Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Movie – The Big Short (2015)

As I write this The Big Short just became the unexpected winner of the Producers Guild Award for Best Picture.  Since the PGA winner has presaged the Oscar’s Best Picture winner for seven years straight, and since The Big Short was not considered the Oscar front-runner, this has thrown the Oscar race a big curve.  Making it even more unsettled is that if The Big Short were to win it would be the most comedic film to do so since at least American Beauty (1999).

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie – The Martian (2015)

I have seen five of the eight Oscar nominees for Best Picture so far and among them The Martian is my favorite.  It combines the best aspects of Apollo 13, Castaway, and Gravity.  And I’ll address this right up front – despite the Golden Globe wins for the film and star Matt Damon in the comedy categories, this is a drama with some lightly humorous moments, not a comedy.  It’s also a great story.

I like movies where smart people deal with issues by being smart, or to paraphrase a line from the film - by sciencing the shit out of it. We have far, far too many movies about idiots being idiotic, so it's nice when every once in a great while a film like this gets made.  This is easily Director Ridley Scott's best movie in quite some time.  Drew Goddard (who got his start with Joss Whedon writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer) delivered a great script, too.  It’s all based on a book that started out as free, serialized posts on the blog of writer Andy Weir.  He got so many requests to turn it into an e-book that he finally did and was selling it for 99 cents.  It attracted Hollywood’s attention and the result was this film.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Movie – The Revenant (2015)

As I write this The Revenant appears to be the emerging favorite to win Best Picture at the 2016 Oscars.  That is still more than a month away, though, so we will have to see if it keeps its momentum or if it starts to fade.  It is a simple tale of survival and revenge very loosely based on the story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman in the 1820s who was attacked by a bear, left for dead, but managed to make his way back to a fort.  It stars Leonardo DiCaprio in what might finally be an Oscar winning performance for him.  It’s got a lot of good things going for it, but The Revenant also has some flaws.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Observations on the 2016 Oscar Nominations (with No Bitching About What Didn’t Make It)

The 2016 Oscar nominations were announced Thursday.  Going down through them there are a few eyebrow raisers, but no out and out WTFs like a few years ago when Ben Affleck didn’t even get nominated for Best Director for the movie that ended up winning Best Picture (Argo).

Here are the eight Best Picture nominees:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Monday, January 11, 2016

Steve’s Selections #13 – Went the Day Well? (1942)

Steve Honeywell at 1001plus and I agreed to continue to do a monthly review of a film the other picked for us.  We did 12 in 2015 and we will do 12 more in 2016.  The first one I chose from Steve’s list for me this year is a British war film from 1942.  It’s also on the list of the 101 War Movies You Must See Before You Die, and I am slowly working on those entries, so it seemed like a good place to start.

I called this a “war film” and it is to a certain extent, but it’s more accurate to call it either a thriller or a war propaganda piece.  The events do not take place on a battlefield, but rather in a small village in England that gets infiltrated by Nazis in preparation for a full-scale invasion.  The Nazis have disguised themselves as British soldiers that are in the village to inspect its readiness for home defense and to conduct some training.  For the most part they speak perfect English and have all the mannerisms down.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Look Back at 2015 and a Look Ahead to 2016


Circumstances were such in 2015 that my contract as a Project Manager continued throughout the year, with some time off in November.  The hours continued to be full time plus, and when combined with my commute time, it meant my hours for movie watching and post writing were still curtailed. 

As the year went on my movie watching took priority and I posted less and less often.  Writing reviews started to feel more like homework assignments.  I find I write short “reviews” on Letterboxd now and those seem to mostly satisfy my desire to get some words down on a movie.  That may change (see 2016).

Major lists I completed during 2015 were the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They (2015 Edition), Roger Ebert’s Great Movies, and all the Oscar Best Picture Nominees. 

Other lists completed in 2015 include Empire Magazine’s Top 100 World films (2010 edition), the top 301 films of all time (2014 edition), and the top 500 films of all time (2008 edition).  Also completed were Entertainment Weekly’s 2013 list of the top 100 films, the BBC’s 2015 list of the top 100 American films, and the 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die (put out by the same people who do the 1001 Movies books.)

In the year 2015 I saw a total of 345 movies that were new to me.  I also re-watched another 9 films. (Note: I don’t count watching a DVD/BD with the commentary track as being a re-watch or my number would be higher.)  And I watched/re-watched 10 full seasons of various TV shows on DVD/BD/Streaming.

During 2015 I saw 41 films that I would rate at least four stars (14 more than in 2014).  They are, in chronological order within ranking:

5 stars:  The Orphanage (2007), (and a special mention for the TV show Orphan Black, which I would also give five stars to – especially the first season).

4.5 stars: Inside Out (2015), Twinsters (2015), The Martian (2015)

4 stars: Life Itself (2014), The Imitation Game (2014), American Sniper (2014), Boyhood (2014), Birdman (2014), Citizenfour (2014), Interstellar (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), The History of Future Folk (2012), The One I Love (2014), Nightcrawler (2014), Dinosaur 13 (2014), 30 for 30: Four Days in October (2010), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Samurai Rebellion (1967), Only Lovers Left Alive (2014), The Grey Zone (2001), Predestination (2015), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), 30 for 30: Unguarded (2011), Looney Toons Golden Collection Vol 1 (2003), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), The Train (1964), The More the Merrier (1943), Furious Seven (2015), David Ortiz: In the Moment (2014), Tomorrowland (2015), Riley’s First Date? (2015), Mr. Holmes (2015), Trainwreck (2015), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), The Peanuts Movie (2015), Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015), Spotlight (2015), The Hateful Eight (2015)

As always, I will post my Top 10 films for 2015 after the Oscars are chosen (which allows me time to see many of the films others picked as the best.)


Barring sudden incompetence on my part (or large budgeting changes) my job should continue throughout the entire year.

In regards to movies, right now I am trying to play catch up on recent, popular films (primarily 2013-2015) that I have missed, rather than working my way through any “official” list.  I am watching a few films from the five remaining 101 [Genre] Movies You Must See Before You Die lists as I get the DVDs from Netflix.  These will very likely be the next large set of movies I complete, and since I have just under 100 left I hope to do them all in 2016.

Assuming I have the time and/or inclination my next large set of movies after the 101 Genre ones may be Top British films or the movies that have been preserved by the U.S. National Film Registry.  Mixed in may be some “low hanging fruit” – lists where I have only a few entries left to complete.

There are also lists that change or expand every year.  I just updated my consolidated and weighted IMDB Top 250 list with the 2015 year end, as well as old lists from 1996 and 1997.  As a result I have 15 new films to watch to once again be complete.  In February the newest version of the TSPDT list should be coming out and I intend to knock off whatever new ones appear.  In the fall there will be a new edition of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die with the resultant dozen or so additions to watch.

And of course, coming up shortly are the 2016 Oscar nominations and my goal is to watch and review (if worthy of recommendation) all the Best Picture nominees, just like I have in all prior years I’ve had this site.  That will mean posting more frequently than I have been in recent months.  I do wonder if this might get me back into the swing of things again, and make me feel like reviewing categories of films like I used to.  We shall see.

Regardless, in 2016 Steve Honeywell and I have agreed to continue to do once a month reviews of films the other has selected.  And I will also do my monthly status posts with mini-reviews, so there will still be some activity here, even if it doesn’t turn out I continue with full movie reviews after the Oscars are over.

I’d like to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year and I hope you have a great 2016.

Friday, January 1, 2016

December Movie Status

Note: like last year I will be doing two separate year end posts – a regular one for the month of December and one for 2015 in review that will also look forward into 2016.

In the month of December I saw 49 new films.  I did not re-watch any, nor did I watch any seasons of TV shows.

In my last monthly movie status post I wrote that I had 19 films left to finish seeing all available Oscar Best Picture nominees and that my goal was to achieve that before the end of the year.  I’m happy to say that I did do that.  I wrote a post on completing it which you can read here.  Once the 2016 Oscar nominations are announced in a few weeks I may have more to see, but for now I am done.

After finishing off that list I shifted gears and started playing catch up on recent films I had not yet seen, especially ones from 2015.  This means I have likely already seen some of the movies that will receive Best Picture nominations in 2016.  I don’t know which ones, of course, so these are just in the Other category in this post.