Sunday, June 23, 2013

Having and wanting: Movie edition

"After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."

I was born in 1971. The specific year isn't important, but it's smack in the middle of an era of movie loving youths. We grew up wanting.

I suspect the generation before, the baby boomers and before, had their moments, as well as individuals, who wanted like we did, but you don't hear the stories with the same regularity.

I think there are a lot of factors, but I think the books and magazines about "old movies" exploded some time in the late '50s/early '60s, most importantly, the ones about horror movies and sci-fi movies, the things that attract young fans. All of those pictures and descriptions from movies that we may or may not ever see. Some would show up on TV some day, if you kept scouring the listings, or better yet, show up at a repertory theater, if you could get a ride into town. But there were movie after movie that we just never, ever saw.

And then came the age of home video, which dawned in the early '80s.

Yes, home video existed, in a variety of forms, prior to that, but the age of home video had not quite peeked over the horizon, as they were still a specialty market item. You can ask the version of my parents who existed at that time and dismissed my enthusiasm for them. Mostly, I'm sure, for financial reasons.

The age of video didn't fix it all. There were only more movies to want. Movies that never came out on video or that came out only briefly and your local stores never got.

Later there would be versions to want. Better quality, letterboxed, director's cuts, special editions, etc.

My son will have much less of that. Sure, there's still London After Midnight, which might not ever turn up, or whatever of many intriguing movies that might have existed long enough to leave evidence he will find in a magazine or on the Internet.

However, most of the time, if he were to, say, decide it was a big deal that The Greatest Show on Earth won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1952 or he discovers an awesome looking picture from Logan's Run - as semi-random examples - then he'll watch them. Possibly that very day.

Obviously, excepting a handful of examples of things Kim and I decide aren't appropriate and such, but that's still different. It will be something he can definitely see someday. I have some concerns over when he should see Hellraiser, but he'll never have to wonder if he'll be able to see it ever.

Now, my generation of movie fans has definitely made our quests into a kind of basic good that the next generation is flawed for missing out on, and I originally shared that belief myself.

Oh, I miss that feeling and think I gained some things from it. I love the ability to really savor my anticipation for something. Not to mention an appreciation for what it means to have gotten something. There was a very long time in my life that I assumed I'd never see the uncut version of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Now I own it.

A beautiful Blu-ray. I've watched it.

I'll watch it again. Even now when I'm not about to watch it, that gives me a happy little chill.

But we've also fetishized our love of the quest.

It starts by being all about the wanting. When you had to check the TV listings and be home and watching at some weird time, you watched it. When it came to a repertory theater and you had to schedule for it, you went.

But in the video age, it slowly becomes about the having. I know that's not just me. I've heard it from so many others.

We buy and record and collect up movies that we wanted and then don't watch them. We have them. We will watch them, right?

Right now, this isn't helped by my schedule. When you're trying to sneak a movie in during a toddler's nap, you don't always want to put in something you've been anticipating for a long time and would like to really savor. Sometimes it feels better to just watch a recent hit or a familiar favorite that you don't mind potentially having interrupted and don't necessarily have to dedicate a hundred percent to.

I bought, recorded and collected movies and then left them for... later. That wanting is sated. Like the kid who can't watch a movie until their older rather than some far off possibly never, the hunger is curbed just enough. It doesn't have the same edge to it.

What will the next generation of movie geeks obsess over? Like I said, I'm sure there will still be things here and there, lost movies, unreleased cuts. I'd hope maybe they could put that energy into savoring their movies, but that seems unlikely. Barring that, I'd suggest movies that never happened. Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon or Jodorowsky's Dune.

I remember when I used to read about the early days of Bob Dylan going electric and touring with members of Ronnie Hawkins's Hawks, who would go on to be The Band. I took what I'd heard of those pieces along with the descriptions and made this incredible sound.

Of course, in the years since then I've heard a variety of recordings of the performances of that and they're not the same. In many ways they're much better than what I heard in my head. And yet if I had the musical talent, or even a modicum of it, I'd try to capture that sound from my head.

It's good to have those things you want, because they fuel your imagination, so I'd hope that some of them find something to latch onto. In fact, I'm certain they will.

I'm honestly not sure the balance of wanting and having that my generation had was quite right, even if we all have a wild nostalgia for it.


Peter Nellhaus said...

Well, yes, almost all of the above. Certainly home video and especially DVD by mail and streaming have killed watching vintage movies on TV or in a theater. On the other hand, some people have to be reminded that not everything is available for home viewing for a variety of reasons.
As for wanting and having, I guess many of us have that problem.
On a somewhat related note, I recently found out that Don Siegel's Babyface Nelson is on YouTube.

Neil Sarver said...

Certainly home video and especially DVD by mail and streaming have killed watching vintage movies on TV or in a theater.

Thankfully, not completely quite yet. I have a date with Tsui Hark's original 1982 Zu: Warriors of the Mountain this Wednesday.

However, yes, neither is the primary vehicle any longer nor are they even particularly important ones any longer in the scheme of things.

On the other hand, some people have to be reminded that not everything is available for home viewing for a variety of reasons

Thank you! This is very true. It can never be emphasized too much that we have many, many movies that have been lost forever and that continue to be at risk of being lost forever. Along with a great many things that may or may not be safe, but are not available to the public for one reason or another.

I did not mean to dismiss, or even ignore, that fact, so it's good to have it out here.

On a somewhat related note, I recently found out that Don Siegel's Babyface Nelson is on YouTube

Thanks for the heads up!

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