This month has been good. I watched a film a day, which is pretty high for me. Considering I also read 18 books and watched a bunch of TV, it’s been stacked with culture goodness. Film highlights include a Cate Blanchett film which is not Carol, Steven Spielberg’s first feature film, and a documentary set in an Iranian apartment. On the TV front a BBC miniseries and the second half of True Detective season 2 tops. Check out my February 2016 monthly round-up after the jump.
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
Love and Other Catastrophes (Emma-Kate Croghan, 1996) – I loved the soundtrack from this film. It was the awkward 90s in one perfect, weird, moody capsule. The film was okay.
Unrelated (Joanna Hogg, 2007) – Tom Hiddleston gets naked and skinny dips in a swimming pool. I don’t really remember much else.
Fresh Dressed (Sacha Jenkins, 2015) – This documentary was very good. It went beyond the surface level information and went deep on hip hop/street fashion, its origins, and impacts. I also liked the use of animation in place of traditional montages of clips from the era being discussed.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977) – This was so much fun. I was transported to being 10 again and totally sucked into the fun world which Spielberg created. Kids in peril + scifi/fantasy is my favourite type of Spielberg.
Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992) – So much of this went over my head. I enjoyed it, but I can’t say that I really understood it. What I liked the most was Tilda and her amazing transformations. She is a marvel.
A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971) – This was my favourite of the films directed by women that I watched this month. So witty and clever. I loved the blend of physical/slapstick humour and genuine warmth. Filmspotting are doing an Elaine May marathon, so I will be watching 3 more of her films in the coming weeks.
Microbe & Gasoline (Michel Gondry, 2015) – Utterly charming, utterly, utterly charming. This film is so sweet. The “house car” that the two boys built so funny and the physical humour was well-done. There are probably one or two too many diversions on the journey, but overall it’s fun.
Zoolander 2 (Ben Stiller, 2016) Reviewed.
Grandma (Paul Weitz, 2015) – A roadtrip film like no other – a grandmother and her granddaughter on a mission to get the money to fun the granddaughter’s abortion. Tomlin is so good. I thought this was fresh, interesting, and really quite heartfelt.
My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong, 1979) – Australia meets an English period drama. I liked this film and its Australianess.
Trumbo (Jay Roach, 2015) – This was an entertaining look at a dark time in Hollywood history. The performances were good, but the narrative was little bloated with too many side stories.
Truth (James Vanderbilt, 2015) – This is the best film I watched in February. Spotlight is a film about journalists who do their job well, are properly supported, and nail a story. Truth on the other hand is what happens when things don’t go exactly right, and the organisation they work for is more interested in covering their asses than supporting their staff. Blanchett is a powerhouse here, while Redford is perfectly cast as Dan Rather. Nobody saw this when it was at the cinema, but I highly recommend checking this out when it’s out on home release.
This is not a Film (Jafar Panahi, 2011) – Tehran Taxi was fantastic, but this was something else. Filmed almost entirely in his apartment, Panahi gives us a glimpse into the impact the ban on his filmmaking was having on him. It’s incredible how much he can say within such a limited scope.
Concussion (Peter Landesman, 2015) – Reviewed.
Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014) – PSA: Do not watch this in 2D!!! We never got the chance to see this in 3D in Sydney, so I finally bowed to watching it in 2D. Ugh, what a mistake. About 1/4 of the film doesn’t work visually in 2D. I don’t know if the “narrative” works any better when you see the film in 3D, but it sure as hell doesn’t work in the 2D version. This was my least favourite viewing of the month.
Meet the Patels (Ravi Patel & Geeta Patel, 2014) – This was utterly delightful. Ravi decides to let his parents try to find him a good Indian wife. It’s such a warm-hearted, sweet look at a loving family and a culture that I don’t know much about.
The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael, 2015) – trippy, very trippy. An interesting blend of biblical stories and a fantastic adventure. Playing at the French Film Festival in March.
Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman, 2011) – So much hot air. I had a miserable time watching this.
L!fe Happens (Katherine Cunningham-Eves, 2012) – For the longest time I though the actress on the poster art for this film was Anne Hathaway. When I discovered it was Krysten Ritter I immediately watched it. This felt like it came from a very real place, I enjoyed it a lot.
Life Partners (Susanna Fogel, 2014) – What really worked about this film was the way it showed how lonely/tough it can be when your best friend finds a new partner and you’re still single. Gabourey Sidibe is particularly great in a small supporting role.
Boomerang (François Favrat, 2015) – Review to come. My favourite of the films screening at the French Film Festival that I’ve been lucky enough to watch in advance.
Every Jack Has a Jill (Jennifer Devoldère, 2009) – Funny and extremely warm-hearted, this was such a lovely film to stumble across on SBS on Demand. The second film in my unintentional and extremely enjoyable Mélanie Laurent double feature (see Boomerang above).
The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014) – Far more accessible than Oppenheimer’s first documentary The Act of Killing, due to the shorter runtime and more recognisable structure, but lacks the shock of the that film. This isn’t a negative thing, it just didn’t grab me in quite the same way.
Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2016) – I am a bit mixed on this film, but I did have a very good time watching it. There are so many great set pieces, but as a whole it lacks some cohesion. I need to rewatch this a couple of times before deciding how I really feel about it.
Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015) – I was one of the few people who didn’t love this film, so I wanted to give it another chance. Unfortunately I didn’t change my opinion. The final 10 minutes of this film are perfect though.
The Terminal (Steven Spielberg, 2004) – A giant warm Spielberg hug. This film is silly, but it’s so sweet.
Captain America: The Winter Solider (Joe Russo & Anthony Russo, 2014) – I enjoyed watching this again. It’s pretty much a Captain + Black Widow + Falcon film, and as they’re among my favourite Marvel characters, it works for me.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015) – I expected this to drop a little upon rewatch, and it did. It’s still mostly enjoyable, despite being waaaay too long. The humour is so great and I even picked up on some new jokes this time. The action sequences though, blergh.
Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008) – This is still one of my favourite Coen films, maybe my number 3? Brad Pitt is so good here, his facial expressions and mannerisms send me into fits of laughter.
2016 Viewing totals:
New to me: 41
Total includes: 8 films at the cinema
15 films towards my 52 Films by Women pledge
True Detective – Season 2, episodes 5-8 – If I had seen this last year it may have been my favourite show of 2015.
Bored to Death – Season 3, episodes 5-8 – A little bit of a whimper to end one of the most sharply written TV comedies I have ever seen, but fun nonetheless.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Season 1, episodes 1- 4 – I didn’t think I would like this, but I am really glad that people kept talking about it and changed my mind on giving it a shot. Smart, funny, and sassy.
And Then There Were None (BBC Miniseries) – Perhaps the greatest Agatha Christie adaptation yet. Wonderfully cast, ridiculously high production values, dangerous and dark. I loved this.
Mozart in the Jungle – Season 1 & Season 2 – Decided to watch this after it won the Golden Globe for best comedy. It’s light, but rather enjoyable.
11.22.63 – episodes 1 & 2 – Thoughts pending, but potentially amazing.
Love – Season 1 – Took until episode 4 to hook me in and I am glad I stuck it out until then. I didn’t love it, but there were enough jokes an awkwardly relatable situations to keep me entertained.
The Night Manager – Episode 1 – Tom Hiddleston! Olivia Colman! Mystery, thrills, international crimes and danger a plenty. There’s nothing to dislike thus far.