Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Heath Holland On...My Yearly Cycle
Summer, I’m sad to report, is over. No more late nights spent on the back deck. No more care-free long weekends or nights that seemed to last forever. In spite of all my protests, September showed up on my doorstep like a mangy stray cat and plopped a new school year on the doormat. Whether I want it to or not, September brought a new routine that's a lot like the old routine.
I’ve noticed that with each season comes a completely different shift in the types of movies that I watch. Over the last few years I’ve seen a pattern emerge as I’ve fallen into an annual cycle. It’s not something I notice in January or May. I always notice it in September. Being married to a teacher serves as a reminder that each of the four seasons brings a completely different mood to my life, and, in turn, the movies I watch.
Here’s a breakdown of how my annual cycle goes, starting with where we find ourselves right now.
So for years now, I’ve dedicated the entire month to watching nothing but scary movies. Each year my stack of movies starts being stockpiled a little bit earlier and I start planning my horror month with more and more films. This year I started accumulating and planning in August and I was trying my best to wait until the first day of Shocktober to kick things off. I didn’t make it.
When You’re Next came out in August, a full month earlier than the official kickoff of Scary Movie Month, it set things in motion too early. I started lining up movies with the intention of waiting for September to end. Then I saw The World’s End) which, while technically probably not a horror movie, lowered my defenses even further. Within 24 hours of seeing that movie, I was watching horror movies I’d sworn I was going to save for Scary Movie Month. It’s not my fault! Adam Wingard and Edgar Wright and the studios knew what they were doing when they slotted those movies in August. They were subverting the system, man! They’re going to bring the whole traditional schedule down: I’m talking human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA. And I like it.
Fall gets the short end of the stick because it doesn’t really seem to kick off for me until Shocktober the 1st and it ends as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is in my stomach. In fact, each year it seems to start earlier and end earlier. Last year I started on Christmas movies in the middle of November and didn’t stop watching horror movies until around the same time. My horror cycle runs directly into my Christmas cycle. So Thanksgiving Day, when I’m watching the parade, is still part of Fall for me. But around 4 PM in the afternoon things switch to…
The holiday movies stop on January 1st, though. January brings deeper, headier things. I suppose it has something to do with New Year’s resolutions and fresh starts. Even the books I read get deeper around this time of year. January is when I’m reading academic books on history and art and the Norman invasion and archaeology, weird stuff like that. The movies that I watch tend to reflect this, and I put a lot of documentaries in front of my eyes. This is the time of the year when I’m also watching period films about the Spanish Armada and the Inquisition and, traditionally, all of the Robin Hood movies. Weird, I’ve just realized…in January and February I go Medieval. That’s strange. So in October I’m Gothic and in January I go Medieval. Oh my lord, I think I’m Emo.
Spring is when I tend to get experimental and venture more into indie territory. It’s when I watch quieter movies about the secret love lives of sanitation workers and the mating habits of librarians. If there’s a movie about an Iowa farmer who indulges a forbidden, carnal love with an ear of corn that he has named Harold, this is when that movie will get watched. I think Awards Season has trained me into this pattern. For years and years, this is the time of the year that all the awards shows have pushed some indie darling down my throat or showed me how charming that little animated French movie about talking baguettes that ride bicycles could be. Even though I haven’t watched an awards show in several years, the pattern seems to remain.
I’m always excited about the summer movie season, but for the last couple of years I’ve really gotten burned by it. This year was perhaps the most exhausting summer for me in recent memory. I don’t know if I’m getting older or if the movies are getting worse (and more mean-spirited), but I could not wait for the end of the summer movie season this year. Ironically, the movies that I was the most excited about left me cold and the ones that I expected very little out of ended up impressing me. Judging by what I’ve heard you all say, this happened to a lot of us this year.
See? Summer at the movies usually wears me out. You can tell. I should revisit this column next February and see how I feel about it. I’ll probably be all like “Hooray, Summer!” I’ll be doing the “raise the roof” hand motion and I’ll be wearing a Transformers costume when I type up my thoughts on Apocalypse: The Movie.
The summer movie season seemingly starts earlier every year, and by the middle of July I’m worn out and ready for a change. So it’s this time of year, in September, that I find myself in movie-limbo; the last blockbuster has come and gone from the multiplex. It’s September when I start to long for smaller movies with low budgets and low stakes. Instead of the whole earth being in danger, I want to see a small band of survivors stand alone against a lunatic slasher or a creepy monster.
And before I know it, I’m watching horror movies in anticipation of Scary Movie Month...