Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Movie walks

I’m trying to shave off a few lbs. Or as they call them in Australia, kilos. And since there are 2.2 lbs per kilo, shaving off a few kilos is really a big accomplishment.

One strategy is eating better. I’ve eaten quite well for almost a full month now. Some of that figures to go out the window in December for the holidays, but not all of it, hopefully.

Another strategy is walking.

And walking. And walking. And walking.

A feature on my phone tracks the number of steps I’ve taken each day. I didn’t even have to set it up – it just did it automatically. Gotta love smartphones.

I’m told you’re supposed to walk 10,000 steps per day, though of course, on most days that’s impossible. Most days you spend most of the day at work, and then most of the rest of the day ensnared in family obligations, many of which do not involve walking. If you want to walk, you have to walk at night, or maybe at lunchtime. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I managed to walk in excess of 14,000 steps on both days. Though that took some unusual circumstances to accomplish.

One of those unusual circumstances may become more usual. And that is: the movie walk.

It’s a variation on something I did back in LA when my first child was a baby. In order to kill as many fricking birds with the same stone as possible, I had at least a couple occasions when I went out walking him in the stroller, while he was either sleeping or otherwise occupied by looking around him in bewildered awe, and I also had a device playing a movie propped within easy view on the top of the stroller. That’s three birds, if you’re keeping track: 1) taking care of the baby, 2) getting exercise and 3) watching a movie. (I even remember two of the movies I watched this way: Eight Below and The A-Team.)

I have no babies that require taking care of anymore – my younger son turns four in January. But once they no longer require my presence for the evening, sometime after 9 o’clock, I can still do the other two, just without the stroller this time.

So I’ve done this twice now. I’ve loaded a movie onto my iPod, set the timer on my phone to go off at exactly the halfway point of the movie, and just started walking. When the timer goes off, I turn around and come back.

Some amount of care is required in executing this. You need to make sure you don’t walk into anybody, or in front of any oncoming vehicles. You may have to turn away from the screen for seconds at a time when you’re at a busy intersection. But surprisingly, for the most part, you can just walk down the footpaths (sidewalks) and keep your eyes mostly trained on the screen. There aren’t nearly as many people to bump into after 9 o’clock at night.

My first such experience was Simon Aboud’s This Beautiful Fantastic, back on Monday the 13th. Two weeks later, it was Miguel Arteta’s latest, Beatriz at Dinner.

Both movies were chosen because I didn’t expect them to be movies I really loved, which required a completely uninterrupted viewing on a decent screen. Because the screen of my iPod is anything but decent. After more than six-and-a-half years on this planet, it now looks like this:

But still works, goddammit. It still works well. A real tribute to its sturdy Apple engineering.

Part of me bristles at the fact that I was basically predetermining a ceiling for how much I could love these movies by seeing them in this way. But let’s be honest. The busier we are, the more likely we are to have many of our viewings be distracted viewings. And you could argue that the distractions of this setting are actually fewer, in some senses, than watching at home. For one, I have no children needing something from me. Secondly, I don’t pause the movie once, unless something unusual happens. How often can you say you watch a movie at your house and don’t pause it a single time? This is more like the uninterrupted theatrical viewing in that sense. Finally, there’s zero chance I will fall asleep while watching. This movie will have my undivided attention, or at least as much of my undivided attention as is not being required to avoid getting run over by a bus.

And though This Beautiful Fantastic was not a movie I liked very much, I strongly suspected that my verdict would have been identical had I seen it in any other setting. And my second choice proved that a movie is a movie, no matter where you see it, and if it’s good you will still love it. I don’t know that I love Beatriz at Dinner, but I like it very very much, and feel that the things that were good about it came through plenty well in that setting. And in time, with more reflection, I think I could love it. 

There’s a funny unintentional consequence to this, too. When you set your timer to go off at the movie’s halfway point, and then turn around to walk home, you can tell how close you are to the end of the movie by how close you are to your house. This has its uses. Although clock-watching can be fatal to the drama of a film in some respects – if you know a movie is about to end, you know precisely how much more can still happen – it can also be very useful, especially if you are not enjoying the film. And Beatriz aside, I do imagine that many of the films I'll select to view this way will be films I don’t like very much.

The first time I went out, I walked enough to chafe my inner thighs and was a bit sore the next day. I must be getting better at it, as there were no physical side effects of the second walk, and I walked another 14,000 steps the next day.

Then again, Beatriz is also ten minutes shorter than Fantastic.

And like a hundred minutes better.

Can you measure the quantity of quality in minutes?

Here’s hoping I can continue measuring the quantity of my losses, in both lbs. and kilos. 

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