The Day Thread of the Year of 791 Movies

♪ You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard
Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain ♪

— Sure, we’re all in a road movie to Berlin. That’s why God made the movies.

Between 6 am Eastern on Jan. 1, 2021, and 9:10 pm Eastern on Dec, 31, 2021, I watched 791 movies. This will serve me well should I need an alibi for pretty much any day over the past year. The obsessive movie watching also plugged two important holes.

First, it gave me a project to complete while the wider world remained largely locked down due to the incessant pandemic. I’ve no hobbies. I gave up on physical exercise decades ago. My job is writing and editing. Diving headlong in the 120-plus years of film history made sense.

I’ve also long been both snobbish and uncultured when it came to movies. The films “everyone” my age had seen, I skipped. The important movies all people “must see,” I intentionally blinded myself to. To remedy these lacunae, I blocked out pretty much all my free time over the past 12 months to inhale movies.

I did set a few rules. I’d only watch movies I’d not seen previously. I’d rely entirely on the streaming services to which I already subscribed and on ad-supported platforms such as the Roku Channel. If I started watching a movie, I’d finish it. I would not count shorts, and I would not automatically rule out anything except Forest Gump and James Cameron’s Titanic.

Go here to see all the movies I saw.1

I’d have topped 800 except circumstances conspired to leave me movieless for an entire week of September. I broke the no-shorts rule once, and I did count a rewatch of John Carpenter’s The Thing.2 I also gave myself permission to access services such as Apple+ and AmazonPrime while I dog-sat. And, to be fully honest, I did not watch every minute of each movie. I dozed through 10-15 minutes of the middle of several flicks. I rewound if I felt I missed some plot points.

This Day Thread shares my best-of lists from about a decade’s worth of film consumption. Each is roughly in order, with the best of the best at the top. Come back for today’s Night Thread to learn which movies I loathed and why. Until then, I’ll see you at the movies.

Oh, if you want to respond directly, @ me in the comments. No way I’m scrolling everything. I have to spend 2022 catching up on seminal TV series.

25 Best Movies Watched During 2021

What makes a movie great? Hell if I know, even now. I have a theory about succeeding in making viewers either feel or think. Triggering emotions to inspire thought and vice versa are fair game, but eliciting one strong reaction more than the other seems key to delivering a fully rewarding movie-watching experience. In all events, high production values, stellar acting and star power are not essential. Stranger Than Paradise has none of that, and I love it more than pizza. Switching on closed captioning is a must. Tubi has the most-accurate algorithm.

  1. Stranger Than Paradise (directed by Jim Jarmusch)
  2. Derek DelGaudio’s In and of Itself
  3. Grave of the Fireflies (very probably the saddest movie ever made)
  4. Lilo & Stitch
  5. Rashomon
  6. A League of Their Own
  7. Pig (2021; Nic Cage)
  8. Paris, Texas (Double Deans [Stockwell and Stanton] deliver for Wim Wenders who topped this wonderment of excellence his very next time out with Wings of Desire)
  9. Fat City (Stacy Keach and a very young Jeff Bridges)
  10. Atlantic City (Louis Malle directs Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon)
  11. Knives Out (give Danial Craig’s accent an Oscar — not Craig, just the accent)
  12. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (Sidney Pollack directs Jane Fonda; Gig Young plays the kind of person capable of inflicting great harm that he was in real life)
  13. E.T.
  14. My Neighbor Totoro
  15. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
  16. Philadelphia
  17. 2046 (a time travel story about the impossibility of maintaining true love directed by Kar-wai Wong)
  18. The Florida Project (Willem Dafoe)
  19. Worth (Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci; 9/11 victims compensation fund)
  20. The Watermelon Woman
  21. Uncut Gems (Adam Sandler)
  22. Star 80 (Muriel Hemingway and Eric Roberts)
  23. Under the Volcano (Albert Finney)
  24. Minari
  25.  American Dreamer (Jim Gaffigan as a scheming Uber driver in Norfolk, Va.)
10 More Great Movies Based on True Stories Watched During 2021
  1. Zola (strippers on a whacked road trip)
  2. Quo Vadis, Aida (a UN translator fails to get her Muslim family out of the refugee camp in Srebrenica; brutally sad real-life story)
  3. The People vs. Larry Flint
  4. The Band’s Visit
  5. 99 Homes (Michael Shannon at his Michael Shannoniest)
  6. Black Legion (1938; American fascism ensnares working stiff Humphrey Bogart; good timepiece with more than a sprinkling of actual history)
  7. The 24th (Black U.S. Army troops mutiny after a lynching)
  8. When Trumpets Fade (the futility and brutality of the Battle of Hurtgen Forest during World War II; strong performances from Frank Whaley and Ron Eldard)
  9. Queenpins (2021; Kristen Bell; fact-based story of multimillion coupon reselling scam)
  10. The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (pushing the envelope on “great” here; but this is a cool way to spend 90 minutes)
10 Zombie Movies Worth Watching in Any Year

I took great comfort in post-apocalypse movies during 2021. I’ve already posted an annotated list of lesson learned from zombie flicks. But existential dread and the struggle to survive offer rich veins for pop culture exploration-cum-exploitation. Heck, I could give a top five on films where Earth’s atmosphere disappears for some reason.

  1. Day of the Dead (1986)
  2. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  3. Little Monsters (Lupita Nyongo)
  4. Fido
  5. The Battery (good little film about two Low-A baseball players wandering western Massachusetts after the zombie apocalypse)
  6. Love and Monsters (mutated insects [my category, my picks] all but wipe out humanity; “living with it while taking precautions” narrative)
  7. For a Few Zombies More (High Plains Drifter where the Man With No Name is a former video store owner)
  8. Juan of the Dead (zombies in modern-day Cuba; interesting take on communitarianism versus communism)
  9. The Night Watchmen (2017)
  10. Zombie World (2013 anthology with the funniest Jesus-versus-zombies bit you’ll ever see)
10 Best Action Movies Watched During 2021
  1. Shadow in the Cloud (Chloe Grace Moretz fights a gremlin inside the belly turret of a World War II bomber over the Coral sea — and that explains less than 20 percent of the gonzo action while completely ignoring the realistic plot)
  2. Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer
  3. The Killing (directed by Stanley Kubric)
  4. The Thing (1982; John Carpenter)
  5. Assault on Precinct 13 (1976; John Carpenter)
  6. Cliffhanger
  7. The Train (John Frankenheimer and Burt Lancaster at their absolute best)
  8. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  9. The Suicide Squad (2021; fun but also full of meaning just below the surface)
  10. Red Dawn (original 1984 flavor)
5 Best Horror Films Watched During 2021
  1. Halloween (1978)
  2. Candyman (1992)
  3. Deathgasm (fun New Zealand teen movie about death metal saving the world from demons)
  4. Trick ‘r Treat (2009; Anna Paquin; truly creep four-part anthology)
  5. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Iranian vampire; kickass soundtrack)
10 Excellent Documentaries Watched During 2021
  1. Summer of Soul (concert series documentary)
  2. Heartworn Highways (performance-heavy outlaw country time capsule)
  3. The Night James Brown Saved Boston
  4. I Am Big Bird
  5. Mr. Soul! (2018 documentary)
  6. The Tragically Hip: Long Time Running (story of the Hip’s farewell tour)
  7. The Mole Agent (undercover in a Chilean assisted living facility; a quasi documentary)
  8. Gimmie Shelter (Stones at Altamont)
  9. Don’t Look Back (Bob Dylan in England during 1965)
  10. A Choice of Weapons (Gordon Parks biography)
10 Very Funny and/or Deeply Affecting Comedies Watched During 2021
  1. Vacation Friends (John Cena)
  2. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  3. Moonstruck
  4. Roller Town (‘80s sex comedy parody about saving a roller rink from videogames; features an actually hilarious suicide joke)
  5. The Hunt (2020)
  6. Fear of a Black Hat
  7. Six String Samurai (ninja Buddy Holly fights through a hellscape to reach Las Vegas)
  8. Waitress
  9. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
  10. Miss Congeniality
Seven Labors of Love Experienced During 2021

As in “of Hercules.” As in “Wonders of the World.” Hollywood would never make these movies, but they came. They came all the same. I hope to all everyone holds good and true and dear that the money machine doesn’t break Chloe Zhao.

  1. Fatal Deviation (the self-produced Irish MMA crime drama you never knew you needed. Objective terrible by any imaginable measure, but still a deeply rewarding watch.)
  2. Cesar Chavez (Michael Pena and America Ferrera needed a bigger budget for this. I hope someone gives Chavez, his wife and their kids the biopic they deserve.)
  3. The Rider (Chloe Zhao’s directorial debut; excellent performances by a family of rodeo performers who are not actors)
  4. Songs My Brother Taught Me (Chloe Zhou’s second feature; set on Pine Ridge Reservation)
  5. Fat (Mel Rodriguez stars in this very good, but often tough to watch, exploration of living life as an obese single person.)
  6. Muy Thai Giant (A quite charming story about an Australian, well, giant, rescued by Thai teens who excel at street fighting.)
  7. The Apple (The ultimate so bad it’s good movie experience; the literal deus ex machina of an astral golden Cadillac is just *chef’s kiss*.)