Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cinematic Struggles

I have a Love/Hate relationship with the movies. At movie theaters, specifically. Unless I am exhausted, which lately is all the time, I have trouble focusing on one thing for an extended period. And in those cases, I need a couch to sprawl on, not a narrow seat with plastic armrests and sticky floors. I like to pause and pee. I have restless EVERYTHING syndrome.

I also have trouble suspending reality. I can't get caught up without that cynical voice whispering "THAT would never happen." And because I am an writing enthusiast, I am hyper critical of the dialogue, the character development, even the cinematography which I have no business commenting on.

So to be trapped in a dark room full strangers, in a stiff seat with the greasy odor of popcorn surrounding me as I try not to listen to my inner critic was not always my idea of a good time.

Things began to shift in my youth when going to the movies became the sole vehicle for any type of social life. At a private, religious elemantary and high school, dating was haphazard. There were no school dances or homecoming games. Left to our own devices and the likely need to catch a ride with our parents, movies were as risque as it got.

My first movie date was an accidental double date with a friend and her "boyfriend" and another boy whom I did not care for. I was 12. We saw Moonstruck. What struck me was the fact that if you don't like a boy, you like him even less at the movies, when you are hoping he does not try to hold your hand on top of an unused cupholder. In the blinding light of day, outside the multiplex, I was thrilled to get away -- from him and that freaky wooden hand that Nicholas Cage sported in the movie.

And then things changed, as they often do when you leave the pre teen years and enter the true teens - when clearasil and frizz give way to Victoria's Secret body splash and tight jeans. Group outings to the movies with boys had a heightened sense of appeal. It was rarely a one-on-one venture (still at a religious school), but the darkness felt more electric amidst their oversized varsity jackets, cologne with names like Drakaar and Farenheit stolen from dad and the awareness that they wanted to touch more than your hand. And that would not be too bad. We saw movies with erotic undertones that would still be acceptable by our parents. And we would twist in our seats, giddy with the taste of adult life.

Through the dating years, when it was good, movies held a great excuse to sit close in the darkness and concentrate on the rhythmn of each others laughter and breathing, if nothing else. When it was bad, you are trapped. You could learn alot about a date by going to the movies -- is he a center aisle guy or more of the side show type. Obnoxiously loud or a suprise crier. A friend had a date pay for himself with a free movie voucher and left her to her own devices -- I need not comment here. One of my more memorable movie dates was the one whose Mercedes had heated seats, who paid at Concessions with $100 bills and asked me not to judge him on superficialities. He wore Calvin Klein Escape. I sure wanted to.

My husband has made me really love the movies again. It is our only real way to journey outside our own busy life, and take on the lives of others -- if only as cynical spectators. I like eating bad things in the dark near someone who I love to touch. He laughs loudly but not obtrusively, and he'd kill me for saying so, but he cries in those anonymous surrounding more than he ever does in the light of day. We both like to finish the snacks during the previews and he always gives me the better seat and a separate one for my coat. It is as alone as we can get, and it only happens every few months, which adds to the appeal. Sometimes he will let me dissect the nuances even if it means ruining a perfectly good script. Other times, we walk home in silence, mourning the end of the fantasy but eager to return to reality -- larger than life. Our happy ending.


At 12:42 PM PDT, Blogger Cara said...

Wow. A very well written essay on the movies.


At 7:02 PM PDT, Blogger Janya said...

Great story. Theaters are magical places.

Hubby and I went to the movies the other night and I had to use the restroom in the middle of it. As I was navigating my way down the dark steps, it dawned on me that this may be one of the last times we see a movie before the baby comes. And even though we may go to the movies after he is born, we will never be alone again. Even if he is not with us, we will be thinking of him; how is he? where is he? is he ok?

As I returned to my seat, I realized we were in our own little womb in that dark movie theater.

At 7:27 PM PDT, Blogger Amy said...

Janya - I love the womb image. BTW - not sure where you hail from, but here in NYC they have Reel Moms - matinees where moms take their newborns and crying and nursing is welcome. Its a whole new way to love the big screen. --Amy


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