Meta-post: Summary and Statistics

year-end-papers

Tools of the trade:  My hand-scribbled list of Best Pictures (waterlogged from spending the year on my kitchen table).

Some Statistics for the Nerdy:

 

How many minutes total:   12,339 minutes (205 hours, or 8.5 days) yowza

Longest film:  Gone With the Wind (or Lawrence of Arabia if you count the director’s cut, I guess)

Shortest film:  Marty

Longest decade:  1990s (1679 minutes; bloated historical epics)

Shortest decade:  1940s (1262 minutes; war rationing)

 

How much time I spent calculating all this:  Way too much

 

How much money I spent watching these films:  Less than $15 total

Spotlight:  $8 or $9 for a discounted ticket in theater

Gigi:  $2 rental on Amazon (I was in a time pinch)

Cavalcade:  $3 rental on Amazon (I couldn’t find it anywhere else)

Otherwise, I found everything at the library or streaming

 

How many films had I seen before?  Eleven (seven, if you exclude the few I watched in an earlier attempt at the project)

 

How many movies involved World War II?  Eight

Other wars?  Nine

 

I’ll be honest:  I’m pretty surprised that I actually made it through this year of Best Pictures.  I watched 88 films this year, most of which I’d never seen before.  Not only that, I wrote blog posts for each film, into which I put at least a minimal amount of thought.  Literally multiple people read most of my posts.

Technically, it’s doable (since I did it), but it really felt like a job at times.  It interfered with my (fortunately non-existent) social life simply with the volume of material I had to get through in any given week or month.  I didn’t have much time to watch all the trendy TV shows that people loved two years ago (this year’s hits are further down in the queue).  After a certain point, I ran out of time to write anything except my blog posts, but that may also have been due to my laziness or lack of confidence.

So how do I feel about it?  Good question.  It feels like an accomplishment of sorts, but not quite as impressive as I’d hoped.  Although there are certainly films that have entered the general cultural mindset, many others have faded, such that it probably doesn’t matter whether I’ve seen them or not.  However, one of my goals was to increase my trivia knowledge in the area of film, and, after reading IMDB trivia for just about every Best Picture, I think I can say I succeeded there as well.

 

I’ll do a Top Something list in my (probably last) post, coming soon!

 

Meta-post: Month of War

We’ve reached another milestone, the end of another two-month block of Oscar-winning movies.  I have to admit that I’m kind of glad to be moving on from the war films.  Though I watched a fairly wide range of pictures this month, ranging from gritty realism to charming musical, in the end, the plots of each were relatively similar:  war happens, and it sucks.

One thing that surprised me after watching a whole series of war films over eight decades was that they weren’t that different.  Maybe it was naïve, but I expected there to be some sort of continuum of focus or storyline, with each decade promising a greater depth of character or meaning.  Hell, I expected to see more heroic World War II films, of the sort that I associate with war movies (but probably can’t name by title).  Something like Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan, where you learn how deep the camaraderie flows in the way everyone in a platoon unites as one unit despite their differences.

Or maybe I expected the opposite – films that show only the brutality of war.  Yes, there was plenty of that, but not exclusively.  I’d have guessed that the films depicted World War II would show more of a patriotic vision, the rightness of war, in opposition to the wrongness of Vietnam.  Our views of war are tinted by whether our side was the winning one, by our justification of the act itself.  And it’s true:  there is a bit of a divide in perspective between the two wars, which together made up the bulk of the subject matter of the films I selected.  Perhaps the most positive-themed movie in this batch was The Bridge on the River Kwai, and that was only because they managed to blow up the bridge in the end.  (It’s worth pointing out that this happened in a POW camp.  And half the characters died.)  Oh, and then there was The Sound of Music, which ended with them escaping the Nazis (yay!) but also ended with the Nazis taking over (boo!).

In short, it is clear both that we haven’t learned how to avoid war in the eighty-plus years that movies have been made about it and that we will never cease to ask questions about war in various art forms.  Do we look to these for entertainment because we want to better understand the consequences of war on people and society, or do we believe war to be something different than what it is?

I don’t know.  I’ve read quite a bit about soldiers’ experiences in war, various ones throughout the ages, and I can’t help wondering what keeps dragging us back into conflicts despite our best intentions.  It’s like that old quote attributed to Einstein, where the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  We aren’t exactly repeating the same thing – after all, in different eras and with different players, can you really say each war is the same? – and yet, there is a sameness to each of these soldiers in war.  In each movie, we see people who once believed in a greater cause, only to find that in war, there is no cause but survival.

 

Meta-Post: 2016 Oscars and Progress Report

Confession time (which is maybe fitting considering my next theme will apparently be Catholicism): I didn’t watch this year’s Oscars ceremony. None of it. Not even the highlights reels that get posted on Facebook and everywhere else. Maybe I’ll check out Chris Rock’s opening bit, or listen to Dave Grohl’s In Memoriam performance of “Blackbird”, but then again, in another week, most of it will be forgotten.

I almost never watch the Oscars anyway. As I mentioned when I started this blog, I’m not that into movies, and even less into movie stars, so the idea of watching a three-hour-plus-long awards show is even less appealing to me than watching the epic films that always seem to win.

I did, of course, take note of this year’s Best Picture, which I’ll be adding to my list – and hopefully will be reviewing in a post soon. Before committing myself to one of the nominees for Best Picture, I decided to wait and see which one won. As a consequence, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t see a single Oscar-nominated film this year, unless the third Hobbit movie was nominated for something like Best Costuming or Best Beard Maintenance.

In the meantime, I have been keeping busy watching films from the past nine decades. At the end of two months, I’ve seen fourteen movies, including at least one from each of the decades in which the Oscars were awarded. I’ve done that intentionally, in an attempt to catch a broad swath of the best pictures through the years. (I also want to avoid watching, say, all the movies from the 1940s in a big clump at the end.) If you’re interested, I’ve been tagging my posts by decade, so you’ll be able to follow along even as I write about the films out of chronological order.

Out of the movies I’ve reviewed for this blog so far, four are films I’ve seen before (Wings, The Artist, Dances with Wolves, and Shakespeare in Love – though the last should only count up to the point where I fell asleep). The other ten are totally new to me, some of which are considered classics. I’ll admit that I probably could have survived in this life without having watched a few of those movies, but ultimately I’m glad I’ve taken on this project. I expected to get bored quickly and move on, but so far it’s been kind of fun. The only drawback is how much time this thing is taking away from me binge-watching TV shows on Netflix.

Finally, I wanted to point out an interesting ranking list I found on Buzzfeed. Someone out there decided not only to watch all the Best Picture films, but to rank them as well. I’ve tried not to read too much about the movies I haven’t seen yet (and don’t know much about ), so I only browsed this list – but I’m bookmarking it to look back on later. Of course, ranking lists are always a little bit arbitrary and a lot bit subjective, so I look forward to coming up with my own ranking at the end of this. I can already see some significant contrasts between this ranker’s tastes and my own.

Since I’ve been doing so well, and keeping on track, I’m taking a quick break from movie-watching but I’ll be back soon with more thrilling blog posts!