2016 in Pixels

Okay, I’ve been a bit laggardly on the fitness and health side of things but that’s okay: I’ve been investing those ‘lost’ hours in my televisual research (145 titles totalling 496 hours, up a respectable amount from last year).

Mississppi Grind Poster.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Enjoyed on the big screen were:

  • Mississippi Grind
  • Deadpool
  • 45 Years
  • The Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • The Nice Guys
  • La Isla Minima
  • Keanu
  • The Accountant
  • Blood Simple
  • 99 Homes

Honourable mentions: Beach Boy Brian Wilson biopic Love and Mercy, unexpectedly affecting Rocky spin-off Creed, the unlikely and uncompromising Young Adult, the ridiculously fun Central Intelligence, and Florence Foster Jenkins which I was totally prepared to hate but couldn’t because it was so well executed.

The-americans-title-card.png
By DreamWorks Television and/or FX – The Americans, Season one episode five “COMINT“, Public Domain, Link

The small screen offerings held their own:

  • The Americans S01–04
  • The Expanse S01
  • Getting On (UK, 2008) S01–03
  • Better Call Saul S02
  • Low Winter Sun (UK, 2006)
  • Animals Pilot
  • Westworld S01
  • Game of Thrones S06
  • Catastrophe S02
  • The Good Wife S07

Honourable mentions: low key sci-fi robot drama Humans S02, an happy bonus season of Offspring S06, and Transparent S02 which continues to make me scratch my head after each ep but unable to stop pressing the Next button for the next episode.

(I’d actually already watched the first two seasons of The Americans but made the mistake of introducing the Goddess to the pilot. It was a hard slog rewatching those first two seasons, I tell you.) (It wasn’t a hard slog — it’s a damned good show.)

Bring on 2017!

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BSS

Late last month I attended the 2016 Big Screen Symposium in Auckland. It was the second network-y thing I’ve done this year (ah yes, I neglected to mention I attended the 2016 PANNZ Arts Market in Wellington in March).

Cue shameless name-dropping as I saw:

As for the speakers, highlights were:

  • creative couple Cate Shortland (SomersaultThe Slap) and Tony Krawitz (Devil’s PlaygroundThe Kettering Incident) on writing and directing Australian television drama;
  • Jonathon Raymond on screenwriting for Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff) and Todd Haynes (Far From HeavenMildred Pierce); and
  • producer and BSS keynote speaker Heather Rae (Frozen River) on decolonising the screen.

Nice work, all around.

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Stand Alone

Rogue One, A Star Wars Story poster.png
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50076808

Despite feeling burned and scammed by the prequel trilogy, then underwhelmed by the first of the sequel trilogy, I’m finding myself watching and rewatching the Rogue One teaser and trailer.

Why am I returning to this franchise after so much disappointment?

One, it’s directed by Gareth Edwards whose Monsters and Godzilla balanced big-creature spectacle with believable characters and emotions.

Two, it has a scrappy band of rebels that includes Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, and Jiang Wen.

And three, we know how it ends. The teaser and trailer have a Dirty Dozen or Wild Geese vibe so it’s not so much the destination but the journey.

Hell yeah, I’m in.

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Go To

Contrary to popular belief, when energy, motivation, and/or creativity is low in the Writing Cave Keep, I do not resort to singing along with Ms Krall ad infinitum.

If it’s a technical challenge, I turn to the writing library, top most being William Goldman‘s Which Lie Did I Tell?, Alex Epstein‘s Crafty Screenwriting and Stephen King‘s On Writing.

If a project has certain constraints or is more long-form, there’s these classics to crib from:

  • Joss Whedon‘s Buffy the Vampire Slayer — not just a scantily-clad teen-girl who can kick serious demon ass1;
  • Jed Mercurio‘s Bodies — a visceral and heartbreaking look at just how little separates life and death in a maternity ward; and
  • David Simon‘s The Wire — its novelistic approach to presenting a criminal investigation, showing us every shade of grey between the police and their adversaries, as well as the world in which both operate, is something to which I can only dare aspire.

The words "The Wire" in white lettering on a black background. Below it a waveform spectrum in blue.
And if it’s all too much and/or I want to procrastinate for hours I just need a little kick, I never go wrong with any of these:

  • James Cameron‘s Aliens — a war movie in space;
  • Quentin Tarantino‘s Jackie Brown — a small-time crook’s One Final Score;
  • and David Mamet‘s Spartan — a rogue agent’s attempt to Do The Right Thing.

Spartan movie.jpg
It’s not necessarily the story I worry about — it’s how I’m going to make it interesting. I want to grab and hold the reader’s — and, eventually, the paying audience’s — attention, take ’em for a ride, and then afterwards, drop ’em back in their seat, exhilarated, exhausted, and begging for more.

All of the above touchstones do exactly that.

Most times, soon after referring to any of the above, I’m back at the keyboard, writing.

 

1   But oh how The Goddess rolls her eyes when I talk about superior subtextual story-telling amidst well-choreographed ass-kicking.

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Box Watch: Marvel’s Jessica Jones

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47431125

Ten episodes in and I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel where:

  • our heroine, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter)  catches her nemesis, Kilgrave (David Tennant);
  • Jones’ Greek chorus of friends, family and/or acquaintances sing, Kill Kilgrave else he will continue to murder people;
  • Jones counterpoints with, No, I must not kill him yet somehow he must still pay — wait one while I ponder…;
  • Kilgrave escapes — trimming Jones’ chorus by one enroute — and continues his murdering ways;
  • Jones catches Kilgrave…

Do this catch-and-release routine once and if the heroine learns from the experience, it’s a learning experience.

Do it twice, and if the heroine prevails in the end, it’s one of those rule-of-three narrative devices.

Do it three times and there’s still three goddamned eps to go in the season, one begins to wonder: are the writers undercover wingnuts highlighting the inherent weakness of liberals in this harsh, harsh world? or have I just been inured by decades of Old Testament-moral-style action films in which all manner of personal, societal and political problems can be resolved in a hail of lead?

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2015 by 4K and 720p

Ay caramba, that was quick.

Sicario poster.jpg
Sicario poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Enjoyed immensely on the big screen:

  • A Most Wanted Man
  • Top Five
  • Ant-Man
  • Love is Strange
  • Inside Out
  • Amy
  • Sicario
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Spotlight
  • Steve Jobs

Top Five poster.jpg
Top Five poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Honourable mentions to John Carpenter‘s remake of The Thing which was enjoyed with a bunch of millenials who were genuinely freaked out by Rob Bottin‘s 1980s-era SFX, Cartel LandThe Guest, and Warrior which I finally watched after years of ravings by the inestimable Mr Fyers.

Devoured with great pleasure on the small screen:

  • Justified S06
  • Transparent S01
  • The Americans S02
  • Game of Thrones S05
  • Mr Robot S01
  • Nurse Jackie S07
  • Catastrophe S01
  • The Good Wife S06
  • Arrow S02–03
  • The Flash S01–02

Catastrophe (2015 TV series) title.png
Catastrophe (2015 TV series) title” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Honourable mentions to the CW’s one-two combo of Arrow S03–04 and The Flash S01–02, the not particularly innovative crime-fixer show Ray Donovan S03 which is made compelling by Liev SchrieberEddie Marsan and Jon VoightHumans S01, and The Walking Dead S06E01–06.

MrRobot intertitle.png
MrRobot intertitle” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

So much good television and so little time…

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2015 by Dots per Inch

Whangarei Central Library

I actually read stuff this year — 91 titles as a matter of fact, seven of which I didn’t finish for various reasons. This compares very well with 2014’s measly 24 titles.

Highlights, in no particular order:

  • Justified pilot script by Graham Yost;
  • Transparent pilot script by Jill Soloway;
  • Steve Jobs 19 March 2015 draft script by Aaron Sorkin;
  • The Fade Out issues 1–12 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips;
  • Alex + Ada by Sarah Vaughan & Michael Luna;
  • Lazarus issues 1–20 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark;
  • X-ed OutThe Hive, and Sugar Skull by Charles Burns;
  • Down Under by Bill Bryson;
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout;
  • No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy;
  • Cop Killer by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Honourable mentions to The Ballad of Halo Jones by Moore and Ian GibsonThe Walking Dead issues 136–149 by Robert KirkmanCharlie AdlardStefano Gaudiano, and Cliff Rathburn, and Ms Marvel issues 1–5 by Sana AmanatG Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona.

I feel like I should read more text-only books but I suspect that’s my easily triggered inferiority complex.

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2014

Goodness gracious, that’s 2014 done already.

Boring stats first. My exercise diary is a little depressing: less than half the number of runs this year than I would/should have on average (see here for where it all began) — but if I add the number of brisk walks and bike rides, too… total mileage is only a third of my annual average. Goodness gracious me. Future selfies for the blog will be from the chest upwards only. (Update: 2014’s mileage was actually two-thirds annual average — human error in the spreadsheet formulae.)

On to what this post is really for: what I watched on big screen and small. 128 titles were watched, equating to just over 500 viewing hours — and here’s what stuck:

Features

  • Enough Said
  • Monsters, which made me want to see Godzilla (which did not disappoint)
  • a dead heat between 20 Feet from Stardom and Fire in Babylon
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ida
  • Wreck It Ralph, with runners up The Lego Movie and Despicable Me
  • The Rover
  • The Lunchbox
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, with runner up Edge of Tomorrow
  • The Dark Horse

Television

Happy New Year!

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