On January 7, 2016

The Movie Diary: ‘Tis the Season

My wife and I have an annual tradition of heading to the largest mall we can find on the final weekend before Christmas. We don’t do this because we need last-minute gifts. We do it because we like to find the calm within the chaos.

That may sound strange, so I’ll explain.

For as many years as I have known my wife, she has approached the Christmas season with ardent fervor – analyzing, organizing and optimizing the holiday for the fullest effect.

First of all, she starts her shopping near the end of summer and is usually complete by the time Halloween arrives. She then picks one Sunday at the beginning of November and declares it her wrapping day. She’ll set up a folding table in our bedroom, turn on a trashy movie, and proceed to wrap every gift she has purchased, carefully labeling and organizing them so needless mistakes aren’t made.

She then turns her attention to our indoor decorations, pulling them from the attic into a spare bedroom to unpack and prepare for their hanging or insertion throughout our house. This process takes weeks since she likes to work with a different theme or color scheme each year. (Keep in mind she keeps electronic checklists for all decorations and records any need for updates or improvements for the following year.)

She then corrals me to hang the outdoor decorations on the weekend following Thanksgiving. I have a strict deadline with this chore and while I’m fairly organized and efficient in my own right, she still feels the need to supply me with diagrams and photos from previous years so I don’t make any “foolish” mistakes.

The Christmas card is another checklist item that needs attention. She purchases the stamps well ahead of time and stuffs and labels the cards so they’re ready for delivery after the first week of December – any sooner and they risk being discarded; any later and the effect is lost (according to her holiday philosophy).

Finally comes the cooking, which my wife takes very seriously (that probably doesn’t come as a shock given how she approaches the rest of her holiday duties).

Keep in mind that she hoards vacation days for this time of years just so she can bake without distraction. She then prepares a checklist of seven to eight goodies from a master list of about 20.

During the week leading up to Christmas, she bakes non-stop. I fully expect to be sent to the grocery store several times during this period as supplies dwindle or recipes are unexpectedly doubled.

Once all these activities are completed, she then turns her attention to her absolute favorite yuletide activity: the peaceful stroll through the chaos of the final shopping weekend.

Initially, I scoffed at this activity. Why would anyone who worked so hard doing so many things to get ahead want to insert themselves directly into the nexus of holiday bedlam?

But then I saw the light.

Once I began joining her on these strolls, I started to understand the beauty, serenity and humor involved.

Here’s how it works: We predetermine the night that will most-likely be overwrought with last-minute shoppers. We then head to the mall and attempt to park as close as possible to the entrance that will allow us to easily grab a hot holiday drink like a mulled cider or a peppermint mocha latte.

And then we being our stroll through the masses of people.

We’ll generally just wander, but if either one of us spots an especially frantic shopper, we will begin tailing them as they feverously rush from store to store. This low-key spying is usually accompanied by an ongoing dialogue about the dire situation that this individual is possibly in.

So while it vaguely resembles a serene activity, in some strange way, being completely ahead of the holiday curve while wandering amongst people that aren’t, affords you an unexpected peacefulness (and a lot of humor) that otherwise can escape you at this time of year.

Of course, this holiday season offered everyone another mob scene activity: the release of the new Star Wars film.

There hasn’t been a must-see event like this in a long time, but the newest installment to the George Lucas epic space odyssey has finally arrived. Not surprisingly, ticket sales have been monumental, breaking all records for an opening weekend.

I was 11 years old when the first Star Wars film arrived so I’ve been on this journey since it began. I’m a fan, for sure, but far from a devotee (translation: I didn’t dress up).

And while it will go against popular opinion, I will state that I enjoyed this film and thought it was very well made, but I’m not convinced it was as wonderful as everyone is claiming. To be honest, I think viewers are letting the multitude of references to past episodes cloud their view about the actual storyline, which was in many ways repetitive of the original film.

Check this one out because you love the franchise or want to be part of the obvious dialogue, just don’t build it up to be the next “Gone With the Wind.”

A stellar “B+” for “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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