2019: The Year in Review

As it's almost the beginning of a new year and a new decade, I thought I'd do a round-up of what's been happening at Cinema Essentials over the past 12 months.

Cinema Essentials is 2 (and a bit) years old

It's hard to believe, but this website is now more than 2 years old. Fortunately, it's now past the crawling and dribbling stage (well, mostly) and is managing to totter along without too much adult supervision.

Cinema Essentials actually celebrated its 2nd birthday back in July. But I decided not to make a big thing of it, as I wasn't sure if I wanted the inevitable street parties and rounds of media interviews. Actually, I didn't think anyone would really care, which is sad I know, but probably true.

This is me, dictating this post to my secretary. 
And yes, it's amazing how much I look like James Mason.


I signed up for the Large Association of Movie Blogs in October this year. It takes time for membership to go through, but assuming it's approved, this will be the second association I've joined after joining the Classic Movie Blog Association at the end of 2018.

One of the benefits of belonging to the Classic Movie Blog Association is that I'm allowed to use this cool logo:

Pretty snazzy, eh?

I was always a bit precious about joining blog associations because I didn't want to self-identify as a blog. I don't think of this site as a blog, it's a serious website! But I wanted more traffic and, as Groucho Marx would say, these are my principles and if you don't like them, I've got others.

This site is educational - official

I had a nice email in August from a student asking me if she could quote from my review of His Girl Friday in her college presentation. Obviously I said Yes, as I like to do my bit to raise educational standards.

I also found in October that I was getting a lot of traffic from an American university at the start of the new term. It seems that one of my articles is on the syllabus for a university film course. And if you find that frightening, then so do I. I've had a bit of traffic from a university in Asia as well, but I'm not sure what that relates to. Please let me know if you know anything about either of these.

Awards and stuff

The site won an award this year in the Classic Movie Blog Association's annual awards. This article on His Girl Friday won Best Review in the Musical or Comedy category. It was the first time I'd taken part and the standard of entries was pretty high. There were some articles I liked that didn't get past the first stage. That included some of mine. I did feel slightly guilty, because some of my friends were nominated and I thought they deserved to do better.

Here's the award banner, just to prove that I'm not making it up

It would be nice to be able to put the award banner in the sidebar, but I don't think that's possible with this theme. I sometimes think about changing themes, because this one is awkward for images, but almost all of the official Blogger themes are horrible.

Anyway, this site is now officially an award winner. Thanks to everyone who voted for me. Thanks also if you voted for The Empire Strikes Back or the Hammer horror piece. They should definitely have won as well. ;)

Blogging awards

Thanks to everyone who nominated me for blogging awards this year. I never needed an awards policy before, because no one ever bothered to nominate me. My policy now is to accept all blogging awards with thanks, but I don't know if I'll actually get around to doing the posts required and answering the questions. Partly because lots of the bloggers I know don't accept awards, so it's difficult for me to pass them on. Sometimes I'm tempted to take part by interesting questions, but other times the questions seem too complicated and make my head hurt. To be honest, I'm not really that interested in organising a dinner party for dead film stars, or re-casting The Third Man with actors from Star Trek.


I intended to cut back on blogathons this year, as writing on a specific subject to a deadline feels too much like homework. But I did get drawn into a few.

I wrote about the Kenneth More version of The 39 Steps for the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, Evil Under the Sun for the Mystery Mania Blogathon, 12 Underrated Michael Caine Films for The Marvellous Michael Caine Blogathon, 5 Favourite Films of the 1950s for the blogathon of the same name, 12 Essential Hammer Horror Films for the Hammer-Amicus Blogathon and Hell is a City and The Iron Maiden for The Rule Britannia Blogathon. I'm always watching and writing about British films, so it wasn't too hard to find something for that one, and I wanted to take part as I missed it last year.

Cinema Essentials also hosted its first blogathon this year. The World War II Blogathon, which I co-hosted with Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, ran from 1st - 3rd September. 30 bloggers took part and it went well. I wrote about HurricaneThe Eagle Has Landed and The Bridge on the River Kwai, and created this war movie quiz for the blogathon. The picture above is a nifty banner I made for the blogathon.

I was also pleased with the two blogathon day banners I made. This one is obviously for day 2. As you may have guessed, this was a 'DANGER UXB' sign and I just replaced the writing. When I looked at it just before the blogathon started, I realised that the writing wasn't at quite the right angle, but it was so much hassle to do it again that I decided just to leave it.

Visitors and comments

The number of visitors to the site is up quite a bit this year compared to 2018, and I've recently started getting much more traffic from Duck Duck Go, the search engine for people too paranoid to use Google (hello, Duck Duck Go users!). So thanks for that, Duck Duck guys. I also get more spam comments now, so that's a sign of something, I suppose.

I knew I'd definitely arrived this year when I received my first smart arse comment. It was on this piece about Roger Moore, from someone who hadn't read the article properly. But the complainer did have an amusing turn of phrase, so I wasn't too put out.

I also had a comment during the WW2 blogathon from "Burt Lancaster", extolling the physical charms of Pauline Hickey, apparently a 1980s topless model. As soon as I deleted that, another one appeared from "Kirk Douglas", who seemed to be similarly obsessed with Miss Hickey. I was amused by this commenter, and touched by his devotion to this forgotten glamour girl. But I decided that comments about the physical charms of Miss Hickey weren't really in keeping with this site. Obviously I had to Google her - for research purposes, you understand - and I think I know what he sees in her.

The most popular posts this year

The 2019 posts with the most page views are (drum roll, please)

1. Alien (1979)
2. The Matrix (1999)
3. Death on the Nile (1978)
4. The 39 Steps (1959)
5. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Traffic for the top two posts was suspiciously huge, though, and no one even commented on Alien, so take that with a pinch of salt.

John Hurt in Alien. Allegedly the most popular post of the year

What are Cinema Essentials readers looking for?

Google still hasn't really embraced this site, but Bing is more enthusiastic and sends me all sorts of weird search queries.

Some of the searches that have brought visitors here this year include:

Did Hitchcock do a version of Murder on the Orient Express   [No]

Jack Davenport The 39 Steps   [No, he wasn't in that]

Jack Davenport Death on the Nile   [I appreciate the support of Jack Davenport fans, but I think these are audio books people are looking for]

Jack Davenport leather   [No comment]

Quartermaster and the Pit  [That's not quite the right title]

Images of Jayne Mansfield with guns   [er, okay]

I did 70s will be bandit   [No, I don't know what it means either]

The sun is evil   [Maybe this is a reference to the newspaper, but who knows?]

Here's one for the Jack Davenport fans. It's Jack wearing a leather jacket. I know it's not a very good picture, but what do you expect? This isn't a Jack Davenport leather fetish site.

My favourite posts this year

12 Underrated Michael Caine Films
I started writing this for last year's Michael Caine blogathon, but the post on The Ipcress File became more in-depth than I expected so I abandoned it. The problem with this is I keep changing my mind about what should be on the list. That's the problem with a vague term like "underrated".

12 Essential Hammer Horror Films
This is another one I started for the previous year's Hammer blogathon, but I only thought of it at the last minute so decided to leave it and come back to it. Luckily, they keep bringing these blogathons back, otherwise it would probably still be unfinished.

Return of the Jedi
This was the first post of the year, and meant that I finally finished writing about the original Star Wars trilogy after writing about Star Wars at the end of 2017 and The Empire Strikes Back at the end of 2018.

Here's Carrie Fisher wearing the famous slave girl bikini in Return of the Jedi. There's probably some other stuff going on in this scene as well.

The 39 Steps
It was entertaining to look at this Kenneth More version again and compare it to Hitchcock's original. It seems many people aren't familiar with this remake, but it's probably the version I saw first and was my favourite version as a child. That doesn't mean I went easy on it though.

Smokey and the Bandit
It was a lot more interesting to write this than it was to watch the film, to be honest.

The Iron Maiden
This is an obscure comedy that I found pretty interesting. But I knew it would have limited appeal, so saved it for the Rule Britannia Blogathon.

The Eagle Has Landed
This is one I wrote for the WWII blogathon. It's a slightly unsatisfying film, but an interesting one for various reasons.

The Bridge on the River Kwai
Warning: this is epic length! This was also for the WWII Blogathon. It replaced The Guns of Navarone, although I still hope to write about that at some point. I dropped Navarone because I have a big new TV and when I had a look at my old DVD on it it looked terrible!

This one is really epic too. As with Kwai, I thought this could have been even longer, but I'm not totally without mercy.

My favourite films this year, first time viewings:

King Kong (1933)
The Rake's Progress (1945)
All About Eve (1950)
Summertime (1955)
Jet Storm (1959)
No Love for Johnnie (1961)
Cash on Demand (1961)
Man in the Middle (1963)
The Comedy Man (1964)
Everest (2015)
The Witch (2015)
Hell or High Water (2016)
Dunkirk (2017)

You're right - it wasn't a great year!

I think I did see King Kong and The Rake's Progress as a child, but I'm counting them as first time viewings here.

I can't remember what the worst film I watched this year was, but the worst one I wrote about was the horror anthology The Monster Club.

A favourite re-watch: Stanley Baker in the Hammer crime flick Hell is a City

Favourite re-watches this year

The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Brief Encounter (1945)
Seven Days to Noon (1950)
Paths of Glory (1957)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Hell is a City (1960)
Taste of Fear / Scream of Fear (1961)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The Great Escape (1963)
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
The Railway Children (1970)
Catch 22 (1970)
Juggernaut (1974)
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)
Time Bandits (1981)
Das Boot (1981)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
The Matrix (1999)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)
Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008)
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Skyfall (2012)

Good night, and good luck

Thanks to everyone who's taken the time to comment on the site over the last two and a bit years. Except for the spam commenters, the complainers and that guy who's obsessed with Pauline Hickey.

My special thanks go to regular commenters Margot Shelby, who writes the excellent film noir blog Down These Mean Streets, and Mikey, better known as Wolfman, who runs Wolfman's Cult Film Club, the film club where all the cool kids (and a few lycanthropes) hang out. Thanks also to my blogathon co-host Maddy of Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.

I'll be continuing my mission over the next year of bringing you lengthy, in-depth articles on mostly mediocre films that don't really deserve them. I hope that 2020 will be a great year for you and the beginning of an incredible new decade. Thanks for stopping by over the last year or more. I hope I'll see you all next year.


  1. You've had quite a year my friend. I always look forward to a new post from you. The search queries you listed cracked me up. Some people don't half search for the most random stuff.

    Hoping we can co-host another blogathon together sometime.

    Keep up the good work here, Jay. Hoping you and yours had a great Xmas. Happy New Year! Can you believe it will soon be 2020?! Feels like we're in a sci-fi film lol.

    1. I know what you mean. 2001 was nearly two decades ago. There should definitely be people living on the moon by now, or at least going to work on hover boards.

      Another blogathon would be good. I think I've just about recovered from the last one!

  2. Congratulations. Nicely written reflections and I'm glad you're going to stay around. For the most part blogging is really fun. But do tell me, what's the difference between a blog and a website? :)
    BTW, did that American university actually contact you directly? It would be the right thing to do.

    Also, you're lucky to show up in search engines. I don't think I can be found anywhere. The search queries are hilarious. I wouldn't even know how to look that up.

    "I'll be continuing my mission over the next year of bringing you lengthy, in-depth articles on mostly mediocre films that don't really deserve them."
    I really think you underestimate the excellence that is Smokey and the Bandit.

    PS: I wanted to comment on Alien but - shame on me - I've actually never seen the movie.

    1. A blog is more of a personal website, whereas mine is an unimpeachable information resource, like the Encyclopaedia Britannica ;)

      I'm surprised that you haven't seen Alien, but I don't think you're much of a horror fan, so maybe I shouldn't be. Have you not seen Aliens either? That's an '80s action classic, so I would have thought you had seen it.

      It does show that you can never assume that people have seen a famous film. I did see a blogging award recently where one question was about what famous film people would be shocked to learn you haven't seen. I couldn't think of anything, I think I've seen all the really really famous ones, although there must be some.

      The American university didn't contact me, but when you're publishing something you're putting it out there for people to comment on or quote or whatever so I think that's OK. I did say that people could quote me as long as they gave credit. It's flattering anyway. The only problem with the universities is that you don't know why or if they're linking to you, because it's hidden behind a password-protected internal system. The student asked me about quoting my His Girl Friday review because she needed to know the name of the author and when it was published or she couldn't use it, otherwise I wouldn't have known.

      You should see some information on searches and traffic in your dashboard under Stats. Where do your readers come from if they're not finding you through search?

      Talking of lengthy articles on mediocre films, wait till you see the next one, it's a doozy!

    2. Hello again and Happy New Year.

      No, I haven't seen Aliens either. Actually I haven't seen any of the Alien movies. Maybe it's the sci-fi setting or Sigourney Weaver in this role, I just never felt compelled to seek them out.
      I think there's a blogathon called Shame-down (?) where you're supposed to write about a famous movie you've never seen.

      I assume readers find my blog from other blogs that link to mine. If I look at the stats it also says facebook and Twitter though I don't use them.

      Can't wait for the next article about a mediocre film. :)
      But how about writing about one the the best comedies ever, Hot Fuzz? Or Life on Mars?

    3. And Happy New Year to you as well :0)

      Alien and Aliens are really good, you should consider checking them out. You can probably watch Aliens on its own just about, if you're more keen on action than horror. I did originally see that one before Alien. The others can easily be skipped.

      It's possible that people have shared some of your posts on Facebook and Twitter if you're getting traffic from there. I did submit my not-a-blog to Google and Bing, so I don't know if that makes any difference to the search engines. Probably not a huge amount, but there was some issue with Bing and, as I was signed up for their webmaster tools, I became aware of it and told them so they could fix it.

      I would like to write about Hot Fuzz at some point and also The World's End, which almost nobody else likes. I picked up Shaun of the Dead among loads of cheap DVDs recently so I might look at that as well at some point.

      I do have some big famous films I want to write about, but there's more to say about them, so the posts take longer, and thousands of other people have written about them already.

      I mostly write this site to please myself now, so that usually means writing about stuff I was going to watch anyway, and - what can I say? - I watch a lot of mediocre, disappointing films. Anyway, anyone can write a half decent post on a great film, but not many people have written 3000 words on Smokey and the Bandit or The Iron Maiden - that takes real nerve!

    4. Keep up the nerve! How about a 3000 word article on the outstandingly brilliant Predator (1987). 80s B movies don't get any better than that.

    5. Well if you love Predator then you should definitely watch Aliens.

      Maybe you should write about Predator yourself, stretch the envelope a bit. Tell people it's a jungle, sci-fi, action, neo-noir and see how many bite!

  3. Loving all the little jokes Mr James Mason, I mean, Jay. Sounds like you've really enjoyed yourself over the last few years. What with your crazy super long articles filled with amazing insight and an abundance of rich information. Always picking really interesting films and subjects. Yeah I too really enjoyed the Michael Caine one this year. Oh yes and the Hammer one.
    Well done on the award. If you can't fit it on your blog I'd suggest getting it blown up as big as you can and sticking it on a billboard in your home town.
    I'm still buzzing from the first time I saw Hell is a City a few years back. What a film.
    Love all the funny and weird search queries. LOL
    Nice to see Cash On Demand in your this years viewing. What a brilliant little gem that is.

    Looking forward to seeing what you post in the new year and wishing you a fantastic one buddy.
    All the best and thanks again for the nice shout out. :)

    PS if you don't heard back from me it's not that I'm being rude it's just I don't get notification unless I reply through your wordpress linked site. Boo.

    1. Cheers Mikey.

      I hope you don't mind if I use this line:

      "crazy super long articles filled with amazing insight and an abundance of rich information."

      I might make it my official motto!


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