About my film journal

My blogger life

My name is John and I’m a movie blogger. I did not set out initially to become a blogger but it grew out of my obsession with films and keeping track of films that I liked and wanted to collect and remember.

Back in 1999 I had already accumulated a large collection of my favorite films and was taping films from TV and keeping long detailed lists of what I had recorded and wanted to record. Those original beta tapes, by the way, are all obsolete now and I had to throw them all out years ago and replaced them with another now obsolete technology VHS tapes. I still own some of those. 

While searching for films to record I noticed that there were many films that I was unfamiliar with and therefore I couldn’t know if these films were worth recording. I needed to expand my knowledge by watching more films, and I don’t mean the stuff they show on television; rife with commercial interruptions and bleeped out dialogue. Sacrilege! No, I was now a film purist. A film must be seen uninterrupted in the best video and audio quality possible and the film is not finished until the last credit roles. To this end I decided to methodically keep track of films that were being released in theatres on a weekly basis in order of release dates, so that I could remember which movies I was interested in seeing and which movies I had seen and liked. At the same time I kept a log of every film that I had ever seen in my lifetime and organized this film viewing log by genres.

As time went on I created more movie lists, which eventually I collected into a journal of my film viewing history and I called it my film journal. This journal eventually grew so big and contained annual critic’s top 10 movie lists, annual critic’s best rated films lists, viewing logs, film festival winners lists, Oscar winners lists, essential film lists, animation lists, favorite directors lists, you name it and I had a list for it, that by 2005 I thought this hobby would be too unwieldy to contain in a binder.

As these lists were already in word document form on my computer drive, when blogs became free and easy to use tools for keeping your diary or journal in one place that could be shared with other people, I thought it would be the perfect forum for my movie lists. Not only could I keep and organize all my lists in one easy to access place, accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, but I could also write about and explain my lists and maybe even eventually start writing my own movie reviews.

After years of tinkering with the blogger program, the blog turned out to be even better than I expected. I started out posting general information blogs about movie trends, movie awards and movie critics and only posted once every couple of months, but eventually I began to blog about specific films I’d seen and started posting more often.

What I enjoy most about movie blogging and listing is recalling the fond memories I had during the film viewing experience and finding ways to put them into words. I can remember every film I’ve ever seen and usually I remember the titles too. But just in case I forget, I have plenty of lists to help me remember. Even if no one else reads my blog, I enjoy reading it.

To find out more about my blogging life and view my movie lists, go to my film journal.


Sept. 18, 2003

Why do so many people love to own their favourite films on video? Why do they make such a connection with some films that they must make them a part of their own personal collection? Some films are so representative of our own lives, or dreams, or ideals that we want to associate ourselves with those values. To own those special films that make us feel good about ourselves we are saying "these are the values, and experiences that I believe in and I would like to share with others". Thus we are connecting with our values and others who share them by making these films a part of our lives.

Film isn’t just entertainment. A good film makes you think, and can educate and enlighten people with a message, or moral. The best films have the ability to present a fully realized, self-contained world into which the viewer can be totally absorbed. For a short time we forget about everything, and experience a totally new universe through the eyes of totally new characters. Film can transport us backward in time as well as forward. It can teach us our history, and present a vision of the future. Cinematography, locations, costumes, actors, set design, special effects, editing, music, etc. if mixed together in just the right way can create a believable world into which our imaginations can run free. The whole look of the film is as important as the story.

Film is a collaboration of many art forms. Together they form a vision of life that is indistinguishable from reality. No matter how fantastic the vision, it can be made to look absolutely real. This is why film has become such a popular art form. Everyone can enjoy it, and there is a film for all tastes. Film can also be a document of every aspect of our lives, in every culture and in all parts of the world. It’s a way of seeing all our experiences in all parts of the world. It can even create experiences that don’t exist, in places that don’t exist.

It wasn't until I had seen Star Wars that I realized the power that film could have. I later discovered that every film creates its own feeling. Everyone sees something different in a movie. What people experience while viewing a film depends on individual taste, and life experience. A film that one person loves, another might find completely boring. One's experiences are always changing. A film that you saw at one point in your life might not have had any resonance then, but it may have later in life. After you have had certain experiences you may remember that film and say "mmm that film was not so bad after all, I understand it better now"

Some films grow on you. With every re-viewing of it, you see things that you may have overlooked before, or understand things that weren't clear to you before. 2001: A Space Odyssey had this effect on me. The first time I saw it, the experience seemed quite boring because I had grown up watching the fast paced (at that time) movies like Star Wars. But after viewing it again and again I began to appreciate it for its beautiful cinematography, and its realistic vision and story. Today it's one of my favourites, but you can't go in with preconceived notions.

Later I discovered other films that had a strong effect on me. Metropolis – 1927, Seven Samurai – 1954, THX 1138 – 1971, The Three Musketeers - 1973, Logan's Run - 1976, Star Wars – 1977, Quest for Fire - 1981, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes – 1984, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen – 1989, Apollo 13 – 1995, The Lord of the Rings – 2001, In This World – 2004, Babel – 2006, Avatar - 2009. They all seemed to have a similar storyline that I was drawn to. So one day I wrote it down and called it the Formula. Later I found the exact terminology for this formula written by Joseph Campbell in a book called "The Hero With A Thousand Faces". In the book he writes about a formula that runs through world mythology, and I realized why these stories were so powerful. This formula seems to be hard wired into our subconscious. The formula is called "The Hero's Journey" and it is described generally as follows:

"The hero, setting forth from his common day hut or castle, lured, carried away,
or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There he encounters
a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or conciliate
this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark, or be slain by the opponent
and descend in death (dismemberment, crucifixion). Beyond the threshold, then,
the hero journeys through a world of unfamiliar yet strangely intimate forces, some
of which severely threaten him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers).
When he arrives at the nadir of the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme
ordeal and gains his reward. The triumph may be represented as the hero's sexual
union with the goddess-mother of the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by
the father-creator (father-atonement), his own divinization (apotheosis), or again -
if the powers have remained unfriendly to him - his theft of the boon he came to
gain (bride-theft, fire-theft) ; intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and
therewith of being (illumination, transfiguration, freedom). The final stage is that of
the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their
protection (emissary) ; if not, he flees and is pursued. At the return threshold the
transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re-emerges from the kingdom
of dread (return, resurrection). The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir)".

                                                                                          - Joseph Campbell

I started to make a list of films that I remembered most fondly, so that I wouldn't forget them, and later when the opportunity presented itself I could buy a copy of them to own on video, and make my own collection of films. Because so many films are released every year, I became concerned that I would forget the names of these films, especially ones I hadn’t seen but wanted to. The list was now a viewing log and included every film I had seen even if I didn't particularly want to own it. I realized that the mere mention of the title brought with it an explosion of images and memories from the films even if I had only read about it.

From the beginning my film list was organized in order of the date the film was released. This was important to me because my film list represented a chronology of the films I had seen. Even though I may not have seen them in that order it was important to know where in the history of films a particular movie fitted. I never considered making my film list alphabetically. Although a movie is easier to find in such a list, it doesn't give you a sense of where that movie belongs in comparison to other films. My list was always meant to be browsed through, and read like a history of my film viewing.

Having a list of films in release date order, it became important to also organize my films in certain categories (Genres) to make films easier to find, but also to further be able to see the history of a particular genre.

The first and most important heading on my list must be the Title, followed closely by the release date. The next most important information is the name of the Director. Since there are many films with the same title, or similar titles, this information becomes crucial to differentiating between certain films with similar titles. Other information I like to include on my list after the Director is the language or country of origin.

At the top of my list is my favourite category; Sci-Fi Fantasy because most of my favourite films that follow the Hero's Journey are in that genre. This is no surprise since the new unknown realm is space. Other categories that I feel are important to keep separate are Action/Adventure/Suspense, War, Drama, Comedy/Romance, Animation, Documentaries, Short Films, and TV Series.

Documentaries are further categorized by subject matter. Behind the scenes deals strictly with making of specific films, Art & Artists deals with artists in all fields and their art, Nature & Exploration deals with exploring all aspects of our natural world and the creatures that live in it. War documentaries are becoming an extremely popular investigative tool that more filmmakers are turning to, to expose the atrocities and corruption that are occurring more frequently all over the world. SociaCulturalPolitical are docs that deal with History, Culture, and People in all walks of life and how they deal with the world. 

Sports & Games deals with competitions in Sport and Games people play to challenge ourselves. Music & Concert docs deal with Musicians or Musical Concerts or Music Videos. Lastly is a growing category which is becoming very popular and is producing extremely well crafted work in both Animation and Live Action, the Short film category.

I have since started a new List of Films which lists every film released in Toronto, in the order of their release date from January to December of every film year. This list will allow me to remember films I’ve heard or read about and wanted to see but for some reason was unable to. I can then find them at some later date and rent them. As I view these films I can check them off the list by checking the boxes that I’ve placed next to each title, thus making the list interactive. It also acts as a way of keeping chronological track of films when they are added to the Viewing list. It’s also a great browsing list that stimulates the memory as you can study groups of films that were release in the same weekend, month, season etc.

At the end of every film year I have included a list of Oscar Winners for that year, and also a list of top ten lists for all major film critics. By keeping track of which films get onto most critics top ten lists I can then get an overall idea of the most critically acclaimed films that year.

My film journal also includes all major film festival winners for each year. This way I can keep track of these films when they become available for viewing in the Theater or on Video.