Monday, August 18, 2008

No Longer The Rabid Moviegoer I Was (Not that I don't still love movies. That will never change!)

Those of us who are serious moviebuffs know what time of year this is. Summer movie season. In the past my butt would have been firmly planted in a seat at the local theater around this time of year. But there has been a serious decline in my moviegoing. It's truly multifactorial. It started when I moved back to Texas and was really hurting for money at first. I left a job that I stayed at too long and really hated, and took a chance and moved back to Texas to what was hopefully a better future. Since I didn't have a job when I did it, but by the Grace of God managed to keep a roof over my head, I'm not complaining. The funny thing is, the girl who bragged about not going more than a couple of weeks between seeing movies at the theater realized that she could go pretty long without that crutch. I had used my moviegoing to define me as a person, and that was selling myself short. I am a movie-lover, but that doesn't have to translate as being a avid moviegoer. In fact, I realized that missing some of the bigger movies didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. I even missed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, sigh. I ended up catching Part II and Part III of Pirates of the Caribbean on DVD, and enjoyed them as much as I would at the movies, maybe even more. In contrast, I kinda wish I had stayed home for Star Wars Part III. I was seriously bummed at that one.

I will always love movies, but I did use it my status as a moviegoer as a crutch. I am not an outgoing person, and I deluded myself into thinking my bi-monthly (sometimes weekly) trip to the movies was "getting myself out there." Have I become more outgoing? Perhaps a fraction more. I actually go to parties and out to dinner, activities that require talking to people (gasp!) But at least now I know that movies are not the end-all and be-all of social activities.

I digress. So in my several months long, self-stricken poverty, I rediscovered old pleasures, like re-reading some of my all time favorite books, such as Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, The Soldier and the Baby and Glass Houses by Anne Stuart, some of my favorite old Harlequin Presents (yes I love these books) like Man of Stone by Frances Roding, among others. I read short story horror collections that I had accumulated years ago but never got around to reading. I actually read stuff other than romance (one of my first loves). I realized that carting all those books I couldn't bear to get rid of back from San Diego, CA (much to my mother's dismay), was a great thing. I had lots of reading material (old and new) and didn't have to shell out more money to keep myself content. So that was probably the first crack in the clay feet of my movie-going idol.

In rediscovering books and yes tv (which is free other than the cable bill), and having more freetime on my hands, I was forced to analyze my moviegoing activities in the past, and thus admit that there were movies I had seen (and spent too much since I was in CA where everything is more expensive), and came to the realization that a lot of them were not worth the fare. Don't expect me to name names. Most have sunken to the bottom of my memory, possibly never to be retrieved.

Even the Summer Blockbuster season has fallen flat. Every year for the past few years, there have been less and less really exciting releases in the summer. Usually by the time June has passed, they start to peter out, until the holidays, when you might get a few big ones like the new Star Trek this year, and pick up in March (Watchmen, anyone?) This summer seemed to be awesome at first, but on retrospect, there were maybe a handful of ones that I was really excited about: Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Hancock, X-Files (I'm not going there right now), Hellboy 2 (awesome movie if you like folklore), Babylon AD (a surprise as I didn't realize it was coming out this summer),and I missed Prince Caspian (bummer, but I know I'll buy that one). Wanted turned out to be rather disappointing. I was a little underwhelmed with Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skulls (if you are like me and saw the movie, you know what I mean). And let's not go into my feelings about X-Files: I Want to Believe.

I have realized that renting/buying movies is the way to go, by and large. My sister obtained a Netflix membership, and although she actually has to remind me to watch the movies with my schedule, it has been a great thing. One of the cool things about Netflix is you can keep them as long as you need to and send them back when you're done. Now that's great because it may take me a week to watch one movie (for instance August Rush, great movie by the way, it actually did take a week). Okay, I admit that a lot get sent back sans me watching them. But when I get to see them, it's pretty awesome. With home movie viewing, you can curl up at home in bed or on the couch, get refreshments from your own kitchen, and not have to worry about latecomers squeezing past, uncomfortable seats, too many commercials, and overpriced refreshments, if you forget to eat before going and don't feel like sneaking in food. Also, if you need a bathroom break, just press pause or stop. It will be right there where you left it when you return. And besides, some of the really awesome movies don't get released over here (such as Hong Kong action movies, straight to video sci-fi/fantasy (and I don't mean the Sci Fi Channel variety), indie cinema, and foreign films.) Another plus is you can sit and heckle the bad movies or have a running commentary all you want (as long as your movie-watching compadres don't mind). Let's admit, that's a big part of the fun to discuss as you watch, at least for me.

And there is the wonderful entities of You Tube and Wikipedia. Talking about killing time. I can spend hours on both. Watching videos and live performances by my favorite singers and bands on the former, and looking up all sorts of things on the latter. This too, is free other than the bill for internet access, and electricity to run the computer. Can I also give a shout out to blogging? And there are those long-neglected Yahoo email groups. Heck, you can even watch movie trailers online for free.

Don't get me wrong. I still go to the movies for the events like The Dark Knight and Iron Man. I even went to see Iron Man again at the dollar movie. I will catch Dark Knight again at the dollar cinema as well. And when Babylon AD comes out (Vin Diesel, I am so there), I will dutifully buy my ticket for that one.

But for the money, I think getting a digital cable/satellite package with plenty of channels is a much better deal. And the networks have realized the people really do want to see new shows and episodes in the summer. USA and TNT have quite a few shows running new seasons over the summer (Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Monk, Psych, The Closer, etc), along with Sci-Fi channel (Stargate Atlantis, Doctor Who, Eureka) and BBC America (Primeval). And they tend to reshow them if you missed the first showing. Score! Let us not forgot the oldies that are shown every day with or without commercials on AMC, TMC, and some of the other cable channels. I never saw those at the theater, and it wasn't the end of the world. As a matter of fact, some movies age best the more you watch them at home on tv. If you're into reality, catch Bridezillas and see a whole lot of drama. Food Network has some delicious programming as well. Before you know it, two hours that you would have spent in a movie are gone baby gone.

Not going to the movies is great for the budget, without truly having to give up the extra essentials. I have found that if you skip a few movie shows at the theater, you can afford to buy boxed seasons of shows and the movies when they come out the first week, or when they are marked down to below $10. I religiously check the bargain bin at Walmart where some pretty awesome movies end up being $5. If that won't work, just ask for them for Christmas or birthdays. The joy of watching them the first time is really not that diminished from watching the movie on the big screen in most cases. You don't really know what you're missing, after all. And in some instances, the movie you stayed away from at the movie because you didn't think it would be any good turns out to be a gem. A good example of this was Mr. and Mrs. Smith. For various reasons, I was not expecting much (despite being an Angelina Jolie fan other than the Lara Croft films), but ended up truly enjoying this movie.. Rewatching forays of favorites on DVD are not to be missed, and are exciting in themselves, as you discover something about the movie that you missed the first time around. Although, I am very glad I saw 300 for the first time at the movies, it's still great on DVD the second time around.


By buying or being gifted a movie, you are steadily adding to your movie collection, (planning for the future) for that rainy day when you feel an urge to watch an old standby instead of leaving your house to pay way too much money to see something new that you might not like as much as you think. Just think, for the price of movie admission (say $9 at night), you could almost buy a six to ten month old release or almost two older-release films for $5. And you might get lucky and catch a sale on Amazon.com or at Best Buy. If you skip two moviegoving outings, you could buy a new release (possibly for even less when it first comes out). And two moviegoing forays missed pays for a pretty decent Netflix membership (three rentals at a time, which if you send them back right away, could easily be twelve movies a month).

Again, I am not saying that I have forsaken the movie going experience. I now think twice, save myself some money, gas, and oftimes frustration, by staying home and indulging in a nice foray into bookreading, tv watching, internet surfing, or just throw in a cherished part of my collection or a new rental. Before it got so darn hot, I did a lot of gardening, and that was a very fruitful activity now that I look at my babies growing outside. Maybe even going to the the gym where you can burn calories, while reading a book, lifting weights, or people watching. Since it's Texas, we don't spend too much time outside (the sane ones amongst us anyway) until it's dark, but those stars sure are pretty, though. Or for the more intrepid among us, how about actually hanging out with other people, and engaging in conversations? Scary thought, huh? As a recovering workaholic (still working on it), I have discovered the joys of being a homebody for most activities, including watching movies. Like Dorothy says, there's no place like home. Let me add to that, for watching a movie. Except the comic book movies, that is.

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