Distracted Viewing

You’ll pardon me, I hope, if this article at time seems a little disjointed and more prone to meandering than even my usual rambles. It’s being written under the first dose of Vicodin for an infected broken tooth, and my body and mind aren’t quite used to the sensation just yet. I say this not to garner sympathy (feeling OK now, if a bit loopy), but rather to explain any unusual eccentricities (or errors) in my writing — and mainly to explain what got me thinking about this particular article’s point to begin with.

See, as I was drawing points of comparison with the urgent care nurse on the level of pain I was in this evening (yesterday evening by the time you read this), my closest point of comparison was the ordeal I went through when I had my lower wisdom teeth removed. And when I had some down time to think, I remembered the movies that I had added to my DVD collection shortly before I went in for that procedure.

When I had my lower wisdom teeth out (the uppers are still in there), I was 22 or 23 years old — I’m not sure exactly which now. It was my first surgical procedure. I’d never had any broken bones (and still haven’t). I’d had only a couple very minor cavities in my life, and no major tooth problems. The closest I’d had was a baby tooth that had needed to be forcibly removed when I was around 11 because the adult tooth was growing in over the top of it. So I didn’t really have any perspective on what sort of level of pain I might have after the extraction, or how cognizant I would be under the medication after. After all, aside from a tendency towards headaches, I’d essentially lived my life pain-free up to that point.

But I knew from talking to family and friends that the first few days typically hurt, and pain medication often leaves people fogbound. I understood that I probably wouldn’t be feeling up to doing anything physical, but that I might get bored laying around. So I picked up a few books (I don’t remember which), and a few movies on DVD. My selections were ¡Three Amigos!, UHF, and The Jerk — all but the last one being films I had already seen before. I remember my sister laughing and saying “But those movies are all stupid!” But that had been my specific criterion for picking out the films. I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything deep, and I wanted something that would make me feel good. So no cerebral sci-fi, no dramas that could bring me down. Just some silly dumb comedies. As it happened, it was more than a few days after the extraction before I felt remotely good enough to even watch those (the extraction was a bit of an ordeal, and Percocet turned out to not work properly on me). But when I was finally cogent enough to watch them, they did indeed help me to feel better about my situation… and I’m pretty sure that had I chosen “tougher” movies I wouldn’t have enjoyed them as much.

The truth is, there are a lot of times when my mood determines what I watch, and not just in the “I’m in the mood for sci-fi” sense. If I’m tired, I’m less likely to pick something that I think will require concentration. It’s why it took me a while to see Lawrence of Arabia, for example: not only did I have to set aside a four hour time block, it had to be one where I would be able to be alert and attentive and uninterrupted for all four hours. But if I’m just slightly tired, an action movie can wake me up the rest of the way, particularly if I’m watching it on the big screen. If I’ve had a hard day, I want something more uplifting (in dire cases, it’s time to break out The Muppet Movie). But by the same token, it’s going to have to be a genuinely funny comedy in that situation — if it’s not a laugh riot, I’m likely to be very hard on it, even if I might otherwise have given it some of the benefit of the doubt.

It’s part of the reason why I prefer to “sleep on it” between watching a movie and reviewing it. After a night’s sleep, I can still recall quite a bit of the movie, but any mood or attention issues are gone. I can evaluate my feelings on the movie and decide if they’re accurate or if they were being colored by outside factors. When I reviewed The Sting I knew that my fatigue at the time had been preventing me from seeing some of the cleverness until I had gotten some sleep and could look back on it.

Then there are the environmental factors as well. Horror movies are more effective after midnight than at 8 in the morning, so I always watch them late at night, in total darkness, and alone. I can enjoy comedies any time and with any number of people, but while I frequently watch them alone, I usually enjoy them more with company. Blockbusters are better on the big screen, though sometimes I wish I could view them without the audience (laughter is contagious, and that’s good, but “Whoa” gets annoying en masse). When at home, I have to admit I prefer watching them on my computer, where I can be relatively close to the screen, than on the living room TV where even under the best of viewing arrangements I’m aware of quite a bit of other stuff in the room.

When I review, I try to factor out any external issues that may have affected my enjoyment, but I’m sure it’s not 100%. But then, there are always going to be those factors. The best I can do is to try and mitigate them by being aware of them and accounting for them, and sometimes adjusting my viewing selections accordingly.

What external factors make you choose certain movies over another?

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
This entry was posted in Ramblings and Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Distracted Viewing

  1. ckckred says:

    Nice article. I usually try to watch a film depending on which mood I’m in.

  2. Spikor says:

    Mood affects me greatly. I’ve had, and wanted to watch, both Looper and Equilibrium for over a month now, but I was never in the mood for either genre.

    Then there’s what’s available to choose from. Before the Evil Dead bug bit me, I was in the middle of watching a few TV series, and when there’s another episode of a show I’m watching available, I’ll usually watch it. Then there were a few Canadian Indie pics that showed up on Netflix that had been on my radar for a long time. Then there were more shows… and then Evil Dead was pretty much all I could think about after the Season 3 finale of The Walking Dead. All of that helped to keep Looper and Equilibrium in the pan for a while, too.

    Whether or not I feel like writing about something has started to make a difference to me as well. Evil Dead Week came about from an then-temporarily abandoned Watching Dead post.

    Oh… and if you’re going to be stoned off your gourd on pain meds… Get some trippy animation shit going while you can, man. Waking Life or The Wall or some ball-out-crazy Anime.

    • Yeah, I understand the availability factor as well, especially with TV shows. Been working my way through Batman: Brave and the Bold lately, so there’s been a few times when I’ve opted to watch more of that than a movie.

      I’ll keep the animation recommendation in mind. Not sure I’ll be “stoned out of my gourd”, though… usually it’s only the first dose of a painkiller that affects me mentally (if that), and with this stuff, it was just making me sleepy. But we’ll see. I just took my second dose a few minutes ago…

  3. If you dont use all of those Vicadin, I’ll send you my mailing address and you can trade them in for some dvds 😉

    I second Spike’s recommendation of Waking Life. Or perhaps the other Linklater animation “A Scanner Darkly”. That one’s based on a Phillip K Dick story. 😀

    • Heh. Well, hopefully I won’t need but a few… the hope is that the antibiotic takes care of the infection quickly (no pain is better than painkiller, after all). But the way this whole ordeal has gone, I’m going to be holding on to any painkiller which works just in case I need it again. Wanted this damned tooth out in October…

      I read the PKD novel; very good, but holy moly is that book bleak. Deeeeeepressing. Powerful, though, no doubt about it. Especially Dick’s personal afterword.

  4. Tiredness is a big factor for me. I might have been waiting for ages to watch something in particular, but if I think there’s a chance I might fall asleep, then I probably won’t watch it. I’m rarely in the mood for a particular type of film though. Good article Morgan!

    • Thanks, Chris. Yeah, I get what you’re saying about tiredness. More than a few times I’ve decided not to watch something because I thought there was a risk I’d nod off.

  5. Will says:

    I definitely have a similar thing about selecting movies where I will avoid certain things based on how much attention I perceive it will need. I usually schedule the movies I want to do in a month so that kind of restricts me from putting stuff off too long (although there are still movies that I’ve been putting off for years). As an example just a couple of days ago I had a choice between martial arts, comedy and horror, and I went comedy because I just didn’t feel up to care about a story. I often find it hard to choose from a broad range of things, so the scheduling I do is something that helps me sort through the noise and pick between 3-5 films instead of 300-500.

    In terms of reviewing a movie, I always write immediately after watching. I then let it sit for a few days and edit it accordingly, enhancing the raw thoughts there and adding things that have developing the days after. It works for me very well.

    • Aside from the Halloween Haunters and the occasional Christmas film, most of my viewing choices tend to be “at whim”. Even the Favorite Films are usually decided fairly close to when I post them. But I can definitely see the advantages of planning things out. The closest I really get to that is keeping an eye on when things expire from my Hulu queue.

      I figure a lot of people probably do their reviews right after they finish watching. I might have to do a post about the review process in general just to get everybody’s takes.

Leave a comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s