Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kochany Classic Movies

While movie dates are the typical arena for courtship, I've been less fond of them in real life. I once made the mistake of going to Sin City with a potential beau; I loved it, because it was mean and violent, noir-ish and very sexy, while he emerged from the theater green and sweating. It was not a love connection. Even when both people are equally interested in the movie, it doesn't make for a really satisfying romantic experience: there's that blocky arm rest, which derails all cuddly moments; there's the investment of what feels like a ton of money into a two-hour chunk of time, so we had better like it, dammit; there's the fact that I pee every ten minutes and the return to a darkened movie theater, to someone whose face might not etched in my brain, is the epitome of social awkwardness; and, when faced with the comfy alternative that is throwing on DVD and making out on the couch, movie dates start to look downright bizarre.

When we asked my sister what she wanted to do for her twenty-third birthday, she replied, "The same thing I did for my eleventh birthday: see Toy Story." I had forgotten that it's sometimes hard to corral five adults into doing the same thing at the same time. I was excited: movie events like the long-awaited third installment of a wildly successful, childhood-defining, technologically ground-breaking don't come along every day (or do they?). I hadn't seen a movie in theaters since, what, Zombieland?

I've seen more movies this fall than I have in a long time, courtesy of a new beau who digs cinema and likes to see new movies on the big screen. I saw Tron: Legacy with this guy, along with Back to the Future (!!) and Black Swan and Seven Samurai. We tried to see a movie New Year's Day, a tradition that dates back, in my family, to the Stone Age (the 1960s), but we only got as far as the Chinese food part of the Chinese-and-a-movie part of the agenda before we realized that we had seen everything and/or had zero interest in movies like Marmaduke.

My family is pretty firmly in the let's-rent-a-movie camp; my parents watch a lot of movies (or, in my dad's case, "watch" a lot of movies: his eyes are closed and he's snoring away) on the couch, with blankets tucked in around them and a big bowl on popcorn between them. Family Christmas traditions when we were younger included a yearly family sleepover in the TV room. Snuggled together, with Tim Allen transmogrifying into Santa Claus on the television, wired on cans of Coca-Cola and wearing matching flannel snowman pajamas, my family felt very much like a unit. I think this is a product of spending my middle-school years marooned in Manotick, an amenity-free village on the outskirts of Ottawa. A teeny library and a couple video shops were the only source of filmed entertainment - going to the movies meant a trip into Ottawa proper, a journey my parents were loath to make in the wintry, icy months.

Plus, when I was a kid, movies = magic, for sure. I think this is mainly because my main source of cinema was the Disney vaults, a place that gifted me with Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Aladdin, and Robin Hood, and Fantasia (a movie that my toddler sister had be be escorted out of, screaming, due to scariness...too many brooms is a frightening thing). As I got older, I began to realize that not every movie was a good movie; most kid's movies aren't dreadful, but a lot of the schlock that's produced for teens and young adults is virtually unwatchable. Growing up was definitely bittersweet, at least for my film-buff side.

Now, I read reviews for flicks I'm never going to watch, stream documentaries, buy second-hand movies, and occasionally rent something. My parents, when I'm home, always offer a movie night, although their tastes have changed over the years and I'm not always interested in the latest German depress-a-thon. I love cuddling up in a movie theatre, or on the couch, to watch something fun, or thought-provoking, or just entertaining. Because that's the bottom line, past dating and family nights and all that jazz. Movies are supposed to be fun.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Forty Words For It

It snowed last night, and everyone is losing their everloving minds. It's like no-one in Toronto has seen snow before, and while I'll give it to the babies who were born in the summer, most everyone else is familiar with it. It's like every year, the snow falls, and every year, we're all like, "Whaaa...? I don't...oh, help us!"

While I'm not wild about snow, per se, I do enjoy a good arctic blast winter. I like being cold. Not indoor cold, which is more like clammy and makes me feel all crazy and nerve-wracked when I put on, and then take off, my sweater 800 times a day. That kind of cold is often a by-product of stress, anyway: the body's desire to flee or shout subsumed into sweaty palms. But outdoor cold, when you're bundled to the point of warmth, but not sweating and uncomfortable, is really enjoyable. Over the Christmas break, I walked out onto the frozen beach of Lake Huron, outfitted in big Sorel boots and a couple warm scarves (among other things - I'm not some sort of erstwhile polar bear dipper) and thought to myself, "Hey, this is pretty great out here."

I'll admit to not really being one for winter outdoorsiness, although I do enjoy a vigorous round on the snowshoes and have tried snowblading. I used to claim that winters were best spent in front of the fireplace, hot chocolate firmly in hand, catching up on your trashy celebrity gossip and listening to the dog fart. But now I'm more interested in romping around in the briskness, especially after a good night's sleep.

Canadian winters are so odd, because they both isolate and unite us. I don't know how many conversations I've had with people about various winter-busting techniques: staying warm, avoiding black ice, getting one of those solar lamps, the best way to avoid windburn, routes to avoid (walking Toronto's Bay Street in January is like trekking along the bottom of a canyon, magnifying the wind factor and making a girl curse all the high-rise residents who want to live and work downtown). But at the same time, movement become more difficult. Driving becomes perilous, biking is downright dangerous, walking takes forever, the trains slow down, and the subway barely lurches along. I know I sort of go into hibernation mode, since social visits that might be an eight-minute bike ride away in the summer have turned into a 35-minute trek through the snow, or a half-hour sardine experience on the TTC.

It makes me wonder how other wintry countries handle the season. Like Canada, the Scandinavian countries have an impressive music scene, and Russia uses the months between October and March to perfect their sports. But it also more snowy a scene gets, the less socially scenic: the Northern Territories are rife with alcoholism and health problems. The much-derided Extreme Weather Warnings that get issued in Toronto (you know, the ones that cause the rest of the snow-encrusted province to scoff at those pansies in the 416) are for the purpose of getting the homeless and underhoused off the freezing streets and into a shelter, at least for the night. And it seems like people get meaner when the weather's extreme - and this is by no means a winter-specific phenomenon, as evidenced by heat waves and their corresponding rage waves. The grumblings about snow and salt and cold and BLAH increase through the roof.

The Inuit allegedly have forty words for snow, a concept that doesn't surprise me in the least. But for all the rest of us - the recent immigrants from Grenada, the life-long Torontonian, the transplant from Kapuskasing, the hand-holding couple currently falling on their asses on the ice, the kids skating in Nathan Phillips Square, the parent who needs to scramble for last-minute snow-day childcare, and all the other snow-loving/hating/tolerating citizens - need to get over the concept of "good" and "bad" for snow, and just accept the fact that Toronto winters are wild, sometimes beautiful, sometimes difficult, but always interesting.