Monday, May 9, 2011

The twice-rented rule

When you rent movies from the library -- you can get up to three for two days at a time -- you end up renting/borrowing a lot of movies that don't end up getting watched. With no cost associated (for an on-time return, that is), there's no real incentive to make sure you watch what you've borrowed. But it also doesn't really make sense to rent fewer than three, even if you know you will only have the chance to watch one. What if you end up getting sick, and your cable is out? You'll be glad for the extra two. Not to mention the fact that it gives you options depending on your mood.

But I do have one rule that I've developed about renting/borrowing from the library, which is that if I don't watch a movie the first time I borrow it, I have to watch it the second time. Or, let's put it this way -- I try especially hard to watch it the second time.

That was part of the reason Lost in Space finally got watched this weekend.

On Saturday afternoon I stocked up for my first few days when my wife and son are out of town. Okay, "few days" is not exactly accurate -- I only have today after work before the movies are due back tomorrow. But since the Los Angeles libraries are no longer open on Mondays (and were never open Sundays), I needed to go Saturday if I wanted to have movies to watch when I get home today. (I've of course got plenty of options on Netflix streaming, but I sometimes like being inspired on what to watch by choosing from a finite selection -- hence the library.)

After sweeping through from A to Z, I was carrying about ten DVDs, which is pretty typical. You can rent only three, but until you've gone all the way through, you don't know which three those will be. I pared it down to two movies I want to revisit -- Moulin Rouge! and Deep Impact -- and I wanted to have the third movie be something I hadn't seen. I don't want to tax my brain too much on my first evening home alone, so I decided to go for something frivolous, and Lost in Space fit the bill just fine.

But after I left the library, I couldn't imagine a scenario arising where I would actually watch Lost in Space before it was due back. The first chunk of my afternoon/evening (I'm working the early shift today and getting off at 2:30) will be consumed by the Celtics-Heat game, and watching two movies after that may be a bit ambitious (as discussed here). If I were to watch two movies tonight, I knew it would probably be the other two, not the 130-minute Lost in Space, which I knew was probably not very good. (It's one of those movies I always knew I'd see eventually, and not being able to imagine any organic reason why that eventuality should arise, I figured I'd force it.)

However, then I thought of my informal "twice-rented rule." This would be the second time out for Lost in Space, which also came home with me over the long weekend last Thanksgiving, if memory serves.

And thank goodness for the twice-rented rule, because without it, I might not have discovered an excellent way to get an extra movie into my weekly viewing schedule.

You see, I'm always trying to figure out ways to get my son out of his mother's hair for a couple hours at a time. The time to do this on the weekdays is fairly short. I get home at 4, and the bedroom routine -- which starts with dinner and goes on to bath time and a story -- begins only 90 minutes later at 5:30. On the weekends, however, I can provide my wife really long blocks of open time. If, that is, I can figure out how to keep my son occupied the entire time.

Errands can cover some of that, but what if I don't want to spend any money? (Almost all errands involve money, don't they?) I realized this past weekend that I can take him in to work. My office has a skeleton crew on Saturday and no crew at all on Sunday. And even on Saturday, the skeleton crew is in other areas of the building, not the area of the building where I sit.

So this past weekend, I watched Lost in Space in two halves, one each day, while sitting at my desk. I wasn't bothering anybody, nobody was bothering me, and my son was just fascinated to be in a new location. Most importantly, my wife got some time at home to wrap up loose ends before leaving the country.

And Lost in Space? Well, I was digging it for the first half. I thought the effects were reasonably special, Gary Oldman was a treat in full-on mustache-twirling villain mode, and even the sci-fi concepts seemed to make a certain amount of sense. However, when the movie became too ambitious -- moving beyond spacial loss to temporal loss and time travel -- it fell apart. I admired almost enough about the movie to give it a thumbs up -- but not quite. Still, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

And if it paves the way to watching an extra movie a week in the comfort of my office, then it'll have been well worth the viewing indeed.

Thanks, twice-rented rule! You're the best!

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