I started 2016 off with a lot of goals. I pledged to watch more films that were made before I was born, I pledged to read 52 books, and I pledged to watch 52 films directed, or co-directed by women. It is interesting how much these goals have shaped what I have consumed this year. January is a quiet month for films (since I am lucky to have seen most of the January releases in 2015), so I have visited the cinema less, and watched films at home more. We now have an Apple TV set-up, and that has helped significantly in sourcing films and in being lazy and staying home, rather than going out to the cinema. I only saw 22 films in January, but I watched a decent amount of TV and read 11 books. It was a good month. Check out my significantly expanded monthly round-up after the jump.
A new year, a new format! I have decided to order my monthly round-ups differently this year. Previously I just wrote a couple of paragraphs about the month overall, but this year I want to give some thoughts on everything I watched. It might only be one sentence, but I want to say something. I am really trying to write more often this year. We’ll see how long it lasts, but I am going to give it a shot.
Films viewed at the cinema are underlined. Films directed or co-directed by women are in green. Note: for the purpose of the 52 Films by Women pledge, I am only counting first-time views of films directed or co-directed by women, but I want to highlight all the films by women that I watch. Films are listed in the order they were viewed.
New to me
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (Douglas Mackinnon, 2016) – This was a trifle silly. I mean I know Sherlock is always silly, but this was silly in a way that didn’t really work. The twists were just a bit too hard to swallow.
Zathura: A Space Adventure (Jon Favreau, 2005) – Apart from a really weak female character (played by a very young Kristen Stewart), this movie was pretty great. It’s Jumanji in space! Gives me a lot more confidence in the upcoming Jungle Book adaptation.
Batman (Leslie H. Martinson, 1966) – So fun and so, so campy. I am pretty sure that I laughed for about 80% of the film’s runtime. The shark on the ladder and the use of the shark replant spray is something that I will chuckle at for a very long time.
Chi-Raq (Spike Lee, 2015) – Film of the year so far – it left me quite speechless. What a bold, powerful, angry statement. Spike Lee isn’t happy with the state of affairs in America and this film is him getting angry in such an impassioned, in-your-face way. I honestly loved everything about it. Teyonah Parris is a powerhouse – why aren’t more people talking about her? I really hope this gets a cinema/festival release in Australia so I can go and see it on the big screen.
I Will Follow (Ava DuVernay, 2010) – A quietly beautiful exploration of grief, memory, and the different ways which people can impact our lives. I didn’t love the film, but I really appreciated the way the characters talked about memory and legacy.
The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015) – Oh this was fun. I had the pleasure of seeing it in 70mm followed by a Q&A with Tarantino, Russell, & Jackson. This felt like more of an event than a simple trip to the cinema, everything about it was grand starting from the overture. I liked the film a lot, particularly the second half that increasing became more absurd and violent as it went along. As others have said, there are comparisons to be made to an Agatha Christie mystery here. As a fan of Christie, this is a high compliment indeed.
The Ladykillers (Ethan & Joel Coen, 2004) – Delightfully bizarre, underrated Coens. It was really fun to see Tom Hanks playing something other than a trustworthy person of authority – actually, this was a fun twist on that. The cat amused me.
Whip It (Drew Barrymore, 2009) – This was enjoyable. A whole film populated with diverse, interesting women. Oh, and Jimmy Fallon was quite entertaining too.
Breathe (Mèlanie Laurent, 2014) – A little painful to watch. Brought back high school in a very real, uncomfortable way. Performances were ace. Some really stunning shots too, although the first 15 mins was a little bit on the shaky side.
Anomalisa (Charlie Kauffman & Duke Johnson, 2015) – I admire this film for what it does with the form (animation), but it left me a little cold. Not sure it says anything that Kauffman hasn’t said before. It is quite possible I missed the point completely here, but reading reviews/articles on the film has yet to offer any significant insight.
Clèo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962) – This reminded me of Breathless mixed in with Before Sunrise. There is such an interesting energy, which positively leaps off the screen. I think that’s due to a combination of a witty script, interesting, kinetic cinematography, and the utter charm of lead actor Corinne Marchland. This was my first Varda film and it has certainly given me reason to watch more.
Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle, 2015) – Definitely more of a Sorkin film than a Boyle film, but that’s not a bad thing. Wall-to-wall engaging conversation, debate, monologue, and argument. I was captivated throughout, although by the end I must admit I was exhausted. The entire cast is great, but it was Winslet and her incredible accent that impressed the most. Interesting structure ensured it did not feel like a tired biopic.
Straight Outta Comption (F. Gary Gray, 2015) – There were some good moments in this film but overall it just didn’t gel. It would have been to the film’s advantage if it had narrowed its focus. The acting, particularly from O’Shea Jackson Jr and Corey Hawkins was excellent.
Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, 2001) – As an exploration of teen sexual awakening and sisterhood, this film was outstanding. I loved the way the younger sister viewed her elder sibling, and saw through what her sister’s hormones hampered her from seeing. The film went to a weird place in the latter stages and I am not entirely sure how I feel about that. Superb cinematography.
Goosebumps (Rob Letterman, 2015) – I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. It was the right sort of silly and goofy and did a good job of bringing the overall feel of the books to the screen. Got a little repetitive in the 2nd half and could have been edited down a bit. Great humour & comedic chemistry between the actors.
MASH (Robert Altman, 1970) – MASH’s brilliance is on the periphery and announcements that pepper the camp. The events in the foreground are often of no consequence. There was enough to keep me entertained, but of those I have watched, this is a lesser Altman for me.
New York, I Love You (Various, 2008) – I loved three of the segments, but wasn’t particularly taken with the others. Ethan Hawke and Maggie Q’s conversation outside of a restaurant was certainly the film’s comedic highlight – Hawke pulls off cheeky so well. I adored the final segment in which an elderly couple took a walk to the pier. It was unexpectedly moving, and I saw a lot of my own relationship in it.
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007) – Gets better every time. My favourite Wright film.
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014) – It’s a little too long, but I really like this film. Josh Brolin eating a chocolate banana is everything.
Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014) – We saw this at the State Theatre with the score being performed live by composer Antonio Sanchez, which was a wonderful experience. I’m not a massive fan of this film, but on a technical level it is amazing.
The Family Stone (Thomas Bezucha, 2005) – I needed to watch something comforting and since this has Diane Keaton in it, this is what I picked. I had forgotten that had seen it and I didn’t actually like it that much.
Then She Found Me (Helen Hunt, 2007) – It wasn’t until almost the halfway point of this film that I realised I had seen it before. Not an amazing film, but it has some interesting things to say about motherhood.
New to me: 17
Total includes: 4 films at the cinema
6 films towards my 52 Films by Women pledge
Jessica Jones – Season 1, ep 10-13 – I really loved this show. Possibly my favourite Marvel property yet. More please.
Maron – Season 3 – This season was dark. Loved the internet provider episode. I saw so much of myself in the behaviour of the character.
Making a Murderer – Equal parts captivating and infuriating. What the hell? The show didn’t convince me of their innocence, but it certainly convinced me that these two men did not receive a fair trial.
Parenthood – Season 6 – I actually thought this show finished after 5 seasons, so imagine my surprise when Netflix told me season 6 was available! The end was rushed and overly dramatic, but it was a nice show to watch at the end of a long day.
Fargo – Season 2, ep 1 – Didn’t like it. The internet has promised me it is an amazing season of TV, so I am dedicated to watching at least 2 more episodes before I call it.
True Detective – Season 2, ep 1-4 – People didn’t like this? You’re all crazy. This is compelling TV. Love the setting, love the cast, love the way the characters are connected. Cannot wait to finish it.
Bored to Death – Season 3, ep 1-4 – Some of the smartest comedy writing I have ever encountered. Sad and excited to watch the rest.
Nathan For You – Season 1, ep 1-3 – I don’t get it. I mean, I laughed a couple of times, but I just don’t think this is my sort of humour.
Baskets – Pilot episode – This has fantastic potential. I love when Galifianakis does smart, dark comedy (see Bored to Death).