One of my favorite bits in the movie Slacker comes near the very end, after a barkeep rushes some patrons out of a bar so that he can close it down and go home. He gets in his car to leave, starts the engine, and then with a nod of his head he signals to an attractive female standing outside to get in, presumably to hook up for a one-night-stand. She obliges, and next we cut to the couple in bed at early dawn. The guy is still crashed out, but the girl is already awake and sitting up. She slips her bare, comely legs into a pair of cowboy boots and walks out into the morning like some vagabond spirit. As she’s leaving the house (here is the part I like) she passes by a guy crouched over a small television set, intently watching an old movie, smiling and rocking back and forth. We don’t know for sure, but I like to think that he has been up all night and is watching his third or fourth movie. I recognize this guy because, well, that’s me, or rather, I used to be him because I haven’t been that guy for a long time now. I used to stay up all night alone, smoke cigarettes, and watch old movies with a private enjoyment. I’d rock back and forth and watch early Wild Bill Wellman movies, or Eddie Cantor making whoopee, or just whatever came on Turner Classic Movies. This was back when I had cable and worked the night shift, before the wife and family I have now, before I grew out of my twenties and realized that, yes, I do indeed require sleep.
Nowadays, I hardly ever sit through an entire movie alone. At home, I find myself walking away from a movie at every opportunity, and I rarely travel away from home to a movie theater. Of late, I mainly use movies as a sleeping aid. To be more specific, I use the DVD commentary tracks that are (thankfully) so common now. Back when I had cable television, C-Span was my preferred dozing agent. Give me a boring Senate committee hearing, or some panel of reporters and editors at a navel-gazing journalism and ethics symposium and, man, I was out like a baby. But now, audio commentaries do the trick, and I often put them on, close my eyes, and drift away listening without ever watching the movie. To get me through a movie these days, I need an audience of people. I need my friends. A while back, there was an excellent post here at the House about horror movies and violence. The ensuing comments thread was of a very high quality. I was a little awestruck, and I couldn’t say much. It was all very interesting, but I hadn’t seen the recent films they were talking about. I felt like Henry Hill in Goodfellas.