June 17, 2016

A Year Without Movies?

The abandoned Paramount Theater
Photo by Steve Snodgrass
Last week, I sat down with my two girls (7 and 3) to watch a Blu-ray copy of Zootopia. I enjoyed the movie and family time, but I had an interesting realization while the credits rolled. Amazingly, this was the first 2016 theatrical release that I’d seen. This was no conscious effort to set aside movies for other pursuits. Somehow an avid film guy and movie blogger had basically missed half of 2016. This article’s title is a bit misleading; I’ve still watched quite a few older movies this year. Even so, I didn’t expect to find myself in this position when the year began. More surprising was this fact: I didn’t feel that bad about missing the latest releases.

2016: Year of the Weird

To provide some background, this has been one of the stranger years of my life. We’ve made three trips to the ER with our daughters for completely separate ailments. Our longtime cat also passed away last week. This isn’t a “woe is me” article, but it does help explain why movies haven’t been so prominent. It’s hard to worry about missing a mindless blockbuster when you’re spending time at the hospital. At times, I’ve felt like a character in the Final Destination series. Whatever we do, there’s always another challenge. Obviously, I don’t believe the end result for those characters is coming here.

A public domain photo of a python
Not the actual snake, but this one is a lot more frightening.
The year’s craziest moment happened about two weeks ago. My older daughter was bitten in the ankle by a copperhead snake. This didn’t happen during a camping trip in the wild. We were just strolling along a paved trail in a park that provides nature for city people. You might spot a deer near the path, but it’s hardly a rough environment. My daughter is great now, but she spent two nights in the hospital after the venomous bite. It was a scary time. There are fewer than 100 reported snake bites in Missouri each year, so this was quite a random occurrence.

Have you ever felt like a dark cloud was hanging over your head? I’m not referring to the targeted rain in The Truman Show. It does sometimes feel like we’re in a similar manufactured environment, however. I’m not a very religious guy, but there do appear to be other forces at work here. This isn’t on the level of Hurley being cursed by the numbers on Lost, thankfully. It’s just a weird sensation when so much happens in a short period of time. It hasn’t been all bad, however. We stayed at a ridiculously nice resort at Disney World in January, and there have been great times along with the challenges. It does relegate pop culture to the background, though.

A Limited Crop

This experience in missing the 2016 releases has made me wonder about a few issues. Have I lost interest in most of what Hollywood is producing? I do plan to see Captain America: Civil War pretty soon, but I don’t view skipping Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or even X-Men: Apocalypse as a big deal. The biggest omission thus far has been Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship. He’s one of my favorite directors, and I’ve heard raves about his new film. I’m sure that good movies are still coming, but it doesn’t feel essential to see them right away. Even with the extenuating circumstances, this trend has existed for more than just this year.

These feelings do induce guilt about not supporting theaters. I don’t believe that home viewings can match the big screen, particularly on streaming services. Even so, the convenience of not setting aside three hours and getting a babysitter is hard to skip. I was once a regular visitor to the theater, so I’m essentially a reason that some venues are struggling. Part of the change is just getting older and losing the need to stay on top of things. I still listen to podcasts and read reviews, but there’s less connection with the super fans. This isn’t a new feeling but has grown this year. I do plan to write more on this site and engage better with the cinema culture. Even so, I’ll probably make only a handful of trips to the theater this year. Whether this is an aberration or the new normal is still in question.

11 comments:

  1. Feel the same with you, Dan, on the whole feeling the need to stay on top of things. I too am still playing catch up with some of the biggest and best films of the past few years. But when I look back and think, "has some major catastrophe happened because I didn't see these films" - nope. And like you've, I've still been watching films. But what I have been doing is watching more films I want to see rather than I feel like I have to see.

    Sounds like you've had a hell of a year so far. Sometimes it can feel like we're inundated with more challenging life events. I think that's because those are just the ones that stand out and impact us the most. Here's hoping the rest of 2016 gives you a bit of a break, Dan :)

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    1. Thanks Jaina. It's been tough at times this year, but I feel like we're starting to turn it around (hopefully). In terms of movies, this has been a trend for a few years but was never as extreme. I feel like there's just a point where putting pressure on myself to see every big movie is too much. Instead, I'm just trying to enjoy what we do. Your point about seeing films I "want to see" is definitely the key part of how I'm approach them now.

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  2. Glad your daughter is feeling better now. Very unfortunate, although look on the bright side, it could have been a lot worse.
    I like you want to support local theatres, I do too. This summer, I'll hopefully be seeing The Nice Guys, Love & Friendship,The Neon Demon, The Lobster, & Sing Street, if all those are released near me. The blockbusters don't really excite me the next few months(except Rogue One)

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    1. Thanks Chris. We definitely feel grateful that she's doing well, especially when you consider some of the news of this week. I also want to see Sing Street, and The Lobster sounds very interesting. I'm hoping to start getting back out to the theaters pretty soon.

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  3. Wow, scary moments you've experienced. We ended up at the ER at the end of last year with our youngest daughter and that is something that stays with you. Whenever she has a fever now we are extra alert. Not something you want to go through as a parent.
    That feeling of a dark cloud I know as well as for the last couple of years we had some shocking things happen healthwise in the family so I've become a bit worried when december comes around even though I shouldn't as you could label it superstition.

    I have been watching as many movies as I normally have, but like you don't mind anymore if I'm not up to date with some of them (still have not seen the latest X-Men film). I now prefer watching movies at home for the convenience...especially with the projector...

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    1. I'm jealous that you have a projector. I might never leave the house! It definitely changes your perspective on being sick when you have kids, especially after you've been to the ER. It's been a whirlwind for us lately. Hopefully things will start getting back to normal soon. Thanks Nostra!

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    2. Yeah, hope so too. It's a scary experience.

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  4. It's funny how normal varies from one household to the next. I've been to the theater five or six times this year and that is a major uptick in activity for us. Over the past 7-8 years we tend to only go 3-5 times a year, but I'm planning on going maybe another 5-6 times this year. It's nowhere near what lots of other bloggers do, but that's huge for me.

    That said, I hope things get back to your version of normal. Of course, that means having everyone healthy and happy. I wouldn't worry too much about not supporting theaters. It's great to do so, but first things first.

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    1. Thanks. It's starting to come around, so I'm hopeful it will get even more back to normal soon. My theater visits had been dropping in the past few years already, but this year has been different. I think going fewer times does make it seem like a bigger deal when we do go, though.

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  5. Oh my! Your year sounds crazy (and I just saw your status about your job too). So happy that your daughter was all well after that bite. I've been slacking in watching movies this year too. Although I've seen around 12 new releases this year that is much less than usual. My at-home watches have been dismal too. The front half of this year has just been busy and weeks pass so fast before you realize that you somehow haven't been watching anything. Looking at my letterboxd I only watched two (not noteworthy movies) in all of June! that's crazy to me.

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    1. I'm now up to three new releases (Zootopia, Civil War, The BFG)! I probably shouldn't be too excited about that total. We've been catching up on some TV, so my total was a big five movies in June. It has been a crazy year, though it is starting to get back to normal. Thanks for the note!

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