Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Limits of the bird-in-the-hand theory

Some movies are just destined never to be watched.

I usually subscribe to the "bird in the hand beats two in the bush" theory when it comes to movies. Or, "possession is nine points of the law." (That phrase is alternately misunderstood as "possession is nine-tenths of the law.") In other words, when I have a movie in my possession, that is reason alone to watch it, even if it came into my possession by accident.

Take, for example, the 2000 movie Sleepover, directed by John Sullivan. I never meant to have this movie. I meant to put the 2004 movie Sleepover, directed by Joe Nussbaum, on my Blockbuster queue, in order to review it. The first is a low-budget coming of age story, the second is a pastel-colored tween movie that (I just noticed) happens to feature Steve Carell and Jane Lynch among a cast of mostly 14-year-old girls. And it's really too bad there was this mixup, because a movie my wife might not ordinarily want to watch seemed just the ticket when she was feeling sick one of the nights last week. When I removed it from the mailing sleeve, however, I saw my mistake. This other Sleepover did not seem like cinematic comfort food for the sick -- just look at that washed out poster.

But it wasn't reviewed on my website either, so the thing that made the most sense to me was to watch it anyway, some other night. Then I would put in to review it later on. You know, a bird in the hand beats two in the bush. Or something like that. All part of a stupid philosophy that if you rent something from Blockbuster as part of a monthly unlimited package, which means the cost of any one rental is quite intangible, you are losing some intangible quantity of value if you return a movie unwatched. A stupid philosophy that I, in fact, already picked apart in this post.

So I tried to start watching the movie last Monday night. You know, the same night I missed work because I'd scratched my cornea the day before. I wanted to rest my eyes, but I'd already slept a ton that day, so I thought I'd have a better bet of sleeping through the night if I extended my evening's activities past, say, 9 o'clock. I turned off all the lights in my bedroom and put Sleepover on my portable DVD player. I watched about 20 minutes of the movie this way -- with my sunglasses on -- before finally deciding it was too much. The subpar quality of the movie couldn't have helped.

I tried to do the same thing going to bed on Tuesday, figuring I'd make it a little further into the movie, and might eventually watch the whole thing this way. But I guess I was more tired than I thought, having strained my eyes throughout a full workday, so I literally watched about one more minute of the movie before shutting it off.

I figured for sure I'd watch the remaining 70-80 minutes on Thursday when we went to see our tax guy. Our tax guy is notorious for making us wait sometimes as long as 90 minutes from our scheduled appointment time -- good thing he gets us such a good return. Last year, in fact, I watched almost a whole movie (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for the second time) in his waiting room. That was a quality way to pass the time -- Sleepover, however, seemed to be quite the opposite. Instead of even powering on my DVD player, I entertained myself with Entertainment Weekly, and checking emails and facebook on my phone.

When yesterday afternoon rolled around, meaning it was almost six days since I'd started watching the movie, I decided it was time to give up on it and at least use it as a trade-in for another movie at Blockbuster. My wife and I were in need of something to watch on Valentine's Day, having failed to plan for that like we did last year. So I brought Sleepover with me to the Kia dealership, where we bought her a new car -- the first new car she's ever owned. Quite ridiculously, I stuffed the DVD in my shorts pocket while we were working out the whole transaction. (Couldn't leave it in the car, because my wife was trading it in.) Naturally, we ended up being so tired from an afternoon of nerves, second-guessing, self-loathing, and ultimately glee, followed several hours later by more self-loathing and the inevitable remorse at having spent too much money, that we didn't even stop at the Blockbuster on the way home.

So today, I just dropped Sleepover in the mail, its envelope all effed up from spending the afternoon in my pocket.

Sorry, Mr. Sullivan. Someone else will have to review your movie, in some other lifetime.

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