Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Movie – Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood is one of the most well known of the 2015 Best Picture nominees.  That is because of how it was made.  Writer/director Richard Linklater filmed it over the course of 12 years, shooting for a week or two each summer.  The result is that we see the characters age throughout the film, especially the main character who goes from six to eighteen during the movie.  The result is a film that requires evaluation on two different levels: as a movie and as a unique undertaking by Linklater.  I’ll start with the latter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Movie – The Theory of Everything (2014)

The Theory of Everything is the last of the four Best Picture nominees based on real events that I have to review.  In this case it’s about Stephen and Jane Hawking.  People looking for a film delving into the great scientific achievements and discoveries of Dr. Hawking may end up being a little disappointed.  While it does mention some of them, especially early on, this movie is actually a relationship drama about the marriage of the two and how Jane had to deal with Stephen’s deteriorating condition from ALS.  While this wasn’t what I was hoping for when I started to watch the film it nevertheless is worth seeing.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Movie – The Imitation Game (2014)

I was at a bit of a loss on how to review The Imitation Game.  It’s the story of three points in Alan Turing’s life – as a teenager in the late 1920s, as a code breaker during WWII, and as a lone man in the early 1950s.  I was very familiar with Alan Turing’s life since he is one of the key pioneers in the field of computers.  Anyone who works in the computer field, or at least anyone who got a degree in the field, should have no surprises from this film.  The problem is that, as presented, the movie keeps a key secret about Turing until more than halfway through the film.  It’s played as a mystery that is hinted at a few times.  And the consequences to Turing when that secret came out were also well-known to me.  They make up a key part of the ending.

The problem is, some people will never have even heard of Alan Turing, and all the events in this film will be new to them.  Most any review for this movie will spoil it for them, since the filmmakers and actors themselves are talking quite openly about what is revealed.  It’s as if they have decided most everyone already knows the story, too.

I finally decided that I will mark a couple of spoiler sections in this post, with labels as to who they will be spoilers for.  I will still have a regular review for those who just want to get a sense of what the film is about and if they might want to see it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Movie – American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  It is based on Chris Kyle’s 2012 best selling book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.  I confess that I don’t ever remember hearing of Chris Kyle or his book prior to this film coming out.  I didn’t even know this was a movie about a real person until I started looking into the Best Picture nominees for my Oscars observations post six days ago.  Overall, this is a moving film and it is guaranteed to get people talking afterwards.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Movie – Selma (2014)

It seemed appropriate to review Selma – the film about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s protests for voter registration reform – on this day named in his honor.  I only wish I could write a glowing recommendation for this movie.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good movie about an important topic.  It’s just that Dr. King deserved better, especially since I’ve now read that this is the first theatrically released film about him.  I have to admit that that surprised me, but when I wracked my brain I could not come up with another movie where he was more than a supporting character in someone else’s story.  If Malcolm X can get a great movie made about him thanks to Spike Lee, then Dr. King should have the same.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Observations on the 2015 Oscar Nominations (with No Bitching About What Didn’t Make It)

The 2015 Oscar nominations were announced today.  Going down through them there are a few eyebrow raisers, but no out and out WTFs like a couple 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:

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

I will post reviews for as many of these movies as I can prior to the Oscar telecast on February 22nd.  At this point I have seen only a few of them.  I will also post my predictions in the days leading up to the ceremony.  And I will have another Oscar quiz like last year’s on the titles of Best Picture nominees.

Click “Read more” for a complete list of the nominees, what got the most nominations, and some other things of interest.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Steve’s Selections #1 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

I had heard good things about the film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but I had never happened to get around to seeing it.  When Steve Honeywell at 1001plus put it on his list of 12 films for me to watch and review this year I was glad.  I wasn’t sure what film I would do first.  This one was certainly a front-runner based on my history with it, and also based on the fact that it was one of only three films on the 2014 Empire Top 301 Movies of all time list that I had not yet seen.  What finally cemented it were comments from a couple of fans both on my last post and on a Letterboxd list I created to go along with this.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Announcing: Steve’s Selections

In 2015 I will have a new kind of post.  Oh, it will still be a movie review, but the origin of it will be different.  Instead of just doing reviews for a set of films all having something in common, I will be also be reviewing films suggested to me by Steve Honeywell at 1001plus.  In return he will be reviewing films that I have suggested to him.

Last year I noticed Steve doing this with another blogger and I liked the concept.  Hell, the biggest reason I started and have continued this site is to recommend films, books, hikes, etc. to others.  Unless someone comes back afterwards to leave a comment telling you what they thought of the film, though, you never really know what people’s reactions were.  This way you can read a review of the film from a person whose opinion you respect.

Steve and I will be doing one review a month - posting them on the second Monday.  The first one up will be my next post in three days’ time.

Steve and I each selected films we liked and genuinely hoped the other would like, too.  There is a chance, though, that I might get done watching one of the films Steve selected and I find that it’s not one I would recommend to others.  (“Recommended” means a rating of three stars or higher.)  To date I have only written full reviews for movies I would recommend.  On the chance that I have a selection from Steve that I would not recommend I will still be writing a full review.  This is a change in concept for this site.  (That’s why I only have Labels for 3, 4, and 5 star films.)

Each of us tried to pick a wide range of genres, rather than concentrating on only one or two that we particularly liked.  The only real criteria are that these had to be films that the other had not yet seen.  (Both of us were going to assign 1989’s Dead Again to the other, but each of us had already watched it.) 

Steve additionally asked me to pick films not on one of his Oscar lists since he was going to see those at some point anyway, so he therefore was looking to see great movies he might not otherwise have ever watched.

Without further ado, here are the 12 films Steve has selected for me:

And here are the ones I chose for Steve and his reviews of them:

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Look Back at 2014 and a Look Ahead to 2015

Looking Back:

I had some major events in 2014.  I re-entered the work force after a three year sabbatical.  I also published a second book – a 15 year update to a genealogy I did in 1999.  Both of those things severely curtailed the amount of film watching I did in the first half of the year.  It also meant I fell into a pattern of posting only once or twice a week at this site.  I got the book out, but I still have the job, which eats up the majority of the hours in my day.

While the job and book were taking up most of my concentration I mostly put my movie list work on hold.  That’s where I try to see all the films in certain lists.  I was working on several at the same time before I stopped.  When I picked this activity back up I decided to concentrate on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  I probably surprised myself the most with this, since I tend to think critics sometimes pick obscure movies simply for the sake of trying to appear cool, rather than for their actual quality.  And if there ever were a list of “critics’ films” this is it.  Nevertheless, it’s the one I picked.  I can’t honestly say why, other than it was on the spur of the moment and I simply stuck with it.

For the year that was 2014 I saw a total of 288 films that were new to me.  I also re-watched 14 other films.  Of those 288, 158 of them were for the TSPDT list.  Another 33 were for various other lists.  22 of them were in the month of January before I started my job and put lists on hold.

During 2014 I saw 27 “films” that I would rate at least 4 stars out of 5.  They are:

4.5 stars – Incendies (2010), Cloud Atlas (2012), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), The Fountainhead (1949), Heimat (1984) (TV miniseries), The Wind Rises (2013)

4 stars - His Royal Slyness (1920) (Harold Lloyd short), Sherlock: His Last Vow (2014) (TV movie), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), 21 Up (1977), 49 Up (2005), Mud (2013), Her (2013), The Hunt (2012), Rang De Basanti (2006), Philomena (2013), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Stoker (2013), Non-Stop (2014), Wadjda (2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition (2014), Kwaidan (1964), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Bunraku (2010)

As for 2014 films themselves, I still have yet to see most of the movies that will be nominated for Oscars.  As usual I will not do a Top 10 list for the year until I have had a chance to see most of the likely films, which means late February or early March after the Oscars have been awarded.

I can tell you right now that Guardians of the Galaxy will make my Top 10 unless this is one hell of a great year for Oscar films.  In addition, The Grand Budapest Hotel is quite likely to make my list.

Looking Forward:

My job should continue for at least part of the year.  I’m working as a contract Project Manager, so unless I do something really wrong the job should last until the project is complete.  At that point they may or may not assign me to another project.  I have no new books planned for this year, or any other large, creative endeavors.  This means my movie watching and movie posting frequency will probably stay about where they have been in the latter half of 2014.

I will complete the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list – at least the main 1,000 films – sometime in the first part of this year.  There will be a new list in February, which may add dozens more films I have not yet seen.  There were 12 new films added to my already completed IMDB Year End Consolidated Top 250 at the 2014 year end.  I have seen six, so I will probably watch the other six films in January and February to once again complete this list.  I will also watch the dozen or so new additions to the already completed 1,001 Movies list when the new volume comes out in the fall.

As for other movie lists I don’t know which one or ones I might work on after finishing TSPDT.  There are the “low hanging fruit” situations where watching only a few more will complete a list: 3 films to finish off the Empire Top 301, 5 films to finish off the Empire Top 100 World Films, 2 films for the Golden Globe Best Dramas, 8 for the Golden Globe Best Comedy/Musicals, 6 for the BFI Top 50 Films for Children, and 11 for the TIFF Best Pictures.

Then there are the ones where some dozens will complete a list, some of which I had already been working on before putting them on hiatus: 64 to complete a consolidated list of Top British films (originally from Top 100 lists from Empire, BFI, and Time Out), 26 for the Cannes Palme d’Or winners, 34 for Roger Ebert’s Great Films, 28 for Empire’s Top 500, 20 for the Independent Spirit Award winners, 58 for Sundance winners, and 54 Oscar Best Picture nominees – plus whatever ones get nominated in 2015.

Then there are the four largest lists where I have hundreds to go: 145 left of the 607 films in the 101 [genre] Films You Must See Before You Die, 251 left of the 625 in the U.S. National Film Registry, 298 left of the 1,003 in the New York Times Top 1,000 Films list, and approximately 230 left of the films that used to be on the TSPDT list.

I suspect after I finish the main TSPDT list I will do some low hanging fruit, then some (but not all) of the middle ones, before finally tackling one of the bigger ones again.  I’m thinking the 101 genre films, since I have worked on it in the past.  And since it’s actually six separate genre lists this would allow me to complete them individually in smaller chunks.  For instance, I have only 19 left to go on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die list.

In case you are wondering about some of the more well-known movie lists that you did not see me mention, here are the ones I have already completed (in chronological order): Consolidated IMDB Year End Top 250; all Oscar Best Picture winners; all AFI movie lists; all films that have been in the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die books; the Sight and Sound 2012 Critics’ Top 250; the Sight and Sound 2012 Directors’ Top 100; Entertainment Weekly’s Top 100 Films; and Time Magazine’s Top 100 Films.  If you still haven’t seen me name a list you think is a good one, please let me know.

In regards to posting, I will once again watch and review as many of the films that receive some kind of Oscar nomination as I can before the awards are handed out.  As always, the minimum will be all the Best Picture nominees, and full reviews will only appear for films I would recommend (at least a three star rating).

Finally, I will have an announcement in my next post about a shared endeavor with Steve Honeywell from 1001plus that will run throughout the year. 

I hope you all had a good 2014, and that you’re looking forward to 2015.

Note: all of the lists I mentioned and more can be seen/downloaded at my Lists from Chip site.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

December Movie Status

Note: this will be a regular month end post.  I will do a separate post looking back at 2014 and ahead at what I might do in 2015.

I watched 46 new movies in December, plus rewatched 1 movie.  (Hint: “om gotcha gowl gowl gowl”)

I continued to work on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  I passed 950 of the 1,000 entries.  As of this writing I have 44 left to see.  I have now seen all the films in the Top 750 of the list.  I’ve got only 3 entries remaining in the Top 800, and 15 more from 801-900.  That leaves 26 in the 901-1000 grouping.

I once again worked on completing directors with at least four entries on the list.  In December I finished off the last of: 16 Godard, 16 Ford, 4 Weerasethakul, 6 Polanski, 10 Bresson, 7 Allen, 6 Kazan, 8 Welles, 4 Clair, and 4 De Sica.  I have 7 more directors like this to go (out of 77).  I still need to see 2 of Hou’s six, 3 of Lang’s eleven (all in the 900s), 2 of Ozu’s ten, 1 of Peckinpah’s four, 3 of Sirk’s six (all in the 900s), 3 of Truffaut’s eight, and 2 of Vidor’s five (both in the 900s).