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What I’m Watching

I feel like now’s a good time to remind everyone just how crazy I am.

That is, I’m not sure anyone truly knows the depths of my insanity when it comes to movies. You know about me and the Oscars, that’s pretty out in the open. But unless you read this site consistently or dig around, you don’t necessarily know what it is I’m working on at any given time. So let’s remedy that.

I’m not referring to what’s going up on the site, because, for the tens of you who even bother to read this, this year’s been a wasteland for new material. Those of you who actually know me on a personal level know why that is. I was supposed to get the Top Ten lists done, and instead only got up to 1989, leaving me 30 to go. Shit happens. And then apart from that, we’re about to hit my busy season, which means you’re about to go from almost none of me to a lot of me. From here through the end of February, there will be a total of like, two days max that go by without at least one written post (and they’ll be this week, so they’ll be gone fast). It’s Oscar season, baby.

What I meant, though, when I said “what I’m watching” is the stuff that I’m currently working on. Because I don’t think people understand just how deep in the lab I am at any given moment. Most people just think, “Oh, Mike, he’s seen everything.” And my response to that is always, “I haven’t. But I’m working on it.” So for the absolutely no one who cares, here’s what I’m working on.

Hopefully you all know about the Oscar Quest. That’s the reason this site exists, and that was the bread and butter of this site for a long time. But it was an incomplete achievement. I only ended up watching the top six major categories. At the time it was just to feed my Oscar obsession and get myself to have seen more movies that I ought to have seen. And I dined out on that for a while, writing up all the categories, moving onto different things and then eventually coming back and updating my thoughts five years after the fact. But I was always very conscious of the fact that I didn’t really complete it. I completed it in the sense that there were four walls and a roof, and it sure looked like a house, but you couldn’t really live in it properly. So what I did was set out to furnish that Oscar house. You know, turn this Oscar house into an Oscar home.

I had already (save five films that only exist in print form at various archives) watched all the Picture, Director and acting category nominees. So I said, “Let’s do the rest of them.” Which, of course, is not truly all of them quite yet. Until I’ve physically seen everything, it’s not totally completed. But one step at a time.

The plan was to watch everything outside of all the shorts categories, Documentary and Foreign Language Film. The shorts is because that’s a whole other undertaking, Documentary is because I regard those as separate from features, and Foreign Language is just because it feels like it would be too hard at the moment to try to force in. The idea is for me to be excited to be doing this. That would just make it feel like too much and make me not want to do it. So we left it aside.

But don’t worry, even if I’m not getting to those categories just now, we have Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling, Score, Song, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing Sound Editing and Animated Feature to keep me company. That takes us from 6 categories to 19. I think that’s a sufficient enough jump for now.

For anyone tracking my progress, you can do so here, at the Complete Oscar Quest page. That shows everything I currently have left to watch, and is updated as I watch each new one.

For those who don’t want to click (or those who did and don’t want to spend the time counting every film on the page), here’s the count: I’m currently down to 463 films left. I have 422 of them in my possession and simply need to watch them to take them off the list. Though there are currently 41 left to find. But that’s for a more in depth conversation about that specifically. That can be an aside for anyone who truly cares enough to get into that discussion. Ostensibly, all you need to know is that I’ve got 463 films left before I’ve seen basically every movie ever nominated for an Oscar. (And then I’m sure once that’s done, I’ll start working my way through Foreign Language, Documentary and the shorts categories.)

Also of note, for those keeping track — when the initial Complete Oscar Quest article went up (I always post the first one as both a page and an article to see where I’m at in the moment I officially announce that I’m doing something) Memorial Day weekend last year, I was at 785 Oscar movies. So in 18 months, I’m almost nearing the halfway point. Which is solid. And means that I’ll probably, with any luck, be under 300 by this coming Memorial Day.

BUT, that’s not the only list I’m working on. It goes under the radar because I first announced I was doing it… actually I announced it three years ago to the day. But trust me, I’ve been working on it for longer than that. (The first sentence of my article announces it says I teased it three years before that.) 2012 is when, in my head, I started working on it. But the “official” start went up three years ago today. That’s the Directors List.

For those who don’t know what that is — after doing the Oscar Quest, and writing up short versions of Top Ten lists (back in the early days, I did Top Tens of the Decade lists where I’d throw a decade of top tens on at once, just to sort of recommend movies to people. I’ve since greatly expanded on those, which we’ll get to), I said, “What if I did top ten director lists next?” So I came up with a list of like, 100 directors, and was gonna rank my ten favorite films of theirs.

But then, some directors I wanted on didn’t have ten films yet. Say they had nine. Do I just do five and cut off the other four? And then, in other cases, I felt like I couldn’t properly rank my ten favorite films of a director without having seen certain films of theirs. Sure, you’ve seen fifteen Martin Scorsese movies and can rank your top ten, but you haven’t seen either King of Comedy or Last Temptation. Can you still truly rank your top ten? For me, in hypothetical cases like that, I couldn’t. So it became, “Okay, I’ll just watch these handful of films for these directors” … and then it became, “I’ll just watch all their movies and rank my top ten” … and then it became, “Well I’ll just watch all their movies and rank all of them. Because why limit it to ten?” … and then it became, “Well why are these people on and not these other people?” You see where this is going. This is how the Oscar Quest happened.

So 100 names in 2012 became 506 in 2015. When the initial list officially went live, I put, for posterity, the list of directors who were on it at the time. Which numbered 506. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t count to see where the list is currently at. And that would be at 718 directors. Technically two of them are repeats, since I have Chaplin and Keaton on there for both features and shorts, since shorts are just as important to their directorial careers as the features. Also, I counted very quickly, so there may be a margin of error on that number. Still, what can it be, like 5, +/-? I’ve still added over 200 names in three years. The point is, it’s growing and is a constantly moving target. I didn’t make it easy on myself.

So yeah, I’ve got over 700 directors, and I’m trying to watch all of their movies. (I told you I was crazy.)

Probably around the time that list went live, I made a concerted effort to try to get copies of as many of the films as I could, just so I didn’t have to think about finding stuff I wanted to watch and could just knock stuff off. Of course, now, there’s gotta be like 6,000 movies on that thing that I still have left to see. I don’t know that total at the moment. But what I do know is that I’m at (around) 930 films left to find. So, if I’ve got 900 left to find, the total of what I have to watch must be at least four or five times that.

I started with the big two lists, which are, in a lot of ways, the scary two. (Oh, yeah, there’s more. In case you thought we were done.)

The other one that I was working on from like, last April through this April, was the Top Ten lists. That is to say, I wanted to expand on those Top Tens of the Decade lists and make one proper list for each year. I do a Top Ten list at the end of each calendar year, so why shouldn’t I have one for every year? So I started working on one for every year from 1930 to now. I had already done the earlier ones, so I the basic frameworks were already there. Really all I needed to do was update them for all the new movies I’d seen after the lists went up, and then look at which movies for each year I’d not seen. Because, like the initial Directors List, I said, “Can I really put up (this year) without having seen (these movies)?” So I basically went year by year, combing through and saying, “Which of these do I need to see?” So from 1930 to like 2010, I watched anywhere between 5 and 30 movies per year to make sure I was sufficiently versed in the year to say which films I liked the most.

Mostly I think what I did was try to make sure each year fit a certain threshold. I wanted each year to have, at minimum, a top ten and an 11-20. So every single year on those lists has at least that. But, in actuality every year except 1930 has more than that. 1931-1938 have 10 movies in a tier two (so 30 altogether), and then every year from 1939 through 1989 has a full top ten, 11-20 and a tier two of 20 films (40 in all). 1957 and 1964 both have 10 films in a tier three, but not a full tier three. That’s all I’ve managed to post so far. I still need to finish writing up 1990 to present. Though, I guess I should also mention — 1993 to 1998 have a full tier three (60 films in all), and then 1999 to present all have a full four tiers of films (80 total).

So yeah, aside from those other two lists, I was also going year by year and watching a bunch of stuff in order to make sure each year met the Top Ten threshold of all the others around it. Which means, if you’re paying attention, it’s not just that I watched a bunch of movies from each year… I had to like the movies enough to put them on my list. So say I had seven spots to fill. And I watched ten movies. Sure, I targeted those ten to make sure they were most likely gonna go on, but say I watched all ten and only really liked four of them enough to put on the list. That means I had to watch more in order to get those remaining three to reach my self-imposed quorum.

This is all, by the way, on top of the fact that I still watch just about everything that comes out in the current year. Which just continues to increase year by year. If you look at my totals from when I started the website to now, you’ll see my total for each year go up. 178 in 2011, 208 in 2012, to 237 in 2013, to 314 in 2014, to 345 in 2015, to 411 in 2016, to 442 last year. Currently I’m at 403 for 2018, and am on pace to easily beat last year’s total.

You can track my progress in that at any time on the Films I’ve Watched Since Graduation page, which chronicles, as it suggests, every new movie I’ve seen.

I guess that makes it a good time to point out that, as of this posting, I’ve watched 5,978 movies since graduating college. Graduation was just over 8½ years ago. So if you average that out, I’m watching just over 700 new movies a year. Which makes it just about two movies a day. I think that’s impressive (aside from all the other stuff it is. I did warn you). Especially since I’m not counting stuff I’ve seen before that I rewatch.

The part that’s still stunning to me is this: last October, I remember, that Sunday the weekend it came out, Blade Runner was my 5,000th new movie since graduation. Which means that in just under 14 months, I’ve watches almost 1,000 movies. And odds are I’ll get to 1,000 by the time I hit 14 months even. That’s nuts to me. I know I did make it a goal in the past 18 months or so to try to get my average up from 675 movies a year to 700. But I didn’t think I’d manage that so easily. I just sort of said that as a, “Wouldn’t that be nice?” Put it this way, if I somehow watch 592 new movies between now and Memorial Day (unlikely, but theoretically possible), I bring my average up to 730 movies a year, which is exactly two movies a day. That could happen. I wouldn’t rule anything out with me.

So all of that — what this means is, in the past two years, I have not only been watching all the new stuff that comes out (more so than I really would need to in order to maintain my status of “watch everything”), I’ve also been working off my Complete Oscar Quest list, my Directors List, and have been going year by year to fill out Top Ten lists. So at any given time, I could be watching something that counted for three separate lists. It could be a movie from 1962 that was nominated for Best Sound Mixing and also be directed by, I don’t know, Anthony Mann. In that situation, that’s three lists where I’ve checked something off.

I will say that finished watching stuff for the Top Ten lists months ago. So now I’m down to just the Complete Oscar Quest and the Directors List as my main two lists.

Oh… right.

My bad, there are more lists that I’m forgetting about.

That wasn’t a set up, that was me legitimately forgetting that they’re there. Because, while I am technically trying to work my way through them, they’re not really a priority and are more, “If I check something off, cool. But I have more important things to work on before these become something I focus on.” Those two are all the National Board of Review winners and all the Golden Globe nominees.

For anyone around in the early days, I mentioned that the Oscar Quest did initially include all the corresponding Globe nominees too, but I eventually jettisoned them by the time I got around to starting the site. NBR I deliberately started doing around 2012/2013, because every year I say how much I love their choices and how they more closely reflect my own tastes than any other voting body. (They announce tomorrow, by the way, and I’m gonna say it again then too.) So I’ve had the entire list of nominees set aside for a long time in the hopes of one day going year by year and showing just why I think they’re the best precursor Oscar group out there and why they don’t get nearly as much respect as they deserve. The Globes I just sort of added on as a thing to do in the past six months because I figured, “Why the hell not?”

Both of them exist in the background of the other lists. If I’m going through one of the other lists and see an NBR or Globes designation next to a film, that just gives it a little bit of a boost over something that doesn’t have that mark in terms of what I’m gonna watch next. NBR I mark when I’ve seen one of those nominees, but the Globes I just go back every few months and cross off everything I’ve seen since the last time I checked.

The two big notes there — NBR I have 9 films left to get a hold of, and then I’ll have a copy of everything they’ve ever nominated. The Globes, I haven’t bothered to check, but so much of them cross list with the Oscars that once I finish my Complete Oscar Quest, I’ll only have like 100 Globes films left to have seen them all. Which is why I decided to go back to them, because at that point, it’ll be easy to just knock them off and say I’ve seen them all too. But for now those are just kind of there as supplementary lists just to have.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at. Three major lists at all times, and two minor ones.

Currently I’m trying to finish the last of the 2018 films, and in between, sprinkle in some Oscar movies. I really only have like, four proper weeks left of watching new stuff, since once we get to the last ten days of December, that’s when I go into full “rewatch” mode, to try to figure out just what I’m gonna do with my Top Ten for this year.

Oh, and for anyone interested in my methodology in working my way through the lists (pretty sure it’s just me, in the future, who would remotely care about this), let’s get into that.

The 2018 stuff is pretty obvious — see stuff as it comes out/when I can. Of the other two, the Complete Oscar Quest has become the primary list and the Directors List is secondary, because the former is significantly smaller than the latter and can be completed in a timely fashion. So the Directors List, for the moment, is a filter for how I’m going about the Oscar list.

The Oscar list is being broken down into three stages. Those are: 1) American or foreign, 2) Directors List or not, 3) run time.

There was an initial stage, 1a, which was number of nominations. The first thing I did was watch any movie that had more than one nomination. There were 120 of those. (I’ve since watched all but 10 of them. 8 are foreign and 2 I’ve been unable to find as of yet.) Once those were done, I moved onto the three stages I’m currently at.

What I did was take all the foreign films and set them aside to watch last. I won’t watch them last, but I set them aside at the start because I knew they would only slow me down. When you’ve got almost 800 movies to watch, you really just wanna make as much headway as you possibly can. And for me, that was saving the foreign stuff. Because I have to focus on most foreign films. American films, especially studio era stuff, that’s easy for me. So foreign films are set aside.

Then, what I did, was see which films also were on my Directors List. Those that were went into a Tier A and those that weren’t went into Tier B. And then after that, I looked up run times for each of the films so I could do this next part.

After the films with multiple nominations were all gone, the first thing I did was, starting with all the films that were also part of the Directors List, watch the ones that were over 2½ hours long. At that point, when they all have one nomination apiece, you have to find some sort of method to go through them. The Directors List only does so much. I could have gone by decade, but that gets monotonous. So I figured, let’s do the hard stuff first. So I started watching the longest ones first.

Once I got everything under 2½ hours, I then started watching everything over 2 hours. I did it in ten minute increments. The 140-150 minute films, then the 130-140 minute films, then 120-130. When that was done, I watched anything over 110 minutes. I’m currently watching everything over 100 minutes. I have 31 left to go there. Once that’s done, I have 153 movies left in the section, all of which are under 100 minutes and cross-list with my Directors List. So when I watch any of them, I’m crossing off both an Oscar movie and adding to my Directors List.

Then once that section is done, I have 173 films that aren’t part of the Directors List but are Oscar nominees (only 13 of which are over 2 hours), and 63 foreign films (of which, 31 cross list with my Directors List). And then there’s the 41 I’ve been unable to find. But I can’t do anything about those except keep looking for them. But it’s not so bad. 185 Oscar/Directors List films, and then 236 of the non-Directors List and foreign nominees. I’m thinking once I get that initial 185 out of the way, I’ll just throw everything into a giant pot and work my way through it by run time, and mixing on foreign films as I go.

Then once that’s done, shit… it’s just the Directors List. It’s probably been a good two years since I’ve had only the Directors List to work on. (And remember: that’s like, what, 6,000 movies in all. Only…) I remember there was a time where I was trying to knock off all the really long Directors List movies, and I think I managed to get almost all of it under 130 minutes. But like I said, it’s been probably two years since I’ve been able to just focus on those movies, so I don’t even know where that’s at. And judging from where the Oscar Quest is, my guess is I’m not getting back to just having the Directors List to work off of until at the very earliest end of next summer.

But yeah. That’s all the movie stuff I’m working on watching at any given time. How’s your watch list working out for you?

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One response

  1. MasonEvansSr

    Would you ever consider expanding the Oscar Quest to analyze more categories than just acting, picture, and director? I’d love to see what your thoughts on screenplay categories would be.

    November 27, 2018 at 7:18 am

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