By Mark Brennan
One of the best things about a movie geek becoming a father is thinking of all the many films you will inflict on your child that YOU loved as a child.
As a product of the early '80s, the many titles I will force upon my daughter’s eyeballs and ears will include The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, Labyrinth, Transformers: The Movie, The Dark Crystal (I might wait until she’s a little older for that one) and E.T to name but a few. She’s only a few months old so I have to wait a few years, but there’s no harm in being ready and stockpiling Blu-rays now (that’s right, wife… everyone here agrees with me). It’s exciting to think about passing these gems down to the next generation. It’s exciting to have a flashback to being thrilled for the first time, and the chance to relive even a fraction of that child-like wonder through the eyes of a child I’ve miraculously created is a giddy prospect. After all, if I loved them then she will too… right?
This got me thinking about how SHE will experience the movies for herself as she grows up. One huge difference in her world to the one I grew up in will be the overwhelming abundance of entertainment content coming from every technological orifice the planet has to offer, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Satellite TV, streaming, downloading, tablets, PCs and smart phones saturate society now, and while I’m not enough of a curmudgeon to rue their rise, I do wonder if their prominence will keep my daughter from seeing the "event" of discovering one new movie.
Back in my day (he says out the corner of his mouth, hand on aching back), going to the cinema or renting a movie was massive. Massive. And the reason was that I was not inundated with content from anywhere else. While cinema may still be a marvel for today’s young viewers, it’s the sad fall of video rental that brings a movie melancholy to my nostalgic mind. Now that was an event. It was a trip, a journey. It was a "yes, we’re getting in the car to go to the video shop, a popcorn and Doritos filled Disneyland" kind of wonderful thing.
I remember heading to Ritz Video when I was really young, then later Blockbuster Video, and seeing row after row, shelf after shelf of films, all with their weird & wonderful cover art staring invitingly back at me. Which one would I chose? What adventures did each of them hold? Did it look scary? Did it look like it was boring love stuff? Did it look like one mum and dad would let me get away with (a question not needed when Nan took us to the shop, she was oblivious to anything we picked out – “Robocop please, Nan”)?
I had to spend a good amount of time checking and re-checking my shortlist, arms full of boxes. I had to get this right. I had to get this right because the film I chose would be IT. I couldn’t just stream or download something else. There was no satellite TV. I wouldn’t be taken back to pick something different. If I picked a stinker my night was ruined. I’d have to watch Casualty with mum and dad before going to bed feeling totally unfulfilled and cursing myself for picking Dune or Blade Runner (which both looked cool on the cover but were actually boring as shit*) instead of The Monster Squad or even Little Monsters. When we found a belter, though, we'd rewind it and watch again immediately.
Either way, it made finding my movie that much more exciting. Like putting a bet on a horse race or football match, I had a vested interest. As a movie fan in the iTunes era, I love having so much choice at my fingertips, literally at the touch of a button, but there is something about that journey out of the house and the "gamble" that I miss, even as an adult, and wonder if it’s something my daughter will miss out on entirely.
So what do I do? "Movie Night" will definitely be a thing in our house. Not just putting the telly on and getting something on demand, but taking her to HMV (nearest thing to a video shop, if it’s still around) or gathering all the films I’ve got and giving her a video shop of her own to peruse and choose. Maybe that will come close. Maybe she won’t care in the slightest and daddy should stop projecting. The good news, however, is that daddy has five or six years to figure it out. I’ll let you know how it goes.
* Now I’m grown up, I can see Blade Runner is actually not that bad...