I was never tempted by an explicit resolution like the 52 Films by Women project Rick did last year. I remember people motivating each other to watch “30 films from 30 countries” at some point last year, but couldn’t work up the energy. Even when my friends do things like “Spooktober” (watching horror movies all through October—which, let’s all admit, for most male film nerds differs from every other month of the year only by being explicit), I was left scratching my head a little.
On the one hand, I have been an obsessive list maker in the past, trying to watch every movie by actor x or director y or musician z. But I always lacked the tenacity to make it all the way through; I ended up abandoning one list for another. I often was so bad at finishing things that I ended up with lists of lists of things to watch, or even lists of lists of lists. The nesting got somewhat out of hand.
So, my aversion may be partially because I know how addicting projects like that can be for me. But on the other hand, it also feels a little claustrophobic. We all know the feeling of hearing about some weird movie and suddenly wanting to abandon everything to see it. What if you’re in the middle of some resolution? (“Wait, it’s a Godard movie that stars Peter Sellars and Molly Ringwald? I need to watch this right now! Oh, that’s right, I decided to watch one movie that starts with every letter of the alphabet this month…”)
So, when I was thinking about making a film resolution for the New Year, I was a little apprehensive. But putting together my ranking of every movie from 2017 while thinking up real-life New Year’s resolutions, some things came to mind.
That article was, frankly, a little nuts, and not at all representative of what art I’m usually interested in. I mean, there was never a chance I was going to like Logan or Brawl in Cell Block 99. Action movies about middle-aged men aging is my least favorite genre of media in the world. I’m sorry to my genre-movie loving friends—and hey, I like a genre movie as well as the next guy—but when those themes are put in the context of an action movie, what you end up with is usually not an exploration of aging, but a denial of it. You get a 2-hour trip into a fantasy world in which aging is overcome by a potent mixture of punching very hard and defending wives and daughters. (Brawl helpfully combines the 2 dependent woman roles into a pregnant wife.)
The point is not to re-fight all the arguments I’ve had about the movies I didn’t like last year, though. Maybe those conversations were partially just because I’m a jerk who never met an adversarial position I wouldn’t take, but they were also about frustration at myself, frustration that I felt pressured to watch movies I knew from the pitch I wouldn’t like.
It was listening to an old episode of How Did This Get Made? that made it finally click in my head. Listening to endless female comedians be forced by the hosts to watch some new inanity made me realize that I was doing that to myself. I was forcing myself to watch things just because my film nerd friends, a mostly male group who tend to assume their love of angry men grunting is universal, made it sound as if everyone needs to watch something.
I suppose I had a perverse desire to argue, to tell them that these stories were not nearly as universal in appeal as the talk around them suggests, and to do that properly I had to watch the movies myself. But that’s a stupid need.
So, this year, I resolve I’m not going to force myself to watch things I know I won’t like just so I can make a point later, a point that will usually convince very few. (Usually the only person who agrees with me on this stuff runs this site.) For one thing, it’ll make me a happier viewer; for another, I’m pretty sure it will always be more helpful and more positive not to argue against watching movie x, but argue for watching movie y. Expansion is always an easier sell than contraction.
So I’m hoping to hold to a resolution after all, but one that will be very easy to keep: don’t watch things I don’t want to watch. Hopefully it’ll be as easy to keep to as it sounds.