2006 has been a great year of cinema. Not only have I seen more films this year than any other (more than the previous two years put together). But also the quality of films has increased. I maintain a database of films I’ve seen and the scores I’ve given them. I have developed a competition with myself to try to increase the year’s average score from year to year by avoiding films that I expect to be at best ordinary. Life’s too short to waste on throw-away movies.
This year I have managed to weed out most of the dogs. However, it’s getting harder to beat the previous year’s average because over time I’m becoming more critical of the films I see. Perhaps past scores have been generous by my standards of today.
Highlights for me this year have been:
- Starting a dedicated calendar in MS Outlook for film releases, festivals and special screenings.
- The discovery of ACMI as a rich source of film screenings not available elsewhere. At the start of the year I was between jobs and took the opportunity to catch up on as much cinema as I could.
ACMI’s Stanley Kubrick retrospective in January afforded the opportunity to catch up on his films I hadn’t seen. I saw Killer’s Kiss (1955), The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Love the Bomb (1964) and Barry Lyndon (1975). Lolita was my pick with 4.5 stars and I gave 4 stars to each of the others. I had been to ACMI a few times prior, but now I make it a point to see what ACMI is screening.
- Discovering Melbourne Cinémathèque. My partner Zoe and I selected Wednesday as a week-day evening to see a 7pm film each week after work. By chance this is the day that Cinémathèque has it’s screenings at ACMI. $85 buys annual membership and the opportunity to see around 100 rare and classic films on the big screen. Some of the highlights of this year were films by Jean-Pierre Melville, Maurice Pialat, Marco Bellocchio, Andrei Tarkovsky, Rainer Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and (my favourite director) David Lynch.
- Becoming a committee member of Melbourne Cinémathèque. I turned up early for the regular screening one week, not knowing that the Annual General Meeting was to be held. An invite was given for further committee members, and I took up the offer.
- Writing a 2,000 word review of David Lynch’s Lost Highway (my all-time favourite film) for distribution at Cinémathèque. This was a challenge for me as I hadn’t written to this extent on cinema before and also because of the very elusive nature of the film.
- The best year yet for Australian films. In the past I have avoided Australian films which are typically clichéd, contrived and embarrassing to watch. While some of 2006’s fit into this mould, many did not. I saw 19 Australian films this year, 3 times my average, and two (Em 4 Jay and Ten Canoes) I gave five stars. In fact, Em 4 Jay was my favourite film of the year. I consider it my equal favourite Australian film – the other being The Boys.
Despite Australian films taking my 1st and 3rd places, I don't think I can be accused of any bias - local films also figure prominently in my worst list.
- Getting to more film festivals than ever before. I could only take one day off work, but managed to fit in 15 films over the course of 18 days at the Melbourne International Film Festival (my favourite was Climates by Nuri Bilge Ceylan from
). I also saw 9 films at the French Film Festival (the pick was The Child) and fitted in screenings at the Queer, Mexican and Italian Film Festivals. Turkey
- Getting included on some media lists for film previews. Working full-time, I can’t take full advantage of it, but fit in some advance screenings. It’s great to see a film without being pre-empted by any exposure to previews and advertising.
- Last, but not least, was setting up my blog which only happened as a result of many of the above events. I Googled Em 4 Jay reviews and found Alison Croggon’s review on her blog Theatre Notes. By chance it was her husband, Daniel Keene, who is the writer of the film as well as Alkinos Tsilimidos’ previous films Silent Partner and Tom White.
Alison suggested the blog, and now 10 weeks and 16 articles later, I’m still going in spite of the recent trauma of losing a teenage son to suicide – more on that in the future, perhaps. In relation to my grief, I will say that resuming my film-going after a short break has been very therapeutic. Unfortunately there's not much on at present (that I haven't seen), until ACMI's Focus on Movie Magic season starts next week and the new releases in a couple of weeks or so.
By then, I'm back at work - d'oh!
Some of my plans for 2007 (other than film reviews) include:
- Honing my critical skills (quality over quantity of reviews)
- Learn more about the history of cinema to give a broader context of films I review
- More detailed coverage of Q&A sessions (I finally bought a digital recorder)
- Interviewing one or more local film identities
- Writing an article on the significance of film for me
- Collaborating on an article on how to develop children’s critical skills by analysis of the films they watch
- To further my film network and increase my involvement in cinema
A couple of people have asked me for my obligatory top 10 lists. I’ve never done them before, but for what it’s worth I offer them here. I’m going to borrow a leaf from the book of the venerable Jonathan Rosenbaum and offer my top 20 and bottom 10. The top 20 includes festival and non-commercial contemporary screenings (eg ACMI) as indicated.
[Edit: Links to my reviews or comments added where available]
Lost and Found
A History of Violence
X-Men: the Last Stand
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Qian Li Zou Dan Qi)
Live & Become (Va, vis et Deviens)
Be With Me2
V for Vendetta
1 French Film Festival
Photos: Nick Barkla & Laura Gordon, Em 4 Jay; Gael Garcia Bernal, The King; Ten Canoes