by Nick Hornby


  • The Simpsons Movie
  • Juno
  • This Is England
  • Unnamable
  • I’m Not There
  • And When Did You Last See Your Father?


  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Downfall

At first I was afraid. In fact, I was, indeed, petrified. “Stuff I’ve Been Watching”? Are they sure? Even… this? And that? And if I own up, will they still let me write about stuff I’ve been reading? Or will the stuff I’ve watched count against me, on the grounds that anyone who watches either this or that is highly unlikely to know which way up you hold a book? I should admit straightaway that “this” and “that” contain no pornographic content whatsoever. “This” is likely to be, in any given month, a football match between two village teams battling for a chance to play in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup; “that,” on the other hand, could very well be a repeat of a 1990s quiz show—Family Fortunes, say—broadcast on one of the U.K.’s many excellent quiz-show rerun channels. This isn’t all I watch, of course. There are the endless games between proper football teams, and the first-run quiz shows, but I’m not embarrassed about watching them. Like many parents, I go to the cinema rarely, because going to the cinema means going without dinner, and no film is worth that, really, with the possible exception of Citizen Kane, and I saw that on TV.

As luck would have it, however, I have been asked to write about stuff I watched in December, and in December I watch screener copies of movies on DVD. I am a member of BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, which means that at the end of the year, every half-decent film that might have half a chance of winning an award is pushed through my letterbox. For free. The DVDs are piled high on a shelf in my living room, new films by Ang Lee and Paul Thomas Anderson, adaptations of books by Ian McEwan and Monica Ali, and they look… You know what? They look pretty daunting. Stacked up like that, they look not unlike books, in fact: already some of them are starting to give off the same slightly musty, worthy smell that you don’t really want to associate with the cinema. Every year, some of them—many of them—will go unwatched. We’re getting through a few of them, though. (And please welcome the first-person-plural pronoun to this column. Books are “I,” but movies are “we,” because that’s how they get watched. Any views expressed herein, however, are mine, unless I manage to offend somebody in Hollywood with power and wealth, in which case that particular view was hers. She won’t care. She’s only an independent film producer.)

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Nick Hornby lives in North London. His most recent book is Slam, a novel for young adults.

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