As an old bastard/movie connoisseur, I’ve lived through parts of six different decades and it’s amazing to the degree that selecting a movie to watch has become a f*cking chore. We’ve moved from “should we go see a moving picture tonight?” to “am I willing to sit in a roomful of assholes for two and a half hours to see this Katherine Heigl piece of sh*t that will almost certainly be the inflight movie the next time i fly Delta?” It used to be kind of fun to roll to Blockbuster and peruse the New Releases, now it’s a grueling test of endurance to even figure out what mechanism we will use to deliver the image to our eyeballs.
A Decade-By-Decade Examination Of The Movie Selection Process
Things were pretty simple back then: check out the newspaper and see what’s playing…if you don’t like that, see if there’s a movie on any of the three channels you have access to. Nothing good on? Tough shit, go have another baby or make a pinewood derby car.
The mass market availability of the VCR in the early ’80s changed the movie selection game substantially. Now, in addition to the above, one had the ability to go to a video store and check out what movies were available, with a far quicker turnaround than waiting for a broadcast debut. There was little rush greater than perusing the New Release aisle and seeing an available copy of Howard The Duck, or something else that your mom thought was too stupid to pay $5 for in the theater. (I remember once incurring some late fees because a squirrel fried itself in a transformer box, killing power to our entire neighboorhood while we had a tape in the VCR. We didn’t think of just hauling the VCR down to the store – perhaps because it weighed about 75 lbs (the Seventeen household rarely had the most cutting-edge technology).
The VCR introduced us as a society to the unique decision of “would I prefer to see this in the theater, or in the comfort of my own home, at a time of my choosing?” For fare such as Body Heat, the decision was simple; for Aliens, more complicated. At the time, no one could envision how much more complex this was about to get.
The ’90s introduced the DVD (which didn’t really complicate the decision-making process as they essentially just replaced VHS tapes – although it was pretty exciting for people with limited storage space under their tv, AV nerds and pron enthusiasts) and more socially-acceptable satellite sizes (ie DirecTV) which brought Pay Per View (PPV) to the forefront. Now there was an additional kink in the chain, the dreaded movie you wouldn’t rent at the video store, but that you might pay $5 to watch on ppv after a little too much Paul Masson rose- this is how I unfortunately ended up watching that godawful Godzilla reboot. (Although it was a pretty sweet feeling once you finally got that DirecTV phone line thingee to work correctly, even for those not intimately interested in the 85 adult PPV channels.)
The 2000s (or Oughts or Whatever the Hell They Ended Up Being Called)
The 2000s didn’t really cause too much of a wrinkle, as the big development was probably Netflix (which would really shake things up in the next decade.) There were certainly additional avenues for PPV, such as the Playstation Network, but it was pretty redundant with the cable PPV offerings so not such a huge deal. Netflix allowed the annoying Type A people who were pissed that they couldn’t pre-reserve every f*cking movie at the movie rental store, to create a list of movies they wanted and then they’d mail that sh*t right to their Type A houses, complete with envelopes that you know those nerds put in their Daytimer so they’d remember to send back immediately after watching. This didn’t work so much for lazy people like myself, who were willing to roll the dice at the video store (even after consistently experiencing the shocking absence of the next The Wire DVD from the store shelves at important junctures.)
One personal wrinkle was the “movie I’d watch only if on a plane” when I was traveling quite a bit. I watched 17 Again in such a situation – something I’m not proud of (it wasn’t even the only option available – business class, homie. I am ashamed, though.)
The ’10s (No One Calls This Decade Anything To My Knowledge, So Maybe I Can Start A Trend)
It’s a bit of a fib to blame the ’10s for the current glut of selections: I’m sure Netflix streaming was available prior to Jan 1st, 2010. But for clarity of this article, let’s assume that was the case (as that’s when we started stealing the streaming from SO’s mom’s Netflix account.) So now, with Netflix Instant (or Amazon Prime, for you Amazon nerds – look to your right, buy something!) you could watch a whole bunch of sh*t immediately, right on your tv or computer screen, for no additonal cash outlay. Game changer. Now, when we decide we want to watch a movie, here’s a rough description of the process.
Maybe we should watch a movie?
- Cool, let’s check out Netflix streaming
- Not much new on here, what’s in our queue again?
- I’m not really in the mood for The Long Kiss Goodnight again, maybe we should watch an old tv show instead?
- Hold on, did you try Channel 1000? Maybe there’s some new stuff on there we wanted to see?
- Damn, now Channel 1000 has so much crap on it it’s separated into 3 alphabetical pages
- This is gonna take forever, what about HBO OnDemand? That’s free at least
- I think Boardwalk Empire is too heavy for right now, what about a couple of Curb reruns?
- Wait, flip down to Showtime OnDemand
- Does Weeds still suck? Or is it better now?
- Is the Playstation still on? Let’s check out the PS Network, movies are $1 cheaper on there
- Did you look at Primetime OnDemand? Have we seen all the Louies?
- Go back to Netflix, I think that documentary on wolverines is still on there
- Damn, how many horror films are on here?
- I’m getting tired, just push any f*cking button on any remote that will cause a moving image on the screen
- F*ck it, I’m just gonna read this Us Weekly from May 2009 and go to sleep