Always Be Watching - I've Already Seen Over 200 Films in 2018 So Far

August 1, 2018

200 Films

Thank goodness for Letterboxd. I was originally going to title this article "Hitting My Mark", but I'd rather go with the catchphrase "Always Be Watching" - meaning, simply, always be watching films. New films, old films, big films, small films, just keep watching. It's my mantra and has been for years, since the early days of running this website. If I don't want to watch a film that was just released, there's always (always!) more old films to watch. And there's always something that I haven't yet seen to watch. As someone whose job it is to watch movies, my goal is to fit in a movie every day. It's not always possible, but I try. This year I decided to keep track of all the films I've seen using the wonderful Letterboxd, so I can actually keep count and look back at it all. It's the end of July and I'm already over 200 films. Do I get a medal? Nah, I just need sleep.

I decided that one of my only New Year's resolutions for 2018 is to actually keep track on and properly use Letterboxd, listing every film I watch throughout the year. I have been diligent and so far I've been keeping up. It's hard for me to keep track, to be honest, for various reasons: embargoes at early press screenings, seeing films at festivals that don't yet exist on IMDb or TMDb (and thus Letterboxd), falling asleep half way through a film and never finishing it, and so on. But I always try to follow up and add whatever I've watched recently to my list, as long as I finish the film completely. I don't count it as "watched" if I doze off and never finish it (as I did with Wall-E a few weeks ago, but I love the first half of that movie anyway). I've had an account on Letterboxd for years, but never kept up with it properly, and it's actually refreshing to do this now. Not just for the numbers, but to be able to look back at my thoughts/reviews of all the films this year.

The other big reason I want to keep track of what I watch is to be able to tell everyone about everything I've seen and to point them to Letterboxd if they want to know my thoughts on any/all of these films. It's not uncommon for cinephiles to see this many, but it impressive to the average Joe. Lots of people tend to ask "what have you watched recently that is good?" or "what do you recommend?" or "have you seen this film, and what did you think of it?" The answers to all of these questions can be found on my Letterboxd - I tend to include some kind of review with each listing, even if it's just a sentence or two. Luckily, Letterboxd let's you follow accounts so that new reviews show up in your feed when you visit the site. If you're interested in checking out my page and following, you can find me right here: letterboxd.com/firstshowing/ (of course!).

Alex's Letterboxd

To be frank, I'm not trying to boast about seeing 200 films. The average person maybe sees 2 or 3 movies a month, which comes out to about 20 or 30 per year. They're expensive to go to (give or take MoviePass), time-consuming, and you have to be fully invested. I get it. But I love movies, really really love them, which means I want to see as many as I can. As soon as someone tells me something is great, I need to watch it. As soon as the buzz on Twitter starts getting crazy for a film, I need to watch it. And so I do my best to see as much as I can, always be watching, every night if there's time. Luckily, I have Netflix, and iTunes, and that pretty much gets me everything I need for the most part. There's all the other services as well: FilmStruck, Mubi, Amazon, Hulu, etc. There's so many choices and so many ways to find films, it's a bit overwhelming. But at least they're making most movies available digitally so you even can find all those VHS cult classics.

Most of my viewing every year comes from film festivals. I usually catch over 30+ films at each fest during the year: at Sundance in January, then at Berlinale in February, then at Cannes in May, then at Venice / Telluride / Toronto in September. And I go to lots of other festivals in the meantime: Karlovy Vary, Sitges, IDFA, and a few others in Europe (where I now live). I love seeing this many movies in a short amount of time, as I can pack them in and see them right away and not worry about how I'm going to catch them later. In its first few years, Letterboxd had a problem where festival films weren't usually listed in their database. If I'm at the very first world premiere of a film, it's just being introduced to the world and sometimes it's not even listed on IMDb. They've fixed this problem and most films, even obscure international flicks, are listed or can be added easily. Which makes me happy because I want to add everything I see, whatever it may be.

This article is also not an advertisement for Letterboxd, though I do love the website. I have been a fan of Letterboxd since the very early days, when they first launched (back in 2011). I'll admit that I was actually quite jealous. Right around the same time, I had been envisioning and designing a mobile app that would work as a simple movie tracker. You could add each movie, a quick review, and save it so you know what you watched. I was starting to figure out how to get this developed when Letteboxd launched, and then I gave up. Their service is so much better, their website so much cleaner, and they have a full-time staff dedicated to running it as a business (they're based out of New Zealand). I've since gotten over this jealousy and have watched this site grow into something even more impressive, and they're always improving as time goes on.

Anyway, it's time to get back to watching movies. As always, you can follow my updates/reviews on Twitter @firstshowing. And you can follow my list/reviews on Letterboxd @firstshowing. See ya at the cinema.

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Feat



Because of my budget, expense of tickets (in Japan) and limited releases, I have really slipped in terms of my theater going experiences. I really do love going to the theater. One reason Korea is so awesome is their plethora of theaters and relatively reasonable prices. Japan is irritatingly expensive, especially if you are on a budget. To go to a regular showing, it costs an average of 1,800 yen, or about 16 bucks. There is so many others things I could do with that money, so I can only see really big, tent pole projects. I have been able to catch a couple Marvel flicks and Episode Eight.

DAVIDPD on Aug 1, 2018


It's $15 to go see a movie here, as well! Not that bad. NYC was the worst - sometimes $20-25 just for one movie (IMAX, 3D cost the most). But yeah, I just pay the price and go anyway. Luckily I don't have to pay for press screenings or film festival screenings, so that puts me at an advantage for sure, but it's still something I would pay for anyway just because they always deserve my money.

Alex Billington on Aug 2, 2018


Yeah, you got to pick your battles, 'spose.

DAVIDPD on Aug 2, 2018


Depends on where you live as well. I suppose. Honestly, when I see movies, which is on weekdays, usually matinee shows, as well, I only spend a small amount. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Hotel Transylvania 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp for about $10 altogether.

Wes Draven on Aug 5, 2018


Because of my budget, expense of tickets (in Japan) and limited releases, I have really slipped in terms of my theater going experiences. I really do love going to the theater. One reason Korea is so awesome is their plethora of theaters and relatively reasonable prices. Japan is irritatingly expensive, especially if you are on a budget. To go to a regular showing, it costs an average of 1,800 yen, or about 16 bucks. There is so many others things I could do with that money, so I can only see really big, tent pole projects. I have been able to catch a couple Marvel flicks and Episode Eight.

DAVIDPD on Aug 1, 2018


Impressive. MOST impressive, but you are not a Movie Jedi yet...lol But you're pretty damn close! Question @dawisebuddha:disqus: Do all 200 stand out to you? Or do most just fade away? I've come to find that after being alive almost 40 years, many films I saw 20 years ago are like watching them again for the first time. Some hold up, most don't lol. And seriously, I know you're not "officially" endorsing Letterboxd, but I had no idea something like this was available. Thanks for the heads up and congrats on film count! That's pretty remarkable with not even being done with 2018! Now get some sleep!

THE_RAW_ on Aug 1, 2018


Nah, not everything stands out. Of course! That's part of the test of what's good. I say this at film festivals but it also applies to seeing films all year long - the stuff that stands out in your mind, that you remember, that sticks with you, scenes or characters that are hard to forget. Those are the truly great films. Even if you don't love everything about the film, if there's something about it that just stays on your mind constantly, you have to learn to admit that's what is special and exceptional about it. Having been doing this for so many years, I'm used to this and I happily can recall a lot of films for various reasons. Certain scenes and certain moments stand out, and there's always one or two that are my top favorites that I'll constantly recommend and think about. It's the kind of thing where I'd love to just sit down and talk about cinema for a few hours, and discuss everything good or bad with you. So if you have something on your mind, just ask! Ha. And thanks. Yes, check out Letterboxd!! It's a really great site.

Alex Billington on Aug 2, 2018


I'm extremely jealous. If I get 2 movies in a week, I'm lucky. When my children were young it was far less than that. Damned kids.

Charles Knowlton on Aug 1, 2018


I started using Letterboxd late last year, like it a lot. But I've only watched 33 movies this year, 10 of them in July though. Zvyagintsev's "Loveless" was one of them, best movie I've seen in a while. Saw Icarus today, great doc. Anyways, I followed you and I see that you have The Fifth Element as one of your favorite films. Is it really that good? I vaguely remember seeing it when I was younger, but don't really remember anything from it. Guess I should watch it again.

Efterklang on Aug 1, 2018


I LOVE The Fifth Element, but it's just something that plays right to me. Big, glorious sci-fi world, big story about love, everything about it. I saw it 5 times in theaters when it was first released, and I still love it so much. Not sure everyone else feels the same way... But yeah.

Alex Billington on Aug 2, 2018


@dawisebuddha:disqus I made a Lego cab from the Fifth Element because I loved the design so much lol. What did you think of Valerian?

THE_RAW_ on Aug 2, 2018


I enjoyed it. Something about it really fascinates me, I love space opera sci-fi and this one has a lot to offer. I don't think it's anywhere near TFE great, but it's an enjoyable movie. I love the multi-dimensional bazaar scenes the most, but the rest has some cool moments. I think Cara Delevingne is way better in this than we're all willing to admit. So yeah, I dig it. What about you?

Alex Billington on Aug 2, 2018


I agree. I was on board with it until the 3rd act when Rhianna's character showed up and from there it kind of went from a "good" movie to just "okay". There's some great visuals and direction, but Cara Delevingne was my favorite performance hands down. I'm gonna watch it again just to solidify because it was quite the visual spectacle. It's a fun movie, however, not without it's flaws. But yeah, I'm pining for more space opera sci-fi that's not "Star Wars". It's time for something new and different. We need a "Star Wars" for this generation.

THE_RAW_ on Aug 3, 2018


I'm at a measly 61 so far. 200 up til June is impressive, though, despite it being part of your job (I have no idea how many movies the average film critic watches per year). A few years ago I watched 214 films or so within one year, that is my record. I haven't used letterboxd yet, rather just a simple word document for the last eight years (well, a new file for each year), using it just for my own records. The site does look enticing, though, and two acquaintances of mine are using it, so I might give it a try some time. Edit: Also I separate between the number of films I've watched for the first time, and the ones I've re-watched; is that possible with letterboxd? (I imagine it is.)

Terry Craig on Aug 3, 2018

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