It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been over a year since I posted anything new. During that time I changed jobs…twice, my wife enrolled in graduate school…in another state, and we’ve experienced several changes in our family…some good, some bad. In short, life happened. But, even though I wasn’t posting, I was still watching movies. In fact, I made it a resolution to watch a movie every day in 2014. It really didn’t seem like it would be that difficult to pull off. When I told people my plan, cinephiles were unimpressed, commenting that they pretty much did that anyway. However, casual moviegoers thought the task daunting, if not impossible, though many of them watch well over two hours of television a day. Whatever the reaction, I was committed.
I didn’t really have any guidelines for my movie watching. I wasn’t going to insist on only theatrical releases or only “good” movies. The rule was simply that I had to commit myself to sitting down and watching a film. The sources were varied. Sometimes I caught new releases on the big screen, sometimes I watched favorites from my collection, and sometimes I simply browsed Netflix to see what caught my eye. Since I teach film and co-host our department’s film club, some of my viewings were “work-related.” A few times over the course of the year, I was stuck in a hotel room and caught whatever happened to be playing on cable. But another time, my wife and I caught the Oscar-nominated live action and animated shorts at The Hippodrome in Gainesville, FL. But not everything was random. There were a few “rituals” that I maintained. For instance, our local movie theater hosts a classic series every Sunday afternoon, and I made almost all of them. My family also has a weekly family movie night. When my kids were young, we watched current children’s movies. As they got older, they wanted to watch movies we had watched when we were their respective ages, so I was able to introduce my children to classics from my childhood. As they got even older, we were able to return to current, more mature family films. Recently, they have experienced their own sense of nostalgia and have requested that we return to the classics from when they were kids, so the cycle continues. Finally, there are certain perennial favorites that we watch every holiday season.
If my year at the movies taught me anything, it’s that I still believe in the cinema as a communal experience. Sure I remember the films, but more than that, I remember watching the films and who I watched them with. It didn’t matter that some of the films were stinkers, it was the experience of seeing the film with someone I could talk to about why it was a stinker. The Christmas Ornament is a bad, cheesy movie, but I’ll never forget watching it with my mother in her hospital room while she recovered from surgery. My kids have always liked series, which means if we watch one in a series, we have to watch them all. In keeping with this tradition, when the new Hobbit and Hunger Games films hit the theater, we re-watched the earlier ones at home. Family movie nights consisted of Back to the Future and Indiana Jones marathons. The death of Robin Williams led to retrospective of his career. I also re-experienced the love of certain genres with my family. My daughter is a horror movie buff and we spent many nights on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and some classic—and not so classic—screamers. My son is in a sports film phase, so we spent time together rooting for the underdog. Our series tradition took different forms when coupled with their current interests. On the horror side, it meant sitting through the entire Children of the Corn series, which though terrible, included early and debut performances from future stars Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, and Eva Mendes. On the sports side, it meant introducing my son to the Rocky series and remembering just how good that first film was (we skipped V).
But it wasn’t just family who experienced this year with me but friends as well. As the year progressed, friends would send me links to short films they had found online or reviews of little-known indie films they had discovered. While passing through Atlanta with my friend Brian, we caught a hard-to-find showing of Inside LLewyn Davis, which we discussed into the wee hours of the morning as we approached Gainesville. I also randomly ran into friends at the theater. One Sunday afternoon, I found myself going alone to the classic series screening of Gone with the Wind and ran into my friend, Vicki, whose family was too busy to come as well. Another time I ran into my friends, Roger, Dave, and Johnny, at the “RiffTrax Live” presentation of Santa Claus. All of these were unexpected and made the seeing the films that much more memorable.
I don’t regret the bad films. It was part of the experience. My only regret for the year is that I didn’t make enough of an effort to catch new releases in the theater and missed out on a lot of great films. But there’s always 2015. This year I’m not holding myself to a film a day. Rather, I’m going to try to do a better job of keeping up with new releases. Also, I’m going to do something I’ve always wanted to do: watch all of the Academy Award Best Pictures in order. I’m doing both of these in order to (hopefully) see where cinema has been and where it is now. But my main resolution is to do a better job of keeping up with this blog.