Saturday, 27 December 2014

The year of many movies

You know me well enough by now, reader, to know that I am pretty fond of books and reading. Since I was four years old I have never wanted anything out of life except to read all the books in the world and to add a few more to their number. You will never hear me say a bad work about books. I like people too, naturally – but the thing I like best about them is the books they write. In my heart of hearts I have always felt that anything else a person might do in life is trivial by comparison to those two mighty feats of the human spirit, reading and writing. In my eyes, the science of space travel dwindles into insignificance compared to what Milton wrote about travelling through space. I am glad and grateful for technology, of course I am. I am not one of those backward unadventurous souls who would use last year's computer or quibble over the expense of a few billion dollars per annum on space programs. Technology, I salute you! All I'm saying is that if (God forbid) a thousand years from now NASA and America itself have vanished from human memory, whatever kind of human beings are left on earth will still be reading Milton and marvelling at his description of the sight of our planet as seen from space:
And fast by hanging in a golden Chain
This pendant world, in bigness as a Starr
Of smallest Magnitude close by the Moon.
So please, reader, do not reproach me when I tell you that in this year of our Lord 2014 I have nourished my spirit more on images than words. If the IMDB records are correct, I have seen one hundred and thirty films this year – more than Milton ever saw in his whole life! I watched a lot of movies I'd never seen before and I watched a lot of old favourites again too. Babette's Feast I saw this year for the seventh or eighth time. Annie Hall and Bicycle Thieves I saw for the fourth or fifth time. The big themes of my Year of Many Movies were (a) early films, especially romance and comedy, (b) Italian neorealism, (c) anything with James Cagney in it, and (d) Hitchcock.

Early in the year I had youthful aspirations to watch all of Hitchcock but I got sick of it after the first dozen or so. To be honest, it was Psycho and North by Northwest that ruined it for me. Those famous Hitchcocks get a little bit worse every time you see them (North by Northwest could be used as a textbook study in bad plotting), whereas his great films from the 1930s and 40s get better every time. My favourite is his first (1935) version of The 39 Steps, a perfect film that seamlessly combines suspense, comedy, and romance. By the start of the 1960s all the comedy had drained out of Hitchcock's spirit, which is a shame for everybody.

Anyway in the interests of sharing useless information over the internet, I have copied below the list of movies I saw this year with my ratings out of 10.


FILM
YEAR         
RATING

1920
10

1921
9

1922
10

1923
8

1924
10

1925
10

1927
9

1927
10

1931
8

1932
6

1932
9

1933
6

1933
9

1933
9

1933
8

1934
9

1934
7

1935
10

1936
9

1936
9

1938
7

1938
8

1941
9

1941
9

1942
7

1943
9

1943
9

1944
8

1944
10

1945
7

1945
8

1946
10

1946
8

1947
7

1948
10

1948
10

1948
8

1948
9

1949
9

1949
6

1949
7

1950
10

1951
8

1952
9

1953
9

1953
8

1954
9

1955
10

1955
10

1955
7

1955
9

1956
8

1957
10

1957
10

1958
9

1959
7

1959
7

1959
10

1960
9

1960
8

1960
8

1961
9

1961
10

1962
8

1963
8

1964
10

1972
8

1973
10

1977
10

1979
9

1987
8

1987
10

House of Cards (UK TV series)
1990
9

1997
10

2006
7

2009
9

2011
10

2012
5

House of Cards (US TV series)
2013
8

2013
8

2013
9

2013
10

2013
10

2013
7

2013
8

2014
6

2014
8

2014
7

2014
6

2014
10

2014
5

2014
8

2014
7

2014
6

The Newsroom (TV series, season 3)
2014
7

2014
6

What's that you say? You want some highlights? OK then! The funniest movies I saw this year were The Navigator (1924) and The Seven Year Itch (1955); the scariest was Nosferatu (1922); the best love story was Sunrise (1927); the best thriller was The 39 Steps (1935); best gangster films were White Heat (1948) and Rififi (1955); best TV series was Scenes from a Marriage (1973); best war movie was Battleship Potemkin (1925); best film about religion was Elmer Gantry (1960); best courtroom drama was Judgment at Nuremberg (1961); most mind-bending was The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920); and the best new movies I saw were Ida (2013) and Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

And in case you are starting to doubt my commitment to The Primacy of the Written Word, let me add one more highlight: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore, a beautiful tribute to the power of books and reading. It's a short film available on YouTube. Watch it! Show it to children! Send the link to your librarian! And then go watch some more movies.

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