nostalgia, comfort, & cinema

I love cinema.

Honestly, you could even go as far as saying I live for cinema. It has quite literally kept me alive some days. Cinema is the highest art form and I love analyzing movies. It’s a huge reason why this blog exists.

However, something very interesting happened to my Letterboxd diary in the past few months. Basically, since the beginning of this year, I’ve almost rewatched more movies than watching new movies. The era doesn’t matter for new movies — it could be a 50s film, a 90s film I missed, or something current that everyone says is awesome.

But the rewatches are interesting… a pattern has started to emerge.

I’ve slowly been trying to watch movies whose soundtracks I remember but whose plots I don’t, ever since I was in my teens. I know I’ve seen those movies before, but I don’t really remember them. I will maybe remember a scene or two here or there, but sometimes I remember nothing at all. (Example: Tere Naam from 2003)

It’s like filling gaps in my understanding of the time I grew up in.

But this year, it’s been very different. I rewatched Humko Dewaana Kar Gaye alone upwards of 6 times now. I watched a ton of other late 2000s movies that I remember pretty vividly as well — Chup Chup Ke, De Dana Dan, Shaadi No 1, Dulha Mil Gaya, Jayantabhai Ki Love Story… Quite simply, films I grew up with.

Why? I remember everything. There’s nothing new to be seen here.

I remember exactly when I had this realization… Once July hit, I was going to re-prioritize cinema as part of my life. (My Letterboxd diary says I watched 1 film in June, and 12 in July.) By the end of that month, I didn’t care to watch new films anymore.

Let’s analyze every film I watched that month.

  • Blue Valentine — Excellent, soul-wrenching, a LOT to handle
  • The Half of It — Good, not great, was it worth my time? Slightly empty
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie — Terrible but worth it since I am watching WOWP the show
  • Oliver & Company — Horrifying, terrible, felt sick and empty after
  • Frozen II — one of the most boring Disney movies I’ve ever seen, I hated it
  • Laggies — I love Sam Rockwell and Keira Knightley but uhh???
  • Life After Beth — I hated this movie. A lot.
  • The Muppets Take Manhattan — Liked it, didn’t love it, haven’t loved any of the Muppets movies so far but I’m on a quest to watch every single one in order
  • Dil Bechara — Terrible, disappointing
  • Anjaana Anjaani — The first rewatch of the month. It was a bad movie, but I didn’t feel empty after!
  • The Pursuit of Happyness — Amazing, brilliant, stuck with me for weeks after.
  • The Pianist — Holocaust porn, I did not like it and I felt slightly ill.

Notice how a lot of these films made me feel empty or ill or like they were a waste of my time. I love that about cinema. I love how it reaches inside of me and pulls at my emotions.

But maybe life is already emotional enough? Maybe I don’t need an emotional reckoning every day?

Sometime a few years ago, I stopped listening to most new English music unless it was from an artist I was already familiar with (Bad Bad Hats or Ariana Grande’s new albums, for example). English music was just too …real, something about the English language feels too real and sounds like stuff I would say.

It was one of the best decisions I made for my sanity. I worked on these huge, elaborate playlists full of Hindi songs. I also had a few English playlists full of music that I used to like (Frank Turner, old pop), or with Disney Channel music I liked (that’s practically not in English).

This was around the time I became obsessed with Disney Channel and middle-grade books as well. I had Hindi music and Disney Channel to always be… unrealistic media. I wanted to drown in unrealistic media.

As the years go by, I still want that. It’s applying to films now, too. It’s applying in particular to a very particular time in Bollywood. Romantic thrillers were abound, romcoms were perfectly blended between modern and traditional, and comedies were at their peak. It’s trashy, it’s wild, it’s unrealistic, and I love it.

There’s still a place for new films, and I’d say I watch about 50% new films a month, but actually, my tendency to watch films increases when I have palette cleansers.

I’m less obsessed with being a cinephile, keeping up with Knives Out and even something like Andhadhun (which I still haven’t seen!). Interestingly enough, my followers on Letterboxd are similar to me in this sense and we all tend to watch the same style of Bollywood movies here.

In fact, my most critical pieces about myself, my relationship to cinema, my relationship to being Indian, everything really — comes out of having critical thoughts about these movies I grew up with.

Everything I do has become in favor of comfort except maybe gaming still.

What I find interesting about this is that when I don’t force myself to read a hard book or watch a movie I know that’s going to be unsettling, I end up reading and watching more (including that harder stuff) because I’m more motivated to do the activity in general.

If enough pieces of a medium make me feel empty, the medium will make me feel empty. Even my one true love, cinema.

So, give into the nostalgia. Go crazy. Disney+! I kind of want to go on a quest to watch every DCOM ever made, but I’m not emotionally ready for that many movies about little kids. I feel like it’d be a better quest to watch every Akshay Kumar movie ever made?

Either way, self-help starts with the conceit that you’re dissatisfied with your life. As long as I have cinema, skateboarding, music, and something to read, I’m quite satisfied.