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? Email us at email@example.com.
As we look to the new year, it’s now time to ask the annual question:
What’s your personal pop culture resolution for 2018?
Having failed miserably at 2016’s resolution, which I extended through 2017 since I didn’t accomplish my “no reruns” proposal the year before last—though I guess I deserve some slack for rewatching old episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm—I’m going to keep 2018’s simple. I’m going to seek out new music every week, even if it’s just one new song. Music is definitely my pop culture weak spot, probably because engaging with it, especially just by streaming it on my all too infrequent commutes, is more passive an activity for me than watching TV or movies. I do manage to keep up with new releases of artists I already know I like. But I’ve had enough of seeing old Old 97’s albums in my “most recently played” list, so I’m actually going to check out the discover feature in Spotify, or maybe step it up and start using 8tracks or a similar recommendations app.
Too often this year, I used the movie theater as an escape hatch, instead of an opportunity to enrich myself. Struggling with exhaustion and stress, I skipped too many clearly great movies—The Florida Project, Dunkirk, and yes, even (gasp!) Get Out—because I was worried they’d give me big, unpredictable mood swings. Well, no more: In 2017, my goal is to seek out movies that challenge my worldview. No more coasting on easy comedies or light-hearted superhero romps. (Not that I won’t see those, too.) But I need to give myself a kick, to get back out into the wider world of serious film, without being so worried that it’ll hit me too hard in the heart when I do.
I’ve probably made some version of these promises in years past, but this year one is going to help the other. I’m going to try and stop watching TV shows and movies I don’t even like and use that time to better keep up on new music. Listening to music—really listening to it—requires a lot more attention than half-watching a TV show or movie that you’ve already decided you don’t care much about. Case in point for me has been Designated Survivor, which I really enjoyed at the beginning but became an obligation after a while—and an obligation that I barely meet, since I tend to play Clash Royale on my phone while paying just enough attention to the show to half-understand what’s happening. There was a time when music commanded much more of my attention, and—for me, anyway—it can be much more rewarding than other things that demand my attention. Instead of watching a bad TV show and playing a game, I’m going to listen to new records and play a game. (Side resolution: Stop playing Clash Royale. You’re never getting past Hog Mountain, anyway.)
My husband and I always have “date night” on our resolution list, although somehow hiring a sitter and getting a night out with just the two of us seems akin to scaling Everest. This summer though, as a Scott Pilgrim devotee, I was determined to see Baby Driver on the big screen, resulting in one of the only actual movie dates my husband and I had been on since 2005’s Walk The Line (pre-kids). Inspired, I then dragged husband and kids both to Logan Lucky, selling the twins on the premise that it starred Kylo Ren with that guy they like from Step Up. I even got them to go with me to a Vertigo screening at the Music Box (film editor A.A. Dowd informed me I was doing the lord’s work); they’re 11, but they barely squirmed, even though that movie can be a bit slow, what with all the snail’s pace car chases at the beginning. So my pop-culture resolution is to see more non-animated, non-superhero movies at the movie theater; obviously I see all of those (loved Thor: Ragnarok, hated Justice League), but thanks to Dowd’s superlative review, I’m already planning another date night to see Phantom Thread.
I’m going to act as my own benevolent ruler and give myself time. Ever since having kids, the hours in which I’m allotted to consume anything—music, TV shows, movies, alcohol—has been winnowed down to a mere two or so per night. With dinner prep, that’s barely time for two episodes of a prestige drama, and with a 7:30 bedtime for the kids, you can for sure forget about seeing a movie in the theaters; this past year, I can count the number I managed to sneak away to on one hand. Meanwhile, my most-played “album” was probably various YouTube versions of “Wheels On The Bus.” All of those hindrances can create a lot of anxiety, especially in this age when amazing, must-see series are dumped and binged in a weekend, and everyone is done talking about big film releases by the following Monday. (It certainly doesn’t help that I work at a pop culture publication.) But you know what? I just finally caught up to The Handmaid’s Tale in these last few weeks, and it’s not like I’m not enjoying it any less. I didn’t see the big deal about The War On Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding right away, but on one of fall’s first crisp days, “Strangest Thing” shuffled up on my phone and there was just something about the alchemical reaction between that song and the swirling leaves that made me finally “get” what became one of my unexpected favorite records here. I didn’t see Get Out until it was finally released on VOD, long after everything about it was spoiled, as usual, by my co-workers, but it’s not like that affected its quality either. Point being, these things may have taken extra time for me to get to them, but the idea that I have to experience and form an opinion on them right now is an arbitrary construct, one that’s been forced on us in recent years by the relentless social media cycle and its persistent, phantom need to be “in on the conversation.” All these things will exist forever; we have the rest of our lives to get around to them and appreciate them, on our own time. This year, I’m resolving to be okay with that. (After all, it’s not like I have any choice.)
I’m in the same boat as Sean. Thanks to the beloved 5-year-old apple of my eye, I have maybe two hours to watch a show or movie at night. Unless I want to be a bag of shit all day, I can’t stay up late because she wakes up by 6:30 every morning. I’ve long since accepted that I’ll be behind everyone else with TV and movies (music is a lot easier to swing), but I’d like to cut into how behind I am. So my big, bold initiative this year is to see one movie in the theater per month. It’s a specific, fairly doable goal, so maybe I actually have a chance of succeeding.
Kelsey J. Waite
Cardi B’s record-breaking stint at the No. 1 Billboard spot this year was both a beautiful moment and a depressing reminder that no solo woman rapper has topped the charts for 20 years, y’all—not since Lauryn Hill’s 1998 hit “Doo Wop (That Thing).” And it’s not like there aren’t great female MCs out there. This year I got into Kamaiyah’s mixtape, the two releases by Latasha Alcindor, and the 1992 Deluxe reissue from Princess Nokia. I also dug into old records by The Conscious Daughters and revisited Missy Elliott’s Supa Dupa Fly (which still sounds amazing). But there were too many albums I kept putting off—acclaimed releases by Rapsody and Ill Camille, for example—so I’ve decided my 2018 pop culture resolution is to prioritize female rappers. And I’ll start by rethinking the time I’d normally waste trying to appreciate the many misogynistic rappers that dominate the conversation.
My resolution is to sit and listen to music. I used to do this all the time as a teenager, before tethering myself to a cellphone and personal computer. I’d put a vinyl on the player I’d commandeered to my bedroom, drop the pin, and lie on my bed to listen the whole way through, only getting up to turn the album. The only time I do that now is upon returning home from a particularly tough day, and it’s more musical therapy than deep listening. So in 2018 I’m going to get back in the habit I dropped 10 years ago, and put on an album for the pure enjoyment of listening to it. No distractions, no Twitter, no half-paying attention while I’m working on something: just listening.
I feel like most of the various year-end blurbs I’ve written in the past week have had to do with the fact that I just had a kid—he’s three weeks old and he pees all the time and he rules—and this one’s no different. But that’s also my resolution. I’ve always looked at marriage and parenthood as this grand agent of lameness looming on the horizon for me, and, while it has certainly coincided with a decrease in the amount of weekend nights spent in a fog of smoke, muted Japanese video games, and anonymous mixtape rappers, that time’s been supplanted by other, better stuff—pointed nights out at the movies, enough sentience to keep up with contemporary fiction, a blissful newfound romance with Deep Space Nine. That’ll only continue as my life changes to incorporate a tiny human, and now that I’m here, I’m excited to see where he takes me. I’d once worried about when to introduce my children to everything I love, now instead I resolve to let having a son change and inform the things I love. If I start listening to Wilco, though, please find and kill me.
I ended up logging 154 new films I watched in 2017 (thanks, Letterboxd), which is significantly more than last year but still short of my goal of 200. But in this coming year, my movie-related resolution is to get back to the thing that made me fall in love with movies in the first place: Going out to the movie theater. Too often, I find myself only going out to the movies when I’m reviewing something, or waiting until it comes out on VOD or on a screener. It’s just not as much fun as walking up to the box office, buying a ticket, getting a bucket of popcorn and a soda, and settling in for a communal experience on a huge screen. In 2018, I want to start going out to the theater for pleasure more, hopefully bringing a little bit of magic back into the process at the same time. I just got a MoviePass, so if nothing else, I’ll be motivated to keep my resolution by my innate stubbornness about getting value for my money. Now, if only I could convince people to put their phones away at the local multiplex...
Laura M. Browning
Like Katie, I just got a MoviePass, so I’m going to keep this year’s resolution nice and simple. I do an okay job at keeping up with television and a terrible job at keeping up with current film, mostly just taking advantage of screeners and iTunes to cram as much into the holiday break as I can. So my resolution this year is to see two movies a month in the theater. My MoviePass will more than pay for itself, I’ll see more movies on the big screen, and maybe A.A. Dowd will stop giving me a hard time for always being so behind.
Everyone seems to be committing to these commendable, lifestyle-centric resolutions that wouldn’t be out of place on a vision board: Dedicating more time for things you care about, getting out of your home to the theaters, challenging yourself to do better, and so on. Good for all of you, and I admire your efforts at self-improvement. NOT THIS GUY. While I briefly toyed with “drink more fancy whiskey” being a solid plan for 2018, I have a much more self-indulgent strategy lined up: I am going to order pizza from every non-national chain that delivers to my address. We are going to get to the bottom of just who in my neighborhood has the best pizza, and I am going to love every deeply unhealthy minute of it. Best of all, it doesn’t require me to move my workaholic ass off the couch for even an instant. Well, I suppose I’ll have to answer the door—but maybe I can make my cat’s 2018 resolution learning how to buzz in the delivery guy.
One seriously regrettable consequence of moving more than once over the last year is that I just never felt settled in enough to set up my music station again. And because I’m an idiot with a total lack of self control, that hasn’t stopped me from buying records and letting them sit in milk crates with the rest of my collection, waiting around for me to get my shit together. So enough’s enough. My resolution is to just hook up my damn turntable again. It’s a low bar, I admit, but I can’t tell you how much I miss the ritual of picking out a physical slab of music, gently placing it on the platter, and being locked into that start-to-finish album experience. It meant so much to me and my girlfriend in the past, and I feel awful for having completely lost that custom ever since moving in together. It’s finally time to fix that (and listen to that beautiful Castlevania III vinyl I’ve had sitting around for months, because, yes, I’m a giant dork).
Like just about everyone in our current internet-bloated existence, I have a bad habit of taking any idle moment in my day to reflexively grab my phone so I can quickly check and see what some asshole said about some dickhead. In an effort to diffuse this habit, I’ve set out a massive art history book as a form of methadone. Instead of reflexively checking social media during an idle moment, I’ll flip open to a random page and maybe learn a little something about the use of densely patterned sea life on Minoan pottery. It’s only sort of working. What’s worse is that this fidgetiness has affected how I watch movies and television. If I’m sharing the experience with someone, I can concentrate just fine. But alone, I’ll drift away during quieter moments and start taping away at some dumb mobile game. So my resolution is to let myself be bored. I need to strengthen my concentration muscles and it’s not going to happen if the moment things stop blowing up on screen, I immediately grab a second, smaller screen to look at.