Thursday, 25 August 2016

An A to Z of books

I don't think I was actually tagged in this, but I saw a post by another writer and decided to give it a go. It's fairly self-explanatory. If you read this and then do your own version please mention it in the comments below as I'd be interested in seeing your choices.

Author you're read the most books by

As an adult this would be Tom Robbins. I've read all of his eight novels, a collection of essays, and just have one novella to read. As a child it would have been Enid Blyton or Ian Fleming.


Best sequel ever

I don't think I've read a book in adulthood which has a sequel, but I did enjoy Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" series when younger, so probably one of those.


Currently reading

"The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight" by Vladimir Nabokov and "The Space Machine" by Christopher Priest.


Drink of choice while reading

Usually nothing. Possibly water.


E-reader or physical book

I don't have an e-reader so it has to be physical. I prefer a physical book for tactile reasons.


Fictional character you would have dated in high school

Not sure I would have dated but I would certainly have had the hots for Tatiana Romanova from Ian Fleming's "From Russia With Love".



Glad you gave this book a chance

I tend not to read long books but I had "Blonde" - a fictionalised biography of Marilyn Monroe - by Joyce Carol Oates on my shelf for a while, and when I finally read it I found it was magnificent. Not only that, but I've since written short stories about Marilyn and also Jayne Mansfield off the back of this and believe they amount to my best work.


Hidden gem of a book

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Tunnel" by Argentine writer, Ernesto Sabato. The Guardian summarises it nicely as a novel which 'explores the dark areas of the self, and violence and irrationality in the anonymous mean streets of the modern city'. Highly recommended.




Important moments in your reading life

I remember being given a copy of Enid Blyton's "Five On A Treasure Island" by an aunt, which I believe was the first novel I ever read. The moment is so vivid I can recall the cover and the circumstances perfectly.

Also, reading Tom Robbin's "Jitterbug Perfume" made me realise art could mimic, reflect, and influence/resonate a life in ways I hadn't previously considered.


Just finished

"The Peacock Cloak", a collection of short SF stories by Chris Beckett; also recommended.


Kind of books you won't read

I'm unlikely to get any joy out of full-blown sword and sorcery fantasy trilogies, misery memoirs, or romance fiction. Anything else is likely to be given a chance.


Longest book you've read

The aforementioned "Blonde" by Joyce Carol Oates which in my edition nudged just short of 1000 pages.


Major book hangover

Probably Tom Robbin's "Jitterbug Perfume" because it's themes have resonated so keenly with my life.


Number of bookcases you own

About seven, although some are not cases but shelves set into wall alcoves.


One book you've read multiple times

I don't re-read often and there are probably less than a handful of books in adult life where I've done this, but one which I have (and which I would also be happy to re-read again) is Nabokov's "Lolita". It's beautifully written and a sublime love story.



Preferred place to read

I always have two books on the go. One by my bedside and the other in work lunch breaks. I tend to fall asleep at both locations.


Quote from a book you've read that inspires you

Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it in, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life's bittersweet route - Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins


Reading regret

That I picked up, read, continued to read, continued to read against advice, and finally finished Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union". What a piece of overrated crap.


Series you started and need to finish

I don't tend to read a series of books - certainly not those with continuing stories - however I am eager to read the Swedish crime writers' Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's series of Martin Beck detective novels, collectively titled "The Story of a Crime", after having read "Roseanna", the first in the series, recently.


Three of your all-time favourite books

"Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
"Nausea" by Jean-Paul Sartre
"Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins



Unapologetic fan-boy for

Tom Robbins. It's been a while since I re-read his books and I probably should do so sometime soon.


Very excited about this release

I have a story forthcoming in an anthology titled "Something Remains" which will feature stories based on and inspired by the notes left by the writer Joel Lane (1963-2013). It will be fascinating to see how each author has tackled their piece and is a project I'm both excited to participate in but also to read.



Worst bookish habit

Not sure if this is the worse or best bookish habit, but I can't stop buying books even though there are now over 300 in the to-be-read pile.


X marks the spot: start on the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book

Kingsley Amis: "Take A Girl Like You". I read a lot of Amis in my mid-teens, mostly from the local library ("The Green Man", "Girl, 20", "I Want It Now") but I'm not sure if I've read this one. Will be interesting to see how I remember him.


Your latest purchase

We're just back from a holiday which included the book town of Hay-on-Wye where we bought over twenty books. I think the last one I purchased that day was possibly "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" by Anita Loos.


Zzz-snatcher book (last book that kept you up far too late)

I tend to fall asleep before I read too late, but the last book I gave five stars to on Goodreads was Georges Simenon's "The Mahé Circle", and I remember it being a real page-turner.


So there you have it. All comments welcomed!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Slow Motion Wars

If I'm associated with anything it's writing short stories, however here's a long story about a short story collection, "Slow Motion Wars", which has just been published by independent publisher, theEXAGGERATEDpress.

The collection is co-written with slipstream supremo, Allen Ashley. Allen remains the only author I've ever collaborated with, although I'm not the only author Allen has collaborated with. We were at a TTA Press event in London sometime in 2004 (I think) when another author, Nels Stanley, compared our writing styles and themes and wondered/suggested whether we had ever considered a collaboration. It wasn't something I had previously thought of, but almost from nowhere a title - "Abattoir Girl" - was being discussed and mentally Allen and I began making notes. From such small seeds large acorns grow.


(artwork by Ian Simmons which accompanied "Abattoir Girl", published in Dark Horizons)

"Abattoir Girl" was written in the same way that we would then go on to write other collaborations. One of us would start with a title and around 500 or so words, and then we'd bat it back and forth between us until it was done. From this, a third writing voice emerged. In hindsight, I feel the style resembles 70% Allen's and 30% mine, probably because I'm a bit of a chameleon even though the stories were written roughly on a 50/50 basis. Reading these pieces now I'm hard-pressed to find the joins, but not only that I can't always remember which of us wrote what. I consider this a mark of success (although perhaps not for my memory - I believe Allen's recollection is clearer). What's evident, however, is that these pieces would not have been written by either of us individually, and that they were co-dependent on the other author being present.

I can't speak for Allen, but those stories I started tended to be titles and ideas that I had which didn't quite feel right for me. I would probably never have developed "Mermaids In A Snowstorm" or "Miss Treat" (for example) without Allen's input.

A body of work began to grow. We submitted "Abattoir Girl" to the British Fantasy Society magazine, Dark Horizons, where it was published, and subsequently pieces appeared in Jupiter SF, Scheherazade, Polluto, Midnight Street, and other publications. Clearly, a collection was building.

We approached a couple of indie publishers, but mostly their lists were too busy for new projects. Being the entrepreneurial type, I suggested to Jenny Barber who ran Here & Now magazine that perhaps Braden Press might expand into collections and she happily decided to take the project on in 2006; although unfortunately circumstances changed and she was unable to run with it, closing the press in 2007. I then contacted the new(ish) press, Screaming Dreams, run by Steve Upham who was very happy to publish the collection which we had decided to call "Slow Motion Wars" after one of the short stories ("Like A Slow Motion War"). This titling seems to have been prescient as ten years were to pass between first acceptance and final publication, leading some to dub the project Slow Motion Publishing...

In all fairness to Steve there were various health and financial problems which dogged Screaming Dreams which were out of his control. Many independent publishers are one-person businesses, and should anything happen to that person then delays are inevitable. Likewise, because this was a side-project for Allen and I, and we had numerous other books published during this period, we probably didn't push it as much as we could have. Every six months or so I'd drop Screaming Dreams an email and Steve would respond with apologies and assurances that his scheduling would get back on track, and there then might be a flurry of activity before I realised another six months had passed and we would begin the process again. Things looked promising when the Ben Baldwin designed cover was revealed, but further delays and mishaps occurred and publication was once again put aside.


Last year, however, I realised that eight years had actually passed since Steve had accepted the book for publication and quite clearly - despite our understanding of his situation - we needed to withdraw the project and place it elsewhere. At FantasyCon that October we approached Terry Grimwood of theEXAGGERATEDpress, who was immediately interested. We amiably parted company with Screaming Dreams and were able to retain the Ben Baldwin cover. Allen re-read the stories and made the inevitable changes necessary to bring the book up to date - particularly with what once had been topical references and also updates to now obsolete technology. Finally - finally - the book has been published and is available to purchase.

Now...if you've stuck with me thus far...you might even be interested in buying it. Don't take ten years! Here's the blurb:


Two heads are better than one! This collection brings together two of the brightest stars in the science fiction, slipstream short story firmament. The combined talents of Allen Ashley and Andrew Hook have produced fourteen delicious, yet subtle, seamless stories full of wit, imagination, invention and emotion. What is the secret behind the gated community of “Xanadu Springs”? Will the online pharmaceutical “Vitamin X” really guarantee you fifteen minutes of fame? What is the best strategy to ensure victory at “Air Hockey 3000”? And can Lynsey the lowly “Abattoir Girl” successfully lead the resistance against the alien invasion? Pass along Pohl and Kornbluth; move over Maynard and Sims; forgetski the brothers Strugatski. Ashley and Hook are the new noises on the block.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Day My Heart Stood Still

My short story, "The Day My Heart Stood Still", has recently been published in Postscripts #36/37, and as usual I'm blogging a few comments as to how the story was written. There will be spoilers for those who have yet to read it.

As with much of my work, this story started with the title which just popped into my head. It's an amalgamation of "The Day The World Stood Still" and "The Beat That My Heart Skipped". I like titles which come like this, because they create an existing evocation in the reader's mind but also contain something new. (I've done this before with "One Day All This Will Be Fields", which mixes the phrases one day all this will be yours and I remember when this was all fields).

Once you have a title like that, it's very hard for the story not to automatically follow and this piece almost wrote itself. The basic premise is simple - massive spoiler here - what if death had been eradicated for so long that no one in living memory was aware of it. Then what would happen if someone died? It's a bittersweet, almost Bradbury-esque, kind of tale which is told from the viewpoint of a ten year-old boy.

Here's a bit of it:

I ran inside from outside, abandoning Charlotte in the paddling pool that smelt of everlasting summer.

My mother lay on the kitchen floor. the sudden change from light to dark tripped me over, my hands shooting star-like to break my fall. If she felt my unintended kick then she didn't make a sound.

I lay quiet for a moment, my palms stinging with impact, my body lying over my mother's cross-like, the sound of Charlotte's splashing carrying on the humid air.

She must be asleep. I pulled myself up roughly, as if clambering over rocks. Then I inspected my hands. Both palms were reddened, yet soon faded as I looked. I opened the fridge door and poured out the glass of lemonade I had been after. Popping a couple of ice-cubes from the freezer compartment into the drink I then swallowed a long draught. The cool liquid felt like burning. Through the kitchen window I could see Charlotte lying on her tummy, face pressed into the side of the deflating pool, whilst her legs kicked behind her; rhythmically.


"Postscripts #36/37" is available here and also contains fiction from Robert Freeman Wexler, James Cooper, Allen Ashley, Robert Guffey, Andrew Jury, John Grant, Lisa L Hannett, Robert Reed, Darrell Schweitzer, Robert Edric, John Gribben, Paul Di Filippo, Keith Brooke, Gary Fry, Cate Gardner, Stephen Bacon, Scott Edelman, Bruce Golden, Brian Aldiss, and Lavie Tidhar.

I wrote this story whilst listening to the album "Embryonic" by the fabulous Flaming Lips on repeat. I think this is my favourite record of theirs. I hear something new each time I play it.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A Galaxy Of Starfish

The publication, "A Galaxy Of Starfish: An Anthology Of Modern Surrealism", is now available through my partner's publishing company, Salò Press. I had a role in assisting with submissions and typesetting the book, so I thought I'd blog a few words on how the publication came into existence.









For a few years my partner, Sophie, has run an experimental poetry/prose magazine, Fur-Lined Ghettos. It's been a relatively successful publication, usually around 60pp in length, and through this process she has come into contact with several poets who she thought she would like to work with in greater depth. The idea began to bubble that she could start publishing poetry collections and around the same time the possibility of a surrealism anthology began to take shape. Both of us have a strong interest in surrealism - in the beauty that connects seemingly unconnected words and images - and we had found that some of the work we had published in the magazine by young poets certainly brushed those parameters. Sophie had also been reading work by writers such as Tristan Tzara and Robert Desnos, and via this had watched a 1928 short film by Man Ray based on a script by Desnos, titled "L'Étoile de mer". From these beginnings our surrealist anthology, "A Galaxy Of Starfish", germinated.









We announced a call for submissions in January 2015 and began to receive a mixed bag of material, some of which had no bearing to surrealism at all. Of course, the term 'surreal' is now widely used (and abused). In particular, we found short story submissions often relied on a 'surrealist' twist rather than being surrealist throughout. That wasn't what we were looking for. Of course, since the original Surrealist movement, 'surrealism' has permeated every strata of the media and what might have been startlingly original in the 1920s can now be commonplace. Neither of us claim that we can definitively pin down the term, but we knew what we liked when we saw it. Over the course of a year the anthology gradually began to fill. The submissions were worldwide: we accepted work from the UK, USA, Canada, Greece and Israel (where work was originally written in a foreign language we decided to print it in both the original and in translation). We found ourselves 'called out' by one surrealist organisation and asked to justify our position with a manifesto or artistic statement (which we declined). Several times we wondered whether we would get the material we needed: it came in fits and starts. In the meantime we had published two poetry collections, "Actual Cloud" by Dalton Day and "Father, Husband" by Scherezade Siobhan. Finally, at the beginning of this year, we realised the anthology was complete and began the process of typesetting and making it perfect.


It's been an interesting process. Whilst I've previously edited anthologies (the award-winning "The Alsiso Project" and "punkPunk!"), Sophie's experience had rested solely with the magazine. She's found it an often frustrating but ultimately satisfying process to edit something under a theme. Perhaps we'll do it again.




(extract from David Nadeau)




"A Galaxy Of Starfish: An Anthology Of Modern Surrealism" contains work by Joel Allegretti - Gary Budgen - Zachary Cosby - Dalton Day  Logan Ellis - Zachary Scott Hamilton - Chris Holdaway - Jake Hostetter - Travis Macdonald - Socrates Martinis - Esther Greenleaf Murer - David Nadeau - Katherine Osborne - Bob Schofield - Scherezade Siobhan - David Spicer - Douglas Thompson - T.D. Typaldos - Owen Vince - Yariv Zerbib. 160pp. £8.99 UK orders / £12.99 NON-UK.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Sömntuta

My short story, "Sömntuta", has recently been published in issue eleven of Lighthouse Magazine, and as usual I'm blogging a few comments as to how the story was written. There will be spoilers for those who have yet to read it.

My inspiration for this story came from the title and a quote. Sömntuta is a Swedish word meaning sleepyhead and also the poppy flower. I discovered the word in a roundabout way via a friend's Swedish girlfriend and it seemed intriguing enough for a story. The quote was from Albert Camus: "In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." The quote felt relevant to a story set in Sweden. Unfortunately, when Lighthouse published the story they made an error in not including the quote (for which they graciously apologised). Understanding the ending of the story is pivotal to having read the quote at the beginning, so it will be interesting to see how the piece is received.

In "Sömntuta", Isobel is an English girl holidaying reluctantly in Stockholm following the break-up of a long-term relationship. She meets the enigmatic Isak, but just exactly who is he and what is his role? As usual in my stories, there are no straightforward answers. Isobel becomes transformed - or wakes up - but how long will it last?

Here's a bit of it:

Isak's smile resembled a sinkhole on a pine forest floor. "Once they taught us about suicide and now they speak of quantum suicide."
     "I'm sorry?"
     He spoke into the elements. "Quantum suicide is a paradox, a thought experiment. You know of Schrödinger's cat?"
     "I know it needs feeding."
     Her joke failed to gain a laugh.

"Lighthouse #11" is available here and contains fiction and poetry from a large number of contributors.

I wrote the story whilst listening to "Vespertine" by Bjork on repeat. A special mention should be given to my partner, Sophie, who assisted in line-editing this piece and turned it around from a mediocre first draft into something publishable.



Thursday, 21 January 2016

Books I Haven't Written, But Goodreads Thinks I Have

Some of you - at least once every couple of years - might read my books and then happen to search for me online. If you land on my Goodreads author page you might be surprised to find that I'm a much more diverse author than you thought from the title you read. I've never stuck to one genre, and have been published in crime, SF, fantasy, horror, and slipstream publications, but here are few books attributed to me which have been written by other Andrew Hook's. Don't be confused. My namesakes are proving that we're quite a diverse bunch. Some of these titles I wish I'd written myself.


100 of the Most Shocking Reviews the "Third Wheel: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 7"




To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what this book is. It seems to be a book collecting reviews of another book. It's only 42 pages long. Out of all the titles on here this is the one I would least rather be 'connected' to me. Goodreads do have a process where one author can be separated from another, but I've previously found this to be a short term fix and other authors gravitate back to me again.




F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Life




At least this one has literary merit. The Andrew Hook in this case is a professor at Glasgow University, and there is - in fact - the "Andrew Hook Centre for American Studies" based at that University. If anything, this Andrew Hook is probably a little disdainful of myself in the same way as I am of the first author on this list. I've liked what I've read of F. Scott Fitzgerald and I've heard that this title is a good biography. Recommended.




Hot Vacation - The Naughty Friends series


 
I'm sure if I'd written these I'd be making more money than I am at the moment. My middle initial is 'R' so it's not my pseudonym. These appeared fairly recently suggesting they might be riding the sub-Grey wave that swept through the publishing industry. Maybe I should write books like this. Maybe I should do some research. Maybe I could get a grant.

If there are any other creative folk out there with my moniker, please let me know.









Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Best and Worst of 2015

Well, it's that time of the year when everyone is doing their 'best and worst of' lists, so here is mine. I'm going to list the books and movies I read/watched in 2015 and then pick my favourites. This isn't restricted to what was new in 2015, but what I actually watched and read - some of these items might be very old indeed.

Books:

I read the following in 2015:

Georges Simenon – Mr Hire’s Engagement
Adrian Tomine – Shortcomings
Anna Kavan – Who Are You?
Alison Littlewood – A Cold Season
Yoshihiro Tatsumi – The Push Man
Aldolfo Bioy Casares – The Invention of Morel
Gary Couzens – Out Stack and other places
Anna Kavan – A Scarcity of Love
Jean Teule – The Suicide Shop
Richard Yates – A Good School
Machado de Assis – Philosopher or Dog
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – The Leopard
Raymond Queneau – We Always Treat Women Too Well
Nina Allen – A Thread of Truth
Delacorta – Diva
John Wyndham – The Seeds Of Time
Richard Balls – Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury
Gareth L Powell – Ack-Ack Macaque
Paul Auster – Moon Palace
Megan Abbott – Bury Me Deep
Sheri S Tepper – Grass
Heinrich Boll – The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
Paul Auster – The Music of Chance
Stephen Volk – Whitstable
Jim Thompson – Nothing More Than Murder
Andrew Crumey – Mr Mee
Helen Marshall – Gifts For The One Who Comes After
Christopher Priest – The Affirmation
Mike O’Driscoll – Eyepennies
Pascal Garnier – The Front Seat Passenger
Robert Dellar – Seaton Point
Raymond Chandler – The Little Sister
Tadeusz Borowski – This Way For The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Danilo Kis – The Encyclopaedia of the Dead
Jeff Koons: Conversations with Norman Rosenthal
Edited by Max Brod – The Diaries of Franz Kafka
Blonde – Joyce Carol Oates
Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer

That's worked out at 37 books this year, quite a few less than last year but then both the Kafka and the Oates each took me three months to read! Definitely the worst of the bunch was Sherri S Tepper's "Grass" which I couldn't read beyond 60 pages (it's very rare that I don't finish a book). There were several books I found simply 'ok' which I had higher expectations for: "The Encyclopaedia of the Dead" by Danilo Kis being one of those. Special mentions to "The Little Sister" by Raymond Chandler which was wonderfully quotable, "The Front Seat Passenger" by Pascal Garnier (again, a great little crime novel), "Eyepennies" by Mike O'Driscoll, and "Out Stack and other stores" by Gary Couzens for which I wrote the introduction.

As usual, I'm going to base my top three from my Goodreads review. Normally this would be straightforward, but a surprising six titles got 5/5 from me this year: "A Scarcity of Love" by Anna Kavan, "Diva" by Delacorta, "The Music of Chance" by Paul Auster, "Nothing More Than Murder" by Jim Thompson, "The Affirmation" by Christopher Priest, and "Blonde" by Joyce Carol Oates. This makes my decision a little harder. I have a lot of affection for "Diva" as I love the movie adaptation of the same name. The Jim Thompson book is also a perfect crime read. However I think I have to choose books which gave me some additional emotional depth. The Anna Kavan comes close, but I also found it hard-going and irritating despite it's brilliance. For those reasons, here are my top three:

In reverse order:

"The Music of Chance" by Paul Auster


Auster is fast becoming one of my favourite authors (I also read "The Moon Palace" this year which got 4/5 in my review), and this book is a delight. Fast-paced and thoughtful, Auster takes me to places that I love and the twists and turns in this book were a breath-taking delight.


"The Affirmation" by Christopher Priest


Priest's themes are close to my own preoccupations in fiction: the nature of reality, identity, memory and immortality. The alternate realities in this book intersperse seamlessly and the final sentence is utterly brilliant. I loved it.

And the winner is:

"Blonde" by Joyce Carol Oates
 

If you spend three months with a book (this is 932 pages) then it's somewhat inevitable you'll have some kind of affair with it. This is a fictionalised biopic of Marilyn Monroe which is a colossus in size, in scope, in adaptation and in emotion. I hadn't a huge interest in Monroe prior to reading this but it has immeasurably altered my perception of her. It's a bittersweet read, a heartache. I couldn't fault it and highly recommend it.


Movies:

I watched the following in 2015:


Under The Skin
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Black Orchid
Jeune and Jolie
The Princess Bride
The Double
Heartbeats
Gravity
Tokyo Sonata
Ruby Sparks
The Way
The Dallas Buyers Club
The Life of Pi
Suspicion
Shadow of a Doubt
Circumstance
Grave Encounters
The Abominable Snowman
Apres Mai
The Tingler
The Woman In Black: Angel of Death
Upstream Colour
Blue Is The Warmest Colour
Her
Marina Abramovic The Artist Is Present
Grave Encounters 2
Strangers On A Train
Primer
The Woodsman
Them!
Frances Ha
Mademoiselle
Guardians of the Galaxy
Beavis and Butt-head Do America
The Hide
It’s A Wonderful Life
A Dangerous Method
The Girl Next Door
Evil Dead (remake)
Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens
Up!
Nazarin
Les Amants

Thanks For Sharing
Nebraska
Gambling House
Avengers Assemble
The Act Of Killing
Slow Motion
I Saw The Devil
Requiem For A Dream
The Great Beauty
Short Term 12
Chasing Ice
Romeo & Juliet
Gangster Squad
As Above, So Below
Buried
Lucy
The Goob
The Wrong Man
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
Good Vibrations
The Filth and the Fury
Walk The Line
Hitchcock
Jackie Brown
Radio On
This Is Spinal Tap
Elegy
God Help The Girl
The Life Of David Gale
The Imitation Game
The Bat
The Road
Kiss Of Death
Wolf Creek 2
Cinema Paradiso
The Conjuring
Annabelle
Zodiac
The Most Dangerous Game
On The Road
Children Of Men
Tiger of Bengal
Tomb of Love
Antiviral
Ju On: White Ghost/Black Ghost
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
Little Children
The Hourglass Sanitorium
Lake Mungo
Nightcrawler
Insidious
Nightmare Alley
Interstellar
Naked Lunch
I Am Big Bird
It Follows
Paprika
Donnie Darko
Heartless
The Red Shoes
Ouija
Pacific Rim
Locke
The Monk
Transcendence
Dial M For Murder
Cyborg She
The House of the Devil
Tell Me Something
Vertigo
Eraserhead
Mulholland Drive
Scarlet Street

Interesting to see the impact having a young child who has started nursery school on movie watching. Last year we only saw 47 movies because she would go to bed too late for us to reasonably start watching something. This year we've seen 116 because she's knackered early! Of course, that makes the choice particularly difficult as there are some great movies in that list.

As usual when picking my top three I'm discounting movies I've previously watched. So that knocks out "The Tingler" which I was glad to see at the cinema on a big screen, "Strangers On A Train", "Vertigo", "Donnie Darko" (which I've seen numerous times), "Primer" and "Children Of Men" which I love. Out of those which remain I watched a large number of appalling horror films ("Ouija" and "The Conjuring" spring to mind), but some of those were enjoyably inventive: I really loved "As Above, So Below" for inverting - literally - horror expectations, and "The House of the Devil" which carried its 1970 horror vibe well. And my favourite horror movie this year has made my top three.

I watched a few SF movies: "Under The Skin" was minimally brilliant and hypnotic, by contrast "Lucy" (also with Scarlett Johansson) was marvellously insane. I loved them both. "Interstellar" was also damn good, but for some reason I can't quite pinpoint has not made my final selection. For non-genre movies I was pleasantly surprised and engrossed by "The Imitation Game". "Jackie Brown", with its fantastic opening titles, has probably become my favourite Tarantino movie but again not quite made the cut. And "Blue Is The Warmest Colour" was devastatingly poignant - the relationship between the two main characters vivid and raw, a honest portrayal of love.

I get the feeling that on another day "Lucy", "Blue Is The Warmest Colour", "Interstellar", "Jackie Brown", and "Under The Skin" might have made the final list, but - today - here are my top three movies seen in 2015.
 
Again, in reverse order:


"Lake Mungo" - Joel Anderson


I had heard good things about this supernatural movie but it surpassed all expectations. Subtlety and wrong-footedness are the keys to this picture. Ultimately it's about understanding grief rather than being a shocker, which means the result is both believable and tragic. I loved it's delicate twists, and how looking at the same thing several times yields different interpretations.


"Upstream Color" - Shane Carruth 
 

I have little idea what this movie was about and it probably needs a repeat watching. I also saw it almost at the beginning of the year and nearly bypassed it in my roundup because of that. But it has to make my top three because my sole recollection is that throughout the entire movie neither my partner nor myself uttered a single word. It's a perfect slipstream movie.
 

And the winner is...
 
"The Great Beauty" - Paolo Sorrentino
 

This seemingly simple movie follows aging socialite, Jep Gambardella, as he muses on his life, his first love, and a sense of unfulfillment. He is a writer who subsequently lost his way. Whilst this might not appear particularly interesting on the face of it, the movie is astonishingly directed. Some of the shots and framing are almost unbelievable in their execution and are quite simply breathtaking. It's perfect in each and every way and tantamount to confirming how great movies are also great art. A sumptuous and inspiring feast. Brilliant.
Looking forward to reading and watching more in 2016!