I spent a lot of this month catching up on a few 2016 releases I had missed, and making sure I caught all the essential theatrical releases in December. The result was surprising: only a few of these viewings left an impression on me. I remember last year seeing The Revenant, The Big Short, Carol and Spotlight in December. This year Jackie, Your Name and The Edge of Seventeen stood out, but I still have a number of the Oscar candidates to see – Moonlight, Manchester By the Sea, Hidden Figures, Silence, Lion and Fences. At this point last year I had seen all eventual Best Picture nominees save for Room.
The absolute highlight of this month’s viewing was the tremendous Westworld. I was hooked after one episode, and for me this is a demonstration of the rarely-met potentials of TV. Layers upon layers of interconnected story arcs and thought-provoking ideas that utilise the 10+ hours. The intrigue is never relinquished here – the twists are shocking – and the writing, acting and production values are all exceptional.
2017 goals = unknown. With a baby on the way, I have no idea what kind of time I can dedicate to movies, TV, books and games. I expect I’ll still probably see in the vicinity of 200 films throughout the year, but very few will be at the cinema. Most will likely be on VOD catch-up. I have set a reading goal at 20 novels for 2017. This year I hit 40, so I think this is realistic.
After the jump is a listing of everything I watched in December. I needed 36 films to hit 365 films for the year. I wasn’t trying for this number, it just happened. I didn’t make it anyway, ending with 27.
Oh, and if you missed my 25 Favourite Films of 2016, be sure to check it out.
Jackie – Features some amazing work from Natalie Portman, but this is a just a marvellous film across the board. Chilean master Pablo Larrain (No, The Club and Neruda – which I was so sorry to miss this year) has established himself as one of the world’s most gifted filmmakers, racking up essential work at a prolific pace. Here, he tackles one of the darkest periods of U.S history – the assassination of JFK. But more specifically, it chronicles the aftermath experiences of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as she tries to find the strength to be there for her children, and simply go on, while preserving her husband’s legacy within the White House. The consistently breathtaking Super 16mm cinematography, the deft editing that plays with timelines in clever ways, and Mica Levi’s oppressive score creates an unusual, disorienting whirlwind of public grief, responsibility and legacy. This is more than a biopic, it is a historical document that feels previously canned and hidden away; released to remind us that in a world of unforgiving public scrutiny the power wielded to influence history is often out of love, duty and necessity. (4.5/5)
Your Name – There’s no hand-holding through this swift-moving, affecting body swap/disaster romance and the animation is so detailed and beautiful. Like, it’s on another level. (4/5)
Queen of Katwe – Inspiring and possesses warmth and vibrancy along with un-melodramatic authenticity. Lovely performances from newcomers and vets alike. (3.5/5)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Has a uniquely earthy aesthetic – straying too far into gritty, even (those khaki-clad storm troopers?) – but somehow even less rebellious than The Force Awakens. Was intrigued by the idea of a standalone story, with new characters, but with the excessive fan service and the narrative’s justification entirely hinging on the events in A New Hope, this doesn’t expand the Star Wars universe at all. Instead it just unnecessarily pads it out. I never felt the stakes until very late. Saved often by the combo of Jones/Luna/Ahmed and the admittedly exciting finale. There are some spectacular images, sure, but I was never wrapped up in planet-hopping story. The humour felt very forced and most Imperial sequences featuring Mendelsohn and Vader were simply embarrassing. (3/5)
Moana – Sectionally stunning with an admirable lead and Polynesian setting but songs/set pieces weren’t memorable, bickering-at-sea grew wearying. Disappointing. (3/5)
The Edge of Seventeen – 4/5
Train to Busan – 4/5
Funny People – 3.5/5
Deepwater Horizon – 3.5/5
American Honey – 3.5/5
Divines – 3.5/5
Louder Than Bombs – 3.5/5
Mountains May Depart – 3.5/5
Florence Foster Jenkins – 3/5
Dune – 3/5
Santas Claus (1985) – 3/5
Too Late – 3/5
The Wait – 3/5
The Wailing – 4.5/5
Sing Street – 4/5
The Mummy (1999) – 4/5
Green Room – 4/5
Paterson – 4/5
Ghostbusters (2016) – 4/5
Arthur Christmas – 3.5/5
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – 3.5/5
Hail, Caesar – 3.5/5
Westworld Season 1 Complete – (4.5/5)
O.J. Simpson: Made in America E2-3
Halt & Catch Fire S3 E6-10 – (Season – 3.5/5)