Friday, December 30, 2005


Today’s Hanukah gift to the kids was tickets to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. We went tonight. The kids liked the fact that they opened envelopes with the tickets and we said “Go get dressed, we leave in an hour.”

At some point while Peanut was dressing, she asked me “What does spectacular mean?”. I told her that it meant fantastic, super special, big and flashy.

Well the show was all that. The Rockettes were impressive – just the amount of work it takes to get 36 women to move in unison like that. The stage is huge, the musical numbers expansive, the amount of movement and action overwhelming at times. Spectacular? Probably but I wanted to make sure.

I came home and looked the word up. It means “Of the nature of a spectacle; impressive or sensational.” OK, I guess it WAS spectacular. And while I thought it was fun to watch the kids enjoy the show and shout out things they found particularly engaging during the performance, I wasn’t sure it was something I’d ever need to do again. MLB felt the same way.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized how similar tonight’s experience is frequently to movie-going. I love movies. Popcorn “spectaculars” to quiet dramas to quirky independents. And even though I didn’t develop an appreciation for the “oldies” until after marrying MLB, I now count some of them among my favorites too.

However, there’s so much “spectacular” work being done these days but at the end of the day, they have very little resonance. Two vastly different films I saw recently illustrate the point.

I caught “Fantastic Four” on DVD last week and while I enjoyed the “spectacle”, I was sadly disappointed by the film. I loved FF as a kid. I always hoped that as effects got better and better, that they would make a film version worthy of release and admiration. Instead, I felt there was plenty of glitz, but no real heart. We’ve seen in the Spiderman and X-Men films that it’s possible to care about or relate to a character at the same time our jaws are dropping over their super powers. It can be done. It wasn’t here. I heard there’s a sequel in development so I’m hoping that maybe now that they’ve gotten the “origin” story out of the way, they can give our 4 more to engage a viewer than just more things to blow up. A textbook case of spectacular without substance.

On the other end of the spectrum, “Good Night and Good Luck” was not much of a spectacle. In fact, it wasn’t much of anything. On reflection, it probably would’ve made a decent magazine article.

A 2-hour movie? Not so much.
Black and white without much of a soundtrack? Even less so.

I found the story so thin and the pacing so plodding that at times I actually found myself nodding off. At least Fantastic Four had spectacle.

So where I’m netting out here is that spectacle can be pure, unadulterated fun. Like I said, I’m open to all kind of movies. I don’t need every one to deliver a message or change my life. Sometimes, you just want a fun ride. The Radio City thing falls in that category. FF probably does too.

But a person can’t live on spectacle alone. And if everything was only spectacle, we’d tire of films very quickly. We need more to stimulate us than a big explosion or 72 legs kicking in unison.

I happy the kids enjoyed tonight’s spectacular. But I also know that they’ve been engaged (in the way that makes them want to watch something over and over) by films that offer more than just spectacle.

Hopefully we as parents, and Hollywood as the supplier of such content, will provide more substantial “meals” that we can share with our kids to balance out the helpings of spectacle. We’ve always heard that everything in moderation is the way to happiness. Maybe the saying is right?

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