2019 – Third Time’s The Charm

So clearly my previous way of doing this hasn’t been working out so well with trying to write a lot about each film whilst doing a degree and everything else at the same time, maybe I’m not much of a multi-tasker. But, that said, going in to this year I am determined to keep a record of the films I watch this year because otherwise I will definitely forget. Unfortunately I’m probably going to have even less time than I did before (we’ll see) as I start my masters in Screen Acting tomorrow. So with that in mind and with some inspiration from a reddit post I didn’t actually click on but saw pop up, I’m going t limit myself to about 2 sentences or so for each film (I’m not good at hard limits), this is really just for me to keep track of things this year. If anyone decides to read these posts, as some (very few) people did with my previous ones, I apologise for the total lack of depth or anything, but I hope you find something worthwhile anyway if by some weird chance you are reading this.

Before I dig in to the films I’ve already seen this year, I’m just gonna list some of the films that I really enjoyed last year:

  • Before Sunrise
  • Before Sunset
  • Before Midnight

These have absolutely made their way into some of my top films ever, particularly Before Sunrise, and cemented Richard Linklater as one of my favourite directors who I’m super excited to explore more this year.

  • Three Colours: Blue
  • Three Colours: White
  • Three Colours: Red

What a good year for watching fantastic trilogies 2018 was, I loved The Double Life of Veronique, so I was super excited to dig in to these films. I really enjoy the way that Kieslowski shoots the world from warped perspectives (that car ride in Blue!) and the gentle pace of his film worlds (White somewhat excluded but in an amazing way). I dont think I could choose a favourite of these three films, I think White might be the most memorable of the bunch as at first I found characters largely unsympathetic and felt it relied on a few too many cliches. But as the plot developed, it revealed itself to be a much more comic fare than I had expected after seeing Blue, and I loved the weirdness and the darkness of the film. That said I thought the performances in Red and Blue were stronger. Red has also really stuck itself in my mind, perhaps because it is the most recent of the three that I watched, but I also loved the dynamic between Irene Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant. I’m really looking forward to rewatching all three of these films and I only wish that Kryzstof Kieslowski had been able to make more films in his time because I just adore his film making.

In the cinemas I really enjoyed:

  • Hereditary

It was so intense, so well acted, so well made and chock full of surprises. The sound design was horrifying, I never knew what was going to happen next, I think this will stick with me for a long time, and that one shot in the bedroom (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen it) might be burned into my mind forever!

  • Mission Impossible: Fallout

Love this franchise, nobody does action like Tom Cruise and his partnership with Christopher Mcquarrie is a godsend. This was a thrill ride where the plot didnt make a huge amount of sense but I didn’t really care because it was just so much fun and what a great cast, Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust is just the coolest, Henry Cavill was the absolute definition of a hunk, Vanessa Kirby was magnetic and its always great to see Michelle Monaghan in any capacity.

  • The Incredibles 2

I still think the first incredible film is one of, if not the best Superhero film and I felt that the sequel totally lived up to the first, I laughed my ass off, the action was inventive and fun and the short film beforehand Bao was an absolute rollercoaster that made me laugh and cry (partly out of shock) in the space of 10 minutes.

  • Sorry to Bother You

Smart, wildly inventive, a whole lot of fun and also surprisingly sweet, the world building a bit of Charlie Kaufman’s work, particularly Synecdoche New York, and a little of Maniac. Definitely going to rewatch this some time.

There are certainly a lot more films that I watched last year but either they’ve slipped my mind or weren’t worth mentioning. I focused more on TV this year and saw a lot there that I loved:

  • Sharp Objects

I think this is the only one I’m going to write anything about because it may be one of my favourite things I’ve ever seen across any medium. Amy Adams is always amazing but in this she’s just jaw-droppingly phenomenal, Eliza Scanlen gave an amazing performance, particularly for a newcomer. I’ve never been amazed by Jean Marc Vallee (to be fair I haven’t seen a lot of his work) and I hated Dallas Buyers Club, but his work on creating such a rich, atmospheric sense of location with the way that dreams and reality and memories blend in to each other in a beautiful, liminal haze was magnetic. There are scenes and episodes I’ve watched countless times already and undoubtedly will continue to rewatch (I got the boxset for christmas hooray!). It is a relentless dark story but a study of a wounded woman who manages to remain so beautifully kind and sensitive and strong throughout it all. I cannot say enough good things about this show, I’ve recommended it to everyone I know, it may be a hard watch but its so worth it (trust me, I’m scared of spiders but still worked through it).

The rest of my top shows, in some order but its impossible to really rank them, but its been a fantastic year for television!

  • Barry
  • Homecoming
  • Killing Eve
  • American Vandal Season 2
  • Bojack Horseman Season 5
  • GLOW Season 2
  • Forever
  • The Marvellous Mrs Maisel Season 2
  • Daredevil Season 3
  • Fleabag (Havent finished it yet, but LOVING it)
  • Maniac

And last but not least, I have to give an honourable mention to this video game:

  • God Of War

This game shows how this industry has matured and is continuing to grow, with the capability to tell beautiful and mature stories with wonderfully drawn characters and an absolutely intoxicating world. All tied together with visceral and engaging gameplay and impeccable direction. It really inspired such a range of emotions in me and its not often that video games can make me laugh, again, this game is firmly in my top games of all time, it was absolutely stunning and stand head and shoulders above the other games I played this year even though there was no shortage of games that are showing just how formidable and interesting a medium it is for story telling and world building.

 

So there’s my end of the year round up, as I said, I’m not good with hard limits on content and I’ve gone on a lot longer than I intended with all this, I will do my best to keep it concise for 2019!

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2018 Retry

This is a small update post which, like most of this ‘blog’ will probably only be read by me, but either way, for anyone reading this, myself or otherwise, hopefully this should fill in what happened last year and set out my plans going forward.

So last year was a measly attempt at writing about every film and show I saw, I gave up by the end of February then felt like it wasn’t worth picking it back up because I couldn’t catch up. The problem was that I was watching 3 films a week for my degree, as well as watching films and TV in a solid amount of my leisure time and most of my posts ended up being well over a thousand words. This just became a little bit tricky to juggle with the other parts of my degree, yknow, actual essay and all that, the various plays I was in, my job and my social life, so it all just sort of tapered off.

So I’m going to try this whole thing again, thankfully only watching two films a week for my degree (dissertation research not included), I have no job this term and my play involvement is still pending. That all said, I’m probably going to write a lot less on the things I watch, just basically get some brief thoughts down which was the initial point of this blog and I may not write about EVERY film I see, but I’ll certainly aim to, TV writing will probably also take a big backseat this time around unless I’m binging.

Before I wrap this post up, I’m gonna just list some of my favourite films I saw in 2017, I feel as though I’ve forgotten a lot of what I’ve seen, hence why I’m trying this whole thing again:

  • Wind River
  • Mother
  • Personal Shopper
  • A Ghost Story
  • Funeral Parade of Roses
  • The Meyerowitz Stories
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • The Dance of Reality
  • The Beguiled
  • Hell or High Water
  • The Godfather I & II
  • Moana
  • I Love You, Man

There are probably others which have escaped me for the moment but hey, I’m also realising just how few foreign films I seem to watch, and yes, it did take me til 2017 to watch The Godfather, I’m also just quickly gonna put some of my top TV series down for prosperity:

  • The Leftovers Season 3
  • Mr Robot Season 3
  • The Marvellous Mrs Maisel
  • Bojack Horseman Season 4
  • Dear White People
  • The Good Place Season 2
  • GLOW
  • Legion
  • Transparent Season 4
  • Fargo Season 3
  • Catastrophe Seasons 1-3
  • American Vandal
  • The first 4 or 5 episodes of American Gods
  • Big Little Lies

Its been a fantastic year for TV and film and I’m super bummed I was so terrible at keeping up with it on this blog, so I’m gonna try to do better from here on out.

 

The Good Place – Season 1 (2016)

This was a binge watch in varying states of sobriety so my recollection may not be as detailed, and unlike every other time I say I’ll keep things short and then write loads, I really think this one will be short.

Written by Mike Schur, the creator of Parks and Recreation, a favourite sitcom of mine, The Good Place is similar in some ways regarding the tone especially, but at the same time an entirely different beast. The main similarity comes in the form of kindness, one of the things that made Parks and Rec stand out so much was that everyone was overall kind to one another (excluding poor Jerry). With The Good Place being set in heaven, this niceness is a common thread and its reflected by the bright, colourful aesthetic and characters who by and large treat each other nicely. This setting also provides some clever humour as expletives are not fit for heaven and as such they are replaced by similar sounding, albeit unrelated words, a clever and humorous solution to the limitations of cable TV. However unlike, Parks and Rec, The Good Place isn’t actually particularly funny, its very pleasant and enjoyable but I can’t recall any jokes that actively made me laugh, perhaps this is due to a much smaller ensemble and a less compelling lead than Leslie Knope. This isn’t Kristen Bell’s fault, she does a good job with a not particularly interesting character, in fact none of the characters are particularly interesting and therein lies the problem. The ensemble does a good job with their material, particularly Kristen Bell and Ted Danson (also wonderful in Fargo S2) and a standout performance from D’arcy Carden who provides the bulk of the show’s humour and she does it so fantastically. However the characters lack chemistry and dont feel like a particularly united ensemble, perhaps due to the lack of group scenes or scenes where we have odd character pairings as the focus is almost always on Bell. This seems like a somewhat unfair critique as all sitcoms take time to find their footing and develop that chemistry, which is particularly hard with only 13 episodes, perhaps in the next season they’ll form a more cohesive group.

What the show lacks in outright laughter, it makes up for with its incredibly finely tuned and precise narrative which is unlike any sitcom I can recall ever seeing. The show has a great concept that could last many seasons but the show never rests on that, they completely change the dynamic about halfway through and then have a finishing plot twist that makes season 2 incredibly exciting, but also incredibly difficult to figure out how it will work. The plot twists never feel extraneous or forced but rather quite natural to the world Schur created, you can tell this show was intricately planned before production, as these plot twists are pulled off perfectly, more so than Westworld (which I loved) that prided itself on its twisty narrative but got quite messy. The writers employ an Orange is the New Black-esque mode of flashbacks to provide insight into the characters’ backgrounds, showing life before death as opposed to life before prison.

Despite not being the funniest show ever, it is really very enjoyable and must be applauded for the commitment to the complex narrative especially in a genre that doesn’t expect it. I’ll definitely watch season 2, but maybe wait for it to be over so I can binge it as that feels like a good way to watch this show.

Mr Robot – Season 2 (2016)

This has been my only series over the Christmas break, university and having to worry about internships sucks cause it really takes your time away from whats important, being television. This may be a little sporadic and not very in depth at all since I watched this series over 3 weeks with some big gaps here and there for various reasons. Oh also spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’ll try to mark them but just be careful.

I loved season 1 when I watched it but for some reason I wasn’t particularly excited to watch this but I’m really glad I did. Narratively I can understand criticism levelled towards this season but I feel that watching it as a binge can help to brush past those concerns. (Spoilers ahead) I did feel that Elliot was slightly wasted as a character this season, I felt like he had very little impact on the story of f society, especially in the first half of the season with his status in confinement. The reveal of his confinement was wonderfully done albeit quite expected, and I really enjoy how Esmail plays with having an unreliable narrator, somewhat of a rarity in television and film. Even if he only really served to give Elliot something to do, I really enjoyed Ray as a character, I thought he was an interesting and well rounded character who served his limited purpose well.(Spoilers end) Despite the character being sidelined, Rami Malek was fantastic this season, I don’t know if I noticed how good he was in season 1 but I was pretty blown away by him this season. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Christian Slater who was given very little interesting material to work with but I suppose that was only natural after the season 1 plot twist. The power struggle between Elliot and Mr Robot did get a little tiresome and seemed to make very little progress.

This really was a season for the ladies, with the fantastic addition of Grace Gummer as FBI agent Dominique and Carly Chaikin’s Darlene moving the story on more than anyone else and Angela with a surprisingly interesting arc this season. I cannot say enough good things about Grace Gummer’s character Dom, I had found Gummer quite annoying in American Horror Story so I wasn’t thrilled to see her addition to the cast but I was so so wrong. Dom is one of my new favourite characters on television, she is such a layered character with perhaps more depth than any of the other characters on the show. It was refreshing to see a female character who is exceedingly capable, neither sexualised or sexless, equal parts sensitive and tough with a sense of humour and can handle herself not only intellectually but in a fight, yet she never felt preachy or like they were making a point with her being a woman, she just was. She was a grounded and believable character I was always eager to see more of and to see her survive any perilous situation.and Grace Gummer did a wonderful job. Chaikin stepped up her game with Darlene this season who is a fun chaacter but has yet to be given much more depth beyond what she has. Angela was a a nice eye into the mysterious world of E Corp and her inner turmoil was interesting and performed well, although I must admit I am growing tired of the same nervous expression with the furrowed brow three times an episode, although hopefully we’ll see Angela have more backbone with her new circumstances. Whilst talking about the ladies, we have to mention the terrifying and terrifyingly beautiful Joanna Wellick, at the start of the season you may wonder why we’re seeing so much of her, not that you’ll be complaining, she’s fantastic, but she seems unrelated, but it all pays off. (Spoilers) She pulls some serious Claire Underwood shit which could really change circumstances for Tyrell going forward. Tyrell was one of the big mysteries of the season, only coming back for the last two episodes, I honestly found him pretty tiresome with the constant crying which wasn’t quite believable but I’m excited to see him return as a regular next season (spoilers).

The cinematography continues to be top notch and distinctive through out with its cold and distant offices and unconventional extreme close ups, its such a pleasure to watch. I particularly enjoyed any scenes shot outside at night time, one example that comes to mind is the end of episode 10, a really fantastic sequence which was beautifully shot. (spoilers) Talking about that particular sequence, one thing I’ve loved in Mr Robot since that incredibly unnerving but brilliant suicide in season 1 is the way this show depicts gun violence. The stand out moments are Gideon’s murder, the shooting in China and the restaurant shooting in episode 10, the choice to show that restaurant shooting from outside is the kind of inspired direction that makes the show stand out. I cant quite put it into words, but theres just something about the gun play that feels so unique to this show, its quick, its brutal and its bloody but never over the top, it feels more real than most shows and movies which is perhaps why its so effective. However the show didn’t handle violence so well in the case of Elliot’s beating being swapped out for an overly long, heavy handed 90s sitcom sequence was a swing and a miss (spoilers).

The development of the dark army has made them into a formidable and very threatening possible antagonist, they really do feel dangerous and the addition of Whiterose gives them a face which is greatly appreciated. I admittedly got a little lost with some of the Whiterose/E Corp drama and the powerplant but I imagine that all will become clear next season. (spoilers) Although I liked the cinematography, I didn’t care for the Lynchian meeting between Angela and Whiterose with that child, it didn’t feel like it belonged in the world of Mr Robot stylistically and was a little too self indulgent but its one small moment in a great season (spoilers).

I thought this was a really great season particularly thanks to the brilliant Grace Gummer and expanded roles for other characters. The stakes feel very real with the deaths of big characters early in the season and violence that feels indiscriminate and real. Along with the usual great performances from the old regulars and beautiful cinematography I’d say this is a great season that avoided the dreaded sophomore slump.