Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hollywood Discovers the Baby Boom—Through a Glass Darkly

According to a recent story by Ina Jaffe on NPR, Hollywood has finally figured out that the Baby Boom generation offers a profitable target audience: Baby Boomers Return to the Multiplex, and Hollywood Notices.  Wow.  Such wisdom.  Such prescience.  People have been talking about Boomers as consumers ever since the first articles appeared about the Pig in the Python.  Savvy marketers have targeted us from the beginning with products ranging from Howdy Doody dolls to miniskirts to retirement planning programs.  Boomers as a really BIG market have not exactly been a secret. The Pig and the Python

But what am I thinking?  This is the same Hollywood that ignored the business opportunity of Star Trek for 10 years, despite the growing number of conventions mobbed by people paying to see the stars, dress like Klingons, and buy plastic phasers.  They could have made three movies in this time, earning millions in a franchise that has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars since 1979.  But they just couldn’t see it.

Just like they haven’t been able to see us.  With their eyes firmly fixed on the “middle-school fanboy” and “teenage date” crowds, they have been churning out big-screen comic books, mega- violent shoot-em-ups, idiot comedies, torture porn, and gross-out horror movies.  Don’t get me wrong--we're not old fogeys.  We go to the movies almost every week and have very eclectic tastes. We saw The Avengers and Unstoppable, Warm Bodies and and I, at least, watched Bridesmaids.  But more and more often, we pass on what’s in the Cineplex and refuse to go to the West Newton Cinema because of the bad screens, bad sound, and bad prints.  Not to mention the broken seats and dirty floors.

What we Boomers have to offer Hollywood as a business opportunity is significant.  
  • We have time: more and more of us are retired and can go to the theater whenever we want to.  We don’t need babysitters and don’t have to plan a date night weeks in advance.  We just feed the cat and go.  
  • We have money.  We don’t have to shell out for daycare, field trips, pediatricians, cool sneakers or McDonald’s.  College tuition is behind us along with grad school, weddings, and subsidizing a kid’s new apartment.  Tickets may not be cheap but they beat the price of legitimate theatre, sports events, and concerts.
  •  We like movies.  We were the first generation to grow up watching TV and our parents could claim some free time by dropping us at the local theater for a Saturday matineé.  As college kids, we went to art houses and, as newlyweds, hit the theater on Saturday night.
What this article, and possibly Hollywood, are getting wrong, though is assuming that we want to see movies about aging.  So not.  We like good movies about interesting people doing interesting things.  We check the reviews, and not just in newspapers.  We know about Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB and Fandango.  We have apps on our smartphones.  If a movie sounds good and has solid reviews, we’ll go. If it sounds boring and has bad reviews, we won’t.

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a good case in point.  The trailers looked good and the cast was packed with outstanding talent.  But the reviews were only so-so and we decided to wait and pick it up off On Demand.  Amour got fabulous reviews but it was only playing at the grungy art house. My friend, Alane, with whom I see the movies that my husband won’t watch, said that it took a depressing topic, turned it into a 2-hour dirge and call it "Amour.”  So I passed.  But Oz, the Great and Powerful has possibilities and Olympus Has Fallen might also be good.  I’ll read the reviews.

Here’s the moral for Hollywood.  We Boomers go to the movies and we buy popcorn, too.   We don’t like gratuitous violence, mindless plots, stupid characters, and people being tortured on screen. We do like good well-made movies that tell an interesting story about complex characters with intelligent dialogue and a plot that makes sense.  They don’t have to be about old people in retirement homes--we've had three of those already.  They can be about anything.  Make more movies like that and you’ll make more money.  A lot more.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Deaccessioning Your Stuff: The More You Lose, the Lighter You Feel

When we’re young, one of the ways we change and establish ourselves as adults is by acquiring things—new apartment, new partner, new housewares, new job, new clothes.  Then we start buying furniture to store it all: bookcases, credenzas, hutches, chests.  Finally we add a house with a lot more storage space in closets, the basement (my personal bête noir), the garage and an attic. Stuff gets stored, then pushed to the bottom, then shoved to the back, then forgotten.

Arlo & Janis
As we get older and need less, we start thinking about downsizing and begin moving in the opposite direction.  Less is more.  Things—especially non-functional things—begin to take on a mental weight.  Their very presence weighs on us and the more we get rid of, the lighter we feel.  

When museums sell unwanted works of art, whether it’s to raise money or to open gallery space for other acquisitions, they call it deaccessioning.  That’s a euphemism for selling it but donors and members get bent out of shape when something goes out the door and, gee, “sold” is such a tacky word.  When ordinary folks start this process, we first, ideally, deaccession the children. They go away to school, move out, get married, change jobs, whatever it takes to set themselves up as adults separate from their parental units.  Next, we go after things.
Arlo & Janis, y don't u get it

I began experiencing this when we started cleaning out our Sudbury house in preparation for its upcoming sale.  Boxes of housewares and bags of clothes went to Goodwill and the Epilepsy Foundation.  I lost count of the books that we took to Bearly Read Books, Annie’s Book Swap and the Sudbury Library.  Around this time last year, we dropped 12 supermarket bags of books at the library for their annual book sale in April—and that was just one run.  

We have been in deaccessioning mode for nearly three years now and we have both gotten more ruthless as we go on.  Sentimental value has dwindled in importance.  Yes? No? Chuck it!

In weekly trips to our daughter’s new house, I unloaded of all the boxes of her things that she had been storing in our basement for 20 years, some of it since middle school.  The boxes were faded and dusty and occasionally dispensed mummified spiders.  Then I watched her throw most of it out—which she could have done a long time ago.  

I gave things to friends, to service vendors, to movers, to our home cleaning crew, to anyone who would take them.  Things came out of the basement that I thought I had gotten rid of years ago, like bears emerging sleepy-eyed from a long dark hibernation.  “Oh, there you are!  I didn’t realize you were still here.”  I came to appreciate empty space over boxes of stuff and every square foot of the floor I opened up was a triumph.  Still, despite years of work, we ran out of time and we ended up moving things we didn’t want because we had to just get them out of the house.  We moved into our downsized condo last month and are still getting rid of stuff. 
Arlo & Janis

As reported in an earlier post, the moving process separated us from even more things as box after box revealed broken china, glass and crockery.  Some of it I mourned but, for much of it, I felt like Arlo and Janis—woo-hoo!  It’s gone: I never have to look at it, dust it, wash it, or pack it ever again. 

Like life itself, deaccessioning is a process.  Maybe it’s part of the process of letting go of the here and now in preparation for the things to come.  Whatever.  Let’s open another box and see what’s in it