Thursday, January 10, 2013

Getting Acquainted: A look back

I don't want to gaze at my own navel too much today, but at least on a personal blog that you can choose to read or not to read, that kind of thing generally gets a pass.

Still, I thought it would be useful to look back on the Getting Acquainted series I just completed after nearly two years, which, with a couple breaks, resulted in a total of 20 posts. That's in part because I started this series for a reason, and I want to see if I accomplished the goal I set out to accomplish.

Actually, I'm fudging the history a bit there. See, before I did Getting Acquainted, watching three movies per month by directors and actors I needed to get to know better, I did a six-month series called Decades, which featured three movies per month from the decades between 1920 and 1970. In truth, I started Decades in order to accomplish the goal that I continued to explore in Getting Acquainted: namely, to give myself a regular schedule for watching older movies, which otherwise might get postponed indefinitely.

If you remember this post from July of 2010, you know that my thesis was that I am an expert on recent movies, but somewhat limited in discussing older films. Oh, I was still a lot more proficient with older cinema than your average person, even when I first wrote this -- but maybe not more than your average cinephile. I wanted to bring that proficiency level up, and I hope I have.

In the aforementioned post, I gave a breakdown by decade of the films I'd seen that were released prior to the year 2000. Here was that breakdown:

1990s: 879
1980s: 418
1970s: 134
1960s: 66
1950s: 43
1940s: 29
1930s: 23
1920s: 8
1910s: 2
1900s: 1

And here's the breakdown today:

1990s: 904
1980s: 443
1970s: 152
1960s: 85
1950s: 64
1940s: 44
1930s: 30
1920s: 15
1910s: 2
1900s: 1

So every decade from the 1940s onward gained at least 15 films in two-and-a-half years. The 1920s and 1930s gained seven apiece. What can I say, I'm still a bit wary of the really old films. (I watched none from the 1900s or 1910s during this period.)

My newness bias definitely still exists, as the 1980s and 1990s gained the most films with 25 apiece. The 1960s actually gained one more than the 1970s, 19-18, even though I'm on record saying that the 1970s were the best decade in the history of filmmaking. (Looking at my stats, I should probably say that this is more a theory of mine than something I observe in practice.) Interestingly, the 1950s gained more than either of the two decades that came after them, with 21 films since July of 2010.

Of course, the most recent films are still the most dominant. During that same period since July of 2010, I saw 494 films that have come out since 2000. What are you gonna do.

But let's look at it another way. In July of 2010, I'd seen 307 film movies that were released before 1980. Now I've seen 393. So that's 86 more movies, or 22% of the total movies I've seen from before 1980. Not bad. Not bad at all.

And another way: Part of the reason I wanted to stop doing Getting Acquainted was because I found it too limiting. By watching older movies only according to a monthly theme, I was preventing myself from catching the random one-off movies, the ones that didn't fit into the theme. Those are the ones I want to spend my time on now, instead of having to find two other movies by the same director, or with the same star, and fitting them into the monthly schedule in order to see them.

Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Okay, enough of this. Before I put Getting Acquainted to bed for good, let's give out some awards:

Favorite new acquaintance: Carl Theodor Dreyer (director, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Day of Wrath, Ordet)
Least favorite new acquaintance: Edward D. Wood Jr. (director, Glen or Glenda?, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Bride of the Monster)
Acquaintances I wished I'd gotten on the schedule, and would have if I'd continued: Yasujiro Ozu, Luis Bunuel, The Marx Brothers
Acquaintances I wished I'd left off the schedule: The Three Stooges
New acquaintance I thought I would love but didn't (biggest disappointment): Federico Fellini (director, La Strada, La Dolce Vita, Amarcord)
New acquaintance I liked much better than I thought I would (biggest surprise): James Cagney (actor, Angels With Dirty Faces, Yankee Doodle Dandy, White Heat
Best film I discovered through this series: The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
Film I found most trying: Faces (1968, John Cassavetes)
Biggest regret: Out of 20 personalities I focused on, only three were women, all of them actresses.
Happiest about: Despite logistical obstacles and periods where everything felt pretty tedious, I never bailed, and managed to write each post at least by the 10th of the following month.

Okay, end navel gazing now. 

Next week: I'll announce my new monthly series, which may begin as soon as this month, but more likely February. It'll only require a single viewing per month, I'm pleased to say.

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