The Jaja Ding Dong (Ding Dong!) Monthly Review of June 2020

My love for you is wide and long, dear readers, and so (one of) the breakout hit(s) from Netflix’s Eurovision movie seemed the only appropriate title for this month’s review.

Also, I didn’t have any better ideas. I mean, I could’ve called it “halfway”, because we are halfway through the year and I’m going to talk about that… but it’s not as fun, is it?


#128 The Children Act (2017)
#129 Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
#130 Shadowlands (1993)
#131 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
#132 The Gay Divorcee (1934)
#133 The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
#134 The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
#135 Split Second (1992)
#136 Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
#137 The Old Dark House (1932)
#138 The Rhythm Section (2020)
#139 The Vast of Night (2019)
#140 The Armour of God (1986), aka Lung hing foo dai
#141 Gemini Man (2019)
#142 Cairo Station (1958), aka Bab el hadid
#143 Tomb Raider 3D (2018)
#144 7500 (2019)
#145 Do the Right Thing (1989)
#146 Shazam! 3D (2019)
#147 Crawl (2019)
#148 Chicken Run (2000)
#149 Man on Wire (2008)
#150 Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
#151 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
#152 Polytechnique (2009)
#153 Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
#154 The Invisible Man (2020)
#155 Without a Clue (1988)
Paris When It Sizzles

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

The Old Dark House

The Invisible Man

.


  • I watched 28 new feature films in June.
  • It’s my joint-3rd best month of 2020 (tied with March), which is right in the middle when you remember there have only been six months… but 2020 is clearly an exceptional year, because it’s also in the top 5% of months all-time.
  • It’s also my best June ever, beating the 21 of June 2018.
  • Naturally, that means it stomps all over the June average (previously 10.0, now 11.4).
  • It also sails past the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 15.3, now 17.3), and also pips the average for 2020 so far (previously 25.4, now 25.8).
  • Reaching #155 means I’ve already passed my final total from last year, making 2020 already my fifth highest totalling year ever.

Now, some observations on the actual films I watched…

  • They included my 2,000th film for this blog. I wrote about that here.
  • I was also particularly glad to get a chance to see Cairo Station, one of the five films I flagged from The Story of Film: An Odyssey (my 1,000th film) back in August 2015. In the almost-five-years since that post, I’ve seen two of those films. Of the other three, I’ve owned one on Blu-ray for several years; another was released on Blu-ray in the UK last November; and the fifth recently came out on Blu-ray in the US. So, I could/should be completing them by now…
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, which is exceptionally pertinent right now — which, considering it’s now over 30 years old, is rather depressing. A great film, though.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Crawl, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Peanut Butter Falcon, The Rhythm Section, and The Vast of Night.

Finally, returning to statistics: the end of June marks the halfway point of the year, of course, and at #155 it’s the furthest I’ve ever reached by this point (beating #145 in 2018). So, to mark the occasion, I’ve gone back over previous years to see what I can learn about the first half of the year as a predictor for the second.

  • Logic might suggest the second half would be double the first, but that’s never been the case.
  • Of the previous 13 years, five saw the second half more than double the first, with the other eight showing a decrease (obviously).
  • The biggest discrepancy came last year, 2019, when I did 64.9% of my film viewing in the first half of the year, leaving just 35.1% in the second.
  • The biggest swing the other way was in 2009, when I watched 40.4% in the first half of the year and 59.6% in the second.
  • On average, the second half of the year accounts for 48.3% of my viewing; though if we look at just the last five years, that drops to 44.8%.
  • So, as a predictor for 2020, if I follow the all-time average I should end the year on #305 — holy moly! A feat that never seemed possible, considering I’ve only passed #200 twice.
  • If I take the average of just the last five years, I only reach #283 — which would still be my highest year ever by over 20 films.
  • And, compared to the two extremes detailed above, anything below #239 would be a new second-half low (in percentage terms), while a new high would see me watch over 383 films! The latter would mean a monthly average of 38.1 for the rest of the year — higher than I’ve ever reached in a single month. I really don’t see that happening.
  • Leaving percentages behind, the average number of films I’ve watched in July-to-December is 69, which this year would put my final total at 224.
  • Lest all this sound like plain sailing to a number definitively above 200, my weakest-ever July-to-December was 33 in 2011, which, if repeated, would see 2020 end on 188. Never say never…



The 61st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Lots of stuff I liked a great deal this month, and as usual it’s hard to compare such wildly different films. For surprise value, I’m drawn towards Paris When It Sizzles — it doesn’t seem to be well-rated on the whole, but it’s a lot of fun as a kind of “insider’s view” Hollywood spoof that feels ahead of its time.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
No outright bad movies this month, in my estimation, but there were more than a couple that didn’t live up to my expectations. Perhaps the worst of these was Crawl, purely because it was doing so much better early on than it was by the end.

Song That Most Stands a Chance at the Oscars of the Month
God only knows what’s going to be going on at the Oscars next year, but they should be more amenable to streaming movies than ever, and that might open the door for a song from The Story of Fire Saga to get in — if there’s one thing most people who’ve watched it can agree on, it’s that the original songs are rather catchy (in a Eurovision-y way). Heck, why just one? In the past, multiple songs from the same film have made it, so never rule that out (I have no idea how the rules for the song category work). But if only one song makes it then… no, it won’t be Jaja Ding Dong (well, you never know). It might be Volcano Man, just because that had several weeks of advance play due to being released as a kind of teaser trailer. But judged as an actual song, the big emotive climactic number Husavik surely deserves a shot.

Most Desirable House of the Month
I can see why Jimmie Fails obsesses over restoring, maintaining, and (re)acquiring that house in The Last Black Man in San Francisco — it’s gorgeous. Until it gets that makeover at the end, anyway (um, spoilers? I dunno).

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Maybe it’s because there’s nothing new in cinemas. Maybe it’s because Eurovision remains popular in many places, as does Will Ferrell. Whatever the cause, Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga has generated a lot of chatter since its release last Friday, and so it’s of little surprise that my release-day review has attracted a fair few visitors. It easily tops this month’s chart (both new and all-time posts), and has overtaken another Netflix original, Extraction, to be my most-viewed film review of 2020 so far.



This month, my Rewatchathon movies forward at give-or-take its intended pace — which, after last month’s bumper crop, means I’m still over a month ahead of schedule.

#27 The Scarlet Claw (1944)
#28 Gambit (1966)
#29 The Pearl of Death (1944)
#30 The House of Fear (1945)

Three of those continue my rewatch of the Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. My original reviews are linked above; the following links are to new thoughts on Letterboxd. In summary, I think The Scarlet Claw remains my overall favourite from the series, but I enjoyed both The Pearl of Death and, in particular, The House of Fear a lot more this time — together, the trio are definitely among the series’ best.

As for Gambit, it made my yearly top ten back in 2011, but if anything I enjoyed it even more on this second watch. I’d remembered the famous first-act trick, of course, but forgotten the substance of all the twists at the end, which kept it exciting. It’s so much fun in between too, and moves like a rocket without ever feeling rushed.


Cinemas remain closed, but that hasn’t put a stop to new releases, with the likes of Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York and Simon Bird’s Days of the Bagnold Summer heading direct to rental. Plus, there was an even more high-profile new release in Spike Lee’s acclaimed movie for Netflix, Da 5 Bloods.

Other titles new to the preeminent streamer that caught my eye include action movie VFW; last year’s animated revival of The Addams Family; documentary The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story; and almost a dozen movies directed by Youssef Chahine — I watched the most noteworthy one, Cairo Station, but I’ve seen several others recommended. I also noticed Line of Duty pop up, but only because it was released theatrically here as In the Line of Duty, presumably to avoid conflict with the popular TV series, but Netflix have reverted to its original title. I don’t remember it being well reviewed, so I won’t be rushing to catch up with it.

Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video offered the new Shaun the Sheep movie, Farmageddon, which I’ve been looking forward to getting round to. Also a couple of documentaries, one titled Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show, which kind of sums up its topic, and the other about a pioneering early female filmmaker, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (which still hasn’t been picked up by the site I use to track additions to Amazon, so it may’ve been there a while for all I know). Also standing out from the pack was the brilliantly titled Django and Sartana Are Coming, It’s the End (the titles seem to be the best thing about any of the movies starring Sartana) and a steampunk adaptation of The Secret Garden. Um, what? Colour me curious.

Once again, Sky Movies / Now TV suffered by comparison. Mr. Jones sounds interesting, but has the kind of grim subject matter that’s going to make me keep putting it off; I didn’t mind the first one, which hardly pushes Maleficent: Mistress of Evil to the top of my must-see list (I didn’t even bother to put it on last year’s ’50 unseen’ list); and I’m not sure I’ve seen enough Kevin Smith films to really ‘get’ Jay & Silent Bob Reboot… but, hey, I guess it is a reboot, right?

Oh, and lest you think I’d curbed my spending this month, oh dear me, no. Recent films finally hitting disc here included The Lighthouse and Pixar’s Onward (in 3D, natch), while new releases of catalogue titles included 88 Films’ latest Jackie Chan release, Armour of God II: Operation Condor (hence why I watched the first one this month); Eureka adding film noir Criss Cross to their Masters of Cinema line; and BFI issuing a restored Tokyo Story, a film I’ve been meaning to rewatch for a very long time. And offer pricing was once again the siren to my wallet’s sailor: from the BFI, The Crying Game, doco Mifune: The Last Samurai, and their Early Women Filmmakers box set (with seven features and 15 shorts, including several by the aforementioned Alice Guy-Blaché); from a Masters of Cinema twofer, Faust and Witness for the Prosecution; and from the recent UK Criterion offer, Fail Safe, Holiday, Kiss Me Deadly, and Solaris. I think I would’ve caved to more in the latter, but I’m trying to hold some money back for the Barnes & Noble Criterion offer that should be starting in a couple of weeks. I can never have enough set aside for that…


UK cinemas are set to reopen… but how long will that last? Will anyone go? The major films scheduled for July have already been pushed (again) to August, leaving only re-releases and some small-scale new releases with nothing to lose by testing the waters. Hardly an enticing slate, especially when the safety measures on offer are dubious (personally, I’m almost entirely put off by the lack of reserved seating at Odeon). Some people would like to pretend this is all over, but anything could still change any day…

Well, at least we’ll definitely have Hamilton on Disney+.

Holy Monthly Review of May 2020, Batman!

Altogether, I watched 39 feature films this month… but that includes my Rewatchathon tally, so it’s no record breaker. Further down you can find out how that total divides up between new viewing and rewatches, but it’s pertinent here because four of those films were Batman-related. That might not sound like many, but it’s 10.3% of my viewing this month. Couple it with some unwatched Bat-purchases (see the “failures” section), and recent headlines about Justice League (the Snyder cut) and Batwoman (resigning), and it feels like the Caped Crusader has been around a lot of late — hence the post title. Makes a change from something coronavirus related, eh?


#96a DC Showcase: Jonah Hex (2010)
#97 Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
#98 Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
#99 August 32nd on Earth (1998), aka Un 32 août sur terre
#100 Joker (2019)
#101 The Head Hunter (2018)
#102 Black Angel (1946)
#103 Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
#104 Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)
#105 Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
#106 Top Secret! (1984)
#107 American Animals (2018)
#108 Belladonna of Sadness (1973), aka Kanashimi no Belladonna
#109 Zero Charisma (2013)
#110 Marriage Story (2019)
#111 Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
#112 Stuber (2019)
#113 Misbehaviour (2020)
#114 Phase IV (1974)
#115 A Bug’s Life (1998)
#116 127 Hours (2010)
#117 Hotel Artemis (2018)
#118 The Goonies (1985)
#119 Maelström (2000)
#120 Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
#121 The Sky’s the Limit (1943)
#122 Philomena (2013)
#123 Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)
#124 Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017)
#125 My Favourite Wife (1940)
#126 The Looking Glass War (1970)
#127 Fisherman’s Friends (2019)
Joker

Marriage Story

Philomena

The Looking Glass War

.


  • I watched 31 new feature films in May.
  • That makes it just my fifth ever month with over 30 films. It ties with October 2015 as my fourth highest month.
  • It flies past the May average (previously 14.8, now 16.1) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 14.75, now 15.3), as well as the average for 2020 to date (previously 24.0, now 25.4).
  • This month’s other milestones include passing my eponymous goal of 100 films, which feels less of an achievement since the last time I failed it was eight years ago. However, it’s the earliest I’ve ever achieved it: I got there on 5th May, beating 2018’s 10th May.
  • I also passed my updated goal of 120 new films. Again, that’s the earliest I’ve got so far: I was there on 22nd May, beating 2018’s 29th May.
  • So it should come as no surprise that #127 is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of May. Next closest is, again, 2018, when I’d got to #124.
  • One thing I failed to do this month was watch a new film on the 23rd, one of the three remaining dates on which I’ve never watched a film in this blog’s lifetime (a thing I’ve been specifically working to iron out since July 2017). The other two are 5th January and 22nd December, which makes this May date feel like a real oddity. I mean, in early January I’m often so caught up in my review-of-the-year posts that I don’t watch many films; and December 22nd is a date I’m often doing Christmas stuff (family get-togethers, etc). 13 years is a long time for them both to go empty, considering 99.2% of the rest of the year has filled up over that time, but at least there are clear reasons that reoccur every year. Why May 23rd, though… I’ve not got the foggiest.
  • Attentive readers may’ve spotted two early Denis Villeneuve films amongst this month’s viewing. I’ve had copies of all of his early (i.e. pre-Prisoners) work for a number of years now, and I thought I’d finally get round to them in the run-up to Dune. Expect some more next month.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Kenji Mizoguchi’s acclaimed fantasy drama Ugetsu Monogatari.
  • In a total about-turn from my last record-setting “failures” tally, I watched none of the ones I listed last month.



The 60th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
The more films you watch, the higher the chance more of them will be great, and so I have a few strong contenders to choose from this month. On balance, I give the gong to Belladonna of Sadness for being quite unlike anything else I can remember seeing. But any of the films whose poster I’ve pictured above (except Joker, which I have mixed feelings about) were in the running and are certainly on the long-list to make my year-end top ten.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
My most disappointing viewing experience this month was definitely My Favourite Wife, a screwball comedy starring Cary Grant that has its moments but overall made me appreciate how much skill was involved in the truly great screwball comedies — it has none of their pace or spark.

Best Joker of the Month
Look, I know Joaquin Phoenix won the Oscar ‘n’ all, but rewatching Batman ’89 reminded me just how good Jack Nicholson was in the role. I’m not saying he’s the greatest Joker ever (there’s strong competition), but I think people forget that he gave as effective and iconic an interpretation of the part as anyone else has.

Best Double-Bill of the Month
I realise this is kinda just praising my own film-choosing skills, but c’mon, Phase IV and A Bug’s Life is an amusing “talking ants” double-bill by anyone’s standards (right?)

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For the second month in a row, and the third time this year, a film review has topped the table of new posts (that might sound like a silly observation on a film blog, but my TV columns usually do very well for hits. Indeed, taking all posts into account, 19 of May’s top 20 most-viewed posts were TV ones). The victor this month was, somewhat surprisingly, The Head Hunter — hardly a major film, nor a new release (though it was fairly new to the UK, so maybe that’s what helped). Meanwhile, the headline of this month’s TV column was Quiz, which only began airing in the US last night, so maybe that will make like Bodyguard and be a big draw next month.



It’s been about a year, so today I’ve given the directors page header image its annual(ish) update. For those who don’t know, it displays the 20 directors with the most number of films I’ve reviewed. For the past few years there’s been a tie for the last few spots, but this year it happened to work out to exactly 20, thanks in part to this month’s viewing. (Honestly, that’s a coincidence — I didn’t choose the films I watched to break the tie.)

So, what changes? Well, Stanley Kubrick, Richard Linklater, and M. Night Shyamalan all exit. David Lynch secured a place thanks to Dune (which I (re)watched last month) and the short film What Did Jack Do? (which I watched in January), while Danny Boyle did so via 127 Hours and Frankenstein (I reviewed the latter as TV rather than a film, but I’ve put it under his name on the directors page nonetheless, as I have done with some miniseries by other directors). Finally, nudging his way into the 20th spot via Intolerable Cruelty is Joel Coen, representing the Coen Brothers just as he did in credit form before they were allowed to both be named.


My Rewatchathon goal is 50 films a year, which averages out at just over four films a month — so this month I watched a double quotient’s worth, in the process passing the halfway mark a month early.

#19 The Green Hornet 3D (2011)
#20 Flash Gordon (1980)
#21 Mission: Impossible (1996)
#22 Batman (1989)
#23 Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)
#24 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
#25 The Saint (1997)
#26 The Spider Woman (1944)

As usual, the above links are to my original review (where available). Rewatch thoughts follow…

I happened to see an interview with the creative team behind a new Green Hornet comic book, and that was enough to make me decide to rewatch the film that evening. What can I say, I’m fickle and easily swayed sometimes — though, in fairness to myself, I bought it in 3D a little while back, so a rewatch has been on my mind. It looked pretty good. More thoughts on Letterboxd.

Flash Gordon was similarly provoked: I was so excited for that gorgeous 4K box set StudioCanal announced, I had to watch my current copy. It’s such deliciously campy, gaudy fun — I love it.

I last rewatched all the Mission: Impossible films in the first half of 2018, in the run up to the theatrical release of Fallout. That’s two years ago — a long time for some people, but by my timescales it feels like I’ve just watched them. But they’re fab films, and I’ve had the 4K box set waiting for a little while now (which features massive improvements to the PQ of the first two films), so… and, indeed, this one looks fantastic in 4K. The stuff in Prague, in particular, is gorgeously shot. And so many split diopter shots, some for absolutely no good reason! De Palma and/or DP Stephen H. Burum were just having fun here.

I posted a long-ish comment about Batman on Letterboxd, but I’m also intending to give it the ‘Guide To’ treatment, so more then.

I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes Faces Death slightly less than I remembered. I think that’s because, on a first viewing, it’s easily one of the series’ best to that point, whereas with hindsight there are better to come. Still, I don’t wish to damn it with faint criticism: if it’s not among the series’ very finest, it’s still a solid Holmes adventure. More on Letterboxd. And speaking of the series’ very finest, a contender for that crown is The Spider Woman. Again, more new thoughts on Letterboxd.

As for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I still think the miniseries has the edge, but the film is a really fantastic adaptation too. Shame we never got the mooted sequels. (Incidentally, the new adaptation of Rebecca I mentioned in the intro to my original review is finally due out this year, just seven years later.)

Finally, the Val Kilmer-starring reboot of The Saint. I watched this Back In The Day and remember more or less enjoying it, but I also couldn’t recall anything specific about it. That’s probably because it’s actually rubbish. It clearly wants to be GoldenEye or Mission: Impossible, but doesn’t have the skills or ingenuity to get there. It has a kind of charm if you’re nostalgic for ’90s post-Cold War action-thrillers, but that’s all. When your cool leader character’s car is provided by Volvo, you know you’re onto a loser.


For the second month in a row, cinemas remain completely closed. Perhaps the most-discussed “home premiere” title was Scoob!… but that didn’t get a UK release, so I definitely didn’t see it. In fact, I can’t think of a single other home premiere title this month — either they’ve dried up already, or what came out wasn’t significant enough to catch my attention. I did plump for a few discount rentals thanks to Amazon Prime, though, including The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Peanut Butter Falcon, and The Rhythm Section. They should all pop up in next month’s viewing.

My disc purchasing continues unabated, of course. As mentioned in the intro, I picked up a couple of Batman titles on offer: last year’s animations Hush and Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the set of Burton/Schumacher movies in 4K — I already rewatched Batman, and have Returns, Forever, and & Robin to come in the near future. Other sale pickups included more films to rewatch in 4K: A Few Good Men, Gladiator, Hellboy, and It’s a Wonderful Life; plus one I’ve never seen, American Gangster; and a couple in good ol’ 1080p, Fritz Lang’s Man Hunt, and The Seven-Ups, which was recommended to me a good while ago.

But most of this month’s buying was new releases, albeit many of them catalogue titles: Second Sight’s limited editions of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and Revenge; 101 Films’ Black Label edition of Screamers; Masters of Cinema’s release of Johnnie To’s Throw Down; Arrow’s new Krzysztof Kieślowski box set, Cinema of Conflict; and 88 Films’ new edition of Mystery Men, one of my favourite films. In terms of new-new titles, there was Mark Cousins’ new 14-hour documentary, Women Make Film, and 1917 in 4K.

The streamers were as busy with new additions as ever in May. Among Netflix’s was The Soloist, which I guess wouldn’t attract too many people’s attention, but it grabs mine because it’s on one of my ‘50 Unseen’ lists but has never seemed to be available anywhere. I’ll have to make an effort to see it before it disappears again. Also of particular note was Monos, which I remember attracting a lot of attention on Letterboxd at one point; original movie The Lovebirds, which sounds like it might make for a diverting-enough 90 minutes; and The First Purge, primarily because it means Netflix now have all The Purge movies except for the one I need to see next, The Purge: Election Year. Grr. They also gained a few titles that I’ve owned on Blu-ray for years without getting round to rewatching, like Miami Vice, Vertigo, and Waterworld, for shame.

Over on Amazon, their most recent original is The Vast of Night, which I feel like I would’ve skimmed past if I hadn’t happened to see the review on Vodzilla that piqued my interest by describing it as an “affectionate and mischievous homage to 1950s sci-fi” and “Twilight Zone-esque”. (That said, in the past couple of days it’s also popped up repeatedly on Letterboxd and other blogs, so I guess I would’ve spotted it one way or another.) In the UK we also got My Spy — I believe Amazon have the worldwide rights, but here it snuck into cinemas before lockdown so they’ve already put it up to stream, whereas I don’t think it’s been released everywhere else yet (not in the US, at least).

Catalogue additions included In the Name of the Father, which I don’t recall seeing available to stream before, but it’s on the IMDb Top 250 (at time of writing it’s 188th) so I should make the effort while I can; and even more things I own on DVD or Blu-ray but have never got round to watching, including 30 Days of Night, Cloud Atlas, Green Zone, Midnight in Paris, Monster’s Ball, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. Also The Limey, which finally got a Blu-ray release recently but, sadly, Lionsgate fudged it up by not including the DVD’s special features (the commentary is legendarily great). It’s available in 4K, but sadly not on Prime (which is 1080p only) or disc. Regular readers may recall I ranked it in my top ten in 2016, so I’m miffed about all this mishandling. Similarly, they added The Hateful Eight this month, which is presumably why we’ve never received Netflix’s extended miniseries cut here in the UK — they just don’t have the rights. Frustrating.

Netflix and Amazon may spoil us for choice (the ones I’ve listed are only a small selection of things I noted throughout the month), but it’s a different picture at Sky Cinema / Now TV. They may add at least one premiere every day, but few of their offerings caught my eye this month — just French submarine thriller The Wolf’s Call; ‘gator horror Crawl, which I’ve heard good things about; and Dora and the Lost City of Gold, which someone said is surprisingly good. I still doubt I’ll make time for it next month, but you never know.


Parasite finally makes it to UK disc today — I saw it back in February while it was still in cinemas (remember those?), so maybe I’ll finally review it soon.

As for likely new viewing… oh, who knows? It might be another record-challenging month, or it might not, or maybe we’ll all die because they lifted lockdown too early. Onward’s out on Monday, and The Lighthouse the week after (more belated UK disc releases), so hopefully I’ll at least get to watch those first.

Oh, and there’s the small matter of 100 Films #2000…

The Locked Down Monthly Review of April 2020

In 2002, Blue got the city on lockdown.
In 2020, Boris Johnson got the country on lockdown.
Your move, noughties boy bands.

One thing this stressful time has been good for is my film viewing. After a 2019 that saw some of my lowest months in years — indeed, ever — I’m pleased to say that April 2020 is a record breaker:

100 Films has a new Best. Month. Ever!


#59 Rang De Basanti (2006)
#60 The Kid (1921/1971)
#61 The Three Caballeros (1944)
#62 Stop Making Sense (1984)
#63 Burning (2018), aka Beoning
#64 The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
#65 Aniara (2018)
#66 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
#67 The Diamond Arm (1969), aka Brilliantovaya ruka
#68 I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
#68a The Devil’s Harmony (2019)
#69 The Next Karate Kid (1994)
#70 Never Too Young to Die (1986)
#71 It Chapter Two (2019)
#72 Andrei Rublev (1966)
#73 Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux (1984/2012)
#74 Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
#75 K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
#76 Near Dark (1987)
#77 The Thin Red Line (1998)
#78 Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
#79 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
#80 6 Underground (2019)
#81 The Secret Life of Pets 2 3D (2019)
#82 Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (2006)
#83 Long Day’s Journey into Night 3D (2018), aka Di Qiu Zui Hou De Ye Wan
#84 End of the Century (2019), aka Fin de siglo
#85 Men in Black: International (2019)
#86 The Sheik (1921)
#87 The Son of the Sheik (1926)
#88 Extraction (2020)
#89 The Wedding Guest (2018)
#89a The Escape (2016)
#90 Ready or Not (2019)
#91 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
#92 The Two Popes (2019)
#93 Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D (2012)
#94 The Lunchbox (2013)
#95 Zatoichi in Desperation (1972), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Oreta tsue
#96 Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Aniara

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux

Jumanji: The Next Level

Ready or Not

The Lunchbox

.


  • I watched 38 new feature films in April.
  • As I said at the start, that’s my most ever in a single month, beating the previous record holder (May 2018) by four films. That’s noteworthy because May 2018 is only one film ahead of the month that’s now in 3rd, which is only two films ahead of the month now in 4th, which is only three films ahead of the months now in =5th. So, four is a pretty healthy margin.
  • Obviously, as my best month ever, April is going to smash any comparisons I care to make. So let’s start with the only thing it wasn’t guaranteed to do, but it has done nonetheless: #96 is the furthest I’ve reached by the end of April (next best is #90 in 2018).
  • Averages: it increases April’s average by two whole films, from 12.8 to 14.8; increases the rolling average of the last 12 months from 13.3 to 14.8; and increases the average for 2020 to date from 19.3 to 24.0. If I maintained that average until December, 2020 would become my biggest year ever (but things never work out like that).
  • It’s my 21st month with 20+ films, and my 4th month with 30+ films.

Alright, now some notes on the films within those 38…

  • Back in February, I noted that I’d somehow never seen a film from 1932. That’s now changed, thanks to I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. Now, since the year of the first feature films being produced in the UK and USA (1912), there are only four years from which I’ve not seen at least one feature-length film: 1912, 1914, 1915, and 1923. I have at least one title picked out from each of those years that I could use to settle this matter, so I ought to get on with them…
  • I’ve seen David Lynch’s Dune before, but it was over 20 years ago and it was the theatrical cut. The fan edit I watched adds material from a longer TV cut and deleted scenes, plus generally rearranges and rejigs stuff, so I figure it must be substantially different enough to count as new.
  • Having watched 92% of the alphabet in January, February, and March, only X and Z remained — with the latter now claimed by Zatoichi in Desperation. X will go whenever I get round to watching Dark Phoenix — I think that’s literally the only X film I have in my collection or on Netflix/Amazon/etc.
  • This month’s Blindspot films: Andrei Tarkovsky’s biopic of 15th century religious icon painter Andrei Rublev. I found it as dry as that sounds. Also, from my ‘overflow’ list, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, which I was also underwhelmed by. I knew it would be more Malickian than your typical war movie, but still, something about it didn’t connect with me.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Aniara, End of the Century, It Chapter Two, Rambo: Last Blood, Ready or Not, and The Secret Life of Pets 2, plus The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (see Rewatchathon). That’s a record haul, besting the five failures I watched last April. It was driven by most of those being time-limited Amazon rentals.



The 59th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
How to define “favourite”? On the one hand you’ve got something like I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, which is a weighty and still-pertinent condemnation of the American justice system. On the other, something such as Jumanji: The Next Level, which is just a whole lot of fun. More tickling my fancy in the former camp is Aniara, about the psychological strain of being stranded in space with little hope of ever returning home, some of which feels very pertinent to our current world situation (I know we’re all at home rather than far from it, but the cooped up with no hope of escape… yeah). And in the latter camp, Ready or Not is a deliciously gonzo horror-comedy, which didn’t quite push as many buttons as I’d hoped but is still massively entertaining. On balance, bearing in mind its unexpected timeliness, Aniara takes it.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is a more straightforward category… although, personally, I included Andrei Rublev on my shortlist, which is a Highly Acclaimed Movie (just check out how many Greatest Ever lists it’s on), but it bored me senseless. Still, it did have some parts I admired — I’m not sure I can say the same about Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Actually, that’s not strictly true: Christopher Reeve was always perfect as Superman; but the film definitely lets him down.

Best Musical Discovery of the Month
I’d never consciously listened to Talking Heads before I watched Stop Making Sense. I recognised exactly two of the songs during that concert movie, and one of those I know best from a cover version. While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a convert to their music, I liked most of it well enough, with opening number Psycho Killer my favourite. In fact, I preferred the live version in the film to the original recording. Maybe it’s just because I heard that take first, I dunno.

Best Audition to Be James Bond of the Month
It never even crossed my mind that the skinny kid from Slumdog Millionaire could ever be considered for Bond, and I bet it didn’t yours either. It was David Ehrlich’s Letterboxd review of The Wedding Guest that first flagged up the idea for me, and, having seen the film, I can see what he means. Dev Patel as James Bond… it’d certainly be different.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
The second half of last month’s TV review sat pretty atop the chart for most of the month (the Doctor Who half, meanwhile, wasn’t even close), but then Extraction came barrelling through my stats like Tyler Rake through an overcrowded Indian apartment block. Five older TV posts topped it overall, but it was by far my most-viewed new post.



The name’s Connery, Sean Connery.

Yes, there’s a distinct theme to this month’s rewatches. It wasn’t deliberate… well, not at first. Once I noticed it, obviously I had to maintain it.

#15 Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
#16 The Avengers (1998)
#17 The Rock (1996)
#18 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

…and, if you want to take it further, you could argue they’re all movies where Connery returned to the role of James Bond. Sure, Diamonds Are Forever is the only one where that’s literally true, but there’s long been a fan theory that Connery’s character in The Rock is Bond under a pseudonym, and in The Avengers he plays an innuendo-spewing former British secret agent turned villain. As for LXG… yeah, okay, the idea runs out there.

When I included The Rock in my 100 Favourites, I only rated it 4 stars. Now I feel like a fool — it’s easily a 5. Some thoughts as to why on Letterboxd. Mind you, that kind of thing cuts both ways: when I finally got round to rewatching Face/Off 18 months ago, I discovered I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to, and if I’d done that before publishing 100 Favourites then I might’ve dropped it from the list entirely. I intend to update my favourites list someday, but I think I need to do a good deal more rewatching before then.

My rewatch of LXG was prompted by this defence of the film. While I wouldn’t call the movie a masterpiece, I do generally agree with that article — the film has its moments (many of them thanks to Dorian Gray), and it’s certainly no worse than many other ’90s/’00s Hollywood blockbusters. Quite why it provokes such vitriol from anyone but fans of the book is beyond me. (Book fans have every right to be disappointed, because the film sanitises and Hollywoodises the concept. That said, as a fan of the books myself, I’m happy to take both forms as differing executions of the same idea.)


This may be the biggest month in 100 Films history, but there was still plenty of stuff I failed to watch. Nothing in cinemas, obviously (though Trolls World Tour did get released direct to premium streaming, and consequently looks like it might change the world), but the other avenues for film viewing offered more than enough alternatives.

For starters, Netflix completed their Studio Ghibli lineup with Howl’s Moving Castle (the only one I’d seen), From Up on Poppy Hill (which I own on Blu-ray), Ponyo (also on Blu-ray), When Marnie Was There (also on Blu-ray, jeez!), Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, and The Wind Rises. On the new films front there was CG animation The Willoughbys, which looks vaguely interesting, and for (relatively) recent releases they mustered the remake of Child’s Play. They also added the second Maze Runner film, The Scorch Trials. One day the whole trilogy will be available somewhere and I’ll give them a shot.

Amazon actually had more to offer in terms of recent acquisitions, though the quality level is dubious — I’m talking of films like Angel Has Fallen (the second sequel to the less-good “Die Hard in the White House” movie), Playmobil: The Movie (a rip-off of The LEGO Movie that wasn’t as well received), 21 Bridges (which received middling notices), and The Current War (presumably in its director’s cut form, for which the most positive comment Rotten Tomatoes can muster is “a significant improvement over previous versions”). Additions from the archive include a handful of Hong Kong actioners, led by the appropriately-titled Police Story: Lockdown (the sixth film, and second reboot, in the Jackie Chan action franchise), plus unofficial prequel The Legend is Born: Ip Man (I believe Ip Man 4 is also now available to rent over here), and Donnie Yen in Legend of the Fist (a version of the story from Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury and Jet Li’s Fist of Legend).

Also new to Amazon was medical disaster movie Outbreak, which was already on Netflix; and they both added Contagion, after everyone was talking about it last month. I noticed it still made it into Netflix’s UK top ten, though.

Over on Now TV, sequel-cum-reimagining Four Kids and It caught my eye because I remember enjoying the BBC’s 1991 adaptation of the original book when I was a kid, but this new one didn’t seem to go down terribly well (though the British critics collated by Rotten Tomatoes have got it to 61%, which counts as ‘fresh’). Other recent films now on Sky include Ma and Tolkien.

Finally, I went a bit potty in Blu-ray sales again, this time mostly at Arrow, picking up a couple of Vincent Price horrors, Tales of Terror and Tower of London; a couple of artier titles from Second Run, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and Ikarie XB 1; Third Window’s double-bill of The Whispering Star and The Sion Sono; and some Westerns and noirs and noir-Westerns that include The Ox-Bow Incident, My Name is Julia Ross, and Terror in a Texas Town. The latter pair were directed by Joseph H. Lewis, whose So Dark the Night I enjoyed last month, so I also bought his Gun Crazy in its HMV-exclusive edition, paired with their edition of Out of the Past in their 2-for-£25 offer. Meanwhile, Eureka tempted me with new releases, namely Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain and Masters of Cinema titles Rio Grande, Kwaidan, and their second box set of Buster Keaton features, which includes The Navigator, Seven Chances, and Battling Butler. International travel may be closed to humans, but it isn’t to Blu-rays, as evidenced by my imports of 3-D Rarities Volume II (which includes Mexico’s only 3D film, swashbuckler El Corazón y la Espada) and A Boy and His Dog (which I look forward to rewatching in good quality, unlike the print I saw on Prime Video a few years ago). I tried to resist the UHD upgrade of The Elephant Man, but then I saw the PQ comparisons and the limited-edition pop-up packaging (damn my love of a cardboard gimmick!) and caved.

And, inevitably, I did purchase The Rise of Skywalker, in 3D. You know, I’ve never got round to rewatching The Last Jedi. The idea of pairing them up as a double bill should be the most natural thing in the world, but instead it feels like a bold experiment in combining chalk and cheese. Still, I might try it sometime.


Barring any unforeseen circumstances (though, at the minute, who can accurately foresee anything?), I should definitely pass #100 early next month. As for my new-goal-I-keep-half-forgetting of #120, well, that’s within reach too. And then…

In my final monthly review of 2019, I mentioned that “it’s entirely possible [2020 will] be the year I reach #2000”. Now, it’s all but certain that it will (unforeseen circumstances, remember). If May gets to 35 films (which, before this month, would’ve been a record for biggest month ever), that’ll be 100 Films’ #2000! Is it likely I’ll achieve two such huge months in a row? Funnily enough, the last couple of times I’ve set a new “best month ever” it’s been immediately beaten by the very next month: September then October in 2015; April then May in 2018.

No pressure, May 2020…

The Self-Isolated Monthly Review of March 2020

I hope you’ve got time for a long read (I know you do — you’re stuck at home too, right?) because there’s a tonne of stuff to witter about in this month’s update.

So, settle down with some of the stuff you’ve stockpiled (well, okay, you shouldn’t really need pasta or loo roll to get through this post… I hope…) and while away your isolation with my self-centred lists and stats.


#31 The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
#32 Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
#33 The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part 3D (2019)
#34 Harakiri (1962), aka Seppuku
#35 Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner (2019)
#36 Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
#37 The Invisible Guest (2016), aka Contratiempo
#38 Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3D (2019)
#39 Hustlers (2019)
#40 Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
#41 Last Chance Harvey (2008)
#42 Red Joan (2018)
#43 Late Night (2019)
#44 Quartet (2012)
#45 The Lady Vanishes (1938)
#46 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D (2009)
#47 The Platform (2019), aka El hoyo
#48 The Battle of Algiers (1966), aka La battaglia di Algeri
#49 Spider-Man: Far from Home 3D (2019)
#49a Peter’s To-Do List (2019)
#50 The Mad Magician 3D (1954)
#50a Spooks! 3D (1953)
#50b Pardon My Backfire 3D (1953)
#51 A Man for All Seasons (1966)
#52 The Viking Queen (1967)
#53 Aladdin 3D (2019)
#54 One Cut of the Dead, aka Kamera wo tomeruna! (2017)
#55 Knives Out (2019)
#56 The Breakfast Club (1985)
#57 So Dark the Night (1946)
#58 Missing Link (2019)
Harakiri

The Invisible Guest

The Lady Vanishes

Knives Out

.


  • I watched 28 new feature films in March. Boy, does that give me a lot to talk about…

So, let’s break it up a bit. First, some stats…

  • That’s my biggest month since July 2018, which also had 28 films. They’re now tied as my 4th best months ever.
  • Talking of all-time numbers, it’s my best March ever, with a total that’s double the month’s previous average of 14.4. In fact, it single-handedly pulls that average up by over one whole film, to 15.5.
  • Talking of averages, it also surpasses and increases both my rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 12.75, now 13.3) and my average for 2020 to date (previously 15.0, now 19.3).
  • Talking of numbers that are almost 20, it’s my 20th month ever to have 20+ films, and my first 20+ month since last May.
  • Talking of months with 20+ films, March is the month where I have the greatest consistency at reaching a total of 20+. I’ve done it every year since 2016 — that’s five years in a row now. It means March makes up fully 25% of all months with 20+ films. For comparison, there’s no other month where I’ve done it for more than two years in a row.
  • Another milestone: I reached (and passed) #50, i.e. halfway. Except I’m aiming for at least 120 nowadays, so halfway is another couple of films away yet.
  • Nonetheless, this is the second-furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of March, just ahead of #57 in 2018, but reasonably far behind 2016’s #67. What does this tell us about how the rest of the year might pan out? Bugger all. In 2018 I ended up reaching #261, whereas in 2016 I ‘only’ got to #195. And for another point of reference, March 2015 ended at #44, over 20 behind 2016, but ended the year five ahead, at #200. So, y’know, it’s all meaningless.
  • I also had a really good month for my Rewatchathon (see further down this post for more about that). I really should go back and produce a full set of numbers for every month so I can include that in comparisons too…

Talking of my Rewatchathon, what of my other viewing challenges…

  • This month’s Blindspot films: influential guerrilla war movie The Battle of Algiers; plus, I watched the first of what I’m calling my ‘overflow’ films (unseen leftovers from previous Blindspot challenges), seminal ’80s teen comedy The Breakfast Club. Also Harakiri, which merited a mention in my Blindspot post this year about why it wasn’t included (I’d forgotten about that when I randomly chose to watch it anyway!)
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, Hustlers, The Karate Kid Part II, and Late Night.

Finally, some observations about the other films…

  • It’s fundamentally meaningless, but this month I watched my first feature films of the years whose titles begin with nine letters of the alphabet: F, G, H, I, K, O, Q, V, and W. That’s 35% of the alphabet covered in one month — only slightly more than the seven / 27% in January and eight / 31% in February, but then this task gets harder as the year goes on (January has a massive advantage, for hopefully-obvious reasons, whereas the most any of the remaining nine months would now be able to manage is two / 8%).
  • Another first: The Viking Queen was the first film I’ve watched on DVD this year.
  • Talking of DVDs, I watched Judgment at Nuremberg on the BFI’s recent Blu-ray release, which I bought even though I’d only bought the DVD a little while ago. Well, when I fished out that DVD to put on my “to sell” pile, I found it still had the dispatch receipt inside, which showed I bought it in… 2010. A whole decade ago! Sometimes I worry about my sense of the passage of time…
  • As you can tell (as if you didn’t already know), picture quality is important to me. So I could probably write an entire post about the weirdness I’ve been experiencing with Netflix’s PQ of late. I started streaming The Platform, but after it maintained a speed of just 0.57 Mbps — and looked terrible because of it — I gave up and, er, sourced it elsewhere. I’ve tried it again several times since, at different times of the day and night, and it’s always 0.57 Mbps. The same thing happened with Missing Link, although that was 1.21 Mbps so was somewhat more watchable (I still went and got a better copy from somewhere else, though). That led me to try about a dozen more titles, all of which came through at completely different rates, some reasonable, some not. It doesn’t seem to be connected to them needing different amounts of data or needing some time to get up to speed, either — it appears to be totally random. And it doesn’t seem to waver. I had decided to just cancel my Netflix subscription until all this is over (because I presume it’s connected to the speed-limiting they’re reported to be doing in Europe) — after all, it’s not as if I don’t have enough else to watch… but there’s loads of stuff I really do want to see on Netflix, and some of it is still streaming at a reasonable quality. So, I’m undecided.
  • As you can tell from the lack of blue text in the listing above, I haven’t reviewed a single film from this month’s viewing. I thought this might be the first time that’s happened, so I trawled back through all 118 monthly updates to check, and I can confirm… it’s not. In fact, it last happened less than a year ago, in July 2019. You have to go back over five more years, to May 2014, to find the time it happened previous to that; but it happened once in 2013 and three times in 2012, too. So, yeah, not really news.
  • I feel like the only person in the world who hasn’t (re)watched Contagion this month. If you’re interested, my quickie review from when I did watch it is here.



The 58th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I saw quite a few great films this month, and usually that would make this choice very hard, but I fell head over heels for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. I don’t think it comes up too often as one of his very best, but it’s definitely one of my favourites from his whole filmography.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I know it’s an acclaimed classic, but the film I least enjoyed actually watching this month was The Battle of Algiers.

Best 3D of the Month
I watched six new feature films and two shorts in 3D this month (plus four more features in the Rewatchathon), which I expect is a personal best. Setting aside the quality of the film itself, the one with the very best 3D was The Mad Magician. It’s in black & white, which was a bit weird at first (not sure I’ve ever seen a black & white film in 3D before), but because it’s from the ’50s it was actually shot in 3D, not post-converted, and while post-conversions are often very good nowadays, there’s so much extra subtle detail you get when something’s been shot in stereo for real.

Best Twist of the Month
Who doesn’t enjoy a twist? Filmmakers certainly do, and so they abound this month — even The LEGO Movie 2 has one (kinda). Prime examples include Harakiri (which keeps you on your toes with constantly shifting information), Knives Out (which has more up its sleeve than simply whodunnit), and So Dark the Night (that is a whodunnit, but if you watch it, try to read as little as possible first). But the winner this month is The Invisible Guest, because it managed to get almost as far as the reveal before I guessed what was really going on, in part by peppering plenty of about-turns along the way. Nicely done.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It’s a long-standing observations that TV-related posts do well in this category, especially when they’re given plenty of time to amass hits. So, as I posted my 56th TV column way back on the 8th, it’s no surprise to see it win out easily. (The highest film post was The Lion King.)



As I mentioned in this month’s viewing notes, I didn’t rewatch Contagion; but that aside, my Rewatchathon is going rather well this year, racing ahead of target. Mainly, I’ve been revisiting in 3D films I’d previously only seen in 2D.

#9 The LEGO Movie 3D (2014)
#10 The Lion King 3D (2019)
#11 Godzilla 3D (2014)
#12 Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)
#13 Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)
#14 Mission: Impossible – Fallout 3D (2018)

Starting with the 3D, then, that Fallout link takes you to my full review of it in 3D, so no need to repeat myself. My Lion King review isn’t expressly about the 3D, but, as I do discuss in the review, I was impressed by it, and it led me to even enjoy the film a little more. As with most computer animated films, The LEGO Movie looks awesome in 3D. Indeed, the skilful way the filmmakers emulated the scale of LEGO is only emphasised by the use of depth here. Despite the fact I already owned the (2D-only) Special Special Edition, I bought another copy in 3D on the strength of the 3D presentations of the LEGO Batman and Ninjago movies, and I wasn’t disappointed. (Now I just ought to watch some of the SSE-exclusive bonus features to justify that purchase…)

Godzilla‘s 3D didn’t generate much comment from me, which is a shame because you’d think the scale would lend itself. It’s not bad, just not special. The film itself is not perfect either, but it’s a darn sight better than most people give it credit for. One thing that’s often criticised is how sparingly Godzilla is actually in it, but I think writer-director Gareth Edwards paced it just right — when the big guy finally turns up, it’s an electric moment.

I totally forgot that I’d randomly rewatched Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon in December 2017, but colourised. This time was the original black & white version, as part of my rewatch of the whole Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series on Blu-ray. I more or less stand by my original review, which I also stood by in 2017 (though I’m back to being less keen on Lionel Atwill’s Moriarty again), so I guess my opinion on this one is fairly certain. However, I liked Sherlock Holmes in Washington more than I’d remembered; though my original review (linked above, obv) isn’t that damning, so clearly its poorness had self-inflated in my memory. That said, I do still think it’s one of the series’ weakest outings.


I normally begin this section by looking at the stuff I failed to see on the big screen last month, but, well, that’s dried up, hasn’t it? However, though it may feel like Coronavirus has been denying us social experiences for, like, ever, it’s actually only been a couple of weeks — before everything went completely self-isolating-tastic, cinemas were full of Onward, Military Wives, Misbehaviour, Bloodshot, Fantasy Island, and Dark Waters. Even My Spy actually came out over here (in the US it was pushed back into Bond’s vacated release slot. Presumably they’ll be abandoning that now too).

Now, of course, you have these “direct from the cinema” rentals popping up, including Emma (which I’ve seen), The Hunt, and The Invisible Man, plus Bloodshot and Military Wives from the previous list (no Onward this side of the pond). They mostly cost £15.99 for a 48-hour rental (though Bloodshot has gone straight to £13.99 to own, suggesting they don’t expect anyone will want to). At that price, it isn’t worth it to me. For comparison, a ticket at my local cinema is £5.75 — I’m interested in seeing most of those films, but not almost-three-times-what-it-would’ve-cost-me-at-the-cinema interested. I’ll wait ’til they drop to a sensible price and/or hit disc.

Some digital rentals have drawn me in, though — the cut-price ones Amazon offer as a perk of being a Prime member. For either 99p or £1.99 a pop I’ve got Aniara, End of the Century, It: Chapter Two, Rambo: Last Blood, and Ready or Not all ticking down to expiry dates throughout April.

I have less compunction about splurging money on disc purchases. Last month I mentioned that “I got a bit carried away with Blu-ray purchases”, with 16 films on disc among my failures. This month puts that in the shade, with a ridiculous 40 films added to my Blu-ray collection (and I actually watched some new stuff I bought, so the true total acquired this month is even higher). Specific splurges include an Arrow sale (mostly noirs, like The Big Clock, Nightfall, and Phantom Lady, plus the Sister Street Fighter collection); an Indicator sale (their seven-film Samuel Fuller box set, plus A Dandy in Aspic, Footsteps in the Fog, The Legacy, and No Orchids for Miss Blandish — none of which I’d even heard of before Indicator released them, but they do make things sound so good); and a bunch of 3D discs of films I’d already seen and enjoyed to some degree (Bolt, Tangled, Pan, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Noah, which is available from Germany in a well-reviewed 3D conversion). Talking of Germany, I also just discovered they’ve had Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris on Blu-ray for a couple of years, so I imported that too (for a very reasonable price, I must say, from Amazon UK). I also bought Criterion’s release of The Blob at an offer price from them, and Bong Joon Ho’s The Host at an offer price from HMV. While trying to fill out a different multi-buy offer I upgraded my old DVD of the X Files movie to Blu, which I knew would put me on track to upgrade the whole series eventually… and it did, just a week or two later, getting it for a good price secondhand on eBay… and then I upgraded I Want to Believe, just to complete the set. I also upgraded The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — yeah, I know, but I actually quite liked it back in the day, and I saw this article on Twitter that swayed me. And that’s not even everything, but dear God, it’ll do.

Back to streaming, then, and the big names have been trotting out plenty of content this month, only spurred on by everyone being stuck at home right now — and by the launch of a major new competitor in Disney+. I haven’t subscribed, nor taken the free trial (yet), so I don’t really know what’s on there besides what everyone’s been talking about, i.e. a months-late release of Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian (which they’re sticking to releasing weekly, even though it’s all been out in the US — and on piracy sites — for months), and the live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp.

Over at the usual suspects, Netflix had their second back of Studio Ghibli films, which for me means Arrietty (though I own it on Blu-ray), The Cat Returns, and My Neighbours the Yamadas. I also want to rewatch Spirited Away, and as I only own it on DVD, HD on Netflix is tempting. Most of their original additions this month seemed to be TV series, although there was Mark Wahlberg in Spenser Confidential, but it was so poorly reviewed that I don’t intend to bother. From the back catalogue, they just recently added The Death of Mr Lazarescu. I remember that getting recommended a lot back when it came out. I never really knew what it was about, but the Netflix blurb begins: “Amid a pandemic”, so I can see why they’ve acquired it now.

As for Amazon, they could offer up recent stuff like The Aeronauts (one of their own, so I think it even bypassed disc), Blinded by the Light, and Midsommar. Other additions catching my eye included sci-fi drama Marjorie Prime (I heard about this somewhere only recently, but I forget the context other than it was a recommendation); The Immigrant (Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner in a film from the director of Ad Astra); Antiviral (a sci-fi-horror-thriller written & directed by Brandon “son of David” Cronenberg); and Intacto (a film I’d completely forgotten all about, but the poster image struck a deep memory of something that had once been highly recommended and I really wanted to see, probably right back when it first came out, 18 years ago(!) Well, now it’s on my watchlist again).

Both of those added a lot more than I’m bothering to list here, so if you’re a subscriber to either, do be sure to keep an eye on sites like New on Netflix UK or this Amazon equivalent.

Finally, I went to cancel my Now TV Sky Cinema subscription at the start of the month, but they offered me a great deal: three monthscompletely free. You can’t turn that down, can you? Even if I only watched one film on there during those three months, the cost-benefit ratio would be fine. They add a new premiere every day, plus a handful of other titles now and then, but, despite that, only a couple of newcomers were worthy of note to me: The Goonies (yep, never seen that), Her Smell (people seem to keep recommending it), Robert the Bruce (the unofficial sort-of-sequel to Braveheart), and The Secret Life of Pets 2 (the first one was alright, so why not?)

(Whew, this section is getting damn long nowadays — and that’s without the further 50 films I had on my long-list but decided not to mention. Maybe I should start doing it as a standalone post — this month it’s over 1,000 words, which is about the same length as one of my longer film reviews!)


Right now who knows what next week will bring, never mind next month? Though if things carry on as they are (and it looks like the will for a good while yet), perhaps it’ll be a record-breaking month. Or perhaps not. Who knows!

The So Metaphorical Monthly Review of February 2020

A busy weekend means this post is later than normal. As for the title, yeah, I saw Parasite. (I highlight that just so you don’t go expecting any actual metaphors later in this post.)

Also, as I write this I’ve realised Parasite is the first Best Picture winner I’ve actually seen at the cinema since, of all things, Crash. And the only other one is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. What an elite club to be a member of…


#13 Booksmart (2019)
#14 The Nightingale (2018)
#15 Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
#16 Tag (2018)
#17 Shoplifters (2018), aka Manbiki kazoku
#18 A Star Is Born (2018)
#19 Blockers (2018)
#20 Emma. (2020)
#21 Yesterday (2019)
#21a The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983)
#22 Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
#23 Us (2019)
#24 Escape Room (2019)
#25 The Equalizer 2 (2018)
#26 All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
#27 Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
#28 Parasite (2019), aka Gisaengchung
#29 Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
#30 Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

All Quiet on the Western Front

Parasite

.


  • So, I watched 18 new feature films in February.
  • That makes it the best month of 2020 so far. Okay, it only had one to beat, so, looking further afield, it’s the best month since last August.
  • It also surpasses February’s average (previously 12.83, now 13.2) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 12.75, now… 12.75, because I also watched 18 films last February. Fancy that).
  • Passing #25 means I’ve passed the quarter-way point already. But the last time I didn’t get there in February was 2014 (when it took until April), so it’s not that noteworthy an achievement. Especially as, since last year, I’m meant to be aiming for 120+ films in year.
  • But, good news, I’ve reached the quarter-way mark for 120, too! Ending February at #30 means so far I’m behind 2016 and 2018, but marginally ahead of 2015, 2017, and 2019.
  • Lots of 2018 films this month — to be precise, nine of them, or 50% of my viewing. That’s because I’m making use of my annual month of Now TV / Sky Cinema to catch up on some misses, and as they get a lot of recent stuff first, currently that means it’s mainly 2018 misses with a smattering from 2019 (overall, 61% of this month’s viewing was via Now TV).
  • Monty Python aficionados may have observed that I’ve chosen to list The Crimson Permanent Assurance separately from The Meaning of Life. It’s commonly presented as part of the film these days, but even then it’s still separated from the main feature. It was independently nominated for a BAFTA back in the day, too, so it sort of is part of the film and sort of isn’t. And anyway, while we can argue whether it counts as a standalone work or not, the fact it’s a short means I don’t give it a full number, so even if you do disapprove of listing it separately, at least it doesn’t affect my count for the year.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: anti-war WW1 classic, and early Best Picture Oscar winner (so an apt choice for this month), All Quiet on the Western Front.
  • As best I can tell, All Quiet on the Western Front is the only film I’ve ever seen from 1930. That’s noteworthy because the only other year since talkies came along for which this is true is 1932. Quite how I’ve ‘missed’ those two years, who knows. (If we go back into the silent era, there’s still only a few more years I’ve missed; but, as we’re talking about years with feature films, it gets a little more complicated for that period.)
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Booksmart, The Nightingale, and Yesterday.



The 57th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
This month’s viewing includes the most recent winner of the Palme d’Or, the first-ever non-English-language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and the movie Letterboxd users have rated the #1 of all time… all of which epithets describe the same film, of course: Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. It’s an awful lot of pressure to put on a film the first time you watch it. I thought it was great, but how great I’m not sure. So a clearer pick here is All Quiet on the Western Front, another Best Picture winner that has stood the test of time — 90 years and counting.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
In contrast to such greatness, there was plenty of choice for the weakest movie this month. On balance, I think the dishonour belongs to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again — even by the lowly standards set by the first movie, this follow-up is a mess.

Big Name Star Popping In Near the End of a Crummy Musical for a Couple of Minutes to Sing Part of a Song or Two …of the Month
By coincidence and the vagaries of fate, I saw Meryl Streep do this twice this month. Both were in films released in 2018, so this recognition only comes 14 months late.

Best Musical Number of the Month
They may’ve lavished A Star Is Born and Mary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia 2 with money and star power and all the tricks of modern moviemaking, but the best song-and-dance number I saw this month remains Monty Python’s Every Sperm is Sacred.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
No doubt bolstered by its BAFTA wins and predicted (but unmaterialising) Oscar glory, this month’s top new post was 1917.



With an end goal of 50 in mind, my Rewatchathon stays on course this month…

#6 Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
#7 Christopher Robin (2018)
#8 The Karate Kid (1984)

I still quite like Christopher Robin. Yeah, it’s just the plot of Mary Poppins remade with Winnie the Pooh, but I like Pooh bear a lot so that doesn’t bother me too much.

Some thoughts on The Karate Kid on Letterboxd, and I intend to do a ‘Guide To’ post for it some day — mainly because I enjoyed it enough that I’m intending to watch the sequels, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen, so I’ll number and review them as new films.


Normally I start this section with all the films I missed on the big screen, but the big news nowadays is surely Netflix’s rollout of Studio Ghibli’s back catalogue (seven last month, seven today, the final seven on April 1st). The ones I hadn’t already seen, and still haven’t, from their February lot are Kiki’s Delivery Service (which I own on Blu-ray anyway), Ocean Waves, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, and Tales from Earthsea. Also new to Netflix and on my radar last month were Lady Bird, Hostiles, Proud Mary, and Year One (which I only notice because it was on my ‘50 unseen’ in 2009). One of their originals caught my eye, too: The Coldest Game. Sounded like a genre that’s up my street, but that’s literally all I know about it. Considering the variable quality of Netflix originals, the fact no one seems to be talking about it probably doesn’t bode well.

Over on Amazon Prime, higher profile additions this month include Emma Thompson comedy Late Night and Luc Besson actioner Anna. Also drawing my attention was Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, returning to the streamer after five years away (that’s another from an old ‘50 unseen’ list); Super Size Me 2, the much-less-talked about sequel to the much-talked-about documentary; Anthony Hopkins / Ryan Gosling thriller Fracture (a film I was just about aware existed but had ignored; but, in the sea of mediocrity that’s added to Amazon, that recognition was enough to make me read the blurb and note the decent score it holds on IMDb); and Spy Game, which I’ve seen (it’s in my 100 Favourites, even), but only own on DVD, so here’s my chance to rewatch it in HD.

And, as I mentioned, I’ve currently got Now TV for a little bit yet, so some of the stuff I’d particularly like to catch on there includes Burning, The Kid Who Would Be King, The Wedding Guest, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Crazy Rich Asians, and Mary Queen of Scots. Plus, all the Karate Kid sequels. And, drawing my attention away from that limited-time offering to something else I’ve paid for, I’ve got rentals of Hustlers and Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw that expire in March (both of those were on my most recent ‘50 unseen’, incidentally).

Away from the internet, I got a bit carried away with Blu-ray purchases this month — there are 16 I could list here. Top of the pops is Joker. Also, Criterion’s release of Roma, which I got more for the special features than the film itself (because I can watch the latter on Netflix in UHD). Also on the rewatch list were Gods of Egypt in 3D (like I said would happen); one of my favourites from last year, Searching, which I got new for just a couple of quid; and Phantom Thread, which I also mentioned last month when it came to Netflix, but I finally got on UHD disc (in a two-for-one with Angel Heart). But the biggest single chunk belongs to 88 Films release of Jackie Chan titles, of which I picked up six this month, including four in a sale (Battle Creek Brawl, Dragon Fist, Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin, and To Kill with Intrigue) and two newer releases (Crime Story and The Protector).

Finally, ending where I normally begin, the stuff I missed on the big screen. I nearly went to see Birds of Prey, but I’ll surely buy it for my disc collection eventually so I decided to save the money and wait. I’ve already pre-ordered The Lighthouse, which didn’t come to my local at all. I was never likely to bother with Dolittle or Sonic the Hedgehog, though I’m sure I’ll catch them on streaming sometime. I’m less sure about The Call of the Wild, thanks to that terrible looking CG dog. I’m all for using effects for stunts and stuff, but when it’s also in regular scenes interacting with humans, it just looks fake. Finally, The Invisible Man just came out to strong reviews. I don’t normally bother with horror on the big screen (I prefer to get scared in the secrecy of my own home, thanks), but I’m tempted to make an exception.


More ticking off misses from 2018/19 courtesy of Sky Cinema. Cinema trips seem unlikely (maybe for Mulan), with my attention on the month after and the return of Britain’s best-known secret agent.

The Random Mid-Monthly Review for Valentine’s Day 2020

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I’m a blogger not a poet,
Though I did do a Creative Writing degree with a poetry component, which I don’t think I was the greatest at, but, you know, not all poetry has to rhyme…
But it’s better when it do.

Hello, dear readers. It’s been a while since my last post, but I don’t have any reviews banked ready to go, so here’s a random mid-month update. (Normally the 14th would be right smack in the middle of February, but of course I would end up doing this on a leap year. Still, it’s near enough.)

How you doing? You good? Awesome.

Me? Well, after the back half of last year was sent into relative disarray by house moves and whatnot (just look at this graph from my 2019 statistics to see how up-and-down the year was from June onwards), 2020 is off to a similarly bumpy beginning as I spend my time hunting around for a new job. Also, more directly related to film viewing, much of my DVD/Blu-ray collection remains in boxes as we shelve out The Library. Oh yes, I’m going to have a DVD/Blu-ray library. (Photos when it’s done, I’m sure.) Not that there’s a shortage of stuff I could be watching, what with Netflix and Amazon Prime; plus I currently have Now TV (for the Oscars); and there’s always new releases, both at home and at the cinema (my local is finally screening Parasite from today (hurrah for its Oscar win!), so I really ought to make the effort to see that).

A normal monthly review would have a list of things I’d been watching, of course, but I’ll save that for the proper one. But, talking of Oscar-y recent films I still haven’t seen, the Joker Blu-ray has been sat right next to me all week, waiting (I’ve been focusing on trying to get value for money out of that month of Now TV. I don’t think I have, yet). But, as mooted in my last TV review, I have finally got round to Good Omens. Gotta be honest, I’m not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I think that might be a case of too high expectations on my part, though. It’s still good, mind — I’d recommend it. Anyway, there’ll be more about that in the next TV column.

Overall, my film viewing tally currently places this February as my worst month since April 2010. That’s very nearly an entire decade ago, people! Fortunately, there’s still half (and a bit) of the month to go yet…

The Personal History of January 2020

We’re a whole month in — 2020 is properly underway!

The less said about yesterday’s biggest news the better, so I’m just gonna plow on into some films…


#1 Crooked House (2017)
#2 Evil Under the Sun (1982)
#3 Rocketman (2019)
#4 Little Women (2019)
#5 Dial M for Murder 3D (1954)
#6 1917 (2019)
#7 The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
#8 Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
#8a What Did Jack Do? (2017)
#9 Bait (2019)
#10 Ad Astra (2019)
#11 (1963)
#12 Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), aka Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta
Rocketman

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

.


  • As should be self-evident, I watched 12 new feature films in January.
  • I watched my first film on New Year’s Day — the first time that’s happened since 2016.
  • I watched my second film on January 2nd — the first time that’s happened since 2012.
  • I watched my third film on January 3rd — the first time that’s ever happened.
  • I watched my fourth film on January 8th — which doesn’t sound as remarkable, but it’s earlier than I watched last year’s #1.
  • By #8, I was ahead of every previous year. By #12, I was ahead of just 54% of them.
  • In terms of averages, 12 slightly beats the January average (previously 11.42, now 11.46), but is slightly behind the average for 2019 (12.6).
  • Dial M for Murder is the first 3D film I’ve watched since last May, eight months ago.
  • This month’s Blindspot film was Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical search engine / hashtag nightmare of a title, .
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched just Little Women.



The 56th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I’m always wary of picking the last film I watched as my favourite of the month — I worry it’s just recency bias giving it a boost. And there are certainly other films I liked a lot this month — when I’ve settled on my final ratings, up to 50% of them will be getting full marks. But, eh, it’s just an opinion. So, for now, this month’s victor is a Miyazaki classic (of which there are so many!), Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is a very straightforward choice, though. I’d heard only terrible things about The Dead Don’t Die, but the trailer had looked such fun that I went ahead and rented it anyway. Sadly, it was the word of mouth that was accurate — it’s a dud.

Most Quotable Film of the Month
You might not expect a black-and-white hand-developed art-house-y drama about the plight of locals in a Cornish fishing village to be full of zingers, but there are loads of such memorable bits in Bait. My favourite? A barmaid watching a local bloke chat up a bit of posh totty from out of town: “He’s wasting his time with her… ‘ow’s she gonna suck his dick with that plum in ‘er mouth?

Least Hashtag-Friendly Film of the Month
Continuing the theme of “recycling stuff I already put on Instagram”, you try and come up with a workable hashtag for .

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
This month’s winner slayed all before it to become, not just my most-read new post, but my most read post overall for last month (that happens quite rarely — just thrice last year, or 25% of the time). The post in question was my Christmas TV review. It received more than double the number of views as the post in second place (which was the previous TV review), a lot of that powered by referrals from IMDb for people wanting to read about Dracula. I hope I switched them on to The Goes Wrong Show while they were here… (The highest new film-related post was my review of The Personal History of David Copperfield.)



Last year’s Rewatchathon limped to an ignominious end (only just over half of my 50-film goal), but 2020’s is off to a solid start…

#1 Zatoichi at Large (1972)
#2 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
#3 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
#4 Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
#5 Twin Peaks (1990), aka Twin Peaks: Pilot

Starting at the end, Twin Peaks — the original pilot, which I watched in UHD courtesy of the From Z to A box set. I was counting it as a film as part of a long-term setup for eventually including it on a list of my favourite films (oops, given the game away!)… but I feel less sure after watching it again. Not of its greatness — I still reckon it’s one of the very best episodes of TV ever made, with at least one sequence that’s among my favourites in the entire history of visual storytelling — but it’s so obviously a pilot; so made to set wheels in motion for a series to run with them over many more hours. Yeah, there’s the close-ended International Version, but that’s a bit of a mess. This is something I’ll continue to ponder on.

As for the picture quality of this UHD version, it’s unfortunately a mixed bag. Lynch chose not to use HDR here, apparently… though I don’t know if that’s been confirmed or if it’s accepted wisdom from the disc not playing with HDR. I say that because when I turned Dolby Vision on, it kicked in. So is the disc encoded for Dolby Vision but not normal HDR? Is that possible? Or was my player ‘faking it’? I don’t know enough about how HDR/DV works to answer that. Normally I have Dolby Vision switched off because I don’t like it (I don’t know if I just consider it inaccurate or if it’s my TV’s fault, not displaying it properly for some reason), and Twin Peaks did nothing to convince me I should change that. Mainly it just seemed to make things too dark, erasing detail in the shadows (I tried fiddling with my settings in case I’d set it up poorly, but that didn’t help). With or without DV, the pilot doesn’t look right. The resolution is good, with improved fine detail compared to the Blu-ray, so that’s nice; but the colours look far too pale. Considering classic Twin Peaks is renowned for its warm look, this is especially jarring. Some scenes — outdoor ones, mainly, where the colours are cooler anyway — look just fine, but others look thoroughly wrong. What’s really baffling is that Lynch supposedly supervised this new version, so it should be bang on; but I’m pretty sure he supervised the previous one too, so what’s gone awry? Whenever I next watch the pilot, I’m going to have a difficult choice on my hands: 4K for the base-level image quality, or 1080p for (what I think is) the correct colour balance. Argh!

As anyone au fait with the news has likely guessed, I watched Life of Brian in honour of Terry Jones. Plus, I’d been meaning to rewatch it ever since I watched Holy Grail last September. Like that film, it’s now down to get the “Guide To” treatment at some point.

Rather than regurgitate comments about my other rewatches, I’ll point you towards Letterboxd for my thoughts on The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and why I rewatched Zatoichi at Large when there are still several original Zatoichi films I’ve not seen.


2020 got off to a solid start, but there were still plenty of things I failed to see. On the big screen, I saw most of the stuff I really intended to — I’m happy to leave both Guy Ritchie’s latest, The Gentlemen, and belated trilogy-maker Bad Boys for Life until they reach rental. Speaking of which, I’ve got both Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale and Danny Boyle’s Yesterday sitting on my Amazon Prime Video account with the days ticking down — definites for next month, those.

In terms of new disc acquisitions, I watched a few as soon as they landed on my mat, but I went on a bit of a spending spree this month — a mix of new releases, random bargains, and having some vouchers to use up. In the former camp, the BFI’s new Blu-ray of Judgment at Nuremberg rubs shoulders with Arrow’s release of Black Angel, a film noir directed by Roy William “director of 11 Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films” Neill (which was recommended to me almost eight years ago by an esteemed fellow blogger, so it’s about time I got round to it).

The random bargains pile, meanwhile, is mostly made up of horror: the 101 Films Black Label edition of David Cronenberg’s Rabid; 88 Films’ box set of Hollow Man and Hollow Man II; and an import of Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D, which is meant to be absolutely terrible but, eh, I’m curious (it’s also only available in the UK on DVD or digital, neither of which are 3D, so I got the German one. The extras aren’t English-friendly, but I don’t reckon I’m ever likely to watch an hour-long making-of on this particular film). And in the “I had a voucher” camp, Don’t Look Now in its 4K limited edition form. Frankly, I’d’ve snaffled that up even without the voucher — it’s sold out online and so the price is beginning to rise on eBay and the like, but I happened across a single copy in a branch of HMV, where they were still charging the original price. The voucher comes into play because I wouldn’t even have been looking were it not for having an HMV voucher that expired the next day. So, that was nice.

And finally, the ever-burgeoning ranks of what’s available on streaming. Headliners this past month include In the Mood for Love cropping up on Prime Video — it’s one of the most acclaimed films of this century, but it never seems to be available in the UK, apart from an old DVD. It’s on my Blindspot list this year too, but I’d already got hold of it by, er, other means for that purpose. Other additions that drew my attention on Prime included Booksmart (particularly as I previously rented it but accidentally let the clock run out), Samuel Fuller’s The Naked Kiss, The Boondock Saints (one of those films I’ve heard of but don’t know much more about), and Jason Statham vehicle Wild Card — it’s been a while since I watched a run-of-the-mill Stath flick, so I feel overdue. Also overdue is a rewatch for Brokeback Mountain, which is also now on Prime here. Back in 2006 I was one of that rare breed who thought Crash was better. I didn’t hate Brokeback, but I didn’t like it much either. So, it’s long overdue that I revisit it and form a new opinion, now that I’m older and wiser.

Over on Netflix, the biggest hitter is probably Uncut Gems, which is one of this year’s many “should’ve had Oscar noms” films. But that only came out yesterday, so it’s not much of a “failure”… yet. Also catching my eye were Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (not to be confused with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which is only just reaching UK cinemas) and Zhang Yimou’s Shadow. Plus they now have Phantom Thread, which I personally don’t intend to rewatch in anything less than 4K, but I mention its presence nonetheless because I highly recommend it.


Ghibli comes to Netflix! Well, not if you’re in North America, but for the rest of us: hooray!

…although I own Blu-rays of most of the ones I’m interested in seeing, I’ve just not got round to watching them yet, so their presence on Netflix isn’t likely to affect my viewing much at all. Hey-ho.

Blindspot 2020: What do you mean you haven’t seen…?

The Blindspot challenge (for the benefit of those still unfamiliar with it) is where you pick 12 films you feel you should’ve seen but haven’t, then watch one a month throughout the year. I started doing this in 2013, calling it “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” (WDYMYHS for short), but then someone else came up with the same notion independently and gave it a much snappier moniker, and that caught on.

My fortunes with the Blindspot / WDYMYHS challenge have been up and down over the years. I’ll spare you a full potted history, but last year I set myself two lists of 12 films each and didn’t complete either — although between them I did watch 17 movies. I braved 24 films because for two years before that I’d done 22 and completed it with relative ease. So maybe I should aim for 24 again this year…

…but I’m not going to. In the same way that the second half of 2019 was a bit unpredictable (leading to my failures), I’m not wholly sure what the future holds, so I’m going to rein it back to the original 12 and see how it goes. And besides, if I find 12 unchallenging then I’ve got the seven remaining films from last year I could move on to; plus one from 2015 that I never got round to. That’s a pretty big ‘buffer’ to work on.

Now, I’ll jump ahead to the main event: the 12 films I must watch, in alphabetical order. Afterwards, I’ll explain how they were chosen.


8½


All Quiet on
the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front


An American Werewolf
in London
An American Werewolf in London


Andrei Rublev
Andrei Rublev


The Battle of Algiers
The Battle of Algiers


Do the Right Thing
Do the Right Thing


Fanny and Alexander
Fanny and Alexander


The French Connection
The French Connection


In the Mood for Love
In the Mood for Love


Ordet
Ordet


Ugetsu Monogatari
Ugetsu Monogatari


Under the Skin
Under the Skin

So, some people just pick their 12 films. When I did two lists, that’s what I did for one of them. But the rest of the time I’ve let consensus decide, by compiling “great film” lists in various different combinations to suggest the films other people feel I should’ve seen. I quite like both methods, so for 2020 I’ve picked six with one and half-a-dozen with the other. That said, my ‘free choice’ six were influenced by some of the films that didn’t quite make it into the ‘preselected’ six. (Feel free to guess which films belong in which six. Fun and games! Answers in a mo.)

This year, the selection process involved the following lists:

  • Letterboxd’s Official Top 250 Narrative Feature Films
  • IMDb’s Top Rated Movies (aka the IMDb Top 250)
  • The 1,000 Greatest Films by They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? (aka TSPDT)
  • the Reddit Top 250
  • Empire’s The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time (aka the Empire 500)
  • Sight & Sound’s The 100 Greatest Films of All Time (2012 edition)

    Because TSPDT takes Sight & Sound’s voter ballots as its foundation, I counted the Letterboxd scores twice as a way of evening it out a bit and not letting S&S be too dominant. It only worked up to a point. For example, Harakiri is ranked 4th on the Letterboxd list and 33rd on IMDb, but it’s a lowly 647th on TSPDT and nowhere on the other lists. So as I started adding the lists together (in the order I’ve credited them above), Harakiri was right at the top, then gradually fell right back. But that’s kinda the point of counting multiple lists: it’s getting a consensus of consensuses. Letterboxd users clearly think Harakiri is one of the very greatest films of all time; IMDb voters aren’t quite as enthusiastic, but it’s up there; everyone else… not so much.

    But it’s not just about the raw numbers of which films top the list: I have some rules. Chief among them, I’ve previously only selected films I already own on DVD/Blu-ray or have access to on Netflix/Prime/etc. This year, I let the door open to anything, though I did first make sure I could reasonably source a copy. So, top of the list was Andrei Rublev, followed by Federico Fellini’s . Next, in a somewhat ironic turn of events, my new “open door” policy actually led to some high-scoring films being eliminated. While sourcing copies of Come and See and Sátántangó, I discovered that both have recently been restored and are expected to get Blu-ray releases in 2020. You might think that’s perfect timing, but what if one or both slipped to 2021, or were insanely overpriced? So I decided to adopt a “wait and see” approach. Maybe they’ll be on 2021’s list.

    Next in the running was In the Mood for Love, followed by Ordet. Then my only still-standing regular rule came into play: one film per director. That meant the next film — La Dolce Vita, which shares Fellini with — was cut. After that is actually where Sátántangó was ranked (keeping up? I don’t blame you if you’re not), followed by Mirror — but Mirror is directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, the same as Andrei Rublev, so out it went too. But now we do finally reach the end: the next two high-scorers were Fanny and Alexander and The Battle of Algiers, which (as you’ll know from their inclusion in the list above) were fine.

    And with those six settled upon, I turned to picking six more from my DVD/Blu-ray collection. There’s less to say about these: I made a long-list of 127 ‘maybe’s; narrowed it down to 38 ‘very possibly’s; and then picked six, based on a mix of intuition about what I ‘should’ have seen and things I’ve personally been wanting to see for a while. I did also try to keep some variety in terms of the films’ ages, genres, countries, and languages… but almost all the ones that made my short-list were in English, so, er, oops. It meant Ugetsu Monogatari was an easy choice, anyway; and I was sure to include some British films (or British co-productions, at least); and Do the Right Thing may be American, but it’s also the only one of the 12 from a black filmmaker. (No female directors, though, which is an unfortunate oversight.) Still, on balance there are more films not in English (seven vs five), and the B&W/colour split is exactly 50/50.

    Four of my six ‘free choices’ do appear further down the rankings I’d compiled. That’s coincidence rather than design, although I suppose seeing them on the list might’ve helped push them to the forefront of my mind. Those four were Do the Right Thing (18th), Ugetsu Monogatari (23rd), An American Werewolf in London (127th), and The French Connection (162nd). I don’t know about you, but I was a little surprised All Quiet on the Western Front didn’t make it. Well, of the lists I’ve used this year the only one it’s on is TSPDT, at a lowly 742nd. (I’m not surprised Under the Skin wasn’t on any, what with it being so recent. For one thing, it hadn’t even been released when the Empire and Sight & Sound polls were conducted.)

    And that’s all that thoroughly over-explained.

    (Did anyone read all this?) (Hello future-me, who surely will re-read all this at some point, sad egocentric that I am.)

    Finally, if I manage those 12 and want more, the eight left outstanding from 2015 and 2019 are…

  • All About Eve
  • All the President’s Men
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Ikiru
  • The Ipcress File
  • The Royal Tenenbaums
  • The Thin Red Line
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

    This is hardly a chore — there are some great-looking movies there — so hopefully I’ll find time for all 20. It would only be fitting, given the year…

  • The Best & Worst of 2019

    As it’s January 10th, what better date to post my top 10 from last year’s viewing? (Yes, I know: “an earlier one.”)

    As well as my favourite films I saw during 2019, this final review-of-the-year post also includes my least favourite films, as well as a list of 2019’s most noteworthy releases that I missed.

    Before we begin, a quick reminder that these lists are not selected from films released in 2019, but from all 151 movies I saw for the first time during 2019.



    The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2019

    “Worst of” lists are very unpopular on Twitter nowadays (there was a whole to-do about them when the pro ones started popping up last month). I do kind of agree that they’re of dubious value, but it remains an unavoidable fact that some films are poor or disappointing and therefore, as part of an overall review of the year, it seems only fair to remember the weaker side of it too. (Especially as I’ve been so tardy with reviews this year, and therefore haven’t shared my negative opinion of all of these elsewise.)

    So, in alphabetical order…

    Cosmopolis
    With Robert Pattinson being cast as Batman, there was a lot of commentary about how he’d done so much good work since Twilight — and I realised I hadn’t seen any of it. Someone described this David Cronenberg film as basically being a Bruce Wayne movie, so that seemed as good a place to start. Sadly, it proved nothing about Pattinson’s acting ability, nor Cronenberg’s enduring ability to make good movies. I found it confusing, cheap-looking, and boring.

    Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
    Talking of boring, here’s the most recent work from director Ben Wheatley. I’ve had mixed feelings about his previous films, but they were all at least interesting in some way. Colin Burstead is not. In the review I’ve written but never got round to posting, I describe it as “like an art house EastEnders” and say “it’s really slow and frequently abstruse.” Over a year after it first aired it’s still available on iPlayer, but I wouldn’t recommend you seek it out.

    Holmes & Watson
    I don’t rank these, but if I did Holmes & Watson would come last. A movie so shockingly inept it’s a wonder that it’s a studio movie made by seasoned professionals — I’m no fan of Will Ferrell, but you’d think at this point he’d be in movies that are at least competently produced. Weak filmmaking wouldn’t really matter if it was funny, because that’s the sole and defining purpose of a comedy, but there are no laughs here either. A total disaster. [Full review]

    The Saint
    Made as a pilot for a TV series, then retrofitted into being a movie after that failed to get picked up, it might seem like I’m kicking this when it’s down to name it a “bad movie”. The thing is, it would’ve been a bad TV show too. Its biggest problem is that, stylistically, it feels 25 years older than it is — like mid-’90s syndication filler, rather than the slick, contemporary, spy-actioner I think it wanted to be. The Saint is an IP with potential, but this does not utilise it.

    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
    Okay, Episode IX probably isn’t one of the five worst films I saw in 2019 (I gave it 3 stars after all, though I was being generous), but it was certainly the most disappointing. Maybe I shouldn’t’ve had hope, but I enjoyed both Episodes VII and VIII, so I thought there was a reasonable chance they could stick the landing. I was wrong. And it makes the preceding Sequel Trilogy films lesser with it, because it exposes the lack of overarching point to any of it. [Full review]



    The 15 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2019

    Where others may do a top ten, or twenty, or fifty, nowadays I do a top 10%. This year I watched 151 films, so my ‘top ten’ has 15 films.

    Although this list is selected from all the movies I watched for the first time in 2019, I did watch 34 films that had their UK release in 2019… plus four that will have their UK release in 2020, which is a first. So I’ve lumped those in with the 2019 lot and noted their ‘2019 rank’ in case you’re interested.

    15
    Brigsby Bear

    Moviemakers like to make movies about people who set out by themselves to make movies — think Son of Rambow, Be Kind Rewind, or Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Brigsby Bear follows in their tonal vein, as a quirky story about a young man freed from a lifetime of imprisonment who’s determined to complete the story of the TV show his captors used to make just for him. Think Room written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry.

    A very much overlooked, nigh-on forgotten minor Western, which I’m sure I never would’ve seen were it not for Quentin Tarantino including it in his pre-Once Upon a Time in Hollywood movie marathon (as an example of the kind of Western programmers that film’s actor hero would’ve starred in). But I’m glad he brought it to my attention, because I found it be a well-told, well-performed study of toxic masculinity and parental influence, with a splash of gun control rhetoric to boot. This may’ve been made in 1958, but it has a heckuva lot of accurate stuff to say about our society six decades later. [Full review.]

    This is the kind of movie I’m not sure I’ll ever watch again, because living through its terror once was enough. I watched it back in February but there are images that still pop into my head to chill me. A masterful work of horror. [Full review.]

    12
    The Report

    2019 #4 This is a movie not to everyone’s taste, as some middle-of-the-road reviews, and Amazon’s lack of backing for it in awards season, attest. It’s easy to dismiss it as a filmed Wikipedia article, because it’s obsessively accurate and methodical in the way it lays out the facts of its case — about the CIA’s ineffective use of torture post-9/11 — but, in fact, that fits both the style of its lead character-cum-hero, and the purpose of its existence, which I think is to help expose the truth more widely. After all, we know what went on, but who’s actually had to face any consequences for it? In apportioning blame, writer-director Scott Z. Burns is strikingly nonpartisan, refusing to let the Obama administration off the hook for their part. So it’s a shame it hasn’t connected more widely, because its message is important; and even besides that, it’s an absorbing thriller… about someone doing paperwork.

    I probably saw better films than Mandy during 2019, but I saw few that were as aesthetically striking — and certainly none with a header pic that could equal this shot of star Nic Cage. It’s a nightmarishly surreal journey of revenge, with plot points and visuals that can’t be described, they just have to be experienced. And oh my, what an experience. [Full review.]

    10
    Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

    This overlooked ’30s-set rom-com boasts a starry cast and a likeable bounce, and I guess that’s where many people’s assessment of it stops — if they’ve even bothered to assess it at all. But what really worked for me was the way it feels like an actual movie from its era, with the quick-talking wit of screwball comedies, the slight earnestness of a simpler age, and the confidence to throw in some more serious undercurrents without the fear it will ruin the fun. Instead, they elevate it. As a throwback to classic cinema, it’s delightful.

    9
    Eighth Grade

    2019 #3 On Letterboxd I simply stated this was “the most truthful movie about what it’s actually like to be a teenager I think I’ve ever seen,” and that just about sums up why its here. The milieu of its story is very Now — teenagers locked to their phones, living their lives through Instagram and YouTube — but look past the ultra-current specificity and there’s a universality in the experience of shy, insecure thirteen-year-old Kayla. Most of us have been there, and Eighth Grade captures just what it was like. (Before anyone asks/complains: this counts as a 2019 film because its UK release wasn’t until April ’19.)

    The premise of Spike Lee’s detective movie sounds like a joke — “what if a black man joined the KKK?” — but it’s a true story. With that in mind, you may expect a deadly serious, heavy-going movie. Instead, Lee mixes in a lively humour that keeps the movie entertaining even as it hits you with serious points. And very timely ones, as the controversial (but, in my opinion, merited) closing moments make clear. [Full review.]

    7
    La Belle Époque

    2019 #2 Reading reviews, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this French romantic comedy-drama — it looked like it might be nice, and that’s about all. A pleasant surprise, then, to find there’s so much more to it than just a pleasantly diverting couple of hours. The story of a man who attempts to relive the day he met the wife who no longer loves him, it’s sharply witty, surprisingly beautiful in places, and genuinely emotional by the end. Surely it’s destined for an inferior American remake.

    6
    Searching

    There are several true-story crime thrillers close-by on this top ten — if you watched them back-to-back with Searching, they might show it up a little bit, because it does get a little Movie Logic in its final act. But that’s worth letting slide because of the very particular way it tells its engrossing story. The entire movie takes place from the POV of a computer screen, as a desperate father tries to work out what’s happened to his missing teenage daughter. Pleasingly, the film doesn’t break its own rules, but uses the limitations to its advantage to create a new, timely way of viewing a narrative. And while the final act may be a bit grandiose compared to real life, its array of twists are satisfying.

    5
    Memories of Murder

    Director Bong Joon Ho is attracting a lot of attention this awards season (heck, this year) for his latest, Parasite, and made my top ten last year with his long-delayed-in-the-UK sci-fi parable Snowpiercer. This surprisingly-hard-to-come-by (someone do a good Western Blu-ray release, please!) film wasn’t his first, but was what initially garnered him some attention outside Korea. A true-story-inspired crime thriller, it invites comparisons to David Fincher’s Zodiac in the way it follows obsessed investigators as they try to uncover the truth behind an unsolved wave of murders. Zodiac is one of my favourite films, but Memories of Murder is strong enough to withstand the comparison. (Also, yes, it predates Fincher’s film. I’m not claiming one copied the other, they just approach the same genre from a similar headspace.)

    4
    Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

    If I’m honest, I was prepared to dislike Scott Pilgrim — I mean, there’s a reason it took me almost a decade to get round to it. It always looked Too Cool; kind of too hipster-ish, though I guess in a geeky way. (Well, “hipster” and “geek” have been more closely linked than ever this decade, haven’t they?) I remember distinctly when it went down a storm at Comic-Con and so everyone believed it was The Next Big Thing, only for it to flop hard at the box office (providing a much-needed course correction on everyone’s view of the power of Comic-Con). But here’s the thing: it’s directed by Edgar Wright, and I should have trusted that. And so the film is everything you’d expect from the director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver — deep-cut references (this time to video games), piles of humour, but also a dose of genuine emotion. Best of all is how it’s ceaselessly, fearlessly, creatively inventive with its cinematic tricks. No other film on this list is so overtly Directed, but in a good way.

    3
    Sherlock Jr.

    Sherlock Jr. is almost 100 years old now, but it still plays as fresh as a daisy. That’s the wonder of Buster Keaton, who mixes daredevil antics with genuine movie magic to produce an unforgettable farce with more laughs per minute than [insert your comedian of choice here] and more I-can’t-believe-he-just-did-that stunts than one of Tom Cruise’s impossible missions. They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Heck, they probably wouldn’t let ’em.

    2
    Rififi

    This methodical French crime thriller is famed for its centrepiece — a half-hour heist that takes place in virtual silence — and that is indeed an unforgettably effective, edge-of-your-seat piece of cinema. But the film around it is so good, too: the events and plans that lead up to the heist; and the fallout of what occurs after. If you want to be a pedant then film noir “can’t be made outside America” — but even if that’s true, well, tough, because this is noir at its absolute best.

    2019 #1 If my end-of-year #1s had a reputation, it would probably be for choosing recent movies. Every year I theoretically have the entirety of film history to choose from, but only once have I given my #1 slot to a film that was more than 18 months old. But this year takes that to extremes: I’ve given #1 to a film that isn’t even out yet (in the UK). Never mind Skyfall or Blade Runner 2049 only being 2 months old when I picked them — here, Portrait of Lady on Fire is currently -2 months old (its UK release is scheduled for 28th February). Still, it’s screened at plenty of festivals and had a few international releases, and received plenty of acclaim — well deserved, I think (obviously). It’s the kind of film that casts a spell, with its remote setting that isolates us with its characters, absorbing us into this vital moment in their lives; its thoroughly gorgeous photography, which is appropriately painterly; and a very particular pace, which some would dismiss as “slow” but I thought was just right. It also has a healthy, perhaps surprising dash of Gothic in how its narrative plays out, which particularly appealed to me. Basically, it’s an all-round stunning work. [Full review.]


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

    I’m always loathe to mention “films that almost made my list”, because that feels like cheating (I may as well just make the list longer and include them). However, because I only included four films released in 2019, I thought I’d flag up a few more of my favourites from the year itself. These aren’t #16–19, then, but they are 2019’s #5–8, because they’re the four 2019 releases that came closest to getting in. But I’ll leave their exact ranking to your imagination and just list them alphabetically: Deadwood: The Movie, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and The Personal History of David Copperfield. Of course, there were dozens of acclaimed and/or popular 2019 films that I didn’t see, so take this ranking with a large pinch of salt — if I revisited yearly rankings after I’d caught up on more movies, they’d change entirely.

    Another honorary mention I want to make is more for a person than a film: Thomasin McKenzie, who almost single handedly earnt Leave No Trace a place in my top 15. I mean that as no disservice to everyone else involved — their combined work put it in contention, but it was McKenzie’s superb performance that almost tipped it in. (So, I guess that is #16.) And the other reason I’m mentioning her rather rather than just the film is because she was also excellent in Jojo Rabbit — easy to overlook among that film’s showy cast, but a pivotal and well-played part nonetheless. She’s definitely one to watch.

    Now, let’s recap the 12 films that won Favourite Film of the Month at the Arbies, some of which have already been mentioned in this post and some of which haven’t. In chronological order (with links to the relevant monthly update), they were The Player, Memories of Murder, Isle of Dogs, Searching, The Meg, Deadwood: The Movie, Sherlock Jr., Rififi, The Red Shoes, For Sama, La Belle Époque, and Eighth Grade.

    Finally, I never end this without mentioning all the films that earned themselves 5-star ratings throughout the year — especially as I haven’t reviewed most of them yet, so they merit their moment in the spotlight. During 2019 there were 25. 13 made it into my best list, so rather than name them again I’ll let you have fun guessing which were the two to only get 4-stars (hint: only one of them is in the actual top 10; and the other has a review, so you can easily find it out). The remaining twelve were Les diaboliques, The Favourite, For Sama, Isle of Dogs, Jojo Rabbit, The Killer, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Player, The Red Shoes, Roma, Rope, and Waltz with Bashir. Finally, I also gave full marks to Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which will be the subject of a “Guide To” at some point) and three short films, Pleased to Eat You!, Hey You, and Facing It (all reviewed in this roundup).


    I watched 34 films from 2019 during 2019, which means there are plenty of noteworthy releases I didn’t see — so here’s an alphabetical list of 50 I missed. (Why it’s 50, I’m not quite sure; but I’ve been doing it for 13 years, I’m not changing it now.) They’ve been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety; plus I’ve made an attempt to include a spread of styles and genres, successes and failures.

    As usual, I’ve followed IMDb’s dating in my selection process, which means there are movies listed here that haven’t actually come out in the UK yet. And some films have likely fallen through the cracks because they’re listed as 2018 but I wasn’t aware of them in time for last year’s list (though I’ve made one exception in that regard). But there are always more films worth noting than can be included, anyway. I mean, this year my starting list was 119 films long (maybe I should increase how many I include…)

    1917
    Doctor Sleep
    It: Chapter Two
    Le Mans '66
    Parasite
    Spider-Man: Far from Home
    Aladdin
    Godzilla: King of the Monsters
    Joker
    The Lighthouse
    Us
    X-Men: Dark Phoenix
    1917
    Ad Astra
    Aladdin
    Alita: Battle Angel
    Apollo 11
    Bait
    A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
    Booksmart
    Cats
    Doctor Sleep
    Dolemite is My Name
    The Farewell
    Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw
    Frozen II
    Gemini Man
    Godzilla: King of the Monsters
    Hellboy
    How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
    Hustlers
    It: Chapter Two
    Joker
    Jumanji: The Next Level
    The Kid Who Would Be King
    Klaus
    Knives Out
    Last Christmas
    Le Mans ’66
    The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
    The Lighthouse
    Little Women
    Marriage Story
    Men in Black: International
    Midsommar
    Parasite
    The Peanut Butter Falcon
    Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
    Rambo: Last Blood
    Rocketman
    A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
    Shazam!
    The Souvenir
    Spider-Man: Far from Home
    Terminator: Dark Fate
    The Two Popes
    Us
    The Wandering Earth
    Wild Rose
    X-Men: Dark Phoenix
    Yesterday
    Zombieland: Double Tap


    Whew, another year over!

    Time to do it all over again…

    2019 Statistics

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas — that’s well and truly over now, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not even really the new year anymore, it’s just the year now. This post is kinda late.

    No, by “most wonderful time of the year” I mean this — the day I publish my annual statistics post! As the guy who does the introductions to films at Odeon might say, “ooh, yeah, the statistics. I love the statistics. Specially chosen for this post, actually.” Except they’re not really specially chosen, I do the same ones every year. But then the trailers aren’t really specially chosen for the film, are they? That Odeon guy’s just a liar.

    Anyway, it’s time for the main event. So, turn off your phones, finish your conversations, and get ready — it’s about to begin…

    I watched 151 new feature films in 2019. That ranks 5th in the history of 100 Films — it’s the lowest of the past five years, but beats every one from 2007 to 2014. It’s 11% beyond 6th place (2014) and 15% short of 4th place (2017). And it’s down a massive 110 films (42%) on last year.

    I also watched one extended or altered cut of a feature I’d seen before — namely, Deadpool 2’s Super Duper $@%!#& Cut. (I know it’s only my own rules I’m butting up against, but I haven’t settled on a way to count alternate cuts like this now that I have my Rewatchathon. I mean, it’s not strictly a rewatch because it’s a different cut, but it’s also not a new film because it’s not that different to the version I’d already seen. Anyway, it’s included in the following graph, but I haven’t counted it towards the other stats.)

    As just alluded to, in 2019 I also undertook my Rewatchathon for the third year. My target was 50 films, but I only made it to 29. Still, that’s 29 more than I might’ve managed otherwise. Add all of those together and my overall total is 181 films. I’d love to tell you how that compares to previous years, but I’ve still not put together a proper history of rewatches for that comparison. Maybe I’ll finally get it sorted for 2020’s stats.

    I also watched 20 short films in 2019, which more than doubles the next nearest — second place is a tie between 2007 and 2018 with just eight each. As with the alternate cut, these only count towards one stat, which I’ll mention in a moment.

    So, the total running time of the 151 new films was 271 hours and 56 minutes. That’s down a whopping 41% on last year… but then the number of films I watched was down 42%, so fair enough. Add in the Deadpool 2 alternate cut and all those shorts and the total running time of my new 2019 viewing was 277 hours and 47 minutes — that’s just over 3½ hours of shorts, FYI. (Last year I said “maybe next year I’ll start counting my Rewatchathon here too”. I haven’t, obviously. Maybe next year…)

    Here’s how that viewing played out across the year, month by month. It’s a particularly interesting year to have this graph (I only added it for the first time in 2018’s stats), because my viewing patterns have been so variable. I imagine if a lot of people bothered to plot a graph like this they’d end up with a broadly flat line, because I’d presume they watch roughly the same amount of stuff (whether that’s a lot or a little) month in, month out. Or maybe they’d all be as variable as mine, I dunno. Either way, my one is anything but flat…

    Now, how I watched those films. Most people may be pivoting to streaming, and dedicated cinephiles of course see a lot on the big screen, but I still love my physical media. Nonetheless, for the fifth year in a row this year’s most prolific viewing format was streaming. I guess I’m one of those people too. Or not — I buy more than my fair share of Blu-rays, I just don’t get round to watching as many as I should. Anyway, streaming accounted for 49 films, or 32.5% of my viewing. The raw number is less than half what it was last year (109), but then I did watch 110 fewer films overall too. More interestingly, the percentage is also down significantly, continuing a trend that’s been going on for a few years now — it was 57% in 2016, 43.2% in 2017, 41.8% in 2018, and now just 32.5%. Maybe I’m bucking the trend after all.

    Those streaming numbers can be broken down across five services: Netflix, Amazon (a mix of Prime and paid-for rentals), Now TV (aka Sky Cinema), BBC iPlayer, and Rakuten. This year, it was Netflix in first place (it’s been Amazon the last two years) with 21 films (42.9% of streams). Mind, Amazon were close behind on 19 (38.8%). Way down in third was Now TV, with just five films (10.2%) — I only subscribe for a month so I can watch the Oscars, but I clearly didn’t get very good value for money this year (for comparison, last year I used it to watch 25 films). That said, keep reading to downloads for more on this… Rounding out the streamers were iPlayer with three (6.1%) and Rakuten with just one (2%).

    In second place was Blu-ray, represented by 34 films (22.5%). Sadly, that is also a much reduced percentage from last year (when it was 31.4%). As I said, I buy loads of the darn things, so I should do better here.

    So, where are those percentage points going? Well, in third we find downloads, with 22 films (14.6%). In real terms that’s a drop from last year (when it was 25), but if we compare percentages it’s up by around 50%. See, statistics are fun, aren’t they? (Although Now TV only gets credited with five films, a few download viewings were, shall we say, morally justified by their presence on Now TV… by which I mean I acquired better-quality copies than Now TV’s outdated 720p and watched those instead, but it’s okay because I’d paid for those films via a Now TV subscription.)

    Close behind is TV, on 20 films (13.2%) — again, a drop in real terms but a rise in percentage. Still, nowhere near where it once was — check out the drop since 2010 in this graph.

    In fifth place is cinema, whose lowly position masks something of an achievement: it’s the most cinema visits I’ve made in one year since this blog began. My total was 19 films (12.6%), besting 2017’s tally by just one. It’s also the only format number that’s bigger than last year. Mostly it’s thanks to FilmBath Festival — without that, it’d only be eight (mind you, that would still be more than most years of this blog’s life — only 4 out of 12 other years would be higher.)

    Finally, in sixth and last place, is DVD. Oh, poor DVD. Some people still love you, but the industry’s failure to get Blu-ray to catch on is a rant for another day. Anyway, this year I watched seven films (4.6%) on digital versatile disc, which is its lowest number since 2012. It’s impressive it’s still toddling on at all, really, but sometimes it’s easier just to watch the DVD I already have than source an HD copy.

    In amongst all that, I watched seven films in 3D (4.6%), down 11 from last year (which was up 11 from the year before!), and 15 in 4K UHD (9.9%), up just one from last year. Considering I own a 3D-capable 4K TV, their combined percentage of 14.6% is a bit disappointing — especially as I didn’t have a UHD Blu-ray player last year, so that new bit of kit has made very little net impact. Though, again, it depends how you do your comparison: going from 14 to 15 may not be much, but as a percentage of my viewing UHD has increased from 5.4% to that 9.9%.

    So, with that said, how did my viewing split up in terms of UHD vs. HD vs. SD? Contributing to the UHD number is a cocktail of Blu-ray discs, streams, and downloads. For HD, it’s the same mix, plus cinema trips (you’d think big cinema screens would be keen to go for 4K instead of 2K, but nope — apparently there are shockingly few 4K cinemas out there). And in SD, well, it’s of course a similar blend again, but with DVDs instead of BDs. The final result is 112 films in HD (74.2%). Add the aforementioned 15 (9.9%) in UHD and I’ve got a total of 84.1% in HD formats. That’s down a bit from last year, which nearly hit 90% HD, but hey-ho.

    Picture quality shouldn’t really be an indicator of the age of films I watched — old films can be HD too, of course (is everyone aware of this by now? I had to explain to someone once how even silent films could be HD. But, in fairness, they weren’t the kind of person who’s likely to be reading a film blog). Nonetheless, my viewing did skew newer, as usual: the most popular decade was the 2010s, with 90 films. That’s 59.6% of my viewing, a higher percentage than last year, but not as high as the year before that. The 2010s have been my highest decade ever year since 2012 — now it’ll be interesting to see how soon the 2020s take over.

    The 2000s have come second since 2012 too… but not this year! Thanks primarily to Quentin Tarantino’s Swinging Sixties Move Marathon, in 2019 second place went to the 1960s (obviously). It’s a distant second, mind, with just 13 films (8.6%). In fact, only seven of the ten films in QT’s marathon were from the ’60s themselves, but without those it would be much lower in the rankings.

    So, the 2000s are pushed into third, with 11 films (7.3%). In fourth we find the 1970s with nine (5.96%), also helped slightly by the Tarantino marathon (though, in this case, only by one extra film). It’s back to the ’90s for fifth, with eight (5.3%), followed closely by the ’50s on seven (4.6%), including the final two films from the “sixties” marathon.

    Rounding things out, the 1920s and ’40s had four (2.6%) apiece; the ’80s is uncommonly low on just three (1.99%); and finally there’s the oldest decade for this year, the 1920s, with two (1.3%).

    From “when” to “where” — countries of production. And it’s another “business as usual” situation, because once again the USA dominated with a hand in 113 films (74.8%, which is up a couple of points from last year). Also as usual, second place belongs to the UK, with 35 films (23.2%, also an increase from last year). Also in double figures were France (16 films, 10.6%), Japan (14 films, 9.3%), and Germany (10 films, 6.6%). In all, 28 countries were involved in the production of at least one film. That’s a marginally lower number than it’s been the last few years, but I also watched a much lower total of films, so it’s not too bad overall.

    You might think less variety in countries would mean less variety in languages spoken, but not so. Now, English was still thoroughly dominant, being spoken in 128 films — but that works out as 84.8%, the lowest it’s ever been. In second place for the third year in a row was Japanese, its tally of 13 films being the only other language to make double figures this year. Although it totals fewer films than last year, its percentage of 8.6% is similar. In total, there were 24 languages, plus four silent films. American Sign Language cropped up in one film, as it seems to every year, while other more unusual (for my viewing) languages included Burmese, Mixtec, and Punjabi.

    A total of 134 directors plus 10 directing partnerships appear on 2019’s main list. Only six of those were responsible for multiple films, the lowest that figure’s been since 2012. Most prolific of these was Kenji Misumi with three, all Zatoichi films. The other five directors, with two apiece, were Bill Condon, Alfred Hitchcock, Phil Karlson (both from Tarantino’s sixties marathon), Fritz Lang (arguably — some would say Dr Mabuse, der Spieler is a single film), and Kimiyoshi Yasuda (also both Zatoichi films).

    For the past few years I’ve charted the number of female directors whose work I’ve watched. There were ten female directors represented among 2019’s feature film viewing — seven as sole director, three as part of a directing partnership with a bloke. Counting the co-directors as half a film each, this represents 5.63% of my viewing — better than last year (which was better than the two years before it), but, as this graph ably demonstrates, still a disappointingly low figure. I mean, I watched more films directing by someone called “John”.

    At the time of writing, 12 films from 2019’s list appear on the IMDb Top 250 (or “Top Rated Movies: Top 250 as rated by IMDb Users”, as it’s less-catchily technically known nowadays). However, because that list is ever-changing, the number I have left to see has only gone down by four, to 45. The current positions of this year’s checks range from 22nd (Life is Beautiful) to 225th (The Red Shoes).

    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 continue to track my progress at watching those ‘misses’. For the past few years I’ve managed to watch some more from every one of these lists, but I let that slip in 2019. The overall number I watched dropped too, totalling 37 (the lowest it’s been since 2014, when obviously there were fewer films to choose from). Well, that’s the kind of year it’s been. Anyway, the ones I did watch included two each from 2008, 2012, and 2016; and one each from 2010, 2011, and 2017.

    Finally, in the first year of watching 2018’s 50, I saw 28 of them. That’s no record, but it’s still over 50% (to be precise, 56%), so I can’t complain.

    In total, I’ve now seen 422 out of 600 of those ‘missed’ movies. That’s 70.3%, up a teeny tiny amount from last year’s 70.0%. If I don’t pick up the pace again next year, I may be looking at a percentage drop. (As ever, the 50 for 2019 will be listed in my “best & worst” post.)

    And lo, just like that, we’re coming to the end. To conclude 2019’s statistics, it’s the climax of every review: the scores.

    As always, this includes every film, meaning some don’t have published reviews yet — and, therefore, some I was still mulling over my exact score for; the kind of films I’d happily award 3.5 or 4.5 on Letterboxd, but which here I always round up or down to a whole star. Maybe I should start giving half stars. (I feel like I say that every year…) Anyway, I’ve had to go ahead and pick a rating for everything to get this part of the stats done, and maybe I’ve been too generous in places, or too harsh in others. We shouldn’t really take such a simplistic rating system too seriously, anyway (he says, as he goes on to make it the final thing in this post as if it’s a definitive statement on the quality of the films I saw this year…)

    Barrelling on regardless: at the top end of the spectrum, this year I awarded 25 five-star ratings, which means I have 16.6% of films full marks. That’s a slightly higher percentage than last year, but lower than the year before that, but higher than the year before that, but lower than the year before that… and so on. In other words, I’ve not suddenly got harsher or more generous, or suddenly watched a lot more or lot fewer good films.

    Indeed, it was also business as usual with the score I handed out most often: four-stars, which I awarded to 62 films. Out of 13 years of this blog, four-stars has been my highest-scoring score 12 times (the exception is 2012, which saw more three-star films). That said, at 41.1% it’s the lowest percentage of four-stars-ers since 2013. That loss was spread out across the rest of the board, with slightly higher than normal percentages for the remaining three ratings. For example, there were 46 three-star films, which at 30.5% is its third highest ever percentage.

    Fortunately, the “bad” end of the scores continue to bring up the rear, with 15 two-star films (9.9%) and three films meriting just one-star (1.99%). That’s technically the highest percentage of one-star films since 2012, but as the other intervening years range between 0.7% and 1.5%, I don’t think it’s a cause for concern. It’s barely even cause for comment.

    Finally, that brings us to the average score — the single figure that arguably asserts 2019’s quality compared to other years. The short version is 3.6 out of 5, the first time it’s been below 3.7 since 2013. In fact, if we go to three decimal places, it comes out as 3.604, which is the second lowest ever (beaten by 2012’s exceptionally poor 3.352). Now, it doesn’t feel like I’ve had particularly poor viewing this year — indeed, I was worried I was handing out five-star ratings too easily at one point — so it’s something of a surprise to find it so low. But maybe I’m just getting more discerning. I mean, it’s not a sharp drop (unlike that 2012 anomaly), more a slight decline.

    And that’s the statistics over for another year, I’m afraid. But if you’re a junkie like me and still after more, check out my Letterboxd 2019 stats — that site tracks different stuff (like directors and actors), and includes different films (i.e. my Rewatchathon viewing, plus a few TV things), so it’s a bit different. That’s exciting, eh?


    If you thought it was getting a bit far into 2020 to still be thinking about 2019, oh ho ho, no! Still to come: my picks for the best and worst of my viewing from last year.