I do this thing where I try to describe movies according to what actually is in the movies, but while totally missing the point of the story. Here is how I developed this annoying habit:

During the first few months of the pandemic, my husband and I watched a lot more movies than usual. Of course, we liked some more than others and I started thinking about my criteria for deciding if I liked a movie.

For instance, “Shawshank Redemption,” “American History X,” “Arlington Road” and “Mudbound” are all excellent and impactful but certainly not fun or easy to watch. “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is not Academy Award material but is still quite fun. “Interstellar” is a masterpiece and yet open to scientific scrutiny. Does any of that matter, or do I just want to enjoy the time I spend watching a movie? This got me thinking about how I describe movies to others. Do I just say “I liked it,” or do I dissect its script and acting before deciding?

As part of a previous job, I wrote thousands of 30-word descriptions of TV shows that would be printed in TV guides. To practice, I’d write movie descriptions and then see how close I came to matching the official published description. It appeared that there are basically two ways to describe every movie, and two ways to watch them. One way reveals the deep meaning and societal impact of the film’s message. The other reveals only what you see on the screen. It’s the steak versus the sizzle.

Then when my brother dismissively described the Harry Potter movies as “a bunch of kids doing magic tricks,” it became a game for me to try to do the same disservice for other movies. It proved harder than expected. Here’s my list (so far):

“50 First Dates.” A confused girl is happy when she wakes up on a boat.

“1917.” A guy keeps running while being shot at.

“Arrival.” Big floating rocks and some aliens cause a ruckus.

“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Two guys squeeze a lot of people into a phone booth.

“Brigsby Bear.” A guy has to learn how to be a kid even though he’s a grown up.

“Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Brad Pitt looks better when he’s young.

“Edge of Tomorrow.” A guy keeps practicing how not to get hurt.

“Fever Pitch.” A guy convinces his girlfriend to like the Red Sox.

“Ford vs. Ferrari.” Some people keep driving cars faster and faster until someone gets killed.

“Forest Gump.” A guy fights, runs and sells shrimp and then puts his son on a school bus.

“Groundhog Day.” A guy who is a jerk is less of a jerk later on.

“Honey Boy.” A boy and his dad live in a crappy motel room but they are good at juggling.

“I am Mother.” A girl and her robot mom try to get along but don’t do so well.

“Interstellar” When a guy is young but his daughter is really old, the guy is sad.

“Knives Out.” A guy dies and a girl tells the truth but no one believes her.

“Lucy.” Blue stuff makes a girl really smart but then she gets weird.

“Manchester by the Sea.” A guy and his teen nephew talk about sad stuff.

“Marriage Story.” These people get a divorce and their lawyers make things worse.

“Matrix.” People fight in slow motion while their heads are plugged into a machine.

“Parasite.” Poor people try to act like rich people and then a bunch of people die.

“Terminator.” A big scary guy helps a lady.

“Uncut Gems.” People act like jerks because it helps them get diamonds.

As far as pandemic-inspired hobbies, I rate this below cornhole but above alphabetizing the boxes of pasta in my pantry (which I didn’t actually do, or did I?).

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