By Eve W. Engle

The dogs rule in our house. They are fed first, allowed in our bed, have their own bed in the guest room and sneak up onto the sofas when we aren't looking. Maxie, short for Maximus, is a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenes mix, Sammy is a Black Lab/Border Collie mix. His full name is Samuel L. Jackson after one of my favorite actors. Both were abused and rescued from their former owners. They get cookies every morning.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Into the Woods and Out the Other Side

New Year's Eve is my least favorite holiday. Actually that is a misnomer. It isn't a "favorite" at all. For reasons close to my heart, I hate it. I'm already aware of who died during the year, what horrible tragedies befell us all, what wasted moments piled up, who divorced whom, and how another year has passed and I am still in debt with no end in sight in the coming year. The new year isn't going to make me rich, or younger, or thinner (At least not permanently. I know. I've lived long enough to catch on to that pattern). I'm not going to win the lottery, board a time machine, or have the money for a gym, a personal trainer and/or a nutritionist.

So how do I get through it?

A movie.

Not a DVD, or something on television (although I did watch "A Time to Kill" last night and realized Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Keifer Sutherland, and Ashley Judd were all about 12 years old when they filmed it. Just kidding. They were 18 years younger than today, which freaked me out when I did the math. New Year's Eve must really be a challenge for them in the "younger and thinner" category!) But I digress. Every year I actually fork over the green stuff to a kid dressed in a shirt topped by a vest with black slacks for a little piece of paper (remember when we actually got a ticket?) to be allowed to sit in a seat other people have had their butts in before mine, in a darkened theater with a bunch of strangers (not really true this year, since I knew a bunch of the people in line getting tickets), and eat crap that definitely makes the weight loss resolution a joke.

I love going to the theater to see a movie. There is something about it that connects me to my mother like the traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I can pretend I'm part of the "golden days" of going to see the Hollywood greats. With the exception of just about everything about it, it feels like I've gone back in time. My mother loves going to the movies. She was raised on it. I can just imagine how she giggled and squirmed on Saturday mornings at the cinema when she was a little girl. Or how she tried not to cry when she was out on a date with a cute guy next to her and they were watching "Anna Karenina", or not be too scared while watching "Sorry, Wrong Number", or to laugh too loudly while watching "I Remember Mama".

My daddy didn't really like films. He knew a lot about the actors since he had ended up in Lost Angeles working for Lockheed Corporation during WWII. Many of them he found lacking in some way or another. There were only two movies during my childhood that he felt compelled to view. He escorted my mother and me to see "Patton" and "True Grit". My father was a man's man.

This year I sat down and looked over the theater offerings. To be honest even though there was a good selection, there was really only one choice for me, "Into the Woods". I had to see Meryl Streep as the witch. The previews were too provocative. And it was fantasy, my preferred New Year's Eve genre. There was only one problem. My son had the car.

A little thing like transportation doesn't deter me if I am really set on something. I just grabbed his girlfriend and informed her we were going to go to the movies, and she was driving. Oh and, she didn't have a choice as to which movie. She went willingly since I was paying. It helped that I bought her candy and popcorn. Some would think of it as generosity. It was a bribe, plain and simple.

The theater parking lot wasn't full, the result of a newer, bigger, and swankier alternative in the next town. We were able to pull in close to the front and go in quickly. There was a big sign over the old ticket booth saying "Tickets inside at concession stand". Bastards. They know we consumers are dumb enough to fork over more dough if we have to get close to the popcorn. I didn't let them down. The slight discount I received by going to the matinee was quickly erased and superseded by the cost of the refreshments. I refused a small fountain drink since it cost over five dollars, but the popcorn and candy plus tickets ran me over thirty dollars. Back in the day my mom would have paid a nickel for a ticket and about a quarter for a soda. According to author Richard McKenzie in his book Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies: and Other Pricing Puzzles movie studios ran the theaters until 1948 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the studios had to divest themselves of their theaters. The end result was skyrocketing ticket prices. And the price gouging has never ended. Since the theaters are privately owned competitiveness has pushed them to be creative (and greedy) in their marketing and product sales. And the movie studios themselves are the same. We aren't really paying for the right to see the movies, we're paying for the rights of the theaters to show the movies and the cost of all those folks involved with production. And we pay by buying all those salty and sweet things we gorge ourselves on during the previews.

I skip the previews. 40 minutes of trailers is not why I have come to the theater. I can Google them if I want to see them.

Now, back to "Into the Woods". It was great. It was also very Grimm even though it was adapted by James Lapine. Since I have not read the original book by Lapine or seen the musical I can't speak for how authentically the director Rob Marshall stuck to the actual written script, although Lapine did write the screenplay. Stephen Sondheim's music was great and I loved Meryl Streep's voice. That dame can sing. The costumes and sets were beautiful and the special effects were dazzling at times. The beans when thrown exploded in light, and the beanstalk was formidable and terrifying. The witch's transformations are spectacular.

There was one confusing element. Rapuzel appeared to have her hair wrenched off by the baker's wife in one scene only to have it miraculously regrow in the next so her "mom" the witch could climb up the tower. There was no explanation, just Hollywood magic. Who am I to question that miracle? Overall I left the theater satisfied and excited by what I had seen. My companion must have enjoyed it. I heard her gasp more than once, and observed her cover her eyes. She kept her opinion to herself in the end, and I didn't ask her how she felt. I wanted to keep my own thoughts focused on how it had affected me.

After returning home I worked on some crochet and eventually spent the remainder of the evening alone watching "A Time to Kill" and playing Christmas music by the cast of Glee while I dismantled some of the decorations. By midnight I was ready to call it a night so the dogs and I stepped out on the back deck to look at the stars and listen to the sound of firecrackers. Everyone else was partying somewhere. It was peaceful with the exception of the popping somewhere in the distance. I thought of the wondrous beanstalk, and was glad I was on the ground on my deck looking up, not in the woods, and not in the clouds. I live in my own fairytale.

Another New Year's Eve over and done. Another year begun. I had been through the woods and come out on the other side. And all is well.

Happy New Year,

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