Sunday, November 21, 2010

Movies Made Easy

When I was a film critic for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Teentime pages, and then Film Threat and The Signal and Screen It!, I watched movies all the time. For Teentime, I'd go to Muvico Paradise 24 in Davie, Florida all day on Saturdays, and then press screenings in later years (One of my fondest was missing school for a morning screening of the Disney film "Dinosaur," which my mom allowed, since she took the day off, too, and drove me to it). For Film Threat, I reviewed independent films, and for Screen It!, did extensive reviews of films released before 1996, noting exactly the violence, sex, drugs, etc., almost like a transcript of the entire film.

I seemed to watch more movies than doing anything else in my life and I think that's one thing that brought on the anxiety I had. I was finished writing "What If They Lived?" and the owner of Screen It! told me he wasn't making as much money as before with the site, and couldn't pay me the $150 he had paid me previously. He was a mensch, because he didn't ask if I could write for lower pay. He simply said that the site was going to be revamped, and hoped that that would boost what had been profitable before. So I honestly felt useless on two fronts, that I didn't have another book to do to keep myself busy, and I had lost what I think I had basically defined myself by, writing these elaborate movie reviews that I consider the best on that site. I was dedicated.

As the anxiety lessened and I vowed to make changes in my life and put them into action, I decided to watch less movies. Sitcoms, Antiques Roadshow, basketball games, all acceptable to me in the living room, on the Tivo. But sitting in my room as I did, watching movie after movie? No more.

It took a few weeks of getting into the routine, but I like what I have now. On Saturday mornings, early Saturday mornings, after I've finished breakfast by 7:30, I watch two movies: A crapshoot and a favorite. The crapshoot is from Netflix, something I haven't seen, which, this past Saturday, was "The Joneses," which I thought was brilliant, and a marked improvement from last Saturday, when I couldn't get past 20 minutes of "Just Wright," even though it was basketball-related. The writing wasn't outlandishly bad, but subtly bad, and I get more annoyed when it's like that.

The second movie on Saturday was "My Blueberry Nights," my 7th favorite film.

I give my Sunday mornings completely over to audio commentaries. This morning, I listened to the audio commentaries on "An American in Paris" and "Frost/Nixon." Always double features. I will never add a third or watch something else after I've finished two, such as episodes of "Scrubs," say, because by the time I'm done, it's either past 11 a.m. or closer to noon, and it's time to get on with the rest of the day. Unless I've got a movie on the Tivo in the living room (and even then, they end up sitting there for quite a while because I inevitably have other things I want to watch), I only watch movies on the weekend.

While I was watching "An American in Paris" and listening to Patricia Kelly, Gene Kelly's widow, guide a masterpiece of an audio commentary, I began planning my movies for the next three weeks, and I like what I have ahead. Like, not love, because of the crapshoots. I can't be sure yet if I'll love them until I've seen them.

On Saturday, I have planned "Lovesick" (checked out from the library on VHS, unfortunately the only way I could get it, but despite the temptation, I was not going to pay $3 at Big Lots yesterday just to get it on DVD and see it. I was tempted to do the same for "Heartburn," since I want to read all of Nora Ephron's books right now, but no) and "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (from Netflix. After my association with Screen It! diminished, I dropped the 3-discs-at-a-time plan to one disc, to save my dad money since he still pays for it). I saw "The Mirror Has Two Faces" a long time ago and I liked it, but after seeing Barbra Streisand on a recent episode of "Oprah," I have a yen to see it again.

For Sunday morning, I want to listen to the audio commentaries for "My Favorite Year" and "Rocky Balboa" (That one I bought from Big Lots for $5, and well worth it, because I like the first and sixth films the best. I also bought for the second time "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio," since Julianne Moore is one of my favorite actresses, I should have at least one of her films in my collection, and I have no idea why I threw it out the first time, except that I probably had too many DVDs back then, and it was caught in that wave).

The Saturdays and Sundays for the following two weeks are tentative, since I'm not sure yet when we're going to Six Flags Magic Mountain to take advantage of their toy drive-free admission deal. You bring in a $15 toy, and you get in free. We spent $50 yesterday at Big Lots for toys for me, my sister, and Ivan to bring with us to donate. Still worth it, since we made sure that the toys related to each of our interests. For me, two Nerf basketball sets; for my sister, toy cookware; for Ivan, a Sesame Street-themed doctor's kit, since his mother is a registered nurse.

So, for possibly Saturday, December 4th, either "Heartburn" or "An Evening with Kevin Smith," and "California Suite."

For possibly Sunday, December 5th, the audio commentaries on "Julie & Julia" and "Grease" (After I finished "An American in Paris," I popped "Grease" into my DVD player to see if it had an audio commentary, and it has one by director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch).

For possibly Saturday, December 11th, I'm not sure yet what the crapshoot film will be, but the second film will be "The American President."

For possibly Sunday, December 12, the audio commentaries for "Beavis & Butt-Head Do America," and "From Russia with Love." Rather than going in order by year with the audio commentaries for the Bond films (I own nearly all of them, except for "Quantum of Solace"), I decided to listen to the ones related to my favorites, or rather at least one of them, since most of my favorites have two commentaries on the first disc. Over time, I'll also listen to the commentaries for "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (my absolute, tippy-top favorite Bond film, and the best of the series), "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Licence to Kill," "GoldenEye," and "Casino Royale."

Watching movies like this is far more relaxing to me, and it gives way to more time to get back to my always-love: Reading. I've been reading since I was 2 years old, and one of my regrets while I was voraciously reviewing movies is that I never gave myself time to simply sit and read. That is likely one of the reasons I'm glad to be free of it now, but also because I don't feel like I'm in a cycle anymore that doesn't have a way out.