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?