Wow, it’s dusty in here!

So…it’s been a VERY LONG TIME since I updated things around here, and what a time it’s been! Last time I posted, I was just starting a Chronological watchlist project (known to me as Chrono project or sometimes just Chrono), and planned to post an update on that at the end of each year of cinema I finished. That has obviously not happened, for a lot of reasons.

Not the only one, but certainly one of the most prominent, is the arrival of our second child, Thea. Our older daughter is just finishing Kindergarten, the baby is walking, and I’m back to work full-time. This leaves not much time for watching movies, but it’s really the writing about them that’s hard to find time for these days. I’ve also been spending what little blogging time I have writing for Flickchart. That said, I would very much like to get back into things around here!

I don’t have many pictures of them together anymore, and this is why…

I have been plugging along on the Chrono project, though, despite all these life changes, and I’m up to 1913 now, so still quite early going, but I’m through all the Edison and Lumiere and Melies, getting a good start on Griffith and starting to see some more near-feature length films coming along. Watching movies this way has already been quite rewarding, as the innovations in early cinema are easy to see and appreciate – things like closeups and camera movements are VERY exciting the first time you see them, and you wouldn’t get that if you weren’t watching in order.

Let’s be a little honest right now. I started writing this post in October. It’s now May. The busyness has not abated. I can’t and won’t promise to be anything but sporadic, but I do want to post here SOMETIMES and right now I’ve got to get past the whole “but it’s been like two years since I posted anything” mental block. So I have to post SOMETHING now to break my silence, and this is it. I have half a post also started catching up on the 20+ years worth of early cinema I’ve watched, and I hope to have that out before too long. And I just signed up for Raquel’s Classic Film Book Summer Reading challenge – if there is something I’ve taken time to do over the past year or so, it’s read, so hopefully I won’t fail on that too badly. Look for probably brief reviews of those books here in the coming weeks.

Introducing the Chrono Watch Project!

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the Movie Recommendation Challenge I did last year, surprisingly, was not having to think about what movie to watch next. Apparently indecision is a bigger damper on my spirits than lack of agency. Weird. Anyway, because I enjoyed having such a solid schedule of what to watch, I decided to give myself the longest, most focused project I’ve ever attempted – a full chronological watch through film history starting with its very origins.

I was inspired to do this by a friend of mine, Dan, who I met in the Flickcharters Facebook group (BTW, if you use Flickchart and you’re on Facebook, let me know so I can add you to the group, because it’s the best ever film group I’ve ever been in, and I am not even joking about that). He started doing a chronological viewing project several years ago, and he’s up to 1975 now. His experiences and the insights he’s had based on seeing movies in context with each other, seeing them innovate and borrow and build on each other, has been illuminating and I decided I would give it a try as well.

I thought long and hard (in some ways am still thinking!) about how strict a schedule to keep, and how deep into each year to go. Should I just do a limited number from a year then move on, both to keep the pace brisk and to save some films for a second pass through later on? But no, I decided if the thing was worth doing, it was worth doing completely. So I’ve created a watchlist for each year (on Letterboxd), based on various critics lists, directors filmographies I want to complete, and just stuff I’m interested in. I’ve tried to include a lot of variety, documentaries, experimental films, short films, etc. I’ll include rewatches when I think I should reevaluate something, but for the most part, these are new watches for me. These lists are still in progress, by the way – I’ve only worked extra-hard to complete through 1925 or so. I will still be watching other films as they come up, so my watching is not exclusively chrono project, but whenever I don’t have anything else to watch, I’ll just be watching the next film in the chrono list. No indecision to be had.

For this series, I plan to update the blog periodically, not with every film. Certainly at the end of each “year” that I complete, highlighting my favorite films and thoughts about the year as a whole, and how the chrono project has added to my understanding of that year. I may write about individual films if I feel like it, or directors as I progress. I would love feedback on your favorites each year as well!

If you’d like to follow along more closely than that, I have created a Facebook group and will be posting more regularly in that, and including some polls and fun things like that about my watchlists, films I’ve watched, related books I’ve been reading, etc. The group is private, but just drop a comment here and I’ll add you to it on Facebook.

I actually started this in January, and I’ve spent the last five months on a journey through early cinema – more on that in an upcoming post.

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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