Watching films as a kid was brilliant. It was better than now. You have no context for what is happening to relate to rent bills or dinosaurs or a mother in law. We would watch each movie and take in the world presented to us by those moving pictures as a truth. It was immersive and magical.
This was before Netflix in a time where the back of the box was read over and over again. We started building our first impression of what the movie would be like rather than being critical of who was in it and the cost or amount of CGI. When film trailers were something we were excited to see before a movie started rather than a reminder of something in our social media’s news feeds.
We all remember the films we saw growing up. You just do. How about now though? Can you name not the last film you saw or the one before or even the one before that one? Can you?
It probably had Jonah Hill in it or Nicolas Cage. No? Same here.
We live in a new age where everything is at our fingertips. We don’t have to plan and look forward to things in this digital age. We can just stream from a service or failing that just torrent what we want. Convenience has started to become so rife that our previous conveniences are looking just the opposite of helpful.
High streets are becoming betting and kebab shops as small retailers are being drowned out by the internet land with its delivering power. As the high street struggles – and I’ll include cinemas with them – their prices rise and with it the internet’s advantage grows. We are losing places that we bump into each other and make off the cuff plans for the weekend, plans for the Summer, plans to catch up are losing their opportunities. How many times have you “bumped” into someone on Facebook?
I remember after a cinema trip we would go get KFC and all talk about the film we had just seen; The Flintstones, Pokemon, Jurassic Park. The majority of the films I saw at the cinema in the late 90s were with my sister and cousin. Our grandparents had their movie and KFC routine. We didn’t know at the time but we were taking in more of the movie we had watched than we realised to make our post movie KFC conversations an extension of the made up world we had just seen. This was when “We’ve seen that” actually was a valid response to not see a movie when it came out on VHS.
The key to this all though was that as children we were taking in the whole film remembering it in one sitting.
Which when you think about it is like trying to remember the order of a pack of cards just as WoooooSSSHH!! the magician flashes the pack with a flick of his wrist before your eyes. They all fly past. 52 cards per a second.
You’ve got to watch Jurrassic Park like that, it is slightly easier as films flick past at only 24 frames per second. Oh and films have sound. And a plot to follow interrupted by dinosaurs. You’ve seen the film.
Now we wouldn’t systematically file the film away frame by frame. We built the world presented into our minds and let the story on the screen make one establishing arc of narrative but we left room for the world to be built upon.
After watching the lawyer meet his comeuppance in Jurassic Park I’m sure everyone thought “Imagine what school would be like if a T-Rex came storming through the ceiling and ate the teacher!”. Did you ever look out the car window and see the trees shooting past and between them see those little fern trees and wonder if a spitting dinosaur was still chasing a little fat man around as he tries to protect his squirty cream dino DNA can? Ever been for a walk on a nature trial and wonder if that rustle in the distance was something more sinister than just a rabbit foraging?
This is what made horror films growing up more visceral but we wouldn’t realise until we reach an age where the left side of our brain takes over and adds reasoning to the world. Stephen King’s IT is still a provoking movie but there is an entire generation that grew up with an artificially wrapped imagined world with evil clowns. Even now with reasoning and the knowledge that Pennywise from IT was just Tim Curry in a clown costume won’t consul them. Especially when the sheets are hanging out on the line to dry!
This magical power keeps the hope of hover boards alive, the hopes of time travel being only around the corner, the hope that if we dig in the garden we might find a safari board game. If you can imagine it then the world of play can make it happen.
There is a place though where all these adventures can be combined with the guarantee that nothing would ever hurt us.
Sleep is a powerful state of conciseness that studies still have not completely understood. We use sleep as a time to recharge but also to disconnect our verbally reasoned actions and connect into our creative powers to understand what we have been seeing, feeling and doing. Have you ever stayed up late trying to beat that annoying level on your SNES, Mega Drive or Playstation to pull yourself away to go to bed and then wake up in the morning and ace it?
Dreams man, dreams!
Now take that we used to make worlds from what we see on film, TV and video games and you may remember the many times you’ve dreamed of being in the movies you’ve watched. Sometimes before you’ve even seen them just from your own self built hype and excitement. Not all of the characters from those films were in your dreams but you remember distinctively having a similar adventure. Flying an X-Wing fighter or having a cape or dodging Matrix bullets. Or if you are my Sister having dreams of being a bus driver in Grand Theft Auto.
Now we have a generation that has convenience at its finger tips and in return we are passing it on to our children. By removing or heavily restricting the element of looking forward to things we reduce the time that we start building these play centres in our minds and in turn the learning process that they help us understand our realities with.
Piracy is the ultimate form of convenience and skips the boxes, skips the planning, skips the saving of coins for a ticket, skips the interpersonal relationships improved by a group activity, it skips the KFC meal. We plumb things straight to our eyes and ears and it ends there. We do it on our own.
How do we improve this?
It isn’t to bash the convenience of what is a step forward into the future. I’ve spent a lot of time recently learning the art of mindfulness and it has become a powerful tool. Take a moment right now and try and feel exactly what each of your senses is telling you. You can see these words but what is around you? What can you hear? Are you outside? Can you hear airplanes above you? Are you indoors? Can you hear the sound of other people? What do you smell? Can you tell if it has rained recently? Can you smell food? What do you feel? Are you sitting down? Are you warm or cold? Is your mouth dry? Just take this moment and remove the filters you never realised have grown into your perception of our reality. Clear your mind. If you find it difficult then as a thought enters your mind just acknowledge it and return to taking in your surroundings. This is easier with the eyes closed at first, with your hands on your stomach to use your breathing as a point of reference for everything else. When you do open your eyes try and see everything and not just the patterns that our brains tell us are trees or buildings or the sky.
As children we would run into a garden and find everything interesting regardless of how muddy or difficult it is to climb around. As adults we walk into a garden and are reminded that this isn’t the office or that the grass needs cutting or some other future activity.
We live in a world where we can do anything right now and yet ironically we are forever ignoring the now and present to wonder about the future. There is one thing to remember about the future; it will never happen by its very own definition. The most important time is the one you exist in and that is the present.
Instead we are spoon-feeding ourselves lumps of times to pass. We aren’t immersing ourselves within the present.
Movies weren’t any better when we were younger. You’ve only got to watch Jaws, The Terminator or Killer Klowns from Outer Space to see the special effects were terrible but our mindset was different. We believed them as real and immersed ourselves within them and as an end result we got more from them.
To close I want to leave a clip from my favourite film of all time: