Monday, April 12, 2010

Can I watch a damn movie already?

Let me tell you what that's like, just two people, one from the U.S., one from Paraguay, trying to sit down and watch a damn movie already.
Movies in Paraguay come from various places. Most Peace Corps volunteers carry their external hard drives to every Asuncion weekend, clicking and dragging from their friends' computers the movies their friends back home saw months ago, or seasons of The Office, Lost, True Blood or 30 Rock. I don't have a hard drive, so my computer, stuffed like 100 gigabytes of sitcoms in a 50-gigabyte bag, is constantly warning me that if I cram anything else into it, it will explode.

Sometimes we pass around DVDs, left in each others' lockers at the office or passed around at meetings. These are usually just the C-grade ones people are willing to pass on.

C-grade is good, I'll take C-grade. On television there's strictly D-grade. When my host sister asks if I've seen Miss Congeniality 2, I try not to act too offended when I say no. And I don't correct her when she says, "Oh, it's so awesome."

There's also a usual D-grade level on these DVDs Oscar brings, up to five movies on one DVD in a poor man's ziplock, with a cover printed on some computer, probably in Ciudad del Este, with the images of 5 normal DVD covers on one. They might be a collection of Jackie Chan movies, , bad Argentinian comedies, gory horrors of varying quality, whatever. I can now claim that yes, I have seen American Pie 6. Oscar's only seen an orginal disk once, in my house. He opened it like it was a treasure box lighting up his face and said, "Ooh, original." Those others, making us Americans look like idiots, are $100 worth of DVDs, one on disk and available at your local street corner for 10 mil (2$).

You put that disk in your computer and there could be anything. We once started "2012" and it began with a shot that looked like someone's volcano vinegar/baking soda experiment. Even if it is the movie you wanted, there could be Spanish with Russian subtitles, or Portuguese, especially with all the movies taped in the Brazilian theaters. I always hope for spoken English and Spanish subtitles.

I also hope it's a DVD rip, and not taped in the theater. When's it's taped in the theater, the sound comes out like you're trapped in a box and the movie is from 1942. Oscar and I were just watching Night at the Museum, and some subtitle came on that was on the real screen in the movie theater, only in the tilted camera, it just dove diagonally off screen, cut off into black. Sometimes people will cough, laugh, or their shadows get up to go pee. On my friend's copy of the New Moon movie, girls in the theater squeal at the part where Jacob takes off his shirt.

So many times we put the disk in, and it just doesn't work at all, or it's in a language that neither of us understand. Sometimes, there are just subtitles, in the doodles of Russian. Or, worse, there are too many choices. Audio in both English and Spanish, subtitles in both English and Spanish. So then, who gets to listen, and who has to read? To me, it is an injustice to take a film that was recorded in my language, change it over to Spanish that doesn't go along with mouth movements, and have the English words written on the bottom. But that's just me. Oscar does not share that opinion. We recently had a little bilingual lovers' spat over the fact that I didn't want to watch Avatar, again, in poor theater-taped quality, in Portuguese, which only understands, and only partly.

There are a hundred web sites to download subtitles, should I find something that otherwise works but doesn't have them. So you Google the movie and "subtitles" and "spanish" and you dig around on slow internet, and then you find them, and then you wait, in the dark because you thought you were about to watch a movie, for them to download. Not perfect, but it made possible the sharing of my love of The Office with Oscar.

Sometimes the subtitles don't work and Oscar makes me translate the whole time, which, for the record, is The Worst. Sometimes the subtitles work, but the movie talks and then the subtitles come on 5 seconds later. You have to play with the delay until you get it just right. We watched one movie where we had to pause it every 10 minutes and set the subtitles back. They kept moving too fast, like they were on a different treadmill. When Inglourious Bastards turned out to have two discs, I figured out how to make the subtitles roll over by setting the delay forward to 4374. Worked like a charm.



Photo: me with a pirate dvd of 5 movies, including 2012, New Moon and, yes, a movie called American Poop.

1 comment:

Ken, Christie, Camille, Caroline said...

I think you're my long-lost gemela. I have to agree that translating is THE WORST! I didn't know that about googling translations, so I'll have to take advantage of that. My brother-in-law just sent us the current season of LOST, all but the finale. Haikue!