During the school year, I had a routine for most mornings. I would wake up probably somewhere around the time my boyfriend was getting our son to his school bus—earlier or later depending on all sorts of other factors—and turn on my computer. I have a list of sites I check routinely, bookmarked according to how I check them. (“More than daily,” “daily,” “MWF,” and so forth.) So as my computer was booting—which took much longer, before I managed to squeeze a new computer out of the budget a couple of months ago—I would get up, go to the bathroom, get something to drink and maybe eat. Feed and change the baby, after the baby was born. And put in something from the library project. Which I would watch while doing my morning internet.
Yes. I would watch a movie, on occasion even a foreign, subtitled drama, while reading Politifact and Comics Curmudgeon. While checking Facebook. I still do. School’s out, so I now have to squeeze viewing into my son’s schedule. Because it would have been overdue if I hadn’t returned it, I ended up watching War Witch with a not-quite-four-year-old this week. I mean, it’s subtitled, so he didn’t know what was going on, but he did see the shooting and things. He just wasn’t paying attention is all. For what it’s worth, there’s very little that’s graphic in it. Though I grant you I didn’t know that going in and it’s not my most sterling parenting moment.
It’s not ideal. This I know. What I’m not sure all of our readers realize is that the “Taco Break” columns are named after a running joke from The Old Place, the mockery a certain film critic had dumped on him by the entire membership, just about, for his righteous indignation at the idea that anyone would take a taco break while watching Schindler’s List. Most of the commentariat felt, rightly, that if you needed a taco break, you take one. (Many taco recipes were exchanged in the comments of that day’s Essential Film Writing article, and the Great Cilantro Debate was had, because of course it was.) But I have seen people who I remember being part of that mockery shaming people who post on Facebook while watching movies.
Here’s the thing. In the theatre, I can give a movie almost all my attention. But even there, I’m grateful to have the notebook I’ve taken to bringing. It started because I wanted to be sure I’d remember to write about things that struck me, something I couldn’t be sure of doing—especially if we did literally anything before I get home to write, and sometimes, it can be several hours before I have the chance to sit down to a review. However, I bring the notebook to RiffTrax, and I don’t review RiffTrax. What I do with it as much as anything is jot down the things that go through my head as I watch the movie that I absolutely will not whisper to the person next to me, because that’s super rude.
At home? Forget about it. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to focus just on a movie in my entire life. If I’m not online, I’m playing a video game or writing or doing cross stitch—or, yes, parenting. Pointing things out to the person I’m watching the movie with, though I don’t do that if neither of us have seen the movie before, because that’s super rude. Or even just if they haven’t. This has been true my whole life; you guys probably don’t want to know how many books I’ve read while watching movies over the years, something I admit is easier if both works are familiar.
Do I pay more attention to movies if they’re good? Yeah, probably. And it’s definitely true that I will do a lot more to keep myself just attuned enough to a movie to get through it if I want to finish something so I can write a scathing review. Though I’ve definitely made that decision before I zone out, because I do not review movies I haven’t seen. Some movies get to me so much that the other things fall away, and some movies, I gradually slip out of their wavelength so much that I might as well not have them on at all. And between the two is where most movies, including my favourites, live. Hell, I probably pay less attention to my favourites most of the times I watch them—I’ve got them memorized anyway.