Friday, February 22, 2013

And the Winner Is…

This is the weekend for the Academy Awards. Despite all the criticism of the televised program over the years, despite its length and tedium, I always watch the show and will do so again this year.

Movies have been a mainstay in my family for several generations. My maternal grandmother became devoted to films during the many years of her unfortunately unhappy marriage. Like many women of the early 20th century, she did not work outside of the house. But she was a fan of films and passed that love of entertainment down to her only daughter, my mother. Mother and daughter would go to the movies on the weekends. They were keenly aware of what films would soon arrive in their small town and who starred in the them.

In the early days of films, there were a number of production companies and movie moguls battling for ticket sales. Films were vying for the right to entertain the public and some film makers were willing to take chances with innovation as technology evolved.

My mother retained her fondness for film and during the early 1950s made her children aware of the wonders of film. During that time, the only way to see even relatively current movies was to actually go to a movie theatre. TV had made its appearance but movies on TV were already many years -- even decades -- old. I don't remember any prime time movies being shown on television until NBC began "Saturday Night at the Movies" in the late 1950s. This was a landmark program and changed television viewing almost immediately. Relatively-recent movies in your living room! Wow.

Going to the Saturday matinees in the 1950s was a special treat. The theatre in our town aimed at kids, showing westerns or science fiction thrillers, sometimes two, accompanied by cartoons. For the magnificent sum of $1, I could go to the movies, pay the admission, have money for popcorn or a candy bar and have a dime left to use the phone. Not too bad. These were not great films but kids had a lot of fun and felt like some adults cared about keeping them entertained.

During the rest of the week in the 1950s, regular movies were shown. I went with my mother to see such memorable films as "An Affair to Remember," "Three Coins in a Fountain," and "Cheaper by the Dozen." Sure, the story lines were over my head and I didn't understand all of the conversation. But there is nothing wrong people -- even kids -- having to stretch their imagination a bit to follow a plot. Plot: storyline; the story of sequence of events in a narrated or presented work such as a novel, play or movie. Plot: something often omitted from movies today.

On to the 1970s and 1980s. As premium cable channels brought first-run films into our homes, things began to change. I still enjoyed going to movies and seeing a film that people were praising. But it was hard to justify going to the theatres and PAYING to see a movie which was available in my home. The lure of the theatre had faded entirely by around 2000.

Several factors have negated my fondness for movie theatres. Smaller screens in multiplex theatres. Rude fellow viewers who talk, take cell phone calls and generally annoy. Higher prices for tickets and all edibles. The hassle of seeing a movie on someone else's schedule. At home, I can watch in my jammies, consume my own snacks and relax on the sofa. It is a new wave of viewing. Movie theatres have felt the pinch.

I still go to the movies but rarely. If I hear about a film that strikes my fancy, I make a mental note of interest. But if something prevents me from getting to the theatre in time to see it, I take comfort in knowing it will be available "On Demand" or DVD very quickly.

In the old days by the time the Academy Awards show arrived, I would have seen many of the films and be cheering for my favorites. Now, I see only movies which are deserving of my time. During the awards shows I watch the film clips and note those which seem intriguing. These will be the ones I rent. It's nice to let the Academy voters do my selecting in advance.

Some good movies are still made. Included in the onslaught of mediocrity is an occasional movie of note. Hopefully a few films of quality will win an Oscar this weekend. It would be nice to think that good entertainment might rebound.

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