My husband and I share our one television house with six cats. We spend most nights, cuddling on the couch, watching one of our shows, or a favorite movie. We have some firm tv programming guidelines: no laugh-track (unless it is an old show that didn’t know better, like Maude), no reality tv (although we did enjoy Sorority Life in the early-aughts), heavy emphasis on teen dramas (probably more my influence than his), light on the medical shows (although we did enjoy the entire run of House) and not a lot of gore. But we are flexible. We love The Wire, The Americans, Orphan Black, anything by Joss Whedon. We also loved Dawson’s Creek, The Love Boat, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and Family. We have diverse tastes.
My husband is a bridge player, and he frequently participates in online tournaments. While he is distracted by playing a game on his ipad, I will typically slip on an old, familiar episode of the finest television show ever created, Mystery Science Theater 3000. If I can’t find one that seems fresh enough for that night, I will most likely download a Rifftrax movie. I love movies that are considered “bad,” and will happily watch a silly B-grade movie (or F-grade, in some cases) while he plays bridge.
We do not have cable service in our house, but we do love our Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon combo. It covers most of what we need, and what we can’t find streaming, we can typically get at our local library.
We have a routine, is what I am getting at. I love movies made in the 1970’s, and my husband loves Busby Berkeley musicals. This works well, since I love all musicals, and he enjoys movies from my favorite era. We have spent our marriage catching each other up on the movies that we feel are the “best” and “most important.” It’s been wonderful, especially since I am convinced that when we got together, my husband (henceforth called “Brian,” as is his name, and it is going to get annoying to keep referring to him as if “husband” is his official title) had only actually seen a dozen movies in their entirety: Conan, the Barbarian, West Side Story, Big Wednesday, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Jesus Christ Superstar, and some oddball, art-house films that I was shocked to discover he was familiar with.
I, on the other hand, watched almost every movie that I could find. I suppose we are children of the 80’s, but my true love is anything with James Caan or Gene Hackman. My favorite movie of any era (and I think I can speak for Brian when I say it is his favorite, as well) is Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Brilliant movie. I love every frame, every scene, every silence, and every look. There is no better film.
My other film passion is about as far away from the 70’s cinema I love as you can get: evangelical, Christian films. I collect them like trading cards. I love end-times thrillers, and also seeing how Christian filmmakers use mainstream actors to legitimize movies that can otherwise be rather difficult to swallow. I do my own “riffing” but they tend to stand rather hilariously on their own, with no help from me.
Over the years, we have gone through huge phases. Months of Joan Crawford, silent films, curating every aerobics or roller disco themed movie, several years of obsessing over the most obscure musicals I could find, seeking out every film with scenes involving group therapy, or EST. All while watching our favorite shows, and returning to the best television from the 70’s and 80’s.
But as we step into 2017, or, more accurately, as we sit on the couch, covered with kitties, how will we spend our evenings? Will we just keep returning to comfortable classics, familiar films that require little of us? Or should we watch every new movie that comes out? Maybe we should watch only award winning films? It seemed that a theme was in order… something to guide our year of movie watching.
So, we have decided to watch a modified list of the “Top 100 Movies of All Time.” There are many “Best Of” lists, and so many ways to attack this list. I decided to print out a variety of lists to collate into our personalized guide. We started with the “AFI Top 100” list, both the 1998 version, and the updated 2007 list. Then we searched the “IMDB Top 100” list, followed by the “Time Out New York” list. Finally, just for fun, I printed the Top 100 Ranked movies from “Rotten Tomatoes,” having no idea of what metric they used to determine their list.
Once we had all of these lists in front of us, we began editing. Our challenge is to watch movies that we have not watched together. We threw out all of the movies that we have seen before, unless one of us only vaguely remembered it. In those cases, we put the movie on the list to be watched. These include Once Upon a Time in America, which Brian swears we watched together, but I am convinced was actually Avalon, and Taxi Driver, which I know without a doubt that we watched during a heavy Harvey Keitel period, but Brian doesn’t believe he has seen. Same story with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which we absolutely watched because I am obsessed with Sandy Dennis. Also, we spent several weeks watching every movie with George Segal that we could get our hands on, including some fine work with Elliot Gould. I am just saying, “Virginia Woolf?” Yes. We saw it. Fairly scary. But since Brian can’t remember it, it made the list. Obviously, we both watched E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in the theater when we were kids, but besides a feeling of being “emotionally manipulated,” Brian doesn’t have a lot of memories around watching it. So, that made the list.
Ultimately, after crossing out duplicates, removing favorites, and adding back in some that we most likely saw, but didn’t absorb, we ended up with a list of 121 movies to watch in the next 12 months. To avoid backing up on movies we aren’t as enthused about, I cut up the list, folded the papers, and put them in a jar. Our plan is to watch two movies per week from the list. If we choose a movie that is not available streaming, or already owned in our collection, we will borrow it from the library, making it our next movie, and choosing another one for that night. No avoiding. No procrastinating.
Looking at the list, you will undoubtedly see some gaping holes, movies that you feel must have been overlooked in our search. You might say, “The Wizard of Oz didn’t make the cut? No Annie Hall”? I assure you, we have seen the movies that seem like glaring oversights. That’s why they are not on our list.
So, without further ado, our 2017 Movie Challenge List!