I don’t normally do this kind of a post. It’s certainly a break from the content heavy digging and research papers I do. But I’m happy to tell this story. It shows how far things have come for me.
Hi! If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are confused about what’s going on with my Twitter timeline currently. I have your attention for at least a paragraph, so I’ll give you a short answer that most of you can power through and go on with your life. This “Movie Thread” ritual that you’re currently seeing is something that began in January 2017. As a New Years Resolution, I decided that watching movies to become more culturally rounded was something within reason. I took snapshots of the movie’s title screens, and made a simple thread that had that, along with [MOVIE NAME] ([YEAR IT CAME OUT]).
To keep a record of my progress.
If you were just interested in the bottom line, then congratulations. There it is. You understand it now. For the rest of this mini essay though, I thought it’d be worthwhile to elaborate on where my perspective comes from.
I talk about politics so damn much. Day in. Day out. These days it’s often overwhelming trying to even keep up with what’s going on. Social media serves as a device that fuels polarization. In some senses I see that as a disease of our society.
But politics isn’t all that I am. Recently, there was a contest announcement related to the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. The winner must partake on a livetweeting movie marathon of twenty Marvel films pretty much back-to-back. The point of it is to show how far the film series has come, in the lead up to what’s being billed as a big conclusion to all that. When I saw that? It hit me that I would’ve been the perfect candidate for this contest. I’m one of the rare few with a resume of experience in the field. But moreover, you all agreed. I got messages of encouragement cheering me on, encouraging I at least apply to enter.
The winner of the contest gets $1000. But I’ve already won. This “movie diet” habit of mine has rewarded me in a multitude of different ways.
Movie threads, in their personal ritual that they’ve become for me, serve as a refreshing cure. They release the tension and allow myself to come back down to Earth and relax. That’s good for YOU because it means there’s a break on this polarization spell we all tend to get under. But it’s good for ME because movie threads wipe my mind’s slate clean and recenter myself. To put it another way, it helps me relax after getting into some stupid internet fight that doesn’t really matter in the long run. It serves as a reminder that there’s other things going on in the world and I can prioritize my focus, rightfully, elsewhere.
This “movie diet” adventure goes far beyond the sheer entertainment value.
The main reason I do movie threads is for your sake as well as mine. I don’t want to talk and focus on political issues all the time.
These days, my movie selection is fueled by YOU, the people following my Twitter. I moved beyond the confines of the original list that Cinemarter made for me, years ago. That’s perfectly fine because the spirit and essence behind making that 2017 New Years Resolution in the first place lives on. Truly as it stands now, movie threads have turned out to be a magnificent way of connecting with folks like my followers.
Of course, there’s downsides when opening myself to the mercy of my audience. When I celebrated the Christmas season by watching It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), some people (and I’m not naming any names), were very nitpicky about watching the film in color. I didn’t see any harm in that at first. But a passionate vocal few made their reasons clear as to why watching it in black and white was the only “true” way of viewing it.
So I switched halfway through.
It was a pain in the ass. But all in all even the bickering makes me happy, as it shows me that the community cares so much about movie threads whatsoever. I can have more conversations with people. Other people see movies and it’s a topic you can connect with them on. I’m not just talking about using this for dating situations, but even for family occasions too.
On the one side of my family, there’s my Harry Potter fanatic of a mother. Over the years I caught her low-key binge watching the movie series marathons the TV was showing. It was something that happened quite often. The channel deciding to run the Harry Potter movies over and over again, and my Mom being a willing participant in re-experiencing those stories. When Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) came out, I found a meaningful way to connect with her. That’s the part that mattered at the end of the day, nitpicks aside in regards to the overall quality of the actual film.
On the other side, my father’s enthusiasm for Kill Bill (2003) caught my attention. It was a quiet curiosity of mine for years, his quiet enthusiasm for Quentin Tarantino in the first place. In my youth I had a rare moment of interest where I scrounged up his Pulp Fiction (1994) DVD. I waited until he was asleep, and gave it a watch. I certainly remember LOVING that one. It was a flick that set a record for quotable moments and swear words, alike. So when it comes to Kill Bill I’m left speechless about it, even in retrospect. I could go on about the details of the story. I could. But the bottom line is that it’s a gorgeous lady kicking ass and getting revenge on the men that wronged her says more than enough. What eyeballs saw made it clear to me why my father holds Uma Thurman in such high regard.
Now that I think about it, I think my aversion to movies was borne partially out of their ratings. The fact that many of them were R-rated was something that turned me off altogether. It’s an age barrier that I perhaps interpreted too seriously. To “normal” people at a young age, movie ratings are more of a “suggestion” or a “challenge” to tempt and overcome.
The weirdest movie that comes to my mind (so far) is Melancholia (2011). Starring Kirsten Dunst as she and her family in the movie contend with the end of the world. The opening sequence shows you flat-out what’s going to happen. A rogue planet crashes into Earth, flying from the outskirts of space on a collision course with us. The creepy vibe for me came from the music selection and “previews” of scenes shown here in the first few minutes. You don’t normally expect a doom and gloom scenario to have this weird twinge working beneath it, but Director Lars von Trier pulled it off.
I’m not without my own influences as well. The Like Stories of Old YouTube channel is dedicated to movie analysis on a thematic level. The most immediately compelling feature of this channel’s videos is the narrator’s voice. Seriously. Go and listen to any one of his videos just for that. It’s so hypnotically soft spoken that you can’t help but feel relaxed when listening to him. That, in turn, makes the experience of looking at films in an analytical lens, very enjoyable.
I have fond memories from taking on Oliver Campbell’s recommendation to watch a movie called Go (1999). In finding interest and entertainment as some scrappy teenagers have the wildest weekend of their lives. Oliver’s wife Morgan recommended Lawrence of Arabia (1962) of all things. Older movies usually didn’t grab my attention, but I’m incredibly glad I took the plunge. The soundtrack for that film perfectly captures the spirit of Peter O’Toole’s EPIC desert odyssey.
I don’t limit myself by genre, usually. I became open to trying out Anime here and there after I made a tweet about Club Penguin that went viral. There’s this movie called Penguin’s Memory: Shiawase Monogatari (1985) and the opening sequence of it shows the penguin protagonist fighting in Vietnam. It certainly is a spectacle to see animated cartoon penguins brutally killing each other and blowing things up.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Spirited Away (2001) were two prominent Studio Ghibli flicks that I sat through. The duo are polar opposite in terms of their general tone. Whereas the latter is very much an upbeat fantasy adventure about a young girl who runs away from home and gets lost, the former is a heartbreaking drama that takes place in the final days of World War II Japan. An older brother and younger sister are caught in the middle of war-zone territory, and spend the movie fleeing that, only to experience countless moments of emotional and physical losses along the way.
It brought Count Dankula to tears. A grown and woolly mammoth of a tough guy. So I don’t mind confessing that I sobbed like a little bitch at the end of Grave of the Fireflies, and the emotional impact of that movie is like a crater on my soul whenever I’m reminded of it. That being said, what I learned about Anime is that the particular medium is able to masterfully execute storytelling.
At its basis, A Silent Voice (2016) is a masterpiece at being a journey of love. True romance in a way that conveys the inner thought process of falling in love. It’s the story of a youngster that has his life changed forever when a new classmate comes to his school. She’s deaf. The protagonist and other kids make fun of her for it, but ultimately he’s left responsible by everyone for making her leave. They get a scarlet letter for years, being ostracized himself by his peers. It’s only when he meets the deaf girl again years later when A Silent Voice‘s main characters meet each other again, that the boy learns to put his life back together.
It’s a wonderful exploration of how relationships of all stripes work. What livetweeting it made memorable for me, was sharing that experience with Cassandra Fairbanks. She saw my thread and decided to watch along with me. I didn’t want to lag behind her, so my investment of attention definitely kept strong because of it.
Which, by the end, resulted in a lot of tears, given how A Silent Voice‘s climax works out.
I have learned more about storytelling the further I’ve gone along this crazy movie adventure of mine. It’s something that definitely grows on you over time, and not felt instantly. But it reveals the true glory of film as an art medium. Seeing the potential means and approaches that a movie production can take in order to convey a plot. A statement like that is best understood by folks who are film buffs, by certainly not exclusively. From the way a camera is angled, to how the events are presented, and in which order they are revealed. In some cases not even revealed at all, and we’re left to our imaginations in order to fill in the blanks and interpret for ourselves.
They get the brain buzzing, the mind meandering.
Without a doubt, Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is a visually and symbolically beautiful movie. But for me it holds a special place in my heart because of the watching experience overall. On a personal level. I saw 2049 in theaters for the first time and said to myself “gee, (lady friend) would LOVE this.” The notion of asking this lass if she wanted to watch Blade Runner 2049 with me wasn’t actually what you’re imagining. It wasn’t a “date” where I took them out to the theater. They lived much too far away to make something like that feasible. But the thought of making it work somehow online stuck in my head until it came out on DVD/Blu-Ray/Direct Download. I had no idea how the hell I’d pull such a thing off, but I miraculously managed to figure out after they miraculously said “yes” in the first place.
The setup of screen sharing over Skype and jury rigging my computer to be able to handle real-time livestreaming seems ugly in theory. But in practice it managed to pan out really good. Even the audio balance element of it (leaving mics on to react to each other during the movie) worked out. I don’t know what it is, but watching Blade Runner 2049 that second time felt better than the first. There’s this elevation to it when you share that kind of an experience with someone else.
It certainly is one of the factors that made the whole “movie thread ritual” feel more meaningful to me. I had some kind of revelation that day about how sharing the movie experience with others is worthwhile.
It makes me happy.
The practice of livetweeting movies evolved out of movie thread because I decided to talk about Animal Farm. The 1954 cartoon based off of George Orwell’s 1945 novella. It seemed timely in an age where we reference 1984 on a regular basis in response to the reactionary censorship measures being rolled out on the internet. I thought it’d be informative to show people a story about how society crumbles, in an entertaining animated format. So at the highlights of the movie, I screencapped those moments and retold them in tweet thread form.
That’s how it began. It was enough of a formula laid out in this process that it proved useful to try again. But from then on out, with the actual movies I was watching in this movie thread I had previously started.
An obvious point of entry for connecting with the general public on movies is with the Oscars. The festivities showcase serves as a “Who’s Who” for cinema. Logically, seeing what all the fuss about is when it comes to what Oscar deems the most culturally relevant is guaranteed to be somewhat enlightening.
In my case, Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) was a show stealer. The biopic about Freddy Mercury and the rise of Queen stood out from the crowd because of the flamboyant character potential brought out by Rami Malek as the star. So much so, in fact, that Malek’s recreation of Freddy Mercury as a music icon was able to lift up the seemingly paint-by-numbers formula story that encapsulates this sub-genre of movies.
The other movie that SWEPT AWAY audiences and the Oscar awards was A Star is Born (2018), starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. At a glance you might see this pairing as unusual. But the ABSOLUTELY ELECTRIC chemistry between these two managed to knock me off my feet, when it comes to expectations. But even so, A Star is Born is a modern take on an old story already done before. Three times after the original in 1937. In that sense it shares a similarity with Bohemian Rhapsody. All the writing team for that flick had to do was retell the history of Queen as a band, and spice it up here and there in order to sell it as authentic. I’m not trying to imply that was an easy feat. However it’s not as creatively difficult in comparison to making a story that’s absolutely new and original in its own right.
The best way of describing what I mean by that? We need to go back a year earlier. The Oscar darling of 2017 was The Shape of Water. A fish sex love story by Guillermo del Toro. A mute cleaning lady that works at a semi-secret government facility meets her lover. Romeo in this case happens to be a magical fish man that was abducted by researchers from South America. Our Juliet locks eyes with this mysterious creature and swoons at finding someone just as out-of-place in the world as she feels. It was a cool story to watch unfold, despite the weirdness. The oddity of it works in its favor though as a selling point. They managed to pull it off, at least comparatively better as a love story than the Twilight saga.
During the month of February, I decided to explore love themed movies for the sake of Valentines Day. From the sheer epic scale of the Titanic (1997), to the more intimate nature of Brokeback Mountain (2005). But what really hit home for me was a recommendation I got from some ladies at church. They recommended I watch The Notebook (2004). That thread ended up being one of the most memorable ones, in terms of impression left on me. I didn’t take the movie seriously at first, just wrote it off as another chick flick. But i got sucked into the story like it was a black hole. I don’t know whether Ryan Gosling or Nicholas Sparks is the one I need to blame for pulling that one off.
When I was a kid I starved myself of movies, and i was sad. As an adult I’m catching up on everything I missed and it’s making me a happier person. By simply partaking on a “movie diet” of sorts. I recommend you all try it out too. You don’t have to be strict and rigorous about it. Just open yourself up to exploring. I guarantee you that you’ll find something that you can truly call beautiful. From Godfather to Scarface to Terminator. It doesn’t matter what your particular taste is, what matter is discovering it in the first place.
Movies are an experience you don’t have to keep to yourself. They belong to all of us, equally. The surefire guarantee that you will never be bored is only the beginning.