Saturday, July 02, 2011

Home box office

These days movies can be viewed practically anywhere at anytime. Smartphones, portable media devices, DVD players in minivans, and laptop computers have made it so that we can see almost whatever we want at the press of a button.

This is not how it used to be, obviously. The two biggest developments in my own moviewatching as a kid were when my parents subscribed to the Disney Channel and when we got a VCR. The Disney Channel used to be a premium channel, just like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and The Movie Channel. Now it's part of the regular cable packages, and the programming, from what I can tell, is substantially different.

The Disney Channel used to show a bunch of the old cartoons, episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Disney features like The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Devil and Max Devlin, and Candleshoe. There were also the DTV music videos: mostly cartoon footage appropriately cut to pop songs, I suppose as an alternative to MTV. I loved these. (The one that sticks out the most in my memory is for Darryl Hall and John Oates' "Private Eyes".) After the cable bill arrived, I'd pore over the booklet that listed the channel's programming for the month. I can remember spending better portions of days watching whatever oldies happened to be scheduled.

Of course, there were also the premium channel previews and free weekends from time to time, which allowed me to catch up with non-Disney Channel movies. I can remember seeing some Mike Tyson fights this way, as HBO happened to be free at advantageous times. For whatever reason, Showtime tended to come in unscrambled regularly, especially at my grandmother's house. The picture had some graininess but was certainly very watchable.

Renting movies was always an exciting thing to do, as if it were a special occasion to pick something to watch. Examining the shelves at the small independent grocery store in town or at the larger ones nearby was a favorite thing of mine to do. Will the one I want be in?

It's with such memories that this summer I've decided to go back and watch films that I saw back then and probably haven't seen since. Catching up on the ones I didn't see is a little extra thrilling, even if the movies are junk. Within the last couple weeks I've watched The Last Starfighter, Summer School, Weird Science, and Big Trouble in Little China. Of those I had seen before, none have lived up to what I recalled them being, but they've been fun to see anyway. As with any art, there's what's in the text and what I bring to it, so even if the former is sometimes lacking, the latter more than makes up the difference.

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