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Cozying up to the perfect movie is a holiday conundrum

ANDREW LIMBONG, HOST:

It's that time of year when all the big, Oscar-baity (ph) films come out, and the hot indie movies get some shine. And it's also the time of year when you might have some time on your hands with friends and family and want to spend some time watching a movie. But which movie? I used to be far more adventurous in my movie-watching habits - you know, in my annoying teen years, cutting class to go see the latest foreign flick at some art house theater near me, like the Angelika or whatever. But lately, I've been in a movie-watching rut, you know, just watching stuff for work or crossing the latest Marvel thing off my list. I worked with the folks at NPR's Life Kit team to get some advice on how to be a little more intentional about my film habits and figure out that ever-present question - so what should I watch next?

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Yeah, that's fair.

LIMBONG: So I hit up my colleague Bob Mondello, our movie critic. Needless to say, he watches a lot of movies.

MONDELLO: I see about 300 movies a year.

LIMBONG: We're at an AMC in Washington, D.C., to see a screening of "Babylon," the new Damien Chazelle movie about 1920s Hollywood.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BABYLON")

BRAD PITT: (As Jack Conrad) I think what we have here in Hollywood is high art.

LIMBONG: I've got, like, medium interest in seeing it. But our first takeaway is to go into movies with an open mind, even if you're skeptical.

MONDELLO: I want to be surprised by it. I want the film to be unique and special.

LIMBONG: It sounds like you go into every movie sort of, like, rooting for it.

MONDELLO: Oh, for sure. I mean, listen, I have to see 300 of these things every year. It's, like, I - yes, I hope they're all wonderful. I'd love that. They aren't.

LIMBONG: Whether "Babylon" is, well, you'll have to listen to Bob's review. But the thing is to come at all movies with this approach, from the artsiest of cinephile favorites to, I don't know, something on cable at 3 p.m. on a Saturday.

DEVIKA GIRISH: The idea that you need different approaches feeds into that idea that some movies are homework. And the truth is, movies can give you pleasure in a lot of unexpected ways.

LIMBONG: That's Devika Girish. She writes movie reviews for The New York Times and is the co-deputy film editor at Film Comment, a magazine published by Film at Lincoln Center. And I asked her, with all of the streaming services available to us, how do you deal with the glut of films to choose from?

Is there, like, a place where you can go that's like, I liked "Moonlight." What should I watch next?

GIRISH: No, because that requires work, and that is part of the fun of being a film nerd.

LIMBONG: Something that can help with that is keeping a list on a platform, like Letterboxd, of all the movies you've seen and stuff you want to see in the future.

GIRISH: Just being intentional about keeping a record of what you see can also help make a decision that, you know, doesn't feel totally just like facing an abyss.

LIMBONG: And if there is something you're jazzed about seeing, make the sell to your friends in a way that doesn't scare them off.

GIRISH: The thing is to find a personal connection, not to tell them, like, this is a really important movie, it won these awards, blah, blah, blah.

LIMBONG: Girish was recently visiting her boyfriend's family, and she convinced them to watch the long-awaited finale to the haunted hospital drama "The Kingdom" from Lars von Trier, the famed Danish director behind such movies as "Antichrist," "Melancholia" and "Nymphomaniac." I don't know if you can tell from those titles, but we're not talking about "A Charlie Brown Christmas" over here.

GIRISH: And I convinced them to watch this because my boyfriend's dad is a doctor, and that series is set in a hospital, all of it. And I said, look, this is a hospital workplace comedy like you've never seen.

LIMBONG: And don't worry so much about having to like something because half the fun of watching movies is the conversation after.

MONDELLO: The amount of joy or disappointment you take out of something is there in the event. And if you're lucky, it's a lot of fun. And if you're with the right people and you're having a good time otherwise and you can go out for drinks afterwards and smile about it, three cheers and hallelujah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.