“What Do You Have a Taste For?”

THE MIDDLE SEAT: Column by Steve Matuszak

I am deeply grateful for many things in my marriage, not the least of which is that I don’t have to, for the most part, any longer deal with getting a group of people to choose a movie.

From the dawn of silent films, humans have had to navigate the treacherous social waters of yet another group entertainment decision. And movie or no movie, getting any group to make any decision is like trying to get a child’s toy packaging open – it’s not easy!

Think about getting a group of friends to choose a restaurant. “Where do you want to go? What do you have a taste for?”, you ask. Each friend answers, “I don’t care, anything”. (No one is willing to make the decision). “OK, then how about Mexican?”, you bravely venture. “No!”, someone inevitably answers. “I thought you didn’t care!”, you retort. “I don’t, just not that”, they say. And it goes on endlessly like this.

Well, movies are no different. People simply have different tastes. And choosing a movie is much like culinary taste because, let’s face it, you are just in a certain mood for certain kinds of movies at certain times.

So take all of those different opinions and try to get a consensus on a movie – it aint gonna happen! Ok, so … do you split up and see different films? “But then we are not all doing something together!” someone will demand. Well, I say … sorry, life involves compromise.

Heck, it’s hard to choose a movie yourself when wandering around Blockbuster on a rental night (another soon-to-be-bygone experience). “Am I in the mood for a ‘turn-my-mind-off-and-not-have-to-work’ action flick or a romantic comedy?”. Now imagine taking the dynamic, appetite of any movie viewing individual and try pairing it up with another person.

This is where dating (and even married) couples run into trouble. The guy must ask himself, “Am I willing to subdue my desire for swordplay in order to impress my girlfriend and watch some slow-paced Merchant/Ivory with Keira Knightley?”. Likewise, women must ask themselves, “Can I handle Jason Statham for two grueling hours?”.

And this dynamic, delicate communication starts early and carries throughout the evening. First, the dialogue begins when the thought of going out to a movie is introduced. And it usually starts with “It depends, what’s playing?” This is why renting a movie is even more treacherous than going to the theatres because, when renting, EVERYTHING is playing!

Soon after “What’s playing?” is asked, someone must look up the schedule. Now, in my day, this was done by getting the local paper and checking out the movie theatre ads with movies and show time listings. I then graduated to hearing the often-imitated (including by myself) “Moviefone” guy. “Hello and welcome to Moviefone. If you know the name of the movie you’d like to see, press 1. If you know the name of the theatre, press 2”. You have to imagine the deep, elongated way he said “yoooouu” to really appreciate this audio icon.
But let’s get real, only my mother-in-law still checks the newspaper (and yellow pages!) for information. So, nowadays, the guy or girl gets on Fandango. Then comes the quite lengthy “reading off of the movies” followed by the non-readers verbal, nonverbal and gutteral reactions and subsequent reactions and explanations from the reader.

(Guy reading) “OK, there’s … ugh … ‘The Fighter’“
(Woman responds) “NO, I don’t want see a bunch of guys punching each other.”
“Honey, it’s up for tons of Academy Awards and is about the guy’s family who …”
“No, it’s too violent. What else?”
“There’s ‘True Grit’!”
“Does anyone shoot anyone else?”
“Well, it’s a Western remake. I am sure somebody shoots somebody but that’s not what the movie is about, it’s about redemption and …
“Shooting people, no thanks. What else.
“Uh, there’s … ‘Tangled’. No, there’s also …”
“Ohhh wait, let’s see that!”
“I don’t want to see a cartoon Disney Film.”
“It’s computer animated.”
“It’s a cartoon. OK, how about …”

And it goes on from there. But, the rental choice is even worse. You have to decide on what section of the store (or Netflix online genre category) you are even going to begin looking in! These are important, complex relationship interactions and should not be taken lightly.

Now, there is an alternative here folks, one that my wife and I use on occasion. We sometimes, (hold your breath Valentines’ Rights Activists) watch separate movies! Now, we don’t do that when we go out to the theatre. But, I have a question – “Is watching the same movie really being together?” I think it is (although I expect absolute quiet from myself, my date/wife and every other being in my proximity – see last column). What do you think?

Now, when it comes to rentals, if my wife and I decide that, on a given evening, we have two different appetites, we simply rent two different movies and watch them in different rooms (much the same for cable tv movie and programming choices as well). Now, again, we do not do this all the time. It just depends on our mood(s). What do you do?

And here’s the million dollar question – What do you do when a group cannot decide? Do you split up? Do you push through and find compromise? Do you blame the leader if the compromise film stinks? I want to hear from you. Do you have groups of friends, coworkers, family members etc. that have an easy or difficult time making decisions?

You wanna know something crazy, as much as I love going out to movies with my wife, friends, etc., the greatest time I ever had at a movie (not the best movie, just best experience) was when I saw “What Dreams May Come” in a theatre while travelling and I had the entire place to myself. I was the only one. Story to come. Ever have that? Look, decisions must be made. And if your taste buds are not meshing with mine, let’s order separate entrees. Of course, there will be plenty of times we can split a plate as well.


  1. So, never see a movie in a group past the age of 13. Problem solved! When dating, there is always some give and take on choices. In groups, it’s like pulling teeth – so don’t do it! IT’s not really a group thing after 13, anyway. When you are with a group of friends in high school, it’s the mall, paintball, amusement parks, camping, etc. When you are married with kids, you are so happy to get to go out – you don’t care what is playing, so the choice is pretty easy.

  2. Jay, I could not agree more. When I was a teen, it was the mall and movies, and that’s about it. And seeing a movie as a group really isn’t a group thing because you are watching the movie. Why is why groups of teens at movies can, at times, be annoying, because, instead of watching the movie, they are trying to have a “group thing” which then ruins my movie experience. Ughh. I like your age cut off at 13!

  3. For starters, I say find friends that have similar tastes in movies. If that doesn’t work, sacrifice your friend’s happiness for the sake of a good movie. Would you rather have a temporarily happy friend and a bad movie, or a temporarily unhappy friend and a good movie? Exactly! And if all else fails, ditch the friend for a good movie. Friendships are overrated anyway, but a good movie lasts forever. Of course, when it comes to my wife, we watch whatever she wants to watch 🙂

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