• Almost, but not completely


    Antsy McClain is a singer, songwriter, performer and the lead man for the Trailer Park Troubadours.


    I watch a lot of movies. Cinema complexes have been my escape, my classroom and, at times, even my church. I find commercial television relentless and obnoxious, so my TV remains dark except for big news and weather updates. But I would probably be embarrassed to count the movies I’ve seen in the last year.

    I don’t have an account with Netflix. I have a relationship. It knows my likes and dislikes better than most people. When I scroll down the menu and see Netflix’s recommendations for me “Because you watched ‘Cutie and The Boxer,’” I feel comfort akin to a warm bowl of chicken soup and a grilled cheese sandwich sliced in half from corner to corner like my mom would do when I was sick with the flu. This is only a slight exaggeration.

    I also have an Amazon Instant Video “Prime” account (not yet a relationship, but we’re getting along well), and five mobile video apps on my iPhone.

    The only defense I have for my behavior is this: I think film is the greatest art form ever created by mankind.

    As an artist and musician myself, I appreciate that I can shell out ten bucks, and for 90-minutes or so, I can enjoy all the major art forms rolled into one, constructed and distributed to me by a cast of thousands. Within one good film, I can get visual, musical, dramatic and literary stimulation.

    So, suffice it to say, the Academy Awards is my Super Bowl. I follow the categories, make my predictions, and yell at the television when I disagree with an outcome. My reaction to the Oscars is why I’m not hard on sports junkies. I cut them some slack, because I totally get it. I can’t maintain a long conversation about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1975 lineup, but I can tell you that “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” won the Oscar for best film in 1975, that it was adapted from Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel of the same name. I could list the cast and tell you “Jaws” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” made more money that year, but Cuckoo’s Nest was the big artistic winner, getting all five of the “big” awards.

    Having said all this, I remind myself that music and art and literature — even film — is all overrated when compared to the painfully beautiful theater of Life.

    In this age of handheld distraction, with palm-sized devices stealing us away from the sunsets and swaying trees overhead, the babies born, the exit of elders, and everything else in between, we are missing too much of what’s real. We watch and absorb what’s called “virtual,” which the dictionary defines as “almost, but not completely.” Almost, but not quite.

    Now, “the iPhone generation” is a common complaint among writers and commentators these days, and I don’t mean to flog an already well-flogged horse, but I cannot be satisfied with that definition of my own reality. I refuse to live “almost, but not completely.” I prefer the terms “full” and “complete.” I don’t always feel that way, but it gives me something to strive for rather than being content with the counterfeit.

    And therein lies my guilt with my obsession for the movies. Conscious of my need to live authentically, I try and relegate most of my movie watching to long plane flights, airport layovers and other such “down” times.

    Making these changes has brought about many positive things. I make more eye contact. Eyes are pretty fascinating. And beautiful. Talk about art. No two sets of eyes are the same. Check them out sometime. I mean, really check them out. Pretty cool. The same goes for skies. That cloud formation you’re seeing right now? You’ll never see it again. This is it. There might be one like it somewhere, but that particular cloud will be gone in just a moment, the living canvas on which it appears will breathe out another, and another, and another. Like the souls who come in and out of our lives, blink and they’re gone, and you have no other option but to miss them. Glance down at that little screen for five minutes, and poof, it’s all changed.

    And the movies? Almost, but not quite. Yeah, I know. But as counterfeits go, cinema can be quite breathtaking. And I’ve got money on Mathhew McConaughey and Judy Dench.

    Old habits die hard.

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