Sunday, December 18, 2005

Steal This Movie.

If the last week has had a flavor, it has been Robitussin. If it has had a sound, it has been the sound of a small cardboard box of potential peril hitting my front door. Neither one plans on stopping any time soon.

Permit me to explain. Two weeks ago, Daughter got a cold which kept her home from school Monday and Tuesday. For some unknown reason [which might have had something to do with Daughter sneezing into my eye when I was giving her a glass of water], I had the cold Wednesday through Friday. Daughter was re-infected by my slightly mutated cold virus, and had it over the weekend. Because it was lonely not having a Kleenex next to my nose I took the cold back on Monday and kept it through Wednesday. Daughter claimed it again for a single day on Thursday, and I am currently in Day four of this siege, with no end in sight.

Here’s a nice visual that will tell you how low I’ve sunk. While driving away from school last week, I needed a Kleenex and grabbed one from my pocket. It felt a little rough and possibly used, but I wasn’t going to cavil. It was only after blowing my nose that I looked and determined that I had blown my nose into a tea bag.

The only question now is whether I have moved into a sinus infection. I get them so often you would think I’d be capable of diagnosing one from five miles away, and I usually am. But whatever this particular disease is, it’s coy.

At midnight, I feel as if someone has stuffed a wriggling hedgehog into each nostril and I think, “Definitely sinus infection. I’ll call the doctor in the morning.”

Morning comes, and the breathing is easy and I think, “I’m going to go to the Doctor’s office and he’s going to tell me that I have a cold. Then he’s going to look at me with pity in his eyes and assume I made a big deal out of this because I am some poor shut-in without friends.”

I decide not to call the doctor, and my sinuses cunningly wait until after business hours to start the hedgehog thing again.

None of this will come as a surprise to my mother, who can vividly recall how my cold would unfailingly ramp up into bronchitis at 5:45 on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend.

So, I’ve been sniffling and hacking and watching movies, which leads me to the other constant in my life right now. I am a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body of people who vote for the Academy Awards. Being as I am a Girl Scout about the darndest things, I take this honor and responsibility seriously. That is, before I write down my five nominees in the acting categories, I want to see every single performance that could be a contender, no matter how unlikely. *

About ten years ago the studios, wanting our votes, started sending out tapes of the movies in contention to watch in the comfort of our living rooms. I loved this, because not only was it easier to arrange to see every single film, no matter how unlikely (Have you seen more than one Jean-Claude Van Damme movie? I have.), but I could lend the films to certain friends. If I knew someone with a newborn, or someone who couldn’t comfortably sit in a theater for two hours, or someone whose financial situation prevented them from spending fifty dollars for two adults in a theater and one babysitter at home, I could lend them a tape. It wasn’t as if I was taking money out of the studio coffers, as these people weren’t getting to movie theaters in the first case.

At the end of the voting season, I would take the seventy-five or so tapes I had been tripping over for three months and happily give the lot of them to a shelter for battered women or to a hospice; it kind of pleased me to think about movies transporting people who desperately deserved it. It also really pleased me to remove the tapes from the house as, stacked up, they were taller than I am and were more apt to fall down and trip people than I am.

Within the last five years, most of the Academy members starting requesting DVD format, which is far easier to copy than a tape, and the studios started getting really nervous. I’d get a DVD, and wrapped around the jewel box would be a note on studio letterhead saying, in effect, “QUINN CUMMINGS, WE HAVE ETCHED YOUR NAME ON THIS DVD, WHICH WILL EMBED ITSELF IN ANY COPY MADE. IF IT EVER SHOWS UP ANYWHERE, EVER, WE’LL THROW STARVING LAWYERS AT YOUR ABDOMEN.”

I would pop in the film, and up would come something along the lines of “QUINN, THE FBI KNOWS WHERE YOU LIVE. FOR THE SAKE OF SECURITY, WATCH THIS MOVIE AND THEN EAT IT.”

I lent the films to only a few people, mostly relations, and people I knew not only weren’t movie-stealers, and didn’t know people who were movie-stealers, they didn’t know people who knew people who were movie-stealers. Okay, we’re not exciting. But I’ve never seen an FBI badge in person, either, and that’s okay by me.

And then, last year, one member of the Academy got into some big trouble. Somehow, several of his movies ended up with a friend of his several thousand miles away, being copied. Maybe it was an honest mistake; maybe he meant to send his friend some Mel Torme records, and accidentally sent the box with the DVDs, it doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is that this Academy member was fined in the mid six-figures for this little mistake, and I was forced to suddenly reexamine my relationship with the DVDs. Maybe no one I know copies DVDs, but whose to say my friend with my DVD doesn’t have a handyman, a great-nephew or a neighbor with a house key who has criminal habits?

So now I treat these DVD’s like unexploded ordinance. They show up on average of two a day, I sign for them and secrete them in a secure undisclosed location and cover them in a camouflage blanket. They don’t leave my house, and I watch them with the blinds drawn and sometimes wearing a disguise. After I finish watching the movie, I place it in a new safe place with all the DVDs from last year that I was too paranoid to give away. I will say, conservatively, that there are 200 of them in there, and we get another 100 or so a year.

According to actuarial tables, I have another 42 years of life. That means, upon my death, Daughter will inherit 4300 DVDs.

Note to self; put coded message in will, telling Daughter about spring-loaded poison darts protecting secure DVD location.

* As a member of the acting category, I only nominate Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Movie. When it comes time to vote on the best of the nominees, I vote on all the categories, including things like editing and special effects, two subjects about which I know virtually nothing. You nominate in your area of expertise (theoretically); you vote for a winner based on whether you had been in a good mood when you saw the movie. The next time you hear someone saying, “It’s an honor just to be nominated”, please remember that it’s probably more of an honor to be nominated, especially in the technical categories.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remind me not ro read your blog while drinking coffee--the teabag as tissue almost had coffee flying all over the keyboard from me laughing.....

4:31 AM  
Blogger Joie de Vivre said...

Winners also always thank the "foreign press"? (something like that) What/who is that? Or am I getting Academy awards confused with Golden Globes?

9:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That's the Golden Globes, which is given by members of the international press corps. They've gotten much better, but they used to vote for whoever gave them the best food at the premiere; the foreign press, like an army, travels on its stomach.
Also, that's the only show with an open bar, which increases the odds substantially of seeing a well-known person say something they will regret in the morning.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I joined Netflix so I could watch a ton of movies for 9.95 a month...well after having the first two movies sitting on top of the tv for over a month, I decided that maybe I am not cut out for relaxing. I can't even imagine having to watch movies that I don't even really want to see!

4:35 PM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

Hi Quinn,

You can unload some of your excess DVDs on me. Esp the ones in the foriegn language catergory. =)

2:43 AM  
Blogger Melodee said...

I have a solution. First, you adopt me. Then you send me the DVDs and since I'm "family," you know they are safe with me and you will not be fine 7 gazillion dollars.

Fool proof, no?

10:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

A cunning idea. A clever idea. The kind of idea, in fact, that would be thought up by A WORLD-FAMOUS MOVIE STEALER!

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like the death threats and paranoia would only extend till the studios have released the films on DVD. Then they could safely go to the shelters and movie-deprived, no? Am I using logic where it doesn't apply?

7:40 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm not prepared to do federal time in order to find out.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could always just destroy them and scatter the pieces in different rubbish bins (I believe that's trash cans in the USA) or will the FBI be sifting trash cans for just such evidence...
Or worse,

8:31 PM  

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