Friday, January 2, 2015

Straddling years

I was straddling quite a bit this late December-early January. In this post, I'll let you know about each instance of that -- and also exactly what I mean by "straddling." (Sounds pretty dirty.)


I know the storybook Paddington has British origins and is big with British little boys and girls, but it was something that got read in my American household as well. I think there are a lot of other American households of the late 1970s and early 1980s who could say the same.

Yet the release of the Paddington movie is straddling a regrettable line between 2014 and 2015. In the U.K. and Australia, it was released as a holiday family movie, way back on December 11th. In the U.S., though, it won't come out for another two weeks, making it part of the studios' January dumping grounds.

It's unfortunate, because Paddington might have done well during the U.S. Christmas season -- from what I saw of the movie, anyway.

See, Paddington also straddles an unfortunate line between little kid movie and big kid movie. We went to it on December 30th when it was raining in Hobart (Tasmania), scuttling or at least delaying a bunch of our plans. The theater was not set up for the big crowds, apparently, as we barely made it in to the movie on time despite arriving a half-hour early.

My four-year-old sat rapt the entire time, never saying a word and only asking me for an atypically small amount of the Pods (chocolate cookie treat) we had purchased at the concession stand. Then, with no preview whatsoever of his mounting horror, he told me that the movie was too scary and that he wanted to go home. The big finale was already on and the movie would be over in ten more minutes, but he had to go now. And I knew that this is what parents sometimes had to do, so reluctantly, I left a movie before it was over for the first time in as long as I can remember. Is it possible it was the first time ever?

In truth, a pretty charming movie had started to sour on me by that point, and it didn't much matter that I missed the ending because by then it was easy to predict how it would finish. (What movie isn't, you could argue.)

Where it made its biggest mistake -- other than having Nicole Kidman as a murderous taxidermist, that is -- was the false advertising of the poster you see above. Paddington most definitely should have been set at Christmastime, in the snowy London on that poster. In fact, shouldn't every movie set in London be filmed in the winter, making everything look all the more magical? But it's not. In fact, this is how Paddington is being advertised in the U.S.:

What's oddest about this, when juxtaposed with the Australian poster, is that it looks like a summer movie to Americans and a winter movie to Australians. While it is actually summer in Australia and winter in America.

Had they actually set it at Christmas, the studio would have been compelled to release it in December in the U.S., positioning it as a prestige holiday family release and getting the tons of bucks that go along with that. Instead, it's coming out Martin Luther King Day weekend -- the best January release date, to be sure, but still a January release date. Maybe they thought the holiday season competition from Annie and Night at the Museum 3 would just be too stiff.

The real problem for me, with this release date, was that I was unsure whether I should even bother to see it in the theater. Based on interest alone, we'd see it, since we've read the Paddington book to my son upwards of 20 times. It's one of our only stories, in fact, where I've bothered to perfect voices for all the characters. But at a time of the year when I'm packing in viewings for my year-end list, I didn't know if I should properly count it for 2014, since most American critics (with whom I compare and contrast my year-end lists) will be counting it as a 2015 movie.

The decision was taken out of my hands, however, when my wife and mother-in-law worked up a momentum to have me take my son to the movie when the rains started falling. Big Hero 6 was also an available option, but before I knew it a showtime had been identified and a plan was in place. Maybe he would have actually sat through the entirety of that one.

The Trip to Italy

I engaged in a different kind of straddling on New Year's Eve. My wife had made it clear, earlier in the day, that she did not expect to still be up at midnight. This was certainly a first in our ten years of knowing each other ... but it was also the first New Year's we've had two children. (In fact, last New Year's Eve we spent in the hospital, ready to give birth to the second just hours later. Happy birthday, D!)

Having two children has taken its toll on my wife, and since we were out of town and none of our friends were around anyway, she saw it as just another opportunity to catch up on sleep. I'm glad to say that she did awaken for the midnight fireworks, having still been awake for the 9:30 edition, and we watched those together from my mother-in-law's porch, overlooking the harbor. It was pretty magnificent.

So if this were going to be just another night for her, I decided to make it just another night for me -- and queued up a movie on Netflix.

I didn't figure to finish The Trip to Italy before the clock struck midnight, but by starting it around 10:15, I would make it pretty close. Alas, two beers at dinner did their work on me, and I engaged in a nap of maybe 30-40 minutes when the movie was about 20 minutes old. Awakening at around 11:15, I knew that there was no chance I would finish the movie in 2014.

As my New Year's Eve plans have always been more lively than this, I had never previously faced a situation where I didn't know whether to credit a viewing for one year or another. That kind of thing doesn't matter in the slightest to your average person, but to listmakers and their ilk, it can take on greater significance. I keep track of the total number of movies I see each month and each year, and just for the purposes of record keeping, I needed to know whether to file Michael Winterbottom's film under 2014 or 2015.

I normally have a fairly straightforward system for determining on which day I've seen a movie. If I start it before midnight but finish it after, the movie will be credited to whichever day I watched more of the movie. If it's too close to tell, I give preference to the first day. The one clear exception to this is that if I start a movie one day, but then don't finish it until another day and have watched another complete movie in the interim, the movie is always credited to the day I finished it -- even if there are just five minutes remaining. It's not a perfect system but it's the one I'm comfortable with.

Because of checking Facebook and preparing for the countdown to midnight, to the extent that I did so (I watched the seconds tick off for the final minute), I ended up watching less than half of The Trip to Italy before midnight. Yet I wanted very definitely for it to become my 212th new movie of 2014, rather than my first new movie of 2015, because a) it would break the tie with 2005, which also featured 211 new movies, and b) it would tend to deemphasize the fact that, yes indeed, I spent my New Year's Eve watching a movie and doing little else.

But I ended up having more than an hour of the 108-minute movie remaining, and I ultimately had to acknowledge that I'd need to settle for 211 movies in 2014 and get myself going on 2015.

And this is now far, far more than you ever cared to know about how my mind works.

No comments: