The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Free from the slavery of the collecting bug

with 25 comments

Every year around this time a big chunk of the film blogosphere is hit with the collecting bug.

People, who normally appear to have a diverse and healthy film diet, are all of a sudden caught in a web of restrictions governing their watching. For the entire month leading to Halloween they get nothing but horror. If you try to lure them into watching a recent release in different genre, they’ll a fierce look in their eyes, as if they were trying to lose weight and someone just offered them candy: “Later. I have to stick to my marathon now”.

I give them a look of compassion. To watch nothing but horror for another time! That would be the horror! But again: there are diets that are worse. At least they can get some variation picking movies of different ages and origin. It would be worse to be condemned to get through the entire catalogue of a highly productive director.

And I think with gratitude about the different sorts of movies I’ve watched recently.

Last night it was The Cranes are Flying, followed by Cry-Baby. Before that: Marley, Young Adult, The Deep Blue Sea, The Omen, Lawrence Anyways and Looper. A mixture of new and old, of mainstream and independent, of English and non-English. I chose those films out of lust and the inspiration of the moment, not to get another tick in a checklist.

A hover fly collector
As I’ve stated before, I’m not the collecting kind of person. But many people are.

This mentality was best described by the Swedish essayist Fredrik Sjöberg, who once wrote an excellent book about his hobby: to collect hover flies, you know the ones that are disguised to look like wasps. Apparently this kind of fly comes in many variations; there are 5 000 types in the world, of which 368 have been found in Sweden. But his collection consists only of flies that he has collected at a certain island by the Swedish coast. So far he has captured 202 different species. Does it sound nuts? Definitely. But I can also see the attraction.

There’s no way you can watch every film that ever has been made or catch every sort of hover fly in the world. But put up restrictions and you can at least tell yourself that you’ve watched all Kurosawa movies or caught all flies that live in the neighborhood. In a huge and chaotic existence, there is one tiny area where you can tell yourself that you have things under control.

Aimless stroll
It’s not my cup of tea, but maybe yours. If marathons are what make you happy, I’m not the one to tell you to stop. Enjoy yourself!

As of me, I’ll continue my own, aimless stroll through the world of film, taking mindboggling jumps in time and space every time I pick a new movie.

I’m slave to no one – especially not myself.

Written by Jessica

October 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm

25 Responses

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  1. I’m currently doing the Halloween-horror marathon myself, though I’ll admit it’s at least partly due to reverse psychology — I’m simply so much more likely to pick a non-horror movie the rest of the year that I feel like I have to do this just to give the genre a fair shake. Of course, I’m perfectly willing to deviate from the marathon when something worthwhile turns up (I think last year only about half of my October posts were horror devoted.)

    Morgan R. Lewis

    October 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    • I guess it’s a matter of taste – do you want it all in one bunch or spread it out over the year? Glad to see some flexibility though!

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm

  2. The way I look at it is that I’ve got horror films (for October, documentaries for December, etc) that kind of amass over the year without getting prioritized and these marathons are the fun excuse to actually pay attention to them that I need. It isn’t something that completely dominates my movie watching, just something to push me to watch some things that are different than the usual selection.

    Bondo

    October 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    • To each one his own. As long as you don’t feel it becomes like a job… Again: you watch so many movies over a year so it’s probably not all that likely that it begins to dominate.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:24 pm

  3. It’s funny, I’m generally a huge horror fan, but October seems to be the one month that I kind of take a break from it. It just seems kind of overkill.

    Dave Enkosky

    October 6, 2012 at 1:59 am

    • I know! It’s a bit offputting when everyone else is watching and writing about a certain kind of movie, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me wanting to be a rebel all the time, out of old habit.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm

  4. I like to participate in group marathons, but only in a limited way. A few months ago almost all my movie watching was what I call “homework”– dictation clubs, marathons, and other ways in which others or a system is choosing the movies I watch. I just got tired of it and just stopped so I could just simply watch what I want.

    My movie watching is balanced between personal interest and social connection. I like to do both, but sometimes I just need to do my own thing.

    Steve Kimes

    October 6, 2012 at 8:21 am

    • I can imagine it can really become too much if you have too many viewings set up in advance. At least I need the element of improvisation emerging from the mood of the day. It’s true also that sometimes you need the social connection. It happens that I watch things just to spend time with my family.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:27 pm

  5. Couldn’t agree more Jessica. There’s too many other movies to focus on than sticking to one genre. On top of that, I actually find good horror hard to come by. There’s too much dross out there but hopefully a few of these marathons can at least recommend a couple of good ones.

    Mark Walker

    October 6, 2012 at 10:32 am

    • Thanks Mark! Horror has never been my favorite genre; actually I more or less avoided it until the other year. Now I’ve tried to be more openminded to it, not refusing to watch movies with violence in them, since it would lock me out from so many excellent films. But it’s still not a genre I’d like to devote an entire month to.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm

  6. Haha, I’ll claim the Kurosawa-jibe. But the whole point for me is to _post_ the whole thing as a a marathon, not necessarily whatch nothing but Mark Whalberg-movies for a moth (or how long they would last). I tend to spread out the watching itself for perhaps even a year.

    And are you really that aimless yourself? Sure, the mix is there but I suspect that you tend to seek out the movies that you think you might like, sometimes even deliberately watch an earlier movie from a director or actress you liked in a new movie? I like watching movies that have some sort of connection but I don’t see it as collecting for the mere sake of being able to tick the list, but as exploring the same thing from different angles. Do I make any sense? 😉

    Sofia

    October 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    • You ARE good at doing those marathons. I’ll give you as much though that you can spread out the watching over an extended time, even if you publish it in a narrow timespan. But it requires a ton of disciplin. I think you have more of it than I have.

      I guess it’s not completely random what movies I watch, but I don’t actively try to connect them to each other in some kind of system. There’s no particular reason for me to watch films in the order I watch them.

      And you do make sense. It’s just that I see it from a different point of view.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:31 pm

  7. Jessica, I totally see your point and think it’s a positive approach to watching movies. For my blog, the reason I set it up as a series of marathons is that I was getting overwhelmed by the massive amount of options out there. I would scroll through all the films available and get bogged down just trying to pick at times. The marathons are pretty short, and I’m watching other things on the side, so one genre never dominates.

    I also do think there’s a value in checking out a series of movies in one genre or by one director. Following that path, you can identify trends and see connections that wouldn’t be evident if they were spread out over a long period of time. It’s not about collecting anything; it’s about challenging myself and not just going into my comfort zone. Interesting topic!

    Dan

    October 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    • Thanks Dan!

      Your marathons are lovely and since you keep them small, you don’t risk to become repetitive the way you inevitably do if you’re running the same theme for an entire month. Besides as far as I recall, you don’t publsih all posts in a row. You mix it up a bit.

      Getting out of your comfort zone is ALWAYS a good thing. I just think you should be able to do that without committing to a marathon.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm

  8. I’ve used a succession of lists of movies as suggestions on what to watch for many years, so I suppose in that sense I am a “collector”. (I’m doing the 1001 Movies and the movies nominated for Best Picture Oscars right now). I am most definitely not a collector of horror films, though. I share your amusement, dare I say “horror”, at how many people just talk about horror films in October. The entire genre doesn’t do much for me, so it means far fewer movie reviews I end up reading in the month.

    Chip

    October 6, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    • I know a few people who do the 1001 movies thing. I admire your persistance and I think it’s better than many other marathons since it offers so much more of variation. But the idea wouldn’t cross my mind to do it myself. I value the freedom highter.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm

  9. I’m definitely an aimless stroller myself. Sometimes, though, on those aimless strolls I find something or someone – like noir, or Joanne Woodward – and immerse myself in them but that only happens because I’ve had this totally happenstance discovery of realizing how much I love them. I rarely ever set out specifically to work my way through a genre or someone’s oeuvre.

    Happy accidents are the best.

    Nick

    October 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    • “Happy accidents are the best” – so true! I actually wish I was even more aimless than I am.

      Jessica

      October 7, 2012 at 9:37 pm

  10. You wait – eventually, every February we’re gonna be innundated with Bloggers doing month-long Valentine’s Day marathons of all the awesome (!) romantic comedy films on offer….

    Rodney

    October 12, 2012 at 3:41 am

    • Don’t tell me about it. It’s like the lifecycle of American TV series and their mandatory Thanksgiving, Halloween and Valentine episodes…

      Jessica

      October 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm

  11. I am still trying to watch the imdb top 250. Been at 160-175 for a year though. They broadcasted Rear Window on TV this sunday so I’ll get to 173 soon 😉

    Personally I’m watching 80% mainstream Hollywood movies. And then throw in a few foreign/cult/older movies for variety’s sake.

    carrandas

    October 28, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    • But the top 250 list surely must be under constant change? So when you reach 250, new movies will have appeared that you haven’t seen? Sounds like a never-ending-story to me. 🙂

      I’m actually not sure how my movies would distribute if I sorted them in those categories. I think I probably watch a little less mainstream Hollywyood movies and more indie, European and older movies than you. But the exact percentage? Can’t tell tbh.

      Jessica

      October 29, 2012 at 9:32 am

      • Yes, it’s constantly changing which is part of the fun 🙂

        Most of the movies that I haven’t seen yet are those who are really old and often foreign. Even though I often end up liking them they’re the movies that I only watch from time to time.

        carrandas

        October 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      • Oh, now that I think about it, I rated every movie I saw on IMDB(http://www.imdb.com/user/ur1685982/ratings). So I can actually calculate my percentage 🙂 143/1749 are older than 1980 and 248/1749 are not in English. So 80% is probably rather correct.

        carrandas

        October 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm


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