4 Ways Watching Movies Used To Be More Fun

Philip Bates 21-10-2015

Picture this: You’re sorting through masses of DVDs: you’re keeping some while others are destined for the thrift store.


Then you ask yourself, why have you lost your enthusiasm for these movies? Why isn’t your imagination being grabbed by films as much as it used to be in the past?

If you’re like me, you might not have even realized that your enthusiasm for movies is waning. I blame technology, at least in part. It’s not the good old days. I’m sure watching movies used to be more fun…


PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones: we’ve got more screens than windows I Stared at Screens for 48 Hours and Here's What Happened... I recently agreed to do something very stupid: subject myself to as much screen time as possible over the span of 48 hours. How did this experiment affect me? Read on to find out... Read More , and yes, that’s a worrying development. Distractions, uh, distract us. It’s in their job description. The Internet has been a major distraction since it first became accessible in our homes, but many of us find further things to grab us – namely, social media.

Anyone peering at profiles, flicking through feeds, and tittering at Tumblr aren’t keeping their minds on the film. It’ll only lead to “why’s he doing that?” conversations (and occasional fisticuffs). People seldom turn off Notifications, but few things are that urgent. If someone’s suddenly taken ill, they’re not going to tag you in a photo with the caption, “Going to the ER!”


In those heady pre-social network days (I call them “The Nineties”), the biggest distraction was your brother’s excessive use of denim, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ringtone you just learnt how to add to your brick of a cellphone. Hollywood had to rely on its own ingenuity to publicize its movies, instead of causing a storm on Twitter by throwing hashtags at you.

All that was needed was a hook. Greta Garbo caused a storm when making the transition from silent films to ‘talkies’; a map of the McCallister household, complete with traps, appeared in comic books to promote Home Alone (1990); and heck, in an unusual twist, Transformers: The Movie (1986) was made to publicize action figures!

They all encouraged you to engage with the film, whereas marketing these days wants you to turn away and promote it yourself by making a message go viral. It’s odd that the movie industry now actively inspires you to turn away from one screen in favor of another.


So put down your smartphone, and dedicate some time to what you’re watching. It’s only a couple of hours: someone’s duckface will be waiting for you on Facebook regardless of when you log on.

Now in Two Dimensions!

3D Glasses

People were enamored by seeing an astronaut throw an orange at your face. You could reach out and almost touch it. Amazing.

Then the nature of 3D changed. It’s not about the IMAX experience How to Get the IMAX Experience in Your Living Room (On a Budget) Why do people still go to movie theaters? Some argue it's for innovations like IMAX, but this is a moot point when you can get the IMAX experience at home on a budget. Read More any more: it’s seeing blockbusters split into different layers. Not so amazing. Worse than that, it gives some people headaches, as if that orange has indeed collided with your face. And you have to pay extra. There are very few movies that are actually worth watching in 3D 7 Incredible 3D Movies Actually Worth Seeing In 3D There are too many movies where the 3D adds nothing to the overall experience. However, when done properly, 3D has the potential to blow you away. The following movies are prime examples. Read More .


ET never needed 3D. Neither did Star Wars or The Godfather or Ghostbusters. Nobody watched It’s A Wonderful Life and thought, “You know what would make this better? Three-dimensional angels”.

Storytelling hasn’t got lazier – there are still top-notch writers, directors, and producers raised with a love of quality productions – but instead, it’s become distilled by how we’re experiencing it. It’s hard to be captivated by character development when trying to focus on the whole picture: quite often you’ll notice more about a film when watching it in 2D. That might be down to conditioning, how we’re used to seeing it, but that’s nevertheless how we feel easiest. Why fight that?

Over-saturation reduced something actually quite wonderful into the everyday, the boring, and worst of all, the distracting. When everything is extraordinary, nothing is. We’ve become jaded by 3D. It pulls you out of the story just as much as dodgy CG (Computer Graphics). You can become too preoccupied by how a film has been optimized for this new gimmick to fully take in the nuances of a tale.


The answer is, of course, to not watch 3D movies. If production companies realize that 3D isn’t giving them enough financial reward, such contrivances will become extinct.

Sit Down and Focus

This isn’t about that film with Will Smith and Margot Robbie. This is actually about focusing on a film, especially when it’s screened on television.

Thanks to streaming and rolling movie channels, you can watch any movie at any time. Don’t get me wrong: having all of this content easily available to us is incredible, but it does mean we’ve become over-familiar with the medium. Though services offer you the chance to rewind films to their beginning, the masses are typically content with figuring it out as they go along.

But you can’t get carried away with a tale if you start midway through.

If you could pop into a time machine and go back to the 1950s and 1960s, you would see families huddled around the television, amazed at the wonders of Doctor Who and Muffin the Mule. Soon, Disney movies came to stations, entertaining the nation on public holidays. Yep, before DVRs (Digital Video Recorders), we just had to sit down and watch. Need the toilet? Well, you’re just going to have to miss a few minutes. That was the downside.

The upside was that most simply crossed their legs for a bit, so engrossed in a film that even bodily functions couldn’t detract from the main show.

Devote some time to something you want to see. Set aside one evening a week or make Sunday “Movie Day”. Go to the cinema. If enough people were willing to properly invest, you wouldn’t keep seeing ominous “death of cinema” pieces Are You Responsible for the Death of Cinema? Cinema is in its death throes. But why? Do we blame the directors of crappy films? The alternative viewing options now available? Or are you personally responsible? Let's figure this out. Read More .

Finding Fault Was Niche

Do you really care that in one scene from The Wizard of Oz  (1939), Dorothy’s not wearing her ruby-red slippers? It doesn’t affect the movie itself!

We’re undoubtedly drawn to criticism and cynicism. I’m not above admitting it: pointing out The Bad Stuff is this article’s core selling point. It’s why reviews exist.

However, there’s a widespread phenomenon, perpetuated by certain websites: the look-at-what-we’ve-spotted attention-seekers who take joy in pointing out a movie’s faults and explores why such-and-such is utter nonsense. They are not fans. Give it a chance first. Don’t let someone else’s lack of enthusiasm get you down.

Pointing out the “meta” bits, “what the director meant” and how the Stormtrooper hit his head on the door was what fandom did. These were mates who loved a film but weren’t blind to mistakes. The Internet, however, has given rise to a counter-culture intent on superiority and negativity.

The difference is one group saying, “We love movies despite their faults”, while the other argues, “We don’t like this movie because of its faults.” Fandom versus critics, essentially. Comments sections are littered with folk who want their grievances aired, and this encourages further habitual negativity.

Don’t scout out those “biggest movie mistakes” articles!

Even advanced reviews taint features, whether it’s a film or TV show. Even if it’s a movie you love, there’s a fault you can’t help but notice because it’s been pointed out to you by a complete stranger. The equivalent is someone in the cinema shouting “that would never happen because artificial intelligence How Hollywood Has Depicted Artificial Intelligence Over The Years Humanity has always had a love-hate relationship with technology, and robots are no different. Over the years, there have been hundreds of movies about sapient robots, and the portrayals have varied wildly. Read More can’t break the Three Laws of Robotics!”

Want to see the new Fantastic Four? Order it. Stay away from customer reviews on Amazon if it’s something you want to see regardless. Make your own mind up before consulting online.

How Will You Learn to Love Film Again?

Many of us live in the past, but we’ve got to face facts: the movie industry has changed, as has the technology surrounding us in our homes. But you, and only you, can reignite that passion for films.

What favorite movies do you love revisiting? What do you do to take yourself back to those days when you could enjoy a movie without being drawn to social media? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credits: Bored man by Tyler Olson via Shutterstock, Women at the cinema by VGstockstudio via Shutterstock, 3D glasses by Matt Neale

Related topics: Home Theater, Television.

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  1. Anonymous
    March 28, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Many of today's movies try to make up with special effects for lousy directing and acting. High Noon with Gary Cooper and Two Women with Sophia Loren had very little special effects and yet they were very powerful movies. Also neither one was demographically balanced. The original The Day the Earth Stood Still had very little special effects but was light years in quality and message ahead of the remake with Keanu Reeves.

  2. Anonymous
    October 27, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    There aren't even any good movies worth watching today. Everything is a remake, a sequel, a sequel to a remake or a remake of a sequel; a franchise property from the House of Mouse, or some art-house maudlin drama with a heavy-handed political message beating you over the head about some ultra-important social issue that the wannabe influencers in Hollywood want to raise awareness for. I swear at least a third of the "critically acclaimed" movies that the news wouldn't shut up about had to do with some disease. They're on the As now in the alphabet -- Alzheimer's, Autism, ALS, Addiction, AIDS... what's next? Acne? ADHD? Athlete's foot? Boy, I just can't wait to see the next Oscar-nominated dramedy about erectile dysfunction and halitosis...

    Even blockbuster action movies and comedies aren't immune from this nonstop, annoying political consciousness garbage -- you can't just have Ghostbusters, it has to be cast with all women and a certain percentage of minority women for some feminist agenda about underrepresentation of intersectional diversity or what have you. You can't just have a goofy rom-com without some talking head bleating about the Bechdel test and the male gaze. You can't just have an action movie where Bruce Willis shoots the bad guys without some insufferable dialogue about gun control. Now you have to include the Bible Belt cohort in the filmmaking process to ensure that the Noah's Ark movie is accurate and "morally sound." I guess the alternative to the Alison Bechdel test is, what, the Kirk Cameron test?

    Give me a break. If I want to watch a politics movie I'll go see Michael Moore. This constant virtue-signaling in movies that ought to be about ENTERTAINMENT and ESCAPISM is just driving me nuts. It makes me yearn for the days when a Talkboy was just a Talkboy and not some inane Lifetime movie-of-the-week about child abandonment being a consequence of bourgeois class consciousness. Leave film studies to the anal-retentive killjoy professors who don't have a life. The rest of us just want to grab some popcorn and get away from the woes of the world for a couple hours, m'kay?

    • Philip Bates
      October 30, 2015 at 11:37 am

      I don't like shoe-horned political correctness, no - I do agree with you on that one. I don't think the Bechdel Test is useful either. But I like layered movies that explore a certain climate or culture: in fact, it's pretty hard, or even impossible, to find a film that doesn't comment on society - I guess it partly depends on how explicit this is and if you enjoy that or not.

      • Anonymous
        March 28, 2016 at 3:19 pm

        The Bechdel Test, Russo Test and all the other "you ain't got enough of these" test are nothing more than Politically Correct mental masturbation. It's bad enough that today's actors/actresses cannot act their way out of a paper bag but now the Social Justice Warriors want demographics rather than the story line to govern movie making. Do we want to return to the days of Blacksploitation movies? They were made by black directors with black actors but how many of those movies are memorable for quality rather than schlock?!

        All these inclusion tests will guarantee politically correct movies but will they guarantee quality movies? Will next year's Oscars go to truly worthy recipients or are they going to be awarded based on demographics, one to an LGBT recipient, one to a black, one to a woman, one to a Hispanic, etc.?

  3. Anonymous
    October 22, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    As someone who watched a very limited number of films when I was growing up (three months of the year away at school where we watched one film, years after its production date, at the end of term and one television serial (usually Dickens or Galsworthy I seem to remember) on a Sunday evening), I appreciated the advent of first videos and then DVDs tremendously. I hunted out films I'd seen once at the cinema and had enjoyed, and I now have a collection of well over 1,000 films on DVD (the videos have now gone to charity and I see no point in moving on to Blu-ray).

    However the kind of films I watch don't really lend themselves to the 'metawatching' experiences you outline in this article, Philip. (I'd rather watch paint evaporate than sit through Star Wars or Ghostbusters...). I didn't even realise there were whole sites where you could discover mistakes in films until I read this (might make for an amusing five minutes when waiting for someone to get back to me on something, perhaps?). However I do sometimes perform searches of various sorts after I've watched a film. One of my favourite ways of finding new films I might like, for example (I have a subscription to Lovefilm and also have Amazon Prime, although not actually for the on-demand films) is, when I see an actor giving a good performance, to look up what else they've done. The same is true of a director and, to a lesser extent, producer. I also frequently look up locations if they're particularly beautiful, interesting or unusual. And, as is inevitable when watching a film in company, sometimes arguments arise out of something you see ("Would they have been humming that song in the 1930s?"; "They wouldn't have said that in the 1950s"; "Surely they didn't have that type of glasses in the Wild West?") and it's great to be able to settle the argument right after the film. After - not during.

    As for television - no. I've never become used to it and, in many cases, I actually hate it (when it's on gratuitously during hotel breakfasts, in waiting rooms, pubs, cafés, etc.). Too much going on visually, not nearly enough going on as far as content is concerned. The only use my television gets is as a screen to show films.

    You're right, Philip - viewing without distractions is by far the better experience!

    • Philip Bates
      October 30, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Thanks for commenting, Maryon. I think you're using the Internet in exactly the right way there - not searching for things to spoil or distract from films, but to enhance the experience afterwards; I, too, like IMDBing actors and finding locations.

      I actually love television - more so than movies, to be honest - but everything else you said, I agree with!