No one knows how to watch movies anymore

if you tell a friend who saw you at a movie last night, and your friend knows full well that you never left your apartment, they would have every right to call you a liar. you can not to watch a movie at home unless you have a weak grasp of grammar. You can only see a movie in, yes, a cinema. That’s the point. In a theater you are at the mercy of the feature film. It is forced upon you, like a higher-dimensional object, almost out of time, there to look at, all at once, in its entirety (a movement image† So again, if you’ve stayed at home, you haven’t seen a movie. What you did, and this is totally different, was… watch the.

This is how most movies are experienced these days. They have not been seen, as they have been for most of their history. They are watched – on TVs, computers, tablets, phones. If you are an average American, Gallup says:you saw (in theaters) exactly one movie in 2021, and it was probably the new one Spider Man† (I, who is above average, saw it twice.) Even the phrase “seeing a movie,” which has been on the rise over the 20th century, now seems on the way outreplaced by one that (surprise surprise) dates back just a few decades, to the ’80s VHS boom: “watch a movie.”

No one can blame you for this development. Actually, that’s not true. Cinematographers do, with their belief in the sanctity of the cinematic cathedral, the enveloping darkness and image quality and the conveying sound. “It’s the only way to see a movie,” they claim, emphasizing movie-in the same way a business executive might say that first class is the only way to fly† Maybe so, but the underlying assumption – that? to see is somehow superior to watchingis the premium experience – doesn’t quite come naturally to most of us.

Think about what it means to watch. It immediately sounds like the more active and therefore more valuable activity. To look is to focus on, pay constant attention to; to see, meanwhile, is only to behold, almost passively. Sure enough, it’s hard work to focus on a movie at home. Everything seems to conspire against you: the rewind button beckons, the bathroom calls, the kitchen seduces. Your phone meanwhile offers text messages, calls, TikTok, information† What other movie did the actress star in? Let’s google her. Then let’s watch the trailer. Then let’s text a friend about it. Now mom is calling. And on and on, not to mention crying babies, barking dogs, screaming neighbors, and faulty Alexas. By the time you finally remember you were watching a movie, it’s time to go to bed. You finish it tomorrow.

So watching a movie at home, while in theory it is to be actively engaged in it, in practice is to ignore it, or at best experience it piecemeal, half-heartedly. If any of the streamers – Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, whatever – were to release any data on this, I’m sure it would be confirmed. I don’t know anyone who watched, say, the Zack Snyder episode Justice League without breaks. Or drive my car, this year’s Oscar winner for best foreign film. It took them days, if not weeks. If they’re ready.

Of course, those movies were both four hours long. An impossibility, you say – neither body nor brain can be expected to endure it. But would you say it is equally impossible to watch four hours of television? No chance, because you watched four hours of TV last weekend. Or last night. That’s why simple arguments like ‘our attention span is high’ are so rarely convincing on their own. You’re just busy with different things these days, like TV or TikTok. (There are worse things, some say, less united, less artistic, but to an alien it still looks like full attention.) In 2022, there’s something uniquely terrifying about the prospect of committing to a movie, even for only 90 minutes. So you scroll and scroll and scroll, never quite ready to make a decision, aware, on some level, that you don’t have the strength to see through it.

Maybe not bother you. Movies are a dying art form; TV is on the rise! However, I suspect so. The less you watch movies, the more you miss them. You miss the completeness of it, of a fully told story – something TV (or TikTok, never ending) almost never offers. After all, a film is designed to be viewed in one sitting, its rhythms and tempo serve the arc of a single emotional journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *