The Joy of Not Watching Everything

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The Joy of Not Watching Everything

By Corey Atad | Think Pieces | June 27, 2014 | Comments ()

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I used to be one of those people who went to almost every big movie release. During the summer I’d regularly see two or three movies each weekend. No doubt it was a draining experience, but I found value in it nonetheless. I just had to be up on the popular culture, even if it meant sitting through a parade of terrible movies week after week. The occasional Dark Knight or Star Trek carried me through the hard times, but the times were hard indeed. My insistence on seeing everything seemed reasonable in my mind, but in retrospect it was some kind of perverse, masochistic addiction.

This weekend, Transformers: Age of Extinction comes out, and I’m not going to see it. I’ve seen every Transformers up to this point, and I have a weird admiration for Michael Bay’s horrendous output, but I’m not going to see the new one. Nobody is making me. I’m not getting paid to watch it. And most importantly, that gross urge to see it because I see everything is gone. Oh, the freedom! It’s a wonderful feeling having finally broken from the iron grip of the Hollywood machine.

It was last year that I finally broke away. The film that did it? The Wolverine. Do you remember that one? It’s the movie about Wolverine, the X-Man played by Hugh Jackman. No, not X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That was a different movie about Wolverine. I was already on the fence about the X-Men films, but this new one was getting good reviews, and people were talking about how refreshing it was in its smallness compared to other superhero films. Well, it sure was smaller. It wasn’t better though. I suffered through that film, enjoying exactly one sequence in it. And then I was done. That was it. I hadn’t liked a superhero film apart from the Nolan Batmen since Iron Man, and even that one hadn’t help up for me. The Wolverine was the last straw, and I made a decision: no more superhero movies.

So far I’ve stuck to that plan. I had been intending to break from the “no superheroes” rule whenever Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man was to come out, but now that Edgar Wright isn’t directing it anymore I see no more superheroes in my future.

The funny thing about that decision, though, is that it’s had even more impact than I originally expected. I really was just thinking about it in terms of superhero movies, but once I’d committed to that I found myself more willing to avoid other movies I simply had no interest in. I skipped Thor: The Dark World, but then I also skipped The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Oldboy and several others. I knew I’d crossed some kind of threshold when the Oscars came and went and there were still a few nominees I’d missed, including Dallas Buyers Club. I can’t even remember the last time I watched an Oscars ceremony without having seen every Best Picture nominee.

It’s been an interesting adjustment for me, but it’s one I highly recommend. Skipping movies has been great. First of all, I have more free time. That’s a plus. What’s been even better is that the movie side of my brain feels less cluttered. I’ve still seen some films I didn’t like. Godzilla was one, and I was recently pretty ambivalent about Boyhood (send all hate mail to the comments below), but even with those films I feel like I’ve had more space to consider them and let them soak into my mind. In the past I’ve been completely at the mercy of the standard hype cycle, in which a movie comes out, everybody goes nuts talking about it for about seven days, and then everyone moves on to the next week’s big release. I feel less affected by that now.

Hell, take Boyhood as an example. It’s been more than a week since I saw it, but I also haven’t seen another new movie since then. It’s given me time to ruminate on the film and my own reaction to it. I’ve been thinking about its quite brilliant construction, and the subtle layering of themes it managed to pull off behind the basic “shot over twelve years” gimmick. I’ve also come to really admire some of the central performances, and the work that must’ve been done to maintain their consistency. On the flip side, I’ve also begun to understand why a film I largely admired also had very little emotional impact on me, especially compared to so many others in the audience.

While I’ve long approached films with that kind of critical lens, not being weighed down by seeing the next new thing has made it that much easier. It has also taken the sport out of watching films. It’s no longer some obsessive game of completism. I watch the films I want to watch when I want to watch them, and so the films themselves stand out that much more. If you’re a person like me, who watches a ton of new movies, often just to keep up with the popular culture, trying taking a break. See the films that genuinely interest you. Give them the space in your mind to actually affect you. From where I’m sitting, it’s been a joy, and I look forward to not seeing several other big movies this summer… though maybe I won’t say which ones.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Paulie

    I'm a touch confused about the point of this. So you haven't seen a bunch of movies? Sowhat? Are you spending your free time now volunteering for charity? Doing something else worthwhile? Or just not seeing everything that comes out in the theater? Pointless article from where I'm sitting. Just a glorified Facebook post from someone coming off as a whiny hipster.

  • carrie thompson

    I also stopped seeing everything in the last few years- though I figured it was because I've gotten older. I used to see almost everything- well over 100 movies per year, in the theatre. In the last two years, I've seen around 40/year. Which means that there are actually weekends where I don't go to the movies, which was unheard of for many years.
    Movies, many movies, seem marketed to the young, and once you pass the mid-30s age mark, many of them stop being appealing. For me, the big surprise was when I didn't go see "The Fault in Our Stars." I loved the book, I like the actress, it seemed like a movie I would definitely go see...and yet I haven't, for no particular reason. I am going to see "Obvious Child" today and am really looking forward to it. I think movie going has shifted from a compulsion to a pleasure for me- I go when there's something I really want to see, and I skip when I only have a mild interest. I no longer care that I'm not as pop culture savvy as I once was.

  • DarthCorleone

    Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was the breaking point for me with the compulsion to see summer tentpoles. I didn't even like the first movie that much. I had this epiphany around the beginning of the third act: why the hell do I feel obligated to watch this crap?

    The next summer one of the few movies I did see was the original Transformers, and that was only because several friends - whose taste I will forever question going forward - were amazed by it.

    I still enjoy going to the theater. The movie just has to be reviewed well. If the consensus is that it's crap, I'll assume that's the truth. I doubt I'll have anything substantive to add to the conversation, so what difference does it make if I see it? Oh, the difference it makes is that maybe less crap gets made and more good stuff gets made instead.

  • Linzer

    I take a similar approach to movie-going and try my best to see only what really piques my interest. If that means I miss out on a night with friends because they all want to go see "Guardians of the Galaxy," so be it. I do not suffer from FOMO, and I don't care to spend $20 for a ticket to a movie I'd rather not see.

    To be clear, I do indeed love going to the movies, but I don't want to water down the magical movie-going experience by seeing anything that I'm less than pumped about. And right now, I'm pumped about "Mood Indigo." Release date can't come soon enough.

  • Boo_Radley

    I stopped seeing films in theaters for 3 reasons:

    1. $12/film
    2. $5 coke
    3. 42" TV w/ surround sound

  • Ruthie O

    4. The other people.

  • I was there with you, Corey, for the longest time. I had to see movies. And movies I liked, I saw again. But then something changed. And it may have been the first Transformers or possibly the last Pirates of the Caribbean, but at some point I said to myself that I was being an idiot. The multiplex didn't need me to visit it every weekend.

    I think this year I've seen maybe 6 movies or so. And not all of them have been good (Robocop, Godzilla) but they're the ones I said "I want to see them." I've said before that, of this entire summer movie's fares, I'm only interested in 3-4 movies. The rest can end up on Netflix or HBO or cable before I see them and that's if I deign to see them. I may not. And if I don't, life will go on.

  • BWeaves

    When I was younger, I was a completist. If I read a magazine, I had to own every back copy. If a read a book, I had to own everything that writer wrote. I tried to see every movie that came out because I didn't own a TV. OK, that's a bit different, but I wanted to see everything.

    As I've gotten older, I want to divest of stuff. I give away my magazines. I pass on books that no longer interest me, although I still have an extensive private library. It just contains the books I really want to keep. And I tend to read reviews instead of seeing movies, and put the ones I want to watch on my Netflix list. I can then watch them at my leisure. Mock them out loud. Go to the loo when I want for as long as I want and not be afraid to touch my bare bum to the seat.

    I've even gone so far as selling a lot of my weaving equipment, and just keeping the stuff I'm using.

    I find that the initial hoopla over a particular movie will change over time. Often I change my mind about a movie by the time it comes out on DVD, and it may not remain on my list.

  • Joe Grunenwald

    I've had a similar experience with comics. Completism is almost a prerequisite for people reading Marvel and DC books, and the publishers know it and exploit it with annual or semi-annual 'events' that feature multiple tie-in books that may or may not necessarily add anything to the story. And those events rarely even end - they just lead into the next event. The realization that it just wasn't going to stop and that I wasn't enjoying myself has made all the difference in my reading habits.

    Life's too short to subject yourself willingly to something you're not enjoying.

  • seannyd

    I simply love going to the movies. Everything about it. The darkened room, the smell of popcorn in the air. Being enveloped by a giant movie screen that makes me think that this is the only thing happening in the entire world.

    Do I sometimes go see movies because I feel I "have to" see that one? Sure. Sometimes it ends up being a chore but often times I just love the experience and it is a nice surprise. I'm even disappointed when a weekend comes along and there isn't one good movie to see. Or even one that I can convince myself that maybe it's worth seeing.

    I just love the movies. I don't really think that the 3 hours I spend weekly at the movies is much of a time commitment, especially because I most often go on Saturday mornings where I avoid the crowds and get cheap tickets. It's a definite win for me.

    If you don't like going to the movies that often, that's cool. But I do and probably always will and I can't imagine anything will change that.

  • Andrew J

    I saw this a lot in film school, this feeling that "oh I need to watch that film because blah blah" and it's a terrible way to watch films. I've decided while watching the lifetime movie that was the kings speech that i will only watch movies that really interest me. It has worked wonders

  • the dude

    Meh. He doesn't like films clearly.

    I don't go to the cinema as a chore, I go because I love it!!

  • Joe Grunenwald

    Or maybe he just likes them differently than you do.

  • the dude

    If you're being democratic, sure. But he lists about two or three films that most people liked which he hated... And he is too lazy to even watch the good ones according to him. I don't know, I think he's not that much into film.

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