In Which I Watch Movies Slowly Disappear

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

For me, movies are the special place to go.  I love walking into the theater, finding my seat, feeling that special darkness engulf me.  I love the excitement of the trailers, getting jazzed for the film.  I love the meditative effect the theater has upon me, the way I focus on a film when the lights go down that I cannot accomplish at home.  I even love the audience, the laughs when there’s a good gag, the shrieks of terror.  It’s a communal thing akin to worship; all of us wanted to see this film, and we all gathered here to find out how this thing is.
But I spoke to a friend of mine who has kids, and loves movies.  And her kids hate going to the movies.  She struggles to bring them.
To her kids, the movies are so patently inferior to watching it at home, they can’t believe that Mom wants to do this.  You have to go when the movie theater tells you the movie starts.  You can’t pause the film to go to the bathroom.  You can’t eat what you like.  You can’t lay on the floor in front of the TV and color.  It’s a very inconvenient thing, going to the theater.
The sadness is, I agree with them.  Movies are inconvenient.
It’s why I like them.
It’s why they’ll probably die.
Thing is, movies get a bad rap these days because they’re overpriced – which is true – and because the audiences are often texting, yammering idiots – which is also true.  But I remember an interesting parallel that happened with the movie The Hurt Locker, which was about a bomb technician in Iraq.  When Gini and I saw it, it was such a tense experience we burned calories.  She gripped my arm hard enough to leave bruises, and my thighs clenched so much that I had charley horses at the end of the film, because ZOMG WHAT IF THAT BOMB GOES OFF.  It was a brutal, beautiful example of how to invest a viewer in an experience that we raved about it to all of our friends.
Half of them loved it as much as we had.  The other half were bored to tears, asking us what the hell we were thinking.  And when we investigated this discrepancy in love, we discovered an interesting fact:
The bored contingency watched it almost exclusively on DVD.
That’s the thing about DVDs; it’s convenient, yes, but you don’t have to give it your full attention.  If you miss something, you can rewind.  If there’s a phone handy, you can text.  If you don’t want to watch it, well, you’ve got the rest of the world around you.  And that meant that The Hurt Locker, which worked so well when it swelled on the big screen to fill your whole world, was kind of lame when you could just sort of skim by it.
And I do that a lot, don’t get me wrong.  I watch about 70% of my movies while working, which means they’re not getting my full attention.  Which is fine; do I need to give a popcorn flick like Megamind intense scrutiny?  No, I do not.  But that’s not to say that my experience wouldn’t be improved by giving it everything I have.  There are jokes I’m doubtlessly missing, little character reactions that are sailing right by me, nuances even in a kid’s flick that I’m just not absorbing. It’s lessened.
And while sure, I technically could drop everything to watch it on my screen at home, as I said: there’s something meditative about the theater for me.  I was trained by my parents that this is a special place to be, fall silent, let the film take you where it wants to go.  And so, out of instinct, I do.  I feel no urge to text in a theater, no worry that I have interesting emails awaiting me.  When the credits roll and it’s all over, I’m seizing for my cell phone – WHAT’D I MISS? – but for that time period, I am lost in a spell.  A wonderful spell.
The current generation won’t have that.  They live in an environment of constant distraction, of noises, of games to play and attentions to be split.  And that’s not a bad thing!  I live in that world, most of the time.  My iPhone’s a constant distraction, and it’s wonderful, never being bored, always having something to read or play or listen to.  But that never-ending cavalcade of Things To Do means that I’m not able to sink into everything a movie has to offer me.
I’m lucky.  I got to have this perfect moment of silence for a while, absorbed in bliss.  The next generation won’t, and I’m not sure they’ll know what they’re missing.  And the idea of going out to a movie will slowly disappear as the mild inconvenience it is, and the attention paid to most media will dwindle, and it’ll be close but not the same.
I’m enough of a realist that I can’t fault this.  I know it’s what my grandparents doubtlessly said about me watching the television, not appreciating the outdoors.  And I live a pretty good life, even if I can’t just sit on my back porch and watch the tides come in and out, like they did.
Still, they had something that I don’t.  And it was something peaceable that kept them going well, a form of appreciation I never had but sometimes feel the ache of.  And so it goes.

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