Convenience vs magic

I like movies. I like them a lot. Unfortunately, I look at them in the same way I do advertising: the products of an industry that has seen better days.

But I think I’ll leave that particular whinge alone for a while.

I just wanted to witter on about some of the ways in which movies have lost their magic that have nothing to do with their inherent quality.

In the 80s I was known at school for being the guy who saw all the movies. This was due in some part to the fact that I was the first person to get into a ’15’ on his own (and it was Rambo of all films – 1985, I was eleven) and the same with an ’18’ (Fatal Attraction – 1988, I was fourteen). Neither of these were down to me appearing to be incredibly mature or tall for my age; I was simply the cheekiest little bastard who thought it was worth a try, even against the most ridiculous of odds. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So I saw pretty much everything that came out, sometimes seeing four different movies in the cinema on the same day. But the big issue in those days that no longer exists was the massive gap between a film’s American release and its appearance in this country. Four to six months was routine, and if you were waiting for a big American hit to arrive, that was sheer torture.

I would follow the box office grosses in Screen International and wonder about the nature and quality of such blockbusters as Three Men and a Baby and Beetlejuice. As there was no internet, and consequently no opportunity to watch the movie’s trailers at will, these films would be built up in my mind to legendary status, my imagination running wild, conjuring up the two hours of celluloid that lay behind these strange and mysterious titles.

If I was really lucky I might get a chance to have a holiday in America, whereupon I would inhale as many films as possible so that I would not have to experience so many excruciating waits when I got back home. On one New Year trip to Boston, I think I dragged my poor mum to a couple of films a day, including such ‘classics’ as Home Alone, The Russia House, Green Card and The Godfather Part Three.

Anyway, as I mentioned above, all the info you could possibly wish for is now within easy reach on the Worldwide Web, and that is also the reason why there is a much smaller gap between a UK and US release: downloading and the attendant piracy means that studios need to cash in ASAP before the hooky versions spread across the world.

On one side it makes everything that much more convenient and available, but on the other, the magic seems greatly diminished. If this was 1989 I think I’d have exploded during my six month wait to watch Inception, but in 2010 I saw it at the same time everyone in the US did. Cool, but somehow less cool.

There’s a scene in the Bernardo Bertolucci move The Dreamers, where Michael Pitt explains that he always watches movies in the front row so that he sees them before the rest of the people in the cinema.

Delightful bullshit that might explain why I was in the front row for Inception.