January 2016 ~ Films

January 2016

This was supposed to be a post that came at the end of January, or the beginning of February, at the very least. But here we are, much closer to the end of the month than the start. This very much sums up how my blogging has been going lately!

I watched thirteen new to me films in January; only two of them were at the cinema, which is a fairly low number for me, but various events conspired against me. The majority were watched through online streaming – either Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or BFI Player+ (I subscribe to them all!), and the vast majority were also Woody Allen films!

A Night to Remember
Despite my brother being a huge fan, I have never watched A Night to Remember. It’s a long film, about the sinking of the Titanic, and while it’s not entirely factually correct anymore (it was made before they found the wreckage, and so depicts the ship sinking in one piece), it’s a great film. Wonderful characterisation, and a lovely performance by Kenneth Moore at its heart.

Clouds of Sils Maria
This is a film I’ve wanted to see since Kristen Stewart won critical acclaim and a Cesar award for her performance in it. It’s a very interesting film, with a distinct blurring of the lines between fiction and reality, and I think it’s one that will become even more impressive on repeat viewings. Stewart really is very good, and her chemistry with Binoche is tangible.

Midnight in Paris/Deconstructing Harry/Celebrity/Mighty Aphrodite
Prior to this year, my only experience of Woody Allen was Annie Hall (a film I need to watch again, because I don’t think I really got it the first time around). Now I’ve watched a further six (two in February), and I’m hooked! I can’t say that I’ve necessarily loved them all; Celebrity and Mighty Aphrodite weren’t really to my taste, but I loved Midnight in Paris, and found Deconstructing Harry interesting. My only complaints are thus: a) when Woody Allen stars, he casts himself as seemingly irresistible to beautiful young women, and b) when he casts someone else in the ‘Woody Allen’ role, they just do an impression of him. Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity, and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris are the offenders from this bunch; ether these actors are sycophantically impersonating their director, or Allen himself is narcissistic enough to direct them to do so. Either way, it’s very off-putting.

The Talented Mr Ripley
I can’t believe it took me so long to watch this film. It’s a great thriller, filmed in stunning locations, and ultimately it was a lot more violent than I expected it to be. I’ve never read any Patricia Highsmith, on whose novel the film was based, but between this, The Two Faces of January, and Carol, maybe it’s time to take a look.

Room
There’s very little to say about Room other than that I simply loved it. If you, like me, haven’t read the book, you may be fooled into thinking that a film about an abducted woman will be full of misery. It’s not. It sounds strange to say it, but it’s a truly uplifting film, with two of the most outstanding performances I have seen in a long time. Brie Larson deserves all of the accolades she has and will be awarded, and Jacob Tremblay deserves more than he has got.

The Danish Girl
For some reason I felt reluctant to watch The Danish Girl, until I heard Eddie Redmayne speaking about it. It was a tough but enjoyable watch, and I thought both Eddie Redmayne, and in particular, Alicia Vikander were excellent.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire
A BFI Player+ gem; this is an apocalyptic film about the dangers of nuclear testing. It’s a beautifully shot film, with Edward Judd providing the charisma, and Janet Munro providing the sultry sex appeal. After Room, this was probably my favourite watch of the month.

Teacher’s Pet
It’s never a chore to watch Doris Day, though I think Gig Young has better chemistry with leading man Clark Gable in this particular film. It was good fun, and Doris looks incredible in the pencil skirts she wears.

Song of the Sea
Song of the Sea is a beautiful animation about Irish folk tales that has stayed with me, weeks after having first seen it. It’s an enchanting tale, of two children who embark on a journey home, with beautiful animation and wonderful music. It really is a joy.

Mad Max: Fury Road
I can’t pretend to have loved Mad Max. While I’m objectively aware of its inherent excellence, the actual enjoyment factor for me was on the low side. I watched it on DVD, which I’m glad about, as I think I would have found it far too intense in the cinema. The orange hues of the landscape gave me a headache, as did the incessant noise and non-stop action. I thought Furiosa was incredible, of course, and Tom Hardy is excellent as ever as Max himself. But it’s not one I’ll be rushing to rewatch.

 

This type of post is flawed; I watch a lot of films, meaning writing just a paragraph about a film makes for a long post. I’m toying with the idea of one-sentence reviews, but brevity has never been my strong point. I’ll have a think, and hopefully be back with a better system for February!

Mark Kermode: Live in 3D

Last night I found myself back at the BFI Southbank; for someone who hadn’t been there once prior to last November, I seem to find myself there quite a lot these days (so much so that I’ve decided to become a member as soon as I get paid). This time I had a ticket to Mark Kermode: Live in 3D, a new monthly event where the always-wonderful Dr K basically stands on stage and talks about films.

Mark Kermode Live in 3D

As this was the first event of its kind, I didn’t know what to expect, though I was sure it was going to be exceptionally entertaining. I wasn’t disappointed; Mark broke the evening up into sections that included a Q&A, Listography, Guilty Pleasures, and Sound and Vision. There was plenty of audience interaction, with Mark inviting people to try and trump his guilty pleasure of Breathless, the Jim McBride remake of À bout de souffle starring Richard Gere. Much was made of someone’s suggestion of The Rock, which I think in the end was confirmed to be the only Michael Bay film that it’s acceptable to admit to liking, and therefore ruled as not being a guilty pleasure. We also got to see Richard Gere’s bum as he sang along to Suspicious Minds.

Mark Kermode tickets

I particularly enjoyed the listography part of the evening: Mark picked ten David Bowie performances that he particularly likes, which gave him the chance to pay tribute to the great man, and that was wonderful to hear. I wish I had taken notes though – I now can’t remember all the films he mentioned, though the clip of Into the Night that he showed had me adding that to my to-watch list immediately!

The same can be said of the clip he showed right at the end of the evening. Four young girls singing and dancing to Diamonds by Rihanna completely had me under its spell, and I now find myself desperate to watch Girlhood, the French coming-of-age film that Mark loved so much from last year.

The true joy of Mark Kermode: Live in 3D was getting to hear someone I admire very much simply standing in front of me and talking about films and the film industry. Whether he’s laughing at Udo Kier thrusting a cadaver out of the screen in Flesh for Frankenstein, or sighing over Zac Efron’s old-school movie star potential (sadly going to waste, if Mark’s sighs over Dirty Grandpa are anything to go by), he’s passionate and knowledgeable, and it’s a pleasure to witness. I already have my ticket booked for February!

I was also pleased as punch to pick up a keyring in the BFI shop on my way out; when I was younger my family and I made many trips to the Museum of the Moving Image, a museum that is sadly no longer open. It’s to my great lament that this is the case – I genuinely loved that place! So when I spotted this keyring in the shop, one that my mum had on her keys for years, I had to have it!

Museum of the Moving Image

140 Films in 2015

For the last few years, I have set myself a goal to watch 52 films each year. Obviously, this works out at one film a week, which, when I started doing this, felt realistic, and something that would help me watch more new-to-me films, instead of endless rewatches.

In 2014 I surpassed that total, ending up on 73, but I kept the goal of 52 the same, because I didn’t want to set an unrealistic target and then fail to meet it. As you can tell from the title of this post, I ended up watching nearly three times as many as I wanted to, finishing the year on 140! Even to me, that’s a fairly astonishing total, especially given that when I first started logging my films, in 2011, I finished on 30!

With so many films to consider, it was hard to make a collage that showed them all properly without it overtaking the whole post, so here’s what my 2015 in films looks like.

Final

  • In terms of how I watched the 140, it’s a pretty even split between the cinema (52) and online streaming (57). My cinema total has gone up massively due to having an Cineworld Unlimited card for the first time, and it actually works out at one a week, which is good going. The remaining films were either DVD (12), television (15), or iPlayer (3).
  • I have actually taken the time to work out which actors are my most watched this year! This has taken a fair amount of work, but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing. My most watched male actors were Vin Diesel and Oscar Isaac, both coming in at seven a piece. The runaway winner for the females looked like being Jordana Brewster for a while (darn that Fast and Furious marathon), but ended up being Allison Janney, with six.
  • I also worked out my most watched director (Steven Spielberg), and my most watched screenwriter (Chris Morgan – he of Fast and Furious fame).
  • I wanted to do a separate post for my favourite new releases of 2015, but it didn’t happen, so here they are, in no particular order: Inside Out, Ex Machina, The Martian, Carol and Brooklyn.
  • In terms of older releases, my favourites that I watched in 2015 were: The Way, Way Back, Spellbound, Begin Again, Chef and School of Rock (which I can’t believe it took me so long to watch in full!).
  • As always, there are very few on the list that I didn’t enjoy, as I’m pretty good by now at knowing what I will like. But the humour of Wet Hot American Summer went right over my head – I didn’t get it at all. And the worst film I watched at the cinema was The Last Witch Hunter. If I hadn’t bothered with it, Oscar Isaac would have won most-watched actor outright.

That may seem like a little bit too much work in terms of analysing my film watching. But I honestly enjoy all of this almost as much as I enjoy the films themselves!

I tried to keep up with writing a small amount on each film for the blog this year, but it didn’t work, and it won’t work any better next year, as I intend to watch more films. But I am starting to use Letterboxd more, and I’m hoping to log each film for 2016 there, along with a couple of sentences giving my thoughts on each one. If you’d like to, you can follow me here.

Do you set yourself film goals? What are you aiming for in 2016?

I Watched That 015

Ludicrously, I’m still harbouring hopes of eventually catching up with my film round-ups. I know that it doesn’t matter if I don’t write them, but there’s a part of me that desperately wants to. These are films I saw in April, so that should give you some idea of just how behind I am. We’ll see how it goes between now and the end of the year!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Watching a film like this is always accompanied by a fear that it can’t possibly live up to expectations. Ultimately, though I don’t think it’s as good as its predecessor, it met and exceeded my expectations. All the usual interplay between the characters is there to see and enjoy, with some genuine laugh out loud moments. With such a large cast, there’s always the worry that someone will get sidelined, but somehow Joss Whedon juggles this with aplomb. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is given room to shine especially, and the introduction of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch is a great addition to an already amazing character roster.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

This was a film that I found on iPlayer, somewhere I always forget to check for film options. It was my second Keanu Reeves film in quick succession; for someone that I profess not to be a huge fan of, I certainly enjoyed him in both John Wick and this. It’s a film about a mid-life crisis; Pippa Lee is married to an older man, and together they move to a retirement community. Pippa is played excellently by Robin Wright in the present day, and possibly even more excellently by Blake Lively in flashback, both part of an excellent cast that includes Julianne Moore, Monica Bellucci, Maria Bello, and Alan Arkin, amongst others.

The DUFF

I loved The Duff. I’m a sucker for a high school comedy, and this had everything a good film like this needs; an ugly duckling main character, a villainous bitch, a good looking love interest, and a hook. In the case of The DUFF, the hook is that in every group of friends there is a ‘DUFF’, a Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Totally awful, of course, but Mae Whitman’s character fulfils the role of the DUFF, and once she realises it, it hits her confidence, and the only way back is under the tutelage of the good looking boy next door. The outcome is exactly what you expect it to be, but it’s a fun journey to get there; and it made me laugh out loud on several occasions.

 

Say Anything

Say Anything is a film that I have always felt I should have watched; as a romantic comedy fan, there are some films that you need in your back catalogue, and the iconic Say Anything is one of them. It totally lived up to its reputation; John Cusack is perfect as perpetual underachiever Lloyd Dobler; surely he has to be one of the best romantic leads in a film ever?

Empire Records

True story – I started watching Empire Records in 2000, and it only took fifteen years to finish watching it! I watched it in a class at school, and we only saw about an hour of it, but I never got around to watching it in full until I was having one of those weekends where I was watching just about everything Netflix has to offer. It’s a load of rubbish, of course; a fairly decent cast is given nothing to do except portray fairly hateful characters.

 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

I watched this in the middle of a weekend long Netflix binge, and though it was a perfectly enjoyable film, it wasn’t all that memorable, seven months later now I’m coming to write about it. Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are engaging in the lead roles, though Dennings is always a little too ironic for my liking. I’m a fan of an off-beat teen drama, and that’s exactly what this is; I’m just not sure that I’d rush to watch it again.

 

Stuck in Love

As far as romantic comedies go, this is one that I enjoyed a lot, so much so that I’ve actually watched it again since. It’s basically the story of a family, and how they are, indeed, stuck in love in one way or another. The divorce of Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly’s characters happens prior to the story’s beginning, and we see how it has affected both them and their teenage children, played by Lily Collins and Nat Wolff. I think I could watch Greg Kinnear do just about everything, and he’s delightful here; not a straight-forwardly likeable chap, by any means, but it’s Greg Kinnear, so what does it matter?