2015: My year in film

A list seen this year in San Francisco, London, LA, DC, Istanbul, Barbados, Sydney, and occasionally, VOD and mid-air.

Initial tweet-reactions to the “5 star” films included.

In alphabetical order, by star rating…

 

5 star

A Most Violent Year
Once again, Oscar Isaac becomes one of my favourite characters in forever. J.C. Chandor is a supremely talented dude.

Amy
What a magnificent pure voice, lyricist and individual. Utterly destroyed by the media, betrayed by many close to her.

Cartel Land
Harrowing, and fills you with misery considering there’s no end in sight. No idea how Hieneman got the access he did.

Creed
The first fight and its continuous take. Emotion and montages in spades. A tribute and fresh take that Coogler crushes.

Leviathan
That majestic yet decaying landscape is a perfect companion to what enfolds. Grand on every front. LOVE that slow-moving camera.

Love & Mercy
The best music you’ll hear in a film this year. Paul Dano doing his finest work. A welcome addition to the musical biopic.

Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller and team have set a new standard for the summer blockbuster. Impeccable, exhilarating filmmaking.

Mommy
The energy and emotions overwhelm. Two extraordinary performances that give themselves completely to Xavier Dolan’s direction.

Seymour: An Introduction
Joyous, uplifting, poignant. It just made me happy. Mr. Bernstein, keep on teaching.

Sicario
That first extraction scene has to be one of the best of the year. del Toro really is like a wolf, personified. Jóhannsson’s score was quite the marriage.

Song of the Sea
Every image is magic, realised. Can’t express how evocative and well-crafted it is! The emotions kick in strong too.

Steve Jobs
The best ensemble in forever. Sorkin’s screenplay sizzles. I was ready to stand up and clap and then realised 2/3rds was left.

The Assassin
The camera never hurries. Exquisite in every sense. Directed by a man in complete control and command of his craft.

The Babadook
Excels in foreboding, delivers on earned scares. Ends with a most excellent parable on managing your personal demons.

The Tribe
A clinical display in cold, brutal filmmaking. The absence of words left me even more isolated and uncomfortable.

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Screenshots

I was doing some research on earphones and found a pair I liked on a site. I started copying the URL, then paused, wondering whether to add a new note in Keep, save the page to Pocket, bookmark the page in Chrome, or worry about the tab disappearing eventually from my Recents.

I ended up taking a screenshot, because it was frankly the easiest way to not forget it.

Opening my “photo” gallery, I realised it had become more than a collection of photos I’d taken aesthetic or emotional purposes. There are many that were sent through messaging apps related to conversations that I probably wouldn’t have taken myself otherwise. Let’s not forget the hours of video I’ve shared on Snapchat that really believes in the moment, disappearing instantly. Venues or books or posters that fall into the remember-this category. And of course screenshots. Whether it’s referencing an Instagram photo (because who actually tries to find a “URL” and share that?) or song I’m listening to (can’t share it from Rdio to friends who use Play Music or Spotify anyway), or now, as a note-taking mechanism.

It says something about how hard it is to actually share things these days, across a myriad of apps. You have to worry about the compatibility of what you’re sharing if it’s done through the service itself. Sometimes, a screenshot is easier.

Maybe one day an OS-wide service will recognise each image and serve up relevant actions like opening the original one in Instagram or playing that album in a music service you have running.

UPDATE
And then Benedict Evans sums it up:

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The Babadook

SPOILERS AHEAD

From the first time I saw the trailer (at the cinemas, before watching ‘The Guest’) to re-watching it on YouTube, skimming Rotten Tomatoes and looking at all the poster art, the only thing I prepared for with ‘The Babadook’ was to be terrified.

I am absolutely appalling in coping with horror films, hence my first reaction at the end being “I thought it’d be even scarier.” To be clear, I spent more than half the film fidgeting, rising and sinking in my seat, raising my eyes above my glasses so that I could blur the terror out. This was the mindset I’d been in for months, and why I’d avoided watching it for so long.

Then I got home. After quickly turning on all the lights and opening cupboards and doors, I started thinking about ‘The Babadook’. Reading about it, it dawned on me how damn brilliant this film actually is. It’s as good a take on depression, grief and honest parenting dilemmas as I’ve seen. All these real-world horrors in the guise of an entertaining scare-fest is one of its best magic tricks.

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2014: My year in film

A list seen this year in San Francisco, London, New York, Sydney, and occasionally, VOD and mid-air.

Initial tweet-reactions to the “5 star” films included. Note to self: read a thesaurus.

In alphabetical order, by star rating…

5 star

20,000 Days on Earth
The mind of Nick Cave brought to us in spectacular, hybrid fashion. Haven’t enjoyed a film as much this year!

Boyhood
“Straight up, nothing fancy” Hawke’s character says at one point. It’s true. It’s also a near-perfect, natural time capsule of moments growing up.

Citizenfour
A most essential and terrifyingly timely film that needs to be seen. Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras are heroes.

Finding Vivian Maier
I’m filled with sadness that Ms. Maier didn’t get to see how the world has embraced her work. A lost talent and complex personality packaged up to be narratively and emotionally as strong as anything this year.

Foxcatcher
An unforgiving tragedy helmed by a master storyteller in Bennett Miller. Tatum and Carell are unrecognisably good.

Ida
Frame after frame of black & white beauty that’s soft, still and restrained. I marvel at Pawlikowski’s confidence and vision.

Interstellar
Unparalleled as pure spectacle and wonder. Nolan’s ambition overshadows any faults. McConaughey’s acting, the sound design, and editing made it even richer as a cinematic experience on second viewing.

Hoyte van Hoytema must have watched 2001 many a time! Even Zimmer’s score had some welcome unfamiliarity to it.

Life Itself
A touching tribute to a great man and all he loved. Thank you, Steve James. And thank YOU, Roger. The entire theatre laughed and cried in unison. Two thumbs up.

Nightcrawler
Maniacal, desperate, living the American Dream by way of network television. Gyllenhaal continues his incredible run. The city of L.A., score, humour and editing all stand out.

Only Lovers Left Alive
Simply oozes style and wickedness. The soundtrack will have no equal this year. An instant all-time favourite.

The Double
Offbeat brilliance from Richard Ayoade. Jesse Eisenberg better get an Oscar nom. A fantastic double act.

The Square
There won’t be a braver, more important film this year.

Two Days, One Night
Marion Cotillard gives *the* performance of the year. Completely transformative. A masterwork in realism.

Under the Skin
Singular, seductive, striking sci-fi. Wow to the score, cinematography and Johansson’s all-consuming presence.

Whiplash
Phenomenal! J.K. Simmons is terrifying. Miles Teller’s energy and intensity is out of this world. What a star! The only thing to do at the end is stay sunken in your seat and clap. That rhythm is playing in my head and I can’t stop it.

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The Last of Us

My last console was the original PlayStation. I’ve been a PC gamer since then, up until moving last year and leaving my desktop behind. Playing ‘The Last of Us’ on a PS3 tonight for the first time was a cinematic experience.

The storytelling. The sound design. The camera direction. The score. The use of vibration in the controller to convey certain things. The “cut scenes” are perfectly blended into gameplay, and I got that same feeling I did when playing ‘Bioshock’ for the first time, where I was watching the opening video and then nothing happens for a while. Then I realised the game had kicked in. The opening to ‘The Last of Us’ is that on steroids.

The emotion I felt was very real. The tenseness is on par with any film or TV show, and moreso because you’re in control of a character and the camera. I hesitantly approached each window or door, turning the camera at times so I wasn’t facing the window, avoiding the potential crash of glass. I was projecting my own fear and heightening the suspense due to my paranoid direction.

Even the gameplay tutorial is done in the most minimal, intuitive way possible.

I had to stop playing to write this down. From what I’ve read, I’m guessing my mind will continue to be blown.

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Enemy

‘Enemy’. An intriguing premise knocked out of the park by Villeneuve! Hypnotic, suspenseful, original. Shot and scored magnificently!

Two shots of glimmering eyes in darkness are absolute stand-outs. One of Gyllenhaal, another of a “woman” walking upside down. The silhouettes, and swooping, sepia-washed city all create an inquisitive, unnerving atmosphere that’s backed up by a lovely score. Gyllenhaal is doing wonders by portraying two characters in the most nuanced of ways.

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12 O’Clock Boys

’12 O’Clock Boys’. Tragic as both a character study and broader social commentary on what people live for in their day-to-day struggles. Dangerous escapism as seen by outsiders looking for the temporary kind is darkly ironic.

Lotfy Nathan found someone special in Pug. Bright, ambitious, destined for doom. Nature nor nurture have been particularly good to him as a young boy, and it doesn’t look like that cycle is stopping anytime soon for him and others in Baltimore.  What’s been eating away at me ever since I walked out of the theater is how much Nathan’s decision to document Pug’s quest drove him even further. Would he have done everything he did if a camera wasn’t on him? The ending seemed particularly exploitative.

You see the pursuit of power, fame and notoriety, driven all the more by social media. The film ending where it does, I’m afraid of what effects this will have on the next generation of Baltimore’s 12 O’Clock Boys.

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