365 Films, 365 Days- April

Inspired by the Doug Benson Movie Challenge, I attempt to watch 365 movies over the calendar year of 2017. Any genre of film is eligible, including documentaries and Netflix originals, as long as it’s something I haven’t seen before (you’ll have to trust me on that). The hope is I can cross off some films I’ve been dying to see for ages but have never gotten round to, as well as discover some gems I might never have come across otherwise.

As a fun little twist, every couple of weeks I will be drawing a random genre/category of film to focus on for the week’s viewing. This should hopefully keep things fresh.

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Here we go, let’s make April our bitch!

April

This Month’s List

  1. Super Fly (dir. Gordon Parks Jnr., 1972)
  2. Foxy Brown (dir. Jack Hill, 1974)
  3. Black Belt Jones (dir. Robert Clouse, 1974)
  4. Blacula (dir. William Crain, 1972)
  5. Three the Hard Way (dir. Gordon Parks Jnr., 1974)
  6. The Mack (dir. Michael Campus, 1973)
  7. Whale Rider (dir. Niki Caro, 2002)
  8. Dragon (dir. Peter Ho-Sun Chan, 2011)
  9. The Love Witch (dir. Anna Biller, 2016)
  10. Distant Voices, Still Lives (dir. Terence Davis, 1988)
  11. Headhunters (dir. Morten Tyldum, 2011)
  12. Dead Ringers (dir. David Cronenberg, 1988)
  13. Love is Colder Than Death (dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1969)
  14. The Red Shoes (dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
  15. La Promesse (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 1996)
  16. Lion (dir. Garth Davis, 2016)
  17. To Kill a Mockingbird (dir. Robert Mulligan, 1962)
  18. Fences (dir. Denzel Washington, 2016)
  19. Theeb (dir. Naji Abu Nowar, 2014)
  20. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (dir. Lotte Reiniger & Carl Koch, 1926)
  21. Shaun the Sheep (dir. Mark Burton & Richard Starzak, 2015)
  22. Kirikou and the Sorceress (dir. Michel Ocelot & Raymond Burlet, 1998)
  23. Ghost in the Shell (dir. Mamoru Oshii, 1995)
  24. Corpse Bride (dir. Tim Burton, 2005)
  25. The Iron Giant (dir. Brad Bird, 1999)
  26. 20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills, 2016)
  27. The Fate of the Furious (dir. F. Gary Gray, 2017)
  28. Free Fire (dir. Ben Wheatley, 2016)
  29. Eyes Without a Face (dir. Georges Franju, 1960)
  30. Room 237 (dir. Rodney Ascher, 2012)
  31. Mifune: the Last Samurai (dir. Steven Okazaki, 2015)
  32. Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2016)
  33. Stagecoach (dir. John Ford, 1939)
  34. The Assassin (dir. Hsiao-Hsien Hou, 2015)
  35. Black Girl (dir. Ousmane Sembene, 1966)

 

Week 1- Blaxploitation Week

My knowledge of blaxploitation cinema doesn’t stretch much beyond the Shaft trilogy, so was excited by this theme selection to learn a little more about a genre I knew very little about. Of course, six films are only going to give you so wide a scope, but in between my hectic film watching schedule I was able to read up a little more about the creation of this often misunderstood genre. For sure the production values are lacking compared to other classics of the period, but there was something to treasure from all the titles I watched; be it Curtis Mayfield’s iconic soundtrack in Super Fly, the undeniably nasty direction taken in Foxy Brown, some genuinely scary and inventive shots in Blacula or the just joyful, ludicrous bombast of Three the Hard Way‘s conclusion. It was a highly enjoyable, eye opening week.

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Blacula is…actually pretty damn good.

Week 2

I made a real effort to avoid USA movies from this decade this week, and took advantage of a bank holiday to try and catch up a little. In doing so I was also able to wipe a few long standing films from my Netflix watchlist, with Whale Rider, Dragon, Headhunters and To Kill a Mockingbird all proving to be worth the wait. Dragon was probably the highlight of the week, a martial arts film mixed with Cronenberg’s A History of Violence and the BBC’s version of Sherlock, I had so much fun watching that film. I also lost my Fassbinder virginity with Love is Colder Than Death; minimalistic and nihilistic, the filmmaker certainly lived up to expectations.

Week 3- Animation Week

This week took some planning, having seen all of Pixar’s offerings, and knowing that Studio Ghibli has it’s own category that will come later this year, my goal was to ingest a wide a variety of animation as possible. The Adventures of Prince Achmed was certainly a left field choice to kick the week off. A dialogue free animated German film from the 1920’s was not the obvious choice, but really holds up in terms of imaginative animation, and honest-to-goodness adventure story-telling. Shaun the Sheep proved to be the delight we’ve all come to expect from Aardman Animations, made with love, and with a knowing nod to classic silent cinema, it appeals to the very youngest and oldest of us. Ghost in the Shell similarly lived up to it’s reputation as a wonderfully creative, thoughtful and shockingly violent pleasure I have come to expect from Manga movies. No remake needed there that’s for sure.

Week 4

A week off work proved to be a busy week for this project, which is fast becoming my 2nd, albeit non-paying, job (although I am open to sponsorship). I peaked at five films in a day in this period, but managed to close the gap between days past and films watched that opened up during March. This was a mix of cinema trips , Red Box movies, the BFI Player, and a couple of welcome new additions to Netflix. Free Fire was the standout of the week (and probably the month), a 90 minute gun fight that is constantly shifting tone from the comical to uncomfortable, with a terrific cast and expert direction. It is probably Ben Wheatley’s most watchable, crowd-pleasing film to date. I decided I didn’t want to wait for Documentary week to watch Room 237 and Mifune: the Last Samuari. The former is a real joy for cinema loving conspiracy theorists, while the latter has all but guaranteed that there will be a lot more Akira Kurosawa films on the list this time next month.

 

Highlights

Both the theme weeks proved to be something of an education, one learning about a genre I knew very little about, the other allowing me to dig deeper on a style of cinema I have been watching since I was little. Both were very much in the spirit of why I’m doing this experiment in the first place.

Low Points

Again no real stinkers, this process has been so arduous that I’m intentionally steering away from films I’m pretty sure I won’t like (perhaps I will push myself more in May), but there were a few that did not live up to expectations, without being all out bad. I had heard great things about The Love Witch, but ultimately felt it was more style than substance, Dead Ringers turned out pretty near the bottom of my list of Cronenberg films, and The Assassin just didn’t grab me in the way I was hoping it would.  Along with those, I was a little let down by The Fate of the Furious. Again not that it’s bad, but having unashamedly loved the previous two outings, this one felt like the fun had been sucked out of it slightly, and there was a real feeling that they were going through the motions.

 

Performance of the Month

The youngsters stood out again this month, with Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat in Theeb, Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider and Sunny Pawar in Lion all putting in terrific performances well beyond their years. The entire cast of Free Fire also deserve recognition, a fine example of how a well selected ensemble can elevate your title (Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer were particularly excellent).

But it is hard to see past Pam Grier in Foxy Brown. Even with a bizarre plot and at times questionable dialogue, her star quality shines through the moment she appears on screen. She is strong, fierce, effortlessly cool, and not afraid to be vulnerable. Well played.

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Pam Grier is cold as ice as Foxy Brown.

 

Top 5 of the Month (in no particular order)

Theeb

Free Fire

Foxy Brown

Dragon

Eyes Without a Face

 

The Year So Far

Breakdown by Decade

2010’s- 61

2000’s- 7

1990’s- 10

1980’s- 5

1970’s- 17

1960’s- 7

1950’s- 4

1940’s- 3

1930’s- 3

1920’s- 3

Days to film ratio

120 days gone, 120 films watched. Glad to be back on track, but come June I’m going to be working 12 hour days, 6 days a week, so going to have to get even further ahead before then.

Total minutes of film watching

12,323 minutes of strenuous, silver-screen surveying. 205 hours of frantic, film feasting. Over eight and a half days of move watching mania.

Films by the Nations

USA- 64

UK- 27

France- 12

Germany- 8

Japan- 6

Spain- 3

Belgium- 3

Ireland- 2

Mexico- 2

Canada- 2

New Zealand- 2

China- 2

Hong Kong- 2

Luxemburg- 2

South Korea- 1

Greece- 1

Brazil- 1

Netherlands- 1

Austria- 1

Switzerland- 1

Romania- 1

Argentina- 1

Chile- 1

Soviet Union- 1

Cambodia- 1

Hungary- 1

Sweden- 1

Norway- 1

Denmark- 1

Tunisia- 1

Australia- 1

Jordan- 1

UAE- 1

Qatar- 1

Italy- 1

Taiwan- 1

Senegal- 1

Some films are co-produced by multiple nations, which explains why the numbers may not add up.

Recurring Directors

Danny Boyle- 2 (Steve Jobs, T2: Trainspotting)

Luis Bunuel- 2 (Los Olvidados, L’Age d’Or)

Powell & Pressburger (A Matter of Life and Death, The Red Shoes)

Mike Mills (Beginners, 20th Century Women)

 

The complete list so far…

  1. The Good Dinosaur (dir. Peter Sohn, 2015)
  2. Your Name (dir. Makoto Shinkai, 2016)
  3. Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin, 2016)
  4. Notes on Blindness (dir. Pete Middleton, 2016)
  5. Le Samourai (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
  6. I am Not a Serial Killer (dir. Billy O’Brien, 2016)
  7. Bridget Jones’s Diary (dir. Sharon Maguire, 2001)
  8. Keanu (dir. Peter Atencio, 2016)
  9. La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle, 2016)
  10. Train to Busan* (dir. Sang-ho Yeon, 2016)
  11. Don’t Breathe* (dir. Fede Alvarez, 2016)
  12. Nosferatu* (dir. F.W. Murnau, 1922)
  13. Carrie* (dir. Brian De Palma, 1976)
  14. Re-Animator* (dir. Stuart Gordon, 1985)
  15. Jack Frost* (dir. Michael Coon, 1997)
  16. Blair Witch* (dir. Adam Wingard, 2016)
  17. What We Did on Our Holiday (dir. Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, 2014)
  18. The Devils (dir. Ken Russell, 1971)
  19. Eddie the Eagle (dir. Dexter Fletcher, 2016)
  20. Chef (dir. Jon Favreau, 2014)
  21. The One I Love (dir. Charlie McDowell, 2014)
  22. Steve Jobs (dir. Danny Boyle, 2015)
  23. Manchester By The Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, 2016)
  24. The Killing (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
  25. In the Heat of the Night** (dir. Norman Jewison, 1967)
  26. Shakespeare in Love** (dir. John Madden, 1998)
  27. The Sting** (dir. George Roy Hill, 1973)
  28. Mutiny on the Bounty** (dir. Frank Lloyd, 1935)
  29. Patton** (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970)
  30. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (dir. Gareth Edwards, 2016)
  31. Little Men (dir. Ira Sachs, 2016)
  32. Julieta (dir. Pedro Almodovar, 2016)
  33. Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold, 2009)
  34. Spa Night (dir. Andrew Ahn, 2016)
  35. 1984 (dir. Michael Radford, 1984)***
  36. 10 Rillington Place (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1971)***
  37. 44 Inch Chest (dir. Malcolm Venville, 2009)***
  38. Watership Down (dir. Martin Rosen, 1978)***
  39. Thelma and Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991)
  40. David Brent: Life on the Road (dir. Ricky Gervais, 2016)
  41. The Fits (dir. Anna Rose Holmer, 2015)
  42. The Magnificent Seven (dir. Antoine Fuqua, 2016)
  43. Hello, My Name is Doris (dir. Michael Showalter, 2016)
  44. Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade, 2016)
  45. Manhattan (dir. Woody Allen, 1979)
  46. The Clan (dir. Pablo Trapero, 2015)
  47. Black Sheep (dir. Jonathan King, 2016)
  48. T2: Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle, 2017)
  49. Florence Foster Jenkins (dir. Stephen Frears, 2016)
  50. Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (dir. Kihachi Okamoto, 1970)
  51. The Girl with All the Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy, 2016)
  52. Hidden Figures (dir. Theodore Melfi, 2016)
  53. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (dir. Eli Craig, 2010)
  54. The Secret of the Kells (dir. Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey, 2009)
  55. Ixcanul (dir. Jayro Bustamante, 2015)****
  56. Aquarius (dir. Kleber Mendonca, 2016)****
  57. The Club**** (dir. Pablo Larrain, 2015)
  58. Los Olvidados**** (dir. Luis Bunuel, 1950)
  59. El Topo **** (dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)
  60. Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele, 2017)
  61. Wrinkles (dir. Ignacio Ferreras, 2011)
  62. Logan (dir. James Mangold, 2017)
  63. The Taking of Pelham 123 (dir. Joseph Sargent, 1974)
  64. Laura (dir. Otto Preminger, 1944)
  65. L’Age d’Or (dir. Luis Bunuel, 1930)
  66. Battleship Potemkin (dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein, 1925)
  67. Sausage Party (dir. Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon, 2016)
  68. Love and Death on Long Island (dir. Richard Kwietniowski, 1997)
  69. Moana ^(dir. Ron Clements, Chris Williams, Don Hall, John Musker, 2016)
  70. Sleepless in Seattle^ (dir. Nora Ephron, 1993)
  71. Paris is Burning^ (dir. Jennie Livingstone, 1990)
  72. Sixteen Candles^ (dir. John Hughes, 1984)
  73. National Treasure: Book of Secrets^ (dir. Jon Turteltaub, 2007)
  74. Like Crazy^ (dir. Drake Doremus, 2011)
  75. Kong: Skull Island (dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, 2017)
  76. I am Not Your Negro (dir. Raoul Peck, 2016)
  77. Beginners (dir. Mike Mills, 2010)
  78. Godzilla (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1954)
  79. Tabloid (dir. Errol Morris, 2010)
  80. A Matter of Life and Death (dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946)
  81. Pink Narcissus (dir. James Bidgood, 1971)
  82. The Devil Rides Out (dir. Terence Fisher, 1968)
  83. Somm (dir. Jason Wise, 2012)
  84. I Live in Fear (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1955)
  85. White God (dir. Kornel, Mundruczo, 2014)
  86. Super Fly (dir. Gordon Parks Jnr., 1972)
  87. Foxy Brown (dir. Jack Hill, 1974)
  88. Black Belt Jones (dir. Robert Clouse, 1974)
  89. Blacula (dir. William Crain, 1972)
  90. Three the Hard Way (dir. Gordon Parks Jnr., 1974)
  91. The Mack (dir. Michael Campus, 1973)
  92. Whale Rider (dir. Niki Caro, 2002)
  93. Dragon (dir. Peter Ho-Sun Chan, 2011)
  94. The Love Witch (dir. Anna Biller, 2016)
  95. Distant Voices, Still Lives (dir. Terence Davis, 1988)
  96. Headhunters (dir. Morten Tyldum, 2011)
  97. Dead Ringers (dir. David Cronenberg, 1988)
  98. Love is Colder Than Death (dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1969)
  99. The Red Shoes (dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
  100. La Promesse (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 1996)
  101. Lion (dir. Garth Davis, 2016)
  102. To Kill a Mockingbird (dir. Robert Mulligan, 1962)
  103. Fences (dir. Denzel Washington, 2016)
  104. Theeb (dir. Naji Abu Nowar, 2014)
  105. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (dir. Lotte Reiniger & Carl Koch, 1926)
  106. Shaun the Sheep (dir. Mark Burton & Richard Starzak, 2015)
  107. Kirikou and the Sorceress (dir. Michel Ocelot & Raymond Burlet, 1998)
  108. Ghost in the Shell (dir. Mamoru Oshii, 1995)
  109. Corpse Bride (dir. Tim Burton, 2005)
  110. The Iron Giant (dir. Brad Bird, 1999)
  111. 20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills, 2016)
  112. The Fate of the Furious (dir. F. Gary Gray, 2017)
  113. Free Fire (dir. Ben Wheatley, 2016)
  114. Eyes Without a Face (dir. Georges Franju, 1960)
  115. Room 237 (dir. Rodney Ascher, 2012)
  116. Mifune: the Last Samurai (dir. Steven Okazaki, 2015)
  117. Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2016)
  118. Stagecoach (dir. John Ford, 1939)
  119. The Assassin (dir. Hsiao-Hsien Hou, 2015)
  120. Black Girl (dir. Ousmane Sembene, 1966)

*=Horror Week

**Best Picture Oscar Winners Week

***John Hurt Week

****Latin American Cinema Week

^ Wifey’s Choice Week

Blaxploitation Week

Animation Week

 

Ten Best of the Year So Far…

Your Name

The Fits

Le Samourai

The Devils

Train to Busan

I Live in Fear

Los Olvidados

El Topo

In the Heat of the Night

Get Out

This month was always going to be more about quantity over quality, that’s not to say I didn’t see some excellent features, or that I saw many turkey’s, but it’s telling that none of the films watched this month cracked the top 10 of the year, despite this being the most productive month in terms of volume of films watched.

That’ll do it for this month, I need to go check to make sure my wife hasn’t left me yet…

Can’t wait a month to see how I’m getting on? You can follow my progress film-by-film on Twitter, @clancyhighhat.

365 Movies, 365 Days- February

Inspired by the Doug Benson Movie Challenge, I attempt to watch 365 movies over the calendar year of 2017. Any genre of film is eligible, including documentaries and Netflix originals, as long as it’s something I haven’t seen before (you’ll have to trust me on that). The hope is I can cross off some films I’ve been dying to see for ages but have never gotten round to, as well as discover some gems I might never have come across otherwise.

As a fun little twist, every couple of weeks I will be drawing a random genre/category of film to focus on for the week’s viewing. This should hopefully keep things fresh.

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Now that you’re all up to speed, let’s move on to round 2…

February

This Month’s List

  1. Julieta (dir. Pedro Almodovar, 2016)
  2. Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold, 2009)
  3. Spa Night (dir. Andrew Ahn, 2016)
  4. 1984 (dir. Michael Radford, 1984)***
  5. 10 Rillington Place (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1971)***
  6. 44 Inch Chest (dir. Malcolm Venville, 2009)***
  7. Watership Down (dir. Martin Rosen, 1978)***
  8. Thelma and Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991)
  9. David Brent: Life on the Road (dir. Ricky Gervais, 2016)
  10. The Fits (dir. Anna Rose Holmer, 2015)
  11. The Magnificent Seven (dir. Antoine Fuqua, 2016)
  12. Hello, My Name is Doris (dir. Michael Showalter, 2016)
  13. Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade, 2016)
  14. Manhattan (dir. Woody Allen, 1979)
  15. The Clan (dir. Pablo Trapero, 2015)
  16. Black Sheep (dir. Jonathan King, 2016)
  17. T2: Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle, 2017)
  18. Florence Foster Jenkins (dir. Stephen Frears, 2016)
  19. Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (dir. Kihachi Okamoto, 1970)
  20. The Girl with All the Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy, 2016)
  21. Hidden Figures (dir. Theodore Melfi, 2016)
  22. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (dir. Eli Craig, 2010)
  23. The Secret of the Kells (dir. Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey, 2009)
  24. Ixcanul (dir. Jayro Bustamante, 2015)****
  25. Aquarius (dir. Kleber Mendonca Filho, 2016)****

***John Hurt Week

**** Latin American Cinema Week

 

Week 1

February got off to a slow start, with just three films watched in the first week of the month. Spa Night was interesting enough, but some 28 days later I’m struggling to remember much about it. Julieta is one of Pedro Almodovar’s more straight-faced efforts, while still bearing a lot of his classic hallmarks, very powerful stuff. Fish Tanks was a great piece of modern British social drama. Michael Fassbender’s star quality was obvious to see even in this early role.

Week 2- John Hurt Week

Was delighted for this category to be drawn at random, as I’ve always been a massive fan of John Hurt. He has a voice you just want to hear read you a story as you fall asleep and I was deeply sadden to learn he had passed away. I kicked things off with 1984, probably his biggest role that I hadn’t already seen. The times being what they are, the film still feels frighteningly relevant, and it was nice to see Hurt playing something a little more restrained than I’m use to. 10 Rillington Place, is a pretty fantastic and unsettling thriller, although Richard Attenborough has to take most of the credit for this. 44 Inch Chest is pretty rubbish, with an inexplicably anticlimatic conclusion, but Hurt is probably the best thing in this, his repressed, explosive Old Man Peanut turns swearing into an art form. Would have liked to have seen more than four films in this week, but sadly life got in the way, putting me further behind and in need of a catch up week…

Week 3

Ah bless the long haul flight, coming to the rescue for the second month in a row. The variety of options wasn’t quite as strong but it was nice to catch up on some light fluff like The Magnificent Seven remake (a million more bullets than the original, a fraction of the charm), and Florence Foster Jenkins (feel good but forgettable). I also targeted shorter films in an effort to close the gap quicker, which led me to the quite excellent The Fits on Amazon Prime Video: a unique twist on the coming of age story, an examination on the power of peer pressure, and tremendous performances and camerawork. Not bad for 72 minutes. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Toni Erdmann, an excruciatingly cringe-worthy, nearly three hour German comedy that had no business in working but totally did.

Week 4- Latin American Cinema Week

Will continue into March, but got off to a strong start with Guatamala’s Ixcanul and Brazilian effort AquariusIxcanul has an interesting dynamic of traditional, folk stories versus the harsh realities of the modern world, it plays out like a tragicomedy but the drama is never undercut. Aquarius shares DNA strands with Toni Erdmann, an aging, larger-than-life protagonist struggling to adapt to the harsh realities of living in the real world. It plays it straight faced as opposed to Erdmann’s excrutiating comedy, but it is just as compelling.

 

Highlights

Lots and lots of great stuff; The Secret of the Kells boasts some of the most delightful, intricate animation- Cartoon Saloon is a real standout animation studio- and encorporating traditional Irish folktales really works for it. I took a group of teenagers to see Hidden Figures, and it was a real treat to see them get the story in all the right ways. I was also lucky enough to catch T2: Trainspotting in the homeland, and while the film doesn’t quite capture the ferucious energy of the first film, I really liked that the characters felt like they had aged in the twenty years they’ve been offscreen.

Low Points

As much as I’ve enjoyed the work of Ricky Gervais in the past, David Brent: Life on the Road really is the pits. A pointless, mirthless follow up to the excellent The Office which recaptures none of the magic from the series. Gervais’ regular writing partner Stephen Merchant did not collaborate on this project and boy oh boy was his presence missed.

I found Manhattan to be a particularly tough watch. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Woody Allen’s work prior to this, but it’s very tough to root for Woody as he spends most of the film trying to convince his friends (and presumably his audience) that it’s ok he’s dating a 17 year old. Could just about be forgiven if not for Allen’s dodgy, real-life antics, but nah mate, not having that.

John Hurt week feels a little bit like a missed opportunity, admittedly I’d already seen his most famous roles, but other than 10 Rillington Place, nothing really stood out. Would have liked to have delved deeper with his films, but time got the better of me.

Performance(s) of the Month

Too many to nail down just one, but it was a stellar month for the younger performers. Katie Jarvis brings an aggressive fragility in Fish Tank, it is a perfect balance for a role that divides audience’s sympathies. Sennia Nanua delivers a similarly divisive performance in The Girl With All the Gifts, her infected Melanie is relentlessly chirpy and eager to help, with an underlying malevolencethe-fits. The marvellously named Royalty Hightower may just top these two performances with her very physical performance in The Fits. With limited dialogue, Hightower manages to relay a great depth of emotion through movement and facial expressions, a very mature performance from a promising young talent.

 

Not to be upstaged by the youngsters, there were plenty of great performances from the grown ups. Pretty much the entire cast of Hidden Figures deserve credit for telling a story that is historically important and interesting, but never feels overly weighty. Sonia Braga is quite wonderful in Aquarius, as fierce and fearless as any celluloid heroine. And the month would not be complete without mention of Richard Attenborough’s chilling portrayal of real life serial killer Charlie in 10 Rillington Place. Slimey, calculating, and manipulative, he manages to upstage John Hurt (no easy feat) and elevates the thriller from decent to excellent.

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Richard Attenborough is a right bastard in 10 Rillington Place.

 

Top 5 of the Month (in no particular order)

The Fits

Julieta

10 Rillington Place

Toni Erdmann

Aquarius

The Year So Far

Breakdown by Decade

2010’s- 34

2000’s- 4

1990’s- 3

1980’s- 2

1970’s- 8

1960’s- 2

1950’s- 1

1940’s- 0

1930’s- 1

1920’s- 1

Days to film ratio

59 days gone and 56 films watched so far, this month showed if nothing else how easy it is to fall behind if you’re not on top of things. Will have to close the gap in March.

Total minutes of film watching

6063 minutes of film watching in two months, that’s over 100 hours, slightly over 4 days spent on this…feels like a lot when you see it written down.

Films by the Nations

USA- 30

UK- 16

France- 4

Japan- 2

Ireland- 2

Germany- 2

Spain- 2

Brazil- 2

South Korea- 1

Greece- 1

Netherlands- 1

Austria- 1

Switzerland- 1

Romania- 1

Argentina- 1

New Zealand- 1

Belgium- 1

Guatemala- 1

Some films are co-produced by multiple nations, which explains why the numbers may not add up.

Recurring Directors

Danny Boyle- 2 (Steve Jobs, T2: Trainspotting)

 

The complete list so far…

  1. The Good Dinosaur (dir. Peter Sohn, 2015)
  2. Your Name (dir. Makoto Shinkai, 2016)
  3. Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin, 2016)
  4. Notes on Blindness (dir. Pete Middleton, 2016)
  5. Le Samourai (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
  6. I am Not a Serial Killer (dir. Billy O’Brien, 2016)
  7. Bridget Jones’s Diary (dir. Sharon Maguire, 2001)
  8. Keanu (dir. Peter Atencio, 2016)
  9. La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle, 2016)
  10. Train to Busan* (dir. Sang-ho Yeon, 2016)
  11. Don’t Breathe* (dir. Fede Alvarez, 2016)
  12. Nosferatu* (dir. F.W. Murnau, 1922)
  13. Carrie* (dir. Brian De Palma, 1976)
  14. Re-Animator* (dir. Stuart Gordon, 1985)
  15. Jack Frost* (dir. Michael Coon, 1997)
  16. Blair Witch* (dir. Adam Wingard, 2016)
  17. What We Did on Our Holiday (dir. Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, 2014)
  18. The Devils (dir. Ken Russell, 1971)
  19. Eddie the Eagle (dir. Dexter Fletcher, 2016)
  20. Chef (dir. Jon Favreau, 2014)
  21. The One I Love (dir. Charlie McDowell, 2014)
  22. Steve Jobs (dir. Danny Boyle, 2015)
  23. Manchester By The Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, 2016)
  24. The Killing (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
  25. In the Heat of the Night** (dir. Norman Jewison, 1967)
  26. Shakespeare in Love** (dir. John Madden, 1998)
  27. The Sting** (dir. George Roy Hill, 1973)
  28. Mutiny on the Bounty** (dir. Frank Lloyd, 1935)
  29. Patton** (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970)
  30. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (dir. Gareth Edwards, 2016)
  31. Little Men (dir. Ira Sachs, 2016)
  32. Julieta (dir. Pedro Almodovar, 2016)
  33. Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold, 2009)
  34. Spa Night (dir. Andrew Ahn, 2016)
  35. 1984 (dir. Michael Radford, 1984)***
  36. 10 Rillington Place (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1971)***
  37. 44 Inch Chest (dir. Malcolm Venville, 2009)***
  38. Watership Down (dir. Martin Rosen, 1978)***
  39. Thelma and Louise (dir. Ridley Scott, 1991)
  40. David Brent: Life on the Road (dir. Ricky Gervais, 2016)
  41. The Fits (dir. Anna Rose Holmer, 2015)
  42. The Magnificent Seven (dir. Antoine Fuqua, 2016)
  43. Hello, My Name is Doris (dir. Michael Showalter, 2016)
  44. Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade, 2016)
  45. Manhattan (dir. Woody Allen, 1979)
  46. The Clan (dir. Pablo Trapero, 2015)
  47. Black Sheep (dir. Jonathan King, 2016)
  48. T2: Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle, 2017)
  49. Florence Foster Jenkins (dir. Stephen Frears, 2016)
  50. Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (dir. Kihachi Okamoto, 1970)
  51. The Girl with All the Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy, 2016)
  52. Hidden Figures (dir. Theodore Melfi, 2016)
  53. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (dir. Eli Craig, 2010)
  54. The Secret of the Kells (dir. Tomm Moore & Nora Twomey, 2009)
  55. Ixcanul (dir. Jayro Bustamante, 2015)****
  56. Aquarius (dir. Kleber Mendonca, 2016)****

*=Horror Week

**Best Picture Oscar Winners Week

***John Hurt Week

****Latin American Cinema Week

 

That’ll do it for this month, got some catching up to do in March, the last thing I want is for that gap to increase even further. Better get back to it…

Can’t wait a month to see how I’m getting on? You can follow my progress film-by-film on Twitter, @clancyhighhat.

 

365 Movies, 365 Days- January

Inspired by the Doug Benson Movie Challenge, I attempt to watch 365 movies over the calendar year of 2017. Any genre of film is eligible, including documentaries and Netflix originals, as long as it’s something I haven’t seen before (you’ll have to trust me on that). The hope is I can cross off some films I’ve been dying to see for ages but have never gotten round too, as well as discover some gems I might never have come across otherwise.

As a fun little twist, every couple of weeks I will be drawing a random genre/category of film to focus on for the week’s viewing. This should hopefully keep things fresh.

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With the rules out of the way, on with the show…

January

The List So Far…

  1. The Good Dinosaur (dir. Peter Sohn, 2015)
  2. Your Name (dir. Makoto Shinkai, 2016)
  3. Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin, 2016)
  4. Notes on Blindness (dir. Pete Middleton, 2016)
  5. Le Samourai (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)
  6. I am Not a Serial Killer (dir. Billy O’Brien, 2016)
  7. Bridget Jones’s Diary (dir. Sharon Maguire, 2001)
  8. Keanu (dir. Peter Atencio, 2016)
  9. La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle, 2016)
  10. Train to Busan* (dir. Sang-ho Yeon, 2016)
  11. Don’t Breathe* (dir. Fede Alvarez, 2016)
  12. Nosferatu* (dir. F.W. Murnau, 1922)
  13. Carrie* (dir. Brian De Palma, 1976)
  14. Re-Animator* (dir. Stuart Gordon, 1985)
  15. Jack Frost* (dir. Michael Coon, 1997)
  16. Blair Witch* (dir. Adam Wingard, 2016)
  17. What We Did on Our Holiday (dir. Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, 2014)
  18. The Devils (dir. Ken Russell, 1971)
  19. Eddie the Eagle (dir. Dexter Fletcher, 2016)
  20. Chef (dir. Jon Favreau, 2014)
  21. The One I Love (dir. Charlie McDowell, 2014)
  22. Steve Jobs (dir. Danny Boyle, 2015)
  23. Manchester By The Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, 2016)
  24. The Killing (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
  25. In the Heat of the Night** (dir. Norman Jewison, 1967)
  26. Shakespeare in Love** (dir. John Madden, 1998)
  27. The Sting** (dir. George Roy Hill, 1973)
  28. Mutiny on the Bounty** (dir. Frank Lloyd, 1935)
  29. Patton** (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970)
  30. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (dir. Gareth Edwards, 2016)
  31. Little Men (dir. Ira Sachs, 2016)

*=Horror Week

**Best Picture Oscar Winners Week

Week 1

I wanted the first month of the year to be used as an excuse to catch up on all the films I missed from the year before, which is why there were 6 films from 2016 in my first week alone. A long haul flight allowed me to get a couple of days ahead of the curve, as well as gave me a chance to watch a film I had wanted to see for months, Makoto Shinkai’s spectacular Your Name. Even on a 10-inch screen the film’s beauty shone through, taking the traditional body-swap genre and turning it into something poetic, combined with gorgeous animation. Nothing else this week came close to matching it’s beauty, although La La Land was undeniably toe-tapping fun. A real treat if somewhat hollow.

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Your Name

Week 2- Horror Week

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Another mix of catching up with some of the bigger horror titles from 2016, mixed in with some classics. Horror is a broad enough category to allow me to explore around the sub-genres, sampling a mix of zombies, vampires, found footage and even some low budget nonsenseTimes change, and predictably the older films don’t quite hold up when it comes to out and out scares, but things like Nosferatu (framing), Carrie (studied in repressed teenage-angst) and Re-Animator (remarkable practical special effects) all had something to offer. Train to Busan was the highlight of the week. A relentless bloodbath of close-quarter rampaging zombies that still managed to include strong characters, subtext, and even a little heart.

Week 3

Back to a random mix, mostly selected for their watchable nature. What We Did On Our Holiday, Eddie the Eagle, and The One I Love were all enjoyable enough, but it’s unlikely I’ll remember any of them by the end of the 365 films. In contrast The Devils, Manchester By The Sea, and The Killing could all be in the ‘best of’ list at the end of the year.

img_2134Week 4- Best Picture Oscar Winners

This turned out to be tougher than expected. A quick Wiki search after the draw was made revealed I had already seen most of the Best Picture Films that were of interest to me. Shakespeare in Love was pretty much the most recent winner that I had not seen already and seemed like an easy enough choice (I’m not desperate enough to tackle A Beautiful Mind- not yet at least, and Chicago can wait until I draw the musicals category). The rest of the weeks viewings consisted of out and out classics; In the Heat of the Night deserved its nod for such a frank look at race relations in the south in the 1960’s, all the while touting the classic tropes of great film noir. The Sting is unashamedly good fun, although I’m shocked by how closely grifter movies have stuck to its template in the four decades that followed.

Highlights

By and large it’s been a great month; Your Name, Notes on Blindness, Train to Busan, La La Land and Manchester By The Sea all rank amongst the best of 2016. Le Samourai, In the Heat of the Night and The Killing represent three equally brilliant but very different crime thrillers, while The Devils was a blissful orgy of sinful decadence and religious hypocrisy.

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Notes on Blindness

Low Points

Nothing too disastrous thus far. Jack Frost and Bridget Jones’s Diary weren’t my cup of tea, but delivered exactly what I was expecting from them.  Keanu was a fun enough watch, but failed to produce any substantial laughs and so has to be classed a failure. As does Don’t Breathe, which I had high hopes for and was impeccably directed by Fede Alvarez, but disappointingly never got me to the edge of my seat. The curse of high(ish) expectations strikes for the first (and presumably not last) time this year.

Performance of the Month

Many standouts once again, Charles Laughton is irresistibly despicable as Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty, a performance that renders his grotesque make-up work redundant. Pretty much everyone in  Manchester By The Sea deserves praise for managing to carry the weigh of grief and mourning present in the film while still managing to breathe life and even fragments of humour into proceedings. But there is one performance than stands head and shoulders above the rest; Oliver Reed’s lung bursting, scenery munching, put-upon Clergyman Urbain Grandier. The entire film is operatic decadence of the highest order, thanks in no small part to his powerhouse performance.

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Oliver Reed’s Urbain Grandier takes a break from chewing the scenery to take confession in The Devils

Top 5 of the Month (in no particular order)

Your Name

Le Samourai

Train to Busan

The Devils

In the Heat of the Night

Breakdown by Decade

2010’s- 18

2000’s- 1

1990’s- 2

1980’s- 1

1970’s- 4

1960’s- 2

1950’s- 1

1940’s- 0

1930’s- 1

1920’s- 1

Days to Film Ratio

Pretty much 1:1 so far which I can’t complain about, although I was hoping to open up a bit of a head start in the first month while I’m still fresh. Come May I will be working much longer hours until the end of August so it will be important to get ahead of the schedule by then to give me a fighting chance of finishing the year at 365.

That’ll do for this month, tune in same time at the end of February.

You can also track my progress in (almost) realtime over on Twitter. Be sure to send me any suggestions for films you think I might like.

Cheers

Coming Soon…Hail, Caesar!

A wee look at films to get excited about in 2016.

josh brolin

Hedda Hopper (Tilda Swinton) and Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) are in a tight spot in Hail, Caesar, the latest offering from Joel and Ethan Coen.

Directed by:- Joel and Ethan Coen, the deadpan, creative geniuses behind Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O’Brother Where Art Thou, and No Country for Old Men.

Who’s in it:- A glut of talentincluding previous Coen collaborators George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson and Josh Brolin, as well as Channing Tatum (he’s so hot right now), Jonah Hill, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and (perhaps most intriguingly) Dolph Lundgren. An embarrassment of riches!

What’s it about:- Set at the tail end of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannixa former private eye turned problem solver for one of the big studios. The film follows a day in the life of Mannix as he struggles to keep a variety of scandals out of the tabloids, not least the fact that world famous actor Baird Whitlock (Clooney) has been kidnapped while filming the studio’s next big epic; Hail, Caesar.

Reasons to be excited:- I’ll resist the urge to simply say it’s a new film from the Coen brothers (although, c’mon! What more reason do you need?!?). The two trailers that have been released show the Coens playing completely to their strengths; razor-sharp word play, an assortment of eccentric characters, and heavy leanings towards classic farce. We know from Barton Fink that the brothers can offer a scathingly satirical look at the Hollywood studio process, and The Big Lebowski proves they can do irrelevant investigative narratives. Combine the two and we should have something pretty special. And tell me that the combination of Ralph Fiennes- apparently channeling Monsieur Gustave from The Grand Budapest Hotel and the Coen’s tongue twisting dialogue is not a match made in heavenAlso, it’s a new film from the Coen brothers.

When’s it out:- 5th February in the US and Canada, 4th March in UK and Ireland. The film will also open this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, getting its UK Premiere at the opening night gala on 17th February.

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Hail, Clooney! George plays the role of kidnapped Hollywood star, Baird Whitlock.

 

 

The Other Film of the Year:- The Pyramid Texts

Timbuktu is a masterful film, and a well deserved film of the year, but its place comes with an asterisk, as it must share the title of the High Hat Film of the Year with The Pyramid Texts, a remarkable offering from the Shammasian brothers.

Denied a spot on our Top 10 rundown due to not getting a full cinematic release in the UK in 2015, the film was a standout at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, and has been quietly doing the rounds at select screening across the country.

On paper the film shouldn’t work; the entire film takes place within the walls of a boxing gym, as James Cosmo delivers a 97 minute soliloquy on life, regret, responsibility, fear and, of course, boxing. The fact that it not only holds the attention for the runtime, but possesses such an emotional gut punch is testament to Geoff Thompson’s incredible script, and the performance from Cosmo, who is nothing short of a revelation.

There have been many films in recent years that have focused on a single character, from Castaway to Locke, 127 Hours to Buried, but while these films used additional cameos, expositional phone -calls and charismatic volleyballs to fill in the gaps, with The Pyramid Texts there is a just a man with a camera and overwhelming need to share his thoughts. A truly heart-breaking, captivating and mesmerising cinematic experience.

Click here to read my full, 5-star review of The Pyramid Texts for the Telstar Film Review

 

Top 10 Films of 2015/Number 1/Timbuktu

A moving piece of African cinema, Abderrahmane Sissako’s well balanced depiction of the Malian city taken over by Islamic extremists may very well be the most important film of 2015.

A frank and bold depiction of how life has changed under Jihadist rule, Sissako shows how elements of a free society- how we dress, who we socialise with, what music we listen to- are taken from these people. Their strict regulations seems ridiculous, until the punishments for disobeying begin. Only then is the true barbarity of the situation fully realised. Sissako skilfully links these overarching views of society with the tragic personal story of a cattle-herder, and an altercation with his fisherman neighbour, giving his commentary a personal touch.

There are moments of quiet beauty scattered throughout, as the people of Timbuktu attempt to carry on their lives as normally as possible, with their own individual little rebellions. A game of football, minus the ball, is the film’s centrepiece and works perfectly as a much needed slice of comic relief, as well as a minor act of protest.

Perhaps Sissako’s bravest decision is his attempt to put a human face on the extremists. It would be all too easy to paint these men as the personification of pure evil, instead he takes the time to explore their motivations (a conversation between one of the Jihadist leaders and a local Mosque elder is particularly eye-opening). Some are misguided religious zealots, some disenfranchised, angry young men. It’s a gutsy decision to attempt to humanise them, but it is done not in an attempt to create sympathy, but rather to expose their hypocrisy.

It makes for an outstanding and understated piece of cinema, one that is in no way preachy, but rather lays bear all the facts with heartbreaking earnest. Essential viewing and an massively deserving film of the year.

2015’s Honourable Mentions and Unspeakable Failures

Before we announce our film of the year for 2015, we take a quick look back at some of the numerous honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the Top 10, as well as shame some of the regrettable stinkers.

Honourable Mentions

Ex Machina:- Alex Garland’s directorial debut aimed big, with lots of deep and profound conversations about the evolution of artificial intelligence. Great performances from Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac make this triple header jump off the screen.

Inherent Vice:- Often baffling, occasionally maddening, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is a befuddling, intoxicating slice of nihilistic neo-noir.

Uzumasa Limelight:- Ken Ochiai’s loving tribute to old Samurai dramas, telling the story of an ageing extra who has spent his career dying in elaborate ways onscreen. Melancholic and poignant. Would have made the top 10 but wasn’t given a wide release in the UK in 2015.

Click here to read my full review of Uzumasa Limelight for The Telstar Film Review

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Love is Strange:- John Lithgow and Alfred Molina exhibit a delightful chemistry in this charming, and quietly heart-breaking, love story.

Still Alice:- A respectful examination of living with Alzheimer’s disease, a worthy look at an important subject matter. Is there anything more distressing than watching the lovely Julianne Moore slowly lose her memory?

Click here to read my full review of Still Alice for The Telstar Film Review

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Midnight:- Worth recognition on the list for it’s use of White Lies’ Death alone, as it happens there is plenty more to appreciate in this superb Iranian vampire film.

a girl walks home

Love and Mercy:- Paul Dano is always terrific. Paul Giamatti can play sleazy scumbag in his sleep. Elizabeth Banks shows surprising depth. Brings the music of The Beach Boys to life in glorious fashion.

Girlhood:- The standout coming-of-age film of the year, with remarkable performances from its young cast. As honest a depiction of urban teenage life as you are likely to see.

Song of the Sea:- The other standout animated film of the year. A beautiful Irish folk tale, animated like a pop-up book come to life.

song of the sea

 

Worst of the Worst

Unfinished Business:- Charmless, witless, pointless. Poor Tom Wilkinson

Home:- A decent premise beaten into submission by a relentlessly terrible, poptastic soundtrack from J-Lo and Rihanna.

Danny Collins:- Al Pacino channels his inner Alan Partridge. Nowhere near as funny as it sounds.

Pixels:- A promising (if unoriginal) idea completely destroyed by the hubris of Adam Sandler.

Captive:- Condescending and uninteresting Bible-bashing thriller makes waste of its talented cast.

Top 10 Films of 2015/Number 2/Inside Out

Representing so much more than a return to form for Pixar, Inside Out felt like an amalgamation of all the fine work that has proceeded it, combining all the things that have made their previous films so special and creating something quite remarkable.

Beautifully rendered, impeccably voiced, thoughtful, hilarious, heartbreaking, there aren’t enough superlatives to do justice to Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen’s emotional story. It is a simple enough concept, looking at the living embodiment of the feelings that dwell in a young girls head, and examine how their interactions affect her in the real world.

But it is the loving attention to detail on every level which really brings the film to life. A movie theatre that creates dreams, a train of thought that is a literal train, the Abstract Thought Chamber, every inch of Riley’s brain has been thought out and meticulously planned within an inch of its life.

Positively bursting with hilarious and ingenious gags and requiring multiple viewings to fully appreciate the full extent of the creativity on display. A useful tool to help young viewers understand their emotions, and to help adults reconnect with their childlike innocence. It is quite possibly Pixar’s most accomplished film to date. High praise indeed.

 

Read my full review for The Telstar Film Review

http://telstar-film.com/2015/07/24/review-inside-out/

Top 10 Films of 2015/Number 3/Whiplash

Let’s start with the obvious; J.K. Simmons is a revelation in his Oscar winning turn as lunatic big band leader Terence Fletcher. The comparisons to Full Metal Jacket‘s Gunnery sergeant Hartman are predictable, but fitting, as Fletcher turns his classroom into a battleground, where shellshocked pupils compete for spots in his band. It is an unforgettable turn, gleefully spitting out scattergun expletives and nerve-shredding put-downs with devastating effect.

There is more to the film than this charismatic bully, and Simmons’ co-stars, so often overlooked, deserve their share of the credit. It was a star-making turn for Miles Teller as drum-idol Andrew Neiman, whose transformation from mild-mannered daddy’s boy to knuckle-bleeding obsessive drives the film’s narrative. Melissa Benoist also stands out despite limit screen time, putting in a charming turn as Andrew’s love-interest Nicole. Their breakup scene is as heart-breaking as it is awkward, one of the quiet highlights in an otherwise explosive film.

One of Whiplash‘s real triumphs is how director Damien Chazelle has managed to make a film about jazz drumming so cinematic. The music is unsurprisingly crisp, making believers out of even the strictness non-Jazz fans. There is a real pleasure to the visuals too. Bathed in a golden hue, Chazelle revels in close-ups of the instruments; the tightening of cymbals, the emptying of spit valves, the plucking of violin strings, the pleasure is really in the detail. Far more than a one-trick pony, Whiplash is a well rounded labour of love.

Click here to listen to the Whiplash Hall of Fame episode of the High Hat Film Podcast