2005: A Film Odyssey

In 2005 Adam Hewitt made a New Year’s resolution to watch a film a day for the entire year. How did he cope?

In the dark days that saw out 2004, I made my first ever New Year’s Resolution. In 2005, I would watch a new film every day. Amidst howls of derision from my peers (“It’s impossible”, “You’re wasting your life”), I firmed up my plans for this odd challenge and waited for January 1 to roll around.

A ‘day’ would end when I went to sleep for the night, and a ‘film’ would be anything which had a theatrical release, or that potentially could have done. ‘Feature-length’ television episodes wouldn’t qualify, although ‘feature-length’ documentaries would be fine. If it proved really hard to decide whether something was a film I’d invoke the famous U.S. Supreme Court judgement on what constitutes ‘obscene’ pornography – “I know it when I see it” – and just ask myself whether I thought it counted. Getting hold of enough films would require the most efficient possible use of Blockbuster’s Unlimited DVD Rental scheme, combined with the library, the cinema and (when times were lean) television. All seemed set for a great year, even though I knew I would be spending an eighth of my total waking hours of 2005 glued to a screen.

After a shaky beginning – having spent New Year’s Day in Edinburgh hunting through the DVD collection of a friend’s housemate for anything that looked half-decent and ending up with the decidedly half-decent The Good Girl – the year got off to a good start. January saw recent brilliance (City of God, Shaun of the Dead) mixed with absolute classics (Chinatown, The 39 Steps) and the frankly unclassifiable Eraserhead (David Lynch’s oddest moment, and that’s saying something).
My first real challenge came in February; after a night out, very drunk, very tired, and in no mood for spending three hours watching The Godfather, I scoured a housemate’s DVDs for the shortest film I could find…Garfield. Not my finest hour, in any sense; but I think that spending the entire afternoon of the next day with Brando and Pacino made up for it in the eyes of the Cinema gods.

Happiness gave me my first taste of the controversial genius of Todd Solondz so I hunted down everything else he’s made – disappointingly, only three other films. His Palindromes was an absolute highlight, as was discovering two true auteurs who helped make my year: Mike Leigh and Akira Kurosawa. Of thirteen Leigh films over the year, All or Nothing was a favourite – a deeply British and deeply brilliant drama. Twelve Kurosawa films likewise peppered my 2005, all chosen by Kurosawa’s biggest fan, the crossword compiler for this very publication.

After much consideration, I have decided that Before Sunset was my favourite of the year, edging out strong competition. The thirty or so masterpieces which I do not have space to mention more than make up for the few duds and stinkers which I will; Garfield, Slugs, Dune, Anger Management and Doom were the most egregious sinners against cinema of my 2005. ‘Troy: A Documentary’ was by far the worst ‘feature-length’ documentary I have ever seen. I thought it might provide some useful background information for my Homer module, but in fact it left me slightly stupider than I was before – they seemed to have got most of the details from the film of the same name, for one thing.

Finding the time to watch a film a day was often difficult (I’ve never been more thankful that I do an Arts degree) and sometimes required planning, such as remembering to take my laptop and Nosferatu to London on a day-trip. Power cuts, for most a minor annoyance involving candles, turned for me into desperate attempts to prise DVDs out of the machine and hopeful prayers that my laptop had some battery left. Time constraints once even forced me to drive to Manchester halfway through The Searchers, and watch the second half when I got there.

Shamefully, my film year challenge may have even played a part in my decision not to make it up to Scotland for the ‘Make Poverty History’ march. Fortunately, my year was exam-free and planning around normal work and essays was easy enough; I refuse to correlate my general downward shift in grades during 2005 with anything but my course getting harder. I guarantee that having spent two hours a day watching a film will, ultimately, prove more useful to my life than if I had spent those hours working…

As fun as the year was, watching Night of the Living Dead on December 31 I could not wait for the lead character to die so I would finally be free. Freed from the time-sapping, life-wasting, totally worthwhile ‘Film Year’. At least I will not forget 2005 in a hurry

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