Friday, January 6, 2012
Reserved for Croatto(s): The Ballad of Snappy and Happy
Last year, my wife, Laura Amoriello, talked about the high-wire act that was watching a movie she loved with me. Here, she reveals what it's like to accompany me to work, so to speak.
Ladies, see what you missed out on!
Growing up I nursed a series of celebrity crushes, each involving a glamorous locale. First I watched Joey McIntyre from the sidelines of NKOTB concerts. Then I cheered for Pete Sampras at Wimbledon. For a brief period I accompanied Leonardo DiCaprio to the Oscars. Roger Ebert was never part of those fantasies. But I can tell you that his lovely wife Chaz is a lucky lady.
I’ve had the pleasure of accompanying Pete to many a film screening since we’ve met.
I am his “Plus One,” and this is my story.
We begin with timing. Pete likes to be early. The screening people suggest 20 minutes, and they will threaten to turn you away if you arrive later. They never do, but we don’t take any chances. Because 95 South traffic makes Pete nervous, I created a jingle to the tune of Olivia Newton-John’s big hit to make him laugh: “Let’s stop pan-ick-ing! Pan-ick-ing!” Hey, it works!
If we’re lucky, we’ll bypass the line and proceed right into the theater. Here my greatest struggle of the evening begins: surviving the walk past the snack bar. Pete is strong and can resist confections, but I am easily manipulated by the smell of butter and giant pictures of pretzel bites smothered in imitation cheese. I still can’t get over the fact that these fancy-pants theaters don’t offer the occasional handout or five at their screenings.
Now I must stop salivating long enough for us to find a seat. Two-thirds up, two seats in. That’s the rule. (While Googling Pete after we met, I found “2/3 up, 2 seats in” listed as “Location” on his MySpace page. Cute, right?) This makes me feel slightly off-center, but I’m the guest here, so I roll with it. Plus, there might be a bonus waiting: Our name is on the seat sometimes! I shamefully pretend I’m famous and revel in it a little while.
While waiting for the film to begin, I people-watch. In particular I am fascinated by other reviewers’ children. One mother admonished her son: “You do not have permission to touch that.” “I give myself permission!” he retorted. Using the kid’s logic, I would have permitted myself to whack his douchey ass, but that would break the rules of theater etiquette. These are all some variation of “be quiet.” Do not ask questions during the film; the good ones will answer them for you. Turn your cell phone off. Not on silent. Off. Or a guard will actually come out during the film and point a little red dot thingy at you and bark, “Sir” or “Ma’am.” (Scary! And embarrassing!) Do not kick the seat in front of you. And do not throw popcorn at the reviewer’s girlfriend. Though that sounds unfortunate, Pete won my heart early on when he (verbally) kicked some popcorn-throwing teenage ass at a viewing of “The Dark Knight.”
Because I love Pete, I want to make him feel better when he doesn’t like something--which is kind of often. This means I spend much of the film sneaking sideways glances to gauge his reaction. If he’s wearing his pleasant grin of satisfaction,
I’m relieved. But if the movie is bad, no glance is required; his wrath is tangible.
I practically had to shower the hatred off of me after “War Horse.” I don’t know what else to do in these situations, so I imagine myself absorbing his pain through some kind of osmosis. It doesn’t work, not even for previews such as “Liam Neeson Kicks Ass (Again)” and “Famous People Really Do Get the Recession.” All I can do is wait it out, cringing as his pen becomes ever more scratchy.
The movie ends, and the “Cast” part of the credits rolls by. I wait for it: “What did you think?” He asks the same question every time. It’s adorable in its predictability, but almost as challenging for me as getting past the snack bar. What should I say? I’m intimidated by these foreign surroundings. What if I fell for an “idiot plot?” Or what if I failed to see the artistry in “quirk?” What if I liked it, and it was just dumb? (I still have nightmares wondering what would have happened had I liked “Larry Crowne.”)
I decide to grow a pair and announce my opinion: “It was pretty good?”
After wandering through a Philadelphia parking garage a while, the analysis begins. Contrary to what some may think, Pete does not hate every movie he sees. He thoughtfully considers what’s good and what went wrong. I’m always impressed by his laser-like ability to zero right in on each, and I learn a lot about films from listening to his reaction. If the movie was bad and extra time is required, this may necessitate stopping for burgers at Sonic off Exit 37. Because I am a very supportive spouse, I am always happy to oblige.
Thankfully, my juvenile fantasies never came true. NKOTB broke up, Pete Sampras went bald, and DiCaprio hasn’t won an Oscar. I suppose I should conclude my story by telling you that finding everlasting love with our blogger was better than any of those silly dreams anyway. But I’ve learned you shouldn’t fall for the quick-and-easy deus ex machina ending. Pete’s criticism will get tougher as his standards grow higher, but I’ll still be sitting in the seat beside him. Perhaps even munching from a trough of free pretzel bites.