1 Shot Wednesday: Smoke in the Valley

Living next to a wilderness area, lightning can strike during monsoon season and start a wildfire. That’s an annual threat in Arizona. The smoke travels and descends into pockets of the terrain and sits there causing poor air quality for animals and people. This picture is bizarrely beautiful. Taken in 2014, the wind pushed the smoke from a fire forty miles away to the Verde Valley.

L13FC: Home Theater or Public Cinema?

Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club. This month my good friend, Bill, has some questions for you.

The world of home theatre has one considerable advantage over the antiquated days of movie-going.  Choice.  Today’s streaming and downloads offer tens of thousands of options from the entire history of the cinema.  For less than the price of a single admission to a movie theatre, the whole family can enjoy a digitally preserved movie on a sizeable screen with optimal sound. What’s to complain about then?

Four Differences Between Your Home Theatre and Cinema Going Experience

1.     When I refer to the cinema, I write exclusively of films being projected onto a movie screen, not the viewing of digital files. so the first thing you are losing is the flicker. With film, you are in darkness for a measurable percentage of the films running time, giving the viewing of a film a dreamlike flavor.  Watching digital entertainment is closer to being hypnotized than dreaming. You are watching a glorified form of television, whether it is in a former movie theatre or on your home theatre set-up.

Taxi Driver

2.      No matter how large or small your home screen is, you cannot approximate the ratio of a 6-foot human being to the 30-foot high movie screen.  You can sit up close to a 40-inch monitor so the picture occupies nearly your entire field of vision,  but your size will always dominate the television.  At the movies even when those with smaller screens, you are physically dominated by the images you are viewing.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

3.     The movies themselves, whether claiming to be restored or simply preserved, rarely have identical visual information as to their original release prints. BluRays are much brighter than the 35 mm originals, and the clarity reveals things that were better left obscured…hair dyes, bad make-up. painted skies, etc. Cheap, grainy exploitation films can now look like high budget mainstream latex makeovers.  These digital jobs might last longer than the old film stock, but you are not seeing a film, but an inexact copy of the film.

4.     One of the biggest drawbacks to the home theatre experience, which had its inception in the 1970s with the home box office and video rentals, is the dissolution of the timeline of film culture. In the days when television was television and cinema was cinema, we knew when we were watching an old movie on tv or a classic film at the art house.  We were aware that we were trespassing against the timeline. For a number of reasons, it is always best to see films at the time they are released.

There is much to enjoy in films that were made before our time, but those who saw Taxi Driver in 1976 at a luxury movie theatre saw a different movie than the person who selects it from the Netflix action menu in 2020.  In fact, a personal assessment of films often has a lot to do with when in their film going life they saw it.  For example, my favorite Howard Hawks western is Rio Bravo while people five years older than me usually prefer Red River.  People thirty years younger than me might be ardent fans of Euro-Westerns and have no interest in seeing any American western.  I came to the European auteurs in the late sixties, so I prefer Fellini’s Satyricon to his 8 ½,  and Bergman’s Persona to The Seventh Seal.   But I saw all Sam Peckinpah’s and John Cassevetes’ films in real-time, so they are among my favorite directors because I have lived with them and in them.

What do you think? How has your film-watching experience changed with the transition from film to digital, from public cinemas to home cinema?  Is the situation today better or worse than it was yesterday?

Thank you, Bill! Check out his blog at cinemaafterlife.movie.blog

IMO: 20 Years Later

I feel a silver lining to the COVID experience is it has allowed me to stop the merry-go-round to pause, reflect, and prioritize. This has brought to the surface tapped down memories and feelings and discussions around the table. The not-so-good feelings, the spiders on the wall–my 4 D’s: delusion, denial, deprecation, and depression have followed me around all my life. Then there are the good parts of me, the virtues: initiative, perceptiveness, diligence, and loyalty. In short, at worst, I’m a neurotic dreamer. At best, in a past life, I was probably a dog. Ha!

One boring day, my daughter and I took a free Myers-Briggs personality test. I’m a BDNF. I’m rare, they said. I’m John Snow. An Eleanor Roosevelt. A Gandi. Wow. That’s flattering, but there’s guilt that I haven’t done much in light of their accomplishments. Except for John Snow. He was a boring character in Game of Thrones. I do feel, however, that in a past life I was Brienne of Tarth. Speaking of boredom, after ravishing through Season 4 of The Last Kingdom and gulping down Season 5 of Outlander, I decided to rewatch the GoT series when I couldn’t remember much of what happened in the first four seasons. I must say, I am having fun. During COVID, my time is spent babysitting, reading, writing, and researching. I need a bolt of fun in the evening. 

In the 1990s, when I was in my thirties and at college, I wanted to become a professor at the community college level. A professor warned me to get my teaching degree at the secondary level while I worked on my Master’s. He predicted the market would become saturated, and it would be tough to get a full-time position as a professor. “Everyone’s going to college. Those Ph.D. grads that don’t get hired at the university level? Guess what? The junior colleges pick them up, thus making a Master’s degree the value of a bachelor’s degree.” Well, he was right. Imagine being a single parent! Yikes! No wonder I was frazzled, and the 1990s and 2000s were a blur. My adult life is like Game of Thrones. I know I lived through it, but why can’t I remember anything? COVID allowed me to revisit the seasons to see if I held up over time. 

Still, I have taught at both levels simultaneously for twenty years. I’ve been a hole-filler adjunct since 2000. I’ve taught at the high school level since 1999. I didn’t want to be a high school teacher. But I did it. I have six more years to go. All my student loans will be paid off, and I can retire with a pension. I did not want to run this marathon race, but I’m almost at the finish line, and grand vacations await.

When you are “becoming” something, it’s easy to believe that it is your destiny. When you fall into a career you did not want, it is easy to believe you were shortchanged. After twenty years, it’s all okay. Once I was obtuse. Now it is clear that God wanted me to have this career because I am very good at it. Don’t ask me about the paradigm-shifting, acronym-gathering, administrative micro-managing parts of the profession. None of it bothers me anymore. I just smile and carry on. 

The time spent in seclusion has allowed me to feel grateful for my career. I feel the honor of getting to know the saintly students–those who will most likely succeed with the straightest trajectory, and the sandpaper students–those who have interesting personalities and circumvent the norm. My school asked teachers to create a short video message for the graduating seniors. Who knows what will happen to our school when we resume on August 1. I thought it might be interesting for you to see the real me and hear my voice. I may be getting old, but I’m safe. I’m one of the good guys, and I’ve got their backs. Hail, Brienne of Tarth!