Sunday, March 01, 2015

Movie Journal: February

February was a somewhat lean month for me, moviewise. I watched 31 films in total, all but one of which were first-time viewings. That breaks down into 21 features and 10 shorts. The relative lack of features was mainly caused by the fact that one of the films was nearly eight hours long (ten if you include its followup), so I had to watch that in chunks rather than watching other films. It didn't help that a lot of shows I watched either came back this month (Last Week Tonight) or are in the middle of stellar seasons (The Americans and Broad City and Looking and…). I've also been reading David Mitchell's latest The Bone Clocks, which I've really been enjoying but is a reasonably time consuming endeavour. There's a lot of culture out there, is what I'm saying, and you have to make room for everything somehow.

Below is a list of the ten best films I watched for the first time in February. For the record, the best film I watched overall was my rewatch of Clint Eastwood's majestic Unforgiven.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action

Butter Lamp
In keeping with my desire to actually watch all the short film nominees this year, I'm following up this post on the animated shorts with this one on the live action ones.

This category was as a whole much, much weaker than the animated one, with only two or three films that I'd say were generally good. Below you'll find them ranked from best to Aya.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oscar Nominated Short Films: Animation

The Dam Keeper
When I posted my Oscar predictions on Saturday morning, I joked about how I had not seen any of the films nominated for the Short Film categories and so just guessed wildly about which of them would win. I make the same joke every year, and it's more or less as funny each and every time (i.e. mildly). I'm far from proud of my ignorance about these categories, but it remains the case that I rarely get to see any of the nominated films unless they play before a Pixar film or something.

This year, that changed. As I was reading something on Indiewire yesterday, I got pop-up ad say that the short films were available to rent or buy via Vimeo and, after recovering from the shock of encountering the only worthwhile pop-up ad in history, I decided to break my streak and actually watch the damn things. Below are my thoughts on all five nominated films, ranked from best to not quite best, since none of them are bad.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oscar Predictions 2015

With the bloated body of the Oscar ceremony hurtling towards us at terminal velocity, now seems to be the best time to try and predict who will win. Usually I split these things up over two posts, but who has time for that noise? Below are my predictions, along with who I think should win in each category.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Shot/Reverse Shot - Why Are There So Few Perfect Trilogies?

Our discussion of the Hobbit and Before trilogies in recent episodes got Matt and I thinking about trilogies. Why do so few film series manage to make three great films in a row? What is it about the third (and occasionally the second) film that trips a series up? And what makes the trilogies that maintain their consistency so special? These questions and others form the basis of this episode, which also features an apoplectic rant from Matt about how poorly thought out the plan to rescue Han is at the beginning of Return of the Jedi.

Also, I realise that I completely forgot to mention Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy, even though they are three of my favourite films and I would consider that to be a truly perfect trilogy. I'm an idiot (though in my defense, this was the second episode we recorded in a row in a recording session that started at 6 AM, so my idiocy may have been exacerbated by having just woken up).

Movie Journal: January

Hello. How are you? Hope you've had a good 2015 so far, and that you've found something to keep you busy until the new Star Wars film comes out, or until whatever cultural event you're looking forward to this year happens. I took the month of January off from writing blog posts, with the notable exception of my Best of 2014 list, in order to relax and unwind after a hectic awards season and from a crazy few months at my day job, and in order to watch more films for fun, rather to write about them.

But I'm back on the horse and planning to blog more this year, so I've decided to start writing posts like this one summarising my film viewing for the previous month. They're not going to be comprehensive (if you want that, you can always follow me on Letterboxd) but more an abstract of what I've been watching, complete with capsule reviews of the best and worst films I watched in a given month.

January was mainly taken up with catching up on films from 2014 that I hadn't seen yet, helped in large part by the fact that the January slate of new films is largely terrible. I also started subscribing to the curated streaming service MUBI, which means that I've been watching films that I might not otherwise have seen, which has added a lot more variety to the viewing schedule (even if it has also added more stress as I try to keep up with whatever film has been added that day). I also rewatched a bunch of Richard Linklater films for this episode of Shot/Reverse Shot, the podcast I do with my friend Matt Risby, which made for one of our better episodes and hey why not subscribe to us on iTunes?

Overall, I watched 33 films in January, of which 27 were first time viewings. Here are the ten best films I watched in January which I had never seen before.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Shot/Reverse Shot - Richard Linklater

In a bid to expand the scope of the show, Matt and I have instituted a new monthly feature in which we pick an artist whose work we admire or think is significant, select five of their films to discuss in depth, then use them as a jumping off point to the discuss the artists' themes and style.

For our first such episode, we're taking on the filmography of independent film stalwart, Austinite and multiple Oscar nominee Richard Linklater. The films we discuss in this episode were chosen using the following criteria, which will form the basis for future installments in this strand:

  • Breakthrough: Either the first film that the artist made, or the one which first announced their arrival as a figure of note.
  • Most Successful: The film which earned the most money, and theoretically made the biggest impact on the culture at large.
  • Oddity: A film in their oeuvre which stands out as being in some way distinct from their other work.
  • Dud: A.K.A. their worst film.
  • Crowning Achievement: A.K.A. their best film.

Next month's artist is going to be Clint Eastwood, and after that I promise we'll start choosing artists who aren't white men.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Shot/Reverse Shot - The Hobbit Trilogy

Since the Hobbit trilogy has finished disappointing us all, now seems like the perfect time to access just what went wrong (besides the incredibly obvious stuff like turning a slim book into three bloated films, or making every effort to make the films look as shitty as possible). As fans of the original Lord of the Rings films, Matt and I approach Peter Jackson's work from a place of love, even as we mock it. Think of this as an intervention. We're just trying to help you, Peter, so that you can do better the next time.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ed's Top 20 Films of 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West…a film which will not be appearing in this list.
Owing to Christmas and New Year, much of which I spend in a cottage in the Lake District with no access to the outside world (and which had the perfect atmosphere for a slasher movie), I didn't get the chance to put my Top 20 films of the year list up on New Year's Eve as I have done traditionally. Then, when I realised that two films I was desperate to see would be opening near me in the second week of January, I decided to sit on the list a little while longer. Now, I feel ready to release it into the wild.

I would not consider the following list to be a definitive account of the best films of the year - I still have a bunch that I want to catch up on in the next few months - but it is a pretty full account of the films that I loved in 2014.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Shot/Reverse Shot - 2015 Preview

It's a new year which means that it's time to look ahead at what's to come in 2015. Fortunately, Matt and I are prepared to guide you through the potentially perilous territory of sequels, remakes and, yes, original films that will be hitting multiplexes over the next twelve months. It's not all Star Wars, but there is some Star Wars, so sorry if you're already sick of that stuff. We also talk about new TV shows that we're looking forward to, and take the idea of a preview even further by discussion our plans for the podcast in 2015.