We were talking to Lily the other day about a movie she saw in her class at school. At some point I realized that although she had most likely seen either a DVD or videotape (or even a movie on the internet), in my mind I was imagining an old reel-to-reel filmstrip, of the kind we used to watch when I was in school. Yet another way to define eras…
I’m not sure why my mind set on that image; I hadn’t thought about those kinds of films in years. It was like my brain momentarily forgot that video had happened; when I thought of “movie” and “school”, I heard the click-click-click of the projector.
I miss reel-to-reel movies. I used to spend about as much time watching the projector wheels turn, or watch the film feed through the machine, as I did the movies. Watching a DVD player just doesn’t generate the same fascination with light and moving, intricate parts. DVDs don’t have the same color saturation those old reel-to-reels had, either. Every movie looked like an old episode of Wild Kingdom.
Thinking back, I would guess our classroom movies through grade and middle school had a failure rate of about 10%, meaning that the film would break, making that tell-tale flapping noise. Or in some cases the projector might eat, shred or melt the film, which always led to an entertaining (and sometimes stinky) 10-minute intermission where the teacher tried to disentangle the mangled strip.
Sometimes the video portion of the film would work, but the audio wouldn’t quite match up. You might get the Charlie Brown audio, or you might get nothing at all. And frankly, some of the films were so bizarre and clearly from another era that even when the audio and video did work, the overall entertainment or educational impact could still be hard to discern.
Still, I miss seeing that projector roll into our classroom, knowing the lights would soon dim and nobody would much mind if your head sank just a little lower into your arms as you folded them across your desk.