What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen These Films from 1986?

After a couple of years ‘off’ (or, if you prefer, combined with Blindspot, because they’re essentially the same thing), “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” is back!

Now, it’s part of my All-New 100 Films in a Year Challenge (you may have heard about that — I feel like I bring it up enough) and has a slightly refined focus. Whereas before it featured great or significant movies I should’ve seen from across film history, now I’m giving it a specific theme each year. For the inaugural year of its new version, I’ve picked my birth year: the 12 films from 1986 that I’m most surprised I haven’t seen.

First, the films I’ve chosen. After, I’ll natter a little about how and why.


A Better Tomorrow

A Better Tomorrow

Cobra

Cobra

Flight of the Navigator

Flight of the Navigator

Hannah and Her Sisters

Hannah and Her Sisters

The Hitcher

The Hitcher

Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck

Manhunter

Manhunter

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

The Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

She’s Gotta Have It

She's Gotta Have It

The Transformers:
The Movie

The Transformers: The Movie


First, for the sake of context, here are all the feature films from 1986 that I have seen (taken from what I’ve logged on Letterboxd, which should be thorough at this point), in alphabetical order…

Iron Eagle
The Karate Kid Part II
Labyrinth
Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Little Shop of Horrors
The Money Pit
Never Too Young to Die
Platoon
Stand By Me
Top Gun
When the Wind Blows
.

Yes, Biggles. I loved the books as a kid, so I guess I had to see the film, even though it’s some weird-ass post-Back to the Future time-travel-based reimagining.

To select the list of films I needed to watch, I had a root around 1986’s highest-rated and most popular films (two different things) on both IMDb and Letterboxd, compiling a long-list of possibilities. That came to around about 30 titles, from which I selected the final 12 based purely on my own level of awareness — for example, Manhunter went straight into the final selection because, given the kinds of films I particularly like, it seems ludicrous I haven’t seen it yet. (It’s partly because I only own it on DVD. I never got round to importing the Shout BD, and now it looks to be out of print, with copies on sale for hundreds of dollars. Mad! And annoying.) I expect, if other people were presented with the same long-list, they might make slightly different selections. Such is life.

One in particular that I nearly included was Star Trek IV. It must be good, right, because it’s an even-numbered one. Also, everyone seems to know about “the one with the whales”, and it’s that one. But as I’m currently working my way through the Trek films anyway (albeit slowly: TMP was last February and Wrath of Khan last July), it seemed unnecessary, even futile, to include one here.

In conclusion, it wasn’t a particularly involved or technical selection process this time. At least that means this explanation is a lot shorter than my normal verbosity. In the unlikely event you’re missing that, there’s always my Blindspot post.

Blindspot 2022

There may be numerous changes around here for 2022 & onwards, but one thing that remains the same is the Blindspot challenge, which I’m undertaking for the tenth year running (though I called it “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” back at the start. Now, WDYMYHS is a whole additional thing — details of the 2022 version are here).

For those still unfamiliar with it, Blindspot’s premise is simple: choose 12 films you should have seen but haven’t, then watch one a month throughout the year. (Those 12 also contribute to my All-New 100 Films in a Year Challenge.) Below, I’ve listed my selection for this year, and afterwards I’ll talk a bit about how I chose them.

The films are listed alphabetically, using the titles they’ve most recently been released under in the UK. Some of those are different to those used by, say, the Criterion Collection (we don’t automatically translate titles into English over here, what with us being more sophisticated ‘n’ all), but if you have to Google them, hey, at least you’ll have learnt something new.


L’avventura

L'avventura

Come and See

Come and See

Les enfants du paradis

Les enfants du paradis

La grande illusion

La grande illusion

High and Low

High and Low

A Man Escaped

A Man Escaped

Mirror

Mirror

Los olvidados

Los olvidados

Paris, Texas

Paris, Texas

To Be or Not to Be

To Be or Not to Be

A Woman Under
the Influence

A Woman Under the Influence

Yi Yi

Yi Yi


Some people just pull their 12 films out of who-knows-where. Personally, I’ve largely taken a more ‘scientific’ approach, using lists of great and/or popular films to try to shape some or all of my choices each year. This year is no different. But although I’ve made the process fairly complex some years — with lots of different contributing lists, sometimes weighted in different ways, or with additional rules — this year, I’ve kept it pared back.

Just three lists were used: the IMDb Top 250 Movies (they’ve finally put “250” back in its official name, hurrah!); the Letterboxd equivalent, the Official Top 250 Narrative Feature Films; and the mother of all great movie lists, TSPDT’s The 1,000 Greatest Films. I limited the last one to its top 250, for equality. All lists were weighted equally, with a film gaining points inverse to its position on a list — i.e. #1 would get 250 points, #250 would get 1 point, etc. I also factored in how many different lists the films appeared on at iCheckMovies (10 points per list), and gave a little nudge (of 11 points) to anything I already owned. That last one didn’t actually have much impact, merely serving to change the final film that made the cut. Still, it means I already have copies of seven of the films, rather than only half of them.

In fact, ensuring I could reasonably get hold of the films was something I checked before finalising the list, especially as Los olvidados doesn’t have an English-language Blu-ray release (in fact, according to Blu-ray.com, it’s only been released on BD in Japan). The only other factor I implemented was my longstanding “no repeat directors” rule. That took out Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day (in favour of Yi Yi), as you can see in the list below. One previous rule I didn’t enforce this year was that, if I fail to watch a film one year, it’s locked out the next. I failed with Come and See in 2021, but it also topped the chart this year, so I’ve let it back in immediately. I won’t make the mistake of leaving it ’til December this time, though.

So, as promised a moment ago, here are the final 13 films with their points tallies…

  • Come and See — 777 points
  • High and Low — 573 points
  • Yi Yi — 571 points
  • A Brighter Summer Day — 566 points
  • To Be or Not to Be — 533 points
  • Mirror — 524 points
  • Les enfants du paradis — 509 points
  • La grande illusion — 509 points
  • A Man Escaped — 491 points
  • A Woman Under the Influence — 488 points
  • Los olvidados — 450 points
  • L’avventura — 444 points
  • Paris, Texas — 423 points

    Finally, a couple more stats about the films. Last year, many of the films were exceptionally long — the average running time came out at 2 hours 36 minutes, with only three of the films running under 2 hours; but with the shortest being just 1 hour 10 minutes and the longest 7 hours 19 minutes, there was quite a range. Compared to that, 2022’s extremes don’t seem so, well, extreme: the shortest film is Los olvidados at 1 hour 21 minutes, while the longest is Les enfants du paradis at 3 hours 9 minutes, and five films (almost half) are under 2 hours… although there is a half-hour jump between the longest film under 2 hours (La grande illusion, 1 hour 53 minutes) and the shortest over 2 hours (a three-way tie between L’avventura, Come and See, and High and Low, each running 2 hours 23 minutes). Nonetheless, the average is down from last year, to a slightly more reasonable 2 hours 13 minutes.

    Although it wasn’t a conscious decision, the films are quite well spread around this year, both temporally and geographically. For the former, there’s one from the 1930s, two each from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and then one from the 2000s. For the latter, France comes out on top with three titles, followed by two each for Russia and the USA, and one apiece rom Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan. In the latter case, I’m taking (what I believe to be) the primary country of production — several of the films can lay claim to multiples.

    Finally, half of the films are by directors whose work I’ve never seen before. They are Michelangelo Antonioni, Luis Buñuel, Marcel Carné, Elem Klimov, Wim Wenders, and Edward Yang. And with the other films’ directors including the likes of Robert Bresson, John Cassavetes, Akira Kurosawa, Ernst Lubitsch, Jean Renoir, and Andrei Tarkovsky — a real mix of artists whose work that I’ve seen has either struck me as fantastic or… well… — it should be an interesting year.

  • The Best of 2021

    Finally, for the last time (not really the last time): what I consider to be the best (or, more accurately, my favourite) films I saw for the first time in 2021 (that bit’s correct).

    This year, I tried to make a start on my list early (I began pondering it and pruning my long-list back in November, whereas normally I don’t even start that until January 1st), all so I could post it fairly promptly once we reached the new year. Well, it’s now the 9th, which is one of the latest dates I’ve ever posted my ‘best of’ list, so that didn’t really work, did it?

    Anyway…



    The 21 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2021

    No, it’s not 21 for ’21 — it’s 10% of whatever my final total is (as it has been since 2016). This year that total was 207, of which the appropriate percentage is 20.7, but I can’t very well include seven-tenths of a film, can I, so it rounds up to 21. (If you think that’s too many for a list like this, feel free to scroll down and start wherever you like.)

    As always, all the movies I watched for the first time in 2021 are eligible, not just brand-new releases. However, I did watch 31 films that had their general UK release in 2021, and five of them made it into this list, so I’ve noted their ‘2021 rank’ too.

    21=
    Holiday Affair
    Happiest Season
    Anna and the Apocalypse

    Reader, I have cheated! After 15 years of sticking to (my own self-imposed set of) The Rules, I have caved and broken the proscribed number of films allowed on this list, and also allowed a tie (I don’t think I’ve allowed a tie before, although one year I did comment that the top 4 were all effectively in first place — but I still sorted them). Why has this happened? As I’ll talk more about in the Honourable Mentions, I got stuck at 32 films for the longest time. I managed to whittle it down to 23, but after days of being stuck there I just gave in. If I could have decided which of these were #22 and #23, they could’ve been taken off the list; but as I can’t, here are all three, tied. At least they’re connected, by being overtly Christmassy films, which is kinda why they’ve all got stuck together — “which of the many Christmassy films I watched this year did I like the most?” Turns out, that’s a three-way tie (unless you also include the one that’s at #9…)

    20 Carol

    Okay, this one’s quite Christmassy too. Indeed, it’s practically “Holiday Affair but with lesbians”, a comparison I’m sure would’ve come up more if Holiday Affair was better known.

    19 Spontaneous
    High schoolers begin mysteriously exploding in this sort-of-horror cum comedy cum teen romance, which I found both hilarious and surprisingly emotional.

    18 Daughters of Darkness

    An erotic horror movie — sounds like schlocky trash, but mixed through a European arthouse sensibility it comes out the other side as a dreamy, surreal experience.

    17 Who?
    This is a pretty obscure sci-fi spy flick: it has under 700 ratings on IMDb; I hadn’t heard of it before Indicator’s Blu-ray release — but it deserves more. It’s almost like a Le Carré thriller in its slow-burn intellectual depiction of Cold War plotting, but with a dose of just-beyond-the-possible SF mixed in.

    16 Futureworld

    Another ’70s sci-fi thriller that I think deserves better. This widely disparaged sequel to Westworld is very in keeping with other films of its era: it’s a paranoid thriller about a pair of journalists investigating a corporate conspiracy — in this case, Delos’ attempt to rehabilitate their robot theme park after the disaster in the last film.

    15 Love Affair
    A prototypically romantic melodrama (it’s been explicitly remade twice, not to mention the other films that have borrowed from it), I was expecting a bit of fluff but ended up finding it surprisingly affecting. It dodges the clichés I thought it was bound for, in addition to being beautifully shot.

    14 Strictly Ballroom

    Another one that confounded my expectations. As Baz Luhrmann’s debut feature, I expected a dry run for where he’d go stylistically in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! But to regard Strictly Ballroom as anything less than a fully-fledged member of the Red Curtain Trilogy is to do it a disservice. Its ludicrous, over-the-top treatment of a ludicrous, over-the-top world is both absurdly hilarious and totally captivating.

    13 Godzilla vs. Kong
    2021 #5 Big monkey punch giant lizard! No one’s going to call this movie high art, but goddamn if it isn’t entertaining pulp-SF gubbins with giant-size fights thrown in for good measure. Honestly, I don’t know what some people expect from movies like this when they go about criticising them. If giant animals having a brawl isn’t to your taste, fair enough, but if you were expecting a meditative character-driven insight into the human condition or something, more fool you.

    12 The Invisible Man

    The fourth feature from Universal’s genre- and studio-defining run of horror films in the early 1930s. Dracula and Frankenstein may have become more iconic, but, for my money, this is the best movie from the bunch (and I’d rank The Mummy second). The special effects are more extensive than you might expect for the era, and even hold up pretty well today, while Claude Rains is superb as the cackling villain, James Whale’s direction is highly effective, and there’s a nice vein of humour to balance the darkness.

    11 Captain Phillips
    That Tom Hanks wasn’t even nominated for most major awards for his performance here is a crime against cinema. He’s extraordinary as the eponymous captain of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates. Paul Greengrass brings his usual edgy tension to proceedings, but its Hanks’s humanity that ultimately elevates the piece. The final scene is one of the greatest single pieces of acting we will ever see.

    10
    The Hound of the Baskervilles

    Hammer does Holmes. Peter Cushing is a note-perfect incarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Great Detective in what was, sadly, the famed horror studio’s only attempt at filming Sherlock. Personally, I’ve never thought The Hound of the Baskervilles was a particularly good detective mystery novel — but it is quite a good gothic adventure, which makes Hammer the perfect studio to have brought it to the screen. As that, this version doesn’t disappoint, with Terence Fisher’s direction leaning hard into the appropriate atmosphere, plus a superb cast — alongside Cushing, André Morell is a superb Watson. I wish they’d done a whole series with the pair.

    9
    The Green Knight

    2021 #4 Some people seemed surprised when this film delivered exactly what its trailers had promised: an arty-yet-fantastical interpretation of the Arthurian myth. It’s a moody, earthy take on the material, but one that also has room for magical realism, fairytale-esque fantasy, and flights of inexplicable oddness. The measured pace and off-kilter tone (plus the pitch-dark cinematography) was never going to be to everyone’s taste, but for those on its level, it’s intoxicating. And if you think Die Hard counts as a ‘different’ Christmas movie…

    2021 #3 I was worried that I’d find Nomadland a bit boring and “not my kind of thing”. It seemed like the kind of film where you hang out with the characters and their landscapes, rather than a piece of clear narrative storytelling. And it is that — but, for once, it worked for me. It’s almost like a TV travelogue, visiting places worth seeing and unusual people worth meeting. You watch to appreciate the scenery, to understand the people, to experience a different way of life. It’s a film to escape with — to get away from ordinary life and spend time in these captivating places. Within and alongside that, it creates a beautiful, deeply humane, quite powerful experience. [Full review.]

    7
    Star Trek: The Motion Picture

    Having grown up reading sci-fi magazines, I’m very aware that, when it comes to Star Trek movies, “even ones good, odd ones bad”. And this first one has a particularly poor rep — “slow” and “boring” seem to be commonly-attached adjectives (which I can’t help but feel stems back to expectations on its original release, which came in the wake of the success of Star Wars, so presumably people expected a fast-paced action-adventure). But as I settled down to begin watching all the Trek movies from the beginning, I found myself in for a very pleasant surprise. It’s not even trying to be a Star Wars-style adventure, but something different entirely; almost more akin to 2001 in its sense of wonder and exploration, digging into an imagining of a genuinely alien lifeform rather than running about blasting rubber suits with laser guns. Engaged with on the right terms, I enjoyed every minute of it.

    6
    WolfWalkers

    The third film in Irish animation outfit Cartoon Saloon’s Folklore Trilogy — and Wolfwalkers really does feel like an authentically-told folktale, not a Disneyfied modern reimagining. A big part of that is the animation style. Even if you think you’re becoming inured to it from the studio’s previous work, it has surprises in store; moments of additional innovation or beauty. It’s constantly impressive and regularly breathtaking. Combined with the magical story, the result is a simply gorgeous film.

    5
    Dune: Part One

    2021 #2 Frank Herbert’s Dune is probably one of my favourite novels, and previous attempts to film it have either been interesting but fundamentally flawed (the 1984 film) or faithful but limited by format (the 2000 miniseries), so when it was announced a new version would be masterminded by Denis Villeneuve — one of only two directors to top my year-end best-of list twice, once with another tricky-to-pull-off re-envisioning of a sci-fi masterpiece — well, my hopes were high. Suffice to say, he delivered, albeit in a film that is ‘very Villeneuve’. That is to say, it’s a rather brutalist take on the material, lacking the fanciful, weird interpretations of Lynch, Jodorowsky, or even (to a lesser extent) the TV version. In some ways that’s a shame, but it’s also true to the filmmaker. That the film has to abandon the story halfway through, forced into a rather low-key cliffhanger, is merely a factor of the length of the material rather than a fault of the filmmaker — some have taken serious issue with it, but, personally, the film ended where I always expected it to. And, as a fan, I’d rather this two-part adaptation, giving the story the necessary screentime, even if that means a limp end to Part One, rather than have the whole book in a rushed three-hour single shot. That said, this might be why it’s at #5 on my list rather than becoming Villeneuve’s third #1. I’m optimistic that, once we get Part Two (and, possibly, a Part Three adapting Herbert’s first sequel), the whole will be even greater.

    4
    The Kid Detective

    This is one of those high concepts you wonder why someone hasn’t though of sooner: what would a ‘kid detective’ (you know, like the Hardy Boys or the Famous Five or whatever) be like grown up? One answer to that would likely fuel a CW-esque YA series, but here we get a more real-world treatment: the detective who was exalted as a kid, a quirky story for the local paper and whatnot, is now a washed-up has-been as he tries to follow the same career as an adult. Like several other films on this year’s list, here was a film that looked like it would tickle a particular itch of mine, and delivered — it was everything I expected it to be and more. It’s both an amusing extrapolation of its central premise and a solid mystery in its own right, with a surprisingly moving conclusion. One part in particular gave me goosebumps, and you’ve got to love anything that can elicit such a physical reaction.

    3
    Joint Security Area

    Before Oldboy or The Handmaiden, director Park Chan-wook gained international attention for this 2000 military thriller about a shooting in the DMZ between North and South Korea. After a South Korean border guard apparently kills two North Korean soldiers and wounds a third on their side of the border before fleeing back to the South, heightened tensions between the nations rest on an investigation by a neutral investigator. As the Swiss Army major tries to find the truth of what happened amidst conflicting accounts, the obvious point of comparison is A Few Good Men, but JSA also made me think of Paths of Glory in its ultimately-tragic message about the wasteful futility of war. But although these point towards its tone and effect on the viewer, it outshines simple comparisons to be its own magnificent thing.

    2
    David Byrne’s American Utopia

    I’m not a music critic — heck, I don’t even listen to all that much music on a regular basis, if I’m honest — and yet what is essentially a concert film has made it almost to the top of my favourite movies this year. What gives? I wish I could explain it properly, but, I confess, I don’t quite understand why I loved American Utopia, all I can say is that I did. It had an almost profound impact on me that I can’t quite account for. Of course that’s mostly down to the music and staging by Byrne and his fellow performers, but Spike Lee’s direction and editing transform the theatrical show into a near-perfect cinema version. My only unfulfilled wish is that this had been made during the world’s 3D phase, because movement in a three-dimensional space is a key part of the show’s staging, and I’d love to be able to watch that in 3D.

    1
    The Matrix Resurrections

    2021 #1 This belated return to and continuation of the Matrix trilogy has divided critics and audiences alike. You’ll find plenty of people online prepared to slag it off at the slightest prompt. But for others of us, it’s a borderline masterpiece. Personally, it’s not just a film I enjoyed, but something I’ve almost been waiting for — and by “almost” I mean that I never expected to actually get it. This isn’t a by-the-numbers attempt to recreate the adrenaline highs of an enduringly popular action movie. Instead, it’s the kind of wild-swing hyper-meta self-deconstructing take on a popular franchise that I’ve always longed for a legacy sequel to attempt, but no one has been bold enough to try (or, possibly, no one’s ever been able to convince the suits to allow it). Sure, if all you want from a Matrix movie is people looking cool in sunglasses while they engage in precisely-designed epic action sequences, then Resurrections will leave you disappointed. If you appreciate a film that has something pertinent and meaningful to say about our current entertainment culture, there’s a lot to like.


    As usual, I’d just like to highlight a few other films.

    Normally I’m loathe to mention any films that just missed out on the top list — it is what it is, and if I wanted it to be longer I should just find an excuse to make it longer. That said, this year my “top 21” was stuck at 32 films for the longest time — as I mentioned back at #21, you may remember. So, it feels like those 11 almost-rans deserve a mention; except it’s nine almost-rans, because I couldn’t even get it all the way down to 21. I’m not sure these are truly #24–32 (for that distinction, I’d have to properly reconsider some others from my 89-film long list that I’d eliminated earlier), but, nonetheless, there were (in alphabetical order) The Father, Festen, The Mummy (1932), My Fair Lady, My Man Godfrey, Official Secrets, The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix, Psycho Goreman, and The Quatermass Xperiment. In other years, maybe they would’ve been luckier.

    That said, they’re not the only films that might feel aggrieved to have missed out (if films had feelings), because, while there are 4-star films in my top 21 (even in my top ten), there are 5-star films that didn’t make the cut. I awarded 25 films full marks in 2021, and 13 of them made it into my top list — namely Captain Phillips, Carol, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Dune: Part One, The Green Knight, Joint Security Area, The Kid Detective, Love Affair, The Matrix Resurrections, Nomadland, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Strictly Ballroom, and WolfWalkers. The less fortunate (but still great) ones were The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Cinema Paradiso, The Father, Festen, Kind Hearts and Coronets, My Fair Lady, My Man Godfrey, Official Secrets, Sansho Dayu, A Single Man, When the Wind Blows, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? There were also full marks for the original King Kong when I gave it the Guide To treatment.

    Additionally, let’s recap the 12 films that won Favourite Film of the Month at the Arbies, some of which have already been mentioned in this post and some of which haven’t. In chronological order (with links to the relevant awards): WolfWalkers, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, David Byrne’s American Utopia, Captain Phillips, Official Secrets, The Invisible Man (1933), Strictly Ballroom, The Kid Detective, The Green Knight, Dune: Part One, Nobody, and The Matrix Resurrections.


    This year I watched 31 movies that had their general UK release in 2021, but that means there were a considerable number I missed. So, here’s my annual alphabetical list of 50 films from last year that I’ve not yet seen. In the past I’ve used IMDb’s dating to settle what was eligible for inclusion as “a 2021 film”, but nowadays I’ll allow in something that’s listed as 2020 if it’s only due to festival screenings or (as was the case with one film this year) its own premiere.

    The main downside to watching so few big new movies is that there’s not much room here for the stuff that’s smaller but still significant, which is a shame. And where I did make space for those films, some of the year’s big-but-not-huge movies lost out. That said, in some ways it made selection easier: normally I begin with a long-list of something like 120 titles, in which I typically find 20 to 30 ‘must includes’, then I weed through the rest to choose the remainder. This year, the ‘must includes’ numbered 46. I could easily have doubled this list and still been featuring films everyone’s heard about, not least because I did leave out some multiplex fillers in favour of artier-but-acclaimed films. Maybe next year I’ll finally go all-out and make this a list of 100. That would fit the site’s name, after all.

    For now, it’s 50 once again. As ever, the included films were chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety, and designed to include a spread of styles and genres, successes and failures.

    Army of the Dead
    Free Guy
    The Last Duel
    Luca
    Shiva Baby
    The Tragedy of Macbeth
    Candyman
    Ghostbusters: Afterlife
    Last Night in Soho
    Old
    Spencer
    Venom: Let There Be Carnage
    Army of the Dead
    Belfast
    Candyman
    Censor
    CODA
    Cruella
    Dear Evan Hansen
    Don’t Look Up
    Drive My Car
    Encanto
    Eternals
    Fast & Furious 9
    Finch
    Free Guy
    The French Dispatch
    Ghostbusters: Afterlife
    House of Gucci
    In the Heights
    Judas and the Black Messiah
    King Richard
    The King’s Man
    The Last Duel
    Last Night in Soho
    Licorice Pizza
    The Lost Daughter
    Luca
    Malignant
    The Many Saints of Newark
    The Mitchells vs the Machines
    Mortal Kombat
    Nightmare Alley
    Old
    Petite Maman
    Pig
    The Power of the Dog
    A Quiet Place Part II
    Raya and the Last Dragon
    Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
    Shiva Baby
    The Sparks Brothers
    Spencer
    Spider-Man: No Way Home
    The Suicide Squad
    tick, tick…BOOM!
    Titane
    The Tragedy of Macbeth
    Venom: Let There Be Carnage
    West Side Story
    The Worst Person in the World
    Wrath of Man


    And that, ladies and gents, is officially the end of 100 Films in a Year — not just for 2021, but for ever.

    Well, you already know that’s not exactly true. But it’s the end of the challenge as I’ve been attempting it for 15 years, replaced by a new take. In 12 months’ time, when a new “best of year” list is due, it won’t be drawing from ‘the challenge’ in the same way… though, that technicality aside, I rather suspect it won’t be too different from this post. And if, once again, I’m so spoilt for choice that I struggle to get it down to whatever number I decide the list should include, well, is that actually such a bad thing?

    The Worst of 2021

    ‘Worst of’ lists have become widely unpopular in the film-viewing community in recent years. “Celebrate what you liked, don’t bash what you didn’t,” is the prevailing argument. Well, yes… but also, film watching inevitably involves taking the rough with the smooth. (Hopefully unintentionally: if you’re watching something you’re certain you’ll dislike, why? (Says the guy who intentionally watched all five Twilight movies, so, yeah, sometimes there might be a reason.)) Also, I’ve done this list for 14 of 100 Films in a Year’s 15 years, so now would be an odd time to stop (next year, after the first year of the new-style site, I’ll think again).

    Before we begin, a reminder that my best and worst lists are selected from all 207 films I saw for the first time in the past year, not just 2021’s new releases.



    The 5 Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2021

    In alphabetical order…

    The Birth of a Nation
    D.W. Griffith gets a lot of credit for being a great innovator of the silent era — mainly because he was fond of blowing his own trumpet, and I guess a lot of people unquestioningly bought it (plus ça change). Whether innovative or derivative, his work as director is sometimes striking, and Birth of a Nation would be a pretty entertaining… were it not horrendously racist and brazenly pro-KKK. There’s no half measures here; no “well, I suppose you could interpret it that way”: the film is explicitly and undeniably in favour of the KKK and what they did in the wake of the American Civil War, to the extent the Klan used it (and I guess probably still do) as a propaganda tool. Any other merits it has a film are not strong enough to outweigh that side of it.

    Cats
    This is every bit as bad as you’ve heard. It’s littered with bizarre production decisions — things that would be a bad idea even if they hadn’t then been poorly realised in a rushed post-production. But it’s not just the freaky cat/human hybrid characters or inconsistent sense of scale that let this down: the underlying musical is mediocre, with mostly forgettable songs and an incredibly thin narrative. Why this was such a long-running hit on stage, I’ll never understand.

    Dumb and Dumber
    A film that lives up to its title. At no point since its release in 1994 has Dumb and Dumber ever appealed to me, but it has its fans (it even generated a prequel and belated sequel, remember?) and, crucially, was on iCheckMovies’ Most Checked list, which I’ve almost completed (just four to go, thanks to this). Were it not for that, I wouldn’t have watched it. I don’t think I would’ve been any worse off if I never had.

    Mortal Kombat
    Not the new one, but the one from the mid-’90s, an era when various attempts to transfer popular video game franchises to the big screen gave such unwaveringly poor results they tarnished the genre for decades (in fairness, it’s not like there have been many/any that deserved to dodge the bad rep). Plus, it’s by Paul W.S. Anderson — a double whammy of reasons to expect something awful. And it is indeed a cheap-looking, semi-incoherent, unexciting load of tosh.

    Plan 9 from Outer Space
    Sometimes you watch a “bad movie” cult classic and, even though it is technically a terrible movie, you have a great time — I’m thinking of The Room or Love on a Leash here. Theoretically, Ed Wood’s famed Z-movie should fall into that camp. If anything, I think it’s the originator of “so bad it’s good”. For some people, that is how it plays. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me — I just thought it was poorly-made rubbish.


    The 21 best films I saw for the first time in 2021.

    2021 Statistics

    Enough about my shiny new look (although, if you missed all that, you can read about it here) — let’s go back to digging through the remains of 2021. And we begin (or, rather, resume) with one of my personal highlights of the entire year: the statistics. Regular readers will know what this is all about, but if you’re new to these parts and enjoy things like percentages and graphs… oh boy, you’re in for a treat!

    Before we begin, a quick word that, because I’m a Letterboxd Pro member, I also get a yearly stats page over there. My 2021 stats can be found here. I don’t only log new watches on Letterboxd, so any overlapping statistics will be slightly different, but they mainly have different categories (like repeat cast & crew members — so you can, for example, find out which actor appeared in the most films I watched last year).

    And now…


    I watched 207 new feature films in 2021. That means it ranks 3rd all-time, passing 2015’s 200 by a solid seven films, but coming far shy of the top two: 2018’s 261 and last year’s 264.

    I also ran my Rewatchathon for the fifth year in 2021. I’ve spent all of that time thinking I ought to include it in the statistics properly, and all of that time not getting round to deciding how exactly to incorporate it, and now it’s over — I’m doing something slightly different next year. Well, maybe that will finally compel me to square the circle. Anyway, I rewatched 33 films — short of my target of 50, but not that bad else wise. That makes a combined total of 240 films, which is another distant 3rd place finish, behind last year’s 310 and 2018’s 311.


    NB: I have no rewatch data for 2007 and only incomplete numbers for 2008.

    I also watched four short films last year, which is my lowest total for those since 2016. A shame after the past two years saw me set new records each year, but then I’ve never made a concerted effort to watch shorts. Maybe I should. As always, the only stat they count towards is the total running time, and they barely make a dent there. To wit: the total running time of new features was 357 hours and 12 minutes, while adding the shorts bumps it to 357 hours and 58 minutes — just a 46-minute increase. That’s my smallest “others” total ever, barely even visible on the graph below (it’s 1 pixel high).

    Here’s how that viewing played out across the year, month by month. The dark blue line is new feature films and the pale blue line is my Rewatchathon. Last year I included a pale green line for shorts, but that seemed a bit pointless this year. Last year I noted that, while the precise values of the graph changed each year I’d been running it (since 2018), the rough shape stayed the same: quickly climbing to a peak in April or May, then lower and bumpier to the end of the year. 2021 bucks that trend entirely, with the high point coming in February, before it almost tapers off, but spikes up dramatically in August and December, traditionally two of my weaker months. What does this tell us? Maybe not to rely too much on precedent.

    Next up, the formats on which I watched those films. Despite my continued advocacy (and purchasing of) physical media, it’s digital that once again romps away with the crown here, accounting for 150 films, or 72.46% of my viewing. That’s down slightly from last year’s 73.9%, but is still above the 2015–2021 average, which is 58.5%. I’d definitely like to get it down closer to 50%; or, even better, to see Blu-ray beating it, considering I buy so many of the darn things.

    Of course, a lot of individual formats and services contribute to that digital total. The top spot therein is a tie between Amazon, topping the list for the fourth time in five years, and downloads, each with 35 films (23.3% of digital). Downloading was second last year, so that isn’t actually a huge change. The same could be said of the next few places on the chart: last year Netflix and Now tied for third, while this year Netflix is there by itself, with 26 films (17.3%), and Now is just behind, on 22 (14.7%); and iPlayer comes fifth, with 16 (10.7%). Last year there were three other services to mention: AMPLIFY!, which didn’t occur this year; YouTube, which I didn’t watch anything on this year; and Disney+, which retains that position kinda by default, with seven films (4.7%). Rounding out the digital services were MUBI on five (3.3%), All 4 on three (2%), and Apple TV+ managing a solitary one (0.7%). Most of their original content seems to be TV, although they did have a couple of other films that interested me, so that really should’ve been higher — but then I could say that about all the streamers (I mean, just look at my failures list each month).

    A very distant second place in the format war goes to Blu-ray with 51 films (24.6%) — just a third of digital’s tally, I’m ashamed to point out. It’s the format’s 14th year on this list and its 4th highest total, which doesn’t sound too bad, but as a percentage it pales besides the 40% I was hitting a decade ago.

    Between them, digital and Blu-ray accounted for a staggering 97.1% of my viewing in 2021, up on the 95.5% they represented last year. To be precise, that’s 201 out of 207 films. The remaining six were split equally between three other formats — again, to be precise, that means DVD, TV, and cinema each clocked just two films (0.97% each). Here’s a graph showing how much DVD has fallen — something that should improve next year, at least a bit. (If you want an idea of how much it might grow, 2018 had exactly 12 DVD watches.)

    A similar “once mighty, now not” slump has befallen TV across the decades, its place in my viewing schedule now definitively overtaken by streaming.

    And finally, the cinema, brought low by Covid for the second year in a row. More films that I was interested in were screening, but is it worth the risk? And we’re all hoping 2022 will be better, but how much is still a question mark. We’ll see in a year’s time…

    In amongst all that, I watched 24 films in 4K — a drop from last year’s 40, but still above any year before that (2019’s total was 15, for example). On the other hand, I watched just three in 3D, my lowest total there since I got my 3D TV back in 2017. New releases on the format are dwindling (even Disney, who were previously reliable with Marvel and Pixar titles, now only release the former on 3D BD in Japan, with no sign of the latter), but I’ve still got a not-insignificant pile of 3D discs I’ve bought and not watched yet. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that all of my 2021 3D watches were films I don’t own or can’t get on disc, so were downloaded by other means (wink wink, nudge nudge).

    Topping both of those this year was the number of films I watched in SD. Yep, really. Between some downloads, some streams, and those couple of DVDs, I watched 25 films in SD in 2021. At 12.1% of my total viewing, that’s actually the second highest percentage since 2016. What’s more interesting is that, although it means the percentage fluctuates somewhat, the actual number of SD titles I’ve watched has been pretty consistent for years: the average for the past six years is 23.6, most falling in the 23–25 range. While it’s nice to watch as much in HD (or even UHD) as possible, there are some titles that are just so hard-to-come-by that one has to settle for lower quality. While “SD” might make many of us think of DVD-level quality, several of this year’s SD titles were more “recorded off TV to VHS then ripped to digital”-level. Yeah, they looked and sounded awful, but when that’s the only way to see the film at all…

    Of course, it tends to be older films that only exist in such low quality, and my viewing on the whole skews newer (though don’t get me started on the fact some brand-new productions still receive DVD-only releases). But as the new decade continues to get underway, the question is: how new? It took the 2010s until 2012 to usurp the 2000s at the top of my decade chart. Could the 2020s manage it a year earlier? In short, no — but it’s close! The 2010s are still in first place, but with only 46 films — that’s their lowest since 2012, coincidentally. It represents 22.2% of my viewing this year, the lowest-ever percentage for a top decade (at the same point, i.e. in 2011, the 2000s still had 35.2%). And the 2020s are snapping at their heels, just three films behind on 43 (20.8%). The margin between these two decades was 33% last year, but this year it’s just 1.45%.

    In third place comes the ’90s with 22 films (10.6% — exactly double their percentage in the last two years). That’s their best total ever, their highest placing since 2017, and their best percentage since 2010. Why did they do so well? Oh, don’t ask silly questions (i.e. I have no idea. Chance, I guess). There’s an even bigger surprise in fourth place, though: the 1930s with 18 films (8.7%). Their previous best showing was last year, with just six films (2.3%), and their previous best percentage was way back in 2008, at 3.8%. And with the 1940s coming in fifth with 16 films (7.7%), also their best-ever result, could this be a preview of years to come? Well, I have set myself the task of watching at least 12 films noir next year…

    Things continue to ping back and forth in time as we move down the chart. Next is the ’80s on 15 (7.2%), followed closely by the 2000s on 13 (6.3%), followed even more closely by the ’70s on 12 (5.8%), and right behind them are the the ’50s on 11 (5.3%) — far down the chart though it may be, it’s still their highest ever total. Indeed, never before have so many decades reached double-figure tallies in a single year.

    Rounding out the list, the ’60s have an uncommonly low five (2.4%), while bringing up the rear are the 1920s on four (1.9%) and the 1910s on two (0.97%) — not their best result (2007 and 2010 were both higher), but only the sixth time they’ve featured at all in 15 years. Finally, no features for the 1900s & earlier, but they were represented by a single short film, for only the third time ever (the previous occasions being 2013 and 2020).

    There’s somewhat less variety in where films came from, with the USA once again dominating countries of production, having a hand in producing 140 films. However, at just 67.6% of my total viewing, it’s their lowest percentage ever (down from last year’s 68.6%, the first time it had been below 70%). There’s nothing wrong with US movies, but there’s a whole world out there and it’s nice to spread one’s viewing around a bit. To wit: there were a total of 35 production countries represented in my viewing this year, the second best ever (behind last year’s 40, when there were almost 28% more films, so, y’know, fair enough). Some of the more unusual ones (in terms of my own viewing) included Latvia, Estonia, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Peru, and Romania.

    Back at the top end of the chart, the UK took its usual second place, with 54 films (26.1%). France returned to third place, a position it’s held for six of the ten years I’ve been monitoring this stat, with 18 films (8.7%). Hot on their tail was Japan on 17 (8.2%). Also in double figures were Canada (15, 7.2%) and Germany (12, 5.8%), and coming seventh with seven was Australia (3.4%). China, Denmark, and India were tied on four (1.9%) each, while four countries each had three, eight countries had two apiece, and the remaining 13 had one film each.

    All those US and UK films mean that English was the most dominant language, as always. It was spoken to at least some degree in 183 films, or 88.4% of my viewing, a percentage that’s up from the last three years. As I say, this count includes all films where it was spoken enough to merit listing, even if it wasn’t the primary language. Perhaps I should start making a note of just the main spoken tongue for the sake of the statistic… Also as usual, the language in second was a long way off. This year it was Japanese in just 11 films (5.3%). No others made double figures. But overall there were 27 spoken languages (plus five silent films), which isn’t bad. Some more rarely-heard languages this year included Amharic, Estonian, Kiowa, Somali, Tupi… and Klingon.

    A total of 178 directors and eight directing partnerships were responsible for the films on 2021’s main list. 16 of them helmed multiple films, led by Leo McCarey with five. Second place is shared, with three apiece from David Hare (the Worricker trilogy) and Reginald Le Borg (all among the Inner Sanctum Mysteries series), while Ishirô Honda helmed two plus one film in a ‘partnership’ (that would be the US cut of King Kong vs. Godzilla, where Honda’s original work was supplemented with US material by Thomas Montgomery). The remaining 12 had two films each, and they were: Jack Bernhard, Bob Clark, Cameron Crowe, George Cukor, Joe Dante, Paul Greengrass, Tom Hooper, Ben Lewin, Anthony Minghella, Mike Nichols, George Stevens, and James Whale.

    For a few years now I’ve specifically charted the number of female directors whose work I’ve watched. 2020 saw a new high reached, but sadly 2021 sees it slip back again — although it’s still above 2019, just, so there’s that. My viewing this year included 13 films with a female director (12 solo; one as part of a trio with two men), which comes out as a measly 5.94% of my viewing. As I put it last year, it’s debatable whether the onus should be on me to seek out more films directed by women or on the industry to give more directing gigs to women, but ultimately it’s a bit of both — though I’d argue with more weight on the latter, because I just watch the films I watch; I neither avoid nor seek out female directors especially. Anyway, I do hope this graph will continue to improve in the future, though I’m not sure it will ever approach 50/50 (considering all the older films I watch, which are predominantly directed by men to a farcical degree).

    We’re approaching the end now — broadly speaking, because before I dig into 2021’s star ratings, it’s time for an update on a couple of viewing projects I vaguely have on the go. First, the IMDb Top 250: at the time of writing, seven films from my 2021 viewing appear on that famed list. However, because that list is ever-changing, the number I have left to see has only gone down by two, to 28. That’s my poorest showing since 2012. I feel so close to the end now (just 11.2% to go) that I really would like to get it finished off. Of course, new releases ping on all the time (there are currently four 2021 releases on there), but that’s life — if I finish the rest of the list, I can bop them on the head as and when they pop up. Anyway, the current positions of the seven I saw this year range from 52nd (Cinema Paradiso) to 222nd (La Haine).

    My next viewing project is the one I call my “50 Unseen”. As regular readers will know, at the end of my annual “top ten” post I always include a list of 50 notable films I missed from that year’s releases. I’ve continued to track my progress at watching those ‘misses’ down the years — which is how I know that 2021 was a particularly poor year for this particular mission. Where previously I would watch at least one film from every list, this year I only managed to hit eight of the 14; and from most I only watched one film, leaving my with a total of 21 films across all 14 lists. That’s the lowest since 2010 (when I only had three lists to work from!) In fact, the last time I watched that few films from even just the newest list was in 2014. And speaking of the newest list, in the first year of watching 2020’s 50, I watched 12 of them — the lowest ‘first year’ since 2010 (again), when I only watched eight films from 2009’s list. You might think this is because 2020 was a poor year for new films, thanks to the pandemic, but there are plenty in that 50 I very much want to see, I just… haven’t. Maybe I’ll finally catch up on them in 2022.

    For what it’s worth, the other nine I watched came from 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2019 (all one film each), and 2015 (three films — why so many more, I don’t know).

    All of which means that, in total, I’ve now seen 497 out of 700 of those ‘missed’ movies. That’s exactly 71%, the first time this percentage has dropped year-on-year since 2009 (it was 73.2% last year). On the bright side, that’s still above where it was the year before last (70.3%), so it’s not a total disaster. (As usual, my new list of 50 misses from 2021 will be in my “top ten” post, sometime soon.)

    And so, to conclude the statistics for 2021, it’s the climax of every review: the scores.

    Now, I need to provide a similar caveat to last year: this stat factors in every new film I watched in 2021, even those for which I’ve yet to publish a review — which, this year, is 98% of them. That means there are some where I’m still flexible on my precise score — those films I’d award, say, 3.5 or 4.5 on Letterboxd, but which I insist on rounding to a whole star on here. For the sake of completing these stats, I’ve assigned a whole-star rating to every film, but it’s possible I’ll change my mind when I eventually post a review (it’s happened before). Still, this section should remain broadly accurate.

    Starting at the top end, then, in 2021 I awarded 25 five-star ratings, which means 12.1% of the films I watched got full marks. That’s at the lower end of my range, which historically spans from 11.9% to 21.2%. I’d put that down to harsher marking rather than poor quality: there were quite a few 4.5-type films where I eventually erred towards the lower score.

    As usual, the most prolific rating was four stars, which I gave to 88 films. At 42.5%, that’s a sliver up on last year’s percentage (which was 42.1%), which rather suggests the lower number of five-star films wasn’t all that much due to those 4.5s after all… unless a lot of 3.5s got the rounded-down treatment too, of course.

    Well, there were 63 three-star films, which is the third highest tally ever, behind 2018 and 2020 — both years in which I watched more films. So, really, that’s only appropriate. The historic range of my three-star ratings spans all the way from 19.6% up to 38.0%, so 2021 coming in at 30.4% actually puts it somewhere in the middle.

    Indeed, the real gains are to be found among the two-star films, which number 29 — the highest-ever for one year, and the first time there I’ve given out more two-stars than five-stars (although they did draw back in 2012). It comes to 14.01%, which isn’t actually the highest ever… but it is close, because 2008 reached 14.4%. Again, this brings up the usual debate: was this a weak year, or is my scoring getting harsher? I think, at this point in my life, the latter is definitely a factor.

    Last, and most definitely least, I handed out just two one-star ratings, which is only 0.97% of my viewing. That’s very typical: I’ve awarded two or fewer single-star scores in 10 out of 15 years, and only three years have pushed its percentage above 1.5%

    Finally, the average score for the year — a single figure with which to judge 2021 against other years, for good or ill. The short version is 3.5 out of 5 — that’s the first time it’s dropped below 3.6 since 2012, when it was an anomalous 3.4. Indeed, that’s the first 3.5 score in 15 years (there are five 3.6s, six 3.7s, and two 3.8s). To go to a few more decimal places, it’s 3.507 — still my second-lowest scoring year ever, but it doesn’t stick out quite as egregiously as 2012’s 3.352. Still, it’s only the third time the score’s been below 3.600 (2019 was the other, on 3.589), so it is a low one, whichever way you cut it. Again we ask: was it a weak year, or is my scoring getting harsher? As I said before, I am beginning to feel it’s the latter.

    All of which said, let’s not forget: it’s still a pretty good average overall. I mean, it’s well above 3.0, and 3 is a positive score. A ‘true average’ might be 2.5, but then I’d have to watch a lot more bad movies, and who wants to do that? Maybe I could try to watch even more very good / great films, and then maybe the average would rise again… or maybe I’d just worry I was being too lenient. No, at this point I feel I’ve demonstrated a degree of consistency in my marking — so long as the average is in the 3.5–3.7 range, I feel like I’m getting things about right.

    And so, I’m sorry to say, the stats are over for another year. I know I’m changing things up from 2022, so will this post look significantly different next year? Y’know, probably not: I love this stuff too much to stop working it all out.


    My picks for the best and worst films I saw in 2021. And then my review of 2021 will be over, and you’ll have seen these blue-ish stripey mid-post graphics for the last time!

    The All-New 100 Films in a Year Challenge

    As I said in my introduction to the blog’s new era, reports of 100 Films in a Year’s death may have been grossly exaggerated — because while 100 Films in a Year as it was is no more, in its place I have…

    The All-New 100 Films in a Year Challenge!

    Just like its title, this new version is similar but different. My original challenge was wholly straightforward: watch 100 films I’d never seen before every year. The only thing approaching complexity or contention was whether alternate cuts (e.g. director’s cuts) counted as a “film I’d never seen before” or not. But this brand-new version of the challenge… well, it’s going to require some explaining.

    Before I do, let’s recap why this came about. As regular readers are likely aware by now, I’ve been thinking about modifying my eponymous goal for a few years, primarily because simply “watching 100 new films in a year” stopped being an actual challenge and became my de facto state. It’s almost a decade since I failed in that goal, and over the last few years my average has been closer to 200 films in a year. So, why not just double the target? Or pick another number? Maybe I would’ve just done that, were it not for a few slip-ups (i.e. months where I fell short of my minimum target) and lifestyle changes in recent years. Obviously a challenge should be challenging, not a guaranteed walk in the park, but “just watch more films” didn’t seem the right way to push myself.

    That’s what ultimately led to this new challenge — or, you might argue, array of challenges. You see, rather than just watching any old 100 films, now there are a selection of categories, and films will need to fulfil criteria to qualify. Whereas the old challenge merely motivated me to watch more films, this new version is designed to encourage me to watch certain kinds of films. Plus, with some additional rules for each category, it will spread that viewing throughout the year, rather than seeing me engage in a headlong rush to #100 as quickly as I can (which has happened the past few years).

    So, you could argue this is eight separate challenges that together add up to 100 films, rather than a ‘true’ 100 films challenge — whatever that might mean. And you can argue that, if you want — I don’t care. This is a personal project, not some athletic endeavour subject to outside scrutiny, and this is how I’m choosing to do it. Of course, if for some reason you wanted to join in, you’re more than welcome. Feel free to use my rules. Feel free to tweak them to suit your own goals. Feel free to ignore them entirely and come up with your own criteria. Feel free to think “you know what, I really need to play more video games” and set yourself 100 Games in a Year as a challenge. Heck, that’s how this all began: I ‘ripped off’ the Read 50 Books in a Year challenge.


    As I said, there are now eight groups making up my 100-film challenge. I’ll outline them in a moment, but first there’s one general rule: a film can only count once. Sounds kinda obvious, I guess, but my categories are not so niche as to be mutually exclusive — I could watch a Blindspot pick from the 1970s on DVD and technically it could count across three categories. But if I did that, well, the final tally wouldn’t actually get to 100, which would be self defeating. When a film fulfils the criteria for multiple groups (as some surely will, especially early on), it’s up to me to allocate which category it counts towards — although there are some sub-rules that will help dictate that. (My challenge is watching films, but yours may be trying to understand why I make these things so unnecessarily complicated…)

    Without further ado, the categories are…

    New Films

    Well, that immediately requires clarification, doesn’t it? Because in the old challenge all 100 films were “new”, as in “new to me”. Now, however, I mean “new” as in “new (to the UK)”. And the UK clarification is needed because we so often get foreign films ‘late’, especially awards-y films that play US dates the year before but aren’t released here until January, February, March… even as late as June or July sometimes. So, this category is 12 films that were released in the UK for the first time during 2022. To some people that might seem like no challenge whatsoever — and it’s not that much of a challenge to me, to be honest, because I normally far exceed it. But, on the whole, my viewing skews older (when there’s the whole of film history to explore, why just watch brand-new stuff?), so I feel it’s a worthwhile category to include. Plus, part of the point of this is to spread the challenge throughout the year. To ensure that, this category is limited to one qualifying film per month — so even if I watched two (or more) new films in a single month, only the first would count towards the challenge. However, it can rollover if necessary — for example, if I watched no new films in January, I could count two in February. That might seem to undermine the concept of spreading these throughout the year, but, without it, it would be possible for me to fail the entire year on January 31st, which would suck.

    Rewatches

    In arguably the biggest change of all, rewatches now count… but only 12 of them. Mirroring the “new films” requirement, this is also limited to one per month. I’m not intending to run my Rewatchathon anymore, primarily because of this, but I’d like to think I’ll still rewatch more than 12 films a year. We’ll see — maybe I’ll end up bringing it back.

    Blindspot

    This continues as-is: 12 specific films, chosen ‘scientifically’ from best-of lists and the like, designed to be paced one per month. Because they’re specific films, if I did decide to get ahead of myself then they could count ‘early’, but I don’t think I’ve ever done that and I don’t intend to start now. As usual, there’ll be a dedicated post sometime soon with my 12 picks.

    What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

    After a couple of years ‘off’ (or, if you prefer, combined with Blindspot, because they’re essentially the same thing), WDYMYHS is back. The change is, whereas Blindspot is made up of “great movies” (according to other people), WDYMYHS will revolve around a theme of some kind. This year that link will be my birth year: 12 specific films from 1986 that I’m surprised I haven’t seen. Again, my 12 picks will be named in a dedicated post soon.

    Decades

    At least one film from every decade that feature films have existed, i.e. since the 1910s. That makes it another group of 12 — what are the odds?! It’s almost like I’m doing this deliberately… I can watch as many of these as I like within any given month, so we’ll see how long it takes me to tick them all off — recent decades will come quickly and easily, but some of the older ones might require a specific effort.

    DVDs

    I’ve spent years lamenting the fact that I don’t watch enough of my DVDs. Thanks to a couple of decades spent collecting, I own over 1,000 of the things, many never played, and they don’t often make it into my viewing nowadays, largely because they’re not HD. (I suspect that, statistically, I’m more likely to spend money upgrading a DVD to Blu-ray than I am to actually watch a DVD.) So, to force me to dig into that particular back catalogue, I’m making it a goal to watch at least one per month, as per the “new films” rules. And no ‘cheating’: if I don’t want to watch something from my DVD copy (because I want to get it in HD, or even UHD), that’s absolutely fine… but I can’t get it in HD and then still count that towards the DVD goal. I have to actually watch the DVD for it to count.

    Genre

    Like WDYMYHS, here I’m going to pick a specific genre or movement (preferably one that’s either highly specific or that I’m less au fait with, not something broad or well-worn like, say, “action”) and aim for at least one per month, i.e. 12 more films. However, this is a free-for-all: whereas WDYMYHS is 12 pre-chosen titles, this can be anything that falls within the genre; and I won’t limit myself to counting just one per month. Maybe I’ll have a marathon and complete it in one go! Maybe I’ll still spread it thin! At least having the choice provides an opportunity for some variety, right? This year’s genre will be that old favourite, film noir. I’ve had noir ‘viewing projects’ before, but there are plenty of key texts that still elude me, so maybe 2022 will right that. Or maybe I’ll just end up getting all 12 from Indicator’s 24-film Columbia Noir series. Frankly, either is good by me.

    Series Progression

    That’s perhaps the vaguest title of all, but let me explain (that’s the whole point of this post, after all). I have multiple different film series on the go at any one time — so many that, a couple of years ago, I started keeping a list, the Letterboxd version of which is here. Some of those series I continue to merrily work my way through; some I half-forget I have underway. So, the point of this category is to compel me to continue, across another 12 films. I could watch 12 from one series; I could watch one each from 12 different series. I could marathon them all across a weekend; I could watch them one a month throughout the year. Whatever — just so long as I keep going with series I’ve already started. (If I start a new series, either by accident or choice, the first film can’t count, but any future films can.)

    I know I said there were eight categories, but if you’ve been doing the maths so far you’ll have realised we’re only at 96 films. So there must be a ninth category, right? Well, yes and no. Let me introduce you to…

    Wildcards

    The final four films are ‘wildcards’ that I can attach to any of the eight categories. They still have a couple of rules, though. Firstly, wildcards can only be used once the category’s own requirements are met. What that means is, I could use a wildcard to (for example) count a second new film in January, but I couldn’t use one for a film noir until I’ve watched 12 film noirs. Lastly, only one wildcard per category — so I couldn’t (for example) watch five new films in January and count them all. Make sense? If not, let me remind you that you don’t really need to worry about any of this — it’s only me who has to work it out.


    I’ll be tracking my progress with the Challenge in my monthly review posts, and on a dedicated page too.

    Also, while it’s no longer the ‘official’ goal of the blog, I suspect I’ll end up still counting my overall viewing, and likely post year-end stats and whatnot about it next January. I’ve been doing that count for almost my entire adult life, so it’s a well-established habit at this point. Not to mention that, actually, I enjoy it — but now primarily for my own interest, rather than as the raison d’être of this blog.

    A new era begins…

    100 Films in a Year is dead.
    Long live 100Films.co.uk

    Welcome to my new-look blog!

    Don’t worry, you’re going to find a lot of it familiar — I haven’t changed the underlying template, and all the old posts are still there, looking like they always did. Well, almost like they always did: I’ve chosen a new font for headings, so that’ll change. But, primarily, it’s a new name and a new logo, which is showcased on the front page in dozens of randomly-changing header images. (The old header and logo endured for seven years, and that was only a tweak & rearrange of the one I’d had for several years before that, so I think a redesign was about due anyway.) There are 20 new banners in total — can you catch ’em all?

    More substantively, along with the revised aesthetics comes an adjusted focus.

    As regular readers will know, I’ve been pondering “what to do about the blog” for a few years now, but the need for change was really brought to a head in 2021, when I spent most of the year only posting my monthly summaries. There were a couple of things going on that needed addressing. One: what to do about reviews? I wasn’t posting them regularly even before they ground to a total halt, and my ever-increasing backlog of unreviewed films — allowed to mount up over the past couple of years — numbers almost 500. Two: what to do about my eponymous challenge? Reaching 100 films every year has become a relative doddle: the last time I fell short was almost a decade ago, and in four of the last seven years I’ve reached 200 films in a year. Was that unchallenging challenge really still a fitting thing to base my blog around?

    The easiest answer to the latter: move the goalposts. But to what? Another easy answer: stop doing it. But I didn’t want to give up blogging entirely. So, a new blog? Nah: a blog is a ‘brand’ (for want of a better word), and I wasn’t in the mood to start from scratch.

    Ultimately, the inspiration for change came from the easiest of places. I’ve always referred to this place as 100 Films for short, including using that handle on Twitter and registering the domain 100films.co.uk — previously that just referred you on to my WordPress URL, but last week I moved the site over to it properly. (All the old WordPress URLs should still work, which is handy because otherwise I’d have a lot of link-fixing to do…) So, I could ditch “in a Year” and just go with the shorter title. But why that name? Oh, who needs a why? Though, to justify it at least somewhat, I intend to start a new occasional series about various 100-film lists — you know, like the Sight & Sound poll, or all those AFI ones. Plus, the “coming soon” page is going, to be replaced by an ever-changing list of the last 100 films I watched.

    Which brings us back round to the other issue: reviews, and/or what other kinds of posts will appear. In short, my plan is to go back to the blog’s roots, with roundup posts every week or couple of weeks that review what I’ve watched in short capsule-like form. If I have more to say about a film, and the time to write it, I’ll still post separate full-length reviews. How often that will happen, only time will tell. (This “review as I go” approach is part of why the “coming soon” page is being retired.)

    There are a few other ideas I have up my sleeve, but I don’t want to overwhelm with too much forward planning right now. Over the coming days, weeks, and months, the new and revised features of this fresh era will become apparent. Plus, some changes have had to wait until the ‘new’ site was live, so only now am I going to begin rethinking the menus, for example. And, to be honest, I’m still unsure of some of the details myself, so there may be aspects of the ‘old site’ that hang around for a bit before being discarded, or change and develop over time. We’ll just see how things go.

    Also, there’s the small matter of wrapping up the last year of the ‘old’ blog, because I still have to post the statistics and my best (and worst) films of 2021. All that will be coming — complete with familiar graphics and imagery — over the next few days (as usual, a specific timeframe is hard to nail down. I haven’t even chosen a lot of it yet, never mind written it).

    But first, later today I’ll explain how reports of 100 Films in a Year’s death may have been grossly exaggerated…

    My Most-Read Posts of 2021

    2021 was a relatively quiet year for me, review-wise — I made just 55 posts, vs. over 120 in each of 2019 and 2020, and over 200 in 2018 and 2017. Nonetheless, that’s still enough from which to draw a Top 5, right?

    Normally I do a “TV Top 5” and “Film Top 5”, but, as I only posted three TV columns last year, that seems a little pointless. Instead, here’s an overall Top 8 — because of course all the TV posts made the very top of the list, and this means you can deduce the film-only Top 5 if you want to.

    Also, the graph in the header image was made with accurate figures, if you want an idea of the posts’ success relative to one another. (A less balloon-obscured version is available here. If you think the two on the left, 7th and 8th, look the same height, they’re not — but they are very, very close: the difference between them has come out as just 1 pixel.)

    My Top 8 Most-Viewed New Posts in 2021

    8) Psycho Goreman
    One of just four reviews I posted in 2021 of new films I watched in 2021. Two of the other three are also in this top eight, while the fourth (Muse: Simulation Theory) came 12th overall. Also worth mentioning (as much as any of this is): Psycho Goreman beat the post in 9th place by just one hit. That was the 100-Week Roundup XXII, for what it’s worth.

    7) The Man Who Reviewed Some Films
    A four-film compilation, including The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Man Who Sleeps. Was one of those responsible for its popularity? Or is it a unique combo of four fairly-popular films? Who can say. Maybe people were just intrigued by the title.

    6) Nomadland
    The 2020 Oscar Best Picture winner finally made it to a wide UK release in April 2021, occasioning my review. The mix of awards season success and “new release” status likely explains its success here.

    5) The Past Christmas on TV
    The 2020 edition of my Christmas TV overview, including Cinderella: A Comic Relief Pantomime for Christmas, Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks, Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse; a roundup of comedy specials, including Ghosts, The Goes Wrong Show, Not Going Out, and Upstart Crow; plus brief words on Blankety Blank and Have I Got 30 Years for You.

    4) No Time to Die
    A new James Bond film was too significant to miss — especially one as long-awaited as this — and so it broke my (inadvertent) long run of not posting reviews, and proved unsurprisingly popular with readers, too.

    3) Death to 2020
    Now, normally this wouldn’t count, because I posted it last year. But I posted it at 11pm on December 31st, and in that first hour it only gained 11 hits, so — under those unique circumstances — it seemed unfair to leave it out entirely. More than unfair, it would be inaccurate: a highly successful post, that could’ve been missed off both the 2020 and 2021 lists due to a technicality of posting time. Anyway, I expect it did well because reviews of Netflix content often do… and because it’s probably more a TV special than a true film, and, as we know, TV reviews usually do best of all. To wit:

    2) The Past Month on TV #67
    including Dial M for Middlesbrough, It’s a Sin, more of The Twilight Zone, WandaVision episodes 5–8, and A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote. I expect the combo of It’s a Sin (one of the best-received TV series of the year) and WandaVision (the much discussed debut Marvel Disney+ series) is responsible for this.

    1) The Past Month on TV #66
    including Cobra Kai season 2, Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema series 3, Staged series 2, more of The Twilight Zone, and WandaVision episodes 1–4. All very popular shows, so it figures they would add up to the #1 spot.

    2021: The Full List

    As revealed in my December review, 2021 finished on a tally of 207 new films — my third highest ever. They’re all listed below, in alphabetical order, along with the small handfuls of titles I admitted to my “Guide To” series and the short films I watched. After last year’s “frankly extraordinary” high of 65, this year I only watched four shorts. Maybe I should set a shorts-watching target too…

    Normally this post also serves to be a big pile of links to reviews I’ve posted in the past year. But those were thin on the ground in 2021: in the list of 207 new films, just four have a review to link to. Oh dear. But you can always (re-)enjoy my monthly reviews (filled with Fun Stuff like the Arbies), and the TV reviews I posted… before that column came up short too.

    Well, hopefully things will be different soon…


    • As It Happened — 2021’s monthly updates, with a chronological list of my viewing.
    • The List — an alphabetical list of every new film I watched in 2021.
    • Television — an alphabetical list of the TV programmes I reviewed in 2021.
    • Next Time — more of 2021 still to come.

    Below is a graphical representation of my 2021 viewing, month by month. Each of the images links to the relevant monthly review, which contain a chronological list of everything I watched this year. There’s also other exciting stuff in there, like my monthly Arbie awards and what I watched in my Rewatchathon.

    And now, the main event…


    An alphabetical list of all the films I watched for the first time in 2021, followed by other films I’ve covered (or intended to cover) this year — primarily, a couple of instalments in film series that I’ve given the “Guide To” treatment, and a trickle of short films. As I mentioned in my introduction, normally many of these titles would link to the appropriate review, but this year you’ll find just four links in the main list. Coincidentally, they’re all really close together.

    • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
    • 23 Walks (2020)
    • 3 Idiots (2009)
    • The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
    • The Aeronauts (2019)
    • Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), aka Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
    • An American Pickle (2020)
    • Appointment with Death (1988)
    • Appointment with Murder (1948)
    • The Awful Truth (1937)
    • Baby Done (2020)
    • Bachelor Knight (1947), aka The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
    • Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
    • Beginners (2010)
    • The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
    • Bill (2015)
    • Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
    • The Birth of a Nation (1915)
    • The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
    • Black Widow [3D] (2021)
    • Blithe Spirit (2020)
    • Boss Level (2021)
    • The Broadway Melody (1929)
    • A Brief History of Time Travel (2018)
    • Bright Young Things (2003)
    • The ’Burbs (1989)
    • The Burning Buddha Man (2013), aka Moeru butsuzô ningen
    • A Boy Called Christmas (2021)
    • Calling Dr. Death (1943)
    • Capernaum (2018), aka Capharnaüm
    • Captain Phillips (2013)
    • Carefree (1938)
    • Carol (2015)
    • The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)
    • Cats (2019)
    • A Christmas Story (1983)
    • Cinema Paradiso (1988), aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
    • The Coldest Game (2019)
    • Coming to America (1988)
    • Con Air (1997)
    • Crank (2006)
    • Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)
    • The Current War (2017)
    • A Damsel in Distress (1937)
    • The Danish Girl (2015)
    • Daughters of Darkness (1971), aka Les lèvres rouges
    • David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020)
    • David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)
    • Dead Man’s Eyes (1944)
    • Dead Man’s Folly (1986)
    • Defending Your Life (1991)
    • Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street (2002), aka Meitantei Conan: Bekâ Sutorîto no bôrei
    • The Dig (2021)
    • La Dolce Vita (1960)
    • Dreamcatcher (2003)
    • Drop Zone (1994)
    • Dumb and Dumber (1994)
    • Dune: Part One (2021), aka Dune
    • Ernest & Celestine (2012), aka Ernest et Célestine
    • Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (2021), aka Shin Evangelion Gekijôban
    • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021)
    • Falling for Figaro (2020)
    • The Father (2020)
    • Festen (1998), aka The Celebration
    • The Final Countdown (1980)
    • The Fly (1986)
    • Frankenstein (1931)
    • The Frighteners: Director’s Cut (1996)
    • From Here to Eternity (1953)
    • The Frozen Ghost (1945)
    • Futureworld (1976)
    • Gambit (2012)
    • Godzilla Raids Again (1955), aka Gojira no gyakushû
    • Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
    • Going in Style (2017)
    • Going My Way (1944)
    • Good Boys (2019)
    • The Green Knight (2021)
    • Gremlins (1984)
    • The Guilty (2018), aka Den skyldige
    • La Haine (1995)
    • Happiest Season (2020)
    • Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
    • High Life (2018)
    • Holiday Affair (1949)
    • Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)
    • Hotel Reserve (1944)
    • Hotel Transylvania [3D] (2012)
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
    • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
    • The House of Fear (1939)
    • I Care a Lot (2020)
    • The Invisible Man (1933)
    • Isn’t It Romantic (2019)
    • Jerry Maguire (1996)
    • Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019)
    • Jingle All the Way (1996)
    • Joint Security Area (2000), aka Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
    • Jungle Cruise (2021)
    • The Kid Detective (2020)
    • Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
    • The King (2019)
    • King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), aka Kingu Kongu tai Gojira
    • King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)
    • The Last of Sheila (1973)
    • Last Train to Christmas (2021)
    • The Last Warning (1928)
    • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
    • A Little Chaos (2014)
    • Love Affair (1939)
    • Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
    • The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
    • Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019)
    • Midnight in Paris (2011)
    • Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo (2017)
    • The Money Pit (1986)
    • Mortal Kombat (1995)
    • The Mummy (1932)
    • Murder by Decree (1979)
    • Murder in Three Acts (1986)
    • Muse: Simulation Theory (2020)
    • My Fair Lady (1964)
    • My Man Godfrey (1936)
    • The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (2012)
    • News of the World (2020)
    • No Time to Die (2021)
    • Nobody (2021)
    • Nomadland (2020)
    • Official Secrets (2019)
    • One Night in Miami… (2020)
    • Page Eight (2011)
    • Pather Panchali (1955)
    • Pillow of Death (1945)
    • The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975), aka Flåklypa Grand Prix
    • Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
    • Primary Colors (1998)
    • The Prom (2020)
    • Psycho Goreman (2020)
    • The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
    • Radioactive (2019)
    • Raffles (1939)
    • Rain Man (1988)
    • Red Notice (2021)
    • Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
    • Rodan (1956), aka Sora no daikaijû Radon
    • Royal Wedding (1951), aka Wedding Bells
    • Salting the Battlefield (2014)
    • Sansho Dayu (1954), aka Sansho the Bailiff
    • Sátántangó (1994)
    • Search for Danger (1949)
    • The Secret Garden (2020)
    • Seven Chances (1925)
    • Shakespeare in Love (1998)
    • A Single Man (2009)
    • Six Minutes to Midnight (2020)
    • Sneakers (1992)
    • The Social Dilemma (2020)
    • The Son of Kong (1933)
    • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
    • Space Station [3D] (2002)
    • Spielberg (2017)
    • Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
    • Spontaneous (2020)
    • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
    • Stowaway (2021)
    • Strange Confession (1945)
    • Strictly Ballroom (1992)
    • Stuart Little (1999)
    • A Study in Scarlet (1933)
    • Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
    • Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
    • Taken 2 (2012)
    • The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
    • Tangerines (2013), aka Mandariinid
    • Tea with Mussolini (1999)
    • Terje Vigen (1917), aka A Man There Was
    • Testament of Youth (2014)
    • Thirteen at Dinner (1985)
    • Three Identical Strangers (2018)
    • Time After Time (1979)
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
    • Tokyo Godfathers (2003), aka Tôkyô goddofâzâzu
    • Tower Heist (2011)
    • Truly Madly Deeply (1990)
    • Turks & Caicos (2014)
    • Twister (1996)
    • Under Siege (1992)
    • Vampyr (1932)
    • Vivacious Lady (1938)
    • Warning from Space (1956)
    • We Bought a Zoo (2011)
    • Weird Woman (1944)
    • When the Wind Blows (1986)
    • The White Tiger (2021)
    • Who? (1974)
    • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
    • Wild Target (2010)
    • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
    • Wolf Warrior (2015), aka Zhan lang
    • WolfWalkers (2020)
    • Wuthering Heights (1939)
    • Xchange (2001)
    • You Only Live Once (1937)
    • Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
    • Zatoichi’s Conspiracy (1973), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Kasama no chimatsuri
    • Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), aka Shu Shan – Xin Shu shan jian ke
    The 100 Films Guide To…
    Shorts
    • Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
    • Scenes with Beans (1976), aka Babfilm
    • Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)
    • What! No Spinach? (1926)
    10 Things I Hate About You

    Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

    Black Widow

    The Broadway Melody

    Cats

    Con Air

    Daughters of Darkness

    Drop Zone

    Evangelion: 3.0+1.01

    Frankenstein

    Godzilla Raids Again

    La Haine

    Hotel Transylvania in 3D

    Jerry Maguire

    The Last of Sheila

    Make Way for Tomorrow

    Mortal Kombat

    No Time to Die

    Flåklypa Grand Prix

    Rain Man

    Sátántangó

    Seven Chances

    Space Station

    Strange Confession

    The Talented Mr. Ripley

    Time After Time

    Under Siege

    Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    Zack Snyder’s Justice League

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

    Meshes of the Afternoon

    .

    My monthly TV columns came to an accidental halt in February (crikey, I hadn’t realised it was so long ago), but that means I still got in reviews of the following…


    Things are in a slightly different order this year, for one reason or another. Normally next up would be the statistics, but I think before that it’ll be my most-read posts of 2021.

    It’s the Final Countdown: The Concluding Monthly Review of December 2021

    As mentioned last month, this post represents the end of 100 Films in a Year.

    Er, except for all the end-of-year wrap-ups I need to do (did you think I’d leave you without an annual stats post? Perish the thought!)

    But after that… the end? Really? Or is it…

    Change, my dear. And it seems, not a moment too soon.

    But let’s put that aside for, ooh, a couple of days, and instead look back at the final month of 2021…


    #188 Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)
    #189 Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
    #190 Falling for Figaro (2020)
    #191 Gremlins (1984)
    #192 Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
    #193 Pather Panchali (1955)
    #194 Black Widow 3D (2021)
    #195 Tokyo Godfathers (2003), aka Tôkyô goddofâzâzu
    #196 Happiest Season (2020)
    #197 Zatoichi’s Conspiracy (1973), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Kasama no chimatsuri
    #198 Dreamcatcher (2003)
    #199 Jingle All the Way (1996)
    #200 The Final Countdown (1980)
    #201 A Christmas Story (1983)
    #202 The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
    #203 A Boy Called Christmas (2021)
    #204 Last Train to Christmas (2021)
    #205 The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
    #206 A Study in Scarlet (1933)
    #207 23 Walks (2020)
    Anna and the Apocalypse

    Happiest Season

    The Matrix Resurrections

    .


    • I watched 20 feature films I’d never seen before in December.
    • And that’s the first 20-film December — the final month to hit that milestone! It’s funny it’s worked out that way, because there was a 19-film December all the way back in 2008, at which time it was the second highest ever month, a title it held for seven years, and yet it’s taken three years beyond every other month (the last to crack 20 for the first time was November in 2018). Well, I got there just in time.
    • In terms of monthly averages, it surpasses the lot: December’s (previously 11.1, now 11.7), the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 16.4, now 17.25), and the average for 2021 (previously 17.0, now finalised at 17.25).
    • As for the year, ending on #207 makes 2021 my fourth year ever to pass 200 films; and, as I did it in 2020 too, that’s the first time I’ve done it two years in a row.
    • Overall, it’s my third highest year ever. (I would’ve needed to make it to #261 for second place.)
    • See the Arbies for more on specific films, including #200 itself.
    • With Zatoichi’s Conspiracy, I’ve finally completed Criterion’s box set of the series. It’s taken longer than expected: I’ve gone from watching one Zatoichi a month (at my height of getting through them in 2018 and ’19) to more like one per year. Although that’s the end of the original film series, I’ve still got a few stragglers to go (a revival movie and three continuations/reboots). Hopefully they won’t take me until 2025…
    • I had two Blindspot films to watch this month to complete my challenge for 2021. I watched one, Satyajit Ray’s enduringly acclaimed depiction of a rural Indian childhood, Pather Panchali. The other was Come and See. I did plan to watch it — I set aside an evening and everything — but then… I just didn’t feel like it. I’ve been in a generally Christmassy mood this December, and it didn’t fit with that to spend two-and-a-half hours watching a film whose own blurb advertises it as “a senses-shattering plunge into the dehumanising horrors of war.” I mean, what could sound less festive than “a waking nightmare of unimaginable carnage and cruelty”? So, yeah, the second greatest film ever made can wait ’til another day.
    • From last month’s “failures” I watched Black Widow, A Boy Called Christmas, and Home Sweet Home Alone.



    The 79th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    It’s proven divisive with critics and audiences alike, but I’m firmly in the camp that loved The Matrix Resurrections. Expect it to feature highly on my forthcoming “best of year” list.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    It was an enjoyable month overall (there’s a couple of likely 5s in the list), but duds crept in nonetheless, especially when trying to pack in the Christmas films. Perhaps the most disappointing was Home Sweet Home Alone. Some people would say predictably so, but I was open to the prospect of a remake. Unfortunately, this particular one fudges the fundamental conceit. Ho hum.

    Most Christmassy Film of the Month
    I don’t normally watch many Christmas films over the festive period. It’s not that I’m averse to them (far from it), I just don’t make a particular effort — and, as December is a time when I often am making a particular effort to round out some goal or other, other things can fall by the wayside. Well, this year I did put some effort into it, and — while I didn’t come close to completing the shortlist of 30 specific Christmas films I drew up — I did watch 10 festive films, which is a lot more than the two or three I usually manage. Of those, I reckon the most Christmassy of all was Happiest Season. I mean, what could be more Christmassy than a mix of festivities and familial awkwardness?

    Most “I Only Chose to Watch It Because of the Title” Film of the Month
    Regular readers will know I like to choose films that are somehow significant for my milestone numbers. My first-ever #100 was Citizen Kane, for example, and others have included Lawrence of Arabia, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Stalker, Sholay, and, this year, Cinema Paradiso. So for 2021’s #200, I had to pick something befitting my last-ever (sort of) milestone movie. While not a particularly noteworthy film in itself, The Final Countdown seemed a thoroughly apt title.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    With just two new posts in December (and one of those only a brief Christmas message), let’s once again ignore their fate and see which was the most popular post overall. And this month it was… a tie! And a seasonal one at that, because the joint victors were The Past Christmas on TV and The Past Christmas on TV! Er, that’s the 2018 and 2019 editions, respectively. You might think the 2020 one was close behind… but you’d be wrong: for whatever reason, while those two topped the charts, last year’s Christmas TV post was way down at 25th. Not sure what’s going on there, but my referrals from IMDb suggest the elder posts’ victories may be due to a new series of Vienna Blood (I reviewed the first in the 2019 post) and Christmassy one-off Click & Collect, which I noticed popped up on Netflix this month (and I mentioned in the 2018 column).


    To make my goal of 50 rewatches this year, I would’ve had to (re)watch 18 films this month. Considering my average for 2021 to the end of November was 2.9 rewatches a month, that didn’t seem particularly likely…

    #33 Elf (2003)

    Yeah, of course it didn’t happen. I didn’t even reach that average again (it ends up at 2.75 rewatches per month).

    As for Elf, I enjoyed it more on this, my second viewing, when I was free from any hope of, say, well-executed character arcs (one of the main things I criticised it for in my above-linked review) and so just enjoyed the holiday hijinks.


    Despite setting a new December record, my failures were as multitudinous as ever. My most noteworthy oversight from the big screen has to be Spider-Man: No Way Home, but there was also Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story and prequel The King’s Man, plus films with smaller releases that have nonetheless been much-discussed in cinephile circles, like C’mon C’mon, Lamb, and Titane. Also, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Hm.

    There were similar big guns on the streamers, including forthcoming awards season contenders The Power of the Dog and The Lost Daughter on Netflix, plus other originals like Don’t Look Up, The Unforgivable, and Death to 2021 — though, after not much enjoying Death to 2020, I think I’ll skip its Charlie Brooker-less sequel. Over on Prime Video, there was a belated UK bow for Guy Ritchie’s Wrath of Man, plus Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos and sci-fi Encounter. And talking of Charlie Brooker and sci-fi, Apple TV+ offered the Black Mirror-esque Swan Song.

    Sky Cinema’s originals were mostly Christmassy: as well as the ones I watched, they debuted the likes of 8-Bit Christmas and A Christmas Number One. Also this month, they’ve had Lin-Manuel Miranda musical In the Heights, plus a couple of things that I (annoyingly) bought on disc but haven’t watched yet, like Another Round and The Suicide Squad. Of course, Netflix and Amazon threw up a bunch of back catalogue stuff too, but, looking back over my long-lists, little jumps out at me as being worthy of particular note. That said, if you’ve not seen it, Netflix now has my #1 film of 2020, Never Rarely Sometimes Always. And, as well as meaning to catch Spielberg’s remake, I’d also like to make time to rewatch the original West Side Story, which is streaming on both Prime and iPlayer now.

    Once again taking advantage of not having to worry about licensing windows, Disney+ offered up early streaming debuts for their latest ‘animated classic’, Encanto, plus Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which seemed a bit gruelling for Christmastime viewing. The latter is getting a belated, limited release on 4K Blu-ray in the UK at the end of January, which I’ve preordered, but I should probably find the time to watch it on D+ first — if I don’t like it, it’ll save me a few bob.

    And talking of things I’ve bought, that certainly didn’t slow down in December. As is always the case at this time of year, there were multiple big box sets, like folk horror collection All the Haunts Be Ours (encompassing a whopping 22 feature films and 14 shorts), or Arrow’s kung fu collection, Shawscope: Volume One (another 12 features. Vol.2 is due in June), or Indicator’s Mae West box set (another 11 films, plus a TV movie biopic), or the limited edition of Cartoon Saloon’s Irish Folklore Trilogy (including the only disc release ever planned for Apple TV+ exclusive Wolfwalkers), or The Film Detective’s Sherlock Holmes Vault Collection (I actually watched one of those! See #206).

    Also in a ludicrously oversized box was StudioCanal’s 4K release of Mulholland Drive. Considering said box was (a) a weird size and (b) mostly full of air, I think there must’ve been some crossed wires in manufacturing. Similarly joining my 4K rewatch pile were Breathless, My Fair Lady, No Time to Die (a popular Christmas present, based on it becoming a Twitter trending topic on the 25th), Criterion’s edition of Citizen Kane (with dodgy 1080p disc), and Vinegar Syndrome’s 4K/3D edition of Flesh for Frankenstein (with dodgy 4K disc). Also Millennium Actress, part of a frankly excessive haul I ordered from All the Anime’s Christmas sale. Said indulgence also included regular Blu-rays of Birthday Wonderland, The Dragon Dentist, Jin-Roh, Mind Game, Night is Short, Walk on Girl, Promare, and Ride Your Wave. Not heard of some of those? Me either, to be honest — I got one of their mystery boxes. Still, it all looks interesting.

    That’s not even all (I could name another dozen things I bought), but, honestly, it’s more than enough. I’ve once again tried to keep this section brief and to the point, and it’s once again about as long as the entire rest of the monthly review combined. Is it worth giving it its own post each month in 2022? Something to consider…


    …but the moment has been prepared for.