Always Be Watching – I’ve Already Seen Over 200 Films in 2018 So Far
by Alex Billington
August 1, 2018
Thank goodness for Letterboxd. I was originally going to title this article “Hitting My Mark”, but I’d rather go with the catchphrase “Always Be Watching” – meaning, simply, always be watching films. New films, old films, big films, small films, just keep watching. It’s my mantra and has been for years, since the early days of running this website. If I don’t want to watch a film that was just released, there’s always (always!) more old films to watch. And there’s always something that I haven’t yet seen to watch. As someone whose job it is to watch movies, my goal is to fit in a movie every day. It’s not always possible, but I try. This year I decided to keep track of all the films I’ve seen using the wonderful Letterboxd, so I can actually keep count and look back at it all. It’s the end of July and I’m already over 200 films. Do I get a medal? Nah, I just need sleep.
I decided that one of my only New Year’s resolutions for 2018 is to actually keep track on and properly use Letterboxd, listing every film I watch throughout the year. I have been diligent and so far I’ve been keeping up. It’s hard for me to keep track, to be honest, for various reasons: embargoes at early press screenings, seeing films at festivals that don’t yet exist on IMDb or TMDb (and thus Letterboxd), falling asleep half way through a film and never finishing it, and so on. But I always try to follow up and add whatever I’ve watched recently to my list, as long as I finish the film completely. I don’t count it as “watched” if I doze off and never finish it (as I did with Wall-E a few weeks ago, but I love the first half of that movie anyway). I’ve had an account on Letterboxd for years, but never kept up with it properly, and it’s actually refreshing to do this now. Not just for the numbers, but to be able to look back at my thoughts/reviews of all the films this year.
The other big reason I want to keep track of what I watch is to be able to tell everyone about everything I’ve seen and to point them to Letterboxd if they want to know my thoughts on any/all of these films. It’s not uncommon for cinephiles to see this many, but it impressive to the average Joe. Lots of people tend to ask “what have you watched recently that is good?” or “what do you recommend?” or “have you seen this film, and what did you think of it?” The answers to all of these questions can be found on my Letterboxd – I tend to include some kind of review with each listing, even if it’s just a sentence or two. Luckily, Letterboxd let’s you follow accounts so that new reviews show up in your feed when you visit the site. If you’re interested in checking out my page and following, you can find me right here: letterboxd.com/firstshowing/ (of course!).
To be frank, I’m not trying to boast about seeing 200 films. The average person maybe sees 2 or 3 movies a month, which comes out to about 20 or 30 per year. They’re expensive to go to (give or take MoviePass), time-consuming, and you have to be fully invested. I get it. But I love movies, really really love them, which means I want to see as many as I can. As soon as someone tells me something is great, I need to watch it. As soon as the buzz on Twitter starts getting crazy for a film, I need to watch it. And so I do my best to see as much as I can, always be watching, every night if there’s time. Luckily, I have Netflix, and iTunes, and that pretty much gets me everything I need for the most part. There’s all the other services as well: FilmStruck, Mubi, Amazon, Hulu, etc. There’s so many choices and so many ways to find films, it’s a bit overwhelming. But at least they’re making most movies available digitally so you even can find all those VHS cult classics.
Most of my viewing every year comes from film festivals. I usually catch over 30+ films at each fest during the year: at Sundance in January, then at Berlinale in February, then at Cannes in May, then at Venice / Telluride / Toronto in September. And I go to lots of other festivals in the meantime: Karlovy Vary, Sitges, IDFA, and a few others in Europe (where I now live). I love seeing this many movies in a short amount of time, as I can pack them in and see them right away and not worry about how I’m going to catch them later. In its first few years, Letterboxd had a problem where festival films weren’t usually listed in their database. If I’m at the very first world premiere of a film, it’s just being introduced to the world and sometimes it’s not even listed on IMDb. They’ve fixed this problem and most films, even obscure international flicks, are listed or can be added easily. Which makes me happy because I want to add everything I see, whatever it may be.
This article is also not an advertisement for Letterboxd, though I do love the website. I have been a fan of Letterboxd since the very early days, when they first launched (back in 2011). I’ll admit that I was actually quite jealous. Right around the same time, I had been envisioning and designing a mobile app that would work as a simple movie tracker. You could add each movie, a quick review, and save it so you know what you watched. I was starting to figure out how to get this developed when Letteboxd launched, and then I gave up. Their service is so much better, their website so much cleaner, and they have a full-time staff dedicated to running it as a business (they’re based out of New Zealand). I’ve since gotten over this jealousy and have watched this site grow into something even more impressive, and they’re always improving as time goes on.
Anyway, it’s time to get back to watching movies. As always, you can follow my updates/reviews on Twitter @firstshowing. And you can follow my list/reviews on Letterboxd @firstshowing. See ya at the cinema.