Did I Just Watch That?

It’s funny, the importance we attach to the way we’re used to doing things. I have, at my most recent tally, four different technological devices sitting around my apartment on which I can watch movies. This means that, should I wish it, I could watch four different movies at once.

Well, not really, that would require four heads.

It has been observed to me, by a member of a generation that is barely old enough to look down upon the practices of the younger generation, that kids these days will watch movies on anything (unlike us old folk who require a screen somewhat larger than that of an iPhone before they can enjoy their television experience). This may or may not be true; a short look at the number of movies my brother has on his iPod classic would suggest that it is (I use mine to store music–the previous comment about old fashioned applies here as well), but it does make me wonder about my own television watching habits.

Or, to put it another way, I have watched more movies in the past week than I have in the past month (3, if you start the count from last Thursday, but the number I had to beat was 1, so it’s not all that impressive). Why, you may ask?

Well, it probably had something to do with Resnet finally coming in and fixing my wired connection. And by fixing, I mean turning it on. (Quick rant – it took them a week to do nothing more complicated than show up and turn it on (their words, not mine). Why? Why did this take a week? Also, why is the wireless on this campus so lousy that Google TV refuses to use it? Alright, I’m done.) I’ve owned a new TV since the middle of October. I’ve had regular cable on it for the past week and a half, though, as I don’t get my news through the television, the TV mostly sat around looking pretty and occasionally showed The Learning Channel, where I learned important life skills, like how not to dress like a disco ball, and that brides are stark, raving mad (What Not to Wear and Say Yes to the Dress respectively. I have only one word to excuse my watching of those shows: schadenfreude.)

But now I finally have a decent, wired connection and Google TV is finally set up on the pretty little black screen. Okay, 32″ isn’t exactly little, but it’s a term of endearment, and I have my Netflix account linked to it and now I can watch…the same exact movies I could watch on my computer or my iPad. But bigger!

There’s something special about a television, though. I can’t watch movies on the computer, because it takes me all of about five minutes before I have my email open on the side, and three different websites as well and a bunch of zombies are invading my garden and I have to squash them with squash and, at that point, why did I even bother putting the movie on? The computer brings out my need to multitask, which is a polite way of saying that it completely kills my ability to focus. It takes serious willpower to resist the siren lure of my web browser and it’s the primary reason that I often write my final papers in a place that lacks an internet connection. I seem to recall editing bits of my Master’s thesis on a rock in Central Park, which worked surprisingly well, except that every time a dog ran by, I had to stop what I was doing and watch it. But nowhere is perfect.

A television, however, is not a computer. A television is a dedicated “media consumption device” (I almost wrote media consumptive device, which puts me in mind of a wan, yet very beautiful television coughing itself to death) and noticing it in the corner of my room makes me wonder if there’s anything interesting to watch. It’s practically Pavlovian–show me a television and I’ll start to think of movies.

So I compromised with myself. If I was going to watch a movie, I had to do something productive at the same time. Like clean the apartment, for example.

So I turned on Jesus Christ Superstar and set to work rearranging the cabinets so that the groceries could be stored in such a way that the things I was most likely to need were on the bottom shelf–the only shelf I can reach without a chair.

Why Jesus Christ Superstar? Well, I love the soundtrack, but I’ve always had this nagging feeling that I was missing some part of the story/action because I’ve never actually seen it or heard the dialogue in between the songs. Well, the movie certainly got rid of the nagging feeling. I discovered that there was no dialogue in between musical numbers and the entire thing makes LESS sense when you throw in a tour bus full of hippies and Judas in hot pink. The music is still great, though, and Herod’s song is even better when performed.

That was movie number one. Movie number two was Gnomeo and Juliet.

Don’t look at me like that, it’s a great movie! No, it’s not high art (despite the number of accomplished British actors gnoming it up), but it’s cute and funny and makes terrible puns and has Elton John as a garden gnome. What more could you want?

Well, other than a deep, thoughtful, provocative movie that is beautifully filmed and superbly acted. But I’m prejudiced. If I want something deep, thoughtful and provocative, I’ll pick up a book. I have to read Proust this week and if I’m going to put that much brain power in my reading, I want my television to be my junk food.

This explains why the third movie was “A Knight’s Tale.” There are movies out there that get details wrong – the costuming is a few decades off or the behavior isn’t true to period. “A Knight’s Tale” does not so much get it wrong as give historical accuracy a mighty kick in the rear and send it flying out the window. That’s why the movie works. It opens on a scene of a medieval jousting field, filled with peasants who are singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” at the top of their lungs and that pretty much sets the tone for the whole film.

There are a bunch of you out there thinking “Yes, Liz, we know all of this. ‘A Knight’s Tale’ came out 10 years ago.” Well, yes, but I haven’t seen it until today. I know, I know, it’s horrifying, a travesty, how do such things happen?'”

The list of movies I haven’t seen that EVERYONE ELSE HAS is about three pages long and has been known to make grown men weep. But I am working on it.

Also, after reading 160 pages of Chaucerian Middle English, it was really nice to see the great poet himself (as played by Paul Bettany) wandering down the road, stark naked.

And now that I’ve procrastinated enough, it’s time to return to my reading. Hey, if you had to read forty pages of Derrida, you’d be procrastinating too.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Did I Just Watch That?

  1. H.anna

    I’m totally with you on the screen size- TV I can understand, it’s only 20 min, 40 tops, and I don’t mind multitasking with email and such during my TV time. But a whole movie on an iPod screen? Then again, my parents could never use my netbook due to its size, and my grandfather’s mouse is literally twice as big as my hand, so there is most definitely a generational component…
    Good luck with the reading, I started watching TV religiously when I started reading academic articles in Hebrew!

    • In Hebrew? How do you do that; academic articles don’t even make sense in English!

      It’s interesting, though, when did our TV watching habits switch from being about watching TV to having something on in the background?

  2. Aunto Barbo

    Hey guys, I “resemble” (like in resent) that! Boy is it tough being 68 years of age, and finally biting the bullet by gong FIOS. Now I have to learn how to stream movies from my desk top internet screen to the Blue Ray DVD that my youngest sister to graciously gave me as a birthday present. I’m told that with another device plugged into the DVD, that I may be able to stream movies off the internet to my TV/DVD hookup in my bedroom. Oh technology, why didn’t you happen 50 years ago? Who do I blame for this: Gates, Jobs or most probably Babbage, Hollerith, Eckert and Mauchly.

  3. Ema

    Thinking maybe the reason there are no words in between songs of Jesus Christ Superstar is because most people know the story and words might be superfluous? Just a thought here…..

  4. Karin

    You had never seen A Knight’s Tale? Really? I guess it was a good thing really though – save it for when you need it (i.e. when you’re deep in the Middle Ages anyway, the real one that was much less fun).
    Ben had never seen Empire Records, so we watched it with Talia and Adam last night. He now loves it 🙂

    • Excellent! Empire Records is just so much fun.

      And, no, I’d just never gotten around to seeing it. I should have, but never did. As I said, the list of things I have not seen is about as long and absurd as you might imagine.

  5. Rachel

    As of last week, the zombies have invaded my phone. I am actually rather impressed by how well that game works on such a small screen.

    Oddly, I have no problem watching TV on my computer. Once I put it on full screen, I’m good to go. Of course, I often feel guilty just sitting and watching, but I have a crochet project, and that takes care of the problem.

    • We haz invaded your iPhone. Sincerely, the Zombies.

      I think part of my problem is that I’m sitting at my desk (or table or work surface) and watching and I think of my desk as a place to DO things. But when I’m sitting on a couch, with the screen further away from me, I don’t feel like I should be productive in the same fashion.

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