Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson





Building façade in Cannes, France

For crying out loud

Last weekend I was watching the evening network news on ABC (America’s Broadcasting Company) when I happened to catch a piece by Judy Muller.

I always enjoy Muller’s reports. They are usually aired toward the end of the broadcast, when you’ve had about all you can take of dispatches about wars, disasters, and political campaigns. She’s like a light, sweet soufflé after a heavy meal. She’s based in California, and her role seems to be to keep the tony, well-groomed, smartly dressed anchors at ABC headquarters in New York City (usually dapper, unflappable, Canadian-born Peter Jennings) informed about the kooky and wacky goings-on of those exotic characters Out West. Her subject matter usually includes such crucial topics as 80-year-old surfers and fingernail painting. She’s like a foreign correspondent explaining a strange, far-away land to the “real” Americans.

Anyway, on this particular evening she was reporting on a movie theater in Oakland that has special screenings of first-run films on Monday evenings, and to get in you have to be accompanied by a child under one year old. Not only did this piece afford ample opportunity to show lots of cute footage of many, many babies, but it also allowed Muller to work in much really bad baby/movie wordplay, like “This movie had the critics crawling in the aisles!”

Now, your first reaction to this might well be: Hey, is this some kind of cartoon hell? Isn’t this the kind of perverse situation that erstwhile Far Side creator Gary Larson might dream up? I know. I’ve been there. I used to be one of those purist snobs who would sneer at the idea of letting a child compromise one’s film-enjoying experience. (Cf. previous musings for my thoughts on the optimal movie-going environment.) Year after year, as more of my friends, relatives, and acquaintances got married and had children, I would listen sympathetically as they would talk about how they missed going to movies or how they finally rented a movie they had been dying to see for five years and then fell asleep halfway through it and subsequently had to return it the first thing next morning or incur a huge financial penalty.

Heck, I was even the type of guy who would listen smugly while my parent friends would go on about the fabulous movie they had seen at home the previous weekend and then crush them with a comment like “Oh, I think I remember that one all right. I think I saw it six or seven years ago on the really big screen at such-and-such theater. You know, they have great stereo surround-sound in that theater.”

This all came to an end six and a half weeks ago when I finally became a parent myself. Now my friends are probably all secretly laughing while they go to see the really cool new movies with their teenage children and conjure up visions of a doddering, old, tired movie buff endlessly walking his crying infant from one wall of his home to another.

So suddenly, the idea of sitting in a big room full of crying babies doesn’t seem so incredibly out-of-the-question—if it’s the only way to see a new movie on the big screen. I can actually empathize with those parents in Oakland bouncing their wailing bundles of joy on their knees as they try to follow the plot of The Talented Mr. Ripley.

But that’s still not as scary as what lies ahead in a few years. What will happen to my nicely jaded and jaundiced critical commentary style after I start getting fed a diet of every Disney movie plus every other animated feature that comes out over a period of several years? Or after I have seen Pocahontas or Mulan 12 times a day on home video for a year?

The adventure is just beginning.

-S.L., 27 July 2000


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