The 2016 Movie Watching Challenge

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine did an amazing movie-watching challenge, where she solicited recommendations from fifty-two of her friends; they each gave her five movies to watch per week. Yeah, crazy right? Well, she ended up completing the challenge with only a brief delay, which was amazing and inspiring. Last year a bunch of other friends picked up the idea with varying numbers of movies per week, and now it’s my turn. I’ve been planning to do it for months, but I wanted to wait until January 2016 to start with a clean slate.

So here’s what I want you to do.

First, let me know you’re interested in participating. I’ve started a group on Facebook to keep track of all the weeks and recommendations. Let me know here, or on Facebook, or Twitter that you’re in, and I’ll invite you to the group (or I think you can request an invite from the link above.

Second, once you’re in the group, you’ll be assigned a week pretty much on a first-come, first-serve basis. That’s the week I’ll watch and write about the films you assign me.

Third, recommend me TWO films you think I should watch. Now, how you decide what films is up to you. It can be great films I’ve missed, it can be your personal favorites you want to share, it can be new films, old films, good films, bad films, well-known films, obscure films. It DOES NOT MATTER. This is not about filling blind spots, although you can certainly choose to do that if you want, it’s about seeing a wide variety of films I might not otherwise seek out, or haven’t gotten to as quickly as I should.


I’ll be writing about the films I see here on my blog, and sharing the posts to Facebook/Twitter. They won’t be “reviews” since I don’t even do those, but they’ll be my honest reactions and thoughts on the film. I’ll also be ranking each film on my Flickchart, and keeping track of who has the highest-ranked recommendations. There’s no prize except kudos, but stats are fun.

Here are a few links that might be helpful in figuring out what to recommend to me:

  • List of every film I’ve ever seen – If you’re thinking of something specific, you can check here to see if I’ve seen it already; I also have general ratings listed on whether I liked it or not (this page is long, it may take a while to load)
  • Top Ten lists on the left side of my blog – Toward the bottom of the left nav bar is a list of links to my Top Ten-ish lists for each year; a good quick look at my faves by year
  • My Flickchart – This is a ranked list of every film I’ve ever seen; I’m in the process of reranking it for greater accuracy, but in broad strokes, it’s a decent snapshot of my taste. I rank according to what I flat-out like the most, not what I think are the best/greatest films, whatever that means
  • My Unseen Films – My unseen film list on Flickchart, which is ranked according to Flickchart’s global rankings; a good quick look at major films I haven’t seen
  • Letterboxd Films to See – You’re welcome to look at my self-identifed lists of things I’d like to see on Letterboxd, but I encourage you to go outside of things I already want to see and surprise me with things I don’t know about or wouldn’t have chosen to see myself (but I realize I’m pretty inclusive with my “want to see” lists and it may be easier to go that route)
  • There are a very few films I will veto. If you suggest one of them to me, I will politely ask you to choose something else. As an example, Salo is one of them. You might want to generally stay away from sadistic films, torture-porn, hardcore exploitation and stuff along those lines.

As I said, I plan to start in January 2016, so I’d love to have a solid group of recommendations a couple of weeks before that so I can start sourcing the films. I have Netflix Instant and DVDs, Amazon, HuluPlus, and a great library system, so I should be able to get most things unless they’re very difficult to find, and I’ll let you know if I have trouble sourcing something so you can choose something else.

Here’s to a great and varied year of moviewatching and discussion!



Letterboxd Season Challenge: Serpico (1973)

Film 9 for the Letterboxd Season Challenge. The other films I plan to watch for the challenge are here.

Week 9: Hardboiled Wonderland
Challenge: Watch an unseen film from the Hardboiled Wonderland 1970s list of crime films.
Film I Chose: Serpico (1973)


Okay, so this is the week 9 film, which is correct for this week, but due to time issues I’ve had to skip weeks 7 and 8 for now – I will return to them! I just didn’t want to get too far behind, and I had a good opportunity to watch this one.

I’ve had Serpico on my watch list for a couple of years now, both because I’ve been trying to catch up on 1970s films and because I like Sidney Lumet films. I definitely had some incorrect preconceptions about this one, though – perhaps because of the one-word title and having an idea it was about a rogue kind of cop, I thought it would be like an Italian cop version of Shaft, and be action-y and funky.

It is not.

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Moviegoing Children in the 1920s (according to the book Half Magic)

I’m spending a good portion of my time lately reading elementary and middle-school books as I think about and plan for homeschooling my daughter, and I picked up one this week that’s about fifth-grade level called Half Magic, by Edward Eager. I hadn’t heard of this before, but the cover illustration looks like the ones on Eleanor Estes’ family comedy books for about the same age range, but this one has a bit of magic in it and name checks fantasy books like E. Nesbit’s The Enchanted Cottage. Anyway, that’s by the by.

Today I came across a couple of pages where the four children (ages about six to thirteen or so) head to the movies. The book was written in 1954, but set 30 years earlier, which makes it take place in the mid-1920s. I just found this humorous depiction of kids going to the movies in around 1924 to be pretty hilarious and also probably fairly accurate. For reference, Jane is the oldest, Mark is second at age 11 (if the other ages are given, I’ve overlooked them), then Katharine, and Martha is the youngest. The story takes place in Toledo, Ohio, which is middle America at its most middle American.

After lunch, it was time to choose what movie to see.

The children did this by first making a tour of all the movie theatres in town and looking at the pictures on the outside. A time of argument followed. Mark liked Westerns and thrilling escapes, but Martha wouldn’t go inside any theatre that had pictures of fighting.

Jane and Katharine liked ladies with long hair and big eyes and tragic stories. They wanted to see a movie called Barbara LaMarr in Sandra. Mark finally agreed, because there were a lot of pictures outside of a man who wore a moustache, and that meant he was the villain, and that meant that somebody would hit him sooner or later. Martha agreed because all the other theatres had either pictures with fighting or Charlie Chaplin.


All of the four children hated Charlie Chaplin, because he was the only thing grown-ups would ever take them to.

When they came into the theatre Barbara LaMarr in Sandra had already reached its middle, and the children couldn’t figure out exactly what was happening. But then neither could the rest of the audience.

“But, George, I do not seem to grasp it all!” the woman behind the four children kept saying to her husband.

The four children did not grasp any of it, but Barbara LaMarr had lots of hair and great big eyes, and when strong men wanted to kiss her and she pushed them away and made suffering faces at the audience with her eyebrows, Jane and Katharine thought it was thrilling, and probably quite like the way life was, when you were grown-up.

Mark didn’t think much of the love blah, but he watched the villain getting more villainous, and the hero getting more heroic, and patiently waited for them to slug it out.

Martha hated it.

That was always the way with Martha. She wanted to go to the movies like anything until she got there, and then she hated it. Now she kept pestering the others to read her the words and tell her what was happening (for in those days movies did not talk).


Letterboxd Season Challenge: Winter Sleep (2014)

Film 6 for the Letterboxd Season Challenge. The other films I plan to watch for the challenge are here.

Week 6: Eastern European Films
Challenge: Watch an unseen feature by Jan Svankmayer, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, or Bela Tarr.
Film I Chose: Winter Sleep


Well, I picked this one because I’ve seen a good bit from the other filmmakers, but had only seen (and liked) Once Upon a Time in Anatolia from Ceylan. I should’ve realized from Anatolia that I should expect some length to this one, but the 196 minute running time still came as a surprise to me. The real surprise is that despite my busy schedule forcing me to take Winter Sleep in three parts, it was never boring and I don’t think I would’ve felt the length even if I had been able to carve out the time all at once.

Ceylan manages to do something quite amazing – take a very simple story and make it both complex through its relationships and compelling through a series of lengthy but perfectly modulated conversations. Main character Aydin is a wealthy man with several businesses and properties who’s currently living in his hotel in Cappadocia along with his beautiful younger wife and his somewhat bitter sister, and spends most of his time writing moralistic editorials despite his rejection of religion. He clashes with his sister over how to react to evil, with his wife over how to run her charity project, and with the local imam over the rent.

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Letterboxd Season Challenge: The Big Parade (1925)

Film 5 for the Letterboxd Season Challenge. The other films I plan to watch for the challenge are here.

Week 5: PUNQ Week
Challenge: Watch an unseen feature that ranked in the top ten on any of PUNQ’s pre-1940 lists.
Film I Chose: The Big Parade


PUNQ is a Letterboxd user who’s concentrating on watching pre-1940s films, and he watches a LOT of them. This guy has Top 100s for every year from like 1896 to 1939. I watch a lot of old movies, but that’s crazy. Anyway, that gave me a bunch of options for this week, and initially I had chosen Fritz Lang’s Spies, which I still hope to watch soon if I get time, but it may not be this week. I ended up watching The Big Parade for an upcoming Flickchart blog post anyway, and since I’m short on time this week, decided to count it for the challenge as well.

I’m fascinated by WWI, so I’m surprised I’ve never gotten around to this before – I’ve seen both All Quiet on the Western Front and Wings multiple times, but this one has slipped by me (despite being on my DVR for the past like two years, no joke). In any case, I’m really glad I got to it now, because this is one great film.

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