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

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  • 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.

The Redefining Monthly Review of January 2019

Here I go again: the 13th year of 100 Films in a Year!

Ah, “100” films… Once upon a time that goal was a challenge: in my first six years, although I did surpass it twice, I also only just reached it twice, and twice fell short. But since then things have improved considerably: in the last six years I’ve doubled it twice (and then some, in last year’s case), and twice more ended up closer to 200 than 100. I’ve also been reaching #100 quicker and quicker — it’s less “100 films in a year”, more “100 films in five or six months”.

That said, I’ve had a particularly good run of it in terms of free time the past couple of years, and I don’t know if that’s going to continue, so I’m loathe to boldly establish a brand-new goal for myself. Maybe next year. For the time being, my official target has technically changed, in a couple of ways. For one thing, the titular “100 films” have only ever included films I’ve not seen before, and consequently I often rewatched very little. Nowadays, I’ve countered that with my Rewatchathon (2019 being its the third year), which adds 50 films to my viewing goal. Secondly, I’ve watched at least ten new films every month since June 2014, and I intend to keep that up — and as there are 12 months in a year (did you know?), that rounds up my aim to 120 new films.

So I guess my official minimum goal is 170 Films in a Year. Doesn’t have the same catchy ring, does it? Especially as it should technically be 120 Films I Haven’t Seen and 50 I Have in a Year. Eesh.

Anyway, enough of that — let’s get properly started on 2019. Here are all the films I watched in the first 12th of this 13th year…


#1 Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018)
#2 Cool Hand Luke (1967)
#3 Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018), aka Gojira: Hoshi o Kuu Mono
#4 1941 (1979)
#5 Rambo (2008)
#6 The Stewardesses 3D (1969)
#6a Experiments in Love 3D (1977)
#6b La jetée (1962)
#7 Glass (2019)
#8 The Player (1992)
#9 The Happytime Murders (2018)
#10 Zatoichi Challenged (1967), aka Zatôichi chikemurikaidô
Rambo

The Player

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  • So, I only watched ten new feature films in January.
  • That’s bang on my minimum goal, which is a good thing, but it also means January was my lowest month since September 2017, which is less good.
  • On a more positive note: since I started achieving a minimum of ten films per month year-round back in 2015, I’ve had no more than a single only-ten-films month each year (November in 2015, December in 2016, September in 2017, and none in 2018) — so maybe getting it out of the way in January bodes well for the rest of the year?
  • Also, while this may be the joint-lowest month of the past 4½ years, before then I regularly had sub-ten months. Indeed, pre-2014, 56% of months failed to reach double figures at all.
  • I didn’t watch a film on the 5th, one of the remaining dates on which I’ve ‘never’ watched a film. Two months in a row I’ve messed that up! I’ll have to be more attentive at the end of this year and the start of 2020…
  • In fact, I didn’t watch my first film until the 9th, which is the second latest start ever (in 2011 it was the 10th). That made the film in question — Happy New Year, Colin Burstead — feel somewhat ironic, what with it being, y’know, quite well past New Year by that point.
  • This month’s Blindspot film was Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire cum neo-noir thriller, The Player.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film was Cool Hand Luke, which I had little choice about: no sooner had I included it in my 2019 selection because it was streaming on Amazon than I discovered it was to be removed a mere two days later! Just another reminder why relying on streaming services is a bad idea. Physical media 4eva!



The 44th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I found surprising depth in the fourth Rambo, and was one of the apparently-few people who didn’t walk away disappointed from Shyamalan’s trilogy-closing Glass, but this month’s winner has to be The Player. Mixing sharp Hollywood satire with a perverse respect for the wonders of Tinseltown, shaped into a neo-noir thriller storyline and delivered via bravura filmmaking, that includes a justifiably-famous opening oner, Robert Altman’s comeback film promised so much that I love in movies, and delivered on it all too.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I may’ve watched several notoriously bad films this month (Spielberg’s 1941, R-rated puppet flop The Happytime Murders, gimmicky 3D sexploitation The Stewardesses), but I actually enjoyed all of them on some level. No, this choice was easy. Apparently while promoting his latest film Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, director Ben Wheatley talked about it being his first movie where no one dies. Sure, no one in the film dies, but while watching it I became concerned that I might die from boredom.

Favourite Short Film of the Month
La jetée may be an innovative and influential arthouse sci-fi classic, but does it have full frontal nudity displayed in genuine 3D? No, no it does not. As I wrote on Letterboxd, “whether you want a little knowingly irreverent comedy, a cornucopia of 3D tricks, or some relatively explicit softcore porn, Experiments in Love has you covered.” It’s way more fun than it should be.

Most Explosive Orgasm by an Inanimate Object of the Month
I’m sorry to subject you to such crudeness, my dear, gentle readers, but here’s the thing: The Happytime Murders’ trailers made a fairly big deal of its puppet’s silly-string-spraying climax, but it was already beat by (once again) Experiments in Love. The latter features a huge retro computer, which for some reason speaks with a dodgy Japanese accent, and for even less reason has a grabby protuberance that tries to grope the film’s female characters, and which eventually gets very excited and, well, shall we say shoots off… directly at the camera lens, of course, because this is 3D. Take that, Gaspar Noé.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I don’t always watch my stats closely, but sometimes something catches my eye. This month, my Christmas TV review soared to an early lead — TV posts are always popular, and this one went up on the 2nd, so it had almost the whole month to rack up hits. By the halfway point, it already looked unassailable. Then Glass came along, and while it didn’t do spectacular short-term numbers, a strong day-by-day count saw it creep up the chart — could it challenge, even surpass Christmas TV? Well, no — those numbers actually tailed off pretty sharpish, leaving the Past Christmas on TV this month’s clear victor. (Glass did come a respectable second though, far outstripping this month’s other TV post.)


Real life got in the way a bit this month, so it’s been a rather quiet one (this is my first post for 11 days!) Nonetheless, there’s still a chunk of stuff to recap. For starters, January began (as always) with my review of the previous year…

And then regular business brought this little lot…


While my main goal only just scraped to its minimum monthly target, my Rewatchathon began by exceeding it by 25%…

#1 Twelve Monkeys (1995)
#2 Unbreakable (2000)
#3 Ghostbusters (1984)
#4 Split (2016)
#5 Les Misérables (2012)

…of course, when your target is “four”, 25% is “one”. Sounds less grand like that, though.

At this point I’d normally share a thought or two about some or all of the above listed films, but instead I’m going to mention my Letterboxd account. My stats on the site inform me that I ‘review’ films on there about 50% of the time. Those aren’t proper reviews, mind — usually I’m aiming for a ‘witty’ comment, but sometimes it’s a quick initial impression, especially if a film really made me feel something (for good or ill). Sometimes those comments end up getting mixed into the full reviews I later post here; other times they don’t.

This month, I wrote something about each of my rewatches (hence why I’m mentioning this now), which you can locate quickly as follows: Twelve Monkeys, Unbreakable, Ghostbusters, Split, and Les Misérables.


Here’s a new regular section for 2019. (Assuming I always have something to say in it. If I don’t, I guess it’ll disappear again.) These are films I’d been specifically meaning to watch (or rewatch) this month, but for whatever reason didn’t get round to — my failures.

For January, this includes a tonne of stuff — I’m about to name 19 different titles, enough to almost triple the number I actually watched. (If that’s the kind of level I’m operating at, there probably will be something to say here every month!) Those include some much-discussed recent streaming releases (Roma, Bird Box); some Amazon rentals I got on the cheap (First Reformed, Leave No Trace, Mandy); some films I’ve been meaning to see for yonks that recently popped up on streaming services (Gods and Monsters, The Purge: Anarchy); recent Blu-ray purchases (One Cut of the Dead, Waterworld, Crimson Peak); at least one film I recorded off TV (The Eyes of Orson Welles); some new Blu-ray/rental releases that I haven’t actually purchased yet (Dave Made a Maze, The Predator); and anything at all on 4K Blu-ray — I got a player for Christmas, and I’ve set it up and watched a few bits and pieces as tests, but not a whole film. Top contenders for that honour include Escape from New York, Mission: Impossible I, II or Fallout, Blade Runner, and Blade Runner 2049.

One thing I can say: some of those will definitely be amongst next month’s viewing. I mean, if they’re not, I wasted money on those rentals…


It’s the shortest month of the year! Better pick up my average weekly viewing, then, or I won’t even make it to ten…

Say Hello to My Little Monthly Update for January 2018

Let’s start the new year with a bang…

Say hello to my little friend


#1 Bright (2017)
#2 The Narrow Margin (1952)
#3 My Life as a Courgette (2016), aka Ma vie de Courgette
#4 The 400 Blows (1959), aka Les Quatre Cents Coups
#5 The Purge (2013)
#6 The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
#7 The Love Punch (2013)
#8 The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012)
#9 The Man from Earth: Holocene (2017)
#10 La La Land (2016)
#11 Zatoichi on the Road (1963), aka Zatôichi kenka-tabi
#12 The Boss Baby 3D (2017)
#13 Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017), aka Gojira: Kaijū Wakusei
#14 Scarface (1983)
#15 King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 3D (2017)
La La Land

Scarface

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  • 15 new films this month gets 2018 off to a strong start. It’s equal to the 2017 average of 14.5, which bodes well for another good year.
  • It’s ahead of the January average (previously 11.2, now 11.5), though ranks joint third of all Januarys: it’s the same tally as last year, only slightly behind 2015’s 16, but 2016 retains the all-time best January with 20.
  • The Boss Baby was the first film I watched from 2017’s 50 Unseen. Did not expect that!
  • This month’s Blindspot film: on the rare occasion I watch a film from the nouvelle vague I always expect to find it irritating and pretentious, but there are some I’ve liked — Breathless, for example. Now joining that list is another of the movement’s best-known texts, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film: Al Pacino stars in Brian De Palma’s ’80s epic about a Cuban immigrant who’s a whizz at designing winter neckwear, ScarfAce.



The 32nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
There were quite a few films I really liked this month (by the time the reviews are in, four will receive full marks), but when I sat down to consider this award there was a clear victor for me. I can’t quite believe it’s taken me this long to get round to it (I first noticed it when it was getting raves at festival screenings in the latter half of 2016), and I’m not sure which stage of backlash we’re on at this point (so I don’t know if I’m currently ‘meant’ to like it or not), but I loved La La Land.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There was nothing I’d consider an outright stinker this month (yes, I enjoyed The Boss Baby and King Arthur), so it falls to what I consider the most disappointing, basically. I’m afraid that has to be The Man from Earth: Holocene. After spending so long waiting for it (I supported the Kickstarter campaign back in 2014), the end result didn’t live up to the original. Perhaps it never could have, but here we are.

Worst Title Translation from French of the Month
The French title of François Truffaut’s debut film, Les Quatre Cents Coups, does indeed literally translate into English as The 400 Blows, but that’s not really what it means. It’s a (slight) abbreviation of a French idiom, faire les quatre cents coups, which has a meaning equivalent to “to raise hell”. So in English, The 400 Blows sounds like a pretty meaningless title once you’ve seen the film; something like Raising Hell, on the other hand…

Worst Title Translation from Japanese of the Month
The fifth film in Japan’s long-running samurai series is called Zatôichi kenka-tabi in its original language, which translates as Zatoichi’s Fighting Journey. Suggests some action, doesn’t it? Instead, in English it’s known as Zatoichi on the Road, which is both less exciting and also thoroughly generic — it could be the title of pretty much any Zatoichi movie. (Not that Fighting Journey is that much more specific, to be honest.)

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
A clear victor this month (it had five times as many hits as the post in second place), and for the first time in a quarter of a year it’s actually a film review too: The Man from Earth: Holocene.



I didn’t bother to furnish my Rewatchathon with an introductory post this year because the concept remains fundamentally the same as 2017 (that intro is here). However, because reaching 52 felt like a bit of a scramble towards the end, I’ve lowered my sights ever so slightly to 50. It’s a rounder number anyhow.

First off the block, then…

#1 Dunkirk (2017)
#2 Die Hard (1988)
#3 The Man from Earth (2007)
#4 Die Hard 2 (1990)

That’s a bang-on-target start — a lot better than last year, when I only rewatched one film in January.

Believe it or not, Die Hard and Die Hard 2 are the only Die Hard movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve been meaning to get to Die Hard with a Vengeance for absolutely ages, but for a while have also been wanting to rewatch the first two first. Well, that’s done now, so hopefully #3 will follow soon. And then #4 and #5? Perhaps. I mean, I watched Die Hard 2 for the first time in 2008 and I’m only now watching With a Vengeance, so maybe I won’t see the fifth one until 2038…


The MCU is back, in black.

The Riddle of the Monthly Update for January 2017

How is it February already?!

OK, how about we stave off the inevitable just a little longer and take a look back at January…


#1 Green Room (2015)
#2 Anomalisa (2015)
#3 Ninja Scroll (1993), Jūbē Ninpūchō
#4 Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
#5 Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
#6 Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie (2016)
#7 Into the Wild (2007)
#8 Eye in the Sky (2015)
#9 Charlie Bartlett (2007)
#10 The Conversation (1974)
#11 iBoy (2017)
#12 Under the Shadow (2016)
#13 Sing Street (2016)
#14 London Has Fallen (2016)
#15 Another Earth (2011)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Kubo and the Two Strings

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  • 2017 gets underway with 15 new films. (I’ll talk about my Rewatchathon in a bit.)
  • That’s the 32nd consecutive month with ten or more films.
  • It’s just shy of the 2016 average (16.25), and makes the average for the last 12 months 15.83.
  • It does beat the January average of 11, though. However, it’s the lowest January since 2014; but it’s also the third largest January ever. Swings and roundabouts, eh?
  • This month’s Blindspot viewing: Francis Ford Coppola’s great ’70s paranoid surveillance thriller, The Conversation.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS viewing: getting the film I had least interest in out of the way, Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. And I was right, it was a mess.



The 20th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Multiple films snagged full marks this month, and several I’d say are already hot favourites for my best-of-year list in 11 months’ time, which makes this a particularly tricky choice. On balance, however, I’m going to say charming Kiwi comedy is trumped (on this occasion) by the fantastical world conjured through the incredible artistry of Kubo and the Two Strings.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
For all its faults, London Has Fallen was pretty much what I expected it to be. Into the Wild, on the other hand, is misguided and overrated.

Best Original Song of the Month
I’m sure La La Land is great ‘n’ all, but the lack of Oscar recognition for Sing Street’s music is disappointing. My personal pick would be The Riddle of the Model, but there’s a lot to be said for Drive It Like You Stole It too — especially considering…

Best Dance Routine of the Month
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Littlefinger do a steering wheel-inspired dance move to Drive It Like You Stole It.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
As we know, statistics are The Best Thing Ever, which surely explains why my 2016: The Full List post was by far the most-read in January. Lists are almost as good, which surely explains why my Best & Worst of 2016 came second.



My goal to rewatch 52 movies this year got off to a weak start, as you don’t have to scroll very far to see.

#1 Enemy of the State (1998)

Yeah, that’s it. I watched it after The Conversation, because of the theory about Gene Hackman’s characters being the same guy. I can see where the idea came from, but it does not hold up.

Anyway, only rewatching one thing is OK — although my goal of 52 films was inspired by the principle of watching one per week, I never intended to stick to that slavishly; especially as I had Netflix this month, which led me to focus on newer stuff available there while I had it. I’ll make it up later.


It’s about time for an update to my director’s page header image, which features the 20 directors who have the most films covered on this blog. My 100 Favourites series created a bit of a shake-up in this area, with the main beneficiary being Steven Spielberg. I also watched a fair few of his films that I hadn’t got round to in 2016, so all told he was catapulted from six films at the end of 2015, to 17 at the end of 2016. But he’d already made it onto the header last year, so his newfound abundance doesn’t actually affect that.

As for what has changed, then, six directors drop out: Danny Boyle, Marc Forster, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Vincente Minnelli, and George A. Romero. In their place we have (in descending order of number of movies): Peter Jackson, Bryan Singer, John Carpenter, Tony Scott, Robert Zemeckis, and Michael Bay.

Wait… Michael Bay? Yeah, I can’t stand for that. No Bay; Hitchcock stays.


It’s the official 10th birthday of 100 Films at the end of February, for which I’m working on a whole host o’ posts.

The Vigesimal Monthly Update for January 2016

A new year means the monthly update format is… exactly the same as last year, because it works. (Well, I think it does.)

For any newcomers, or people in need of a refresher, here you’ll find: everything I watched in January 2016, with some observations and analysis too; all the reviews and 100 Favourites entries I posted last month; and The Arbies, my monthly awards. Plus, this month, a few snippets of site news.

Without further ado:


#1 Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016)
#2 Snatch. (2000)
#3 12 Years a Slave (2013)
#4 Funny Games (1997)
#5 Lady of Burlesque (1943)
#6 The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), aka Shao Lin san shi liu fang
#7 Super 8 (2011)
#8 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
#9 The Five Venoms (1978), aka Five Deadly Venoms
#10 Hercules (Extended Cut) (2014)
#11 White God (2014), aka Fehér Isten
#12 King Boxer (1972), aka Five Fingers of Death
#13 Return to the 36th Chamber (1980), aka Shao Lin da peng da shi
#14 Starman (1984)
#15 The Two Faces of January (2014)
#16 Amistad (1997)
#17 The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
#18 47 Ronin (2013)
#19 A Boy and His Dog (1975)
#20 Adam (2009)


  • For the first time, I’ve opened up my What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen selections beyond my DVD and Blu-ray collection to include stuff I have access to on streaming services, etc. Due to my inattentiveness, I included a film that was to be removed the day after I posted that list. Fortunately I did notice, and 12 Years a Slave was squeezed in on its last evening on Amazon Prime.
  • I also caught Snatch before I cancelled my Netflix subscription (I hadn’t meant to keep it so long, what with also having Amazon Prime, but golly, there’s so much to watch!) That’s two checked off already, meaning WDYMYHS 2016 is off to a flying start. Considering I usually end up playing catch up (and, two times out of three, failing), that’s a Good Thing.
  • A few other instances of pairs and repetitions this month:
  • 2x Guy Ritchie movies. As mentioned, one was the first check off WDYMYHS 2016; the other was the first check off my list of 50 Unseen from 2015.
  • 2x slavery-related movies. The aforementioned 12 Years a Slave, and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. Both feature Chiwetel Ejiofor, donchaknow.
  • Lots of kung fu movies! Two reasons: Film4’s first Martial Arts Gold season (there’s another in March/April), and that loads are available on Netflix UK, including several well-regarded ones.


January is always the most awkward month to analyse. In so many ways the start of a new year is a false new start — it’s an arbitrary marker imposed on Time by humanity, not any kind of empirical new beginning. (Sorry to get glumly philosophical.) A goal like watching 100 films is different though, because January bumps you right back to #1; and this year, that was from the lofty heights of #200. My point being: here, January is a new beginning, not just “the next month”, and can set a tone or pace for the year to come.

Probably not this year though, because — in spite of my stated aim to watch fewer films in 2016 — I made it to 20 in January. That makes it only the fourth month to pass into the 20s, and also my fourth-highest month ever — and as I’ve been doing this for 109 months now, being fourth is (in relative terms) an achievement. It’s the best January ever too, exceeding last year’s tally of 16, and the 20th month in a row with a double-figure total. That is something I aim to maintain this year. If I achieve it, it will see me reach 10+ films per month for two consecutive years, and a total of 31 consecutive months. Just 11 months to go…

So what else can we forecast for 2016? If I keep this up, it’s looking at another record-obliterating final total, this time of 240. I won’t keep it up, though. Historically, January averages 8.08% of a year’s final tally (the actual percentages ranging from 2008’s 5% to 2011’s 12%), which would peg 2016’s total at an even higher level: 248. Which, I say again, it won’t be. What it should be, though, is over 130 — which would still position it as my third best year ever. Considering I intend to spend February and/or March getting value-for-money out of a streaming service or two (as I did in January), besting 2014’s 136 is certainly not out of the question.



A new series for 2016, tracking my 100 favourite movies (that I saw before starting 100 Films). This month: a fuller introduction than that one-sentence summary (though that is the gist of it) and the first seven entries. The full list of all 100 will continue to be updated here throughout the year.



The 8th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Looking back over this month’s viewing, it feels a bit “good but not great” — a lot of films I liked very much, but nothing that really jumps out at me as a dead-cert contender for this category. While it’s more of a Quality movie than a favourite per se, then, the best film this month was its only five-stars-er, 12 Years a Slave.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Conversely, not many films I didn’t enjoy this month either. However, for disappointment value — expecting the greatest martial arts movie ever made and getting a mess — the loser is The Five Venoms.

Best Opening Sequence of the Month
If you haven’t seen White God then it can be a tough experience (especially for dog lovers), but the opening is fantastic: our young heroine cycles through deserted city streets, percussion-heavy classical music dramatic on the soundtrack, pursued by a pack of hundreds of dogs. There’s a reason they used it for the poster.

Most Surprising #1 at the Chinese Box Office
I know I’m meant to choose these awards, rather than let the Chinese public do it for me, but surely it’s worthy of note that the cinema release of Sherlock: The Abominable Bride saw it top the box office in China, as well as post strong figures in South Korea and other countries. No, really. And that was just the start of it: according to Box Office Mojo, it wound up taking $20.5 million in China and $7.5 million in South Korea, where it bested The Force Awakens (seriously), while other reports peg it as earning $2.7 million in the US. Full figures aren’t easy to come by, but it seems to have a worldwide gross somewhere north of $34 million. Not bad for a TV episode produced for a couple of million quid.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Outpacing popular posts from just inside the New Year, like Sherlock and my statisticstastic 2015 list, was fun backstage murder mystery — and, significant to its success in this category, blogathon entry — Lady of Burlesque.


Normally I refresh my directors page header image somewhere around August to October, but I was busy watching a shedload of films back then, so it’s been pushed to now. January’s a better time for it anyway, after a full year of film viewing — and next January could make a big change, with my 100 Favourites factored in. The header features the 20 directors who have the most films reviewed on here, and some will get multiple additions thanks to that favourites list. For now, it’s based on how things were on January 1st. I completely rebuilt it, so it’s all spiffy.

Also, I’ve modified the “list of reviews” header. I think that’s the first time I’ve changed it since it went live a couple of years ago. Of the 27 pictures, ten were replaced and four refreshed with higher-quality versions, so it looks a lot spiffier too.

Finally, I decided to re-write the “About” page, for the first time in 3½ years. I re-read the old one and found myself intensely irritating, so hopefully the new version is… less bad.


My viewing selections will be mainly dictated by “what’s on Sky Movies”, in the run up to the Oscars…

January 2015

How do you top the most successful year of your blog ever? Well, let’s see …


January’s films

Ghost Dog#1 The Crab with the Golden Claws (1947), aka Le Crabe aux Pinces d’Or
#2 Parker (2013)
#3 Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
#4 Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)
#5 Machine Gun Preacher (2011)
#6 Last Passenger (2013)
#7 Persona (1966)
#8 The Big Knife (1955)
M:I-4#9 Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut (2005)
#10 The Sugarland Express (1974)
#11 The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)
#12 Hancock (Extended Version) (2008)
#13 Argo (Extended Cut) (2012/2013)
#14 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1981), aka Priklyucheniya Sherloka Kholmsa i doktora Vatsona: Sobaka Baskerviley
#15 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
#16 Transcendence (2014)


Viewing Notes

  • Since enjoying Spielberg & Jackson’s Tintin movie at the tail end of 2014, I’ve found myself a bit obsessed this January: I’ve started reading the books (been meaning to for yonks — I bought a complete box set in Amazon’s Black Friday sale several years ago) and acquired all the other films that are available on English-friendly DVDs. Reviewing The Crab with the Golden Claws is just the start of it for 2015, I should imagine.
  • Two more Thin Man films viewed — I’m almost at the end. Hence Thin Man Thursdays.
  • That Hound of the Baskervilles is a Russian TV version from the ’80s, widely acclaimed among Sherlockians. I’ll be reviewing it as part of the Russia in Classic Film Blogathon in early March.
  • Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to Ghost Protocol! I really enjoyed it too. With this year’s fifth movie recently moved up to a summer date, there’s every chance that’ll make this year’s list too, even if I wait for the Blu-ray again.


What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

In case you missed it, earlier this month I wrote a 2,800-word introduction to 2015’s “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” — aka WDYMYHS:SoOaHaDotO. (I promise not to call it that again.)

After nearly failing last year by leaving Serious and Heavy films ’til right at the end (Requiem for a Dream wasn’t a very Christmassy film for the end of December, but at least it was a brilliant one), I made a particular effort to start with one of this year’s more difficult films: Ingmar Bergman’s psychological two-hander Persona. Apparently writing about it is to film critics as Everest is to mountaineers, so that should be a fun one to review…


Analysis

To reach 100 films in a year at a steady pace, you need to watch about eight films every month. Having spotted my record-equalling run of double-figure months in December, I’ve decided I’d quite like to have a whole year of the same. Last year is the closest I’ve come to such a thing, with nine out of twelve months having 10+ films.

I’m off to an excellent start to achieve it in 2015, though, with 16 films in January — aka double the requirement for reaching 100. Naturally this means a new record for consecutive double-figure months, now at eight in a row. It also blows away all the possible indicators: January’s average total is 8.7 and 2014’s monthly average was 11.3, so it’s far beyond either of those. In fact, it’s the highest ever January, in the process besting all but one month from 2014.

I’ve explained before that January is absolutely useless as a predictor of the entire year… but where’s the fun in leaving it at that? So if I were to continue at this pace, 2015 would end up on an improbably-high 192 — take that 2014 and your beat-the-record-by-seven 136! It seems unlikely that’ll happen, I agree, especially as January’s tally has not once been close to the year-end average. That said, it’s normally a good-but-not-great kind of month, often bested immediately by February and March — that’s what happened in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, while February topped it in 2008 and March almost doubled it in 2014 — so things may be looking even rosier in a few weeks’ time. Plus, even if I ‘only’ achieve my stated goal of 10 films per month from here on out, I’ll still end up in the 120s, which would put 2015 among the highest-totalling years.


This month’s archive reviews

I’d quite like to get my archive reposts finished during 2015, leaving the slate clean and the site complete for 2016, my tenth year. There’s still a long way to go (just under 170 reviews, plus a load of editorial-type posts), but at this rate I might make it. To kick things off, 20 archive reviews were reposted during January…


Next month on 100 Films in a Year…

Despite being the year’s shortest month, February has twice topped the year for total monthly viewing, and a couple more times has been among the top ‘scorers’. Equally, on three occasions it’s been one of the year’s lowest. The rollercoaster continues in 28 days…

January 2011

It’s live! (Well, I wrote it ‘live’.)

It’s Monday night! (Well, I posted it Monday night.)

It’s the January 2011 round-up! (At least that’s always true.)


Here we go again…

Following the success of 2010, 2011’s off to a good start. For one thing I’ve got every review from last year posted — I didn’t manage that until August (August!) last year.

More pertinently, though, the film-watching is off and running. Though I started later than ever this year (the first three years I managed to watch #1 on New Year’s Day; last year it was 8th January; this year 10th January), I’m suitably far ahead as January closes. The target for this month is to reach #8; last year I made it to #12; this year, I’ve made it to #12 again. Neat.

If I continue at this rate (which never happens), I’d reach #100 in early September and have a total of 144 by the end of the year. I shan’t be getting my hopes up.


This month’s films, then:

#1 Saw VI (2009)
#2 Exam (2009)
#3 Genevieve (1953)
#4 Synecdoche, New York (2008)
#5 Melinda and Melinda (2004)
#6 The Invention of Lying (2009)
#7 Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)
#8 The Big Heat (1953)
#9 The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
#10 The Three Musketeers (1973)
#11 Bolt (2008)
#12 The Four Musketeers (1974)


Next time on the all-new 100 Films in a Year monthly update…

February. I’m sure you knew that.

Another dismal January

It seems like barely a couple of months since I was posting about a dismal January; but, of course, it was a year ago (today!)* — and I’ve just had another equally mediocre month.

Stuck with a huge pile of leftover reviews from 2008, I’ve yet to even post a 2009 one — in fact, there’s still a 2008 one to go! I’m not very happy with many of these final ’08 pieces, mainly because they’re all a bit rushed. I guess that’s part of why I have a blog rather than being published or somesuch…

Plus, having such a backlog to review always puts me off watching anything new, which is why I rush through the reviews, but it still means my total has only reached five — exactly the same as this point last year. Damn it. At least there’s another 47 & a half weeks to turn things around…

* Ironically, in repostathon land it’s not even been a couple of months, merely a couple of days. ^

100 Days

April 9th: the 100th day of 2008! As it’s just over a quarter of the way through the year (that would’ve been March 31st, more or less), and also a nice round number in its own right, and as I did a similar thing at roughly this point last year, it seems an appropriate time for a statisticstastic look at how things are going so far.

I’ve seen a total of just 15 films so far. That makes my weekly average a lowly 1.07, meaning I’ll manage a paltry 56 films this year should that continue. Oh dear. (At this point last year, I was on course to see 145!)

Of those few films, eight were released in the 2000s, two each in the 1990s, ’80s and ’40s, and one in the ’30s. That means I’ve seen nothing from the ’70s, ’60s or ’50s, or before 1939.

I saw nine of them on DVD, four via download, and two on TV. Nothing on VHS, and I haven’t been to the cinema yet this year.

Ratings wise, I’ve so far handed out three full marks. Those were to Atonement, Dark City and Rebecca. Of the remaining twelve, five garnered 4 out of 5, four managed a 3, and three were awarded just 2. Nothing has been poor enough to merit a 1… yet. The average rating is therefore 3.5, exactly the same as at this point last year and a pretty averagey average.

With 38 weeks of the year to go, I have 85 films left to reach my target — that’s an average of 2.2 new films every week (or 9.5 every month) from here out. Quite low, one might think, but I’ve clearly not been living up to it.

A dismal January

This new year of film watching has hardly got off to an auspicious start, with only five new films seen in January. For those who haven’t already done the maths, that rate sees me just reaching 60 by the end of the year — a tad short of 100!

But I have new resolve… sort of… and a list. Lists always help. That is, in this case, a list of things in my DVD collection I would especially like to get round to watching. Some of those may well pop up soon. Plus I’ve just started a new film module, which should mean a slew of unseen films… well, one a week at any rate… except the first is Great Expectations, which I saw last year!

Oh well…