Archive for January, 2018

I thought I would compile a few more thoughts on my whole 2017 experiment. And if anyone is interested, here is a link to the spreadsheet with what I watched, how I watched it, and a little blurb about what I thought. I hope I don’t offend anyone with anything that I wrote. Some of it may have been because I was getting kind of tired of movies. Honestly, if someone was a psychologist, they could probably do a study about how watching tons of movies when you’re forcing yourself to do it can affect your enjoyment. Hell, I’ll pay you ten dollars for it!

When I first attempted this in 1997, it was obviously a completely different world. I actually wish I still had the notebook that I kept track of the movies in because that would have been interesting, but for the most part, I watched VHS tapes that I brought home for free from the video store I worked in, and went to the movies. That was it. Two outlets. I didn’t have any premium cable channels, I don’t like watching movies that have been edited for television or have commercials in them, and I certainly didn’t have Netflix or anything like that. Still, with that system, I cracked 100 movies. In 2017, with all that stuff, I watched 159 (and had I not walked out of Justice League because of the stupid 4-D experience bull-poop, I would have made it to 160.) The funny thing is, in ’97, I was a college student (and a film student, no less) with access to thousands of movies for free because I worked in a video store. This time, I was a grown-ass man with a full-time job. Looking back now, as a college student with aspirations to be the one making movies that other people watch, should I have immersed myself in them completely, as my film professor suggested everyone in Hollywood does?

Maybe I should watch movies that way, but I can’t. There are many reasons for this. For the same reason, for example, Jerry Seinfeld can’t just watch mediocre stand-up and not think about how to make it better (Not comparing myself to Seinfeld. I just thought that would drive the point home.) Because I learned things as a film student that the average movie-goer maybe doesn’t know, like basic three-act structure, “end on the button,” and funny phrases like “mise-en-sene.” And even after I graduated, I was still learning things about movies. Before the digital age, one of my tasks at my real-life job was to show 16mm films for BU students. On my first day, I learned the trick to changing reels. Back in the day, and still sometimes now, each film reel was around 30 minutes, so a 90- minute film required two reel-changes, which required two projectors side-by-side and you had to shut one off and start the other one within a split second if you wanted to make the change seamless. Of course, most of the college freshmen didn’t notice or care, but I certainly did. Anyway, to signal the projectionist when the change was coming, a little white circle would flash in the upper right corner of the screen, which was the sign to jump up (or on occasion, wake up) and do the on-off trick. While training me, Tracey, my predecessor on the job, said, “You’ll never be able to watch movies in a theater the same again, because you’ll always notice it.”

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See? This isn’t just some splotch that Lucas edited out of the Special Editions!

Unfortunately, she was right, because even now with digital films, I notice when a movie is nearing the 30-minute mark, and if nothing of note has happened yet, I start fidgeting and sighing. Suffice it to say, I had the department purchase a DVD player not long after that. It was too late, however. The signal was burned into my brain.

I guess what bothers me is that too many movies violate these basic rules that I learned back then. And these aren’t “film school rules.” These same principles are applied to Shakespearean theater. And I was told that you had to follow these rules or you would literally never make it in that business. Not surprisingly, everyone did follow them. I had a screenwriting professor who pointed out that every movie follows the three-act structure, even something like Pulp Fiction, which is told out of order. Even out of sequence, there is still set-up, conflict, and resolution. Too many movies abandon this time-honored method, and not in a cool way, like Memento. They do it in an unbelievably less exciting way, like Manchester by the Sea, where the conflict was, “I’m an angry loser,” and the resolution was to literally go home and leave the kid with somebody else.

So, in this long, history of my life essay that I’ve just compiled, the point is that there are things that make a movie good, and things that make a movie bad, and it has very little to do with how we watch them. Of course, it’s better to watch Blade Runner: 2049 in a theater on a big screen to get the scope of the story (and the huge, naked woman), but once you take away the nice scenery, I can’t really remember what happened in it.

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Definitely best to be taken in on the big screen

Of course, all things being equal, all movies should be good no matter what screen they are watched on, but let’s face it, no matter if you’re a film student or just Joe Movie-goer, or if you watch 159 movies in a year or just a couple, they won’t all be good.

But if Brie Larson appears in it, it can only increase your chances.

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Movies Since Last Post:

Glass Castle
Disaster Artist
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Big Short
Rush: Time Stand Still
Office Christmas Party
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

So, here we are, January 1st, 2018, meaning my year of movies is over. I must say, as fun and enlightening as it was at times, I am a little disappointed in myself. I ended up seeing 159 movies in 2017, which is no small amount, but looking at the big picture, I realize that I did sort of limp to the end. In December, I only watched 8 movies, and that is with a lot of time off from work for the holidays. As a comparison, in March, I watched 16, and I hadn’t even started using Hulu as an option yet. Not that Hulu was a huge difference maker. I only watched 17 out of the 159 on there, and a few of them were also available elsewhere. I will say, however, if you have a Hulu subscription, definitely check out some of their originals. Becoming Bond, Batman & Bill and Too Funny to Fail were definitely three highlights of the year for me.

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While we’re on the topic, let me throw a few stats out there; the final count for Amazon was 35, which was surprisingly eclipsed by Xfinity OnDemand with 43. Google Play accounted for 13, and Netflix 16. I watched 4 DVD’s (which is just too funny to me), and one for Bad Movie Night at my friend’s, and I’m not sure which platform he used. So, by my count, I went to a movie theater (or Drive-In) 33 times in 2017. While I do still think that’s the best way to watch a movie, it’s also pretty expensive and time-consuming, so it looks like I have to give the nod to OnDemand for being the most-used platform of the year. Which is pretty interesting since so many people are getting rid of cable. Also, please note that I didn’t illegally download anything. Maybe that’s just me being a chump, but I still don’t think it’s right.

Now, I’m not going to make any bold statements about why people should or shouldn’t have cable, because frankly, even though Xfinity may have had the biggest selection when you throw in the fact that my package includes all the movie channels, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best and if you love movies then you should do what I’m doing. In fact, having the biggest selection only means that there are so many more movies to scroll through before you find one you want to watch. I mean, I know this isn’t news to anyone, but there are just so many bad movies. Honestly, one of the best parts of this quest being over is all the time I will get back because I will no longer be scrolling through pages and pages of bad movies hoping to find one that I want to watch. And after I watch that one, I’d have to go back and find another one.

Ah, time. Let us discuss this concept for a moment. I will admit that I could have, and even should have, watched a lot more, and probably a lot more quality films, were time not a factor. Of course, it always is. There’s no way around it, but I don’t think I even once clicked “Play” in 2017 without first looking at a clock and the movie’s running time. I definitely started leaning towards the shorter ones as the year went along, too. After a while, if a movie took me days to watch it, I would start to just lose interest, and once you get into that “have to finish” mode, then it ceases to become entertainment and it becomes work. Honestly, if I ever do anything like this again, I’ll probably have to wait until I retire and have all the time in the world. And even then I probably wouldn’t want to sit through anything longer than 2:20.

Still, the point of this whole thing was to think about how we watch movies and try to learn something. In fact, back in March, I wrote, “I thought that by the end of the year, it could be a cool way to examine how we watch movies nowadays (or it could just be a whole lot of nothing).” Well, it wasn’t really nothing, but I don’t know if it was something, either. But I did learn a little about myself, so that’s important. The lesson about myself that I did learn came at the very end of the year, in fact. Before seeing The Shape of Water, my final film if 2017, I saw that a Facebook friend had seen and it and wrote in his status that it was “not for the casual movie-goer.”

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That really sparked something in me. Obviously, I knew that “casual movie-goers” existed, because why else would Michael Bay still be allowed to direct movies? But that status spoke to me because I came to the realization that I am not, and probably never have been (at least since I was a teenager) a casual movie-goer. And while it is a great thing to have taste, I actually think that, if a casual movie-goer decided to take a year and watch as many movies as possible, that person could probably have watched way more than I did. They certainly wouldn’t have taken so much time trying to find one that suited them.   Now, I did watch a lot of bad movies last year (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Baywatch), and I did write in the notes on my Google Doc “Not horrible but not great” way more times than I remembered (and some of the movies I don’t even remember that well.) But when I think about all the ones I could have watched but just had no desire to, I have no regrets. I mean, I kind of regret not making more of an effort to watch some real classics, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Or in this case, you have to watch the movies that are available, and yeah, free. I could have paid $5 or more to watch everything that Amazon or Google have and probably enjoyed most of them, but I’d be totally broke by now. But this whole thing came about because my idiot film professor in 1997 told me that everyone in Hollywood watches hundreds of movies a year, and everyone in Hollywood is rich, so I guess that’s a pretty good lesson right there.

So, there you have it. Watching movies as a project to see how many you can see is not the way to go about watching movies. Sure, you’ll find a few diamonds in the rough, but with literally thousands of movies at our fingertips, well, that’s a lot of rough. But if you really want to see something, just fork over the dough. It saves time, and more importantly it saves you the aggravation of watching a really crappy movie like The Night Before.

Just make sure you finish within 48 hours of starting it. Another hard lesson learned.