Like most people, the pandemic has meant I spend more time online. I’ve found Twitter to be a great resource: the feeds of many writers and cinephiles have come to function as intimate COVID viewing records that I enjoy reading and learning from. As I spottily keep my own, my time spent on Twitter has made me interrogate my own cinephilic anxieties and performances: namely being perceived as ‘serious about film,’ or knowledgeable enough about it. Why was I documenting, posting, and liking Criterion Channel viewing and less frequently sharing equally memorable experiences, such as watching the critically panned The Goldfinch (John Crowley, 2019) on videoconference with giggling friends; or the amount of hours I spent in the bath watching television via a laptop propped up on a chair? Recently, I crafted a pretentious (albeit genuine) tweet about my first time enjoyment of Atom Egoyan’s Calendar (1993) and its use of essay film conventions within narrative cinema. I loved Calendar deeply but the way in which I was positing myself, constructing myself, and articulating myself as a certain kind of film viewer felt silly, when my marathon of the Scream franchise was equally surprising and generative. Perhaps, however, this is what’s most fascinating about media discourses on Twitter: a place in which the seemingly ‘highbrow’ and popular are juxtaposed, their divisions both upheld and dissolved.
This whole quarantine, then, has been an ongoing reflection about how to engage my own cinephilia with more confidence, criticality, pleasure, and authenticity. In May, I wrapped up teaching an undergraduate course in film studies. In an effort to keep morale up when the pivot to Zoom classes hit, I spontaneously suggested that we’d have a term culminating with a costume party – virtual backgrounds encouraged. I asked my students to dress up as a character, object, or concept from our syllabus. When I was waiting for the meeting to start, I briefly wondered if I’d be that eccentric instructor who was the only one in costume (as Blanche, the cat from Hausu). The grid slowly lit up with more participants: such creative interventions were akin to a form of research creation, one in which we were all creatively responding to the joys of learning and discovering through film. I want more of my cinematic engagement to feel like this.