A lovely-sounding children’s book called “The Snowy Day” is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary edition. One of the reasons this book is such a landmark is that when it was first published in 1962, the child-protagonist was a black boy. What would seem ho hum today was very progressive during the height of the Civil Rights era. Milton and I shared the following email exchange:
Me: Did you ever read this when you were a kid? Since it didn’t snow in SF [I was born and raised in uber-liberal San Francisco; the most prefect place in the world to grow up], it wasn’t on my radar.
Milton: I didn’t read much as a kid. I was already favoring film.
If I recall correctly Milton nagged his mother into taking him to see Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers when he was barely ten. A buttinsky felt compelled to warn Milton’s Mother that this film was not suitable for a child.
Milton’s Mother: Seeing this is his idea!
Yet, this post is not about Milton’s precociousness. Recently, the boy that grew into the man that’s film-obsessed, received an invitation to attend an audience test screening of a “major motion picture” that will be released in fall. He was allowed to take a guest so I scored that seat.
Following the screening, we would have to fill out a questionnaire and there would be a focus group discussion. The film is a romantic drama featuring a legend. Possibly we signed our death warrants when we scrawled our signatures on a disclaimer vowing that we would not spill one ounce of our guts about this film, but I will go out on a limb and say we were extremely impressed with the lead that played the legend (my D-cup nose smells Academy Award nomination all over this performance). Hopefully nothing bad will happen to us, such as Harvey Weinstein showing up on our doorsteps brandishing a baseball bat. When the film opens, I will recommend it to my friends and family, and I doubt I will suffer the backlash I endured when I crowed enthusiastically about another Brothers Weinstein release back in the days of Miramax called Bad Santa, coincidentally my favorite holiday film.
Back to our test screening, Milton told me to arrive at the theater, the AMC Loews Lincoln Square multiplex on the Upper West Side, early to ensure a good place in line. We arrived so early that the line did not exist. A line was quickly organized and we were among the first in it. We had a relatively short wait outside before being ushered into the theater. Milton decided we should sit on the aisle, something we seldom do. This was a mistake for it turned out that people could only enter and exit on our side of the row. This forced us to get up and sit down at least sixty times and that got old quickly. In fact, it was never young.
Organizers equipped with clipboards, conferred in sotto voce tones with one another as they sized up the audience in their quest to screen members for the focus group. People around us were screened and selected, but we were shunned. As Milton was trying to determine what made the selection committee choose others and exclude us I suggested:
Me: Blacks and Jews need not apply?
Milton emitted a low growl.
I think we were excluded because we both wear glasses and reek of the egg-heady scent of membership — Film Society of Lincoln Center, Independent Feature Project, (before my salary was cut) Film Forum. The selection committee probably said about us:
Selection Committee: How the hell did those two film geeks get in here? They’re exactly the types that would pay to see this when it opens!
The theater filled quickly. It was announced that the screening could start half an hour early. As the audience applauded that welcome decision, a Plush Young Woman angled down our row so once again we had to stand to let a person through. Reaching his breaking point, Milton groaned loudly:
Milton: Oh, my Lord!
This drew Milton to the Plush Young Woman’s attention.
Plush Young Woman: I don’t have my ticket to reenter the theater. Can I have yours?
Since she was only partially stupid, she read his body language.
Fortunately, the film was entertaining. After filling out the exhausting questionnaire, I was tired and in no mood to stay another half hour to participate in a focus group had we been chosen. Milton shared that opinion, so possibly the organizers did not choose us because they determined we might snore during the discussion.