Jewish Journal


by Tiferet Peterseil

December 25, 2009 | 10:22 am

Do you know how the movie theaters stay open around Christmas time, and there’s that usher at the theater cursing out those 2 people who just had to see a movie, thus preventing him from staying home for the Holiday? Well, I’m normally one of those 2 people.

What better time for Jews to enjoy a nice, quiet cinema outing than Christmas?

Except, in Tel Aviv, where the population is mainly Jewish, it wasn’t just me and my date watching AVATAR—there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.  Thank God even the Ushers are Jewish, so hopefully they’re not resentful about missing the Jingle Bell Fiesta.

Apparently, the fact that the tickets to the 3D film Avatar are 6 shekel more expensive than a regular ticket didn’t deter the crowd. After all, if James Cameron could spend almost $500 million to make the film, we could spend 41 NIS to see it.

All week I’d been waiting to see the movie, but last night my Christmas Cheer all but dissipated. It’s not because of the movie, not even because of my date…
…it’s because 40 minutes earlier I had sent someone to the Hospital.

A homeless man had stopped me in the street and called me over. I nervously stayed my distance, trying to understand what it is he wanted. He had this strange look in his eyes – a mixture of pain and pleading – and finally managed to whisper “Call an Ambulance” as the scent of alcohol invaded my nostrils. Then he grabbed his chest, grimacing. I made the call, telling the operator he might be having a heart attack.

Suspicious of his motives, I kept a distance, but still waited with him until the ambulance came. Maybe I’ve been in the city too long. I was so wary that he might try to mug me or worse, that I never even asked his name, let alone sat near him.

When the ambulance came they put him on a gurney and as he passed by me he reached out his hand. I hesitantly took it, almost wincing. He brought my hand to his lips and kissed it, then leveled his gaze to mine and whispered “Todah, malach”, Thank you, angel. That’s when I saw the tear fall. And that’s when I realized he probably wasn’t having a heart attack…He was having a loneliness attack.

The movie? By the time I got to the theater I was ready for anything that would take my mind off what had just happened. Guilt, among other emotions, primed me for the hype that seemed to emplasticize the entire theater. This clearly was the movie of the century.

Truth is, I have to hand it to Cameron, he managed to build a beautiful, inspiring world, with magnificent humanoid creatures. I’m sure everyone seeing the movie wished they were chosen to be transported to the planet “Pandora” and bask in the ultra violet glows of the forest (although I’m not sure how good that is for you).

Cameron’s imagination combined with modern technology left an awesome impact on me. You don’t need the 3D glasses to feel impressed with the way he’s successfully combined real live actors on realistic sets with animated figures, in a make-believe world. In fact, the transition was so swift and seamless, I’m still not sure if it was a cartoon or a real-people movie.

Unfortunately, the movie didn’t live up to the expectations; the plot was okay (at best) and the action good (but not great). It was a little long and drawn out, and too many times I found myself wandering back to the homeless man who I sent into an ambulance—by himself.

AVATAR preaches the warning we’ve heard many times before: How we are destroying our planet, each other, and our moral imperative to do the right thing in life. You could practically predict every twist in the storyline, and the strong moral conveyed of “think green before there’s nothing left to live for”, had nothing too new to teach me. As far as I was concerned the movie was preaching to the converted.

Leaving the theater, I suddenly felt my money could have been put to better use, and made the monumental (for me) decision to find my homeless, loveless, vagabond.

My date, whom I barely knew, offered to accompany me to the hospital. But after 2 hours of searching, I never did find what became of him. Without a name it’s sort of hard to find someone in a hospital, unless you’re a cop or a detective. Hospitals are very stingy about giving out personal information.

Around the Holidays, people tend to get the blues, even those who have forgotten their families and whose families have probably forgotten them. If I learned anything from the experience it’s that people have to be more important than things, even humanoid things, even the-greatest-movie-of-the-century things. Connecting with someone who’s alone has to be more important than connecting with another escape mechanism, and that you’d better realize that if you try to go against the patterns you’ve been taught since childhood you’re going to feel very, very guilty.

I wish I could take back time, and board the ambulance with him. Even at the risk of standing-up my date, and missing out on Cameron’s out-of-this world Blue Entities.

Truthfully, if you just want to get away and enjoy a really good animated movie, AVATAR fits the bill. So go ahead and have a great time. Just don’t expect it to take away those Holiday Blues.

Happy Holidays.

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