Watching Movies

There seems to be an uptick in the number of articles about just how hard it is to watch movies these days? The story usually starts with the writer lethargically scrolling through the offerings on Netflix or HBO Max, either finding nothing that they want to see (in the Netflix case) or finding stuff that doesn’t seem to be too urgent to see (in the HBO Max case), but always ending in the writer just putting on another episode of Married With Children instead.

I mean Frasier. Never Married With Children. Sorry. Always Frasier. If only this keyboard had a delete key.

I sympathise with this conundrum, but as you may already have surmised from the picture that started this blog post, my approach to watching movies is somewhat different.

I’m oldes, so I buy virtually everything I watch on physical media. (I.e., DVD, 2K Blu Ray and 4K Blu Ray.) I’m not so oldes that I watch the disks directly, though — I rip them to disk, and then use an Emacs-based system to browse and play them. Which looks like this:

So basically, I have the same issue that the HBO Max-browsing person has: I have access to a whole bunch of films that are probably pretty good (in my case, I’ve already picked them, and in the HBO Max case, there’s the Criterion Collection), but scrolling through two hundred films, it’s just hard to decide whether, tonight, I want to watch Clueless by Amy Heckerling, the 1934 John M. Stahl version of Imitation of Life, or Éric Rohmer’s Conte d’Hiver.

I mean, I do want to watch all of them, but which one tonight? None of them seem that urgent to get to, which is the problem. So I guess I’ll just put on an episode of 2 Broke Girls, I mean Frasier…

But no! Here’s my genius system: I actually look at those stacks of unwatched movie boxes up there when deciding what movie to watch. Sometimes a random spine will call out to me and I think “Yes! I must watch Howard Hawks’ Scarface! Right now!” More often, though, nothing happens, and I avoid being paralysed by choice by choosing a film through this clever system: I choose a film from the bottom of the stacks.

This brings down my range of choices from 200 to (usually) 4. And that artificial constraint makes it much easier to choose a film (for me).

And it’s also oddly satisfying to see the stacks get shorter.

I’m just idly typing away here, and I have no real interest in using streaming services, but perhaps something along these lines might be helpful for somebody pondering how to make movie selection more fun? That is, instead of endlessly scrolling through choices, you make a list of stuff you want to watch, and then work your way through that, but in a more fun way than the current “upcoming queue” lists in the apps work today.

The problem with lists like this, though, is that you’ll feel tempted to put stuff on the list that you’re not really enthusiastic about watching, but put on there because you feel you “should” watch. Like a three hour documentary about bee-keeping in ancient Mesopotamia. (Actually, that does sound a bit interesting…) Uhm, like Shoah. This would soon turn the list from something that sparks joy into a home-work assignment list, and you’d be back to watching Full House, I mean Frasier.

So, like… an interface for your “want list” on streaming TV that has a kind of greater physical presence? So it’s not just a hopelessly yuge list of obligations?

Oh, I don’t know. People have probably done something fun like this already for all I know. SORRY FOR WASTING YOUR TIME

Oh, and speaking of yuge: Oh, bonus pics. Here’s what Emacs looks like on my yuge TV:

Gotta have some Futura.

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