The Great Watchlist Purge of 2021
Watching movies, particularly independent films and old classics, is one of my longtime hobbies. Among my favorites have been 1982’s Beastmaster and 1970’s Rio Lobo when I was kid, then 1986’s At Close Range and 1983’s Suburbia when I was a teenager. I’ve always had eclectic taste. Easy Rider is my all-time favorite movie, but I also can’t deny that I like more traditional films. Christmas can’t go by without It’s a Wonderful Life, and my heart breaks every time I see Joe Bradley walk away at the end of Roman Holiday. My favorite Charlie Brown special is Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!). I first started watching blaxploitation films in the late 1980s when a buddy got a hold of VHS tapes of Dolemite and The Human Tornado. I like weird and trips stuff like Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book and Prospero’s Books, and I like stark realism like Twelve Angry Men, and I like quirky comedies like One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead. I. Just. Love. Movies.
In that spirit, I used some of my abundant free time during the COVID-19 quarantine to make an attempt at watching more movies in my IMDb Watchlist— the Great Watchlist Purge of 2020, I called it. I began in March with 67 films in the list, I watched all of the movies I could find, searching Prime and Netflix and YouTube and other video sites on the web . . . and then I ended the year with more than 70 films in the list! I would watch a movie, go and rate it, and voila!— if you liked that, here are some other movies you might like. It’s neverending!
Below is the current watchlist, in no particular order. I’m going to try again in 2021 to whittle this self-imposed cinematic to-do list down to something manageable, posting my progress on Twitter with the hashtag #GreatWatchlistPurge.
Ingmar Bergman in the mid-’60s. I’ve read that this film is very complex and has to be watched multiple times to understand it. Sounds like my kind of movie.
Though I don’t know much about this movie, it sounds odd, but what caught my attention was that it was filmed in Alabama.
Francesco (2002) and Francesco (1989)
The newer of these two movies caught my attention, because I am interested in Saint Francis. The older one came in the suggestions list and stars Mickey Rourke right after he starred in 9 1/2 Weeks and Angel Heart. I am having trouble imagining how some casting agent saw Rourke in those two films and thought, “That’s our saint . . .”
Don’t Look Now (1973)
This movie came up as a suggestion after I rated the movie Deep Red. I like suspenseful movies and I like ’70s movies and I like Donald Sutherland, so I put it in the list.
Born to Win (1971), The Panic in Needle Park (1971), and Dusty and Sweets McGee (1971)
These three are all from the early ’70s and are all about hardcore drug users. I’m not sure that I’ll ever watch any of them, but I have them in the list in case I decide to.
In Bruges (2008) and Bruges-Le-Morte (1978)
These two films have nothing to do with each other, except that they both have the Belgian city Bruges in the title. I found the former, a Colin Farrell action story about a hitman, when I was reading something that said it was a great film, and the latter came up in a search when I typed ‘Bruges’ in the search bar to find the first movie. The second one is older and is about a guy who becomes obsessed with a woman who looks like his dead wife.
Haiku Tunnel (2001) and Mountain Cry (2015)
These movies have no relation to each other either, except that they both came up when I searched the term ‘haiku.’ The first movie is an early 2000s indie comedy about doing temp work in an office, and the second one is a beautifully filmed Chinese drama about a family in a small village.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1929)
I had never heard of this animated movie before seeing a reference to it on Twitter from an account that was disputing Fantasia‘s designation as the first full-length animated feature film. The clip attached to the tweet was beautiful, and I want to see the whole film.
The Black Cat (1989)
An Italian horror film from the late ’80s . . . eh, why not?
The River Rat (1984)
I found this film when I was trying to figure out what Martha Plimpton had been in. I tend to think of Plimpton as the nerdy friend she played in Goonies, but this one, which is set in Louisiana and has Tommy Lee Jones playing her dad, puts her in a different role.
So, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? (2013)
I’d just like to see this documentary on Noam Chomsky because he always has interesting ideas, even if I don’t agree with them.
The Mephisto Waltz (1971)
I’ve read about this movie but never seen it. I must say, the title is great.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
This horror film came up alongside Deep Red, which I watched not long ago, after I rated two recent horror films: the disturbing Hagazussa and the less-heavy but still creepy Make-Out with Violence. Deep Red was good, so I want to watch this one, too.
Born in Flames (1983)
This movie looks cool but obscure. It’s an early ’80s dystopian film about life after a massive revolution.
Personal Problems (1980)
This one is also pretty obscure – complicated African-American lives in the early ’80s – and came up as a suggestion since I liked Ganja and Hess. The description says “partly improvised,” which means that the characters probably ramble a good bit.
The Vampires of Poverty (1978) and La mansion du Araucaima (1986)
Two by director Carlos Mayolo. Films out of Colombia in the late ’70s are a bit out of my wheelhouse, but both look intriguing. Vampires of Poverty is fictional but made to look a documentary about the poor. The latter is about an actress who wanders off a film set and into a weird castle. In both cases, I’ll need subtitles.
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
A young Daniel Day Lewis as the boyfriend of a Pakistani guy in England who opens a laundromat. This sounds like one of those quirky ’80s gems that you had to stumble on to know about.
Greetings (1968) and Hi, Mom! (1970)
These two Brian de Palma movies both star a young Robert DeNiro and look like a hippie mess. But I’d like to see them.
The Borrower (1991)
Early ’90s sci-fi/horror, starring Rae Dawn Chong, who you don’t hear much about anymore. She was everywhere for a while then kind of disappeared. The plot description sounds like a body snatchers kind of thing.
Quiet Days in Clichy (1970)
Having been a big Henry Miller fan in college, I had already seen Henry & June and the adaptation of Tropic of Cancer that stars Rip Torn. The book Quiet Days in Clichy is about Miller’s (supposed) wild adventures with his friends, so I’ll be curious to see what the filmmaker did with that.
American Splendor (2003)
Paul Giamatti back when he was still an indie film guy, before Sideways. I never did take the time to watch this movie, but I want to.
What the Peeper Saw (1972)
This Italian suspense-horror film is one from the creepy child sub-genre, like The Bad Seed.
The title of this one lured me in. But it’s not about Alabama, the state where I live. The film is Polish and has no description on IMDb. One of the posters says “love story” on it, so I’m guessing that it’s a love story. I’m mainly curious why it’s titled Alabama.
A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud (2017)
I love Carson McCullers. That is all.
The Night They Robbed Big Bertha’s (1975) and Smokey and the Outlaw Women (1978)
Both of these movies look awful, but they also look like great examples of that mid- to late 1970s Southern kitsch, that goofy comedy sub-genre that spawned Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard.
Mondo Candido (1975)
I read the novel Candide in graduate school and liked it, and I teach it every once in a while in my twelfth grade English class. It’s a pretty wild story, and this adaptation is Italian. However, it’s hard to find and I’ll need subtitles.
Fantastic Planet (1973)
An animated sci-fi film, which isn’t really my thing, but the stills on IMDb make it look like something to see.
Pierrot le Fou (1965)
Jean-Luc Godard in the ’60s. I wanted to see this after watching Contempt, with Brigitte Bardot, which was a beautiful and heartbreaking movie.The titled means Pierre (or Peter) the madman.
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Though I like old horror movies, I’m normally not a Christopher Lee fan. This movie is supposed to be better than most of his churned-out vampire movies. We’ll see . . .
The Wicker Man (1973)
I’ve read that this is one of the best horror films ever made.
Little Fauss and Big Halsey (1970)
Paul Newman movies from the late ’60s and early ’70s are among my all-time favorites. This one came out about the same time as Sometimes A Great Notion. Despite having seen Cool Hand Luke, Hud, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Long, Hot Summer numerous times each, I’d never heard of this movie until a few years ago.
The Baby (1973)
I noticed this horror movie several years ago after watching an older black-and-white movie called Spider Baby, which was really bizarre. This one is about a man-sized “baby” and looks equally weird.
Under Milkwood (1971)
Richard Burton and Liz Taylor after Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which I loved, and a story written by the poet Dylan Thomas.
Heavy Traffic (1973)
Again, I’m not really a cartoon guy, but this is Ralph Bakshi, who did Heavy Metal in the early ’80s. When we were growing up Heavy Metal was a major no-no, and we never could understand why— we’re kids and it’s a cartoon, what’s the problem? I watch it as an adult and saw why kids shouldn’t watch it. This is another one of his, but hard to find.
Six Pack (1982)
This was one of my favorites as a kid. Kenny Rogers, in his heyday, played a struggling race car driver, then he was helped by a pit crew of orphans who he finds when they try to rob him. It also has Diane Lane around the time she was in The Outsiders. But this movie is difficult to find these days.
The Sky is Gray (1980)
This movie is an adaptation of an Ernest Gaines short story. I haven’t been in a big hurry to watch it though, since the 1983 adaption of A Gathering of Old Men was poorly done, even though it had a good cast.
Widespread Panic: Live from the Georgia Theatre (1991) and The Earth Will Swallow You (2002)
How has a guy who loves Widespread Panic never seen either of these early concert films? Ridiculous.
Mondo Cane (1962)
I started this documentary once, left off, and never went back to it. The general thing is that it shows strange and sometimes violent rituals, traditions, and practices around the world. There’s a distinctly colonialist feel to it, like saying “Look what savages these people are,” but it also has the same feel as the Faces of Death series that were available when I was young. I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to watching this, but I leave it in the list.
All the Right Noises (1970)
A story about a married theater manager who has an affair with a younger woman, and it looks a little like Fatal Attraction, like the relationships goes well until it doesn’t. I keep some movies in the watchlist because they look weird or unique. This one might actually be good.
The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds (1970)
I like this play a lot and teach it in my Creative Writing classes. Beyond that, Paul Newman, one of my favorite actors, produced this adaptation. I’m curious to see what a filmmaker would do with this very emotional story.
Boxcar Bertha (1972)
Boxcar Bertha looks a bit like Bonnie and Clyde. An early ’70s crime movie set during the Depression, it was directed by Martin Scorsese. It should be good.
This horror/thriller was not a great movie, but it has Sherilynn Fenn in it, and she was another one of my 1990s celebrity crushes from being in Wild at Heart and Twin Peaks. For some reason, this movie has become hard to find.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
I can’t remember who told me I ought to watch this, but somebody I know did. The genre is listed as comedy/horror and you never can tell with movies like that. The title inclines me to think it could be like the Evil Dead movies
The Girl Behind the White Picket Fence (2013)
I found this movie in a search for Udo Kier, who I’ve liked since seeing Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Dracula when I was in high school. The cinematic style of this one looks pretty cool, as does the story.
Endless Poetry (2016)
Alejandro Jodorowsky is hit-or-miss for me. I liked The Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre but I didn’t finish El Topo. This movie about him is supposed to be done in his very strange style.
Pink Motel (1982)
By all accounts, reviews, etc. this movie is terrible. But it has a few things going for it: it was made in the early ’80s, and it stars Phyllis Diller and Slim Pickens.
I started watching this once, and it was really freakin’ weird. It’s surreal, Brazilian, and anti-colonialist, and I may give it another try.
The Rebel Rousers (1970), Ride in the Whirlwind (1968), and Psych Out (1968)
In the late ’60s, Jack Nicholson was prolific, though not all the films were great ones. Since Easy Rider is my favorite movie of all-time ever, I’ve got a special place in my heart for Nicholson and for hippie biker films, even bad ones.
Mood Indigo (2013)
This just looked like a good movie. And I’ve like Audrey Tautou ever since I saw Amelie.
Paris, Texas (1984) and Lucky (2017)
Part of me is embarrassed, as a movie buff, that I’ve never seen Paris, Texas, but another part of me says, “Hey, I was ten when it came out.” I like Harry Dean Stanton. He was the dad in Pretty in Pink, he was in David Lynch’s Wild At Heart, and he was hilarious in Two-Lane Blacktop as a hitchhiker who tries to pay Warren Oates for the ride with a blowjob. Both of these films star Stanton. The former is said to be one of the best films ever made.
Big Sur (2013)
Jack Kerouac was the writer who made me want to be a writer. This film is an adaptation of his book, but I’ve put off watching it for the same reason that I won’t watch Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of On the Road— I want my experience with the book to be the interpretation/imagining of it that stays in my head. I may not ever watch this movie.
In addition to liking Henry Miller in college, I also like Charles Bukowski. I’ve seen Barfly many times but have never seen this bio-pic that has Matt Dillon as Bukowski.
I noticed this film since it’s classified as horror, but what interests me more is the visual style of it. I’ve gotten to see clips from House and want to see the whole thing.
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971)
Another Edwige Fenech movie that looks similar to All the Colors of the Dark below.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Minnesota (2017)
I missed this movie in the theaters. I want to see it.
Beginner’s Luck (2001) and Tykho Moon (1996)
Both of these movies star Julia Delpy, who was another 1990s celebrity crush after I saw Killing Zoe and Before Sunrise.
All the Colors of the Dark (1972)
I saw this movie in the mid-1980s when the USA Network used to have a program called Saturday Nightmares, which featured an obscure horror movie followed by two half-hour shows like Ray Bradbury Theater or The Twilight Zone. That weird old program turned me on 1960s and ’70s European horror movies, like this is one, Vampire Circus, and The Devil’s Nightmare. I haven’t seen this movie in a long time, but it’s time to rewatch it.
Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Like House above, this Japanese film is visually really interesting. I’ve read that it was the progenitor for the anime genre. I don’t care about anime personally, but I’ve seen parts of this film and what I’ve seen is pretty trippy.
How Tasty Was my Little Frenchman (1971)
Like Macunaima, I also started watching this Brazilian anti-colonialist film once and never went back to it. Maybe this year, I’ll finish it. Then again, maybe I’ll just accept that I don’t like surreal, Brazilian, anti-colonialist films.