I took the first step to breaking my reality television habit on Monday night. Instead of staying home to watch the "Joe Millionaire" finale, I went to see a movie instead. Some might say that's just replacing one addiction with another, but it's progress. I didn't even tape it. Of course, I knew My Girl was recording on TiVo and called her as soon as I got home to find out what had happened. When she told me that Evan had picked Zora and the twist was the show cutting them a check for a million bucks, I was glad I didn't watch it. Everyone I know who did watch it said it was boring. And, having watched most of the previous episodes, that doesn't surprise me much. Counting last week's recap show and the first hour of the final episode featuring the girls yapping about their experience, they took what should have been a one hour finale and stretched it into three hours. Plus, the reunion show next week. But, despite that, the ratings were through the roof, with nearly the same amount of viewers tuning in to the finale as last year's Academy Awards ceremony. I'm taking pride in the fact that I cannot be counted amongst that huge chunk of Americans who can say that they saw the finale of "Joe Millionaire."
Instead, I went to go see "The Pianist" and was engaged, engrossed, even mesmerized by the extremely well-executed WWII movie. Adrien Brody, a personal favorite from "Summer of Sam" and "Liberty Heights," gave a vividly sympathetic performance that was vital to the story, which was strictly told from the title character's point-of-view. It's not an easy movie to stomach, but it grabs you, shakes you, and doesn't let you go. Save for the occassional cough, there was absolutely no noise and no talking during the screening. Of course, the Holocaust is such a solemn and monumentally painful subject that it's hard to gear yourself up to go see movies like this, but "The Pianist" is ultimately a story of survival. Unlike most Jews living in Poland at the time, Wladyslaw Szpilman made it out alive, and it was his autobiography that was the basis for the movie. It's important that these kinds of movies keep getting made to remind us of both the potential for great evil and even greater good that lie within us. And they teach us never to forget. We must never forget. I feel like I did something absolutely worthwhile with my Monday evening by seeing this movie and remembering. It was satisfying. Much more so than feeding my addiction by grasping for a voyeuristic thrill and a cheap fix, then hating myself afterwards.