Thursday, May 21, 2009

Night Worthy

This morning, I needed to look something up, so as I generally do, I wandered over to Ask.com to take a look. Now, I generally do this, not just because I spent a number of years working for Ask Jeeves (in the office that owned Iwon.com and Excite.com, then bought by IAC and finally being renamed Mindspark, somewhat recently). You see, a dirty little secret that I figured out, mostly because the company brought Ask.com to mind (better than the marketing campaigns) is that Ask.com actually is a little easier to use to find thing than Google. Now, it's very true that Google has a far larger database, so there are times that I honestly can't find something in Ask that I can find in Google; when I worked there we all discovered that Google was far better for doing code searches (I was a web programmer), but I have noticed lately that Ask has picked up the slack. What Ask does do, however, without the larger database, and thus extraneous garbage, is make it a lot easier to find specifics, answer questions and not have to wade through pages of wrong answers to get there. I respect that, and I think that the Ask.com programmers do a fantastic job. Today, however, I noticed that the Ask.com sales department is apparently getting a little more say in what happens... the front page is a monstrously large montage to the new Night at the Museum movie.

Let's start by saying that I have no problem, at all, with this scene. During the end of my tenure with IAC, I helped to place home page takeovers on Iwon.com for two shows from GSN and one for A&E, not to mention a Macy's takeover, and a couple of others. If you have a strong art department, it can look really fantastic, so I am a definite fan. I don't even take issue with Ask.com using the Night at the Museum sequel. Despite sequels generally being a drop off, I'm willing to bet that this one will still be a fairly strong movie, funny enough, and possibly even deserving of a night time viewing.

That last comment, you need to understand, is a segment of my movie-viewing scale. Three years ago, or so, with the glut of over-hyped movies that were not worth watching, I developed my own scale of watchability. Thanks to Jon Dunn and Troy Burnett, I was able to add one more level, which will be mentioned in a moment.

The highest compliment I can give is that a movie is Night Worthy. You see, with movie prices on a night - any night - ranging from $9 to $12 in these parts, you have to consider carefully. Is this movie worth dropping anywhere to $9 to over $20 (if I'm taking a date) AND my time to sit in an uncomfortable chair for two to three hours? My time is precious, my money is precious, and you need to earn it. Thus far, only Iron Man and Dark Knight have hit this mark in the past few years.

My next level is called Day Worthy, which is much like it sounds - I am willing to take in this show on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon matinee, but willing to watch it in the theaters. Matinee prices around here cost about $5 to $6, and a decent movie can give me something to do on a rainy day that won't make me leave the house. Michael Bay's Transformers fits this bill - not quite good enough for a night time movie, but it was entertaining enough to sit and watch, and I enjoyed it. You need to be able to justify those uncomfortable seats, after all, because not every movie will keep you on the edge.

Level three takes us out of the theaters. I call this my On Demand category. If a movie winds up in the On Demand section of your TV, sometimes it's worth springing for the $4 or so to bring it up on the TV, spend an afternoon or evening on the couch watching it, and have no qualms. I saw Accepted this way, laughed pretty hard, and didn't even mind when it came on TBS a year later, because I watched it again happily. We used to call this the "Rental" level, but that sadly doesn't happen anymore, even if it's the way that I saw Taladega Nights.

On level four, we thank Jon and Troy for introducing me. Thanks to Netflix (and Blockbuster, too, if that's your preference), you can get all manner of movies, after they come out, for that one low monthly price. If you can watch enough movies in a month, it really has tremendous value. I realize that I haven't been watching enough movies, but I aim to get back into that. This works for movies that you might not be willing to watch On Demand, but if you can get a few of them together, it makes for some quality entertainment value.

The final level belongs to television. Generally you can catch a lot of movies on TBS, TNT, FX and occasionally, regular network television. The cable movies take longer to watch and are commercial ridden, but you can get other things done while watching them. Case in point, I did laundry, ironed work shirts, cleaned my living room and kitchen, and re-strung my guitar the first time that I watched Robin Williams' RV. I honestly didn't mind if I missed any bits, because it was more something for background than anything else.

There you have it, my Five Levels of Watchability. Incidentally, some movies just don't belong on any level. The Spirit is the first movie that I have ever stood up and walked out of the theater with a large portion of the movie to go. I'm curious, now. Leave me a comment and let me know some of your movies that fall into the various stages, and if there are any films that you would absolutely avoid no matter what.

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