My Adventure in Film

July 18th, 2012

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while but through the pressures of reviewing cats and entertaining people with the ukulele (entertaining in its loosest sense) I didn’t get round to it.

It seems that I’ve developed a new hobby, I didn’t expect to, and it’s only after doing it for about a year that I found out it had a name. Apparently I’m heavily involved in competitive film watching. I like it, now lying about, watching old film seems like it has a real purpose rather than…. lying about, watching old films.

Last year I completed a Facebook list thing called the Empire 500 greatest films. You know the sort of thing, you tick how many films you’ve seen and it compares it with your friends. This is a list that Empire Magazine put together in 2008 and, funnily enough, includes, what they consider to be the 500 greatest films. For the obvious reason this doesn’t include any films after 2008.

I ticked all the films I’d seen and came to 368 (I think, I wish I’d made a note of this now) out of 500 films. I was quite proud of that but was slightly miffed to see I was a bit behind Steve Coxon who’d got 382. It occurred to me that I’d only have to sit down and watch 132 films and I would have seen all of them, so I did.

Having something like Lovefilm certainly made this easier. I sat down and added as many of the films that I hadn’t seen as possible and then waited for them to turn up. I admit that towards the end I had to resort to a combination of expensive Ebay auctions and some piracy to get to see all of them.

One of the first things I’d learned was that the previous 300 odd films were there because I chose to watch them. Watching films based on an arbitrary list, from an arbitrary snapshot in time can be very hard work. In many cases I spent most of the film trying to workout whether it would have still made it onto the list if it had been collated in 2010.

Overall it is fair to say I saw some appalling films. I’ve learnt to hate 1960’s Italian cinema with a passion. I shudder when I think of anything that Ingmar Bergman was involved with. I took small pleasure in finding out my claim that Woody Allen’s career is a simple facade to cover the acts of a sexual predator was actually correct.

I did discover some things that I wasn’t expecting. I like Charlie Chaplin films. I like quite a few silent films as it turns out. The four hour epics, Greed and Napoleon filled me with dread but turned out, in their own way, to be quite entertaining.

One of the things I’ve been frequently asked as I’ve ploughed through the films I hadn’t seen is “which one has been the best?” I’ve found this really hard to answer, mainly because I’m being asked about my favourite film from a subset of a wider list that includes many of my favourite films. The fact that I’d never previously seen those 132 films was entirely random.

Having said that a few did really stick with me, Before Sunset and The Mother and the Whore being surprises as they are largely about French people talking at great length. There were also things like Requiem for a Dream and Almost Famous which were great films I’d just never heard of. If I have to pick one (which I don’t)  then my favourite would be High and Low, one of the best police films I’ve ever seen.

Overall working my way through this list did teach me something about film. I think I’ve got more of a sense of what makes a good story and how my preconceptions are not always right. I’ve learnt to watch films without knowing anything about them and actually relish the prospect of being surprised.

It also taught me that you better have a very good reason if you’re going to make your film longer than two hours.

Once I’d finished I was surprised to realise that I still had an appetite for seeing more. Fortunately James Cook pointed me towards Framerater which helps you to lump similar lists together and keep track of what you’ve seen AND has a leader board. This is the most important thing.

So I had a break, watched films with spaceships and Ninjas (separate films) and now I’m trying to complete the IMDB Top 250 of which  I have 33 to go. It’s not quite clear why Empire and IMDB have such different lists.

It took me almost a year to work my way through these but more importantly it gave me something to really bore people with.


Posted in Misc | Comments (5)

5 Responses to “My Adventure in Film”

  1. Phil Ruse Says:

    Does it count if you bought the DVD and lacking determination, left it on the shelf to gather dust? Oh well, despite your comments looks like I’ll still have to watch La Dolce Vita!

  2. Daz Says:

    La Dolce Vita was a low point. It wasn’t quite as bad as 8 and a half but it’s on my most tedious films of all times list.

  3. Paul Says:

    Suffering from hay fever since I was ten, I’ve spent many a summer indoors watching movies. Whilst bedridden, I once went A-Z through the Time Out movie guide and counted all those I’d seen. Not just seen, seen all the way through and could remember dialogue or a scene specifically to prove it if challenged. It’s well over a thousand films and will only have increased in the last ten years. But I agree, some of the films on these lists do begger belief sometimes. Watching a film BECAUSE the BFI tell you it’s in the top hundred often makes me more critical when I watch it. Perhaps it’s a hype thing. Congrats on the 500 and good luck on the 250…

  4. dom Says:

    Great points about Woody Allen and needing a good reason to be longer than 2 hours.
    Can hardly be arsed to watch a film nowadays.

  5. Daz Wright » Blog Archive » 1045 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die Says:

    […] that I knew virtually all of them. Still I like a good list and sort of enjoyed working through Empire Magazines List of 500 Films. Looking more closely at the list it became obvious that there was a certain amount of confirmation […]

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