Monday, 19 July 2010

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: what’s that all about, eh? Part one*

I rarely go to the cinema these days. Partly because of the smell — damp carpets in ‘heritage’ ones, popcorn in multiplexes. Partly because I go to the theatre a lot and, what with having to watch a publicly acceptable and democratically accountable amount of football, time is short. Mostly, though, I just forget to go. At least, that’s the way it feels.

When my children were young I’d go all the time. My daughter, in particular, loved seeing every new children’s films. Sometimes several times. Once, we found ourselves the only customers in Swiss Cottage Odeon for Mrs Doubtfire. It was like being in your own sitting room. If it was the world’s biggest sitting room.

My younger son loved cartoons — a taste I share with him and was happy to indulge, with Saturday mornings spent at Bugs Bunny retrospectives and Fritz Freling symposiums. (Some day, I’ll share with you my thesis that all cinema aspires to cartoondom and that CGI is a step in that direction — only counter-productively complex and expensive.) Sadly, my son’s true favourite cartoons were Japanese — Digimon etc. If you’ve never seen one, keep it that way. Sitting beside him in the dark, I’d find myself weighing up the merits of suicide.

I genuinely can’t remember the last time I went, or to which cinema. The last film I can actually recall seeing at a cinema was a Lord of the Rings thing. Maybe the first. Maybe the second. It was that younger son who took me — as in, got me to take him and his friends. I fell asleep. I was ravished by the New Zealand landscapes, though.

I do watch movies, of course, but on TV. Mostly on cable movie channels — because I pay for them so it seems churlish not to watch them, like an anorexic woman leaving half her restaurant meal on the plate. So I watch a lot of bits of movies — I’m not good at figuring out and remembering when what starts. I watch movies I’ve seen before — it’s not only small children who like to hear the same story over and over. I also tape movies I haven’t seen — and sometimes even watch those. Sometimes, I even watch whole movies, from the start to the end.

What this means, though, is I’m always behind in my movie watching. I’ve never seen the latest hit — or the one before or the one before that, generally. I could, I know, catch them on DVD — but that involves Amazoning them and, frankly, my house already has enough unread books and unwatched CDs and unplayed DVDs in it to keep me occupied and engaged well beyond my likely death.

Also, I could watch them online etc. But I already spend enough time on the computer and don’t feel I should watch pirate torrents. That’s a young people thing, inappropriate and unbecoming — unglamorous, even — in grown-ups.

So there are always movies I wanted to see but never got round to. In particular, the ones at the less populist end of the range. Cable movie channels are good on romcoms — so I get to appreciate Russell Brand’s updating of Spinal Tap in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. But I don’t often see the kind of movies I used to always see on first release at my local, the Screen on the Hill in Belsize Park. (I think it’s changed its name now. Shows how much attention I pay, right.)

Which leads to what I was getting to, divergently, right from the beginning: Woody Allen. Well, it will in the next posting.

* This was originally one long posting. Then it got very long. Then I showed it to my wife who said: it’s very long and it doesn’t read like a blog, it’s like an article. So I cut it in bits and will post one a day over the week. How many bits? Well, at least one more. I’ll let you know when I’ve figured it out.

Meantime . . . a touch of French expertise

Next up Vicky Cristina Barcelona: what’s that all about, eh? Part two

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