2010 100+ Films Challenge

This post has become a bit unwieldy, so I have moved it to its own page.  Go here for a more recently updated list.

While I am updating my challenge status, it occurs to me that I should set myself a watching challenge as well as a couple of reading ones.  This is a personal challenge, intended to help me keep track of what I watch and keep on top of my Netflix/Zip.ca accounts as well as my 1001 Movies to See Before I Die project, but if any would like to join me, come on down.  The more the merrier.

My goals in this challenge: to watch at least 100 films (not including television series) in 2010.  That's what, about 2 a week?  Not as rampant a pace as during the heyday of my 1001 Movies project (aka grad school), when I was often watching two films a day, but considerably more realistic.

Here how my progress stands to date (Original post was Jan. 9, 2010):

[Films from my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Project are in bold]

Week 1 (January 1-7)
1)  Vicky Christina Barcelona, dir. Woody Allen (USA/Spain, 2008)  **

Week 2 (January 8-14)
2)  If..., dir. Lindsay Anderson (UK, 1968) ***1/2
3) Cat Dancers, dir. Harris Fishman (USA, 2008) ***
[In Treatment Season 1]

Week 3 (January 15-21)
None! (For shame...)

Week 4 (January 22-28)
4) Kinsey, dir. Bill Condon (USA, 2004) **1/2

Week 5 (January 29-February 4)
5) The Warrior, dir. Asif Kapadia (UK/India, 2001) ***1/2
6) Spartacus, dir. Stanley Kubrick (USA, 1960) ***1/2
[True Blood Season 1]

Week 6 (February 5-11)
None! (Deepening shame...)

Week 7 (February 12-18)
None! (Into the abyss of regret...)

Week 8 (February 19-25)
7) Goin' Down the Road, dir. Donald Shebib (Canada, 1970) **
8) Shoot the Piano Player, dir. François Truffaut (France, 1960) ***1/2
9) Inglourious Basterds, dir. Quentin Tarantino (USA, 2009) ***1/2

Week 9 (February 26-March 4)
10) Street Fight, dir. Marshall Curry (USA, 2005) ***1/2
11) Little Dieter Needs to Fly, dir. Werner Herzog (This is when national categorization becomes muddled.  Um. OK: USA/Germany, 1997) ***
12) The Hurt Locker, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (USA, 2008) ***
13) Avatar, dir. James Cameron (USA, 2009) ***

Week 10 (March 5-March 11)
14) Shakespeare in Love, dir. John Madden (USA, 1998) ****1/2

Week 11 (March 12-18)
15) Rescue Dawn, dir. Werner Herzog (Germany/USA, 2006) **1/2
16) Mondo Cane, dir. Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti, and Franco Prosperi(Italy, 1962) ***1/2

Week 12 (March 19-25)
17) New Moon, dir. Chris Weitz (USA, 2009) **1/2

Week 13 (March 26- April 1)
18) Fantastic Mr. Fox, dir. Wes Anderson (USA/UK, 2009) ****
19) Molière, dir. Laurent Tirard (France, 2007) **1/2

Week 14 (April 2-April 8)
20) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, dir. David Fincher (USA, 2008) ***
21)  If..., dir. Lindsay Anderson (UK, 1968) ****
22) Into the Wild, dir. Sean Penn (USA, 2007) ***1/2

Week 15 (April 9-15)
23) Seven Up!, dir. Paul Almond (UK, 1964) ***1/2
24) Seven plus Seven, dir. Michael Apted (UK, 1970) ***1/2
25) Aparajito, dir. Satyajit Ray (India, 1956) ****
26) Jules et Jim, dir. François Truffaut (France, 1962) **** 
27) Sunshine Cleaning, dir. Christine Jeffs (USA, 2008) ***

Week 16 (April 16-22)
28) Surrogates, dir. Jonathan Mostow (USA, 2009) **
29) Up in the Air, dir. Jason Reitman (USA, 2009) ****
30) Precious, dir. Lee Daniels (USA, 2009) ***
31) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, dir. David Yates (USA/UK, 2009) ***1/2
32) A collection of 2009/10 Oscar-nominated shorts, including Logorama (France, dir. François Alaux and Hervé de Crécy), French Roast (France, dir. Fabrice O. Joubert), and Miracle Fish (Australia, dir. Luke Doolan)

Week 17 (April 23-29)
33) Pather Panchali, dir. Satyajit Ray (India, 1955) ****

Week 18 (April 30-May 6)
None! (But let it be said that I did see lots of plays in these filmless weeks in London....)

Week 19 (May 7-13)

Week 20 (May 14-20)

Week 21 (May 21-27)
34) Shutter Island, dir. Martin Scorsese (USA, 2009) ***
35) The Last Station, dir. Michael Hoffman (USA/Germany, 2009) ***1/2
36) Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, dir. Nick Park and Steve Box (UK, 2005) ****

Week 22 (May 28-June 3)
37) Iron Man, dir. Jon Favreau (USA, 2008) **
38) District 9, dir. Neill Blomkamp (South Africa, 2009) ****

Week 23 (June 4-10)
39) Up, dir. Pete Docter (USA, 2009) ****

Week 24 (June 11-17)
40) The Raiders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg (USA, 1981) ***
41) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, dir. Steven Spielberg (USA, 1984) **

Week 25 (June 18-24)
42) Cleo de 5 à 7 / Cleo from 5 to 7, dir. Agnès Varda (France, 1961) ****
43) Ponyo, dir. Hayao Miyazaki (Japan, 2008) **

(Running 7 films behind schedule)

This post has become a bit unwieldy, so I have moved it to its own page.  Go here for a more recently updated list.

33 Responses so far.

  1. Max Renn says:

    Week 1
    Muriel, ou le temps d'un retour, Alain Resnais, 1963 ****
    Ninfia Plebea, Lina Wertmüller, 1996 ***

    Week 2
    Body Double, Brian De Palma, 1984 ***
    Onibaba, Kaneta Shindo, 1964 ***
    Homicide, David Mamet, 1991 ****
    Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Stanley Kramer, 1967 **
    In the Heat of the Night, Norman Jewison, 1967 ***

    (Look! I even played the "how many stars?" game!)

  2. Delightful!!! My god, but you have been more active than I have. Although I did finally finish the first season of "In Treatment," which I am dying for you to watch so that we can discuss it. It is beautifully languid and complex and ambivalent about the value of therapeutic practice.

    Meanwhile, it looks like you are going on a bit of a Sidney Poitier kick?

    Does this mean that you are joining me on the challenge for the whole year?

  3. Max Renn says:

    Well -- it won't be much of a challenge, as I average much more than 100 in a normal year. But yes, I'll post my progress!

  4. OK, I have two questions: What is the rate at which you generally watch movies, and how do you schedule in time to do it? (I don't ask this in a disbelieving way - it is clear that if I watched less tv and read fewer trashy novels I would have more time for films - but rather a curious-about-the-practicalities sort of way.)

    At the peak of my film-watching, I was watching maybe 6 or 8 a week, often with several in a day. But it left me more than a little vague on the details of the films I watched, and definitely with diminishing enjoyment. How do you counteract film exhaustion?

    PS The Poitier films are the only ones you have watched this year that I have seen. But I am just about (finally, at the shift to another decade) to make the transition from the 50s to the 60s in my 1001 list. I just watched (at the end of 2009) the egregious Rio Bravo, the worst John Wayne film I have ever seen. I lived in horror of the inevitable musical number the entire film.

  5. Max Renn says:

    Week 3
    Torment (Alf Sjöberg, 1944) ****
    The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962) ***
    The Chase (Arthur Penn, 1966) **
    Doctor Dolittle (Richard Fleischer, 1967) *
    Is That All There Is? (Lindsay Anderson, 1993) **

  6. What did you think of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner? I watched it a few months ago while doing an Angry Young Men marathon. (I am still waiting on the last of those films - "This Sporting Life.")

  7. Max Renn says:

    Week 4
    Judgment at Nuremberg (Stanley Kramer, 1961) **
    The Miracle Worker (Arthur Penn, 1962) ****
    Lilies of the Field (Ralph Nelson, 1963) **
    The Border (Tony Richardson, 1982) ***

    As for Loneliness, Courtenay and Redgrave were both solid--though Redgrave is cursed by the sheer genius of his performance in The Browning Version, in comparison to which any of his various roles as imperfect authority figures in educational or correctional institutions must necessarily pale. But I found Richardson's film to be, in the end, weaker than either Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or, especially, This Sporting Life. Richardson just isn't quite the caliber of director that Reisz and Anderson are, cinematically speaking.

    Take Loneliness's use of flashbacks, which is quite boring compared to Sporting's; and there is no cinematic flourish in Loneliness that can approach, say, the aloneness evoked in Saturday at the moment when Reisz cuts to a long shot of the dark, abandoned lot as two fellows kick Finney's teeth in. And, while I would never expect the Angry Young Man genre's urban-proletarian politics to be conveyed in a particularly subtle or nuanced way, I found moments of Loneliness to be unbearably heavy-handed in this regard. Though I suppose that even those moments could be recuperated for the film as necessary for laying out the stakes of Courtenay's climactic decision. But, again, compare the practically agit-prop freeze-frame of the gas mask at the end of Loneliness with the much more substantial final images of the other two films I mention. Still, it's beautifully photographed and nicely performed. Worth seeing, but not worth loving.

  8. Hmm. Yes. I see what you mean, although I don't (and this may be connected to some of the things you note here) remember "Loneliness" well enough to say anything substantial. Have you watched Richardson's "Look Back in Anger" yet? I recently revisited it to show sections in my class while we read the play. It is a fascinating comparison piece because Richardson directed both the first film version (Anderson did a later version, which I haven't seen) and the first theatrical production at the Royal Court (which housed Richardson's theatre co.). I gather that in the rampant moving across art forms that was typical of the Angry Young Men, Richardson's primary loyalties were to the theatre, where he was wreaking enormous revolutions, and Anderson's was to innovation in film. Anderson did, however, direct the first *successful* stage production of Joe Orton's sex farce "What the Butler Saw" at the Royal Court in 1975 (I believe), six years after a premiere so disastrous that the audience screaming "Shame! Shame!" at the actors, who themselves recalled that the spectators seemed ready to climb onstage and murder them. Which has a certain Ortonian and Andersonian air. Certainly I can see the common ground between the way "What the Butler Saw" ends and the way "If..." does.

    Have you ever encountered Orton's plays or tales from his life? I found them quite uninspiring last time I studied them, but now (as so often happens) that I am teaching them, they are considerably more interesting - entrancing artifacts of 60s sexual anarchism. You would appreciate "Loot," I think. They are sort of like Beckett performed at triple speed with an emphasis on the farcical rather than the absurd, and a total lack of sexual shame.

  9. Max Renn says:

    Week 5
    A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951) ****
    The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich, 1967) *
    Notte d'estate con profilo greco, occhi a mandorla e odore di basilico (Lina Wertmüller, 1986) ***

    Also: Mad Men Season One (Matthew Weiner et al, 2007)

  10. How did you feel about Mad Men by the end of Season 1?

  11. Max Renn says:

    Week 6
    Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961) **
    The Bedford Incident (James B. Harris, 1965) **
    A Patch of Blue (Guy Green, 1965) **

    A weak week.

    As for Mad Men, I thought a few of the episodes in the middle of the season were pretty great, but overall it lacked the subtlety of characterization, the narrative innovations, and the thrilling anything-can-happen-at-any-time suspense of The Sopranos while nonetheless being overly indebted to that show's formula. Only a few scenes reached the heights of David Chase's creation, foremost among them being Betty's interactions with the child to whom she gives a lock of her hair. But the season's great failing was that it never managed to make me care much--and I'm not sure I can explain why--about Don's dark secret past. I felt all along that he wouldn't have done anything really horrible, so when the ho-hum secret was finally revealed, it told me nothing about Don's psyche. Oh, and also the mousy secretary whose name eludes me for the moment was so predictably preggers with the smarmy rich kid's seed from, like, the moment they first jumped each other, so the fact that the final episode presented her eventual baby-dropping as its climactic surprise story-beat was a big disappointment.

    BUT just because I had complaints doesn't mean I wasn't enjoying myself. When's the last time I saw two gorgeous babes who can actually act, on the same show! So I do plan to watch season 2 . . .

  12. Sigh. I didn't get *anything* watched this week. AGAIN. Maybe it is because all the movies I have out/on my Tivo are so infernally depressing that I find myself turning to Supernanny or the Olympics for solace. Highbrow fail.

    Re: Madmen. I don't disagree with almost anything that you are saying. I guess the reason I didn't find any of those elements as disruptive as you did is that I never regarded Madmen as a plot piece. I didn't get the sense that any of those "twists" were supposed to be surprising. It isn't going for a LOST effect, I think. (Although that is almost certainly overstating your point by paraphrase - apologies.)

    For me, however, it *was* a piece of very subtle characterization: all about expression in repose, and repression, and hypocrisy, and troubled attraction - compromising the charismatic and rewarding the unpleasant.

    And do I sense a general lack of takenness with Don Draper as a protagonist in your comments? This makes me wonder (with a blush) if there is a gender difference in how the show plays, although in a subtler sense than just my finding Don a captivating piece of hot hotness and then wondering who the two actresses you were referring to even were (I eventually got there, but it took me a while). Rather the show engages in a really delicate dance (much more complex than anything else I am seeing on television right now) of building up a mystique of attraction and competence around Don and then puncturing our sense of his heroism. Take for instance the many scenes in which they refuse the easy path of building bonds of affection between him and Peggy. He rejects expressing indebtedness or warmth/admiration for her at almost every opportunity.

    I also think that the scene in the pilot with the wonderfully stereotypical Frau Freudianresearchspecialist was a crucial one, because it introduces the idea that although Don's competence-bordering-on-shamanistic-genius as an advertising pitch-man is based on an intuitive sense of psychological processes, he is driven in his personal life by a profound refusal to acknowledge multiple levels of consciousness or selfhood, the importance of the past, or even the idea of interiority.

    Thus the seeming absence of his past's influence on him is in fact the important thing. He is standing in for/within another life, and yet he will not acknowledge the ghostly presence of other identities (his own and Don Draper's) beyond the surface one he has created. As a self-creation, and as an adman, he insists that he is all polished surface, and denies depth in every form, with the result that anarchic behavior breaks through again and again to disrupt the careful, 50s shell of his perfect life.

    And of course, the show's emphasis on the aesthetic of its world over questions of plot is part and parcel of this exploration.

    (I hope I didn't encourage you to see it as as a new Sopranos in my recommendation: it isn't, for any number of reasons. But perhaps most interesting is this: the Sopranos' subject matter gives birth to its "anything could happen at any time" innovations of narrative, while Mad Men is instead interested in the implications of (putative? attempted? hypocritically asserted?) control and restraint. The form of each, in other words, is appropriate to and an expression of, its hero, its subject matter, its milieu. It seems to me.)

  13. [Because that first comment was insufficiently Homeric in scope, I give you volume 2:]

    I also fear you are being spoiled for very good (but somewhat flawed) television by largely watching SUBLIME television. I need to recommend something really ickily flawed as a corrective. Have you considered "Gossip Girl"? I really think it would be just up your alley. And R's too.

    Ugh. Shudder.

    But in a less decoy-ey direction, I wonder if "Pushing Daisies" - for all its delights - won't end up serving the purpose of fleshing out the flawed end of the quality television spectrum.

    But of course, I do acknowledge that your objections to Madmen are quite valid - the more I think about some of them, the more valid and objectionable I too find them to be.

    And I still think you should watch Deadwood as a companion piece to Pushing Daisies. (As LOST was to Battlestar. Maybe I should give all my TV recs in matched pairs.)

    P.S. Did you know that the actor who plays Betty's child-friend is the show-creator's son? (Or so I remember this factoid - I may have the details slightly wrong.)

  14. Oh! And "Splendour in the Grass," aka "Sexual Frustration goes to New Haven!". Torrid.

    I remember appreciating the burbling sexuality of the film, but not loving Beatty's performance or the film as a whole. But it has been a while.

  15. Max Renn says:

    Week 7
    Gervaise (René Clément, 1956) ***
    Reflections in a Golden Eye (John Huston, 1967) **
    Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise (Dai Sijie, 2002) *

  16. Max Renn says:

    Week 8
    Mayerling (Anatole Litvak, 1936) ***
    The Small Back Room (Powell & Pressburger, 1949) ***
    Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967) ***
    Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie, 2009) **

  17. Max Renn says:

    Week 9
    Mauvaise foi (Roschdy Zem, 2006) *
    C'est pas moi, je le jure! (Philippe Falardeau, 2008) ***
    La Journée de la jupe (Jean-Paul Lilienfeld, 2008) *

    Local French film festival.

  18. Max Renn says:

    I'm slightly behind on my posting, though not, thankfully, on my watching.

    Week 10
    Blonde Venus (Josef von Sternberg, 1932) ***
    Thriller (Sally Potter, 1979) ***
    Hopscotch (Ronald Neame, 1980) **
    Freeze, Die, Come to Life (Pavel Nazarov, 1989) ***

  19. Have you looked through my instant queue on D's Xbox yet? There is a veritable trove of delightful possibilities there.

    I am going to see whether I can fit one more film into this week by watching it tonight...

  20. Max Renn says:

    Week 11
    The Seventh Continent (Michael Haneke, 1989) ***
    Gerry (Gus Van Sant, 2002) ****

  21. Max Renn says:

    Week 12
    Correction Please, or, How We Got Into Pictures (Noël Burch, 1979) ***

    Week 13

    Week 14
    Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (Henry Kostler, 1962) **
    The Collector (William Wyler, 1965) **
    The Store (Frederick Wiseman, 1983) ***

  22. Nothing! I am dragging you down to my sedentary level!

    Yesterday I watched Jules et Jim, but my Tivo cut out in what I can only assume were the final minutes of the film. Frustration. So I will have to pick it up later this week in Los Angeles, since it is on Netflix digital.

  23. Max Renn says:

    Week 15
    The River's Edge (Allan Dwan, 1957) **
    Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) ***
    Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967) ****
    Zorn's Lemma (Hollis Frampton, 1970) ****
    Trafic (Jacques Tati, 1971) ***
    Adynata (Leslie Thornton, 1983) ***
    Looking for Langston (Isaac Julien, 1989) ***
    Benny's Video (Michael Haneke, 1992) ***


  24. I take it back! I am concerned, however, that you are going to develop S.A.D. from lack of exposure to sunlight....

  25. Max Renn says:

    Week 16
    Boomerang! (Elia Kazan, 1947) ***

    This was a light movie week due to being also a heavy philosophy week (in multiple senses of the word "heavy"), spent attending the Theory Reading Group conference in Ithaca. I can now explain to you the challenge that frequentialism poses to the doctrine of speculative naturalism, if you'd like.

  26. Bah! No! Not frequentialism! And I like my naturalism as speculative as possible, thank you very much.

    Last week was a heavy week because I had 15 hours of travel on an airline with a good choice of recent movies. The next five weeks will be grim because we are booked up with theatre almost every night. We tried to watch Fitzcarraldo two nights ago (D's choice), but I was asleep within 5 minutes, which is no commentary on the film. So I am not sure quite when we will fit in any film-viewing. Alas.

  27. Max Renn says:

    Week 17
    52) Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946) ****
    53) Passione d'amore (Ettore Scola, 1981) ***
    54) Nha Fala (Flora Gomes, 2002) **

  28. I remember really enjoying Gilda as well. My god, that striptease.

  29. Max Renn says:

    Week 18
    55) Hatari! (Howard Hawks, 1962) **
    56) Klute (Alan J. Pakula, 1971) ***
    57) The Legend of Suram Fortress (Sergei Parajanov, 1984) ****
    58) 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (Michael Haneke, 1994) ***
    59) Das Schloss (Michael Haneke, 1996) ****
    60) Swimming Pool (François Ozon, 2003) ***

    Das Schloss is especially notable as the only truly faithful Kafka adaptation I'm aware of. (Though others have made strong films that take Kafka as their inspiration -- Welles, Soderbergh -- those films do not succeed in adapting Kafka, instead succeeding for reasons external to and even incompatible with Kafka's universe).

  30. Can you say a bit more about an adaptation that was incompatible with Kafka's universe? I haven't seen any of these films, so I am unsure what you mean....

  31. Max Renn says:

    Weeks 19-21
    61) Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945) ***
    62) Pigs and Battleships (Shohei Imamura, 1961) ****
    63) Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970) ****
    64) Vanishing Point (Richard C. Sarafian, 1971) **
    65) The Offence (Sidney Lumet, 1972) ***
    66) Serpico (Sidney Lumet, 1973) ****
    67) Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) ***
    68) Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979) **
    69) Sophie's Choice (Alan J. Pakula, 1982) ***
    70) Tricheurs (Barbet Schroeder, 1984) **
    71) Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 1997) ****
    72) The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999) **

    Deleuze writes that Kafka's three primary affective tonalities are, first, fear or horror (expressed most fully in his letters and diaries, in which it is clearest that "Kafka is greatly afraid of people and what can happen because of them"); second, flight or escape (best seen in the short stories, in which Kafka attempts to enact a "becoming-animal" as a flight from subjective interiority with its constitutive guilt and its having-been-judged); third, dismantling, démontage (in the novels, the animalized characters--who are not always described as animals as in Gregor but who are nevertheless in process of flight--take a further step and become dis-individuated, surrounded in a numberless throng in which they can become small, imperceptible, no longer identifiable subjects).

    To these three tonalities correspond the three most common themes of Kafka interpretation: transcendence of the law; interiority of guilt; and subjectivity of the enunciation; so that the grand significance of Kafka's universe becomes the following: the law is operative only in its enunciation, which is identical to the act of punishment, and this enunciation/punishment is inscribed directly on the body, the flesh and even the real itself.

    Deleuze explores the three affective tonalities underlying these themes in an attempt to show that the themes and their grand significance (an Oedipal significance), with which most critics conclude their analyses, are no more than superficial movements that Kafka uses to guide his experiment in de-subjectivation, a project that aims to chart an alternative, non-Oedipal, non-psychologized mode of being and thus to find a movement out of neurosis.

    A merely unfaithful cinematic adaptation of Kafka, such as Soderbergh's, might mistake the grand significance for the project itself, missing the escape and the dismantling if not the fear, but retaining some glimmer of the project anyway, enough to situate the film within the universe.

    Welles's film refuses to recognize even the grand significance: the anxiety summoned within Anthony Perkins as K. is energetic and hysterical, never quite relating to the law as purely transcendent; physical threats are posed to K. who must race and hide as though in a suspense story (but this is the wrong sense of flight, having nothing to do with Kafka's mode of escape which is absent from the film--Soderbergh too errs in this way); and the instrument of K's execution/assassination transforms from the inscribing knife to a parodic bomb. It is a great film on its own mainly compositional merits, and some images are indelible, especially those dealing with the vast warehouse buraucracy, but, in so distorting the themes and the grand significance, the film places itself entirely outside the universe constituted by the interplay of the three tonalities. It is not a film about Kafka, nor a film of Kafka: a film of Welles.

  32. Hmm, I suspect that I until I 1) read more Kafka and 2) see the films, this is going to seem a bit doctrinaire....

  33. Max Renn says:

    Weeks 22-24
    In einem Jahr mit 13 Monden (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978) ****
    The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003) **

    As you can see, I have started reading in earnest for my exams . . .

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