I joined Letterboxd a month or so ago. Though it’s nominally a social network—you follow and are followed, you like and rate and comment, you silently stalk those more famous and popular than you—the main feature and utility of the site is to log seen movies.
To say I have a movie-going/watching habit is to vastly undersell; it’s pretty much a daily thing. A few years ago I attempted to keep a rolling list on some blog platform but gave up. Unlike so many other creative outlets, functioning without an external, established structure wasn’t working in this case. It wasn’t that I was missing external validation or even notice for that diaristic exercise—I long ago stopped awaiting or expecting approval or even reaction to much of anything I do—the problem was more structural.
When I’m working on a drawing there’s the built-in frame of the sketchbook or paper, when it’s a book, there’s a jacket and pages inside, but with an ongoing tally of watched films the horizon and borders feel infinite. There’s also the problem of memory. I’ve forgotten so much of what I’ve seen. I’ve been an avid movie-watcher since my early teens. That’s forty years. Even someone with a photographic memory might keel over and crash from the strain to recall. My memory is much more primitive technology than lenses and silver. There’s mostly sawdust in there and roiling it up blinds me more often than elucidating much of anything.
Still, I keep trying. During my first couple weeks on the site, I came up with over two thousand movies I had at least a trace memory of. I dumped all my Reader and other published reviews into my profile as well. It was one of those tedious, days’ long undertakings I tackle when I’m in between actually making something. It accesses a different part of my brain. The book-shelving I’ve been doing is kind of the same. It’s good for me to stop sometimes and not just keep cranking out art, which is my default setting.
The question of what all these filmed stories taking room in my consciousness are doing to me is a complicated one. Is it just escape? A way not to have interactions with other living humans? Can I really incorporate even a tiny fraction of what I take in through my eyes and ears from the screen? Is it okay to sometimes just passively take it?
I don’t know.
All the award-bait has been rolling out the last couple months. I watched Killers of the Flower Moon three times and it didn’t lose anything from the repetition. I loved Aki Kaurismäki’s new one. It feels a lot closer to my own limited emotional range than the average Hollywood effort. The new Frederick Wiseman doc made me really hungry. But the movie that has stayed with me the longest and keeps pulling on my coat is Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up. Few films have shown what it’s like to be an artist day-to-day more accurately.
There’s a fair chance I’ll wake up some morning and delete my Letterboxd account. Throwing things in the trash—especially things I’ve sunk a lot of time and effort on—is a special pleasure. But for the time being the exercise in cataloguing has been rewarding. The list of films is up over three thousand now and I know it isn’t complete.
There’s no way it ever will be considering the flawed resources at my disposal.
Reviewed a play about cave-people.
Sketched an epic Bill Callahan show at Constellation.
Christmas came early this year: the printer finally delivered the four hundred copies of my new book he’s held hostage for three-plus months. I’ve now signed and numbered every last one.