Dec 242016
 

After another year of 200+ new releases, one of the pleasures I take is reflecting on everything that I watched and creating a list of essentials. These feelings are subjective and ever-changing, so if I were to revisit this list in five years, having re-experienced some of these films and caught up with others I missed, it might look completely different.

Much was said a few months back about this year’s dire blockbusters, and documentary filmmaking hasn’t been as potent in 2016, but it has been a terrific year in other areas. Take animated films and horror films for example. Not only in terms of box office success, but the depth of inventive and high-quality releases. When you explore the list below you will notice there are several representatives from those genres. A few other obscure facts about the list: ten films screened at the Sydney Film Festival, five are written and directed by female filmmakers, four are divided into chaptered sections and three had first-run availability on Netflix.

The rules: simply, everything knew I saw in 2016 that had a release date somewhere in the world in the vicinity of 2016. Some of these films had a late 2015 U.S release, others have screened only at international film festivals. All were accessible (via an Australian theatrical release, film festival, SVOD service or TVOD service) to me in 2016 in one way or another.

Of course, I didn’t quite get through my watchlist. Some films I missed or didn’t get the chance to see include Tower, Camerperson, Things to Come, Neruda, Sunset Song, The Love Witch, One More Time With Feeling, My Golden Days and Evolution. There are also some films releasing in Australian cinemas in January and February that are amongst the awards discussion that I have not yet seen. These include Moonlight, Lion, Manchester By the Sea, Fences, Silence, Hidden Figures and Patriots Day. 

I apologise for the erratic lengths of the commentary. Some of these films I had written about already – so my thoughts, in often quite lengthy detail, had already been published. Others I was wracking my brain to find the words to describe how they made me feel. After the jump, check out my list of honourable mentions and 25 Favourite Films of 2016.

Continue reading »

Dec 232016
 

At the beginning of the year I pledged to watch 52 films by women as part of an initiative started by Women in Film, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women, encouraging creative projects by women, and expanding and enhancing portrayals of women in all forms of global media. For my challenge I decided that only first-time watches of feature-films directed or co-directed by women or trans filmmakers would count towards the total (which I easily achieved a couple of months back).

Continue reading »

Dec 192016
 

 
There are so many unwritten rules about making a Best Of/favourites list. Some of these were released in some place in 2015, and some aren’t necessarily feature-length films. The films on this list were released in Australia in 2016 in some format, or played here at a festival. They are the 25 films that I learned something from in some way or another. They each in some way challenge either sexism, racism, and classism; and they reinforce the importance that stories have in allowing us to challenge injustices in our world.

If there’s any that don’t make sense, hit me up or ask away. I’d love to talk about any thoughts you have on any of the films listed after the jump.

As always, I hope you dig – Chris.
Continue reading »

Dec 142016
 

lead_960

2016 has been a great year for music. I have been lucky enough to churn through many albums on my 40-minute walk commute to and from work, using review sites like Pitchfork as a guide on what albums to give a try. For the most part they have been worthy recommendations.

It was a year of few disappointments – notably, new work from The Avalanches, Bon Iver and Frank Ocean that didn’t do much for me – but of many surprises. Several bands and artists (Swans, White Lung, Death Grips, Danny Brown, Blood Orange) that I have recently become fans of came out with new albums every bit as exciting as their predecessors. Leonard Cohen and David Bowie released incredible swan song albums. A Tribe Called Quest returned with a killer new album, their first in 18 years, while Metallica turned out their best work in 20.

Here are 25 albums that I liked a hell of a lot in 2016 – no honourable mentions this year, just right into it – a mix of styles and emotions that have defined this year for me through music. I hope this selection brings some awareness to these albums and encourages you to give them a spin if you’re looking for something new to listen to.

Continue reading »

Dec 032016
 

jackie

Happy Summer Australia! Escape the oppressive heat and depressing grind of everyday life, and head to your local, air conditioned cinema! As with every summer, there are plenty of great films to see, with the “awards” crush of films well and truly upon us. From animated adventures in the Pacific, to seventeenth century Japan, there is something here for everyone. Check our picks out after the jump.

Continue reading »

Dec 022016
 

sullyheader1

I watched a total of 32 films in November, about what I expected. Most of these were focused on eliminating a number from my end-of-year watchlist. I worked out that if I watch 35 films in December – which is probably a tad out of reach – I will have hit 365 films again. Perhaps for the last time. I haven’t been trying to achieve this goal, it has just happened.

Outside of films, not much has been going on. Reading has dropped off (though I still have two more books to finish to complete my goal of 40 for 2016) and TV will be focused on completing some series. I have one more ep of Black Mirror S3 left, 5 eps of Halt & Catch Fire S3. I’d also like to work through O.J: Made in America and Westworld throughout December. A tall order.

I will be looking to drop my Favourite Albums of 2016 in a couple of weeks, and my Best of 2016 Film list (in a similar layout as last year’s list) at the end of December. The 29th or 30th.

Thoughts on most of what I watched in December (there were a few I didn’t discuss) after the jump:

Continue reading »

Nov 182016
 

hell-or-high-water

Hell or High Water (dir David Mackenzie)

A modern-day western set in a downtrodden West Texas, Hell or High Water tells he story of a man desperate to break the cycle of poverty, and provide for his family. Toby Howard (Chris Pine) needs to pay the debt owed on his mother’s mortgage, or they will lose the property to the bank, and with it the millions and millions of dollars of oil recently discovered on it. He turns to his brother Tanner (Ben Foster), recently released from 10 years in prison, for help. Together the pair commit a string of bank robberies, drawing the attention of Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who takes on the task of tracking them down.

This film is quite simply one of the year’s best. It’s a film where the bad guy isn’t so obviously the one with the gun, in fact we’re convinced that the banks and the economy are just as bad. It’s easy to put yourself in Toby’s shoes – he wants to be the man, the provider, and give his children something. The fact that this something is a contract with the bank and mere tens of thousands of dollars away is painfully frustrating, and thus we sympathise and even cheer him on. Bridges, Pine, Foster, and Birmingham are wonderful, in fact this could be Pine’s best performace..ever? To top it all off, original music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis reinforces the feeling that Texas is a land inhabited by outlaws.

4.5/5
 
doctor-strange

Doctor Strange (dir Scott Derrickson)

Another dull origin story about a mostly unlikable male protagonist – thanks Marvel. When hot-shot neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) loses the use of his hands, he travels to Nepal to find Kamar-Taj, a place he has heard is capable of performing medical miracles. There he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a sorcerer with formidable powers, and equally formidable enemies to match. In order to restore the use of his hands he must first master the ancient arts and in doing so, he gains far more than he expected, including the immense responsibilities that go with having such knowledge.

Although many of the visuals appear to be taken from Inception, it’s the visual style and special effects which give this film some spark. While Marvel films have heroes with super powers, it’s less common for magical powers to be on show, and they’re done quite well here, particularly by Swinton as the Ancient One, who gets to put on quite the show. It’s a shame then that the screenplay was a lifeless affair, sticking rigidly to the well-worn origin story path and offering little in the way of comedy (I really didn’t find the cape stuff funny at all). The casting also felt rather off, with Cumberbatch particularly out-of-place speaking in an awkward American accent; while Rachel McAdams was also wasted in yet another disposable girlfriend role.

2/5
 
hacksaw-ridge

Hacksaw Ridge (dir Mel Gibson)

Mel Gibson’s return to the director’s chair has him telling the [true] story of Desmond Doss (played convincingly by Andrew Garfield), an American combat medic during World War II who became the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. As a child Doss nearly killed his brother when fooling around, which led to him seeking solace and answers in religion and an absolute distaste for violence. He joins the majority of the men of his town and enlists in the Army, where he is faced with many challenges due to his beliefs and his refusal to use a weapon. When Doss eventually makes it to the frontline he is confronted by horrific violence, and he is forced to dig deep to survive and assist others.

Hacksaw Ridge‘s scenes of extreme violence are at odds with Doss’s pacifist beliefs, and it’s perhaps because of this that the film is so effective. Gibson knows how to shoot action – the war sequences are brutal, unrelenting, and extremely graphic in nature. There is absolutely no sugar-coating how awful the frontline was and this only emphasises the incredible bravery which Doss displayed. Vince Vaughan has an interesting turn as a platoon leader here, and his summing up of his troop is an incredibly entertaining and efficient way to introduce the many supporting characters in the film. The film does have a few bum notes, particularly in regards to Doss’s relationship with Dorothy (Teresa Palmer) and a ridiculous military court scene, but its main fault is to push the earnestness of Doss a little too hard. I can say that I walked away from the film with extreme admiration for Desmond Doss – what an absolute hero.

3.5/5

Nov 032016
 

a-visual-study-on-steven-spielbergs-ai-artificial-intellegence

This month I decided to focus a lot more on films, in an attempt to check off a bunch on on my still-lengthy watchlist before year’s end. I did a pretty good job of that, but I have about 40 films left to tackle in November and December. A busy month in October – family visits, various life admin and a short break out of town – resulted in only five cinema visits. It was interesting that the two most disappointing viewing experiences this month were at the cinema. It is a problem when you start to dread what sort of public audience you get, and rough crowds are one reason we have waited for the home release a lot more this year.

I watched a total of 30 films. And about 20 eps of TV (well down on last month).

Sam and I have been spending a lot more time playing games – card games and board games (not console) – and this has been a lot of fun. If you’re looking to start a collection of games, these are some I can recommend: Love Letter, The Rivals of Catan, Jaipur, Flux and Tides of Time. In October I read Dave Eggers’ new book ‘Heroes of the Frontier’ and William Goldman’s ‘The Princess Bride’, both of which I enjoyed. I’m also deep into both Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’ and Neal Stephenson’s ‘Seveneves’, both of which are incredible so far.

November – in addition to continuing to deplete my watchlist (Sully, The Infiltrator, The BFG amongst them), we’re looking forward to American Honey, Arrival, Nocturnal Animals and I, Daniel Blake. Thoughts on some of my October viewing after the jump.

Continue reading »