2022: The Year in Review
It's the end of another year, and so time for the now-traditional Cinema Essentials end of year review.
We Are 5
Cinema Essentials celebrated its 5th birthday in July. That means this site has now been running for nearly five and a half years, which is longer than six of Liz Taylor's marriages.
Fame at Last
Some major websites did find us this year and sent visitors our way. The most significant came in July, when there was suddenly a massive spike in traffic. This was because The Guardian linked to this post on Return of the Jedi. Somewhat randomly, but I'm grateful anyway, and I take back everything I've ever said about The Guardian. Well, most of it.
The spammers seem to be finding us more as well and, for some reason, the On the Beat quiz has been a massive spam magnet. I've never seen a post attract spam comments the way this one does. It's got so bad, I have considered just taking it down, but it's still there for now.
My favourite weird web search this year was for "Ewok Carol Reed". And no, I've no idea what that means, if there is an Ewok Carol Reed, or what such a thing would look like.
Actually, that's not true. Obviously, I know who Ewok Carol Reed is. He's the director of such classic films as Our Ewok in Havana, The Third Ewok, Night Train to Endor, The Death Star Looks Down, An Ewok for Two Farthings and The Agony and the Ewok.
I've got more of these film title puns but, honestly, they don't get any better.
We also received some very positive comments from readers, especially this one from Pallavi:
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Obviously, I was very flattered by these words. Whatever they mean. Unfortunately, this comment was stuffed with links for escort websites in cities across Russia, Asia and the Middle East, and I decided I wasn't in need of an escort in Aerocity or Faridabad at that particular moment.
The Most Popular Posts This Year
These are the most popular posts published this year, based on page views. These lists are inevitably biased towards posts from earlier in the year, but we'll ignore that. This list is in reverse order, just to add even more excitement:
2. Movie Quiz: On the Beat (loved by spammers everywhere)
Yes, the most popular post this year was on Sweeney!, the first film spin-off from the 1970s crime series. So here is a special message from the stars of the film, Inspector Jack Regan and Sergeant George Carter:
Regan: So yeah, we'd just like to say thanks for your interest, and we'll see you down the pub.
Carter: Yeah, nice one. I just wanted to say that I think the interest what people still have in The Sweeney shows that the political issues and the social problems of the 1970s still resonate, like, with people in the present day. In't that right, Guv?
Regan: Er, yeah, definitely.
Carter: And the fact that people still like that film, and it was our first film, shows that the essential essence of the TV version was transferred successfully, like, to the alternative medium of the cinema screen, without any loss of its inherent dramatic integrity.
Carter: Yes, Guv?
Regan: Shut it.
Farewell, Forces TV
This won't mean much if you're not familiar with the lower reaches of the electronic programme guide in the UK (where the obscure channels lurk) but Forces TV shut up shop this year. It was a shame because, although the channel was originally aimed at armed forces personnel, it became a goldmine of old TV series.
Some of these are occasionally on TV, like The Equalizer, Space: 1999 and BBC sitcoms Goodnight Sweetheart, Dear John and Citizen Smith. But they also unearthed Gerry Anderson's UFO, Ian Ogilvy in Return of the Saint, RAF drama Piece of Cake and '80s crime series Dempsey and Makepeace.
More treasures lay in the sitcoms, especially forgotten ITV offerings like Get Some In, Haggard, The Bounder and Hot Metal. The latter, an outrageous satire on eighties tabloid newspapers, was an especially nice find.
My favourite new-to-me classic film was probably They Made Me a Fugitive (1947) starring Trevor Howard, which is a great British film noir. Also the obscure WWII drama Overlord (1975), Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987), Scorsese's Bringing Out the Dead (1999) and Gainsborough melodrama The Man in Grey (1943), which was quite a fun costume romp. Favourite recent films were the 2020 Invisible Man and 2019's Ford vs Ferrari, which is easily one of the best films about motor racing.
Favourite repeat viewings included The Invisible Man (1933), Casablanca (1942), The Sting (1973), Reds (1981), Hitchcock's Young and Innocent (1937), Minority Report (2002), which was more enjoyable on a second viewing (you just have to turn your brain off and go with it), and Saturn 3 (1980), which is one of my all-time favourite bad films and always entertains.
Some Film Books
The most enjoyable film book I read this year was John Boorman's autobiography Adventures of a Suburban Boy. I then read his follow up Conclusions, but it's a bit disappointing, with Boorman repeating himself. He even re-uses some of the same anecdotes from the first book, only in different versions.
A couple on Hitchcock; The Young Alfred Hitchcock's Moviemaking Masterclass by Tony Lee Moral, which I reviewed, and The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock by Raymond Durgnat, which is OK, but it can be a bit of a slog.
Hollywood Cinema by Richard Maltby offers a useful alternative to auterist versions of film history. But it's hampered by an inability to define what "Hollywood cinema" actually is. Which is a flaw in a book called Hollywood Cinema. It also has some dutiful, but boring, stuff on film theory and an interesting chapter on film grammar that's marred by a misapprehension that basic film grammar is unique to Hollywood.
Also, The Hammer Story by Alan Barnes and Marcus Hearne, which is nicely illustrated and fine as an introduction, and the essay collection British Cinema: Past and Present. Like all those kind of books, it's hit and miss, but there are some interesting chapters.
The Last Word
Since they're in the news, I was going to include some snarky topical jokes about Prince Harry and his TV actress wife. But they're so awful, I don't even want to think about them, and everyone can make up their own jokes by now. So just insert your own joke here and we'll move on.
Among the film and TV names who passed away this year was national treasure Bernard Cribbins. Cribbins was one of those familiar faces not associated with anything in particular, because he did everything - sketch shows, Hitchcock thrillers, Peter Sellers comedies, family films, Hammer horror, childrens' TV, Carry On films and Doctor Who (both the film and TV versions).
There was also that brief period in the sixties when he was a recording star making novelty records. So I'll leave you with Bernard himself, singing his ode to the great British workman, "Right Said Fred". Enjoy!