Watch this and call me in the morning.

Jurassic Park has become one of my top ten favorite movies.
Jurassic Park has become one of my top ten favorite movies.

HAVING FAILED SPECTACULARLY as a prognosticator (twenty years ago, I would tell rooms full of adult students that Windows would never take the place of DOS for serious computer users), I have learned not to share expectations of the future with others. It’s not that I don’t enjoy making people laugh; it’s just that by the time the punch line is delivered, they’ve forgotten the joke.

And while I don’t announce my visions of the future to others, I am still naïve enough to follow the assumptions and presumptions I make. This is no more evident than when I’m choosing a movie for a reason–one other than just entertainment. Got the blues? Need a laugh? Need a good cry? How about something completely dumb? Sometimes movies are all we need to get us through a difficult moment, release pressure, or make us feel it really is a wonderful life. And sometimes the choice of a film can be the worst medicine. Here is what I’ve learned.

Weekend at Bernie’s is only a quick fix. Working in a place that was nearly as dysfunctional as the Kardashian family, I would often come home in need of some silliness and giggles. One evening when feeling particularly trampled, I rented Weekend at Bernie’s. After all, everyone seemed to think it was hilarious. And, you know what? It was. I laughed so hard at so many of the scenes and situations, I did feel better. In fact, Weekend at Bernie’s is so funny, I decided to rent it a second time a few weeks later and share it with a friend.

The second time around, I found some of the film mildly amusing but mostly I thought, “I laughed at this???” (Note: while three question marks may be ungrammatical, they are necessary to express the degree of shock I suffered when I realized the movie wasn’t “all that.”). I also had to deal with the humiliation of being the kind of person who would make someone else watch Weekend at Bernie’s. I understand there was a sequel; please don’t tell me that Weekend at Bernie’s 2 is the funniest and most intelligent movie you’ve ever seen.

Message in a Bottle is not a light romance. The death of three friends in very short order had me wishing for an escape to Hawaii or my favorite place, Cape Cod. I wasn’t that close to the age where you find yourself going to funerals once or twice a month, or checking the obituaries in the morning, trying to decide if you should get out of bed or just pull the sheet over your head. Since I couldn’t just disappear for a few days or years, I decided to do the next best thing–rent a video. Message in a Bottle was chosen, because it was a chick flick/love story, there was a beach (just like Weekend at Bernie’s. Do I detect a theme?), and it had a strong cast (I mean Paul Newman, for heaven’s sake!).

In 1999, I had no idea who author Nicholas Sparks was and what kind of stories he wrote. I also had no idea that the love story would be truncated with the death of Kevin Costner’s character. I allowed myself to become totally immersed in this movie that was so highly recommended by female friends (I obviously need to reexamine my relationships), that when “Garret” died, I cried. Oh, wait. I didn’t cry. I bawled. I hadn’t been that distraught since Sophie’s Choice.

Jurassic Park is not a kid flick. I respect Steven Spielberg and his work, but when Jurassic Park was released to major hoopla (serving under Lt. Colonel All Sizzle and No Steak), I wasn’t interested. It was a dinosaur movie. With kids. In my book (which is why I won’t write one) that would be a kids’ dinosaur movie. Ho-hum. Leaving work at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, I headed straight to the video store. I was beyond exhausted and wanted to find a non-challenging movie that I could put on and fall asleep after ten minutes or so. As I glanced through the available titles, nearly asleep on my feet, my thought processes went something like: O.K. It’s a kid movie, but it is Steven Spielberg so it should have good production values…

Jurassic Park is one of my top-ten movies, and I’ve seen it at least two dozen times. Not once in all those viewings have I fallen asleep. What my first visit to Jurassic Park did was scare me–that good kind of scare that has you wanting more as you peek between your fingers. But the film Jurassic Park would make you want to visit the theme park about as much as Jaws would make you plan a trip to Amity, (“Amity, as you know, means ‘friendship.'”), and you need to nap on the way to the Park because you won’t be getting any sleep once you get there.

Movies do provide escape, whether they are big-budget spectaculars, finely crafted intellectual studies, or pure B-movie junk (the worse, the better). However, if you want to sleep, take Benadryl, not a trip to Jurassic Park; if you want more than a Band-Aid for that chainsaw wound, skip Weekend at Bernie’s; and watch Message in a Bottle only when you want to immerse yourself in grief. Most importantly, though, don’t let me prescribe the movie you need to see. From now on I’m sticking to Spike Jones videos on YouTube.

 

 

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