by Rob DiCristino
A while back, I wrote a kind of introductory “origin story” about my movie habits that I thought would help ingratiate me with the F This Movie! community. I was kind of an unknown commodity at that point, and I needed to shrug off the imposter syndrome that came with suddenly being a contributor to my favorite site. I mean, Patrick knew from my portfolio that I could write and that I was really, really handsome, but I knew it would take more than just his say-so for me to earn any kind of credibility from such a rabid and knowledgeable pack of movie lovers. I talked a little bit about my grandfather’s chain of video rental stores — how my dad managed the inventory and that he met my mom when she interviewed for a job behind the counter — as well as about how much of my early movie-watching was done via the VHS tapes I copied from that inventory. I gushed about my maternal grandfather’s meticulous cataloging of his own tapes and how that continues to influence my preoccupation with physical media. It was nice to reflect on how lucky we all are to have each other and to share such a strange and complicated obsession.
But here’s the thing: I’m thirty years old. They could stop making movies tomorrow and I still wouldn’t have enough life left to see everything that already exists. I know this is a frequent joke between Patrick and Erika — she says his mission is to see all the movies ever made — and I’m starting to see why. The truth is that I have no interest in seeing everything, nor even 90% of things. I’m not an insane person. I don’t have Adam Riske’s stamina, nor will I ever observe or remember as much as JB. All I really want is a frame of reference that I can build on. I want to talk kung fu with Mark Ahn and understand some of the Italian horror jokes that Ale and the Girl Gang make on Twitter. Just once, I want to look at one of Chaybee’s comments and think, “I’ve seen that! I know what the hell he’s talking about!” And I think we all do. We want our little community to thrive on a big IV of shared experience. The problem comes when deciding where to aim all that intensity: do I finally clean out my Netflix queue, or do I hunt down every Walter Hill movie I haven’t seen? Do I subscribe to Filmstruck and finally watch Burden of Dreams, or do I put Central Intelligence on ironically and pretend I’m not enjoying it?
The Witch as well as I did GoldenEye. A lot of us have this problem, and we seem to find the burden of movie watching — the “should” and the “have to” — equally frustrating. I’ve seen a lot of you using the same language: “I should be watching (unseen film), but I’m watching (old favorite) for the five-hundredth time instead.” There’s a bizarre kind of guilt tied to stoking familiar fires, like we should be allocating our time with greater effi-ciency and purpose. Every hour spent on Parks and Recreation reruns is another hour in the shame corner. But then I’ll be driving and think to myself, “Death isn’t going to wait around for me to see L’Avventura. What am I even doing? None of this amounts to anything.” And so my brain ends up converting a nebulous metaphysical concept into a bizarre tactile reward system; I’ve started getting a small dopamine rush whenever I add a movie to my watched list and a pang of pain if I can’t remember how many are on it. But is that movie love?
I’m doing this with my disc collection, too. I remember when DVDs hit the market and thinking that special features were the coolest goddamn things to ever happen (I know LaserDiscs also had them, but I was too young and poor for that phase of technology). I watched every featurette and listened to every commentary. Multiple times! I looked through the photo galleries! Who even does that? It was less about entertainment and more about completing a goal — I had to wring out every disc like a wet rag. These days, I get a Blu-ray and immediately place in its alphabetical spot on the shelf. With a few exceptions, I don’t even watch it first. Hell, I know a lot of you blind buy stuff and leave it on the shelf, unwatched, for years. In the plastic! I bet it’s because you get that same rush from seeing the spines all lined up in order, a feeling completely separate from the actual experience of watching the film. I’ve also noticed that if I give myself $20 in a pay period to buy Blu-rays, I’ll end up buying two or three movies I only kind of want rather than one more expensive Shout! or Criterion I may want more. I’m in a mad rush to fill shelf space — I’m a doomsday prepper who thinks our post-apocalyptic currency will be John McTiernan movies.