2015 in movies

I started keeping track of the films I watched in 2015. It started off with a desire to organise the list of films I wanted to watch, and a way to keep track of the ones I had. I was recommended Letterboxd as a means to this end, and have found it to be superb.

So, I can tell you that in 2015 I watched 113 films – 77 of them for the first time. This included 9 films featuring Alan Rickman, 6 films directed by Richard Linklater, and one terrible movive entitled The 12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue.

A lot of the films I watched were from a few years back – catching up on classics, the big films of the last couple of years that are now kicking about on DVD, and other recommendations and TV movies. Amongst these, and indeed amongst all the films of any age I saw this year, my favourite has to be Magnolia. Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 masterpiece of interwoven stories, long brooding shots, superb rhythm and captivating characters living contrasting city lives. Despite being over three hours long, I didn’t want it to finish a single minute early – and that’s saying something.

Amongst the year’s cinema releases, Birdman was my favourite. I have a thing for long, unbroken steadicam shots – and this film is essentially one extended shot of this type. Combined with a fascinating glimpse behind theatrical scenes and a powerful performance from Michael Keaton, then the film is not just one-of-a-kind, but darn good as well.

Closely following on the heels of Birdman are the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road (beautifully audacious action movie with fresh characters, minimum annoying exposition, and no apologies) and Whiplash (superb tension for such a character-driven movie, thanks largely to J K Simmons) – while the latest Bond and Mission:Impossible installments left me underwhelmed. In terms of older movies then I’m glad to have finally seen superb titles such as Captain Phillips, Drive, and 12 Angry Men. It’s good to play catchup.

I also made a start on watching old Hitchcock movies at the end of the year, and I’m sure that will continue into 2015. One of the most enjoyable film series of the year, though, has to be Richard Linklater’s Before… trilogy – I watched them back-to-back in a single day and loved the dialogue, the characters, and the realism of the simple settings. I’ll be back to see them plenty, I’m sure.

You can see my full 2015 in film review over at Letterboxd – including ranked lists, reviews and ratings for all the films I saw last year. For now, though, I’m off to grab a DVD.

Movie life

Films are a thing, aren’t they? I’ve been playing catch-up recently, ploughing through loads of films that ‘I’ve been meaning to see for aaaages’. The list is a long one, hard to prioritise, and by its nature limited. How do I prioritise the films on it, and where do I turn when I want to give something ‘off-list’ a try?

I mention these rhetorical questions by way of introducing two things in the world of film that have brought joy to my life recently: Letterboxd and 20th Century Flicks.

Letterboxd is a free website that lets you keep a diary of the films you’ve watched, build up lists of films you want to watch, and connect with friends to see what they’re watching. It’s been great to finally consolidate my ‘notes-to-self’ into proper online lists that I can access anywhere, and have instant access to the recommendations of friends. There are various ways to tag, rate, and review films and to share these views with friends in your social network (or strangers in the wider world) and the whole site is clean, attractive and simple to use. Give it a go!

20th Century Flicks, on the other hand, is at the other end of the ‘recommend me a film’ spectrum – real-life humans in a real-life video shop. I became a member earlier in the year and have enjoyed chatting with the staff when choosing or returning DVD rentals ever since. They’re friendly, they know their stuff, and they’re extremely helpful when you want to pick their brains on what to watch. As great as the internet and the growth of pretty data-crunching websites can be, there’s surely no substitute for that.

You’ll find 20th Century Flicks on the Christmas Steps in Bristol, and they recently ran a competition to design a film poster for that delightful little alleyway of shops. Flexing my nascent design skills I gave it a go one evening with the below effort – the eventual winner was much more deserving, but I got a runner-up prize. Thanks, 20th Century Flicks!

Christmas Steps movie poster

Just a little something I knocked up.

Of course, you can always let me know your own film recommendations by getting in touch. I’ll try anything once.