If you've been reading my reviews in the past few months, you've probably begun to notice that I spend every Friday traversing from theater to theater to find the newest releases. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to check out three new films (Your Highness, Jane Eyre and Hanna), and although it was a very long day, it was ultimately fulfilling. As I spent my day watching movies, I had a friend ask me how I could possibly watch three movies in one day. They felt like I was wasting my time and my hard-earned money on such frivolous matters - this thought has been a recurring sentiment among many of my acquaintances since I've started to put my reviews online. And while it does get a little pricey to watch as many movies as I do, I couldn't think of any better way to spend that hard-earned money. Movies are my absolute joy. But my friend's question yesterday got me a-thinkin', and this post will probably serve me more than you as I try to work out the logic behind my apparent obsession.
I think if you asked anyone why they go to the movies, most of them would probably tell you that they want to be entertained. It seems standard and cliché, but at the end of the day, film is about entertainment. Actors and directors ultimately want to hook the audience into a story or into a set of characters and deliver an enjoyable couple of hours. People go to comedies to laugh; they go to romantic dramas to cry; they go to horror films to be scared; and they go to action flicks to whet their violent appetite. They know exactly what to expect going into each film, and if it's a good movie, then it will deliver on those expectations. I'm no different, in this regard. I want to laugh and to cry and to scream when I step into a movie theater, and the movies I consider the best are the ones that have managed to do just that.
To be honest, I used to be terrified of movie theaters. As a child, I would garner so much anxiety at the movies because I would always be afraid they'd show the wrong movie. I distinctly remember one instance when I was six years old: the family had gone out to see Pocahontas, but as soon as we entered the theater, I immediately started to cry in fear that the projectionist would make a mistake and start showing Congo (I had seen the preview on TV, and it had scared the bejeezus out of me at the time). Sure, it's funny to look back and think about it now, especially considering there was no warrant behind my fear, but I was deathly afraid of those dark theaters back then.
As I grew older, I started to enjoy movies a little bit more. I was always perfectly fine watching them in the comfort of my own home, but as I hit pre-adolescence, I started to venture to theaters on my own. Because I couldn't drive, I would walk to the nearest theater - then and still the AMC Galleria 16 - which took about half an hour to reach from my house on foot. I soon learned to love seeing movies by myself because it kept the constant nagging of friends out of the picture. Don't get me wrong - I love going to the movies with friends, but I definitely enjoy them more when I can have them as my own experience. I started collecting my ticket stubs in 2002, and to this day, I don't throw them away. I have a box with hundreds of them (pictured at left) sitting on my desk, and I have yet to decide how I want to use them. Maybe when I'm rich and famous (read: sarcasm), I'll use them as wallpaper for a room strictly dedicated to film. But we shall see.
By the time I finished my freshman year of high school, my life had begun to tailspin. I had problems with my home life, and I wasn't doing particularly well in school. I used to blog on Xanga - we all remember that site, don't we? - and nearly every post would echo the ever-worsening depression that plagued my mind. I still held my love for movies dearly, but I watched them so frequently that they only helped aggravate some of the other problems I was having. Eventually, drastic measures had to be taken, and I didn't necessarily turn out any better for the wear and tear. I struggled to find ways to manage my depression, but nearly every turn left me back at square one. And then I re-discovered film, which I had somewhat left behind throughout the worst parts of my ordeal.
Movies quickly became my means of escape from reality. Whenever I was having a rough day (and trust me, there were quite a few), I would throw on a DVD or make the trek to the theater to catch something new. I soon learned to immerse myself completely within a film, to the point where I couldn't be interrupted or torn from the screen. Movies transitioned from being something I watched to something I experienced. I would go as far as to place myself into the storyline so I could feel everything that the characters were feeling just so I wouldn't have to feel the pain of being myself.
After high school, I made my way to UC Santa Cruz for my first two years of college (I eventually transferred closer to home, but that's neither here nor there). I brought along some of my DVDs in the hopes that my roommates would be interested in watching them, but I don't really remember us watching too many of them. During my sophomore year, I had my own room in my on-campus apartment, and because I wasn't the grandest social butterfly, I found myself spending quite a bit of time alone in my room. More out of a desire to have something to do, I signed up for NetFlix so that I could at least watch new movies while I was sitting at college doing nothing with my life. And NetFlix proved to be quite the God-send. It gave me access to a world of film that I had previously never been able to experience, and I quickly started crossing a number of flicks off my "to-see" list.
As I continued to watch movies, however, I felt the need to start organizing everything into lists. Perhaps I have some minor form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I soon found myself devising a rating system and making lists of every single movie I've ever seen. The idea stuck, and I have continued to use the same basic rating system - with some minor tweaks here and there - ever since, and I continue to maintain the lists (an example pictured at left), as I'm sure you've assumed by this point. I realize it's a little bit crazy, but my passion for film had grown to the point where I felt compelled to organize myself, even if I was only keeping it to myself at the time. I also started to craft my own personal yearly awards. My seasoned readers will recognize my awards, like the ones from 2010, but they didn't always look quite like this. Like my ratings system, they've had their twists and tweaks over the past four years, but I'm pretty happy with where they're at now. Needless to say, my obsession was growing.
I started to search out the best of the best, looking for films that were considered by many to be some of the greatest of all time. As I sat and watched movies like The Godfather and Les quatre cents coups, I couldn't help but wonder how I had transformed from a teenager who saw The Dukes of Hazzard fives times in theaters - yes, let the berating begin - to this seasoned movie watcher who had all the facts hidden somewhere in his consciousness. I soon became the go-to guy for my family and friends when it came to film, be it for information or recommendations. And so, last August, I decided to give this whole blog thing a shot.
Although at times, watching movies has felt like a bit of a chore - there are definitely movies that I've only seen just because I knew that people would ask me my opinion - I still haven't lost that sense of wonder I get every time I step into a theater. I can still immerse myself completely into a film and find its intricacies. I've learned quite a few valuable lessons from my movie-watching experiences, and I hold them true to this day. Getting lost in a film is the most satisfying moment that someone can have when they go out to the movies, but it's not always the easiest thing to do. You have to be open to it and be ready for it when it happens. Some films are much more accessible than others, and those are the ones you know will be good.
The reason I love film is because they allow you to transport yourself to another universe, either figuratively or literally, even for just a couple of hours. As soon as the lights go down in the theater, you can let everything on your mind and on your heart slip to the background while the lights on the screen dance before you. A movie doesn't even have to be good to be a distraction. Most of my readers know that I have a fascination with terrible flicks because even the bad ones are successful in taking me away from my life for a little while. Movies are my escape from my reality, which still brings me quite a bit of struggle. My life isn't perfect, but I'm working on getting it to a place where I can feel content. In the meantime, movies work as the perfect distraction from the problems I face on a daily basis, and I'm not sure what I'd do without them.
You know, some people drink or do drugs to chase their demons away, but I watch movies. In a way, movies are my drug. They're my obsession, and I'm almost at the point where I can't live without them. Film has become an essential part of who I am, as I'm sure you've gathered from the blogging and the lists and everything else in between. Sure, I might drop a lot of dough seeing so many movies in theaters, but I'd like to think I'm giving to a better cause than other self-destructive measures. Is movie watching self-destructive for me? Perhaps. I use it to escape the reality of my life when I should probably face everything head on. But I take this somewhat self-destructive behavior and craft it into something positive by writing my reviews and helping people find the movies that will best suit them. I'm sure some people find me annoying, but I truly enjoy spreading my opinions and my love of film to anyone who will listen. That's why I am, and will continue to be, This Movie Guy.