We offer some more New Year’s Resolutions for those uncertain of how to live their best possible movie lives in 2018.
Are you ready to make some changes?
Two years ago, I wrote a piece titled Five New Year’s Resolutions for the Distinguished Film Nerd. As a recap for those who have already exhausted their day’s supply of clicks, those resolutions were to spend more time at the inconvenient theater; read the work of a film critic you disagree with; step outside your preferred genre; stay in the dark about an upcoming release; and talk more often with people who don’t care as much about cinema as you do. Taken as a whole, these resolutions were meant to help people develop a more thoughtful – and perhaps more caring – relationship with the moviegoers around them. Good taste is like any other muscle: refuse to flex it and you may find yourself growing weak.
But a new year means a new you, so it’s time for five more resolutions that might help you be a well-rounded moviegoer in 2018. Please feel free to steal with abandon and report back at the end of the year on how well you did.
1. Keep My Damn Letterboxd Up-To-Date
I feel like the same thing happens every year: I’m cruising along in the summer months, dutifully logging every single movie I see in theaters or at home, and then suddenly I realize three weeks have passed and I can’t remember what movies I watched and when. Rather than simply make an educated guess at my viewing habits based on credit card receipts and Netflix queues, I decide to abandon the whole thing and start over the following year. This was certainly the case in 2017, when I made it all the way through July 18 before a half-hearted attempt to watch Stephen King’s Desperation brought my Letterboxd diary to a screeching halt.
Why is this so important? Keeping your Letterboxd diary current is certainly a powerful way to both track the movies you’ve watched, but also to help you identify some gaps in your viewing habits. It’s hard to justify another bland ’90s blockbuster when your Last Five are devoid of substance; updating your diary frequently often has the unintended – but galvanizing – side effect of shaming you into watching some of those arthouse films you’ve kept on the back burner for way too long. Plus, what better way to connect with other movie fans who are watching the same movies as you?
2. Assemble a Weekly or Biweekly Screening Schedule
The older I get, the more I appreciate structure. That’s why I think 2018 is the year that I start reserving my movie time for specific types of cinema. For example, my wife and I have a long-standing tradition called Dinner & Doc Night, where we pair an at-home meal with one of our wishlist documentaries. This tradition has led us to finally watch everything from The Thin Blue Line to this past year’s One of Us, and while the results often vary – documentaries can be a pretty tricky beast, just ask our own documentary guru Christopher Campbell – it at least ensures that one biweekly screening will push us outside the realm of cinematic comfort food.
Take this idea and expand it. If you know you watch a handful of movies every week, carve out time in your schedule for each genre of film. Watch a classic on Tuesdays, an underseen horror film on Thursdays, and a new release on the weekends. Keep building variance into the foundation of your movie nights until you break free from some of the bad habits that keep you from really exploring the best Hollywood has to offer each year. Not every movie needs a four or fifth viewing at the expense of something unseen by you.
3. Support Your Local Video Store (and Library!)
Look, we all know video stores are struggling. For every feel-good headline noting that a major movie theater chain will invest in physical media in 2018, there’s a corresponding USA Today article noting that the video industry is dying faster than any other single industry in the United States. That’s why they need your support. Even setting aside the sense of smug superiority that comes from patronizing a video store, they also offer better selection, richer history, and an offline alternative for people who may be somewhat data-conscious, especially in a world where Net Neutrality looks to be a thing of the past.
And while we’re on the subject of physical media and dying industries, you want to know the second industry on that USA Today list? Public libraries. Despite a recent study by Pew Research Center showing that millennials are the generation of Americans most likely to use public libraries, many public libraries are struggling to keep the lights on across the country. The reasons to support your local library go far beyond simple movie rentals, of course – they provide essential services ranging from literacy programs to employee education – but they remain an excellent source for checking out new and old releases alike. Check out DVDs and make a tax-free donation; that’s the very definition of a win-win scenario.
4. Read a Book About Cinema
Here’s one I always seem to struggle with. When you treat moviegoing as a zero-sum game – where more time for new releases means less time for the classics and vice-versa – it can be hard to make time to actually sit down and read a book. This is exacerbated by the countless number of articles and essays published online each year; why go digging through the works of, say, Peter Bogdanovich when you’ve got a handful of new essays by Bilge Ebiri to read in the here-and-now? Finding time to read for education, not just entertainment, can be a challenge for anyone, especially those (*cough*) who tend to dedicate their free time to the movies themselves.
That doesn’t make it any less important. Reading about the people who helped make Hollywood what it is can provide important historical context for any moviegoer, especially in an era where plenty of writers seem incapable of evaluating movies through anything other than a contemporary lens. If you have some latitude in your schedule, make sure you also find some time for classic film criticism, too. Reading the work of some of the titans – even some of their academic publications – can go a long way towards creating a strong base for your own analyses.
5. Choose an Upcoming Release to Know Nothing About
I like this one so much that I’m unapologetically recycling it from my 2016 piece. Plenty of people have written about the way trailer culture dumbs down film discourse; I’ve even argued in the past that companies like Netflix have made this the main focus of their business model. It seems like far too many of our conversations about film focus on upcoming releases at the expense of good movies currently playing (to say nothing of classic films in desperate need of a new generation of champions). And even if we set all this aside, there’s still the little issue about an upcoming release that you’ve practically spoiled for yourself with a slew of teasers, trailers, and clips.
With that in mind, make 2018 the year that you decide to go into one film totally blank. Pick an upcoming release to avoid at all costs. Skip the trailers. Mute the keywords on Twitter. Avoid reading reviews or early reactions until you’ve had a chance to see the movie for yourself. Remove all the background noise from one Hollywood release and see if it changes the way you think about the movie. And hell, if you enjoyed that, try it a second time, and then a third, until you find yourself no longer caught up in the hype.