There is no shortage of video entertainment available in our household, even without ever subscribing to cable. First, there is YouTube, where I can lose myself in so many ways: watching Felix Immler in Switzerland present creative uses of the Swiss Army Knife, Galeazzo Frudua in Italy replicate the harmonies of the Beatles; Rick Beato in California teach music theory through popular music; Brett Yang and Eddy Chan in Australia share their humorous takes on contemporary entertainment as classically trained violinists; Tim Rowett in England demonstrate curious and cleverly designed novelties, etc.
Second, we can watch shows on our streaming services: Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. I also watch programs such as South Park and some videos suggested by Apple News.
Third, we have rabbit ears that allow us to watch broadcast TV. We are “21st-century spoiled” with our ability to watch programs on demand — it’s not like last century, when we had to wait for a small number of channels to parse out their shows at specific times. Nowadays I mostly watch TV just for Steelers games.
Fourth, we borrow DVDs from the public library. This afternoon from the New Releases section I picked out Yesterday, Midsommar, Red Sparrow, and Life of the Party on the strength of the actors and half-remembered reviews. Rotten Tomatoes does suggest that not all of these will be worth watching.
With so many free and inexpensive options at hand, we rarely watch a movie in a theater. Besides the financial expense, there’s also the time involved in finding out where and when a film is being shown, plus the trouble of organizing ourselves to leave together, driving to the theater, and parking there. As a consequence, we sometimes can only understand cultural references weeks or months after a film release, and need to be careful to avoid spoilers.
To defer gratification in this way is a minor burden — we’re watching the same things as everyone else, just on time delay. Anyhow, the entire world is split into small ecosystems these days; entertainment is tailored for niche audiences. It’s not like when I was a child, when my classmates had a common culture around TV, talking excitedly after the series finale of M*A*S*H, or every week about the latest episode of Happy Days. Even back then, I did march to my own drummer. I was instead fascinated by the Watergate hearings, understanding they were important enough that I tried to take still photographs of the broadcasts.
During this winter season, I am interested in several movies enough to want to see them in the theater. Last weekend A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opened (along with Frozen 2). Next month there is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which I will certainly watch within a few days of its release, even though J.J. Abrams failed at concluding Lost, ruined the spirit of Star Trek in the film reboot, wrote the nonsensical tripe of Super 8, and produced completely unlikable characters in Cloverfield. He knows how to produce visual candy, but I can’t recall a time when he’s brought a story to a satisfactory close.
I am most excited to see 63 Up. I recognize the theaters where it is playing in New York, Chicago, Berkeley, and Santa Fe, places where I have lived. Maybe I will have to make a trip to Cleveland on January 26. While it is already available in Region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray formats, I wonder how I can see it. The films come out only every seven years, and this may be the last one.