By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
I love movies.
I mean, I really love movies. Love them so much I find a way to shoehorn movie recommendations into most conversations. Love them so much that my Letterboxd diary has started to resemble my actual diary. Love them so much that, if I had the required skill set and a mind that thought in a way that was conducive to it, I would be making movies instead of just sitting here writing about them.
A lot of people who really love movies talk about how they’ve loved them for as long as they can remember. I don’t think that’s really true for me. Sure, I’ve liked movies for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t ever really that deep. Instead, I think I made a very conscious decision to start loving movies when I was teenager. Mostly, it was out of curiosity—I had always loved reading; it made sense to me that I would love even more storytelling in another form.
So, in January 2020, I made a New Year’s resolution to watch 52 movies I had never seen before that year—basically, to watch a new movie for every week of the year. And I was bound and determined to meet my goal. I set up a page in my journal to keep track of all the movies I watched that year. I began heavily curating my Letterboxd watchlist. I was approaching my movie-watching goal with the discipline of a runner training for a marathon.
And then in March 2020, as you all are, I’m sure, painfully aware of, the world kind of stopped turning as the COVID-19 pandemic proliferated. And, as I quarantined, I began to devour movies at an unprecedented pace.
Watching movies quickly developed into an isolationist activity for me. It’s weird to talk about having fond memories of quarantine because so much of that period was, obviously, awful. But, I watched some of my favorite movies for the first time while I was quarantining—movies that changed me as a person, such as Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” and Levan Akin’s “And Then We Danced.” In total, I watched 74 new films that year and, while I certainly did not love all of them, I loved every second I spent discovering new stories.
I would even argue that there are some movie-watching experiences that have been heightened by the fact that I watched them on my laptop alone in my room. The sheer level of emotion I felt after watching “Brokeback Mountain” for the first time under these conditions, immediately followed up by sobbing my eyes out while listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “Hot Burrito #1”—a very devastating song with a very silly title—is yet to be matched by anything else. Sometimes, watching a movie alone in your room is really good for you.
Once movie theaters began to reopen, I didn’t feel a great urge to go start seeing movies in theaters even though I was now, I felt, certifiably a film lover. Part of it stemmed from the fact that my local theater seemed incapable of showing anything that wasn’t attached to Marvel. Part of it is that I am, famously, very cheap and the thought of spending $15 to go do something I can do at home is enough to send me to an early grave. But then, I started going to the movies with my friends.
The first movie I saw in theaters post-COVID-19 lockdown was Anderson’s “The French Dispatch.” I saw it with my mother and, therefore, it does not count in the narrative of this story of going to see movies with my friends—I just wanted to have my facts straight.
The second movie I saw in theaters post-COVID-19 lockdown was “The Room,” Tommy Wiseau’s trashfire masterpiece that’s notoriously heralded as the worst film ever made. I went to see it with live commentary from its star, Greg Sestero, with my friends at Sidewalk Cinema in Birmingham. Despite the fact that “The Room,” is, undoubtedly, one of the most awful movies I’ve ever seen, I had such a wonderful time watching it. Being in a room full of people who were willing to buy into having an emotional experience together—even if that experience was just having a silly goofy time—unlocked some secret joie de vivre that I hadn’t even been aware I was cheating myself out of. It’s refreshing to be so openly emotional in a world that, often, feels as though it prizes stoicism, and getting to have that experience with my friends made it even sweeter.
This past weekend, I was lucky enough to spend my Saturday at the annual Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, seeing movies with my friends, and I was reminded again of how much of a gift it is to sit down and share a movie with others.
In movies, as with any other art form, we, as viewers, are able to find little pieces of ourselves projected clearly in front of us so that we can poke and prod and examine them. Getting to go through this process of emotional examination side-by-side with your friends achieves a level of vulnerability that is rarely reached through other means. Whether it was talking to one friend about our grandparents after seeing “Mississippi River Styx,” hearing what lines stood out to another friend from “Dig!” or even just seeing what jokes made my friends laugh the hardest in “Bottoms,” over that Saturday, I felt myself get closer to my friends and closer to myself through the simple act of sharing a movie together.
So, I implore you, go see movies with your friends! While I do think that actually going to a movie theater adds a level to the experience—once again, I cannot recommend Sidewalk Cinema enough, it’s not completely necessary. Even just watching a movie on your couch with friends is wonderful too. At the end of the day, life is too short to not get weirdly vulnerable and emotional in front of your friends. Share art with one another! Laugh together! Go watch movies with your friends!
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.