Laughing Matters


And the Oscar...does nothing to help Dave

Dave Jaffe

Once again the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has failed to honor me with an Academy Award on the flimsy excuse that technically I am not in any way involved in the movie industry. I guess that’s just politics as usual in Tinsel Town.

To be fair, I haven’t much use for an Oscar other than to convince my family that, as a recognized film professional, I should select the movies we see together. Currently the only convincing film expertise I have to offer is lying.

DAVE: “I see that ‘Final Doom Slayer’ opens tonight at the EnormoPlex II theaters. I believe it recently won a Golden Graham as well as the Coeur de Palme, or ‘Hearts of Palm’ at Cannes. Who’s up for it?”

WIFE: “It doesn’t sound like my kind of movie.”

DAVE: “Nonsense, Hon. It stars Meryl Streep playing, in the words of a respected overweight reviewer, ‘Her weepiest, most tragic character ever.’”

RUSS (age 18): “Sounds kinda’ boring, Dad.”

DAVE: “Actually Russ, ‘Final Doom Slayer’ is full of comically youthful high jinks that many would find repulsive and humiliating. In fact, the reviewer calls the movie, and again I’m quoting here, ‘Highly jinksful!’ Brian, how does that sound to you?”

BRIAN (age 15): “I don’t care where we go. I just don’t want to be seen with my parents.”

DAVE: “That’s the spirit!”

While good family movies have become more difficult to find in recent years, they are, at least, more expensive.

Back when I was a boy, movie tickets cost a penny and a large bag of popcorn cost a nickel, which included a box of Junior Mints, a soft drink, a movie poster, a big juicy steak with potatoes, two shots of Redeye and a bucket of oats for your horse.

Identifying an appropriate movie for the entire family was also far simpler as they were easily identified by a one-word title like “Bambi,” or “Sounder” or “Alien.”

Story lines were simpler too, often centered on small animals singing merry tunes while hiding from the hunters that had slaughtered their mothers. Such classic films have left on the American psyche indelible memories of children and mothers weeping in the theatre while dads pace the lobby chain smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes.

Nowadays parents of very young children carefully try to select movies that will encourage life-long memories of the family bonding experience, a practice psychological professionals refer to as “stupid.” Generally speaking, very young children in a theater are completely mesmerized by a movie from the opening credits until about halfway through the opening credits, after which they ask for more Reese’s Pieces 12,000 times in a whining voice so loud that other movie patrons can barely hear their cell phones ring.

Thanks to the simultaneous advent of videotape/DVD and microwave/popcorn technologies parents have been able to develop their child’s appreciation of family movies at home by exposing them to the classics; classics being defined as movies that feature famous dead actors. The quality of a classic movie is in a direct relationship to the number of famous dead actors it features. For example, “Godzilla,” a classic monster film that features famous dead actor Raymond Burr, who incidentally was also the famous dead actor who played a famous non-existent lawyer on TV, is not as engaging a movie as, say “The Wizard of Oz,” which features nearly an entire cast of famous dead actors, many of them small.

When considering which movie to share with your child keep in mind the show’s appropriateness as well as the child’s level of sophistication.

DAD (looking over his list): “OK then, I’ve scratched off ‘Risky Business’ and ‘White Heat.’ That just leaves ‘Moby Dick.’”

LITTLE SUZY: “What’s that about, Daddy?”

DAD: “A fish, Honey. A big one.”

LITTLE SUZY: “Big like Princess, my goldfish?”

MOM: “Oh much, much bigger, sweetheart.”

LITTLE SUZY: “Does she get flushed down the toilet, too?”

DAD: “No. In fact a sea captain with a peg leg takes a harpoon and... ”

MOM: “Dances with the big fish!”

LITTLE SUZY: “Really? Do they sing, too?”

DAD (irritated): “No singing.”

LITTLE SUZY: “How ‘bout in that other movie you said was about a little black bird? Does it sing?”

DAD (sighing): “‘The Maltese Falcon’? No, no singing. No dancing.”

MOM: “Who wants to go to Chuck E. Cheese?”

LITTLE SUZY and DAD: “Yeah!”

Fortunately as children mature, so too does their interest in movies until at about the age of 15 when they’re ready to experience a wide range of film genres—provided they don’t have to be seen with their parents. My own two personal teenage sons deomostrated their maturity recently by sneaking out to movies with such diverse subjects as:

• funny teens not quite having sex,

• scared teens having sex, then being shredded by a psycho with a Cuisinart for a hand, and

• Adam Sandler.

Thanks to the many patient years I’ve put in helping my family broaden their movie interests, I recently enjoyed my most satisfying movie-going experience since the kids were born. Standing in the lobby of our local multiplex theaters, I spoke with respect and sincerity to my wife and boys.

“Here’s 15 bucks each. See whatever the hell you want. I’ll meet you in two hours at Chuck E. Cheese.”

Dave Jaffe lives in Deerfield with his wife and two sons.


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