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As our nation turns its lonely eyes to Matt | Chuck's World


Last updated 5/18/2020 at 1:33pm

I finally saw "Contagion," which everyone seemed to be watching about six weeks ago. Or maybe it was six months ago. How long has it been? I've already forgotten the days of the week, along with how to tie my shoelaces. I'm now just using star dates (colors for the weekends).

But it felt like people I know were tuning in to see the 2011 Steven Soderbergh film, and I just decided to resist. For one thing, I'd seen it before.

For another, I remembered it as a grim depiction of the world in the midst of a modern pandemic. It just didn't feel like something I wanted to revisit. I understood the appeal, though, the notion that something designed to entertain can also educate, and it has Matt Damon.

Really, you just need to have Matt in it.

The main reason I stayed away, though, is that I can't seem to watch anything. Thanks, COVID.

I'm not unique. I've heard plenty of stories about focus slipping away, about powers of concentration vanishing as the weeks pass in isolation.

It's not hard to grasp; how do we pay attention when our usual markers are missing? I mean, there's no baseball. It might as well be another planet.

So, my particular manifestation appears to be the inability to watch anything longer than 30 minutes, which is awkward in a time when a lot of people on social media are posting "I finished Netflix" or similar things. Supposedly we're all watching a lot. I feel a little left out.

I've also not been moved by the various suggestions for appropriate quarantine movies. These are often stories of survival in a solitary existence, from "Cast Away" to "Birdman of Alcatraz," and I'm not quite ready to wallow yet.

On the other hand, I seem to be listening to comfort music, which has now set off the magical algorithm alarms. I'm getting suggestions for music I listened to in the eighth grade, and I'm actually interested.

This is what "Contagion" missed, by the way. It's not a mirror of 2020 – the fictional disease in the film is 10 times more lethal than the most pessimistic projections for COVID-19, and people die quickly and horribly.

There are riots in the movie, and just general civil unrest, and it appears no one is picking up the trash. Grim, as I said.

From that perspective, then, I'd say we're doing OK. The trash is being collected, the electricity is on, and if you've never played a video game in your life, well, now may be your chance. I have a feeling that the misery level of this planet is about to go way up, but for many of us our biggest concern is boredom.

Not people with small children. You all are in a different movie. I'm mostly talking about me.

A guy who writes mostly about nothing has nothing to write about, and that's the least of my problems.

I put on jeans the other day, but I could only wear them for about an hour before it just felt pretentious. Who am I to wear real pants?

I've run out of flour a couple of times, which is about as dark as this household gets, but I've got at least a year's supply of paper towels for some reason, and I'm the one with all the butter, sorry. I just kept buying it.

I've become irrationally annoyed by celebrities, posting rambling videos of themselves making coffee in kitchens that are apparently constructed entirely out of money. At least the musicians are giving us concerts from their living rooms; actors tend to show us their lunches ("Look, I made a sandwich. It tastes like a real one!").

And I'm sorry, but I don't want to listen to Patrick Stewart read any more sonnets. They don't soothe me, Patrick. I suggest a pivot to limericks. Shake things up a little.

My wife is an educator, and I've made so many cameo appearances in Zoom classes that I'm applying for a SAG card. It's strange to have her home, too. I've washed lipstick off of so many coffee cups that I think I owe Michael Douglas royalties.

And I succumbed, finally, to pandemic fashion and stopped shaving. Beards are nothing new in my life, although in recent years they've lost their appeal. And as I watched the growth, I thought it might come in a bit darker and less gray this time.

That was an actual thought. Because this is a thing that happens, apparently.

That may be the clue, actually, to my lack of interest in watching movies that might resonate with our current situation. I'm not sure anyone understood the little things that could happen, the trivia we now entertain ourselves with, the changes we seem to have in common.

This is why "Contagion," a good film, didn't feel particularly useful on rewatching. I trust that the filmmakers did their research, and that it's a realistic movie; it's just not our reality. Our reality is much duller.

And I'm not Matt Damon. My wife says so. She actually mentioned it several times.

So movies aren't going to save us. I suspect science will, although I tend to be an optimist. I just know that life is weird, and slow, and as I watched Matt struggle through his pretend pandemic, I couldn't help but notice that his hair was getting cut by somebody.

As I said, not our reality.


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