THE WRITER’S LIFE | CINEMA
This week I undertook one of the little personal projects I’ve been planning for a while: I catalogued my DVD collection. It’s extensive, not so much in quantity as eclecticism. Originally my Savage Cinema was intended as a repository for films generally considered by horror aficionados to be the most disturbing ever made; and it was the beginning of me rebuilding the collection I once had before my breakdown. A lot of that collection was lost during the three years I spent being lost, but some of it was retained. Now, the collection has grown to 669 titles from many genres.
Still called The Savage Cinema, in recognition of its roots, my films nonetheless range from U certificates to 18; 16 on some, where an imported version was the longest available cut, and where 16 is the highest age rating in the country of origin; and some are unrated, exempt from classification, or just unclassified. I always seek the most intact, uncensored prints of the higher classifications, because what I seek is to be affected by a film, in the way the director originally intended. As such, the replay equipment below my TV is quite a stack of boxes: I can play all regions of DVDs and Bluray, and I have an NTSC player. I also have USB ports and a VHS player, for the odd title which never made it to DVD uncut.
The collection is constantly growing and evolving, but as it stands, it’s home to the “Top 100 most disturbing films of all time”, as well as classics, cult and rare films. Old and new; The good, the bad, and the downright hideous. My Savage Cinema database is on IMDb and it’s public. It can be viewed in alphabetical, release date, or rating order: Either IMDb ratings or my own.
After listing all 669 titles, I went through them, rating those which I remember well, and placing those I remember less well on a watch list for later rating. So it’s an incomplete list but using just the films I’ve rated so far, I was able to extrapolate my personal top films of all time; something I would be hard pressed to do if placed on the spot. Some of my ratings vary quite wildly from the IMDb one, but these things are subjective, surely? And that’s when a slightly strange thing happened: The number 42 cropped up again.
Individual IMDb ratings are whole numbers, so on a scale of 0-10. There are quite a few sub-5.0 rated titles in my collection, because I do like a good bad film, or a mega monster mash B-movie. Then there are the top-rated, and for me, a rating of 7.0 denotes a good film; 8.0, a really good film; and 9.0, a fucking blinder. A film can be one of the latter for many reasons; some my own, which is why some titles may be unique to my own, personal favourite films list. They’re personal favourites for their ability to affect a viewer in different ways. Once I’d given ratings to the titles, it turned out there were 21 which scored 9.0, in no particular order:
The Woman in Black (1989 TV movie)
Gregory’s Girl (1980)
The Fourth Kind (2009)
Helvetica (2007 documentary)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Blade Runner (1982)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The Green Mile (1999)
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Like all Top-anything lists, mine will be divisive and controversial, but those were the 21 titles out of 669 in my collection, which I felt worthy of a personal rating of 9.0. If I then wanted to produce some sort of Top 100, I’d look to the titles I rated 8.0 next. If I add those to my 9.0 ratings, I have a Top 84 to compliment my Top 21. And of course, 21 is a factor of 42, and 84 a multiple. 42 crops up all the time in my life, perhaps just proving that something will be there if you look hard enough for it.
My catalogue being public means that occasional visitors to my studio can have a browse through the shelves before they arrive, which saves me expending too much thought. It’s also an easier reference tool for me than my shelves. People do visit me, just to watch some of these films they’ve never heard of. Friday Film Club and Midnight Matinees are regular events here. And it’s another look through the keyhole into the world that’s me and my portable personal planet. I rarely go out, so films are my main entertainment media. Like watching my DVDs, having my life online is something I find somehow comforting.