First time viewings: 14
Repeat viewings: 36
Films still to watch: 673
Seeing as I’ve hit the first major milestone, it seemed a good time to consider the success (or failure) of Movie Lottery as a concept, and to briefly look back at some of the best – and the worst – films watched so far.
First: it is safe to say that Movie Lottery has been a success. Yes, there have been films picked that have been met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm (and there are many more to come), but I only have myself to blame – serves me right for being less discerning about what movies to add to my collection. This does make me wonder, however, whether others have experienced a similar situation: with films now available to buy brand new for only a few pounds (surely I’m not alone when I say there are probably only a handful of movies in my collection that I spent more than £6 on), it’s all too easy to translate previous rental standards to purchasing. I’d love to say that all the films covering my shelves were bought because they came with high recommendations, or because they had great reviews, or because they were guilty pleasures, but it’s not true. There are some that were bought simply because I had some spare coins in my pocket, and they were cheap and in front of me. Several films already watched fall into this category – A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, Turn It Up, and Mr Ice-Cream Man were all impulse buys, and none made any particular impression on me (although the former’s title is still one of the best in my collection).
One of the things that has come to my attention through Movie Lottery is the difficulty in assigning star ratings to films. Actually, it’s not that challenging on an individual basis, but the results are slightly strange when viewed as a whole. For example, four stars have been allocated to a selection that includes Braindead, Thirteen, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, and Scanners – films that, on the surface, share little in common. Similarly, low scorers range from low-budget drive-in teen pics (Horror of Party Beach) to contemporary genre failures (Children of the Living Dead) to pretentious art concepts (Waking Life), but although these films all garnered the same rating (2/5), my enjoyment of them varied wildly. Were I to attempt a rating specifically considering my personal appreciation for a film, the stars would be allocated as follows: Children of the Living Dead, 5/5; Horror of Party Beach, 4/5; Waking Life, 1/5. Instead, what my star ratings represent is a more evaluative judgement as to the success or failure of each individual film in its own terms – whether it achieves its goals. It’s because of this that a gorefest like Braindead sits so comfortably alongside the subtle, beautifully acted indie drama What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
So, my favourite films to date. I was pleasantly surprised by both The Omega Man and The Time Machine, two classic sci-fi adaptations that, while showing their age, capture some complex and intriguing concepts that more than stand up among contemporary examples of the genre. As guilty pleasures go, the Twiathalon has got to win hands down – although, as I argued in my review, why this series has become such a reviled and ridiculed franchise is problematic to say the least, and I will remind you right now that I am neither ashamed nor embarrassed of my enjoyment of these movies. Similarly, of all the films to be picked, I was perhaps most excited to re-watch High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and it didn’t disappoint.
While I’m on the subject of guilty pleasures, what has become clear to me – something I had not expected to emerge so quickly – is the seemingly disproportionate amount of genre films (particularly sci-fi and horror) that are in my collection. Rest assured, it’s not that I don’t have a bunch of Werner Herzog films, a reasonable collection of classical Hollywood movies from directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Frank Capra, big MGM musicals, silent films, and foreign language movies, because I do. They just haven’t been picked yet.
What has become clear during the last few months is that some of the most rewarding viewing experiences have come from films that, although I know received great reviews, would never have actually been watched were it not for the randomised selection. Films that are perhaps not the easiest to watch, like Waltz With Bashir, serious Oscar winners like A Beautiful Mind and Pan’s Labyrinth, or even daft little short animations like The Wrong Trousers were viewed only because they came out of the hat, and would have sat languishing on our shelves forever more were it not for Movie Lottery. All of these have been given some of the highest ratings, and it’s these films, more than the guilty pleasures, that remind me the value of this project. For every Slacker or Step Up, there’s a Donnie Darko, District 9, or a Looper to remind me that at least some of the movies in my collection have actual, bona fide merits. Now I just have to watch the rest…