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Elder Wisdom

The Best Time To Watch A Movie Is First Thing In The Morning

American vaudeville actor Ray Bolger (1904 - 1987) prepares for the opening of WJZ-TV by the American Broadcasting Company at the Palace Theater in New York City, 10th August 1948. (Photo by Graphic House/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Graphic House/Archive Photos/Getty Images

There was a time when my nights were long. I could go out to dinner and then go drink at a different place after that, often for hours. I could go a nighttime baseball game and not be dead inside by the seventh inning. I could stay out until last call. Sometimes I would pregame until midnight BEFORE going out. And, of course, I could go to movies. Whether at home or out on the town, I can safely assume that I’ve watched far more movies at night than I have during the day.

That’s starting to change, because I’ve made a shocking discovery in middle age: The best time to watch a movie isn’t at night at all. It’s first thing in the morning.

If you’re a parent, you know that the morning is often the only time of day you have to yourself. I know parents who deliberately set their alarm at a deranged hour—5:30 a.m.!—just to wring out free time before the sun comes up and the little ones come downstairs to terrorize them. I’m not quite to that point yet, but I (very mildly) understand the appeal.

My own children are beginning to acquire teen sleeping powers, which means that on weekends, I’m apt to wake up far earlier than they will. Far earlier than my wife, as well. And the dog. I used to fill that time by dicking around on my phone, like most people. And then I realized, “Hey man, why don’t I get some goddamn culture?” So, many months ago, I went down to our basement, opened up a list I have in my Notes app of movies I’d been meaning to see, and watched one. I’ve been watching movies this way ever since. It’s fucking perfect, and let me tell you why.

A movie at night, whether at home or at a theater, is a commitment. I have to block off X amount of hours to watch my movie after dinner, and I have to have a TV available on which to watch it. (We have two and the kids aren’t shy about claiming them both.) If it’s an R movie, I can’t necessarily watch it with the kids around. More importantly, I don’t always have the energy to watch a movie that late in the day. When I was younger, watching a movie was a way to relax. It’s now the exact opposite. If I want to appreciate a movie, especially an artier one, I need to be awake and alert. I need to be paying attention.

At the end of any workday—or even a weekend day, for that matter—I don’t posses this energy. I don’t possess any energy. I just worked, did errands, and argued with the dog all day. I can’t take in all of The Power Of The Dog at 8:30 p.m. Are you fucking shitting me? By 9 o’clock I’m already rock-hard at the notion of slipping into bed. Last Monday night, I went to a downtown screening of The Batman for SFGate. That trip was more daunting to me than a flight across the fucking Pacific. By the third hour of that movie, I was too tired to care how it ended. Batman could have joined the circus and I wouldn’t have given a shit.

But in the morning? When no one else is around to bother me with their horseshit? That’s perfect. My mind and body are at their freshest, so why not use that time productively, i.e. to sit on my ass and watch RocknRolla? Thanks to my new ritual, I’ve watched more movies in the last few months than I have in years. Sometimes I watch genre flicks like The Transporter (oddly disappointing). Sometimes I watch high-end shit The New World (loved that one) and Fellini’s (admired it but was honestly glad when it ended). Last weekend I sat down and watched Joker for the first time ever, to round out my Batman week. It was a truly miserable film. But when it was over, I still had an entire day at my disposal, plus all the time in the world to nap. Which I did. When night fell, I was comfortably in bed at a dad-approved hour. The sweetest cut to black there is.

I no longer need the bells and whistles that come with nighttime movie viewing. I don’t need popcorn. I don’t need 100 fanboys in the theater all looking at their fucking phones and creaming themselves anytime Gambit makes a cameo. I don’t need to navigate my way out of a fucking parking garage at 11 a.m. All I need is the movie itself. Showtime at dawn provides exactly that. It’s pure cinema, baby.

This is the way. Not only do I watch movies in the morning now, but I’ve also consumed whole TV series in a similar manner. I’m absorbing art, which ideally asks for a great deal of thought from its beholder, when my brain and body are best prepared to interpret it. I have other movies on my list, and I keep adding more: Near Dark, Rio Bravo, Drive My Car, Brazil, Good Time, and on and on. I get up on a weekend and I’m EXCITED about what I’m about to see. That never used to be the case. A couple of years ago, a new morning meant a new Lego to step on. But now I’ve reached that mythical phase of parenthood where I suddenly have more freedom to do the shit I always wanted to do. Turns out I wanna watch Barry Lyndon again. At 7:30 a.m. You can too.