1. I had a similar experience to yours growing up. I've discovered and seen many classics before we had the luxury to afford having internet around 2004-5.
I had some great friends who were also obsessed fanatics like me. We shared a lot of VHS (and later DVDs) with each other over the years. But my biggest influence - and luck - was that my Godmother worked in a video renting store so I rented hundreds of movies for free for a decade. I didn't need internet because I had an entire library of movies to pick from, haha.
2. Is there a collection of Norman's reviews somewhere available? I'd love to check them out.
3. I used to do that as well in certain cases, but lately I read almost everything if I know for sure that there's absolutely no spoiler in them. Reading reviews is probably my biggest inspiration these days. It might sound odd, but I often prefer them to books even.
4. Same here: Some directors get an automatic must see.
5. Yeah, you got my point. And, of course, some films you either love or loathe, there's no in-between. It'll always be exceptions. But the type of film like The Tree of Life will always trigger very opposing reactions - thus if something is truly controversial, that usually demands a watch out of curiosity anyway.
6. I'm only using Twitter for a year or so, but as I said, generally it doesn't effect my choosing.
7. Some bad films are necessary to see what can go wrong and how. I agree with you, it can be useful to see mistakes and analyze failures, but sometimes the disappointment hurts more than time I invested in a film. Therefore I don't think that most bad films are a waste of time. I don't mind the time at all if there's something to learn.
I appreciate your detailed response, Simon. I'm really curious about what the process of choosing movies are like for others - especially if they're lifetime cinephiles like you.
I bookmarked your article. Looks like an appealing read. Will check it out!