Blind Spots: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

This year I attempted to watch twelve films off my extensive Blind Spots list. I didn’t manage to watch them all, but you know what, that’s okay. I still watched several that I might otherwise not have gotten around to, so I’m ahead.

There’s been some debate in the past couple of months over whether the whole Blind Spot project is worthwhile or not, stemming from Matt Brown’s post “Film is Not a Mission” and tumbling into a really great Mamo episode featuring Ryan McNeil, who has been a big proponent of the Blind Spots series. I think Matt’s point that becoming too beholden to “canon” is fair, but I obviously still think it’s worthwhile to identify holes in your viewing you’d like to fill and make a concerted effort to do so, and that’s really what this is for me.

That said, I did actually turn over part of my Blind Spot listmaking for 2014 to others, selecting a set of about 50 films that I consider Blind Spots and asking people to vote on which of those films they thought I should watch. But that’s really just crowdsourcing priority; I intend to watch all of the 50 films at some point.

Anyway, since I blogged about even fewer of my 2013 selections than I watched, I’m going to run down the results of my 2013 viewing, then list what I’m planning to watch in 2014.

What I Watched in 2013

My original watchlist is as follows:

  • Our Hospitality / The Navigator
  • Pandora’s Box
  • Vampyr
  • Island of Lost Souls
  • Zero de Conduite / L’Atalante
  • The Stranger
  • Wild Strawberries
  • Sanjuro
  • El Dorado
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Serpico
  • Days of Heaven

And here’s what I thought of the six I managed to watch.

The Stranger (1946)

I put this on my list because, hey, Orson Welles and film noir. But since I hadn’t ever really heard much about it, I figured it was probably a lesser film. Au contraire, this is a solid, taut little thriller – maybe more Hitchcockian than Wellesian, but that’s fine by me. Scorecard capsule.

El Dorado (1966)

I’m a big fan of Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, so I expected to like its spiritual successor El Dorado, and I was not wrong. Wayne and Mitchum play off each other brilliantly, and the whole thing is just a fun, laid-back hangout western. I fell into its groove immediately. Scorecard capsule.

The Navigator (1923)

After getting the awesome Keaton Blu-ray set for Christmas last year, I expected to watch a whole lot of Keaton films this year. As it turns out, watching silent movies (even comedies) in the sleep-deprived state of new motherhood is not a winning proposition, so I just managed to get to this one in December. I’m glad I made time for at least this one, though, as it was pretty delightful. Keaton is his rich-guy character here, who finds himself aboard a ship alone with the girl he wants to marry (some conspirators got rid of the crew in a Hitchcock-worthy McGuffin). This one takes its time with its jokes, especially an extended underwater sequence which is more “I can’t believe they did this” than laugh out loud funny, but they pay off and Keaton and Kathryn McGuire are pretty cute together.

Wild Strawberries (1958)

Wild Strawberries is the only one of the bunch that I ended up writing a full post about, though I included some of the others in my scorecard recap posts. I’ll leave you to read that review if you wish, but basically I thought it was solid, but it didn’t move me as much as I’d hoped, and it’s not particularly near the top of my favorite Bergman films.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

According to Flickchart, this was the most highly ranked film than neither Jon nor I had seen. Good enough reason to queue it up. I liked it overall, and there are definitely some great scenes (“Plastic Jesus” chief among them), but it was a bit too episodic and testosterone-laden for me to really love it.

Zero de Conduite (1933)

This was another late-in-the-year watch as I realized I could probably knock off a couple short ones before the year ended. I’m sure I would’ve gotten more out of it if I were more in tune with the state of French society and filmmaking in the early 1930s, as a lot of the rebellion in the film went over my head. I mean, this thing was banned at the time or some craziness, when it seems like little more than a bunch of boys goofing around at boarding school. Still, the spirit is infectious, and there’s no doubt it was a bit influence on Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, a film that is near and dear to my heart.

Blind Spots 2014

As I said, I let others vote on what I should watch this year, from a list of about 50 that I put on Letterboxd. I will admit that I have manipulated the final list slightly, because I didn’t want to have two by the same director (both Malick and Kubrick were up for double-dipping) and because the voting ended up in about a five-way tie for the last couple of spots and I took the liberty of choosing which ones I wanted to include.

Without further ado, here are the films I’ll be attempting to watch in 2014.

  • Requiem for a Dream
  • The Goonies
  • Days of Heaven
  • Tokyo Story
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • A Separation
  • Gimme Shelter
  • Sanjuro
  • Paris, Texas
  • Predator
  • Heat
  • Eraserhead

Sharp eyes will notice that Days of Heaven and Sanjuro were also on the 2013 Blind Spot list. Eraserhead has also been on the list a couple of times in the past. Apparently people still think they’re worth watching. The overall list skewed a little newer than I was hoping, but there’s still a good variety. I’m looking forward to peppering these into my moviewatching this year.