2004 in review: Films

2004 was a good year for me and films. A subscription to the ScreenSelect DVD rental service helped me see 100 new films. (New to me, that is–not just films released in 2004.) Spread out over a whole year, 100 films isn’t all that much, but I didn’t set myself that target until the middle of September. I had watched about 60 films by that point, and I figured that with a good push, I could easily get in the last 40.

Well, I made it, but there were weeks where it felt like a real slog. I have to watch another film tonight? Gah. Can’t I just play some Halo 2 instead? For me, setting targets is a great way of turning activities that are normally a great pleasure into boring chores. I think it’s entirely possible that I’ll make it up to 100 films again in 2005, but this time, I’m not going to make it a goal.

Having said that, I do feel a great sense of achievement at having reached 100. It’s nothing compared to what your average film critic will watch in a year, and I’m still not even close to having seen all the recent important new releases. However, it’s a big deal to me because I feel like I’m not losing ground on the films I want to see. (Or, at least not losing ground quite so quickly.) I’ve watched a large proportion of the new releases that have interested me in 2004, and I’ve caught up on a bunch of films I missed in previous years.

Another good thing is that I now have a respectable chunk of data to play with and turn into charts and graphs:

Chart of my film ratings for 2004

With the exception of the anomaly at 2 stars, the chart runs pretty well the way you’d expect: a roughly bell-shaped curve, with its peak skewed to the favourable end. The skew comes from observational bias: I tend to watch films that I think I’ll like, so it’s hardly surprising that my average rating comes out to 3.23 stars, half-way between “solid and enjoyable” and “pretty good”.

For the purposes of rating films, I find it helpful to keep my text labels for each star value in mind:

Star rating Explanation
5 stars All-time great
4.5 stars Highly recommended/award-level film
4 stars Recommended
3.5 stars Pretty good
3 stars Solid and enjoyable
2.5 stars Almost okay, but too flawed to make the grade
2 stars Disappointing
1.5 stars More than just disappointing: actively bad
1 stars Don’t waste your time
0.5 stars Drivel
0 stars Give me those hours of my life back, you fucker!

“Recommended” only kicks in at 4 stars and above. 36 out of the hundred films I saw made that grade. Last year, 15 out of the 38 films (39%) I watched hit that mark, so it looks like I’m maintaining a certain level of consistency. However, both last year and this year I felt that only four films rated a full five stars, which may mean that I’ve been rating more critically this year. I’m a bit concerned about the blip at two stars. That tells me that I’m having some difficulty judging films I don’t like. I guess I just need to watch more rubbish, so I can fine-tune my distinctions.

So what were my favourite films of the year? Well, including films that IMDB says were released in 2003, but that only made it over to this side of the pond in 2004, here’s my top 10:

  1. The Incredibles
    (5 stars)
  2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (5 stars)

  3. Dodgeball
    (4.5 stars)

  4. Collateral
    (4.5 stars)
  5. Shaun Of The Dead (4.5 stars)
  6. Kill Bill, Vol 2 (4.5 stars)
  7. Lost In Translation (4.5 stars)
  8. Kinsey (4 stars)
  9. Danny Deckchair (4 stars)

  10. Zatoichi
    (4 stars)

Extraordinary films from previous years that I saw for the first time in 2004 include
Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself)
Touching The Void
Peter Pan (2003)
The Pledge
, and
. Upon reflection (and seeing it a second time), Spider-Man 2, which I had previously rated 4.5 stars, I don’t think quite so highly of any more. Still 4 stars, but not a top 10 film.

And the worst ones? Here are the bottom feeders:

  1. National Treasure (0.5 stars)
  2. Johnny English (1 stars)
  3. Spy Kids 3D (1.5 stars)
  4. Good Boy (1.5 stars)
  5. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (1.5 stars)
  6. The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1.5 stars)
  7. Once Upon A Time In Mexico (1.5 stars)
  8. Bad Boys II (1.5 stars)

The two performances that will stick with me most from 2004 are Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead, and Ben Stiller in Dodgeball. Both are displays of sheer comic genius. David Carradine’s portrayal of Bill in Kill Bill, Vol 2, was also very well done, especially in the way he underplayed Bill’s depths, and his fundamental tragedy.

Curiously, there isn’t much in 2005 that I’m explicitly looking forward to. I definitely want to catch Ocean’s 12, Ray, and Million Dollar Baby when they open over here, and I suppose I’ll end up seeing the new Star Wars thing, too, but there’s nothing big that’s really got me by the balls right now. With 155 films still backed up in my ScreenSelect queue, though, I don’t think I’ll be running out of viewing material any time soon.

4 Replies to “2004 in review: Films”

  1. Quoth Martin:
    “I guess I just need to watch more rubbish, so I can fine-tune my distinctions.”

    Yeah, right. That’s like saying I need to commit lots of crimes, so I can tell say that they’re bad. Why develop such expertise in bad cinema?

    An alternative suggestion is to refine the scale to distribute “disappointing” over several ratings. For instance:
    2: Disappointing, but with redeeming features (good scenes, minor characters, settings, cinematography, whatever)
    1.5: Truly disappointing, with no redeeming features
    1: Actively bad
    0.5: Don’t waste your time
    0: I want the time back to rearrange my sock drawer

  2. I find that it’s a lot easier to distinguish the higher side of the scale than the lower. I mean once something is rubbish it’s rubbish! A lot of the reason why I limited my scale to 1 through 5 and no half points.

    Tell you what. I might be taking on Tesco DVD rental:

    1 DVD at any one time for £7.97 per month or 2 DVDs for £11.47 per month.

    I thought that was pretty good, and I could easily deal with one DVD at a time, especially since I’m an “extras” kinda guy!

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