(Quarantine Ed.)

FAFC presents - YESTERDAY - Sat 15 Aug

So, the big question facing me as I write this preview is - should I pack the preview with Beatles puns, or should I leave it to the review ? I thought about waiting till next week, then I thought 'No, You Can't Do That'.  So, here we go...

Yesterday-movie-1557038778Imagine there's no Beatles, it's easy if you try...(My God, this is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel !) In case you didn't know, the premise of this movie is that after some weird electrical storm, the world awakes with naery a jot of memory of the Fab Four ever existing. But not the whole world - Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter appears to be the only one who remembers them and their amazing songbook which becomes his legacy, and his ticket to stardom. How will he use this gift ? With a little help from his friends, this boy carries that weight along the long and winding road until, Baby he's a rich man. Yet all he wants to do is get back to where he once belonged, or he's going to lose that girl - he needs help...phew ! (I could do this for hours !)

Beatles-inspired-film-yesterdayAs for the plot, there is one hole that needs fixing. The Beatles had their first UK chart hit in October 1962 (Love Me Do), and in April 1970 Paul McCartney walked away precipitating the end of the band. The Beatles star shone brightly for 7 years and 7 months - a staggeringly short amount of time for the impact their music had on the world. Yet Jack is able to recall so many of their songs, and all the lyrics from his head, since he is unable to Google the lyrics on the internet. Isn't that ridiculous ? I mean, would you or I know all the lyrics to any Beatles song that suddenly came on the radio ?  Do you want to know a secret ? I think we would.

Come and find out on Saturday evening. Social distancing in place, we're still starting closer to 8.30pm because of the light.

Parents Guide on IMdB

Parent Reviews on CommonSenseMedia.org

JoJo puts away childish things...

Expectation is a dangerous thing. I’ve fallen foul in the past as my movie watching is spoiled by having high hopes only for a movie, excellent in its own right, to fall short of my contrived expectations. I told several people that, parody aside, JoJo Rabbit is a hilarious film, and spent some time during Saturday’s movie worrying that I had oversold it. There are some excellent funny moments, but hilarious ? I’m asking myself why I had previously formed that opinion, and searched for other adjectives I might have used. And every one I came up with - joyous, gentle, feel-good, inspiring, heart-warming - have in common that they are words you would least expect to use for a movie about kids joining the Hitler Youth, vilifying Jews and with Adolf Hitler as a mentor, albeit in JoJo’s imagination.

2020-01-15_JojoRabbitBut make no mistake, JoJo Rabbit is a feel-good story, and not just because Elsa escapes from her captivity and can finally dance in the street with JoJo. What we see unfold is a transition from boyhood idealism/indoctrination to personal realization through human contact. It helps that the most of the Nazis on display are buffoons, including Der Fuhrer. And the sad moments - indeed the films pivotal shock-horror moment - contrast starkly with the otherwise gradual development of JoJo’s personal conscience.
687a9ebde5e8db3f208fd644b3cd68c1The movie was written and directed by Taika Waititi, who also plays the imaginary Hitler as a cartoon figure. He has taken some criticism for a depiction of Nazism that fails to represent its full evils, but perhaps this can be excused - we see the world how JoJo does. He sees only smart uniforms, fun war games and the caricatured depictions of evil Jews with their hidden horns and their mind control tricks, which are ultimately at odds with his discovery of Elsa and her humanity. 
As I watched this for the second time, I was struck how many lessons there were for our lives today, as much as its anti-Nazi message. A population controlled and channelled though distorted representations of national enemies, outrageous lies accepted as truth, fear of authority amongst good people, almost arbitrary violence against those who speak out, yet when people talk to people and make a human connection devoid of propaganda and politics, good prevails. Even as we all sat stoically in gentle rain, refusing to give in to the elements for the sake of the movie, I thought of viruses and masks, and how doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.

FAFC presents - JOJO RABBIT - Sat 1 Aug

You may have noticed that I haven’t written a separate review of last week’s movie, EMMA. The more time passes from that viewing, the less I remember about it, which kind of sums it up. I do recall laughing at some points, and being entertained, like a Sunday night viewing of some English costume drama on PBS Masterpiece. But there was nothing that really stuck in my brain. It felt like eating cotton candy - sweet, tasty, light and dissolves to nothing once you’ve consumed it. Jane Austen is obviously a significant and talented author, and this is regarded as one of her lighter pieces, but still…

17abacb1-3abd-4584-b266-6cfb6fd1e29a-large16x9_jojo1200We have MUCH weightier things to consider with this week’s offering. In its simplest synopsis, JOJO RABBIT is the story of a young boy in WW2 Germany who not only joins the Hitler Youth, but has Adolf Hitler as his imaginary friend. If you are not immediately put off by that description, you are probably savvy enough to realize that symbolism and satire play a significant part in the story. But there are two things you need to know before you take against a satirical treatment of such a historical monster.

049Firstly, the satire is not in your face, unsubtle and preachy. There are lessons to be learned, but we learn them as Jojo does, gradually through his experiences. Not all those experiences are comic, which makes the lessons more powerful.

Secondly, the satire is not the primary source of the humour here. The movie does not depend on the smug laughter of knowingness for its laughs. It is genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny. No, hilarious. If you are not uncomfortable with the thought of laughing at Hitler and his Nazis, you will LOVE this. In my birthday watching last year, we saw a lot of great movies. OUATIH was perhaps the smartest, Little Women was the best crafted, but JOJO RABBIT was easily my absolute favourite.

Please don’t miss this treat.

Register Here for Saturday's movie

Parents Guide at IMdB

Parents Reviews at Commonsensemedia.org


FAFC presents - EMMA - Sat 18 Jul

First, a quick word about Hamilton. Thanks to everyone for a great turnout during this pandemic. Several years after its original barnstorming debut, the Disney+ release seemed to capture the imagination almost as strongly, and we had over 25 people in the backyard. Hamilton lends itself to event culture. I had been somewhat blasé about it over the years, but found myself getting more and more excited as our screening date drew near. And it certainly delivers. Throughout I found myself drawing comparisons - all favorable - with another sung historical treatise (and one of my favorites) Les Misèrables, particularly the way that recurring themes and phrases are used throughout to bring forward emotions. In my movie watching I love excitement, emotion, humor, visual splendor, but above all I appreciate a movie that is clever - through it's structure or it’s writing it assembles an experience from which you can walk away feeling a bit smarter. Hamilton has powerful songs, strong and meaningful lyrics, excellent staging and some great performances, all of which might contribute to people overlooking just how clever it is.

On to Saturday, and Emma, which happens to be the only movie in this season which I have not previously seen, and therefore cannot offer much in the way of what to expect. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jane Austen and her ilk, but can bear costume drama on screen much easier than on the written page. And I’d much rather consume one of these tales in one go through a 2 hour chunk on the movie screen, than over 12 episodes on PBS Masterpiece. As far as this one goes, I expect it to be quintessentially English, featuring familiar faces from British TV - Anya Taylor-Joy from Peaky Blinders, Gemma Whelan from Killing Eve and Game of Thrones, Josh O'Connor from The Durrells in Corfu, and Rupert Graves, who at one point early in his career seemed to ONLY ever appear in costume dramas. In addition to the wonderful Bill Nighy, you will no doubt not miss the appearance on screen of Miranda Hart, whose shrill, cut-glass English accent does not stop her being Linda's absolutely favorite comedienne. So there’s that.



Whelan Emma-Movie-Preview-Anya-Taylor-Joy-Costumes-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-2 Graves Nighy Miranda

Join us on Saturday for a jolly 19th Century English comedy of manners. Start time will be after 8.30, as it's still too light to start any earlier.

Parents Guide on IMdB

Parental Reviews on Commonsensemedia.org

Yes, Go On, Say It - You're A Hero, Mr Rogers.

Screen-Shot-2019-11-03-at-11.38.15-AM-600x500In 1998, award winning journalist Tom Junod wrote a piece for Esquire magazine called ‘Can you say…Hero ?’. This article, a biography of Fred Rogers, was the basis for the movie ‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’, and several of the events and anecdotes in the script come directly from the article. Junod was a fairly hard-hitting journalist (his two National Journalist Awards were for articles called ‘The Abortionist’ and ‘The Rapist Says Sorry’) but his article about Fred Rogers is notable for its simplistic style and sentence construction - how an adult might talk to a child.

It’s impossible to talk about this movie without slipping into an analysis of the impact of Fred Rogers and his show on American culture. Heck, in the movie a subway train full of school kids spontaneously burst into a word perfect rendition of his show’s theme song, you don’t get more culturally influential than that. The article and this movie set out to show us that through the dogged application of empathy, honesty, openness and gentleness, people - and that includes children - can learn to feel better about themselves, and hopefully be better towards others. And Fred Rogers is absolutely dogged, applying goodness and selflessness in every situation in his life. Is it an act ? Is he playing a character for the cameras ? Lloyd Vogel, the journalist sent to profile him in the movie is determined to discover this, but comes to realize that if Fred Rogers is acting, then it is an act which consumes and permeates his entire life, off and on screen. Not being able to ‘out’ Mr Rogers unsettles Lloyd’s world, to the point that he breaks down in the face of his own unresolved issues with his father.

A-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-DF-14353_rAny human being on the planet who has any idea about Hollywood knows that Tom Hanks is the perfect choice to play Mr Rogers. He has history in playing ‘heroic’ figures in biopics (Sully, Captain Phillips, Walt Disney) and he is to some extent our own everyman, universally liked, with a willingness to share his life with his fans. I honestly think the turning point in people’s approach to Coronavirus was when Tom and Rita got ill - that made it so real for many people. Hanks is brilliant at the gentle voice, the almost-smirk of a smile, all the physical stuff, but he also does a great job at embodying the resolute simpleness of Mr Rogers life. But for acting brilliance, nothing rivals the diner scene when Tom Hanks, as Fred, imperceptibly moves from looking at Lloyd, as the room falls silent, to looking at you - yes, you - directly through the camera and into your soul. It’s chilling, moving and empowering all at the same time. Superb.

4500Acting plaudits should also go to Matthew Rhys as Lloyd Vogel. From the start, we know that despite his hard-bitten, cynical journalist schtick, there are some deep faults in Lloyd’s character, and Rhys is excellent at letting Fred Rogers tease them out of him gradually almost without realizing it. His ultimate breakdown is the stuff of fantasy as he appears on the set with the puppets in one of Fred’s shows, and is signaled by the nice insertion of the neighborhood models for moving some scenes along. Lloyd’s wife Andrea is played by Susan Kelechi Watson from This Is Us, who is a naturally good actress and should definitely be in more things.

Despite the childish simplicity of Junod’s original article, it contains some pretty rough vocabulary (including 10 F-bombs) and some pretty salient life lessons. Tom Junod acknowledged that his meetings with Fred Rogers for the article changed his entire outlook on life for the better. I’m not a religious person, but if I ever had to describe what faith looked like in real-life, it would be Fred Rogers doing his simple thing, day after day, trusting that he is gradually changing people and the world for the better. I challenge anyone to watch this movie and not think that there is something in here to help everyone do better. Adults and children alike.

STOP PRESS - We're doing a bonus screening of HAMILTON, the stage show movie, this Saturday 11th July. Tickets are available here and are going quickly. You must reserve your place in advance so we can manage the social distancing measures.


BdIt would be very easy to say that A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood is the perfect way to celebrate July 4th. Nothing could be more quintessentially American than homespun Fred Rogers giving us his love and understanding while surrounded by quaint Americana.

However the qualities that made Mr Rogers such a treasured part of an American child’s upbringing seem to be in short supply today - gentleness, patience, wisdom and compassion. Perhaps July 4th is the right time for everyone to get a reminder of what made him a truly inspirational figure and loved by so many.

This movie probably doesn’t tell us much we didn’t know about him - everyone who had contact with Fred Rogers said that what we all saw was what you get. He truly was like that in real life. But the vehicle for demonstrating how his philosophy worked so well for the entire human race - his relationship with the cynical and very broken reporter sent to interview him - is well chosen, and while Tom Hanks, our very own National Treasure™ is sublimely comfortable in his common everyman role, watch out for Matthew Rhys who is excellent as the emotionally empty reporter desperately in need of repair.

I did not grow up with Mr Rogers in my life, and I wonder if I would have been receptive to his message, or just a bored, cynical brat. I do know that when I watched this movie the first time, it moved me more than I can say, probably since his example is more valuable to us as adults today than it was to the kids.

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IMdB - Parents Guide

Commonsensemedia.org - Parent Reviews

Is This The Real Life ? Is This Just Tarantino ?

Well, we made it happen. Our 2020 season got off the ground on Saturday. And a very good and eventful evening it was too. As well as dealing with the global pandemic, lockdown restrictions, and socially distant solar lamps, we also had a last-minute screen mishap and a visit from the local police. Whilst I seemed to suffer no ill effects from the clout on the head I received when the screen toppled earlier in the day, the screen itself had a significant puncture. I repaired it as best as I could, and no-one would have noticed if Linda hadn’t pointed it out to everybody. 

A big thanks to everyone for complying with the new rules. I personally think that with everyone showing just a little common sense, and a little bit of guidance, our yard is big enough for everyone to feel safe, and to interact without risking themselves.


I also think that watching Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood on a big screen in the outdoors is very fitting. Yes, Brad Pitt’s character lives in a trailer on the site of a 60’s drive-in, but beyond that the whole sensibility of the movie is a throwback to a time when watching movies was an important, communal experience. The recreation of late 60s period Hollywood was rigorously perfect and somewhat of a transport, so the big screen on a frame in front if us seemed to add to the experience.

Tarantino has spoken about his work being divided into two universes; the real world, where stories about real people - sometimes fictional, sometimes real - are told. And the movie universe, where fantastical stories are told in movie form. When people in the ‘real world’ go to the movies, they watch the movies from his movie universe. For example, Reservoir Dogs is from the real world, where the protagonists might go and watch Kill Bill at the cinema. Characters and plots often cross over, and fans look for these references.

In this piece Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are real people, making their inter-dependent ways through the Hollywood machine, brushing up against Hollywood stars like Steve McQueen and Sharon Tate, as well as infamous characters from the Manson Family. But Rick is also famous in this world as Jake Cahill, the bounty hunter in his successful TV series, Bounty Law. This will serve as a significant plot device later. In a way, DiCaprio's character bridges the two universes, as well as driving the story to its conclusion.

5d4c7f7f2d4cb50ea3516a05Leonardo DiCaprio is brilliant as the aging TV western star, coughing and wheezing his way through his last shot at staying relevant. He inhabits the character to an extent that he looks waxen and greasy, from too many cigarettes and too much booze. And his redemption as an actor - yes he is Rick Fucking Dalton - feels genuine. But he didn’t win the Oscar. Brad Pitt won Best Supporting Actor for Cliff Booth, which was probably merited against his opposition but seems slightly unjust as he spends the entire movie in Rick’s shadow, both in the narrative and in terms of the performance. Whilst he is very charismatic, much of his performance involved taking his shirt off and smiling that Brad Pitt smile.


Tarantino is also known for reinterpreting historical events for the purpose of his story, and here the Sharon Tate murders are reimagined. As the movie enters it's final act, Kurt Russell begins a narration that creates the feel of a real-life crime documentary, and any familiarity with the events of 1968 builds your anticipation of the horror to come. But this is a Tarantino movie universe, and the twisting of the events - the changing of the participants, the re-direction of the violence towards the hippie protagonists - is spectacular, cinematic and strangely satisfying. The coda is deeply poignant, when Rick realizes his ambition of being invited to share drinks at the Polanski house, and greets one-by-one the real victims of 1968 who have dodged their horrific fate in Tarantino’s version.

The whole atmospheric experience was enhanced for us by the dramatic sight of flashing blue and red lights on the side of the house, as a police cruiser pulled up to check out the parked cars across the road. Luckily we don’t charge any extra for a fully immersive movie experience in our backyard.

Once-upon-a-time-in-hollywoodI enjoyed this much more on second viewing, and I would put myself above the homage/snoozefest debate. I think this is quite a masterpiece, possibly one of Tarantino’s best movies, up there with Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. It’s technically good, it has some fantastic performances, it is definitely value for your Tarantino dollar, but it is also one of the best-written movies of recent times.

On the whole, a great start to the summer. Unfortunately we expected to have the fridge magnets in hand, but the good old reliable Pennington USPS seem to have lost them, and we are currently trying to track them down. Hopefully we’ll have then in time for Mr Rogers…


FAFC presents - ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD - Sat 20th June

Whole-wheat-toast-and-marmiteWhen I wrote the preview of our season with the mini-summaries of each movie, I called Quentin Tarantino a ‘marmite’ director. Just like with my ignorance of Mr. Rogers, that big ole stretch of water between the UK and USA can get in the way of cultural references, so let me explain…apologies to those who already know this.

Marmite is an absolute institution in the UK. It is a food product, officially known as ‘yeast extract’ which has a thick, sticky texture and an extremely strong, salty umami flavour. It has many uses, but surprisingly it is most commonly found as a breakfast food, spread thinly on hot buttered toast. Generations of kids were brought up on ‘marmite soldiers’. Many parents believed that the concentrated goo, packed with vitamins, would be good for kids development. More likely, having to endure such an extreme flavor and texture at that age helped form character traits like stoicism and restraint, and some kids grew up with the Marmite habit. Others detested the stuff for what it was.

Thereby, the adjective ‘marmite’ entered the English language to represent something for which it is impossible to hold a moderate or middling opinion. Unilever (the company who now own the brand) themselves regularly use the ‘Love It/Hate it’ motif in their advertising, never more funnier than this.

So finally we get to Tarantino, and my description of him as a marmite director is validated, as we already have three people who will not be joining us to see this landmark movie because they ‘don’t like Tarantino movies’. Well, that’s fair. There are enough common themes in his works even to polarize a community that’s had to deal with three years of Trump baloney. Opinion respected. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood has enough typical Tarantino trademarks - great music, spot-on dialogue, movie meta references, bad language and, of course, a touch of extreme violence - to run a mile, if you are so inclined. But if you can see past the ‘bad' stuff, Tarantino films are always packed with enough interesting material to get the brain cells a-hopping, especially if, like him, you are a student of the whole idea and history of movie-making.

It is worth knowing that OUATIH, as it shall now be known to save my typing fingers, uses the Sharon Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson family as a plot device - the Charles Manson character makes a cameo-like appearance - though the treatment of the event is unconventional (Chris says, striving to avoid plot spoilers) so it is worth knowing a little of the history to get the benefit of the creative filmmaking on display.

_107064917_once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood-2019-002-leonardo-dicaprio-brad-pitt-laughing-talking-in-barHaving said that, the majority of the movie focuses not on the murders, but on other protagonists, mainly the relationship between Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading star of TV westerns, and his best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). The movie has been called a love letter to 1960’s Hollywood, and the attention to detail in sets, costume, music etc is stunning. Sometimes paeans of praise can become tiresome, and this is certainly a long, perhaps indulgent movie. But it was a serious Best Movie Oscar contender for a reason. Perhaps there were just more members of the Academy that loved it than hated it ?

By the way, I love Marmite. Join us around 8pm on Saturday for the first 2020 pandemic-edition of Folly Avenue Film Club.

Parents Guide at IMDB.com    Parents Guide at Commonsensemedia.org


Summer 2020 - The Magnificent Seven !

Finally ! It's taken a lot of soul-searching to get to this point, but by the grace of Governor Murphy we are now able to put together a shorter than usual program for 2020, and the Folly Avenue Film Club has at least one more breath of life in it. We have now completely dispensed with the illusion that we have some kind of theme going on - The Magnificent Seven refers only to the brevity of our season. But we have picked some good 'uns...


  ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD – I couldn't conceive of a more 'Marmite' (look it up) movie than this. As a director, Tarantino himself divides opinion into love him/hate him, but then he makes a movie which is either the ultimate love story to a passing age of Hollywood glamor, or the most self-indulgent, rambling thing he has ever done. Mind you, the soundtrack is excellent and the attention to period detail is remarkable. 
Beautiful   A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD – No matter if you were brought up without knowing about Mr Rogers (his remarkable presence never crossed the Atlantic), you will be moved by this. Tom Hanks is the perfect choice to play this modern-day saint, and the consistently underrated Matthew Rhys is also excellent.

Emma poster

  EMMA – After some debate, we (I mean Linda) decided we should drop Downton Abbey in favor of the only movie on this list that neither of us have yet seen. Recent period dramas have been pretty rewarding, and this has Bill Nighy who is always worth watching.


  JOJO RABBIT – Potentially controversial in concept, there are also a couple of tough moments in this. But the most surprising thing in this is that it is genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny, not just from the satirical elements but with real gags. And the child actors are uniformaly excellent. Don't be put off by the subject matter, it works !
Yesterday-5d79ede7ec9f7   YESTERDAY – Apart from the fact that Lily James (Downton, Baby Driver, Cinderella, Mamma Mia 2, Darkest Hour) seemed to appear in every movie over the last 2 years, this is still very entertaining, probably more than the concept suggests. Jack Malik, an aspiring singer/songwriter, wakes up one morning to find that no-one knows who The Beatles are. Imagine that, huh ! (geddit?)
71BX0o-DHAL._AC_SY679_   TOY STORY 4 – Our family movie is a little later than usual. We're hoping that Covid fears will have eased even further, and we will be able to accommodate a larger group including kids by late August. This is hopefully the final installment of the Toy Story saga. I don't mean that nastily, but each new Toy Story has brought a heart-breaking denouement requiring copious amounts of tissues, and this ends the tale on just the right note.
Images   LITTLE WOMEN – The most underrated and under-rewarded movie of the 2020 Oscars. Having never read the book, nor seen an on-screen adaptation, I was not familiar with the story. But this was so well constructed that I was swept into the flow. It was a scandal that Greta Gerwig's screenplay was not recognised, but at least it was another solid stepping stone on Saoirse Ronan's path to movie greatness.


We start very soon, on June 20th. Notifications and invites will tumble out very quickly, and we might even have some fridge magnets ready. Take us as you find us, respect the new rules and we'll have a great summer.

Summer 2020 - A Word From Your Sponsor (Seriously...)

We’re excited to get going with another season of Folly Avenue Film Club, but before we get to discuss the films for our truncated 2020 season, we need to have a serous word about the viewing arrangements for this summer, given the situation with COVID-19.

Since measures were put in place to combat the pandemic, we have been very cautious about human interaction, we have striven to protect ourselves and others as best we can, and have watched news reports of protests, hoax claims and worse in disbelief. Regardless of your views, the numbers speak for themselves and we believe our caution is merited.

We have also come to realise that not only does each person have to take personal responsibility for their own protection, but that everyone’s level of comfort in a social situation may be different, and should be respected. We know that, regardless of what we do, some people will be too uncomfortable to sit in our yard with others and watch movies. Others will be wondering what all the fuss is about, now that the measures are beginning to lift.

Our position is this:

  • We respect that everyone has their own beliefs about the pandemic measures, and we therefore expect everyone will respect ours.
  • We believe that in order to make your own decision about personal safety, you need to be informed about what to expect.

Therefore, to that end we have put together a list of ‘rules’ - rules that will, for this summer at least, supersede ‘Da Rules’ which were written back in 2009 and which have been usurped to some extent by common practice over the years.

For Summer 2020…

  1. EVERYONE will need to pre-register for movies through Eventbrite. This has always been a pretty essential thing, not just to predict numbers but also to help with inclement weather warnings etc. This summer we need to know who is coming so that our distancing measures will be appropriate.
  2. Wherever you park your car, please enter the yard from the Darrow Drive side. We will be able to create walking passages to maintain distances if everyone does this.
  3. Please bring your own chairs, blankets etc, and bring food and beverages only for yourselves. We will not be providing any food, not even popcorn, nor will we be setting up a communal food station. Although we appreciate how impromptu snack sharing developed over the years , we ask you not to bring cookies, chips etc for others this summer.
  4. No-one will be permitted in our house. Sorry. Not even for the bathroom. Please go before you come.
  5. We will mark out ‘socially distant’ viewing spots - six feet diameter circles - for your safety.

If you have other suggestions, feel free to share them with us. About the social distancing of course, not the movies. That’s our thing…