The Reopened Monthly Review of May 2021

Cinemas are back! And in the two weeks (and a bit) since they reopened here in the UK, I’ve been… not at all. Well, I have something of an excuse: I started a new full-time job halfway through this month — on the same day cinemas were allowed to reopen, in fact — which means I can no longer go slipping off there on a quiet weekday afternoon. I shall miss that. Anyway, there’s still evenings and weekends, once I’ve finally settled into my new routine and can motivate myself to get out. Indeed, it’s also affected my viewing at home: the record-setting pace I established earlier in the year, which had slipped slightly by the end of April, has not been regained. All is not lost, however, as May 2021 still managed a couple of firsts. More on those in a minute. First, my viewing list…


#95 The Awful Truth (1937)
#96 Page Eight (2011)
#97 Carefree (1938)
#98 Baby Done (2020)
#99 An American Pickle (2020)
#100 Cinema Paradiso (1988), aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
#101 I Care a Lot (2020)
#102 Strange Confession (1945)
#103 Twister (1996)
#104 Spontaneous (2020)
#105 Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
#106 Stuart Little (1999)
#107 Drop Zone (1994)
#108 The Aeronauts (2019)
#109 Good Boys (2019)
#110 Crank (2006)
#111 Official Secrets (2019)
#112 Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
#113 Defending Your Life (1991)
#114 Testament of Youth (2014)
#115 Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Cinema Paradiso

Spontaneous

Official Secrets

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  • I watched 21 new feature films in May.
  • Those included reaching eponymous goal, with #100 being this month’s Blindspot film (more on that in a mo). I got to it on the 5th, which ties with last year for the earliest ever… except 2020 was a leap year, meaning May 5th was the 126th day of the year then, whereas in 2021 it’s the 125th — so, in that respect, this is a new record. Hurrah!
  • I didn’t make it to my new goal of 120 films, though, so May 2020 clings on to that record for the time being.
  • May 2021 has some other achievements to its name, however. For instance, it makes 2021 the first year where I’ve watched over 20 films in each of the first five months of the year. Coincidentally, it’s also my 30th month ever with 20+ films.
  • In terms of averages, that figure surpasses the May average (previously 16.1, now 16.4), but falls just short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 21.8, now 21.0 — so, er, it’s actually bang on it now), and of the average for 2021 to date (previously 23.5, now 23.0).
  • But back to achievements, because, as regular readers may remember, since July 2017 I’ve been tracking the days of the year on which I’d never watched a new film as part of this blog. When I began, I had eight still to check off. It’s taken almost four whole years, but the quest is finally complete: I watched a film on the last outstanding date, May 23rd. What did I choose to mark the auspicious occasion? Plan 9 from Outer Space. A silly film for what is, frankly, a fairly silly achievement. But it’s done now, so I can move on… to making sure I’ve seen at least two films on every date! (Not really.) (But now that I’ve mentioned it… Oh dear.)
  • This month’s Blindspot film: an appropriate choice for this year’s #100, because Cinema Paradiso is all about the love of cinema. Doubly appropriate this month, then, with them reopening.
  • Unfortunately, I watched nothing from last month’s “failures”. A double failure!



The 72nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
There’s a few different options this month: films I admired a lot, but would come up short of saying I loved; films I enjoyed a lot, but can certainly recognise their flaws. In the end, I’m coming down in favour of Official Secrets, if nothing else because I think more people should see it. It arguably comes up a little short to be a ‘great movie’, but it’s an important story, well told.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Sometimes you watch a “bad movie” cult classic and, even though it is technically a terrible movie, you have a great time — I’m thinking of The Room or Love on a Leash here. Theoretically, Plan 9 from Outer Space should fall into that camp. For some people, it does. But not for me — I just thought it was rubbish.

Best Recycling of a Musical Theme of the Month
Okay, the recycling wasn’t actually done by this film — this is the original. But Drop Zone features a throwaway music cue by Hans Zimmer (it plays over a minor bit of action business) that would later be repurposed to much great acclaim: it’s the main theme to Pirates of the Caribbean. That’s become a very popular bit of film music, which is in part thanks to the film being so popular, thereby widening it’s audience, but it’s a great cue in and of itself. It’s far and away the best bit of score in Drop Zone — the rest is wholly forgettable; indeed, it’d be better if they just played “the Pirates theme” over everything… which is kinda what they eventually did in Curse of the Black Pearl, so I guess Zimmer and co learnt their lesson.

Special Award for Achievement in Director’s Cut-ing
Normally when I view a variant cut of a movie — be it a Director’s Cut, an Extended Edition, or whatever — it’s not really that different to the original version; and when that’s the case, it doesn’t get a new number in my viewing (because I’m counting how many new films I’ve seen, obv). But, now and then, one of these cuts does manage to be different enough that I feel it warrants being counted as a new film. I suppose some people would always argue with that, but I feel that if you’ve added or changed enough material that the viewing experience feels different (for good or ill), then that makes the viewing more than just a rewatch. Now, some filmmakers are more prone to revised cuts than others — Ridley Scott, famously, or Peter Jackson — and I notice this when I work out which directors I’ve reviewed the most films by on this blog, because I count those different-but-not-that-different cuts as “bits”. So, for example, Ridley Scott tallies “14 and 3 bit” films; or Peter Jackson has “8 and 3 bits”. But one director has avoided “bits” with impressive regularity, and that person is Zack Snyder. Although I’ve covered extended cuts of three of his movies now (Watchmen, Batman v Superman, and Justice League), his tally has “0 bits”. When Snyder does a variant cut, he really makes it matter.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It’s a true rarity this month: the victor was April’s monthly review! I’ve been published one of these every month for many years now, but I’m not sure one has ever topped the chart before (but I can’t be bothered to dig through 71 previous Arbies to find out right now).



My Rewatchathon continues to slip behind target, from four short at the end of April to five now. I had intended to finish the Indiana Jones series this month, and also to see Godzilla vs. Kong on the big screen when cinemas reopened, which combined would’ve left me considerably less far off target… but neither of those things happened, so here we are. Maybe next month.

#14 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
#15 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
#16 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A selection of things I’ve been meaning to rewatch for a very long time, here. First up, Singin’ in the Rain, a musical classic that often sits surprisingly high in polls like Sight & Sound’s — not that it’s not a great movie, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the sorts of things around it at the top end of those kinds of polls. For me, as great and lovely as the film certainly is overall, it still has the occasional minor longueur; and, sure, there are three or four or maybe even five great songs, but also a handful of minor, very forgettable ones; and I’m never a big fan of an extended ballet interlude, although this is definitely one of the better ones. But, as I said, overall it is really good — I’m focusing on the drawbacks because it was a film that I’d wondered if it should’ve been in my 100 Favourites, but I think it was right to just miss out.

As for films that did make my 100 Faves, I’ve been meaning to rewatch the Indiana Jones movies for years. I’m not entirely sure when I last saw them, but it’s been over 13 years, minimum (did I re-watch the trilogy in the run-up to Crystal Skull’s May 2008 release? Maybe (that sounds like the kind of thing I might’ve done), but I can’t remember). I even bought the Blu-ray set when it first came out, which was 8½ years ago, but I’ve never got round to playing it. Now, the series is out in 4K next week, so I thought I ought to watch my darn 1080p discs before I inevitably upgrade (I’m a hopeless case). I grew up loving the Indy films, which is perhaps why I haven’t rewatched them a lot in recent years — they’re so familiar, it’s not ‘necessary’ — but, actually watching them again after so long, it’s reminded my why I should watch them more often: they’re really great.

Also, that long gap means this is the first time I’ve seen Temple of Doom uncut: on its original release in the UK, they cut out over a minute to secure a PG certificate from the BBFC, and that shortened version persisted even until the DVD release, with the uncut version (now rated 12) only debuting on Blu-ray. Temple is the only Indy film not already covered on this site (I reviewed Crystal Skull (twice) while it was still in cinemas, and Raiders and Last Crusade were part of my 100 Favourites series in 2016), so I’ll give it the Guide To treatment sometime. In the meantime, my Letterboxd post is likely a preview of my summary and score.


For the first time in a fair old while, we begin with new releases on the big screen — though, of course, none of these were interesting enough to tempt me out. But, c’mon, Peter Rabbit 2? No thanks. As for the rest of the newest releases, things like Mortal Kombat, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, and Cruella are all movies I’ll happily watch in a few months — or maybe a few years — at home. There was also The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which is apparently the seventh film in the Conjuring universe, something which has apparently sprung into existence without me even noticing. I don’t intend to play catchup.

Netflix continued to offer some at-home alternatives, of course, include Zack Snyder’s zombie/heist mashup Army of the Dead and Amy Adams thriller The Woman in the Window. The latter slipped down my viewing pecking order thanks to all the negative reviews, while the former, I kinda want to make time to see Snyder’s first zombie flick first. Maybe soon. Also on Netflix, Oxygen sounds up my street as a single-location sci-fi thriller, and, from the back catalogue, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell made what I feel is a rare streaming appearance — I’ve been meaning to try to see that for years. Amazon Prime didn’t have quite the same calibre of additions, it must be said. I mean, another Liam Neeson actioner, Honest Thief — at this point I don’t even know if that’s a genuine premiere or just one I hadn’t heard of finally landing on streaming. They did add Upstream Color, though; which, like Drag Me to Hell, I’ve been waiting a long time to appear on a streamer. And now that they have, I haven’t watched them. Typical.

I’ve still got a MUBI subscription ticking over, even though I don’t really watch it — there’s a pile of stuff on there I want to see, and I keep telling myself if I don’t cancel then I might watch it eventually, but it’s all, y’know, MUBI-type stuff, so I’m not often in the mood. But additions of particular interest during May included Park Chan-wook’s Thirst and a trio of Francis Ford Coppola movies in The Outsiders, Youth Without Youth, and Tetro. And talking of things I should cancel, I still have Sky Cinema lingering from the Oscars. Like MUBI, they have a bunch of stuff I kinda want to see, although, frankly, it’s mostly lower brow — Angel Has Fallen, Scoob!, the new versions of Charlie’s Angels and The Witches, and so on. Their most recent additions haven’t been up to much, either — Riverdance: The Animated Adventure, anyone?

Over on the free streamers, something else that I’ve wanted to see for a very long time but is never available to stream: a perennial feature on the mid- to lower-end of “greatest film of all time” lists, Paris, Texas, which is currently on All 4, alongside Capernaum (which is on the IMDb Top 250) and One Cut of the Dead (which I’ve seen but really should’ve reviewed). As for iPlayer, the most interesting stuff has been films they’ve had on before that I’ve never quite got round to — Margin Call, Guys and Dolls, the 1958 version of Dunkirk, and so on.

Finally, purchases. A smaller haul than has sometimes been the case, but that’s only by relative standards: I could still name 16 films I’ve bought on disc this month but not watched yet. They include the six titles in Indicator’s third Columbia Noir set; their release of Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me; a bunch of classic French films that were randomly cheap on Amazon: Le Corbeau, Quai des Orfevres, and Le Trou, the latter of which is on the Letterboxd Top 250; as is The Ascent, a Criterion title that I also picked up randomly cheap on Amazon. Also randomly cheap on Amazon: the highest grossing film of 2020, Chinese war flick The Eight Hundred; and cheaper than elsewhere, Arrow’s Tales from the Urban Jungle, a two-film set that I was glad to get for a bargain because I already own one of them (The Naked City, although it’s a better transfer here) and didn’t especially like the other (Brute Force, which I do owe a rewatch). Rounding out the aforementioned 16 were two new Eureka releases of Eastern actioners, from very different eras: 1972’s One-Armed Boxer (a riff on The One-Armed Swordsman, a film I loved, with the same star, Jimmy Wang Yu, also serving as writer and director); and, from 2000, Tsui Hark’s Time and Tide. (And, though technically not relevant to this section, I’d like to point out that I actually watched a couple of things I bought this month, too; namely, Defending Your Life and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.)


We’ll be halfway through the year already!

The Nomadic Monthly Review of April 2021

We’re on a road to nowhere… Or, maybe, the road to recovery. Hopefully. Certainly, I’m still on the road to 100 films this year, at least.


#74 Sátántangó (1994)
#75 The Son of Kong (1933)
#76 Godzilla Raids Again (1955), aka Gojira no gyakushû
#77 King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), aka Kingu Kongu tai Gojira
#78 King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)
#79 Captain Phillips (2013)
#80 The Frozen Ghost (1945)
#81 The Fly (1986)
#82 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#83 Nomadland (2020)
#84 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
#85 Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street (2002), aka Meitantei Conan: Bekâ Sutorîto no bôrei
#86 Taken 2 (2012)
#87 Warning from Space (1956)
#88 Spielberg (2017)
#89 Primary Colors (1998)
#90 Stowaway (2021)
#91 Beginners (2010)
#92 The Coldest Game (2019)
#93 Going My Way (1944)
#94 A Single Man (2009)
Captain Phillips

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Nomadland

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  • I watched 21 new feature films in March.
  • That makes 2021 the first year since 2016 that the first four months have all passed the 20-film threshold. If I continue that into May, it’ll be the first year ever.
  • On the other hand, this is the first month in 2021 not to set a new record for the furthest I’ve reached by this point — I’d got to #96 by the end of April last year. Close, but no cigar.
  • I had hoped this might be the first year I got to #100 in April, but no dice. Last year I did it on May 5th, which is another record I don’t think I’ll be beating after all. Ah well — not everything can be a record-breaker.
  • Nonetheless, this was the earliest I’d ever reached the three-quarters mark, in terms of both my eponymous challenge (getting to #75 on the 3rd, beating the 8th from 2016) and my new 120-film challenge (getting to #90 on the 22nd, beating the 26th last year).
  • In terms of averages, it beats the April average (previously 14.8, now 15.2), but falls a little short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 23.3, now 21.8) and the average for 2021 to date (previously 24.3, now 23.5).
  • Oops, I started another film series! I’d loosely intended to dive into the classic Godzilla films once I finally finished Zatoichi, but enjoying Godzilla vs Kong last month prompted me to want to see the ‘original’, 1962’s King Kong vs Godzilla. To do that ‘properly’, I had to watch the movies preceding it too — you can find the original Godzilla and original King Kong down in the Rewatchathon section, plus Son of Kong and Godzilla Raids Again at #75 and #76 (I watched them in and around spending four days trudging through Sátántangó). So, technically, I’m now three films deep into Big G’s 15-film Showa era.
  • Relatedly: no, that’s not a mistake at #77 and #78 — one’s the original Japanese version, the other is the US rejig (with much footage deleted, new stuff added, and all dubbed into English).
  • This month’s Blindspot film: as mentioned in brackets a moment ago, this was the insanely long (seven hours!) Sátántangó. It’s based on a novel and apparently adapts every single incident from the book, so this is what happens when you don’t bother to abridge an adaptation.
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”. Hey-ho.



The 71st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I originally had a different winner down for this category, until a last-minute change of mind. You see, I expected to like Captain Phillips, because I’d heard good things and I generally like the work of director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks, but it rather blew me away how good it was — a tense, dramatic, unpredictable thriller, with a final scene that by itself should’ve earnt Hanks an Oscar nomination, if not even a win. He was robbed!

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I know it’s acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made, but, sorry, I found Sátántangó to be an unrelenting bore. It may not be the truly worst film I saw this month — it has some great filmmaking, and I do think there’s a very good movie buried inside it, if it were edited down considerably — but this is “least favourite”, not “worst”, and nothing else this month entertained me less for such a long period of time.

Best Hound of the Baskervilles of the Month — Possibly Ever
I’ll forgive you if you’re not up on your release years for every adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles — there are quite a few, for one thing. So, the two I watched this month were the Hammer version starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (that’s the 1959 one), and the comedy version starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (that’s the 1978 one). The latter is famously awful, and… yeah, it is. But the former is a stunner. Not the most strictly-faithful adaptation, but bursting with atmosphere, whip-crack paced (it doesn’t even hit the 90-minute mark), and with a top-flight cast (Cushing deserves to come up more often in discussions of the best screen Sherlocks).

Most Pleasant Surprise of the Month
We’re so used to berating Oscar voters for their terrible Best Picture choices, it’s weird that recently they seem to have hit a good streak (Green Book excepted). And it continues this year, because I thought Nomadland was a legitimately fantastic movie. (Admittedly, it’s the only Best Picture contender I’ve yet seen, but still.)

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I’m terribly behind on my TV reviews, which at least means they can’t dominate this category. And so a film wins again — not the all-awards-winning Nomadland, though, but the belated UK release of Palm Springs carries it to victory here.



Although I rewatched four films this month, coming into April I had gradually slipped far enough behind that I’m still four films off target. But I’m always intending to rewatch some whole series (high on the list: to finally watch my Indiana Jones Blu-rays before the 4K set comes out), so if I pull my finger out and do something like that, the number could easily jump up.

#10 Wonder Woman 3D (2017)
#11 King Kong (1933)
#12 Godzilla (1954)
#13 Palm Springs (2020)

I found Palm Springs more easily enjoyable on a second watch, freed of all the hype and expectation it came burdened with first time round. Seems only appropriate… Wonder Woman was also a second watch, and my original review still mostly stands (despite the comments section implying I might’ve missed something). As for the quality of its 3D, it’s the kind of post-conversion job that isn’t bad, but also mostly makes you wonder why they bothered.

King Kong was the subject of a ‘Guide To’, so find that linked above for my latest thoughts on the monster movie classic. I last saw it many, many years ago, and my increased film literacy and appreciation for classic movies led me to enjoy it a lot more this time round. Similar could be said for Godzilla: knowing what to expect pace- and content-wise, I enjoyed it a bit more; certainly enough to shore up the 4-star rating on my review (linked above, natch).


The reopening of cinemas may be imminent(ish) in the UK, but that hasn’t stopped distributors sending releases straight to overpriced “home premieres” — in April, those included young adult adaptation Chaos Walking and Oscar Best Picture nominee Minari, while fellow Best Picture nominee Promising Young Woman was relegated to being a Sky Original. And if you thought we had to wait quite a while for those, or Palm Springs and Nomadland (which were also both this month), check out Chloé Zhao’s debut feature, Songs My Brothers Taught Me: MUBI was responsible for its UK wide release this month, a full six years after its initial release elsewhere.

There were Oscar contenders to be found among the streamers’ new releases too, with Amazon offering Sound of Metal to subscribers, alongside premieres of Guantanamo Bay drama The Mauritanian and Tom Clancy adaptation Without Remorse. Netflix’s awards flicks already came out last year, although they had the international premiere of Love and Monsters this month, which was at least up for effects nods. Less well received was Melissa McCarthy superhero comedy Thunder Force, though I have heard positive things about some of their other original titles, like Run (the new film from Aneesh Chaganty, director of Searching) and animation The Mitchells vs. the Machines. In terms of catalogue titles, Netflix brought back sometime-IMDb-Top-250-ers In the Name of the Father, Lagaan, and Taare Zameen Par (aka Like Stars on Earth); the subscription streaming debut of Shirley; plus a few things I haven’t seen for years and would like to rewatch, like Cast Away, The Quick and the Dead, and perhaps Jarhead (I saw it at the cinema 16 years ago and didn’t particularly like it, but maybe it’s worth another look, considering the talent involved).

Once again, my new disc purchases know no bounds. I passed 100 titles on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray this month, thanks to new releases of Batman v Superman (remastered with IMAX scenes), the 2014 Godzilla (in a spiffy limited edition from HMV), and Arrow’s Battle Royale (even though I haven’t watched their Blu-ray release that I bought over a decade ago). I also finally got Léon in 4K. I imported the US edition (because it looks so much better than the European one) from Amazon.com last year, but they kept sending me what looked like bootleg copies that I kept returning until they said they’d look into the matter. This time, I picked it up somewhere else, and it’s clearly a genuine copy — so I was right about Amazon flogging bootlegs.

While I was importing that, I also snaffled up a bunch of classic 3D titles (The Maze, September Storm, and Wings of the Hawk) and finally managed to find a copy of the Olive Signature Edition of Orson Welles’s Macbeth for a reasonable price. Talking of sales, I picked up Black Rainbow, Black Test Car, and The Black Report from Arrow’s recent offering (their related titles being coincidence rather than design). On the full price side of things, I couldn’t resist a bunch of new and recent Indicator releases: The Beast Must Die, Crimewave, Irreversible, and Twentieth Century.

And talking of failures to resist, I really, really tried not to buy Curzon Artificial Eye’s Bong Joon-ho box set. They used very pretty art design (the box art went down a storm with a certain kind of collector on Twitter) to bundle together almost-special-feature-less versions of a bunch of Bong’s films — and not even a complete collection, because Netflix have a stranglehold on Okja, and I guess Curzon couldn’t be arsed to license his short films (unlike a similar set recently released in Australia). I already own regular extras-filled editions of The Host and Snowpiercer, and I’ve caved to two copies of Parasite (both the 4K and Criterion’s extras-packed release), plus I have my eye on Criterion’s extras-loaded edition of Memories of Murder. All that left in the AE set’s favour was Barking Dogs Never Bite and Mother, the latter of which used to be available in a decent standalone edition (it’s out of print, but used copies aren’t hard to come by). So why the hell did I buy it in the end? Well, that’s still three films I don’t own — I could’ve got Mother by itself, but Barking Dogs Never Bite doesn’t have a standalone edition; and the Criterion release of Memories of Murder has rather controversial, ugly colour grading, while the UK edition is considerably less egregious in that department. The deal was sweetened by Parasite having some special features not present on my other copies (primarily, deleted scenes) and, yes, the attractive box design — it will look nice on my shelf. It’s definitely not the most sound purchasing decision I’ve ever made, but sometimes it’s just nice to have nice things.


There’s only one date left on my “never seen a film on” list: May 23rd. Will I finally complete the year, or will I forget and miss it? (You’d think it’d be an easy achievement to guarantee, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve simply forgotten to do it.)

The Titanic Monthly Review of March 2021

Nothing to do with the ship, everything to do with the two titans (aka kaiju) duking it out on disappointingly small screens right now.


#54 Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019)
#55 David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020)
#56 Dead Man’s Eyes (1944)
#57 Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)
#58 Con Air (1997)
#59 Wild Target (2010)
#60 Bright Young Things (2003)
#61 Carol (2015)
#62 Gambit (2012)
#63 We Bought a Zoo (2011)
#64 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
#65 Holiday Affair (1949)
#66 The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)
#67 Truly Madly Deeply (1990)
#68 Vivacious Lady (1938)
#69 The Prom (2020)
#70 Bachelor Knight (1947), aka The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
#71 Midnight in Paris (2011)
#72 Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), aka Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
#73 Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
David Byrne's American Utopia

Carol

Godzilla vs. Kong

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  • I watched 20 new feature films in March.
  • That’s the first time since 2016 that my first three months of a year have all topped 20. Then, it lasted until April — we’ll see if that feat is duplicated next month.
  • Nonetheless, it’s March’s lowest tally since 2017, although it still surpasses the March average (previously 15.5, now 15.8).
  • It’s also the lowest tally of 2021 so far, falling short of the year’s average to date (previously 26.5, now 24.3) and of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 23.9, now 23.3).
  • Still, I passed the halfway point of my modified goal (120 films in a year) on 13th March, the earliest ever (beating 2016).
  • And this is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of March, beating a previous best of #67 (which was also in 2016).
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Werner Herzog’s first significant feature film, Aguirre, Wrath of God. Also the first Herzog film I’ve ever seen, believe it or not (well, I did watch the start of Fitzcarraldo once, but it literally sent me to sleep).
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched The Catcher Was a Spy, David Byrne’s American Utopia, and Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway.



The 70th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I always find concert films a little weird. Just sitting watching people play music — what? (Can you tell I don’t go to gigs? I have done, and I find them weird too.) So, I’m never quite sure what to expect — I guess, at best, some music I like that I am paying weirdly too much attention to. But there’s somehow more than that to David Byrne’s American Utopia — even though it is, fundamentally, people playing music. But it felt almost like a profound experience, and I’m (clearly) still processing that.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
As it started, I thought Netflix musical The Prom might defy all the negatives I’d heard and turn out to be perfectly decent. But its earlier scenes and numbers are the best bit — it goes on too long, the quality drops, and by the end, well, I didn’t hate it, but there was plenty of room for improvement.

Best Callback of the Month
Look, I don’t want to spoil Godzilla vs. Kong for anyone (especially as it’s only out in the UK today, and it costs £16 so I presume hardly anyone will be paying for it), but it contains a fun reference to an (in)famous moment from 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla (so famous that I’m very aware of it even though I’ve never seen the ’62 film) that left a big grin on my face. Here’s the original moment in gif form, just as a primer for whenever you watch GvK

“Eat your greens!”

Post Opportunity I’m Most Annoyed to Have Missed of the Month
Other than when I’m dumping old unreviewed films in roundup posts, I always feel like it’s nice to be able to tie a review in to something. It feels less like it’s just being tossed out into the ether if it’s at least somehow connected to something current. The past couple of years, I’ve got very good at missing these opportunities, and it always irks me. Most recently, a new documentary about Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, titled He Dreams of Giants, was released in the UK last Monday — but I got the chance to see it last September, and watched Don Quixote and the previous (un)making-of doc about Gilliam’s film, Lost in La Mancha, also. I intended to post them together as a triple review to mark the occasion, but didn’t find time to write them up. So now they’ll languish in my backlog, probably to also be dumped in a 100-Week Roundup in mid-2022. Bother.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
None of this month’s new posts seem to have particularly piqued the interest of my readership and/or the general public who stumble across this blog. The most seen was 100-Week Roundup XXVI, with its reviews of Paperman and Waltz with Bashir, but it was in a lowly 82nd place overall. Roundup XXVII was right behind it, too.



This month, I continued to rewatch films, while also continuing to slowly slip behind on my target. There’s always time to catch up, though — if I ever get round to watching a trilogy or something, I’ll shoot along. And with the Indiana Jones films just announced for 4K, it’s long overdue that I actually watch my Blu-ray set…

#7 The Sound of Music (1965)
#8 Casablanca (1942)
#9 Runaway Jury (2003)

The Sound of Music and Casablanca were both films I haven’t watched in about 15 years, which I feel like is a pretty standard kind of revisit time for me — long enough that I begin to think “I should really rewatch that”, plus half-a-decade-or-so of not quite getting round to said rewatch (for example: I’ve owned Casablanca on Blu-ray since 2014). Brief thoughts on both (here and here, respectively) on Letterboxd.

It’s been even longer since I saw Runaway Jury. It’s not the kind of film I necessarily thought I’d ever rewatch — it’s good, I liked it, but not really exceptional — but sometimes you just get an itch. It was worthwhile, because I do love this kind of stuff: just a solid, well-played thriller. I guess it’s the province of TV rather than movies now, but there’s something to be said for wrapping it all up in one 120-minute hit rather than dragging it out for eight-to-thirteen hours.


The big news this month was the long-awaited release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League — direct to Sky Cinema / Now on this side of the pond, limiting most (legal) viewers to a relatively low quality stream. But hey, at least it was available as part of a subscription package rather than having to fork out £16 to rent one single film. Other “would’ve been in cinemas under normal circumstances” flicks that went down that route included Ammonite, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Little Things, Locked Down, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Tom and Jerry, and that’s why I’ve not seen any of them. Justice League, on the other hand, I just haven’t made room for its four-hour running time yet.

Other big streaming debuts this month included Coming 2 America, once slated for a cinema release but now an Amazon Original. I presume they paid a pretty penny for the privilege, given how mercilessly they were pushing it on their homepage. I’ve heard it’s quite good, which can’t also be said for their other debuts, The War with Grandpa and Made in Italy. Elsewhere, Netflix had Jennifer Garner vehicle Yes Day, while Apple TV+ offered the Russo brothers’ attempt to prove they can do more than MCU flicks, Cherry. I won’t be racing to watch either.

Also out to buy or rent this month, but at a more normal price point, was the Russian remake of The Raid, cannily titled Russian Raid; another DC flick, Wonder Woman 1984 (no 3D release in the UK (but there is one overseas) means no purchase from me); and a belated release for Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Plus, straddling the two price points, documentary Stray, about street dogs in Istanbul. Sounds like the kind of thing that would be ripe for misery and depression for a dog lover like myself, but apparently it isn’t at all, so I’ll give that a shot when it’s a bit cheaper.

Dozens more films made my watchlist across all the streamers this month (between regular subscriptions, discounted ones, and free services, I’m currently keeping an eye on six different services), but not a huge amount that merit special mention here. Well, maybe Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, which I blind bought on Blu-ray, haven’t watched yet, and is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Oh well. And, talking of Korean thrillers, iPlayer magicked up one I hadn’t heard of — The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil — that sounds up my street. Or that I really should catch Wild Tales before it leaves All 4 again. Or the fact that between Amazon and iPlayer I could catch up on two different versions of A Star Is Born (1937 and 1954, respectively), which would just leave the 1976 one. Or that Disney+ adding Star to their lineup is causing a dilemma for my viewing of the Die Hard films I’ve never seen: they have all the sequels in 4K, so now I have to choose between watching the Blu-rays I own and paid for, or plump for streaming in lovely UHD. I find this choice easy when it’s DVD vs HD streaming (the latter almost always looks noticeably better), but I find that sometimes a poor/mediocre UHD version (especially if they’ve been over-aggressive with the HDR, for example) is actually worse than the Blu-ray. Frankly, I probably won’t get round to watching any of them before I cancel my D+ subscription, so it’s a bit of a moot point.

We end, as always, with my insatiable habit of buying things on disc — always the true failures here, because it’s all stuff I’ve actively spent money on. Once again, sales tempted me — it feels like some label or another is always running one these days, usually several at once. So, I picked up piles from Indicator (90° in the Shade, The Odessa File, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, The System, and Town on Trial), Network (Deadlier Than the Male, Some Girls Do, the 1928 Moulin Rouge, and Things to Come), HMV’s Premium Collection (kinda-noir Possessed and the 1932 Scarface), and a couple from the Criterion twofer that’s currently on (The Awful Truth and the 1936 Show Boat). I definitely intend to get more from the latter before the offer ends, but my wishlist is long (I could easily spend a couple of hundred quid on that alone). Plus, Arrow currently have a sale going too. Eesh. I also dropped a couple of quid each on The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel in 3D — I’m not a massive fan of those films, but they were actually shot in 3D and I’d like to see them in that form. I also nabbed The Meg in 3D for dirt cheap, but that one I thought that was a lot of fun.

And there were brand-new releases, too, all of them blind buys: animes Children of the Sea and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (aka Journey to Agartha); Fanny Lye Deliver’d, with an extended cut in 4K; the Lucky Stars trilogy of Jackie Chan / Sammo Hung action-comedies; and Russian horror Viy. As ever, my taste is nothing if not eclectic.


Later than usual, the Oscars are here (at almost the end of the month). So far I’ve seen precisely none of this year’s Best Picture nominees — let’s see how much that changes in the next four-and-a-half weeks…

But what is February, if not 2021 persevering?

WandaVision’s penultimate episode, and one particular quote from it, has been the talk of the town lately (or: the argument of the weekend on Twitter), but here we can set aside such concerns (I mean, I’ve got a whole post with a WandaVision review in it if you did want to get into it) and just look back at all the films I watched in February 2021…


#27 Weird Woman (1944)
#28 Coming to America (1988)
#29 The Burning Buddha Man (2013), aka Moeru butsuzô ningen
#30 High Life (2018)
#31 When the Wind Blows (1986)
#32 Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
#33 The Dig (2021)
#34 Isn’t It Romantic (2019)
#35 The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
#36 Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
#37 Tangerines (2013), aka Mandariinid
#38 The White Tiger (2021)
#39 Shakespeare in Love (1998)
#40 The Last Warning (1928)
#41 Mortal Kombat (1995)
#42 The Guilty (2018), aka Den skyldige
#43 The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
#44 The House of Fear (1939)
#45 Muse: Simulation Theory (2020)
#46 News of the World (2020)
#47 The ’Burbs (1989)
#48 Xchange (2001)
#49 Vampyr (1932)
#50 Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
#51 Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), aka Shu Shan – Xin Shu shan jian ke
#52 Radioactive (2019)
#53 Frankenstein (1931)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The Last Warning

The Quatermass Xperiment

Frankenstein

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  • I watched 27 new feature films in February.
  • That puts it in the top 10 months of all time, in 10th place — the exact same feat January only just managed (so January is now pushed out to 11th, obv).
  • It’s the best February ever, topping 2014’s 24, and is far past the February average (previously 13.2, now 14.2), as well as the rolling average for the last 12 months (previously 23.2, now 23.9), and sets the average for 2021 so far at 26.5.
  • In terms of yearly milestones, I passed both #30 (the quarter-way point of my current 120-film goal) at the earliest time ever (4th February, beating 13th February in 2016), and #50 (the halfway point of my eponymous goal), also at the earliest ever (beating 2016’s 6th March). And #53 is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of February, surpassing #44 from (when else) 2016. (2016 wasn’t my best year ever, just a fast starter, so if I keep this up then at some point it’s going to be different year(s) that I’m passing.)
  • Last March I commented on how many letters of the alphabet I’d ticked off — seven in January, eight in February, nine in March. Of the two remaining, I never did get to X. Well, this year I’ve finished all 26 before the end of February. In fairness, that’s because I noticed how well I’d done in January — 15! — and made a point of finishing it off. But it’s also a side effect of watching so many films so much earlier. If I looked at other years up to around the 50-film mark, whenever that was reached, perhaps I’d find those too had hit most/all letters.
  • It’s not something I mention often, but as February began I was in the middle of watching or rewatching 23 film series. That’s quite a few — I certainly wasn’t looking to add any more to the list. But sometimes you just fancy watching a ’70s big-screen spin-off of a ’60s sci-fi TV series, or a big-screen remake of a ’50s British serial, or a classic Universal horror movie. And now I’m up to 26 series underway. (I track which I’m watching via the one I need to watch next on Letterboxd here, if you’re interested.)
  • This month’s Blindspot film: the classic Universal adaptation of Frankenstein. It’s only 70 minutes long, and I always try to save such shorter films on my list for later in the year, just in case for some reason I really need ones I can easily squeeze in; but sometimes you just have to accept that, although you don’t need a 70-minuter you can easily squeeze in, that’s all you want. Also, it paired quite nicely with The Last Warning, which (as I learnt from the audio commentary on the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray) was one of the films that was essentially the forebear to Universal’s famed horror cycle.
  • Talking of The Last Warning, at #44 is The House of Fear — not the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film (I reviewed that here), but a remake of The Last Warning that used the title of the original novel (that was then reused for the Holmes film — Universal were terrible for that in the ’30s and ’40s, apparently).
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched The Dig, The Guilty, High Life, Weird Woman, and The White Tiger.



The 69th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
This month, I boldly went where I’ve never gone before and started the Star Trek movie series from the beginning. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has never had a particularly good rep, but you’ve gotta start at the start, right? So it was a pleasant surprise when I really enjoyed it — to the point where I gave it five stars and a heart-thing on Letterboxd. I nearly didn’t go so high, because Wrath of Khan is “the best one” and now I’ve got nowhere to go if I do like it even more; but I don’t think you can go around rating films on that basis (you’d never give anything full marks just in case there was ever anything better), so…

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This month ended on a bit of a downer, with a run of films that didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations. Nonetheless, they weren’t as outright bad as some I watched earlier in the month — like Mortal Kombat, which was supposedly a mid-’90s blockbuster but actually looked like a mid-’90s syndicated TV series, with writing, acting, and fight choreography of a similar or lesser quality.

Most Recent Best Picture Winner I Hadn’t Seen of the Month
Shakespeare in Love is the only Oscar Best Picture winner from the last 30 years that I hadn’t seen. Hurrah! Now that I’ve ticked that one off, my oldest unseen is 1988’s Rain Man, which is helpfully on this year’s Blindspot list. After that, I’ll slip back just one year further, to 1987’s The Last Emperor. Indeed, my track record with ’80s winners isn’t great: I’ve seen more from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (plus, obviously, the ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s). Well, I’ll tick ’em all off someday.

Film Just Barely on the IMDb Top 250 of the Month
When I watched it, Tangerines was the 249th film on the IMDb Top 250. It’s not there now, but it might be again tomorrow — those ones near the end are very volatile; a handful of films that switch places back and forth, jumping on and off the list, on a regular basis. So why focus any viewing efforts there? After all, eventually they’re certain to drop off when something darts in higher up (even in a movie-poor year like 2020, two films made it onto the Top 250; there are eight from 2019). Well, I feel like once these movies do definitively drop off the list, they’re liable to become a bit forgotten. Not all of them, obviously — films in the “danger zone” like Three Colours Red or It Happened One Night have enough cache to keep them talked about for other reasons — but smaller, often foreign films like Tangerines are liable to just slip away. And, in theory, they’re still great films. I mean, they may disappear from the top 250, but they’re still theoretically among the top 260, or 275, or 300 (etc), greatest films ever made. But then they won’t be on a list, so I won’t think to watch them — so better to do it now, right?

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Although it only went live early yesterday evening, my 67th TV column still managed to storm past all last month’s film reviews to by February’s most-viewed post. (A distant second, with almost exactly half as many hits, was my review of Muse: Simulation Theory — which had also been on TV. Really, TV’s the game to be in if you want those page views.)



My Rewatchathon was right on pace this month, although that means I still have to catch up for last month’s shortfall.

#3 Frozen 3D (2013)
#4 The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
#5 Crocodile Dundee II (1988)
#6 Apollo 13 (1995)

In a rare (I think probably unique) feat, The Adventuress of Prince Achmed is both 2021’s #35 and Rewatchathon 2021’s #4. This isn’t just because I enjoyed it so much (although it is very good), but because the BFI Blu-ray has a choice of soundtracks: the original 1926 musical score, or an English voiceover narration, recorded in 2013 but based on director Lotte Reiniger’s own English translation of her original German text. I watched them in that order, and felt the narration added nothing of value to the experience, especially as it sounds like it comes from a preschool storybook. Just stick to the original music.

As for the others, I rewatched Frozen in readiness to finally watch Frozen II sometime soon (though I didn’t get round to it this month, did I). I hadn’t seen it in 3D before; the effect was solid but surprisingly low-key, although it took off anytime it snowed, etc. If you want some idea of when that “sometime soon” for the sequel might be, look to Crocodile Dundee II, which I’ve been meaning to watch since I enjoyed a rewatch of the first one… in March 2019. I’m sure I watched it as a kid (hence why it’s a rewatch), but I didn’t remember a second of it — probably because it’s a rather perfunctory sequel; kinda slow and lacking most of the charm of the original.

Finally, Apollo 13 completed a mini Tom Hanks kick, as I watched it immediately after News of the World and The ’Burbs. It’s a great movie — indeed, I had a little word with Letterboxd about how it’s not getting the kind of ratings it deserves.


At one point this month Twitter was all over new comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, but as a premium VOD release it’s £14 and I’m not paying that to rent anything, thanks. Also going straight to rental was the latest Nic Cage craziness, Willy’s Wonderland, although at a normal rental price. Mixed reviews put me off so far, though. I did rent David Byrne’s American Utopia (on offer from Amazon), so that’ll be in next month’s viewing, and I was going to fork out for the interesting-looking documentary A Glitch in the Matrix until I saw a raft of negative reactions.

The streamers continued to throw out brand-new exclusives, with Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie probably the most talked-about this month. It sounds irritating, to be honest, whereas Korean sci-fi Space Sweepers is probably more in my lane. Over on Amazon, Gerard Butler disaster flick Greenland, Rosamund Pike’s Golden Globe-winning I Care a Lot, and Bliss, starring Owen Wilson/Salma Hayek in a sci-fi romance from the writer/director of Another Earth, all made my watchlist but didn’t actually grab my viewing time. The same is true of teen time loop romcom The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, which feels a bit like a placeholder before Palm Springs‘ belated UK release in April.

Talking of stuff finally making it to the UK, Netflix added Josh Trank’s Capone this week, so that can go on my watchlist out of curiosity but never actually get got to because it’s meant to be rubbish. More in my lane, perhaps, is Cold War thriller The Catcher Was a Spy, which apparently came out in 2018, but not here in the UK, where it’s just popped up as an Amazon Original. Going even older, Netflix added a mass load of Swedish films this month, including three silents — Terje Vigen, Ingeborg Holm, and Herr Arnes Pengar — that are all in IMDb’s Top 50 for the 1910s, so that’s interesting. Meanwhile, Amazon added 2013 Jason Statham actioner Homefront, which came onto Netflix US last month and shot to #1, despite being a flop on its theatrical release. I do like a bit of Statham action now and then, and this one comes recommended, so it’s probably worth a shout at some point. Another discovery was The Grand Heist — the kind of film I only hear of when it randomly pops up on a streamer or whatever, this Korean flick appears to be a period Ocean’s 11 about stealing ice… literally, blocks of ice. Sounds like it might be fun.

My cheap MUBI subscription is still going, but even with a new title everyday they managed to add little this month that caught my interest — just Cathy Yan’s feature debut, Dead Pigs, and Ridley Scott’s Legend, which is usually on Amazon Prime anyway; plus a few titles I own on disc anyway (The African Queen, Heat, and The King of Comedy, the latter two of which I’ve seen but are long overdue a rewatch). This month’s BBC TV premiere of Stan & Ollie means that’s now on iPlayer, although it’s also still on Prime, where it’ll be in higher quality; and on All 4 I managed to miss my chance to watch Love, Simon (its spin-off series is now on Disney+ but not, apparently, the original film) and Song Kang-ho in A Taxi Driver.

Finally, my disc purchases continued unabated. There was the release of Indicator’s second Columbia Noir set — I haven’t started the first yet, so that’s 12 minor-league noirs for me to catch up on now. Other new releases included a lavish edition of Jackie Chan classic The Young Master, restored with a choice of three different cuts, and Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, with a choice of two cuts, only one restored. But it was sales and random discounts where people really got me: from Arrow’s 30th anniversary sale, I picked up The Apartment, Horror Express, and Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway; from a BFI offer at HMV, I scooped up the original British Gaslight, Penda’s Fen, Ian McKellen’s Richard III, That Sinking Feeling, The Wages of Fear, and their four-film Hirokazu Koreeda box set; and I also got Ken Russell’s The Devils on offer on DVD from elsewhere.

Physical media fans will surely have noticed that Zoom changed hands this week. The new owners haven’t got their version fully up and running yet, so it remains to be seen if they’ll ruin one of the best Blu-ray retailers there was. Just before they shut down, I managed to get in one final Criterion gift card order — if you missed it’s existence, sorry to tell you now, but they sold a Criterion gift card for £50 that allowed you four titles (from a selected list). That works out at £12.50 each, which was a bargain, and because it’s been a while since I looked they had plenty in their selection that I wanted. So I snaffled up The Age of Innocence, Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman, The Cranes Are Flying, and Three Outlaw Samurai, but I could’ve chosen another four easily, maybe even eight — if I’d known for sure Zoom-as-we-knew-it was going away, I might’ve put up the extra £50, but hey-ho.


It’s gonna be a monstrous March with Godzilla vs. Kong. Whoever wins, we win, I reckon.

The Tenacious Monthly Review of January 2021

Some people have decided that January is actually the 13th month of 2020, given how most of the woes of last year didn’t magically evaporate when our arbitrarily-appointed start-time for a “new year” rolled around. Funny that. It’s a nice idea — to think that we can write off this month by association with last year — but, the way things are going, I think if you want to carry that idea through you’re going to end up with a 2020 that has 17 or 18 or 19 months… perhaps even a full 24, who knows.

So, back in the real world, the inevitable “second year of shittiness” that is 2021 began with January. Here’s what I watched during it…


#1 Bill (2015)
#2 WolfWalkers (2020)
#3 Ernest & Celestine (2012), aka Ernest et Célestine
#4 Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
#5 Festen (1998), aka The Celebration
#6 You Only Live Once (1937)
#7 The Frighteners: Director’s Cut (1996)
#7a Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
#8 Hotel Transylvania 3D (2012)
#9 Wolf Warrior (2015), aka Zhan lang
#10 Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo (2017)
#11 One Night in Miami… (2020)
#12 Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
#13 Joint Security Area (2000), aka Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
#14 Calling Dr. Death (1943)
#15 Under Siege (1992)
#16 Who? (1974)
#17 The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975), aka Flåklypa Grand Prix
#18 Blithe Spirit (2020)
#19 Tower Heist (2011)
#20 The Social Dilemma (2020)
#21 3 Idiots (2009)
#22 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
#23 The Secret Garden (2020)
#24 Cats (2019)
#25 Sansho Dayu (1954), aka Sansho the Bailiff
#26 Psycho Goreman (2020)
WolfWalkers

Joint Security Area

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Psycho Goreman

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  • As should be self-evident, I watched 26 new feature films in January.
  • I used that exact wording for my opening note last year too, which I only discovered after I wrote the above sentence and then went to look up how I’d worded it last year. I guess you could call it consistency, or style, or something like that. “Unimaginatively repetitious” would be a less kind label…
  • Anyway, that tally actually edges January 2021 into my top 10 months ever, in 10th place. With 169 months in 100 Films history, that means it’s in my top 6% of months ever.
  • There are no other Januarys in the top 10 — which is another way of saying, this is my best January ever, beating 2016’s 21.
  • Naturally, that also means it obliterated the January average (previously 11.46, now 12.50), as well as toppling the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 22.0, now 23.2).
  • As you may also have already extrapolated, being my best-ever January means this is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of January. It’s also the earliest I’ve passed the quarter-way point of #25, beating 6th February in 2016. (Though these days I’m ‘officially’ aiming for 120 Films in a Year, which makes the quarter-way point #30.)
  • As we know from past experience, trying to use any month to make a prediction about the whole year is futile. But, just for fun, if I kept up this rate for the entire year, I’d make it to #312. Well, never say never…
  • Another achievement: I watched a new film on January 5th for the first time in recorded history (i.e. since 2009, at least). Regular readers will know I’ve been tracking these ‘missing dates’ and ticking them off for a few years now (since July 2017, to be precise), and now there’s just May 23rd outstanding.
  • One thing I didn’t do this month was post any reviews of the films I watched. That comes after a 2020 where I performed similarly poorly in that regard, averaging 1.6 reviews a month of films I’d watched that month (it was zero or one review in eight months of last year, with better tallies in April, June, July, and August bolstering the average). At this rate, the 100-week roundups in 2022 are going to be chocka (heck, the 2021 ones are going to be pretty busy).
  • With Calling Dr. Death (#14), the Inner Sanctum Mysteries joins the list of film series I’m in the middle of watching, which currently numbers 23. I’ve got a list of them on Letterboxd, if you’re interested.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Kenji Mizoguchi’s gut-punching folklore drama, Sansho Dayu (aka Sansho the Bailiff).
  • From last month’s “failures” I only watched WolfWalkers.



The 68th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Cartoon Saloon have produced several excellent movies, but WolfWalkers may be their best yet — gorgeously animated, an exciting adventure, with plenty of heart too. Such a shame it’s buried away on Apple TV+ where most people will never see it.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Wholly predictably, it’s Cats. I mean, really, did you expect anything else?

Worst Dinner Party of the Month
Sure, the antics of the couple at the heart of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? may be famously uncomfortable and wild and weird, but that’s nothing on standing up at your father’s birthday meal to announce to dozens of assembled friends and family that… well, that would be a spoiler. Suffice to say, Festen’s got this one.

Most Jingoistic Action Movie of the Month
Joint Security Area may deconstruct and expose the futility of war and nationalism, but that’s hardly stopped other action movies indulging in it aplenty. Under Siege comes with the prerequisite praising of America’s military might, but the villains are its own agents gone rogue, so at least there’s some acknowledgement of their own (potential) flaws. Wolf Warrior, on the other hand, sometimes borders on propaganda piece… although the fact they feel the need to send basically their entire army to track down a handful of insurgent mercenaries isn’t actually the great advertisement someone might’ve thought it was…

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Now, normally I’m quite strict about this category — which means that if, say, I post something on the last day of the month it basically stands no chance of making it, because it doesn’t have as much time to build up the hits. However, I published my review of Death to 2020 at 11pm on December 31st — having only a single hour to qualify for last month’s count seems a particularly unfair fate. So that’s why I’ve declared it this month’s winner, especially as it got more than four times the views of the ‘genuine winner’, my Christmas TV post. (Talking of “posts on the last day not doing well”, the TV column I posted yesterday afternoon amassed enough views in that short time to come a close-ish second/third, which just goes to show, um, something.)


In case you missed them, I began January with my usual extensive multi-post review of the previous year…

Now, as for actual film reviews…


A new year means a new Rewatchathon, too. My goal of 50 rewatches means I need to average four a month, so this year isn’t off to the best start…

#1 Happy Death Day (2017)
#2 Crimson Tide (1995)

I rewatched Happy Death Day immediately before its sequel (see #4 on the main list). Their shared “reliving the same day” conceit means the second film has a lot of references back to the first, so they work quite nicely as a double-bill.

I’ve fancied rewatching Crimson Tide for a while, but it never seems to be available anywhere, so I gave in and bought it from Apple — it was only 50p dearer than renting it. Then they went and announced the Disney+ Star slate and it’s going to be on there. Oh well.


With cinemas still shuttered here due to lockdown, it once again falls to streamers to provide the brand-new releases. Netflix are promising at least one original movie premiere every week throughout 2021 (with some 70-odd films coming in total). Once upon a time you would’ve assumed that was based on a technicality — i.e. lots of cheap made-for-TV-style filler to bolster the numbers — but, so far at least, they’ve been keeping the standard at a level of noteworthiness. For example, January’s offerings included the hard-hitting drama Pieces of a Woman, which comes with plenty of awards buzz; blockbuster-ish sci-fi action with Anthony ‘the Falcon’ Mackie in Outside the Wire; adaptations of bestselling books like The White Tiger and Penguin Bloom; and they even wheeled out that good old Brit-flick formula of quality actors + period setting in The Dig, with Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, and Lily James starring in a true story from the 1930s. Meanwhile, Amazon had Dave Franco’s directorial debut, The Rental. Not quite as high-profile a slate, eh.

In terms of catalogue stuff, it was really the TV catch-up services that were catching my eye in January, including Korean Cold War spy thriller The Spy Gone North on iPlayer, alongside acclaimed sports doc Hoop Dreams, Beatles classic A Hard Day’s Night, and recommended gambling drama Mississippi Grind. Over on All 4, I missed some classics I’ve been meaning to see for years, like Animal Farm and Withnail & I, but still available (for a few weeks yet) are the likes of A Taxi Driver starring Song Kang-ho, and Danish crime thriller The Guilty, which is currently being remade for Netflix by Antoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Because I don’t have enough to watch as it is, this month I subscribed to MUBI. Okay, I have plenty to watch, but the offer of £1 for three months was hard to pass up — I mean, at that price, watch just one film and it was worth it. I’ve already watched a couple, but films on my watchlist for the remaining time of my cheap subscription include Bacurau, High Life, Paterson, Rocco and His Brothers, Transit, and… Showgirls. Yes, Showgirls is on MUBI.

None of which stopped me from buying more stuff on disc, of course. In terms of brand-new releases, I’ve got The New Mutants in 4K, Arrow’s new edition of Southland Tales (including the longer Cannes cut), and the bells-and-whistles-less 4K reissue of Total Recall (the 1990 one, obviously), plus Eureka’s release of the Inner Sanctum Mysteries, which I have at least started (see #14). Watching JSA (#13) inspired me to plug some of the gaps in my Park Chan-wook collection, so I picked up I’m a Cyborg and Thirst nice and cheap; and Kind Hearts and Coronets (#12) prompted me to buy StudioCanal’s bells-and-whistles-full 4K edition of The Ladykillers. Finally, thanks to an HMV sale I continued to fill out my Ray Harryhausen collection with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The Valley of Gwangi. Between those and the various Indicator box sets, I’m only a couple away from owning all his feature film work. Just need to watch some more of them now…


Slightly belated UK releases for Promising Young Woman with Carey Mulligan, and Tom Hanks in Paul Greengrass’s News of the World. Hopefully I’ll have reviews of both.

Blindspot 2021: What do you mean you haven’t seen…?

Now that all my “looking back at 2020” posts are done, it’s time to start the first full week of 2021 wi— sorry, what? Second week? Where did the first one go?! Alright, well, it’ll have to do. So, dragging myself belatedly into the same year as everyone else, it’s time to present my Blindspot picks for 2021.

The Blindspot challenge (for the benefit of those still unfamiliar with it) involves choosing 12 films you should have seen but haven’t, then watching one a month throughout the year. I started doing this eight years ago, calling it “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” (WDYMYHS for short), but then someone else came up with the same idea independently and gave it a much snappier moniker, and that caught on.

My 12 films for this year are below in alphabetical order. After that there’s a few stats, and then I’ll explain how and why I chose them.


Aguirre,
Wrath of God
Aguirre, Wrath of God


The Birth of a Nation
The Birth of a Nation


Cinema Paradiso
Cinema Paradiso


Come and See
Come and See


La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita


Frankenstein
Frankenstein


La Haine
La Haine


The Life and Death
of Colonel Blimp
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp


Pather Panchali
Pather Panchali


Rain Man
Rain Man


Sansho Dayu
Sansho Dayu


Sátántangó
Sátántangó

Here’s a few stats about this year’s list…

  • The average running time of the films is 2 hours 36 minutes. Yes, that’s the average. While the shortest film, Frankenstein, runs a measly 1 hour 10 minutes, there are only two others below the two-hour mark, and four that run over 2½ hours. And the longest, Sátántangó, is a whopping 7 hours 19 minutes — that’s longer than six Frankensteins.
  • There’s a spread of exactly 80 years between the oldest film (1915’s The Birth of a Nation) and the newest (1995’s La Haine). Of course, that means the most recent film here is over a quarter of a century old…
  • Exactly eight decades are represented, too. The most prolific is, amusingly enough, the ’80s, with three films. The ’50s and ’90s have two each, and there’s one apiece from the 1910s, ’30s, ’40s, ’60s, and ’70s.
  • The films come from nine countries: three from the USA, two from Italy, with the rest being from France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the UK.
  • There are eight different main languages spoken, plus one silent film. English is the most common with three films, two are in Italian, and the rest encompass Bengali, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, and Russian.
  • Six of the films are from directors who I’ve never seen a feature from before. They are D.W. Griffith, Werner Herzog, Elem Klimov, Satyajit Ray, Béla Tarr, and Giuseppe Tornatore. (I have seen a short by Griffith before, but this is his first feature for me.)

    I tend to mix up my method for choosing films each year, but for 2021 I’ve retained one thing from last year — itself a legacy of the couple of years where I did two 12-film lists — and that’s to have six films ‘chosen for me’ via a consensus ranking of various “greatest movie” lists, and then to choose the other six myself from my massive unwatched disc pile. Inevitably, the latter seems to get influenced by films that piqued my interest in the former, but, eh, why not? (If you fancy a challenge, feel free to guess which six films belong to which selection process. Answers coming up.)

    The lists that contribute to the “poll of polls” selection can only be varied so much. I mean, there are probably thousands of such lists out there, but there are only a handful that are well known and respected (to one degree or another), and so I tend to use a lot of the same ones every year. You might think that makes which films appear a foregone conclusion — surely they’re the ones that narrowly missed out last year? — but things do change on some of these lists. For example, when I chose last year’s selection, Come and See was ranked 7th on Letterboxd; this year, it’s 2nd. That’s not an insignificant change: when I’m combining multiple lists, a jump like that at the top of a list could be the difference between inclusion and not quite making it. Besides, I do vary my lists and how I count them every year, precisely so as to keep things slightly unknowable.

    This year’s contributing lists were:

  • Letterboxd’s Official Top 250 Narrative Feature Films
  • IMDb’s Top Rated Movies (aka the IMDb Top 250)
  • the Reddit Top 250
  • Empire’s The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time (aka the Empire 500)
  • Empire’s The 100 Best Films of World Cinema
  • Sight & Sound’s 2012 poll, using the 250-film version listed on Letterboxd (the official list only goes to 100)

    A notable absentee this year is They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?’s The 1,000 Greatest Films, itself a “poll of polls” that is therefore one of, if not the, definitive lists of greatest movies. That’s why I normally include it, and that normality is why I didn’t this year: it’s gone just for the sake of a change. In its place (sort of) is the Empire World Cinema list. It’s shorter than the others, so under my scoring system (which I’ll explain in a moment) it contributed somewhat less than the other lists. That means it served to tweak which foreign films got in, rather than acting to wipe out US/UK films — although, as it turns out, no US films made it through that way.

    So, each poll was scored out of 250 (250 points for 1st place, 249 for 2nd, etc), except the Empire World Cinema one, which was out of 100. Any film beyond 251st place on the Empire 500 earnt one point; and there were 10 additional points for each list a film appeared on (i.e. every film got 10 bonus points, because every film had to be on one list; but if it was on two it got 20, etc.) The full chart ended up including 230 films — that’s everything I hadn’t seen from the Letterboxd, IMDb, Reddit, and Empire World Cinema lists, plus those from the top 150 on Sight & Sound and the Empire 500 (by the time I got to those, I figured any films further down that weren’t on another list didn’t stand a chance; of course, I did include their rankings for all films that were on another list). Further to the plain scores, I also applied other rules — “no repeat directors” is the main one. I used to limit myself to films I already own, but not anymore; and I try to ensure variety in the kinds of films included, to get a spread of ages, countries, genres, etc.

    With all that considered, I think this is the first year I’ve simply accepted the films at the top of the chart without having to eliminate any. The only film to appear on all six lists was Come and See, so perhaps it’s no surprise that it came first with 810 points. Mind you, only one film appeared on five lists (Paris, Texas) and that came 17th, so being on fewer lists with higher ranks could beat merely appearing on many lists. In second place was La Dolce Vita with 647 points; third was Cinema Paradiso with 510; fourth was Pather Panchali with 502; fifth was Sátántangó with 461; and in sixth, just behind it with 460, was The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Regular readers (or those who’ve clicked and read some of the links in this article) may remember that Come and See and Sátántangó both qualified for the 2020 list, but were removed because new restorations were on the way. Those have now materialised: Come and See on a Criterion disc that I imported, and Sátántangó on very different UK and US discs (it’s also available to rent digitally, which is how I intend to view it).

    As for my ‘free choice’ films, three have a spot on that consensus ranking. They were La Haine (13th, 413 points), Sansho Dayu (16th, 398 points), and Aguirre, Wrath of God (38th, 262 points). You’ll note that none of those films are American, and so my only three picks that are not on the consensus ranking (The Birth of a Nation, Frankenstein, and Rain Man) are also my only three US films. Make of that what you will.

    I’ve spent most of 2021 so far working towards one self-imposed deadline after another, to get all of these end of year/new year posts done, so now I’m looking forward to catching up on other blogs — and actually watching some films!

  • The Best of 2020

    And so, we reach the end of 2020.

    I don’t know about you, but this feels like a, “what, already?!” moment to me. Putting my year-in-review posts together used to seem to take ages, but this year it feels like I’ve barely begun and now it’s over. But that’s enough about my subjective perception of time — let’s talk about movies in 2020, like Tenet, which is partly about… um, never mind.

    This final year-in-review post does what it says on the tin: it’s a list of my favourite films that I saw in 2020 (normally my least-favourites would be here too, but I did those already). A note for newcomers and/or reminder to the forgetful: rather than just 2020 releases, I select my list from all 264 movies I saw for the first time during 2020. That’s partly because there are tonnes of new releases that I never see in time — which is also why this post contains a list of 50 significant films I missed.

    Compiling this year’s lists has taken a lot of thinking, rearranging, cutting, reflecting, re-adding, re-rearranging, and a certain amount of “oh, that’ll do, what does it matter anyway” to actually get them out the door. Here’s what I ended up with…



    The 26 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2020

    Since 2016, I’ve replaced the usual “top ten” with a “top 10%”. As I watched 264 films in 2020, that means this year’s list has 26 films. (If you think that’s too many, feel free to scroll down and start from wherever you like.)

    Although all the movies I watched for the first time in 2020 are eligible, I did watch 57 films that had their UK release in 2020, so I’ve noted the ‘2020 rank’ of the eight that made it in. (I also saw a couple of 2020-UK-release films at FilmBath Festival in 2019. As they were already ranked as 2019, I’ve not factored them in here.)

    26 Klaus

    The animation is absolutely gorgeous in this Oscar-nominated BAFTA-winning Netflix original about a disaffected postman who helps originate the legend of Santa.

    25 The Looking Glass War
    The mundanity of real-life espionage; conflicted morals; the futility of the whole thing — this John le Carré adaptation is full of all the things that made his work so great.

    24 Dial M for Murder

    As intelligent and tense a thriller as you’d expect from Hitchcock; so good it even manages to make you overlook its obvious stage-bound roots. Superb in 3D, too.

    23 The Invisible Man
    2020 #8 This #MeToo-era reimagining of the HG Wells / Universal Horror classic could hardly be more timely. But even leaving that aside, it’s a chilling exercise in ratcheting tension.

    From its astounding opening to its hard-hitting final act, Last Black Man is an astonishing cinematic experience about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. [Full review.]

    21 Aniara
    A space ship full of colonists is sent irretrievably off course in this Scandi sci-fi that’s driven by big ideas about human behaviour in extremis.

    20 Paris When It Sizzles

    William Holden and Audrey Hepburn are clearly having a whale of a time in this marvellously cine-literate ’60s romp about a struggling screenwriter.

    19 Philomena
    Judi Dench is extraordinary and Steve Coogan is a revelation in this intensely affecting drama about a wronged woman searching for her son who was taken decades earlier.

    18 Fanny and Alexander

    Ingmar Bergman described this as “the sum total of [his] life as a filmmaker”. Blending familial drama with a dash of magical realism and the supernatural, it’s a masterful work.

    17 Belladonna of Sadness
    Delicate watercolour artwork and medieval folklore smash against a storyline fuelled by rape and a penis-shaped devil in this astonishing animation full of psychedelic imagery and experimental music. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

    2020 #7 It’s “Agatha Christie meets the Coen brothers in a nudist camp” as the eponymous handyman searches for his missing hammer in a world full of wobbly bits, where anyone might’ve taken it. [Full review.]

    15 Tenet
    2020 #6 If you let go of the need to fully understand the mechanics of the film’s time-reversal conceit, Christopher Nolan’s latest is an audacious and exciting spy thriller. It’s a shame real-world arguments have come to overshadow what is actually a suitably thrilling spectacle.

    14 Soul

    2020 #5 Pixar have often been praised for making films for grown-ups. That’s not something I’d wholly agree with, until now. Not as cutesy as the rest of their output (largely), Soul asks big questions about what makes us who we are. All wrapped up in a buddy-quest storyline, of course.

    13 Knives Out
    Rian Johnson’s tribute to whodunnits a la Agatha Christie pulls off something that genre can’t always manage: rewatchability. It barely matters who actually dunnit when it’s this much fun spending time with the outrageous suspects and Daniel Craig’s implausibly-accented detective.

    12 The Old Dark House

    As amusing as a droll comedy and as atmospheric as a creepy old-school horror, James “director of Frankenstein” Whale’s genre classic is just a lot of fun.

    If this anime were live-action, it would be an action-adventure blockbuster. It’s got it all: thrills, humour, emotion, wonder… That makes it so accessible, it would be a perfect starting point for any Westerner new to anime. [Full review.]

    Taron Egerton stars as Elton John for this unusual biopic of the singer. Part traditional musician biopic, part jukebox musical, director Dexter Fletcher remixes John’s music into some imaginatively staged sequences, while Egerton and his supporting cast (in particular Jamie Bell) give thoughtful, nuanced performances. The cumulative effect is a movie that is highly enjoyable but not without depth. [Full review.]

    9
    The Lady Vanishes

    Alfred Hitchcock is probably most renowned for his Hollywood movies (Pyscho, Vertigo, Rear Window, etc), but we shouldn’t forget his British output — these are the films that got him Hollywood’s attention, after all. The director’s second appearance on this year’s list is one of the last films he made before that jump across the pond. It’s a mystery thriller about an old lady who somehow disappears from a moving train, and a couple of youngsters who try to find out how and why. It’s witty, it’s clever, and it’s exciting — all the things for which Hitch is best known.

    8
    Judgment at Nuremberg

    This fictionalised account of the military tribunals that took place following the Second World War sets its sights not on the trials of major Nazi leaders, but on the subsequent trials that assessed the guilt of people further down the chain — here, four judges and prosecutors who helped facilitate the Nazi’s crimes. For such weighty material, this is an appropriately weighty film — a long, complex, methodical, harrowing account. Boldly directed by Stanley Kramer, and with an incredible cast all giving first-rate performances, this remains a powerful, brilliant film.

    7
    Tim’s Vermeer

    Computer graphics pioneer and inventor Tim Jenison is an art enthusiast, fascinated by the work of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, in whose work his engineer’s brain sees a near-impossible photographic accuracy. So, he sets out to prove and expound upon existing theories that Vermeer painted with the aid of some kind of optical device. What unfolds is an astonishing story of obsession, dedication, and art historiography, which challenges your idea of where the line lies between art and technology.

    2020 #4 Sam Mendes’s single-take(-kinda) World War One adventure ended up losing many of the big prizes to Parasite last awards season (FYI, they both count as 2020 films here due to UK release dates in January and February, respectively). But that doesn’t mean it’s any less of an extraordinary experience. I love a long single take (fake or not), and I love stories that unfold in real-time, and I feel World War One has been under-represented on screen — so when Mendes takes all of those things and executes them brilliantly (having Roger Deakins on cinematography helps), you get a film that’s right up my street. [Full review.]

    If 1917 uses all the skills of modern tech to craft an almost old-fashioned epic, Bait is practically the polar opposite: old-school techniques (a wind-up camera; hand-developed 16mm film; post-sync sound) to tell a very modern story (broadly, about the economic plight of Cornish fishermen). It could be pretentiously arthouse or an insufferable polemic, but it’s neither. Instead, the story is told with genuine heart, drama, and humour, and the handmade aesthetic adds an appreciable, beautiful texture. [Full review.]

    4
    Parasite

    2020 #3 If you use Letterboxd, the latest film from acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon Ho comes with a heavy millstone round its neck: according to that site’s users, it’s the greatest film ever made. Like Citizen Kane before it, such a label can be a distraction, and makes some people want to push back against it (is that why I’ve only ranked it at #4? You decide). “Best film ever” or not, the first non-English-language film to win the Best Picture Oscar is a timely deconstruction of class systems — just who are the eponymous parasites, actually? Even aside from big societal questions, it’s a thrilling piece of filmmaking; tense, exciting, and surprising.

    2020 #2 Can a filmed stage production be the year’s best film? Um… Well, that’s a major reason why Hamilton is in 3rd place for my 2020 viewing and 2nd place for 2020 releases: it’s not really a film, right? Well, it’s definitely some kind of historical record — not of the life of Alexander Hamilton, but of a theatre production that took the world by storm. Here we get to witness the original Broadway cast in the show’s original staging, allowing us all the chance to witness a genuine cultural phenomenon first-hand. But this is not merely a couple of cameras plonked into the audience for the sake of posterity: director Thomas Kail users multiple cinematic techniques to make a film that truly feels like a film. Yes, it’s still theatrical, but it feels like this is how this story is meant to be (cf. something like Dogville: also very theatrical; also definitely a film). Theatres will reopen and we’ll be able to see Hamilton in the flesh again; and someday they’ll inevitably make a ‘real’ movie adaptation; and even still, this film will stand as a legitimate, magnificent experience in its own right. [Full review.]

    2020 #1 Writer-director Eliza Hittman’s story of a Pennsylvanian teenager forced to travel to New York for an abortion is told with documentary-like subtlety and understatement, but the result is incredibly moving and powerful. Without ever explicitly stating it, the film is an eloquent condemnation of US systems that force poor and struggling individuals to jump through hoops to access care that those of us in the rest of the developed world might consider basic rights. It’s a potent reminder that, for all its claims of being a highly-developed world-leader, for many of its citizens the US is as regressive, prejudiced, and unequal as the ‘Third World’ countries it so often seeks to demonise. [Full review.]

    1
    Do the Right Thing

    If there’s one feature that links many films on this year’s list, it’s timeliness: films that connect with some of the big sociopolitical issues of our day. Do the Right Thing was made over 30 years ago, but in its subject matter — a stiflingly hot day in a Brooklyn neighbourhood causes tensions to boil over into white-on-black violence — it could scarcely be more 2020. But this is not about “which film best encapsulates the year”, and so Spike Lee’s film tops my list because of all its other qualities, too. It’s a portrait of a place; a day-in-the-life hangout movie, where we follow myriad characters as they go about their business; 90-or-so minutes in which we get to understand the neighbourhood, to know its inhabitants… before the powder keg explodes and everything changes. Except, as we now know, nothing’s really changed at all.


    As usual, I’d just like to highlight a few other films.

    First, the cinematic masterpiece that is Love on a Leash. If you’re unfamiliar with this feat of cinematic excellence, may I recommend my review. It’s not exactly #27, because at various points while curating my list I had it in the top ten, the top twenty, in 26th place… but, eventually, not in the list at all. As I discussed in my review, it’s a film that’s hard to categorise: it’s simultaneously a one-star disaster and a five-star artistic experience. It’s an object lesson in why criticism of art can never be objective, because it’s unquestionable that it’s terribly made in every respect, and yet it’s nonstop entertaining, even thought-provoking, and certainly unique. (Of course, some people would say it’s objectively bad. Those people are wrong.)

    I’m someone who believes “best” and “favourite” can be different things: in 2020, I saw some movies I would acknowledge as great but that didn’t make the Top 26 because they didn’t really entertain me; equally, some films got in that are indeed great but I may never rewatch, whereas I left out simpler fare that I’m sure I’ll revisit. In a ranking of the “best” films I saw this year, no way does Love on a Leash get close; but in terms of my “favourite” films, it might’ve been pretty damn high. My final Top 26 falls somewhere between those two stools, but does carry the “best of” name, and so it felt insulting to any other film in the list (or, indeed, to those that tried but failed to squeeze in) to rank Love on a Leash above them. So here it is instead: first among my “honourable mentions”, with two solid paragraphs dedicated to it — more than any film in the actual list. So who’s the real winner, eh?

    Next, let’s recap the 12 films that won Favourite Film of the Month at the Arbies, some of which have already been mentioned and some of which haven’t. In chronological order, with links to the relevant awards, they were Laputa: Castle in the Sky, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Lady Vanishes, Aniara, Belladonna of Sadness, Paris When It Sizzles, Hamilton, Bad Boys for Life, Fanny and Alexander, Tim’s Vermeer, An American Werewolf in London, and Klaus.

    Finally, I always list every film that earned a 5-star rating this year. It’s especially pertinent this year, given how few reviews I’ve actually posted; although, as I noted in my stats post, it’s possible some of these ratings will be revised when I come to write a full review. But, for now, the 39 films with full marks are 1917, All About Eve, All Quiet on the Western Front, An American Werewolf in London, Anand, Aniara, Bait, Belladonna of Sadness, Dial M for Murder, Do the Right Thing, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Fanny and Alexander, The French Connection, Hamilton, Harakiri, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, In the Mood for Love, The Invisible Guest, Judgment at Nuremberg, Knives Out, Lady Bird, The Lady Vanishes, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Women, The Looking Glass War, Love on a Leash, The Lunchbox, A Man for All Seasons, Man on Wire, Marriage Story, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Parasite, Paris When It Sizzles, Philomena, Rocketman, Safety Last!, Soul, and Tim’s Vermeer. Plus, this year I also gave five stars to Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 3D, and (earmarked for the ‘Guide To’ treatment at some point) Tim Burton’s Batman and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. There were also several short films that merited the accolade, namely Flush Lou, The Last Video Store, The Monkeys on Our Backs, and The Starey Bampire.


    It may have felt like 2020 was a year bereft of movies, as blockbuster after blockbuster got kicked into 2021, but plenty of stuff still came out — both major releases that took the streaming plunge, and smaller titles that probably wouldn’t’ve seen huge theatrical box office anyway; not to mention stuff that’s going to count as 2020 due to festival screenings but won’t really be released anywhere until 2021; and, of course, all the streamers’ own original movies.

    Even though I did watch 57 movies that had a UK release in 2020, there were a considerable number I missed. So, as always, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films from 2020 that I’ve not yet seen. (I normally use IMDb’s dating to decide what’s eligible for inclusion, but I’ve allowed a handful that are listed as 2019 only because of festival screenings.) These have been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety. There are many more I want to see that I could have included, but I always attempt to feature a spread of styles and genres, successes and failures.

    Another Round
    Da 5 Bloods
    The Hunt
    The New Mutants
    Promising Young Woman
    WolfWalkers
    Bill & Ted Face the Music
    The Eight Hundred
    I'm Thinking of Ending Things
    Nomadland
    Rebecca
    Wonder Woman 1984
    An American Pickle
    Ammonite
    Another Round
    Artemis Fowl
    Bill & Ted Face the Music
    The Call of the Wild
    Da 5 Bloods
    David Byrne’s American Utopia
    The Devil All the Time
    Dolittle
    The Eight Hundred
    The Father
    The Gentlemen
    The Half of It
    Happiest Season
    Hillbilly Elegy
    Host
    The Hunt
    I’m Thinking of Ending Things
    Kajillionaire
    The King of Staten Island
    Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
    Mank
    The Midnight Sky
    Military Wives
    Minari
    Miss Juneteenth
    Mulan
    My Spy
    The New Mutants
    News of the World
    Nomadland
    One Night in Miami…
    Onward
    Peninsula
    Possessor
    Promising Young Woman
    Rebecca
    Saint Maud
    Scoob!
    The Secret Garden
    Shirley
    The Social Dilemma
    Sonic the Hedgehog
    Supernova
    The Trial of the Chicago 7
    True History of the Kelly Gang
    The Witches
    WolfWalkers
    Wonder Woman 1984


    And that is 2020 over and done with — hurrah!

    Ignoring for a moment all the news that’s currently telling us how 2021 will be just as bad, if not worse, one thing to look forward to is that it’s my 15th year writing this blog. 15 years! I feel old… The actual date of the blog’s 15th birthday is at the end of February 2022, so I’ve got a little time yet to prepare some kind of celebration.

    In the meantime, let’s watch some more films…

    The Worst of 2020

    “All of it,” I hear you cry. Yes, ok, ha ha, very funny. Obviously I’m specifically talking about the worst films of 2020.

    Regular readers will know I normally include this list in my “best of” post — a sort of counterbalance to any chance of relentless positivity; a reminder that, for all the smooth, there’s always some rough. Maybe we don’t need that kind of thing for 2020, but tradition is tradition. Of course, putting this list in its own post is some kind of break with tradition anyway. But the reason is simple: I’m still working on my “best of” list — it’s a long’un, being 10% of my total viewing, and this being my biggest year ever. That also means the “best of” post will be a plenty long enough read without this little dose of misery in there. So here it is by itself instead.

    A quick reminder: I select my best and worst lists from all 264 films I saw for the first time in 2020, not just new releases.



    The 5 Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2020

    As revealed in my stats post, I only handed out two one-star ratings this year. In retrospect, perhaps I was too generous, because to get this “worst of” selection down to just five films I had to leave out several movies that I really, really disliked. Here’s what I pared it down to, in alphabetical order…

    Hunter Killer
    This throwback-ish techno-thriller really wants to be an exciting submarine adventure in the mould of The Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide, but it can’t rise above the level of ‘wannabe’. It’s mired with an implausible plot and bizarre casting (Gary Oldman is prominent in the marketing, but he’s barely in the film itself). It just doesn’t have the smarts to successfully emulate the Tom Clancy style it so desperately aspires to.

    Lovers Rock
    Sight & Sound ranked this the best film of 2020. Its appeal clearly isn’t limited to the arthouse crowd, because Empire ranked it 7th in their list. But I didn’t get it at all. If you told me director Steve McQueen tricked the BBC into paying for an elaborate ’80s theme party by just filming it, sticking some credits on his raw footage, and handing it over with the claim “yeah, this is a real movie — it’s got a screenplay credit and everything”, I’d believe you.

    The Man Who Sleeps
    Never mind being one of the best films of the year — this was ranked as one of the 250 best films of all time by Letterboxd users. It’s dropped off that list now, but not before I bothered to watch it, unfortunately. Like Lovers Rock, it’s a crushing bore; 70-something minutes spent watching a man do virtually nothing. Un homme qui dort? More like Un homme qui t’endort. [Full review]

    Some Beasts
    A family’s trip to a remote island goes awry when interpersonal tensions overflow into arguments and abuse. It’s a bit slow and self-consciously arty, but that’s not its real sin. That comes in the final 20 minutes, when it throws in an extreme plot development with no time — nor, I think, inclination — to responsibly engage with its consequences. I’m loathe to call any film “offensive”, but this probably comes the closest of anything I’ve seen. [Full review]

    Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
    Superman: The Movie still stands up as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Its sequels show you how a franchise can die. 2 and 3 are bad enough, but The Quest for Peace is by far the worst — a joyless anti-nuclear polemic, with low production values and iffy storytelling. The only bright spots are the talented returning cast, but they’re better appreciated by just rewatching the first one again. [Full review]


    The 26 best films I saw for the first time in 2020.

    2020 Statistics

    It’s the first Monday of the new year — glum, right? Well, here’s something to cheer you up: the best part of any and every year — the statistics! Woo! Yeah! Etc!

    For any newbies, or those in need of a refresher, this is where I take all the films I watched for the first time in 2020 (listed here) and analyse all sorts of stuff about them to see if anything interesting shakes out. As this was my biggest year ever, there’s bound to be a few “new highest” whatnots; but where things might get interesting is in categories with percentages and the like — does watching so many more films change the percentage that was directed by women, or the percentage I watched on Netflix, or… well, there are many things to discover.

    I’ll also mention that, as I’m a Pro member of Letterboxd, you can find additional stats there — or, rather, here. I also log shorts, some TV, and all rewatches on there, so any comparable stats (e.g. my most-watched directors) won’t match up; but I don’t think there’s actually much duplication, and they also include a bunch of stuff I don’t (actors, crew members, genres, etc), so it’s worth a look if you just can’t get enough of graphs and numbers.

    Speaking of which, here’s a beautiful load of exactly that…

    I watched 264 new feature films in 2020, my highest ever, pipping 2018 by just three films. After 14 years of doing this blog, my average final total is 152, so 2020 is a 74% increase on that. But it’s also worth noting that my viewing habits have changed a lot since 2015 (the first year I reached 200 films in a year): my average total for 2007–2014 was 111, while for 2015–2020 it’s 208. Of course, even compared to that, 2020 is up 27%.

    Normally I’d now tally up how many extended or altered cuts I watched as a separate number, but with my Rewatchathon now in the game, it doesn’t quite work like that anymore. So, for example, I watched Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux and counted it towards my main list because it was a significantly different cut to whatever I’d watched before; but when I watched and reviewed Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 3D, it was only the 3D that was different, so I counted it towards my Rewatchathon.

    I probably ought to do full-blown stats for my Rewatchathon too — I’ve been running that side challenge for four years now, so it’s about time I gave it equitable standing in these stats — but I still haven’t started collecting the necessary data throughout the year, so… Maybe next year, eh. What I can tell you is that I rewatched 46 films, for a combined total of 310. That’s one behind 2018’s 310, my previous high. (I still haven’t worked out full rewatch numbers for 2007–2016, but from previous research (mentioned in 2017’s stats) I know none of them got higher than 223.)


    NB: I have no rewatch data for 2007 and only incomplete numbers for 2008.

    I also watched 65 short films in 2020, an extraordinary number by my standards: I’d only watched 85 in the preceding 13 years of this blog, so this year alone saw my all-time total increase by over 76%. Last year was my previous best individual year, when I watched 20 shorts; this year represents a more-than-threefold improvement on that. (Short films don’t count towards any of the following stats, except for where they’re explicitly mentioned in the running time one… which is up next…)

    The total running time of the 264 new features was 459 hours and 41 minutes. That’s actually down slightly on 2018, despite watching three more films — obviously I just watched shorter films on average. Besides, the drop is just 88 minutes, which is 0.3% — barely anything. And if we add in the 65 short films I watched in 2020, the total running time of all my new film viewing is an astonishing 469 hours and 19 minutes — that’s equivalent to 19½ solid days; almost three weeks of nonstop film viewing. It also means 2020 overleaps 2018 by some 391 minutes (6½ hours), aka 1.4%.

    Here’s how that viewing played out across the year, month by month. The dark blue line is new feature films, the pale blue line is my Rewatchathon, and the pale green line is shorts. As you can see, the shorts line goes literally off the chart in November — that’s because I set this graph to be based around the main list number of new films, but I watched a ridiculous 53 short films in November. (Obviously I could’ve adjusted the graph to go up higher, but that wasn’t as fun.) What’s also interesting is if you go back and compare this graph to the two times I’ve done it before, in 2018 and 2019: the shapes certainly aren’t identical, but I feel like they share an overall pattern, i.e. I hit a peak around April/May, and the back end of the year is generally lower.

    Now, the ways in which I watched those films. Attentive readers may have noticed that, earlier this year, I switched from differentiating “streaming” and “download” at the top of my reviews to just listing all such viewing as “digital”. I drafted a paragraph about the whys and wherefores of that change to include in a monthly review, but I’ve not got round to polishing it up enough to include. In short, when I first started using those terms there was a notable difference between them — streaming was low quality and unreliable, downloads were pretty good. Nowadays, it’s the other way round, if anything (for example, Apple TV+ will stream in 4K but only lets you download in 1080p), and sometimes there’s no difference at all (if I download something from iPlayer to watch later, it’s no different than streaming it from iPlayer, quality-wise). So, in that spirit, “digital” now becomes a single category in these stats; but, behind the scenes, I’ve still noted what came from where (much as I do for the different streaming services), so I’ll come to that in a mo.

    With streaming and downloading bundled, it’s no surprise that digital is my most prolific viewing format for the sixth year running, accounting for 195 films, or 73.9% of my viewing — almost three-quarters! A poor show for a physical media advocate, isn’t it? It’s a bit trickier to show you comparisons to previous years, for obvious reasons, but I’ve run the numbers and can tell you it’s their highest combined total ever, besting 61.9% in 2016. In the five-year period 2015–2019, my overall percentage for digital was 52.8%, so this is a definite increase on the norm.

    If we break it down into various formats and services, the winner was Amazon with 60 films (30.8% of digital). If I didn’t count digital as a block, Amazon alone would be my #1 format. It’s back on top after Netflix overtook it last year, but this year Netflix isn’t even second — that goes to downloads, with 47 films (24.1%). In fact, Netflix comes joint third, tied with Now TV on 32 films (16.4%) each. Does make me wonder if I’m wasting that £11.99 a month… In fifth is iPlayer with eight (4.1%), although three of my downloads came from there, so you could argue it’s 11 (5.6%). And this is exactly why I’ve bundled all of this stuff together. Next was AMPLIFY! with seven (3.6%) — also arguably responsible for more, because I got some screeners related to it. Bringing up the rear, on Disney+ I watched five films (2.6%), and I even watched three (1.5%) on YouTube. As a final note, I technically watched zero on Apple TV+ — it’s been a real waste of the free year I got for buying a new Mac, because I had no way to watch it on my TV until recently. I did watch their original movie starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound, though I downloaded it so I could watch on my TV, so again it’s counted under downloads rather. My free year runs until February, so maybe it’ll factor properly in next year’s stats… although most of their original content is series, so I doubt it’ll represent much.

    Alright, onwards! In second place as Blu-ray with 57 films (21.6%). That’s actually its second highest total (behind 82 in 2018), but its lowest percentage of my viewing since 2016 (though last year it was less than 1% higher on 22.5%). It’s a consistent runner-up when, considering how many I buy, it really ought to be a clear first.

    Between them, digital and Blu-ray accounted for an exceptional 95.5% of my viewing this year. The remainder was spread thinly between three more formats. In third place was good old DVD with just six films (2.3%). That’s its lowest total since 2012, back when six films was 5.6% of my viewing.

    Next up, in fourth place, believe it or not, is cinema. Well, I actually only managed four trips to the big screen before the year went haywire, so it still only accounts for 1.5% of my 2020 viewing. I’m not always the greatest cinema goer, but I’ve picked it up in recent years, meaning that’s the least I’ve been since 2015.

    Finally, the once-mighty television. From 2009 to 2012 it was my highest-ranking format. Now, it’s fallen to its lowest ever total, and by some margin: it represents just two films (0.8%) in my 2020 viewing, while its previous poorest performance was 10 films, all the way back in 2008.

    In amongst all that, I watched 13 films in 3D (almost double the measly seven I watched last year) and 40 in 4K — a new high, being a 167% increase on the 15 I watched last year. Together, the two formats made up 20.1% of my viewing — not bad, especially when you consider that a lot of discs on both my 3D and 4K ‘to watch’ piles are films I’ve seen before (but not in that format).

    Which brings me to the UHD vs. HD vs. SD chart. Contributing to the UHD numbers is mostly streams, some 4K Blu-ray discs, and a download or two. HD includes most of the majority of my streams and downloads, Blu-ray discs, cinema trips, and one TV screening. Contributing to SD were the handful of DVDs, plus a few streams and downloads, and the other TV screening. The final tally shows 201 films in HD (76.1%). Add in UHD and that’s a total of 91.3% in HD formats, the first time my viewing has been over 90% HD (2018 came 0.4% short). Of course, that also means it’s the lowest ever for SD — the actual number of films I’m watching in lower definition is surprisingly stable (it was 23 this year, bang-on the average of the last five years), but watching more films overall means the percentage drops.

    Moving on to the age of films, now. 2020 marks the start of a new decade (yeah, okay, it doesn’t really; but most of us will still count films from 2020 as part of the 2020–2029 decade, so tough luck, pedants). That might shake up these stats in the years to come: it’s normally the current decade that tops my chart, and it only took the 2010s until 2012 to take the #1 spot. It was close-ish with the 2000s for the next few years, but it was firmly in the lead by the middle of the decade. Will the 2020s chart a similar course?

    Well, they’re not there yet: for the 9th year running, the most popular decade was the 2010s, with 120 films — though at 45.5% of my viewing, that’s their lowest percentage since 2013. That’s partly because the 2020s have come in strong, bagging second place with 33 films (12.5%). That’s a much better percentage than the 2010s managed in their inaugural year: in 2010, the new decade accounted for just 5.65% of my viewing. Back to 2020 and, together, the past 11 years accounted for 57.95% of my viewing, which is more in line with the 2010s other recent performances.

    In third place we find the ’80s with 24 films (9.1%), a massive increase on their uncommonly poor 2019 (when they accounted for just three films, 1.99%). They’re closely followed by the 2000s on 22 (8.3%) — that’s twice as many as last year, which was also an uncommonly weak year for the decade.

    It’s a drop down to fifth place, where the ’90s are on 14 (5.3% — the exact same as last year). Not far behind is the ’60s on 12 (4.5%), and it’s the same drop to the ’40s on 10 (3.8%), and the same again to the ’70s on eight (3.0%).

    Rounding things out, the ’50s have seven (2.7%); there’s a tie between the 1920s and ’30s on six (2.3%); while the the 1910s bring up the rear with two (0.7%). (No features for the 1900s & earlier, but they were represented this year by one short.)

    From “when” to “where”: countries of production. As always, the USA absolutely dominated this category, having a role in producing 181 films. However, with that being equivalent to 68.6% of my total viewing, it’s actually the USA’s lowest percentage ever, almost four whole points below their next lowest, 72.4% in 2018. In related good news, there were 40 different countries involved in the production of at least one film — that’s my highest number ever, trouncing the 32 from 2015. Some of the more uncommon ones (for my viewing) included Algeria, Lithuania, Malaysia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda.

    Back at the top end of the chart, the UK was second, as usual. Its 71 films was its most ever; that’s 26.8%, which has been bettered, but not since 2013. Also making double figures were Canada (21, 7.95%), France (18, 6.8%), China (16, 6.1%), Japan (15, 5.7%), and Germany (14, 5.3%). Next was Spain (7, 2.7%), after which there were four countries tied on four films each, another four on three films, 10 on two films, and the remaining 14 had one film each. Perhaps the most notable omission was New Zealand, leaving 2020 as the first year since 2013 where I didn’t see any films from there. And they’ve had such a good year, too!

    Such a wide variety of countries must lead to a wider variety of languages spoken, right? Well, this year’s films featured 30 spoken languages (plus ten silent films) — not the most ever, but close: the only year higher was 2017 with 32. Of course, the most dominant was still English, which was spoken in 223 films. At 84.5% of my viewing, that just slips under last year’s 84.8% to be the lowest ever. In distant second was French, spoken in just 18 films (6.8%). The others to make double figures were an uncommonly strong showing for Spanish (14 films, 5.3%) and a weaker than normal year for Japanese (11 films, 4.2%). Also, China was represented across multiple languages: not just Mandarin and Cantonese, but also Hokkien and Shanghainese, plus some films where it was only listed as “Chinese”, unfortunately. Other languages that I don’t think have come up in my viewing before included Aboriginal, Catalan, Samoan, and Swahili.

    A total of 225 directors and 23 directing partnerships appear on 2020’s main list, the most ever for both tallies. No surprise, given I watched my most films ever; but bear in mind that I only watched three fewer films in 2017, but there were 23 fewer directors credited that year. I ought to work this out as a percentage sometime… Also worth noting is that the number of partnerships is slightly complicated by some Disney films that mixed and matched directors. For example, the likes of Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, and Hamilton Luske have multiple credits each, but with a different lineup of co-directors each time. If we lump all the different combos together as “Disney guys”, the number of partnerships drops to 20… but that’s still the most ever.

    The most prolific director this year was Jack Kinney, who worked on all four of those “Disney guy” films (Clyde Geronimi and Hamilton Luske have three credits each). Outside of those, I watched three films directed by Denis Villeneuve — it would’ve been four, as I was intending to catch up on all his early work before Dune came out, but then Dune got delayed. I’ll finish that project in 2021, then. Directors with two films apiece were John G. Avildsen, Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Danny Boyle, Ruben Fleischer, Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe, Sidney J. Furie, Greta Gerwig, Marielle Heller, Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Leni, James Mangold, Steve McQueen, and Rob Reiner. Plus, if we factor in short films, there was David Lynch (one feature and two shorts), Terry Gilliam (one feature and one short, which is often counted as part of a feature, so…), Jon Watts (one feature and one short), and Jules White (two shorts).

    Since 2015, I’ve specifically charted the number of female directors whose work I’ve watched. After a dip in 2016, it’s been steadily increasing in percentage terms, but last year female directors were still only credited on eleven films — seven as sole director, three as part of a directing partnership with a man. Counting each shared credit as half a film, that represented just 5.63% of my viewing. 2020 sees a significant improvement: this year, there were 33 films with a female director (28 solo, five paired with a man), which equates to 11.44% of my viewing. That’s a big improvement, but still not really good enough. It’s debatable whether the onus should be on me to seek out more films directed by women or on the industry to give more directing gigs to women (ultimately, it’s a bit of both, though I’d argue with more weight on the latter) — either way, hopefully this number will continue to increase in the future, and this graph can begin to look a lot more equitable.

    At the end of my annual “top ten” post, I always include a list of 50 notable films I missed from that year’s releases, and over the years I continue to track my progress at watching those ‘misses’. For the second year in a row, I failed to see at least one film from every previous list; but I did better than last year! In 2019, I only watched a total of 37 films from across 7 of the 12 lists. In 2020, I watched 54 films from 11 of the now-13 lists. That’s no record, but it’s a big improvement. To summarise, I watched one each from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015; two each from 2010, 2013, and 2017; and eight from 2018. (For completism’s sake: the two years I missed were 2011 and 2016.)

    That just leaves my first year of catching up on 2019’s 50. Of those, I watched 34 — a new record for the best ‘first year’ ever, just beating the previous high of 33 from 2017’s list that I watched in 2018.

    In total, I’ve now seen 476 out of 650 of those ‘missed’ movies. That’s 73.2%, a healthy increase from last year’s 70.3%. That percentage has increased every year for the past decade, from a lowly 25% after 2009 to where it is today. Hopefully it will continue on up in 2021. (As always, my list of 50 for 2020 will be included in my “best & worst” post later this week… month… however long it takes me…)

    At the time of writing, 20 films from my 2020 viewing appear on the IMDb Top 250. 20 from 2020? Neat. However, because that list is ever-changing, the number I have left to see has only gone down by 15, to 30. On the bright side, at this rate I might finally complete the darn thing in 2022 (getting there has only taken, um, all my life so far). Anyway, the current rankings of ones I saw this year range from 30th (Parasite) to 248th (The Battle of Algiers).

    And now, all of a sudden, we’re at the end… almost. To conclude 2020’s statistics, it’s the climax of every review: the scores.

    As always, this includes every new feature film I watched, even those without a review (which, this year, is most of them). That means there are some where I’m still flexible on my exact score — films I’d happily award, say, 3.5 or 4.5 on Letterboxd, but which I insist on rounding up or down to a whole star on here. (I occasionally consider beginning to use half-stars here too, but there’s something kinda fun about having to force every film into one of just five broad groups.) For the sake of completing this stat, I’ve assigned whole-star ratings to every film, but it’s possible I’ll change my mind on some when I finally post their review. That might render this section slightly inaccurate, though, honestly, who’d even notice?

    This year I awarded 39 five-star ratings. That’s exactly the same number as in 2018, which suggests some level of consistency. It also makes this year joint second, with 2015’s 40 still the standout for volume of five-star films. In percentage terms, I gave full marks to 14.8% of films I watched, which is comfortably inside my historical range (which spans from 11.9% to 21.2%).

    The most prolific rating was four stars, given to 111 films. That’s also a second-place finish, though, with the most four-star ratings having been the 122 I awarded in 2018. Nonetheless, four-stars has been the biggest group in 13 out of 14 years of this blog’s history, and this year it encompassed 42.1% of films, which is again somewhere in the middle of a range that spans from 31.5% to 53.3%.

    More noteworthy were the 91 three-star films — the highest number ever (sailing past 2018’s 76) and, at 34.5%, the highest percentage since 2013’s 35.8% and third highest overall (the top spot goes to the only year three-stars outnumbered four-stars, 2012). I have tried to be a bit firmer with my marking in recent years (by reducing the number of times I think “oh, go on, just nudge it up to a 4, then”), so I guess this bears that out.

    At the “bad” of the scale, there were 21 two-star films, which ties with 2018 for the most ever, but at 7.95% is actually one of the lowest results ever (only 2011 and 2016 can boast a lower percentage). Finally, I handed out just two one-star ratings, which equates to 0.8%. These really are my rarest of the rare: I’ve awarded two or fewer in 9 out of 14 years, with the highest total being five (in 2012 — a bad year, clearly).

    Finally, the average score for the year — a single figure with which to judge 2020’s quality against other years, for good or ill. The short version is 3.6 out of 5, which is the same as four previous years (including last year), below eight years, and above just one year. If we expand that out a few more decimal places, at 3.621 it’s actually my third-lowest year ever, only besting last year’s 3.604 and 2012’s bizarrely poor 3.352 (I said it was a bad year). That said, we’re talking very small margins here — I’ve had to go to three decimal places to separate the years out; and, at one decimal place, my average score has never gone above 3.8 or below 3.4. So, 2020 was perfectly fine, as this graph shows.

    And that’s that for another year. FYI, this has been my most verbose stats post ever — its word count is even higher than some of my older ones that also included the entire list of films I’d watched that year. So congratulations if you made it to the end! Fun, wasn’t it? (If you’re itching for more, don’t forget my Letterboxd stats for 2020.)


    With all that analysis done, my review of 2020 is nearly at an end. All that remains is my best and worst of the year, coming just as soon as I can work it out and write it up (my long list is pretty darn long this year!)

    2020: The Full List

    As I already revealed in my December monthly review, 2020 is the biggest year of 100 Films ever. That’s thanks to me watching 264 films I’d never seen before, a figure that just pips 2018’s 261. I didn’t quite reach my Rewatchathon goal of revisiting 50 films I’d seen before, but I finished up on a not-unrespectable 46. Combined, their total of 310 is slightly behind 2018’s equivalent 311; but I also watched a frankly extraordinary (by my standards) number of shorts this year — 65, enough to increase my shorts review list by over 76%.

    More on all that in my annual statistics post, which is coming soon. For now, it’s time to look back over the year as a whole with these lovely long lists of all I watched. As well as films of all lengths, there are links to my monthly reviews (which contain all sorts of other goodies, donchaknow) and, further down, a list of my TV reviewing from the past year. To help you find what you’re looking for amongst all that, here’s a nice little set of contents links…


    • As It Happened — 2020’s monthly updates, with a chronological list of my viewing.
    • The List — an alphabetical list of every new film I watched in 2020; plus other stuff.
    • Television — an alphabetical list of every TV programme I reviewed in 2020.
    • Next Time — still to come: actual analysis of last year.

    Below is a graphical representation of my 2020 viewing, month by month. Each of the images links to the relevant monthly review, which contain a chronological list of everything I watched this year. There’s also other exciting stuff in there, like my monthly Arbie awards and what I watched in my Rewatchathon.

    I’ve often felt this section looks a bit unwieldy, so this year I’ve made it half the size. Any opinions on the change (or, indeed, anything else) are always welcome in the comment section.

    And now, the main event…


    An alphabetical list of all the new-to-me films I watched in 2020 (though some series are in chronological order within their alphabetisation). That’s followed by lists of other things I watched this year: alternate versions of films I’d already seen; rewatches I’ve marked out for ‘Guide To’ posts; and short films. Where a title is a link, it goes to my review; when there’s no link, it’s because I haven’t reviewed it yet (that’s probably self-evident…)

    • 127 Hours (2010)
    • 1917 (2019)
    • 3:10 to Yuma Hours (2007)
    • The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
    • 6 Underground (2019)
    • 7500 (2019)
    • 8½ (1963)
    • Ad Astra (2019)
    • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
    • Agatha and the Midnight Murders (2020)
    • Aladdin [3D] (2019)
    • All About Eve (1950)
    • All Is True (2018)
    • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
    • American Animals (2018)
    • The American President (1995)
    • An American Werewolf in London (1981)
    • Anand (1971)
    • Andrei Rublev (1966)
    • Aniara (2018)
    • The Armour of God (1986), aka Lung hing foo dai
    • The Assistant (2019)
    • August 32nd on Earth (1998), aka Un 32 août sur terre
    • Bad Boys for Life (2020)
    • Bait (2019)
    • Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
    • The Battle of Algiers (1966), aka La battaglia di Algeri
    • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
    • Belladonna of Sadness (1973), aka Kanashimi no Belladonna
    • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
    • Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
    • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
    • Black Angel (1946)
    • Blind Fury (1989)
    • Blockers (2018)
    • Bloodshot (2020)
    • Booksmart (2019)
    • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
    • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
    • The Breakfast Club (1985)
    • Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
    • A Bug’s Life (1998)
    • Burning (2018), aka Beoning
    • Cairo Station (1958), aka Bab el hadid
    • Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
    • Chariots of Fire (1981)
    • Chicken Run (2000)
    • The Children Act (2017)
    • The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (2020)
    • Clueless (1995)
    • Coded Bias (2020)
    • Color Out of Space (2019)
    • Crawl (2019)
    • Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
    • Crooked House (2017)
    • Dangal (2016)
    • The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
    • Death to 2020 (2020)
    • Dial M for Murder [3D] (1954)
    • The Diamond Arm (1969), aka Brilliantovaya ruka
    • Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)
    • Do the Right Thing (1989)
    • A Dog’s Will (2000), aka O Auto da Compadecida
    • Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
    • Down with Love (2003)
    • Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
    • Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux (1984/2012)
    • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
    • Emma. (2020)
    • End of the Century (2019), aka Fin de siglo
    • Enola Holmes (2020)
    • Entrapment (1999)
    • The Equalizer 2 (2018)
    • Escape Room (2019)
    • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
    • Evil Under the Sun (1982)
    • Extraction (2020)
    • The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
    • Falling (2020)
    • Fanny and Alexander (1982), aka Fanny och Alexander
    • Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
    • Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017)
    • Fisherman’s Friends (2019)
    • For the Love of Spock (2016)
    • The French Connection (1971)
    • Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
    • The Gay Divorcee (1934)
    • Gemini Man (2019)
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters [3D] (2019)
    • The Good Liar (2019)
    • The Goonies (1985)
    • Greyhound (2020)
    • Guinevere (1994)
    • Hamilton (2020)
    • Harakiri (1962), aka Seppuku
    • He Dreams of Giants (2019)
    • The Head Hunter (2018)
    • Hotel Artemis (2018)
    • Der Hund von Baskerville (1914), aka The Hound of the Baskervilles
    • Hunter Killer (2018)
    • Hustlers (2019)
    • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
    • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs [3D] (2009)
    • Ice Age: Continental Drift [3D] (2012)
    • Ikiru (1952), aka Living
    • An Impossible Project (2020)
    • In the Mood for Love (2000)
    • Influence (2020)
    • Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
    • The Invisible Guest (2016), aka Contratiempo
    • The Invisible Man (2020)
    • The Ipcress File (1965)
    • It Chapter Two (2019)
    • Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
    • Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
    • Joker (2019)
    • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
    • Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
    • K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
    • The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
    • The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
    • The Kid (1921/1971)
    • Klaus (2019)
    • Knives Out (2019)
    • Lady Bird (2017)
    • The Lady Vanishes (1938)
    • Lancelot du Lac (1974), aka Lancelot of the Lake
    • Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), aka Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta
    • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
    • Last Chance Harvey (2008)
    • Late Night (2018)
    • Le Mans ’66 (2019), aka Ford v Ferrari
    • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part [3D] (2019)
    • The Lie (2018)
    • The Lighthouse (2019)
    • Little Women (2019)
    • Long Day’s Journey Into Night [3D] (2018), aka Di Qiu Zui Hou De Ye Wan
    • Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (2006)
    • The Looking Glass War (1970)
    • Lost in La Mancha (2002)
    • Love on a Leash (2011)
    • Lovers Rock (2020), aka Small Axe: Lovers Rock
    • The Lunchbox (2013)
    • Luxor (2020)
    • The Mad Magician [3D] (1954)
    • Maelström (2000)
    • Make Mine Music (1946)
    • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
    • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
    • Man on Wire (2008)
    • The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
    • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
    • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
    • The Man Who Sleeps (1974), aka Un homme qui dort
    • Mangrove (2020), aka Small Axe: Mangrove
    • Marriage Story (2019)
    • Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
    • The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
    • Melody Time (1948)
    • Men in Black: International (2019)
    • Millennium Actress (2001), aka Sennen joyû
    • Minions [3D] (2015)
    • Misbehaviour (2020)
    • Misery (1990)
    • Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)
    • Missing Link (2019)
    • The Mole Agent (2020)
    • Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
    • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
    • Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
    • My Favourite Wife (1940)
    • My Mexican Bretzel (2019)
    • The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador (1912), aka Le mystère des roches de Kador
    • Near Dark (1987)
    • Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
    • Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)
    • Never Too Young to Die (1986)
    • The Next Karate Kid (1994)
    • The Nightingale (2018)
    • The Old Dark House (1932)
    • The Old Guard (2020)
    • One Cut of the Dead (2017), aka Kamera wo tomeruna!
    • Ordet (1955), aka The Word
    • Out of Africa (1985)
    • Palm Springs (2020)
    • Parasite (2019), aka Gisaengchung
    • Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
    • Patrick (2019), aka De Patrick
    • The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
    • Pearl Harbor (2001)
    • Phase IV (1974)
    • Philomena (2013)
    • The Platform (2019), aka El hoyo
    • Polytechnique (2009)
    • Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017)
    • Puzzle (2018)
    • Quartet (2012)
    • Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
    • Rang De Basanti (2006)
    • Ready or Not (2019)
    • Red Joan (2018)
    • The Rhythm Section (2020)
    • RoboCop 3 (1993)
    • Robolove (2019)
    • Rocketman (2019)
    • Rose Plays Julie (2019)
    • Safety Last! (1923)
    • Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
    • Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
    • The Scorpion King (2002)
    • The Secret Life of Pets 2 [3D] (2019)
    • Shadowlands (1993)
    • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)
    • Shazam! [3D] (2019)
    • The Sheik (1921)
    • Shoplifters (2018), aka Manbiki kazoku
    • The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story (2019)
    • Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner (2019)
    • Showrunners (2014), aka Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show
    • The Sky’s the Limit (1943)
    • So Dark the Night (1946)
    • Some Beasts (2019), aka Algunas Bestias
    • The Son of the Sheik (1926)
    • Soul (2020)
    • Spaceship Earth (2020)
    • Spider-Man: Far from Home [3D] (2019)
    • Split Second (1992)
    • A Star Is Born (2018)
    • Stop Making Sense (1984)
    • Stuber (2019)
    • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
    • Tag (2018)
    • Tenet (2020)
    • Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
    • The Thin Red Line (1998)
    • The Three Caballeros (1944)
    • Tim’s Vermeer (2013)
    • Tolkien (2019)
    • Tomb Raider [3D] (2018)
    • Top Secret! (1984)
    • The Two Popes (2019)
    • Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)
    • Uncut Gems (2019)
    • Under the Skin (2013)
    • Us (2019)
    • Vampires Suck (2010)
    • The Vast of Night (2019)
    • Venom (2018)
    • Vice (2018)
    • The Viking Queen (1967)
    • Waking Ned (1998)
    • Waxworks (1924), aka Das Wachsfigurenkabinett
    • The Wedding Guest (2018)
    • Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
    • Without a Clue (1988)
    • The Wolf’s Call (2019), aka Le chant du loup
    • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
    • Yes, God, Yes (2019)
    • Yesterday (2019)
    • You Will Die at Twenty (2019)
    • Zatoichi in Desperation (1972), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Oreta tsue
    • Zero Charisma (2013)
    • Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
    Alternate Versions
    The 100 Films Guide To…
    Shorts
    • Adnan (2020)
    • Alan, the Infinite (2020)
    • Anoraks (2020)
    • Appreciation (2019)
    • Befriend to Defend (2019)
    • Blue Passport (2020)
    • Booklovers (2020)
    • Chumbak (2019)
    • Clean (2020)
    • Closed Until Further Notice (2020)
    • The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983)
    • The Dancing Pig (1907), aka Le cochon danseur
    • David Lynch Cooks Quinoa (2007)
    • The Day of the Coyote (2020)
    • DC Showcase: Jonah Hex (2010)
    • Destructors (2020)
    • The Devil’s Harmony (2019)
    • Embedded (2020)
    • The Escape (2016)
    • Flush Lou (2020)
    • Frankenstein (1910)
    • Frayed Edges (2020)
    • The Fruit Fix (2020)
    • Fuel (2020)
    • Guardians of Ua Huka (2020)
    • Hold (2020)
    • Home (2020)
    • Interstice (2019), aka Mellanrum
    • Keratin (2020)
    • The Last Video Store (2020)
    • Life in Brighton: An Artist’s Perspective (2020)
    • Man-Spider (2019)
    • A Map of the World (2020)
    • The Monkeys on Our Backs (2020)
    • My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was an Alchoholic Poet. (2019)
    • My Life, My Voice (2020)
    • Nelly (2020)
    • Nut Pops (2019)
    • One Piece of the Puzzle (2020)
    • Our Song (2020)
    • Pardon My Backfire [3D] (1953)
    • Peter’s To-Do List (2019)
    • Players (2020)
    • Quiescent (2018), aka Anvew
    • Quiet on Set (2020)
    • Reconnected (2020)
    • Shuttlecock (2019)
    • Siren (2020)
    • Slow Burn (2020)
    • So Far (2020)
    • Spooks! [3D] (1953)
    • A Spring in Endless Bloom (2020)
    • The Starey Bampire (2019)
    • Sticker (2019)
    • Stitch (2020)
    • The Stunt Double (2020)
    • Swivel (2020)
    • Talia (2020)
    • Time and Tide (2020)
    • Under the Full Moon (2020)
    • Water Baby (2019)
    • We Farmed a Lot of Acres (2020)
    • What Did Jack Do? (2017)
    • The Wick (2020)
    • Window (2019)
    1917

    The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

    Anand

    Bait

    Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    Chicken Run

    Crazy Rich Asians

    Do the Right Thing

    Enola Holmes

    The Face of Fu Manchu

    Fanny and Alexander

    Greyhound

    Harakiri

    Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

    The Invisible Man

    The Karate Kid Part II

    The Lady Vanishes

    The Lighthouse

    Lost in La Mancha

    The Lunchbox

    Small Axe: Mangrove

    Millennium Actress

    Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

    Never Rarely Sometimes Always

    Ordet

    Patrick

    Rambo: Last Blood

    RoboCop 3

    Shadowlands

    Showrunners

    The Son of the Sheik

    Split Second

    Tomb Raider

    Under the Skin

    The Wedding Guest

    Zatoichi in Desperation

    Zero Charisma

    The Avengers

    Alan the Infinite

    The Crimson Permanent Assurance

    The Escape

    Interstice, aka Mellanrum

    My Life, My Voice

    Pardon My Backfire

    Shuttlecock

    The Stunt Double

    What Did Jack Do?

    .

    As well as all those films, I also covered many TV programmes in my monthly(-ish) review columns. Just listing those individual posts would be meaningless, so instead here’s an alphabetical breakdown of what I covered, each with appropriate link(s).


    Get ready for the best bit of the entire year: it’s the statistics!