Movies on TV

With the holidays many of us will spend hours watching movies of every sort at home on television. It’s certainly easier than rounding up the family and braving the weather to visit the theatre. For most of us the only way to see the classics is on television.

I’m thankful for the classic movie channels that value film as art. Channels like TCM (Turner Classic Movies) make a point of not only showing their features in letterbox format, but also explaining why they do. For those who don’t know, the letterbox format puts the black bands above and below the picture. This allows the entire frame to be visible on a television screen, which usually has different dimensions than a movie screen.

I know some people get fussy about the black bands. They say it makes the picture seem smaller. However, without the bands the film must be altered to fit your TV screen. This is called full-screen formatting. To make it fit the dimensions of your set, the sides have to be cut off.

Frankly, I don’t like full-screen format. Too many good things happen on the edges of the picture. You are cheated out of information that should be there. The writers, directors and actors all intended it to be there. Why give that up if you don’t have to?

Another benefit to watching a film at home is the ability to turn on subtitles. I know. Lots of people find them completely distracting. I do… sometimes. But sometimes the characters mumble, and sometimes the sound balance is off, and sometimes others in the room make noise—sneezing, etc.—and then there’s something even more distracting.

“What did he say? I couldn’t understand her. Why is the music so loud in this part?”

My last comment about movies on the small screen is both a positive and negative. It’s the remote control. Let’s face it; we all have a love-hate relationship with the remote.

Constant changes to volume, pauses, reverses and fast-forwards become annoying. I just want to watch the movie. Sometimes it’s just necessary to hit that pause button and let everyone take a bathroom break and refill drinks and snacks. Everyone is happy and nobody misses anything. Yay!

Movies at home can be a wonderful way for families to spend time together and learn more about each other.

“What was your favorite scene or line? This film was the first movie Dad and I ever watched together. This movie is based on Gramma’s favorite book.”

Take the opportunity to talk with your family about the movies you watch. Enjoy laughing together. Tell them why you got misty-eyed at the train station scene. Remind them about how much Grandpa loved that actor. Tell what the stories mean to you. That’s the purpose of movies. Let’s allow them to do their jobs.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

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