Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? E-mail us at email@example.com.
Same one we do every year: In the spirit of the New Year, here’s our annual opportunity to contemplate the year to come, and reflect on all the things we vow to read, watch, play, create, listen to, or change about the way we approach pop culture. What are your pop-culture resolutions for 2013?
I don’t regret the fact that I spent more time in 2012 on TV series than on films: This was the year I got into Homeland, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, Misfits, American Horror Story, Party Down, and The Venture Bros. I finally finished Lost and got caught up on Breaking Bad and started Friday Night Lights. (Hello, 2012 resolution.) But all the TV came at the expense of film, and this year I watched fewer movies than I watched in any single year since I started tracking my viewing. So in 2013, I want to get back into film—and particularly, I want to get back into films seen in theaters. And even more particularly, I want to make more of a point of seeing non-mainstream films in theaters, films that may not make it to home screens. This year I most particularly regret not catching Cosmopolis and Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not A Film when I (very, very briefly) had the chance. So, 2013: More movies, more often, more in theaters.
My first novel, Taft 2012, came out this year. Seeing as how there’s a sell-by date built into the title, I’ve been trying to line up a book project for 2013 that might be a little less on the planned-obsolescence side. I have a couple things in the works, including a short novel that should be published in e-book form sometime next year. But the resolution I’m locking my jaws on is the completion of the science-fiction novel I’ve been writing, on and off, for the past three years. Without going into tedious, listen-to-me-babble-about-the-book-I’m-writing detail, I’ll just say it’s a pretty staggering prospect, at least for a guy like me, whose most ambitious undertaking each day is putting on pants right side out, finding my way to a coffee shop, and rocking some music reviews. I always thought getting a novel published would forever hamstring the hobgoblins of lax motivation and low self-confidence that have always nagged me as a writer. If only. Negative reinforcement, it seems, is my copilot. So here’s to a 2013 full of desperate, failure-fearing, guilt-whipped productivity.
A couple of weeks ago, I got caught up on most everything that was on my DVR, and decided I’d venture into my Netflix online-streaming queue for the first time in ages. In the weeks since, I’ve been spending a lot of time watching rock-docs and ’70s detective shows, and it’s made me realize that I need to do more of this enjoying media I already own or subscribe to, and less spending money on new CDs, books, movies, etc. So that’s my goal over the next 365 days. Livin’ lean in 2013: The Year Of Austere!
I already watch an inordinate amount of television, so making a resolution to watch Friday Night Lights and Misfits isn’t so much committing as enabling. Instead, I will make a public resolution here to do the thing I’ve so far been incapable of doing. In 2012, I vow to read more real and actual books, books that will build on what I studied in college. I have read a lot of great books in the past couple of years, but I don’t think my Harry Potter reread is really going to expand my way of thinking. I’ve taken my post-college years off, and now I think it’s time to approach Michel Foucault and Edward Said on my own terms, with no due dates or papers. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to read them without subconsciously tacking Post-It notes to the side of every page.
I never thought I’d need to resolve to do this, but I’m going to be better about keeping abreast of new music. There was a time not so long ago when I was as hyper-aware as our music editor of what was coming out and coming up in the world of music. But now that I’m a dad and 40 isn’t incredibly far away, I’ve lost some touch with what’s going on—and sometimes retreated into comfortable nostalgia. In 2013, I’m going to give all these crazy new bands a fair shake, even the ones that just sound like so much clattering and/or blooping and bleeping. Now get off my lawn! (Daft Punk needs to park its bus there.)
The past year was dominated by the addition of a new human being to the Casciato clan, which had a heavy impact on my pop-culture plans. Long before baby arrived, my wife stopped feeling like going out too often, so our pop-culture consumption became decidedly housebound. After the baby came, this only intensified, exacerbated by an utter lack of time and energy to do much at all. That means I saw fewer music and comedy shows, movies in theaters, and other live-in-person events than at any time in the past decade. We’re planning on adding another child within a year, which will only make things worse. So in the meantime, once baby No. 1 is old enough to stay with a sitter once a week or so, but before baby No. 2 makes an appearance even as a bulge in my wife’s waistline, I am resolved to take advantage of the brief window of opportunity to get out of the house to enjoy my pop culture. Luckily, there are a ton of movies coming in the next year that will look amazing in theaters, and there are always bands on tour I want to see, so it should be an enjoyable resolution to keep.
I’m pretty sure I’ve made the same resolution the past couple of years (something about staying on top of my media load), and I haven’t been successful at it. Like a few of my AVC colleagues, I added a baby to my life this year, which has further slowed things down, particularly the watching of hourlong TV programs. So I think my goal this year is to let go of my “must read/see/hear everything” anxiety and simply do what I can. That’s a pretty limp resolution, so here’s a more active one: I want to do more writing on my own. I have a personal project that’s been hanging over my head for a few years, but because it’s outside of my area of expertise, I’ve been stalling. (Also, after writing and editing every day, I’m not too eager to go home and do more of it.) Nevertheless, it’s time to at least put a pitch together and go from there, because my free time is only getting scarcer.
My resolution is not a very sexy one, but I want to watch less TV in bed. For some reason, I adore falling asleep in front of a television show (especially Law & Order, because that means next time I watch it, I won’t remember how it ends) and that became a luxury this year after we had our baby. Once my husband and I started sleeping in the same bed (as opposed to taking turns on the nursery futon) and at approximately the same time, we watched so much TV that we’re basically out of things to watch. So we can either try to find a series that’s light enough to watch before drifting off, or, I dunno, pick up a goddamn book. At least on weeknights. I still reserve the right to fall asleep in front of the tube on weekends.
Well, since Kyle and Jason opened the floodgates… My main pop-culture goal is putting together enough fiction writing to attract an agent. Apart from a few pieces in Kill Screen magazine, I’ve got nothing to show for writing stories since I was 11, and that’s starting to grate. I’ve got a novel that I’m into third edits on, and (I think) it’s a good one—a sort of genre-hopping science-fiction-fantasy adventure about books and families and how people can use the former to fill in gaps with the latter. Only way less pretentious than that sounds. (Well, okay, it is slightly pretentious.) I need to finish that up and start sending it around; I’ve also got at least one solid short story I’ll probably have to start submitting again soon, and once I finish the book, I’ll hopefully have time to churn out a few more before the next quixotically ambitious project grabs my attention. And to make sure I have things to write about, I want to get out more, meet more people, see more movies, watch more TV, read more books, and play more videogames. Oh, and keep on doing regular reviews here, obviously. So basically, I want to do everything I did in 2012, only more and better and with a lot less whinging on my part. Completely do-able.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of introducing Bob Clark’s great 1974 horror film Black Christmas before a capacity crowd at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz in Austin. I had never been to the Drafthouse before, and could not have been happier perched in the balcony with a cheeseburger and beer, watching a 35mm print (and an amazing pre-show trailer package) with an audience that engaged with the film completely. I met some online friends afterward and went for more beer and film talk. The whole experience reminded me of college and why I cared about watching films in the first place: Seeing movies in 35mm (which I vow never again to take for granted), engaging in arguments that could not be referred to as “threads.” So my New Year’s pop-culture resolution is to make an effort to get out of the house more and try to have moviegoing experiences that are a little more unique than the antiseptic drag of watching digital 3-D at the multiplex with the winners of a radio ticket giveaway. If cinema culture as we knew it is dying, I want to be sitting at its bedside, holding its hand.
I’ve never exactly been a concert hound, but in 2013, I really hope I can see more live music. There are tons of small venues in the Boston/Cambridge area, and yet the only show I saw this year featured The Ting Tings playing to a small but packed crowd at the Paradise last spring. I’m closer to 40 than 30, but there’s no reason I can’t still prove to complete strangers that I can’t dance worth a damn.
In the short window of time between when I finished grad school and started working for The A.V. Club, I assigned myself a project to fill my sudden surplus of free time: Making my way through every movie on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list. But full-time employment and a little movie called The Bridge On The River Kwai caused me to stall out around the two-thirds mark, and I’ve been meaning to finish the endeavor ever since. Having filled in a few more holes in the list in the intervening six years, I only have 25 or so left to go, which seems like a reasonable undertaking for 2013. So maybe this will be the year Mutiny On The Bounty finally makes its way out of my Netflix queue…
Nothing too complicated this year, but I firmly resolve to work through the piles of Criterion discs I’ve foolishly overspent on, thanks to their too-frequent 50-percent-off sales. I generally make an effort to sift through these, either to revisit beloved movies or explore new ones I picked up on a hunch (though typically, the Criterion banner is its own mark of quality). But even more generally, I just end up plopped in front of the TV watching They Live or Rosemary’s Baby over and over. No more!
Although I hope to spend a significant amount of 2013 continuing to bring one of my 2012 pop-culture resolutions to fruition—believe it or not, an actor who was toying with the idea of writing a memoir really did drop me a line this year and ask if I’d be interested in collaborating—when you’re a TV obsessive, it never hurts to plan out a few viewing goals, and one of mine is to make it all the way through Mission: Impossible: The Complete Series. (You may have seen it in The A.V. Club’s 2012 Gift Guide: it’s shaped like a barrel of TNT, complete with fuse.) It may well end up taking the majority of the year to finish it up, as a man can only endure so many consecutive vaguely European accents from Martin Landau in a single sitting, but every episode thus far has been an enjoyable romp, so I’m committed to completing the whole kit and caboodle.
Last year, I resolved to get nerdier, and that resulted in lots and lots of you helping me start that process in comments and via Twitter. (It also resulted in me giving myself even more work. The next Nerd Curious drops soon!) Now, I’m going to do everybody above me, who’s, all, “I’m going to write a book!” one better, because I’m going to make a short film or something. I haven’t quite decided what, yet, but I’ve spent so long just writing about what makes an effective camera angle or an effective editing choice without really knowing the answer to that. I’ve read books about it, sure, but for me, knowing usually means doing something, and I haven’t done anything in terms of filmmaking. I don’t even necessarily need to direct, so much as be on set and watch the director’s creative process, which I’ve gotten to do on a limited basis, and not nearly to the degree I’d like. This may all sound like pretentious tosh—and I’m certainly not trying to play into the stereotype that critics are just wannabe artists, though it sure seems like I am—but I really, really do want to take whatever knowledge I have in my head and see how it applies practically. Maybe I’ll fall in love with it. Maybe I’ll hate it. All I know is I have a camcorder from 1984 and a couple of dollars. Let’s do this thing.