Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scrolling Movies

While I was taking a break from writing I did a lot of movie watching, as always, but I also engaged in my newest favorite pastime, scrolling through movies. That's what I call it, at least. When I say, "I'm going to going to go scroll through some movies," what I mean is I'm going to take movies I've already seen, find them on Netflix Instant, and scroll through the thumbnails until I find a scene I want to watch. Like this:


For years, my goal was to have every movie I wanted to see at my fingertips, a goal shared by most cinephiles. First there was cable, which provided a lot more availability of titles but not at one's beck and call. Then came VHS which put the movie in one's hands but the fast forward and rewinding capabilities left much to be desired. Then came DVD which constituted a vast improvement. Now scenes could be "jumped" to but, still, there was the menu screen options, the chapter listings and then having to fast forward to the particular part once you've made it to the chapter. Now, with Netflix Instant, the dream of every cinephile is coming true.


Like most cinephiles, I've watched thousands of movies, thousands. And, like most, I think of them, scenes from them, lines from them, often. But I don't want to grab a stack of DVDs, go to the tv, load them in one by one, wait for the menu to come up, jump to the scene, etc. What I want, and what I now do, is waste (only I don't think it's wasted) hours at my laptop clicking on a movie I love and going to a favorite scene. Or, hell, picking a movie I think is a pile of crap but nevertheless has a few cool moments I'd like to see again. Or just going to the closing credits because there's a piece of music I'd like to hear.


Scrolling movies is dangerous though because it really can take up hours and hours of your time, especially when you realize half the shows from your childhood are now on Instant and you can spend, oh, let's say an hour just watching opening credit sequences from them. Like Mission: Impossible. Each credit sequence shows scenes from the upcoming episode. I watched it as a kid and when I saw it was available on Instant I immediately starting going through the opening sequences. I watched a few episodes in their entirety too but mainly, I focused on the openings.


Streaming movies offer cinephiles the ability to conduct their own film seminars in miniature where a film is dissected frame by frame. The seminar can last hours (sometimes I'll watch a movie, go back when it's done and pull out scene for further examination) or minutes as multiple films are explored. And the thumbnails take all the guesswork out of fast-forwarding or rewinding, allowing the cinephile the ability to stop right at the moment they want to watch.

It can also help reevaluate a movie. Sometimes in watching a moment or two from a film I originally found lackluster, I'll discover it's better than I remembered and end up watching the whole thing. Sometimes, the opposite occurs and I realize the scene wasn't that great and neither is the rest of the movie. It almost acts as a way of keeping up on your studies, so to speak. Rather than let a false memory, good or bad, linger and fester, you can go right to the source and make sure it's how you remembered it.


Now that it's here, there's no going back. I'll continue to scroll and, from time to time, report back on a scene or a moment or a line that led to a rediscovery. The fact is, after several decades of watching movies, I've frankly forgotten a lot of the details of films I saw in the beginning of my love for film and scrolling allows me to refresh my memory, one frame at time.