Sometimes a small rebellion is enough.

You know that feeling you get when someone cancels a plan and all of a sudden you have this unexpected clump of free time?  It’s exciting.  It’s a gift.  You were looking forward to the thing, but once it’s cancelled through no fault of yours,  you’re now looking forward  to not going.

It’s  a slippery slope from there to canceling something you planned for no reason except you don’t feel like it anymore.  At first it felt like a not-nice thing to do, but I have my rules:  

1) I consider whether anyone else will be hurt by my actions.

2) I never cancel at the last minute “just because.”  

3) I only say I’m sick if I’m sick.  

I’m too afraid of bad Karma to mess with that one.      

The first few times I used the “just because” clause, I felt a tiny guilt pang, but that was replaced quickly by a giddy feeling. Most of the time it’s like playing hooky with no consequences.  When it  feels like somebody else is running my life (no one else is – I have only myself to blame for my schedule) all it takes to restore balance is to cancel one thing that’s coming up.   

Still there’s that nagging feeling that a person ought to stick with what she committed to.

Which brings me to Netflix.  One day I returned a Netflix rental  WITHOUT WATCHING IT and when I tore off that skinny sticky strip on the return envelope, plopped the unwatched DVD  inside and closed it up, I felt a surge of whatever that feel-good hormone is.  It was  a small extravagance, but a huge emotional victory.

Here’s the shoot-myself-in-the-foot part:   More than once I’ve returned a selection, only to re-order the same title again later.  Evidently even my small rebellions have a price. 

Ó Anita Garner 2009

Netflix Guilt

My own private Jane Austen Film Festival took place in my living room over the course of several months.  It wouldn’t have been possible without Netflix.  I worked my way through every adaptation of Jane Austen’s work and then into obscure British television documentaries about her life.  As soon as the movie, “The Jane Austen Book Club” came out on DVD,  I watched it too.

I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about not patronizing my local theaters.  We have several nice ones nearby, but I haven’t been lately.  I thought I’d miss the companionable experience of seeing a story unfold along with a roomful of other people, but so far I haven’t. 

It’s clear why fans of special effects blockbusters choose to see them on big screens,  and friends who work in the movie industry maintain that comedies are best seen in theaters, where communal laughter enhances the funny, still I find all kinds of rationale for watching at home. 

We’ve heard it all before – about how the inconveniences outweigh the once-shared theater experience.  I love movies as much as ever, but the theater experience itself has been diluted, with multiple (smaller) screens and multiple distractions inside, so it’s rarely an experience equal to the nobility of the old movie houses.  Theater owners blame movie-makers.  Movie-makers blame – well I can’t keep up with the list of all the people movie-makers blame. 

I worry about historic theaters and will do whatever I can to help preserve the architecture and honor their place in our nation’s history.  Once preserved, these buildings need to be re-purposed because the movie industry won’t be able to keep them alive.

Future media is here, with growing audiences who watch on various small screens, including hand-held devices.  Whatever comes next in the area of personal delivery of entertainment content, it doesn’t appear that traditional theaters will be a major force.  It’s an uphill battle.  They make much of their profit from concessions and we hear nothing but complaints about the price of the food and drink.  They add commercials to run before the feature, and we hear complaints about the commercials. 

We’re fast approaching the time when all new movies will be released simultaneously via several media, with theaters only one of the choices. It is crucial that everyone connected with creating entertainment – movies and television and music and all other kinds of performances and educational content – be compensated for all the ways we choose to watch.

Right now, waiting a few months for the DVD to come out works just fine for me.  When I hear about something I want to see, I immediately go to my computer and add the title to my Netflix Queue.  But on any given afternoon when I’m sick of my own company, there’s still the matinee around the corner.  I wonder how much longer that option will exist.

Ó By Anita Garner