Review Of The Year 2010: 5 Things I Loved This Year That Aren’t Actual Films

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I will confess that I knew little about what I was doing when I started to write this blog back in April. I think it came about as much as anything else because I felt I was at the age where I should be having a mid-life crisis, yet none was forthcoming; I’d also been writing my reviews and adding them to my Facebook profile, and then decided that boring my friends wasn’t enough, there was a whole world I could inflict my inane ramblings on! Mwahahahaha.

The landscape on which I find myself is very different at the end of 2010. Back then, I knew of blogging and social media but never really saw myself doing that kind of thing, but how a year can change things. I’ve seen 125 movies this year, and might squeeze in one or two more before tomorrow; but if this year has taught me one thing, it’s that seeing 125 movies in a year gives you a right sore arse it’s not just about the films, it’s about the whole experience.

So here are the top five things that have enhanced my movie pleasure this year.

Best blog: The Incredible Suit

I manage to make this blogging lark look quite hard work, but for someone who makes it look effortlessly easy, then look no further than The Incredible Suit. Churning out posts at the rate of one a day for well over a year now, he’s gotten me listening to fantastic playlists full of movie music at weekends, he’s championed the cause of classic comedy from bygone eras, he’s the person who spotted the link between Scandinavian movie trilogies and expensive crisps and he’s even managed to grab interviews with some personal idols.

In short, he’s everything I aspire to be as a blogger, except he’s tenuously about suits and I have a purpose which I have not yet fully exploited. Also, I managed to convince two directors to answer my questions and then haven’t got round to sending them any, which is a schoolboy error and why he is undoubtedly better than me and a blogger that I will probably always aspire to be. If you don’t already have The Incredible Suit in your life, then you’re missing out.

Best print magazine: Little White Lies

For well over a decade now, there have been only two consistent alternatives for the discerning fan of the multiplex and the art house, and I subscribe to both, of course. Sadly, a few pretenders have come and gone over the years (remember Hotdog, anyone? Or Filmstar for that matter?) and I’m not really a Sight and Sound man – I’m physically incapable of not reading the synopses, for one thing.  But next year, I will be adding a third subscription to my regular roster.

Little White Lies manages to straddle that difficult space between mainstream and the more acquired taste, with excellent content on each of those areas and managing to wrap it up in a package that, every other month, is quite literally a work of art. It also has a review scoring system that uses three marks out of five that is cunning in its simplicity yet manages to impart a  mass of information on the worthiness of each film. Little touches like this run throughout, and if you’ve got any sense you’ll pick up a copy (assuming you haven’t already) and find out just how good it is for yourself.

Best cinema chain: Picturehouse Cinemas

My biggest stumbling block in attempting to sell the concept of cinema attendance to a wider audience is this perception that cinemas are a miserable experience. When people like Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo come along with their code of conduct, as they did earlier this year, then that can also have the negative effect of reinforcing these stereotypes in the mind of the casual cinema lover. I have now attended over 300 films in the last four years, and I can count the number of bad experiences on the fingers of one hand; none of those was truly bad enough to deter me, or anyone else, from going back fairly quickly.

But maybe the quality of the cinema I attend helps. With 19 sites across the country, the Picturehouse chain is a grown up cinema experience, offering a mix of the best of cinema from Hollywood to the independents. I am lucky enough to live near two of them, the Cambridge Arts and the Abbeygate in Bury St Edmunds. They are town and city centre cinemas, a wonderful throwback to the days when you didn’t have to spend most of your cinema time in a neon breeze block stuck between a Frankie and Benny’s and a Chiquitos on an out of town retail park. They are also packed full of character and help to make the cinema an experience again, rather than just a place to watch movies.

The Cambridge Arts Picturehouse has become like a second home to me at certain points this year, not least during the Cambridge Film Festival, when I packed in 19 films. This was a pleasure rather than a chore because of the surroundings; absolute top quality sound and vision, which puts the multiplexes to shame, fantastic seating and a bar that serves proper food that you can catch between screenings and proper drinks that you can take in with you. Joining the chain this year, the Abbeygate Picturehouse is smaller, but no less perfectly formed, with comfy sofas available in both screens and the same quality projection that you just won’t get from your home cinema unless you’ve recently won the lottery.

But the chain isn’t just the cinemas, oh no. There’s lovely brochures that drop onto your doormat, telling you about the upcoming wonders, discounts on a range of local eateries, just because they’re nice like that, and even a blog with a podcast that keeps you up to date on the latest development. This year, they’ve even entered into distribution with My Afternoons With Marguerite, in an effort to make sure that you don’t miss out on the films that you should be seeing. Picturehouse cinemas are how films are meant to be – if you don’t live near one, then I can only suggest that you move house immediately.

Best iPhone movie-related app: MovieCat

I have blogged previously and extensively on my love for my iPhone (here, here and here in fact) so I’m always on the lookout for the latest apps to help feed my movie obsession. My favourite from this year was actually a game, which took the genius step of combining some rock hard movie trivia with cats to winning effect. Hundreds of questions, many with pictures, and all of those pictures being of cats. Movies. Cats. Trivia. What more could you possibly want?

Best technological thingamajig: Twitter

Social media is a bit of a contradiction in terms, if I am anything to go by, sat tweeting my fingers off on the periphery of a conversation given half a chance. But the Twittosphere is the best way to keep yourself immersed in what’s happening in the wide, wide world of film. I have the benefit of more than 140 characters here, but that limitation does have a wonderful way of focusing the mind and getting one to get one’s point across, especially when one is an inveterate rambler like myself.

There are, I’m sure, thousands of people worth following, and I’ve barely scratched the surface this year. I have managed to follow, or be followed by, a number of films or distributors, including @momentumpics, @punkcinema1, @optimumfilms, @pvsgdoc, @panictownuk and @skeletonsmovie, and it’s been both a fascinating and interactive experience. But I’ll finish this round-up with a couple of other tweeters I would strongly recommend that you follow: @nevpierce is a freelance journalist, including writing for Empire, and seems to have a strong grasp on the medium, offering up a mix of classic quotes and philosophisings, movie musings and randomness about children, just the thing to come in bite size chunks. @WeAreFact would be my other recommendation; never short of a supply of interesting facts, and they will provide you with facts if you ask them nicely, so movie-related facts should never be an issue. (Just be prepared to take those facts with a grain or two of salt.)

All in all it’s been a fantastic year, so thanks to everyone mentioned here for your contributions to making this the best year I’ve ever spent in cinemas, and here’s to 2011!

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