Updated: April 10, 2014 6:24AM
We went to a movie house last year, or maybe it was the year before, and saw a show about a British king who stuttered. He got over it, which was a nice turn.
We stumbled up a bunch of steps and found a sea of empty seats. It was not a busy day. I see that some show places have closed because there were not enough busy days.
It was there on that historic afternoon that I learned what a “tub of popcorn” is. People walked in with those tubs and other eatables and I wondered if they planned to stay overnight. This is America, I shouted silently to myself. “Eat more popcorn!”
Then came the exciting previews of stuff I did not understand or relate to and so loud I almost cried with pain, even with hearing aids out. What a strange place for a country kid like me to be spending a weekday afternoon. Mrs. V and our two companions seemed to be paying attention, one with eyes closed.
What I noticed most was that the female people seemed to be modeling strange gowns or dresses, competing in a how-much-skin-can-I-show-without-being-arrested contest. The male people seemed so drab, and some looked bored.
I quickly got back to a movie channel where Charles Laughton was starring in “Mutiny on the Bounty.” We have this remote tool that lets us switch channels or even to turn the TV off without getting up.
Lots of people just rent movies and play them at home, where you can find a restroom without a heroic trek and eat popcorn from something smaller than a tub. My impressive study shows, though, that many Americans are actually fans and keep up with the latest from the land of make believe.
Free shows were big in my kid days — in Elnora, Odon and Newberry.
In the early days of talkies, sounds on the screen stirred us, products of a simpler, silent world. One night I was standing with a crowd watching a free one in Odon when this big train came roaring toward us, blowing its whistle. I cleverly got behind an amply endowed lady and stayed there until the train passed. It missed us all.
In Elnora, an oater, you know, a western, showed the hero on his horse, being chased by bad guys. He dismounted to open a gate and a woman near me screamed: “Go on, I’ll shut the gate.”
Some of the movies in my childhood helped shape our cultural beliefs. Indians were almost always bad and cowboys were good. We often had difficulty separating reel life from real life, and we still do.
Modern movies and television make violence seem more common in reel life, and really exciting. Or am I imagining it? Anyway, we pay to watch movies while inhaling soft drinks and cuddling tubs of popcorn.
The wait between reels in those free shows back home gave us time to unwind or race to the store to buy a candy bar if Mom or Dad had given us a nickel.
I respect the skill of movie stars and the writers who create the shows. But the Oscar stuff seems to be endless, like an overtime basketball game when it makes you miss part of the game you really want to see. Life really gets complicated.
Maybe I should go to movie places more often. Maybe I should have stayed with the Oscars and helped judge the costumes. Maybe I should spend more time in the make-believe world depicted in movies.
Turn down the preview volume and I might go.