Saturday, March 6, 2010

Living vicariously through movies

It is quite obvious to anyone who knows me that I have an unhealthy obsession with movies. I watch the same ones over and over, finding comfort in the familiar scenes and settings, the dialogue and the actors. Sometimes, if I'm feeling down, the best medicine is to watch Music and Lyrics or Anywhere But Here: movies make me feel better.

I can trace this obsession with movies back to when I was a little girl and my sisters and I would watch the same movies on tape until they wore out. My best friend, Marlene* would come over every day and want to watch
Girls Just Want to Have Fun, and I do mean LITERALLY every day. If you were to pop that VHS tape into a VCR today, all you would see is faint outlines of pink clothes and big hair, barely visible through the fuzz. We also knew each and every word of dialogue in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman, Rad, Heathers, and several episodes of Fairy Tale Theater.

Don't get me wrong, we also played outside, but we probably spent an unhealthy amount of time watching movies and television. This has obviously carried over into my adult life, as I have hundreds of DVD's and watch at least one a day. Granted, a lot of the movies I watch with the kid, but I try and sneak in one of my favorites here and there. In fact, I've gotten him to become a big fan of The Wizard of Oz, which I consider a major victory, as it's definitely one the top ten best films of all time.

When I say that I live vicariously through movies, I'm only sort of kidding. This is where this unhealthy part of my obsession comes in. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but whenever I'm out living my life, doing any number of things, lots of times I think, "Oh! I want to go home and watch the movie about this!" For example, last summer I was at a baseball game. Beautiful evening, great company, good food--I was actually having a really good time. Then I started to think, "Man, I'd really like to go home and watch The Rookie right now." Yeah. I know...unhealthy, right? Why wouldn't I want to be there, living in the moment? Why would I rather go home and watch a movie about baseball than actually sit and enjoy the baseball that was right in front of me?

The worst part is that movies always end up setting one up for failure. People in movies are always more beautiful than those you meet in real life, and the situations they live in are always more glamorous than the way people actually live. I was just watching Marley and Me, and I was thinking how I would like to move to Florida (movies always make me want to move), so I started looking up crime indexes, and rent costs for different cities. How the hell did they have such a nice house in that movie on one salary? Ok, I understand he was a locally famous newspaper columnist, but, seriously?

And then they moved to Pennsylvania and lived in a giant old carriage house with a barn and a horse, wood floors, and stone walls? Are you kidding me? He was a reporter! For a newspaper! And the wife didn't even work! What's that all about?

I am sorry to say that movies have sometimes made me make major life decisions, too. When we lived in Santa Monica, and I was watching American Beauty every day, I suddenly decided that I wanted to move to a tree-lined street and become a Realtor, like Annette Benning's character. How sick is that? Her character was miserable, but there was something very appealing to me about her job, the way she prepared for that open house by cleaning and putting up signs. Truth is, I actually followed through with this silly plan, moved back up to Sacramento with the hubby, and became a Realtor. I am sorry to say that I was not successful in the real estate business, and I quit before I ever even made a sale.

Very often, the hubby and I will be watching a movie set on a coast or in a New England town, and we'll automatically start trying to figure out how to move there. Is Blue Crush or 50 First Dates on? We'll be trying to move to Hawaii within the next few hours.

The whole experience often leaves me feeling a bit empty and sad about my own life. Why do these characters get to live in such wonderful locales and wear such adorable clothing with perfect hair and makeup, even first thing in the morning? My life sucks!

To be fair, I also very much enjoy the more gritty, realistic films, in the vein of Alexander Payne. Sideways, Election, and About Schmidt are all amazingly realistic, with flawed heroes and who live in cluttered homes and drive older cars with dirty windshields, but I can still find elements of these movies that I can escape in. Even mundane lives seem more appealing when played out on the big screen.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels this way about movies--in fact, I'm pretty sure that movies are meant to make us feel this way. It's not like I want to get rid of my movie addiction, but I do realize that my obsession borders on unhealthy. Oh well. At least I'm not looking to movies like Requiem For A Dream or A Clockwork Orange for inspiration. *shrug*.

*Not her real name

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