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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Does Size Matter?

Just earlier this evening, the Wave-inatrix dined with a dear, old friend. We discussed the Philip Seymour Hoffman movie BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD. I told my friend I didn't particularly enjoy the movie. Oh, she said, it must be because you saw it on dvd, not on the big screen. And the Wave-inatrix thought - no, I just didn't care for it. I thought the writing was superlative (almost too good) but the movie just didn't pick up any emotional traction for me. I didn't care, in other words. Rather, I went on, I loved EASTERN PROMISES, and thought it was a far superior movie.

But it got the Wave-inatrix to thinking - how much more (or less) impact does a movie make if you see it on the big screen? Can or does it affect the experience to the point of liking or disliking the material? The Wave-inatrix has been lucky enough to view a large number of screeners of current (and upcoming) movies, sparing the time, trouble and expense of the movie theater. Is that a bad thing? Of the dozen movies I have seen in the comfort of my own home lately, DEVIL has been the only one that didn't stick, per se.

So the Wave-inatrix throws it out there to Wavers to ponder: does size matter?

ShowHype: hype it up!

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Phil D said...

I think that if a character or story are really good and you connect with them, it doesn't matter what you watch the film on, you should be sucked in to that world.

That said, there is an added layer of magic to seeing a film on the big screen. Makes us feel like children, or reminds us of being a child again.

The communal act of watching a film with an audience can definitely help a weaker film seem better. Jokes are funnier, scares more terrifying, dramas more touching. I remember seeing Signs in a cinema packed with teenage girls, and their shrieks and squeals definitely added to the enjoyment of that film.

But good cinema no matter what its genre should be about showing the human condition shouldn't it! When you watch a film as part of an audience your not only sharing the audio/visual experience, but also the collective experience; gasping, laughing, crying, together. That in turn makes you realize on some level that your just like everyone else.

Unfortunately, with noisy kids, fractious teenagers, and mobile phones the cinema experience can be less than ideal these days.

...apologies for post length.

The Other Pete said...

I think for character dramas (and most independent films), seeing them on DVD actually enhances the experience. It creates a much more intimate experience between the characters and me. It's as if I'm inviting these people into my home and spending time with them.

Naturally, the reverse would be true for big blockbusters, where that kind of intimacy isn't really necessary or expected. In those cases, the collective aspect of being in a crowd is a big part of the movie's appeal.

JPS said...

Let me throw this idea into the ring for consideration: does a smaller, intimate movie such as "Before the Devil Knows Your Dead" have a stronger impact when that intimacy is seen up close (i.e. on the big screen)?

Personally, one of the things I loved about the picture was just that--its "smallness", in which big things take place. It's a bit more like life, I think.

Jake said...

I'm lucky. I get to see hundreds of movies every year for free, especially this time of year they arrive via mail and messenger, DVDs all.

Then, of course, are the free screenings.

And sometimes I even pay to sit next to some loudmouth who feels the psychotic need to talk back to the people on screen (here's a hint idiot: they can't hear you, so please stop)...

Movies were meant to be seen on screen, it's part of the whole reason they were invented in the first place...otherwise it be called TV and we all know how mind-number that experience can be.

I prefer movies on the big screen. Popcorn. Cold drink. Small, uncomfortable seats. Rude people. Long lines. The whole bit.

Dane said...

Ideally, I think seeing films on the big screen enhances the experience. But with multiplexes split into tiny theaters that have screens about the size of some people's home theaters, and obnoxious talkers, it usually detracts from the experience. I have a client who gives me free movie passes, so I do go occasionally, but there are few films I'd actually pay to see. If I had an art house near me, I would probably go to the theater more often. Most of what I watch is on DVD. I like being able to control volume and stop the movie if I need to, and rewind if I miss a crucial line. And after watching the movie, I like being able to access director's commentary and extra features if I feel so inclined.

Hugo Fuchs said...

The only thing the big screen does for me is enhance action movies. Dramas are either good or they're not. Comedies can be enhanced by an audience, whether large screen or small.

Julie Gray said...

You make a good point about action movies, Hugo - movies like GLADIATOR, THE 300 or THE BOURNE IDENTITY are definitely way more fun on a big screen with the thunderous surround-sound. I just mentioned that I saw The Savages the other day. I enjoyed it of course, but I feel the experience would have been quite similar watching it at home.

Kel said...

Thank you for your delightfully left handed compliment!

Kelly Masterson

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine watching drama like THERE WILL BE BLOOD on DVD and would feel the same way about this movie. The strangest world, in realism sense, I've encountered since THE GOD FATHER. Size does matter! Have you tried watching movies, any genre, on an iPod?

The experience of being with an audience is a different story. I don't mind an audience as long as I don't hear a bleep, not even loud breathing, much less chewing food, candy wrappers, and a killer "talking to the characters". So my choice is big screen, empty theater. But living in NYC, the latter is not an option. So one of these day I will have my own private theater and you're all invited for screening as long as noise is checked at the door. Can you eat popcorn silently?

Jay B. said...

what does David Lynch think about size?

Laura Reyna said...

Coming late to this but...

My husband and I stopped going to the movies about 7 years ago. Steve put together a non-fancy home theater setup: Big roll down screen & projector hooked up to his computer. Our screen is bigger than a reg TV but smaller than a movie theater screen.

I noticed I liked the movie watching experience more (less expense, comfy chairs, zero jerks), and liked the movies themselves just as much as before.

I've concluded that it's not necessarily the size of the screen that determines the enjoyment of the movie-- it's the CONCENTRATION you bring to the movie.

If you concentrate on a movie, w/o distractions, you tend to like it more.

What made the traditional theater going experience so effective was that the audience was pretty much a captive audience. They were stuck in the dark with nothing to look at but this big screen in front of their faces.

At home the screen is smaller, the lights are most likely on, there is stuff all around to distract you. You aren't CONCENTRATING exclusively on the movie. Consequently, you aren't as engaged, you miss little details and emotional nuances.

So in order to enjoy movies more, whatever size your screen is, get as close to it as possible. Turn off the lights, go to the bathroom, get your food ready before the movie starts. Do everything you can so you're ready to give the movie your full attention. I bet you'll have a better experience no matter the size of the movie or size of your screen.