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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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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