Monday, November 30, 2015

On Watching Too Many Movies

"One-movie-a-day" challenges are often tackled by young, neophyte movie fans who are trying to get into film more seriously.  Usually they're paired with some activity like reviewing or blogging about the experience, and tend to last in duration from a month to a year.  I always have to restrain myself from being cynical when I run across some excited college kid thinking that he or she is about to do something exceptional by embarking on one of these challenges.  A movie a day for a year isn't particularly difficult as challenges go.  The average person watches four or five hours of television a day, and the average length of a mainstream American film is only a little north of two hours.  And if you get into the habit, it can be very hard to stop.

A movie a day is perfectly doable for anyone who has the time and inclination, especially now that we have Netflix and Amazon and iTunes, which allow almost instantaneous access to massive online catalogs of movies.  And despite being so busy these days that I often can only watch half a movie at a time, I'm over two hundred films for the year so far.  In my more intense Miss Media Junkie years of yore, that number would easily be doubled.  My record was 532 movies in my first year out of grad school, where I had no internet and awful television reception in my crummy apartment, but I was only a short walk from the main branch of my city's library.  I was taking home Criterion DVDs ten at a time for a few months.  Not normal or healthy, clearly, but we all have our ways of distracting ourselves during tough times.  Movies were a lot cheaper than drinking.

And a few years before that I had an internship near Washington DC, and had rented a room from a woman with a house in the suburbs.  Again, no internet, limited access to television, and I only had time to go to see the touristy stuff on weekends because I was reliant on public transportation.  However, I trudged past the doors of a Blockbuster Video store on the way home every night, and eventually paid for a month of their unlimited two-at-a-time rental plan.  I think the cost was $35 and I wound up watching 52 movies that month on my laptop.  I wasn't particularly interested in becoming a movie buff - I just liked movies and had grown up regularly watching an hour or two of television in the evening with my parents before bed.  It felt odd not to have something on.  So that was how I first saw "The Conversation" and "Midnight Cowboy" and "Harold and Maude."  I was back at school a few weeks later, and only watched about thirty movies the rest of the year.

By the way, I'm getting the numbers from an Excel spreadsheet I've kept of all the movies I've watched since 2004.  I've been using Icheckmovies as a backup for the past few years, but the spreadsheet is still my main record.  I started it for fun and just got into the habit of logging a quick one-sentence review and star score after every viewing of a new movie.  I've gotten behind on the recordkeeping a few times over the years, but always caught up again eventually.  I like having it in this format for reference, easily sortable by year or score or even viewing format.  I can pinpoint pretty clearly when I had subscriptions to various rental services, and when I switched from DVDs to online streaming.  I keep thinking that one of these days I'm going to start a new spreadsheet, something better formatted with more information, but I don't know if I ever will.

And somewhere along the way I realized that I had turned into a movie buff, and watching a movie every day or two felt completely normal.  It became a part of my life, and something I don't really question.  It's only when I see my own viewing patterns referred to as a "challenge" by someone that I'm reminded that I really am a media junkie.  Not quite the one I used to be, but still a media junkie.

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