The End of a Silver Age
March 07, 2010, 05:34 PM
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The triumph of Avatar at the box office suggests than a pleasant era is ending that we didn't even notice.

Going to the movies has been one of the few things that hasn't gotten more complicated. Seemingly everything else in my life has gotten complicated due to the number of choices available to me. I hate choices.

In contrast, at least since the financially foolish over-expansion of the number of movie theatres in the 1990s, going to the show has been a pleasantly simple-minded way to get out of the house. You don't have to mark it on your calendar. It always costs about ten bucks per person no matter how good or bad the movie; there are few special discounts or coupons that you'd feel bad if you missed out on; no reservations are needed; theaters are seldom sold out; you don't have to choose seats until you walk in the door; you don't need any special apparati to watch the movie, etc.

And then along comes Avatar to end this era of mindless ease of choice (not to mention, to exacerbate those feelings of personal inadequacy and ineffectuality that James Cameron always induces in me).

I saw it back in January, and what an ordeal it was just to get in. First, it was showing in four different flavors of dimensionality and digitality. When I eventually figured out which one I wanted to see, I realized those few theatres were always sold out. And the closest one charged $9 just to park. After a few weeks, I finally paid $18 per ticket (plus a $4 service charge) online and wound up in a theatre where the only seats left were in the front row at the bottom of an immense Imax screen, which would give me a headache, so I got (most of) my money back. I came back the next night an hour early, but still ended up worrying all evening whether I'd chosen the optimal row to sit in. It felt like I was sitting one row off the sweet spot, and for the $49 my wife and I had paid plus all the hours we'd invested in getting there, that we should be sitting in the seats that Cameron would have chosen.

And then there's the glasses you have to wear over your glasses, which induces a kind of tunnel vision. So, I sat there wondering, "Should I get laser eye surgery so I don't have to wear two sets of glasses to see 3D movies? Has James Cameron had laser eye surgery? Of course, he's had laser eye surgery. He's James Cameron. He probably invented a new improved laser and, using a mirror, operated on his eyeball himself, like Arnold in Terminator."

By the way, here's the story of the Soviet surgeon at the South Pole who had to take out his own appendix.