to the left of me. They were a little talkative, but hey, it was only the previews. So I munched my popcorn and settled in, waiting for the movie to begin. Soon enough, the lights went down, and our feature film began.

Somewhere to my left, someone’s voice cut into the silence of the theater. I ignored it. But just as I was getting absorbed by what was happening on the screen, the person to my left began to talk again. And again. This continued throughout the first half hour or so of the movie. I am a patient person. Very patient. But I was beginning to grit my teeth a little. I mean, come on. $19 tickets, people! Don’t we all deserve to relax and enjoy a good movie without one person messing it up by talking through the film?

At first, I tried an innocuous little shh! Usually, that’s all it takes for people to get the hint and clam up. (Although once, the shh approach escalated the situation, and I found myself sitting next to a hostile noisy person who was apparently offended that I was offended by her rudeness). The shh was ineffective. My neighbor continued to chatter. At last, now quite distracted from what was happening on the screen, I whispered to the person to my immediate left, “Can you please ask your friend to quiet down?”

The woman responded with, “He’s autistic.”

Ugh. I immediately felt like the worst person in the world.

Here I was, so focused on my feelings of irritation, and my own sense of what I deserved. But for people with autism, many things, even sounds or lights or touch — things that wouldn’t bother many of us, can cause just as much irritation to them as the sound of one person’s voice in a movie theater was causing me. In fact, for some people with autism, their reactions to such stimuli can be pretty intense.

And deserving? Sure, for $19, I deserved to be relax and be entertained by a good show for a couple of hours. But then, so did the people to my left, including the patron with autism. So do people in wheelchairs. So do families who care for people with autism and other disabilities. We all deserve a break from reality, and movie theaters (and restaurants, and other public places) should not be exclusive spots where only certain people get to spend their recreational time.

Funny how easy it was to tune out the talking and enjoy the movie once I adjusted my attitude about it. The movies should be a place for all of us to sit back, enjoy our buttery popcorn and beer, and slip into a world of fantasy, if only for a couple of hours.

Reality TV Bites (aka: Stick to the Script)

Facing reality just isn’t my thing.

I have no clue who the Kardashians are, or why I would want to keep up with them. I don’t know what The Voice sounds like. And no, I have never watched a single episode of The Bachelor.

It’s one of those sad realities that makes it challenging to jump into conversations with other women. At my work, many of the men seem to stand around the water cooler, discussing basketball or guns. Many of the women seem to either gossip about real-life people, or real-life reality shows.

Me? I stay in my cubicle, doing work.

When people find out what a reality-show virgin I am, the shocked reactions are always the same. “What? You’ve never seen [fill-in-the-blank cooking show battle]? You didn’t watch that amazing stunt on America’s Most Talented Circus Performers? You didn’t see the train wrecked lives of those poor kids on Teen Mom, Season 3? You really missed out.”

To be fair, I have seen some reality shows. Back when they were a newfangled concept, I checked out MTV’s The Real World. I caught the early seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race. I even watched Kelly beat Justin after Simon Cowell dashed the hopes of hundreds of recording artist wannabes. I have also seen The Truman Show a half dozen times. So I know what reality shows are all about. But I also know that many of these shows are staged, with produced events to spice up the shows, and turn them into a larger-than-life version of reality. So really, it would be accurate to call them unreality shows.

Although they can be somewhat entertaining, I reject reality TV shows for one sole reason: lack of writers. Call it nuts, but I happen to value good writing. You take some interesting characters, weave them into a fascinating plot, toss in some witty humor and carefully-crafted drama, then tie it all together with a satisfying ending. Voila! You have just created a story. And story is what it’s all about. A romance story. A suspenseful story. A horror story. Something to keep me on my toes, intrigued, involved in the lives of the characters. But not just an slapped-together slice of life from some ordinary wealthy person and their first-world problems. Reality shows are like the IKEA of TV programs. A true story is a work of art, taking the realities of life, then reproducing them in an extraordinary way.

Who needs reality when you can put on Olivia Pope’s white hat for an hour, or leap from an airplane into an enemy state with Sidney Bristow, or save countless lives with Meredith Gray? Why watch real-life people battle over who can build a fancier cupcake, when you can watch imaginary characters transform into superheroes, evil dictators, spaceship captains, or time-travelers? Stick to the script!

Don’t we already get enough reality in our everyday lives? We survive. We do our jobs and try not to get fired. We are dance moms and soccer dads. We try to contribute the winningest dish to the potluck. We have people following us around with cameras (Oh wait…is that just me?). Reality is enough of a reality. You can keep those other so-called realities on some other channel. I’d rather watch a story.

Lights, Camera, Action! (aka: Family Movie Night)

family movie nightIn our house, nearly every Friday night is Family Movie Night. With three kids and busy schedules, it is not always an easy date to keep. But whenever we can, my three kids and I love to curl up on the sofa, eat homemade pizza and popcorn, and watch a movie together.

Of course, it can be tricky to choose a movie that everyone will enjoy. My 15 year-old tends to favor exciting movies filled with action, like The Matrix or the Bourne Identity series. My 13 year-old daughter goes moony-eyed over typical “teen girl” movies, like Mean Girls or Divergent. Meanwhile, my 10 year-old still loves the Disney videos and adventurous kid films that the rest of us have seen nearly 100 times, like Finding Nemo or Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney Finding Nemo

And then there’s me. While I am happy to watch just about any movie, I have an affinity for the Great Films – films which tell a good story, are supreme examples of their genre, or portray the depths of the human experience in a unique way. Some years ago, I was introduced to the Criterion Collection. For those of you who are classic film virgins, the Criterion Collection is a tremendous library of some of the most prolific, outstanding, and or groundbreaking films of all time. The films are not always as well known, though the directors may be. They often feature themes and plots which require some thought and reflection on the part of the viewer. And no, they are not usually wrapped up with a neat, colorful little Disneyland happy ending like most films we are accustomed to today. More often than not, the films from the Criterion Collection leave the viewer rather unsettled, by introducing a disturbing ethical dilemma, then refusing to offer a neat solution. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have sat, watching the credits with wide-eyed incredulity and a sense of injustice. How could the director have allowed the film to end there? Why did the protagonist make such a choice? And for the next day or two, I walk around in a daze, chewing on the deep moral issues raised by the film like a piece of succulent grilled meat.

The Criterion CollectionSadly, my kids just can’t see the greatness of the Criterion Collection films. “Mo-om…not another black and white movie!” they complain. So I have learned to save these films for the weekends when the kids are away. After all, the point of Family Movie Night is not to persuade my children to think like me and enjoy what I enjoy most. The point is two hours of fun and laughter as we bond together as a family – even if that means watching Finding Nemo for the 100th time.

Great Picks for Family Movie Night 

The Goonies D.A.R.Y.L.
Pirates of the Caribbean Homeward Bound
Earth to Echo The Parent Trap (both)
The Indiana Jones films Freaky Friday (both)
The Hunger Games Akeelah and the Bee
The Harry Potter films Big Hero 6
Catch Me if You Can Night at the Museum
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen Jumanji

Got any more suggestions? We are always looking for new ideas.

Great Criterion Collection Films for Beginners

The 400 Blows (1959) 12 Angry Men (1957)
Bicycle Thieves (1948) The Virgin Spring (1960)
The Game (1997) Walkabout (1971)
Rashomon (1950) My Life as a Dog (1985)
Au revoir les enfants (1987) Cria cuervos (1976)