Cine(dra)ma(tics)

Does every family have movie wars or is it just ours?

Not wars, wars. No real fighting, yelling, stand offs or well thought out strategies.

Hostages, yes. Often me.

My movie life used to consist of all romantic comedies, anything with Brad Pitt and several girls’ nights dedicated to the latest Disney princess. Tom Cruise was featured for quite some time until things got weird with Oprah. I rarely had trouble finding a movie buddy as my friends and I all shared the same taste. And if we didn’t, I had no problem heading off the the theater solo. I see you Magic Mike.

For most of my life, movies were a luxury item only enjoyed after some planning, thinking ahead and really being sure that I wanted to see the movie. That changed a bit when I gained a Rich, a Zoe and a Zack. Going from a life of single tickets to tickets for four, candy for four, drinks for four and popcorn for four sent me into a state of financial shock. I’d look at Rich, not blanching at the cost of popcorn made by the hands of angels (I assume) and bottomless jugs of soda, while I, for sure, blanched. I sat through that first movie together wondering which bill we weren’t going to pay or how much Ramen we were going to eat.

I followed that panicked adventure with a ‘new’ kind of movie adventure for the Barlows. It included many trips to the Dollar Store with the biggest purse I could find to load up with candy, bottled drinks and a budding career as an undercover sherpa sliding by the ticket taker. We’d still buy the popcorn as a ‘we’re not cheating here’ decoy. Rich would kindly smile (smirk?) and tell me this wasn’t necessary again and again – yet I’d always make sure we left enough time for some quick pillaging on the way to the theater.

My movie viewing habits also changed over the last seven years. I’d actually never even heard of the Avengers until I met Rich. As that was the first movie we saw together, we were able to work through my total confusion as to why it was good and remain a couple with a promising future. Throughout the beginnings of our relationship, we’d bounce from movie genre to movie genre, trying to support each other and his bad choices.

Our relationship almost didn’t survive his dislike of Les Miserables (he spent most of the movie on his phone) but were brought back together in the nick of time by a discovered common love – Star Wars – as we realized we’d always have the Skywalkers to pull us back together.

I discovered that seven and ten year olds had little interest in romantic comedies and didn’t really care how many abs Brad Pitt was showing. They had a lot of interest in Despicable Me, Monsters, Inc., and, for the love, how many Avengers movies are there? As they grew, so did their taste. We added Guardians of the Galaxy, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park. Basically any more with explosions, monsters or potential for a seven sequels.

I got very good at using movie time as nap time. I didn’t mind it so much as I appreciated the time together and that time together not including running around chasing errands that never made their way to the finish line. Plus, there was an eventual promise of an annual Star Wars movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I did (and do) get to see my movies on occasion. But I made a huge error a few years ago. It was a movie, my pick, that was so bad that we began rating the bad-ness of all other movies in comparison. We also use it to rate any trying event at all. Manchester by the Sea. I’d told Rich for weeks that I wanted to see it. Michelle Williams. Casey Affleck. It was going to be amazing and definitely worth using my of my rare movie picks.

It was not amazing. It was so awful that when it ended, most of the theater patrons stood up and looked around at each other – asking silently, ‘what just happened?’ I knew mid-movie I was probably losing my movie picks for years to come – unless, somehow, the plot took a huge turn. Like fighting dinosaurs appeared.

It became an instant addition to our vocabulary – “Oh, yeah, that sounds like an awful day – but was it Manchester by the Sea awful? No? Oh okay, then that’s not too terrible”. I honestly don’t think I’ve picked another movie since – my confidence shattered and the memory hanging around for going on three years.

But Ad Astra changed all that. I had no idea it what was going to happen. I actually showed up at the theater yesterday a bit grumpy for no particular reason. The movie had space stuff and Brad Pitt, something for both Rich and I. And yet, Rich unknowingly avenged Manchester by the Sea. This movie was so terrible that I can only guess the Jolie-Pitt divorce did not go Brad’s way. A movie that takes place in space, of which my only knowledge is that Orion has a belt, yet during which I was able to see every plot hole.

I always thought “I love you” were the most amazing words Rich would say to me.

Or “You were right.”

Or “I vacuumed.”

Turns out it’s “That movie was terrible. I’ve now lost my movie picking control of this family forever.” Well, he may not have said all of that, but his eyes told me he knew it was true.

I nearly skipped out of the theater, providing emotional support while coveting this change in my life. I quietly side-eyed Fandago planning out the rest of the year while imaging a life devoid of that Bucky fellow.

There is some pressure. I’ve got to get it right. I can’t give up the baton that I’ve waited to hold for so long. Do I aim for a date night or a whole family night? Go straight back to romantic comedy or lean towards a ‘based on a true story?’ Just wait it out until Top Gun Maverick comes out? Do my kids even know who Tom Cruise is?

All I know is I am the Chosen One. I will bring balance to this world.

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