New Year, Same Me
More movies and more books in 2022
I know a lot of people aren’t into New Year’s resolutions (because everyone has been talking about it on Twitter), and that’s fine. Unsurprisingly, I’m very into them, and I don’t find them to be stressful or pressure-inducing. In fact, goal setting is a calming, grounding activity for me. Probably because I have massive anxiety and need a framework to feel secure! When I feel most out of control, that’s when I take the most comfort in setting personal goals. Sure, almost every aspect of our lives is surrounded by uncertainty right now. Yes, a lot of things are horrible. Okay, I get it, it all feels a little hopeless and pointless and just plain stupid.
But as John Green says in The Anthropocene Reviewed, “For me, finding hope is not some philosophical exercise or sentimental notion; it is a prerequisite for my survival.” This is the clearest distillation of my personal life philosophy that I’ve ever read. Simply put, I can’t function as a human without hope. I can’t get out of bed in the morning, take care of my child, do my job, or continue existing. Hope is my lifeline, and giving myself small, life-affirming, sometimes silly tasks is one of the biggest ways I live my hope out every day.
I’m not here to judge you if you’re aren’t a freak for goals, but I’m into all this stuff. Choosing a word for the year. Reflecting on the past year. Thinking about what I want more of and less of in my life. In that spirit, I thought I’d share some of my movie and book related New Year’s Resolutions. I have others, but I don’t think you really care about how much yoga I intend to do this year so I’ll spare you. Also, I think it’s nice to remember that your goals don’t have to be productivity or work oriented. Your goals can be about things that make you feel good, fill your creative well, or help you relax. Your resolutions are there to give you hope, not break you down.
I don’t set quantity goals for movies because I watch movies all the time and I don’t need any motivation. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s my stress relief, my mediation, my inspiration, etc. However, one of my biggest education regrets is that I didn’t study film more seriously than the couple of classes I took, and I miss the feeling of actually learning about good movies, so I do have a few specific goals here.
-Continue watching the movies in the TCM Essentials books. I won’t watch all of these movies over the course of the year, just like I didn’t watch them all last year, but that’s not really the point. I just like having a list of guaranteed good (or at least thought provoking) films ready to go.
-Watch at least ten films that aren’t in English. At the 2019 Golden Globes, when Bong Joon-ho was accepting the award for best Foreign Language Film, he said, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” I think about that all the time because I watch mostly American films and read mostly American books. Kinda silly, when there are so many great movies being made all over the world, and also one of my favorite movies from last year was Danish (more on that later)!
-Do The Criterion Challenge on Letterboxd. An intrepid Letterboxd user created a list that challenges people to watch Criterion films within various categories (from your birth year, from the 1920s, directed by Wong Kar Wai, etc.). Again, I probably won’t make it through all of these, but I think it will lead me to some great films I wouldn’t watch otherwise.
-Watch Harvey. In The Anthropocene Reviewed (this book again!), John Green wrote a lovely, cry-inducing essay about the film Harvey, which I’ve never seen despite my documented crush on Jimmy Stewart.
-Read 100 books. Before you hit me with a “you crazy for this one, Winfrey,” let me explain. I read 72 books this year without trying, and for some reason I’ve always wanted to read more than 100 a year. I feel like I can do it! I read relatively quickly and very often. When I posted this intention on Instagram, I got a lot of interesting comments. Many were from other big readers, and many were from people who are very against setting large number goals for reading. Which I get! However, my reasoning for doing it is kind of embarrassing. I want to read more books so I’ll stop defaulting to something else, which is…scrolling through my social media feeds. Seriously, I’ve spent so much more time than I’d like to admit looking at Instagram or investigating a Twitter beef I have no investment in. It sucks! I hate it! I don’t want to do it! I’m hoping that by having this goal, I’ll be more likely to open a book in my Kindle app instead of scrolling. Also, because so much of my reading is predetermined by my jobs, I can’t really set goals to read certain books or certain genres of books, so my goal is solely quantity based. Even if I just get to 82 books instead of 72, I’ll consider it a success if it keeps me from spending an embarrassing amount of time deep diving into Hilary Duff’s Instagram page (she’s loving life and doing great, by the way).
-Utilize the library. I love independent bookstores and I want to support them. And so when the pandemic began in 2020, I let myself buy any book I wanted. At one point Hollis was like, “You do know that you’re not personally responsible for the survival of every bookstore, right?” My response:
Anyway, I need to remember that I don’t have to buy every single book I want and that they exist at the library for free. Columbus has a fantastic library system that I already use pretty heavily, but I want to make it my go-to more often.
-Related: read the books I have. I bought a lot of books over the past two years and I haven’t read them all yet! There are so many good ones that I’m looking forward to reading and I just keep getting things on Netgalley or getting new books. Read the old ones, Kerry!
And now, after that look at my intentions for the future, let’s take a look at…the past.
I watched so many great movies last year, and only a few that stunk. I didn’t see a ton of 2021 releases (I’m still avoiding theaters, unfortunately), so I made a list of my favorite new-to-me movies from last year.
Top ten (okay, eleven) new-to-me movies of 2021
11. The Mirror Has Two Faces. What was I supposed to do, not include this absolutely bonkers Barbra/Jeff Bridges rom-com on my list, even though I was already at ten movies? It’s so cozy. It makes NO sense. The ending is just the two of them dancing in the street. I loved it.
10. 45 Years. Incredibly atmospheric (everything’s so grey and misty all the time!) and does one of my absolute favorite things a film can do: takes a VERY small action that would be inconsequential out of context and turns it into a sweeping, heartbreaking revelation (other films that do this spectacularly are Blue Jay and Broadcast News).
9. Harlan County U.S.A. A documentary about coal miners in Kentucky, which was especially interesting to me because I’m only a couple generations and an Ohio migration removed from Kentucky coal miners. It’s incredibly upsetting to see how our discussions of labor and worker’s rights have barely changed.
8. Let Them All Talk. Just a joy of a movie. Older women having lives! Lucas Hedges admiring them! A CRUISE and it actually looks nice? Also Meryl is a novelist.
7. Together Together. It has big rom-com energy but constantly subverts your expectations, ending up so much more complex and beautiful than you might expect. That ending, full of so many emotions, made me sob, made even more impressive because it’s just a close up of Patti Harrison’s face. She’s so good here.
6. The Awful Truth. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne forever. She’s so beautiful and funny and I’m gonna say something controversial here: I think she’s his best scene partner by a long shot. This one made me laugh a lot!
5. Local Hero. Another bittersweet film in a beautiful location (the image at the beginning of this newsletter is from LH)! I ended up buying this one because I loved it so much. So weird and another film that really challenges the expectations it sets up.
4. It Happened One Night. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this one before because it’s a classic rom-com, and I was surprised by how modern it felt. There’s a scene with Clark Gable in an undershirt that must be seen to be believed (by which I mean…the man was hot).
3. Another Round. I did not expect this film about a bunch of men having midlife crises via excessive drinking to make me just absolutely SOB, but oh, it did. I mean, I really lost it. It’s not even a sad movie, really (the ending is Mads dancing!). I loved that it didn’t have a clear lesson. The American remake is probably going to be absolutely awful.
2. CODA. Lauren told me to watch this one and I’m so glad I did because wow. Once again, I cried VERY hard. This is a coming of age movie about a unique family and it’s so warm and funny but never in a lazy way.
1. Children of a Lesser God. You know I had to put my beloved problematic fave at number one! I really do think about this movie a shocking amount.
What I’ve learned from looking back at my list: I love movies that take place in coastal towns where people are often on boats, looking thoughtfully at the ocean, walking down the beach with windblown hair, wearing large coats, existing in a largely cloudy environment, etc. Maybe this is because I live in landlocked Ohio. Should I go wander along the river wearing a dramatic scarf as a discordant synth soundtrack plays? Something to consider in the new year!
This week’s homework assignment: spend some time thinking about what you want your year of entertainment to look like. Resolutions can be fun and they can be solely about movies and books if you want. Also, if you don’t have one, consider shelling out the bucks for a Criterion Channel subscription. I know, I know, we all have a million streaming services, but subscribing to Criterion was one of my best purchases in 2021. But also a lot of their movies can be found on Kanopy (which is free if you have library or university access), or of course at your local library. Movies! They’re everywhere!
I hope to send out a newsletter next week, but I’m on deadline (does Carrie Bradshaw still constantly say “I’m on deadline” in the SATC reboot? I hope so!) so I’m just going to be honest and say that newsletters might by spotty for the next few couple weeks. Or perhaps I’ll spend my downtime writing about Tootsie. I honestly couldn’t tell you what will happen. Happy new year!