Something weird happened in 2022: I watched 423 movies.
This is pretty atypical for me. It’s over 20% of the movies I’ve watched in my life. I’ve never watched as many as 100 movies in a year before. I’ve been trending up a bit recently, particularly during the pandemic, but 423? Sure, some of them are shorts, but that’s balanced by the 7 hours of Les Vampires and the 5 hours of Fanny and Alexander (TV version) and the 4 hours of Ludwig. At the end of the day — uh, of the year — we’re talking 730 hours of movies. WTF?
Well, I quit playing World of Warcraft, and that’s a huge time sink right there. I also just got into a rhythm. On any given weekday night, it’s easy to catch a movie after dinner. If you’re not doing anything else during a weekend, what’s a movie after each meal? I joined a couple of subreddits that watch a movie a week collectively, I took on a challenge to watch 52 Criterion movies, and about halfway through the year I realized I was on pace for over 350 movies. All those neurons I’d been using on making WoW numbers go up got dedicated to making my movie count go up. Whoops. Fortunately S. is supportive of my whims and obsessions.
An aside: Letterboxd, which I am linking to throughout this post, is amazing. Also a total enabler of my numbers go up obsessions. Worth every penny I pay them as a patron, which is not all that much. It’s been a great way to find movies I might want to see, it’s way more comfortable to use than IMDB, and I just love them to pieces.
At times it was a grind. The trickiest month was October, because S. and I took on a horror movie challenge together. I didn’t love the way I was engaging with challenges in general; I love movies but I want to watch them because I love them, not because they’re leaving my favorite streaming service or because I need to finish a checklist. I am not taking on any challenges next year, although S. and I made a list of 50 date night movies. (Each one has a connection to the one before, and we swapped picks. It was really fun making the list.)
But you know, it’s like anything. If you spend a lot of time on something you love, you’ll discover new depths and new joys and new preferences. Or I guess you’ll start hating it, but that wasn’t me and movies. I’m still not a guy who can breezily analyze Kurosawa in terms of his shot choices, but I know which directors and actors make me happy, which is good enough for me.
Some notes on the year:
I watched more directors for the first time than I’m going to count. Big shoutouts to Yasujirō Ozu, Preston Sturges, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Michael Haneke, Věra Chytilová, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alain Resnais, Federico Fellini, Céline Sciamma, and the driest of the dry, Aki Kaurismäki. I’m missing some, I’m sure, but all of those people had at least one movie that delighted me. As far as actors go, well, I found out that I’ll see anything Jean-Louis Trintignant, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, or Dirk Bogarde made. (At times to my regret, cough, Modesty Blaise, cough.)
My most watched actor of the year was Ida Lupino, with nine movies. I kept looking for one that really gave her the role she deserved. High Sierra and The Sea Wolf came the closest, but I think I’m still looking. After her, well, I saw all five of the Daniel Craig Bond movies this summer with a pal, so the main cast members of those show up on my most watched list a lot.
My biggest obsession was Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy. I splurged on the Varda Criterion boxed set, and it was the best blind movie purchase I’ve ever made. It’s a remarkable artifact, including every movie she ever made plus a wealth of supplementary material plus a really good book of essays on her life and work. I had Cleo from 5 to 7 on my Criterion challenge list, so I figured why not?
And wow. The way that woman weaves autobiographical work into her documentaries into her fiction is unbelievable. She was a masterful editor, a kind observer, and a pointed critic. Count me among those who think calling her the mother or the grandmother of the French New Wave is an injustice. She was an equal to Godard and the rest, not some oddity to be set aside by her gender.
When you talk about Varda’s life and career, you can’t neglect her husband Jacques Demy. At the very end of his life, after a multi-year separation, he returned to the relationship. She made Jacquot de Nantes, a biography of his early years — fiction but documentary, historical but with interstitials of Demy musing about his life. He died a few weeks after filming was complete, and I cannot imagine a purer act of love than spending those last months commemorating your partner’s childhood.
They were both eccentric. I’m not always comfortable with some of the sexual themes in their movies. But they were also both magnificent artists, and I watched 16 movies directed by one or the other of them, and that was a tremendously rewarding effort.
The other director whose work spoke to me the most is Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and that’s a tricky one to talk about. Let’s be clear: he was abusive and cruel. He also had one of the keenest cinematic eyes for the flaws of capitalism and the menace of fascism. He was also a masterful director who worked at insane speed while maintaining keen precision. So I don’t know. In the end I just have to acknowledge the (unnecessary) cost of creating works like The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
How about 2023?
Next year, I want to spend more time following my whims. After watching a couple of Ingmar Bergman movies late in 2022, I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy his comprehensive Criterion boxed set and spend a good while with it. I have both of the Arrow Shawscope sets and S. and I are watching those together pretty happily.
The Seattle indie theater showtime aggregator I built has made it way easier to remember to check out good stuff in the theater. Covid allowing, I expect to spend more time doing that.
S. and I are going to the Fantasia International Film Festival again this year. We have a hotel picked out (right across from the venues!) and we’re really excited. It’s been too long. I also mean to get out to some SIFF movies this year. Maybe the Orcas Island Film Festival too? It looks like it’s a viable long weekend and there are easily a dozen movies I’d have wanted to see if I’d gone in 2022.
Oh, and more TV. I didn’t watch much TV at all last year and there’s some great stuff out there.
And as always, the best video store in the country makes it possible for me to watch a huge range of movies I couldn’t see otherwise. If you have a local video store, and you like movies, support them. They need you.