Films or Music? : A conclusion

Now I have come to the end of my Musical A-Z, it’s time to give some thought to the process, and to compare it with my recent Film Challenge. Despite not publishing a post every day, I got through the music choices very quickly, with two letters a day on occasion.

The engagement on this challenge was great. I got a lot of feedback about my own choices, as well as a huge number of selections from those who left comments. Some kept it up through the whole alphabet, whilst others popped in and out, depending on the letter.

I was introduced to a fair number of singers and groups that I had never heard of, as well as being able to feature many songs or recording artists previously unknown to some readers. Thanks to You Tube, I rarely had to leave out a choice because I was unable to find a copy of the song. These posts were also faster to write up than the film posts, as much less research was required. As with the film posts, some letters were more popular than others, with a general fall off as the alphabet progressed, followed by a spike in views and comments for those letters with more options.

These challenges are enjoyable to do, as long as you are a fan of the content of course. Courtesy of the Internet, Wikipedia, and fan-based sites, it is easy to find out almost anything about singers or groups, as well as individual songs. I cannot imagine anyone being able to do this offline, without a whole library at their disposal, alongside a vast music or film collection.

So, which was the most popular, Film or Music?

Despite many of those commenting appearing on both challenges, Film was by far the most successful, in terms of readership and overall engagement. Film attracted almost three times as many daily views, and ten times as many new followers. Even during the Musical A-Z comments were still coming in on the Film Challenge, as well as ‘likes’ and follows based on those film posts.

It is far from scientific I confess, but as far as this blog is concerned, Film rules!

Thanks once again to everyone who played along with both challenges. They would never have worked, without your support.

Just been watching…(41)

Mea Culpa (2014) Original French language, English subtitles.

****No plot spoilers****

I happened to notice that this film was being shown on BBC TV the other night. I hadn’t heard of it, but the fact that it was French, and an action thriller, seemed good enough reasons to watch it.
And I was so glad that I did!

On the surface, there is nothing new here. Two friends, one a cop, one an ex-cop, and his former partner. One is a widower, bringing up his young daughter, the other disgraced after a drink-drive incident, unable to cope with the guilt, and separated from his wife and young son.

Vincent Lindon is Simon; grizzled, depressed, forced to find a job as a security guard, and unable to cope with the shame of his dismissal from the Police. Gilles Lellouche is Franck; also grizzled, sad at the death of his wife, struggling to hold down his job as a policeman, and bring up his daughter at the same time. The two friends keep in touch, they socialise, and they have bonded for life.
Then a series of gangland murders set a chain of events in motion, events that will change the lives of both men completely.

So, we have some mean East European gangsters moving in on the local crime scene. They are ruthless and cruel, and leave no witnesses behind. During one of their executions, the killing is witnessed by a young boy. That boy just happens to be Simon’s son, and the action begins…

How can this all add up to a really convincing, edge-of-the-seat thriller? Well believe me, it does. Everything about this film is economical. Breathless foot chases around the old town of Toulon, in southern France. Sudden and realistic shoot outs, convincing fights, and totally believable characters. A small cast, with most of it featuring in every scene, and even a car chase that isn’t really a chase, but is just as exciting. Added to all of that, the running time is remarkably economical too, at just 95 minutes. It goes to show how much you can pack in to such a tight film.

There are few slow-downs. Some flashback scenes set the back story, and there is occasional parental angst, as well as the obvious marital difficulties on display. But this film is essentially a relentless series of superb set-pieces; from the shoot-out outside a police station, to a hectic pursuit in a bullring, on to another bullet-fest in a busy nightclub, with a thrilling climax on board a speeding inter-city train. I felt worn out just watching it, and my attention never wandered for a second. And there is a great twist at the end, with a detailed ‘reveal’.
I didn’t see that coming, I can tell you.

This is simply a masterclass in how to make an action film grab a viewer’s attention, make them root for the good guys, and get lost in the whirlwind of action sequences. No CGI, no unrealistic scenarios, and no pointless love interest either. This is classy; a very good thing, in a small package. We might think we have seen it all before, and we have. But this is how it should have been done.

I loved it.

Ozflicks, Susan, and the A-Z Challenge

I have just been informed by Susan Toy, that Peter from Ozflicks has compiled a definitive list of every film mentioned in my recent A-Z Film Challenge. He has gone one step further, by making a note of every person who joined in, and the choices they made. This is seriously detailed, and I am sure will be of interest to everyone who played along over the 27 days of that challenge. Here is a link to the list.

I have to once again thank Susan Toy for all her hard work, and now add those thanks to Peter, who didn’t even tell me he had done it! There are over 1,000 separate film recommendations, and a huge list of suggestions for any aspiring film buffs, or existing fans of film and cinema.

Things like this are really heartwarming, and confirm my belief that the best thing about blogging is being part of a great online community.

beetleypete’s A-Z Film Challenge … The List: A-L

Susan Toy has compiled a list of all my recommendations from the recent A-Z Film Challenge. She has also added every film choice from all those who commented, and made a complete list, in two parts. Here’s part one, with my sincere thanks to Susan for her real labour of love.

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

During the Merrie Month of May, I discovered (through friend Felicity Harley’s reblogging of it) a series of posts by a new-to-me UK blogger, beetleypete, titled A-Z Film Challenge. I was late coming into the challenge with my own suggestions (I didn’t begin commenting until around the “L” post, I think), but I was pleased to see that Pete’s series had already attracted a great deal of attention and further recommendations from his blog’s readers that it seemed as though a real online “party” was going on! I also discovered in short time that Pete has an extensive knowledge of World Cinema (which I particularly enjoy) and had many of the same experiences of seeing films for the first time when he was growing up in England as I had growing up in Canada. Turns out we’re just about the same age. While Pete and I mainly agreed on…

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Just been watching…(40)

Free State Of Jones (2016)

***As it is historical, there are some event spoilers***

As a real fan of films set during the U.S. Civil War, I was keen to see this film, which is based on real events. I am not normally a fan of Matthew McConaughey, who plays the lead, but if it is about the civil war, I can put up with that. It is worth mentioning that it is only ‘based’ on real events, and does not claim to show them all in order, or with complete accuracy.

The fist thing to note about this film is that it is not a conventional war film. Although it begins showing some action, and a battle, it is about a lot more than another attempt to show the war from one side or the other, or both at the same time, as in ‘Gettysburg’ for example.

After losing a young relative killed on his first day in action, Newton Knight is at the end of his tether. Already disillusioned by the feeling that Confederate soldiers like him are just fighting for the rich slave owners, he and some of his fellow soldiers are sickened to hear about a new law. This law states that men from families who ‘own twenty negroes’ are not compelled to do military service. He decides to desert, and to return the body of his young relative to their home county of Jones, Mississippi. Once there, he is further shocked to discover that the Confederate government is now taxing the poor ordinary people, taking their crops and livestock as well as household goods, to feed and clothe the army.

Knight soon organises the local people against the soldiers collecting these taxes. He has to go on the run, or be faced with arrest for desertion. He is helped to hide in the local impenetrable swamps, where he falls in with a group of runaway slaves. This ragtag group is later joined by more deserters from the Confederate Army, as the war begins to go badly for the Confederacy. Once organised, Newton leads his small army against the local troops and tax collectors, restoring the seized food to the farmers who had grown it. This soon breaks out into open warfare, and Knight’s company manages to capture the local large town, and hold it against larger numbers of troops sent from Alabama.

There are tensions within his group though, as the newly-arrived deserters resent his fair treatment of the freed slaves, and his open association with a mixed race woman. In an attempt to equip his men properly, Knight sends a delegation to the Union General, Sherman, asking for arms and reinforcements, with promises to hold the area for the Union against the Confederate troops. But Sherman isn’t really interested, and just sends some old rifles. At this point, realising that they have no friends on either side, the group declare themselves to be their own country, the ‘Free State of Jones.’

So, is it any good? If you are a fan of civil war films, or historical dramas, as I am, then I have no doubt you will like it. It not only covers a period from 1862 to 1876, there is also a small but interesting second story running through the narrative. Much later, one of Newton’s distant relatives is seen in a Mississippi court, being tried for the offence of being a ‘person of colour’ who has married a white woman. He is only one eighth related to Newton’s mixed race girlfriend, but considered by Mississippi at the time to be a black man. And this is in 1948.

Most of the film concentrates on slavery, and the plight of the poor white people during and after the Civil War. Even after emancipation, the former slaves are often forced to return to harsh conditions in the fields, under a Mississippi law which changed their status to ‘apprentices’, tied to their employer. When the local black men are organised to vote in the election, they are intimidated so badly, that Knight is only able to get twenty-three people to venture into town to vote. Even after they bravely stand up to the local authorities to cast their votes, the result is rigged to show that they didn’t actually vote. The activities of the Ku Klux Klan are covered too, with the burning of farms, and lynchings. The overall message is that Union victory in the war changed little or nothing for the poor people of any colour in the South.

As a film, it is well made, and often very good to look at. McConaughey is perfect in the role of Knight, and acts with conviction and some skill. The other characters are all roundly portrayed, and nobody is there just to fill the screen. It doesn’t shy away from the difficult issues, and there is much use of the word ‘Nigger’, as well as abuse and poor treatment of black people. It looks and feels historically accurate too, and cannot be faulted for genuine atmosphere. At times it feels somewhat ‘preaching’ in tone, but it is about something that actually happened, and you have to keep that in mind. It didn’t do well at the box office, and received mixed reviews. However, if you liked ’12 Years A Slave’, (I didn’t) ‘Glory’, or ‘Mississippi Burning’, then I am sure you will enjoy this too.

A-Z Film Challenge: My conclusion

It is all over now. Almost a month of posts on one main subject, and two additional posts by way of an epilogue. I set this challenge to myself, and it was the only one I have ever taken on, in five years of blogging. I chose Films and Cinema because that subject has been the love of my (long) life so far. The only alternatives were History and Photography, but I had a feeling that films would attract more interest, and I was right.

So, my considered thoughts. It’s hard work, harder than I expected. For every word typed on the posts, many more were discarded. For every film mentioned or featured, ten more had to be left out. For a lover of films, it was sheer torture. The research was hard too. Even though I have seen so many films, and had most posts already worked out, I still had to remind myself of dates, casts, and other small details. Twenty-six days of being accurate, making difficult decisions, and presenting posts worth reading was a challenge indeed. (Even though I got a ‘day off’ with ‘X’!)

What about the positives? Well, they were many. New followers, engagement on posts, a huge number of comments, and a real sense of camaraderie too. All my previous followers, and those new ones, pitched in with some great ideas and suggestions, numerous re-blogs, re-tweets on Twitter, and their own thoughts and conclusions. Despite the work, I can honestly say that I have never had a happier or more positive blogging experience. Daily views and visits were, by my standards, quite phenomenal. Even when some letters attracted less interest, others kept up the encouraging averages. In case anyone was wondering, the most popular letter as far as views were concerned was ‘S’, with the troublesome ‘X’ being the least viewed.

Tips from me? If you are thinking of doing anything like this, then here are some guidelines.

1) Make written notes as you go along. Otherwise, you might well forget your choices, and those original thoughts.
2) Write some posts in advance, as many as you can. You can always edit them later, and it takes the pressure off of having to make sure you come up with one each day.
3) Answer comments, even if you don’t agree with them. Doing something like this is all about involvement in a community. If you cannot be bothered to reply, then why should anyone comment in the first place?
4) Set time aside. It takes a lot of thought, and a fair bit of time and effort too. Make sure you have that time available to give it your best shot. If you are not sure, then don’t start it.

But it was never about stats, rewarding though they may be. It was about fun, interest, engagement, and good friendship. That’s what blogging is about for me, and I could not be more delighted.
It will be strange to go back to ‘normal’ blogging, that’s for sure.

Would I do it again? The jury is out on that one.

A-Z Film Challenge: Day 27 (Numbers)

No letters left, and nothing from me to add today. You may have noticed that I avoided films with numbers in the titles? (For example, ‘127 Hours’ (2010) )

That was because I now have a challenge for you!

I would like you to let me know what your favourite ‘numbers’ film is. Please reply in the comments below, and no cheating! 🙂

Thanks once again to everyone who played along, and contributed so much to this enjoyable series. It was made possible by your engagement, and the comments you made. I will be posting a conclusion tomorrow, to let everybody know my thoughts about taking on such a long and arduous challenge, and what it meant to me as a blogger.

My sincere best wishes to you all. Pete.