January 2016 Recap


I watched 567 films in 2015. I still look at that number and feel surprised-it doesn't really seem possible, but, it seems it is. During the last few months of rocketing towards that number, I vowed that 2016 would be different. I would focus on other things, maybe catch up on all the TV shows I neglected all year. Well, in January 2015 I watched 58 films. This January I watched 53. Baby steps?

I actually had some pretty major exams this month, and silly me thought that would help keep my count low. Not so much. I got TCM again, and I've been busy trying to watch films fast enough to make room for more on the DVR. This has actually brought about a dramatic shift in my viewing habits-every single year since I started keeping track of the movies I watch, I always watch dramatically more films from the 2010s than any other decade. Why? Well for one, they're a lot easier to get a hold of (my library has a near complete collection of 2010 and later films, but anything before that is very spotty). But I do find myself specifically seeking them out more, because I find it easier to "get into" them vs something from the 1930s. This is a definite flaw in my ability to watch and appreciate film. I wasn't specifically planning to do something about it this year, but thanks to TCM it's been very easy to balance my 2000s onward viewing with the classics, and I hope to keep it up for the rest of the year. Go here to see everything I watched this month.

In January I had my first disappointing theater experiences. I went to see both Carol and Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, but neither experience turned out the way I hoped. For the former, some bad stuff happened right before I saw it and I never could fully let go of them and immerse myself in the movie (it was only playing in an out-of-town theater, so I didn't have the option of going to see it on a different day). I'm exited to get the blu-ray and experience it again when I'm in a better place emotionally, because it really is a beautiful film. As for The Force Awakens, seeing that in a theater meant a lot to me. I saw the OT for the first time last year and completely fell in love, and was so exited to experience the new chapter on a big screen. Unfortunately, I was seated near a pair of moronic geek boys who would pipe up every once in awhile with the most asinine comments imaginable. I have social anxiety, so something as simple as asking someone to keep it down isn't very simple for me at all. I really have to talk myself up to reach a point where that's possible, and these guys would always stop talking as soon as I reached that point. So it was about an hour of irritating chatter, me getting annoyed enough to say something, then quiet. By the midway point they shut up for good but I was too stressed by that point to enjoy the rest. People in theaters here are very polite, I've seen half a dozen animated films in the last 2 years (including Frozen!) without a single issue, so it was very disappointing to have my track record broken when I was least expecting it. Again, I'm exited to pick up the blu-ray and properly fall in love with this movie in the peace of my own home.

In other news, I've decided to stop giving an overview of my favorite viewings of the month in these recap posts. I keep getting these posts out late as I try and pick my favorites and type something up for films I saw almost a month ago. Instead, I'm going to have weekly recap posts where I discuss everything I've been watching, and the monthly recaps will be just that: a more general, maybe more personal post about my month. I'm really hoping to do more blogging this year and work more on my film writing skills, and I think this will help me with that. For this month, though, I'll just give a quick run-through of my viewings.

Carol: My first film of the year, which as noted above, I was not in the right mood for and so I will not be discussing it until I have the chance to re-watch it. 
Back to the Future trilogy: I had never seen this, and managed to binge watch it over the course of an evening. I gotta say, it was weirdly impressive seeing a story deteriorate like that right in front of my eyes. The first one was fantastic and totally deserving of its classic status; the second was still fun, but much sillier and with many more holes in its story (and some pretty uncomfortable misogyny); and the third was just a mess, plain and simple. Good to have finally seen them, though. 
Wristcutters: A Love Story: This a film that had been on my radar for awhile, but it's so rarely talked about that I kept forgetting about it. This was definitely one of the great surprises of the month; it's so unique, has a great sense of humor, and just has lots of really cool ideas floating around in it. I wouldn't necessarily call it a *great* movie, but it's one of those "you'll never see anything else like this" films that's worth it for that alone. I definitely recommend finding this one and checking it out.
Gentleman's Agreement: I was very skeptical about this one; I always get really pissed off when I see those articles about straight people pretending to be gay for *insert length of time* so that they can understand our struggle. Trust me, we do not appreciate this and please never do it. But anyway, I ended up being very impressed by how this film used its concept. There's the obligatory scenes where people treat Cary Grant differently because he's "Jewish", but most of the conflict comes from people who do know the truth and aren't willing to accommodate the act he's putting on. There was a fantastic scene near the end with a message about how just saying you support *insert oppressed group here* is meaningless, what really matters is your actions. You can say you support gay marriage until you're blue in the face, but if you stay quiet while your best friend rants about "the gay agenda", that says so much more. While obviously certain things about this film are quite dated at this point, I think it's a very important film with a lot of things people could still stand to hear now.
My Own Private Idaho: This was a re-watch, but I wanted to mention it anyway. I saw it for the first time last year, and wasn't quite sure how I felt about it, but I had enough of a good feeling to pick up the blu-ray during the November Criterion sale. I decided to watch it on my birthday, and wow, on this viewing everything came together. I can now confidently say I love this film, it's probably one of my very favorites now. 
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders: This is a film I became very fixated on; I always have a couple of films I'm desperate to watch but can't find, and this had been one of those for quite awhile. Finally, it was on TCM at a time when I could get the channel! It did not disappoint, and I fell madly in love with this one. It's a very strange film, I admit, but the visuals are perfect and it really does make you feel like you're dreaming. And for a 72 minute film, it doesn't ever feel rushed; in fact the pace even feels quite slow at times. This is also a new favorite, and one I'm super exited to revisit in the future.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: This film completes the trio of new favorite films discovered this month. I went into this thinking it would be pretty similar to To Wong Foo-a light, silly comedy I'd forget by the next day. In actuality it is so, SO much better. To Wong Foo is a movie about LGBT people, but presented in a way that's as palatable to straight people as possible. The entire plot is structured around getting the straight people to accept their gay visitors, and any character development for the leads is merely incidental. Priscilla is a movie about LGBT people, full stop, and it was so lovely to see-evidenced by the giant smile on my face for the entire run-time, and that continues to appear on my face whenever I think of this film. Highly, highly recommended.
A Patch of Blue: With this one, I was expecting something really awkward and heavy-handed, but it ended up being anything but. There's definitely some over-the-top melodramatic moments here, but the scenes between Sydney Poitier and Shelley Winters are magic. I'm a huge romantic, but I've seen so many movies now that a couple has to be special, have that certain kind of chemistry, to get me invested. These two definitely did, especially in a scene taking place in a grocery store-like with Priscilla, the thought of it still makes me smile. This is definitely an under-seen gem that I highly recommend.
The Visit: As I've mentioned before, I have a hard time getting scared by films-no matter how many films heralded as "the scariest of all time!" that I watch, it just doesn't happen. I never could have guessed that a found footage Shyamalan film would break this pattern, but here we are. I LOVED this one! Great kid actors, a found footage scenario that makes sense, and some genuinely scary stuff (to me anyway, haha). I don't want to say too much about it, because this is one of those where you want to go in as blind as possible. I will say one more thing, though: SO nice to see a legit germaphobe character! You'll often have characters who are "germaphobes" in comedies, where their paranoia is played for laughs, so it was great to see Tyler's phobia portrayed realistically and in a more serious light.

So, that was January! We're partway into February now, and I've been seeing a lot of great stuff, so it's probably time for me to start one of those weekly recap posts I was talking about. Hope you're all doing well, and seeing lots of great movies!

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