Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Reasons to Keep a Movie Log

A page from my movie log
Do you keep a record of the movies you watch? Should you? A movie log is a great way to keep track of your viewing over time, and it can be a helpful memory jogger when you're trying to think about which Oscar contenders you saw as soon as they came out and what year you finally discovered that overlooked gem that became a personal favorite. You can make a log as detailed or as basic as you like, but I think even a simple record has real benefits for the serious cinephile.

I have kept a simple movie log since June 2009, when I first started with a small ringbound journal. I'm still using that journal more than a decade later because I only list the year and month, the name of each film, and the release date of the film. When I first started the log I tried to be more detailed and include a mini review with a star rating, but I quickly realized that I was more likely to keep the log current if I just stuck to the basic information. I was watching a lot of movies each month back then (27 in August 2010!) because I was getting paid to write frequent columns for the now defunct Examiner.com and was still discovering a lot of classics for the first time thanks to the internet, Netflix DVD rentals, and more time at my disposal.

There are several websites you can use to keep a movie log if you are so inclined, including Letterboxd, but personally I prefer the old school paper journal because I like being able to flip through the pages and make notes in the margins when necessary. The written journal feels more intimate, and I can see at a glance if I got hooked on a particular star in April 2012 (Henry Fonda) or became obsessed with a series in November 2016 (I watch Star Trek and Star Wars when I'm depressed or anxious, and I watched A LOT of Star Trek in November 2016).

At the end of each year I can easily tally the total number of films I watched and note which ones I saw both in the theater and at home when they came out on disc or streaming. I could also break down my viewing by month and see which months are my busiest for movie watching, although I know it's generally around Halloween, when I watch a lot of classic horror favorites, and Christmas, when I have must-see holiday traditions and more time with the family at home to watch new movies together. I don't keep track of TV series episodes, just feature length films and shorts where relevant, but you could certainly include those in your own list if you want to be thorough.

Here's the record for January 2020:

The Black Cauldron (1985)
But I'm a Cheerleader! (1999)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Bombhsell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2015)
Troop Zero (2019)
MIB International (2019)
Blinded by the Light (2019)
Master of Dark Shadows (2019)
Payment on Demand (1951)
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
Old Acquaintance (1943)

It's very simple and straightforward, but the list gives me plenty of information about my general viewing activity for the month, and the minimal record is enough to jog my memory later if I need to think about the films. You can also see blog posts summarizing my movie log for a full year, if you want to see a complete list:

2019 Movie Log in Review
2018 Movie Log in Review
Film Log for 2017

If you aren't already keeping a movie log, I do recommend giving it a try, whether it's on Letterboxd, in a document on your computer, or in a notebook. If you do keep a log, I'd love to know what information you include and what you learn about yourself and your habits by keeping track!

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