Cheap Seats

The other day i went to see a film at the discount theater in Hopkins. I’m not much of a moviegoer, but I do enjoy the occasional comedy or art-house flick. I try to stay abreast of the latest Hollywood gossip, too, though I must admit it was only recently that I made the startling discovery that Justin Timberlake and the singer JT are actually the same person.

In recent months, I’ve been trying to watch more movies. Mostly this has to do with the run-up to the Academy Awards. Every year a couple of my friends host an Oscar-watching party at which attendees are required to make witty comments about the honorees’ gowns and facial hair (bonus points if they’re on the same actor/actress). Guests are also asked to fill out a ballot of likely winners. The person whose selections most closely match those of the academy receives a prize at the evening’s end.

I have never won this contest. Does Meryl Streep deserve Best Actress for trussing a chicken in Julie & Julia? Um, sure. Was Morgan Freeman speaking from the heart in Invictus or simply phoning it in? No idea. Year after year, the only thing I know for certain is that some lifetime-achievement honor should go to the chemist who invented that magical, unnatural, and thoroughly irresistible substance known as butter-flavored topping.

This year, however, I’ve made an effort to stay on top of things. In December, I rented Up, and in January I saw Up in the Air. I attended a 3-D showing of Avatar, not only because I love wearing those funny glasses but also because I have a deep affection for Smurfs. And a few weeks ago, as I said earlier, I found myself at the discount cinema in Hopkins, watching A Serious Man.

Now, if you’re a true cinephile, you already know that A Serious Man is the acclaimed Coen Brothers’ film about a Jewish physics professor who loses his wife to another man. It should not be confused, however, with A Single Man, the acclaimed Tom Ford film about a gay English professor who loses his man to a tragic car accident. I’m just saying.

I enjoyed the movie, despite the lack of subtitles for words like “mensch” and “babka.” But I seemed to be in the minority as the lights came up and the audience exited the theater. “Well,” I heard one attendee say to another, “was it any less annoying given that you paid $3 instead of $10?”

Price usually changes the equation—and when the price is low, usually in a good way. For Minnesotans, cheapness counts. Who doesn’t love a good bargain—even if it involves sitting through a movie that isn’t the movie that you thought it would be? (Again, I’m just saying.)

But cheap doesn’t always mean cut-rate. Take, for example, the 99 treats under $10 that comprise this month’s cover package. Delicious, nicely seasoned, well prepared—these items, handpicked by Minnesota Monthly food editor Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, are morsels that will satisfy your appetite without breaking the bank. They’re cheap, but hardly low quality. Bargains, but not because they’re inferior. Take my advice: Try one or two or three of these items—a $30 investment at most—and then answer these two questions: First, “Was it any less tasty given that you paid $3 instead of $13?” And second, “If Meryl Streep had made it, would she deserve Best Actress?”

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