The Discipline of Watching Movies
I very almost called this ‘falling in love with movies but this love came out of discipline so that’s how we are going to tackle it.
As a media teacher, one of the ways I like to start my classes is to go around the room and ask everyone to share what they’ve been watching, reading, listening to, or playing lately. It seriously never gets old for me, and I get the impression the students like it too. In fact, sometimes they request it. So, I know that we are doing okay.
Anyway, every so often somebody will say, ‘oh nothing’ and I can’t believe that in the last seven or so days they haven’t watched a single thing. I become incredulous about the whole thing. Probably unbearably so. And then I shift gears, ‘What about music?’, I wonder, ‘What have you been listening to?’. Sometimes they will respond with specifics, but others will simply say ‘whatever’. Whatever?! How can you not choose what you are listening to? I don’t understand. I won’t understand.
Once I found out I was going to be stuck in the house thanks to Covid. I made a commitment that I would only watch and read new (to me) things. This was simply to avoid being in a rut of watching the same things over and over to the point where I would become disengaged. Plus, I am good with certain goals. And I needed something to get me through isolation.
I took this on for the challenge that it was. In fact, I relished it. I became obsessive over my Just Watch*, adding films I’d read about, I reached out to some people for their recommendations, and I passionately added to ‘my list’ on Netflix.
What quickly became apparent is that I was drawn to movies. I think this was to avoid the ‘keep watching’ time loss elements of bingeing a TV series too. Commitment wasn’t high on my list either, so this strategy meant that I simply had to present (or not) with something for two or three hours. Prior to the last week or so, I wouldn’t have said I was that into movies. Sure, there are movies I love. Movies I’ve watched repeatedly. Some films that have influenced me as a person, but I always found it hard to just put one on and settle in. Especially at home.
This reminds me of something I heard relationship psychologist Esther Perel say. In essence, her idea was something along the lines of… sometimes, in a relationship you just need to have maintenance sex. I think the same thing can be said about getting into reading, watching movies, and even committing to finally watching The Wire. Sometimes, you must put the discipline of reading, watching, writing or whatever before spontaneous inspiration draws you to do so.
People often ask me how I read so much, and the reality is, I just set time aside to read. And so now I am in that habit. But when I was out of the habit of reading, I couldn’t fathom getting lost in it or finding the time, so I had to be very deliberate about it. And this is the thing with media. There are so many things we do without thinking. Scrolling through social media is one of them. Playing games on our phones may be another. We simply do these things without thinking because the technology forces us too and we let it. Some media needs us to make a more conscious decision.
Another hurdle to committing to some media is that people simply don’t know what to watch or read. This is overwhelming. And something else that can require effort. One of my sisters reads articles about music and makes notes about artists to check out. I do the same with a ‘want to read’ shelf on my Good Reads and the watchlist feature on Just Watch. I am also getting into Letterboxd thanks to a friend of mine.
You may be thinking that this sounds insane and that you haven’t got time as it is, and now on top of this, I’m asking you to set aside time to find things to watch or read. To this I will say, it is much more convenient to do it this way as opposed to trying to find something, getting overwhelmed and giving up. Or spending all your time trying to find something whilst your dinner goes cold. Also, watching movies takes up way less time and headspace than my 16-episode K-Dramas. In addition to this, I am less stressed watching movies because I know it’s all going to be over soon. Something I struggle with otherwise.
So now, I love to watch movies. I love that I get to step into a new world for a couple of hours, and when I return to reality, I do so feeling that little bit richer.
Here is a list of all the new (to me) films I’ve watched since starting this goal. I am back at work now so will have to go easier on myself because, unsurprisingly, I’ve become a little obsessive.
Just Wright (dir. Sanaa Hamri, 2010)
Two Weeks Notice (dir. Marc Lawrence, 2002)
Bad Education (dir. Cory Finley, 2019)
Brown Sugar (dir. Rick Famuyiwa, 2002)
Before Sunrise (dir. Richard Linklater, 1995)
Before Sunset (dir. Richard Linklater, 2004)
Promising Young Woman (dir. Emerald Fennell, 2020)
Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-Ho, 2019)
Catch and Release (dir. Susannah Grant, 2006)
Hope Floats (dir. Forest Whitaker, 1998)
Apocalypse Now (dir. Francis Coppola, 1979)
Desperado (dir. Robert Rodriguez, 1995)
How Do You Know (dir. James L. Brooks, 2011)
What If? (dir. Michael Dowse, 2014)
BlacKkKlansman (dir. Spike Lee, 2018)
The Irishman (dir. Martin Scorcese, 2019)
Zane Lowe’s interview with Harry Styles (2022)
Zane Lowe’s interview with Taylor Swift (2020)
Zane Lowe’s interview with Miley Cyrus (2020)
Zane Lowe’s interview with Rosalia (2022)
Zane Lowe’s interview with Selena Gomez (2020)
All the Zane Lowe interviews are on YouTube. Miley was the best!
*Just Watch is an app a friend put me on to. You enter all the streaming services you have and then when you search something up it tells you where you can watch it. Life changing.