Insanity is often defined as repeating the same action while expecting different results. Lawrence Dai isn't sure what he was expecting when he embarked on a year-long journey to watch the film "Julie & Julia" every day, but he'll be the first to tell you that insanity was a pretty big part of it.
Dai, a junior Radio/Television/Film student at Northwestern University, recently completed his 365-day journey this month. The Huffington Post caught up with him to debrief on the film, the food, and his mental state at the end of a long-term relationship with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams earlier this month.
So how, and why, did you decide you wanted to do this project?
It's a pretty weird story I guess. About a year ago, I was pretty tired--I'd just pulled an all-nighter for this film analysis class paper--and I was looking for a movie to just bring me down, help me get to sleep. I was looking through Netflix Instant, and "Julie & Julia" popped up. And "Julie & Julia" was one of those perennial, most-played instant queue movies that's just sitting there, that you always mean to get around to seeing, but that you never actually watch, but that you feel obligated to see because Meryl Streep's in it. So I started playing it, and I found myself weirdly drawn to it, because it was in a fascinating format: one half of the movie is about somebody blogging about the other half of the movie. To center a major motion picture around a blogger? It was fascinating to me, that this is what we've come to: that our movies are about people typing on the Internet.
So I thought it'd be kind of funny, since the premise of the movie is about cooking something from Julia Child's cookbook every day for a year, what if someone watched "Julie & Julia" every day for a year, and blogged about it? So it all started out as a stupid joke for my friends. Then like 9 days into it, the Huffington Post actually picked it up, and then it took off from there. I started getting readership, and then I was kind of cursed.
How did people react when they found out about the Lawrence/Julie & Julia Project?
A lot of it initially it was just kind of reflecting on the novelty of the idea, and there was a lot of negative, like: "this is like stunt journalism at its nadir," "this is ridiculously stupid," "don't you have anything better to do in life?" A lot of that. I like to think that people came for the novelty of the idea, and some of them stuck around to read my jokes and stuff. It was an interesting response. I was pretty surprised that people were interested at all. I thought it was pretty stupid.
You're studying film at Northwestern; did you approach this project from a film student perspective?
Not really. I tried to go about it from the perspective of just a guy. You know, "what would happen to him if he watched the same movie every day for a year?" A lot of my readers stuck around to watch this documented decline into madness, so to speak. It was sort of interesting, I guess, as a psychological case study. I don't think I learned anything from it.
It's impressive that you were able to fit your viewings into your schedule every day. Any close calls? Library viewings while studying?
Oh yeah. I've always put off the viewing until the end of the day, so whenever the clock started nearing like 10 o'clock I'd always have to rush to get my laptop, or to come back to the dorm--it became a huge pain in the ass. This overbearing kind of thing throughout my whole day. And it was pretty miserable, because it's two hours long. And it has no right to be two hours long... It's just a really long movie.
So how would you review "Julie & Julia" now, having seen it so many times?
It's just awful. It's just god awful. I feel like if you watch any movie as many times as I watched "Julie & Julia," you'll grow to just hate it. It's very long and obviously the Powell parts don't need to be there at all. If the movie was cut in half and called "Julia," my year would've been a lot easier.
So what are you going do with all your free time now? Got any big plans?
Anything. I feel like for two hours a day, the world is going to be my oyster. I could do medical research, I could volunteer at hospitals... I don't know. This past week it's been very liberating for me. I've been sleeping two hours more. I'm looking forward to never watching "Julie & Julia" ever again.
Would you do it all again if you had the chance?
Looking back, it was kind of cool. I've had a lot of cool opportunities come from it. I got a job. And it sounds weird, but the structure of doing something every day, no matter how trivial it seems, that was nice. But if I was making a recommendation to someone doing something like this, it would be to not watch the same movie every day for a year. Or at least pick a shorter movie.
So do you think this experience will have any lasting impact on your life? Are you swearing off Amy Adams films forever?
It's definitely had a lasting impact on my mental well-being. I dream about "Julie & Julia" pretty frequently. I have vivid flashbacks. There are certain trigger words that someone will say, like the word 'typically,' and I go through these flashbacks where it plays in my head... there've been some scary moments where I feel like it will just never go away. I try to suppress that part of my life, but it always resurfaces.
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