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The pause button can be a beautiful thing. It gives you a chance to got the bathroom and not miss even a frame of the movie. You can even watch it on a whole other day, or any interval of time.

However, Federico Fellini said in his semi-autobiography Fellini on Fellini that he didn’t quite approve of the home video experience. He said that’s it’s not the same as the communal event that happens when going to the theater. He did have a few rules: if you are going to watch a movie at home, for example, he said that you can have popcorn (which is traditionally offered in movie theaters), but don’t sit on your couch and have a plate of spaghetti. He also said that the room where one watches the movie should be completely dark as in a theater because doing otherwise, like eating spaghetti during a movie, would only draws attention to the fact that you aren’t in a movie theater.

And that wascally button with the double bars is a similar distraction. Jim Emerson posted at his Scanners blog almost a year ago about his experience with the evil pause button:

And this is where I finally get to… “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.” I did not see it in a theater, and I regret that. Not because it is a “big-screen experience”… but because I had a remote control in my hand, I wasn’t able to submit to it… I paused it a few times… and finally, after more than an hour (and only two hospital visits), I turned it off, promising that I’d give it another shot when I felt more equal to the task. […]

If I’d been in a theater, I would have sat there and gone through it. But because I was in control, it was relatively easy to back away — even though I wanted to submit.

When I first read this post, I thought Jim was just being weak. It wasn’t long until I realized I was having the same problem.

Unfortunately, I’ve had a surprising number of similar experiences during the year. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m one of those trying to watch all the movies on the 1001 list (which I am now retiring), and I’ve paused too many movies that I never finished or were a pain in the ass to finish. (But sometimes, to be fair, I finished them, and I fell in love.) Most of the time, I’m bored and feel like doing something else, but it only prolongs the movie’s end (and, i.e., boredom).

I just recently started Celine and Julie Go Boating, the Jacques Rivette movie that’s over three hours long (well, one of ’em). I tend to get antsy after sitting down for more than two hours (Orson Welles was the same way, I found out), but since I’ve never seen a Rivette film and the movie is supposed to be phenomenal, I thought it’d be worth checking out. I was watching it late at night and stopped it after an hour since I was getting tired. I haven’t played the tape since. The movie is a little whacked out (a bit too post-modern for my tastes), but I’m not going to say anything concrete about it until I’m done with it.

The Lives of Others (I’m confused — is it a 2006 movie or 2007?) was in my DVD player two days ago, and I stopped it to check my e-mail around the 47-minute mark because I remembered I was waiting on an important message. Today, I still haven’t watched the rest of it. And it’s overdue. Dammit.

This also just happened with The Blue Angel. Thankfully, though, I finished it on another day, and I’m glad to report it’s a beautiful film with another performance from Emil Jannings that makes me want to cry.

Should more directors discourage pausing/stopping a movie? I think so. I encourage them. Most of David Lynch’s DVDs aren’t divided into chapters so the movie has to be watched at one time unless you want to restart the movie and do a lot of fast-forwarding, which really sucks (I stopped Eraserhead during the first time that I tried to watch it and learned the hard way). I need more hard medicine like this, or else it’s just going to keep on happening to me.

Now I sound like an addict. Maybe because it’s 10:30 in the morning and I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep since yesterday. I may have to get to work on that now…



  1. The Lives of Others was released internationally and played festival circuits in 2006. However, it was released in the US in early 2007 (a move bolstered by the film’s surprising best foreign language film win over Pan’s Labyrinth) hence the confusion.

  2. That’s what I’m confused about. To be nominated for an Oscar, Lives of Others should have played in a Los Angeles theater in 2006. But you’re right, it didn’t open in the U.S. until 2007. So, how did it get nominated?

  3. A foreign film does not have to have opened in the US to receive an Oscar nomination it just needs to have been released. Countries submit films to AMPAS and they send out screeners to their voters. A country can only select one film which is why the cross-section of good foreign films can seem so limited when you look at oscar nominees. Now if a nominated foreign film HAS been released in the US prior to its Oscar nomination it usually helps it enormously, hwowever it is not essential (as was the case for Lives of Others).

  4. Alright, that makes sense now. Thanks for clearing that up for me!

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