Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Movies as communal experience

On Thanksgiving night we ventured out in dense fog to see "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Visibility was near-zero, but we'd purchased the tickets online already, so there was no turning back. (Our local theatre closed this year, so the closest movie theatres are all at least 20 minutes away). We liked the movie OK, but the nervous drive, an antsy toddler sitting a few rows in front of us, and the smell of pee around the multiplex's restrooms detracted from the overall experience.

When we returned home, my teenage son said, "You know, I'd rather just watch a movie at home." He is used to seeing movies when he wants, either downloaded instantly from Netflix or from a DVD on-hand, all without having to spend nearly an hour in the car getting to a theatre and without having to deal with a restless audience.

I expressed a similar sentiment after we blew 50 bucks for all of us to see "March of the Penguins" a few years ago; I realized we could have waited a couple of months and just bought the DVD for half that price without having spent additional money on gas and parking. And, yes, I acknowledge that movie theaters are becoming scarcer because of people like me.

This is so different than how I used to be. It was nothing for me to walk in a hard rain to see a movie, or ride the bus to campus to see a movie projected on a tiny screen in a small amphitheatre. Of course, there was no other way to see movies back then—I spent most of my young adulthood without a TV in the house, VCRs were rare and the Internet didn't exist. But if I'd been able to watch those movies at home I would have missed some important experiences.

The first night I spent in Santa Cruz, a friend took me to see "The Harder They Come" at the Sash Mill, a local movie house that showed two different, thematically-linked movies every night. Just as the opening credits rolled, a group of Caucasian Rasta-farians—long, blonde dreadlocks flowing out from knit caps—got up and started dancing at the front of the theatre. And non-Rastafarians in the audience stood up and joined them. They seemed so spontaneous, so joyous, that I knew I had to live in Santa Cruz.

Perhaps I am one of the few people who chose their college based on the showing of a reggae movie. I had already been accepted at UC-Santa Cruz, but I didn't send in all my paperwork until after that night.

If I'd watched that movie on an iPod? I'm not sure I'd even have watched the whole thing—I hardly remember the plot of that movie, if there was one. Someone was murdered at some point, and there was reggae music intertwined in the scenes. But I remember the scent in the theatre that night—patchouli and hemp—and the sound of laughter. Santa Cruz was like that for me, at least initially—joyous, vibrant. That movie set the tone for my first few months there.

1 comment:

Chandra Garsson said...

Gosh, Beth, how much past we share. This was also one of my early Santa Cruz experiences, seeing this particular movie, at the Sash Mill Cinema, no less. Perhaps we were there on the same night, although it would be a year or two hence that we would meet each other---at UCSC, ucksuck, some of us would affectionately call it, in those days. I simply must get to your illustrious blog more often!