Or rather, the shame list has moved. For a while I have wanted to change my blog and I was basically holding off until I could think of a better name for it. Now I’ve come up with a suitable alternative that I’m happy with, so for more film reviews and other film related stuff, hop on over to Life in Dark Rooms at www.lifeindarkrooms.wordpress.com.
I watch most of my films through the magic of DVD rental site Love Film. So that I can manage what I’m sent, I have a ‘top ten’ high priority list. In the past, I’ve populated this list with some of the more glaring gaps in my viewing history – the more obvious classics that I really should have seen by now. When I’ve watched everything in that top ten, I make a new one. I am at the end of my current top ten (the last one arrived the other day) so I started making a new top ten. After realising that most of the films I watch are American or British, and having recently been impressed with Amores Perros and Cinema Paradiso, I was going to do ten foreign films. I had the list all ready, when I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey and I realised something. Science fiction has always been my first love when it comes to film genres and there were a number of classics that I had never seen. So I decided to postpone the foreign films to focus on spaceships, silver suits, ray guns and robots. May the force be with me.
While these pages are kept intermittently up to date with my DVD viewing and the obsessive countdown of my shame list, there is one area in which I am embarrassingly idle. If this site is to be believed, the last film I saw at the cinema was Marley and Me, which was so long ago that it’s now out on DVD. The truth is that I am an avid cinemagoer, or at least as avid as time will allow, which admittedly isn’t nearly as much as I’d like. Rest assured, I am not a fake cineaste, just a lazy writer. Now that I’m up to date with the shame list (for now at least) expect to see a few more cinema reviews on this page shortly, and maybe the return of my weekly top tens. If I can be bothered.
Those of you who visit this site frequently (and there can’t be many of you), may have notice that apart from my recent Marley and Me review, I haven’t posted anything for about a month. Rest assured, I haven’t given up watching films – I’ve merely been lazy about reviewing them. I hope to get this site up to date very soon with the last five weeks of reviews.
Today, the internet movie database, that most precious of filmgoer’s resources, turns 18. Happy birthday, IMDb; I’ve spent many a happy hour browsing your lovingly crafted, finely detailed and occasionally inaccurate pages.
For all your obsessive film knowledge needs, always choose www.imdb.com. Accept no substitute.
At the moment the shame list is made up of a number of film lists from the AFI top 100 to the Guardian’s 1000 films to see before you die. At the moment, my countdown is currently at 1,207 films – that’s 1,207 films I must see before I die, which hopefully is not for a little while now. I’ve taken into account as many major films lists as I can find so as to get as even a spread as possible.
However, a new list has emerged as an important one to take into account. This month’s Empire magazine features a list of the 500 greatest films of all time and purports to be the most ambitious film poll ever attempted. Not only does it include the views of 10,000 Empire readers, but also those of 150 film makers and 50 key film critics. What’s more, because every contributor was asked to compile their top ten, they’ve even managed to put the films in order. So the greatest film of all time is apparently… well, you’ll have to buy the mag to find out.
Anyway, I shall be including Empire’s list in my list very shortly so expect the shame list total to rocket up considerably, probably adding months onto my estimated time of completion (which I haven’t even worked out yet).
For the record, I submitted my top ten and I’m delighted to see every one of them in the list, although in a list of greatest films that includes Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which apparently is better than 12 Monkeys which is a total lie) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (which many seem to think is superior to Glengarry Glen Ross which it’s not), that doesn’t necessarily say a lot about my taste in films. Or indeed, that of everyone else.
The shame list has evolved. Originally, the challenge was to see every film in the 2007 edition of the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die by the time I was 35. But despite this book being compiled by 65 film critics, I realised that there must be other films of note that I should see that had to be omitted. So I looked for a second opinion. And a third, and a fourth, and so on.
I’ve incorporated as many film lists of note that I could find and put all the films I have yet to see in one big list. There are inevitably overlaps where a film appears in more than one list; this allows me to prioritise – the more lists that a film appears in, the more important it is that I watch it. I’ve included both critics’ lists and readers’ and viewers’ polls to give a broad spectrum from highbrow, art house stuff to films that normal people (that is, non-critics) have seen.
The lists I have used so far are:
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (ed. Steven Jay Schneider) – 762 films yet to see
The Guardian’s 1000 films to see before you die – 726
The IMDb top 250 (as at 10 August 2008) – 101
The Times top 100 films of all time – 45
AFI’s 100 years… 100 movies (10th anniversary list) – 40
BFI’s top 100 British films – 75
Channel 4’s 100 greatest films – 43
Time magazine’s all-time top 100 movies – 72
Empire’s top 100 movies (readers’ poll) – 14
Total Film’s top 100 movies (readers’ poll) – 10
Time Out centenary top 100 – 77
Time Out readers’ top 100 – 53
Taking all of that into account, I have 1,221 films left to watch at the time of writing. I think that’s comprehensive enough. Because there are now so many films, I haven’t yet decided on a new time frame. The most important film I have to watch appears in all but one of the lists which is, strangely, The Times’ list not the AFI’s list – both America and Britain are claiming Lawrence of Arabia as their own. I promise I shall watch it soon. Oh and I’m deeply shocked that my favourite film has only appeared in only one of those lists. One day, everyone will appreciate just how good The Truman Show is.
I used to consider myself to be pretty clued up when it comes to films. I may know an awful lot about films but that knowledge is actually quite superficial. Until recently, I rarely ventured out of my comfort zone to brave what I thought to be the no man’s land of black and white, foreign and silent films. The truth is that if I want to be good enough to write about films for a living (because that is the ultimate goal), then I have to watch more films. A lot more.
Last Christmas I was given a book called 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (edited by Steven Jay Schneider). I went through the list and discovered that I had only seen 188 of them. Less than one fifth. An embarrassingly low total for someone who calls himself a film buff.
So I decided to do something about it.
Armed with four TV channels, a video recorder (yes, I know I’m probably the last person in the western world to still be using one of those rather than Sky+) and a subscription to Love Film, I started to watch those films that I really should have seen by now. I know books like this are not meant to be taken seriously and the list is surely not comprehensive but it’s as good a basis to form a list as I can think of.
This is my shame list. All will be watched.
It’s been five months and my total figure has increased to 220. 32 films in 5 months. There are still 781 films left to see. I’m 28 now. If I watch two of these films a week, I’ll have completed my mission by the time I’m 35, by which time there will almost certainly be an updated edition with more films I have to see.
Despite this daunting task, I’m not planning on restricting myself solely to the list. This blog will include cinema and DVD reviews, general rants and probably the odd top ten.