January 2nd 2016
A new year, and a new font. But wait! There's an exciting story behind this font change. Well, there's a story behind it. I recently upgraded to Windows 10, and a curious side effect of that was that the font I previously used on this site - Tunga, since you ask - no longer worked in Firefox. In fact, I believe that it hadn't worked for a long time, if ever, in other browsers, but this was the straw that broke the camel's back so I decided to cut my losses and change to a new font: 'Microsoft Tai Le'.
In other news, I am trying to get shortlisted for 'most boring introduction to a blog entry in 2016'; I know it's only early days, but I think I'm in with a good shout.
Moving on, and it's time for my annual set of 'hey, do you remember anything you did last year?' questions; a highlight of the year for most of my readership and, indeed, the English-speaking peoples of the world, so without further ado let's crack on.
1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
I'm not sure if it's a sign of stagnation or of age-induced memory loss, but I'm really struggling to think of anything that isn't crossword-related. But I did push the boat out in the world of crosswords, submitting my solutions to the Listener crossword for the first time (I sent something in every week, and I reckon I'm on about 90% success rate, so I'm reasonably chuffed but there's definitely room for improvement); it was also the first year I entered the Times National Crossword Championship, a great day and one I hope to repeat for many years to come. Let's see... other firsts include buying a lawn mower; buying a barbecue; successfully lighting a barbecue; paying someone to do work for me (twice: both my fence and my floor needed fixing); buying chinos, if chinos are what I think they are; asking for a pay rise.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Two years ago I resolved to update this page at least once a week, and managed 24 entries. Last year I was more realistic, aiming for 40 entries: I've done a quick tally, and I got to 19 over the year. Oh dear; I think I'll stop making resolutions about updating my blog. Actually, I have made several resolutions this year, some of them fairly standard (pray and read the Bible more; eat more healthily and get more exercise), and one slightly unusual: to stop looking at my laptop in bed. Too many times have I gone down a rabbit-hole of interweb videos, interesting articles and 'just one more episode of...', and found myself still awake considerably after I intended to be asleep. So, this year it's books only for me.
Speaking of eating more healthily, though, you wouldn't believe how many vegetables I bought today. Was it just my imagination, or did the Tesco checkout woman look at my basket today with a knowing air of pity? Anyways, I'm not usually a photograph-your-meal kinda guy, but here's evidence of just how many vegetables were in my meal today (having seen the picture, it's almost impossible to tell what's in there. So you may have to take my word for most of it).
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes. Like last year, I'm going to avoid listing children out of fear that I'll miss someone out, but special mention should go to Abbie Clohesy who is - I am told - a fit and healthy young girl now, having been through some very frightening first few days.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank God.
5. What countries did you visit?
I went on holiday with my family to a cottage near St. David's in Wales; otherwise I don't think I left England at all. Driving to the west coast of Wales feels very much like going through the evolution of roads in reverse; from motorway to large A-road to small A-road to B-road to dirt track.
6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
I could do with a new pair of jeans. Also, this might finally be the year when I buy curtain hold-backs (tie-backs? Whatever the term is); I did make an effort to do so in 2015, but it seems that they're harder to find then I was expecting. Thirdly, I'd like to have some glasses that aren't bent - I'm still wearing the ones that someone (possibly me) trod on in March 2014.
7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
November 7th 2015 was the day I left by 20s behind. I was away with my family, one of whom was also turning 30, so there was some consolation in knowing that I was still the youngest. Another good day - although I can't recall the date - was watching Somerset beat Worcestershire with Dad in the glorious sunshine of Taunton. Oh, and another great day was the gathering to celebrate James Lee's 30th birthday, which was a great chance to catch up with Warwick folk and also a day to show off my 5-a-side football skills. Conclusion: I don't have any.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Recently I beat the family at Trivial Pursuit (as you may have seen on Facebook...). I also surpassed 100 followers on Twitter. So, you know, the big stuff. Actually, I am pleased with my performance in the crossword championship, which was good enough to get me automatic qualification for the 2016 competition.
9. What was your biggest failure?
One of my resolutions, which I forgot to mention above, is to do more things that scare me. I don't think I did that enough in 2015, but I already have a few scary things lined up this year... I may reveal more as the year goes on. Or - and a wise man wouldn't bet against this - I may forget.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
My back was killing me for a few days before Christmas, but thankfully is OK now. And I had to crack out the Lemsip a few times. But nothing more exciting to report.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Recently I've become rather obsessed with pop culture vinyl figures created by a company called Funko, and have built up quite a collection over the last few weeks. At the moment I regard them as some of the best things I bought; who knows, in years to come I may regard them as an unpardonable folly. And, of course, there's the aforementioned barbecue, which I've only been able to use once so far (on a lovely sunny day when Dave, Victoria & Olivia came to visit); hopefully I'll get some more opportunities in 2016.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My mother, who had a Jane Austen-inspired short story published in a collection; my cousin Sarah, who got married; my good friends Steve and Jason who (independently of each other...) got engaged. I also celebrated Wolves' good Championship performance, missing out on the play-offs by goal difference only. Also, although I mentioned them at length the other day, I was delighted to discover the Weekly Planet podcast... speaking of podcasts, my brother launched his ('Tea or Books') which, I imagine, is rather good.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The Labour party. Also, most of the people involved in making The Fantastic 4 and Aloha.
14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage, again - which reminds me, I really need to schedule another meeting to arrange remortgaging. Don't let me forget - and, of course, the aforementioned vinyl figurines. Also, I lost £15,000 at the greyhounds. That last one's a lie.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
At the start of the year I asked my Facebook friends if they were more excited about the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird or the latest one to Star Wars. While responses were mixed - and one vote was for the Avengers sequel - the majority were more excited about Go Set a Watchman (as the former was called) than The Force Awakens (as the latter was called). When it came down to it, I was excited about both - and was pleased with the review I wrote for Watchman, which appeared on my brother's blog and is also here in the July 21st entry - but Star Wars was the one that really, really excited me. In fact, I'd say it's comfortably the most excited I've been about a new film in the cinema.
16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
If anything, it will be 'Dear John' by Taylor Swift. But I'm pretty sure that none of the songs I've listed in previous years would actually remind me of the year in question - my memory just isn't that good. Last year I mentioned a song that had been on the radio when I was in California; this year I had a very pleasant week's holiday with most of the same people in Cornwall, but I don't recall it being soundtracked so extensively. There's famously less driving to do in Cornwall than there is in California.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter?
I lost some weight in the Spring, but put it all back on - and some - later in the year. However, with all those vegetables I mentioned earlier, I'm sure I'll be thin as a rake soon. That's how it works, right?
iii. richer or poorer?
Probably richer, what with house prices and that pay rise. And I paid off my student debt, so that was good.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Although I did get to visit several friends - including seeing the Shortmans not long before their family was extended - and had a few visit me, I'd always like to do that more (and am looking forward to seeing the one and only Guy Cooke in February). Also, my quiz team has been very sporadic this year, so I'd like to get back into a regular quiz routine, particularly settling on a replacement quiz venue as it's well over a year since the Deco stopped theirs.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Y'know, I'm starting to feel bad about quite how soundly I beat Rob at Fifa these days. He joined me for a weekend a few weeks ago, and I had a great time - including a trip to probably the best stand-up night I've ever seen - but a kindly host surely lets his guest win more often. Actually, scratch that. Winning is great. This whole answer has just been bragging.
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
21. How did it take you so many years to notice that this thing doesn't have a Question 21?
Numbers are as numbers do.
22. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Yes. Oh, sorry, did you say 'love'? I thought you said 'leaves'. I fell in leaves. What can I say, they were slippy leaves. No one saw, though, so it was OK.
24. What was your favourite TV program?
A couple of months ago I'd have been confident that my answer would be The Flash, a great superhero series that I started watching this year; much better than its darker sister show, Arrow. However, that was before I started watching Firely, Joss Whedon's sci-fi western that was cancelled after less than one season in 2002, in possibly the greatest travesty in the history of TV. It's an ensemble show that wears its sci-fi relatively lightly, featuring a rag-tag crew led by Nathan Fillion channeling Han Solo. The characters are rich, the scripts strong and the situations imaginative. It's also clear that the cast all enjoyed themselves immensely, not only from their performances but also from the fact that they continue to appear together at panels over a decade later. Man, I love Firefly.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
The Fox executives who cancelled Firefly. Bring back Firefly, guys.
26. What was the best book you read?
I finished Anthony Seldon's biography of Tony Blair, which was very interesting but took me many months to read, suggesting that it wasn't necessarily gripping. What was gripping - and was the best book I read - was Flowers for Algernon, a devastating but brilliant tale of a man with low IQ who takes part in a scientific experiment in an attempt to become 'smart'. It's not a long book - I read it all in one day - and I recommend it as heartily as my good friend Rich recommended it to me. Sadly I didn't read Mum's short story, although I did buy a copy of the collection, because it's based on Persuasion and I haven't yet read Persuasion.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't really have musical discoveries any more, but I did listen to Taylor Swift's Speak Now a lot in 2016. I also bought albums by the Zombies, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Imagine Dragons and Coldplay.
28. What did you want and get?
I got my floor fixed, just about. Getting floors fixed is expensive.
29. What did you want and not get?
Around the time I was getting my floor fixed, I got a quote about fixing my garage door; I decided that I could live with it being broken. Interesting insight into my life: that was the same day that I went to the dentist. Also, I've recently been engrossed in the GCHQ Christmas puzzles, and while I've made good progress I haven't got all the solutions yet - I have until the end of January to figure them out.
30. What was your favourite film of this year?
As ever, I won't step on the toes of the Coddies by mentioning 2015 releases here (you can check out my Twitter account @colinjthomas to see the Coddies nominations, under the relatively under-used #Coddies2015 hashtag). However, other films that I saw for the first time in 2015 and particularly enjoyed include: A League of Their Own, The Birds, We Bought a Zoo, Locke, Before Sunrise, Whistle Down the Wind, and Serenity.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old?
As mentioned above, I turned 30. I spent the weekend away with my family in a lovely place in Wiltshire, with activities such as board games, a Thomas family quiz, and walks in the mud. I received some lovely gifts, including thirty from Simon (I only gave him two) and a historic tea cup from my parents. A couple of weeks later I hosted a day of board games for various of my Bristol-based friends, which was a great day and culminated in watching Back to the Future 2, since 2015 was the year Marty and Doc Brown travelled to in that film (and Back to the Future originated, like me, in 1985).
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
"Mr. Thomas, we're pleased to tell you that men can now actually stop losing their hair when they hit 30."
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Fairly geeky. I bought T-shirts relating to both the Weekly Planet and the Flash. 2015, I think, was the year I stopped cavilling and admitted that I was a geek. I hear that's a cool thing to be, now, though, so that's good news.
34. What kept you sane?
This doesn't really answer the question, but Simon and I discovered this year that we're identical twins. So, if I've understand biology correctly - and I haven't - my sanity is assured by his.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
A psychologist (or possibly a psychiatrist) could presumably tell me why I fall for women once they've played the love interest of a superhero. No sooner had Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow had a romantic storyline with Bruce Banner in Avengers: Age of Ultron, then she joined the ranks of Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) and Emma Stone (Amazing Spider-Man). Also, in Firefly, the lovely Jewel Staite as Kaylee Frye (who is in love with a doctor, rather than a superhero. Make a note of that, someone).
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The general election, and the wilful collapse of the Labour party into irrelevance. As mentioned above, I only managed 19 blog entries last year, but six of those were about the general election and its aftermath (a review of the Paxman interviews; my thoughts on what decides my vote; an account of the Bristol North West hustings; a live-blog throughout election night; a response to anti-Tory feeling following the election; and - which I can't take credit for, of course - Pluggy's thoughts on the various political parties).
37. Whom did you miss?
While we had a lovely time in Cornwall, it was a shame that Yongbom and Anna couldn't join us. Also, it was sad to say farewell to Dan & Helen as they headed to Washington D.C. for a new adventure, and I'll miss Zijian now that he's in London - not least because he would generally go and see new films with me, even films like Fantastic 4.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
I don't remember meeting a lot of new people in 2015, although let's say it's because our friendship has blossomed so successfully that it already feels like we've known each other forever. Actually, looking back at last year I mentioned a chap called Jonathan that I'd met, and in 2015 I had the pleasure of meeting his wife Lois as well. She cooks a mean curry.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:
If you are putting n balls in a row, the probability of getting none of them in the right place tends to 1/e as n tends to infinity.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
There's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last
A Long December - Counting Crows
January 14th 2016
Today is the day when the Oscar nominations are released; it is also, by strange coincidence - well, actually, fairly normal coincidence - the day of the Coddies awards. As I type away at my laptop, the stars of stage and screen are making their way up the red carpet to my front door, televised for an audience of millions and being asked whom they're wearing.
No, I've checked the front door and in fact no one is here. Even Mel Gibson didn't want to turn up. So I guess I'll just have to do this myself.
Let me recap the rules of the Coddies, in case you're new. They are the annual film awards of this blog, and in order for a film to qualify, I must have seen it on general release in 2015, or it must have had a UK release date in 2015 - allowing me scope to include films I've seen on DVD or, breaking new ground for the Coddies, via streaming. In fact, I'm including one film (The Theory of Everything) which had a UK release date in 2015 but which I saw at a preview screening in December 2014. Exciting stuff.
There are 30 films under contention for the Coddies, which is a new record - beating the 27 I saw in both 2014 and 2013 - and 21 of them have at least one nomination. I saw an unusually large number of bad films this year; in every year I've done this there's been one film that I really didn't like, but this year excelled itself with travesties such as Aloha and Fantastic 4, as well as the disappointment of Tomorrowland and the barely watchable A Walk in the Woods. None of those films got a nomination: they are joined by Focus, The Last Five Years, Man Up, Pitch Perfect 2 and Playing It Cool.
On the other hand, it was another strong year for lead actors with excellent performances from Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina) not quite making the shortlist of six. It was also a bumper year for leading actresses, a category where I sometimes struggle to make up the numbers but where in 2015 I had to leave out the likes of Margot Robbie, Lake Bell, Daisy Ridley and Anna Kendrick (twice).
If you follow me on Twitter then you'll already have seen the Coddies nominations - under the significantly under-used hashtag #Coddies2015 - and, if you're Simon, you'll already have protested against the absence of Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van) from the nominees list. But I didn't see that one, so what can I do? Anyways, without further ado, here are the awards; each list is in order, from winner downwards:
Whiplash - on a budget that wouldn't pay for Harrison Ford's jacket, this is possibly the tightest film I've ever seen, never wasting a frame in its story of ambition, willpower and obsession. Miles Teller plays a drum student who could be great, and J. K. Simmons is his unrelenting teacher, but this is so much more than a 'inspiring coach' story, exploring a battle of wills and ending on a highly ambiguous message - and a great drum solo. It leaves you breathless.
Star Wars VII - the was most anticipated film of the decade, and somehow - despite all the potential pitfalls - it didn't disappoint. While it tells a similar story to A New Hope, its roster of excellent characters - new and old - as well as a captivating story and wonderful visuals, mean I have no trouble forgiving that.
Birdman - a wonderfully eccentric look at a middle-aged actor whose most famous role was a superhero, this film appears as one long take, and features excellent performances as well as an intriguing story and, again, an ambiguous message.
Avengers: Age of Ultron - this sequel isn't as good as Avengers Assemble, but still did a stellar job, taking much-loved characters in new directions and adding a few more in an involving if familiar story.
Ex Machina - with standout performances all round, this is a thoughtful sci-fi exploring the relationship between man and machine.
Steve Jobs - an unconventional biopic, covering three real-time events over its three acts, this falls short of The Social Network but is still fascinating.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) - his portrayal of Stephen Hawking was pure Oscar-bait, sure, but you can't argue with the results. He is excellent as the brilliant young student in the early stages of the film where it is essentially a romance, and even more so as he plays Hawking gradually being held hostage by motor neurone disease. This performance rightly put Redmayne on the map.
Michael Keaton (Birdman) - where has this been? Casting Batman as Birdman could be seen as a lazy choice, but it turned out brilliantly, with Keaton giving a masterclass in frustration and despair.
Tom Hardy (Legend) - a superb double-performance as both halves of the Kray twins, Hardy was unlucky not to be recognised during awards season.
Miles Teller (Whiplash) - while J. K. Simmons (rightly) won plaudits, the film would not have worked without Teller's journey from eager naivety to arrogant certainty as a student determined to become a great.
Matt Damon (The Martian) - few actors could have pulled off Damon's role as a wise-cracking abandoned astronaut.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw) - just edging out Fassbender, Gyllenhaal turns in another strong - if larger than life - performance as a boxer struggling against bereavement and financial ruin.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) - it's been a wonderful year for Vikander, not only getting two Coddie nominations but also an Oscar nomination for The Danish Girl (which I haven't seen). In Ex Machina she is superb as an A.I. who is at the centre of an advanced Turing test, never letting the viewer forget she is a robot but still bringing very human qualities to the role.
Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) - at last the world is catching up to Jones's talent. Despite a script that requires some gear shifts in emotion, she holds her own alongside Redmayne and makes this truly a story of two people's lives, not just one.
Amy Poehler (Inside Out) - this was a wonderful voice performance, bringing to life the character of Joy, whom many other actresses would have made unbearable.
Jennifer Aniston (Cake) - in a break from her usual fare, Aniston brings unexpected depth to her portrayal of a woman in constant physical and emotional pain.
Emilia Clarke (Terminator Genisys) - she has immense star power, and will go far (although, as I argued to a Sunday Times reporter over Twitter this year, she will not become the most famous British actor of all time). She brings heart to this under-rated sequel.
Carey Mulligan (Far From the Madding Crowd) - a typically classy performance at the heart of this Thomas Hardy classic.
J. J. Abrams (Star Wars VII) - he had the toughest remit in cinema: bring us a Star Wars film we'll love. He knocked it out of the park, realising - as George Lucas has forgotten - that Star Wars is about outlaws, unlikely heroes, and the back of beyond. He brought us all of that, with wonderful new characters like Rey and Finn, and he coaxed a superb return from Harrison Ford as the coolest man in the galaxy. I couldn't have hoped for better, and I can't wait for the next one.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) - it's wonderful to see completely new properties directed with such panache and confidence, and while it could be accused of pretentiousness, for me it falls just the right side of the line.
Ridley Scott (The Martian) - his best film for decades, without question, this was a return to form with a lightness and joy entirely missing from his recent output. Although I still can't believe the Golden Globes thought it was a comedy.
Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) - he brought his vision to screen with an economy that will hopefully be rewarded with bigger things to come.
Sam Mendes (Spectre) - in a film that, in my opinion, was better than his work on Skyfall, Mendes moves the rebooted franchise closer to its old-fashioned Bond fun.
Guy Ritchie (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) - I love his zippy, slick style, as seen before in Sherlock Holmes, and that's what he brought to this fun adaptation of reluctant partners during the Cold War.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) - this is a powerhouse performance that slaps the audience across the face (metaphorically), as well as slapping Miles Teller across the face (literally). He is entirely unpredictable, and even by the end of the film it's not clear exactly what his character's motivation was.
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) - a wonderful and subtle performance from a fine actor who has recently come to the attention of a wider audience (including me). Tom Hanks clearly relishes appearing opposite him.
Edward Norton (Birdman) - if Keaton was playing Keaton, then Norton was playing Norton as an arrogant and uncontrollable actor - but he does it captivatingly without stealing too much focus from the lead.
Michael Peña (Ant-Man) - this comedic supporting turn was by far the strongest element of a somewhat underwhelming film (which, had Edgar Wright not left the project, could have been wonderful).
Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) - he plays the rare trick of being a chameleon without drawing attention to the fact (cf. Christian Bale, for example); this is miles away from his Star Wars role and is superbly played.
Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) - he was badly served by the distracting and unnecessary prosthetics, but this is a powerful, still performance in a deliberately languid film.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs) - she shows her calibre as Steve Jobs' long-suffering colleague throughout the ups and downs of his product launches. Without stealing scenes, this is a quietly powerful performance that has already won her a Golden Globe. If the accent veers at times, I'm generous enough to say that that was a deliberate choice.
Scarlett Johansson (Avengers: Age of Ultron) - her screen time was cut down due to pregnancy, but hers is still the strongest performance of the cast, bringing out new depths to the Black Widow character and stealing the show alongside Mark Ruffalo in an unexpected romantic subplot.
Emma Stone (Birdman) - this is possibly her meatiest role to date, whether it's railing against her father (Keaton) or attempting to seduce an older actor (Norton), and she doesn't disappoint.
Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) - this isn't going to win her any awards, but she plays a captivating and enigmatic third fiddle in a way that few actresses could. I look forward to the sequel.
Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) - when I put out the nominations on Twitter, Ferguson was the only actor who garnered any support at all. Even though she's not won the Coddie, she is a great addition to the Mission: Impossible franchise.
Emily Browning (Legend) - in a sometimes unwieldy narrative, she is the heart of the film and we see the Krays through her eyes. She can't quite keep up with Hardy's dual performance, but this is strong supporting work.
Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Age of Ultron - as ever, the MCU effects are practically flawless. Of a number of set pieces, the Hulk vs Iron Man battle is the most impressive but, like Avengers Assemble, doesn't use effects for the sake of it.
Star Wars VII - the use of practical effects is a total triumph, a million times better than the CGI-heavy prequels, and the only false step comes with some CGI monsters that are thankfully soon gone.
Jurassic World - the effects were brilliant in the original, and while they've largely lost their power to impress, they're still the backbone of the franchise.
Terminator Genisys - the Arnie vs. Arnie fight is a particular highlight.
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs) - Sorkin is my favourite screenwriter (The Social Network, A Few Good Men, The West Wing etc.) and, while I'm not sure this film reaches those heights - I'll have to see it again - it is distinctly his and bears many of his hallmarks.
Drew Goddard (The Martian) - apparently much of the humour was already on the page, but it remains a triumph to bring it to the screen.
Joss Whedon (Avengers: Age of Ultron) - he had the almost impossible task of melding a compelling story with tee-ups for a number of different sequels. It's far from perfect, but few writers could pull it off as well as Whedon has.
Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) - as mentioned above, this does shift gears a bit too strongly, but still tells a moving tale of a couple coming together and breaking apart.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo (Birdman) - this certainly puts the 'original' into 'original screenplay', melding a fanastical story - in the lead's imagination? - with a satire on fame, relevance and power. You walk away questioning exactly what just happened.
Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) - writing and directing, this was clearly a passion project for Chazelle and he appears to have been allowed to go ahead without needing to compromise.
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley (Inside Out) - Pixar does it again, building a world and then letting us play in it for a while.
Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (Bridge of Spies) - while slow at times, this benefits from the unmistakable polish of the Coen brothers.
Best Animated Film
Inside Out - like last year, I only saw one animated film, but this was one of Pixar's best efforts, an emotional and engrossing story with great voice performances all round: Amy Poehler is mentioned above, and Richard Kind is also a standout.
January 27th 2016
When I'm doing my end-of-year round-up, the first question is always about what I've done for the first time that year. And, most years, I struggle to remember anything I'd done more than a couple of months ago (apart from 2013, where I had it easy thanks to driving a car and buying a house for the first time). So it is that, come January 2017, I shall probably forget this landmark event in my life, but earlier this month I signed up to Netflix.
I have always been something of a late adopter, so I was well behind the mad rush to streaming, but I'd heard so many good things about Daredevil (pictured) - and there was no definitive date for a DVD release - so I thought I'd give their free trial a crack. And, while I'm still well within that trial period, I'm confident that I'm going to stay with them - for only £7.50 a month, or something like that, I have access to all kinds of great stuff. However, I don't think it's really all it's cracked up to be.
And here's why. I have hundreds of DVDs, and I've lost count of the number of people who've told me that they don't bother with DVDs any more because they stream all their films these days. That being the case, I assumed that Netflix would a fairly exhaustive collection of films, so I was disappointed to discover that their library is, frankly, pretty poor. Sure, there are some films on there that I've been looking out for - Fruitvale Station, for example, or Still Alice - but I'd searched for four or five before I found one that was actually there. So, in this brave new world of streaming - even if you throw in Love Film and whatever else is available - how on earth do film fans get the movies they want without recourse to DVD? I just don't understand it. And that's why I don't think Netflix marks as significant change in my DVD-buying life as I thought it would. But, still, Daredevil is pretty decent.
In other news, I watched The Big Short recently, a comedy-drama about the banking crisis. It succeeded, more than any news reports of the time, in highlighting for me the culprits behind the crisis, and what it was they did that was so reprehensible. That's a decent achievement for a film. However, given that it was all about mortgage bonds, I spent most of the film thinking that I really must get on and sort out my mortgage [here was a significant break from typing while I checked my online account, realised that the execution only option available online was nowhere near as good as the illustration I was given last November by a mortgage consultant, phoned and made an overpayment from my offset account, and drafted an email asking to meet with the mortgage consultant again]. Being a grown up is a hassle, sometimes.
|what was I listening to?
Very Best Of - The Bee Gees
|what was I reading?
Something Fresh - P. G. Wodehouse
|what was I watching?