WHILE I CAN say no to candy, I do not choose to -- especially at the movies. I've made a scientific study of sugar and screen and have formulated the following sweet laws that careless movie fans violate at their own risk:
* There's never enough to go around, so buy two of everything. The best strategy is to put all your money on the counter and say, "Fill 'er up." There's no point trying to save a couple of bucks. While you're in the theater you won't need the money for anything else and by the time you get out, prices will have gone up to the point where no matter what you want to buy you won't have enough anyway.
* If you go to the candy counter in the middle of a bad movie, you will miss the only good moments of the film.
* If you go to the counter in the middle of an R-rated film, you will miss the nude scene. No explanation of what you missed will ever satisfy you.
* If you eat all your candy at the beginning of a film, there will be a great eating scene in the second, candy-less half.
* Always stand in the longest line. Short lines at candy counters are illusions. They're made up entirely of guys who are buying supplies for seven other hungry frat brothers doing post-graduate work in junk food.
* Never read labels. There is nothing good for you inside a candy bar, so forget it. That's why they keep it dark in movie theaters.
There are, of course, several important corollary rules:
* Never get serious at a candy counter and order a hot dog because you're hungry. Bad movie hot dogs are a fact of life. Resist the temptation to think you can find nourishment in a theater.
* Look behind the counter for large, empty plastic bags. If you find any, don't buy the popcorn. It probably hasn't seen the inside of a popper for weeks.
Some people claim that bagged popcorn is not popped at all, but is extruded, like Spam. Other people claim that it isn't actually made from corn but from recycled Styrofoam. No one has the temerity to claim that bagged popcorn is edible.
I like popcorn somewhat, but only if it is great popcorn. Luckily, I have a secret weapon to use in the popcorn wars -- my popcorn- loving wife, Anne.
Here's how I tell if I should bother with the popcorn. If we're five minutes into the film and Anne has eaten half her popcorn without offering me any, I know it's good. I then tactically offer her some of my Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Lindt Chocoletti, forcing her to reciprocate with a proffering of popcorn.
If, however, Anne does offer me some of her popcorn without being prodded, I know we're looking at some average-to-dull corn, and I can remain true to my first love, chocolate (well second, after Anne, that is).
I'm a finicky candy lover. I have to eat my It's It counterclockwise, and I can never eat Red Vines because they make me think of the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (either version).
I'm also highly suspicious of Good and Plenty. I keep thinking they're an ad man's attempt to improve something that was originally called So-So and Not Enough.
I have also noticed that certain kinds of candy work best for certain kinds of films. For comedies, you want something that goes down quickly, like M&Ms, which leave your mouth free to convulse with laughter.
Snickers are good for sleazy sex comedies. Hot Tamales are intriguing for mysteries, because while you eat them you can try to figure out what's inside them. That's always been a mystery to me, and I'm not sure I want to solve it.
Soda makes a good cover-up for tear jerkers, and Jujubes are just right for sci-fi flicks because they look like they come from outer space. Chances are there's a planet in our crowded universe where they make movies about Jujubes while eating little candies shaped like Darth Vader.
I don't know that there's anything that will go down during those really gross horror cut- 'em-ups. Slash-trash ought to carry warnings: No one will be served candy during the last five minutes of this film.
My friend Frances has found a single candy that works for her during any kind of film: Milk Duds. She likes them because she can chew a Dud at different speeds and rhythms to match the changes in a movie's pace.
My favorite candy counter is a thing of beauty. It actually has Snickers, Butterfingers, Sugar Babies, Cracker Jacks, frozen Milky Ways and 3 Musketeers, Jordan Almonds, Toblerone, truffles, brownies, black-bottom muffins, bittersweet cupcakes with cream cheese icing inside, poppy seed cake, chocolate chip cookies, six flavors of Haagen-Dazs ice cream, chocolate malts, ice cream sandwiches, Eskimo Pies, Mud Pies and three kinds of It's Its.
Then things get totally ridiculous with bagels and cream cheese, meat pies, bagel dogs, four flavors of mineral water, sx flavors of natural sodas, espresso and 31 kinds of beer.
You can even see a film if you can find the time.