Sunday, 1 January 2012

My Year in Film: 2011 Movie Memories & Insights

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Above: Nowhere near my fave film of the year - but one of the the few pics I have of me at the theatre!

As we turn to the new year I want to take one final look back at 2011 and some of the very interesting, important and light bulb moments and realizations of the year.

Perfect Isn't Everything
Every year I make a list of films, be it favourite, bests, moments, memories, or a combination of all. I thought I would prefer consistency in this list year after year and at the end of 2010 I thought I had cracked the nut: Perfect Films. Films where there is nothing that needs to change about them and I could recommend widely. And last year I came up with The Perfect List and kept my eye out for them. But this year, I found a wrench thrown into that works with a film called The Adjustment Bureau. I LOVED this movie. But it wasn't perfect. That left me conflicted, because I wanted to give it the highest accolades but it didn't meet the definition I created to litmus test films as a way for ranking. Ah, well. I tried but it just reminds me that matching movies to audience is more clear & helpful than 'defining'.

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I Saw Myself In Film
This was likely the biggest revelation I had this year, in film or our and happened in what felt like the most unlikely of place, while watching Soul Surfer. Yes, the film is a biopic on Bethany Hamilton, a teen surfer girl who lives in Hawaii and has some huge challenges to face. I went into this film because I like water movies, but I had no idea what a deep, relating experience it would be. I really 'got' her story. But more than that I felt it was my story too as I went through something similar and seeing it was like seeing a reflection of my own experience. It was a huge revelation not just the experience but that it was so unusual for this to *be* an unusual experience as many people see films to see just that - their experience be it past, present, or future/hopeful on screen. But until then, I never had. In fact, the only other character I've seen in film that I'd say was pretty spot-on like me (when I was a kid) is Lucy Pevensie from the Narnia films. It was really wild, and I can see why people are drawn to films where they see themselves as it's a very powerful experience.

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Book to Film Club
One of my biggest endeavours of the year was running the 2011 Movie Moxie Book to Film Club where we read 11 books that were being turned into film adaptations, and 7 of them were released in 2011 with another 1 on DVD and at least 1 being released in 2012. I would have loved for them have all to be released, but sometimes it's hard to gauge! But it was 4,318 pages of book goodness and many insights along the way. I certainly enjoyed some books more than others but overall it was an enlightening, enriching and fun experience and I loved hearing peoples impressions of the books and films. I'll definitely be doing the Book to Film Club again 2012.

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Let's hear it for FUN films
I think us film folk can often get tunnel vision focus of 'serious' films, sometimes even leaning on them so hard that we forget films have value for many different reasons. I realized this while in the theatre during 2011 while grinning ear to ear and laughing from deep in my belly. Films like Fast Five, The Three Musketeers (2011), Fright Night (2011), Kung Fu Panda 2 and I Am Number Four. Those were all really fun films that I really enjoyed this past year.

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Incomplete Challenges, No Marathon, Wha?
One of the oddities of the year was that I didn't have a marathon, like in previous years when I ran the Vampathon, Wolfathon, Sword & Sandals marathon or even Harry Potter and Star Trek countdowns. I was this close to doing the Summer of SciFi but had to pass on it when I unexpectedly had to move, and I completed an exploration of 33 genres through the Movie Moxie Podcast but I didn't think of that as a marathon (although it was an epic endeavour!). My second 101 Films in 1001 Days came to a bleak close with only seeing 2 of those films in 2011 and only knocking back 71/101. I did pretty well with my Owned/Unseen Challenge and am giving myself the rest of the weekend to knock off the final 3 titles. Looking back though, I realize that the big marathon was the Book to Film Club, it took up the energy and format I used for marathons. Perhaps I also kind of forgot about it because I had 2 planned for 2012 from way early in 2011 that I forgot to do one! It's a mystery.

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Above: all the boxes on the floor are boxes of movies

Checking in on the Numbers
I often gripe on the ones that got away, or than one more review that I want to do, but I have to say that I'm pretty happy that come the end of the year I've seen 101 of the 400 theatrical releases, and reviewed 82 of those films (plus an additional 23 straight-ish to DVD), and plan on having another 10 reviewed by the end of the month which will be a 90% review rate (or 80% if I don't do those 10!). Yep. I'm happy with that number. Plus as we turn to 2012 I'm at a total of 999 Reviews. What will be 1,000?

I Felt Like I Was The Audience
When you see as many films as I do, it almost goes without saying that they aren't all 'for you', or in this case 'for me'. Like I noted with Soul Surfer, I'm very used to not having my own experience reflected but that doesn't mean I don't love an appreciate seeing and learning about other ideas and experiences. Sometimes that can be a lot of work, and sometimes it's an idea or point of view I'm neither interested in or care to understand. But on occasion, something beautiful happens and I feel I was actually the intended audience. That I understand the language in which the film is speaking, and that it's speaking directly to me. This year the film that spoke to me was Drive. I understood every moment of that film on a visceral, direct-to-my-heart level. It was very powerful.

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So, Yeah... I Don't Really Dig Drama or Comedy.
Another odd revelation for going through the genre analysis, was that these two HUGE genres are never my go to genres. Thankfully we live in a time with enough variety that I can work through almost every other genre before getting to straight-up dramas or comedies. But I will give that for performances, it's hard to beat drama and I found further clarity that with comedy I enjoy Canadian, British & some foreign comedies but given a choice I'll always go for action, art house, dance, martial arts, sport, sword & sandals, vampires, horror, supernatural, fantasy and especially science fiction first. Every time. I still get odd looks when I share this realization with people though, and have run into a few road blocks of possibly not being taken 'seriously', but in a time of films like The Tree of Life, Another Earth and TrollHunter / Trolljegeren I think that's just not the reality.

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Monster Movies & B-Movie
Another great revelation this year was realizing a love of B-Movies, especially monster movies. From Sharktopus to Dinoshark to Mega Python vs. Gatoroid to Dinocroc vs Supergator I was all over these crazy movies. They are so much fun, even if they aren't 'good'. Actually, sometimes they are better if they aren't good - but not always. I think one of the things I love about them is that you know what you are getting into. There is a monster/crisis/natural disaster and then the challenge to defeat it and on that journey there will be many one liners, possibly familiar faces and many casualties and screaming along the way. I love them. Best watched with popcorn, and almost always exactly 90 minutes long. Fun times!

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Elsewhere
This year I've also been hanging out outside the Movie Moxie mostly in the podcasting realm with Before the Dawn: A Twilight Podcast which is now at 118 episodes going strong since 2009 and Hexed: Sisterhood of the Supernatural will have it's second anniversary soon - who knew there would be so much paranormal TV to talk about? I've also done several guesting on the Saturday B-Movie Reel over at Tuning into SciFi TV which has been a lot of fun. I love chatting about film (and TV!).

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Writing Writing Writing
It's also been a big year of writing for me, and I've done tons of reviews, festival coverage, journalling and planning but I've also been writing a memoir-like something that I don't even really know what it is but it really shifted my thinking on things and led to many interesting realizations, many of which I've discussed here in this post. It's pretty rough and very much about the process over the product, but I would like to keep it up and hopefully have more of the thoughts and ideas translate into the written word here on the site. I guess that is where my 2012 year will begin.

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1 comment:

Jamie Ridler Studios said...

Wow, what a year!! What a wonderful treat to have a film that reflects you and a film that speaks your language - two treasures for sure!

And thank you again for the Book to Film Club. It's been an amazing experience and I'm looking forward to 2012!

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