The Freelancing Life

November 20, 2015 in Best Of, Blogging, Freelance, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

There hasn’t been much activity on this blog for a while, and for that I apologize. The last few months have been one of the most tumultuous periods in my life for a long time, with a lot of things happening both personally and professionally.

Life update — the end of an era

Apart from the usual grind of looking after two young kids, a close relative passed away unexpectedly, which hit me very hard, and there were three additional incidents where other family members had to visit the emergency room for various reasons. It was one scare after another, and each time something happened it took a little out of me.

Professionally, I once again find myself on a different path, and it’s turned out to be a bit of a dream come true. For those who don’t know, I had been working at an online newspaper writing and editing mostly semi-translated articles for close to four years, and mid-September, we were suddenly called to an impromptu meeting one afternoon by the editor-in-chief.

It is a place where meetings are rare, and nothing usually ever comes out of it. Just a month or so prior we were told that there would be a restructuring, with our paper moving from under one unit to another. It was painted as an administrative issue only and some staff members were privately assured that nothing would change. So naturally it was concerning that a meeting was being called again so soon, especially when friends outside of our company had been messaging some of us that very morning, asking, cryptically, whether we were okay.

And this is no joke, but every time we had a meeting we would joke that the paper was probably being shut down. We knew it wasn’t the most professional or stable of places, and often I felt like we were just a bunch of amateurs mucking about and were somehow getting away with it. So of course we made the same joke again before this mid-September meeting, and it turned out that this time the joke was on us. The editor-in-chief kicked off the meeting with a description of how wonderfully our paper was performing, which I knew was a bad omen. Sure enough, the next thing he said was that the paper would be shut down “temporarily” due to the fact that the conglomerate had been hemorrhaging money at a rate much worse than they had expected.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. The company was built on a culture of schmoozing and sucking up to superiors, and few managers were really putting in any effort into driving the business forward. My own superior, for instance, promised many things — some even as early as when I interviewed four years ago — and none of them ever came true. He said he would rearrange our work days so that we’d only have to work on weekends every now and then (fail), that we would have regular seminars to teach us how to be better writers and journalists (fail), that we would have regular meetings to keep everyone up to date (fail), that we would create sub-groups to specialize on certain areas (fail), that we would start marketing our paper and build relationships with other papers (fail), that we would start publishing advertisements so we’d actually make some money (fail) — the list goes on. That’s right, in four years, he didn’t make a single one of these promises come true.

The one that did come true, eventually, was updating the look of the website. That was a promise made during my first interview, and for the last two years we were told it was “imminent.” And do you know when we updated the website? Two weeks after he announced that the paper was shutting down in six weeks. Yes, we finally updated to the long-awaited “new” website a month before it was shut down.

Another hilarious sequence of events took place when the chief decided that we were going to buck the digitization trend by creating a paper version of our online paper. A monthly digest, if you will. We hired a designer and reallocated one of our writers to manage the new magazine. That’s right, two people to create a 100-page magazine every month. Even bought a brand new Apple computer and a color laser printer and everything. As it progressed, this monthly magazine somehow morphed into a “semi-annual” magazine, and then a “yearly” magazine. And then one day, poof, the entire project was called off. Four months of work and the hiring of a brand new staff member for this sole purpose, all for nothing. And there wasn’t even a “WTF just happened”? There was more or less a collective silent shrug, and everyone went back to work pretending it never existed.

Anyway, the outcome of the meeting was that the paper would be closed down by the end of October, but that most of us would keep our jobs and be relocated to join the Chinese-language newspaper in the same building. A few of my ex-pat colleagues were shown the door with just a two-week notice period. As for who will get to stay and what work they will actually be doing in their new roles, the chief told us we’d find out by the end of September.

Naturally, the days turned into weeks, and nothing was said. A few of us managed to individually corner the chief on separate occasions, but the answers were always vague and non-committal. The only assurance I received was that I would be safe, and that everything would be sorted out “shortly.” Later on, we pieced together the fragments of information we each received and basically understood that: (1) whoever hadn’t already been shown the door would probably get to stay; (2) we’d be moved from the comforts of our current floor to join the other media losers in the depths of the basement (literally); (3) our workloads would be reduced towards the end so we could start testing out the new roles on the new systems; (4) we’d work on firm-issued laptops instead of our current desktop computers and sit together on long tables in open plan; (5) we’d have freedom to choose to write whatever we want to write; and (6) if we didn’t like our new roles we’d be able to apply for a redundancy package within the first 45 days.

Initially, I kind of wanted to stay. It was a safe job that paid well considering how easy it was, and the work hours were stable and normal. And I salivated at the idea of being able to write about what I wanted to write, a stark contrast to the existing situation where I got tossed most of the longest and hardest articles on the most difficult topics — and was still expected to produce the same number of articles as everyone else. The main concern was work hours — we were told there would probably be morning and night shifts — and with my family commitments it wasn’t something I was looking to accept. But the chief told me the new hours would be “flexible,” and it was suggested to me that I’d probably be able to keep my existing schedule, though as with everything else, it was “yet to be confirmed.”

Shit dragged on like this until late October. About 10 days before the official end of the paper, there was an update: even after we are technically transferred, we’d stay on our current floor (the top floor) until the end of November, and we’d get laptops by the start of the final week of October so we can start trying out the new roles to see how we like it. The 45-day cooling off period disappeared like a fart in the wind, and the redundancy application date was set in stone at the end of the first week of November. In other words, I’d have 10 working days to decide my future.

The decision was expedited when we had another meeting on the Tuesday of the final week. Needless to say, we had not received our laptops by then, and my workload was actually being ramped up as certain people had already left, meaning I was both writing and editing, sometimes at the same time. At this final meeting, we were told that: (1) the laptops might not come until next week or beyond; (2) we’d still have to work shifts, from 9am-6pm or 1pm-10pm, with everyone having to work a weekend day about once a month from 10am-7pm — and that everyone’s schedule would be different — but no final roster was set and that each person’s exact times would decided “shortly”; (3) we’d have to choose our own stories but with “guidance” from the chief to ensure we’re on the “right track”; (4) we’d be posting our own articles on the website and have no one to edit our writing, but there will be a fine each time someone spots a mistake; (5) everyone would have their own personal page with all their articles, the number of hits for each article, and its “star” rating from readers — this will be used to determine performance.

The meeting was a relief for me, because I had remained torn about whether or not to stay. Even if I were allowed to work 9-6, unlike everyone else, nothing else appealed to me. With the laptops not arriving until after the switch, it meant I would have less than five days to experience the new role. And though we were told that we’d be technically allowed to choose our own stories, I got the strong sense that it would not really be the case. The fines and the personal page — essentially for naming and shaming (another wonderful part of the firm culture) — effectively sealed the deal. I knew it wasn’t all the chief’s fault — it was clear that the firm was mired in bureaucracy and the higher ups couldn’t make up their minds because they were all desperate to save their own asses. That’s what happens when there’s zero accountability and no incentive to do anything until the shit hits the fan.

So immediately after the meeting, I went into the chief’s office and told him I was taking the redundancy. I did some calculations, and with the redundancy package and freelance income, I was actually better off financially in the short-term, at least over the next six months. The plan is to generate enough contacts and steady freelance work to make the arrangement work over the long-term, and if not, I’d have to find a proper job.

PS: In hindsight, I absolutely made the right choice. My former colleagues were booted to the basement in the first week of the transition as opposed to after a month, and as of now they are still yet to receive their laptops. They actually moved a few of the desktop computers in our existing office downstairs into open plan for people to share. And it’s apparently been hectic and stressful, with odd shift rotations, little choice to write what you want, and pressure from the chief to get more hits. Can’t say it’s a surprise.

The freelancing life begins

So despite the fear of instability and uncertainty, I jumped at the opportunity for a freelancing life trial. It was my dream before I joined my translator job to freelance exclusively, but it was simply impossible without the requisite contacts and steady stream of work. Over the past four years, however, I have managed to build up a small network and some regular clients, so it’s a good foundation to build on.

I think I’m going to have to do a series of posts about what it’s like to be a freelancer, because there’s so much about it that I never thought through before I embarked on this path. It’s been a bit of a rough start, to be honest, because there’s so much unanticipated random stuff when you leave an old job for a new one. After a week of rest, movies and expensive food, I started dealing with the post-employment paperwork, updating CVs and LinkedIn, chasing up the company for stuff (typical), communicating with government agencies, dealing with insurance issues — all while trying to finish off existing cases I already have and trying to find new clients, as well as establishing new systems for more efficiency. And when you have more free time in theory, guess what? You end up getting asked to do more stuff, with family and the kids in particular.

On top of everything, I took on my first live interpretation cases for a film festival, which basically wiped out an entire week because I was too nervous to focus on other stuff and had to make sure I was well prepared. It’s been a bit of a wild mess for the last couple of weeks, and I still have cases outstanding that I really should have gotten to already, which makes me feel terrible.

The days have just gone by super quickly and I feel like there is not enough time in a day to get to all the things I want to. And I really need to build up my efficiency and motivation after working at a place that not only encourages but cultivates inefficiency and laziness. I am 100% serious about this. For four years, any hard work I put in was rewarded only with…more work. Basically, if you finish an article, you get another one. There’s no quota or maximum daily number of articles you must do, and you can’t leave early, so there’s no incentive to work fast. So if you’re super efficient and diligent, you could end up doing six or seven articles a day. If you’re completely lazy and unmotivated, you could do two a day. It makes no difference. No one says anything. There are no performance reviews. Maybe your end-of-year bonus will be affected a little, but we’re talking about a maximum difference of about half a month of salary. Even if someone started off in this job by coming to work on time every day and working really hard all throughout the day, what do you think will happen to them when they start seeing that their colleagues are always coming in one or two hours late, taking three or four hour lunches plus afternoon naps, and doing less than half the work they’re doing — with absolutely no consequences? Doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. And this was the type of work environment I was in for four years. I did my fair share of slacking off like everyone else, but I’m glad to say I maintained some dignity by at least ensuring that I did a certain amount of work at a certain quality every day, which made me a rarity.

Anyway, I’m hoping next week will be a new week where I can start sinking into a bit of a routine. Once that happens I’ll be able to focus on systematically punching out the existing cases and prowling for new clients and projects. Still, I’m already enjoying the freedom, the nature of the work, and the sense of being my own boss. Makes me want to do the very best I can every time.

What about the writing?

I’ll be truthful: one of the main reasons I wanted to have a go at the freelancing is because I want to free up time to finally finish my two books, and perhaps a screenplay I’ve had in my head for a while. I realized this was an opportunity that will never come around again, and I wanted to grab it by the balls.

So far, I’ve had even less time to work on these things than when I worked a full-time job. This blog post is the only writing I’ve done in months apart from a few movie and book reviews that were mostly composed on public transport. Again, this is something I hope will change. My ideal day once the dust settles would be half an hour to an hour of reading every morning and at least an hour to work on my own writing. Perhaps one day a week I’ll be able to write a blog post or two instead, and another half day I’ll use to catch a movie or go out and about. Not sure if I’ll ever get close to this dream, but I’m going to start doing everything I can to reach it.

Wow, that was some rant. Sorry.

Movie reviews moving to new website!

September 3, 2015 in Best Of, Websites by pacejmiller

New Blog

This is how the new blog looks right now!

I finally did something I had been meaning to do for ages: create a new website for my movie reviews.

And here it is, the new Spoiler-Free Movie Reviews blog. Take a look, have a browse; it too a long time to set up (mainly because I have no idea what I’m doing).

Basically, I felt like this blog was becoming almost an exclusive movie blog, and together with writing posts, book reviews, restaurant reviews and everything else, things were getting a little messy and out of focus. So I decided to start up a subdomain for all my future movie reviews so that this blog could be freed up to focus more on writing. It means this blog will still be up and running, but it’ll be just for my thoughts on writing and reviews of books I read recently. No more food-related posts either — I never really liked doing them anyway. I am, however, keeping all the existing content as is.

As for the new subdomain, set up with the help of my excellent host, Siteground (this is a free plug because their technical assistance via online chat really is so professional and awesome), it will now house all my new movie reviews. I’ve also moved over the existing ones (more than 600 posts) and re-categorised everything — into years, genres, star ratings, etc —  for ease of navigation and search (check the left panel). Trust me when I say it took a bloody long time.

Lastly, I decided to name the new blog in accordance with my “spoiler-free” philosophy. I already have a bunch of posts ready for launch, so please visit and support!

The 10 Best Movies of 2014

August 25, 2015 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

At last, my 10 best movies of 2014. Some controversial choices in here, and as usual, it’s probably not what my list would be like today, though I’ve stuck with the ratings I gave at the time of initial review (which can be accessed by clicking on the film title).

10. X-Men: Days of Future Past

The iconic Quicksilver scene

The iconic Quicksilver scene

With several movies on the same rating, I had to make a decision as to which film I wanted to squeeze into the 10th spot. After some self-deliberations, I decided I had to put a comic book adaptation in there. X-Men: Days of Future Past was my second-most anticipated film of the year and it lived up to expectations by effortlessly fusing the older and younger X-Men franchises through a complex but well-told time-travel concept that also cleverly inserted some historical events into the narrative. Terrific cast, superb special effects and a whole lot of action-packed fun, it paves the way perfectly for next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.

9. Wild

WILD - 2014 FILM STILL - Reese Witherspoon as "Cheryl Strayed" - Photo Credit: Anne Marie/Fox    © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox

Reese Witherspoon sure looks terrible without makeup

On its face, this is basically a female version of Into the Wild, one my all-time faves, though there are enough differences across the board — whether it’s characters, plot or themes — for Wild to be a wildly satisfying emotional journey. It’s a great film for people who are past the innocence of their youth and are struggling to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Powered by fantastic performances from Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, this is a special experience I found both moving and uplifting.

8. Gone Girl


Ben Affleck was perfect as the douchey husband

I didn’t expect Gone Girl to be so high on the list, only because I had already read the book when I saw it and many of the surprises had already been spoiled. But it’s hard to deny that David Fincher did a masterful job in adapting a difficult, multi-layered book with complex and difficult characters who are hard to root for. He captured the dark tones of the book superbly and had me on the edge of my seat even when I knew what was going to happen. Rosamund Pike was wonderful and Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick Harris both surprised in how well they played their respective parts. A very impressive, unsettling experience.

7. Stretch

Stretch is one wild ride

Stretch is one wild ride

Probably the biggest surprise on this list. Not for me though. Stretch was hands down the funniest movie of the year. With Patrick Wilson at his all-time best, rampaging through the streets of Hollywood as a limo driver to the rich and famous, Stretch was weird, wacky and all over the place, but it was also a laugh a minute and so frenetic in pace that I was glad to have gone on this fantastic ride. I’m still shocked that the film has barely registered a blip on the radar of most audiences, but its 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes feels like vindication in my books.

6. Whiplash



I went into Whiplash with my expectations raised already, and it still impressed the hell out of me. Never did I think a movie about drumming could be so intense, and yet it turned out to be arguably most suspenseful film of the year thanks to the brilliant writing and direction from Damien Chazelle and the performances of JK Simmons and Miles Teller. Energetic, powerful and pumping with adrenaline, Whiplash is a unique instant classic that deserves all the superlatives.

5. The Babadook



It’s not often that a horror film makes the list, let alone an Australian horror film. The Babadook, however, is a legitimate masterpiece that also happens to be the scariest movie of the year. It’s the anti-modern-horror flick in the sense that the characters are well developed, it’s creepy and atmospheric, genuinely tense, and the scares are not merely cheap tactics. You could tell it was going to be different from the very first scene. Rather than make you jump, The Bababook makes you squirm and quiver because the terror penetrates beyond just the surface and seeps all the way to your core. People with children will get an additional layer from the experience.

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Nothing beats talking horseriding apes

Nothing beats talking horse-riding apes

I doubt this movie is on anyone else’s top 10 list of 2014, but if you know me or have been following this blog, you’ll know that I have a certain bias towards movies with talking apes. And talking apes who ride horses and shoot guns? Forget about it. I know Dawn of the Planet of the Apes probably isn’t, objectively speaking, one of the best films of the year, but it’s easily one of mine. Granted, Dawn is not as jaw-droppingly awesome as its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It makes up for that, however, with more apes, more ape character development and more large-scale ape action. Losing James Franco also helped. Dawn is the only movie I watched twice at the cinema in 2014, and it was just as spectacular and powerful the second time around. I can’t wait for War of the Planet of the Apes in 2017.

3. The Imitation Game

I think I just invented Playstation!

I think I just invented Playstation!

Every year there seems to be a highly regarded movie that I love even more than everyone else (that is, apart from the one that has talking apes), and this year that film is The Imitation Game, the tragic “true story” of British code-breaker Alan Turing. I just found the film to be a captivating experience. It’s a multi-layered drama-thriller filled with intriguing characters, educational and exciting plot developments and moving moments. With the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch steering the film, it turned out far more interesting and compelling than a code-breaking story should have been. I was engrossed from start to finish. It’s probably one of the few films I saw last year where I can’t really nitpick about anything.

2. Interstellar

So pretty


When I first saw Interstellar I thought everyone would love it as much as I did, but as I realised later on, a lot of people hated it for various reasons. Too long, too slow, too corny, too little logic, too little real science, too “out there”  — all of these criticisms could be considered valid, though for me the biggest challenge was always getting past the fact that I’d have to stare at the smug face of Matthew “Alright Alright Alright” McConaughey for nearly 3 hours on an IMAX screen. In all seriousness, I think Interstellar is perhaps one of the most epic and beautiful sci-fi films ever made. From the scale to the ideas to the risks that Christopher Nolan was willing to take with the plot and the characters, it’s everything that I want from an epic cinematic experience. Sure, it got a bit melodramatic at times, though I think it’s a film needs melodrama more than it doesn’t need it, especially given Nolan’s past catalogue of films. I enjoyed the visual spectacle, I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed the sci-fi concepts and ideas. In terms of pure entertainment and visual splendor, Interstellar sits atop all other films of 2014.

1. Boyhood

Ethan Hawke is the only person who doesn't age in the film

Ethan Hawke is the only person who doesn’t age in the film

It’s a shame 5 stars is the most I can award to a film because there are rare occasions when I feel it’s just not enough. Boyhood is one such film. As remarkable as the fact that it was shot over 12 years with the same actors, what is even more impressive about Boyhood is director Richard Linklater’s ability to mould all that footage into a deeply human, poignant and emotional movie that’s as close to depicting real life on film as a fictional motion picture can be. It’s a film like no other, one that truly has to be experienced personally to appreciate what the fuss is all about. It’s now in my pantheon of favourite movies of all-time.

Honourable mentions: A Most Violent Year, The Lego Movie, Horns, The Good Lie

So there you have it, my best and worst of 2014. Some surprises, some controversy, for sure, but a list I’m very happy with when it’s all said and done.

The 10 Worst Movies of 2014

August 24, 2015 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Here we go, my worst 10 films of 2014. I saw a lot of terrible movies, but none worse than these 10.

As with previous years, this list is based on my ratings at the time of review, and I made it extra easy for myself this year because there are exactly 10 films I rated 1.5 stars or below.

I still had some difficult decisions to make, however, as movies 8-10 on this list all had the same rating. It does mean though that the top 2 were clearly head and shoulders above (or should I say below) the rest.

Unfortunately, that means some truly terrible movies missed the cut. These dishonourable mentions include Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy, Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me, and Samuel L Jackson’s Reasonable Doubt.

10. Sniper: Legacy

I need the money

I need the money

I had a long hard think about placing this film, an obvious B-grade, straight-to-DVD abomination, higher on the list. Strictly speaking it is probably worse than some of the other films ranked above it, but the difference is that no one expected Sniper: Legacy to be anything but a low-budget cash grab milking the legacy (pun intended) of the original film released 21 years ago. Its shittiness is almost anticipated, so I can’t claim an ambush. I totally deserve this one.

9. Winter’s Tale


Colin Farrell’s hair sums up this movie quite well

On paper, Winter’s Tale should have been pretty good, a magical fantasy romance fable with big stars (Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Will Smith). Sadly, all it did was make me cringe and bored. Non-sensical, contrived, manipulative and just plain silly at times, it’s the perfect example of what works on the page won’t necessarily work on the screen.

8. The Other Woman

Yes, it's as stupid as it looks

Yes, it’s as stupid as it looks

As annoying as the self-righteous women are in this film, it’s worst sin is still the most serious one when it comes to comedies: a dearth of laughs. You would think a movie that’s supposed to about female empowerment would have some positives, but the fact that it’s branded as mysognistic shows how far off the mark it was.

7. Ouija


All signs point to “crap”

I think Oujia boards are really scary and I knew it was only a matter of time before a horror film based on this theme is made, but Oujia turned about as cliched and unimaginative as it could have been. The characters don’t act remotely like how normal human beings would act. The dialogue is cringeworthy and full of obvious exposition. Silly, non-sensical and employing only the most typical scare tactics, this is a disappointment that’s even more disappointing than usual.

6. Transformers: Age of Extinction


Oh god…

Let’s face it, no “worst of” list is complete without an entry from Michael Bay. Strictly speaking, Transformers 4 is not the worst of the franchise, but the accumulated annoyance from the same old loud noises, boring characters and formulaic execution makes it difficult to bear for 90 minutes, let alone an inexcusable 165. Additional demerit points for all the awkward “Chinese elements” they forced into the film.

5. Walk of Shame

It is indeed a shame

Don’t shoot me for making this movie

It’s hard to hate a film when it’s so “meh.” And that’s what Walk of Shame is, an unfunny, boiler-plate screwball comedy that shits all over the lovely and talented Elizabeth Banks. I didn’t find it as sexist or racist as lot of other offended viewers and critics, though when a movie is so lacking in wit and pathetic perhaps a bit of controversy would have at least stirred up some interest.

4. I, Frankenstein

Aaron Eckhart worked out for this?

I got ripped for this shit?

I knew it wasn’t going to be great, but I, Frankenstein crashed below the low expectations I already had and was a complete waste of the talents of Aaron Eckhart and his impressive workout regime. Incredibly silly even by graphic novel standards, the film takes Mary Shelley’s source material as fact and throws in a bunch of gargoyles, demons and angels into a war with poor fight sequences shocking and shockingly bad CGI effects. The 2014 “blockbuster” that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons if it hasn’t been erased from memories already.

3. When the Game Stands Tall

What would Jesus do?

What would Jesus do?

Now we get to the three films of 2014 I loathed for reasons that are beyond objective and even generally subjective. First up, When the Game Stands Tall — relatively recently watched and still fresh in my mind– an infuriating corny and melodramatic film with sickening sports cliches, unbelievable characters and unashamedly overpowering religious themes. Laughably horrible trash masquerading as a triumphant true story.

2. Extraterrestrial

I'd rather be probed than sit through this shit again

I’d rather be probed than sit through this shit again

I love aliens and I love alien conspiracy movies. Extraterrestrial has turned all that on its head. Apart from being in the dreaded found footage format, this monster slasher also takes home the award for least frightening horror movie of the year, most annoying characters of the year and worst ensemble acting of the year notwithstanding the efforts of Shawshank’s Gil Bellows to bring up the average a little bit. This is so bad that it even destroys the possibility of a so-bad-it’s-good film.

1. Left Behind

Nicholas Cage. 'Nuff said

Nicholas Cage. ‘Nuff said

Of all the horrible 2014 movies I’ve seen, one film dominates all others — and honestly, it’s not even close. And you know that this film is entering a different stratosphere when I proclaim that it could very well be Nicolas Cage’s worst film ever. It’s just one of those surreal experiences where you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s not a nightmare. It’s actually easier to conceive a world in which Christians are beamed into heaven while everyone else is left behind to suffer Hell on Earth than fathom how a film this shit could have ever been made.

So there you go, my worst 10 movies of 2014. Next up, the 10 best.

2014 Movie Review Round-up confirms I like movies

August 20, 2015 in Best Of, Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Movie Posters 2014

Maybe the rumors that I’m too kind to most movies are true.

It usually takes me a while to complete my best and worst of lists for movies for the year because I like to get through as many as I can — and all the ones I want to see — before setting the lists in stone. As I rank films based on the year they are officially released as opposed to when I see them, it typically takes me months after the end of each year to get through all the movies of that particular year.

I didn’t do too bad this year. It’s only August 2015 and I’m finally ready to cast my votes for the best and worst films of 2014. There are still a few films outstanding that I might eventually get to, but my guess is that they won’t make it on either list. For example, I’m about three-quarters through the Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts film, When We’re Young, and my attempt to watch the acclaimed Mr Turner failed miserably (I just found it so boring and the dialogue audibly incomprehensible).

Before I get to the lists, here are some fun facts I discovered why tabulating the results.

– I watched a total of 155 movies with an official release date of 2014

– The first 2014 film I watched was the Robocop remake (which I sadly didn’t even watch until February due to childcare commitments), and the last was Son of a Gun, the Aussie flick starring Ewan McGregor (watched late last month)

– I managed to see everything on my list of 15 most anticipated movies of 2014.

– With a ratings system of 0 to 5 stars and 0.25 star increments, I ended up using every possible rating except 0.25, 0.75, 1.25 and 4.75. Zero stars count theoretically, but it’s a rating I don’t give out — no matter how badly I want to — as I acknowledge that at least some effort has been put into making every movie ever made.

Distribution of Ratings 1

– In 2014, I gave four movies a maximum of 5 stars and one film a low of 0.5 stars. My most common rating was 3.5 stars, which means “very good” and was dished out to 23 movies. This was followed by 4 stars, meaning “excellent”,  tied with 2 stars, meaning “bad”, with each receiving 20 ratings. The median score, 2.5 stars, meaning “barely passable”, received 14 ratings, while my real baseline for a “decent” movie, 3 stars, had 17 ratings.

– My average rating for the 155 movies was 3.077 stars, which according to my rating system would mean that the average film of 2014 is a shade over “decent.” On the other hand, my median rating was slightly higher at 3.25, which means “pretty good”. I think that reflects my overall sentiments well. A lot of mediocre stuff, some horrible crap, and a few memorable standouts.

– There is a vague bell curve to the distribution, though the chart does appear skewed to the higher scores. Couple with the average and median scores, I suppose that confirms I tend to be more lenient than most when it comes to judging the quality of a film. I can’t help it. I like movies.

– Ratings are handed out at time of review and never amended, meaning I sometimes shock myself when looking back at the scores I gave to some movies. Some feel too high, some too low.

– In hindsight, movies that feel like they probably should have received a slightly higher rating include: Gone Girl (4.25), Guardians of the Galaxy (3.75), Edge of Tomorrow (3.75), John Wick (3.5), The Rover (3). Movies that feel like they probably deserved slightly less include: The Good Lie (4.25), Horns (4.25), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (4), The Maze Runner (4), Big Eyes (3.75).

Up next, my worst 10 films of 2014. Stay tuned.