the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 3 (“branch out”)

the foreboding laugh react when you post your top 4. the unnerving silence of the comments. maybe a sympathetic “I love Drive!” in the comments, coupled only by a “bro you just posted cringe!” reaction image shortly after. you’ve made a fool of yourself online for your taste, something you’ve put hundreds of hours into. where do you go from here? how will you ever recover?

there are, fundamentally, two paths you can take. if you’re experiencing this phenomenon for the first time. you can continue to see stuff your coworkers know the names of, blissfully trekking on in your endless swaths of multi-million dollar products, maybe even take up funko pop collecting on the side. while i think this is a terrible decision, ultimately, you are you. you’ll face scorn from people no matter what your hobbies are.

this is, unfortunately, not a series on how to be a pleb for the rest of your life though. anyone can do that – maybe i’ll do it on how i’ve yet to expand my tastes in music for the 22 years i’ve been on this planet. this series assumes that you’ve taken the second path. you’re determined to do better than this. you want people online whose names you can’t pronounce to admire and fawn over your every letterboxd entry and the friends and family you’ve had all your life to awkwardly make small-talk with you when they try to merely mention the word “movies” in your presence. in short, you want to be a patrician.

i’ve already covered the basics of this in my other two “patrician” posts in terms of the social aspect (tl;dr make friends who understand your tastes as opposed to algorithms that try to predict them) and the physical ones (tl;dr SEED YOUR TORRENTS) to becoming a patrician, but i think that some people might miss the “why?” aspect of it. i’ve clearly been a bit light-hearted about this above because i need to contrast how one might perceive the art of becoming cultured. a descent into film-dom might be romanticized in media as seeing the classics and crying to Schindler’s List, but the reality is that the exciting part of it is finding yourself, finding some hidden gem that nobody’s heard of, that kind of a deal. and while many of the canon flicks will understandably astound you with how great they are, many of them will also underwhelm you. that’s the nature of the game.

so why would you ever choose this time-consuming, antisocial habit? all for the name of some dopamine hits online and some street cred when you shill some forgotten fassbinder movie?

partially yes, though i think there is more. the primary issue i see with being a “basic” viewer is that you’re much more susceptible to burnout. it makes sense, you know; there is practically an infinite amount of rainer kohlbergers, jon josts, and kiyoshi kurosawas out there – not to say that these filmmakers are anything but singular, just that there are filmmakers with directly similar appeal to these sorts. for as long as i’ve been watching 200-300 movies a year, i’ve always been able to find stuff that interests me and new corners to explore – mostly due to the new discoveries i’d made just a few months prior. i have no earthly idea what cinematic obsession i’ll have in a year – a director, a movement, a genre, etc.

for the blissful path, there are only so many edgar wrights, 70s coppolas, and steven spielbergs. sure, these directors have all made some great films – however, if your palette is only extended to such creators who operate on budgets like this, then you’re going to be physically limited by the market already. though we may joke about how marvel has taken over the industry (which financially is true: boycott disney and all that), in reality, if all you watch are superhero movies, your pool is pretty shallow at the end of the day. even today, you can manage what like, 6 movies to get excited about per year? 8? rookie numbers.

if movies are a part time curiosity to you, it’s not a big deal. people burn out of their part time interests all of the time to mutually beneficial ends; it’s happened to me, anyways. so many people these days, however, seem to lack a passion. they lack something they can really dig into and get obsessed over. they kinda meander through a number of “easy” fields – video games, netflix, budget fashion – but never get super deep into any of them.

that’s always a concern on my end. it pains me to see or hear about individuals that seemingly have no direction or obsession or something of this sort, as if these short term gratifications are all they have to live on. so although i mock the patrician crowd for that dopamine craving on letterboxd, i don’t see it as being very different from the hit that people who aren’t living fulfilling, passionate lives get when they watch Shaun of the Dead for the 7th time, thinking silently to themselves that it seems just a bit worse this go around than the 6th.

i know that it’s possible for me to burn out on movies someday – it’s possible for anyone. i don’t think it’s possible that the mentality i have about movies is going to let me do that though, so unless that changes, i’ll pretty much always have an active interest in them. there is just so much out there that i’d love to see, and that’s only 2019 erik reeds. 2020 erik reeds will have even more he wants to see, in spite of having seen more of the stuff that 2019 erik reeds wanted to see, and 2021 erik reeds will want to see even more than the 2020 one and so on and so forth. it takes 100 minutes to watch a movie, but only a few seconds to add it to my watchlist.

so the “broaden your horizons” accompanied with some other mocking comments, in addition to being a way for patricians to finally flex their e-peens, is something that could genuinely assist you in the long run. there are a lot of things to love in this life, but if you’re going to go with movies, why not go about them in a way that’s rewarding over time AND gratifying now? are you really missing out from those small talks at family reunions about the last disney HD remaster?

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 2 (equipment)

we’re living in the 21st century, doin something mean to it (by that, i mean hotboxing outside of dennys at 2am). i mentioned in part 1 of this series that the modern world of cinema has many concrete advantages, the primary ones being that there are more restorations than ever, and that there are more ways to build connections than ever. well that’s awesome, it’s great, but how do we take advantage of this new tech?

the first thing i would recommend is, if you’re just really really new to this stuff, getting a program to play movie files. the primary thing you need here is something that has good subtitle capabilities. i’ve used VLC for years and i also use MPC as well when i have issues with that one. they have pretty good documentation online for whatever you may need with them, but if you’re just casually watching movies then there shouldn’t be any fancy tricks you have to pull off most of the time.

so where do we go to get the movie files, now that we can play them?

if you’re not on any private trackers already, i recommend asia torrents and cinemaz. they have open registration sometimes, usually during the summer, so be on the lookout then. it’s great to have a resource like this because it allows you to request films you may be looking for.

the regular torrent sites are a great resource. openload and novamov as you see fit. another excellent resource is hawkmenblues. i’ve linked to the site index with directors whose name starts with “j” but just change the url to go to the appropriate director you want. this is an excellent resource – don’t let the sketchy links put you off. most of the canon is available for free here. note that the films require a password to unzip, but the password is always available on the site so just type it in to unzip everything.

you also have rarelust, which is great for more obscure gems, ubu, which is great for older avant-garde stuff, festivalscope, which is cool for random new festival stuff, mubi, which gives you a great small selection for a low price (free for students), kanopy, which gives you a huge selection and can be used with a library card, tao films, which is a hub for slow cinema, and the various mainstream streaming platforms that all have noteworthy films on them.

again, making friends is going to be another great way that you can expand your resources. maybe someone has a karagarga account and can hit you up with some r bruce elder films. maybe you  have an asia torrents and can hook your buddy up with the extended cut of Love Exposure.

some additional tips/tricks:

-seed your torrents if you’re on a private tracker, like, obviously. seed your torrents that don’t have a lot of seeders already. self-explanatory, but a lot of people just delete.

-VPNs are good, but i haven’t done much research into em for a while. research them on your own time – a lot of ISPs don’t care if you’re torrenting phil solomon films or what-have-you, but if yours does, there are relatively easy ways around it. just don’t go for brand new stuff unless you’re using a VPN – you can sometimes find those more new mainstream stuff on sites like openload anyways though.

-remember to always google search for english subtitles if you can’t find them – if you have one of the video players i downloaded, you can easily patch them to the movie afterwards. it won’t always work, but it’s generally a good try.

-maintaining your ratio on any private tracker can be difficult, but it’s difficult for everyone the first time around. read the rules carefully as they’re all different. the most important thing is to let everything seed until you start uploading past your initial download – pretty much every site is going to be cool with you if you do that. don’t just delete it after a couple days of it not uploading at all – this is common. some of my torrents take weeks to get any traction.

-share your stuff. if you’re shilling some sick film from an unknown director, put it on youtube! mega! google drive! let people have a way to see it if it’s not otherwise readily available. if you were passed something, make sure that you have permission to pass it around too, and respect that person’s wishes. everything becomes available within a couple of years after you hear about it, and even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty else out there for you to watch.

-although many films that you scour the net for are out of print or otherwise unavailable, a good deal of them are up for purchase by their directors. if you’re financially equipped, i highly recommend using your movie allowances in this way; you’re directly supporting the artist in exchange for their film, all using the world wide web. most of them don’t charge inordinate prices for their films or anything, so it’s not a huge commitment. plus, in many cases, the director will be happy to interact with a potential fan!

-many of these sites have features, like movie of the day or lists with a lot of movies available on the site of a certain theme, etc. if you’re unsure of what to watch for the day, check out some of those – can’t hurt!

-the sites i provided are just what i’ve gotten the most use out of. explore for yourself for alternatives – and feel free to tell me about them too. all about helping each other in this world.

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 1 (“how do you find out about these movies?”)

hello everyone. i’m planning this as a series of posts to attempt to educate people into how they can get deeper into film, with a heavy emphasis on the practical methods, the new tools at our disposal, and finding ways to enrich your general cinephilia.

as many know, i’ve spent far too much time on movie forums and in movie spaces online. most of this time i’ve regretted in some way, but i guess i have gleaned some good things from it over the years. people often ask me variants of the question in the title: just how do you even find out about most of the stuff you watch? the answer to this sort of question depends on who’s asking it, but since i presume the readerbase here is going to be tech-savvy budding movie-lovers, i’ll try to address it in a way that’s most beneficial.

my go-to recommendation for someone who i don’t particularly get an “artsy” vibe from is generally the imdb top 250 (is it still at 250 now?). over the years, of course, its usefulness has run its course on my end, but it remains a nice list for having immediate access to entry-level filmbro stuff. someone who sees 200 movies on there will likely not be very refined in their tastes, but they can begin to grow the seeds of what exactly they want to get out of their movie watching experience. and it’s also an initial time commitment too; if you can’t get through films like Batman Begins and Se7en, i struggle to think of where else you can go that would be rewarding at that point.

i’ll harp on this quite a bit in this post but i can’t stress the importance of finding your own identity when it comes to your viewing habits. we all have generally the same lists to look at – the letterboxd top 250, they shoot pictures top 1000, sight and sound’s top 250, etc. not everyone is going to end up seeing all of those movies though. me personally, i wanted to complete the TSPDT list by the time i was 25, that was around what i estimated when i was 16 or 17. this is now a feat that i could easily do with my consumption averages, but my desire to see the last 200 some odd movies on the list by now has dissipated more and more. i just can’t see myself ever wanting to endure more bunuel films if i don’t absolutely have to.

but the cool thing about movies is that you’re rarely forced to do these things. movie culture as a whole doesn’t really have a stigma against people who haven’t completed lists or anything; i doubt the people whose opinions i respect the most care at all about their progress on the sight and sound lists. so are these lists useless, if they are rarely ever completed?

certainly not! lists like these offer homogenized perspectives that are great as diving-off points. after you’ve sped through the various bergmans, ozus, and godards on lists like these, you’ll likely begin to get to a point of where you can broadly identify what types of movies you like and what types you don’t.

i’ve mentioned elsewhere that i’m fundamentally against the notion of needing to be “open-minded” when it comes to art, especially in an information era where we have access to tens of thousands of films at any given time. the idea that you need to continually reinforce your negative preferences in some sort of (usually futile) need to expand your horizons is something that can be done with more enjoyment if one simply continues to explore by watching movies they believe they’ll actually like. if you’re watching over 200 movies a year, odds are that you’re probably broadening your horizons plenty; how much you want to get out of that comfort zone is up to you, but as someone who almost exclusively stays in theirs, i wouldn’t say it needs to be demonized much.

at the end of the day, everyone takes risks with their viewing habits. i never really know if i’m going to like something when i begin watching it, but i would almost always prefer to like it. i’ve seen plenty of bad movies on accident to the point of where i wouldn’t want to watch them on purpose. but enough on this.

when you begin to develop your identity (this could be based around a myriad of topics and themes, such as: musicals, political films, silents, ensemble works, classic hollywood, new bollywood, experimental film, etc.), this is where your viewing habits are going to begin to diverge from something that people can really give you a flowchart or a generalized list for. you’re not some algorithm, you’re you! you have opinions! dreams! desires! you can’t possibly stomach another werner herzog movie, and you’re dying to see more things like The Wind! another canon list can only “help” so much (by help, i mean: allow you to discover or become interested in things you weren’t before).

this is where the social element to movie watching gets important, and, along with the obvious easy access to kazillions of movies, one of the primary benefits i think of when i examine how the internet era benefits film fans. i’ve joked before about how i don’t care about quality because i “grew up in the early 2010s as a rivette fan.” i have a dvd of Out 1 Spectre i bought off of a bootleg website that is the movie recorded off of a camcorder recording a TV playing the film which was recorded onto tape in the wrong aspect ratio with italian hardcode subs. nowadays, you can find this film readily available online, in pristine quality.

when i first saw A Brighter Summer Day four years ago, it was off of a dark, hazy laserdisc recording that had become widely available to potential viewers. just recently i watched the 50 gig blu ray rip of it from criterion and almost couldn’t believe my eyes at the difference.

point is, i haven’t really even been in the game that long comparatively. though Out 1 being on netflix is always going to top the list of things that “never would have happened in my days,” there are countless restoration miracles like this happening year by year. every time criterion restores a batch of films, i normally don’t care about most of them, but i usually care about one or two, and down the road i’ll probably care for a few more, and the list of films to watch just expands more and more at an exponential rate.

but even these incredible advances are somewhat meager in comparison to how much interacting with other people can aid you in venturing out in the film world more. because, the truth is, if i didn’t have people recommending me stuff or rating it 4.5 on letterboxd or what-have-you, all the criterions and arrow videos and kino lorbers in the world wouldn’t matter – i wouldn’t have any idea of where to start. the most important thing you can do for your film viewership after you’ve begun to see what you do and don’t like is: find people who agree with you! you’ll find plenty that don’t, but there are always going to be film fans that have those same hot takes and goals for their film viewership like you do.

growing up in rural texas, there wasn’t really anybody in my day to day that i could say was realistically watching films in the same wavelength as me. this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something that many people are likely to encounter. they go into their film class and feel just a complete lack of connection with anyone. they go to a kalatozov screening and shudder at the boomers complaining about it exiting the theater. for a lot of people out there, there really is nobody that can help guide you on your journey.

that’s where the net comes in though. first thing’s first: make a letterboxd. find reviewers you like – oftentimes i go to films i like with not a lot of views and see people who liked them and check out what else they’re into. comment on stuff. review everything you see – even if it’s just 2 or 3 words, put something on there, because other people are going to be doing this too. we go on social media (especially for interests) to gain something, people like seeing your thoughts on movies if they trust your taste or value your insight. comment on other peoples’ lists and reviews, get a sense of everybody’s taste, as this might be how you find your own more.

i’ve often been disappointed when i try to find IRL film groups because the people who happen to live within a few miles from me are likely not some of the few hundred people in the world i feel really connected with on a cinematic level, but with the net at your disposal, there’s no such thing. i know people with extremely idiosyncratic tastes; 80s action films and structuralist shorts and jesus franco joints. there’s always going to be a way to find like-minded individuals on websites where everyone’s ratings and rants are publicly available.

it isn’t just letterboxd; scour the whole net for these people if you don’t feel like that site provides you with enough. i spent a year on r/movies largely as a test of this very theory, and, surprise surprise, i met some people that i genuinely clicked with pretty well. there are always going to be some people that you can connect with, and this increases as you find yourself. if you don’t know what you’re looking for in movies, other people can only help you so much.

that’s…pretty much all the advice i can give here. i don’t know everyone, i can’t reasonably vibe with everybody’s sensibilities. people educated in film may have tastes that are just antithetical to what i search for in film. this is just part of the process though, because there are so many people who have similar tastes as me that have helped me discover things i didn’t know about or wasn’t as educated on.

you may have complaint here with how i’ve set this up as “find people that are exactly like you,” but that’s not the case. nobody is exactly like you. the people that i follow on letterboxd and get recommendations from and read academic reviews from are from various backgrounds that we have overlap on but i still have huge differences with. one of my friends is huge on shorter, more transcendent abstract avant-garde films. one of my friends is big on no-budget SOV horrors or romances or other such genre flicks. other are big on political films. others are big on vulgar auteurism. some are just the “classical” TSPDT enthusiast types whose favorites from those circles align with my tastes. some of them are populists that i consider to look at films in a progressive or intelligent way. but that’s just me and my own circles; you yourself are going to find your friends, your admirers, the people that you’ll go on to stan.

but we all have to do the grunt work. at least try to go through some of the canon lists, unless you have other lists that you’re going to use instead (which is fine too!). engage with people and get recs based on your taste. some people can jump entirely into the deep end and binge lav diaz but most people aren’t wired for that. take it slow. watch the normie stuff, when you’re done with that, you can work your way into the more difficult material on the sights and sounds or they shoot the pictures or those sorts. don’t just watch mindlessly! you’re going to watch Jules et Jim or something and think “wow this is absolutely terrible, do i just have bad taste?” and the answer to that is: maybe, but maybe someone else will have bad taste too. and it’s up to you to find them.