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Blogs I Enjoy: Cinematic Corner, and Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions

It’s time for another edition of Blogs I Enjoy, a feature in which I spotlight a couple of great movie blogs I follow.

Skärmavbild 2013-02-15 kl. 11.25.18

Cinematic Corner is hands down the best-looking movie blog I subscribe to. It’s run by Sati, and she keeps her blog filled with gorgeous graphics, coherent design, and animated GIFs that support her writing rather than distract from it. She goes far beyond just throwing a bunch of screenshots into her posts; rather, every image fully looks as though it belongs alongside everything else. A rare quality. Fortunately, Cinematic Corner is not all flash no substance, as the writing is certainly solid. Sati singles out performances and scenes she loves, writes reviews, and has a slew of other recurring features running. A blog well worth taking a look at. And another.

Skärmavbild 2013-02-15 kl. 11.25.33

If there’s a movie blog out there with a more intriguing name than Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions, it’s certainly not on my radar. This is the home of Mette, self-described “part Dane part German”, who’s a firm devotee of Hindi cinema. As such, you’re likely to hear about films you might not have heard about otherwise if you follow her writing. That’s not all she talks about though; there’s just as much discussion about Hollywood movies, classics, and films from lots of different places in time and space. She has an ongoing project where she’s making her way through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, and recently started a blogathon on Oscar snubs with the awesome name The SONSOFBITCHES Snubathon. Mette writes with her own unique voice, and it’s a pleasure to read what she has to say.

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Posted by on 15 February, 2013 in Blogs I Enjoy, Links

 

Self-plug – A first impression of Netflix Sweden

Did you know that Sweden only just got Netflix this week? If you didn’t, you do now. I signed up for its trial period and made some tweets about my experience with the service. Joel Burman, the guy in charge of The Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB), saw this and asked me to write a review of Netflix for the LAMB site. Which I did. You can find the post here. For Swedes, it might be helpful if you’re on the fence about signing up. For Americans, it might be eye-opening to see the differences between Netflix in the US and in Sweden. For others… I don’t know. Maybe you’ll find it interesting.

http://www.largeassmovieblogs.com/2012/10/a-first-impression-of-netflix-sweden.html

 
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Posted by on 19 October, 2012 in Links, Self-plug

 

Blogs I Enjoy: And So It Begins and Flickers

It’s time for another edition of Blogs I Enjoy, a feature in which I spotlight a couple of great movie blogs I follow.

And So It Begins is the home of Alex Withrow, a movie-lover who has a real knack for writing. His blog is full of fun and informative content, with plenty of features I enjoy reading. I recently spent some time going through his series called the Directors, in which he’ll go through a director’s entire filmography and offer thoughts on each outing; through this, I found plenty of stuff to add to my rental queue. After all, even highly acclaimed directors like Martin Scorsese have films that aren’t talked about very often. Another feature on And So It Begins that I enjoy is In Character, which singles out the best performances from selected character actors – yet another useful way to discover new movies. Alex also writes reviews, lists, and other cool stuff you expect to find at a film blog.

Flickers recently moved from Blogger to WordPress, and picked up its own domain in the transfer. A new beginning of sorts for blogger Dave, and thus it seems appropriate that he’d get some new readers as well. Like me, Dave keeps a more leisurely pace when it comes to updates compared to most movie bloggers. That’s perfectly fine; real life does get in the way of pastimes every now and then, and it only means that a new post on Flickers feels like a pleasant surprise, or a rare treat. Dave’s taste in films is eerily similar to my own, moreso than any other blogger I’ve encountered, to the point where just an appearance on one of his Best of the Year lists is enough for me to immediately add a film to my rental queue on high priority. He also recently started a promising new series called Junior Film School, where he’ll be introducing his kids to the world of cinema. The first entry on Ghostbusters was a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to the next installment. Oh, and he’s a teriffic writer too! One of those people I’m really glad I’ve discovered.

For more wonderful film blogs, check out the Blogroll in the sidebar to the right. They’re all worthy of your attention.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on 3 May, 2012 in Blogs I Enjoy, Links

 

Self-plug – From Book to Screen: Bret Easton Ellis

I recently wrote a post for Flickchart: The Blog about the different film adaptations there have been of Bret Easton Ellis‘ books so far – Less Than Zero, American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction, and The Informers. It’s similar to a series called The Book and the Movie that I’ve done at this blog from time to time. I look at what has changed in the transition from page to screen, what works, and what doesn’t.

Please do give it a read. It can be found right here:
http://www.flickchart.com/blog/from-book-to-screen-bret-easton-ellis/

 
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Posted by on 26 April, 2012 in Books, Links

 

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An introduction to the Flickchart world of ranking films

A while ago, I found myself staring at my computer screen, furrowing my brow, tilting my head from one side to the other. Flickchart.com had just told me to choose between Blue Valentine and Before Sunset. Two movies I really love, and I had to put one above the other. Do I go with all the wonderful conversations that are the core of Before Sunset? Or the powerful contrast between hope and dismay found in Blue Valentine? Should I take into account that Blue Valentine stands on its own better, whereas Before Sunset relies on its predecessor Before Sunrise to achieve its full impact? Or should Before Sunset be credited for achieving so much despite only being two people talking for 80 minutes? Should I just go with my gut-feeling? Which one would I rather watch right then and there? Reaching a decision took me a good five minutes, I reckon.

There are those who say that making ranked lists of movies is a pointless endeavor. Films should be judged by their own merits and not just in context of others, they might argue. My take on it is that context is something we always use when thinking about films. I saw The Gold Rush back in July, which was not only my first Charlie Chaplin film but also my first ever silent comedy. Did I like it? Yeah, I did. It was funny and charming. But it was very different from the types of films I had seen before. It took a while for me to get into its groove. It seems likely that my opinion of it will shift when I get around to seeing more Chaplin films, more 1920s films, and more silent films. As it is, I can still evaluate The Gold Rush strictly as a comedy and determine if I like it better or worse than, say, There’s Something About Mary. But as I haven’t seen anything quite like it, I can’t compare it to movies that are more closely related to it. Still, every movie we see, no matter what kind, gives us some degree of context against which to judge every other movie.

We rank movies all the time. Every time you give a film a review score of 8/10, you’re ranking it above every film you’ve given a 7/10 and below every film you’ve given a 9/10. When you call a movie the best of the year, you’re ranking it above all the other ones you saw that year. The issue people have with ranking, then, seems to be one more of degree than of concept. Any rating scale allows for a varying amount of ties. That 8/10 movie gets deemed to be in the same tier as all the other 8/10 movies. Are they all exactly equally good? Of course not. But the numerical rating is just a shorthand. If you write reviews, you hope that people will read the full text to find out what you thought about the film, which aspects worked for you and which didn’t. The score is just a quick summary. But when you go beyond these steps on your review scale to rank films, things can get very detailed. Too detailed for some.

Saying that Casablanca is better than Sucker Punch may be easy enough, but is it better than Pulp Fiction? “Oh, I couldn’t say. They’re so different.” Well, Casablanca is different from Sucker Punch too, and that didn’t stop you from proclaiming it superior. “Yeah, well, I can’t choose between Casablanca and Pulp Fiction. They’re both great. Ranking movies is stupid anyway.” Except when it’s easy, it seems.

This fictional conversation partner might have a point, however. Distilling all discussion on film to “good” or “bad” – and by extension “better” or “worse” – is reductive. I talked about this briefly in the opening of my blog post Noble Failures, where I argued that even overall bad films, or films we don’t like, can have parts or qualities that are worth discussing. “Good” and “bad”, like review scores, are just the sum total of everything we think about a movie. A useful shortcut in many cases, but we should be careful not to boil it down to this sum all the time. It’s a trap worth avoiding even when going into the specifics. The movie was “good”. Why? It had a “good” story and “good” acting. Why was the story good? Why was the acting good?

But for the purpose of ranking movies, we need these shorthands. Once you take everything about a movie into account, from technical merits and emotional impact to story, acting, how much it speaks to you as a person and everything else, you end up with your opinion of the film. Making a ranked list then becomes a matter of weighing this overall opinion against the opinion you have of other movies. Is your opinion of X stronger than your opinion of Y? If yes, is it stronger than your opinion of Z? And so on. Compiling a ranked list is to make a series of choices between different movies.

This is where Flickchart comes in.

Flickchart, the brainchild of Nathan Chase and Jeremy Thompson, is a website that presents you with two movies. Pick the one you like best. Now you get two more films. Pick again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you get a film you haven’t watched, you mark it as unseen and get another one instead. Eventually, you get recurring movies in new match-ups. If you like Trainspotting better than Fargo, and then Batman Begins better than Trainspotting, that means you like Batman Begins better than Fargo too. As you go along ranking on Flickchart – which can be devilishly addicting – the site compiles a list based on all your choices: your all-time list, from the very best to the very worst. Eventually, you will spot things that don’t look right. The first movie you pick to win a match-up will end up at the top of your list, and if that one doesn’t show up in match-ups for a while, it will sit at #1. Maybe it doesn’t belong there. You can then look up that film and re-rank it. This will pit it against the film at the center of your list. Is it better? Then it gets pitted against the film a quarter from the top. The halving process continues until the film has been placed at its opimal spot on your list. You can then go back to ranking films at random again, or keep fine-tuning your list by re-ranking individual movies.

A typical Flickchart match-up. Notice how your top 20 list is always staring you in the face as you rank? This is why most Flickcharters are obsessed with keeping their top 20 nice and tidy.

Should you pick the films you consider your favorites, or the ones you think are the best? This is a hot debate topic among Flickcharters. Some like to focus on a film’s objective qualities. Others favor a subjective line of thinking, going strictly for the films they enjoy more. A third group thinks that good films and films they like are one and the same. Flickchart doesn’t force you into either way of thinking, but lets you create your list according to your own parameters.

Choosing between two films can be hard. I’ve already mentioned Blue Valentine vs Before Sunset. What about Back to the Future vs Raiders of the Lost Ark? Or The Empire Strikes Back vs The Shawshank Redemption? The Breakfast Club vs Groundhog Day? How about a more unorthodox battle, like The Devil Wears Prada vs Saw? It can be equally tricky to decide between two so-so films, such as Charlie’s Angels vs Dan in Real Life. And just which is worse: Street Fighter or Super Mario Bros? Flickchart doesn’t allow for ties; there’s no Skip button (reloading the page will bring up a new match-up, but that’s not in the spirit of things.) One must always choose.

When you get tired of ranking random films, you can employ some of Flickchart’s various filters. You can choose to rank only films from the 1970s, or specify it further to 1977. Maybe you just want to rank action movies. Or Pixar films. Or Best Picture Oscar winners. If you just want to get new stuff on your chart, you can use the Unranked filter and only be presented with films you haven’t ranked yet. And if fine-tuning the top 20 on your chart is what you want to do, you can restrict your match-ups to just those 20 films as well.

A snippet of Flickchart's global chart

Flickchart offers plenty of other features too. Every match-up has a discussion page where you can leave a comment on your reasoning for your choice and see what other users have had to say. Then there’s the global charts, where the win percentages of all films are compared against each other to produce a list of Flickchart’s favorite films. Here too you can use filters to get specific information. You can also get recommendations on the best films you haven’t seen of various types. If you’ve added other users as your friends, Flickchart allows you to combine the rankings of you and them to find out what your combined favorite films are, or what the best films neither of you have seen yet are. New features are added frequently; the Flickchart of today has more bells and whistles than the one I joined a few years ago, and more is always on the horizon. But the core essence of pitting one film against another remains the same.

Is Flickchart a useful tool for making ranked lists? It can be, but you have to work at it. If you just rank random movies, getting anything fully accurate will take a very long time as a lot will hinge on getting “the right” match-ups. If you use the re-rank feature diligently, you can get something good going. That said, I don’t tend to look at Flickchart when I make my Top 10 lists here on the blog. The main reason is that my Flickchart isn’t in perfect order. During my time as a Flickchart member, I’ve picked winners in over 14000 match-ups, but there are still oddities on my list. Some films are way higher or lower than what feels right. Plus, I’m very fickle. From discussions with fellow Flickcharters, I know there are people who feel there is a perfect order for the movies they’ve seen. I’m of the mindset that my opinions can sway daily. I might pick the black comedy of The War of the Roses over One Hour Photo one day, only to find that the latter’s creepy atmosphere speaks more to me the day after. Movies drift in and out of my top 20 with ease, whereas other users keep a tight lock on their top spots. Different strokes.

Why do I keep using Flickchart then? Primarily, because it’s fun. It’s fun to just think about random films I’ve seen and discover what it is I really like about them, and seeing my list change and transform is oddly satisfying. It can also be a source of revelations about my viewing preferences. I might file a movie away as a 3/5 after first seeing it, only to later realize that I keep choosing it over films I thought I liked more. There are also more general observations to be made. For instance, I’ve never considered romance to be one of my favorite movie genres, and yet my Flickchart top 20 has a pretty high amount of them, all films I truly adore. Apparently, I do love me some well-made romances after all.

As you might gleam, there are many aspects, features and uses when it comes to Flickchart. Some use it as their primary way of keeping track of films they’ve seen. Others employ it to calculate their accurate ranking list of movies. Others still, like me, see it as an entertaining time-killer. Either way, it’s a site well worth checking out. You might just learn something about yourself. It made me realize I had a new favorite movie a while ago.

So go to Flickchart and start ranking. If you do, feel free to add me as your Flickchart friend at my profile page there.

Oh, and for the record:

Blue Valentine > Before Sunset
Casablanca > Pulp Fiction
Back to the Future > Raiders of the Lost Ark
Shawshank Redemption > Empire Strikes Back
Groundhog Day > The Breakfast Club
Saw > The Devil Wears Prada
Dan in Real Life > Charlie’s Angels
Street Fighter > Super Mario Bros

 
10 Comments

Posted by on 2 March, 2012 in Links

 

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A decent Oscars ceremony + a self-plug

Watching the Oscars ceremony is always a special feeling for me. No, not because they’re “magical” or anything like that. Rather, it’s because they start in the middle of the night in my timezone. I went to bed around 9 PM, eventually settled down to sleep, then woke up at 1:30 AM or so to get everything ready for the viewing experience. With few hours of sleep followed by a couple more hours staring at a screen, swapping between watching, tweeting and forum discussions, my eyes get a bit exhausted, as does my brain. It’s a state I don’t often find myself in apart from this one day of the year, so I kind of associate the Academy Awards with it. So with that in mind, I apologize in advance for any weird typos or rambling thoughts in this blog post.

I thought this year’s ceremony was… okay. Not great, not terrible, but okay. There was a lack of really special moments, and not all of the humor worked. But there wasn’t much outright bad about the proceedings. The whole thing moved at a fairly brisk pace, finding a suitable balance between giving people time to thank everyone and not enough to get boring. Billy Crystal as the host did a decent job. There were stretches were his presence wasn’t felt much even when he was on the screen, and he had a few awkward “waiting for applause” pauses, but he was kind of funny, kind of charming, and certainly a step up from the past two years’ hosting duos. And now I resume my hopes for Kevin Spacey to host next year. Or maybe Fred Willard?

Some random thoughts on the show:

  • Speech of the night: The long overdue Christopher Plummer. Such a charming and funny man. “You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?”
  • The Wizard of Oz focus group skit was quite funny, but more than anything, it was just a really pleasant surprise to see the Christopher Guest crew together again on my screen.
  • The Cirque du Soleil number was quite spectacular and impressive, though I question its relevance to the Oscars. The time could have been better spent elsewhere, I feel.
  • The interview montages with people talking about why they love movies were kind of a drag. No real insight or emotional impact was offered, so more than anything, this felt like padding.
  • Not everything in Crystal’s mind-reading spiel worked, but it was all worth it for the mumbling Nick Nolte bit which provided one of the few real laugh out loud moments of the broadcast for me.

I don’t have any strong personal feelings either way about what won and what didn’t, although I’m happy for all the winners. Respect and amiration from one’s peers is always great, so congratulations to everyone who went home with a statue. There were one or two real surprising announcements; sole non-BP nominee The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo picking up Best Editing was something few people had predicted, and I certainly did not see Meryl Streep‘s Best Actress win coming personally – she was always a possibility, but I still felt Viola Davis had that award fairly secured. Apart from those two, everything else fell within the realm of what could be expected. That’s not to say I did great with my predictions, ending up with 15 of the 24 categories right. An okay result, but not enough to win any pools or contests. It says something about how open many of the categories were when I can get 9 things wrong and still think there weren’t many proper shockers.

So now that the Oscars are in the books, Awards Season is officially over. Time to go back to my main interest: Movies.

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Oh! But before we move on, there is one more set of awards to take in: The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards. I talked a bit a while ago about being part of the nominating voters, and yesterday/tonight/today the winners were announced. There’s a post up about it on the Flickchart Blog where Ross Bonaime, Jandy Stone Hardesty and myself offer our thoughts on the categories. I think the internet will like our winners more than those of the Academy, so go have a look to end Awards Season on a highnote!

The 1st Annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards Winners

What did you think of the Oscars this year?

 
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Posted by on 27 February, 2012 in Links, Oscars

 

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Vote in the Flickchart film awards + My thoughts on being a nominator

I’m a (very infrequent) contributor to the Flickchart blog, and a while ago, we contributors came up with the idea to have our own awards for the films of 2011. Something similar to the Oscars, but with some different categories. As this was a spur-of-the-moment idea and the first time we ever did a thing like this, it was decided that the 17 blog contributors would vote to come up with the nominees, to keep things quick and easy. And quick and easy it was.

The second phase of the voting, in which the eventual winners will be crowned, is now open for everyone to participate in.

To vote in the 1st annual Flickcharters’ Choice Awards, click this link and follow the instructions. It’s open for everyone.

Full list of nominees as well my thoughts on being part of the nomination process after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 17 February, 2012 in Links

 

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