|"I need me Power Glove!"|
The 1989 Fred Savage movie ‘The Wizard’ is hardly a cinematic masterpiece. A mindless, corporate driven, ninety-minute advert for Nintendo, with a thinly-veiled plot surrounding an autistic boy’s journey across America to play a Super Mario Brothers competition, thrown together to justify releasing Nintendo’s hard-sell advertising campaign in cinemas and VHS; it is far from being The Godfather. The unique thing is, as grand a piece of celluloid shit The Wizard invariably is, it is also the one abiding childhood memory I have, of watching a movie with full conscious appreciation, at the time of viewing.
In 1994, I lived with three younger brothers in run-down council housing, on a cesspool portion of the generally quaint Milton Keynes. With unemployed guardians, and the Internet still half a generation away, our entertainment was limited to my Super Nintendo – with its two games a year I attained at Christmas and Birthday, an Amiga 1200 my Step-Father never let anybody use, and a solitary VHS player; which couldn’t rewind videotapes - not that we owned any. This life of freedom from endless distractions would scare a modern teenager to death, but we were happy, and we got by; I still believe poor children nurture their natural creativity by necessity, and for that reason, make better artists.
Our older brother - who still lived in London, often spoke of The Wizard - this magical movie about Nintendo, the Power Glove, and Fred Savage; though Savage was never really a selling point. I wanted to know more; even though a part of me thought he had made it up. However, this was 1994, It was not as if I could pull out a phone, google "power glove movie", and find all my answers a second after mentally asking the question. The answers came a few months later in an independent video rental shop a mile from home; which my Mother had joined in order to rent 'Death Becomes Her'. Fancying a summer stroll, my brother tagged along, and what did he see in there? Yep, you guess it, The Wizard; sitting on a low rental shelf, in all it's glory! Even if we could only afford one night with the movie, It had to be rented.
Trouble was, our crappy VHS player didn’t rewind, so me and my brothers had to agree upon a specific time, to sit down and enjoy our one and only viewing of this mysterious Nintendo movie, which excited each of our innocent, video-game loving brains. For three young kids of the mid-nineties, it was like anticipating Aurora Borealis or the celestial dawn at Stonehenge. Without privilege, you learn to find beauty in the simplest of things; a gift which thankfully, never escapes your soul. So we watched it, enjoyed it, and took it back to the video store - without rewinding it; meaning if the next rental family had the same VHS problem, they were fucked.
Flash forward two decades later, and this story of The Wizard remains one of great affection in my life. It also takes me back to other memories of similar childhood vein; finding the first five seasons of Red Dwarf on VHS, in Stevenage Cash Converters. Secretly playing Smash TV on my brothers Amiga, when he spent weekends at my Nan’s house. Hearing rare unreleased pre Sub-Pop Nirvana recordings belonging to my friend Alan. And catching full WCW Pay-Per-Views in German at 2am, on analogue Astra station, DSF. All these memories are based around discovering a form of unexpected entertainment; happening anywhere and everywhere, and sharing the experience with a friend or brother beside me. What I am saying is, we had to search; often way beyond our comfort zone, in order to find.
With the powers of the Internet today, new generations lose this gift. It is not necessarily a bad thing; the ability to enjoy such a multitude of art is favourable. But in turn, it leaves art all too easy to discard. There is a magic in the process of a journey, which leads to metaphorical pot of rare gold at the end. Much like how my generation can never appreciate the wonders of shitting in an indoor toilet during a bitter mid-winters night, a child today cannot comprehend how lucky they are to have a history of entertainment, laid out before them like a three course meal. They may also neglect how unlucky they are to miss out on a host of social activities, which physically bring people together; Twitter and Facebook, no matter what anyone says, are an unsocial media; an over-elaborate form of text messaging - bland, and somewhat hollow.
With the idea for this article in mind, I google search "The Wizard". Three clicks and two seconds later, the entire movie sits before me; in the form of a YouTube video. Here I can click to any point of any scene I desire, bookmark it to watch at my leisure, and eventually, do so. And yet, I don't. I no longer have to find a specific hour to view a one time only movie with my brothers. I have virtually every piece of cinema shot, every album recorded, every song sung, and every book written at my fingertips; literally spoilt for choice. Life is never about the destination as much as it is the journey. And yet, for the kids of today, there is no journey beyond a word and a click; leaving their stories of finding obscure entertainment flat, solitary, and lacking in colour.
I believe in many ways, the worst thing you can hand the human race, is everything. Like a dog with a hundred bones, he will grow confused in deciding which one to chew first. However, make him walk a mile for one solitary bone; only half as strong in quality as the rest? He will appreciate it for the rest of his life. Not only this, but as he will need to work with others to get there, he gets to share his physical and spiritual journey with other members of his species too. The more I write about the Internet, the more I consider - for these times at least, how destructively unsociable a tool, it actually is.
As far as The Wizard is concerned? While the movie taught many kids to desire Nintendo products, it taught me how sometimes a broken VHS player, is more of a gift, than it initially seems. The Internet hadn't yet arrived, to take all the fun away...