Tamsin Greig, Pedro & Electric Screwdrivers
When the young man behind the counter at my local Argos called me “Mrs Bob The Builder” whilst handing over our new Black & Decker electric screwdriver/drill kit I knew it was time to disentangle myself from the tape measure and walk away from the DIY of a new house. Over the Christmas break my obsession for film was temporarily replaced by an obsession with staircases and all things mid-century but I did manage to fit in three whole seasons of the series Episodes starring Tamsin Greig, Stephen Mangan and Matt LeBlanc. If you are signed up for UK Netflix, what are you waiting for? This comedy about two British screenwriters (Greig and Mangan) working in LA is the best TV comedy I have seen in a long while and absolutely addictive.
Although still far away from my goal of 365 films by 1 April 2015 I am still feeling naively optimistic, especially given my recent re-discovery of Curzon Home Cinema (https://www.curzonhomecinema.com/), BFI iPlayer (https://player.bfi.org.uk/) and Dogwoof TV (http://dogwoof.tv/). Then again finding enough films to watch was never a problem!
131 & 132) The Seven Samurai (1956) by Akira Kurosawa – having only ever seen snippets of this classic it was decided for me that I had better sit down and watch it from start to finish! Counting as two films because of its length (which to be honest, I struggled with).
133.) For the second year in a row now I have judged a handful of student short films for the Watersprite Film Festival (http://www.watersprite.org.uk/) based in Cambridge. Am counting a few of those here as one film and looking forward to seeing some on a big screen of the festival in early March.
134.) French Kiss (1995) directed by Laurence Kasdan. Meg Ryan is the heartbroken and deluded woman who stars in this heist-meets-romantic-comedy film. Perfect for a cold winter’s night when you want to be reminded of the days when women wore big baggy trousers.
135.) Sylvia (2003) directed by Christine Jeffs. I pulled this DVD down from the shelves of my local Oxfam having forgotten that I had seen it before. Overall a well-done film except for the occasional cringe-inducing lines of dialogue that shook the memory of this film from my subconscious. There was some memorable dialogue, too, when Sylvia is confronted with her own procrastination techniques in the face of Ted’s super productivity – “When I sit down to write, I get a bake sale.”
Films 136 – 148) Episodes (2011 – 2013) (series 1 -3). This was, after all, 25 hours of television viewing over the Christmas break which had to go down as more than one film. Dying for Season 4. Which reminds me – where is Season 3 of Girls?
149.) First Position (2011) directed by Bess Kargman. Another surprise found on UK Netflix. This documentary about young ballet dancers in the United States competing for the Young American Grand Prixe. The film is well-researched and director Kargman had terrific access to its characters. A feel-good movie with a natural narrative in the form of the dance competition built in. Have a peak at some of the characters in the film’s trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_cOwCKODgs
150.) Which Way To The Front Line From Here? (2013 – 2014) this documentary, directed by Sebastian Junger, is about the life and work of Tim Hetherington. A few years back I was at the Curzon Soho for a screening of Tim and Sebastian’s film Restrepo. Tim was in attendance for a Q&A after the film and I was astounded by his thoughtfulness and humanity, and so was deeply moved when I heard about his death in Libya only a few years later. This film is worth it even if you are not familiar with Hetherington’s work but I would also very much recommend their documentary Restrepo.
151.) Girl Rising (2013) directed by Richard E Robbins. I discovered this documentary which features girls around the world on Netflix after having already heard of it. Although beautifully shot it was difficult to get because there wasn’t enough to tie the individual stories together.
152.) Dirty Wars (2013) directed by Rick Rowley and featuring Jeremy Scahill. Very well-made documentary about the rise of the US Joint Special Operations Command.
153.) Women on the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown (1988) by Pedro Almodóvar. Last weekend I met my friend Paola for lunch at the BFI and lucky for us she spotted an afternoon screening of Women followed by a long Q&A session with Pedro himself. What better way to spend a freezing cold Sunday afternoon? After our meal we waited 1.5 hours in a queue before the screening for tickets, but we did manage to get a seat after a quick grilling from a BFI attendant who asked us what we thought of I’m So Excited! (loved it).
154.) Blackfish (2013) by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. I’ve been wanting to see this documentary for some time, about the killer whale Tilikum, and more generally, about our relationships with these animals. Did you know that dolphins and whales’ brains have evolved in a way that human brains haven’t, which means that they both have a strong sense of self and a strong sense of the social?
155.) The Possibilities Are Endless (2014) a documentary by Edward Lovelace and James Hall. (bought from BFI iPlayer). Creative documentary about the experience of Edwyn Collins’ stroke and its affect on him and his wife Grace.
156.) After Tiller (2013) directed by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson. Incredibly moving and surprising documentary (Netflix) about the only 4 doctors across the United States who can practice third trimester abortions. The film captures well the unbelievability of the whole situation.
157.) Life Itself (2014) directed by Steve James. (Curzon Home Cinema). Again, another documentary I have wanted to see for some time. Deeply moving look at the critic Roger Ebert’s life and illness with cameos by Werner Herzog, Errol Morris and Martin Scorsese among others.
158.) Whiplash (2014) directed by Damian Chazelle. Out in cinemas now, this film was recommended by several friends. What an intense cinema experience, I felt totally stressed out watching it! Despite its strong cinematography and editing I felt there was a part of the script that didn’t sit right. After coming home I checked some reviews on line and was surprised that a few articles referred to the film as a comedy?! Which leads me to think the script didn’t quite set its audience up correctly.
159.) The Interrupters (2011) directed by Steve James (Dogwoof TV). Another documentary by Steve James about the “interrupters” of gang violence in Chicago. Quite a long film with parts that are hard to follow but when the film drops down on one of the “interrupters” and stays there, it is engrossing.