Losing the Movies

By Jeffrey Page

Every so often, a bunch of us convene to watch a movie at someone’s house, have dessert, and talk about the movie. This leads to talk about other movies.

And that often leads to statements such as:

The movie about whaddea-call-it? The one with what’s-his-name, Tom, Brad, something. George? Maybe George. Whatever the hell his name was. You know, that movie from – what was it? Last year, maybe ’11 – about the guy with the store. I heard it was terrific; maybe we should rent it. If I could just come up with the name.*

Everybody seems to have his own special area of forgetfulness: Birthdays and anniversaries are classic. Faces are popular. And there are a million other facts known to everyone except the person trying to remember.

My special area of forgetfulness is movies and their directors, their actors, their story lines. I don’t remember anything about movies anymore, and I’ve come to understand that it’s not all my fault. The responsibility lies with the inventors of the VCR and the DVD.

I remember when seeing a movie was a special event, such as my parents allowing me to go to the children’s Saturday matinee. Invariably the program included a Western or a war movie starring John Wayne, Jeff Chandler or Burt Lancaster. For me, this was just once a month because my mother thought that most movies were trash and not worth my time.

In high school, a movie was for an occasional Friday night or Saturday night date – still special. Even if you saw two movies a month – and I don’t think I saw that many – it was 100 a year. This seemed to be a number that allowed you to concentrate on – and remember – the film. It was a number your memory could handle. You could retain great images and great performances.

Everything changed with the advent of VCRs, video stores, DVDs, Netflix and public library collections of movies on disc. All of a sudden, it was movies on demand, a chance to see the classics you missed as a kid, the documentaries you never find at the local movie house, or some of the recent releases. All that, and an admission price that’s dirt cheap compared with tickets at the box office.

A number of years ago, my cable TV company and I parted company (an amusing story in itself but for another time). I never replaced it. So I didn’t have cable but I still had my TV set so I joined Netflix. Great deal. Early on, I rented “Animal Crackers” with the Brothers Marx, and “White Heat,” my favorite James Cagney movie of all time.

Soon, I realized I was watching movies all through the week. I went through the movies made from Charles Dickens’s stories. I think I ordered all the Astaire-Rogers movies. “On the Waterfront” several times. Lots of Bogart, lots of Ingmar Bergman. Some Marilyn. Some Garbo. Plenty of Bette Davis. “The Bicycle Thief” for the 10th time in my life.

I OD’d on movies and after a while the damage was done; my poor brain couldn’t take it all in. I would talk about movies and utter such profundity as “That movie [“Coming Home”] with Jane Fonda and whatsisname [Jon Voight] about her taking up with the paraplegic guy [Voight] while her husband Dustin Hoffman [uh, no, that would be Bruce Dern] is still in the war [Vietnam].”

This kind of babbling is the result of the facts of too many movies banging into one another in my consciousness. There’s just so much room in my brain to remember all there is to remember.

An example: Remember the scene in “Five Easy Pieces” in which Jack Nicholson is ordering lunch (or was it breakfast?) and tells the waitress what she can do with the chicken salad?

Was it chicken salad? Or was it tuna?

* * *

* The movie would be “High Fidelity,” released in 2000, with John Cusack playing the obsessive owner of a vinyl-record shop.

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One Response to “Losing the Movies”

  1. Jo Galante Cicale Says:


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