THE WHOLE FAMILY
Wow. A whole year since we tentatively launched our site, and since then we have had over 10,500 views from 100 different countries around the world. Our monthly podcasts have explored varied topics from historical dramas, family films, Christmas TV and the Oscars, and our individual blog posts have offered a real smorgasbord of subjects from all reaches of film, television, and popular culture.
On a personal level, the In Motion. family has seen new jobs, engagements, completed Ph.Ds, house-moves, driving tests and so much more. It’s been a great first year for all of us, and to celebrate our first birthday, we felt it would be fitting to host a joint post, in which we each reflect on the last twelve months in regards to our TV/film viewing, and our relationship with TV and cinema one year on.
Thank you so much for following, reading, and sharing over the last year – here is to many more!
The In Motion. team x
“I’ve often thought of myself as more of a movie person than a TV person, but reflecting on the past year, one thing that strikes me – as it seems to have others, as well – is how much fiction television I’ve watched. Far from my general habit of mainly flicking on the television to catch up on daily news or to find random episodes of cooking or home renovation shows, I’ve actually completed full series/seasons of more than one fiction TV show. Among these are the BBC’s Peaky Blinders and The White Queen, and the Netflix original series House of Cards. While The White Queen was a requirement for podcast participation, and I’ve already expressed my less than favourable feelings toward it, Peaky Blinders and House of Cards were just for pleasure, and I loved both of them. What I find somewhat interesting about this change in my viewing habits is that, as far as I can tell, on the one hand, the availability of Netflix has facilitated my love for House of Cards, as I’ve been able to binge watch it, but on the other hand, my obsession with Peaky Blinders was fuelled by a renewed discovery of the joys of television broadcasts as shared social events. We didn’t discuss it on the podcast, but many of us on the In Motion team watched Peaky Blinders and talked to one another fairly consistently about what we loved about it, where we thought it would lead and why we all had a crush on Tommy Shelby. Even in the case of The White Queen, I may not have loved the show, but I loved the feeling of watching it with others and trash talking it afterward. It’s made me lament, just a little, the diversified nature of TV today that makes this sort of communal experience less possible, but I think it’s that same diversity that’s lead to the production of more shows that I’ve really wanted to watch. And the process of watching Netflix shows (before House of Cards I watched Arrested Development, too) has been such an unusual but exciting new way of viewing TV.
As far as film was concerned, the year was good, albeit less unusual. The highlight for me was certainly The Wolf of Wall Street; its unique ironic tone and audaciousness stood out for me and I quite enjoyed following the debate that sprang from it, much as I enjoyed the similar debates that surfaced in the wake of Django Unchained a couple of years ago. I also thoroughly enjoyed Nebraska; going in, I was a little suspicious of the black-and-white, not because I dislike black-and-white (actually, I love it), but because I’m always suspicious of ‘serious’ movies that appear to be using it as a means of lending the film an affected artiness. But I was surprised by how unserious the film actually was and how masterfully the black-and-white was used; it really is one of the most beautiful-looking films I’ve seen in a long time. 12 Years a Slave was compelling, spectacularly acted and beautifully shot, but it didn’t have the same impact on me as McQueen’s previous film, Shame, which I still can’t stop thinking about. 12 Years worked for me at the time, but in hindsight I feel it was missing something; despite its boldness, it was somewhat safer than McQueen’s previous work. Finally, I really enjoyed Gravity. I think the reasons for this are obvious; it was a technological marvel and looked absolutely stunning. But beyond that, despite a rather cheesy script, I found the concept compelling; to create a feeling of claustrophobia in the vastness of space and of being lost when home is the only thing that’s in clear view is a pretty remarkable feat.
There were tonnes of films this year that I haven’t yet seen and still want to see: Under the Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Zero Theorem, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nymphomaniac, Frozen. I didn’t get to the cinema half as much as I would have liked to, but I suppose my re-introduction into the world of TV compensated for that. And my monthly podcasts have encouraged me to watch things I might not otherwise have chosen, and to discuss things critically that I might otherwise have just watched for pleasure. I’ve got my awesome In Motion buddies to thank for that.”
“I am, and always have been, a massive TV junkie. When I was younger I had a big fear of going to the cinema, I think it was something to do with the darkness and the claustrophobia of the enclosed room (or maybe I was just weird as I have a similar issue with Planetariums…) and although I’ve definitely conquered my cinema-phobia I am still much more a TV girl. There’s just something wonderful about the domesticity of television and the way we take it into our homes and point all of our furniture at it.
That being said there have been some absolute treats in the cinema this year. After waiting three years my anticipation levels for Star Trek Into Darkness were through the roof and the film absolutely did not disappoint. As a huge Trekkie and a general fan of everything Benedict Cumberbatch does I was always on to a winner, but the film exceeded even my expectations with its amazing CGI, fantastic characters and wonderful nods to the original film and series. I also really enjoyed The Hunger Games Catching Fire, which I thought was a brilliant adaptation. The films seem to be getting bigger and better as they go along, which is actually a nice contrast to the books, the third of which unfortunately does not live up to the awesomeness of the first. Man of Steel also makes my list as it was big and shouty and full of explosions and, although there was definitely things wrong with it, I didn’t care because it was Superman and he was awesome again.
On television there have been far to many things that I’ve loved to make a comprehensive list. Peaky Blinders was fantastic as was the new and long awaited series of Sherlock. Sticking with Moffat there was such a contrast between the three big Doctor Who moments this year. The 50th anniversary episode blew me away with its obvious love for the fans and their dedication to the show’s characters and history but then both the reveal of Peter Capaldi (referring to the way it was done, not the casting itself) as the new Doctor and then Matt Smith’s ultimate regeneration were incredibly disappointing and unfulfilling. From across the pond I have utterly fallen in love with Nashville, which is only getting better in its second season and goes some way to console me in my mourning for SMASH, which I CANNOT BELIEVE DID NOT GET RENEWED FOR A THIRD SEREIS!! (Looking at you NBC …)
Over all the way I watch things has definitely changed, obviously the PhD has had a big impact, but it’s also a lot to do with In Motion. I always look forward to our monthly podcasts and talking over the things I’ve watched with such good friends who often have strong and differing opinions has made me pay a lot more attention and made me a more demanding viewer. In Motion has also exposed me to things such as Blackfish which I doubt I would have encountered otherwise and am so very glad to have seen.”
“When trying to think about my past year in television and cinema viewing, there are two titles in particular that cloud my memory of anything else existing. The first, which I have waxed lyrical about in my most recent In Motion post, is obviously Disney’s Frozen. I’ll confess that even I, a Disney loyalist, have felt that more recent Disney movies (princess movies, specifically) just haven’t had the same sparkle that previous Disney Classics have, and then along came Frozen to drown me in pixie dust once more. As an aca-fan-ployee, Frozen has kept me on my toes since December, and made me evaluate my own relationship with Disney movies, which has been an education to say the least!
The second title that I have spent the last six months talking up to anyone who will listen is BBC’s Peaky Blinders, a six-part series which aired September to October last year. The aesthetically pleasing Tommy Shelby aside (played with excellence by Cillian Murphy), this Birmingham set drama was equal parts funny, tragic, disturbing and moving, and with a killer soundtrack to boot. One of the best things the BBC have done in a long time, in my opinion, and admittedly somewhat of a relief after having suffered through The White Queen for our In Motion podcast!
Putting those two treats aside, I would say that the last twelve months have seen a quite dramatic shift in my viewing preferences. Once upon a time (18 months ago), I watched an inordinate amount of films – often 2 a day, and more if I could fit them in- and the only TV show that I showed any commitment to was Doctor Who. But now- probably due to a new job and so a change in shift patterns- I probably watch more TV than I do films, and of the films that I have been watching the ones I enjoyed most have been films which are part of a series, like X-Men, Transformers, and Star Wars. I get a real kick out of an expanded universe, apparently. When I saw J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek in April last year, I couldn’t get to the cinema fast enough to see Into Darkness, and I promptly added every available TV series of Star Trek to my Lovefilm watchlist. I simply could not get enough. And that’s kind of how I’ve carried on, discovering something new and devouring every possible aspect of it. My current obsession is ABC’s Once Upon a Time, season two of which I watched in three days (*proud*). It’s the season 3 finale this week, and I’m quite stressed about what I’m going to move on to next. Looking forward to season 4 though, maybe Queen Elsa and Princess Anna will make an appearance? Here’s hoping.
One significant difference in how I think about TV and films now as opposed to a year ago is that now I regularly ask myself, ‘I wonder if this might make an interesting podcast’. This question led me to host an Oscars party, had the In Motion family snickering (and bemoaning) through all ten episodes of The White Queen, and provided me a slice of home in November, when I was feeling lonely at a conference in the US and managed to download my colleagues discussing Labyrinth for episode seven. I think more about the context of a particular film and TV series than I ever have, and so I feel like I take more away from it than I might have before. Here’s to another year of asking that question!”
“I’m not a big cinema goer. Sitting in an uncomfortable seat, my feet nestled in stale popcorn while eating and drinking over-priced and under-tasty produce can jog on as far as I’m concerned. This year, however, I enjoyed one film so much that I watched it, actually in the cinema,not once but three times. Infected (in the nicest possible way) with Disney Mania by my In Motion colleague Charley Meakin, I was completely entranced by the spectacle of Disney’s Frozen. The songs, the characters and the beautiful, snowy winter-scapes were all practically perfect in every way. The film even had me weeping snotty tears within the first ten minutes. What’s not to love? I honestly believe I will never get bored of watching this beautiful, funny and touching tale of sisters Elsa and Anna.
Television-wise, it would be quicker and easier for me to outline what I haven’t watched. This was the year I discovered box sets, an affliction which quickly snowballed into a Netflix subscription. As a result my television viewing has been transformed from largely watching British programmes as broadcast into periods of binge watching entire US series in a couple of days. Over the past year I have successfully watched in their entirety (and greatly enjoyed) Game of Thrones, Justified, The Good Wife, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Arrested Development among many, many others. Yet, in a year which saw my viewing habits change so much, it’s interesting that my two absolute television favourites saw me revert to previous form. Both were British and both forced me back in to the delicious torment of watching only one episode a week. First up, it’s Peaky Blinders, BBC2’s grimy Brum-based take on the period drama which followed the travails of Small Heath hoodlums in the aftermath of the First World War. Dodgy Brummie accents aside, the performances were superb, the writing tight and the atmosphere suitably edgy. On a shallower note, chief hoodlum Tommy Shelby, played by Cillian Murphy, was rather pleasant to gaze upon. Also on BBC2 the second series of police corruption drama Line of Duty upped its already considerable game to present what was possibly the most tense six hours viewing of my life. Keeley Hawes was superb as Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton, turning in a performance which was by turn sociopathic, vulnerable, resourceful and sympathetic. I genuinely had no idea how the story would unfold and the week between episodes seemed to take longer as the series progressed.
While none of my viewing treats came from our In Motion adventures over the course of this year, the experience of being part of In Motion has provided plenty of treats in itself. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable to talk about screen cultures with others who have approaches and backgrounds so different to my own, and it’s also been interesting to open myself up to watching things that I would not otherwise have watched. More than anything, though, I’ve really enjoyed feeling like part of a gang and all the heated podcast debates, facebook message stickers and fabulous Oscars parties which that has entailed. Go Team In Motion!”
JILLY BOYCE KAY:
“First of all, I should probably start by confessing that I have a terrible memory. Who knows what I have been watching over the past twelve months? Certainly not me. Luckily, however, I have been able to consult my iTunes purchase history. This reliably informs me that, in the last year, I have bought or rented The Sapphires, Life of Pi, The Cabin in the Woods, Django Unchained, Lincoln, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Blackfish, and The Snowman. However, my memory is such that I can’t actually remember what I thought of any of them. I know that I really liked Lincoln, to the extent that I bought and read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals. AndI really liked that too – although don’t ask me what it was about.
Unfortunately I have no such mechanism for accounting for my TV-watching. In terms of domestic viewing, I suppose that the biggest sea-change in the last year came when we acquired a ‘smart’ TV. I haven’t been a particularly regular watcher of TV since my undergraduate days, but now that we have this large-screened, internet-enabled device on top of the TV cabinet, a new opening has been provided into a whole world of viewing possibilities. It’s been strange to transpose my hyper-individualised YouTube habits from my smartphone onto the communal screen of the family living space. It has also meant that the question of “What shall we watch tonight?” has literally millions of competing potential answers, through the portals of YouTube, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, and so on. Sometimes this has meant that I have been able to purposefully seek out something powerful and brilliant, such as this 2004 documentary about the 1994 Rwandan genocide . Other times, having fallen down the rabbit hole of time and space that is YouTube, I have happened upon programmes that I become unexpectedly addicted to. One such example is the US show Primetime: What Would You Do?. a hidden-camera show that polices people’s individual ethical behaviour by staging scenes of conflict and seeing whether and which bystanders intervene.
However, this excess of choice has added a new, infinite, and maddening dimension to my indecisiveness about what to watch. It has also meant that the possibility of somebody you know also having watched the same thing is infinitesimally small. Increasingly I find myself torn between, on the one hand, appreciating the liberating effects of being able to select programmes in accordance with my political and aesthetic preferences, and, on the other, being nostalgic for a time when it was socially compulsory to discuss the plot of Neighbours, forcibly binding you into a relationship with those around you. So, I suppose that the ghosts of community and solidarity haunt my ‘progressive’, uber-personal viewing practices. And I often feel like I am a treacherous colluder in the decline of public service television. Even watching BBC’s iPlayer feels like a betrayal of the Reithian impulse to bind a nation together through scheduled broadcasting.
Something else that has profoundly influenced my viewing practices over the past year is, of course, my involvement in the In Motion blog and podcast. Not only has this meant that I have watched films and TV programmes I wouldn’t have otherwise, but it has also prompted me to reflect on the way that I watch. I have been struck by the different approaches that we all have. Previously, for example, I was almost wholly unused to considering the aesthetic and narrative qualities of film and TV texts. I found responding to the question of whether I liked something or not a totally alien experience, and I felt acutely my lack of a critical language to draw on (Christine Geraghty has written about this broad avoidance of questions of value and aesthetics within the discipline of TV studies). This unease also came, I suppose, from the politics that have informed my particular academic background, in which the pleasure of consumption has usually been figured as problematic. I have been conscious that my contributions often sound like the P.C. police have arrived to spoil everyone’s fun. I think, though, that the encounter between our different critical perspectives has been one of the most interesting and productive aspects of our foray into podcasting. I hope that this continues as In Motion enters its second year of life.”
“It’s been a pretty eventful year. I feel like “finishing my PhD” should probably be explanation enough as to why I’ve veered between being busy, stressed, utterly elated and really bloody miserable, but the last twelve months has thrown up lots of other stuff that has also contributed to those feelings. I was pretty sure when I sat down to reflect on what I’ve been watching that I wouldn’t have much to say as a result. Seeing anything that wasn’t related to my thesis just wasn’t a priority, and I didn’t feel I had much time outside of work. People would ask me if I’d watched a particular film or seen a TV show I *should* have, and I’d always answer “it’s on the list”, as if I had a slowly growing mental catalogue of stuff to watch once things relaxed a bit (and as if I had to justify having not caught Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones – by the way, the more you insist, the less interested I am).
What I’ve realised is that only having a finite amount of leisure time made me rethink what I wanted to spend that time watching, and why. Ultimately, I’ve wanted to be entertained or distracted by the films and television shows I’ve seen, and the opportunity for escapism or amusement has perhaps held more sway than any particular mark of ‘quality’ over what programmes and movies have stuck in my mind as those I most enjoyed. I’ve been to the cinema far less frequently in the last year than I used to (money and time have not permitted many visits), and while I could wax lyrical about The Wolf of Wall Street, The Conjuring, or Pacific Rim (I make no apologies) and the entertainment they provided, television has played a bigger part in my viewing habits than it had previously. Not in place of film, just as a contrast, a distraction.
So while I might have loved shows like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards (Netflix is really knocking it out of the park) or Peaky Blinders, and appreciated everything that made them great, they really haven’t felt that important to me this year (not to do them a disservice – but I’m sure a number of my In Motion buddies are covering at least two of these with more insight anyway). What’s mattered more, on reflection, is being able to get so engrossed in a show and its characters over time that it feels comforting to stick it on, or that I can double screen and not miss much, or fall asleep to it when I couldn’t bring myself to read anything after writing for fifteen hours straight. I appreciate the irony of putting this out there on a forum that’s supposed to be (partly) for intelligent discussion about cinema and television – but I’ve really loved things I can watch without thinking too much about what I’m watching. I’ve binged on Modern Family when I was looking for procrastination (often, for several hours at a time) or just put on the odd episode over lunch to clear my head. I re-watched Flight of the Conchords when I needed to laugh, or Sex and the City when I wanted the familiarity of something I’d seen twenty times before. I cried at the finale of The Office and felt a bit soppy when Liz Lemon tied the knot in 30 Rock. It was cathartic, and relaxing, and I feel like it played a part in keeping me sane. Mostly I’ve loved just being able to watch shows for watching’s sake, away from all the films I was researching with purpose and an 80,000 word end goal.
I’m working my way through Parks and Recreation now (stick with it past the first season, it’s worth it), and going for my twenty-first viewing of SATC. Simultaneously, I’ve started to tackle that mental list of films I have to catch up on. I started with Frances Ha. It was pretty great.”
Until next time,
‘That’s a wrap!’