For the Love of Bingie

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No, “Benji” isn’t misspelled. You see, my name is John and I have a problem. When it comes to movies, I binge. I find certain directors or genres or actors and actresses that I like and I feast on one movie after another from said director, genre, or actor/actress. It usually takes a month or two to wear itself out depending on my level of enjoyment and the depth of availability. Allow me to give some examples.

One of my current binges is Kung Fu movies. Until a month ago, I was completely uninitiated in the genre. But repeated references to the genre by two of my favorite directors- Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino- convinced me that I should give it a try. I started with a Jackie Chan film, Drunken Master (1978). After being pleasantly surprised by that, I then decided that I should finally tackle Enter the Dragon (1973). Two happy hours later, the binge was on. And so this weekend, I watched another film that features Jackie Chan’s chop socky humor, Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1978). As soon as it was over, I tackled Five Fingers of Death (1972), which was: a) really freakin’ awesome and b) a very clear influence in a really great way on Tarantino. Up next this week is The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

Another recent binge was a Billy Wilder streak. For such a critically acclaimed director, it’s a shame that I really hadn’t seen much of his work. Thus, for two months, I took on Some Like it Hot (1959); The Apartment (1960); The Seven Year Itch (1955); The Spirit of St. Louis (1957); and Stalag 17 (1953). I enjoyed each and every one of them, and a few of them even inched towards the top of the chart listing my all-time favorites. Combined with how much I loved the handful of Wilder films I’d seen prior to my binge, this binge helped push Wilder into rare air for me- a top 10 director. This binge is still (somewhat) ongoing, as he has at least a few more I’d like to see before closing the books.

Last July, I resolved to keep a running tally of the 50 best French films of all-time. Ideally, I’ll update the list each year during the week of Bastille Day. But it’s a daunting task. As you can see just from last year’s entry, there are a TON of honorable mentions that I simply hadn’ t seen. My response was to go absolutely bananas with French films. Starting on Bastille Day until September 1st, I watched about 20 to 25 of some of the very best French movies ever made. I was like a pit bull, with my ferocious jaws wrapped around French cinema. Finally, after a month of subtitles and needing a break, I let up.

Other binges that I’m currently working on: Jimmy Stewart films (this one starts next week); British TV shows (just banged out one season of The Office with the second one coming soon); and re-watching movies I’ve only seen once, or never, from my childhood, like The Three Amigos, Full Metal Jacket, and The Running Man.

The positive part of this binge theory is that it enables me to get a very quick overview of someone’s work. Wilder was all about blending humor with drama, occasionally dark humor. His films often feature writer protagonists. They also work as rom coms, essentially providing a little bit of everything for everybody. The negative aspect is that it starts to lose depth, and it can get tiresome the deeper into the binge that you go. There were a handful of French films late in the binge that didn’t get the proper attention because I felt like I was comparing them to everything that preceded it. That’s just not fair. More importantly, it’s hard not to find yourself thinking “Oy, ANOTHER one? Ok… let’s do it”.

May I eventually receive help for this disorder.

19 Comments

Filed under Movies

19 responses to “For the Love of Bingie

  1. Have you seen Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” yet? It’s one of my favorite Billy Wilder’s films, along with “The Apartment.” He was such a versatile director who was capable of covering so many different genres.

    • Definitely. Before my binge, I’d seen The Lost Weekend; Sunset Boulevard; Double Indemnity; and Ace in the Hole. And I’d loved all of them to varying degrees. That’s part of why it’s so perplexing that it took me that long to go on a Wilder kick. Sunset Blvd. is one of my all-time favorites.

  2. I love a good binge!! Although now we have two young girls in the house it seems to be a binge of Hanna Montana or Phineus and Ferb (which by the way is blooming funny).

    I wouldnt get the time to do one now, although I would ever so like to a career binge, pick an actor/director and start from the beginning and bring it up to present day….But I have to keep everyone happy at home.

    Got me thinking today John,

    C

    • You could always do a John Cazale binge. Godfather 1 and 2, Dog Day Afternoon, The Deer Hunter, and… I think there was one more. Has there ever been a non-leading actor who had so much success in such a short period of time?

  3. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    I love Full Metal Jacket! There are some great scenes–the opening scene with the drill instructor yelling at everyone, Private Pyle after he lost it, and the hunt for the sniper at the end (one of the most tense scenes in film). The sniper scene has one of the most impactful soundtracks for building suspense.

    • I couldn’t believe how quotable Full Metal Jacket is/was. I wish I could go back in time to when I was 12 and watch it so I could say all of the offensive R. Lee Ermey quotes to my classmates.

      • The guy who met Kevin Meany

        You’re from Texas. There’s nothing but steers and queers from Texas and you don’t look much like a steer. I remember that one.

        • “This is my rifle, this is my gun; this is fighting, this is for fun” (I’m paraphrasing, but I’m close). And the Vietnamese prostitute dialogue. Etc…

  4. There’s nothing wrong with ‘bingeing.’ I think it’s a quick and great way to watch movies, and only wish I’d thought of it first. I suppose in a way, I do do it, but the only director I can think of that I really binged out on is Ingmar Bergman (I watched the Silence of God trilogy, Persona, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and Cries and Whispers all in five days). I would think bingeing is healthy, if anything, and a really great tactic for knocking out all those must-see movies. I don’t see how I could possibly develop such an attraction toward kung-fu movies, though. That just seems crazy. It’s like, “Hi, I’m John and I like movies which really challenge the inner depths of the human personality, rewrite cinema itself and change the way we view film as a whole. Oh, and by the way, have you seen Fist of Fury?” Great post.

    • Ha… there’s so much out there. Even Kung Fu. And Nazi Zombie films. There are even Ed Wood films out there that’ll bring a grin to your face. I’d liken a binge on some of that stuff to eating a bunch of candy bars and ice cream.

  5. Don

    I Binge Drink… ;)

  6. MD

    God, I love Jimmy Stewart. One of my most favorite actors of all time. I like ‘You Can’t Take It With You.’ Absolutely hysterical.

  7. I’m going through my Billy Wilder binge at the moment. :)
    I only have just now seen Double Indemnity, The Seven Year Itch, The Lost Weekend, Some Like it Hot and The Apartment.

    Earlier this year I went through a Jean Luc Goddard binge with Breathless, Contempt, A Woman is a Woman, and Masculin Feminin.
    Some directors I wish I could go through a binge with, but I think their works are a bit too content heavy or long in each dose to do so, ex. Fellini, Louis Malle, Bunuel, Cocteau, Fritz Lang, Huston.

    Actor binges are fun as well, I just went through Marilyn, Jayne Mansfield, Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Clift, and Gregory Peck. Either way, it’s a great way to get through catalogs.

    • I’ve had so much fun with the Wilder films in the last year or so.

      I’m sort of doing a Jimmy Stewart binge right now. I’m not in on the binge 100%, but I’m making it a point to see one or two of his movies ever few weeks. You can never go wrong with Jimmy Stewart.

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