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 DVD viewing until I’ve watched 12 DVDs. 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 possibly 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.

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

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  • 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.

The Penultimate Monthly Review of November 2021

Another month of 2021 falls short. Oh dear. But I’m getting ahead of myself — you’ll read all about that in the viewing and viewing notes in just a moment.

But to get really ahead of myself — at the risk of overshadowing everything else in this update — there’s a bit of, uh, news at the end…


#180 Royal Wedding (1951), aka Wedding Bells
#181 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
#182 Nobody (2021)
#183 Jungle Cruise (2021)
#184 La Haine (1995)
#185 Red Notice (2021)
#186 The Last of Sheila (1973)
#187 The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
Nobody
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  • I watched 8 feature films I’d never seen before in November.
  • That makes it the weakest month of 2021 so far, and the second in a row where I’ve fallen short of my ten-film minimum target. Oh dear.
  • Though, if I counted rewatches too, I did make it past ten in both October and November. So that’s something… kinda…
  • Unsurprisingly, that means it also falls short of every average going: the November all-time average (previously 11.0, now 10.8), the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 17.25, now 16.42), and the average for 2021 to date (previously 17.9, now 17.0).
  • On the bright side (sorta), it means I passed the milestone of 2,500 films listed on my reviews page. Let’s not talk about how many are still locked away in my backlog though, eh…
  • This month’s Blindspot film was French urban drama La Haine, which reminded me a lot of Do the Right Thing, although I didn’t like it quite as much. (I was supposed to watch two Blindspot films this month, to make up for October, but didn’t manage it. Hopefully I’ll succeed in December.)
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”, though I did watch a couple of things that would’ve been on this month’s failures if I hadn’t watched them… which isn’t really the point, is it?



The 78th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Fewer films watched means fewer films to choose from, and nothing this month was an out-and-out “loved it” experience — which is not to say there weren’t a couple of films that I thoroughly enjoyed. Foremost among these is probably Nobody, which suffers from riffing a bit too much on the John Wick formula, but still entertains with its blend of comedy and impressively-choreographed action.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Quite a few middling films this month, but the one sticking out the bottom was clear to me. Although a childhood favourite for many, I didn’t care for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. As a kid, we loved Roald Dahl’s books in our house, and my parents put us off watching this film adaptation — and now I can see why. It’s Americanised; the songs are awful; and, as the now-title character (it’s Charlie in the book), Gene Wilder… is really good — but it takes him almost half the movie to show up. Shame.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
With only one new review published this month, this one’s a bit of a no brainer. Although, of course, my monthly review could’ve beaten it — though that’s a rare, perhaps even unheard of, occurrence. And, indeed, The Fear of God won out — but only by a solitary hit.



Another underwhelming month for my Rewatchathon. Y’know, I don’t think I’m going to make it to 50 this year…

#31 Face/Off (1997)
#32 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

I didn’t set out to rewatch Face/Off — I happened to flick onto ITV just as it was about to start, didn’t have anything better to do so watched through the big opening action sequence, by the end of which I thought, “ah, fuck it, may as well watch the rest.” Yeah, I did the “watch it on TV with ad breaks even though I own it on Blu-ray” thing. But I feel like that’s somehow the perfect way to watch this movie.

As for Seven Brides, I mostly watched the “alternate widescreen version” on the Blu-ray’s second disc. I say “mostly” because we got about half-an-hour into the regular version on disc 1 before it froze up and wouldn’t play past a certain point. I’ve seen no one else complain about that, so hopefully it’s one bad disc and a replacement copy will be fine. Anyway, although I believe this alternate version is comprised of different takes (rather than just being the regular version cropped), it didn’t seem strikingly ‘wrong’ — not that I’m particularly familiar with the film, having only seen it once about 15 years ago; but any differences didn’t trouble my partner, who grew up watching it.


Every month, in preparation for this section I keep a running list of films to mention — all the new cinema releases; everything interesting that gets added to various streaming services; everything I buy on disc — and, whew, this month’s list was long. Maybe I should just publish that list, or a version of it, rather than trying to write it up. But, for now, I’ll do it the way I’ve been doing it. So, let’s see how brief I can keep this while still also mentioning everything of note…

At the cinema, the blockbuster releases this month were obviously the latest MCU entry, Eternals, and the latest attempt to revive a popular old IP, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Both seemed to meet with mixed reviews. On surer critical footing were the more awards-y films, like Spencer, King Richard, and Petite Maman. I’m not sure if any of those actually played at my local. Also of note this month: a new Disney, Encanto; Ridley Scott’s second release this year, House of Gucci; and Sly Stallone’s belated “ultimate director’s cut” of Rocky IV, now subtitled Rocky vs. Drago and (as was widely reported) shorn entirely of its comedic robot subplot. Looking forward to catching that via streaming at some point.

And speaking of streaming, I think every service had a blockbuster-esque new release of some sort this month. I actually watched Netflix’s (Red Notice), although black Western The Harder They Fall, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut Tick, Tick… Boom!, and Aardman’s latest short Robin Robin were hardly small fry either. Over on Amazon, meanwhile, there was another generic-looking Liam Neeson actioner, The Marksman. It feels like all of Neeson’s films go direct to Amazon these days — I don’t know if they’ve got him on retainer or if his films just play really well for them so they’re sure to snap them up. They also had Tamil drama Jai Bhim. I think most Western viewers can be excused for not spotting that one, but it’s catapulted itself onto the IMDb Top 250, sitting at #126 at time of writing. Google it and you’ll see reports that it has IMDb’s highest rating ever. It currently says 9.5 on its own page, which their algorithm drags down to 8.2 for the Top 250. Read into that what you will…

As I said, everyone was in on the big releases this month: Disney+ attempted to review the Home Alone franchise with Home Sweet Home Alone (to very poor reviews); Sky Cinema nabbed starry Matt Haig adaptation A Boy Called Christmas; MUBI offered Leos Carax’s latest, Annette; and even Apple TV+ tried to get in on the game, with Tom Hanks post-apocalyptic adventure Finch. It’s about him building a robot to care for his dog after he’s gone, so of course it’s gone straight on my watch list, even if the dog appears to be mostly/entirely CGI.

I don’t normally mention Disney+ in this column because I’m not normally subscribed to it, but they offered a month for £1.99 recently and that was too good to resist. Before it runs out, I really need to catch up on their latest films that I’ve missed — in particular, Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and Cruella. Also the Marvel TV series; less so the films, because I bought Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on disc; and discovered that Japan are still getting Marvel films on 3D disc, so I, um, acquired a 3D copy of Black Widow, and will now probably wait to do the same for Shang-Chi. Nonetheless, knowing me I’ll probably semi-accidentally let me Disney+ subscription keep rolling — that’s what I’ve done with MUBI, where the prospect of watching the likes of The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy stop me from cancelling; and also Sky Cinema (via NOW), whose (far less arty) additions this month include the new Mortal Kombat, lockdown heist thriller Locked Down (imaginative title), and, um, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds. Classy.

Just to underline how badly behind I am with reviews, several streamers also offered films I’ve already seen and really should’ve covered by now. Top of the pile has to be Parasite, which had its UK TV premiere on Channel 4 recently and so is now streaming on All 4. Close behind is Denis Villeneuve’s Maelström, which I watched via a fairly crummy DVD-rip but is now in full HD on MUBI. That’s in addition to all the stuff I have seen and have reviewed but want to rewatch, and usually have already bought on disc, that the streamers waggled in my face this month — the likes of L.A. Confidential, Love & Friendship, and The Piano on Netflix; Interview with the Vampire, Mean Girls, and Vanilla Sky on Amazon; and I think iPlayer were the ‘worst’, reminding me I’ve not yet watched my 4K disc of Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, plus that I’m long overdue revisits to Let the Right One In and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

So much for keeping this short: I could list dozens more films across the streamers, and I haven’t even started on my disc purchases, which in November totted up to 44 films — even more if you were to count a few alternate cuts, like Ridley Scott’s Legend (I imported Arrow’s US-only release, which comes with the theatrical and director’s cuts) or Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders (the new UK box set of which includes the original cut and extended The Complete Novel version, both in 4K). The number is bolstered by a couple of eight-film box sets: Eureka’s Cinematic Vengeance, containing eight classic kung fu films directed by Joseph Kuo, and Australian label Imprint’s Collaborations, which has eight films directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Gong Li, including the likes of Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, and Curse of the Golden Flower.

New films earning an instant purchase on their disc debuts included the confusingly-titled sequels/reboots Candyman and The Suicide Squad (“confusingly” because their titles are so similar / identical to the previous films they’re sequelising/rebooting). Older films with new releases coming straight into my collection include acclaimed Spaghetti Western The Great Silence (I only recently bought the US release, but Eureka’s UK version includes more special features and an improved transfer), Arrow’s Sailor Suit & Machine Gun (another one with two cuts to choose from), 88 Films’ The Chinese Boxer (starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu, whose other films I’ve enjoyed), Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes spinoff The Spider Woman Strikes Back (at only 59 minutes, it barely seems to warrant a standalone release, but here we are), and a long-awaited Blu-ray debut for Josie and the Pussycats (the best movie ever).

If you’re keeping count, you’ll know we’re nowhere near 44 yet. A lot of the rest can be bundled together as filling out import orders to make the P&P charge worthwhile — from Australia, Imprint editions of The Assassination Bureau and superb film noir Sorry, Wrong Number, plus Umbrella releases of Possession, Ozploitation classic Turkey Shoot, and director Alex Proyas’s debut, Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds; and from the US… oh, I’ve listed most of those already, or the order’s been split and more are to follow. But also, I picked up Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia on Blu-ray. I’ve not seen it since 2009, so (as with some titles I mentioned earlier) it’s long overdue another look. (I bet someone announces it in 4K soon now.) I also caved to sales (well, it was the month of Black Friday) from Indicator — picking up Cash on Demand, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, I, Monster, Light Sleeper, The Valachi Papers, and The Valdez Horses — and Eureka — with if…., Michael, and Tabu — and Criterion, too — just Deep Cover and La Vérité.

You may be thinking “how does he have the space to buy so much stuff?!”, and the answer is… I don’t, really. It’s getting silly now. And as for the time to actually watch them… don’t get me started on that…


The final month of 100 Films in a Year.

…wait, what?!

Yes, it’s the end — but the moment has been prepared for…

The Below Par Monthly Review of October 2021

As you attentive readers will no doubt already be aware, during October I posted my first new review for almost five months — whoop whoop! Only the one, though. Indeed, if you wanted to read new writing by me, you’d be better off attending FilmBath Festival and trying to guess which of the Film Notes handouts I completely rewrote (if they appear online this year, I’ll let you know and you can indulge in this fun game).

Yes, despite having a day job, I also served as Copy Editor for FilmBath once again — so at least this month I have an excuse for not writing anything here. It’s also the reason why this month’s viewing is way down, as you will now see…


#171 Appointment with Death (1988)
#172 Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021)
#173 Raffles (1939)
#174 A Little Chaos (2014)
#174a Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)
#175 Capernaum (2018), aka Capharnaüm
#176 Dune: Part One (2021), aka Dune
#177 Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
#178 Going in Style (2017)
#179 Search for Danger (1949)
Dune: Part One
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  • I watched 9 feature films I’d never seen before in October.
  • It’s the first month in which I’ve fallen short of 10 films since December 2019.
  • That means last month concluded a 21-month 10+ streak — not even close to the longest (60 months, from June 2014 to May 2019), but well beyond the previous second best (just seven, from September 2009 to March 2010).
  • As for averages, obviously it brings everything down. The worst affected is the average for 2021 to date, which falls a whole film from 18.9 to 17.9. The rolling average of the last 12 months drops from 18.00 to 17.25, while October’s average shifts slightly from 13.21 to 13.54.
  • I should’ve saved Frankenstein to be this month’s Blindspot film (for hopefully-obvious reasons). As it was, I didn’t watch any of the remaining three, meaning I need to watch two next month. That’s okay: I also missed one in August and managed to catch it up in September, so I’ve got form.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Everybody’s Talking About Jamie… twice (see Rewatchathon).



The 77th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I liked a few films this month, but there’s no real debate that this belongs to Dune: Part One (as I was insisting on calling it even before the sequel was greenlit, a piece of good news that has only made me more insistent).

Least Favourite Film of the Month
The pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant should be a great one — it gave us the likes of Bringing Up Baby and Holiday, after all — but their first film together, Sylvia Scarlett, just doesn’t work, on the whole.

Worst Accent of the Month
Dick Van Dyke gets a lot of stick for his Cockney in Mary Poppins, but perhaps he just watched Cary Grant in Sylvia Scarlett for research. Yes, it is comparably poor… but that also means it has the same kind of perverse entertainment value.

Completed Film Series of the Month
Just over nine years since I watched the first one, I finally finished off The Falcon series of ’40s detective mysteries with Search for Danger. Well, it depends how you count it. Really, I think there are 13 films, ending with 1946’s The Falcon’s Adventure; but some say there are 16 films, bundling in the three made a few years later by a different studio with a different star. I’d argue those are more of a ‘reboot’ series than a true continuation. They’re also trickier to track down — while I saw the first 13 thanks to the BBC airing them, the later three most assuredly weren’t included — but I finally bothered to find them, and so now, whichever way you cut it, I’m done.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For the first time in a while there were actually two new posts this month, although it wasn’t much of a battle — No Time to Die romped away with the victory, besting even my ever-popular old TV reviews to be the month’s most-viewed post overall. It’s already in the top five new posts for the entire year, too, although its chances of overtaking the most popular TV posts are slim.



So, I think it’s now pretty clear I’m not going to make my goal of 50 rewatches in 2021 — I’d need to watch ten a month to get there, which isn’t impossible (I normally watch more new films than that… though not this month, obviously), but I know I just won’t do that (I’ll focus on the unseen stuff). Ah well, it’s only a target. Maybe next year… or maybe next year I’ll have a new goal…

Anyway, this month’s sole rewatch was…

#30 Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021)

…which I’d only first seen earlier in the month! When I rewatched it I knew I’d only recently seen it, but I didn’t realise it was within the same month until afterwards. That had more to do with watching it with different people than rushing to rewatch it quickly. I do like it quite a bit, though.


Anyone would think the pandemic was over, the way cinemas are back in full flow (and doing fairly good business, based on my personal experience on the two trips I’ve made so far). Films hitting the big screen this past month that I’ve skipped ‘til disc or streaming include Ridley Scott’s acclaimed The Last Duel, Edgar Wright’s divisive Last Night in Soho, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, plus franchise sequels Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Halloween Kills, and The Addams Family 2. Also the sequel to The Boss Baby (I enjoyed the first one a surprising amount, so maybe I’ll make time for the sequel one day) and Dear Evan Hansen, which I’ll have to watch just to see how much of a train wreck it actually is.

Talking of the big screen, FilmBath Festival is currently mid-flow. I don’t think I’m going to be able to make any screenings this year, unfortunately, and films I’ve already missed include Mothering Sunday, Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman, Lamb, and Palme d’Or winner and French Oscar contender Titane.

The streamers continued to premiere new movies too, of course. Sky Cinema got UK exclusivity for sci-fi Voyagers (which suggests it’s not very good); Netflix had the English-language remake of thriller The Guilty (I watched the original back in February and it’s currently on All 4 again, FYI); MUBI had a Halloween premiere for BBFC-themed horror movie Censor (which I’ve heard good things about); and earlier in the month Amazon offered Bingo Hell (I like the sound of the concept, but I don’t think it’s been well reviewed). I guess Amazon’s big film was meant to be Infinite starring Mark Wahlberg, though I heard nothing about it until a big promo image popped up on Prime Video’s front page. Low marks on Letterboxd suggest it isn’t worth investigating.

Elsewhere on streaming, if I ever decide to embark on the Conjuring franchise, they’ve got me covered: the first two are on BBC iPlayer, while the third has arrived on Sky Cinema already (I’ve no idea about the spinoffs). Older titles bulking out my various watchlists included period lesbian drama Ammonite, Amsterdamned, David Cronenberg’s Fast Company, anime Mirai, and the 1990 Witches on Amazon Prime; Judas and the Black Messiah, The Little Things, Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts, and Nic Cage in Willy’s Wonderland on Sky Cinema; Halloween I to V (in particular, I want to see III), Honey Boy, Kung Fu Hustle, and Last Christmas on Netflix; The Arbor, The Love Witch, intriguing new animation Cryptozoo, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist on MUBI; and, on iPlayer, Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, Daniel Craig and Anne Reid in The Mother, Horrible Histories: The Movie, and one I’d never heard of before: A Woman’s Secret, which is apparently a noir-style melodrama starring Gloria Grahame. Whew.

Of course, that’s as nothing to my ever-growing pile of new purchases. Where to begin? How about my latest 4K acquisitions: M. Night Shyamalan’s newest, Old, and his best, Unbreakable; Second Sight’s luxurious new edition of The Guest (which you may remember was my sort-of-joint-first favourite film of 2015); StudioCanal’s latest swish 4K box set, for Joe Dante’s The Howling; plus Arrow’s edition of Oldboy, and The Shining, which features the longer US cut that I’ve not seen. New or recent releases in good ol’ 1080p included Another Round, Masters of Cinema’s second volume of Early Universal silents, Eureka’s release of the Sabata trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns, and Edgar Wright’s documentary The Sparks Brothers. I also finally got hold of Shout’s release of David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone, and another Eureka release of a Spaghetti Western, Sergio Corbucci’s The Specialists.

And to round things off, I tried to limit my purchases in Arrow’s Shocktober sale… and failed spectacularly. Some of them were recent-ish titles (Sam Peckinpah’s Major Dundee, still available as a multi-disc special edition, and Japanese corporate thriller Giants and Toys), and some they released so long ago they’re dual-format editions with DVDs (remember those?), like 52 Pick-Up and Howling II (which for some reason doesn’t feature its fab subtitle on the cover: Your Sister is a Werewolf). Rounding things out: more Japanese crime in Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!; another Spaghetti Western, The Grand Duel; a couple of gialli (The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion and The Pyjama Girl Case); and, released by Second Run but in Arrow’s sale, one of Letterboxd’s 250 greatest films of all time, The Shop on the High Street. Whew, again.


2021’s on the home stretch now — perhaps it’s time to start thinking about where my final tally will end up…

The Name’s Monthly Review… September Monthly Review

Daniel Craig’s final turn as Bond, James Bond, parachuted into cinemas just in time to make the cut for this monthly overview. But there was a whole month before that, so let’s look back at it.


#159 Three Identical Strangers (2018)
#160 Boss Level (2021)
#161 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
#162 Daughters of Darkness (1971), aka Les lèvres rouges
#163 Futureworld (1976)
#164 Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019)
#165 La Dolce Vita (1960)
#166 Terje Vigen (1917), aka A Man There Was
#167 David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)
#168 The Current War (2017)
#168a Scenes with Beans (1976), aka Babfilm
#169 The Green Knight (2021)
#170 No Time to Die (2021)
The Green Knight

No Time to Die

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  • I watched 12 feature films I’d never seen before in September.
  • Not a terrible showing (it’s not the worst month of 2021), but far from spectacular (it’s joint second worst).
  • It fell just short of the September average (previously 12.54, now 12.50), and well below the average for 2021 to date (previously 19.75, now 18.89) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 18.7, now 18.0).
  • One notable success, however, came in my Blindspot viewing: after missing one in August, I caught up by watching two this month — and two of this year’s longest, at that. They were the 193 minutes of D.W. Griffith’s silent racist epic The Birth of a Nation, and the 175 minutes of Federico Fellini’s depiction of the high life in 1950s Rome, La Dolce Vita. I was no fan of the first Fellini I watched, , but I quite liked this one. The Griffith, however, should be consigned to the bin of history.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Boss Level and Memory: The Origins of Alien.



The 76th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Lots of enjoyable flicks this month, some unexpectedly so, but perhaps the greatest was David Lowery’s divisive adaptation of The Green Knight. I can see why it turned some people off, but it hit just the right tone for me.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is an easy one, because I liked all of the film I watched this month, with one glaring exception: The Birth of a Nation. As I wrote above, D.W. Griffith’s once-acclaimed silent epic is so horrendously racist that it deserves to be forgotten. Actually, there’s a more nuanced discussion to be had there about remembering the misdeeds of the past — it merits viewing on such an academic level — but the old “yeah, it’s racist, but if you ignore that it’s really good” arguments can get in the bin. It does have some decent stuff, but the racism is so awful that it completely overshadows any other merits.

First Film I’ve Seen in the Cinema for 19 Months
After a very long wait, it was finally time to not die of COVID from watching No Time to Die.

Most Surprising Sequel of the Month
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Westworld (it’s fine), and the sequel has a rep for being much, much worse. So it was a delightful surprise to me that I really enjoyed Futureworld. Whereas the first film basically hangs out in the park until there’s a bit of robot-on-human violence, Futureworld takes the time to have more of a plot, latching itself to the ’70s vogue for conspiracy thrillers. I reckon it might be worth a reappraisal.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I’m not sure how much point there is keeping this particular award going until I get back on my reviewing horse. Highlighting the most viewed overall post of the month worked at first, but (based on history) it’s going to be my 15th TV column most of the time (as it was this month, and last month), with only the occasional other old TV column pipping it to the post.


My Rewatchathon continues to tick along, although another month just off pace means I’m falling ever-further behind where I should be to reach my goal of 50 this year. Who knows how things will pan out, but at this rate I’ll be pleased to make 40.

#27 Bill (2015)
#28 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
#29 Spectre (2015)

Bill was 2021’s #1 back in (obviously) January. I liked it first time, but I enjoyed it even more on a rewatch. Quite the other end of the rewatch timeline was Pan’s Labyrinth, long-overdue a revisit because I last watched it 14 years ago. My review (linked above) is a brief 2007-style one… though that’s better than what I post currently, eh? Anyway, some fresh thoughts on Letterboxd.

Spectre was also rather overdue a revisit: it was the only Daniel Craig Bond I’d only seen once, and that was six years ago at the cinema. I was fairly positive about it on Letterboxd, but, I must say, it gets worse the more I reflect on it. Blofeld is horrendously mishandled — underwritten and underused — meaning Waltz is wasted, and I think he knows it, just giving another slight variation of his usual Tarantino performance. It really undermines the entire third act of the film, which is kinda crucial. Still, the film as a whole definitely has some high points.


This month’s big release at the cinema… doesn’t get a mention in this section, because I saw it. Wonders will never cease. Although, as things edge towards normal, there were a couple of other noteworthy titles too, like Disney’s “theatrical only” ‘experiment’ release of Marvel’s latest, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark. I’ve never seen all of the The Sopranos, though I mean to, so it may be a while before I get round to that one…

Perhaps the most-discussed direct-to-streaming release of the month was not a Netflix title, for once, but Amazon’s new version of Cinderella. Unfortunately for them, that was because it looks terrible. And apparently it is terrible. It’s not on my watchlist. They also generated a few column inches with erotic thriller The Voyeurs, but I didn’t see many people talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, though I did pick up that it’s quite good. Meanwhile, on Netflix, the only new title I’ve noted is actioner Kate. I don’t actually know what the reviews have been like — “Mary Elizabeth Winstead leads an action movie” was enough to get it on my list. And talking of female-driven action, Sky Cinema grabbed the UK release of Gunpowder Milkshake.

Among the never-ending parade of old(er) titles coming and going and jumping from one streamer to another, standouts to me included Minari on Sky Cinema, as well as the Russian remake of The Raid, cannily titled Russian Raid. Leaving Sky to popup on Netflix was the new Charlie’s Angels; and, having left Amazon a while back, The Farewell is now on Netflix too. As for Amazon, they now have Chaos Walking (in 4K, too), and also Selma, which I think has been available on every streamer at one time or another (even iPlayer) and I really should get round to. And talking of iPlayer, they had a seemingly-rare chance to watch The Graduate this month, so I should do that too. They also had Whiplash, which I ought to rewatch — I liked it a lot, but don’t really understand why it seems to have become an Instant Classic in the past few years.

Finally… I say “finally”: this is going to take more than half the section. Yes, my bank balance is sobbing once again — as is my shelf space — as new purchases flowed through my letterbox like water. Where to begin? Indicator’s Columbia Noir series reached its fourth iteration, adding six new films to my unwatched noir pile. Similarly, Master of Cinema’s Early Universal range is just getting underway (I hope), with Volume 1 bringing me three silent titles I’d never heard of before. Fun times. Other new releases included an MoC edition of Johnny Guitar; Eureka’s release of Duel to the Death, billed as “one of the greatest swordplay movies of all time”; an Aussie Imprint import for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven; and Anime Ltd’s release of the first CG Lupin III film, Lupin III: The First.

My 4K collection also got a considerable boost this month, between brand-new releases like Black Widow (the first Marvel film in yonks I’ve not been able to buy in 3D — boo!); archive releases in fancy box sets, like The Thing and The Servant; semi-random sale pick-ups, like Shadow and Full Metal Jacket; and the kind of titles you might once have never believed you’d see on Blu-ray, never mind 4K, but nowadays all bets are off as indie labels go for the new tech but studios remain wary — by which I specifically mean a bundle I imported from Vinegar Syndrome including The Beastmaster, Daughters of Darkness, and SexWorld — which, if you’ve not heard of it, is a porno riff on Westworld and Futureworld. It sounds surprisingly good. I also bought Eleven Days, Eleven Nights and Robotrix this month, which as a set make my glad Blu-rays don’t come through the post in transparent boxes…

But I’m still not done! I caved to a bunch of gialli and other international semi-oddities in a recent 88 Films sale on HMV, snaffling the likes of The Bloodstained Shadow, Eyeball, Harlequin, Ironmaster, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, and Watch Me When I Kill. Throw in The Blood Spattered Bride with that VS order, and there’s clearly a lot of the red stuff waiting to spray from my Blu-ray player. Finally, helping round out my classic 3D collection was Dynasty (nothing to do with the TV series), and I completed Richard Lester’s Musketeers trilogy with The Return of the Musketeers.

And that’s not even mentioning the TV Blu-rays I bought.


We’re off to Arrakis. Hopefully it’ll be a return ticket.

The Self-Reflective Monthly Review of August 2021

For the second month in a row, this monthly review is the only new post I’ve published. (I had intended to review Evangelion 3.0+1.01 in a timely fashion, but I couldn’t marshal my thoughts in time.) My viewing continues apace, however, with August seeing a return to the form of my January-to-May viewing.

Related to both those points, I’m continuing to mull over the specifics of the future of this blog — that’s both in terms of finding time to write reviews, and the relevance of its eponymous challenge. In respect to the latter, I crossed the 150-film mark this month, which got me looking at history again. It’s now almost a decade since I last failed to reach 100 new films, and it’s seven years since I watched fewer than 150. Heck, in the entire 15-year history of the blog, I’ve passed #260 as many times as I’ve failed to make #100; and the 260s were much more recently. Something for me to think about.

Before we return to August, a quick mention of another way I’ve been spending my free time: helping out with the Women Over 50 Film Festival, which is taking place online for the second year running (because, y’know, pandemic). And soon I’ll be lending my talents to FilmBath for a third year (though in a reduced capacity, what with having a day job now). Doesn’t bode so well for the ol’ blogging, eh? At least I can promise (as much as anyone can make promises about the future) that these monthly columns aren’t going anywhere.

On which cheery note…


#139 The Father (2020)
#140 Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
#141 Turks & Caicos (2014)
#142 A Damsel in Distress (1937)
#143 The Danish Girl (2015)
#144 Tea with Mussolini (1999)
#145 The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
#146 Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (2021), aka Shin Evangelion Gekijôban
#147 The Kid Detective (2020)
#148 Six Minutes to Midnight (2020)
#149 Love Affair (1939)
#150 Salting the Battlefield (2014)
#151 Thirteen at Dinner (1985)
#152 The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
#153 My Man Godfrey (1936)
#154 Dead Man’s Folly (1986)
#155 Wuthering Heights (1939)
#156 Murder in Three Acts (1986)
#157 The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (2012)
#158 Appointment with Murder (1948)
The Father

The Kid Detective

My Man Godfrey

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  • I watched 20 films in August.
  • As noted in my intro, that’s an improvement on the last couple of months, and ties with March as my, er, joint 5th best month of the year. Okay, so it’s hardly an all-timer, but it’s an improvement.
  • It’s not a bad one for averages, though, passing all the ones I usually mention: the August average (previously 12.6, now 13.1), the average for 2021 to date (previously 19.71, now 19.75), and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 18.2, now 18.7).
  • It’s also only the second time August has reached 20 films, with the first being right back in 2007. (My monthly stats for back then are only estimates, but I definitely passed 20 in August, probably landing somewhere around 25.)
  • But there was no Blindspot film this month. Various reasons for that, but it doesn’t help that I’ve accidentally wound up with a pretty heavy-going lot left to choose from. A three-hour silent epic famed for its racism? A gruelling Russian depiction of World War 2? A black-and-white drama about poor immigrants in ’90s Paris called Hate? Eesh. Still, I intend to make my September extra miserable by squeezing in two next month.
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”, either. Oh well.



The 75th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I watched several very good films this month (2021’s tally of five-star ratings leapt up), but my personal favourite was The Kid Detective. I liked the sound of the premise, and I thought the film nailed it. I doubt everyone will love it as much as I did (I’ve got its Letterboxd scores as evidence of that), but it’s a definite recommendation nonetheless.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
A different detective mystery sits at the other end of the spectrum. One of the three belated entries to the Falcon series, Appointment with Murder is a damp squib even by the relatively-low standards of ’40s mystery programmers. Those final three Falcons can be tricky to track down, and they’re not really worth it (unless you’re a completist, like me, of course).

Franchise of the Month
I worked through or touched upon multiple long-running film series this month: the Ripley films; Peter Ustinov’s Poirot; the Falcon; the Worricker trilogy… but, really, the dominant one is Neon Genesis Evangelion — not just because of the new, final-final (really final this time) movie, but also because I rewatched the three preceding movies (see below) and also dropped a huge wodge of cash on the ‘Ultimate Edition’ Blu-ray release of the original TV series. My bank balance and ever-receding shelf space hate me.

Most Deserved Best Actor Win of the Month
There’s a chance I’m missing something, but really I just want to take the time to say that Anthony Hopkins is excellent in The Father and I’m sure he deserved those (somewhat controversial) wins last awards season.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
As with last month, there’s no point awarding this (what with there only being one new post), but I’ll once again mention which archive post topped the chart. Last month, it was April 2017’s TV review #16, with March 2017’s TV review #15 in second place. This month, at the top is TV review #15, with TV review #16 in second. Why do they endure in popularity? Your guess is good as mine.


My Rewatchathon technically continues at average pace (i.e. about four films a month), although as I came into August about seven films behind target, I’m still about seven behind. Well, at least it’s not any worse.

#23 Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994)
#24 Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone. (2007/2009)
#25 Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance. (2009/2010)
#26 Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo. (2012/2013)

Having rewatched the first two Naked Guns over the past couple of months, it was only right to round out the trilogy. Its humour gets a bit too smutty at times, but the opening and closing set pieces are great, and there’s a pretty consistent gag rate throughout. On balance, I’d probably say it’s the second best in the series (after the first, of course).

But the main feature of this month’s re-viewing was Evangelion, revisiting the first three rebuild films before the release of the fourth. My original reviews are linked above, while here you can find my latest thoughts on Letterboxd about 1.11, 2.22, and 3.33.


Normally this section is dominated by all the new Blu-rays I’ve bought and not watched, but this month there was only one. Yes, one. That was Arrow’s new 4K disc of David Lynch’s Dune, a release I’m not even sure I want — not because the film’s a bit meh, but because the German edition out in a couple of months includes a feature-length documentary that Arrow couldn’t be bothered to wait for. But Amazon’s shipping policies nowadays mean I can’t preorder that, and I forgot to cancel my preorder for Arrow’s version, so now I have a dilemma: sell it and wait for the German one, or just live without that new doc. Elsewise, I’m not really sure why it’s been such a quiet month — other than that the labels have all been announcing their big expensive box sets for November and December, so I’ve been spending my money preordering those rather than on stuff in sales or what have you. I’ll tell you this: when we get towards the end of the year, my list of failures is gonna be looong…

Outside of my physical media library, new releases continue as if there wasn’t still a pandemic on. I expect Bond will tempt me back to the big screen in a few weeks, but until then I’m waiting on home releases for the likes of Free Guy, Snake Eyes, The Courier, Pig, Censor, and (probably my most anticipated from this lot) Candyman. Speaking of at home, the streamers inevitably had new stuff to offer too. The most critically acclaimed was probably Coda on Apple TV+, but I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Boss Level, which is on Amazon Prime here in the UK, as is The Vault, which is billed as a heist action-thriller and so sounds right up my street. Netflix’s best effort was probably wrong-man thriller Beckett, which seemed to get a middling reception, and animated musical Vivo, which I saw very little chatter about considering it’s got something to do with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Swinging away from new titles, there were plenty of archive additions bulking out my watch list. Sky Cinema headlines include Wonder Woman 1984 and the new Tom & Jerry, but there was also The Very Excellent Mr Dundee, a new-ish sort-of-spin-off from the Crocodile Dundee franchise. It’s meant to be terrible, and yet I still intend to watch it. The main things catching my eye on Netflix were titles that previously made my end-of-year ’50 unseen’ lists, like Black Mass, The Iron Lady, and Suffragette; while MUBI brought up obscure films of interest, like Amer, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, and Welcome II the Terrordome; and my Amazon Prime picks were hardly in a mainstream mood either, with the likes of comedy-horror Lake Michigan Monster, anime Mirai, Indian “neo-noir action thriller” (and brief IMDb Top 250 member, hence my interest) Vikram Vedha, and sci-fi drama Prospect (which has been popping on and off All 4 for a while now. Hopefully it’ll be a bit more stable on Amazon… so I can not get round to it for even longer).

Talking of All 4, this month I’ve managed to miss my chance to watch the likes of Mommy, Wings of Desire, The Old Man and the Gun, and Ida. But they’ve still got behind-the-scenes documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien, which I’ll intend to make time for. BBC iPlayer also has a film documentary that sounded interesting, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, plus the film that’s referring to, 1971’s Le Mans.

Oh, and everyone had stuff I either have owned on disc for ages but not watched (the full(er) cut of Metropolis on MUBI; The Dead Zone and The Last Samurai on Amazon; the live-action Beauty and the Beast on iPlayer; Only God Forgives on MUBI), or own on disc and should rewatch (Munich on Netflix; The Limey on Amazon), or have seen and should have reviewed by now (The Lego Movie 2 on Netflix; The Peanut Butter Falcon on iPlayer). Oh well.


Daniel Craig’s name is Bond, James Bond, for the last time.

The “Am I Just a Letterboxder Now?” Monthly Review of July 2021

As regular readers (or should that be “regular non-readers” now?) may have noticed, I didn’t post a single review throughout July. Nor anything else, really: my previous post was my monthly review of June. Which somewhat drives me to consider the titular question, because while I’ve become increasingly poor at posting stuff here, I do still log (and write a little about) all my film viewing on Letterboxd. The little snippets I post there aren’t comparable to the full reviews I aim to write here; but, equally, I do actually post there consistently, so which is the more meaningful, really?

I’m not giving up on this blog just yet, but my strategy for finding time to write it (and, perhaps, what precisely I write about) needs some thought once again. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been watching:


#128 Jerry Maguire (1996)
#129 From Here to Eternity (1953)
#130 Strictly Ballroom (1992)
#131 Hotel Reserve (1944)
#132 Sneakers (1992)
#133 The Broadway Melody (1929)
#134 Murder by Decree (1979)
#135 Time After Time (1979)
#136 Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
#137 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
#138 The King (2019)
Strictly Ballroom

Sneakers

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  • I watched 11 films in July.
  • That may be my poorest performance of 2021 so far, but it’s bang on the July average (which was, obviously, 11.0 and is now, obviously, 11.0).
  • This is self-evident, but it’s not my best July ever (that was last year, with 29), but nor is it the worst (because that would be my worst month ever: July 2009, my only zero-film month).
  • It fares less well compared to other averages, falling short of both my rolling average for the last 12 months (previously 19.7, now 18.2) and the average for 2021 to date (previously 21.2, now 19.7).
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Powell and Pressburger’s satire of the upper-class attitude to World War 2, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched a pair of films from 1979 that each saw a famous Victorian tackle Jack the Ripper (was there something in the water that year?), Murder by Decree (which sees Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper) and Time After Time (which is H.G. Wells vs Jack the Ripper).



The 74th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Quite a few films I liked a lot this month, but I think I might just give the edge to Strictly Ballroom. I don’t feel it gets talked about as much as Baz Luhrmann’s later works because they refined the stylistic concepts he was aiming at, but it’s a more-than-fair first go at them. It’s inventively made, kookily funny, and, ultimately, shamelessly romantic. If you liked his Romeo + Juliet or Moulin Rouge! but have never gone back to the trilogy’s first part (like me, until now), I strongly recommend it.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Sometimes, you come across a film that you’ve never heard of but sounds good and it is good and you feel like you’ve discovered an overlooked minor classic. Other times, you discover why you’ve never heard of it. Sadly, pre-WW2 ‘wrong man’ spy thriller Hotel Reserve falls into the latter bracket. So much potential, almost entirely unrealised.

Most Inaccurate Title of the Month
There’s no character called Colonel Blimp in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, so we certainly don’t follow his life nor see him die. And as for the character who is presumably ‘Colonel Blimp’, well, spoilers, he doesn’t die either.

Title That Did Its Film the Greatest Disservice of the Month
I’ve seen Sneakers around on streaming platforms and whatnot for years, but always kinda ignored it. That poster is so bland, it tells you nothing; and the title… it’s an American movie called Sneakers: I think I assumed it must be about shoes. So thank goodness for the Film Stories Blu-ray release, which switched me on to the fact that it’s actually a fun all-star heist thriller — immensely watchable and entertaining, just my sort of thing, and nothing at all to do with trainers.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
With only one new post all of last month, I thought I’d throw this open and see what was most-viewed overall. And it was, incredibly randomly, from back in April 2017. Then I reviewed the first episode of Doctor Who series 10, the first seasons of Iron Fist and The Crown, the second series of Line of Duty, the musical episode of The Flash, and the first nine episodes of Twin Peaks season two, plus a few other bits and bobs. I’ve no idea what amongst that might’ve provoked particular interest in the last month.


Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not a sausage.


I continue to be behind pace on my Rewatchathon, which isn’t surprising when my main viewing is behind normal standards too. Still, at least I’ve been watching some stuff…

#20 The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
#21 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
#22 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Wrath of Khan being down here feels like a bit of a technicality. You see, for years I could remember seeing a film as a kid in which two guys in spacesuits in a desert had nasty worm-things inserted into their ears. Eventually I learned that scene was from Wrath of Khan, ergo I must’ve seen it as a kid. So it’s taken me decades to finally get round to watching all the Star Trek movies, and it turned out that one scene was more or less all I remembered from Khan (of course I knew other bits thanks to picking them up down the years as a sci-fi fan, but that was the only part I remembered). Anyway, this means I won’t give it a ‘proper’ review (though how much stuff am I properly reviewing nowadays anyway?), but it goes on the list for the Guide To treatment.

And I finished my Indiana Jones HD rewatch… just in time for HMV to have a massive 20% off sale that included the new 4K set, so of course I caved and bought it. Hopefully it won’t take me another decade or more before I watch that… As for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I stand by my assessment from its theatrical release (linked above) that it’s not at all a bad movie. There are some iffy bits, for sure, but overall it’s a plenty worthy return outing for Dr Jones. Maybe one day more people will stop being grumpy about a fucking fridge and allow themselves to have a good time.


With cinemas reopened, the new releases just keep coming. I haven’t yet talked myself into going back to the big screen (in part because I just don’t think I could comfortably wear a mask for a whole movie, though that requirement is now more flexible, I guess), but releases on my radar to almost tempt me include Black Widow, M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, The Suicide Squad, and Jungle Cruise. Ones I’d wait for rental anyway include The Forever Purge and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions… and, even though I’m fairly sure I’m going to hate it, I’ll probably wind up watching Space Jam: A New Legacy someday.

Over on the streamers, Netflix added Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning to go with the series’ other four films that I mentioned last month. Their only original I noticed was the Fear Street trilogy, which I put on my watchlist but don’t feel any burning desire to make time for, to be honest. MUBI brought arthouse hit First Cow to the UK, while, at probably the other end of the artistic spectrum, Amazon offered sci-fi-actioner The Tomorrow War, which I’ve heard mixed things about. They also had belated UK debuts for Guns Akimbo and Shadow in the Cloud (which I, er, acquired back around its US release because it sounded fun, but I’ve not got round to watching), plus Kate Beckinsale actioner Jolt, which sounds dumb and, based on the critics and viewers scores, I think probably is. Other than that, it felt like Netflix and Amazon were both trying to remind me of stuff in my Blu-ray collection that I’ve either never seen or been meaning to rewatch — I could list what, but there’s at least 20 titles in that category.

And talking of my Blu-ray collection, of course there were a load of new purchases. I imported a couple of titles from France (something I haven’t done for a while), so I could get my hands on Godzilla vs. Kong in 3D (bundled with the 4K disc, which is good because I suspect it looks fab on both formats) and The Limey in 4K with special features (as far as I know, France is the only country to have released its 4K restoration on a 4K disc; and the audio commentary is legendary, so I want to finally listen to that). All my other 4K purchases this month were, similarly, things I’ve already seen: fancy editions of The Babadook from Second Sight and True Romance from Arrow, plus regular editions (thanks to the HMV sale I mentioned earlier) of Big Fish, Gattaca, Last Action Hero, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — plus the Indiana Jones films, of course.

In terms of blind buys, I couldn’t resist Indicator issuing The Day of the Dolphin — that’s the film famous for its poster tagline: “unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States.” How can you resist a pitch like that? There were more box sets from Arrow in the form of the Daimajin trilogy and Vengeance Trails, in which they bundled together four obscure Spaghetti Westerns, I guess because they have a better chance of selling as a set than individually. (In fairness, it works on me: things like that and the films in their Years of Lead set, if they were released individually I’d probably wait for them to be cheap in a sale and then maybe buy some of them. In swish limited edition box sets, well, I’m preordering! (Now I feel like a sucker…)) Amongst a few other random purchases were Son of the White Mare, an acclaimed Hungarian animation for which I don’t see a UK release on the horizon so I paid a reasonable price to import the US edition; and, thanks to a Network sale, the fourth series of Quatermass, which includes its movie-length re-edit, The Quatermass Conclusion; and the Up series of documentaries, which are considered a TV series here in the UK but received festival/theatrical releases elsewhere so are often regarded as films. I’ll have to decide whether I count them as films or not… but I’ll have to get round to watching them first.


THIRD IMPACT! Evangelion ends for the third time as the fourth part of the story’s second telling premieres worldwide on Amazon Prime Video.

The Terribly Tardy Monthly Review of June 2021

That title is a slight misnomer, because this monthly review is bang on time (more or less), but everything else about my blog right now, oh, that could use a kick up the arse. I mean, I only posted one review this month. My 100 Week Roundups must be so far behind that I dread to even look. And when did I last post a TV column…?

And my actual film viewing was in similar doldrums: on the 22nd, I had the horrifying realisation that I had only watched three new films this month. My goal of at least 10 new films a month, which I’ve aimed for since c.2015, was again in jeopardy (I failed it multiple times in 2019 — and back then it was also June that broke my five-year-long streak). And that’s to say nothing of the 20+ new films per month I’d maintained throughout 2021 so far. Now, with 17 films to go for me to reach 20 in June, and just eight days left to watch them, it seemed virtually impossible. Sure, in theory that’s only two films a day (plus one), but, since I started my new job in May, my weeknight post-work film viewing had averaged 0.08 a day. No way was this happening.

Unless… there was one crazy idea that might just work…

“So,” I figured, “if I could manage one film per workday,” (which, despite the stats, seemed not unfeasible — recently of an evening I’d been catching up on TV), “then that would get me to six films. And if I could manage that, surely I could manage two on a Friday — so that’d be seven. Then on Saturday and Sunday I’d just need to watch…” (*gulp*) “…five films a day.”

I know some people marathon their way through films like nobody’s business — to them, five in a single day is virtually just “a day ending in Y” — but to me? Yikes. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched five films in one day. And to do it on two days, back to back? Well, I did say this was a crazy idea. But it was the only vaguely-plausible way I could still get to 20 films in June. “Vaguely plausible” is not “literally impossible” and, well, you don’t know if you don’t try, right?

Did I manage it? There’s only one way to find out…


#116 Pillow of Death (1945)
#117 The Money Pit (1986)
#118 My Fair Lady (1964)
#119 Dumb and Dumber (1994)
#120 Seven Chances (1925)
#120a What! No Spinach? (1926)
#121 Rodan (1956), aka Sora no daikaijû Radon
#122 The Mummy (1932)
#123 A Brief History of Time Travel (2018)
#124 Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
#125 The Invisible Man (1933)
#126 Space Station 3D (2002)
#127 Rain Man (1988)
My Fair Lady

The Invisible Man

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  • To answer my previous question: no, I did not.
  • I watched 12 films in June, which may not be close to 20 but, in the grand scheme of my blog, is far from the worst. To be precise, there have been 79 lower-totalling months in the blog’s history, which is 45% of all months. So, June 2021 is somewhere in the middle. That’s alright.
  • I did, at least, slightly pass the June average, which is 11.4 (previously just under at 11.38, now just over at 11.43).
  • Other averages… not so much. The rolling average for the last 12 months was 21.0, now it’s 19.7; and the average for 2021 to date was 23.0, now it’s 21.2.
  • One thing that’s been somewhat overshadowed by all this: I reached #120, which is officially my main-list goal nowadays. Though that I’ve done that with half the year still to go does make me think I still need to rethink this whole “viewing goal” thing.
  • On the other hand, What! No Spinach? is only the second short film I’ve watched in 2021. But I don’t have a short film viewing goal, so that’s okay.
  • Also, I finished the Inner Sanctum Mysteries film series this month. Actually wrapping up a series rather than constantly adding new ones? Makes a nice change.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: an Oscar winner in its day (over 30 years ago), but somewhat controversial now for its depiction of autism, I thought Rain Man still did enough right. Relatedly, I found this short Letterboxd review to be insightful.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched nothing, again.



The 73rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
A few great-but-imperfect films compete for this month’s crown, but just edging it is the 1933 version of The Invisible Man. Director James Whale may be best remembered for his pair of Universal Frankenstein flicks, but I preferred this, which has a great mix of thrills, humour, and still-impressive special effects.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is an easy one for me: it’s a film that I felt lived up (or down) to its title, Dumb and Dumber. I only watched it because it’s on iCheckMovies’ Most Checked list and I’ve nearly completed that. It did have some moments that amused me, but overall, nah, I’d not really been missing anything by not watching it for the past 27 years.

Most Ropey-Yet-Still-Scary Special Effect of the Month
The “man in a suit” antics of Japanese monster movies are a bit of a “take it or leave it” style, but I think part of what makes them palatable is that the men in suits are stomping on miniatures — the whole thing is an affectation. But in Rodan, before the titular pterodactyl turns up, there are giant dragonfly nymphs that are played by men in suits opposite normal humans. Their blocky shape and waddly movement is kinda silly… and yet, at the same time, they’re man-sized baby insects, which I find inherently repulsive and terrifying.

Film Most Like a Twilight Zone Episode of the Month
I confess, I didn’t expect much of Superman and the Mole-Men, a film made primarily to instigate interest in producing a Superman television series (I guess the term “pilot” hadn’t yet been coined in 1951). And it’s far from the greatest screen realisation of the superhero ever, but what it does have is a neat little twist in who the villains are — at the risk of spoiling the surprise, it’s not the eponymous Mole-Men, but the small-townsfolk who get scared and turn into an angry mob. The social commentary isn’t exactly at Rod Serling level, but it’s surprisingly close.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It was very much a two horse race this month, considering I only managed two posts throughout June. The end result wasn’t close, though, with my guide to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom romping away to victory.


This section seems a bit pointless, considering I only posted one review and I’ve already linked to it, but the format is the format…


I came into June five films behind target, and I end it six films behind. Dammit. Well, with my main list having passed its 120-film goal, and my 20-per-month streak ending, maybe that’ll allow me to feel I can spend more time on rewatches in the second half of the year.

#17 Pride & Prejudice (2005)
#18 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
#19 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

Rather than repeat myself across the interweb, I’ll point you towards Letterboxd for some of my latest thoughts on Pride & Prejudice and Last Crusade. As for The Naked Gun, once I realised my crazy “get to 20” project had failed, I bunged it on one evening after work as something nice and easy. Most of it holds up very well, but I do feel it’s beginning to slip a little with age — it doesn’t feel quite as nonstop as it once did, and there’s the occasional topical gag that’s long past its sell-by (the film is almost 35 years old, after all). It also reminded me that about a year ago I bought Police Squad on Blu-ray and haven’t watched it (of course I haven’t).


Cinemas are back, and the idea of a joint theatrical/streaming release already seems a distant memory — which is funny, because in the US they’re still doing it all the time on HBO Max, and I think Disney still intend it for Black Widow, and I’m sure the kind of smaller films that were doing it even before Covid are still doing it now. But, here in the UK at least, the likes of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, The Quiet Place Part II, In the Heights, Nobody, and Fast & Furious 9 have all landed in cinemas without (as far as I’m aware) matching availability at home. Also finally gaining big-screen outings were the likes of The Father, Supernova, and, um, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds. None of these have tempted me out of the house yet, but something will at some point…

Whether by coincidence or design, big and/or interesting new offerings from the streamers seem to have dried up. I think it was MUBI who had the closest to anything ‘high profile’ with the UK release of Shiva Baby. All I have in my notes for Netflix is America: The Motion Picture, which came out earlier this week, and the global release of the fourth film in the Rurouni Kenshin live-action series (I really enjoyed the first three when I watched them a few years ago, so that’s definitely on my radar). Meanwhile, Amazon had another Liam Neeson actioner, The Ice Road, which I initially thought was just the one he’d done a year or two ago (that was Cold Pursuit). Ho hum. As for new-to-streaming titles, Amazon pretty much win the day with the acclaimed horror Saint Maud, because I’ve got nothing in my notes for Netflix except a couple of things I’d already seen but not reviewed. Meanwhile, new highlights on Sky Cinema / NOW included Kajillionaire, the very belated UK debut of Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and the final Fox X-Men film, The New Mutants, which I own on disc anyway (but keep not getting round to).

Talking of discs, naturally I’ve continued to blow my disposable income on those shiny, shiny circles. Nowadays it feels like most of what I buy is stuff so obscure I hadn’t even heard of it until someone announced the disc release, and that certainly continued this month with Arrow’s Years of Lead box set, a collection of five Italian crime thrillers from the ’70s. Similarly, I bought the Masters of Cinema releases of PTU (a Hong Kong thriller) and The Hands of Orlac (an Austrian silent chiller); 88 Films’ new edition of giallo So Sweet… So Perverse; and Indicator’s release of Eye of the Cat.

In terms of more known quantities (in that I’d actually heard of them, even if I’ve not seen them), there were new editions for Waterloo and Sammo Hung’s Encounter of the Spooky Kind, and Indicator’s sixth Hammer box set. I’ve got four of those now, from volume three onwards, which makes me regret never getting the first two; but I bet they cost an absolute bomb on the secondhand market, so I’ll have to live with it. From StudioCanal came a 4K release of Basic Instinct (judging from the screencaps, it looks like the quality of the new transfer absolutely blows the Blu-ray away), and a similarly restored (but only on regular Blu-ray) Murder by Decree, with Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes taking on Jack the Ripper. The same villain is taken on by H.G. Wells in ‘present day’ (i.e. 1970s) New York in Time After Time, which I picked up in HMV’s latest Premium Collection sale, alongside a literal pile of other stuff: Clash of the Titans and Mighty Joe Young (edging my Ray Harryhausen collection towards completion), plus Grand Prix, Murder, My Sweet, and A Scanner Darkly. Finally, another literal pile, this time of six Spaghetti Westerns: I wanted to import Arrow’s US-only 4K release of Sergio Corbucci’s Django (which comes bundled with Texas, Adios), and so to spread the postage I also threw in Kino’s 4K edition of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and another highly-acclaimed one by Corbucci that I’ve wanted to see for yonks, The Great Silence; then, in an 88 Films sale, I also added another Django film, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (love that title), and a third Corbucci, The Mercenary. Now I just need to make time to actually watch all (or any) that…


What will the second half of the year bring? All bets are off nowadays…

The Reopened Monthly Review of May 2021

Cinemas are back! And in the two weeks (and a bit) since they reopened here in the UK, I’ve been… not at all. Well, I have something of an excuse: I started a new full-time job halfway through this month — on the same day cinemas were allowed to reopen, in fact — which means I can no longer go slipping off there on a quiet weekday afternoon. I shall miss that. Anyway, there’s still evenings and weekends, once I’ve finally settled into my new routine and can motivate myself to get out. Indeed, it’s also affected my viewing at home: the record-setting pace I established earlier in the year, which had slipped slightly by the end of April, has not been regained. All is not lost, however, as May 2021 still managed a couple of firsts. More on those in a minute. First, my viewing list…


#95 The Awful Truth (1937)
#96 Page Eight (2011)
#97 Carefree (1938)
#98 Baby Done (2020)
#99 An American Pickle (2020)
#100 Cinema Paradiso (1988), aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
#101 I Care a Lot (2020)
#102 Strange Confession (1945)
#103 Twister (1996)
#104 Spontaneous (2020)
#105 Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
#106 Stuart Little (1999)
#107 Drop Zone (1994)
#108 The Aeronauts (2019)
#109 Good Boys (2019)
#110 Crank (2006)
#111 Official Secrets (2019)
#112 Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
#113 Defending Your Life (1991)
#114 Testament of Youth (2014)
#115 Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Cinema Paradiso

Spontaneous

Official Secrets

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  • I watched 21 new feature films in May.
  • Those included reaching eponymous goal, with #100 being this month’s Blindspot film (more on that in a mo). I got to it on the 5th, which ties with last year for the earliest ever… except 2020 was a leap year, meaning May 5th was the 126th day of the year then, whereas in 2021 it’s the 125th — so, in that respect, this is a new record. Hurrah!
  • I didn’t make it to my new goal of 120 films, though, so May 2020 clings on to that record for the time being.
  • May 2021 has some other achievements to its name, however. For instance, it makes 2021 the first year where I’ve watched over 20 films in each of the first five months of the year. Coincidentally, it’s also my 30th month ever with 20+ films.
  • In terms of averages, that figure surpasses the May average (previously 16.1, now 16.4), but falls just short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 21.8, now 21.0 — so, er, it’s actually bang on it now), and of the average for 2021 to date (previously 23.5, now 23.0).
  • But back to achievements, because, as regular readers may remember, since July 2017 I’ve been tracking the days of the year on which I’d never watched a new film as part of this blog. When I began, I had eight still to check off. It’s taken almost four whole years, but the quest is finally complete: I watched a film on the last outstanding date, May 23rd. What did I choose to mark the auspicious occasion? Plan 9 from Outer Space. A silly film for what is, frankly, a fairly silly achievement. But it’s done now, so I can move on… to making sure I’ve seen at least two films on every date! (Not really.) (But now that I’ve mentioned it… Oh dear.)
  • This month’s Blindspot film: an appropriate choice for this year’s #100, because Cinema Paradiso is all about the love of cinema. Doubly appropriate this month, then, with them reopening.
  • Unfortunately, I watched nothing from last month’s “failures”. A double failure!



The 72nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
There’s a few different options this month: films I admired a lot, but would come up short of saying I loved; films I enjoyed a lot, but can certainly recognise their flaws. In the end, I’m coming down in favour of Official Secrets, if nothing else because I think more people should see it. It arguably comes up a little short to be a ‘great movie’, but it’s an important story, well told.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
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, Plan 9 from Outer Space should fall into that camp. For some people, it does. But not for me — I just thought it was rubbish.

Best Recycling of a Musical Theme of the Month
Okay, the recycling wasn’t actually done by this film — this is the original. But Drop Zone features a throwaway music cue by Hans Zimmer (it plays over a minor bit of action business) that would later be repurposed to much great acclaim: it’s the main theme to Pirates of the Caribbean. That’s become a very popular bit of film music, which is in part thanks to the film being so popular, thereby widening it’s audience, but it’s a great cue in and of itself. It’s far and away the best bit of score in Drop Zone — the rest is wholly forgettable; indeed, it’d be better if they just played “the Pirates theme” over everything… which is kinda what they eventually did in Curse of the Black Pearl, so I guess Zimmer and co learnt their lesson.

Special Award for Achievement in Director’s Cut-ing
Normally when I view a variant cut of a movie — be it a Director’s Cut, an Extended Edition, or whatever — it’s not really that different to the original version; and when that’s the case, it doesn’t get a new number in my viewing (because I’m counting how many new films I’ve seen, obv). But, now and then, one of these cuts does manage to be different enough that I feel it warrants being counted as a new film. I suppose some people would always argue with that, but I feel that if you’ve added or changed enough material that the viewing experience feels different (for good or ill), then that makes the viewing more than just a rewatch. Now, some filmmakers are more prone to revised cuts than others — Ridley Scott, famously, or Peter Jackson — and I notice this when I work out which directors I’ve reviewed the most films by on this blog, because I count those different-but-not-that-different cuts as “bits”. So, for example, Ridley Scott tallies “14 and 3 bit” films; or Peter Jackson has “8 and 3 bits”. But one director has avoided “bits” with impressive regularity, and that person is Zack Snyder. Although I’ve covered extended cuts of three of his movies now (Watchmen, Batman v Superman, and Justice League), his tally has “0 bits”. When Snyder does a variant cut, he really makes it matter.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It’s a true rarity this month: the victor was April’s monthly review! I’ve been published one of these every month for many years now, but I’m not sure one has ever topped the chart before (but I can’t be bothered to dig through 71 previous Arbies to find out right now).



My Rewatchathon continues to slip behind target, from four short at the end of April to five now. I had intended to finish the Indiana Jones series this month, and also to see Godzilla vs. Kong on the big screen when cinemas reopened, which combined would’ve left me considerably less far off target… but neither of those things happened, so here we are. Maybe next month.

#14 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
#15 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
#16 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A selection of things I’ve been meaning to rewatch for a very long time, here. First up, Singin’ in the Rain, a musical classic that often sits surprisingly high in polls like Sight & Sound’s — not that it’s not a great movie, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the sorts of things around it at the top end of those kinds of polls. For me, as great and lovely as the film certainly is overall, it still has the occasional minor longueur; and, sure, there are three or four or maybe even five great songs, but also a handful of minor, very forgettable ones; and I’m never a big fan of an extended ballet interlude, although this is definitely one of the better ones. But, as I said, overall it is really good — I’m focusing on the drawbacks because it was a film that I’d wondered if it should’ve been in my 100 Favourites, but I think it was right to just miss out.

As for films that did make my 100 Faves, I’ve been meaning to rewatch the Indiana Jones movies for years. I’m not entirely sure when I last saw them, but it’s been over 13 years, minimum (did I re-watch the trilogy in the run-up to Crystal Skull’s May 2008 release? Maybe (that sounds like the kind of thing I might’ve done), but I can’t remember). I even bought the Blu-ray set when it first came out, which was 8½ years ago, but I’ve never got round to playing it. Now, the series is out in 4K next week, so I thought I ought to watch my darn 1080p discs before I inevitably upgrade (I’m a hopeless case). I grew up loving the Indy films, which is perhaps why I haven’t rewatched them a lot in recent years — they’re so familiar, it’s not ‘necessary’ — but, actually watching them again after so long, it’s reminded my why I should watch them more often: they’re really great.

Also, that long gap means this is the first time I’ve seen Temple of Doom uncut: on its original release in the UK, they cut out over a minute to secure a PG certificate from the BBFC, and that shortened version persisted even until the DVD release, with the uncut version (now rated 12) only debuting on Blu-ray. Temple is the only Indy film not already covered on this site (I reviewed Crystal Skull (twice) while it was still in cinemas, and Raiders and Last Crusade were part of my 100 Favourites series in 2016), so I’ll give it the Guide To treatment sometime. In the meantime, my Letterboxd post is likely a preview of my summary and score.


For the first time in a fair old while, we begin with new releases on the big screen — though, of course, none of these were interesting enough to tempt me out. But, c’mon, Peter Rabbit 2? No thanks. As for the rest of the newest releases, things like Mortal Kombat, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, and Cruella are all movies I’ll happily watch in a few months — or maybe a few years — at home. There was also The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which is apparently the seventh film in the Conjuring universe, something which has apparently sprung into existence without me even noticing. I don’t intend to play catchup.

Netflix continued to offer some at-home alternatives, of course, include Zack Snyder’s zombie/heist mashup Army of the Dead and Amy Adams thriller The Woman in the Window. The latter slipped down my viewing pecking order thanks to all the negative reviews, while the former, I kinda want to make time to see Snyder’s first zombie flick first. Maybe soon. Also on Netflix, Oxygen sounds up my street as a single-location sci-fi thriller, and, from the back catalogue, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell made what I feel is a rare streaming appearance — I’ve been meaning to try to see that for years. Amazon Prime didn’t have quite the same calibre of additions, it must be said. I mean, another Liam Neeson actioner, Honest Thief — at this point I don’t even know if that’s a genuine premiere or just one I hadn’t heard of finally landing on streaming. They did add Upstream Color, though; which, like Drag Me to Hell, I’ve been waiting a long time to appear on a streamer. And now that they have, I haven’t watched them. Typical.

I’ve still got a MUBI subscription ticking over, even though I don’t really watch it — there’s a pile of stuff on there I want to see, and I keep telling myself if I don’t cancel then I might watch it eventually, but it’s all, y’know, MUBI-type stuff, so I’m not often in the mood. But additions of particular interest during May included Park Chan-wook’s Thirst and a trio of Francis Ford Coppola movies in The Outsiders, Youth Without Youth, and Tetro. And talking of things I should cancel, I still have Sky Cinema lingering from the Oscars. Like MUBI, they have a bunch of stuff I kinda want to see, although, frankly, it’s mostly lower brow — Angel Has Fallen, Scoob!, the new versions of Charlie’s Angels and The Witches, and so on. Their most recent additions haven’t been up to much, either — Riverdance: The Animated Adventure, anyone?

Over on the free streamers, something else that I’ve wanted to see for a very long time but is never available to stream: a perennial feature on the mid- to lower-end of “greatest film of all time” lists, Paris, Texas, which is currently on All 4, alongside Capernaum (which is on the IMDb Top 250) and One Cut of the Dead (which I’ve seen but really should’ve reviewed). As for iPlayer, the most interesting stuff has been films they’ve had on before that I’ve never quite got round to — Margin Call, Guys and Dolls, the 1958 version of Dunkirk, and so on.

Finally, purchases. A smaller haul than has sometimes been the case, but that’s only by relative standards: I could still name 16 films I’ve bought on disc this month but not watched yet. They include the six titles in Indicator’s third Columbia Noir set; their release of Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me; a bunch of classic French films that were randomly cheap on Amazon: Le Corbeau, Quai des Orfevres, and Le Trou, the latter of which is on the Letterboxd Top 250; as is The Ascent, a Criterion title that I also picked up randomly cheap on Amazon. Also randomly cheap on Amazon: the highest grossing film of 2020, Chinese war flick The Eight Hundred; and cheaper than elsewhere, Arrow’s Tales from the Urban Jungle, a two-film set that I was glad to get for a bargain because I already own one of them (The Naked City, although it’s a better transfer here) and didn’t especially like the other (Brute Force, which I do owe a rewatch). Rounding out the aforementioned 16 were two new Eureka releases of Eastern actioners, from very different eras: 1972’s One-Armed Boxer (a riff on The One-Armed Swordsman, a film I loved, with the same star, Jimmy Wang Yu, also serving as writer and director); and, from 2000, Tsui Hark’s Time and Tide. (And, though technically not relevant to this section, I’d like to point out that I actually watched a couple of things I bought this month, too; namely, Defending Your Life and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.)


We’ll be halfway through the year already!

The Nomadic Monthly Review of April 2021

We’re on a road to nowhere… Or, maybe, the road to recovery. Hopefully. Certainly, I’m still on the road to 100 films this year, at least.


#74 Sátántangó (1994)
#75 The Son of Kong (1933)
#76 Godzilla Raids Again (1955), aka Gojira no gyakushû
#77 King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), aka Kingu Kongu tai Gojira
#78 King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)
#79 Captain Phillips (2013)
#80 The Frozen Ghost (1945)
#81 The Fly (1986)
#82 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#83 Nomadland (2020)
#84 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
#85 Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street (2002), aka Meitantei Conan: Bekâ Sutorîto no bôrei
#86 Taken 2 (2012)
#87 Warning from Space (1956)
#88 Spielberg (2017)
#89 Primary Colors (1998)
#90 Stowaway (2021)
#91 Beginners (2010)
#92 The Coldest Game (2019)
#93 Going My Way (1944)
#94 A Single Man (2009)
Captain Phillips

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Nomadland

.


  • I watched 21 new feature films in March.
  • That makes 2021 the first year since 2016 that the first four months have all passed the 20-film threshold. If I continue that into May, it’ll be the first year ever.
  • On the other hand, this is the first month in 2021 not to set a new record for the furthest I’ve reached by this point — I’d got to #96 by the end of April last year. Close, but no cigar.
  • I had hoped this might be the first year I got to #100 in April, but no dice. Last year I did it on May 5th, which is another record I don’t think I’ll be beating after all. Ah well — not everything can be a record-breaker.
  • Nonetheless, this was the earliest I’d ever reached the three-quarters mark, in terms of both my eponymous challenge (getting to #75 on the 3rd, beating the 8th from 2016) and my new 120-film challenge (getting to #90 on the 22nd, beating the 26th last year).
  • In terms of averages, it beats the April average (previously 14.8, now 15.2), but falls a little short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 23.3, now 21.8) and the average for 2021 to date (previously 24.3, now 23.5).
  • Oops, I started another film series! I’d loosely intended to dive into the classic Godzilla films once I finally finished Zatoichi, but enjoying Godzilla vs Kong last month prompted me to want to see the ‘original’, 1962’s King Kong vs Godzilla. To do that ‘properly’, I had to watch the movies preceding it too — you can find the original Godzilla and original King Kong down in the Rewatchathon section, plus Son of Kong and Godzilla Raids Again at #75 and #76 (I watched them in and around spending four days trudging through Sátántangó). So, technically, I’m now three films deep into Big G’s 15-film Showa era.
  • Relatedly: no, that’s not a mistake at #77 and #78 — one’s the original Japanese version, the other is the US rejig (with much footage deleted, new stuff added, and all dubbed into English).
  • This month’s Blindspot film: as mentioned in brackets a moment ago, this was the insanely long (seven hours!) Sátántangó. It’s based on a novel and apparently adapts every single incident from the book, so this is what happens when you don’t bother to abridge an adaptation.
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”. Hey-ho.



The 71st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I originally had a different winner down for this category, until a last-minute change of mind. You see, I expected to like Captain Phillips, because I’d heard good things and I generally like the work of director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks, but it rather blew me away how good it was — a tense, dramatic, unpredictable thriller, with a final scene that by itself should’ve earnt Hanks an Oscar nomination, if not even a win. He was robbed!

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I know it’s acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made, but, sorry, I found Sátántangó to be an unrelenting bore. It may not be the truly worst film I saw this month — it has some great filmmaking, and I do think there’s a very good movie buried inside it, if it were edited down considerably — but this is “least favourite”, not “worst”, and nothing else this month entertained me less for such a long period of time.

Best Hound of the Baskervilles of the Month — Possibly Ever
I’ll forgive you if you’re not up on your release years for every adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles — there are quite a few, for one thing. So, the two I watched this month were the Hammer version starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (that’s the 1959 one), and the comedy version starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (that’s the 1978 one). The latter is famously awful, and… yeah, it is. But the former is a stunner. Not the most strictly-faithful adaptation, but bursting with atmosphere, whip-crack paced (it doesn’t even hit the 90-minute mark), and with a top-flight cast (Cushing deserves to come up more often in discussions of the best screen Sherlocks).

Most Pleasant Surprise of the Month
We’re so used to berating Oscar voters for their terrible Best Picture choices, it’s weird that recently they seem to have hit a good streak (Green Book excepted). And it continues this year, because I thought Nomadland was a legitimately fantastic movie. (Admittedly, it’s the only Best Picture contender I’ve yet seen, but still.)

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I’m terribly behind on my TV reviews, which at least means they can’t dominate this category. And so a film wins again — not the all-awards-winning Nomadland, though, but the belated UK release of Palm Springs carries it to victory here.



Although I rewatched four films this month, coming into April I had gradually slipped far enough behind that I’m still four films off target. But I’m always intending to rewatch some whole series (high on the list: to finally watch my Indiana Jones Blu-rays before the 4K set comes out), so if I pull my finger out and do something like that, the number could easily jump up.

#10 Wonder Woman 3D (2017)
#11 King Kong (1933)
#12 Godzilla (1954)
#13 Palm Springs (2020)

I found Palm Springs more easily enjoyable on a second watch, freed of all the hype and expectation it came burdened with first time round. Seems only appropriate… Wonder Woman was also a second watch, and my original review still mostly stands (despite the comments section implying I might’ve missed something). As for the quality of its 3D, it’s the kind of post-conversion job that isn’t bad, but also mostly makes you wonder why they bothered.

King Kong was the subject of a ‘Guide To’, so find that linked above for my latest thoughts on the monster movie classic. I last saw it many, many years ago, and my increased film literacy and appreciation for classic movies led me to enjoy it a lot more this time round. Similar could be said for Godzilla: knowing what to expect pace- and content-wise, I enjoyed it a bit more; certainly enough to shore up the 4-star rating on my review (linked above, natch).


The reopening of cinemas may be imminent(ish) in the UK, but that hasn’t stopped distributors sending releases straight to overpriced “home premieres” — in April, those included young adult adaptation Chaos Walking and Oscar Best Picture nominee Minari, while fellow Best Picture nominee Promising Young Woman was relegated to being a Sky Original. And if you thought we had to wait quite a while for those, or Palm Springs and Nomadland (which were also both this month), check out Chloé Zhao’s debut feature, Songs My Brothers Taught Me: MUBI was responsible for its UK wide release this month, a full six years after its initial release elsewhere.

There were Oscar contenders to be found among the streamers’ new releases too, with Amazon offering Sound of Metal to subscribers, alongside premieres of Guantanamo Bay drama The Mauritanian and Tom Clancy adaptation Without Remorse. Netflix’s awards flicks already came out last year, although they had the international premiere of Love and Monsters this month, which was at least up for effects nods. Less well received was Melissa McCarthy superhero comedy Thunder Force, though I have heard positive things about some of their other original titles, like Run (the new film from Aneesh Chaganty, director of Searching) and animation The Mitchells vs. the Machines. In terms of catalogue titles, Netflix brought back sometime-IMDb-Top-250-ers In the Name of the Father, Lagaan, and Taare Zameen Par (aka Like Stars on Earth); the subscription streaming debut of Shirley; plus a few things I haven’t seen for years and would like to rewatch, like Cast Away, The Quick and the Dead, and perhaps Jarhead (I saw it at the cinema 16 years ago and didn’t particularly like it, but maybe it’s worth another look, considering the talent involved).

Once again, my new disc purchases know no bounds. I passed 100 titles on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray this month, thanks to new releases of Batman v Superman (remastered with IMAX scenes), the 2014 Godzilla (in a spiffy limited edition from HMV), and Arrow’s Battle Royale (even though I haven’t watched their Blu-ray release that I bought over a decade ago). I also finally got Léon in 4K. I imported the US edition (because it looks so much better than the European one) from Amazon.com last year, but they kept sending me what looked like bootleg copies that I kept returning until they said they’d look into the matter. This time, I picked it up somewhere else, and it’s clearly a genuine copy — so I was right about Amazon flogging bootlegs.

While I was importing that, I also snaffled up a bunch of classic 3D titles (The Maze, September Storm, and Wings of the Hawk) and finally managed to find a copy of the Olive Signature Edition of Orson Welles’s Macbeth for a reasonable price. Talking of sales, I picked up Black Rainbow, Black Test Car, and The Black Report from Arrow’s recent offering (their related titles being coincidence rather than design). On the full price side of things, I couldn’t resist a bunch of new and recent Indicator releases: The Beast Must Die, Crimewave, Irreversible, and Twentieth Century.

And talking of failures to resist, I really, really tried not to buy Curzon Artificial Eye’s Bong Joon-ho box set. They used very pretty art design (the box art went down a storm with a certain kind of collector on Twitter) to bundle together almost-special-feature-less versions of a bunch of Bong’s films — and not even a complete collection, because Netflix have a stranglehold on Okja, and I guess Curzon couldn’t be arsed to license his short films (unlike a similar set recently released in Australia). I already own regular extras-filled editions of The Host and Snowpiercer, and I’ve caved to two copies of Parasite (both the 4K and Criterion’s extras-packed release), plus I have my eye on Criterion’s extras-loaded edition of Memories of Murder. All that left in the AE set’s favour was Barking Dogs Never Bite and Mother, the latter of which used to be available in a decent standalone edition (it’s out of print, but used copies aren’t hard to come by). So why the hell did I buy it in the end? Well, that’s still three films I don’t own — I could’ve got Mother by itself, but Barking Dogs Never Bite doesn’t have a standalone edition; and the Criterion release of Memories of Murder has rather controversial, ugly colour grading, while the UK edition is considerably less egregious in that department. The deal was sweetened by Parasite having some special features not present on my other copies (primarily, deleted scenes) and, yes, the attractive box design — it will look nice on my shelf. It’s definitely not the most sound purchasing decision I’ve ever made, but sometimes it’s just nice to have nice things.


There’s only one date left on my “never seen a film on” list: May 23rd. Will I finally complete the year, or will I forget and miss it? (You’d think it’d be an easy achievement to guarantee, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve simply forgotten to do it.)