My Fortnight in Film, 2016 Weeks 41 & 42

Apologies for the lack of update last week, I hadn’t written any reviews and I was too engrossed in season 2 of The Wire to get anything else done. Now I’ve finished that season, so it’s the perfect opportunity for me to discuss it, spoiler-free of course.
wire-2Season two is essentially known as the “Docks” season, or the “Cannot Live Up To The Greatness Of Season One” season, but it also felt a lot like the “Setting Up Lots Of Elements And Putting Them In Place For The Future At The Expense Of The Season’s Overall Quality” season. Initially I didn’t much care for the entire docks side of the story, as it at least partially side-lined the more interesting and engaging characters and storylines from the previous season. Also, I felt it took too long to resolve how some characters ended up last time around, and get them into a position where they could interact with this season’s plot, and that come the climax the writers were so eager to get out of this season and onto the next one that they threw everything together in the last episode or two, cramming in as much as possible to get it over and done with, which I found very unsatisfying. Still, I liked the introduction of some of the new characters, like Beadie Russell (Amy Ryan, an actress I’ve been keeping an eye out for since she blew me away in Gone Baby Gone) and Frank Sabotka (Chris Bauer). And whilst this season wasn’t as good as the first, it was still very compelling, and I’ve heard season 3 is possibly even better than the first, although I might take a little break and watch a season of something else, just to space it out. Fortunately The Walking Dead starts again this week, and The Night Of is available streaming on Sky, and I’ve heard great things about that. Look for my thoughts on those soon. In the mean time, here’s what I watched this past two weeks:
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The Exorcist

Famous actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) is working on a film in Georgetown, Washington D.C., when her twelve year old daughter Regan (Linda Blair) begins displaying strange behaviour. After months of medical and psychiatric examinations, it is believed that Regan may be possessed by a demonic spirit, and the only way to resolve the situation is via a religious exorcism.
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My Week in Movies, 2016 Week 40

In all the fuss and hubbub with China I completely forgot what time of year it was, it’s New 1001 Movies Book time!10012016

There have been ten additions for the 2016 edition and, as the number in the title hasn’t changed, that means there’s ten removals too. We’ll get to those in a minute (they’re less important, as just because a film gets removed from the List doesn’t mean I’m not going to still review it) but first, here are the additions, along with any top-of-my-head thoughts on them:

The Look of Silence – I still haven’t seen The Act Of Killing yet, let alone this one. I sense a very depressing double bill in my future.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – A surprising addition. It did well commercially, but I feel it is far too soon to give The Force Awakens the kind of cultural significance required for the List. Then again I didn’t love it as much as everyone else. Considering what didn’t make it, I’m a little sad to see this here.
The Revenant – No surprise given the team behind it, regardless of my feelings. I’m very glad I anticipated this being added and reviewed it when I did, as it means I don’t have to sit through it again.
Son of Saul – I’ve heard a little, and what I’ve heard is good.
Bridge of Spies – Another surprise. I feel Spielberg is taking the Hitchcock mantle of being a great director, but having far too many films on the List. I liked Bridge of Spies, don’t get me wrong, but it’s my no means essential viewing.
The Big Short – I thought this film was fine, but wasn’t wowed by it. Topical, but again not really List-worthy. This is starting to feel like a make-the-numbers kind of year.
Spotlight – Best Picture winners always make it on, even ones as average as this. I watched it earlier this year with the intention of completing a write-up in preparation for this day, so maybe I’ll be a bit more inspired to get to it now.
Tangerine – The addition I know the least about. It sounds promising and, if it’s not, then at least it’s short.
Straight Outta Compton – Making a correction the Oscars missed out on, this is a welcome addition that I thoroughly enjoyed despite having absolutely zero prior knowledge of NWA.
Mad Max: Fury Road – Another complete lack of surprise, and a film I’m delighted to see immortalised on the List forever.

So what got taken off? This bunch:
Senna – Haven’t seen it yet.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams – Haven’t seen it yet.
Drive – I’m OK with this. I’ve not re-watched it since my initial viewing, so my thoughts on this are still pretty underwhelmed.
Amour – Good. I remember not hating this film, but also not ever wanting to watch it again.
Django Unchained – I liked it, as I do pretty much all Tarantino, but it’s not essential.
The Act of Killing – Haven’t seen it yet. Presumably this made room for The Look Of Silence.
The Wolf of Wall Street – Glad this is being removed. I’m not a fan.
Citizen Four – Haven’t seen it yet.
Guardians of the Galaxy – I’m surprised this has left so early, especially given the continued prevalence of superhero movies, and with the recent slew of bad ones proving this to be a better example of the genre. Still, every time I watch it I like it less.
The Theory of Everything – Decent film but yeah, it was never going to last on the List.

Overall it’s a fairly standard changeover. Nothing knock-me-down surprising on either side, and nothing terribly upsetting either. I still think these additions are made far too soon after the films are released – this year we should be looking at additions that were released in maybe 2011 – as cultural impact hasn’t yet been proven, but I also understand that the book-sellers are more likely to flog copies with The Revenant and Fury Road on the cover than The Artist and War Horse. I’m surprised (but not overly disappointed) that the likes of Ex Machina, Sicario, Inside Out, Brooklyn and Creed didn’t make it, and I genuinely thought that The Martian and Room would have good shots, and am annoyed that they aren’t present, especially when Bridge of Spies and The Big Short made it instead. I reviewed Inside Out purely because I thought it’d be added! Ah well. I wonder what’s going to be added next year? I doubt anything discussed in the rest of this post will be added!
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Cool Hand Luke

A prison chain gang in Florida gains its latest inmate in the form of Lucas “Luke” Jackson (Paul Newman), a war veteran sentenced to two years for cutting the heads off parking meters whilst inebriated. However Luke has a fairly serious issue with authority and a tendency to rebel against any order he is given purely on the grounds of it being an instruction, so prison life isn’t something he fits into well.
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September 2016 Update

September was a very busy month for me, but also not so. I’ll explain. Aisha had to work late a lot, so I had to cover more of the Murphy- and house-based duties than usual, which is fine although it explains why the early weeks of the month were a bit light review-wise, because I didn’t really watch a great deal. Then we went to visit my grandparents on the Isle of Wight for a long weekend, again where not a lot got watched but mainly due to spending time with them and enjoying the island. Plus my Grandad insisted that his in-car MP3 player was reading his song files and displaying the titles and artists incorrectly, so I had to reformat close to a thousand songs during the stay, amending the titles, track numbers, artists and albums, almost entirely manually, whilst attempting to explain to him what I was doing, how it would work, and essentially every aspect of how computers work. I used to work data entry over the summers between university years, and let’s just say there’s a reason I don’t do that any more, and it might be the same reason I didn’t want to do it on my holiday, but family is family.

The point where the month became busy then not busy was the last two weeks which, if you’ve checked my weekly updates, you’ll have seen I spent back in China. The company I work for needed some parts from China fairly quickly, but we also had some adjustments to make on the tooling, so I went out and liaised with the factory several times, checking samples and suggesting changes, without having to wait for the normal 5 days of shipping for the parts to reach us. The means of the company contacting me whilst in China was the phone in my hotel room (I gave them my mobile number, which worked, but they refused to use it), and I had to be on-call to see them or talk to my bosses back home at a moment’s notice, so a great deal of the past fortnight was essentially spent inside a hotel room. I spent some of it working, other parts longing for social media to not be blocked in China (especially because I plan the Lambcast and do all of my LAMB admin stuff through Gmail, which is also blocked), and the rest of it watching movies and TV. I binged the entirety of Police Squad! and the first season of The Wire, and watched an additional twelve films from the confines of my room. It would have been more, but I did have to actually visit the factory, talk to the supplier, and leave the hotel room for the purposes of my sanity. Hence 12 films were watched, but only four of them were actually from any of my lists, as others were watched whilst doing other things, so this time last month when I said September could be really productive, or not, that is what I was talking about, and comparatively to the rest of the year, it kind of fell in the middle.

So what about China? Well, when I visited back in January it was a very structured visit along with my boss and his wife – this time I was on my own – so we met with suppliers every day and they took us out every day, and there wasn’t a great deal of culture experienced. This time I got to immerse myself a little more (I still ate at the hotel most days, but that’s more because they had a decent buffet and, being on my own, that way I didn’t have to sit around doing nothing waiting for the food to arrive, I could just enter the restaurant, gather my food, eat it then head straight back to my room or out for a walk). My main mass generalisation is that the Chinese people I ran into the most live very impatient lives, particularly around food and travelling. In traffic, no-one ever lets anyone out of a junction or into a lane. You merge at your own damn risk, and if you’re a pedestrian crossing the road (or indeed walking along the pavement) then if you’re not fearing for your life and moving with your head on a swivel as though enemy snipers could take you out at any second, then you will not survive to the end of the block. And perhaps even more dangerously at the breakfast buffet one morning I placed two slices of bread into the communal toaster (the kind with the timer that you set and come back to when it pings) and walked away to get a drink, only to see the man who had been stood immediately behind me, watching me insert the bread into the toaster, remove one of my slices and walk off with it. There are many things that puzzle me about this. Did he think I had put the bread in there for him? Was this some kind of silent fat-shaming for me daring to have two slices of toast? And, most troubling, why was he satisfied to take a slice of entirely untoasted bread out of the toaster, where it had not been situated enough time to even begin to warm up let alone toast, when there was almost an entire loaf of non-toasted bread RIGHT NEXT TO THE FUCKING TOASTER?!?!? I didn’t say anything, mainly because he probably spoken English as well as I speak Chinese, which is to say not at all, and also because I couldn’t really foresee an outcome where I didn’t come off as some kind of toast-obsessed raving mad man. Also I’m British, and making a scene is just not done, even over toast.

As for evening meals, I was taken out on a number of occasions by the supplier I was visiting, and the most memorable (and second-most delicious, my first ever Korean BBQ being one of the best things I’ve ever eaten) was to a lobster house (actually crayfish, but they call them lobster). I’d not had lobster (or crayfish) before, and it was quite delicious, even if the crustaceans had to be broken apart with my teeth and hands clad only in thin plastic gloves. Whilst the meat is nice, I find it not really worthy of the effort taken to find it amidst the mess of shell, claw and innards. Also, for the entirety of the meal there was a TV on the restaurant wall showing a loop of footage of live crayfish frolicking in the rivers and having a merry old time, before being caught, killed and cooked for my dinner. There’s not much that’ll put me off eating something, but seeing that very thing in a live state whilst I’m expected to rip off its claws, ;gouge out the head and skin it with my fingers is gonna be close. I thought that’d be the worst of it, right up until the last day when we went to a chicken restaurant with the exact same concept, but this time with video footage of rows upon rows of battery hens supposedly making me oh so anxious to chow down on their brethren. What made this even worse was that the chicken there wasn’t even all that good.

Other adventures were had, but I’ve rambled on long enough and haven’t edited the photos yet, so if I think of something interesting I’ll add it to the next weekly post. For now though, let’s see how my goals stacked up for September:

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