Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The era of partial viewings
My son turned two on Saturday.
Before the day was out, he had seen both Up and Toy Story.
Parts of them, anyway.
In his two years of existence, we've had a strict rule not to introduce him to TV. That doesn't mean we'd make sure the TV was off if he were in the room. We just made sure that whatever was on TV didn't interest him. Baseball has been my programming of choice in that regard. It doesn't interest my wife, either -- two birds with one stone.
But we always knew that when he turned two, we would slowly introduce him to the kind of programming where he was the intended demographic. I decided to take that literally by showing him Up on the morning of his second birthday, even though he technically didn't turn two until 9:35 a.m.
Why Up? I have no great love for it. I appreciate it more upon every viewing (this would be my third), but I still consider it to be in the lower half of Pixar's movies. We only own it at all because my sister gave it to me as a Christmas present that year. Loved the idea of trying to get me DVDs she thought I'd like, and though she scored only a minor hit with this one, she scored a major one with Inglourious Basterds.
I considered showing him Inglourious Basterds, thinking he might really get something out of the scene where Eli Roth cracks open that Nazi's head with a baseball bat. But Up was the movie of choice, because my son had taken it off the shelf a couple times and given a long look at Kevin, the colorful bird sought out by Charles F. Muntz come hell or high water. (As I've always said -- just go back to society and show everyone you've invented a collar that translates the thoughts of dogs into speech. Much more impressive than proving the existence of an elusive bird.)
"Duck!" my son proclaimed upon looking at Kevin. In his world, all birds that look even vaguely like a duck, are a duck. (He loves dogs even more than ducks, but the satellite dish around Doug's head may have kept my son from identifying Doug as a canine.)
So I decided to show him the movie with the duck in it for his birthday.
Of course, the duck doesn't come into the movie until 30 minutes in. So I had to ask myself: Do I show him Up from the beginning, or from 30 minutes in?
But the question was really this: Am I showing him Up for him, or for me?
You see, if you know me, and if you read this post way back in 2009, you know that I don't really love watching parts of movies. This wasn't always the case. But when I started keeping track not only of the new movies I watched, but also of the favorites I revisited, everything started to "count." Strict adherence to lists has a way of doing that. Since I didn't want to face the dilemma of whether watching 25 minutes of a movie means that it "counted" as a viewing, I decided to just stop catching bits of movies here and there. I'll either watch all of it or watch none of it.
See, that kind of absolutism is not possible with children. And I ought to resign myself to it sooner rather than later. My friends who have older children have seen parts of some Pixar movies in the multiple dozens of times. I imagine I soon will be that guy, too.
Soon, but not yet.
Terminal completist that I am, I showed him Up from the beginning.
And was amazed at his apparent capacity for absorbing the movie. He sat there, sucking his fingers, staring raptly at the screen, long past the point I dared hope he'd do so. Those first 30 minutes, until Kevin makes his entrance, are pretty adult-oriented, all told. Yeah, you get a little bit of young Carl and young Ellie, but then you get a montage of their life together and old Carl's cantankerous interactions with various city officials. It would be easy for a child of four, let alone two, to lose his focus during that part.
And so I breathed a sigh of relief when Carl unveils the massive bunch of balloons that will carry him to Paradise Falls. I knew this would hold my son's attention for a bit longer, even if it had been flagging to that point. And it did hold his attention, though his attention hadn't seemed to be flagging.
Strangely enough, it was right at about the point that Kevin was ready to appear that he finally stopped being interested in the movie. And maybe he's just my son in that regard. He knew that the movie was on track until that point, and that it kind of starts to meander once Carl and his rotund boy scout stowaway Russell land near Paradise Falls. Maybe he, like me, thought it was a curious choice to shift the action from their wondrous airborne adventures, to their adventures lugging around the house like an overgrown kite, followed around by an annoying bird and an idiot dog.
He did show limited interested in both Kevin and Doug, but by then, he had other jobs around the living room that needed his attention.
Me, I kept watching as long as I could. I missed big chunks of the third act while preparing his birthday pancake breakfast, but I still felt that it "counted" as a viewing, and recorded it in my lists as such.
When my wife decided to show him Toy Story in the afternoon, I caught little bits, but mostly decided to stay out of it. I watched about 20-25 assorted minutes and decided that this did not "count." (Besides, we just watched Toy Story earlier this year, and I didn't want to have my enjoyment of it ruined by another viewing so soon afterward -- especially since my most recent viewing was the least enthused I had felt about it in any of my half-dozen viewings.)
But if my son's childhood is anything like the childhoods of my friends' kids, I'll soon have my appreciation of plenty of terrific animated movies ruined.
Maybe I'll just strategize to buy him only the crappy ones, so I won't care if I start hating them.