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That’s how many feature films I watched in 2019, either at home or in the theater. Though, truth be told, it was mostly at home. [Side note: I really want to get out to the theater more in 2020.] I also saw 98 shorts, all at home, most of which were early silent films that I watched in preparation for my Century+ project.

For this reason, I decided to once again break my year-end film wrap-up into two parts. This post will focus on films released prior to 2019 and the next will feature 2019 releases. Since that still leaves 334 films to talk about here, I will not be going into any great detail, but, never fear, many of these films are sure to pop up again in Century+ posts throughout the year.

First, some stats on my 2019 viewing (both new and old films):
Films watched in the theater: 11%
Films watched on DVD: 48%
Films watched via streaming: 41%
Most used streaming service: Criterion Channel (51 films)

Films released in the 1890s: 15 (all shorts)
Films released in the 1900s: 48 (all shorts)
Films released in the 1910s: 10 (+ 26 shorts)
Films released in the 1920s: 32 (+ 8 shorts)
Films released in the 1930s: 57
Films released in the 1940s: 57
Films released in the 1950s: 42
Films released in the 1960s: 14
Films released in the 1970s: 14
Films released in the 1980s: 20
Films released in the 1990s: 17
Films released in the 2000s: 15
Films released in the 2010s: 97

Most popular genre: film noir (52 films)

Most watched director: Ernst Lubitsch (8 films)
Runners-up: George Cukor (7 films), Buster Keaton (6 films)

Films directed by women: 52 (14%)

So, with all that, what did I like the most? What would I recommend?

Read on, MacDuff…

Streaming Services

What Price Hollywood? (1932) by George Cukor

Although DVDs from the San Francisco Public Library and the Mechanics Institute Library together remained my best source for older films, after launching in April, the Criterion Channel quickly became my go-to streaming source for the classics. Next in popularity was Kanopy (29 films), which is a free streaming service that grants membership via public libraries and universities with ten credits* per month that can be used on feature films, documentaries, and educational programming. Their collection is a mixed bag of old and new films but often they have something I just can’t get anywhere else. Just below Kanopy was Netflix (25 films), and then MUBI (18 films). I was a bit surprised to see MUBI below Netflix in these stats but I quickly realized that was due to the fact that I did a full James Bond rewatch primarily on Netflix, so I think that ranking is a 2019 aberration.

There has been a lot talk on Twitter about streaming services and how the costs add up to where the customer is getting screwed, but, frankly, I still pay far less for these services than I did for cable, where I had almost no channels I really wanted. When I first cut the cord in 2012, my monthly cable bill was $75. Adding the channels I really wanted at the time—HBO, TCM, TV5, and the Fox Soccer Channel (for the Premier League)—would have increased that bill to roughly $125/month. And that did not include internet service.

Compare that to what I pay now on a monthly basis (I have yearly subscriptions to Criterion and MUBI, which make them a bit cheaper):
HBO Now ($14.99)
Netflix Basic ($8.99)
Hulu Base Plan ($5.99)
Criterion Channel ($7.50)
MUBI ($8.00)
Kanopy ($0.00)
Amazon/Apple TV (per movie)

So the total cost is about $45–$50 per month depending on whether I watch something on Amazon or Apple TV. And, in fact, it is really about $30–$35 per month since the HBO subscription is paid for by the Math Greek and I would probably drop it if that weren’t the case since I rarely watch it myself. Nor do I really watch Hulu so I could probably let that one go as well. I just don’t watch TV shows anymore.

One thing that has simplified all this streaming is buying a Roku. I really only bought it so that I could stream the Criterion Channel, which wasn’t available as an app on my (older) Smart TV or Blu-Ray player, but I absolutely love it and can’t believe I lived without it for so long. It has a number of free channels (albeit with ads), which sometimes have older films not available on other streaming services, and it is fantastic for road trips, where you can just hook it up to your hotel TV and watch whatever you might watch at home.

In any case, if you are a cinephile, I can’t recommend the Criterion Channel enough. If you’re wondering, they show far more than the films they have released on DVD. My favorite thing about them is the themed collections they put together. For example, “Caught on Tape” includes films like Blow Out, Caché, The Conversation, Diva, A Face in the Crowd, Klute, and The Lives of Others. Other recent collections include The Art of the Heist, Blue Christmas, Glorious Food, MGM Musicals, and 70s Sci-Fi. They also put together great collections featuring specific directors (Cukor, Hitchcock, Wyler) or stars (Bette Davis, Alec Guinness) and put female filmmakers front and center on their homepage. My only quibble with them is that they are so upfront about what is expiring at the end of the month (unlike say Netflix or Hulu) that I find myself streaming massive numbers of films at the end of each month before certain films or my Kanopy credits expire.

Here are the top fifteen films I watched on Criterion this year:
Gaslight (1944)
Girlfriends (1978)
The Kid (1921)
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
Hopscotch (1980)
Jubal (1956)
White Heat (1949)
L’assassin habite au 21 (The Murderer Lives at Number 21) (1942)
Top Hat (1935)
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The Gay Divorcée (1934)
What Price Hollywood? (1932)
Craig’s Wife (1936)
My Name Is Julia Ross (1945)

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) by Dorothy Arzner

52 Films By Women

The Bride Word Red (1937) by Dorothy Arzner

By the skin of my teeth (I saw Greta Gerwig’s Little Women on December 29), I managed to meet my yearly goal of watching #52FilmsByWomen. In fact, films by women make up half of my top ten for 2019. But I saw many great older films as well, some of which were new to me and some of which weren’t.

Here are my top fifteen of those films:
Winter’s Bone (2010)
The Tale (2018)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
Obvious Child (2014)
Stories We Tell (2013)
Girlfriends (1978)
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018)
Caramel (2008)
White Material (2009)
The Bride Wore Red (1937)
Two Days in Paris (2007)
Enough Said (2013)
Blockers (2018)
Skate Kitchen (2018)

You’re very inflexible.
—Who, me?
—I don’t like you when you’re inflexible.
—I don’t like it when you exaggerate to make sure I’ll listen to you.
—Well, I can’t stand it when you don’t listen to me.
—I don’t like it when you’re loud.
—Well, I don’t like you when you’re not loud. I don’t know why I like you.
—Because you can tell me why you don’t like me.
—I like me when I don’t need you.
—I don’t want you to need me. I want you to want me.
—There’s no truth like bullshit.
—Very good, Susan. 2 points.
—Thank you.

—Susan to Eric in Girlfriends

Girlfriends (1978) by Claudia Weill

Silent Films

La Cigarette (The Cigarette) (1919) by Germaine Dulac

When I wasn’t watching films specifically directed by women, I was catching up on silent films in preparation for my Century+ project—37 features and 97 shorts to be exact. A few of these were even directed by women (specifically, 3 features and 13 shorts).

Here are my top fifteen of those films:
Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925)
The Patsy (1928)
The Kid (1921)
It (1927)
Die Puppe (The Doll) (1919)
City Lights (1931)
Tol’able David (1921)
Our Hospitality (1923)
Traffic in Souls (1913)
Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) (1924)
Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)
Gretchen the Greenhorn (1916)
Show People (1928)
La Cigarette (The Cigarette) (1919)

Traffic in Souls (1913) by George Loane Tucker

Film Noir

Gaslight (1944) by George Cukor

Between taking in four double features as part of Noir City at the Castro Theatre in January and creating fifteen double features for my own #Noirvember celebration at home in November, it was not surprising to see film noir turn up as my most watched genre.

Here are my top fifteen of those films:
Gaslight (1944)
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Pickup on South Street (1953)
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
Lured (1947)
Private Hell 36 (1954)
The Burglar (1957)
White Heat (1949)
The Big Combo (1955)
Tension (1949)
Split Second (1953)
The Big Clock (1948)
They Live By Night (1948)
Dark Passage (1947)
The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950)

Best Noir City Double Feature: Pushover (1954) and Private Hell 36 (1954)

Though somewhat underwhelmed by my first outing to Noir City 17, nevertheless, I persisted, and the night I saw Pushover and Private Hell 36 I came back home positively glowing with excitement. I liked both these films a lot. I had high expectations for Pushover, a voyeuristic tale of a police stakeout and investigation, starring Fred MacMurray and Kim Novak in her first starring role, but the real surprise was Private Hell 36, which I had never heard of before. I should have known this tale of two dirty cops would be good—it was directed by Don Siegel (The Big Steal, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Lineup, Dirty Harry, and Escape from Alcatraz).

Pushover (1954) by Richard Quine

The Name Is Bond, James Bond

Sean Connery in Goldfinger, my favorite Bond in my favorite Bond film

As noted above, one reason I watched so much Netflix this year is that I noticed in early March that most of the Bond films were available there. When I realized soon after that the films would be leaving April 1, I decided to pack in as many as I could. I then filled in the gaps with library DVDs and managed to watch the entire franchise. For most of these films, that actually meant a rewatch, but there were a few stragglers I hadn’t yet seen. I scored these films in the usual way but also developed a secondary ranking system with categories such as Allies, Bond Girls, Credit Sequence & Theme Song, Devices & Escapes, and Nemesis.

Here are my top fifteen of those films:
Goldfinger (1964)
From Russia with Love (1963)
Skyfall (2012)
Casino Royale (2006)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Thunderball (1965)
Moonraker (1979)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Dr. No (1962)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Goldeneye (1995)
Octopussy (1983)
A View to a Kill (1985)
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale is by far my favorite Bond girl.

The Best of the Rest

And that is pretty much it for my major projects of the year. But the films in these top fifteen lists aren’t the only pre-2019 movies worth watching. If you are looking for something beyond the films above, here are some other ideas and recommendations.

Manbiki Kazoku (Shoplifters) by Hirokazu Kore-eda

Best of the Unseen 2018: Manbiki Kazoku (Shoplifters). In my year-end round-up last year, I listed the eighteen 2018 films I was most looking forward to catching up on in 2019. Shoplifters ended up blowing me away and vaulting to the top of my final 2018 list.

Best Surprise of 2018 (tie): Bad Times at the El Royale and Searching. Neither of these films were on my radar, but when I finally saw them, I thoroughly enjoyed both and definitely recommend them if you are looking for an entertaining thriller.

Best New-to-Me Film: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). One of my biggest film history gaps is musicals. When I decided to start filling those gaps, I first turned to the few on Edgar Wright’s 1000 favorites list, figuring that he would have the best of the best on there. Once I watched (and loved) 42nd Street (1933), I quickly turned to the others on his list. My favorite of those was Gold Diggers of 1933.

Most Surprising New-to-Me Film: Five Easy Pieces (1970). This was one I avoided for the longest time simply based on the scene that everyone has seen from it, you know the one, which never really seemed interesting or funny to me. But that scene is so not the rest of this movie! I had no clue about the surprising direction in which this story was headed. Really a fascinating character study with a great performance by Nicholson and so many subtle little touches of humanity.

Most Surprising New-to-Me Film (runner-up): The Bridges of Madison County (1995). I watched this on my return from a road trip through Iowa, where I had actually visited the literal bridges. I didn’t have high hopes for what I thought was going to be a schmaltzy romance but instead I discovered a film that was remarkably moving and some of Eastwood’s best work.

Best on Rewatch: The Thin Man (1934). What can I say? This is a film I inevitably include on any favorites-of-all-time list but I hadn’t actually watched it in some time. I rewatched it this past December as part of an eventual Christmas film project and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.

Best “Holiday” Discovery: It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947). I discovered this title when I was putting together the spreadsheet for my review of classic Christmas films. I absolutely adored this tale of a homeless man who spends every winter squatting a 5th Avenue mansion while the owners winter in West Virginia.

Best Math Greek Selection (tie): Buffalo ’66 (1998) and Collateral (2004). Some of the films I watched this year that I might never have seen without the Math Greek’s coaxing include Persona (1966), Bugsy Malone (1976), Lost Highway (1997), and The New World (2005), among others, but my favorites of the films that fall under this description are Collateral and Buffalo ’66, the former of which I always meant to see and the latter of which I almost certainly never would have chosen myself.

Best Foreign-Language Film: Les Gardiennes (The Guardians) (2018). A gorgeous film by Xavier Beauvois about women on a French farm holding down the home front during World War I. Its slow-moving, painterly qualities would make an interesting pairing with 1917.

Les Gardiennes (The Guardians) by Xavier Beauvois

And, finally…

Top Five Films I Just Can’t Recommend
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Tank Girl (1995)
A Fool There Was (1915)
Casino Royale (1967)
So Dark the Night (1948)

One from pretty much every category above, these were my lowest-ranked films of the year.

I wanted to like Tank Girl, I really did.

How many films did you watch at home this year? What was your greatest discovery? What was your favorite rewatch? What are your favorite streaming services? What do you find yourself subscribed to but never watch? Let me know in the comments.

*I have since learned that my sister in the Boston area only gets eight credits per month so I guess the number of credits granted varies depending on the library or university system. Note, however, that sometimes films are listed as double features or playlists that use only one credit. Still, even eight credits per month means two free films a week so that is not bad.