Monday, October 25

Returning to the cinema after the confinement was a heady mix of strange and wonderful | Film

IAt the very least, the last 12 Covid-filled months have been filled with opportunities to learn. Learning about ourselves, about others, about our country and the world. I can’t say that I have taken advantage of all the lessons as it has also been a year full of napping opportunities, but I have certainly learned a lot about myself.

I’ve learned how many times I can watch every episode of Schitt’s Creek before I can recite the entire script verbatim; that I prefer Zoom dance classes because I can actually dance like no one is watching; and that I can survive for days on just yogurt and coffee.

The most valuable lessons have been discovering the number of comforts that I once thought essential and without which I can live happily. From takeout to pedicures to spinning classes to restaurants, I didn’t cry much during the confinements. In fact, it has been a welcome crash course to reduce my expenses and verify my privilege.

What I did miss, apart from seeing my friends and the world not being on fire, was going to concerts, plays and, above all, the movies.

I love going to the movies. I like it a lot. Every time I go I feel like little orphan Annie, and not just because I have curly hair and don’t have parents. I feel like Annie in the scene where the secretary sings “Let’s go to the movies” and all the staff in the house dance like they get a fair salary because this precocious child they now serve goes to the talkies.

But honestly, what is not loving? Movie theaters are air-conditioned vacuums with increasingly comfortable seats, where junk food is encouraged and attractive people distract you from your troubles. Even when a movie is bad, I still eat Maltesers and ignore my phone for 90 minutes, so everyone wins.

Movie theaters have always been my happy place and the setting for many fond memories. My dad took my sister and me to the movie Care Bears; my mother taking us to The Delinquents when we were too young to see The Delinquents; holding hands in the dark with my first boyfriend; and countless midnight sessions of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I also vaguely recall that my local childhood cinema had a live presenter who joked around, sang happy birthday, handed out candy, and maybe made balloon animals. It’s quite possible that these were fever dreams, but it was a good time anyway.

There have been a few bad incidents on the big screen over the years, namely being dumped in a parking lot after Wonder Woman and an ill-advised screening of Schindler’s List with other Holocaust surviving families. But I don’t blame Hollywood for my bad taste in men or intergenerational trauma, and neither should you.

I missed going to the movies. But at least thanks to streaming services, the third Covid-19 MVP behind Frontline Workers, and Yoga with Adriene, the movies themselves are more accessible than ever. And you don’t have to wear pants or shower to see them.

When movie theaters reopened after closing in New South Wales last year, I was concerned. Although I wanted to support my favorite cinemas and choc tops from the main line, it was quite a while before I challenged one. But when the virus seemed to be under control long enough, I threw caution to the possibly contaminated wind and saw Promising Young Woman with a friend.

Being in a movie theater was a heady mix of weird and wonderful. Everything seems like before, but the little things make it clear that we are no longer in Kansas. There are demarcated lines going in and out of different areas and social distancing markers along the floors. The candy bar is a sliver of what it used to be, with more hand sanitizer than popcorn, and, at the moment at least, everyone is wearing masks.

Most devastating, for me at least, is that the paddle picking and mixing stations are gone. Sure, the reduced number of people allowed in each session makes the movie-going experience more peaceful and comfortable, but how am I supposed to suspend my disbelief without bullets of chocolate and gummy cherries? I’m not an animal (Side note: go see Promising Young Woman. It’s epic and brilliant, and if this were a review, I’d give it four stars.)

Days after this successful talk show trip, Sydney’s North Beaches, the Covid Cluster ruined Christmas and we all retired to our home caves. It wasn’t until last week that I braved another big screen to see the excellent film Incitement, which is now showing as part of the International Jewish Film Festival. I was nervous, but luckily no infections have been reported as a result.

With all the hardships Covid-19 has caused, it feels a bit silly to celebrate movie visits. But I think it’s important for everyone right now to do things that make them happy, as long as they follow the rules of restraint and don’t hurt anyone. So I’ll go to the movies again and again while I can.

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