BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 18: A man wears gloves and a bandanna across his face while riding a scooter past a shuttered movie theater, with the message 'Take Care of Each Other' displayed on the marquee, on March 18, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. The city of Beverly Hills mandated the closure of ‘non-essential’ stores, including the famous retailers on Rodeo Drive, starting today in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Is Every 2021 Movie Amazing or Did I Just Miss Eating Twizzlers in the Dark?

A year without movie theaters has broken my brain.
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I first realized I had a problem when I cried not once, but TWICE during a matinee showing of Cruella. This experience was preceded by my crying throughout A Quiet Place Part II. I also quickly proclaimed both movies to be “game-changing” and “the best thing I’d ever seen.” AQP2 was genuinely good, and Cruella was amusing and a good time, but these were hardly game-changing, genre-defying cinematic experiences.

I found myself asking the same question: were these movies really that great, or was I just overcome with the joy and excitement of returning to a movie theater after more than a year away? As much as I missed all the trappings of normal life during quarantine, the loss of movie theaters was emotionally devastating. Movies have always been my sanctuary, the place I go to escape, to feel safe. It is quite simply, my favorite place to be.

I knew returning to theaters would be emotional, but I had no idea I would now be grading everything I watched on the hugest of curves. My inner critic is bewildered and my brain feels broken after 2020. Did I really love these films, or was I just deliriously happy to be sitting in a cold, dark room eating Twizzlers and drinking a bucket of Diet Coke? Is my movie radar borked for good, or is this something that will fade in time?

This may not seem like a “real problem,” but as someone who reviews movies for a living, I am slightly concerned that every movie I see this year will get an automatic 5 stars. I am also worried about embarrassing myself and my friends when I completely lose my shit and start weeping during Space Jam: A New Legacy. In the immortal words of Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, “I am thirty or forty years old, and I do not need this.”

A year of pandemic living has changed us on a molecular level, and I doubt anyone is the same person they were in March 2020. We will undoubtedly be unpacking this traumatic period for years to come. So yeah, emotions are going to keep bubbling out of us at weird and random intervals. In talking to friends and co-workers, I’ve found folks similarly stymied by resuming life as normal. A year of no pants and zero small talk has given everyone I know an identity crisis.

In the meantime, please excuse me if I’m overly effusive about the most uninspired films. As a consummate indoor girl, I have spent the last year at national parks, playgrounds, and botanical gardens. And I have the farmer tan to prove it (RIP ever wearing a tank top again). But I longed to return to the familiarity of my human terrarium. So please bear with me as I emotionally acclimate to movie theaters again. I’m just a woman, standing in front of an AMC, feeling too many emotions.

(image: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Image of Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.