Go To The Movies By Yourself


I care too much about the Oscars. I know they don't matter, and a group of filmmakers deeming a movie or performance the best of the year doesn't make it so. If you look at the history of Best Picture winners, there's many classics to be sure, but also some embarrassing misfires: in the last 25 years alone we’ve had The King's Speech over The Social Network, Crash over Brokeback Mountain, Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction to name a few. Often, great movies go completely unnoticed -- for my money, Zodiac is a top five film this century and the only recognition it got was from things like the Bodil Awards. 

Still, the Oscars are a decent snapshot of the year in film. My personal "rule" is to see all nominees for Best Picture, both screenplay categories, and all four acting categories, unless it's some token Meryl Streep performance like Florence Foster Jenkins I couldn't give a rip about. The Oscars will never get it 100% right, but it at least feels like they shoot for quality, whereas other major awards like the Emmys (lazy voters picking the same things every year) or Golden Globes (ass-kissing foreign press voting for Johnny Depp) have larger issues with credibility. 

The problem for someone like me is trying to see as many of these movies as possible before the ceremony. I enjoy watching the Oscars, shit if I know why. But a prerequisite for that enjoyment is catching up with the nominees, most of which won't be available for rental or streaming for several months.

My wife is a good sport and is willing to go to movies with me if I ask her, but she's not a huge movie buff and isn't necessarily down to spend two hours in a theater for a movie where a woman fucks a fish man. So rather than force that upon her, I've learned something important in the past year: going to the movies alone is the best.

It took me a long time to muster the courage to attend a movie by myself. Why? I guess some weird insecurity of theater employees or patrons thinking I'm a loser for going alone. But I finally popped my cherry last year for Logan -- the wife was out of town for three weeks for work, and she's not the biggest X-Men fan anyway, and I was very curious and felt I had to see it on the big screen. And you know what? It was glorious. My preferred movie-going method is alone, now. It's the only way to have a completely customizable movie experience. Whether or not they seem like a big deal at the time, whenever you see a movie with someone else you're making compromises, most of the time small but sometimes big.*

* It's their turn to pick the movie and they want to see is the new Divergent movie. 

First, there's the matter of cost. I didn't major in math but one (1) ticket costs more than two (2) tickets if, for example, I went with my wife. I have a large dog, he needs to eat. Why spend money on two tickets when my wife doesn't even want to see the movie in the first place? That money is much better used on stuffed dog toys that are destroyed in three minutes. 

That's before even factoring in concessions. I'm a popcorn whore, I'm not going to not get popcorn. Concessions for two people? What am I, an oil magnate? While "what's the deal with popcorn prices" isn't exactly the most original bit, that doesn't make it untrue. A popcorn and soda will routinely cost as much as a ticket. The compromise is sharing treats, which, ::long sigh:: That's true, but it's such a great feeling of American gluttony to butter your popcorn to YOUR liking and go all Salt Bae on it to YOUR liking and shovel handfuls in your face without having to pass the bucket back and forth. 

The tickets and concessions are pre-seat concerns. The next adventure is, well, picking your seat, assuming you're not in one of those assigned seating theaters. Ever go with someone that prefers to sit obnoxiously close to the screen? Irritating, right? If you're alone you can go sit in the perfect middle like a normal person. If you're a masochist, sit in the front row; you're not tanking the movie for anyone else, I won't judge. 

Once you're in your seat and the movie has started...who cares if you're with someone? The act of watching a movie is a completely solitary experience unless you're A) a teenager and making out with your boyfriend/girlfriend, or B) watching a movie at home with friends and cracking jokes. But in a theater, unless you're a teenager making out, you're on your own. You're literally sitting in a darkened room and discouraged from talking or fiddling with your phone. That doesn't exactly scream "communal experience." I'm not sure why going to the movies has become the quintessential date event; in the early stages of dating it's horrible because you're not even interacting with the person you're with -- unless making out. 

One thing you will miss out on if you go see a movie alone is the post-movie conversation. There's nobody there to share your thoughts with. I can't dispute that personal touch, but there's never been a better time in history to fire off your hot takes than now. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, all outlets for you to state that, well actually, The Last Jedi was bad. There's a million movie websites and podcasts. It's never been easier to be a part of film conversation every hour of the day. 

Plus…there’s something to be said about having a movie ruminate in your head for a bit before articulating an opinion of it. Often right after a movie my judgement isn’t much more sophisticated than “I like movie. Movie good.” It takes sitting with it for a few days. Hell, I saw Phantom Thread over a week ago and I still don’t think I have anything cogent to say about it; I certainly wouldn’t be ready to have a roundtable discussion with friends immediately after a screening of it. If you see a movie with others, you’ve signed a social contract obligating yourself to talk about it after. Unless you want to be the person that says “I’ll let you know what I think about the movie in 16-48 hours.”

But in the most basic sense, going to the movies alone means you see what you want, when you want. If you make plans with others to see a movie, you might feel obligated to go even if you're not feeling it later. In the last year there's been countless times I planned on seeing a movie after work on my own, then thought "meh, I'd rather just go home and watch Breaking Bad." And I can! I'm not beholden to any commitment. And if you're making plans with others they might rather see something else than you had planned on. "I was pretty set on Lady Bird, but sure we can see Paul Blart 3: Get Blarter if you want." 

I get out of work relatively early every day, which makes for great movie-going timing. Hit up a movie at 4:00, when it’s not busy, and I'm still home in time for Jeopardy! Chances are others I see a movie with won't have a similar schedule, meaning I'm seeing a movie later than I would like, which then transitions into going to bed later than I'd like. Dear reader, I'm not ashamed to tell you I'm typically in bed by 9:30pm. Early bird gets early worms and such. So if I'm not getting home from a movie until after 10:00, that's going to affect my REM, which means I'll be tired while driving, which means I'll get in a car accident and die. No movie is worth that (maybe There Will Be Blood). Or, less dramatically, I'll be very cranky and tired at work the next day.

It only makes sense to use my free time before my wife gets home from work as a time to see a movie. Now I get the best of both worlds: see a movie AND still get to spend time with her doing something we both like to do. I'm already not going to unload the dishwasher, so crossing something off my Oscar list is technically an efficient use of time. It only takes going once to realize that nobody cares (H/T to Dennis Nedry) about your presence in a multiplex. There's certain event movies my wife enjoys that I won't see alone, like Star Wars or MCU. But a movie where someone fucks a peach? Yeah, I'm probably sitting by myself in that theater, joined only by a handful of senior citizens that go see movies on Thursday afternoons.   

Like hell if you think I'm paying to see Darkest Hour, though.

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @andrewkarcher