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.