Tuesday Questions, swan dress edition

In the high and far-off times, I used to go to the movies a lot.  Yea, at the peak of my movie-going salad days I had seen almost all of the nominees for the major Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Screenplay [both Adapted and Original], Actor and Actress for those of you keeping score at home) before the nominations were even announced, and I’d mop up the remainders (plus all of the Supporting performances) before the ceremony.  As I mentioned recently, those days are long gone, but more on that later.

In addition to mainstream fare, when I lived in New York City I’d try to make the most of the variety on offer.  My best friend and I are both fans of “Breaking the Waves,” so we decided to see Lars von Trier’s next movie “Dancer in the Dark” together when it came out.  After sitting through a cinematic experience so depressing that by the end it almost loops all the way around into being hilarious (seriously, the tragedies that befall the protagonist get more and more implausible toward the end so that it really is almost funny), we stumbled out of the theater and I’m pretty sure consoled ourselves at the Ollie’s across the street.  (Dear God, how I miss Ollie’s.)

Since that time, von Trier’s cinematic excruciations have only become more baroque, and his flagrantly anti-American attitudes have become more apparent.  The reviews of “Dogville” told me all I needed to know I’d hate it, and his more recent offerings were apparently so off-putting that even professional movie-watchers were swearing off his films.  Suffice it to say none of them have been even vaguely tempting.

That is, until “Melancholia.”  While it certainly doesn’t seem like a laugh riot, from what I can see it looks beautiful and haunting.  Also, say what you will about old Lars, but he does get wonderful performances from his actresses, and I like Kirsten Dunst.  Were I back in Manhattan and childless, I might well see it.

But I’m not in Manhattan, and I’m not childless.  (This is, apparently, my week to discuss being a parent.)  It’s not just that I don’t want to spring for a sitter for a rare cinematic outing just to be relentlessly bummed-out, though there’s certainly that to consider.  I also don’t have a particular desire to see a movie that begins with the Earth’s slow-mo destruction.  And I’m pretty sure that has to do with having a kiddo.  Three years ago I think I would have watched the planet get pulverized with sangfroid.  But now all I can think of is “my little guy is on that planet!” and the idea of him getting pulverized along with the planet kind of makes me want to barf.  So I’ll pass.

The other movie that I otherwise would have wanted to see (and will probably watch at home when it’s available) was “Contagion,” since by all accounts it is both well-made and -acted, and also (mirabile dictu) portrays government scientists and doctors in a positive light!  But again. the idea of a plague sweeping the globe and possibly sickening my son is an abstraction I’d just as soon not contemplate for entertainment.

I realize that this may make me seem emotionally overwrought and intellectually unserious, but there you have it.  (I also realize this post is overlong and a bit on the rambling side.)  Changes in my life have wrought changes in my tastes.  So this week’s question is this — what changes in your life have altered what you enjoy?  How did some personal experience inform or undermine your ability to experience pleasure?  Did you once enjoy rum raisin ice cream, until that time you got lost in Jamaica and had to survive for three weeks on sugarcane?  That kind of thing.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Good Dr, you can rent Melancholia NOW on iTunes. The Strangely Accented Canadian and I rented it the other night. We enjoyed it. And what the heck, why not give Antichrist a shot as well?

    And turning 30 ruined the pleasure I got out of making fun of people in their thirties.

  2. It’s an incredibly boring comment to make, but I’ve been going through the a very similar taste change since our little girl came along.
    I can no longer stand to consume entertainment that revolves around self-centered people. No more anti-heroes (I’m glad The Sopranos ended before she arrived), no more Noah Baumbach movies, threw out The Corrections a third of the way through. Selfishness in protagonists is probably actually a bigger turnoff now than outright psychopaths.
    My wife and I tried to watch Melancholia via OnDemand a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t stand it.

    Of course, I also can barely stand to see anything where a child is hurt, endangered or threatened, much less if one were to die. I barely made it through this season’s Walking Dead.

    • I hated The Corrections. Hated, hated, hated. I loathed every single character from the moment they were introduced until the moment the book ended. Its critical plaudits confounded me utterly, and any time it appeared on a “Best of” list I died a little inside.

      The only book I have hated more is 2666, which is the ugliest piece of literary excrement I have ever dragged my eyes over.

    • Me too, on both on self-absorbed immature protagonists and child endangerment. It’s worst when the author seems to approve of the wretched characters – so the Corrections pissed me off more than the Sopranos.

  3. Here’s a big one: Until I had my first kid, I didn’t really enjoy children so much. I mean, I didn’t hate them or anything, but I can’t say if I was at a friend’s house and there were kids there I went out of my way to connect with them or anything.

    Now, of course, I love kids. Love interacting with them, love finding out how the one’s I know are doing in the lives/hobbies/school, love when out house is full of them.

    • Oops – when OUR house is full of them, not out house is full of them. I probably still don’t like them enough to want to deal with an outhouse full of them.

    • “Until I had my first kid, I didn’t really enjoy children so much.”

      Forgive me Tod, but God that made me laugh! A little W.C. Fieldsian…although instead of using, “enjoy” he might have said, “hate”. Fields is my favorite. And just a teensy, weensy below, are the Marx Brothers. And funniest movie of all time? Spinal Tap gets my vote!

        • Well thank you very much, Dr. Saunders. It certainly seems to help keep the conversive temperature down–I hope!

          And after your kind words, I go astray with a stupid question–
          Sheeesh! Although I think, judging from the title of your post, a little leeway may be granted.

          So here goes–is it illegal to wear a doctor’s smock in a hospital with your name nicely stitched on it, followed with the ultimate adornment, M.D.? Not for the intention of treating patients, mind you, but for the intention of cozying up to nurses or doing likewise at the local bars around the hospital. Of course, genders can be mismatched any way one wants depending upon whatever their proclivities are.

          Not that I have any intention of engaging in such behavior honorable sir, just curious.

          We seem to have people impersonating just about every possible occupation and profession, doctors among them, that I was just wondering if they’ve starting to clamp down on this kind of behavior in hospital settings. The only profession I’ve never heard of someone trying to fake, is that of a lawyer. At least a lawyer that goes in front of a judge and jury without having spent one minute in a law school of any kind. Thanks.

          • By the way Dr. Saunders, I promise, you will not be reading in tomorrow’s paper, “a man, posing as a physician AND philosopher, was being held by police for questioning about a dungeon on his property that he was using to imprison local nurses and philosophers.”

    • I didn’t really enjoy children much until recently, either. Then I found out how much you can accomplish with a little Worchesteshire sauce, fresh rosemary, and a balsamic reduction glaze. Hearty and savory.

  4. I used to love movies. More than most people. Got a BA in film studies, then an MA in film studies. But now that TV is so good and involving, movies just seem so short and sketchy and shallow. I rarely watch them anymore, except if I have a special interest in a director or plot line or whatever. Documentaries and comedies are still good. But when I’ve got Friday Night Lights and Downton Abbey to watch, and novels to read, I don’t need no stinkin’ movies.

    • a good movie is like a good short story, simple, short and to the point.
      The girl with the dragon tattoo (in swedish) was great.
      Same thing with The Heartbreakers.
      Short, simple, punchy (and it’s B plot has a killer ending)

  5. My wife’s book group read it back when it was popular.

    Although I don’t generally participate (as other people are hosting and I volunteered to do kid duty on those nights), I knew ahead of time that we were going to host, so I read it.

    The book has an ambiguous ending, which was interpreted very depressingly by half of the book group and very optimistically by the other half. If you ever strike through it, I’m curious as to how you come down. Come to think of it, I’m curious as to how the other Leaguers would come down.

    I won’t recommend it, necessarily, because if you fall down with those first-half-people (based on what you write for this post) you’ll probably hate the book.

  6. Learning a bit about the world has made watching movies like The Human Centipede impossible. It can’t be escapism, what is actually reality.

    • Did you know that if a centipede loses just one leg, it can’t walk?

      I think it perfectly applies to how humans learn things, as well. In the blink of an eye, the conscious will can throw everything out of whack.

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