Well, three at least. Plus this view, which I just posted because I couldn’t pick a ‘featured image’ for this post.
I hadn’t posted in a while and it feels like my recent reviews were mostly negative, so I figured I’d talk about things I enjoyed this summer to counteract the ‘bad’ vibes.
Cinefix and New Rockstars
Of all the YouTube channels dealing with movies and pop culture, the former is my all time favorite, the latter a very recent addition to my watchlist. Both quite different but equally brilliant.
Out of all their videos, their things you didn’t know series and movie lists are my favorites. “Things you didn’t know” videos are self-evident; I’m a trivia/factoid junkie so I enjoy these even when they’re about movies I didn’t exactly love, as they give me insight into various scenes, actors or directors and help me re-watch the movies under a different light. There are plenty of channels out there dedicated solely to making this type of lists, but I find Cinefix’s production values and actual content to be superior to most.
What’s really beyond comparison, however, are their movie lists. Whether it’s a relatively straight-forward categorization of 10-best-whatever (roles/movies/directors etc), or an in-depth analysis of film, Cinefix is unique in the way they approach their subject matter. Unlike more popular channels like WatchMojo, who take their cues from subscribers, the guys over at Cinefix don’t compile their lists based on suggestions from 12-year-old trolls. Every single video they publish is well thought-out, written by true cinephiles, and speaks of deep knowledge of all aspects of film making.
Take, for instance, their ‘brilliant moments‘ series: each scene is dissected with such attention to detail, you’d think the information came straight from the director’s mouth. Every camera shot has purpose, every sequence accurately conveys the director’s vision; unless you’re a film student and have spent hours pausing each of those scenes trying to explain away every nuance, there’s no way these videos won’t give you new insight into some of the most iconic moments in film.
And if you’re a GoT fan, you just have to check out their analysis of Battle of the Bastards:
Rarely do I love the analysis of a scene almost as much as the scene itself, but this one was as brilliant as Sapochnik’s excellent S06E09 episode of GoT.
The same applies to the New Rockstars’ videos about the latest GoT season. Their video format is different to Cinefix and their content is much more nerd-friendly, but I only recently came across this channel as a recommendation based on previously watched TWD-related videos. Unfortunately, AMC is being a bit of a dick and blocking their videos so they don’t have full reviews for every episode, but the ones that are up are definitely worth a shot.
What really sold me on this channel, however, was their GoT episode analyses. It’s obvious these guys know their stuff, have read the books and watched every season numerous times, because damn the amount of details they catch is insane!
Allow me to mention a minor gripe about not only YouTube videos but all those recaps, reviews and breakdowns that float around the internet: sometimes all the connections and references mentioned or discovered can feel a little bit forced. There’s no real evidence that a director in season 6 actively tried to reference a minor detail shown in an episode 3 years ago directed by someone else, or that a shot or camera angle was purposely reminiscent of a similar one, especially since no one but those who have watched each episode countless times would be able to pick up on it.
So, among all the cleverly pointed out details, some might be too far fetched to exist anywhere but the reviewer’s imagination. And yet New Rockstars’ analyses make me willing to overlook whatever qualms I might have about the accuracy of their breakdowns, simply because their videos are always on point.
The most notable example of this is their hour-long, in-depth review of the GoT Season finale, which is one of the most brilliant videos I’ve watched, if only for the first 15′ alone: their informed dissection of the score – ingenious in its own right – playing over the long intro scene at King’s Landing leading up to the wildfire blast, was as captivating as the scene itself. Watch the video and then re-watch the finale, and you’ll never think of a movie score the same way again.
In keeping with the GoT theme…
A Song of Ice and Fire
After a brilliant sixth season of GoT, it dawned on me that it would be a whole year before we could enjoy a new episode. Not only were the withdrawal symptoms already making themselves evident, but over the years I have also become increasingly curious to discover the differences between book and film for myself. I knew that reading a few thousand pages of text would be a huge undertaking in terms of time and kept pushing it back, but over my extended vacation I figured I had all the time in the world, so I started reading the books, and I’m definitely glad I did.
There’s no question that George R.R. Martin is an excellent storyteller, but that’s actually the least of it. I already knew the plotlines are solid; I’ve watched them unfold for the past six seasons, and they never cease to amaze and surprise.
There’s really no point in extolling the virtues of Martin’s work here. It’s wonderfully crafted, his style is unique, and the fact that each short chapter, thankfully kept relatively short, is told in the voice of a different character, goes a long way in terms of offering insight that would otherwise go over the reader’s head. If you don’t mind spending a big chunk of time reading several thousand pages of dense text, they’re worth a read. I’m now finishing A Storm of Swords and looking at a few dozen hours of reading to complete the remaining two (hopefully the new book will come out when I’d done with #5).
What amazed me, however, is how great a job D&D have done in translating the book to screen. The overall production value of the show is well documented, but what isn’t evident unless you actually read the books is how the changes they’ve effected actually benefit the show. The details that have been glossed over don’t detract; the storylines that have been condensed actually help the flow. The game-changing events that almost feel like throwaway mentions in the books have tremendous impact on screen. The only plot line that is a bit lackluster on the show, compared to the books, is the Dorne story, but what the hell, the rest more than makes up for it.
It’s a rare thing when a film maker actually improves on the material in the books, and D&D appear to have succeeded in doing the impossible here.
Mad, mad props.
Bill Bryson – One Summer: America, 1927
Bill Bryson is widely acclaimed as one of the best travel writers out there, but my favorite books from his extensive catalogue aren’t his travel books; I first fell in love with his writing style when I read Made In America, and was fascinated by his unique ability to combine history, pop culture and linguistics with a keen sense of humor to produce books that aren’t only enjoyable but also great sources of information. Mother Tongue is just as brilliant, as is A Short History of Nearly Everything – the first one delving into linguistics once again, the second more science-oriented.
And then he came up with a history book – and history has never been my forte. That is, it never was until I read One Summer. The summer of 1927 was one busy summer in America, and Bryson manages to weave different anecdotes together in a way that is funny, enjoyable and educational without ever becoming tedious. If there ever was a writer who could make a long chapter about baseball interesting to someone who’s never watched a single baseball game iin her life, it’s Bill Bryson. From Charles Lindbergh and the first trans-atlantic flights to Babe Ruth and from the advent of ‘talkies’ to Henry Ford, he manages to take my most hated subject in school and make it intriguing and fun.