In the summer of 2014, I watched a lot of movies. I was working at Aspera, a small company in Emeryville. Due to the close proximity to my house, I lived at home, and listened to more Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! on my daily commutes than one can reasonably expect. On days when I wasn’t hanging out with my high school friends, who were mostly still around way back then, I spent a lot of time lying in bed from around 10pm to 12am watching cinematic entertainment. I recall it being somewhat of a conscious choice to watch movies; I usually watch a lot of TV, which is entertaining, but can feel a bit wasteful. I feel much more accomplished after finishing a two hour movie than after binging six episodes of How I Met Your Mother. Maybe it's something about continually choosing to keep watching TV instead of doing something productive, clicking to bring another episode up or simply lying there as Netflix saturates my screen with hilarious mundanities. Or perhaps it’s that a movie is a complete story, while TV episodes are, by design, incomplete - meant to leave you wanting more. I don’t mean to crap on TV - once you actually do finish a series, it serves as great talking material with other watchers. You can bond over how much of your life you’ve wasted, stuff like that. Anyways, back to the point. That summer, I was making a concerted effort to watch movies.
This may seem unimpressive, like something any random person can just wake up and do. But it’s not quite that simple. I had a plan. I composed a list, which I would continually update throughout the summer. This list was to contain movies to watch and movies watched. I named this list “summer movies (2014 aka mumblecore af).” Examining this list, here are the movies I watched:
- Drinking Buddies
- Your Sister’s Sister
- The Puffy Chair
- The Five-Year Engagement
- The Freebie
- In Search of a Midnight Kiss
- Breaking Upwards
- Frances Ha
- Audrey the Trainwreck
- The Giant Mechanical Man
- Art House
- Hannah Takes the Stairs
- Happy Christmas
I’m not the most reliable recorder, so this isn’t a complete list. Here are a few other notable films I watched:
- The Deflowering of Eva van End
- The Indestructible Jimmy Brown
- The Strange Little Cat (German people share random life stories and thoughts with relatives for 70 minutes. And it's awesome. Watch it!)
- The Rage in Placid Lake
If you’re a magical movie internet hipster wizard, you might have noticed that many of these films can be found on fandor.com (some of them only on fandor.com), which is netflix.com but weirder. It has short films, long films, silent films, erotic films, user reviews on films, and all sorts of other cool stuff. It also has a lot of mumblecore-ish films. The definition of mumblecore is kind of up for grabs. It’s been said that Funny Ha Ha is the first mumblecore movie. I own the DVD and have watched that movie twice, so I think I’m as much of an expert as anyone to explain this genre. Mumblecore is kind of like what would happen if you grabbed a 720p handheld camera, followed me around for a few weeks during a period of my life in which there was some general resemblance of a romantic relationship (may or may not be extremely difficult), did some minimal editing, and burned a DVD of it all. In other words, mumblecore movies don’t really have strong plots, or even set scripts. It’s just you watching some characters interact in usually natural, often frustrating, sometimes flirtatious ways. At this point you might be saying to yourself, “well that sounds boring as ****.” I don’t disagree with that sentiment, and I don’t agree with it either. Mumblecore movies aren’t for entertainment, and they aren’t for the (visual) aesthetic. They’re mostly a voyeuristic endeavour, a glance into the private, mundane lives of a few semi-attractive, possibly unattractive people. On a given night, this can be preferable; the story of a 20-something struggling with friends (or lovers) and jobs and life-in-general (Funny Ha Ha) might be more alluring than the story of some guys plotting against some other guys plotting against some other guys and then everyone dies (The Departed).
I spent many hours in bed with my laptop that summer. There are few things more relaxing than sinking into a few pillows, snuggling under the covers, and diving into a movie. The movie doesn’t even have to be particularly good. I’m not advocating for watching bad movies, and certainly don’t watch ones that actually annoy you (unless you’re into that kind of thing, then go ahead). The thing is, movies have a special ability to suck you into another world for an hour or two. That time is a free pass to ignore everything else: phone notifications, emails, stray thoughts that maybe you should really be doing _____ right now. Don’t ignore the urge to go pee though, that thought’s important. Bodily excretions aside, for a brief time, you’re free from obligations, distracted from worries. Of course, this “state” is not unique to movies; you could say the same exact thing about reading, or watching TV. But with those activities, it’s more tempting to switch activities, to check your phone every 5 minutes. A movie is a perfectly allocated chunk of time - long enough to fully unwind, short enough to watch and have an otherwise fully productive day. That’s not to say that watching movies isn’t productive. Movies can often inspire through ideas, images, music, or characters. Connections can be made from movies to real life: learning-by-movie.
This summer, two long years later, I haven’t watched quite as many movies. I have watched a lot of bad movies (all three Purge movies). Still, if I want to unwind, I slump onto my bed, roll onto my back, and throw on a flick.