Thursday, June 23, 2011

Feeling a Little Distracted

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'.

6 better thoughts:

Custard said...

HAHA I know this one all too well!!

I am like the Home Cinema Gestapo!! I have banned phones laptops or any electrical devices in the film area. I hate it when we put a film on and I might as well be watching it on my own...The worst offender to me is when my wife finds the need to tell me her problems of her day just as the all important opening act opens up!!

I sound a bit obsessive don't i? Maybe I need help

Sam Fragoso said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam Fragoso said...

I have to go to the restroom during nearly every film I see in theaters. Mainly because I'm usually drinking something throughout - but still, it's annoying.

As for what you're talking about *tetris" and texting and all that other shit ... I do it occasionally, try not to. I pause typically. But if it's a film I have to review (screeners for example) I really try not to do anything but watch and take notes.

However, they're times where I just put on a flick to be backdrop for whatever I'm doing on my computer. Example: going around sites and leaving comments from blog to blog can get tedious - but with a film in the background ... it's not so bad.

How do you thinking I'm writing something on your site right now?

All joking aside, I could never do that to the all famous Univarn :D

Good post Ryan.

Alex said...

Ha I feel like maybe this whole post is about me? That's ok though. Since I was a kid I've been a crazy multi-tasker, often reading a book or drawing or playing gameboy while watching tv.

Now I make a point to shut my computer off when I'm watching something serious or with subtitles, but I do enjoy making jokes on twitter if I'm watching a comedy that I've seen before, or a schlocky movie that doesn't require 100% attention. If I feel like I haven't paid enough attention to something or if I've missed big parts of it because I'm doing something else, I don't review it.

Unknown said...

I had this problem a lot until recently. I try and watch a movie a day for my blog, and I was working on an MBA until earlier this month. Sometimes the two coincided with unpleasant results and I'd have to take the movie back to a point where I knew what was going on.

Dylan said...

This is like murder - it's about intent.

It's one thing for me to have the TV on while sitting there with the laptop on, well, my lap, as I surf both the internet and the cable channels in search of something. But if I'm sitting down to watch a movie, I watch the freaking movie. The computer is put to sleep, and I have no desire to open it. Nor am I a person that must have my phone connected to me at all times (helps that I don't have a real smart phone).

That said, I've got friends I know who do this. They claim to be watching something, only to be messaging me on FB at the same time. Well, obviously, you ain't watching much, are ya?

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