Saturday, March 2, 2013

24 Frames Per Lifetime

By Brian Hackett

Motion Picture. Picture Show. Film. Movie. Cinema. Kino. However you want to call that elusive strip of film, the literal manifestation of that old adage, “The hand is quicker than the eye”, it’s a cultural cornerstone that has remained with us for over a century. Even as the times (and the technologies) have changed, movie going is STILL one of the most popular social activities out there.

But why do you suppose that is?

Granted, the dip in film attendance over the past few years is somewhat notable for those always willing to proclaim movie theaters dead and gone. Over the years, since the inception of television, the ways we can view films have given us some of the most cutting-edge advances in technology. One of the first creations to send shockwaves throughout the world was VHS. Imagine what it must have felt like back then. For the first time, outside of reels and clunky projectors, you could actually watch films, on a television screen, inside your own house.

And then, almost just as quickly, you didn’t have to worry about spending money to purchase a film you might not be fond of. Why? Because, for a few mere dollars, you could RENT a film from a store and watch it, which in turn might sway your decision about whether to buy said film. 

With the radical notion that if you just waited for a couple of months for a film to be available in a home viewing format, or even with the idea that you could maybe catch a flick on television, why bother to go to the theater? Certainly, shadows of doubt may have been cast over the future of picture show houses. And yet, here we all are.

We can now watch full-length films on our telephones and our music playing devices. Think of how laughable that must have seemed just 15 years ago, even with the advent of DVDs. We can rent and purchase movies at GROCERY STORES now. 
With Netflix live streaming, you can watch almost any movie you want, from anywhere around the world, on your computer or television in mere seconds. Pirating has given us a level of access to media that street hustlers from yesteryear could only have dreamed of. The internet has given us the ability to share our thoughts about a new movie release in theaters, with billions of people the world over, WHILE WE’RE WATCHING THE MOVIE. Bloggers are the new critics. Before you can even form an opinion on a film, millions of people, if not billions, have already done so.

So my question is: why do we still go? With the way we watch, criticize, and discuss movies evolving at an almost weekly rate, why is it still a cherished pastime of the masses? Is it because, even for the most misanthropic of us, we still yearn for the experience of sitting in a darkened room, surrounded by total strangers, our eyes pointed at a large silver screen, yearning for the product to affect us? Is it the desire to see something completely fresh at the first screening, free of the taint of countless opinions, critiques, complaints, and praises? Is it merely a social and societal motion that we can’t seem to shake? Again, though the attendance numbers may be a bit lower than expected, records are still set. Avatar and Titanic are the proud title holders of the highest-grossing films of all time. Given that the average take for a film may go from anywhere from 125-300 million (I’m honestly just guessing there), bear in mind that both of the aforementioned films grossed over 2 BILLION dollars apiece. And Avatar was released only just over 3 years ago. The Avengers is the third highest-grossing film, and that was released last year. While CD sales have plummeted, Blu-Ray sales have enjoyed a rise.

I think it all ties back to the idea of that yearning. Though many are quick to say they go to the movies to just hang out, or to kill time, or just the tried-and-true “whatever” rationale, I think we all still love it. We love the excitement, the anticipation, waiting to see what will unfold before us. We love profusely chatting with our friends about it after the end credits have rolled. We love geeking out over what we saw, whether it was a shirtless Ryan Gosling, another great performance from Gary Oldman, raving about the soundtrack, a certain scene, how something was shot. Everything. Each of those parts may not mean all that much individually, but throw them together, and you’ve got an experience that we still seek straight from the freshest source possible: the movie theater. So we go solo, or we pack our friends and family into a car, zoom out, no pun intended, to the nearest picture house, we slap down our money on the counter, we sneak in snacks (because honestly, who the fuck wants to pay over $10 for one bag of popcorn and one drink), we plop our ass down in chairs of varying degrees of comfort, we fix our eyes on that omnipresent screen, and we DARE the makers to show us something that will shake us out of the doldrums of reality. And that is a tradition that, like the movies themselves, is here to stay.

Hello, my name is Brian Hackett. I am an ardent film follower and fanatic. While other passions and pastimes have long since faded from my consciousness, I still retain the love to watch, dissect, discuss, and write about films. Although I can be partial to certain genres, I attempt to maintain an unobjective mindset and welcome films of all kinds. I am also indescribably happy to be a part of the writing team at

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