This may not be true for everyone, but for me the holiday season is the time of year when I go to the movies the most. Actually, it’s the only time of year I see movies consistently, which I’m beginning to believe is something I need to change.
As you might guess from the title of this post - and my picture from the Ithaca movie theater - I saw Mary Poppins Returns over the holidays. Personally, I thought it was absolutely marvelous and everything I wanted in a sequel to such a classic film filled with music, heart, and magic. I cried at least 3 times, which is generally a good indication that something went right. :-)
But there was more to my experience than just an excellent film. So much more.
Discovery and Play
Not everyone enjoys the original Mary Poppins, whether we mean the movie, the musical, or both. I have always been partial to the story and I particularly loved the musical. Now, I realize that I am biased because I spent a year and a half working at the New Amsterdam Theater as a bartender and listened to the score played and sung live daily - a magical experience in and of itself - but I do believe these characters and the story of familial love are beautiful and important.
Mary Poppins Returns did a lovely job of hearkening back to what made the original movie and the musical so wonderful: the performers, visuals, music, choreography, set, costume, color, dialogue, characters…I could go on! But I won’t, because what struck me even more so were the reactions of the other people around me.
The theater was filled with people ranging from quite young to quite old, strangers, family, people who came alone, and people who came in groups. But the feelings across the theater throughout the movie were as a unit. I’ve rarely heard so much consistent sniffling in a film’s sad moments. And the laughter and joy in the more upbeat moments were a wonderful combination of youthful giggles, adult guffaws, and even my grandmother’s delighted chortle.
This story, this piece of art, had connected a group of strangers through discovery, wonder, emotion, and play. Isn’t this what we all strive to do?
One more little story about this movie: As I was exiting the bathroom afterward, a father about 10 years older than myself (who sounded like a kid in a candy store) was speaking excitedly about the movie to his son, who was maybe 8. He asked “Did you love it?” The little boy said “Yeah! I want to see the other movie!” The look of joy on the father’s face, knowing he would be able to share something he loved with his son, just warmed my heart. “As soon as we get home we’ll watch it. Just wait until you see how that old guy at the end of the movie danced when he was younger!”
Connection. Discovery. Play. All extremely important to human connection.
Consume Like It’s Your Job
Now, I do not mean this in the way of “go buy everything!” like our consumer market constantly asks of us. Instead, I want you to consider consuming art - of any and all kinds - as part of your job as an artist. If you’re not an artist, then consider it part of your job as a human.
We can learn so much from consuming art. I mean, what is art? Art is an individual or a group of people baring their soul to the world in order to tell a story, entertain, and provide a message they hope will make the world a better place. And we all need more of it.
As I said at the top of this post, the holidays are the time when I most consistently go to the movies. But it’s also the time of year when I have the most time to consume other art as well: TV, books, plays, musicals, museums, etc. Below are all of the artistic experiences I have had over the past month. Not all of it was new and not all of it was good, but I learned something different from every experience.
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen Of Scots
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Harry Potter (All of them!)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Season 2)
Star Trek (the original - just a few episodes)
Please Like Me (Season 1)
Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette (WATCH THIS)
Harry Potter (All of them - though I started these in September)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Upcoming this weekend)
Lifespan Of A Fact (Upcoming this weekend)
Cookie Monster May Have Been Right
If you had asked me off the cuff in the middle of my day what art I had consumed recently, I’m not sure I could have given you this list. But after sitting down, thinking, and writing it out, the fact that I experienced so much in the midst of the business and craziness and travel of the holiday season now seems impressive. But I think that’s what we’re supposed to do.
Cookie Monster (though his role has changed a bit these days) is a monster who eats cookies. That’s who he is and what he does. So when he sees a cookie, he just kind of pounces and consumes it without much thought.
*Side note: I may or may not resemble Cookie Monster during the holiday season…
Artists are people who make and consume art. That is what we are wired to do. We see it and we want to consume it, but sometimes life gets in the way. It has dawned on me how important it is to make time for artistic experiences - in any form. There is so much to be learned, but you have to treat it like your job to consume more art.
Go to the movies. Go to the theatre. Stream from your couch. Read a book. Visit a museum. See a reading of a friend’s play. Read a blog. Listen to a podcast. Consume. Whatever you can and whenever you can. By doing so, your life and your art can only become richer.