Probably Not a Very Good Movie Night

Ages ago, I used to visit my family.  It’s a thousand mile trip, so what most twenty-somethings rationalize as the free use of a laundry machine wasn’t going to cut it for me.  I went, ostensibly, to shop at Target.  It was a ritual my dad and I had been practicing together for years…and he was still willing to pay.

First, we split up so I can look at cheap shoes and he can find the eleventh pair of clever, casual pants he doesn’t need.  Everything we deposit in the cart must bear up under the scrutiny of the other.  I caution him against pleats.  He wonders aloud how many pairs of shoes will fit in my studio apartment back in New York, much less my suitcase.  Together we move through games and toys, bed and bath, home office, and over to electronics and media. 

On this occasion, my father proceeds to push the cart down the DVD aisle and toss in every movie he may or may not have already seen that interests him in the split-second of consideration he affords each title. 

This behavior sets my brain on fire.  I have already explained to him, fuck it, lectured him on the sanctity of the permanent collection.  There are movies you rent and there are the films you own.  A perfect stranger should be able to walk into your living room, assess your DVD/video collection and infer a recognizable portrait of your moral character, aesthetic sensibility and level of cultural ignorance.  Why then would he jeopardize his reputation in this reckless manner?  Did the man have a death wish?  Was he going undercover—necessarily reworking the disposition of his den as a means of disguise?

I am disabused of my shock induced speechlessness as soon as he snaps up Angel Eyes.  God bless him, the poor man only sees J Lo.  I see a trapdoor to Hell.  "No!" I gurgle, in the slo-mo monotone that accompanies every damned effort to save a human life.  In my normal voice, I remind him that his philosophy is skewed.  Calmly, I explain that his judgment is flawed.  I say, “This is a very bad movie.” 

He asks me why and I tell him that the writing was on the wall—the tagline on all the subway ads was systematically edited by the brilliant youth of New York City to read: You won’t believe her eyes ASS.  Isn’t that enough to illustrate the flimflam nature of this beast?  And from the mouths of babes!

He says, “So, you haven’t seen it.”  And then he looses the stone cold stare he’s been working on me since I was six years old.  It says: You think you’re smart, but can you talk your way out of this one?  Can you break the master of bullshit?  It is at this very moment that I discover the mantra that will save my soul and murder my social life: I must speak with authority on that which I despise.

I must speak with authority on that which I despise.  I must watch crappy movies in order to filet them properly and with all expediency.  No one can be allowed to escape my inimitable wrath.

The problem is I’m too much of a snob to suffer through all of it.  I take it too seriously.  So far, the oeuvre of Charlize The Wrong has nearly killed me.  I saw The Astronaut’s Wife for Johnny Depp.  I’m a first generation 21 Jump Street devotee and I used to go to every movie this man put out, but after that spent piece of used jet trash (thank you, Tom Waits, sir) I couldn’t do it anymore.  She’s gorgeous, but she can’t act her way out of a paper sack.  After The Legend of Bagger Vance, I’m sorry, but you’re not going to sell me on Monster. 

I don’t blame Johnny.  He takes risks and for a talented actor the peaks of that s-curve can be glorious.  They have been in his career.  On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that lately Morgan Freeman is a total movie ho.  At least equally as talented, for sure, but who does this man say no to?  He’s done twenty flicks in the last five years.  At what point did The Big Bounce seem like a good idea?  Guilty by Association?  I get Under Suspicion—I’d pick my nose onscreen if I could do it next to Hackman—but High Crimes?

Still, when The Legend of Zorro came out, I saved it to my Netflix list for eventual home viewing.  I knew it was going to be bad, and it was, but I couldn’t help myself.  I love the real legend of Zorro.  After all, he fights for those who cannot fight for themselves.  If I don’t fight for Zorro by lambasting this tragic interpolation, who will? 

I am tortured by my overwhelming need to articulate my many opinions and my intense fear of sounding ignorant.  They are equal opposing forces that never quit.  If we ever met, you might find this combination of personality traits somewhat annoying or abrasive.  Friend, you can walk away.  Let me repeat, I am tortured.

So, I continue to watch crap I probably won’t like.  At my house it’s called Probably Not a Very Good Movie Night.  (Because I live alone and I call it that.)  Mostly anything big and commercial goes into this category, along with anything recommended to me by my friend David.  Well, almost anything.  I still haven’t signed on for White Oleander. 

Every once in a while, I’m pleasantly surprised.  Usually, I find the special features of decidedly bad films far more entertaining than the actual feature.  The best so far is The Forgotten, which started out as fairly intriguing modern noir and then shifted abruptly and inexplicably into a ridiculous sci-fi alien brain sucking thing.  They have interviews with the cast and I just loved listening to Julianne Moore speak passionately about the incredible script and how much she believed in the project.  Lady, did you read it?  Either the interview was the performance of her career or they rewrote the ending on her.  That I could watch ten times!

All of this is to say, in case you haven’t already guessed, I am a great big obsessive pop-culture geek.  I have Netflix OCD and must re-rank my queue several times each day.  I stay home on weekends and watch DVDs.  I own all of Buffy and am working on top five episode lists for each season.  (Marti Noxon, you are my hero!)  You know, for fun. 

I also own The Decalogue and Howard Hawks has been my favorite director since I was eleven years old.  The Third Man is my number one film.  Barbara Stanwyck is my best actress.  Paul Newman is my best actor.  I know I’m looking for a Frank Capra man who is able to negotiate this Hitchcokian world we live in, but I’m still facing up to the fact that I’m going to have to leave my apartment a little more often if I want to find him.

Meanwhile, I have the master of bullshit to contend with.  Shortly after I got home from that trip I received a package.  I knew what was in it.  I’m not his daughter for free.  The note attached to the J Lo ticket to eternal damnation read: You always forget to pack one thing when you visit.  What would you do without me?


Hillery eventually learned not to say everything that came to mind. Some were too good not to write down.

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