Back in February 2021, I wrote a blog about how I planned to keep on top of all my streaming services and re-watches that I had to include, you can read about this plan here. I think I stuck to that plan for about a month and I lost where I was up to and it all became too much effort. Film watching should be fun and exciting, not regimented. However one thing hasn’t changed as we continue on the global battle of the Pandemic, I still very much need, even on hot summer days, the warm comfort blanket of a re-watch.
I have a friend who once said to me, “I’ve never seen the same film twice, what would be the point, I know what happens”. You could say that such logic is difficult to argue with, a joke is never as funny the second time you hear it. However unless you are blessed with an Eidetic memory or a razor-sharp attention span, neither of which I have, then there is potentially so much that can be missed on an original and solo watch.
We all have that one film that began your obsession with film, it’s well documented that for me it was Star Wars (1977) when I saw it at Bolton’s Canon Cinema in about 1982 as a giddy 4-year-old. The thought of that magical experience being a one-off is as strange to me as the person who proudly announces that they have seen Star Wars (1977) 382 times. The thing is in life, we tend to do the things that make you happy, here is where the power of the rewatch comes in.
I currently, thanks to the wonderful Letterboxd app have a watchlist with about 520 films on it. If I don’t add anything further to it, I reckon there is a good 4 or 5 years worth of new film watching right there. During lockdown I have averaged about 5 films a week, this number will seriously reduce when normality kicks in and my part-time voluntary job of dad’s taxi starts up again, running my brood of freeloading, tax-dodging kids to their various clubs.
Still, even watching 2 films a week would mean I would get through my 520 films quicker than 5 years, right? No, because I don’t want to just watch new films, I want to re-watch the films that make me feel warm and cosy inside, and that to me is just as important.
I’m sure that most of us work hard in everyday life, whether that be in employment or family issues, we all have a purpose. Most of us will sit down on a Friday night and just want to have the sofa consume us. Yes, you could watch the Netflix premiere, or the movie on Prime that everyone is talking about, but its Friday, I don’t want to have to think………… I’m watching Aliens (1986) again and quite frankly I don’t give a shit. I’ve earned this, I’ve earned the privilege to be transported to the faraway World that is LV-426, I don’t really, with respect, want to have to figure out whether Benedict and Bronco Henry actually had a thing, I want somebody to wake up Hicks whilst taking an express elevator to hell.
I’m about to show my age here without actually mentioning it, but there is an Urban Dictionary term, FOMO, which my teenage kids advise me means, fear of missing out. I feel a lot of amateur film reviewers, and by amateur I mean those who are not paid (like me), not those who are no good (erm also me), on Social Media have an unquenchable thirst to see every film as soon as it’s released and get that review out there. I can’t afford, either with time or money, to go to the cinema as often as I would love to, which means that I do have to plan my Cinema trips quite far in advance, therefore it does tend to be the bigger, more mainstream films. I’m ok with that, I’m not ashamed to exalt to all and sundry that I adore franchise cinema, I count watching Lando blowing up the death star in Return of the Jedi (1983), the first time you see the Brachiosaurs in Jurassic Park(1993) and the Portals scene in Avengers Endgame (2019) in a cinema as 3 of the highlights of my film-watching life. It does mean though that I don’t get to see as many of the critically acclaimed, more independent films that everyone else does unless they are on Netflix etc.
This brings me round sharply to the Friday night conundrum? We all have an infinite time in our lives, and when it comes to films, how can we seriously judge or comment on a film if we have never seen it. Therefore if you want to be part of the discussion then you need to keep up. Where is the benefit to watching Jaws(1975) for the 500th time when The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) is there staring at you from Apple TV+?
Well, I have no doubt that The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) is a sumptuous film that will be very worth the 2 hours I will invest in it, but I work hard, I earn my rewards, and my reward at the end of a hectic week is to leave my brain in the hallway and watch Brody mention to Quint that the realisation has just hit him that the 2 berth is not going to be sufficient. I will get to Denzel’s interpretation of the Scottish play, and I’m pretty sure I will enjoy it, (love me a bit of Billy Shakes), but that’s not for a Friday night with a Dairy Milk and tube of Pringles.
There is of course more to the rewatch than just a film seen dozens of times that is a warm comfort to you. Sometimes a rewatch can open your eyes and see a film completely differently, occasionally a previously dismissed film can reward you by allowing you to see it in a new light, (Spielberg’s A.I (2001) a great example of this) and on occasions, it can confirm what you first thought (Oh God, so sorry everyone, but Blade Runner (1982) for me).
As a devoted Spielbergian, I watch his films on a loop, interspersed with everything else. It takes a couple of years to get through his entire back catalogue, and after I next watch West Side Story (2021), I’ll go back to Duel (1972) again. Now you might be thinking, what a waste of time, and maybe you’re right, but I consider Spielberg to be an artist first and foremost, I think he is the F****n Mozart of the Cinematic world, and I personally enjoy studying in detail his films, so its never a waste of time, in fact, it is my go-to security blanket for films. Take Close Encounters (1977), for example, every time I watch that film, and I do cheat a little bit and watch it more than once a year, I always spot something I have not noticed before. It may be a little detail, but there is always something. I don’t think that is a waste of time at all, it’s what makes me happy, and that is what life is about.
During the Pandemic, I have tried to push my boundaries somewhat. I have watched a lot of films that even maybe two or three years ago I wouldn’t have entertained. Mark Kermode, who is probably my favourite film critic, once said when referring to why he watched A Serbian Film (2010) he stated that if you want to be a film critic, you have to watch everything, otherwise you are just playing at it. Now as stated above I don’t have the resources to watch everything, but I am trying to push my comfort zones and challenge myself. In the last 12 months, I have watched Irreversible (2002), Audition (1999), Bone Tomahawk (2015) and Titane (2021). I have to say I got an enormous amount from all of them. Some were extremely tough to watch, but it opened up my eyes to the possibilities of cinema, and I’m almost halfway to 90. However, none of these films are begging me for a rewatch, if truth be known, I would be a lot more excited to watch Three Men and a Baby (1987) again than Irreversible, yet from an artistic point of view there is no comparison.
To quote Billy Shakes again, there’s the rub, there few better feelings for a film fan than to see a new film at the cinema or wherever and it to blow your mind, to the point where you can think of nothing else you would rather watch, its special when that happens and has probably happened to me 5 or 6 times in my life. But occasionally, it is ok to turn away from the rat race of new content overload and to settle down and stick the Police Academy boxset on.
We live in a World where increasingly we are told that we are wrong to like certain things, that filmmakers and actors should be ashamed of the films that they have spent 2-3 years putting together in the vain attempt to entertain people. This attitude is all kinds of wrong. Let people like what they like, it is no-one else’s business if I want to sing the praises of Howard the Duck (1986) as opposed to the virtues of Nomadland (2020).
Life is way too short to worry what others might think of your preferences. And with that I’m off to watch Close Encounters (1977) again, that watchlist isn’t going anywhere, and right now I need to see some mashed potato modelling.
My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.
You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH
You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com