Since it’s a truth self-evident that it is impossible to have a good time going out on New Year’s Eve, I, the sensible but sad person that I am, stayed in and watched a film to celebrate the close of 2016. It had been a pretty bumpy ride, obviously, so a friend and I chose to watch Bone Tomahawk on Netflix as a form of escapism or, more cynically, eye bleach. As midnight ticked by and fireworks obscured most of Kurt Russell’s dialogue, I realised that I had watched a film every single day of 2017, so far. I could start anew, for a better 2017: a new year’s resolution, of sorts. And so in an effort to educate myself by exposure, I decided to watch 365 films this year. Some have called me a maverick, but I don’t let this dissuade me, as the situation isn’t really all that serious.
About a month into proceedings, a few things have become clear. A potted Instagram review and some limited statistics for each film have revealed a lot to me about modern films, my tastes and the relative value of different ways of viewing the films themselves. By the end I may even have some graphs.
With about thirty films under my belt so far, the first really apparent thing I’ve learned is what a staggering proportion of good (or even great) films go unnoticed by the major awards ceremonies. Since we haven’t yet broken through the drudgery of 2017’s awards season, for the moment I’ll ignore Jackie and Silence; so far this year I’ve only seen five Academy Awards flash before my eyes, and all but one were from a single film, A Beautiful Mind. Awards seem to cluster heavily around a small coterie of films and people, and when one film strikes a chord, all the other great films of the year miss out. Initially I thought I might be smashing my way through Oscar winner after Oscar winner, but it turns out that I far prefer the grunge and risk of a Trainspotting to the polish of a tragic biopic with an ensemble cast.
Watching so many films in such a limited time has also begun to impress upon me precisely how cookie-cutter films are, even those that are celebrated. Child 44 and Fury both had impressive casts and impeccable production design, but the wealth of talent behind them couldn’t disguise the fact that they were both overlong exercises in playing out movie tropes that are as old as I am. I’ve stipulated that I won’t allow myself to include a film that I watched in 2016 in my 365, but during Fury I found myself wishing that I was watching Saving Private Ryan for the sixteenth time instead.
What’s also clear is that the length of a film is infinitely more important to those fitting the film into a schedule, which might explain why critics often pre-emptively gnash their teeth at films that break the two-hour mark. When I return home from any of my six testing contact hours, I rarely feel the need to settle into Tarantino’s latest 190-minute serving of genre fetishism. I could watch two critically acclaimed documentaries in that time and not hear any racial slurs at all. A very large proportion of modern films would not be made any worse at all if they lost thirty minutes of their runtime, and my challenge would be made a little easier in the process.
Finally, it is another point of convenience that rears its head. Of the thirty or so films so far, I’ve streamed more than two-thirds from either Netflix or Amazon, and it looks like that trend will continue, especially if these services keep adding new films at a reasonable rate. Never have I got such incredible value from my Netflix subscription, and never have I been able to access such a wide variety of films at such short notice. People who say that Netflix or Amazon’s film selection is poor haven’t looked very hard, since my to-watch list is about thirty-strong at any one time, and I seem to be adding suggestions as quickly as I watch them, which must be significantly quicker than most users. I do also have a pile of DVDs which I have yet to watch, and they provide a certain security as nobody can deprive me of access to them, but nevertheless an entire shelf in my bedroom will still only provide about a month’s worth of sustenance on this gruelling schedule. Simply put, since I am not a millionaire, streaming services have made this challenge possible.
This situation will, I fear, inevitably change towards the sixth or seventh month. I will have to delve deeper into the pile of DVDs free with various national newspapers that I have scavenged. I will have to watch black and white or perhaps even silent films. I will have to watch some films on Netflix that have low ratings or unfamiliar origins. I might even have to watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. I am hoping that this apocalyptic situation will never occur, but I expect to be getting pretty desperate by November.