Friday, May 8, 2009

Staycation idea: Movie marathons

Twenty years ago, when VHS was wiping out Betamax in the videotape format war, movies weren’t that easy to rent. Small, independent video stores were everywhere, Blockbuster was just starting to grow, and there were long waiting lists to rent movies. I remember my family was on a waiting list for several weeks to rent Revenge of the Nerds. (I acknowledge our very questionable taste in movies.)

Now, video stores are everywhere, it’s cheap to buy videos, and Netflix ( and Blockbuster ( offer services that mail movie rentals directly to your home. Memberships are as low as five bucks per month. Video kiosks can also be found in grocery stores with the latest releases, making renting a movie as easy as getting a snack from a vending machine. Even easier, in fact, because the movies never get stuck coming out like candy bars sometimes do. (When the candy bar isn’t fully released, and it’s left dangling there, I always feel like the vending machine is taunting me. Come on, put some more money in … maybe you’ll get the Snickers this time!)

So renting movies is more convenient than ever. It’s so convenient that watching a movie, once a special experience, has become commonplace. Kind of mundane.

But simply catching up on movies you missed over the last year might be a fun way to spend your staycation. Or getting into one of the television series you missed, because Netflix and Blockbuster allow you to rent a season’s worth of episodes, and they give you access to movies that are often hard to find in stores, such as old classics, independent films and documentaries. You can also find movies that will help you feel like you’re traveling. Search “scenic travel movies” and you’ll find several lists of top travel movies with selections such as Lawrence of Arabia and Under the Tuscan Sun.

I know some people who, in the weeks before the Academy Awards, rent all the best-picture nominees so they can decide for themselves. They don’t do it as part of a staycation, but it would seem to fit. You can reserve the films nominated for best picture, or pick a category such as best actor or actress, and then be a critic. You’ve created your own Academy Awards, and perhaps a lively discussion with your staycation partner. Especially if your choice for best picture stars Adam Sandler or has a character named Borat.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.

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