There’s a war (there’s a war).The kingdom’s on fire, the blood of a young messiah, I see sinners in a church, I see sinners in a church. Sometimes I might be the weekend.

‘Nooooooooooo!’ button for dire situations.

Are you you?

Six degrees of Wikipedia.

You and me we come from different worlds. You like to laugh at me when I look at the weekend.

Global database of fruit trees on public land.

Explore music history an album a day.

Guess where global food dishes come from.

NYC with the sound back on:

600+ Films and Counting

Back in October I wrote this post about the couple of lockdown months I’d spent watching classic films.

Well, in the year since I subscribed to the Criterion Channel I’ve watched many, many more of them, so I think it’s time for an update.

As the title of this post suggests, the first year of my Criterion fun, between August 2021 and August 2021, took in just over 600 films. A lot? maybe, but remember we were mostly in lockdown, so it was a good diversion when I was unable to go out for dinner, drinks, and, crucially, to the cinema. So I bought a big telly and a good sound system and turned my living room into my Odeon/Arclight.

I’d say about 90% of the films were feature length, with 10% being shorts. I finished maybe 85% of the films, and gave up on the other 15% before they finished. Not sure of an average length, but as older films were closer to the 90-minute mark, and many were over three hours, I’d guess at around two hours.

I did see other films during this time – as a dad I am compelled to watch Disney and Marvel movies – and although I enjoyed many of them, and think they are good (in their own special way), I only included them if they were good good, by which I mean they had to have the kind of artistic merit that would allow them to seem at home on this list (examples include Pixar’s excellent Soul, and Mad Max: Fury Road).

I also found a few kindred spirits, some who were going through the same process as me and a few who had already been on a similar journey. It was fascinating to chat through some of these classics with those people, and discovering the depths of others’ movie fandom was always a real kick. I recently went through the production process of a commercial with directors whose references were movies like Playtime, and I was delighted to be able to understand them and discuss their nuances. It’s great to expand an artistic frame of reference, then use that expansion beyond just a nichey nerdiness.

If anyone wants to discuss the relative merits of Ozu vs Mizoguchi vs Kurosawa (and, at a push, Kobayashi, although he’s a little on the nose), hit me up. I will happily chat Rohmer/Malle/Chabrol/Demy/etc., or Fellini/De Sica/ Passolini/Antonioni/Visconti tilll the cows come home.

Here are some of the films you might not have considered watching because they’re kind of ‘deep cut’, but I loved them:

The Music Room (Satyajit Ray). Is about a rich Indian man who has spent all his money and is now on the verge of poverty. However, he decides to have one last blowout on a concert in the music room of his house. It made Indian music surprisingly (to me) compelling, and took me into a world I’d never even considered, let alone visited.

The Wages Of Fear (Henri Clouzot) is one of the most entertaining films you’ll ever see. It concerns a group of roughnecks who have to drive trucks of nitroglycerine across the bumpy terrain of an unspecified country in South America. Great characters combine with endless tension to make a Palme D’Or winner that never lets up.

Viridiana (Luis Bunuel) is funny, dark, twisty, crazy. Of Bunuel’s work, Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is the best-known, but Viridiana is the bravest. He returned to Franco’s Spain after decades spent in exile in Mexico and made a shockingly irreverent film against the wishes of the religious authorities.

High And Low (Akira Kurosawa). Kurosawa kindly invented the action film (Seven Samurai), the medical procedural drama (Red Beard) and this film, the first police procedural. We begin by spending an hour in one very cool room, then the hunt is on…

Le Plaisir (Max Ophuls) is a kind of anthology, split into three. The great thing about Ophuls is his camera movement: although the lack of editing keeps you immersed in the story, at some point you realise you’ve been watching the same unbroken shot for ages, then you start to wonder where it began, rewind and marvel again. Have a look at the same technique in La Ronde and The Earrings of Madame de… In Le Plaisir you’ll see it to stunning effect in the first and third stories.

Closely Watched Trains (Jiří Menzel) is just so warm, charming and funny; full of delightful little touches, wonderfully observed moments and gorgeous photography. Yes, it’s a Czechoslovak film about some people running a rural train station, but that only proves that greatness can come from anywhere, through any story.

Z (Costa Gavras) is one you might have heard of. It’s the thinly-fictionalised account of the death of a Greek politician, and it’s insanely gripping. It feels as if it lands between a documentary and a movie, but not in the same way as, say, The Battle Of Algiers. It’s more fun than that: a tense ride unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Army Of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville) was dismissed on its initial release for being sympathetic to de Gaulle, so it languished, forgotten and unknown for forty years until it was reappraised as one of the best films of 2006. There’s a lot of great Melville out there, but this is his masterpiece: a fascinating, compelling tale of a small band of French resistance fighters in World War Two.

Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus) is a vibrant reworking of the Orpheus and Euridice myth, transplanted to the favelas of Rio during Carnival, it has colour, music, energy, passion, joy, tragedy and pretty much everything else.

La Terra Trema (Luchino Visconti) isn’t usually mentioned in the Italian Neorealism conversation, but as far as I was concerned it might as well have been a documentary. It features no real actors and follows the lives of some working class fishermen in a small Italian port. It really transports you to that time and place, and gets you deeply involved with one man’s tragic attempt to break out of his circumstances.

Ashes And Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda) is set on the day the allies win World War Two, and is impossibly cool. The lead actor modeled his performance on James Dean, bringing an oddly American vibe to a very Polish story. Again, it takes you right into that time and place, wondering how communist Russia would take control of war-torn Poland.

I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini) is the film that most other people who have been on this kind of journey bring up to me as a favourite. It’s Fellini at his best, telling us a wonderful story of a bunch of layabout young men in a small seaside town. It’s a clear influence on Swingers, Goodfellas, and any other film with a bunch of guys having fun and taking no responsibility for themselves.

The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr) sounds like the dullest, most depressing film ever made, but it’s the exact opposite of those two things. Never will you find the sight of two people eating a potato so compelling. A man and his daughter live on a decaying, windswept Hungarian farm, then something happens to the well…

Au Revoir Les Enfants (Louis Malle) is the only film I saw that made me cry. I’m pretty sure I saw it when it came out, but I didn’t remember much about it. It’s one of several autobiographical films made by Louis Malle, which gives it an added poignancy. From Zero De Conduite and Les Quatre Cents Coups, to Les Murs and Etre Et Avoir, the French make such great films about childhood and school. This is one of the greatest.

The Servant (Joseph Losey) is an utterly English film, directed by an American. The plot is very unpredictable (although the makers of Parasite must have seen it a few times), as are the performances, but as it descends further and further into a rabbit hole of insanity, you’ll be dragged right along with it.

Another Round (Thomas Vinterberg) is among this year’s Oscar nominees. It’s a Danish black comedy that’s so wonderfully life-affirming (even though the director’s daughter died tragically at the beginning of filming), culminating in a giddy, delirious dance. I think the message was ‘drink more booze’; it certainly tempted me to do just that.

The Fireman’s Ball (Milos Forman) is another film made all the better for it’s use of non-professional actors. If you’ve ever wondered how and why Milos Forman was plucked from Czechoslovakia to direct One Flew Over The Cockoo’s Nest, watch this and all will become clear. It’s a sort of One Flew Over The Strange Little Community Get Together, hilarious, touching and beautifully observed.

Town Bloody Hall (Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker) is a documentary/filming of a debate on feminism in The New York Town Hall, featuring, among others, Germaine Greer and the provocatively sexist Norman Mailer. It’s shown in all it’s ugly, fiery energy, dumping you right in the centre of a full-throttle battle of the sexes.

The Kid With A Bike (Jean Pierre and Luc Dardennes) is a modern Belgian film with all the authenticity of Italian Neorealism at its best. The story of a young boy whose idolises his dad, who in turn would rather his son didn’t exist. It is played so realistically you feel as if you were given a front-row seat as all this happened for real. I’d also encourage you to seek out other Dardennes Brothers films, such as The Child, The Son and Lorna’s Silence, all similarly brilliant.

Il Sorpasso (Dino Risi) is a comedy, so it won’t be mentioned alongside all the serious dramas that tend to make up the lists of greatest-ever films. But this hilarious road movie, combining an uptight guy with a random ‘friend’ who doesn’t give a shit about anything, is as good as many more lauded Italian films of the 1960s, and has an ending you won’t see coming.

Le Trou (Jaques Becker) is the best prison break film of all time. It is almost entirely about five guys who tunnel out of jail, making more progress, night after night. It has all the tension, twists and great character acting (including some people involved in the real-life breakout it was based on) you need to make a film like this work perfectly.

But you want to know what they all were, don’t you? Relax, I’ve got you. Here’s the list, chronological from 15th Jan:

  1. Man with a Movie Camera
  2. Late Spring
  3. Au Hasard Balthazar
  4. L’Avventura
  5. Le Mépris 
  6. Ordet
  7. Andrei Rublev
  8. Stalker
  9. The General
  10. Metropolis
  11. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
  12. Sátántangó
  13. Pather Panchali
  14. Gertrud
  15. Pierrot le Fou
  16. Close-Up
  17. Ugetsu Monogatari
  18. La Jetée
  19. M
  20. Sherlock Jr.
  21. La maman et la putain
  22. Sansho Dayu
  23. Modern Times
  24. Pickpocket
  25. Sans Soleil
  26. A Man Escaped
  27. L’eclisse
  28. Beau Travail
  29. The Spirit of the Beehive
  30. Fanny and Alexander
  31. The Colour of Pomegranates
  32. Greed
  33. A Brighter Summer Day
  34. Partie de campagne
  35. Intolerance
  36. Yi Yi
  37. Touki Bouki 
  38. Imitation of Life
  39. Madame de…
  40. The Conformist
  41. Meshes of the Afternoon
  42. Two or three things I know about her
  43. Stalker
  44. The Gospel According to St. Matthew
  45. Come And See
  46. Close-Up
  47. The Passion of Joan of Arc
  48. Playtime
  49. Viridiana
  50. Hour of the Wolf
  51. Vivre Sa Vie
  52. Husbands
  53. Los Olvidados
  54. Opening Night
  55. The Gold Rush
  56. Zero de Conduite
  57. L’argent (1983)
  58. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
  59. Mouchette
  60. The River
  61. Meet Me in St Louis
  62. Memories of Underdevelopment
  63. Vampyr
  64. Nosferatu
  65. Chung King Express
  66. The Music Room
  67. The Story of Apu
  68. Chimes at Midnight
  69. Alexander Nevsky
  70. Daisies
  71. Closely Watched Trains
  72. The Great Dictator
  73. Madame Verdoux
  74. A Woman Under The Influence
  75. Husbands
  76. Wanda
  77. Sawdust and Tinsel
  78. Through a Glass Darkly
  79. Winter’s Light
  80. Red Beard
  81. Amarcord
  82. Dr Zhivago
  83. Giant
  84. The Virgin Spring
  85. Smiles of a Summer Evening
  86. High and Low
  87. Sanjuro
  88. Stray Dog
  89. The River
  90. The Most Beautiful
  91. The Life of Oharu
  92. The Tale of the Last Chrysanthemum
  93. Street Of Shame
  94. Scandal
  95. No Regrets For Our Youth
  96. Sanshiro Sugata
  97. I Live In Fear
  98. The Lower Depths (Kurosawa)
  99. The Hidden Fortress
  100. Dersu Uzala
  101. I was born but…
  102. An Autumn Afternoon
  103. Late Autumn
  104. Princess Yang Kwei Fei
  105. The Crucified Lovers
  106. Utamaro and his 5 Women
  107. The 47 Ronin (Mizoguchi)
  108. A Canterbury Tale
  109. The 49th Parallel
  110. The House Is Black
  111. Aparajito
  112. The Big City
  113. I Knew Her Well
  114. Ashes and Diamonds
  115. The Wages of Fear
  116. Cleo from 5 to 7
  117. The Devil and Daniel Webster
  118. A Nous La Liberte
  119. Dogtooth
  120. Mon Oncle
  121. Mr Hulot’s Holiday
  122. Two Men and a Wardrobe
  123. Beauty and the Beast
  124. Red Desert
  125. Umberto D
  126. An Angel At My Table
  127. The Philadelphia Story
  128. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
  129. Arsenic And Old Lace
  130. The Seventh Seal
  131. Pygmalion
  132. Cries and Whispers
  133. The Silence
  134. The Night Porter
  135. Rome Open City
  136. Germany Year Zero
  137. Journey to Italy
  138. Paisan
  139. Gallipoli
  140. The Year of Living Dangerously
  141. Army of Shadows
  142. Weekend
  143. Strike
  144. Lift To The Gallows
  145. Ivan’s Childhood
  146. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
  147. Belle De Jour
  148. Britain Is Listening
  149. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
  150. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
  151. The Shop Around The Corner
  152. The Exterminating Angel
  153. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  154. 1917
  155. The Double Life of Veronique
  156. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
  157. Mildred Pierce
  158. Le Plaisir
  159. Lola Montes
  160. Letter From an Unknown Woman
  161. Accatone
  162. I’m No Angel
  163. Holiday
  164. The Heiress
  165. Stagecoach
  166. The Men Who Tread On The Tiger’s Tail
  167. Drunken Angel
  168. The Bad Sleep Well
  169. Charulata
  170. Masculin Feminin (chronological order starts here, 15 Jan)
  171. Le Petit Soldat
  172. I Vitelloni
  173. Juliet of the Spirits
  174. Nights of Cabiria
  175. Il Bidone
  176. 8 1/2 + 8 1/2 with commentary
  177. La Strada
  178. Les Mistons
  179. Les 400 Coups + commentary
  180. Shoot The Piano Player
  181. Jules et Jim
  182. L’Atalante
  183. Day For Night
  184. The Last Metro
  185. La Regle du Jeu (Jan 26)
  186. Persona
  187. Wild Strawberries
  188. City Lights
  189. Meantime
  190. Le Corbeau
  191. Arrival
  192. The Mirror
  193. Night And Fog
  194. A Trip To The Moon
  195. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  196. A Bout De Souffle (Jan 31)
  197. Marketa Lazarova
  198. Tokyo Drifter
  199. Black Girl
  200. Faces
  201. Antoine and Colette
  202. The Soft Skin
  203. Stolen Kisses
  204. Bed and Board
  205. Two English Girls
  206. Love On The Run
  207. Throne of Blood
  208. Yojimbo
  209. Bande A Part
  210. Dodes’ka den
  211. Day of Wrath
  212. Soul
  213. Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne (Feb 7)
  214. Osaka Elegy
  215. Sisters Of The Gion
  216. A Touch Of Zen
  217. La Bête Humaine
  218. Paths Of Glory
  219. The Secret Of The Grain
  220. The Seventh Continent
  221. Code Unknown
  222. The White Ribbon
  223. The Piano Teacher
  224. Gate Of Hell
  225. Rashomon 
  226. Dheepan (Feb 14th)
  227. F For Fake
  228. Wavelength
  229. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  230. Divorce Italian Style
  231. Rocco and his Brothers
  232. A Taste of Cherry
  233. Certified Copy
  234. The Kid
  235. Black Orpheus
  236. La Notti Bianche
  237. Foreign Correspondent
  238. Floating Weeds (Feb 21st)
  239. Floating Clouds
  240. Three Colours: Blue
  241. Three Colours: White
  242. Three Colours Red
  243. .In A Lonely Place
  244. Celine and Julie Go Boating
  245. Nomadland
  246. Ivan The Terrible, Part 1
  247. Ivan The Terrible, Part 2
  248. Ministry of Fear
  249. Judas And The Black Messiah
  250. Senso
  251. Red River
  252. Kings of the Road
  253. Paris Texas 
  254. The Bad and the Beautiful 
  255. Vagabond (Feb 28th)
  256. The Traveling Players
  257. The Damned
  258. Fun With Dick And Jane
  259. Out of the Past
  260. A Tale Of Tales
  261. La Terra Trema
  262. Only Angels Have Wings
  263. The Black Panthers
  264. The Gleaners and I
  265. Le Bonheur
  266. Don’t Blink – Robert Frank
  267. The Battleship Potemkin
  268. The Revenant
  269. The In-Laws (1979)
  270. Kung Fu Master
  271. Let The Sunshine In
  272. October
  273. Zazie Dans Le Metro
  274. La Pointe Courte (March 7th)
  275. The Turin Horse
  276. Underground
  277. Distant Voices, Still Lives
  278. The Southerner
  279. The Sacrifice
  280. Riot In Cell Block 11
  281. Letter From Siberia
  282. Nostalghia
  283. Mauvais Sang
  284. Steamboat Bill Jnr.
  285. Z
  286. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
  287. Fear (Rosselini)
  288. The Servant
  289. Le Silence De La Mer
  290. Bamboozled
  291. The Go-Between
  292. La Collectionneuse
  293. Samurai Rebellion
  294. The Chase
  295. The Flowers Of St Francis (March 14th)
  296. Ma Nuit Chez Maude
  297. Doubt
  298. King Kong (1933)
  299. Stromboli
  300. Promising Young Woman
  301. Safety Last!
  302. Always Sometimes Rarely Never
  303. Les Enfants Terribles
  304. Saute Ma Ville
  305. The Sound Of Metal
  306. Love In The Afternoon
  307. Christmas In July
  308. Another Round
  309. Ida
  310. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  311. The American Friend
  312. The Green Ray
  313. Magnet Of Doom (March 21st)
  314. Paris Belongs To Us
  315. Europa 51
  316. Locke
  317. Le beau Serge
  318. Les Cousins
  319. The Idle Class
  320. Lola (Demy)
  321. Autumn Sonata
  322. The Private Life Of Henry The Eighth
  323. Grey Gardens
  324. Shame (Bergman)
  325. Mon Oncle D’Amerique
  326. Victim
  327. Mad Max Fury Road
  328. Life And Nothing But
  329. Le Coup Du Berger
  330. The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant
  331. Charlotte Et Son Jules
  332. We Need To Talk About Kevin
  333. The Beaches of Agnes (March 28th)
  334. Tokyo-Ga
  335. L’Amore
  336. 24 Hours In The Life Of A Clown
  337. Mamma Roma
  338. Junkopia
  339. La Ricotta
  340. Lacombe, Lucien
  341. The Father
  342. Mur Murs
  343. They Live By Night
  344. California Split
  345. The World Of Gilbert And George
  346. Duck Soup
  347. La haine
  348. White Tiger
  349. A New Leaf
  350. The Mission (April 2nd)
  351. Tampopo
  352. McCabe And Mrs Miller
  353. Caught
  354. The Firemen’s Ball
  355. Days Of Wine And Roses
  356. Man Push Cart
  357. 35 Shots Of Rum
  358. Le chant du styrene
  359. Sunday In Peking
  360. Grand Illusion
  361. The Loves Of A Blonde
  362. Man On The Moon (April 12th)
  363. Gregory’s Girl
  364. Les Enfants Du Paradis
  365. One Night In Miami
  366. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage
  367. Sacrilege
  368. This Sporting Life
  369. Where Is The Friend’s Home?
  370. Nanook Of The North
  371. Life Goes On
  372. Bottle Rocket
  373. Through The Olive Trees
  374. Overlord
  375. Cast A Dark Shadow
  376. An Education
  377. Detour
  378. The Mattei Affair
  379. Town Bloody Hall
  380. The Big Short
  381. Brute Force
  382. Dark Days
  383. Accident
  384. In The Mood For Love
  385. Tom Jones
  386. Black Peter (April 19th)
  387. Sunset Song
  388. Gilda
  389. His Girl Friday
  390. The Thin Blue Line
  391. Nadja In Paris
  392. Eraserhead
  393. A Nos Amours
  394. Claire’s Knee
  395. Kapo
  396. The Bakery Girl Of Monceau
  397. Bad Timing
  398. Suzanne’s Career
  399. Police Story
  400. Losing Ground
  401. Mikey And Nicky
  402. Sons Of The Desert
  403. 48 Hrs
  404. And God Created Woman
  405. The Naked City
  406. The Fall
  407. Bob Le Flambeur
  408. Morocco (April 25th)
  409. Tunes Of Glory
  410. One False Move
  411. Wooden Crosses
  412. Le Samourai
  413. Ghost Dog: Way Of The Samurai
  414. Weekend
  415. My Brilliant Career
  416. Harlan County USA
  417. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
  418. Salut Les Cubains
  419. La Chambre
  420. The Third Man
  421. A Clockwork Orange
  422. Secrets And Lies
  423. The Last Detail
  424. Kajillionaire
  425. Day Of Freedom
  426. House Of Games
  427. Minnie and Moskowitz
  428. The Last Movie
  429. Roman Holiday (May 2nd)
  430. The Wild Bunch
  431. On Dangerous Ground
  432. Irma Vep
  433. The Great McGinty
  434. Shane
  435. Phantom India Part 1
  436. Patton
  437. L’enfance nue
  438. L’amour existe
  439. Doodlebug
  440. Murmur Of The Heart
  441. Palm Beach Story
  442. Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
  443. Gloria
  444. The Reflecting Skin
  445. Buena Vista Social Club
  446. Bay Of Angels
  447. The Hustler
  448. Horse Feathers
  449. Remember The Night (delightful Christmas movie)
  450. Synonymes
  451. White Rock
  452. Weekends (May 9th)
  453. The Stranger
  454. Girlfriends
  455. Le Trou
  456. George Washington
  457. Ars
  458. La Luxure
  459. The Lady Eve
  460. Pixote
  461. The Taking Of Power By Louis 14th
  462. Le Havre (May 16th)
  463. Burn
  464. Revanche
  465. The Miracle Of Morgan’s Creek
  466. How Green Was My Valley
  467. Donkey Skin
  468. The Gambler
  469. The Warriors
  470. Bad Trip (May 23rd)
  471. Adam’s Rib
  472. The Human Condition
  473. Le Amiche
  474. La Gente Del Po
  475. Le Deuxieme Souffle
  476. To Sleep With Anger
  477. Daguerrotypes
  478. Judex
  479. The Last Emperor
  480. Chocolat (Denis) (May 30th)
  481. Blood of the Beasts
  482. Tucker: The Man And His Dream
  483. The Kid With A Bike
  484. Sansho The Bailiff (again)
  485. L’Enfant
  486. Le Grand Melies
  487. La Promesse
  488. Mr And Mrs. Smith (Hitchcock)
  489. 2 Days And 1 Night
  490. Incoherence
  491. Rosetta
  492. Young Ahmed
  493. Lorna’s Silence
  494. Moonstruck
  495. Aguirre Wrath of God
  496. Fitzcarraldo
  497. Last Year At Marienbad
  498. Fantastic Planet
  499. The Cranes Are Flying
  500. Ikiru
  501. Kill List (June 6th)
  502. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  503. Safe
  504. A Week’s Vacation
  505. The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit
  506. Hard Eight
  507. Images
  508. Deep Blue Sea (2011)
  509. Ran
  510. Along For The Ride
  511. The Class
  512. Gimme Shelter (June 13th)
  513. Diabolique
  514. Under Satan’s Sun
  515. Panique
  516. Henry 5th (Olivier)
  517. The Aviator
  518. Orphée
  519. Hunger
  520. Sea Countrymen
  521. Rush
  522. Carnival of Souls (20th June)
  523. Jacquot De Nantes
  524. India Matri Bhumi
  525. The Tree Of Wooden Clogs
  526. Crossfire
  527. Cameraperson
  528. Cruising
  529. Miss Julie
  530. Bird
  531. Animal Crackers
  532. The Long Good Friday
  533. Il Posto
  534. I Fidanzati
  535. Il Sorpasso
  536. Golden Parable
  537. La Cotta (27th June)
  538. Late Chrysanthemums
  539. Moonrise
  540. Topsy Turvy
  541. Spartacus
  542. My Dinner With André
  543. Swimmer
  544. Born Yesterday
  545. Bad Day At Black Rock
  546. No Sudden Move
  547. The Blue Angel
  548. The Leopard (4th July)
  549. Drugstore Cowboy
  550. Mona Lisa
  551. Andrei Tarkovsky: A Cinema Prayer
  552. La Ceremonie
  553. The Blue Dahlia
  554. Scarface (1932) (11th July)
  555. Cold Water
  556. A Running Jump
  557. The Set-Up
  558. Drums Along The Mohawk
  559. Hoop Dreams
  560. The Children Are Watching Us
  561. The Primary
  562. The Young Girls of Rochefort
  563. Confidential Report
  564. Fat Girl
  565. Lenny Cooke
  566. Women Of The Night
  567. Clouds of Sils Maria
  568. The Trial Of Joan Of Arc (Bresson)
  569. Following (18th July)
  570. Day Of The Fight
  571. L’Assassin Habite Au 21
  572. High Fidelity
  573. Limelight
  574. La Ronde
  575. Kuroneko
  576. The Ruling Class
  577. The Steel Helmet (25th July)
  578. Minari
  579. Dis-Moi
  580. A Story Of Children And Film
  581. Knock On Any Door
  582. One Sings The Other Doesn’t
  583. White Material
  584. The Life Of Brian
  585. The Other Side Of Hope
  586. Toni
  587. The Steamroller And The Violin
  588. Au Revoir Les Enfants
  589. Clockwatchers
  590. Salesman
  591. Tout Va Bien
  592. Anatomy Of A Murder
  593. La Chienne
  594. It Should Happen To You
  595. Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (August 1st)
  596. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
  597. Kings Of Pastry
  598. The Dead
  599. Richard The Third
  600. Vertigo
  601. Bicycle Thieves
  602. The African Queen
  603. Bells Are Ringing (August 8th)
  604. Lord Of The Flies (1963)
  605. Black Narcissus
  606. The White Sheik (August 15th)
  607. That Obscure Object Of Desire
  608. Night Moves
  609. Slacker
  610. Tristana
  611. Diary Of A Chambermaid
  612. Simon Of The Desert
  613. This Is Spinal Tap
  614. Death In The Garden
  615. The Asphalt Jungle
  616. The Phantom Of Liberty (August 22nd)
  617. The man Who Would Be King
  618. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  619. Knife In The Water

‘Cuz they say… 2000 zero zero party over oops out of time So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s the weekend.

The National Jukebox of America.

Nyan Cat’s cousin.

Ancient Earth globe.

The ultimate shitposting site.

Cool and fancy fonts to copy and paste.

Chemical Brothers video:

Tell me now, baby, is he good to you? And can he do to you the things that I do? Oh no, I can take the weekend.

Rich people love huge crystals.

Most Buddhist art is Greek.

Turn images into posters of any size.

Saddam Hussein anonymously published a romance novel… in 2000.

Why is Bicycle Thieves so great?

We talk in black and white, but all is grey.

It feels like the last five years have given us a constant stream of binary opinion. From Leave/Remain in the UK to Trump/No Trump in the US to Masks Are An Evil Infringement on Freedom/Masks Save Lives Everywhere, the division of complicated issues into right/wrong, good/bad and them/us appears to be the order of the day.

But even within supposed two-horse situations, there are often many other horses involved. Take the 2019 UK General Election, in which the Conservatives beat Labour in a landslide. If you read the media coverage you might have missed the fact that 3,500,000 people voted Lib Dem, and 850,000 voted Green. And that doesn’t even take into account the many shades of difference within the two big parties: Brexiteer Conservatives, Fiscal Conservatives, ‘I Hate Corbyn’ Conservatives, All Of The Above Conservatives etc.

It’s the same with the Republicans in the US. They may seem like one homogenous mass of dumb, uncaring racists, but they are made up of all sorts of groups: Qanon nutjobs, law-and-order Miami Cubans, Christian Conservatives who are just taking the shortest path to the outlawing of abortion, Moderates who want lower taxes, a smaller homogenous mass of dumb, uncaring racists etc.

And look at the many and varied reason people have for giving the vaccine a swerve.

You might also have heard about issues such as ‘Cancel Culture’, where defenders of ‘free speech’ suggest that it’s bad and wrong to demonise people for their incendiary opinions. But if you scratch beneath the surface you’ll soon find that every one of them has something they too wish to ‘cancel’.

For example, here in America a TV host called Bill Maher continually goes on about how corrosive Cancel Culture is:

But he also goes on about hating many of the ‘oppressive’ elements of the Islamic faith, suggesting that they should be… um… canceled. Maybe, like him, you think that these are two different things, and that demanding that women wear burkas or banning homosexuality is a false equivalency when compared to Kevin Hart losing his Oscar hosting gig for being homophobic a decade earlier. But here’s the problem: plenty of Muslims would disagree with you, and that’s because there is no right or wrong here; only opinions. The problem is those opinions are often presented as hard fact, with a dash of straw man nonsense and some pejorative terms such as ‘woke mob’ (by the way, a Twitter user recently accused me of being ‘woke’ because I suggested Margaret Thatcher sometimes did her job in a way that not exactly compassionate. Subjectivity, eh?). I think Bill would be considered to be part of some kind of woke mob if he expressed his opinions in Saudi Arabia. And then he’d probably be murdered. Cancel culture indeed…

I get it. Bill is a comedian who exaggerates to make jokes, but he also uses double standards: he later concedes that people shouldn’t hold a ‘dress up like we’re in the Old South’ party. Is that cancellation? Political correctness gone mad? Where do you draw the line? How do you know? So I suppose he agrees with Cancel Culture, except when he doesn’t… The problems of binary expression.

Have a look at 2:30 in the above video. Bill takes a statistic that ‘80% believe political correctness is a problem’ (quite a vague assertion) and exaggerates it by listing demographics that cover everyone in America and saying they ‘all hate the current atmosphere of hypersensitivity’. Then he asserts that ‘everybody’ hates it, so it becomes even blacker and whiter, and less accurate, but at least it supports his point a bit more forcefully.

So cancel culture is complicated. It’s subjective. It’s contextual. Pretty much everyone wants to cancel something, but the idea of cancelling cancel culture is clearly the most ironic of ironies.

Which brings me to the current hand-wringing over purpose-based advertising. Again, this is a complicated subject that is often spoken about in binary terms. It seems that for many on my Linkedin and Twitter feeds, we as an entire industry are woke idiots who are promoting baseless social justice initiatives instead of getting down to the proper business of selling stuff. There is in fact an entire book out there called ‘Can’t Sell, Won’t Sell‘ whose subtitle is ‘Why adland has stopped selling and started saving the world’. Having read the whole thing I can tell you that it contains some interesting points, but even with a book with that definitive a title, the author mentions several instances of purpose-based advertising being a good thing. So why write a misleadingly binary title, subtitle and Amazon blurb paragraph for a non-binary book?

Has adland really stopped selling? Obviously not. The amount of purpose-based work is dwarfed by that which explicitly tries to sell stuff, but if you are of a mind to decry any purpose-based work, then you can certainly find many examples to back that opinion up. However, an overall assertion that this is advertising’s biggest difficulty deflects attention from larger, more problematic issues (eg: malignant data scraping, the massive talent and money drain to tech, the reduction of fees due to the rise of procurement departments etc.).

But here we are with the binary nature of 2021 language. Purpose bad, selling good, as if they can’t co-exist in any way, except when they do, very successfully (see Nike’s recent Cannes Effectiveness Grand Prix-winning Colin Kaepernick work; or Microsoft’s Gold Effie winner, Changing The Game; or Aeromexico’s Gold Effie-winning DNA Discounts campaign). Sure, many purpose attempts are more Kendall-Jenner-Pepsi than Kaepernick-Nike, but there are lots of crappy, poorly considered non-purpose ads out there, too, and the vast majority of them will get nowhere near a Gold Effie. Perhaps ‘purpose’ is simply another advertising genre, like ‘humour’ or ‘celebrity’, and like those it is done both well and badly, suggesting another situation full of shades of grey.

Additionally we are now in a similar set of circumstances regarding ‘diversity’ (my inverted commas are there to denote the subjective nature of defining that word in 2021) where middle-aged white people are winning discrimination cases. That’s a direct result of people speaking in black-and whie terms about complex issues. If you, as a female ECD, say you want to ‘obliterate’ your agency’s reputation for being full of white, privileged straight men, you might just leave your agency open to charges of gender-based discrimination (I must add here that Jo Wallace, who said that, seems like a decent, intelligent person who has been treated dreadfully by the gutter press).

It’s not a binary issue of ‘obliterating’ a certain demographic to favour others. It’s a very nuanced problem that takes in systemic discrimination, meritocracy, conscious and subconscious gender biases and several other deep, complex topics, each of which could justify an entire post-grad thesis. But this was not a case of oldish white man bad, everyone else good, and I’m pretty certain that’s not what Jo meant to suggest, but here we are in binary world where a complicated issue has left egg on a great many unfortunate faces, and caused massive damage to the very situation it sought to help. Who will now be brave enough to sack an oldish white guy? How much more likely is it that a sacked oldish white guy will take that sacking to a tribunal? What is intrinsically wrong with oldish white guys? (Full disclosure: I am an oldish white guy.)

I know we’ve reached this situation because of the way social media discourse works, with incendiary, attention-grabbing statements leading to clicks and sales, but if we don’t employ critical thinking and nuance in all areas, we might find ourselves shutting off potential avenues of success, or useful and necessary arguments, while heading off in the direction of some pointless fool’s gold.

The black and the white is where the easy shit lies. But it’s also where the bullshit lies. If you find yourself making a massive generalisation you’ll probably find yourself missing out a big chunk of truth. The title ‘Sometimes Sell, Sometimes Don’t Sell: Why adland occasionally uses purpose to great effect, but sometimes kind of fucks it up’ … Hang on, I was about to say that it wouldn’t be as good, but that’s actually a much better title, although it would have to be for a different book. Anyway, there’s no need to be definitive when reality is nothing of the sort. Sure, human beings like certainty and closure, but playing to that need betrays the opportunity to make the kind of difference that happens when you engage with what is actually the case, rather than the superficial headline version of things.

Sure, it requires more work and less simplistic thinking, but what are we saying? ‘Drain the swamp’ or ‘Let’s take a look at corruption in politics and see how we can reduce it’? ‘Lock her up’ or ‘Has this person acted in a way that contravenes any laws? If so, what should be done about it?’? ‘Get Brexit Done’ or ‘We should examine the ways in which leaving the EU might affect most of the people of Britain, then act in the best interests of the majority’?

Yes, the cheap sloganeering is easy to remember, and has incited many people to both support and action, but to what final result? ‘Move Fast And Break Things’ sounds great until you ask what might be broken and discover the answer is Western Democracy.

The simplicity of black and white is so tempting, but life tends to exist within the grey, and we ignore that at our peril.

We made the job look easier, now we must deal with the consequences.

There’s a lot of chat about AI copywriting at the moment. Companies such as this one have been offering some form of machine-generated advertising writing for a while now, and are understandably getting better at it.

Equally understandably, copywriters have been up in arms about this. How could a machine/robot create something as artistically pure as a combination of words that informs people that frozen chickens are available for 20% off at Sainsbury’s?

I jest, but I kind of don’t. There’s a reason why someone thought a computer could come up with copywriting and it might be a little hard to swallow: most copywriting is not very good, and it’s also not very difficult. When you see the post copy on a Facebook ad for cheap wine, or the headlines on most posters, or you listen to most radio ads you probably think, ‘What a load of rubbish. I bet a crappily-programmed robot could do better’. Well, you weren’t the only one.

I get that there are many other elements to the job that AI might still find difficult/impossible. These include thinking up a concept (although most ads don’t seem to bother with them), taking feedback and reworking ads to a client’s satisfaction (I think this one will save all our careers. Clients are not usually good at this, but they are also not usually happy with the first ten versions they are offered), and coming up with something original that no one was expecting (also becoming vanishingly rare). But when it comes to some basic-bitch copywriting, they are as good as at least some of us.

And here’s how that happened: our predecessors wrote a lot of shitty ads, then many of us did the same.

So they/we made the job look easy, and that’s what made other people think they could program a computer to do it. Yes, I know they’re getting AI to do some very difficult jobs these days, but the artier ones, the ones that involve excellent creativity, are the hardest to replicate. Rubbish creativity, on the other hand: piece of piss.

This isn’t the first time we’ve shot ourselves in the foot by making the job look easy. Back in the early 2000s there was a fashion for finding a good short film by an unknown director, slapping a logo on the end and entering it into advertising awards. Here’s an example:

Spot the difference (good luck).

This was then followed by several years of doing the same thing with interesting YouTube clips. For example:

Although the above are both very good ads, and every artist borrows from somewhere, this straight lifting of other people’s work made the job look very easy. Why pay lots of money for an ad agency when an enterprising 15-year-old searching YouTube could produce the same result?

Is it a coincidence that ad agencies are paid much less than they used to be? I don’t think so. Although several factors have contributed to this situation, I think you could make a good case that devaluing our creative currency has been one of the biggest. Making great ads used to be a mysterious process, only managed by a select few. Now it looks much easier, and therefore worth much less.

A third process has contracted things still further: digital and social media is cheap, quick, disposable and done very well by kids and idiots (and both). So it was partly we who made this part of adland look easier, and partly others, but check out the average corporate social media feed and ask yourself honestly: does that look so difficult that it should be expensive or time consuming?


We’ve gone from great creatives (sometimes) writing and art directing ads in such a way that it looked very difficult, to crap that looks (and often is) cheap and easy. And when we did that we let crappier practitioners seem perfectly capable of doing it to a professional level: computers and kids. Who needs excellent, experienced humans when the opposite can give you 80% of the quality at 30% of the price?

We unwittingly made our own bed, and now we must lie in it.

The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become. The further you take my rights away, the faster I will run. You can deny me. You can decide to turn your face away. No matter, cos there’s the weekend.

Making fun of preparing for emergencies.

Writing is rewriting. and this site.

Find the cost of living in every city in the world.

Mock up a book in 3-D.

Cool Kubrick documentary:

Plenty of paths to perfection

When Stanley Kubrick was making The Shining

He recorded the sound of a typist hammering out the words “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, because he thought the sound each key made on a typewriter was slightly different and he wanted complete accuracy. To make sure that the line was as effective in foreign versions, Kubrick painstakingly translated it into idiomatic German, French, Spanish and Italian and re-shot the scene, placing the translations in the typewriter for Jack’s wife Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall) to find. The Spanish phrase “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano” (No matter how early you get up, you can’t make the sun rise any sooner) captures the tone of crepuscular horror perfectly.

That’s just one of the many stories of Kubrickian perfectionism. He never compromised, went to extraordinary lengths and drove his actors crazy with endless takes. So that’s how you achieve excellence, isn’t it? You obsess over details and never let up in your monomaniacal drive to achieve your singular vision.


Jean Luc-Godard, a similarly revered director did nothing of the sort. In making his classic Breathless, he ‘wrote the script as he went along‘. ‘Filming began on 17 August 1959. Godard met his crew at the Café Notre Dame near the Hôtel de Suède and shot for two hours until he ran out of ideas.’ ‘Actor Richard Balducci has stated that shooting days ranged from 15 minutes to 12 hours, depending on how many ideas Godard had on a given day‘. ‘(Director of Photography) Coutard said that when (producer) de Beauregard encountered Godard at a café on a day on which Godard had called in sick, the two engaged in a fistfight.’

In addition, like many European directors of the time, Godard employed American actors who did not speak French/Italian/Spanish and simply dubbed the appropriate language over their English line reads. Jack Palance in Le Mepris, Burt Lancaster in Il Gattopardo, Alain Delon in L’Eclise… I just want to emphasise that these are some of the greatest films of all time, and the sound doesn’t match the mouth movements – and there’s not even a pretence of an attempt to do that!

In later films they worked out that the mouth shapes for the Italian/French words could be matched to the mouth shapes of English numbers, so an English actor’s line would be ‘Three, seventeen, nine, four, twelve’. Not the actual lines with the emotional content of the correct words, but a list of numbers.

Let me add still further: Fellini liked to direct as the acting was happening. He would shout at the actors as they were reading their lines, even the Italian ones. This meant that all the dialogue was post-synched, so it had none of the ambient sound, and didn’t match perfectly.

All that is to say that Kubrick (and other great perfectionist directors, such as Ozu, Chaplin and Malick) would presumably have had a fit about any of the above. If he insisted typewriter sounds were perfect, can you imagine him dubbing over a carefully chosen actor’s voice so it didn’t match the mouth movements? Or making up the story as he went along? Perfection and spontaneity are not easy bedfellows.

So which is best? Perfectionism or looseness? If you squeeze too hard, do you destroy the delicate object in your hand? Or is it possible that the wrong colour blouse or a misplaced apple can destroy or compromise an entire creative vision?

With so many greats on either side of the argument, it might be better to define perfection. What Kubrick et al would see as the essential control of every element until it matches the vision in their head, Godard might see as a lighter, more emotional expression of an artistic idea, with the spontaneity being as crucial to him as the control was to Kubrick.

I was involved in making two ads for the same big client a while ago. One had a budget of millions, was minutely planned and examined, and involved thirty agency staff. The other had a budget of ten thousand dollars, was briefed in by two mid-level creatives, and forgotten about until the directors sent in the final result. Both were excellent, and I think each would have suffered if they’d experienced the same level of budget and attention as the other.

I know of excellent art directors who are happy to brief a photographer then wait till he sends the finished shots in. I also know of excellent art directors who minutely micromanage their photographers. I also know of excellent art directors who work wonders with stock shots.

I know of excellent copywriters who pore for days over every syllable in a three-word line. I also know of excellent copywriters who find great phrases hidden in company brochures. I also know of excellent copywriters who crank out hundreds of words as easily as they breathe.

So there’s no agreed-upon path to greatness, and the important thing about that is the fact that your method might be the best route to the best work, but so might anyone else’s. That’s not to say that sitting around doing nothing is the most likely way to win a Cannes Grand Prix, but bunking off to see a movie could prove as effective as pulling an all-nighter. Letting a top director do their stuff could be as useful as constantly looking over their shoulder and insisting they do fifteen more takes. Nailing down a script might be a good idea, but so might turning up with an outline and seeing what you might get from a bit of improvisation.

Try a bit of Kubrick, then maybe go for a touch of Godard. There’s no right or wrong; only what works – and many, many things can work brilliantly.

I’m the arsenal, I got artillery lyrics of ammo, rounds of rhythm then I’m ‘a give ’em the weekend.

Spend Elon Musk’s money.

Simple graphs that show your region’s temperature change over time.

Turn your drawing into a 3-D model.

How procurement departments screw ad agencies: