By Daisy Alpert Florin
Every night, for the last 25 nights, my family and I have watched a movie together. When quarantine hit, we, like many, designed a color-coded schedule outlining when we would work, read, eat lunch, take a walk. By week four, most of it has fallen by the wayside, but one thing remains constant: our nightly movie.
There are five of us: me, my husband, Ken, 16-year-old Sam, 14-year-old Ellie, 10-year-old Oliver. Pre-quarantine, we hardly ever watched movies together anymore mainly because we couldn’t agree on what to watch. Movies were either too babyish or grown-up, too romantic or violent. What Sam wanted to watch, Ellie didn’t. What Oliver wanted to watch, Sam and Ellie didn’t. Ken will watch anything, mainly because he can fall asleep anywhere.
I was the worst. I never wanted to sit and watch a movie. I preferred to spend the time doing something else. Or not preferred exactly, more like I couldn’t sit still because there always seemed to be something else I could be doing with those two hours—two hours! And if I did let myself take the time, I felt I had to use it watching something worthwhile, a classic or award-winner, or catching up on one of those Netflix shows everyone was always talking about.
But since this whole thing started, I have watched every single movie. All 25 of them—and counting.
Here are the rules: We follow a 5-night rotation, each person choosing the movie on their designated night. The chooser has complete power. No questions, no complaining, no negotiating. Everyone watches, no matter what. Our selections have ranged from classics to comedy, romance to horror. Some have been good, some not so good, but we have all watched every one, arranged in the same formation on the couch, piled up with dogs and blankets. Sometimes we eat popcorn, sometimes we don’t. Some of us play on our phones, some check email. Sometimes Oliver falls asleep. But, despite occasional threats, not one of us has left the movie or skipped out altogether.
Ellie and I like to keep our selections secret until the last moment; the boys like to tell us in advance. One night, when Ken revealed early in the day that he was choosing North by Northwest for his movie, there was some pushback. We had just watched Vertigo (my choice). Why another Hitchcock? Ken waffled. “Should I pick something else?” he asked. But in the end, he decided not to. The rules were the rules. So we watched Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint hang off the face of Mount Rushmore and despite a little early grumbling, we all enjoyed it.
I’ll admit there have been a couple of nights I haven’t wanted to watch a movie, either because I’m grumpy or because I need a break from all this togetherness. But I haven’t broken from the routine yet—none of us have—I think because we know that if we do, the wheels will come off this bus.
This is not a story of hope, of how grateful I am for the pandemic. I’m not. It sucks. My bar is pretty darn low. I spend most of the day in my pajamas. But every night I sit and watch a movie and, for those two hours at least, it feels like I’m getting something back that we once had, that we’re doing something we will remember. For those two hours, I can forget why we are doing this and just enjoy the show.
Here’s my list:
*Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Picked by Dad)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Picked by 14YO Daughter)
^Hannah and her Sisters (Picked by Mom)
^Memento (Picked by 10YO Son)
*1917 (Picked by 16YO Son)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Dad)
The Princess Diaries 2 (14YO)
*The Social Network (Mom)
^Truth or Dare (10YO)
Pulp Fiction (16YO)
*Warm Bodies (Dad)
*Final Girls (14YO)
*The Invisible Man (Mom)
*Shawshank Redemption (10YO)
Shaun of the Dead (16YO)
^Defending Your Life (Dad)
*The Perks of Being a Wallflower (14YO)
*One Cut of the Dead (16YO)
*North by Northwest (Dad)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (14YO)
*What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (Mom)
About Time (10YO)
^Monty Python and the Holy Grail (16YO)
Blinded by the Light (Dad)
^Fred 3 (14YO)
Cats and Dogs (10YO)
*The Grand Budapest Hotel (16YO)
Lemonade Mouth (14YO)
The Sixth Sense (10YO)
*About a Boy (Dad)
*The Kings of Summer (14YO)
^Selfie man (10YO)
Easy A (Dad)
Stargirl (14YO, on Disney Plus)
*Fantastic Mr. Fox (Mom)
Despicable Me 2 (10YO)
*10 Cloverfield Lane (16YO)Â
Bad Education (Dad, on HBO)Â
*The Half of It (14Y0, Netflix)Â
The Fly (Mom)
NOTE: Not all of these titles are family-friendly. Some have dark themes, sex or violence–or, in the case of Chinatown, all three. Most include bad language. On balance though, with each one, we felt there was enough to recommend it. Plus, it’s a global pandemic so our standards have loosened a bit. A good resource is Common Sense Media, which has reviews for most of these movies so you can decide what works for your family.
We found most of these movies on Amazon ($3.99 a pop, sometimes the only money we spent in a day), a few are available on Netflix. We also found a couple on our cable on demand, sometimes for free (that is, included with our very expensive cable bill).
Daisy Alpert Florin is a writer who knows a thing or two about social distancing. She is currently holed up with her family in Connecticut and knows how very lucky she is. Read more at www.daisyflorin.com.
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