Some Proposed Rules Regarding Christmas Etiquette

It has been obvious for the past few years that Christmas has gotten out of hand.  Now it is apparent, too much of a good thing is indeed too much.  As a result, I have proposed a few rules to help people navigate the Christmas season with some sense of decorum.

I do not need to start seeing Christmas items and sections in stores before Halloween.  I swear, I saw some stores with Christmas sections in August this year, and I’m not kidding.  We already have way too many stores doing ‘Christmas in July’ sales.  Pretty soon it will indeed be Christmas all year around.

Rule: Christmas sales and sections should be limited to the day after Halloween (preferably the day after Thanksgiving) through the weekend after New Years Day (for After-Christmas sales).

Christmas decorations are also way out of hand.  There is no need to cover every inch of your lawn and house with Christmas decorations and lights.  Trying to limit yourself to one giant ugly blow-up Christmas item would be preferable.  Also, I see lights going up sometimes before Halloween and staying up as late as March or April.

Rule:  If you think to yourself, I wonder if it would be too much if we…?  It is too much.  Stop it!

Rule: Do not put up any Christmas decorations until the day after Thanksgiving, and take them down by the week after New Year’s Day

Finally, Christmas music played on the radio and in stores is way out of hand.  Some retail outlets and radio stations go to an “All Christmas” format the day after Halloween.  There is no need for this.  One awful result of this is that these stations find any (and I mean ANY) Christmas music, and put it in their playlist.  Unfortunately, every recording artist feels the need to make at least one Christmas album, no matter how bad it might be.  These stations tend to force these horrible songs on their audience because they do not want to play the same music all of the time.

Rule:  Christmas music should not be played before the day after Thanksgiving (and it would be better to wait two more weeks), and should be stopped the day after Christmas.

Rule:  Only play the Christmas standards or legitimate attempts to perform nice Christmas music (so my head will stop exploding).

 

 

 

 

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I am the Sherriff of Movie Town

I must confess that I am a movie snob.  I always see the oval dot.  You know the one in the top right corner of the screen that tells the projectionist when to start the next part of the film (this of course is an anachronism, as films are now rolled up on platters if they are still even produced on actual film at all and not a digital image).  If there is a repair in the screen, trash on it or a pin-sized hole, I find it extremely distracting.  There is a cinema called the Rave that I went to once where I could see a slight reflection of some speakers through the screen.  It bothered me throughout the whole movie, and I never went back. 

On another occasion, at the late show, the projector actually broke with about five minutes left in the movie Jackie Brown.  They gave me a free pass to come back and see the end.  I did not.  In fact, I have made it a point to never see the actual ending of that movie.  I just made up my own ending in my mind.  In my version Louis Gara (Robert DeNiro) comes back to life and kills the entire cast of characters and director Quentin Tarantino.  He then kills Nick Nolte and the cast of Cape Fear.  He caps off this award deserving performance by arriving at the theatre where I saw the movie and killing the incompetent and unprepared projectionist.  The point is, if I am going to plop down my $10 to see the newest supposedly great flick, I want it to be the best experience that it can be. 

When I was growing up, I lived in a moderately sized suburban community north of Dallas.  For most of my youth, it had one cinema with two ‘houses’ inside.  The seats were small and crowded, and the sound system was primitive.

Then, someone built a mall with a larger multiplex that had 10 houses featuring actual THX and Dolby sound.  It was great, except of course for the bleed-over sound from the other houses.  I remember seeing one movie there.  I don’t actually remember the movie, but I remember the one next door.  It was Congo.  The whole time, I was sitting there, I was wondering why I was not enjoying getting two movies for the price of one or at least the sound from two movies for the price of one.  It was awful.  However, in the same theatre, I remember watching Jurassic Park.  This time I was in the house with the soundtrack that downed everything else out.  There was one point when the characters on screen were walking around outside, and I actually heard something moving through the forest behind and to the right of me.  A good surround sound track can definitely add a lot to a movie. 

Later, in college, I went to another decent theatre with good sound and saw the greatness of The Hunt for Red October on the big screen.  It was this movie, and later, The Last of the Mohicans that made me realize the greatness of watching a movie on the ‘big screen’, especially when it deserves to be there.  In the case of Red October, I remember the submarines slowly moving across the whole screen, emphasizing their huge size.  In Mohicans, there were moments when a battle was taking place that encompassed the whole screen.  I particularly remember when Chingachgook hurled his axe/sword completely across the scene in one battle.  I saw this movie later on video (regular definition), and the battle scenes seemed very disjointed.

After I came home from college, the greatness of Grapevine Mills was built.  It was the first of the modern ‘stadium seating’ theatres that was close enough to go to on a regular basis.  That place was and is great.  It has great sound, huge screens, tall backed chairs, raise-able armrests, and aisles between the rows of seats that are wide enough walk down without touching the sitting folks or having to have them stand up as you are making your way to your seat.  It is movie heaven, and even though I live much further away now, I will still drive there to see a movie.

Unfortunately, as the years have moved forward, movie decorum has not, in fact, it has digressed.  Sometime during all of this, I appointed myself the Sherriff of Movie Town, and I began to codify a set of laws that in my opinion should actually eventually be ratified as a constitutional amendment.

Section 1: Food and Drink

I do not care what you have to eat or drink in a theatre.  The price that they charge for their food and drinks is outrageous.  If you can squeeze a side of beef into the chair next to you and gnaw on it for the entire movie, I don’t care as long as you do not bother me.  That being said, there are ways to abuse food or drink in a movie theatre.

1. Do not bring candy or food with wrappers that audibly crinkle or rattle.  Unfortunately in some cases the theatre will sell actually sell candy that makes noise.  If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having food in which the wrapper makes noise, the onus is on you, the purchaser.  You need to find a way to silence it or put it away until later.

2. Do not bring food that has an audible crunch such as Doritos.  Other issues covered by this include, smacking while you chew your food, smacking or popping your gum, and crunching the ice at the bottom of your cup.

3. Do not move your straw up and down in your cup so as to makes the sound of a wounded baby harp seal.  Why are you the only person who does not notice this?  Thanks to a friend for this submission.

Section 2: Respecting and Occupying your seat and repect the seat of others.

1. Arriving Late:  Did you see that line of people outside?  Yeah, the one with the people behind the rope waiting for the movies in the next house when you came in late?  All of those people who are sitting up there in the good seats in the theatre that you just walked into late did that too.  That’s why they have the good seats.  Don’t stand at the bottom of the stadium seating looking up at the crowd and talking with your friends in the expectation that there are five seats together up there that no one else saw.  And please, do not violate the sanctity of someone’s coveted empty-side-seat (the coveted empty seat next to you that you have strategically arranged to be there by the way you sat so that there would not be a stranger next to you) by asking them to move down.  Go and sit down at the front of the theatre where the people who walk in late are supposed to sit.

2. Staying in your seat:  This rarely applies to anyone over the age of 18.  It’s funny that when you actually pay that $10 of your own good money to see a movie, you actually want to see it.  On the contrary, unaccompanied groups of minors as many as ten strong inevitably enter a theatre and spend the next two hours repeatedly entering and leaving the theatre en masse.  The best way to combat this is for parents to explain to their children the importance of staying in their seats, or better yet, these parents could actually make sure their children ages 10 to 14, actually have a chaperone when going to the movies with friends.

3. Kicking the seat in front of you:  It’s amazing, but this problem occurs more than a person would think.  A person who is oblivious to the world around him will absentmindedly kick the back of the chair in front of him.  The poor person in the chair being kicked had no idea that there would be Morse Code subtitles associated with this particular movie.  I know you want to really get into the movie, and sometimes you actually feel nervous for the characters on the screen, but you must remember that you are not the only person in the theatre.  Police yourself.  Sit on your foot if you have to.

Section 3: Strong Scents:

1. Perfume or cologne.  Few things are worse than trying to escape into the fantasy world of a good movie while being continually dragged back to musk-land by the 14 year old Axe saturated kid four rows behind you or the woman, sitting alone, who smells like a candle factory at the end of the aisle.  Look, no one is going to stand up during the middle of a movie and approach you with the line, “What a wonderful aroma you have.  Is that a flower shop or just your armpits?  Can I get your number?”

2. Body odor:  This is worse.  Be on the lookout for this at Star Wars premiers or movies based on comic books.  These guys are usually alone, unshaven and are playing with a portable video game or reading a book while waiting near the front of the line for these movies.  Be strategic and make sure you are not sitting anywhere near them.  Social mores are lost on these guys, so don’t waste your time.  They just do not understand.

Section 4: Smoking

Really.  Does this really need to be said?  Unfortunately, the answer is, “Yes.”  I was actually in a theatre where a guy lit-up once.  Luckily for everyone else the Sherriff was in town.  I moved as fast as I ever have to get the ushers, and surprisingly, they actually kicked the guy out of the theatre.  Good.

Section 4: Sex and PDA

1. Public Displays of Affection:  When you go to see a movie, the point is to watch it.  Though they are legendary as places to first hold hands or put your arm around the girl on your first date (which is fine), they are not places to express you chosen sexual preference or reaffirm the physical bond between to people who already have an intimate relationship.

2. Sex: Again, does this really need to be said?  Well, I have failed to mention that I actually worked at a theatre many years ago, and had a patron come out of one of the houses to tell me that a teenage couple was actually having sex on the back row.  Being the responsible guy I am, I referred the gentleman to my female manager and beat a hasty retreat.

There have to be a million better places to have sex than a theatre with other people, including children in attendance.  Find one of them.

Section 5: Foreign Objects

1. Throwing things at the screen.  This one is generally abused by teenagers who seem to get a kick out of throwing popcorn and other things at the screen so they can see how it catches the light and casts annoying shadows on the screen.  Stop it!

2. Laser Pointers.  I generally do not subscribe to any form of Sharia Law, but in this case I would not be opposed to cutting the hands off of those responsible for this.  I actually saw this happen in a crowded theatre during the first week of Saving Private Ryan, and I thought the crowd was going to attack the kids who were responsible.  It is difficult to find a better example of full blown egocentrism than using a laser pointer at a movie theatre.

Section 6:  Small Children:

1. Inappropriate Movies:  That rating that they put next to the title of the movie is to assist parents in making wholesome choices for their children.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had a guy tell me with a horrified expression on his face, “I went to Saw [for example] last night and there was a guy on my row with his seven year old son!”  I have a friend who saw five year old at 300.  Are you kidding me?  This is yet another unfortunate example of a parent feeling that life is all about them.  They have kids for their own enjoyment, and they see movies for the same reason.  So, why can’t the two go together?  It’s just a shame, and I really don’t have a good answer for it other than this rant.

2. Day Care:  I think some parents mistake movie theatres for day care centers.  Some mothers drop their kids off at the theatre in the evening so they can go and get laid by Hairplugguy0001 that they met online today.  These women will encourage their children by saying, “If I’m not there when the movie is over, just go into another movie.”  Later, they are still on the date as their ten year old kids sneak into the late show of Basic Instinct II for a little sex education.

3. Chaperones:  If your kids below the age of 14 ever go to the movies with a group of kids or you take a group of their friends to the movies, you need to make sure that they have a chaperone or chaperone them yourself.  This means that you or the accompanying adult needs to buy a ticket to Cars and watch it with them.  This does not mean that they go to see Cars while you go see The Notebook.

4. The Crying Child:  No, this is not a movie with a very unfortunate and inappropriate plot line (sorry).  If you are in a movie, a church service or a wedding and you child starts crying, the best thing to do is to politely excuse yourself to the foyer until they are able to regain their composure.  It is not going to kill you to miss a minute or two of the movie while expressing your love to your children and being polite to the other people in the theatre at the same time.

Section 7: Keeping Quiet

1. Talking:  In general, movies are not good places to have a business meeting, catch up on things with an old college buddy, gossip, or get to know someone.  And, if you are the person who cannot follow the plot and needs a constant update, maybe DVR would be better for you.  In that case, you can stop the movie, and ask for an update or rewind and try to catch what you missed without bothering a whole theatre full of people.

2. Coughing:  We all do it, and for the most part it is just something that you have to understand is going to happen when you attend a movie.  However, once you have lost control of the situation or if it is incessant, you owe it to the rest of the crowd excuse yourself for a drink or a cough drop, or in the worst case to actually surrender to the sickness and go home.  Besides, it is not very thoughtful to sit in a room with re-circulated air and infect everyone with your tuberculosis.

3. Crowd Reaction: This is a touchy situation.  I have seen two or three movie on opening night where the infectious reaction of the crowd added to the experience.  However, if you find yourself being the only person who is laughing out loud repeatedly, or if you feel compelled to warn a character by saying, “Don’t go in there!,” it may be time to reevaluate your active participation in the movie experience.  Remember, the movie is not about you.

Section 8: Cell Phones

1. Ringers off:  Turn your ringers off!  ‘Moto’ is not in the theatre, and no one needs to be calling out for him.  Turn them off, or leave them at home or in the car.  If you have to know when you are getting a call, put it on vibrate, and put it in the pocket of your shirt.

2. Looking to see who called:  This is a favorite of the unaccompanied minor who sits with his friend in the front of the theatre.  They might as well light a fire down there.  It would be just as distracting.  All you have to do is to politely excuse yourself to the foyer and see if it is an emergency.

3. Texting: Please see the description above regarding “looking to see who called” and stop it!

4. Answering the phone and talking on it in the theatre:  I swear I saw this happened once, and it was the guy sitting next to me.  After my head exploded, I turned to the guy and said, “Take that outside.”  He actually cursed me, and I actually did not kill him.  I did walk past him, found an usher and had him removed.  Obliviot.

As you can see, I am a little passionate about this, but isn’t it time for all of us to pull together so that we can help each other have a more enjoyable movie-going experience. Or, maybe I’ll just by that 62 inch LCD screen, and eliminate these problems all together.

Watching Movies With Mom

We’ve all done it.  You are spending the day at your folk’s house, and there is nothing on television to watch.  Your mom has fed you, so you do not feel like going anywhere.  Then someone has the idea to rent a movie.  Your mom doesn’t really watch movies, so you begin to run down a list of possible films that everyone might like.  You think of one of your favorite movies, and, of course, she has not seen it.  You rent it and hope for the best, but in the end you feel extremely frustrated for one reason or another. 

Of course, there are some movies you would never think of seeing with your mother.  Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction are far too sexual.  Predator is too violent. And, The Accused is both.  Movies like Animal House should also be obvious as they are too vulgar to watch with your mother. 

Sometimes, you start thinking about how great a movie is, and you give your mom the benefit of the doubt, thinking that she will be able to handle it.  You are wrong.  Mom’s are great, but they seem to have a knack for ruining a good flick.

I have organized some movies into categories that generally show some typical movie themes that will always cause head-throbbing pain if you try to watch them with your mother.

 

Complicated Plots with lots of Characters:

A lot mom’s have problems with organization and compartmentalization.  They have a lot on their minds and lots of responsibilities.  They often do not feel like they can devote the time required to keep up some movies.  As a result, movies with lots of stars or intricate plots are minefields for the person attempting to watch them with mom.  If you attempt this, you will probably find yourself answering a plethora of questions, and while you are answering these questions, your mom will be missing more plot points which will only add exponentially to the number of questions that will be asked.  Some examples of this are JFK, Goodfellas, and Blackhawk Down.  The Departed is another good example of this, especially, because the characters in this movie tend to blur the lines of good and evil.  The Godfather I and II also deserve special mention because they add the even more confusing element of moving backward and forward in time.  You might think you could sneak the Ocean’s 11 movies in on your mom, but remember they have a syncopated quality toward the end.  All of the technical planning- which your mom either did not understand, did not listen to , or did not have the time to devote her full attention to early in the movie- comes to a head.  Several characters are working to pull off the heist, and the camera is sometimes following several people at one time.  This type of sensory overload is too much for someone whose early exposure to the film medium included films with such complicated plots as The Sound of Music.

 

Good movies based on or involving Dark Themes:

You mom is not an evil person.  And often mom’s are not complicated people.  This is a good thing.  It is better to know that you have a mother who always takes the moral high-road.  For her, good is always good, and evil is always evil.  For this reason, she has trouble dealing with movies that contain dark themes.  Mom’s often have problems with the grey areas, and when a person does a bad thing, in her mind, that can never be good or lead to a good result.  The perfect example of this is Slingblade.

Another type of movie in this category is one that is Good or Interesting, but has a Plot Based on Evil Deeds or an Evil Person.  Good examples of this are The Shining, Fargo or The Silence of the Lambs.  Mom tend to want to protect their children from the evil of the world.  Having you sit in a room with them and being faced with this evil is often troublesome for them.

Still another type of movie is this movie that has a very ‘Good’ Hero, but Very Evil Situations that he must deal with.  Examples of this include, The Shawshank Redemption, Schindler’s List and The Mission.  My own experience with this is that my mom would get to a terrible scene in the movie- such as in The Mission when the babies are thrown out in the rain- and simply stop watching the movie.

A final subset of this group is the Anti-Hero Movie.  Movies in this genre would include: Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill.  A perfect example of a movie in this group would be High Plains Drifter.  Come on!  He paints the town red and calls it Hell.  I know that these are cool movies, but my mother will never think they are cool.  She is more likely tell me that I am ‘warped’ if I show her one of these.

 

Movie with Language Issues:

The first subset of this category is Foreign Language Films.

I have to face it, my mother is pretty jingoistic and cannot deal with anything that is not in good old English.  A good example of this is Life is Beautiful.  Another example that adds the mom-confounding element of fantasy to being filmed in Spanish is Pan’s Labyrinth.

A second subset of this category is Films that use Verse.  Movies based on Shakespeare works often employ this.

A third subset of movies in this category involves Movies with Main Characters who Speak in Dialects.  Movies based on Irish characters are popular in this category,

 

Movies that require some Preexisting Knowledge of the Plot or Characters or Memory of a Previous Movie: 

Very popular movies can fall into this category.  The Star Wars films, The Lord of the Rings series and the Harry Potter films are included in this group.  Few things can be more of a beating than repeated questions such as, “What’s a Muggle?” from across the room.

 

Movies Based on Allegories:

Anyone should read Heart of Darkness before attempting to watch Apocalypse Now in the first place, but expecting your mother to be able to comprehend a movie that is a visual story about searching the depths of one’s soul will only leave you frustrated.  Remember, this is your mom.  She has no depth to her soul.  Her soul is simple and pure, and you like it that way.

The Chronicle’s of Narnia may be surprising to see on this list, but this movie is an allegory that your mom knows is an allegory.  You need to be prepared for statements like, “The lion is God, right.”  So, so defeating.

Edward Scissorhands would fit here, but there is a fairly good chance she would get this one.

 

Movies with Fantastic Elements to the Plot:

There are lots of movies that weave a fantastic element into every day life.  Two good examples of this are Field of Dreams and Being John Malkovich.  Remember, your mom is grounded in reality, and you like it that way. 

 

Movies that You thought were Funny:

Always remember, your mother has a sense of humor, but it is not as the same as or as funny as yours.  There are lots of movies that fit into this category.  The best way to figure out if a movie fits this category is this: If it makes you laugh out loud, your mom will not think it is funny, and if it makes you smile politely, she will probably love it.

The list here could go on and on.  It includes Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Better Off Dead, Napoleon Dynamite, Talladega Nights (anything with Will Ferrell), Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles.

Anything that is funnier when you are drunk, is not as funny with your mom.  Dumb and Dumber is a good example of this.

I’m pretty sure that my mom thinks that ‘irony’ is an adjective that describes the relatively wrinkle-free quality of shirts.  Therefore, Oh Brother Where Art Thou and comedies like it are not for her.

I try to remember that my mom thought Father of the Bride and My Big Fat Greek Wedding were funny, so I don’t get too fancy with my comedy choices..

 

Movies with a Twist:

O Henry was on to something when he introduced the world to the ironic plot twist.  These twists often make a movie more interesting, and the longer the director can keep the audience in the dark, the better the movie often seems.  A great example of this is The Truman Show.  Do not watch these types of movies with your mom.  Because she does not have the time to pay attention to the movie, she will often need things spelled out for her.  She will probably not figure out what is going on in The Truman Show until shortly before Truman opens the door at the end of the movie, and then be ready for the plethora of questions that will come your way.

Other movies in this category would include The Others and The Sixth Sense (any M. Night Shyamalan movie would fit here).

 

Movies that Involve Scientific or Science Fiction Themes:

Most mom’s are not a rocket scientists or a brain surgeons, and they usually are not interested in any of that stuff.  Movies like Contact, Blade Runner, AI, The Matrix, Dune, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Come on, You don’t even understand this.) are out of their scope of interest.  They often have problems understanding and following them because she just doesn’t care about the subject.  Women in general are more interested in relationships.  This goes for movies also, and movies where the characters whole lives are lived in tube-fed bubbles are probably not on Dr. Phil’s recommended list.

2001 or 2010 a Space Odyssey: just don’t do it.  It does not matter if you get past the apes, she still won’t care.

A subset of this category is: Movies Set in Another World with a Different Set of Rules:

A lot of people follow the old adage, ‘when in Rome…’ when viewing films.  Not my mom.  She does not care very much about Rome either.  Most fantasy and Sci-fi movies fit in this category.  The Road Warrior, Water World and other post-apocalyptic movies fit here.

Still another subset of this category is: Movies that involve an Element of Time Travel:

The logical flaws that usually plague these films are hard enough for anyone to put up with, and mom’s distractability tend to make these movies not worth the effort.  I am not being paid to be a physicist, so I don’t try to be one.

Déjà Vu deserves special mention here.   Unless you want to spontaneously explode, do not watch this film with you mother.  It has a major time travel element which is surprisingly done well, but my mom, after not paying good attention in the first part of this movie, would be a question factory as she tried in vain to figure out what is going on near the end.

Donnie Darko is another great example.  As I stated earlier, my mom doesn’t get darkness.  She does understand characters that are as complicated as the title character in this movie.  She has a positive outlook on the world, and as a result has trouble identifying with people as depressing as him.  Add a horrifying bunny and the element of time travel, and she will probably remember some house cleaning that she has to finish before the end.

 

Forgotten Dialogue or Uncomfortable scenes:

There are many movies that you remembered being great because they were, but when you showed them to mom, there was the unfortunate nude scene or sometimes a repeated ‘F’ word.  Good examples of this are Braveheart and Dances With Wolves.  It is important to note that even though your mom might like a movie like this if she were to watch it with your dad or her friends, she may not be able to enjoy it with you in the room.  You are still her baby (even if you are 40), and she may have trouble getting by that fact.  It is best to allow these movies to come to her through other venues, as she will be tainted by the fact that it was you that recommended it to her.

 

Memento– I placed the movie in a category by itself.  This movie is a pretty genius murder mystery about a guy who has no short term memory told from his point of view.  It is hard enough for any person to keep up with it while paying full attention.  My mom doesn’t stand a chance.  Never, ever attempt to watch this movie with your mom.

 

When you watch movies with mom, play it safe.  Go with the tried and true.  The Princess Bride, Mr Mom and Mrs Doubtfire are great choices.  If you are lucky, she may not even remember that she has seen them before.

 

If youv’e had any fun experiences watching movies with mom, please leave a comment, or if you think of a movie that I left out, leave that also.