Three years ago (two years and ten months ago, if you want to be technical about it), I cracked open a rather unassuming-yet-eye-catching green notebook that had been sitting theretofore unused on the desk of my freshman year dorm room.
Initially I had bought the notebook, a 100% post-consumer recycled paper-made journal, with the intention of using it for one of my classes. When it became obvious after a week that its services would not be required in the academics department, I decided to repurpose it for something new.
I entered college with a particular cloud of obligations floating above my head: the obligation of watching movies I had heard about but not yet seen. In my senior year of high school, as the co-director, co-writer, and editor of a student made short film in my school's film festival, I began to discover the joys of moviewatching. Previously, I had only made trips to the theater when the latest installment of Harry Potter, Star Wars, or the Pixar franchise hit the big screen, but after taking a creative writing class followed by a short film production class my junior year, I began to broaden my theatergoing horizons to include movies of any shape, size, and budget.
It took me until my first semester of college that I finally decided to get working on the list of Movies I Have to Watch that I had culled together from my film teacher's recommendations (“Markatos, what do you mean you still haven't seen L.A. Confidential?!”), the “wisdom” of the Academy Awards, and the internet. I started with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and, not curious to dig a bit further back into the history of cinema, followed that up with Vertigo.
Enter The Green Notebook. Purely on a whim, I decided it would be interesting to keep a log of all the movies I watched while at college, writing up a 1-page review of each (and sticking firmly to that length, even in cases when I could wax poetic on a particularly awful movie for journals upon journals) and slapping on a grade based on my initial impressions. Amazingly, I who am known to start keeping journals on a whim only to abandon them after a few weeks (or even days), kept up the movie reviewing to the present day. At the time of writing this blog post, The Green Notebook has room for only 4 more movies, and its successor—The Cerulean Notebook—waits impatiently for me on my bookshelf.
I love showing The Green Notebook around and gauging people's reactions. Some will flip through until they find a movie they recognize (“You gave Les Misérables a C ??!!” [true story!] ), others will take a more painstaking approach—like my dad's movie-loving, 80-year old cousin Eleni, who, despite claiming to know not a lick of English, carefully studied every page, congratulating me on the more obscure foreign directors I had seen (“Kiarostami? Ωραιο!”). My grading criteria, though I try not to make it arbitrary, boils down to a system of recommendations: anything in the A range is worth your while, films in the B range didn't float my boat but may float yours, films with Cs and lower are not recommended or outright duds.
The Green Notebook also serves as a good reminder of how my writing style, tastes, and knowledge of cinema and filmmaking have changed over the years. Take, for example, this early review and compare it with a more recent one:
My reviewing style has evolved from somewhat random and scatterbrained to more polished over the years, but I still allow myself some room to have fun: I wrote up Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects to resemble a propagandistic television medication ad and Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel in the format of a Q-and-A with Ralph Fiennes' character.
As far as spur-of-the-moment traditions go, keeping a log of my cinematic adventures is one I'm glad I started. Having a written record of the movies I've seen and the opinions I've held of them is useful not just as a reminder for myself, but as a source of inspiration to share with others. So next time you see me toting around that little green journal (or, soon, its hardbound big brother), you'll know what's up—and maybe you'll even hazard to ask me what's worth watching this week!