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Filmism.net Dispatch December 4, 2011

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Like most film fans I see a lot of movies the way they were meant to be seen, on a cinema screen. Because there are more films than we can possibly see even if we work in the industry, I see far more on DVD nowadays, and my 'must see' list is hovering around 160 at the moment, so that situation won't change for quite awhile yet.

We have a TV and DVD player in the bedroom and I bought one of those infrared headsets, but the sound quality was awful so I got in the habit of watching films on my thirteen inch laptop and never quite got out of it.

Now, obviously you can't do that for every movie. I wouldn't have passed by Avatar on the big screen to watch on a computer, nor will I the Star Wars re-releases (if I can stand to have my childhood raped in 3D).

And every now and then when I slide a disc into my computer I get a little pang of conscience, a voice that says 'this isn't right, this was meant to be watched in a huge room with dozens or hundreds of other people on a screen forty feet tall'.

But two things (apart from the sheer volume of films I can't keep up with) stop me changing my ways. The first is that the PC/streaming/Netflix/digital era has proven that a movie isn't necessarily something that has to be shown in a movie theatre, it's just that they always have been because of the cinema exhibition infrastructure and the constraints of the running time and structure of a one off story. Few movies are really that cinematic, and can be enjoyed just as much on a TV, laptop or iPad screen (I do draw the line at a handheld device, though).

And the second is the old chestnut we're heard a thousand times. We watch films to be told a story about characters we care about. We don't watch for the effects, colour grading, editing or other artistry. It doesn't mean we can't enjoy those aspects (and they're easier to discern when you watch a lot of movies) but if someone has a cracking tale to tell me, the platform just doesn't matter.

And to prove the point, I recently watched Werner Herzog's brilliant Cave of Forgotten Dreams on one of those eight-inch foldout aeroplane screens, and while I'm sure I lost something not seeing it in 3D like it was intended, it still did what I look for in every film of quality. It exposed me to a new idea, entertained me in doing so and made me feel something.

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