When I started watching 365 films for 2013, I thought this would just be a funny Internet meme in which I participated. Like Selfie Olympics, but minus any sort of physical activity. I should’ve known that my obsessive tendencies would get the best of me and turn into something more elaborate.
Let’s discuss this premise. I watched 365 movies this year, which sounds incredibly lazy and preposterous. I attempted to only count movies that were completely new to me, which was a task because I have seen a lot of movies. However, I quickly realized that movies are emotionally and physically demanding, especially in that quantity. Trying to absorb that amount of information every night became incredibly tiresome and I started seeing without really watching movies. I started to choose movies that I knew I could “count” without having to really pay attention to them, which sort of negated the whole point of attempting this. Can these movies count, if I was really scrolling through Tumblr, repainting my nails or doing laundry? I had to start to find ways to bend these self-imposed rules without completely compromising the integrity of this project.
Exception 1: If I’ve already seen it, but I pay for the movie, I can count it.
I saw Fight Club in 2003, when I was 16 and sitting in a friend’s basement, after someone had rented it from Blockbuster. However, paying to see Fight Club and going to a midnight screening of it a decade later, was a completely different experience. The whole movie changed for me. I became more aware of filmmaking techniques. I was looking for signs that Tyler Durden and the Narrator (years old spoiler alert) were one and the same. I understood the Narrator’s resistance to materialism more now, watching as a working adult who is both repulsed by and drawn to the powerful allure of Ikea. In ten years, the movie experience had changed for me.
Exception 2: If I am rewatching a movie with a group of friends and we watch the movie from beginning to end, I can count it.
A significant part of my friendships are based around conversations about movies. That may be oversimplifying some things, like the core concept of friendship and my obsession with pop culture, but movies are such a huge love affair in my life that many friends of mine know how essential this is to understanding me. For example, one summer my brother and I became obsessed with Jaws (and yes, we sought out the sequels, which we stopped pretty much halfway). Revisiting that movie this year with another movie fan friend added a completely different perspective from the pure childish joy of watching a giant shark smashing apart a fishing boat. We talked at length about the three act narrative, and how the entrances of Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw are signals to this changing story. Just like Fight Club had changed, Jaws had become bigger, deeper, more frightening, more flawed, than I had previously remembered it.
Exception 3: Mystery Science Theater 3000 counts.
This was perhaps my biggest cheat. I’ve said before that I just really love Mystery Science Theater. It was a huge part of my childhood; a long-term secret love before I knew that the MST3K fandom was vast and mighty. I watched 38 Mystery Science Theater-related movies (including some Cinematic Titantic movies, and some Rifftrax) this year. Two of those were Rifftrax Live events (Starship Troopers and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians) where I paid to see live, new riffs of movies, which again, completely change the movie experience. I tried to stay true to my new movie goal by looking for episodes I had never seen before. A few repeat episodes did slip in, mostly because they followed other exceptions.
I also had to think of ways to record each movie viewing. In order to best summarize my 365 film watching, I thought I could just keep track of it through Tumblr, taking screencaps from Netflix and uploading them when I’m done watching. But even tagging and reblogging started to take more time than I anticipated. Suddenly, this wasn’t just a fun little project anymore.
I started a spreadsheet. I really love spreadsheets. It started with just the name of the movie, the method of viewing and the date. Rows were added over the year to include the year of the movie, whether it was a rewatch, and other additional notes. Over time, I added a personal ratings column, as I knew I wouldn’t forget crying through Tyrannosaur, but I may have forgotten that I even watched St. Trinian’s. It was nice to see that I had watched both Judge Dredd (which I could not get behind, even with my love of terrible, campy movies), and Dredd (which I actually loved). The spreadsheets led to charts, because I really like charts, and because being able to visually represent the project felt especially important to me.
The Excel workbook grew longer and longer, as I added sheets to represent other lists, i.e., 50 Trashy Movies Everyone Needs to See Before They Die (I’ve seen 12), or 50 Best Directorial Debuts in Movie History (11).
While this particular iteration of this project has ended and I don’t think I’ll be repeating this anytime soon, it has made me aware of my viewing habits and forced to me to look outside my comfort zone. I tried to start filling in gaps in my movie knowledge, watching silent films, and cult classics, short films, and musicals I had never seen. I fell in love with Buster Keaton for the first time and was thoroughly creeped out by Henry Fonda. I watched movies I had been meaning to watch for years. Those I haven’t yet watched are on one of those many lists I’ve compiled, and will hopefully watch some time soon.
And for anyone who was wondering if I just abruptly stopped after reaching 365 movies, I watched (including rewatches) 428 movies last year. If nothing else, I can at least say I made exceptionally good use of my Netflix account.