Introducing The OWF Film Diary 2011

Morning all, Simon here, introducing my new column with the first OWF Film Diary entry. Basically, what I'm presenting here is my attempt to chart a whole year's worth of film-watching - something I have wanted to do for some time now. The aim is to post frequently, chronicling every film I watch this year - both offering reviews and setting myself the ultimate goal of watching (and writing about) as many films as humanly possible.

Considering the size of my DVD and Blu-ray collection (well into three figures and rising) and the fact that a large portion of that collection remains unwatched as yet (I'm a serial collector, and haven't had the time!) I have the opportunity to continue my filmic education as well as revisiting classics and new titles, sharing my thoughts as I go.

The Diary will take advantage of not only my collection, but also movies shown on TV, seen at the cinema or rented, and I'm more than willing to accept suggestions from anyone who wants to share a gem or an unmissable horror of a film (somewhat perversely I actually enjoy watching bad films). So, terribly hungover and bleary-eyed from last night's festivities, here's the first installment, for January 1st: a gentle start, with two films I feel confident most readers will already have seen, but which each warrant re-visiting.

Film #1 Big

A typical festive period TV screening for Tom Hanks' charming family fantasy, Big is one of those films that has stayed with me throughout my film watching career - I watch it whenever it appears on TV listings (usually around this time of year), and am always impressed by how different my experience of the film becomes as I age.

Arriving during a spate of body-swapping movies in the late 80s, this film really announced Hanks to the wider cinema-watching world as his break-out piece, despite the excellence of earlier films The Money Pit and Dragnet, and is testament to the virtues of perfect casting. There are few actors who could offer such an authentic child-ness without dumbing it down and making the performance comically derogative to younger generations, and the manner in which Hanks convinces the audience that he is a child trapped within an adult's body is extremely undervalued. Of course, Hanks' later roles would confirm that he can draw upon a seemingly limitless diversity and depth in his talent, but this was the first moment that suggested he could really act.

I think time has been somewhat cruel to Big - what is a very impressive film, not only or least because of Hanks' remarkable performance seems to be considered unastounding because of its gleeful courtship of a family audience. Everything is perfectly played, so we are presented with a film that is utterly comfortable and comforting, that feels familiar no matter whether on first or fiftieth viewing, and the effect undervalues just how well made the film actually is. And yet at the same time that comfortable bubble that encloses it also protects its from too much probing when logic seems to desert it: it as untouchable a film as you're ever likely to come across, and I for one salute its achievement heartily.

Score: 4.5/5

Film #2 Toy Story 3

A second Tom Hanks choice for the day, and unbelievably only the second time I have watched the final instalment to Pixar's flag-ship franchise since I saw it in 3D at my local cinema.

I actually can't get enough of the film (hence its choice as number one in my Top Ten Films of 2010), and will watch and rewatch it and its predecessors on blu-ray throughout the year with the same ecstatic enjoyment that I experienced the first time I sat down to watch Toy Story. A lot has already been said of how good the film is, and I am always in danger of spouting too many superlatives when discussing it, so I'll keep it brief. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself an enormous favour and pick it up; you aren't likely to enjoy a film this much very often, nor become so entirely enchanted and emotionally involved with the characters.

And the most astounding thing about the film's success? It's not just that it's a threequel that recaptures the same charm and magic as the first in the series, it's that it was made by a different director to the incredibly popular two predecessors. That must have been a daunting prospect for Lee Unkrich, but his success with the third is evidence of his devotion to the franchise as a whole- everything new feels like it belongs, including new characters and additions to the universe, and unlike other trilogies there is no dilution of the original film's spirit or message. About as close to perfect animated film-making as I'm sure I'll ever see.

Score: 5/5 So, there we have it, the first page of my OWF Film Diary. Two down, hundreds more to go...

WhatCulture's former COO, veteran writer and editor.