My mom and I both love going to the movies. Ever since I was a little kid, we’ve enjoyed sitting in the dark together — next to each other, but among strangers, watching someone else’s story unfold onscreen in front of us, popcorn in hand. The ritual has always provided a mutual enjoyable distraction from our lives, from reality, from each other.
We can’t always be close about each other’s lives or about family stuff. But we can still always agree on a film we both want to see and have a lively conversation about it afterward. Talking about characters, plot lines, soundtracks, costumes, and celebrities interests both of us and provides a safe and reliable place for discussion.
On the years when I have been with her on Christmas, we have always gone to the movies that day. Many of those choices have stuck with me better than other pictures I’ve seen because we spent a major holiday with them — in lieu of being with family members in a jammed living room, we decided to spend our time with particular actors in an exotic locale living different lives than us.
We rarely get to the movies together these days since we live 1,500 miles apart, so we see them separately and then debrief about them at length on the phone and via email. But another ritual that has spun out from our shared love of movies is our mutual interest in movie award shows, and most entertaining to me, our pre-event anticipation and post-event critique of the Red Carpet fashion.
So this time of year is as special to Mom and me as any holiday — perhaps more so. Even (or especially?) this year, when the world feels in peril and the ongoing political chaos threatens to overtake every moment of every day — I am excited about what the celebrities are wearing. It feels a little naughty and perhaps in some way irresponsible. Like burying my head in the sand, except I’m burying my head in glitter.
Mom and I have joked that we are like some unglamorous version of Melissa and Joan Rivers during award season. We generally disagree with all of the fashionistas, yet we take our jobs seriously. On Sunday, when we talked on the phone in preparation for the Oscars, my 80-year-old mother said, “I may have to text you during the ceremony.” She didn’t, but I thought about her the whole time, wishing I could talk to her about everyone I was seeing. If my husband hadn’t been on the other end of the couch, I might have hurt my neck cradling the phone talking to her the entire time.
Instead, I wrote her an email the next day, per our usual debrief:
I thought things looked awfully familiar from the Globes: a major concentration of neutral, white and/or black with metallic: combos of beads, sequins, mirrors, rhinestones. It really mostly looked like variations on a theme that was color-subdued and sparkle-forward. Even the few colored pieces had additions of shiny bling: Denzel’s wife Paulette’s nice red, Meryl’s pretty navy.
Most women looked lovely, I thought, but unmemorable, with a few significant exceptions: Leslie Mann’s enormous yellow dress worked only on her because her personality is reflected in it (sunny, hilarious and larger than life). And can we talk about the Marie Antoinette-like crazy hip pieces and massive beaded choke-collar on Janelle Monae’s over-the-top black and gold spangled number?? Because I am still shuddering from it.
The cattiness went on, in a way neither of us general talk about anything. Easy for us to feel superior at home in our yoga pants. I hit send and waited for Mom’s reply. She started, hours later, by putting me to shame:
I have just returned from another energizing meeting at Planned Parenthood — so I’m a little distracted!
But she allowed herself a few gluttonous moments after that:
Regarding dresses, I was keeping notes — with the emphasis on “too many pales” and Janelle Monae’s worst-of-the-night dress. She is so pretty but that dress looked really terrible… [let it be known that everyone in the fashion world disagreed with us] Kirsten Dunst at the very beginning of the Red Carpet had a very nice, simple black dress, and there were a few other nice simple blacks.
was nice, but I couldn’t quite figure out that neck/shoulder business…. I was also bothered by a few women with long hair that looked unclean and uncombed. I didn’t know who Leslie Mann was, but it looked OK on her — except for the overly huge skirt.
And then more shame and more reality for me:
Enough. Back to critical political issues. Love, Mom
You’d think I’d been rooting for La La Land, the way I got swept up in the shimmering Hollywood glamour, yet I was all for Moonlight all the time. Still, I’m looking forward to next year already, hoping I’m not signing online petitions in the middle of the ceremony, and instead just looking at beautiful people dressed in colors, to make Mom happy.