My Year of Film
January 31, 2020
I recently received an email from PlayStation detailing my gaming "accomplishments" of 2019. This email laid bare the ridiculous amount of time I spent playing video games on just one of the platforms I play on, PlayStation 4. I'm embarrassed to admit exactly how much time it was. It got me thinking of ways I could better use my time or devote it to other hobbies.
When I posted my annual list of favorite movies of the year on Letterboxd, there were a ton of movies that I didn't see which were getting considerable awards buzz, so after the new year I made a concerted effort to catch up. Surprisingly, SIX movies I watched in 2020 ended up on my list of favorite movies of 2019, including the top four.
After a week or so of devouring movies, I noticed I was on track to average one watched per day this year. So I made it a goal (albeit a dumb one): I'm going to attempt to watch 365 films in 2020.
I love Letterboxd. It's an app where you can log, review, and make lists of movies, and connect with other film fans. When I was a kid, I used to collect ticket stubs of all the movies I went to. These days, with online ticketing, ticket stubs aren't as cool or compact as they once were, if you can even get one at all. So Letterboxd became a great way for me to keep track of the movies I watched, as well as the ones I wanted to see, without all the clutter. If you love movies, you should definitely sign up!
Since joining Letterboxd in 2012, the most "films" I've logged in a single year was 119 in 2015. So, at the very least, I will break that record this year. A "film" on Letterboxd can also include short films, documentaries, stand-up comedy specials and limited TV series. So for the purposes of this goal, I'll be including those as well. Some days you just don't have time to sit through The Irishman.
After nearly a month into this experiment, I'd love to share some of the highlights I watched in January.
Waves This movie blew me away. I wasn't a huge fan of Krisha, and It Comes at Night had its moments, but director Trey Edward Shults knocked it out of the park with Waves. Everything in this movie — the story, the cinematography, the soundtrack, and the performances — combined to make something special. Waves will stay with you long after the credits roll. Hands down my favorite movie of 2019.
Uncut Gems I've never felt so anxious throughout a film. Adam Sandler is perfectly cast as a charismatic sociopath jeweler addicted to gambling. Uncut Gems delivers the tension of a Game 7 both literally and figuratively. Great supporting cast featuring well-known character actors as well as straight up characters directors Benny and Josh Safdie seemingly pulled off the street. The way they were able to cast Kevin Garnett and incorporate his actual career circa 2012 was pretty remarkable. Between this and Good Time I'm really excited to see what these guys make next.
1917 Spectacular. The illusion of one continuous take makes you feel like you're right there with the characters. You feel exhausted with them as they make their way through miles of trenches and no man's land. It continuously boggles the mind how they were able to block and time each shot with such apparent ease. The scale of the sets and locations they travel through feels overwhelming. There's one sequence that is lit by flares that is like nothing I've ever seen before. Wow.
For Sama This documentary is harrowing, devastating and beautiful all at once. The most I've cried during a movie in ages. It hit me especially hard having lost a daughter and now being the father of a 1-year-old. Waad al-Kateab finds hope amid the constant bombardment of Aleppo. Some extremely graphic scenes make this a tough watch but it really is essential viewing.
Atlantics Remarkable. Seems pretty conventional until you realize you're watching a completely different genre and it takes off from there. Wholly original storytelling and beautifully directed. This one will stick with me.
I Lost My Body A beautiful animated feature. Loved the style and the story. Not much more I can say without spoiling it.
Little Women Having not read the book or seen previous versions of Little Women, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was blown away by this movie. Greta Gerwig takes a 150-year-old book and breathes new life into it, making it feel modern and fresh. Her decision to not tell the story linearly gives the movie an energetic pace and sets up character beats that might otherwise feel jarring. I loved all the meta scenes with the publisher as well. Great cast all around and great production design and costuming. Florence Pugh, between Midsommar and Little Women, is the actor whose career I'm most excited to see unfold. And Gerwig is proving to be one of the great directors of her time.
Cold Pursuit Went in expecting a run of the mill Liam Neeson revenge flick but got a darkly funny comedy instead. I had a lot of fun with this one. It plays with the tropes of crime and revenge genres and playfully subverts them. There's a great episode of Life's Too Short where Neeson tells Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant about his desire to do comedy, without ever dropping a deadly serious expression. In Cold Pursuit, he gets his wish.
Good Boys Might be the hardest I laughed all year. The three leads have great chemistry and are much more endearing than their constant swearing in the trailer would have you believe. Most of the humor comes from these kids doing and saying adult things that they don't understand, but it also has a lot of heart. It wonderfully captures the fragile friendships of early middle school and the feeling that everything has such epic consequences.
The Before Trilogy I was 20 when Before Sunrise came out. Watching it again 25 years later was interesting, with years of experience changing my perspective. I had never seen Before Sunset and Before Midnight, which were released 9 and 18 years, respectively, after Before Sunrise. Watching Celine and Jesse age and mature in the span of 24 hours had a different effect, I'm sure, than watching it unfold in near real-time. I certainly found a lot to relate to.
I'm keeping a running list of the movies I've watched this year, if you want to check in on my progress throughout the year. I'll probably write up a recap in December. Let me know if there's any movies you think I should add to my watchlist!