Patty Jenkins is right: nothing can replace the joy of watching a film on the big screen | Patty Jenkins

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There is a certain advert on television at the moment, maybe more than one, for a make of mobile phone or a service provider, which promises a free music streaming subscription if you sign up.

I can’t remember whose ad it is, because a low-level red mist descends whenever I hear it being offered. It is such a small thing to feel outrage over, particularly now, but music has already been devalued, then devalued again, particularly for those who make it. It devalues it even more to turn it into a free gift, as if it were just an inconsequential plastic toy, stuck to the front of a child’s magazine.

Last week, the Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins, gave an interview to Reuters, delivering a sombre warning that films may face a similar fate to music. As further delays to the release of the new Bond film drove an Aston Martin filled with the careers of cinema staff off a cliff, Cineworld, the world’s second-largest chain, announced that it was closing its doors until April. “We could lose movie theatre-going forever,” said Jenkins, in an appeal to the US government for financial assistance.

This year has seen a number of big releases going straight to on-demand, or streaming, and some saw it as a testing ground, a dry run of what could be the future of film. It is obvious that people might be reluctant to go to the cinema en masse right now and impossible to blame them for any nerves about that. But I do hope Jenkins is wrong, as I am sure she does too, and that when this is over cinemas come roaring back, Bond and all, because no matter how hi-tech your TV and speakers are, home cinema is not the cinema and it never will be.

When a film is either at the cinema for a week before streaming, or released straight to streaming, and I know it’s just there, I rarely feel any sense of urgency to watch it. It’s why I still haven’t seen The Irishman. (That, and I do not trust that my attention span is up to it.) Watching a film from the sofa robs the experience of its splendour, even if you do turn the lights off and shush whoever you’re with for chatting through the trailers. Going to the cinema is special, a treat. It demands your attention like little else does – I wish I had the discipline to switch off my phone in the living room, but the temptation is often too much – and it celebrates what we have paid to watch on a massive screen, in an auditorium full of other people who mostly feel the same way. It is another experience that deserves not to lose its value.

Monty Don: look up, listen and feel the real world

Monty Don
Monty Don: leave the headphones behind. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

Gardeners’ World presenter, wise man and style icon Monty Don has told BBC News that whenever he is in a city, “the thing I notice most – and what shocks me most – is how many people are walking along with headphones in, looking at a phone”. He suggested, quite reasonably, that such sensory deprivation might be damaging. “They’re not noticing anything at all – the weather, the sky, any other sounds. And that has to be bad for you.”

In some areas of some cities I have lived in, often it has been more pleasant to ignore the weather (usually grey), the sky (also usually grey) and any exterior sounds (sirens, traffic, shouting, tutting). But I do take his point, which was also made by the underrated 2019 Christmas classic-to-be, Last Christmas, which urged people to “look up” as a metaphor for living life to the full, and was its second most moving idea, after Emma Thompson’s Yugoslavian accent.

There is no feeling like moving around a city, with the perfect song playing in your headphones at the perfect moment, but now, mostly, I walk in silence. I can’t get through a day without taking the dog out for at least an hour, while I used to think it would be a good time to catch up on podcasts or new albums.

But I leave my headphones at home and I try, as much as I can, not to look at my phone. It gives me time to think and time to notice. It has done what no app has managed and made me understand mindfulness. It is an hour of calm and peace.

Macaulay Culkin: the scream that sums up this crisis

Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin: a message behind the mask. Photograph: @culkamania/Instagram

While cinema is struggling, it has been a big week for fans of the 90s classics. First, Whoopi Goldberg thrilled fans of the Sister Act movies by hinting that a third film could be in the works. “We are working diligently to try to figure out how to get the gang together and come back,” she told James Corden on The Late Late Show… and I will take “working diligently” as full confirmation of Sister Act III and will be extremely disappointed if it ends up being a 10-minute YouTube reunion special.

Elsewhere, Macaulay Culkin continued to do his “Macaulay Culkin breaks the internet!” thing by using a mask of his own mouth to remind people that, contrary to what your uncle’s mate’s friend’s cousin who works for the council secretly told him on Facebook, it is worth wearing a mask. “Just staying Covid-safe by wearing the flayed skin of my younger self,” he wrote on Twitter, with a truly disturbing picture of his face half-covered with the hand-to-mouth scream from Home Alone. I know we’ve all made some sacrifices, but Culkin has really pushed through into some Being John Malkovich territory here and it should be an inspiration to us all.

• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist

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Source: The Guardian
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