Mrs. G. and I used to go out to the movies a lot. Sometimes even twice in the same month, but it’s been a year since we’ve been to a movie theater and probably another year before that one. The biggest reason for this is not that all movies today are awful, because they’re not. It’s that we can never decide on a movie that’s worth the price of two tickets. By the time we debate this, a weekend or two has gone by, and the urgency to see the newest three-hour long Hobbit movie has already waned.
If we do decide to go to an actual theater to see a movie, it’s an all out event. I’ll cram my pockets full of bags of Gummi bears and other snacks, while my wife loads up her purse with water bottles to the point where it weighs more than a Thanksgiving turkey—which I would actually put in her purse if I could figure out how to discreetly eat a turkey in a movie theater.
Then we have to get in the car, drive to the theater, park, walk in, and then wait in line to shell out over twenty bucks for two tickets. After this and in spite of carrying more food and water than a Sherpa, I’ll somehow be compelled to pay more for a lunch bag of popcorn than I would for a decent steak.
At this point, tickets are handed to an indifferent teenager who points us towards a hive of theaters within theaters, where we then wander around until we find the correct theater, and then we pick out our seats. I tend to favor sitting as far up and back as I can get. If I could get a seat in the projection booth, that would be fine by me.
Once we’re seated and finally past the commercials, the cell phone warnings, the dancing Pepsi cups and the previews, I’ll try to ignore the people who did all of the above, yet will still spend two hours lighting up the theater with the dazzling screens of their enormous smartphones.
When it’s all over, I’ll unstick my shoes from the floor, dig my coat out of the seat crack, and begin the exodus down the stairs behind people who have left nacho trays, popcorn barrels, Junior Mint containers the size of a shoe box, drink cups and pretty much everything but their underwear behind them. The poor usher is standing at the base of the stairs with a small garbage can and a broom, but what he really needs is a backhoe and a dumpster. Half the time, I’ve forgotten all but the basic plot of the movie before I even get to the car. Why bother? It’s just easier and a lot more enjoyable to go online, reserve a movie at Redbox, and pick it up when we get groceries.
This past weekend, we actually went a step deeper and streamed two movies on-demand, in spite of my griping that they cost $4.99 in HD. This is still significantly less than going to a movie theater, yet three times the cost of Redbox, so it’s clear that I place the entertainment value of a multi-million dollar movie at a buck and a half.
My wife and I always watch movies together, but if pickings are slim at the Redbox or if Netflix is a little dry, we’ll often watch the stupidest movies ever made in the hopes that they will be fractionally good. They seldom are, so for 2015, I resolve to cut my loses and no longer do this. This is the only resolution I have made because it makes the most sense and will be easier to keep over my usual resolution to floss twice a day. This should clean up my movie rentals by at least a third, because I’m booting a lot of desperation rentals to the curb.
This means no more movies with a contemporary spin on vampires, no more psychotic killers who, ironically, can’t be killed themselves, no maniacs of any kind (including possessed dolls or puppets) and no movies with houses haunted by spirits or invaded by gangly aliens from space, even if the story is “based on actual events.” I don’t mind a little fantasy, but a tincture of reality and a cohesive storyline would be nice. For example—if I wake up some night and see a gangly alien standing next to my bed with his arms up in some gangly and menacing manner, I’m not going to stare blankly in abject fear while he probes me or takes me away to his spacecraft like those dopes in the movies. I’m smacking him in the head with an alarm clock and going back to bed. That’s how it’s done in real life. If anyone wants to make a terrifying movie, make one where the squirrels turn against us. That scares me.
I will also avoid any movie that has any sort of plot that involves a dystopian future. Seriously, who writes these things and why are these people so negative about the future? It’s the future; it’s supposed to be bright and filled with good things like flying cars and no more diseases and cool stuff such as that. Isn’t today better than it was a century ago? Of course it is, but according to half of the movies out there, homicidal clans, draconian overlords or evil robots that somehow hate humans will be running the show and we’ll all be wearing rags and living in a place that looks like London in the nineteenth century, only grimier and with more fires in barrels. Enough already.
And while I do have an inexplicable addiction for superhero movies, I have crossed anything that involves any actor who used to be a wrestler, a bodybuilder or is named after a mineral off my viewing list. If I’ve seen one movie where somebody fires off their body weight in bullets, I’ve seen them all. On the flip side of that, I’ve noticed that the new trend in action movies involves old guys who get dragged out of retirement so they can rescue a family member or right some previous wrong. I like these movies because none of the old guys I know are harboring a secret set of assassin skills, unless being cranky counts as a martial art. I have to admit that I get a kick out of watching sixty-two year old Liam Neeson Krav Maga the crap out of somebody half his age.
Finally, and this is non-negotiable no matter how many stars the Internet gave the movie, I will no longer watch a movie that has a ratio of teenagers higher than two percent. Anything more than that will lead to any of the above situations or possibly a dance-off, a sing-off, trendy words and phrases I do not understand or somebody trying to “get some.” If I want to watch ninety minutes of wacky teenagers, I’ll, I’ll, wait a second … there’s no circumstance on Earth where I’d want to do that. I’d rather watch a British period drama, and these are also off my list. Well, unless they have zombies. Some premises are just too absurd to ignore.
My wife just came into the room as I was finishing this to let me know that there’s nothing on TV tonight. Digital cable, Netflix, a million weird channels on Roku, HBO and Showtime, and it’s still a post-holiday dead zone. Sure, I could read while she practices casting on and off (she’s getting into knitting) but instead, I went on the Netflix website and found a movie that looks halfway interesting. As it turned out, it was about an antique mirror that harbored an evil spirit that turned its owners insane and made their eyes white so, you know, it had to have been an Oscar winner. There was a lot of ramped up tension rather than in-your-face gore, so it had a Hitchcockian vibe that was OK and the acting was decent. Plus, there were no gangly aliens or brutish maniacs wearing hockey masks, so that worked for me.