12 June 2007

where have all the movie fans gone?

I was going to talk about POTC: At World's End, but frankly I am sooooo tired of having to wade through the fanboy (and fangirl) nonsense on the subject over at Wordplay forms, I'll just sum up and say that for my money P3 is way better than P2 but still not nearly so good as P1. And Kyra is... oof. "One very nice looking woman."

One sad note about seeing the movie was the crowd, as in "there wasn't one." We went to a local funky artsy place (Alamo Drafthouse) which shows first-run fare as well as some cool classic re-relases and special events. They have a very nice restaurant and serve good food direct to your seat during the movie—an insanely civilized way to see a flick.

I took my 6 year old as part of a "guy's day alone" thing where the two of us go and spend some time with just each other and none of the other sibs (or mom) to bog us down. It was an 11 AM show on a summer day, the Houston heat is already coming on like a jet engine cycling to take-off power, and given that this is advertised as a kid-friendly matineee showing, I expected a few families to be taking advantage.

Instead, we were alone in the theater. Totally alone. We were the only two people watching.

On the one hand, that was kinda cool cuz we had no screaming babies or babbling teens or chattering adults or anything else-- it was just us, a screen, and some food (he had the hot dog and tots basket, I had pizza margherita and a soda), but on the other, at several points I felt lonely and alone in this big empty theater, and then I startd wondering "WHY are we the only ones here? Where are the other kids? The other dads and moms?"

I think the easy access to DVDs and home viewing has to a large extent killed the wonder and novelty of seeing movies as clearly intended: as a communal experience, a shared event. I sat there hunkered down in my seat, my head slumped over close to my son's so that we could point and whisper and giggle at stuff on the huge screen, and I suddenly started to wonder if this is something he'll even have an opportunity to do with his own kids one day, or if this memory will be for him something like the memoroy of cleaning LPs and setting needles into tracks on an album is to me: something of another time and another world, somethign which sounds so bizarre and alien to the next generation that some will suspect some odd joke is being pulled:

"Come on, grandpa... there's no way you're gonna convince me to fall for that! NO WAY would strangers have all paid money to sit in a huge room and watch a movie together! Movies are shown using plasma displays, or direct corteal replay if you're into that and come pre-wired from the clonery...."

A year or so back I took my older two boys to see a revival showing of Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. It was not their first time to see the movie—it is one of their faves just as it was one of mine when I was a boy, and we've seen it a dozen times together at home—but it was the first in a theater, with a crowd.

Afterwards, the boys remarked that it somehow just "felt" different in such a setting.

"That's because movies are not supposed to be an at-home all-alone sort of thing, any more than watching a ball game on TV is the same as watching that same game from the stands. There's just a feeling... an energy... that comes from sharing the experience with others."

I wonder how long this energy can survive, or if it's already on its final legs and one day soon the idea of sitting in the dark, smiling through a mouthful of salty popcorn as light and shadow do their storytelling dance on a huge screen, will seem as quaint and old fashioned as crank telephones and horse drawn buggies.

If so—if this is the last generation for whom "watching a movie" is a shared public experience—then the world just became a tiny bit sadder, a tiny bit less magical.

1 comment:

Ryan Rasmussen said...

Amen. All these "platform-agnostic" tykes are missing out on the real deal.

I'm undecided about P3. I had a bad theater experience in Auckland -- the sound mix was off (and this was IMAX, too) and I missed half the dialogue. Maybe I should catch it on someone's iPod.


P.S. Terry's coming to Austin!