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The half year in numbers

I’ve already posted my best for for the first six months of 2017 (well, obviously, not really six months – more like, “up to June”), and you can find it here. But what I usually do is also is work out what I’ve been reading and watching in terms of gender, genre and nationality.

books
Since 1 January, I’ve read forty-nine books, which is down on previous years. In fact, I’m running aroundna dozen books behind on reading challenge this year, and I set my target at 140 books despite managing 150 books last year.

In terms of gender, I’ve done quite well, as male and female authors are running neck-and-neck. I’ve not always alternated, which is what I try to do, but if I read a run of books by male authors, then I follow it with a run of female authors. I only track this for fiction, incidentally.

Genre-wise, I self-identify as a science fiction fan, but in recent years I’ve found myself reading less sf… Or so I thought. As you can see from the chart above, science fiction has accounted for 59% of my reading in 2017 so far, and mainstream only 13% (although if you add in the world fiction, a new category, it rises to 19% – and yes, I dislike the term “world cinema” but I wanted to track the books I’d read my non-Anglophone writers and “world fiction” seemed the easiest way to do it).

And speaking of “world fiction”, this year I’ve been tracking the nation of origin of the authors whose books I read. I’d imagined that since I read a lot of sf, most of my reading would compromise US authors, but it seems I actually read more UK sf than US. Quite a bit more, in fact. I’ve also made an effort this year to read fiction from other countries – hence the presence of Albania, Belarus, and Estonia. The Norwegian book was one I’d had my shelves for several years, the Bangladeshi one was the novel from which a favourite film was adapted, the Czech was an author whose books I like and have read previously, and the French ones are all bandes dessinées.

Finally, the decades in which the books I’ve read were published… I never think of myself as someone who always go for the new shiny, so it came as a surprise to see how much books of the last seven years dominate my reading. The 1990s was the decade in which I first became active in sf, so perhaps that accounts for its high showing.

films
I started recording the films I watched back in 2001, although I didn’t bother tracking rewatches of films I’d already seen until a year or two later. And it wasn’t until 2010 that I began noting down the country of origin of the movies. In the last few years, I’ve made an effort to watch more films from non-Anglophone countries – or, at the very least, to reduce the percentage of films I watch that are from the US.

Overall, counting all the films I’ve seen since 2001, US films account for 52% of my viewing. Happily, so far this year, that’s down to 23%. China is next at 13%, and then the UK at 10%. In 2017, I have to date watched movies from thirty-eight different countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark,Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, USA and Vietnam.

If I exclude rewatches, the total drops from 266 to 215 movies watched, the US rises to 25%, China drops to 12% and the UK to 9%. So I guess it wasn’t US films I mostly rewatched.

I also prefer to spread my viewing across the decades, and not just watch the latest films. But then, I do like me some 1950s cinema… although this year I seem to have watched more 1960s movies. And it’s weird that both the current decade and the last decade score exactly the same at 51 films each.

This year, I’ve also started tracking the gender of the directors of the films I watch. I know that most of the films I watch are made by men, but I was a little dismayed at how low the percentage of women director was, even though this year I’ve discovered some new female directors whose oeuvres I’d like to explore, such as Claudia Llosa and Lucía Puenzo. (Incidentally, “pair” means two or more directors, and “series” means television programmes.) Discounting rewatches and other films by the same director, I’ve actually watched films by 176 directors, but only a dozen of them were women. I need to improve that.

The genre of the films I watch: I tend to think of most films as “drama”, which is why that category is so big. And “animated” includes anime films, but not Disney ones, which, for some reason I decided to split out into a category of its own. Also, “wu xia” is a bit of a cheat, as not all of the films I classified as that are actually fantasy – some were big Chinese historial epic films. Oh, and I watched a few Elvis movies, so I felt he deserved his own genre too. But only 5% of the movies I’ve watched so far in 2017 were science fiction films… but then I’ve never been that big a fan of sf cinema, although I do rate a handful of sf films pretty highly.

Finally, I’ve been working my way through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list (the 2013 edition) for a couple of years, and so far in 2017, I’ve watched twenty-six films new to me from that list. The results have been… mixed. Some were good, some were merely okay, but none turned me into a fan of the director, as has happened in previous years. To date, I’ve watched 867 films on the list (some of them before I even started recording my film-watching), so that’s 33 to go… I’m unlikely to complete the list this year – I may never complete it, as some of the films are near-impossible to find. But we’ll see.


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Resolutions

At the beginning of every year, it is traditional to document a number of promises you will prove incapable of keeping throughout the following twelve months. But at least you mean well, or you wouldn’t be making such promises. They are, after all, meant to be improving. This is not a bad word, as some seem to think. We should improve ourselves. All the time. And New Year Resolutions (I apologise for the caps) are a good tool for doing so. But. They work better when they’re achievable, when they’re in your own gift, so to speak. It’s true, “I will sell a novel in 2017” could happen, but it’s someone else who makes the purchasing decision, no matter how much you network or self-promote…

And it’s precisely those sorts of personal target I’ve decided to set for my own resolutions in 2017:

  1. I will write more fiction. 2016 was not a productive year for me, thanks to the dayjob. That situation hasn’t changed – if anything, it’s likely to be worse. But I still want to make more time to write fiction. And finish off the third book of my space opera trilogy. I have plenty of ideas for stories, I just need to start putting pen to paper…
  2. I will watch more non-Anglophone movies than English-language ones. This one is relatively easy to implement – I’ve already changed my Amazon rental list so I get sent two world cinema films for every one Hollywood film. I just need to stick to it. I will, of course, continue to write about the films I’ve seen on my blog.
  3. I will read more widely in terms of geography. A few years ago I tried a “world fiction” reading challenge, and read a novel from a different country each month. I managed six months before it fell apart. In 2016, I read Erpenbeck, Mallo, Borges, Calvino, Müller, Blixen, Liu, Knausgård… all translated works. I’d like to read more books from more countries. I have a bunch of Arabic translated fiction sitting on my bookshelves, and a list of authors from various nations I’d like to try – most, sadly, non-genre. So I plan to go for it in 2017. I might even tackle some fiction written in another language (with a dictionary to hand). I’ll still maintain a gender balance in my reading, of course.
  4. I will write more non-fiction. I have… thoughts about science fiction. Some of them I’ve documented on this blog. I have also seen the genre change in the decades since I first started reading it. And those changes have been both good and bad. The “genre conversation” at present is a weak and feeble thing, partly propped up by the marketing departments of assorted genre imprints – I recently saw a small press magazine tweeting requests for support for authors published by a major genre imprint, WTF. The genre is in serious needs of its conversations, and it also needs to hold off on all those five-star reviews… I cannot change this, I do not have that power. But I can start writing about science fiction in a way that I think science fiction should be written about. This, I freely admit, is going to be the hardest resolution to keep.
  5. I will start reviewing again. Thanks to the dayjob I sort of dropped out of reviewing books for both Interzone and Vector. In fact, I sort of dropped out of contributing to pretty much anything. I shouldn’t have let that slide, and promise to get the two reviews I owe done as soon as I can.
  6. I’ll figure out what I’m going to do with Whippleshield Books. I set up Whippleshield Books so I could publish the Apollo Quartet, but I’d always planned to publish material by other writers. Unfortunately, my one attempt to do so – the anthology Aphrodite Terra – was pretty much ignored by everyone. Even the collection I rushed out for the Eastercon in 2016, Dreams of the Space Age, has sold only a handful of copies. Selling, and promoting, books required far more energy and time than I could devote to it last year, and much as I’d like to keep Whippleshield Books running in 2017 I’m not convinced I can give it that time and energy. I certainly don’t want to use it to publish only my own stuff – I have a collection of stories I’d like to see print, for example, but I’d sooner someone else published them.

I think that’s enough for now. I don’t want to get too ambitious. I didn’t even bother with any resolutions for 2016 – oh, except for one, the Reader Harder Challenge. But I promptly forgot about it, and seem to have read 13 of the 24 types of books in the challenge more by accident than by design. Anyway, the above half-dozen above are vague enough I should be able to a) remember them, and b) make a serious attempt at following them.

vintage-library

Of course, no one knows yet what 2017 will throw at us, although Brexit and Trump will certainly have major impacts. And not for the good. But there’s not a fat lot we can do about those since in the twenty-first century democracy apparently no loger means rule by the majority. We are in the hands of the Super Greedy, and they will take it all, even if it kills people, even if it crashes the global economy or the climate. If we survive 2017 more or less intact, it will be in spite of Trump and May, not because of them… And on that cheery note, I need to go finish off my last two Moving pictures posts of 2016…


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1001 movies…

Having worked my way through a substantial portion of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, it’s only natural I might want to create a similar list myself. After all, not every film I’ve seen from the list to my mind belongs on it; and there are a number of movies I think should have been on it but weren’t. So…

Unfortunately, picking 1001 films for such a list is easier said than done. I’ve watched a lot of films over the years, and a number of them were, I thought, excellent. But a thousand of them? And, of course, I’d want my list to have a good spread – across the decades, and across countries (and not have over half from the US, like the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list).

I’ve so far managed to put together around a third of my list:

1 Nosferatu, FW Murnau (1922, Germany)
2 La roue, Abel Gance (1923, France)
3 Our Hospitality, Buster Keaton (1923, USA)
4 Aelita, Yakov Protazanov (1924, Russia)
5 Strike, Sergei Eisenstein (1924, Russia)
6 The Great White Silence, Herbert G Ponting (1924, UK)
7 Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein (1925, Russia)
8 Metropolis, Fritz Lang (1927, Germany)
9 The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928, Denmark)
10 A Throw of the Dice, Franz Osten (1929, India)
11 Frau im Mond, Fritz Lang (1929, Germany)
12 Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov (1929, Russia)
13 Pandora’s Box, GW Pabst (1929, Germany)
14 Zemyla, Aleksandr Dovzhenko (1930, Russia)
15 City Lights, Charlie Chaplin (1931, USA)
16 Tabu, FW Murnau (1931, USA)
17 42nd Street, Lloyd Bacon (1933, USA)
18 Footlight Parade, Lloyd Bacon (1933, USA)
19 Gold Diggers of 1933, Mervyn LeRoy (1933, USA)
20 L’atalante, Jean Vigo (1934, France)
21 Tag der Freiheit, Leni Riefenstahl (1935, Germany)
22 Swing Time, George Stevens (1936, USA)
23 Things to Come, William Cameron Menzies (1936, UK)
24 La grande illusion, Jean Renoir (1937, France)
25 The Adventures of Robin Hood, Michael Curtiz (1938, USA)
26 La règle de jeu, Jean Renoir (1939, France)
27 Citizen Kane, Orson Welles (1941, USA)
28 Sullivan’s Travels, Preston Sturges (1941, USA)
29 The Maltese Falcon, John Huston (1941, USA)
30 Went the Day Well?, Cavalcanti (1942, UK)
31 Day of Wrath, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1943, Denmark)
32 Henry V, Laurence Olivier (1944, UK)
33 Ivan the Terrible Part 1, Sergei Eisenstein (1944, Russia)
34 Leave Her to Heaven, John M Stahl (1945, USA)
35 Mildred Pierce, Michael Curtiz (1945, USA)
36 Black Narcissus, Powell & Pressburger (1946, UK)
37 It’s a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra (1946, USA)
38 The Best Years of Our Lives, William Wyler (1946, USA)
39 Gentleman’s Agreement, Elia Kazan (1947, USA)
40 Spring in a Small Town, Mu Fei (1948, China)
41 The Third Man, Carol Reed (1949, UK)
42 Whirlpool, Otto Preminger (1949, USA)
43 Cinderella, Clyde Geronimi (1950, USA)
44 Orphée, Jean Cocteau (1950, France)
45 The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robert Wise (1951, USA)
46 Monkey Business, Howard Hawks (1952, USA)
47 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Howard Hawks (1953, USA)
48 Gion Bayashi, Kenji Mizoguchi (1953, Japan)
49 Madame de…, Max Ophüls (1953, France)
50 Shane, George Stevens (1953, USA)
51 The Cruel Sea, Charles Frend (1953, UK)
52 Les Diaboliques, Henri-George Clouzot (1954, France)
53 Magnificent Obsession, Douglas Sirk (1954, USA)
54 Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock (1954, USA)
55 All That Heaven Allows, Douglas Sirk (1955, USA)
56 Violent Saturday, Richard Flesicher (1955, USA)
57 Forbidden Planet, Fred M Wilcox (1956, USA)
58 High Society, Charles Walters (1956, USA)
59 The Burmese Harp, Kon Ichikawa (1956, Japan)
60 The Searchers, John Ford (1956, USA)
61 Les Girls, George Cukor (1957, USA)
62 Ivan the Terrible Part 2, Sergei Eisenstein (1958, Russia)
63 Mon oncle, Jacques Tati (1958, France)
64 Some Came Running, Vincent Minelli (1958, USA)
65 Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock (1958, USA)
66 Der Tiger von Eschnapur, Fritz Lang (1959, Germany)
67 Floating Weeds, Yasujiro Ozo (1959, Japan)
68 Imitation of Life, Douglas Sirk (1959, USA)
69 Nebo Zovyot, Valery Fokin (1959, Russia)
70 Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks (1959, USA)
71 Sleeping Beauty, Clyde Geronimi (1959, USA)
72 Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder (1959, USA)
73 The Best of Everything, Jean Negulesco (1959, USA)
74 The World of Apu, Satyajit Ray (1959, India)
75 A Cloud-Capped Star, Ritwik Ghatak (1960, India)
76 Knights of the Teutonic Order, Aleksandr Ford (1960, Poland)
77 L’avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni (1960, Italy)
78 Le testament d’Orphée, Jean Cocteau (1960, France)
79 Peeping Tom, Michael Powell (1960, UK)
80 Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock (1960, USA)
81 Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais (1961, France)
82 Lola, Jacques Demy (1961, France)
83 The Exiles, Kent Mackenzie (1961, USA)
84 8½, Frederico Fellini (1962, Italy)
85 Cleo from 5 to 7, Agnès Varda (1962, France)
86 Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean (1962, UK)
87 The Exterminating Angel, Luis Buñuel (1962, Mexico)
88 Ikarie XB-1, Jindřich Polák (1963, Czech Republic)
89 Le mépris, Jean-Luc Godard (1963, France)
90 Passenger, Andrzej Munk (1963, Poland)
91 Shock Corridor, Samuel Fuller (1963, USA)
92 The Haunting, Robert Wise (1963, USA)
93 The Leopard, Luchino Visconti (1963, Italy)
94 Culloden, Peter Watkins (1964, GB)
95 Gertrud, Carl Theodor Dreyer (1964, Denmark)
96 Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni (1964, Italy)
97 Woman of the Dunes, Hiroshi Teshigahara (1964, Japan)
98 Doctor Zhivago, David Lean (1965, UK)
99 Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Sergei Parajanov (1965, Russia)
100 The Ipcress File, Sidney J Furie (1965, UK)
101 The War Game, Peter Watkins (1965, UK)
102 Blow-up, Michelangelo Antonioni (1966, UK)
103 Fahrenheit 451, François Truffaut (1966, USA)
104 Falstaff – Chimes at Midnight, Orson Welles (1966, Spain)
105 Queen of Blood, Curtis Harrington (1966, USA)
106 The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo (1966, Italy)
107 Wings, Larisa Shepitko (1966, Russia)
108 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard (1967, France)
109 Les demoiselles de Rochefort, Jacques Demy (1967, France)
110 Playtime, Jacques Tati (1967, France)
111 The Firemen’s Ball, Miloš Forman (1967, Czech Republic)
112 Weekend, Jean-Luc Godard (1967, France)
113 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick (1968, USA)
114 Shame, Ingmar Bergman (1968, Sweden)
115 The Colour of Pomegranates, Sergei Parajanov (1968, Russia)
116 The Valley of the Bees, Frantisek Vlácil (1968, Czech Republic)
117 Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper (1969, USA)
118 Fellini Satyricon, Frederico Fellini (1969, Italy)
119 The Confrontation, Miklós Jancso (1969, Hungary)
120 The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah (1969, USA)
121 El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky (1970, Mexico)
122 Moonwalk One, Theo Kamecke (1970, USA)
123 Secrets of Sex, Antony Balch (1970, UK)
124 The Conformist, Bernardo Bertolucci (1970, Italy)
125 Zabriskie Point, Michelangelo Antonioni (1970, USA)
126 Get Carter, Mike Hodges (1971, UK)
127 Out 1, Jacques Rivette (1971, France)
128 Punishment Park, Peter Watkins (1971, USA)
129 Szindbád, Zoltán Huszárik (1971, Hungary)
130 The Third Part of the Night, Andrzej Żuławski (1971, Poland)
131 Wake in Fright, Ted Kotcheff (1971, Australia)
132 Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Werner Herzog (1972, Germany)
133 Cries and Whispers, Ingmar Bergman (1972, Sweden)
134 Eolomea, Hermann Zschoche (1972, Germany)
135 Love in the Afternoon, Éric Rohmer (1972, France)
136 Red Psalm, Miklós Jancso (1972, Hungary)
137 F for Fake, Orson Welles (1973, USA)
138 La Planète Sauvage, René Laloux (1973, France)
139 The Holy Mountain, Alejandro Jodorowsky (1973, Chile)
140 The Scarlet Letter, Wim Wenders (1973, Germany)
141 Effi Briest, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1974, Germany)
142 Dersu Uzala, Akira Kurosawa (1975, Russia)
143 Jeanne Dielmann, 23 Quaie de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Chantal Akerman (1975, France)
144 Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky (1975, Russia)
145 Man of Marble, Andrzej Wajda (1976, Poland)
146 The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nicolas Roeg (1976, UK)
147 Star Wars: A New Hope, George Lucas (1977, USA)
148 Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Bergman (1978, Sweden)
149 Alien, Ridley Scott (1979, UK)
150 All That Jazz, Bob Fosse (1979, USA)
151 Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola (1979, USA)
152 Christ Stopped at Eboli, Francesco Rosi (1979, Italy)
153 Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky (1979, Russia)
154 Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Robert Wise (1979, USA)
155 The Black Hole, Gary Nelson (1979, USA)
156 The Marriage of Maria Braun, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1979, Germany)
157 La naissance du jour, Jacques Demy (1980, France)
158 Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, Vladimir Menshov (1980, Russia)
159 The Big Red One, Samuel Fuller (1980, USA)
160 Man of Iron, Andrzej Wajda (1981, Poland)
161 The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Karel Resiz (1981, UK)
162 Time Bandits, Terry Gilliam (1981, UK)
163 Blade Runner, Ridley Scott (1982, USA)
164 Fitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog (1982, Germany)
165 Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio (1982, USA)
166 Crime and Punishment, Aki Kaurismäki (1983, Finland)
167 Krull, Peter Yates (1983, UK)
168 The Fourth Man, Paul Verhoeven (1983, Netherlands)
169 American Dreams (lost + found), James Benning (1984, USA)
170 Nineteen Eighty-four, Michael Radford (1984, UK)
171 No End, Krzysztof Kieślowski (1984, Poland)
172 A Simple Death, Aleksandr Kajdanovsky (1985, Russia)
173 Brazil, Terry Gilliam (1985, UK)
174 Calamari Union, Aki Kaurismäki (1985, Finland)
175 Come and See, Elem Klimov (1985, Russia)
176 Das Boot, Wolfgang Petersen (1985, Germany)
177 O-Bi, O-Ba. Koniec Cywilizacji, Piotr Szulkin (1985, Poland)
178 Ran, Akira Kurosawa (1985, Japan)
179 Blue Velvet, David Lynch (1986, USA)
180 The Fly, David Cronenberg (1986, USA)
181 Babette’s Feast, Gabriel Axel (1987, Denmark)
182 Royal Space Force: Wings of Honnemâise, Hiroyuki Yamaga (1987, Japan)
183 Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders (1987, Germany)
184 Yeelen, Souleymane Cissé (1987, Mali)
185 Distant Voices, Still Lives, Terence Davies (1988, UK)
186 On the Silver Globe, Andrzej Żuławski (1988, Poland)
187 Story of Women, Claude Chabrol (1988, France)
188 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Pedro Almodóvar (1988, Spain)
189 For All Mankind, Al Reinert (1989, USA)
190 Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Aki Kaurismäki (1989, Finland)
191 The Abyss, James Cameron (1989, USA)
192 The Seventh Continent, Michael Haneke (1989, Austria)
193 Close-up, Abbas Kiarostami (1990, Iran)
194 The Second Circle, Aleksandr Sokurov (1990, Russia)
195 The Sheltering Sky, Bernardo Bertolucci (1990, UK)
196 Delicatessen, Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro (1991, France)
197 Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Fax Bahr & George Hickenlooper (1991, USA)
198 La belle noiseuse, Jacques Rivette (1991, France)
199 Only Yesterday, Isao Takahata (1991, Japan)
200 The Double Life of Veronique, Krzysztof Kieślowski (1991, France)
201 Man Bites Dog, Belvoir, Bonzel & Poelvoorde (1992, Belgium)
202 Mięso (Ironica), Piotr Szulkin (1993, Poland)
203 Ocean Waves, Tomomi Mochizuki (1993, Japan)
204 Caro diario, Nanni Moretti (1994, Italy)
205 London, Patrick Keiller (1994, UK)
206 The KIngdom, Lars von Trier (1994, Denmark)
207 Apollo 13, Ron Howard (1995, USA)
208 Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch (1995, USA)
209 Deseret, James Benning (1995, USA)
210 Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Adtiya Chopra (1995, India)
211 Safe, Todd Haynes (1995, USA)
212 Underground, Emir Kusturica (1995, Serbia)
213 Lone Star, John Sayles (1996, USA)
214 Insomnia, Erik Skjoldbærg (1997, Norway)
215 Mother and Son, Aleksandr Sokurov (1997, Russia)
216 Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven (1997, USA)
217 The Fifth Element, Luc Besson (1997, France)
218 Festen, Tomas Vinterberg (1998, Denmark)
219 Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Karan Johar (1998, India)
220 Run Lola Run, Tom Tykwer (1998, Germany)
221 Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg (1998, USA)
222 Sliding Doors, Peter Howitt (1998, UK)
223 The  Thin Red Line, Terence Malick (1998, USA)
224 X-Files: Fight the Future, Rob Bowman (1998, USA)
225 Beau travail, Claire Denis (1999, France)
226 In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar-Wai (1999, China)
227 The Matrix, Wachowskis (1999, USA)
228 The Wind Will Carry Us, Abbas Kiarostami (1999, Iran)
229 Amores Perros, Alejandro González Iñárritu (2000, Mexico)
230 Kippur, Amos Gitai (2000, Israel)
231 Le goût des autre, Agnès Jaoui (2000, France)
232 Memento, Christopher Nolan (2000, USA)
233 Nine Queens, Fábian Bielinsky (2000, Argentina)
234 The Circle, Jafar Panahi (2000, Iran)
235 Water Drops on Burning Rocks, François Ozon (2000, France)
236 Werckmeister Harmonies, Béla Tarr (2000, Hungary)
237 X-Men, Bryan Singer (2000, USA)
238 A Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich, Chris Marker (2001, France)
239 Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, Zacharias Kunuk (2001, Canada)
240 Avalon, Mamoru Oshii (2001, Japan)
241 Mulholland Drive, David Lynch (2001, USA)
242 No Man’s Land, Danis Tanović (2001, Bosnia)
243 Secret Ballot, Babak Payami (2001, Iran)
244 Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki (2001, Japan)
245 The Discovery of Heaven, Jeroen Krabbé (2001, Netherlands)
246 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson (2001, USA)
247 8 femmes, François Ozon (2002, France)
248 City of God, Fernando Meireilles & Kátia Lund (2002, Brazil)
249 Divine Intervention, Elia Suleiman (2002, Palestine)
250 Hero, Zhang Yimou (2002, China)
251 Lilya 4-ever, Lukas Moodysson (2002, Sweden)
252 Russian Ark, Aleksandr Sokurov (2002, Russia)
253 Osama, Siddiq Barmak (2003, Afghanistan)
254 Zatoichi, Beat Takeshi (2003, Japan)
255 Atash, Tawfik Abu Wael (2004, Palestine)
256 Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel (2004, Germany)
257 Head-on, Fatih Akin (2004, Germany)
258 Moolaadé, Ousmane Sembène (2004, Senegal)
259 Primer, Shane Carruther (2004, USA)
260 Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow, Kerry Conran (2004, USA)
261 The Consequences of Love, Paolo Sorrentino (2004, Italy)
262 The Incredibles, Brad Bird (2004, USA)
263 Free Zone, Amos Gitai (2005, Israel)
264 Frozen Land, Aku Louhimies (2005, Finland)
265 Tsotsi, Gavin Hood (2005, South Africa)
266 Atomised, Oskar Roehler (2006, Germany)
267 Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón (2006, UK)
268 Daratt, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (2006, Chad)
269 Jar City, Baltasar Kormákur (2006, Iceland)
270 Lady Chatterley, Pascale Ferran (2006, France)
271 Ostrov, Pavel Lungin (2006, Russia)
272 Red Road, Andrea Arnold (2006, UK)
273 The Bothersome Man, Jens Lien (2006, Norway)
274 The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (2006, Germany)
275 The Yacoubian Building, Hamed Marwan (2006, Egypt)
276 In the Shadow of the Moon, David Sington (2007, UK)
277 La Antena, Esteban Sapir (2007, Argentina)
278 Paranormal Activity, Oran Peli (2007, USA)
279 The Band’s Visit, Eran Kolirin (2007, Israel)
280 Timecrimes, Nacho Vigalondo (2007, Spain)
281 XXY, Lucia Penzo (2007, Argentina)
282 Gomorra, Matteo Garrone (2008, Italy)
283 Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson (2008, Sweden)
284 She Should Have Gone to the Moon, Ulrike Kubatta (2008, UK)
285 Tears for Sale, Uros Stajonavic (2008, Serbia)
286 The Wedding Song, Karin Albou (2008, Tunisia)
287 About Elly, Asghar Farhadi (2009, Iran)
288 Ajami, Scandar Copti & Yaron Shani (2009, Israel)
289 Antichrist, Lars von Trier (2009, Denmark)
290 Cargo, Ivan Engler & Ralph Etter (2009, Switzerland)
291 Fish Tank, Andrea Arnold (2009, UK)
292 Hierro, Gabe Ibáñez (2009, Spain)
293 No One Knows About Persian Cats, Bahman Ghobadi (2009, Iran)
294 The Secret in their Eyes, Juan José Campanella (2009, Argentina)
295 The Time that Remains, Elia Suleiman (2009, Palestine)
296 The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke (2009, Germany)
297 Villa Amalia, Benoît Jacquot (2009, France)
298 Watchmen, Zack Snyder (2009, USA)
299 Women without Men, Shirin Neshat & Shoja Azari (2009, Iran)
300 Four Lions, Chris Morris (2010, UK)
301 Norwegian Ninja, Thomas Capellan Malling (2010, Norway)
302 Of Gods and Men, Xavier Beauvois (2010, France)
303 Troll Hunter, André Øvredal (2010, Norway)
304 Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik (2010, USA)
305 Apollo 18, Gonzalo Lopéz-Gallego (2011, USA)
306 Hanna, Joe Wright (2011, USA)
307 Sound of My Voice, Zal Batmanglij (2011, USA)
308 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher (2011, USA)
309 The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodóvar (2011, Spain)
310 Call Girl, Mikael Marcimain (2012, Sweden)
311 Dredd, Pete Travis (2012, UK)
312 John Carter, Andrew Stanton (2012, USA)
313 The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer (2012, UK)
314 Wadjda, Haifaa al-Mansour (2012, Saudi Arabia)
315 Europa Report, Sebastián Cordero (2013, USA)
316 Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón (2013, USA)
317 Nympho()maniac, Lars von Trier (2013, Denmark)
318 The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino (2013, Italy)
319 Upstream Colour, Shane Carruther (2013, USA)
320 Predestination, Michael & Peter Spierig (2014, Australia)
321 Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer (2014, UK)

At present, it breaks down as follows by country and decade.

1001FILMSBYCOUNTRY

1001filmsbydecade

There are still too many US films (29%) and too many from the first decade of this century (22%). There are some directors I’d like to include at least one work by, such as Otto Preminger, but I have yet to pick one. One or two of my choices may not make the final list, especially some of the science fiction films. But most choices I’m prepared to defend (although one or two – Queen Of Blood, for example – is just me being a bit perverse for the sake of it, although I do love the film…). One or two films I chose because of their influence on cinema, rather than because they are good films per se; but there are still a number of cinematic movements without representatives. Many of the films listed are personal favourites – that undoubtedly swayed my vote, but hey I have good taste in movies anyway…

There are also one or two directors who certainly belong on the list but I may not have chosen their best, or most obvious, films. Sometimes it’s because I much prefer the film I picked, sometimes it’s because I wasn’t sure which one to choose. I also need to watch more Bollywood films to see if more of those should make my list…. And more cinema from assorted African and South American countries… Not to mention exploring more of the oeuvres of world-class directors like Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray…

Of course, if there other movies which belong on this list that I’ve not listed, then feel free to name them in a comment. But please, don’t go suggesting loads of shitty Hollywood films. Yes, I’m going to need help to reach 1001 films, but I’m looking for good films…

Oh, and the first person to suggest The Force Awakens will be roundly chastised…


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Wait, fantasies in space? How does that work?

It looks like this film challenge thing I’m doing with Shaun Duke is becoming a regular, er, thing. After he met my last challenge of five films which complement my Apollo Quartet – see here – he tasked me with coming up with a list of “5 science fiction films which are basically fantasies in space, but which are not Star Wars. Ugh. That are “in your opinion and by your own criteria, good movies“. I suspect this is not possible – in fact, I know it’s not – so I’m going to cheat a little and pick films that are either good within the confines of their genre, or enjoyable irrespective of their quality. Because you’re not going to get some cheesy space fantasy that stands up there with anything by Tarkovsky or Bergman or Haneke or Kaurismäki or Sokurov or… Well, you get the, er, picture.

As for “fantasies in space”… yes, well, if not Star Wars is part of the definition then it must mean dumb space operas. And I can think of many examples, but they are almost universally pretty bad. There are no doubt lots of Japanese anime examples, and some of them may even be very good, but I’m not that familiar with anime.

Anyway, after much scratching of head and rootling through my DVD collection, I came up with following five. A couple may be obvious, one or two may invoke cries of shocked disbelief, and for a few I had to take “space fantasy” to mean “complete science fiction bollocks”.

johncarterJohn Carter, Andrew Stanton (2012). The obvious choice, and one that will no doubt have a few of you choking on your doughnuts. I loved this film from the moment I saw it in IMAX 3D, and I’ve watched it several times since on DVD. The production design is gorgeous, the CGI is seamless (the Tharks actually look almost real!), and the script is polished, with a structure which is far more sophisticated than the material deserved. It’s a crying shame Disney decided to sink it because it could have been the start of a bloody good franchise. But instead we’re going to get endless shit superhero movies, a vast cinematic retconning of the Star Wars universe, and increasingly dumber Star Trek sequels. Yay for tentpole sci-fi blockbuster movies…

flashFlash Gordon, Mike Hodges (1980). There’s much that cringe-worthy in this film, from the Queen soundtrack (there, I said it) to the cheesy dialogue to half the cast clearly belonging in a much superior film to completely non-entity Sam Jones in the title role. Having said that, you won’t find more sci-fic pomp and silliness in any other movie. Von Sydow, Wyngarde and Dalton plainly belong in a much better film; Topol, Muti and Blessed seem to have found their level. Melody Anderson actually makes a good Dale Arden. It is, in fact, hard to fault Flash Gordon as a piece of cheesy sf camp, but it’s a mistake to consider it anything more than that (and unlike some people, I ask more of my movies and books than they be mere entertainment).

planete_sauavageLa planète sauvage, René Laloux (1973). No film list put together by myself would be complete without at least one non-Hollywood film. While this is not usually difficult to achieve, for “fantasies in space” it’s proven something of a hurdle. I mean, only the US makes cheesy space operas. But I believe La planète sauvage qualifies because, while it initially describes an alien world in which primitive humans exist only in the wild, it soon turns weird and philosophical and all sort of wishy-washy and bonkers. The animation and production design throughout is distinctive and strange – it’s by Roland Topor – but it suits the story. Laloux’s later animated films were a bit Métal Hurlant, but La planète sauvage displays a unique vision. Definitely worth getting hold of a copy.

duneDune, David Lynch (1985). Heresy! Dune as a “fantasy in space”? I mean, I’ve always considered Dune science fiction, in space or otherwise, and I see no good reason to change that since it meets my definition of the genre. But since I also consider Star Wars science fiction, I feel this makes Dune allowable under Shaun’s somewhat baggy definition. And yes, Dune is a good film, and only fails at being a great film because the director couldn’t match his vision. But there are clues there if you watch the “television version” (which includes around an additional 45 minutes). It’s not so much the additional story that’s on the screen, and it’s certainly not the horrible prologue with its awful artwork. But the extended scenes set in the Imperial Court display an overly mannered presentation that works at the lengths shown in the television version much better than it does in the theatrical release. Plus, of course, the production design is superb. In fact, I’ll even forgive Lynch the “weirding module” and the rain at the end because everything looks so much like Dune should look. I currently own five DVD editions of Dune, so it’s probably about time I got it on Blu-ray. But which is the best Blu-ray version…?

battleBattle Beyond the Stars, Jimmy T Murakami (1980). Space operas – sorry, “fantasies in space” – don’t come cheesier than this rip-off of Star Wars. But it does possess a certain charm all its own, whether it’s because its plot is a beat-by-beat copy of The Magnificent Seven, or that the hero’s spaceship looks like a pair of breasts, or Sybil Danning’s double entendres, or the fact George Peppard was clearly pissed throughout the film, or that the entire thing looks like a series of episodes from a bad sf television series. But as low budget space operas go, it’s an enjoyable example. And Richard Thomas actually displays some impressive acting chops. The fact the script is by John Sayles also helps.

There are a number of other films I could have chosen, but it would have been stretching a point beyond breaking to describe them as “good” – such as… The Humanoid, Aldo Lado (1979), in which Richard Kiel plays the title role in an Italian Star Wars rip-off with production design that’s a weird mashup of 1970s near-future science fiction, Star Wars and Flash Gordon… Or Starcrash, Luigi Cozzi (1978), which manages to make zero sense but does include the immortal line, “Imperial battleship, halt the flow of time!”… Or Barbarella, Roger Vadim (1968), which has not aged well despite being based on a French bande dessinée… Or even Andrzej’s Żuławski’s Na srebrnym globie (On the Silver Globe)… Or spaghetti sci-fi Star Pilot, Pietro Francisci (1966), which apparently inspired some elements of Star Trek…

ETA: After much thought, I’ve decided on Shaun’s challenge. Five non-English language films featuring space travel, not including Solaris. Oh, and no more than two of them from Japan.


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2014 in numbers

Time to crunch some numbers on what I read and viewed during 2014. I don’t consider myself an especially fast reader, and I seem to throw away huge amounts of time I could have spent reading… There are still so many books sitting on my shelves that I really want to read but have yet to get around to… A situation not helped by buying more books that I really want to read. Likewise for films. Anyway…

books
During 2014, I read 149 books, which is up by 1 on 2013. Thirteen of those books were published during 2014. I alternated genders for my long fiction reading, and managed to read 50 novels/collections by women authors and 51 by men. The rest of the books I read were either anthologies, non-fiction or graphic novels (well, bandes dessinées). Twenty-three of those novels, collections or anthologies, I read to review on SF Mistressworks. Two were for Interzone, and one was for Vector. The remainder I mostly blogged about here.

booksbygender

I don’t normally read so much recent fiction, but during 2014 I joined the Worldcon – although I later sold my membership and didn’t attend – which allowed me to nominate works for the Hugo Award. I also managed to read a number of 2014 books during the year. I suspect the high number of fiction books published between 1961 and 1989 is a result of reading for SF Mistressworks.

booksbydecade

The bulk of my reading was, as is usual, science fiction at 41% – which is less than half, so that’s not too bad – and closely followed by mainstream (or literary) fiction at 18%. Fantasy manages 5% and horror only 1%. I did use a number of books on science fiction criticism and spaceflight as research for Apollo Quartet 4 All That Outer Space Allows, but the only research books I actually read were biographies.

booksbygenre

I should make more of an effort to read fiction by authors from other nations. More than three-quarters of my fiction reading was from the UK (38%) or USA (42%). But I did manage to read one or two novels/collections each from a further sixteen countries.

booksbynation

During 2014, I purchased – or was given, or sent for review – 217 books, of which 30 were published during 2014 and 23 were better editions of books I already owned. By the end of the year, I’d read 77 of those purchased books (although that figure does include books I’d read in earlier years but had not owned, or had purchased a better edition in 2014).

I had to munge a couple of categories together, due to the crappy chart-building website I’ve used. Even so, it’s clear that most of the books I bought were science fiction (38%), closely followed by mainstream (22%). I bought one horror book – a John Shirley collection – and, surprisingly, 11 fantasy books (most were probably freebies from Fantasycon). My book purchases by genre break down as:

boughtbygenre

It seems just over half (51%) of the fiction books I purchased in 2014 were by Brits. Less than a third were by Americans. The remainder are scattered across fourteen countries.

boughtbynation

The relatively high number of fiction book purchases from the 1920s is a result of buying a number of DH Lawrence paperbacks. The high number for this decade is due to Hugo Award reading and my habit of buying books the moment they’re released by favourite authors who are still writing. Otherwise, it doesn’t surprise me that the 1970s is the next highest decade, although only just. That’s also likely a result of reading for SF Mistressworks.

boughtbydecade

If I’ve done my sums correctly, I bought 194 new books during 2014 but only managed to read 149. Which means the TBR has grown by 45. Some of those book purchases were for research or reference, so not really the sort of books you read from cover to cover – but still. So far I’m managing to keep the TBR manageable by dumping at charity shops books that I’ve belatedly realised I’ll never get around to reading – but I really ought to make more of an effort to get the humungous TBR down to more realistic levels. At the last count, given my average reading speed, I could probably go for a good five or six years without having to buy another book before I ran out of stuff to read.

films
In 2014, I started on a new viewing project: watching all the films on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list. I’d already seen almost half, but I still had plenty of titles to track down. Mostly, I’ve been using Amazon rentals, but not every film on the list is available there so I had to buy a few of them. As a result, 2014 proved to be, well, a year of lots of film-watching. And I mean lots. By 31 December, I had seen 369 films… which is 182 more than in 2013. Basically, I watched two years’ worth of movies in twelve months. I managed this chiefly because Amazon changed my rental agreement so they sent out replacement DVDs as soon as I returned the ones I had, which pretty much meant I had three rental DVDs every weekend throughout the year (149 in total over the year, in fact).

I documented many of the films I watched in fourteen Moving Pictures posts on this blog. I still have one more – the fourteenth – to post. It should go up in a few days. Not every film I watched was any good, but several did become favourites. Around a third were rewatches (29%), and that includes several rewatches of All That Heaven Allows. Ninety-one of the films were from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list (25%), which puts my final total at 541 out of 1001.

By genre, my viewing was, unsurprisingly, not dominated by science fiction – I’m not that big a fan of sf cinema. It accounted for only 18% of the films I watched. The biggest genre was drama at 34%. The actual breakdown is:

filmsbygenre

Incidentally, the television series category doesn’t include two series I didn’t manage to complete during the year – The Jewel In The Crown (I need to read A Division Of The Spoils before I watch the last few episodes) and From the Earth to the Moon (I rewatched selected episodes as research for All That Outer Space Allows).

I’ve long been a fan of the cinema of nations other than the USA and UK – although those two nations do dominate my viewing. In my defence, most of the American films I saw in 2014 were classics. In total, I watched films from 25 different countries. Some films were actually multi-national efforts, in which case I’ve assigned them to whichever nation seemed dominant. The high number of Italian films is a surprise – I hadn’t realised I’d seen that many. Likewise for Russia… although I did rewatch several of Aleksandr Sokurov’s movies during the year. I’d expected Poland to score higher, given that I “discovered” both Piotr Szulkin and Andrzej Wajda during 2014. Denmark’s good showing will be from watching a bunch of films by von Trier and a rewatch of some Dreyer.

filmsbynation

I mentioned earlier that the bulk of films I watched were rental DVDs – 40% of my viewing, in fact. But almost half were from own collection (48%). The actual figures break down as:

filmsbysource

After claiming I don’t watch much twenty-first century Hollywood product, it seems most of the films I watched in 2014 were from the last four years. Oops. But at least the next highest decade was the 1950s. Altogether, I don’t think that’s too bad a spread. I could do with watching more films from the 1940s and 1970s. Likely I’ve seen most films released during the 1980s – or at least those I’d be interested in seeing from that decade. I’d like to watch more early cinema, but a lot of those films are hard to find on DVD – in the UK, anyway. In fact, the UK’s record on DVD releases is pretty poor.

filmsbydecade

I mentioned Piotr Szulkin earlier – I only got to watch his films because I ordered a DVD box set from Poland. I also bought several Region 1 DVDs, because the films had never been released in this country. And even a couple of Region A Blu-ray discs… only to discover my Blu-ray player was locked to Region B. Argh. That’s something I’ll have to address in 2015. There are even a handful of recent documentaries yet to appear in the UK that I really want to see – Jodorowskys Dune and James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge, for example. As soon as I get myself a region-free Blu-ray player, I’ll be getting Blu-rays of those from the US. There are also several favourite directors whose oeuvres are incomplete in the UK, but not in other countries – such as Douglas Sirk, Aleksandr Sokurov, Andrzej Żuławski, Miklós Jancsó or Sergei Parajanov. Having said that, much praise to the BFI and Second Run DVD for continuing to release excellent films on DVD and Blu-ray.