When video stores still existed, they were my favorite hangouts. I walked around for hours reading all the titles, every time I went. It was especially problematic when Flash was waiting in the car while I ran in to grab a movie for the night. It was my happy place, a salve for down days and a celebration for the good days. Feeling blue? Rent a movie. Happy? Rent a movie. Had a fight with the hubby? Rent a movie he won’t like.
During the video store years, I added to my viewing repertoire of Neil Simon films, renting several I’d never seen before. He’s my favorite dialogue writer, and The Goodbye Girl and Barefoot in the Park are the best. He wrote the way people talk, and my watching his movies feels like I’m eavesdropping on personal conversations without having to hide around a corner. When I read his second memoir, The Play Goes On, it inspired me to write regularly; he helped me begin to act like a writer. Last summer, on our Monumental Road Trip to New Jersey, I found the Neil Simon Theater during our jaunt to New York City; I took a picture of the marquee, hoping against all odds that Mr. Simon would happen to show up. He didn’t, of course, and passed away 22 days after we got back home. So now, indulging in his movies is my only way to pay homage to his talent; I’ll have to personally thank him in the hereafter.
As video stores began fading out, my world exploded when Netflix hit the scene. I could go on line and order the ones I wanted to watch. Within a couple of days, they magically appeared in my mailbox. I was a frequent user. But one day, I found a card advertising DVDA, DVDaholics Anonymous, stuck to my mail box. I was offended, so I went inside and watched a movie.
Later, our viewing habits evolved; we began streaming Netflix through our Nintendo Wii. No waiting. All the movies, all the time. Two weeks passed before I looked Flash or Cowboy in the eyes.
Last year, after Mom died, I decided I needed a new movie experience. I added Amazon Prime to my life, accessing movies and TV series that weren’t on Netflix. I began with a modern version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It was an excellent remake. Then I found some Ellery Queen episodes and one of my favorite thrillers, Wait Until Dark. And, of course, I continued to purchase DVDs on Amazon, to add to my collection.
Denver, one of my fellow film buffs, has his DVDs organized alphabetically and according to genre. That’s a dream come true. My greatest accomplishment has been storing all my movies in the same room; they used to be in three different places in the house. When Denver mentioned he had about 700 movies, I started counting mine as soon as he left our house one evening, hoping I’d won my secret competition. I had 732, including kids’ movies. But I counted each disc of each TV season as an individual movie, so some might say that’s cheating.
As suddenly as I felt the thrill of my quasi-victory, I felt like a glutton.
The next day, I went through my collection and gave away 23 movies that we rarely watched or that I’d accidentally bought twice. Some of the seldom watched movies had stayed in the family out of obligation. Such as Gone with the Wind. Lasting 3 hours and 58 minutes, it gives perspective, making me grateful I didn’t live during that time period. After watching Scarlett whine ad nauseum, it’s a great deterrent for hissy fits. But it’s long-winded, so to speak.
Soon after my benevolent donation, I realized I had room for more movies. New movies, as well as new DVDs to replace old VHS versions. I could buy more and not feel guilty, because I’d purged beforehand. And now, there’s a great app for organizing movie inventory; it automatically categorizes them. So, while shopping for movies, you can look on your mobile app to see what you already own. It cuts down on buying duplicates. The next time I have 48 consecutive hours free, I’ll start entering my collection.
When I select movies, I don’t choose them simply because they won an Oscar. A masterpiece is in the eye of the viewer; I’m one of only two people on the face of the earth who didn’t like the 2012 musical version of Les Miserables, although I’m a Hugh Jackman fan.
“What was it about?” Flash asked me after I saw it with my friend Bebe.
I skipped the synopsis and replied, “Oh my gosh. It was so depressing.”
“Yeah, well, didn’t the title tip you off?”
“I know, but I didn’t think it would be that harsh. A bunch of miserable people trying to make it through life. And they sang every single word of the movie. If I were filled with that much despair, I could never sing all day, every day. I had no idea it would be like that. Much of the time, I didn’t know what they were saying.”
I know it’s a story about redemption. And I hear the masses go on and on about its deeper messages. But it’s so very gray. And I don’t like gray or brown movies. Perhaps the book would be better; I could visualize it in an array of colors.
Three months ago, I dialed down my movie watching, to leave more time for reading and Bible study. I ended my subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime, a radical move for this movie lover. Until last week, when I ordered a gift and wanted it delivered quickly; I’ve got a week of free Amazon Prime again. A couple of nights ago, I ran across a movie I hadn’t seen in decades – Still of the Night, with Roy Scheider and Meryl Streep. I’m in the mood for some suspense, I thought. All I remembered about it was its being a 10 on the creepiness scale. Flash was at the back of the house doing his Bible study, so I was on my own.
With our two trusty dogs by my side, and a bag of chips handy for nervous eating, I began the movie. Two minutes in, I jumped off the couch. Why am I watching this? I asked myself. I’ve been super anxious lately; I should watch a comedy.
But I couldn’t stop watching. Well, I couldn’t hit “Stop,” but I was covering my eyes constantly. The problem was, I needed my narrator. Someone who could tell me what was happening so I wouldn’t be startled constantly, which would make it difficult to sleep later.
I started whisper-hollering for Flash, which is a necessary art when Cowboy is asleep and I don’t want to get off the couch.
I heard nothing but the sound of the Tell-Tale Heart.
“Flash, come here.”
Still, a void of silence was between us.
After the fourth time, I started texting.
“CAN YOU HEAR ME?” I wrote.
Apparently, his ears were silenced. I knew his phone wasn’t silenced; that’s reserved for Armageddon.
I persevered, sending rapid-fire texts, one after the other.
“What are you doing?”
Finally, the Silent One answered with, “I answered you 2x.” I waited that long for an answer, and he couldn’t spell out “two times” for me? Lazy texter. Clearly, he had whisper-replied to me, and I hadn’t heard him.
“Are you still doing your Bible study?” I wrote back.
My beloved had the audacity to not answer my loving texts. So, I continued.
“Are you studying?”
Ah, he was still alive in the other room; I got a “Yes!!!” as a text scream.
“How much longer?” I continued.
Now, dear reader, I realize that studying God’s Word is important. But I was in dire need of help. And Jesus talks a lot about putting love into action by helping others. I was simply offering my husband a ministry opportunity right here at home.
Still alone, except for God, who was probably shaking His head at me, I hit “Play” on the remote and tried to continue the movie. But then the dream sequence came on, and I had to hide my eyes for an eternity. I willed myself off the couch, and went to see Flash.
“This movie is scaring me, and I need a narrator.”
I’m not sure the look he gave me was in alignment with his reading material.
Thankfully, only a few minutes later, he had finished his reading. As he joined me in the living room, I gave him a short synopsis of the film, and he proceeded to tell me what was happening on the screen. Well, okay, every once in a while he was so engrossed he forgot to tell me. So, I’d have to remind him of his role in our “couple time.”
When I thought it was safe to look at the TV again, I saw the flutter of wings in my peripheral vision, and turned my head away quickly. Never having seen it, Flash wasn’t prepared for those wings, and he jumped two feet off the couch. That was better than the movie.
Finally, it was almost over, and I could look at the final scene before the credits rolled. “Wasn’t that good?” I asked Flash.
“Yeah, it was pretty good,” he replied. “I wasn’t sure who the killer was.” That’s an anomaly for Flash; he usually knows the killer within the first 15 minutes of a movie. But, of course, he’d missed the first 15 minutes.
Now, I’m back to watching lighter movies, including DVDs I’d never seen before. For Mother’s Day, I bought Meet Me in St. Louis, the only musical Mom ever said she liked, and The Quiet Man, the only John Wayne movie she mentioned as being “really good.” And, finally, I watched Mom’s last Christmas gift to me – April in Paris with Doris Day and Ray Bolger; it’s always the right time to watch Doris Day.
It may be awhile before I watch another thriller – Flash has other things to do. Until he’s free, Scooby-Doo is as tense as it’s going to get around here.
Unless, of course, a Bette Davis thriller taunts me to watch. I know Flash won’t mind watching with me for a few minutes. After all, couple time is paramount, right?