Gaze Vs. Glance: Theater Vs. Streaming

Years ago, my friend and colleague Diana ben-Aaron told me about academic research on the difference between gaze and glance. If you gaze at something, it has your complete attention. If you glance at something, there are numerous distractions around you and you don’t engage as deeply with the content.

All the recent commentary on movie theaters vs. streaming begins from the assumption that the experience is the same. It is not, and not even for the usual reasons (watching with an audience, getting out of the house) that are offered in these debates. It is different because in a darkened room, one in which you there are no significant distractions (cellphone, housework, remote control) you are gazing at the content―you are completely engaged. At home, you are glancing at the content―your level of engagement is much lower. It is supported by research and intuitively obvious to the casual observer.

 Groundhog Day and Buddhism

As usual, I expect new material for my Groundhog Day The Movie website from my avid readers. Fire away if you have something you don't see here. It’s getting harder to find things I missed: the site has been up since 2001.

I run this item every year in conjunction with Groundhog Day (Thursday, Feb. 2 this year). The Bill Murray movie of the same name is the 34th funniest American film of all time, according to the American Film Institute. It is also my favorite movie of all times. This is the thirteenth time I've run this item!


Speaking of Journalism Movies

Your favorite journalism movies
By Tom Jones, Poynter’s senior media writer for

Back in April of 2019, not long after I joined Poynter as a senior media writer, I put together my list of the best 25 journalism movies of all time. I’m pretty sure it’s the most read piece I’ve written for Poynter. More than three years later, I still get emails telling me I’ve overlooked a movie such as “Deadline U.S.A.” or arguing that “The Post” should’ve been higher than where I had it at No. 14.

So, my Poynter colleague Annie Aguiar had a great idea. She would go to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit and ask Poynter followers to list their favorite journalism movies. She then tallied up the results and put together this: “We asked, you answered: Here are your favorite journalism movies.”

When I put together my list, No. 1 was a no-brainer. It’s “All the President’s Men.” The list that Annie assembled does not have “All the President’s Men” at the top. But it’s still a good list. Check it out.

Movie Review: Spirited

(length warning) I don’t know what kind of reviews you’ve been reading of this Netflix musical Christmas movie, but I think the film is terrific. If you live in the Bay Area, you may have been exposed to Mick Lasalle’s pan, which, while it isn’t the worst review ever, was about as negative as a one-star review gets (the little man was asleep in his chair; at least the chair wasn’t empty)

A word about LasSalle: a great writer (especially when writing about women in film) whose taste in movies is generally the same as mine. But this time he made a mistake.

Not about the length―127 minutes is more than a half-hour too long for a comedy. For any film, really.

And of course, there is the question, “Do we need yet another adaptation of A Christmas Carol?” Well, it turns out, the answer is yes, if it is cleverly written, well-acted and brilliantly staged (with, I’d say, an homage to Monty Python’s Christmas in Heaven, at least in costuming and production values).

I’m not going to give away any plot points. I’ll just tell you that it is a clever refresh of the old story, and you won’t see the ending coming until the halfway point.

The usual conditions apply: you need to like Ryan Reynolds (playing to type), Will Ferrell (not playing to type) and musicals. If you’re weak on any leg of this triad, this film is not for you.

I admit I am easily moved to tears, but parts of Spirited did exactly that. Plus, who doesn’t like an adaptation of Christmas Carol? It was, after all, the story that saved Christmas in the English-speaking world.  Prior to Charles Dickens’ fluffy novella Christmas was a minor holiday. Nothing closed, and celebrations were muted. Making Cratchett stay to work on Christmas wouldn’t have been all that unusual. It’s right up there with Silent Spring and Unsafe At Any Speed in terms of its societal impact, it not its importance.

Review: Ticket to Paradise

Run, do not walk, to the theater to see this film. It was only our second post-covid theater experience, but was great: lots of social distance at a weekday matinee.

I mean, really. What’s not to love? George Clooney and Julia Roberts as the bickering divorced couple in a romcom,  brought together by their daughter’s ill-advised. hasty destination marriage in Bali. She just graduated law school the week before. TOO SOON!!!

The plot isn’t the point; watching these two stars is the point.

At 1:44, it’s only 14 minutes too long, and even at that, it passes the watch test because I never looked. Since the stars are 61 and 55, they are even age-appropriate; how rare is that? Of course the woman should be six years older than the man, as many of you know from my example. Turns out the pair has been in six movies together since Oceans 11 in 2000. I know screen chemistry isn’t really a thing―that’s why the call in acting―but if it were, this pair has it.

My favorite line: Clooney: “This is an armrest, not a metaphor.” I guess you have to have been there to know how hysterical this is. “We were married five years but it felt like 19.”

Internet Blows It Again: Defending Your Life/Testimony Of Light

This is the third in what is apparently becoming a series. I have previously complained about the lack of information on the open internet about the night Cronkite stood up, and Patty/Kathy from the Patty Duke Show being quaternary cousins. And now, I complain that no one has pointed out the startling similarity between Testimony of Light: An Extraordinary Message of Life After Death by Helen Greaves (1969) and Defending Your Life written/directed Albert Brooks.(1991).

If you haven’t seen the film, stop here. If you have, ask yourself if the premise of the film doesn’t sound a lot like this scene from the book (condensed for space reasons):

Suddenly [there appeared] a cinema or television screen. Pictures began to emerge on it. They showed moments of stress, moments of triumph, moments of failure in the earth life of Doctor X. We saw patients; we watched him in his diagnoses; we followed him to the theater and witnessed his operations…

The pictures on the “screen” went on and on.

We were taken into the homes, lives, families of those on whom the Doctor had performed his successful operations. We saw the benefit to humanity, the healings, the resumption of happy, useful lives which were the results of this man’s skill.

To be fair, I wrote to Albert Brooks, and his assistant responded he’d never seen the book. And, I find that “life review” is a widely discussed topic, usually in the context of “my life flashed before my eyes” at the moment of death. But it is sufficiently out there that Brooks may simply have absorbed it and repeated it, something which may also have happened to Greaves.

A Whole Lot of Movies

I was moving some of my old columns from my personal website to Typepad, when I discovered I had seen five films in the week before the new millennium. It made me curious; how many films have I seen a year since I began the online version of this column 24 years ago? I’ve written up 746 films, or about 32 per year, which is roughly how many I saw per year while reviewing movies for The Tech in 1971-74.  Assuming I am a man of steadfast habits (probably true) that means I have reviewed 1632 films since 1971. Between the ages of 12 and 15, Steve and I saw a movie almost every Saturday. Add in some movies seen with my parents during my childhood and I’d say 200 is a conservative estimate.

Round down and that means I’ve seen 2500 films―so far―in this lifetime. Fair to say I am a movie buff, although I think my 10 million or so words written is almost as impressive.