I watch movies. I’ve been away from a steady job for roughly 5 months at this point and when someone asks me what I do or what I’m doing with my life, my response is, “I watch movies.” It’s not very impressive to a lot of people. Friends, acquaintances, family members–the whole lot. And not only is it not impressive, it feels embarrassing at times. Yeah, I could be earning money, saving toward a future, supporting my relationship, planning for kids, striving to be a better person, or a host of other things that really mean something to most people, but right now, that’s the answer I’ve got. I watch movies. And then I rate them. I input an exorbitant amount of information about each film I see into a spreadsheet that I’ve been working on for almost 7 years. I spend more time watching movies and working with movie data than I did when I worked 45-60 hours a week at my old job. It’s incredibly time consuming and offers very little in the way of a reward.
I don’t make any money off of it. It’s purely for my own personal gratification. I spend a lot of time scrolling through rows and rows of data, discovering that a voice actor named Lori Alan is in my top 200 actors and that’s not a name that I’m familiar with. I learn that films are trending toward satisfying the Bechdel test more and more as the years go by. It’s a wealth of information, but it’s all restricted to me. So, when I tell someone, “I watch movies,” it isn’t lounging on a sofa with potato chips on my chest as I scroll through Netflix, it’s an educational and informative process that means a whole heck of a lot to me.
As I evaluate all of the time I’ve spent watching movies, approximately 532.26 full 24-hour days as of the typing of this sentence by my best calculations, which works out to about 5.55% of my entire life (and I’m sure I watched plenty more movies as an infant that I can’t recall), I wonder what the purpose is. In 60 years, when I’m 85, will the spreadsheet still mean anything to me? When I have 50,000 movies on there and I have a computer specifically for this spreadsheet that’s using up 100% of the processing power, does that mean anything to anybody? My ideal goal would be to make this format of movie logging available to everyone, but that’s not a task I’m at all capable of completing on my own. I think about this often and I really haven’t reached any sort of meaningful conclusion.
I even share my love for movies with others. I do a podcast three times a week that takes up even more of my time on top of everything else. I review movies, go through their statistics, run down lists, give out my own awards, and more. I enjoy that, too. I love that I’m able to surround myself with movies on every single side. I love that my girlfriend is willing to go to the movies as often as she does. I love that I live so close to not 1 or 2, but 6 different movie theaters. I love that I can spend all day watching movies, reading about movies, listening to movie podcasts, and when I wake up the next day, I can do it all over again.
And that leads me into the heart of this article. I joined Twitter recently (or rather, began using a Twitter account I created years ago). It’s okay. I’m not really good at Twitter. And not many people listen to my podcast, so I wasn’t exactly expecting an outpouring of love there, either. But I follow a lot of critics for other sites, podcasters, youtube reviewers, and other various members of the industry. I watch and read their interactions. I learn about new movies I haven’t heard of, get the early scoop on awards contenders, discover impressions and details about films that hadn’t occurred to me. It’s quite fascinating and offers a wealth of information that I enjoy absorbing. However, it’s also a vile cesspool of hate, of mischaracterization, overblown accusations, and frustration.
It starts out as disappointment that Lady Bird or Get Out isn’t winning enough awards. It turns into a think piece on the dated views of the old, white, male AMPAS voter. Wars are waged over the importance of sexism vs. racism. If you aren’t standing up for everything, then you’re explicitly approving of it. If you aren’t willing to recognize that you’re imperfect, you’re demonized for it. If your top 10 movies doesn’t have a movie that was made by a woman and a black person and a homosexual and a European, then you’re not welcoming of all types of people. While some of these disagreements and ‘fights’ originate in a good place and with well-meaning intentions, they often devolve into SHOUTING MATCHES AND DEMANDS FOR APOLOGIES. “What do you mean The Last Jedi is the greatest Star Wars movie, they don’t even get Luke right!?” “How could anyone give Lady Bird a rotten review?!” “Only racists don’t like Get Out!” (These aren’t actual quotes that I’m pulling, just general sentiments I recall.) It’s despicable and it hurts to see these people buckle at the first accusation.
Maybe Trump’s presidency has influenced this stream of hatred, I can’t say for sure as I wasn’t really around to experience these fights before his inauguration. What I can say is that it ruins the love I have for movies. I like at least half of the movies I see to one degree or another. I think most people do. And I’m also very happy to listen to someone else’s opinion on the movies I like and I take their opinion to heart. Is Mad Max: Fury Road weak on plot? Yeah, it is. Can some people find Microcosmos boring? Of course. Is The Nightmare Before Christmas’ macabre setting for everybody? Not at all. Their opinions don’t always change my mind, and I would say that I frequently disagree with negative opinions about my favorite films. Yet, I’ve never been so upset or so angry that I yelled at someone over their opinion–OPINION!–on a movie.
To watch high profile, well-respected, and notable names in the industry throw punches at each other is frustrating. It’s frustrating when they react vehemently at the slightest provocation. It’s equally as frustrating when the readers of their comments and reviews ridicule them for not liking their movies.
And it’s not everyone. There are many that keep their thought to themselves when it comes down to it and refuse to be drawn in to a spitting match. But having witnessed a pretty visceral confrontation between a few people that I respect just recently, I feel obligated to take note of what happened. I feel obligated to write down my own thoughts, even if no one else sees them. Movies by their very nature bring people together. This is why they’re released in movie theaters. This is why we curl up on the couch with our families. This is why movies make billions of dollars every year. We all congregate in front of those screens. No one going to see Black Panther on opening weekend expects to be the only person in that theater (and there’s a very minuscule chance that they will be). We’ll be sitting together, experiencing the film for the first time together (or second or third). We’ll be caught up in the laughter, the cheers, the applause, and the gasps with each other. When the Oscars air, there will be hundreds in attendance–thousands–with millions more at home watching on TV. We’ll cheer and groan as our favorites take home the statuette or an unlikely upset steals a sure thing from a deserving nominee.
That’s the power that movies have, whether it’s the MCU, the newest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, a major awards player, or your kid’s new favorite animated musical, we all spend time watching movies and sharing our favorites with each other. We go see The Room and throw spoons at the screen. We go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show and act it out with the movie behind us. We dress up in robes with wands to see Harry Potter. We turn out to see The Wizard of Oz 80 years after it came out and sing along with every song. We sit through every minute of The Lord of the Rings and savor each frame. We share buttered popcorn, boxed candy, and over-sized fountain drinks that all cost way too much as we stave off going to the bathroom through a Star Wars marathon.
To name one person in this piece that I think deserves some credit for some of the things I’ve heard him say, I want to emphasize the approach Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture) has taken during this awards season. It’s in words only at this point, and when Oscar nomination morning comes, his words will be put to the test. He has said on more than one occasion (and I’m paraphrasing) that this season, unlike others before it, he’s determined to view the awards as objectively as he can. It’s not about his favorite movies and cheering for them above all others, but about celebrating film and appreciating the incredible craftspersonship that goes into everything we see. From Get Out to The Shape of Water, Dunkirk to Lady Bird, Three Billboards to Good Time, Mudbound to The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes to Call Me By Your Name, Wonder Woman to Wonder to Wonderstruck, it’s about recognizing that we made some kick-ass movies this year across the board. In my opinion, he’s got the right idea. I couldn’t agree more.
Whether you’re a well-known critic, popular podcaster, industry insider, or merely a fan, it’s important to not let your emotions overpower you, especially during the awards season. No movie can win everything. We can’t all have the same favorite movie. That wouldn’t even be fun. I don’t expect my favorite movie to even be in the conversation for Best Picture this year, but that’s something I’ve grown used to. It’s something we all need to experience, because it helps to recognize that as many people you hear beating the drum for Lady Bird and Get Out and Three Billboards, there are just as many people without a podium that would rank Columbus, Thor, or Mother! as their favorites of the year. And those people know their movies aren’t going to be in the conversation. But they’ve accepted it.
Shouting at each other isn’t going to solve anything. No one can hear the point you’re making when you’re yelling it into their ear. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t speak up when we disagree or when we think someone’s wrong, but take a step back and try to understand where that person is coming from, even if you have to ask them to explain themselves.Interested in signing up for MoviePass? Feel free to use this referral link when signing up. When I get notified of your subscription, I'll give you a special shout out!
Email Ryan: email@example.com
Follow Ryan: www.letterboxd.com/strangah
Tweet Ryan: @circleoffilm
More information: www.circleoffilm.com
Become a Patron: www.patreon.com/circleoffilm
Find the show on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.fm, CastBox, and TuneIn.