M is for Movie Group

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYears ago, when our daughters were in kindergarten and third grade, my husband and I started a book group with other families we knew through our kids’ school. Five couples and 11 kids met for a potluck dinner every few weeks. The third-graders discussed The Babysitters Club (this was before Harry Potter was invented); the younger children pitched fits. Total chaos. Plus, I noticed over time that a mixed-gender group tends to choose a lot of books about war and history.

Still, we had a lot of fun for many years, and even read a few good books along the way.

Once our Babysitters Book Club kids had all gone off to college, my husband and I decided it was time to start a new group. By this time we had wised up, and knew our limits. No kids, of course—we only invited empty-nesters (different friends from our old crew, since I still harbored resentment about some of those literary choices). No full-scale dinner parties—just dessert.

And, best of all, no books–just movies! An assigned book you don’t like is a torturous investment. An assigned movie you don’t like, on the other hand, is a serendipitous nap!

Our movie group kicked off in 2008 with Elegy. I don’t remember a thing about the film, except we all agreed that anything with Penelope Cruz in it is worth seeing for the visuals alone. (I personally have a crush on Jesse Eisenberg, making me the lone member who didn’t think his Mark Zuckerberg was an asshole in The Social Network.)

Elegy was the one and only movie we all saw together, sitting in our stretched-out row in the theater. After that, people have seen the movies on their own, according to what works best for their schedule, including whether they can only stay awake if it’s a matinee (not naming any names here!).

The challenge is picking a movie that will still be around close to the time of our next group: If we see it too early, we won’t remember it. After all, we’re all old enough to be empty-nesters—which means we don’t recall anything that’s happened more than a few days ago. (If we see a movie in our independent art theater, my husband and I won’t remember it at all, because we will have slept through it—even the matinee.)

I adore our movie group, which rotates among our houses every few weeks. The hosts provide dessert and pick the movie, usually with consensus reached via email beforehand. But if I wanted to pick some obscure Jesse Eisenberg film, it would be my prerogative to cram it down everyone’s throat. Every host but me always makes food to match the film’s theme—a nice touch that I always forget. Except when we saw The Help, but I just couldn’t bring myself to serve chocolate pie.

Other than Boyhood, which we all loved, and Unmistaken Child, which we all hated, we never agree. Part of the fun is predicting who will have what opinion.

One thing’s clear, though: the right people are married to one another–movie tastes are similar between the members of each couple. This vindicates my husband and me, because years ago, we developed a theory that couples’ compatibility could be predicted based on the 10 favorite and 10 least favorite movies of each (those dogs in the middle, i.e., the bad films my husband likes, don’t count so as not to skew the results). My husband and I had to put our theory aside to save our own marriage after a dispute about a very fine film, The Piano. But now our data set of four couples proves its validity once more.

So, if there are any algorithm geniuses from Netflix and Match.com out there who want to cut us a percentage of the killing they will make from our theory, give us a call.

Or better yet, catch us at the movies!


Are you in a movie group? What’s your favorite movie? Would your relationship withstand the test of our Movie Compatibility Theory? If not, would you ditch the theory, the movie, or the relationship?

You Are Not Alone

Picasso's Blue Nude

In September 2012,  I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer. Treatment was successful, and I am happy to report that I am cancer-free and doing well. I wrote for a private circle of friends and family about my experiences at the time, and am now sharing some of my musings here. 

Two packages arrive today. One, from my friend Gale, is a CD called “preparing for surgery: guided imagery exercises for relaxation and accelerated healing.” I wonder about the all-lowercase title. Is it meant to be soothing and low-key, the typesetting equivalent of hushed tones? Or reminiscent of ee cummings from decades ago, when none of us worried about preparing for surgery?

The other package, from my friend Mary, also contains information about surgery preparation, including another CD. “Successful Surgery and Recovery” promises to help me “LEARN AUTOGENIC PRESURGICAL TECHNIQUES, MINIMIZE COMPLICATIONS, ENHANCE THE HEALING RESPONSE, CONTROL POST-OPERATIVE PAIN.” The full caps are even more alarming.

I’ve told my friends, By all means, bring it on–send me anything you think will be helpful. I am open to all resources, good wishes, prayers, and casseroles. But now that the material has arrived, I think, Get this stuff out of here! I do not wish it in my life. More accurately, I do not wish to have cancer and the kind of life that requires knowing what “AUTOGENIC” means.

Mary has enclosed a card. It’s orange and red and grey, with a picture of a smiling little girl with straight-cut bangs holding a cake. (Mary and I are both good bakers, and know how to deliver comfort by creaming butter and sugar.) The front of the card says “shine a light where it’s dark and scary,” and my goodness, hasn’t cake often been that kind of light?

Inside the card Mary has written, in her beautiful Catholic-school cursive:

 Hope some of this ‘shines a light.’ You are, of course, in my thoughts and prayers. Get better soon!!!

The last thing I pull from Mary’s care package is another booklet: “You Are Not Alone: A Guide for Women Newly Diagnosed with Cancer.”

I burst into tears.