Saturday, March 27, 2010

The New Age of Movie-Watching

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don't see any.
Orson Scott Card

The New Age of Movie-Watching
By Kelley Williams

Remember the days when watching a movie required you to trek four miles through the snow, braving the blistering wind in order to get to this big concrete block-like structure called a building, ironically named BLOCKbuster Video?

You’d spend hours perusing the endless isles of videos, cursing when the one you wanted was out of stock.

You’d flip over the movie case and read the synopsis on the back.

“That’s supposed to be really good,” your husband would say.

“I don’t remember seeing the previews,” you’d say and place it back on the shelf.

You’d grab a movie and hold on to it just because it was the only copy left and another couple was eyeing it.

From one end of the New Releases to the other you’d go, up and down the Comedy, and Drama, and Action aisles.

After much debating, sighing, moaning and gnashing of teeth, you and your husband would finally decide on a movie and take it to the counter, only to discover neither one of you had your darn Blockbuster card. The Blockbuster employee would eye you like you’ve just committed a felony and ask for your I.D. They’d locate your account and tell you that you have twenty-seven dollars and fifty cents in late fees.

“Twenty-seven dollars and fifty cents!”

You’d haggle with them. Tell them they are mistaken. You know you weren’t late in returning your last rental. Okay, maybe you were a little late, but not that late. You talk them down to twenty-six fifty.

They’d ring you up for your movie, have the nerve to ask you if you’d like any popcorn, soda or snacks – you would, but you’ve spent all your money on late fees – and tell you the movie’s due two days from now before midnight. You’d walk through a metal detector looking thing and grab your movie.

You’d get home and pop in the video tape - or if you were technologically advanced, slide in the DVD - and snuggle with your husband on the couch.

If it was a VHS you popped in, you’d fast forward through the previews, get annoyed at how long it was taking, hit STOP on the VCR, then FAST FORWARD again and guess how long it would take to get to the beginning of the movie. After three tries, a quick REWIND and another FAST FORWARD, you’d finally reach the opening credits.

If you slid in a DVD you’d bypass all this crap but were later slapped in the technologically superior face when the movie stopped or skipped, making you take it out, wipe the disc on your shirt and blow in the DVD player.

Finally, after you’d gotten your PhD in movie watching or called in a rocket scientist for assistance, you were able to enjoy the movie.

Fortunately, with the wonderful invention of ON DEMAND, those painful days are over.

Some of you may be new to the process of “renting” movies ON DEMAND, so allow me, ever-helpful gal that I am, to share some tips (although I really don’t think they’re necessary – it is such an easy enjoyable experience).

Get comfortable with your honey in bed and hand him the suped-up remote control given to you by the cable company. Yes, I know ladies, there is nothing worse than a man with a remote in his hand, but let me assure you, although he is the one holding it, you are the one controlling it. And besides we all know it’s best to keep a man’s hands occupied, because if he doesn’t have the remote to play with, he ends up playing with his…

And we’re moving on.

Your honey has the remote and he pushes the menu button, then selects the ON icon for ON DEMAND, then Movies, then All New Movies. And viola, you have access to all the movies you once had to follow the mile-long New Release wall to peruse.

Can’t remember what a particular movie was about? No problem. You can watch a preview – for FREE! And no more fighting horny teenagers for the last copy of The Hangover; (which they wouldn’t have watched anyway because they’d be too busy making out) there is an unlimited “supply” of any movie you want to watch.

What? You say you and your honey have gone through all the new movies and can’t find anything that suites your fancy? You’re missing the DRAMA, and COMEDY, and ACTION aisles of your old favorites or those once new releases that you never got to see? No problem! ON DEMAND has those movies too. And they’re arranged in a variety of ways: alphabetical, date night movies, couples comedies, animated heroes, alien invasions, based on bestsellers.

You and your honey could spend hours going through the hundreds upon hundreds of movies. And you do. After watching fifteen previews in All New Movies, you decide to check out the other movie categories.

You want to watch an old favorite. Your honey wants to watch something you’ve never seen before. You watch ten more previews.

Over an hour has passed since you and your honey decided to watch a movie and got comfy in bed.

You decide to go back to All New Movies.

“Inglorious Basterds?” your honey says.

“No, I’m not in the mood to read subtitles,” you say. “Why is bastards spelled wrong?”

“I read the reason somewhere but I forgot,” your honey says.

“Up?” you say.

“No, I’m not in the mood for an animated movie,” your honey says.

“Zombieland,” your honey says.

“Seriously?” you say.

“The Blind Side?” you say.

“No. We saw it in theaters,” your honey says.

“My Life in Ruins?” you say.

Your honey doesn’t even dignify your suggestion with an answer.

“New Moon?” you say.

“Absolutely not. I don’t want to watch vampires hump each other,” your honey says.

“They don’t… Whatever. Precious?” you say.

“Sure. Let’s watch Precious. Oh, what’s this? An independent film. Want to watch the preview?”

“I thought we were going to watch Precious.”

“We can. But this might be good.”

“Octoganal Moon? What the heck does that mean?"

"I don't know. It's an independent film. It's artsy."

You like art so you say, "Okay.”

Your honey selects the Preview icon and a blue haze comes over the screen. A boy and girl are sitting on a bench in a field under an oak tree. They begin making out. Then they are violently ripping each others clothes off and begin having graphic sex while random images – an apple, a mop, a chair – flash intermittently on the screen. The scene then cuts to the couple in a house. They are eating breakfast. There is a knock on the door and a woman hands the girl a piece of paper. The girl reads it, turns to the guy and says, “brother?” He says, “yes,” and then a whole bunch of crazy shit begins to flash on the screen. Images of the couple making out, an old man doing drugs in a gas station bathroom, a young girl crying and jumping out a five story building, more images of random objects – a grandfather clock, a shoe, a chainsaw. The preview ends with the couple sitting on the bench under the oak tree, its mangled limbs now barren. The grass in the field appears to be dry and dead, but it’s hard to tell with the blue haze. The final shot is of the couple holding hands, staring straight ahead. In the girl’s right arm, she cradles a baby-doll.

The preview is over and you and your honey exchange a WTF look and then grab the bleach that you keep bedside and pour it into your eyes, because seriously – WTF was that? But not even bleach can erase the images that have been indelibly etched onto the backs of your eyelids. For the rest of your life whenever you close your eyes you will be haunted by the images of Octoganal Moon.

After you come to terms with this new reality, you return to the previous screen and you select Precious for $4.99. And you know what the best part is? No video card, or ID, or credit card, or cash is required. The movie is charged to your account and you pay for it when the cable bill comes. GREATEST. THING. EVER.

You settle in to watch the movie. It’s now been close to two hours since you started the movie watching process and the popcorn is long gone. But who cares? You’re about to watch a movie and you didn’t even have to leave the house.

It takes you a minute, but you soon realize you have no idea what anyone is saying. You hit the INFO button and the title of the movie appears: Precious esp. You’ve ordered the movie in Spanish.

Awesome. You exit the screen, go back to All New Movies, select Precious, double check eight times before you hit select, and pay another $4.99.

Yes that’s right, you just spent $4.99 to watch thirty seconds of Precious en espanol. Now $4.99 may sound like a waste of money, but that’s peanuts compared to your usual twenty-seven fifty in late fees. And you aren’t actually wasting any money. Having the charge removed is a simple call to your cable company, a quick explanation of your mistake, butchering of a few Spanish words to prove you neither speak-o nor understand-o el language-o and the $4.99 will be credited to your account.

But seriously, let’s face it, you’re not going to do this…because you’re lazy. Not only do you accrue astronomical movie late fees, you’re also getting nasty letters from the library stating that you owe them thirty – eight fifty for the cost of replacing the three books you checked out four months ago and have obviously lost. But you didn’t lose them. They’re sitting on your coffee table. You set your OJ on them every morning while you watch the Today Show and ponder good excuses to be late to work so you can watch the train wreck that is the Hoda and Kathie Lee show that starts at ten o’clock. You could easily grab the books on your way to work one day and drop them in that special return slot in the side of the building. You wouldn’t even have to go out of your way because you pass by the library every day. But still, returning those books would require effort – picking up the books, putting them in your car, pulling into the library parking lot, picking up the books again, getting out of your car, walking to the slot, you’re getting exhausted just thinking about it - and the only effort you’re exerting these days is grabbing the remote, pressing the menu button, going to the ON DEMAND movie section and hitting play.

You have sufficiently passed the two hour mark when Precious – in English – begins. In no way are you annoyed by the amount of time it took to get to this point, because not once during that time did you have to hit fast forward, stop, rewind, fast forward, and rewind again, or take out a disc, examine it for microscopic scratches, rub it on your shirt and blow.

Ten minutes into the movie your eyelids feel heavy. You ask your honey if he is awake.

“Yes,” he says.

Five minutes later you ask him again.

“Yes,” he mumbles.

Ten minutes later you feel yourself doze. “Are you awake?” you ask.

“Hmm…” your honey says.

Ten minutes later you’re asleep and forty-five minutes later you wake up. The movie is still on and your honey is asleep clutching the remote.

You remove it from his hands and he is startled awake. “Huh? What? Are you awake?”

You mumble something incoherent, turn off the TV, and throw the remote to the ground.

“We have to watch it tomorrow,” your honey says, and before you drift off to sleep you remember you only have 24 hours to watch the movie and then it is deleted from your saved programs.

But tomorrow you are busy, and you never get back to Precious.

Yes, you’ve spent ten dollars on a movie you only watched thirty-five minutes of and it’ll cost you another $4.99 if you want to watch the rest. But at least you won’t have any late fees, and, as an added bonus, you’ll carry Octoganal Moon with you for a lifetime, to be enjoyed for free any time you close your eyes.

ON DEMAND – the new age of movie-watching. You’re gonna love it.

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