A Look Back At The 40×40 Challenge

This site started as a way for me to channel my anxieties into something creative in the early days of the pandemic, and as I said at the launch of 40×40, I’ve often struggled to find time to sit down and watch, make notes and write about films that, frankly, often have very limited appeal.

However, I thought giving myself a deadline and setting an actual challenge to really make an effort and clear some space from the Late Reviews shelf would be a great motivator, so 40×40 was born.

When I launched the challenge, I pointed out that…

“As a former reporter for a daily newspaper, I know this is a fairly achievable goal but the thousands of words I wrote for that paper were literally my day job, not something I did after my day job, after getting the kids to bed, and before falling asleep.”

… and while I know many more people spend many more hours each day or week enjoying movies than I do, it was always going to be a battle with logistics and time management for me, rather than willingness or capability.

Did it work?

Well… yes and no.

On the one hand, I managed to watch and write about 40 films I hadn’t seen in years (or in some cases at all), and while some of them weren’t particularly good, I’ve now seen them and am safe in the knowledge that I don’t have to watch them again if I don’t want to.

On the other hand though, 2022/23 was the busiest year for me in a long time. I was always making an effort to squeeze in these films around home life and work, but the last twelve months have seen my work life change significantly (reduced staff, increased workload, a promotion and more responsibilities and difficult topics to deal with than ever before). I also spent several weeks of 2022 ill and at times barely able to concentrate for 20 minutes at a time. Nothing too serious, thankfully, just hugely inconvenient and writing off the option of watching a feature.

So while I ended up missing the one-year anniversary of my 40th birthday, I did end up completing the challenge by the end of my birthday month with just a couple of hours to spare. Thankfully, the final film of the series was a belter too, so that’s a nice outcome and like the Twitter bio says, sometimes film reviews are better late than never.

You can find all of the 40×40 films in one place, right here – take a look and let me know if you’ve seen, loved or hated any of them!

Looking back then, what did I learn from the 40×40 challenge?

  • Some of the pre-Code films are still pretty shocking 90-odd years on, but they’re still really entertaining.
  • You’d be surprised how many films on the list involve hidden passageways in houses. I want one.
  • Sometimes, a very cheaply made film can look more expensive than you’d expect.
  • Sometimes though, they really don’t.
  • The Frankenstein sequels were, on the whole, far better than I remembered.
  • If Bela Lugosi shows up anywhere near your honeymoon, you’re going to have a shit one.
  • Just because you’ve got enough deleted scenes to make a feature film doesn’t mean you should.
  • When in doubt, you need a montage.

What’s next for Late Reviewer? Well, I’m going to continue working through the dustiest shelves and writing the odd Quick Read when the mood takes me.

I’m also hoping to share some more Special Features too, both my own and from contributors, so if there’s anything you’d like to write about, please do let me know.

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