As noted at the end of January, February was going to be a tough one. Not only was the third season of House of Cards devoured during the month, but cinema trips were going to be at a push. Those mediocre reviews of Blackhat hardly steered me that way, while a niggling thought in the back of my mind argued that there was a reason Still Alice wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Of course, both will be a yes-decision when they appear on Netflix, but cinema trips (alongside the screenings I attend) have to justify their cinematic experience.
This was the month I had to carefully consider what ‘counts’ as a film? Despite its appearance on Letterboxd, does Power/Rangers really count? It’s a short, fan-made film and opening up that box of wonders would mean that cheeky takes on established properties (Troops, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, etc) could all be considered fair game. I could rack up my numbers in an afternoon, and sleep soundly in the knowledge that I’d reach my target at the end of the year. Alas, I’ve had to draw a line through these and actively make my life more difficult.
Always Make Notes
It’s very easy to casually let a film play and ‘count’ the film. But digesting, and letting your brain ruminate on the themes, thoughts and ideas is part of the experience. Over the course of two days, I watched Harold and Maude and CitizenFour. Both completely different, and equally outstanding in their own unique ways. But I forgot to write my note cards. I have the cards, with the title scrawled on the top, ready for my further opinions – but without the views written down, I have to remind myself of those initial feelings. I discussed CitizenFour at length with my wife, but after watching Harold and Maude on my own, it is easy to lose track of what I was thinking. Of course, they’ll come back to me if I swot up by reading coverage elsewhere. But with a film a day, it isn’t long before the next day rolls on and I’m immediately thinking of something else.
In February, I watched Shoah and Night and Fog. Both are documentaries exploring the horrors of the holocaust. The former directed by Claude Lanzmann and the latter by Alain Resnais. Shoah shows no footage whatsoever of the liberation or atrocities within the camps while Night and Fog explicitly shows the gruesome detail. Crucially, in the context of my Film-a-Day viewing habits, Shoah is a 9-hour sprawling epic, while Night and Fog is barely 30-mins. Both appear in the Top 5 of Sight & Sound’s Best Documentaries of All-Time. But this idea of the length of a film to ‘count’ comes into question. I think the credibility comes into question also and, Night and Fog clearly required note-taking and reflection as any film would. Shoah knocked out days at a time because of its length and, though I can’t claim it counts for anything more than one, arguably its scale should come into question. A little freedom is necessary – if its importance is unequivocal then it ‘counts’. Alternatively, India’s Daughter, a bold and defiant call to arms for gender equality following the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh holds equal weight and therefore remains included. As mentioned, Power/Rangers does not count.
Set some goals…
Due to the recent release of Life of Riley (Alain Resnais’ final film), I felt that I needed to swot up on Alain Resnais. This meant a speedy purchase of Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima mon amour and a sneaky hunting down of the aforementioned Night and Fog. I forced myself to watch these films, and it ensured that I didn’t spend time endlessly scrolling through Netflix or desperately checking run-times to see that they could be squeezed in. I’m also keeping track of the upcoming decent films appearing on Netflix. Let’s be honest, there are films you don’t care to watch and have no need to see. But then Frank, Calvary and Zero Dark Thirty appear and you’re set. These pre-determined lists really make sure you don’t waste time selecting and instead get you started sooner.
I also have to thank Ryan McNeil of The Matinee from forcing a last minute switch from Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture to How Green Was My Valley. Yeah, It’s unlikely I’ll ever watch the Welsh coal-miner’s Best Picture winner again but it’s ticked off at least. Tiny Furniture will come round again. April isn’t far around the corner, with the fifth series of Game of Thrones and the final part of Mad Men to juggle amongst the films – but if I can do Shoah and House of Cards, it can’t be too difficult. The problem with March though is the likes of Better Call Saul … and a less-structured break at the end of the month with family wedding. I feel I need to bank some movies…