New Year’s Resolutions: Reading List for 2015 (Updated 3/13)

Hey everyone! It’s exciting to be back after taking a 2 1/2 week-break from blogging at All Eyes On Screen. I had a wonderful Christmas and fun New Year’s celebration with family and friends in both my hometown state of Illinois and my current residence in Wisconsin. While I was starting to take down all of my holiday decorations, I was thinking through all of the resolutions I have for this new year that has already started. Reviving All Eyes On Screen in 2014 was one of the most fulfilling and fun resolutions to accomplish. As I’m looking to the future, I hope to continue to update and improve All Eyes On Screen, from upping the quality of writing content, to publishing more posts on a consistent basis. I anticipate some major changes happening personally in my life over the next year, but I am hoping to learn to balance my time better, and regularly write for the site. With that all said, I do realize that breaks from writing will be inevitable and necessary to take from time to time; however, I will be aiming to publish posts as consistently and regularly as possible. Looking to the future of 2015, I have been composing lists of resolutions that will serve as an accountability and goal for me to work towards bettering myself and All Eyes On Screen. My first goal related to the site is to read more books. So many of the movies we see today are based on someone’s written work, and I think we often get a more well-rounded view and appreciation for source material when we read it. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge reader, but I’d like to change that. I read ten books in 2014, so I’d like to improve that number by reading twenty-five books over the year 2015. I’ve separated my list into sections that I can work towards. Note: I’ve starred all the books that have (or will have) a movie/TV adaptation (that I’m aware of) with one star. I added a second star for all of the movie/TV adaptations I’ve already seen.


 Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

This past year, I just started watching the awesome show Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) from the beginning in order, after Netflix so graciously added the show to their streaming service. Gilmore Girls has become my current TV addiction, and with it, a desire to read more, given that Rory always has a book in her hands. I found this awesome list on Pinterest that states: “Over the course of seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore was seen reading 339 books on screen.” I selected five on the list that piqued my interest:

25. The Virgin Suicides** by Jeffrey Eugenides

24. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (Finished 2/16)

23. The Shining** by Stephen King

22. The Great Gatsby** by F. Scott Fitzgerald

21. On the Road* by Jack Kerouac


Finishing (or Continuing) Series

Here is my list of books that are part of series I’d like to finish. It’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t finished the Harry Potter collection, but I resolve to conclude the series this year. And since we’re talking about J.K. Rowling books here, I decided to add the second book of her Cormoran Strike novels to my series list. Without apology, I also admit to never finishing Tolkein’s The Return of the King after struggling through the first two in the trilogy.

20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix** by J.K. Rowling (halfway through)

19. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince** by J.K. Rowling

18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows** by J.K. Rowling

17. The Silkworm* by Robert Galbraith

16. The Return of the King** by J.R.R. Tolkein


Five Personal Choices

Here are five books I’ve been looking forward to starting:

15. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire)* by George R.R. Martin

14. The Count of Monte Cristo** by Alexandre Dumas

13. Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

12. Divergent** by Veronica Roth

11. The Bourne Identity** by Robert Ludlum


Book Club Selections

When I moved to Wisconsin halfway through last year, I joined a growing book club. Thanks to that club, I got back into reading. We usually have six meetings a year (one every other month). The future ones have yet to be determined, although talk of reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken has surfaced . . .

10. To Kill a Mockingbird** by Harper Lee (Finished 1/22)

9. Unbroken* by Laura Hillenbrand (Finished 3/12)

8. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times* by Jennifer Worth

7. To be determined

6. To be determined


Your Recommendations

I handed this section over to readers, commenters, and anyone who mentioned an idea via word of mouth, Facebook, or Twitter. These are the five books I picked, thanks to your recommendations:

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo** by Stieg Larsson

1. The Fault in Our Stars** by John Green


Stay tuned for more New Years Resolutions posts this week and next, and don’t forget to check out my Reading Corner on the bottom left of the site, where I list what I’m currently reading.

I’ll be making the rounds on everyone else’s sites over the next three weeks in hopes of catching up to my lengthy feed of unread posts.

What are your reading resolutions for 2015?

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All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 1

Hey there, All Eyes On Screen readers! Today marks my first post of my newest segment, All Eyes on Bloggers. This segment will feature some of my favorite posts I’ve read over the past week from all of your awesome blog sites. It’s also an opportunity to direct my non-blogging (but awesome readers and followers) to some thoughtful posts from great film blogs.

OK, enough of that intro, let’s get on with it . . .

First up, we have Mark from The Animation Commendation, who is a really big fan of animated films (his blog name is helpful to point that out *wink*) and Disney movies. A little over a week ago, he posted a very fun review of his take on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) over at his live-action blog Disney blog, My Live Action Disney Project. POTC: On Stranger Tides is a movie I haven’t seen yet, but now find myself a little more interested in checking it out thanks to the many pictures and captions he included.

I read multiple reviews for the film Calvary (2014), a movie that highlights Brendan Gleeson’s possibly best acting work yet, by both Alex at And So It Begins and Nick at Cinema Romantico. If you want to get lost in some of the most beautiful writing worth your reading, read anything Nick posts. And if you’re interested in updates on Alex’s latest filmmaking feat, stop over at his site to discover the guy is quite talented in both his writing and filmmaking efforts.

One of the nicest guys on the blogosphere, Fernando at Committed to Celluloid, recently included a post from The DVD Court itself, a group of bloggers who critique a group of films and offer a consensus based off their combined critiques.

Another blogger who recently rejoined the Web, like myself, is Tyson from Head In A Vice. Just a few days ago, he has started publishing posts written by fellow voluntary bloggers who are participating in his self-created blogathon The “Recommended By” Blogathon, as an effort to encourage other film bloggers to watch and review movies recommended by fellow bloggers, as well as to feature other blogs on his site while re-connecting with fellow writers since his hiatus. Lucky for me, Tyson let me join in on the fun, even if I was a little past the deadline. Stay tuned for my post to be featured on his site, and in the meantime, enjoy his latest “Recommended By” posts on the movies Lawless (2012)The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension (1984)The Collection (2012), and The Great Gatsby (2013).

One movie I have added to the top of my must-see list is the latest Joss Whedon movie to hit the net, In Your Eyes (2014). Thanks to Jaina over at Time Well Spent, I was introduced to the film by her review of this movie that inspired her. It happens to feature the lovely Zoe Kazan, who just happened to co-star in the recent film What If (2014) with Daniel Radcliffe. Dan of Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews just wrote a review of his own on What If, one that I found myself very much in agreement with.

Last, but certainly not least, are two of my favorite movie sites to visit, both writing about movie scores this past week. Keith of Keith & the Movies talked about the most memorable movie themes in his latest The Phenomenal 5 post; Ruth, writer behind the awesome site Flixchatter, took a music break to talk about Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy (2010) in her post here.

And that’s a wrap for this first edition of All Eyes On Bloggers! Hope everyone has a great weekend and sees some good movies.

Favorite Five Films of 2012 (January–June)

I’ve been seeing some of these posts pop up on friends’ sites, so I decided to add my own. I actually have found the first half of 2012 to be relatively uneventful and dull at the movies. There have been just a few hits that I’ve seen, and even fewer films that have resonated with me. I really see the 2012 movie year starting in July as not only big films like The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises arrive on the scene, but also films like the next slice of the Bourne series hits theaters; the Total Recall reboot; the end of the Twilight mess series; the next movie featuring Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down); Tom Hooper’s sophomore Oscar attempt/highly anticipated musical, Les Miserables; Quentin Taratino’s next big looks-to-be-a-hit Django Unchained; Leo DiCaprio’s latest attempt at getting recognized by the Academy/major book-to-film adaptation (The Great Gatsby), and many, many more films I have left out.

Unfortunately, I have missed out on a few films that I think could have made this list, namely The GreySalmon Fishing in the YemenMy Sister’s Sister (geez, big year for Emily Blunt, eh?), Being Flynn, and Moonrise Kingdom (this is killing me as I’m typing this–wish I would have seen this while it was in theaters).

Honorable Mentions

The Woman in Black — You can see my post on play and film comparisons/contrasts.

This Means War — While the film was silly and thoughtless in parts, it was entertaining to watch throughout.

Five Year Engagement — The Sesame Street impersonations were worth the admission price.

5) The Hunger Games

This movie makes it on the list for a lack of better options. From a film perspective, it had its issues, but was very moving and done well in enough parts that I was able to get sucked into the story. The supporting cast performances really held the film together, and Jennifer Lawrence owned the lead role.

4) 21 Jump Street

Some of the best movies tend to be unexpected, and with leading dudes Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, expectations were flying especially low in my mind. However, the film exceeded many film critics’ opinions as well, landing a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. It was hilarious, it was well-acted, it was entertaining, and it had one great cameo in it. I look forward to watching this again.

3) The Avengers

I won’t admit to the number of times I saw The Avengers in theaters, but it’s safe to say that I loved the film. Great direction and writing from Joss Whedon lended itself nicely to the collaboration of multiple superheros sharing the screen in a project that clearly took years to fully develop. Hilarious and action-packed, The Avengers fed comic book and movie geeks alike the pure geekdom on screen that we crave.

2) Friends with Kids

loved this movie. It was so unexpected and underrated for how hilarious and touching it was. Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and starred in this film, and she deserves some serious recognition for accomplishing those feats. Westfeldt and Adam Scott shared a natural chemistry on screen, and the duo provided a fresh perspective to an idea that, while appearing impulsive and clumsy on the surface, really works well for a film.

1) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Perhaps I’m still on a high from seeing this film a little over a week ago, but I have yet to get the film out of my head. I’m already wanting to see it again. I’ve already downloaded half the songs from the soundtrack. This movie is a fun, thought-provoking treat from the hands of rookie director Lorene Scafaria. It’s heartfelt, it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s entirely worth watching in my humble opinion.

OK, what has been your favorite film of the year so far? What do you think of my favorites? Any hidden gems from the first half of the year that you’d recommend I see?

Guest Post — Accomplished Directors and Their Film Debuts

My friend, Matt, has gladly agreed to guest post once again for me so I can have a little break from blogging. Last month, he did multiple Q/A blog post sessions on the Oscars with me. He’s an excellent writer and he continues to build his film knowledge with research, discussion, and film viewing. Be sure to check out his bio at the bottom of the page to get more acquainted with who he is and what he’s been up to.

–Kristin

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By Matthew Roth

Ever heard of Firelight, The Bellboy and the Playgirls, or The Pleasure Garden? How about Piranha Part 2: The Spawning? What if I told you those were the debut features of the men who brought us Schindler’s List, The Godfather, Rear Window, and Avatar? Everybody has to start somewhere. It’s enjoyable to see a filmmaker’s creative process from first feature to Lifetime Achievement Award. Some filmmakers seem like they were born to make movies; others really have to work to become great.

Film should be studied the way we study any other art. In most cases, we can’t look at movies on an individual basis; the study of film should always come back to the author of the picture, perhaps a producer or writer, but usually a director. Just as you wouldn’t study The Great Gatsby without learning about F. Scott Fitzgerald, so you shouldn’t view a film without, at some point, doing a little research about the director and his body of work.

Someone recently made a statement online saying that the director spends his life trying to make the perfect version of the same movie. Obviously, that oversimplifies things; however, there still is a good deal of truth in that statement.

When studying film, it’s good to go back to a director’s first feature. What genres, techniques, visual styles, and themes inspired the author to start making pictures to begin with? Often you will find the things a director explores in his first film show up in many that follow; with each subsequent film, he tweaks characterization, plot, themes, and visuals in an attempt to create a perfect version of that first film.

Not every director is like this. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to look at the first features of some of the directors I admire, and how their debut film relates to their work today.

The Coen Brothers: Blood Simple

Usually, it’s difficult to pinpoint just what genre of film a Coen Brothers’ movie is. They include elements of the crime, comedy, drama, and thriller genres. Their films are a unique blend of those elements; in reality, the Coens have created their own genre. Ironically, Blood Simple is the only film by the Coen Brothers I’ve seen that is not instantly recognizable as a Coen Brothers’ movie. That’s not to say, however, that this film fails to match their future brilliance. As their movies tend to be, Blood Simple is extremely entertaining. It also contains elements that are prevalent in many Coen Brothers movies: an abrasive but memorable character; a wealthy, powerful man the audience loves to hate; an ordinary protagonist thrust into an extraordinary and dangerous situation; oh yeah–and loads of violence. Visually, the film’s style foreshadows their later work, even though the brothers were yet to team up with the fabulous Roger Deakins. Highly recommended.

Christopher Nolan: Following

Nolan’s first film is a thriller about a writer who follows people in order to acquire material for characters in his stories. As far as content, Nolan’s films have been fairly diverse. The constant of his work seems to be the non-linear structure in which he molds his stories. Following is cut up into several pieces randomly strewn about, its scenes jumping forward and backward on the story’s timeline. Often this would disorient an audience; with Nolan’s film, it sets the the audience on edge. Because of the vast, unexplained changes in the main character’s appearance (a black eye, a new haircut, different style of clothing), we become curious about the events we obviously have missed. Suspense is created through missing pieces. We pay closer attention because we want to find out just what we have missed. Nolan’s first feature seems like a dress rehearsal for Memento, a film in which the non-linear storytelling serves a justified purpose. Nolan uses a non-linear storytelling device once again in The Prestige. He masters this device in Inception, where he jumps between the past, and the many layers of the dream world’s present. Following is a wonderful debut film, proof that Nolan doesn’t need $185 Million to make a great movie. Great things can be done with as little as $6,000.

Terrence Malick: Badlands

Malick’s movies have been called many things. Polarizing things, really. Few directors simultaneousy carry the title “brilliant” and “pretentious.” Perhaps this is because Malick stretches the conventions of film in all of his movies. For those who find Malick more pretentious then brilliant, Badlands may be just the film for you. This film does contain both a plot AND a linear structure. While it is without a doubt his most accessible film, Malick’s debut feature is by no means conventional. You can find one of my favorite film blogger’s video review of  Badlands here.

In his first film Malick introduces us to the detached narrator, a device he would use to an even greater extent in his following feature, Days of Heaven. Narration can be a tricky business. To me, it usually seems like the easy way out in storytelling. Malick’s narration in Badlands proves how useful the device can be. Rather than using the narrator as a crutch, Malick’s narrator allows us to actually learn something about that character, not only in the things she does say, but also in the things she doesn’t. With great cinematography, acting, and a haunting score, Badlands may possibly be my favorite Malick film.

Alfred Hitchcock: Blackmail

So you probably know that this isn’t actually Hitchcock’s first film. The “Master of Suspense” did not always make thrillers; he worked his way up, sweating and toiling on–you’ll never guess it–romance pictures. The Pleasure Garden and Fear o’ God were both commercially unsuccessful. It wasn’t until Hitch started making the type of pictures for which we know him that he became a commercial success. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog was the first of his films we would label Hitchcockian. The Lodger is a film that tries to crack one of the most perplexing crimes of all time: the murder of Jack the Ripper. Now, I know I should have watched The Lodger; however, it was about 2 last night when I finally started watching. The online copy was horrible, so I opted to watch Hitch’s second thriller, and one of the first talkies in Britain, Blackmail. The first thing I noticed was Hitch’s use of the Kuleshov Effect, a now standard but once groundbreaking editing technique that Hitchcock popularized. The story is about a young girl who finds herself in a difficult situation after killing a man in an act of self defense. Many of Hitch’s movies involve normal people being thrust into dangerous situations due to their curiosity or foolishness. This film follows that pattern to the letter. Other sequences made me think of both Psycho and Vertigo. While it is a flawed film, I found it definitely worth my time. If you do view the film, you will find little snippets that foreshadow the greatness that was to come. You can view it on Hulu here.

For those of you not familiar with the Kuleshov Effect, the first two minutes of this video explain it a lot better than I could by writing about it.

What are some of your favorite debut films, and how do they (or don’t they) point to that director’s future work?

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.