The Joys of Pre-cell phone Cinema

I realize in writing this that I am in danger of sounding like a grumpy old man.

Most of the television and movies that come out these days, understandable and realistically feature cell phones and the internet.   And I’ll admit that unless you’re making a historical drama, you’re pretty much going to have to use cell phones or at least acknowledge the internet in how it effects our thoughts and actions.

The result is terrible television. Constant effort has to be made to turn a phone conversation into a source of drama or interest. Constant plot points must be contrived so that cell phones are neutralized: “we are in the wilderness, we won’t have coverage for an other 20 mins”, etc. The result is that characters exchange information and develop only sitting in their cars, talking into the phone.

Detective dramas have turned into screen watching and waiting for lab results, as search engines grind away at demographic data. “He’s a plumber! Look up all the white male plumbers in the greater Pittsburg area! He drives a white van!” This is boring.

Even worse is watching a movie or show trying to dramatize “hacking”. Hacking, of course, might be very fun and thrilling for an actual hacker, but it makes for terrible screen time. I’m not a hacker; have never hacked, but I still know the hacking that I seen on TV is bogus; for me it boils down to screen watching, furious typing, and jargon-y technobabble.

In other words, the cell phone and the internet has effectively ruined movies and is well on its way to ruining our daily lives as well (am aware of the irony of me typing this on a blog). Aware that the internet is forever, and that CCTV is omnipresent, and that mobile technology means that every second someone could be tracking you, characters must be painfully aware of the permanence of their actions.

I watched a typical late 80’s movie recently: The Presidio. It stars Sean Connery and a poor man’s Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, running around San Fran. Its a movie about the social scars of Vietnam. It’s a murder mystery full of forced social awkwardness between a city that doesn’t like the military and a military that has Sean Connery.

Anyway. It was fantastic. Not because the plot was original; or the characters were particularly unique and vivid. The cinematography was pretty standard.

No. It was a blast because  it wasn’t trapped by the cage of cellular technology. The characters had to, and were able to, really live and indulge themselves because there was no ominous, faceless public taking iPhone videos at every little incident. Connery gets into a bar fight, made joyous and easy because no one will get reported. Connery doesn’t have to worry that a video will emerge on the internet of him beating the snot out of a bar patron.

In another scene, our romantic couple basically make out on top of a car, and then, with cloths falling off, the guy carriers the girl up a steep flight of San Fran steps. A guy walks past, and takes almost notice. The scene is a little forced; but it was also refreshingly free. With no screens to stare out, the characters have to talk to each other and live with themselves and with others.

So go out there, (to the internet) and watch yourself a movie from the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, and enjoy it. Relive life before we all became Pavlov’s dog, constantly answering and checking buzzing phones and beeping computers.

Rant over.

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