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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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night


If you’re looking for a break from commercial popcorn movies with cardboard cutouts masquerading as characters and “horror” as defined by a ridiculous body count then A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the film for you. It’s an Iranian vampire film shot in gorgeous black and white and entirely in Farsi. The story unfolds in a fictional Iranian ghost town overrun by drugs, corruption and a young, female vampire who listens to brooding music on her record player and skateboards around town when she isn’t sinking her fangs into junkies, pimps and bums.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is of the soft horror variety with blood, gore and death, but not to an excessive extent. The film focuses primarily on its characters, seamlessly weaving their lives together. With popular culture’s obsession with the vampire, it can become cliché, expected and boring. This take on the vampire is a simple yet intriguing one. She’s a creature driven by instinct, comfortable with living a solitary life, but also curious about humans and humanity and the lives they live. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night doesn’t elevate the vampire character type in a way that will forever change the trope, but it does explore the life of a vampire in a way other movies have not. The film has such a different, specific point-of-view and such a careful hand in its execution that it makes one of the oldest myths in history feel fresh.

Music makes or breaks a movie and this is especially true for the horror genre. Director Ana Lily Amipour uses a range of music from multiple genres in multiple ways — pieces of music specific to the characters, to set the mood of a particular scene and to guide the narrative. A scene where the two leads meet for only the second time and share such intimate space set to “Death” by White Lies is, in my opinion at least, one of the most beautiful moments ever filmed.

Beauty emerges from its simplicity. They take the time to build this connection between these two characters, something that means so much in a film filled with such stark instances of isolation, where a character’s only companion is their loneliness, and they do it without saying a single word. It’s electrically charged and fascinating to watch, a testament to the perfect combination of choice in music and acting ability. Creating tension by manipulating silence, moving in just the right way at just the right time and even controlling their breathing is such an important skill set for actors to have and these two do it in a way that feels natural and effortless. All of that comes together in this unexpected, almost romantic moment.

Although A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has instances of brilliance and perfectly played scenes, it isn’t perfect. The film is slow, almost painfully so in the beginning, but it picks up once the lives of the characters begin to collide. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is unlike any other vampire movie with its memorable style build on exceptional lighting and exaggerated shadows, definitely worth watching.

Watch A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night now streaming on Netflix.