2016 Challenge Debrief

Well, it’s been almost three months since my year-long movie challenge officially completed, and it’s taken me that long to decompress, rerank everything, and generally get ready to post a recap of the year. The short version: it was awesome! I watched a ton of movies I really liked, very few I didn’t like, and found several that are going to be long-term favorites. It was a wonderful year of movie-watching, with a ton of variety, a lot of blind spot greats I should’ve gotten to before now, a lot of hidden gems I was glad to seek out, and a solid mix of fun and homework (and I found favorites among both!).

Thanks to everyone who participated in this by giving me movies and waiting (often very patiently) for my feedback. If you have the time and freedom, I highly recommend doing a similar challenge. It was surprisingly freeing to not have to decide what movies to watch, and knowing everyone was waiting to hear my reactions was highly motivating to keep with this project.

Stats

Total films watched: 104 from 52 different people
Range of years represented: 1921-2014 (The Phantom Carriage to Whiplash)
# of countries represented: 14
Average ranking/percentage: 1066 mean, 999 median
Total films I have ranked: 3865, so that means the vast majority of films fell in the top third of my chart

Top 15% Challenge Films

All of these films landed at 85% or higher on my chart. I was initially going to do Top 10%, but there were too many films I truly loved that fell just outside 10%. Including 15% captured much better the films I loved compared to the ones I really liked, which fell in the 70-85% range. I’m not going to write anything about each one, as you can look at my full reviews if you’re curious. Links to every review are in the full ranked list below.

Mr. Nobody (97%) – Derek Armstrong

The Blues Brothers (95%) – Matthew Thomas

Limelight (94%) – Patrick Gray

Millenium Actress (94%) – Travis Easton

Europa ’51 (93%) – Dan Kocher

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Challenge Week 52: Autumn Sonata

Finishing the Challenge out with a classic Bergman-Bergman film, the only one Ingmar and Ingrid ever made together, and it’s a doozy.

There are Ingmar Bergman films I love to bits, but I often find him a tough nut to crack, his film striking me as a bit austere and aloof rather than the deeply humanistic works I know they are. That kind of happened with Fanny and Alexander earlier last year, but with Autumn Sonata, it was almost TOO raw and full of naked emotion.

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Challenge Week 52: 8 Women

Well, I’ve kept Bas waiting WAY too long on this, plus everyone else waiting for a wrap-up of my Challenge, which was by and large a phenomenal success. More on that…later.

The only François Ozon film I’d seen prior to this was Swimming Pool, which I HATED (though I don’t remember enough about it now to articulate why, I still remember the feeling of dislike toward it), so I had understandably not bothered to seek out any more Ozon or even find out what his other films were. When I looked this one up after Bas assigned it to me, I was pretty instantly sure I was going to like it, though. I mean, a bottle movie with eight women in a house with a dead man that one of them presumably killed but nobody knows who, AND it’s a musical? Yes.

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Challenge Week 51: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Lately if you ask me whether I’m into costume dramas and period films, I’d say nah, not really. And then something like this comes along and reminds me that actually, I am. I watched quite a bit of this kind of thing as a teenager – films based on Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, etc, and loved them, but for some reason I’ve kind of fallen off the period train, and I don’t know why, because there are lots of more recent examples I’ve loved too.

I’ve avoided reading Thomas Hardy (even in grad school, when I was, uh, supposed to read Tess of the d’Urbervilles and didn’t…shhhh) because I have a preconception of his work as pessimistic and depressing. But this film came across much more like Austen or Henry James than I expected, with Carey Mulligan as the independent young Bathsheba Everdeen who juggles three different suitors who offer her wildly different things. It’s kind of a cliche, I suppose (especially given how easily I can compare parts of it to other similar stories from this time period), but the whole thing worked for me like blazes.

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Challenge Week 51: Joe Versus the Volcano

What a goofy, weird little comedy. When my cousins were deciding what films to give me, Kevin scoffed at this suggestion from his wife, a movie she has a soft spot for and he apparently thinks is trash. Heh. I’d been meaning to see it for a while as I went through a major Meg Ryan phase for a while but somehow skipped this one, so I encouraged her to go through with the recommendation, and I’m glad I did.

While I probably didn’t love it like she does, I did quite enjoy its quirks. Tom Hanks is an employee in the epitome of dystopian office jobs – hundreds of glum employees shuffling to a dark, dank box of a building to do boring, pointless jobs and then shuffle back to their tiny, dank apartments. Hanks is a hypochondriac on top of that, and soon hears from his doctor that he’ll die of a mysterious condition within a few months. Then a mysterious man shows up at his apartment and offers him unlimited funds to enjoy (leading to a great section as Ossie Davis drives him around the town and helps him buy a new wardrobe) and a cruise to the South Pacific, but the catch is at the end of his vacation, he’s got to sacrifice himself to appease the island gods of the volcano.

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