September 12th, 2003

Silver Screen

What is it that I like so much about movies?

I get asked that question a lot. Well, actually, the question I get asked is, “What is it YOU like so much about movies?” If someone asked me that first one, I’d probably have a heyday making something up.

I like getting lost in the story of the movie. For two hours, I get to live somewhere else, doing something I wouldn’t normally do. I can fight with a ninja, rescue POWs, train with Yoda, inspire students, hack government networks, overcome extreme odds, and battle super-foes. And, when I’m done, I get to go back to my own life without too much fuss. Some movies don’t let you go as quickly as others – Bruce Lee movies are notoriously difficult for me to escape from.

I’ve discovered that theaters are the best place to experience movies, mostly because of sheer size. If you’re going to get overwhelmed by a movie, get overwhelmed in style. No matter how good your personal surround sound is at home, you can’t match the size of a movie screen. I have a friend named Mike who has a mini-theater in his basement, and it’s the closest I’ve come outside of a theater to getting the full impact of a movie.

Before DVD, I used to buy certain videos in widescreen. It was mostly the sci-fi stuff: Star Wars, Star Trek, The Abyss, Terminator – anything with big, fancy effects and wide imaginative vistas. The widescreen tapes were more expensive, usually, but it was worth it to me on certain movies. Now, comedies generally weren’t released this way, so I didn’t worry about them.

Along came DVD and ruined me. Everything came in widescreen now. Movies I had seen several times before in Pan & Scan (where they chop the ends of the movie off to fit a rectangular picture in a mostly-square TV screen) I now ran out to find in widescreen DVD. True, most of the time it didn’t make a difference, but you could tell. For instance, there’s a scene in Ghostbusters that totally changed in P&S. It’s right after they’ve captured their first ghost (referred to affectionately in the later cartoon series as “Slimer”) and they’re explaining the charges to the hotel guy. In the P&S version, Bill Murray seems to stumble over the prices as he glances off-camera while talking to the hotel fellow. In the widescreen (or, “good”) version, we can see that he’s looking at Harold Ramis who is giving him visual clues as to what he should be charging. A funny scene just got a whole lot funnier.

So I’m a firm believer in widescreen. In fact, if I get a DVD at the library (free is good!) only to find when I get home that it’s a “Fullscreen” version of the movie, I won’t watch it. I also don’t generally watch movies on video anymore. Videos irritate me, as I can’t fast-forward fast enough, and when I’m done, I have to rewind them. I’ve become what I like to call a “DVDlitist.”
Don’t ask me what my favorite movie is, because I can’t tell you. I can tell you that some of my favorite movies are Batman, UHF, Unforgiven, As Good As It Gets, and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Some of my favorite actors are John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Favorite actresses include Uma Thurman, Winona Ryder, Michelle Pfeiffer, and newly-discovered (for me) Meryl Streep. I like all kinds of movies, from sci-fi to dramatic to ridiculous to superhero to thought-provoking to scary.

I actually wrote two movie reviews for a website that my brother’s brother-in-law ran for a while. The movies were Gladiator and Pay It Forward. I liked writing reviews, but I foresaw a problem: I’m hard-pressed to find movies I don’t like. Most movies have something I like. As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry: he sold the website to one of his co-founders, and I haven’t written an official review since.

So there you go. So what do you like about movies?

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