Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Z Rating

For years, My Lovely Wife has displayed a tendency to doze off while watching movies either at home or in the theater. She masterfully exercises her stealthy catnapping skills in everything from family-friendly fare, to melodramas, to hyperkinetic action flicks.

The napping itself shouldn't be immediately mistaken for dismissal because good or bad, interesting or not, the nap will most likely happen. Sometimes she regrets having slept through a movie that otherwise was enjoyable. Other times there is no regret for having missed it.

When you closely examine the behavior, as we have done throughout the years, you'll find movies fall into one of six categories of what we have come to call the Z Rating System.

A movie with a Z-5 ranking is one that, in the opinion of My Lovely Wife, should never have been committed to celluloid. Its very existence is a noteworthy offense and should require a full refund. Napping during a Z-5 is less a comment on the quality of the film and more a defense mechanism to protect the brain from injury caused by rampant stupidity, plot holes, sloppy acting, bad dialogue, the presence of an actor she finds objectionable (i.e., Michael Caine), or westerns (not excluding Blazing Saddles). As someone who fully appreciates Michael Caine and has been known to enjoy westerns from time to time, I don't always understand the application of a Z-5. Then again, it isn't my rating system.

Almost as bad as a Z-5, the Z-4 is the kind of movie that frustratingly fails to live up to its full potential. There might be one or two redeeming qualities, but overall the movie is disappointing (such as every comedy featuring Diane Keaton or Steve Martin (or both (with the exception of the first Father of the Bride)) since the early 1990s). Napping during a Z-4 is My Lovely Wife's way of avoiding the annoyance of a good idea or a strong cast being wasted in a story that doesn't go where it should.

The Z-3 ranking is reserved for average movies -- not great; not awful. They're better than mediocre, but not enough so to make them laudable. A Z-3 might also be a perfectly good movie that just does not interest her, such as any of the recent string of Marvel superhero movies. The nap during a Z-3 probably doesn't impede the understanding of the plot or detract from the enjoyability of a film's positive attributes. What was missed was missed and that's okay. Snoring has been known to obscure bits of dialogue from time to time, requiring those of us in close proximity to raise the volume. In the end, the Z-3 nap doesn't necessarily represent punitive judgement; it simply doesn't matter one way or the other if any portion of the film was napped through.

The thing that differentiates a Z-2 from a Z-3 is the expression of mild regret at having fallen asleep. The occasional "I was trying to stay awake" might be uttered and there is often genuine interest about the sections of the movie that were lost to unconsciousness. However, the need to revisit the film to see the missed portions is sketchy.

A Z-1 is a movie during which My Lovely Wife fights with all her might to keep her peepers open for the entirety of the showing. If it was something we rented, you might find her watching it again the following day before we return it. If we own the movie, she might suggest watching it again within an uncharacteristically short span of time. And, finally...

Yes, there actually are certain movies through which My Lovely Wife manages to remain awake and alert from opening sequence to final frame. The Z-0s are few and far between, but they really do exist and are often the films we end up purchasing. The best thing about a Z-0 is its unpredictability. For years, I had tried to get My Lovely Wife to watch Dodgeball. When she finally broke down and allowed me to play it for her, she giggled all the way through and Dodgeball is now a family favorite in our household. Other recent additions to the Z-0 ranking include The Hundred-Foot Journey and Mr. Holmes. They are almost always met with the same expression of disbelief: "I loved that movie! I stayed awake the entire time!"

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