There is no accounting for taste. Especially my own. These days.
After many decades alternately employed as a critic, journalist, screenwriter, college professor and generally professional opinionist on way too much, I know what I like and don’t like. It’s not that I’m not occasionally surprised or appalled by where my tastes take me but, for the most part, it’s unsurprising.
In this world of social distancing self-quarantine there is no accounting for taste. Especially my own.
During these endless hours/days/weeks at home I find myself falling into endless rabbit holes of entertainment, diversion and amusement even though I have all the time on my hands to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do that can be done solo inside the solitude of one’s own home.
Which is, let’s face it, quite a lot in our 21st century.
The problem is, I don’t want to do much except gawk at everything I can’t experience up close and personal. In other words – LIVE.
That is the only explanation I can come up with for the majority of my entertainment hours this week.
Which, as I’ve said, is pretty much the majority of my hours in every single day.
That, and that alone, is why I spent six of them (in one 24-hour period) on Netflix’s reality/docuseries Tiger King. Sure, I realize it was TV’s #1 RATED most popular show last week AND the #1 featured choice in Netflix logarithms (Note: Whatever they are). But I HATE sh-t like that.
The last time I remember watching TV’s number one show was a Miss America Beauty pageant as a wee lad in the 1960s. I thought the gowns were cool and I was dying to gawk at some poor bubble-haired young woman from the south or Midwest almost burn herself to a crisp as she threw three fire-lit batons high into the air.
These were they type of diversions I needed back then as a young gay boy trying to not acknowledge reality.
And yet, here I am again, right back where I was, watching a 21st century version for that same type of escape.
But this time in the form of a different spectacle. That of a gay, polygamous, self proclaimed redneck who cuddles with numerous 400 lb. tigers, has a padlock piercing on his penis and is frenemies with multiple felons that enable him to control an exotic roadside animal sanctuary where he may or may not be plotting the murder of others and may or may not be engaging in all kinds of meth-fueled sex parties with any number of hunky younger lovers.
That’s the amount of distraction required from MY 21st century reality. And clearly most of YOURS.
Yet I’m not sure how I account going from that to the best screenplay winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Portrait of A Lady on Fire.
Maybe not. It feels like a much more natural fit for me to watch a very artsy and very French film about two young women in the late 1700s fall in love/lust very, very VERY slowly in a stripped down rustic Nancy Meyer-ish type home by the sea. One’s a painter secretly hired to do a portrait of the other, a young woman of means promised into marriage by a domineering mother. And each has a secret that dare not speak its name.
It was really good, I liked it and yet….I dozed off three different times and had to rewind to find my place back into the story because hey, subtitles and lingering looks. In these times, they’re not as compelling on the faces of people who could actually reach out and touch each other. In the same room. Without masks!
So, I mean, watch it or don’t watch but know it’s incredibly well done and under any more normal circumstances I would NEVER have fallen asleep. I swear.
Of course, it could have been anxiety that made me that tired. So as I made my way into the bedroom, knowing my husband was going to be working late downstairs, I was determined that this one night I could finally get my much-needed, fitful, say, at least 6 or 7or 22 hours of sleep.
Whereupon (Note: A word I must have heard in the French film) I rest my head on my pillow and suddenly become WIDE AWAKE. Like, not even tired slightly.
So what does one do with that these days? Check one’s email and look at the link some well-intentioned friend sends you on some well-intentioned diversion to take away your psychic pain of the moment (aka what you saw on the NEWS that day).
Not a good idea.
Because after watching that YouTube offering you stumble onto something else and then something further and wind up watching:
A 1973 two-part FIRST EVER television interview with Katharine Hepburn. You want to talk about three hours of blissful bliss without commercials. I was up until 3:30 in the morning learning these essential facts:
– Kate thinks that you CAN’T HAVE EVERYTHING, meaning, career, love AND your own family.
– Kate thinks the reason she was a success is that she had great parents who were always attentive and ALWAYS encouraged her in everything she wanted to do (Note: F-k her).
– Kate knows the other reasons she was a success was that she was incredibly hard-working, didn’t drink or do drugs, and, most of all, didn’t indulge in self-pity (Note #2 – Double f-k her).
– Kate said that in addition to talent, the reason people become movie stars is that they have a distinct voice, the camera somehow loves how they photograph and that they are incredibly….LUCKY. (Note: Really?????)
Though in the case of a legend like Garbo it was the added element of mystery, she noted. No matter how much time you spent with her and no matter how well you liked her (and Kate copped to both) you NEVER REALLY KNEW HER. NO ONE DID.
See, I don’t know what to do with that.
And probably already knew it at 1:00 a.m., anyway.
Which is why, when I look over the last three self-isolating weeks and am being totally honest – I have to admit – that despite all of the above and much, much more –when you total it all up – I have still spent the majority of my mindless entertainment time – on my usual time suck….
There are hours of home makeover shows but this week I was all about Love It Or List It and Nate and Jeremiah Save My House. Rather than being romantic, reality show bizarre or biographically uninstructional, these two series are most particularly, and hopelessly, predictable.
A mess of a house is presented to a duo of two experts (Note: Cause a duo is always two) and in the end, they always always, ALWAYS have the same inevitable outcome.
The homes are so colorful, so functional and so vastly all that and more you can’t help but be blindsided. And, unlike the type of blindsiding we’ve grown used to, in a hopelessly great way.
Sure, no matter how great my house might be it won’t ever be that bright, perfect or airy. However, these days it doesn’t matter because NO ONE AT ALL who wants to LIVE will get to redo their house from the ground up because NO ONE AT ALL can be a ONE-PERSON BAND OF reconstruction in self-isolation.
And somehow I find that reassuring.
Not to mention, even if you could do everything YOURSELF, where would you get the materials? Someone (and certainly more than one) would have to deliver it ALL to you and then YOU would have to Lysol or Clorox wipe them ALL down. Every. Last. One.
Even with all the time in the world, none of us has time for that.