So the other day I was texting my friend about a tweet I just sent them referencing a facebook wall post telling them to look at an email about this movie I was watching at the time.
A while back I admitted on an episode of the Matineecast about my bad habit of playing Tetris on my phone when I got bored with a movie at home. Sure, I could have just turned off the movie and concentrated wholly on the game on my phone, but then what would I do if I got bored of Tetris?! What if the movie suddenly got good? I was playing a game of odds. Two distractions means less likelihood of being bored than one. Unfortunately, I was only touching the tip of a very steep iceberg.
So, I stopped playing Tetris while a movie was playing. If the movie lost me, I hit pause - noted the time I was at - and went and did something else. Maybe I'd come back to the movie later, maybe I'd wait until I was in a right mood and would try again. But I made myself a promise - I wouldn't try and judge a movie I wasn't really paying attention to. Not surprisingly, there was a consequence of this compromise. I started looking at other people who do the same thing. It was then that I realized... my playing Tetris, hell I wasn't even little league by comparison to some. Some, if they weren't carrying full conversations on twitter, facebook, and writing articles while they're supposed to be watching a movie, they'd probably self-implode from lack of sensory excitement.
Still, it's not my place to judge your average viewer who finds one distraction far too limiting. No, while I don't condone their want to treat distractions like batch processes, they're fully entitled to do so. What I do have a problem with, however, is critics - paid or otherwise - reviewing movies they're not really paying attention to. I won't name names, but they range from those I think little of to those I've long respected. It's a slippery slope - an overused phrase I know - and one that I think is very easy to stumble down.
It starts rather innocently. You get a message from someone on Facebook or Twitter, decide the movie is in a slow spell, and sneak over to the laptop for a quick reply. No biggie. Certainly no big deal when you consider the time spent when one steps out for the bathroom in the middle of a film at the theater. Sometimes things happen, and you can take a couple of minutes here and there. That's it, really. There has to be a cap somewhere, and I'd place it at about the 5 - 10 minutes range for every 2hrs run-time range (arbitrary, I know).
Beyond that and you're really pushing one's ability to accurately judge something. Because let's be honest, you have no idea what it is you're missing. None, nada, zilch. You could be missing that moment of solitary character study that initiates the emotional connection, the exposition sequence that explains what the villain is really after, or ten minutes of a character just banging his head against the wall. How can you judge an entire film if you're short a significant number of the pieces to the puzzle?
And I do think that the opposite requirement - sacrificing 100% of one's concentration to watching a film - is unrealistic. People are going to take bathroom breaks, movies will be paused, and while the timeliness of those may be more important than we give them credit for, it's part of the movie watching experience. But do us a favor, if you're going to go off into a three hour conversation - hit the pause button. It's the least you can do. Though I will say this: If you hit the pause button more than ten times while watching a movie on a consistent basis, you lose your right to complain about TV commercials interrupting the flow of a film. Just sayin'.