New Year’s Eve I was scrambling to get a submission in for HEAVY Magazine which I have been contributor for since April 2017. I’m not always able to be as prolific as I would like but a chance to contribute as one of their film reviewers to a recap of the year’s films was too good to miss out on. Similar to how I feel honoured to contribute to end of year countdowns for X-Press magazine. I’ll of course be putting together my annual Favourite Films of the Year later on in 2019 but this will give you an idea of who is in the running at the moment for a Top 10 entry. You can find the post here https://heavymag.com.au/a-re-cap-of-the-films-of-2018/
I hope you enjoy and feel free to comment or give any social media love.
Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.
Five years on from my very first post and how time flies. I’m very grateful for my blogging community which has grown my confidence and given me an outlet I desperately needed in my life. As is customary I am doing a quick recap at the end of the year. In 2018 a lot of old posts proved more popular than my new posts. The new posts for the most part act as links to where I am published elsewhere occasionally offering some behind the scenes info in a more informal manner. I will only be listing posts published this year.
America is still No.1 in terms of readership, Australia has retaken No.2 from the UK and Canada remains in fourth place as always. Cracking the Top 5 this year is India with newcomer Hong Kong making a strong showing in the latter half of 2018 and reaching No. 6. Germany which had a grip on N.5 for most of the year slips to No. 7 and Japan, New Zealand and Malaysia leave the Top 10. In No. 8 France returns to the Top 10, the Philippines makes if for the first time in No. 9 and holding on to a Top 10 position is Indonesia as the country with the tenth most views. Overall there were less views from the U.K. and Canada but more views from the rest of the Top 10 countries with all 10 cracking triple digits in number of views. Which I guess makes for a more diverse readership.
Top 10 Most Views by Country
The United States of America 9,519 Views
Australia 1,898 Views
The United Kingdom 1,714 Views
Canada 685 Views
India 361 Views
Hong Kong SAR China 200 Views
Germany 188 Views
France 113 Views
Philippines 108 Views
Indonesia 106 Views
Out of the 108 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. In 2017 this grew to 16,767 views (more than a third of which were for The Founder Review), 11,891 visitors, 1,240 Likes and 1,707 comments. In 2018 much to my surprise we stayed steady at 16,706 views and 12,185 visitors with the site receiving 1,091 likes and 1,046 comments. There has been a slight downtick in liking and commenting of posts which makes sense since my focus is less intense on growing my blogging community and some fellow bloggers have given the game away. One thing about the results strongly supports an idea I have of where to put my energies next. Overall I just want to say again how much it means to me to have my core group and how much I appreciate anybody who reads and enjoys the blog.
It has been very nice to see some of the posts that were enjoyed the most were ones that were very personal including about travelling to attend my sister’s wedding overseas and recollections of the Brisbane International Film Festival. I’m also glad that everybody seems to enjoy my list for the best films of the year and look forward to doing another one for 2018 around Oscar time. Also blogging about my first cover story for Scenestr has proven the most popular post on my blog for 2018 which is very gratifying. It was a lot of fun and a real privilege to do the interview with Jascha Boyce.
Well that’s it for another year so thank you so much to everybody who reads my humble blog and I would like to take this moment to thank my fellow bloggers for their continued support Pete, Cindy, GP, Don, Vinnie, Jay, Sean, Paul, Allen, John K, Michael, Jet, Eddie, Alex, Paol, Jordon, John R, SJS, DB, Emma, Jersey Dreaming, Robin, Eric and anybody else who takes the time to read these posts. It would be helluva lot less fun without you all.
This list has got me thinking about how my own Top 10 for 2018 is shaping up. Please note my Top 10 to feature here on this blog next year around Oscar time will go off films released in 2018 in the U.S. This list done by X-Press Magazine was based on films that were released in Australia in 2018 and do include some films from 2017. Heck I reviewed a delightful 2016 film from France for this year.
X-Press Magazine was established in 1985 and at one point was Australia’s highest circulating free weekly entertainment publication with over 40,000 copies reaching 1,0000 outlets every week. On the 24th May, 2016 Issue 1527 hit stands. Like many publications of its ilk X-Press Magazine is now foremost an online magazine engaged globally and making the most of the possibilities that new digital technology offers. It’s roots though are tied to its home city, love of local artists and productions and music which it supports wholeheartedly. Perth a capital city most isolated from all the other capitals is continuing to grow and develop culturally and artistically with its own identity and talent. X-Press has always been there to capture this growth and will continue to do so.
If Roy Orbinson could brag “I Drove All Night.” Then surely I could add “I Flew All Night” to see my sister get married on the other side of the world. Long term readers will note my little sister lives in England and yet I am here in Brisbane, Australia. She is well travelled and successful in her chosen career as a school teacher. In 2011 I married my wife Karen and Nadia flew to Australia to be there. She arrived on a Friday morning following a commute that included a five hour stop over in Singapore sporting some jet lag, the wedding was on Saturday and Sunday evening we had dinner before she flew out Monday morning and Karen and I drove up the coast to Maleny for our honeymoon. Roy Orbinson and I, it is fair to say are in good company. Having set the bar so high as my new brother in law noted in his wedding speech it seems I was determined to top such an exhausting commute.
The idea came to me not long after watching Paddington 2, I awoke one Saturday morning to the idea that somehow I would make it to London for my sister’s wedding. When the engagement had been announced I had simply relegated myself to the idea that I would not be able to attend with my wife. But the idea came to me in my sleep that I should go and once these things take hold in my mind they are very hard to shake. I looked up the cheapest flights available, one was a 38 hour commute with a 17 hour stop over in a place called Guangzhou. I worked with an English lad recently who told me of his flights over to Brisbane with long lay over in the Middle East and a stop in Perth. Uncomfortable long commutes that saved hundred of dollars were more appealing to me than any sense of comfort. So long had I not travelled internationally that surely a Chinese airport would prove vastly interesting to me at least… I hoped. I flew to London courtesy of my parents on a family holiday in 2002, we went from Australia to Singapore in 8 hours before boarding a 14 hour flight to London. I had been 21 and 78 kilos. Now how would I fare older and heavier with such a commute? An attack of deep vein thrombosis seemed very possible.
But the more I thought of it the more this all seemed to steady my course. I would go to my sister’s wedding, I would not sightsee, I would not have any spending cash, I would not take my wife, I would get in a steel tube, deposit myself at the other side of the world, attend the wedding, sleeping on floors of my sister’s apartment, climb back in the steel tube and arrive home. I talked to Karen, I looked ahead with our budget, I made a decision. I rang Flight Centre who had given me a quote a couple of weeks earlier. If the price had significantly gone up that would be the end of it, it was not- the flights to be booked now were $5 less. I bought the tickets, I was going.
I messaged my sister who was surprised and worried about the expense but happy I think. She arranged motel accommodation for me out of her own pocket in her neighbourhood of Bexleyheath, as a windswept and global traveller, she offered advice, she was generous and helpful to a fault. My only hope was to not get in the way and already she was doing things for me.
I went to a currency exchange and got some pounds and yuan. The gentleman there asked if I needed any travellers cheques. I told him this was it, he asked me how long I would be in London because those amount of pounds wouldn’t go very far. I told him I would not be long, I was to go to a wedding and fly out the next day. He nodded, assured of the amount now and impressed by my plans. Still it made me think of how people in days gone by had arrived in countries to settle with little in their pockets. I could not imagine doing it but they had. For me there was something that made it real when I got the other currencies more so than when the ticket had been booked. My mother gave me a lend of some money for an emergency, the emergency thankfully never came so I returned the money and gave her a tea towel and some magnets from far away lands.
This was only possible because of the generosity of others, my brothers and new relatives bought dinners, I was hurried to Ubers already paid for by fellow passengers who refused my outstretched notes, I walked past tempting eateries in airport lounges only to smile when the food was passed out on my flights hours later. The kindness of others and good luck made this trip possible and I will forever be grateful.
Last year I sought to do a review of every movie I saw in the cinemas. I decided early on for this year I would not repeat that but I will hopefully list all of the films I saw at the movies and then offer some thoughts on what were my favourites. This list always come a little later then the end of the year when some American 2017 releases and Oscar hopefuls have reached Australian audiences. I contributed to an end of year list for X-Press Magazine which you can find here http://xpressmag.com.au/the-x-press-top-20-films-of-2017/ I was pretty lucky this year, I saw free screenings courtesy of my wife, went to preview screenings as a reviewer for Scenestr Magazine and attended for the first time the Bryon Bay Film Festival and the triumphant return of the Brisbane International Film Festival. All up it appears I saw 57 films last year on the big screen and reviewed 27 and counting for various publications. It was a thrill to say the least but plenty were missed, The Florida Project stands out to me as an Oscar contender I would have liked to see along with The Post, Molly’s Game and Call Me By Your Name. Plenty of interesting films have slipped past my radar too like Raw, Happy Death Day, It Comes At Night, Okja, and many more. Most indie and foreign which I am really regretful about but I will get to them in due course hopefully. So as always any list from me is subjective, last year I hadn’t seen Nocturnal Animals and 20th Century Women and I guarantee they would’ve been in that Top 10. None the less it’s always fun to look back and do a summation so here goes. Ratings are based on the classic 4 Star scale as per reviews I read growing up by the great film critic Roger Ebert.
David Stratton: A Cinematic LifeNot Reviewed **1/2
In lesser hands this could get terribly tedious, two middle aged men travelling around eating to their hearts content and occasionally bedding women considerably younger than them. The Trip remains perhaps the best, following comic performers Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves in a fictional film made to appear like real life as they bickered on a paid trip through a series of eateries in a regional area. My wife who did not care for that movie has thoroughly enjoyed the follow ups that coincidentally or not coincidentally left the Gothic Northern English countryside for the sunnier sea breezes of Italy and now Spain. For me the sequels are variations on the original classic but here with the pair getting ever slightly older the musings on ageing, legacy and regrets bite a little harder and these are themes I’ve always been fascinated with. In a packed preview screening the ending certainly left an impression. I liked it.
The opening night film at the 2017 Brisbane International Film Festival was the The Square winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Written and directed by Ruben Ostlund it tells the story of Christian (Claes Bang) the curator of the X-Royal art museum in Stockholm, Sweden. On his way to work one day he is pulled into a confrontation with a girl being chased by her partner, rallied by another bystander to stand their ground against him. After a little push and shove the man leaves and then the girl. Christian finds he has been pickpocketed in the exchange. To say more about the plot would take away one of the joys about the film but I will say it has themes linked to the new exhibition Christian is promoting called The Square. “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” The film has a lot to say about ideas of masculinity, art, femininity, classism, race, inflated opinions of art. It has a dark sense of humour, I found it riveting until somewhere close to the finale I did not find the resolution as memorable as the set-up. Yet The Square continues to haunt in a way that few films do. I imagine men of physical courage and carefree attitudes would not find much of interest here but since I’m neither I was fascinated.
The Shape of Water will top many end of year lists. It has rich subtext, is wonderfully constructed in terms of narrative and look, throws in a few surprises and boasts a wonderful cast doing great work. An adult fairytale it delights from start to finish even in the way that it can graphic or dark in humour. I’ve never seen a woman boil on egg on a daily basis either if you know what I mean and I like it. There are a few missteps though for me in terms of filling out back story for maximum effect. The love story is based on ideas, the male romantic lead in a lot of ways remains a mystery and that failed to engage me as much as I hoped the film would. However what it has to say about power dynamics, the boundaries we have to overcome and the power of choices makes this a film to pore over again and again. Not to mention the cinematic beauty of it. “Of course themes and allegories are great but they don’t really matter if you can’t engage the audience. Screenwriters del Toro and Vanessa Taylor craft an interesting romance between two creatures who never speak a word to each other. One of them risks an awful lot faster than expected with very little to motivate them except how the other makes them feel. While that might be difficult to believe completely, the writers have argued is there anything more romantic than that mindset?“.
Well as always thank you for reading and I encourage you to mention in the comments your favourite films of the year and why. As Oscar nears it’s interesting to note how many of the Ten are not in contention at that ceremony. Of those that are, like last year I found this video about them from Screen Junkies very amusing.
Paddington 2 is for those who liked Paddington 1. I saw Paddington on DVD back when my local Blockbuster was still open. It’s amazing what a difference three years will make. I had missed it at the movies-the trailer didn’t get me enthused. I had some dim fond memories from childhood but this CGI bear would not do. He looked too fake and I could care less if he used toothbrushes in his ears. All the comedic set-ups seemed tired and silly. The sequel’s trailer is a prime example. Paddington has a pair of clippers and there’s a stuffy old British man waiting for his haircut in the local barber where Paddington works. How is that going to possibly end I wonder? There’s a stupid inevitability to such premises that I have no interest in. Although I will admit during said scene the other day I heard children laughing in the theatre and suddenly such things did seem funny.
Three years ago I got the DVD from my Blockbuster, probably Karen got it truth be told, and we watched it and I smiled. Maybe I rarely laughed out loud but I smiled. I smiled the kind of smile you only smile when you’ve been absolutely charmed and I was charmed by that film and more importantly by that little Peruvian bear. He always looks CGI but there’s fantastic design work from the animators to make you fall in love with this bear backed up by Ben Whishaw’s voice work and spirit of Michael Bond’s books. Paddington is always polite, always has his heart in the right place and always tries his best and believes in the better nature of people unless they invoke a good hard stare. Paddington exists in a world of fiction too where hardened criminals can make gardens once they’re shown a little kindness. These qualities are essential to what makes the character and these current films so wonderful to watch.
Getting these things right were crucial and now everything else follows. Things like a stellar British cast where even the normal characters have a whiff of the oddball about them, the villains are played broadly but avoid cutting a slice of ham and the production values are gorgeous. Usually set bound but clean, colourful and yet homely. When foreigners think of living in London they think of a street like the one Paddington lives on. I was charmed by the first and I have been charmed by the second one even more. Perhaps because Hugh Grant as a villain seemed like a funnier character than Nicole Kidman’s scary one in the previous film.
More likely it was the running theme of Paddington wanting to be reunited with family. My sister as you may recall lives just outside of London and she has come back a few times to see us including for my wedding. There is a part of me that would very much like to go see her in London one day soon but I don’t believe that is very likely and my parents are reaching an age where it is unlikely they will make such trips. I was charmed by Paddington throughout but at the end I felt a little betrayed. The movie ended abruptly on a moving scene and the lights in the cinema immediately went up revealing the audience as a whole with tears running down our cheeks. This is a great family movie.