The newest films aren’t always the films you need to see!
The state of the film community is that the present has grown to be king. There’s a definite allure to leaving a film festival and being able to tell fellow cinephiles of the great films you just watched that no one else has heard of yet, let alone seen. A large facet of the film community is being able to talk to your fellow cinema goers about the latest releases found at the theater. The majority of the film related podcasts I listen to are built around new releases. Film critics have traditionally made their careers based on devoting their time to the new releases in theaters. That way they can get reviews in on time for that weekend’s arts and entertainment section. Then the internet came along and everything changed, or did it?
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized how in the minority I was in my opinion about new releases. I’m perfectly comfortable with the fact that by the end of the year I will probably have seen no more than ten or twelve 2012 releases. How in the minority does this place me, very much so in the minority if my closest cinephile friends are any indication. Most of them have seen anywhere from twenty to thirty 2012 releases already. I’m sitting on the lonely number of one, and I’m content with that number. Why am I content when I’m so far behind? Why are there some of us who don’t need to see new releases?
I can easily dispel any notions that I don’t like going to the theater, because I love going to the theater. There’s almost nothing in my little film world that can beat having a great time at the theater. That being said I don’t associate going to the theater with seeing new releases. I love going to second run theaters, and I love going to the theater to see any movie I’m jazzed about seeing. I can get my wonderful theater experience without a new release being involved.
Next on the docket is the exploration of the past. While a lot of people feel drawn to the films of the present I feel drawn to the films of the past. I know that I am not alone in this way of thinking. Most film lovers enjoy discovering films of the past that have escaped them. Where my approach differs is that I almost neglect new releases in favor of older films (for the sake of clarification by old I mean anywhere from a year ago to seventy years ago). I’d much rather spend my time going through my Netflix queue, or seeking out Korean exploitation films from the 1970s that I’ve never seen. The past has plenty of gems for me to check out, and I feel no shame in placing a greater emphasis on the years that have already passed into memory.
I just finished watching a film from 2006, Wristcutters: A Love Story. In some ways the wait made my enjoyment of the film all the sweeter. Maybe I would have gotten the same level of enjoyment from the film had I seen it back in 2006. There is a lot of sense in thinking that way, but there’s also a part of me that thinks I would not have enjoyed Goran Dukic’s film as much then as I did now. I enjoyed my time spent with a 2006 release in my living room in 2012. My enjoyment with that film is just as valuable to me as the enjoyment I possibly could have gotten from a 2012 new release.
I don’t see any reason to rush out and see Andrew Stanton’s John Carter. I am a huge admirer of Mr. Stanton’s work, and I will see John Carter one day, but not now. There are still films by F.W. Murnau, Steven Soderbergh, Chan-wook Park, Jean-Luc Godard, Lynne Ramsey, and so many others that I need to see. Every day I hear, read, or am told about films that I immediately feel I need to see. I still haven’t seen all the great films from 1922, so why should I be in a hurry to see every film (great, bad, and everything in-between) released in 2012? I shouldn’t, yet I feel that the majority of the film community I inhabit is obsessed with seeing the films of the present.
Am I better cinephile if I make sure I see Dr. Seuss” The Lorax in theaters? Am I a bad cinephile if I see it a few years later on BD or in a second run theater? The truth is that neither approach is in any way, shape, or form bad. I’m more than happy to see a new release, but it’s not a priority for me. Others have made seeing new releases a priority, and that’s an a-okay way of approaching film. We all have our priorities, but as long as we’re watching and enjoying movies that’s all that matters.
By all means keep telling me about all the new releases that you think are great. I’ll keep filing them in my to see list, and I’m sure that today, tomorrow, or ten years from now I will finally get to that film and hopefully love it. Years ago I came to grips with the fact that I will never see all the movies I want to see. Because of this I make sure to seek out the movies that most pique my interest, and more often than not that means not seeing a movie the year it’s released. I could head out to a theater tonight to see Safe House, Project X, or any other new release. Instead I’ll stay in and watch something from 2000, or 1933, or 1962. I’m not against new movies or snubbing them in any way, but I don’t need to see a movie when it is new. In 2011 I watched thirteen movies that were actual 2011 releases, and I am very comfortable with that.