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.