Saturday, December 8, 2012

Movie-Going, Now and Then

With a red Netflix envelop in the mailbox at a steady pace and a dearth of watchable films we don’t get to the movies much these days. Studios hold back their best of the least for release during the last six weeks of the year but even most of those are relegated to Wait for Netflix status. However we did go this week and I’m reminded why it happens with a frequency approaching zero.

It isn’t just the prices and the parking it’s the sensory assault we’re subjected to. The movie was scheduled to begin at 4:45. Forty minutes later it actually started. By that time we had endured non-stop commercials at 100 plus decibels and a stream of mindless, screaming previews with razzle-dazzle sufficient to frazzle my nervous system. And no mute button. If the feature film is meant to be transporting why is the pre-trip so agitating? Is the sensory overload designed to numb us into submission? Next time, if there is one, we’re arriving half an hour late and waiting in the lobby until ours is rolling.

Back in those black and white days we would walk into the dream palace, heedless of time, with our Milk Duds and Necco Wafers. The Valencia Theater had a ceiling like a planetarium. It induced both fantasy and movie reality. It was at the movies I learned that babies came from hot water and towels, that most everyone wore tuxedos and all sailors were great dancers. I came away with the certainty that I’d know a cattle rustler if I met one. It remained for me to figure out that even though Victor Mature wrestled with Tyrannosaurus Rex in One Million BC (1940, age 7) I wasn’t likely to encounter any dinosaurs on the way home.

I never felt pummeled, aurally or visually. Movies were low-tech, less graphic and therefore left more to the imagination. Only recently I understood that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs represent the White House and Supreme Court with Dopey writing decisions. But I digress.

My distaste for the current movie experience is a sure sign I've entered the cranky old man stage of life. At a certain age we’ve witnessed enough of the real thing, man-made and natural, universal and personal to render the cinematic version preposterous and needlessly jangling. Nobody I know speaks, thinks or looks the way movie figures do. Somewhere along the way I lost my patience for hundred million dollar productions of parables, or extended sitcoms called date films. Vigilante justice worked better for me in Hollywood Westerns than the mega-explosive paramilitary version with bodies littering the wide screen.

Must seven-year-old kids go through alien worlds with slackers as role-models to come out on the other side? With a pantheon of anti-heroes crowding the new Mt. Olympus make a little room for Abe Lincoln.

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