Friday 22 March 2013

The Anniversary Speech

Thank you for the picture, Stefan!

The Anniversary Speech
It is my 150 movie anniversary!


I have now watched the first 150 films on the list and I will (fairly) soon have caught up on my lag. As you may know I was already at film number 114 (Robin Hood) when I started my blog, so there has been some catching up to do. At this point the gap is only 22 movies wide.

I will use this opportunity to give a more detailed presentation of myself and what I am doing here on my blog. I love to get that glimpse of other people so it is only fair to provide something myself.

My name is Thomas Sørensen. That is a very generic Danish name, the equivalent of John Smith, and I share it with a whole bunch of people including a former national team goalkeeper. I am Danish, but in the autumn I have temporarily relocated to Israel where my wife got a job. I am in the fortunate situation that I can keep my day job in some form from a remote location. So I live here with my wife and 3 year old son and that is an interesting and very different experience.

In my day job I am a wind energy consultant. The company I work for makes a nice piece of software that helps you find out where to place your wind turbines, how much they will produce and how much they will disturb the neighbors. It is a pretty unique tool and we sell it all over the world. As I am involved in development, testing and consultancies on wind farm projects I get to travel all over the world to teach people how to use it or to work on actual projects. Within the last year I have been to Australia, England, Belgium, Brazil, China, Japan and South Korea. I always loved to travel so in a sense this is really great, though with a small child it is also very hard.

A benefit from all the travelling is that I get to meet a lot people and experience cultures very different from my own. I like to think it makes me more open minded, but it is just as likely to make me more cynical. In any case it makes me quite receptive to movies from odd places in the world and likewise despise very nationalistic themes in movies.

In 2008, just before my wife and I went to Shanghai for 5 months, a friend of mine gave me a book that was going have a big influence on my life: 1001 movies you must see before you die. I only got to delve into it after I returned from China, but then I really got hooked. Very early cinema caught my interest and I started reading a lot about it and I realized I knew absolutely zip. It was quite shocking to find out that before 1940 there were only a handful of films I had heard of and if I had seen them I certainly had forgotten all about them and that includes the classics. In fact I have been blatantly ignorant of film prior to 1970. Here was this treasure throve of pictures deemed classics and I did not even recognize the names of most of them. That was quite a revelation.

I have always been fascinated by mammoth projects where the object is not to finish but the process itself, like reading a dictionary or building some monstrosity and the idea of just starting from one end and work myself through something I will probably never finish appeals to me.  So around the time my son Nimrod was born I decided to go through with this crazy project and start watching all the movies in the book chronologically. Very slowly. It soon became my task to feed Nimrod a bottle of milk in the morning and in the evening and so would watch the films in 10-15 minute chunks, which was fine because I had decided to actually buy the DVDs and if I raced through the list this could become very expensive indeed.

I think most people who do the list watches the films alone and I am no exception. My wife is not really into these old films and while I have two good friends who are I have only seen a few of the films with Zsolt and Maurizio. So I started searching the Internet to see if there was anybody out there doing the List as well. So far I have found nobody in Denmark, but I soon discovered Squish and the blog club. Not only were there people watching the List, but also blogging about it! I started reading all the entries to movies I had seen as well and commented on many of them and soon grew deeply envious. This was just so cool! I just had to be part of this community, this was the long sought for outlet for all I wanted to say about these old films. Yet something was holding me back. The bloggers are all so good that I could not possibly contribute with anything new and my pathetic writings would only be the laughingstock of the community. That is until I thought; what the hell, it is just a blog not some sort of exam and my angle would not be an expert review or deep analysis, it would be my personal experience with the films. This is what I look for anyway when I read entries on movies, the gems of personal impressions, and everybody have their own take on the movies they see and are perfectly entitled to it. So one day without thinking too much about it I just went to it and created the most simplistic site on the net and voila, I was a blogger myself.

And the most amazing thing happened: fellow bloggers actually read my posts and commented on it. For that I am very thankful and I would like to send a special thanks to Steve, Siobhan, Chip Larry and Kim for very encouraging comments and my apologies for harassing your back catalogs.

I stick with my plan to watch the films chronologically, but I also have a backlog to fill, which means that I have to watch the first 113 movies again to write something decent about them. I do not really mind though since most of them are good. Also there are a few later films I have reviewed. Those are, ahem, my picks for the blog club. You cannot really pick a movie and then not comment on it yourself, no?

Doing the list chronologically has a number of advantages that I am quite happy about. For one I get a really good feel for the development of the film media and the history it covers. I can see how styles and fashion changes, how techniques evolves, stars emerge and develop and for a novice like me I get the proper foundation to see the next films on the list. Secondly I avoid the danger of taking all the easy film first, ending up with a bunch of difficult and obscure movies. In this way they are evenly scattered out on my road through the list.

A special feature is that I am actually following the Danish edition of the list. This means that about a dozen Danish and a handful of Swedish films will enter the list over time that does not figure in the original version. In those cases there will be both an “a” and a “b” entry on the List.

My taste in film has evolved quite a bit over the three years I have been watching films from the list. Whereas before I would have listed a number of genres as my favorites and others as stinkers I am now at a place where I would say that any genre can be good if the film itself is good. I have found that I love a good musical or a sweet love story as much as a gothic horror or a big production. It all comes down to how well the film is made and many of the best experiences have been total surprises. If I should pick out a single movie from the list as a standout hit for me it would probably be “M”. It just has so many things going for it and I have seen it several times now and love it more with each viewing. In fact I am very impressed with German expressionism and am quite excited that I am now getting into the prime film noir period, the 1940´ies where so many elements of German expressionism are being expertly used.

One genre that has always fascinated me is period film. It is interesting to see a historical event acted out, though as with science fiction the results are often disappointing. Either because the historical facts have been compromised for dramatic effect or boredom due to an overzealous insistence on historical precision. If somebody asked me today what movie I would really like to see made I would say one that takes place in fifth or sixth century central Europe. That period is so full of epic drama and so lacking historical sources that there are both plenty to pick from and freedom to develop stories worth seeing. I would love to see a movie about Alarik and the Visigoth, Theodoric and the Ostrogoth or the most obscure yet epic adventure of the Vandals and Alans. An obvious choice would be the story of Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman scholar and former soldier who witnessed the barbaric invasions and whose life itself was quite an adventure. This period is made up of the stuff of legends, yet the only story we ever get is that of King Arthur. There are so much more to tell.

Anyway, thank you for reading my posts, I very much appreciate it. And do remember to check out those blogs in the right column I follow. Those are the one with all the good stuff.


  1. It really is nice to read people's personal history with film. Thank you for posting this.

    I 100% agree re: going through the list chronologically. I didn't go strictly chronologically, but I did go by decade, and I'm so glad I did. It was amazing watching stars emerge, become huge, then die down, to be replaced by the next group. The evolution of film is great to see too. The huge thing I noticed, which I had never considered before, was how many awesome German films there are from the 1920s and early 1930s... and then nothing. For DECADES. I think the next time a German film appears is in the late fifties/sixties. That's a powerful comment on the relationship between politics and art, and I had never considered it. Watching the rise of several international cinemas POST-World War II was interesting to me.

    I like your blog posts because they are so focused on your personal response to the film. The thing that's so great about having a blog is that it can be whatever you want it to be.

    And I will always remember that you and I started our blogs within a few weeks of one another...

    1. Thank you very much Siobhan. Going through the list is to experience world history in an entirely different way than conventional books. It give a different perspective and as much as one can argue the choice of individual films the editors has made sure to cover so wide a spectrum that we get a multi-facetted impression of the world of yeasteryear. Had it only been blockbuster movies this would have been a poorer experience.
      We did indeed (start our blogs within week of one another) and I follow your blog with great interest.

  2. Thanks for sharing all this background information on yourself. My home state of Maine has put in a few windfarms. I don't know if you'll ever end up here, but if you do, please get in touch.

    Out of curiosity, what are the Danish/Swedish films that are extra? I've seen only a handful of Danish films that aren't in the master list and that were not directed by Von Trier (i.e. Mifune, Just Another Love Story, etc.)

    Technically, Hamlet and Beowulf take place in Denmark in the Middle Ages. There have been several versions of each.

  3. Thank you very much. I have never been to Maine but in 2007 I spent seven weeks at our agency in Vermont and got to see quite a bit of New England and I believe we have some sites in Maine we worked on back then. I will look you up if I get to those parts again.

    I made a list of the special entries. There may be more but the last 10 years very much depend on the issue of the book (mine is from 2007).

    Vredens dag (1943)
    Ditte Menneskebarn (1946)
    Soldaten og Jenny (1947)
    Café Paradis (1950)
    Hon dansade en sommar (1951)
    Kvarteret Korpen (1963)
    Sult (1966)
    En kärlekshistoria (1970)
    Kundskabens Træ (1970)
    The Element of Crime (1984)
    Mitt liv som hund (1985)
    Pelle Erobreren (1987)
    Kærlighedens Smerte (1992)
    Nattevagten (1994)
    Fucking Åmål (1998)
    Den eneste ene (1999)
    Bænken (2000)

    1. Thanks. I will save these for future recommendations. I first saw My Life as a Dog something like 25 years ago. I happened upon a DVD copy a year or two ago, bought it, and watched it again. And a while back I reviewed Fucking Amal as part of my Girl Meets Girl category. I own it on DVD, too.

      Pelle the Conqueror, like Babette's Feast, is one of those films I have had on a mental list of "I should watch this someday", but unlike Babette, Pelle hasn't happened to appear on a list I have been working on, so I've still never seen it. No excuse, I know, but sometimes I have a large amount of inertia when it comes to getting around to seeing movies I feel I "should".

      I don't think I've seen any of the others, although I might just not be aware of the American titles of them.

    2. Like with many of the movies on the list you can discuss whether these were the right films to place on the list. I think about half of them are strange choices. Since the mid-nineties Danish cinema has become very strong with very good titles, mostly better than the ones selected. Of the titles on the list I can recommend Nattevagten (The nightwatch) by Ole Bornedal. This was the movie that set off the golden age and it is really good. He later made an American version with Nick Nolte, but it really stinks.
      You must see Babettes Feast! It is so funny in an underplayed way. It deserved its Oscar. Also you might want to seek out a film called Blinkende Lygter. It is a gangster comedy and one that ought to be on the original list.

    3. I have seen Babette's Feast. It came up on the IMDB list (and it's in the 1,001 Movies list, too.) Sorry for the confusion.

      I did translate the titles and I was surprised not to find the Swedish film The Emigrants on it. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in the early 1970s - something that is very rare for a foreign film from any country, and especially when there were only five nominees, and back then when foreign films were far less accessible in the U.S.

      Thanks for the recommendations. I added Flickering Lights to my Netflix queue. Nightwatch (the Danish version) is not available. The remake is available, but even that is Instant Viewing only and not on DVD. The Russian film Night Watch, which has nothing to do with these, and which I have already seen, is completely available, of course.

    4. I never saw The Emigrants although it was a big thing in the seventies here as well. I did read the books by Wilhelm Moberg and they were top class. I will not rule out that it might be included in the Swedish edition.

    5. The Emigrants also has a second part called "The new land" which is.. well ok.

      I almost turned off the first movie in the scene were they.. wait.. is it possible to have spoiler tags in this blog?

    6. They kill the cat for no reason. I dont like it when they kill the cat.

  4. Keep rolling!

    Like the others, I appreciate the background information, too. It's nice to get a view of the life behind the posts whenever possible. I'm always interested in seeing what you have to write, in no small part because you and I tend to agree--you're validation for my opinion more often than not. I mean, we can't both be wrong, right?

    1. Thank you, that is quite a compliment. Whenever I have posted a review I immediately drop by your place to see if I am entirely off. I like to make my comments entirely based on my own impression without reading other reviews first, but it sometimes leads to terrible mistakes. I am still kicking myself over Citizen Kane.

  5. I'm surprised that Vredens dag is not in the main list. I think it is wonderful but then I love Carl Theo. Dreyer.

    You will be hearing more from me because Squish just said I could join the club. It was interesting to hear about your life and blogging. I'm at the stage where I'm having writer's block about doing my first review for the club and it is good to be reminded that it's not going to be graded!

    1. I hope you fix that block and start writing. I look forward to reading your posts.
      My advice is to not worry too much. Nobody rates or grades your posts and if I can get away with my junk, then anything goes. For me I love the personl approach. I can only read a storyline summary so many times, but I never really tire of reading what people think of what they see.
      Be sure to send a link.

      Vredens dag will be coming up some time in May or June. I have not seen it yet, but the DVD arrived by mail yesterday.

  6. I tend to see myself as a sleeper cell at the moment. When we start coming into the 60s I will emerge and become more active.

    Thanks for the blog though. The writing itself makes it worthwhile coming here although most of the movies in my humble opinion... well Suck :D

    1. Come on Daniel, you love them, you just do not know it yet :-)
      I should have mentioned you as my movie pusher for helping me obtain difficult to find rarities.