Screenshot from The Simpsons / The Spec

April 8, 2020

The Art of Picking a Family Movie During Quarantine

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For those of us who have left Cornell’s campus and returned home, things are likely coming to a head. There are only so many hours you can spend catching up on Westworld or hard core regressing after rewatching episodes of Glee. Eventually, you’ll have to emerge from your bedroom and face the facts. You’ll have to find an activity for the whole family to enjoy.

You could talk about politics? But no, that’s too messy. Your dad likes to play Devil’s advocate, and you cry when you get angry. You could bake something? But there’s a pandemic, you’re out of eggs and flour and your local grocery store is out of both. So it’s time to turn to a true classic: The family movie.

Picking a movie alone will take about an hour, plus a standard movie length of two hours, so be sure to block out at least three hours for this activity. Start by gathering your family in the living room. Allow time for everyone to get settled in. Your dad might want to grab a glass of water, your younger sister needs to get her phone charger, and your mom must try, and fail, to coax the family cat into sitting on her lap. Take this moment to center yourself. You are the great mediator, ready to take on the monumental task of bridging massive generational gaps, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z all gathering as one.

There’s no guide book for this task. Sure, Netflix has a Family Movie Night category, but it features a list of films for young families. Where is the category for four grown adults with very different tastes, opinions and life experiences?  A category for four wildly different human beings united only by blood and state public health recommendations? There isn’t one. Get ready to be flying blind.

Start by narrowing down a genre and take a family poll. Maybe your father prefers goofy comedies, particularly with Bill Murray. Actually, only with Bill Murray. Okay, so the movie must feature Bill Murray. Your younger sister, on the other hand, might like horror movies and movies with sharks. A prolific actor like Murray must have done a shark movie at some point, right? Your mother, the wild card, approves and condemns movies with no clear rationale. She claims to be “good with anything,” yet she shoots down suggestions with a simple “no.” No explanation is offered, but once this decree is made, it’s best to move on to another film.

The new releases category is always a nice place to start. But here, it’s possible you’ve played yourself without even knowing it. You may regret your past, for you’ve already seen Parasite, Little Women and Jojo Rabbit. This is the moment your father begins to think this process is futile. He will be adamant in his belief that you must have seen every movie in the world, simply because you’ve seen a movie in the last five years. In his mind, Slumdog Millionaire was this year’s big release. The fact of the matter is, all dads live in 2009. So you have to work with that. Perhaps ease him into 2020 by splitting the difference. Try suggesting The Martian, with a nice, comfortable 2015 release date and a stellar performance by Matt Damon, which may get your mom on board.

You may be inclined to  suggest Midsommar, one of the year’s big films that you’ve managed to miss. It’s scary, so that will appeal to your sister’s tastes, and sure, you’ve heard there are some sex scenes, but how bad could they really be? This seems like a great idea, but don’t fall into this trap.  Do a quick Google search for any movie that may feature uncomfortable sex scenes. A search on this film warns of a multigenerational cult orgy. Best to steer clear of that.

At this point, your dad is losing patience. He’s off to watch The Office, which he somehow just started. Let him go, and know that every family movie night is bound to take some losses. Keep your cool here, and make your next suggestion.

Try 1917, an epic World War I drama. Your mom seems to be on board, especially since she believes the director, Sam Mendes, is singer, Shawn Mendes. Be sure to you this mistaken identity to your advantage. But alas, you’ll fall into a trap. You’re a fool. Because now, your younger sister will claim that you and your mother are ganging up against her. The age old argument of who is mom’s favorite begins, and ends, within minutes with a dramatic exit. Your sister is off to watch Tik Toks in her room.

You’ve done it! 1917 it is! Your mom enjoys a two hour nap while you watch young William Schofield save 1,600 British soldiers, with beautiful cinematography and a heart-wrenching storyline. You’ve mastered the art of picking the family movie. Good for you!


Anna Canny is a junior in the College of Agricultural Life and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].