After realising in June I would easily do 50 films at the cinema in 2018, I doubled it to 100. And by the end of the year I’d seen 105 showings.
There were some duplicates: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Avengers Infinity War (once in IMAX, once is 2D), and Crazy Rich Asians I saw twice each. Three Billboards surprised me because I thought it was going to be one of those dreadfully worthy Oscar films, so I saw it early and thought it was great, so when a friend who couldn’t get to the cinema much wanted to see it again, I agreed. Avengers Infinity War I could’ve left at one viewing but a friend wanted to see it in IMAX and it was certainly worth it for some of those epic views of Wakanda, but not a film that needs a second viewing. And Crazy Rich Asians I had the chance to see on preview, and then with some friends who have Chinese heritage and I really wanted to hear what they felt about it – and I love a good romantic comedy, and Hollywood doesn’t seem to churn them out like they used to.
And I didn’t just limit it to current Hollywood blockbusters, I also saw a rerelease of Heathers to mark its 30th anniversary, a showing of 2012’s Sightseers and a Q&A with actress Alice Lowe, and two black and white Christmas movies, The Shop Around the Corner and It’s A Wonderful Life. Blue Brothers I saw as a surprise birthday celebration for Simon AKA Mr Brum Breakfast Club, and I finally saw the original The Italian Job, only it was accompanied by a live orchestra.
I saw a few documentaries too: The Prince of Nothingwood; Can You Dig This and Syria’s Disappeared, both as part of Kopfkino held in Stirchley, which aims to show films to get you thinking; Invisible Women as part of SHOUT Festival; and the problematic Three Identical Strangers.
There were a few non-English movies too, including Timecrimes aka Los Cronocrímenes, Indian comedy-drama Padman (which I adored), Love Sonia and Cycle as part of Birmingham Indian Film Festival (BIFF), A Prayer Before Dawn and Under the Tree as part of Shock & Gore festival, and the Japanese movie Shoplifters.
I tried to make sure I put my money where my mouth is and see more films made by women, including In the Fade, Pin Cushion, Lady Bird, A Wrinkle in Time, Leave No Trace, The Butterfly Tree, The Spy Who Dumped Me and The Rider.
I also spent a lot of time listening to podcasts, my favourite of which still remains Eavesdropping at the Movies. It’s locally recorded which means if I wasn’t already planning to see it, I can usually catch it on someone nearby. Hosts Jose and Mike are clearly knowledgable about film, and they discuss the movie in depth without namedropping obscure films for the sake of it, and it feels like listening to two smart friends discussing the film on the way home. Because that’s pretty much what it is.
What did I learn?
Basically, I spent a lot of the time at the cinema, and a lot of time researching what was on. I quickly came to realise that my Cineworld Unlimited card was excellent value for seeing all the big Hollywood blockbusters and very occasionally less well-known gem. I wish they’d do more of that, both from a cost perspective for me, but also because it often feels like we don’t have a lot of places doing the less well known stuff.
Thankfully we have the mac arts centre in Cannon Hill Park and the Electric Cinema, which meant that I got to see a lot of the films I’d heard about but weren’t exactly going to knock the latest superhero movie off from its multiple screening perch. Thankfully finances allowed me to spend a lot more time at both of these, partly due to taking up offers like the concession costs at The Electric with my Independent Birmingham card, and the Screensaver deal at mac, which meant I bought a chunk of tickets in advance and had something to look forward to. Because multiple trips to the cinema are expensive.
What’s 2019’s movie challenge?
Repeating the challenge feels a bit pointless, and upping the number feels a bit extreme. Whilst I’m well on my way to watching a good amount of movies this year already, I spent a lot of time at the cinema last year at the expense of other things. Having the challenge in 2018 made me spend a lot more time looking at what was on and I certainly want to keep doing that, because I saw some things I never would if I wasn’t actively looking.
I want to continue exploring cinema beyond just the big blockbuster Hollywood films. One thing I miss about the demise of video rental stores is seeing more foreign films, so I’m going to try and challenge myself to do that more (and regain the ability to watch a movie at home without getting distracted).
I also want to try and hunt out more people doing interesting things in Birmingham. I’m off to the first Stirchley Open Cinema screening of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (despite having seen it twice) to support them, and I’m going to try and make it along to more community film screenings like Journey Film Club and Birmingham Arthouse Cinema.
I’m really exited about the CineQ Queer Film Festival coming up in March, and I’m still torn between getting a weekend pass or booking for individual screenings (mainly because I like to know I’ve got a seat before I show up). And then of course there’s Flatpack Film Festival from 30th April – 5th May in my diary, and Cine-Excess and SHOUT Festival worth keeping an eye on too.
I will be continuing to get good value from my Cineworld Unlimited card, and I intend to try and spend as many of my spare pounds at the mac and Electric as time / money will allow.