15 Things I Picked Up from Watching 378 Movies in 2015

Is it too late to say Happy New Year? Well, this is where we are. Happy New Year!

I’m a student of the cinema. It isn’t something I learned about myself, just something I sort of always knew. I’ll watch anything and everything and pick up what I can. Even if a movie is complete garbage in my eyes, learning what doesn’t work for me means I didn’t waste two hours of my life. Way back in January 2015, I thought it would be fun to start a movie log and keep track of every movie I watch from start to finish and see where I ended up by December 31st.

My favorite movies leave a lasting impression on me. An intriguing premise or specific actor draws me in, but there’s no such thing as a guaranteed win. What wins me over is that gut feeling, that visceral, emotional reaction to the story or characters or mise-en-scène or technique and in some very special cases — all of the above. I also have so much love and respect for bold creative choices.

When I say a movie is a film and gorgeous and life-changing in the way it captivates, it’s just my opinion and if I say a movie is a popcorn movie is a box office grubbing heap of garbage with no substance beneath the one liners and excessive explosions, I fully expect people, strangers and those I love and respect, to disagree. That’s the beauty of the cinema, right? Subjectivity! It’s beautiful. How certain films and characters and tropes rip my heart apart and make me enjoy it, but someone else can just shrug it off. Absolutely maddening, but beautiful. Movies are magic in the way people react differently to seeing the same thing. It’s magic. Movies are magic and 2015 was a great year in the world of professional make-believe.

In 2015, I watched 378 movies. The original plan was to watch a movie a day, but life had other plans more often than not so if I was too busy to watch a movie one day I’d make up for it by watching two (or four) on a later day. It worked out, for the most part. Here are a few of those things I picked up along the way:

1. Don’t illegally download movies! Can’t stress it enough. Just don’t do it, kids.

2. My favorite movies released in 2015 look a little like this:  

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Mad Max: Unbreakable Furiosa

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Do yourself a favor and go see Mad Max: Fury Road, a George Miller masterpiece that promises one of the greatest cinematic experiences in years. The story is set in a violent, post-apocalyptic world where muscle cars and hot rods aren’t only enduring and repurposed, but fetishized like religious objects.

Not only does the Mad Max world contain intricate world-building and thrilling, high-octane action, but Miller is also a master of the “show, don’t tell” approach to storytelling and filmmaking. He drops us into this world where even background characters have extensive backstories and tells us none of it. There’s no exposition, no lengthy voiceover recap or overview of the universe. All we’re given is what we see onscreen and the almost teasing roar of engines, challenging the audience to keep up if you can.

“Show, don’t tell” doesn’t mean showing everything and saying nothing, but knowing when different techniques and approaches are appropriate, what should be seen, what should be said and what should be implied. Sexual abuse is a big part of the story, but there isn’t a single explicit, gratuitous rape scene onscreen. Fury Road makes it a point to never exploit trauma. It is implied and recognized for what it is in that we may not see it, but what we do see is enough to suggest it happened and has a heavy hand in why the characters do what they do. The women go from being treated like livestock and objects to acting in a way that screams what has become one of the movie’s most popular quotes, words scrawled on a wall — we are not things. This is a story about the fight to overcome and the will to survive in a seemingly hopeless world, developing mutual respect and reclaiming one’s sense of agency.

See this movie! And if you need any more convincing, there’s this Mad Max: Fury Road & Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt mashup that is one of the best things to come out of YouTube in years. (Warning: the video features spoiler-ish imagery and women being capable and badass.)

Females are strong as hell, indeed.