Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No such thing as partial credit


As I have become more and more of an obsessive eccentric regarding my film-watching habits, I've also developed some pretty eccentric rules.

One of which is: I don't want to see part of a movie, even if it's a movie I've already seen before.

I didn't use to have a problem with this. In fact, in 2004, when I moved out of an apartment I'd been sharing with a roommate for the first three years I lived in L.A., I used to have parts of movies on in the background at my new place all the time. It was a way to be reminded of what you liked about the movie without committing to giving it your whole attention, or watching the whole thing. I was probably getting some kind of introductory package of all the movie stations on cable at the time as well, which made this little hobby all the easier.

In the five years since then, I've gone completely in the other direction. And the reason is pretty simple: I now keep track not only of the new movies I see, but of the old movies I revisit. You certainly know this, as it's been a feature on the right side of my blog for the entire time I've been writing.

It's all a question of "counting."

For example, if I watch 85 minutes of a 110 minute movie, does it "count" as a viewing? What about 100 of 110 minutes? What about 109 of 110 minutes?

Since I don't like to ask myself these questions, I just try to avoid it altogether.

Which is why, when my wife had on The Sure Thing Saturday night when I returned from the movies, I specifically tuned out. She was about 20 minutes in when I got there. She had already watched the movie, which she got several weeks earlier from Netflix, but was re-watching in order to take notes about what plot developments occurred at what junctures of the script. It was research for a road movie she's working on herself.

Now, this was not easy. I love The Sure Thing. Catching even 15 minutes of it here and there should only improve my affection for it, should show me things I might not have caught on my last viewing, or remind me of the parts that I know and love. And what's the harm in that?

But here's my unusual viewpoint on it, which you'll admit has some merit: The more I watch of it now as a partial viewing, the less inclined I'll be to sit down and watch the whole thing anytime soon. Partial credit now will delay full credit later on.

I experienced this phenomenon with another comedy I truly and dearly love, Dean Parisot's Galaxy Guest. My old roommate and I both loved this movie, and it happened to be on cable all the time in the last year or so I lived with him. We'd catch snippets of it here and snippets of it there. Though I've probably only seen the film from start to finish three times -- two of which were on consecutive days in the theater in 1999 -- I've probably seen enough parts of it for six or seven total viewings. Around that time, I also found the DVD in the store at a good price, but thought, "You know, I've seen this enough lately." And so a movie that I should by rights own, given how much I love it, has never made it into my collection, and I have yet to see it again.

I know this standard is unreasonable. But I've nonetheless lived by it probably since the middle of 2006. That's when I started keeping track of films I revisited, and the date I revisited them. That's when everything started "counting." And maybe this has made my intimacy with the films I love necessarily shallower. Maybe I can't quote lines from movies like I once could, though I'd argue that's because there are fewer quotable lines these days -- a subject for another time. But we eccentrics hold to our rules especially tightly, and this is one of mine.

I do make an exception to this rule now and again. When I find myself over at a friend's house, and the decision of the group is to catch the second half of a movie we love, I'll acquiesce. And in that case, I don't count it as a legitimate revisiting of the movie. It just goes unrecorded altogether, and, you know, that's ... fine. Of course it is, it's ... okay.

However, if it's a movie I haven't seen at all, I will do my best to put the kibosh on that particular partial viewing. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

So on Saturday, I watched about 20 minutes of the movie with my wife. Nowhere near enough time to make me wonder whether it "counted" or not. And besides, part of these 20 minutes included the sing-a-long with Tim Robbins and his wife in the car, and then John Cusack trying to freak out the dirty old man who picks up a hitchhiking Daphne Zuniga. "A guy who would rip your heart out and eat it ... just for pleasure!" Gets me every time.

But then I calmly pulled away from The Sure Thing. I got my ipod headphones, plugged them into my laptop, and listened to first some Azure Ray, then some Coldplay on my itunes until the movie was over. Making sure you don't partially see the movie is only half the battle. The other half is not partially hearing it.

Like all rules a film lover has, these too may be relaxed at some point in the future. But for now, and for me, watching movies is an all-or-nothing experience.

It's just the system I'm "partial" to.

1 comment:

Daddy Geek Boy said...

I could never just watch 20 minutes of The Sure Thing. I watch some, I must watch it all.

But you know that already.