In the latest My Lawyer Will Call You Lawyer, Astrid Swan and Nick Triani look back on their favourite movies and TV series from 2016.
2016 was a year when the changes that were taking place in our viewing habits in 2015 really became normality: Nick and I no longer watched much of anything together. Running this here movie review blog together therefore got even harder. Then we moved My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer to our new media One Quart Magazine in June 2016, which further complicated our chances of watching things or watching anything at all. From June onwards, many evenings and nights have been spent editing, writing and arguing about the magazine. When I’m exhausted, all I wanna do is crawl into bed and watch something alone. Something comfortable.
When I’m exhausted, all I wanna do is crawl into bed and watch something alone. Something comfortable.
One of the nice ideas that I just could not keep up with was writing down everything that I watched. I wanted that log of influences and to know where my time went – but in the stream of days and events and films and series, I quickly forgot to mark the names down. And so I forget most of what I saw. In the fall I got into Insecure, Divorce and the third season of The Affair. For me the first season of Insecure is refreshing, interesting and funny. I know that some prefer the youtube series by Issa Rae, but I appreciate the longer serialized version that is Insecure. I look forward to the second season. The first season of Divorce felt heavy and a little too unhumorous at times, but I do miss watching Sarah Jessica Parker in something ok and this was that something. Maybe, with Divorce though, the topic was so real, so painful and scary that it wasn’t always a pleasure to watch. Same with third season of The Affair. It has become a Bold and the Beautiful-kind of soap with scary plot lines. I no longer trust the intelligence and the sexiness of the series has vanished. Too bad. Last year I also discovered The Mindy Project, which is kind of like Ally McBeal but in the 2010s. And I can’t believe I’m telling this: I re-watched the whole Sex and the City series yet again – and for the first time I was their age. Maybe it’s the approaching crisis of turning 35…
Movies that left an impression in 2016 were not really new movies at all. I watched Tracks (2013) and enjoined the spaciousness of the storytelling and the scope of the Australian landscapes. Big Eyes (2014) captivated me with the story, which like Tracks, is based on a real-life narrative. The film that stayed with me the most was The Color Purple (1985). I had never watched the film before and fixing this hole in the education of a movie buff was well worth it. The film is painful, truthful and important. It is definitely my favorite Steven Spielberg movie now – but it’s not good because of him, but because of Alice Walker and Whoopi Goldberg.
The film is painful, truthful and important. It is definitely my favorite Steven Spielberg movie now – but it’s not good because of him, but because of Alice Walker and Whoopi Goldberg.
Rewatching was the name of the game in the tired quiet nights of staring into the silver screen in 2016. I loved revisiting A Single Man (2009) for the second time. I survived two operations and the recuperating times by binge-watching Julia Roberts in things like Mystic Pizza (1988) and Susan Sarandon with Roberts in Stepmom (1998). Oh, and I did sit through the new Gilmore Girls episodes in late November. They were a huge disappointment and clarified to me why I never really got that into the series in the first place.
Astrid’s Top Ten viewing in 2016
1. The Colour Purple (1985)
2. Wizard of Oz (1939)
3. Mary Poppins (1964)
4. Frozen (2012)
5. Tracks (2014)
6. Insecure (Season 1)
7. Girls (Season 6)
8. Game of Thrones (Season 6)
9. A Single Man (2009)
10. Mystic Pizza (1988)
As we start a new year at OQM and continue with our intermittent movie series, it’s perhaps worth reminding readers of the origins and history of this review portal (I promise this won’t take long). Astrid and I started the blog some seven years ago as a place to record our viewing habits. Pretty soon, we started posting full blown movie reviews of what we’d been watching (over 300 movies have been reviewed on the original page). We don’t consult before we write the reviews, as to offer our own personal perspective, un-influenced by each other’s opinions. Zoom forward seven years to 2017, and the reality is that our tastes have become quite polarized. I feel I must take some of the blame for this as my own viewing habits have become very narrow over this time (whilst Astrid’s remain fairly broad). Yep, I’ve swum deep into the super-hero extravaganza, the shoot ’em up, action spectacle. Testosterone, sci-fi and unrealistic graphic violence rule my viewing time. Art house cinema holds less of an attraction for me nowadays, though when I do encounter such films, I tend to enjoy them. Increasingly, I see cinema as an escape, something I can get lost in, a respite from the biting realism of the everyday grind. So, to cut to the chase, my 2016 has been filled with some pretty awful movies.
Yep, I’ve swum deep into the super-hero extravaganza, the shoot ’em up, action spectacle. Testosterone, sci-fi and unrealistic graphic violence rule my viewing time.
I can confirm that I sat through the truly dreadful Sin City: A Dame For A Kill (2014). The remarkable Eva Green just about holds the interest (more on her later) despite the general bad odour the movie gives off. I re-watched the evergreen Alien quartet for the umpteenth time, whilst trying to make some sense of the impressively imagined Prometheus (2012) for at least the fourth time. Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus is a great movie to try and unravel, with Michael Fassbender impressive as the Lawrence Of Arabia obsessed humanoid. It’s far better than its detractors suggest and completely bonkers – the sequel drops in 17. Rewatching Blade Runner (1982) over Christmas – in lieu of the very belated follow up – shows us that Scott once held the beacon high as regards modern utopias. He should have re-watched his old work before starting on the comically bad The Counselor (2013), which wastes Fassbender and a host of other Hollywood A-listers on a plot device which makes Prometheus seem like plain sailing. Battle: Los Angeles (2011), Cloverfield (2008), World War Z (2013), Captain America: The Return OF The First Avenger (2014), Ant Man (2015), Man Of Steel (2013), King Kong (2005), Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (2015) was the kind of fair I entertained myself with in 2016. Some was good, some passable and some dreadful. Captain America: Civil War (2016) was a lesser return for the Marvel franchise, though still had it’s moments. Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) suffered from poor jokes and too little Jeff Goldblum (and too much Charlotte Gainsbourg?) in what was to be a major disappointment. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) was a very decent Star Wars prequel with grit under its fingernails. Rewatching Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) put all these movies into perspective; George Miller’s film already feels like a classic of the genre, timeless and beautiful to look at.
The TV serial took up large portions of my late evenings. I re-watched the whole of the X Files; some was good, some was average, but Gillian Anderson was always worthy. She somehow kept the interest alive for the disappointing third season of The Fall too. Both of Westworld and Stranger Things didn’t last the course – something too familiar and slow about each series couldn’t keep my interest. I suffered through some of The Affair, which mixed great acting with ponderous repetition. Gotham Season 2 was slightly underwhelming though very watchable, whilst Jessica Jones was good in short bursts. Penny Dreadful I enjoyed a lot, especially Eva Green, whose presence alone made the enterprise worthwhile. She is a treasure. Back to the movies: I re-watched both of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time epics. Briefly my love affair with purist cinema was rekindled, yet a deep depression followed the realization that I’m unlikely to see such natural wonders from the world of cinema again. Watching the Wizard Of Oz (1939) and It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) with my four-year-old brought back to life the endless possibilities of cinema as a wonderful concern, a fillip for the imagination, a place to dream. Frank Capra‘s film especially bringing me that sense that film can add it’s power and voice to the constant struggle.
There was a lot more that I watched that can’t be recounted here. My movie of 2016 was the much derided Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). The consensus narrative had been set before the movie arrived: it was big thumbs down, doomed before release. Contrarily I loved this so much, it fulfilled my expectations and then some. The three-hour version of the movie expands and makes slightly more sense (not that making any sense is a requirement and had little to do with my enjoyment here). Batman v Superman had much wrong with it, from the cumbersome title to the unarguably stiff Man Of Steel as portrayed by Henry Cavill. Director Zack Snyder doesn’t do subtle by any stretch of the imagination and deals with the themes suggested with a sledgehammer. But Snyder is a visionary when one refers purely to the visual aesthetics. An unrelenting intensity, a grim realization and worldview hammer home a nihilistic superhero world where mother knows best. In fact, this DC-opera of darkness made a mockery of the wisecracking, knowing yet lite concoction of the-now-overstayed-it’s-welcome Marvel superhero world. I want my Batman shrouded in vigilante angst. Poster-boy Ben Affleck ridiculously beefed-up, he bought the ambiguity to light. Jeremy Irons was the best, most cynical Alfred we’ve seen, Jesse Eisenberg‘s Lex Luthor a flurry of words and flown in from a lesser Woody Allen flick, whilst Amy Adams is the Lois Lane I want in my world. But forget all that, because Batman v Superman presented us with a cinema moment – and the only one my withered, cynical heart could muster this year. That kind of moment where you realize the form can still deliver the magic. The introduction of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to Hans Zimmer‘s tribal beat is an image to relish and one to elevate the movie above the realms of the exceptional. Batman v Superman, probably by accident, unlocked those few seconds of stardust celluloid. Forget word of mouth, critical favour, just give into it with no expectation. This was my movie dream, can you tell me yours?
Nick’s Top Ten viewing of 2016
- Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
- Selma (2014)
- It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
- Wizard Of Oz (1939)
- Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)
- Penny Dreadful (2014-16)
- Maps To The Stars (2014)
- Heaven’s Gate (1980)
- Game of Thrones Season 6 (2016)
- High Plains Drifter (1973)