Times the Book Was WAY Better … A Post Brought to You Courtesy of #BookLoversDay

I would venture a guess that most lovers of cinema have a soft spot for the written word as well. I know I do. And while I will readily admit to not being the most voracious reader in the world, I still appreciate and value the joy derived from curling up with a wonderful novel.

As we close out today’s Twitter hashtag #BookLoversDay, I sat down to reflect upon some of my favorite books that were made into movies. In thinking about it, it became clear to me that there are times where the film might be on par or exceed the source material. But let’s be real, just given the building blocks of what makes a movie a movie, it is very challenging to condense and adapt many novels in a wholly successful way. Maybe one day, I will focus a post on some that have achieved this – but that is not what we are here for today.

While not a comprehensive collection, here are a few book/film combinations that left me feeling some kind of way …

Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier). Of course I open my selections with an adaptation that almost breaks my central thesis of this post. While the 1940 Hitchcock film did not leave me reeling per se, in fact, I love this film. In its best moments, it is a dreamlike, twisted fairy tale with the first and second Mrs. De Winters at the center. But in the transfer from page to reel, a lot of the darker, Gothic, psychosexual themes of the novel were excised. As this was Hitch’s first foray into Hollywood and produced in a highly morally regulated film environment, this is of course understandable. But based on his subsequent 30 years of making movies in the Dream Factory, it does make one wonder how Hitchcock would approach a similar story during the latter stages of his career, when he had been free to explore these themes in films like Vertigo, Psycho and Marnie.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). FACT: the 1995 BBC version is the quintessential adaptation not only of this novel, but it more or less is the gold standard by which many contemporaries measure any book to film adaptation. However, this was made for television. So let’s take a look at both the 1940 and 2005 big screen versions of one of my favorite books.

1940 Version (directed by Robert Z. Leonard): Dear Lord, I do not even know where to begin with this version. I mean it was just so … off. Often when I love something as much as I love Pride and Prejudice, I will search the adaptation for a redeeming quality and latch on to that. This MGM travesty had no such quality. From the choppy narrative to the historically inaccurate costumes, it is just a big fat miss for me.

2005 Version (directed by Joe Wright): Hmmm. I don’t know. Maybe because I was still reeling from the then decade-old TV adaptation when I first saw this in the cinema, but this Wright adaptation left me feeling a little cold (and wet in the rain). I mean there was definitely a gritty realism that I appreciated, but it was almost a bit too muddy and mucky for me. A great deal of the lightness and good humor of the book was stripped away and in its place was this overwrought earnestness. That said, there were some finely tuned performances, most notably Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine. Maybe I will give it another look-see in the future to check if my initial reaction to the film still stands all these years later.

Harry Potter and … (quite a few of the volumes, but I will focus on just a couple). Again, don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed 6/8 of the films, especially the Alfonso Cuarón-helmed third installment (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). But what actually started me on the teenage wizard’s literary journey was going to see Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Prior to seeing the film, I knew that to date, this book was the largest volume of the series. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that the running time for the film was a rather tidy one hour fifty-ish minutes. In the end, the finished product felt very incomplete. It is almost as if they simply took some of the cooler elements from the book and created a series of disconnected visual set pieces. In fact, I was so perplexed by what I had seen, that I immediately went out to the nearest Barnes and Noble and picked up books 1-6. By the time I finished reading Order of the Phoenix a few weeks later, I felt thoroughly satisfied – and the film adaptation became a distant memory.

This leads to my second “the book was better” entry in the Harry Potter series – the final chapter – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. While I was initially hyped for the finale, my feelings about this film have not aged well. There of course was a largely unsatisfying reworking of the “Battle of Hogwarts,” and then the unnecessarily splitting the final book into TWO films, with the first film just … ending, seemingly mid-action. At Part I’s conclusion, I just remember sitting in the theater and wondering, is that it? Also, the urgency and peril that I felt while I was turning the pages just seemed to be missing from both installments …

In the end, what lasts for me in the world of Harry Potter are the impressions drawn from the seven books, and not the eight films.

 

If given time, I could probably compile a book on this topic, but alas, I realize I only have your attention but for so long. As a result, I will wrap it up here.

YOUR TURN – what are some book/film transfers that really left you reeling? Hit the Comments section below and Happy Reading!

Editor’s Postscript:  Actually, I did touch on this a while ago when I reviewed The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Romero Remembrance(s)

It is one of those strange things, the ability of us to develop for an affinity for noted personalities who we will likely never have the fortune of crossing in life. As a lover of cinema, I have such a relationship with many of my favorite filmmakers.

So when one of them passes away, we reflect upon the impact their films had on our lives as a matter of our remembrances; it is our way of paying tribute …

When I heard of the passing of George A. Romero this past week, my head and my heart was filled with a general sadness afforded someone of his standing at the news of his passing as well as an overwhelming, heartfelt sentimentality as I recounted the connection he and his films had to my own life. Namely, my relationship with my dear, late father.

Poppa D. was a Romero fan and LOVED Night of the Living Dead. And while I was not always a fan of this subgenre which spawned this landmark film, watching it with my father was definitely a cornerstone of my cinematic education.

This education was about many things, chief among them –

  • The aforementioned introduction (and subsequent appreciation) of the horror genre;
  • The significance of the film having an African American (Duane Jones) in the chief protagonist role;
  • The value and significance of independent film productions.

Of course, all of this was not always apparent to me from jump. But over the years, several hours of cinematic studies and subsequent rewatches have left Night of the Living Dead with a special place in my heart.

Imagine that, a film that prominently features flesh eating zombies is one that, when I see it on television, I have to pause and watch because it fills me with warm fuzzies and the fondest of memories.

Thanks George and may you rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

Commentary on Deadline Article on “Moonlight”

Yesterday, an ILC reader brought something to my attention that amazed and excited me in equal measure. So much so I decided to take a short break from my other drafts to wax poetic about what I read; it concerns the international market success for the Oscar-nominated film Moonlight, which I reviewed late last year.

For proper context, I enlist you to read the article on Deadline.com titled ‘Moonlight’ Shines At International Box Office As A24 Grows Offshore Biz Model.

As you will see in the article, a deliberate and strategic effort has been put in place by the film’s director (Barry Jenkins) and distributor (A24) to generate commercial success overseas, in spite of the subject matter and not having any star power that would normally be a draw for international audiences.

What I find fascinating in reading between the lines of this piece is that in addition to the above, there is the factor worth noting – Moonlight is a film which centers on African American lives.

Although the tide does seem to be shifting a bit in recent years, for quite some time I have read about the challenges film and television studios have had when trying to sell or promote their products that prominently feature casts of color. The conclusion being that there just isn’t a market for this “niche” piece of filmmaking overseas. The implied impact, of course, being that if you can’t repeat the domestic success abroad, one must consider carefully any future development projects that fit this profile. Now in the case of Moonlight, there is the recognition that because of the critical/awards successes and high profile it has received, the film’s cache increases as it enters the worldwide box office. Other films, unfortunately, might not be so lucky.

But if this article proves anything, is that with a little creative marketing strategy, the full-throated support of the studio and a general faith in a discerning and sophisticated movie audience, many films can find their footing outside of the United States.

Looking Back at 2016

As the sun sets on what can only be described as an “interesting” year, time for some reflections, thoughts, and hope for what is to come in 2017 both cinematically and for the world as a whole.

A bunch of wouldas-couldas-shouldas. Normally I am eager to run to my latest multiplex or art house theater to see the latest and greatest. Well, 2016 seemed to provide a mixed bag for me. While I still averaged about one trip to the movie theater a month, overall, until pretty late in the calendar, not many films I felt were “must sees.” This and the fact that my work-life balance in 2016 got totally out of joint meant that I had a bit of a scaling back of my viewing and coverage of many films. Among some missed opportunities this year included:

Sure this is a short list which will over the years grow as I look back and attempt to play catch up, but for now, these are films I really wish that I had seen while the getting was good.

And yet there were more than a handful of pleasant surprises… some were covered here and some have yet to be covered. Chief among this lot is the Irish indie Sing Street, which screams of nostalgia for that wonderful musical decade (the 1980’s) in a refreshing and entertaining way. More on this in an upcoming post.

Increased access and availability to decades worth of world cinema. One of the more pleasurable experiences I have had in mixing old and new when it comes to my luv of cinema is that the possibilities of “discoveries” becomes nearly limitless. And now, thanks to specialist streaming services like the TCM-Criterion collaboration Filmstruck, the world of cinema is a few clicks of a remote or keystroke away. My first film viewed using this service was the 1943 French horror film La Main du diable. Based on my reaction after plucking this title out of the catalog, I am sure that over the course of this next year (paid subscription through 2017), I will definitely get my money’s worth.

The year in which I saw The Passion of Joan of Arc. I discussed this film around the time I saw it at the 2016 TCM Film Festival, but it is worth mentioning again. Simply stated, seeing this film on the big screen with live musical accompaniment was a truly transformative experience for me. I cannot say enough about this film.

… also the year I saw I, Daniel Blake. Speaking of transformative cinematic experiences, Ken Loach’s latest reduced me to a puddle of tears. It is definitely a film that I found myself recommending over and over again to folks.

Not all ‘boyhoods’ are created equally. I know that everyone is praising Moonlight right now, but believe it, it is well deserved.  I said it at the time and it holds up even more now that I have had months to meditate on it – Moonlight, a poetic story of a young man coming up in a world that may not totally understand him, is everything that I think films like Boyhood could only aspire to be. And I say that as someone who liked Boyhood.

Looking ahead to 2017 …

This probably is worthy of its own post in the coming days since it requires a level of research on my part, but as I always do, I go into the new year with my eyes and ears open. Maybe because of the world events which surround us all, I am really (really) looking forward to going to the movies as a form of escape. What does that mean about the frequency of and selection of the films I see? Only time will tell. But starting in mid-January, I look forward to covering the Sundance Film Festival – again from afar (scheduling will not allow me to travel out to Park City this year). I have taken a look at the films scheduled, but now plan on really going deep, as in recent years, I have used the films screened at Sundance as a barometer of gauging what most to look forward to in the next twelve months.

But let me not get ahead of myself. Even before my ‘remote coverage’ begins, I am starting the new year off right by seeing Fences tomorrow.

So that is me done – see you next year!

 

Oscar Nomz

Happy New Year all! I just realized that this is my first post in the Year of our Lord, 2016. Which makes me happy and sad – happy because, well I have finally gotten around to it and sad, because the subject of this post is to do the recently announced 88th Academy Award nominations.

Oh the irony

When I originally outlined my notes for this post, I was looking forward to waxing poetic about why I prefer the nominations announcement to the actual ceremony. Sure it is a cool idea to celebrate and honor the collective and individual achievements in cinema. My problem has always been with singling out one above all in such a heavily politically driven process. Film appreciation is subjective in that generally, what one loves is in the eye of the beholder – one man’s Citizen Kane is another man’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Go figure.

Recent years have been a boon for many smaller independent productions and this year has proven no different. How many people would have seen Room (by Frank director Lenny Abrahamson) or Brooklyn or Ex-Machina for that matter, if not for the buzz surrounding their potential award-worthiness? But I digress and am entering a territory that leaves me frankly exasperated.

There are a few problems afoot here – two I would like to discuss particularly in this post; I will mention the “easier” of the two first – it’s to do with the question of what it means to be awards ‘worthy.’

With each passing year, I look at the cinematic calendar, and have grown more and more accustomed to the following pattern forming …

  • Jan-Feb = Meh. The occasional film I do enjoy, but in general not much to recommend.
  • Mar-late April-ish? = It’s getting interesting. Spring has sprung and we are rapidly approaching the “summer season.” There are always a few surprises that get me in the theater. This is the warm-up for the main event …
  • May-August (mostly) = Popcorn and 3D specs time, y’all it’s blockbuster season! No further explanation necessary.
  • September can be a bit of a lull until we arrive in OCTOBER. From here on in, it is “look at me and take me seriously because I am a serious film” time. And then the rush to get the films for award consideration out by the end of the year.

Granted, this is an approximation because as studios are trying to carve out larger shares of the annual global box office, they are littering some of their potential money makers at less “conventional” times of the year (e.g. big budget Batman v. Superman is scheduled for release at the end of March).

That current aberration aside the above leads me to my first point – #1 –  we now have a situation that essentially takes the guess work out of what should be in contention for awards consideration. Sure, there are a few buzzy films that come out during the calendar (can’t predict EVERY cinematic success) but it would appear that the closer a studio gets its film out to the end of the various awards eligibility windows, the better since it is clear that these films will be foremost in the mind of those who vote.  In other words, this predictability has taken some of the fun and a lot of the mystery out of the alchemy of who gets nominated for what.

And now for #2 – the (un)surprising lack of diversity once the nominations do come out. Much like the past two national elections have proven not to be the racial panacea for a country that has a difficult time embracing the great, the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of its history, so too the awards success 12 Years a Slave two years ago and a lot of behind the scenes shuffling of the decks at the Academy has seemingly done nothing to “solve” the Academy Awards’ diversity “problem,” particularly in the acting category.

Of course, if you take the swath of world cinema over the course of the year, there are many, many folks who should be considered for accolades. In fact, this article on mic.com cites 8 worthy performances for your consideration. Now I would venture a guess that a few of these received many votes in the nominating process, but sadly not enough to make the final list. One could also initially glance at this list and (wrongly) speculate that maybe these performances did not the films themselves were largely overlooked. But alas, every one of these performances is attached to a film that has received a great share of recognition/ press from other entities, or, as in the case of Creed and Ex Machina, is honored with some love from the Academy this year. So clearly something else is going on.

And then there is the matter of the Hollywood pipeline. Doing the festival circuit has been a cold comfort for me. As it gets (relatively) cheaper to make a film, the idea is not so far fetched that any aspiring auteur with a device that can capture quality video (remember Tangerine was shot on an iPhone) can get their picture made. This commodification of quality tech will go a long way in closing this gap in the storytelling. However, there seems to be a bottleneck at some point, where the path gets rather narrow, preventing many from ascending through the ranks. Every year, it seems like it is someone else’s turn to carry the baton for a new wave of cinema …

And this is just two points that I wanted to highlight here. So where does this leave someone like me, who LOVES movies, but is a little less passionate about this side of things? Right now, I just don’t have the answers …

 

Post script: this article on deadline.com also points to the problem tremendously: among the ‘snubs’ they list is a whole demographic, not just an individual.

What Are They Playing At? Fox and the Fantastic Four

First off, hope everyone is having a happy Friday. Maybe the weekend means you will be headed to the cinema, maybe not. If it is the former, chances are it will not be to see the latest “reboot” of the Fantastic Four cinematic franchise. Not only do you have these kind of tweets floating around ….

trank

 (in case it is not clear, this is the director of the film)

… but early reports clearly show that the box office receipts are going to be anything but fantastic. Which begs me to ask, “Why is Fox continuing to do this?”

I guess I could go into detail about the dubious history of this Marvel-sourced property, but it’s been a long week so I will just point you in this direction.

f4

So even if the constant reboots/re-imaginings are simply for the reason of keeping the Fantastic Four a 20th Century Fox property, what is the end game here? The results since Fox has owned the rights have been mediocre at best. Why not produce a quality product and really invest in the storytelling, much in the way they have gone all-in with the X-Men universe? Maybe I am showing my source material naïveté here, but I am simply flummoxed and left with more questions than answers, as is evident.

Then the thought comes to me, maybe Fox is thinking long term and pulling a Sony Pictures and what they did with Spider-Man – after what many considered a recent and unnecessary reboot, the execs did the math and realized it was not worthwhile to keep the property. What DID make sense in this case was to cut their loses, turn good ole Spidey back over to a now very solvent Marvel Studios, and cash the check.

If Fox is attempting to make a similar play in seeking a cost-justified reason to dump the Fantastic Four franchise, they are going about it in a very curious way. Because as the poor reviews keep coming in and the box office tanks, there is a great deal of damage done to the Fantastic Four brand, which I would guess devalues it and ultimately places Marvel in the catbird’s seat, allowing them to reacquire the rights at a cost that will not allow Fox to recoup their loses. And then there is this. A curious business indeed.

I have been talking about this situation in personal correspondence with friends, family and my friends over at Super Hero Movie Talk. It has made for a very lively discussion. Now I am turning it over to you all – what do you think?

 

Summer of Darkness Recap.

I hope that everyone (well, at least some of you) had the opportunity to enjoy the special programming block shown on TCM during the months of June and July known as TCM’s Summer of Darkness. Every Friday during this period, the TCM schedule was jam-packed with key noir pieces (eg. Detour), as well as films that were great “influencers” – essential viewing that established the mood and essence of what would come to engender this film movement/genre (eg., Fritz Lang’s M). And not to be left out, there were a even a few contemporary pieces that had clearly had a noir DNA imprinted on them.

If, however, you did not have the privilege of catching any of these gems, here is a list of a few that whether I saw them for the 1st or 50th time, I feel are well worth seeing:

Double Indemnity05_01_front_image-compressed_2e668f

D.O.A.

The Letter

Detour

Gun Crazy

The Set-Up

Too Late for Tears

The Narrow Margin

L.A. Confidential

The Asphalt Jungle

The Hitch-hiker

(Image Credit: TCM)

As you read this you may be saying, “Well, it’s August so the moment is gone iluvcinema.” To that I say – you are in luck. You may have missed them on their initial TCM run, but have no fear, you can catch many of these (as well as other) titles using the Watch TCM application/website.

Gun Crazy (1949) aka Deadly is the Female Directed by Joseph H. Lewis Shown: Peggy Cummins (as Annie Laurie Starr), John Dall (as Bart Tare)

Gun Crazy (1949) aka Deadly is the Female
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Shown: Peggy Cummins (as Annie Laurie Starr), John Dall (as Bart Tare)


Side Note: My initial vigor for participating in the FREE companion course (TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir) offered in conjunction with Ball State University, was unfortunately dampened by life’s happenstance. So while an abrupt change in schedule meant I unable to engage in real time with my community of fellow cineastes, thanks to early enrollment, I have an archive and invaluable resource to call upon when discussing and referencing film noir. Here’s hoping that in the future TCM forms similar partnerships.

TOO LATE FOR TEARS, Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea, 1949

TOO LATE FOR TEARS, Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea, 1949

The Force Will Be With Me …. Always

At this stage, my relationship status with the Star Wars franchise can best be described as ‘mixed.’

There have been bumps in the road, but overall, I have had a lifelong appreciation, some might say obsession, with Star Wars episodes 4-6 especially; so much so that as a youth:

  • I read the novelization of Star Wars an innumerable amount of times (don’t ask me to recall anything); as well taking multiple trips to the library to read articles and companion books about the Star Wars universe. Big deal you might say, but I will admit, even now, to not being the most voracious of readers – so this was in fact quite a feat of accomplishment for me.
  • Founded my own Star Wars fan club at my elementary school – granted there were probably only 5 members, and they were friends who probably just pitied me.
  • I took to playing with my brothers’ action figures and sets, once they aged out of them (don’t think they are aware of that fact — SURPRISE, guys).
  • I remember it like it was yesterday the moment my brothers came in from seeing Return of the Jedi in the theater and regaling us all with a blow by blow detail of what happened. It was so cool.
  • During a few bouts of illness, I passed my days of convalescence away by getting up early in the morning and timing it just so that I could watch every episode of the trilogy in succession before my dad and brothers got home from school. Please note younger readers – I was a youth in the time of the dinosaurs and when you would have one – maybe two televisions in the house and you had to do this interesting thing called SHARING. But I digress.

All of this to say Star Wars was a major part of my life. And in many ways, I can credit these three films being one part of what got me so passionate about movies. In fact, I give them a lot of credit.

Even as I got older and my cinematic tastes broadened and came to include multiple genres, there were still moments of fond recollection as I recalled these films. During my college years, I paid service to this mindset going to the re-release of at least one film (I think it was The Empire Strikes Back). If my roommate is reading this, I hope she will confirm which one(s) me might have seen in Charlottesville.

So, you can imagine my excitement at the very mention of prequels (Episodes 1-3) …

excited-baby

… but then I got to the end of The Phantom Menace (the only one I went to the theater to see of the set).

boring face

Needless to say, it did feel like a part of my childhood had been decimated by a world-weary, adult-level of cynicism. It followed that seeing these films felt more like an obligation than an event one meets great anticipation. I feared, maybe the magic was gone forever.

Years of dormancy followed, filled with the continued excitement of simply going to the movies, attending film festivals and just the business of getting on with one’s adult life.

So when (again) there was a major Star Wars announcement – that we would be moving forward with the story set in a galaxy far, far, away, I met it with a curious ambivalence.

Details trickled in and I made note of them and then, earlier this year, THIS happened:

Legit tears of I don’t know what – streamed down my face. I could not describe it. I watched that trailer I don’t know how many times, I texted family and friends describing my elation. I endured buffering on my YouTube feed, watching the live Star Wars trailer event, which included the seemingly odd experience of watching people watch the trailer breaking it down and reacting.

Yeah! Something to look forward to!

Fast forward to this past weekend’s events in San Diego (SDCC) – and this happened …

… followed by the pleasure of seeing old and new friends on stage talking about their experience.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  (L-R) Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac at the Hall H Panel for `Star Wars: The Force Awakens` during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** John Boyega; Daisy Ridley; Oscar Isaac

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 10: (L-R) Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac at the Hall H Panel for `Star Wars: The Force Awakens` during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** John Boyega; Daisy Ridley; Oscar Isaac

 

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  (L-R) Actors Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford at the Hall H Panel for `Star Wars: The Force Awakens` during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Carrie Fisher; Mark Hamill; Harrison Ford

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 10: (L-R) Actors Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford at the Hall H Panel for `Star Wars: The Force Awakens` during Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney) *** Local Caption *** Carrie Fisher; Mark Hamill; Harrison Ford

All to be capped off by a wonderful, surprise celebration for the fans …

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10: Following the `Star Wars` Hall H presentation at Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif., the audience of more than 6000 fans enjoyed a surprise `Star Wars` Fan Concert performed by the San Diego Symphony, featuring the classic `Star Wars` music of composer John Williams, at the Embarcadero Marina Park South on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 10: Following the `Star Wars` Hall H presentation at Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif., the audience of more than 6000 fans enjoyed a surprise `Star Wars` Fan Concert performed by the San Diego Symphony, featuring the classic `Star Wars` music of composer John Williams, at the Embarcadero Marina Park South on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

I don’t think anything more needs to be said about the level of elation I feel.

In the end, all of this was to say the force has indeed been re-awakened in me and I cannot wait until the holiday season to catch Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the big screen.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10: Following the `Star Wars` Hall H presentation at Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif., the audience of more than 6000 fans enjoyed a surprise `Star Wars` Fan Concert performed by the San Diego Symphony, featuring the classic `Star Wars` music of composer John Williams, at the Embarcadero Marina Park South on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 10: Following the `Star Wars` Hall H presentation at Comic-Con International 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif., the audience of more than 6000 fans enjoyed a surprise `Star Wars` Fan Concert performed by the San Diego Symphony, featuring the classic `Star Wars` music of composer John Williams, at the Embarcadero Marina Park South on July 10, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

 

P.S. the downloadable app is pretty kick-ass too 🙂

 

Rounding Things Out, and Counting Down

Well, it is about to call time on 2014 here in the greater New York area, and I have decided to record some of my thoughts on 2014 in cinema.

As I mentioned to a friend earlier in the week, if I were asked if it was a spectacular year, I would probably say not; but let’s be honest – “golden” years are golden for a reason. That said, I do think that there were some interesting films that only time will tell. Here are some highlights (for me):

 

My luv for documentaries continues to hold strong.

Some top picks for me include: Keep on Keepin’ On, When the Garden Was Eden, Life Itself, Fed Up. It has been said before, but there is some really interesting stuff being done in the world of documentary currently and I know I have only touched the surface.

Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel

 

 

Probably over this genre, I guess …

Hopefully, I have some news to report on the comic book movie reviewing front in 2015, but as far as 2014 is concerned, despite some overall good viewing experiences (see Guardians of the Galaxy), I do think I am a bit fatigued.

guardians

 

Oops! I did not review this one, but I meant to …

The One I Love – this was a quirky in a good way. It is out on video now so check it out.

 

Maybe a breakout year for Gugu Mbatha-Raw? I sure hope so.

From the Regency era (Belle) to modern times (Beyond the Lights), Ms. Raw has put her versatility as a performer on full display. I hope this leads to bigger and better things.

gugu mbatha-raw, belle

 

Real life stories with awards-worthy performances

These are recent outings for me but I would like to point out a couple of noteworthy performances I saw in the past couple of months. Major props to Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game and David Oyelowo for his performance as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma (review coming soon I PROMISE).

selma

 

Boyhood: Really Good Film? Of course! Masterpiece? I will reserve comment on that front.

The novelty, or rather the director’s commitment to completing the project are definitely to be commended (recall my very positive review). Time will tell of Boyhood’s long-term staying power, especially in the mind of the general movie-going audience.

Boyhood Ellar Coltrane

 

Favorite Film of the Year?

All said and done, I do not think I can pin point it to a specific film. There is not one film that, if asked, I would say was bar-none the absolute best the year has to offer. In retrospect that could be a good thing or a bad thing, I suppose. That said, in addition to the aforementioned, here are some other films of note that I did enjoy:

The Trip to Italy, Sundance Film Festival 2014

Before I go …

Lastly, shout out to the vocal (and non-vocal) readers that have taken time to land in this space and hang out with me and my sporadic cinematic flights of fancy.

 

That’s all folks! Here’s looking ahead to 2015!

 

Meta ….

I mean there is a LOT of movie related news that has come across in the past couple of weeks. I mean LOADS. So instead of creating separate posts for each, I decided to aggregate those that piqued my interest the most. So here they go – in no particular order. Enjoy!

 

Sony Pictures Hacking Scandal

Many suspect that this is a cyber attack courtesy of North Korea, in ‘retaliation’ for the The result has been the trickling release of some very interesting emails that are equal parts, embarrassing, illuminating and hilarious. I suspect the overall impact will be minimal, save leaving a few tactless executives a little red-faced. Pro-tip: if you are using company email, it is not private. Save potentially incendiary commentary for the face-to-face meeting.

 

TCM Remembers …

The folks over at Turner Classic Movies get me every time. Their touching tribute is a wonderful homage to those in the world of cinema that have passed. Very classy as always TCM, very classy.

 

NYC Classic Film Retrospectives

  1. Starring Joan Bennett @ MoMA. Started earlier this month and running through the end of January, the films featured will cover Bennett’s transition from ingenue to smoldering femme fatale.
  2. Orson Welles at Film Forum. Ring in the new year with a five week retrospective on the filmmaker. Films in the series include Citizen Kane (of course), The Magnificent AmbersonsTouch of Evil (release and restored version) and many many other over the auteur’s decades-long career.

 

13288_Joan_Bennett_American_Stage_Actress

Sundance 2015

This past Monday, the films selected for narrative and documentary premieres (out of competition) were announced. Just looking through the list, ones to look out for include:

  • Brooklyn
  • I Am Michael
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

As it is still early days, stay tuned to this space for more updates.

 

Its Awards Nomination Season (Again)

It is now at the point where there are too many awards out there to count, so I will keep my general observations based on the SAGs and GGs. My reaction? Pretty meh for the moment, because I look at the list I see a few notables that I did have the pleasure of catching but then also a couple of films that regardless of the praise heaped upon them, I will very likely be a “miss” for me, film snobbery be damned. I am personally at the point where it is becoming fairly predictable which films/performances will be highlighted at year’s end and subsequently rewarded with awards recognition.

 

Speaking of Which …

Going to see Selma this Monday; look out this upcoming week for my thoughts.

 

Thoughts on any of the topics covered in this post? Hit the Comments section.