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It’s a new year, in case you didn’t know. I’m sure you didn’t. It’s this new thing they’re trying out, where, after a collection of about twelve months they decide to reset the months back to one and start over again.

Anyways, during this time of year people have decided to set their minds to accomplishing a specific set of tasks they want to do to improve their lives; eat better, work out more, etc. For years I did the same thing; ‘It’s 2011, I’m going to accomplish this, create that, workout and look like this…’ etc etc.

Eventually I realized that making a resolution at the beginning of the year, no matter how well intentioned, wasn’t accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish out of life (and statistically most resolutions fail anyway).

So I gave them up entirely. What’s the point?

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THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!

The last three years, I didn’t have any resolutions at all. Instead I focused on spending each month on a single project that would allow me to close the book on that project after that month and start the next month with a new project. I’ve had varying levels of success on these different projects, but overall I’ve been very happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish over the last several years. (IE: A LOT more than before… Which was nothing.)

I’m not stopping that by any means. It’s given me great momentum and this upcoming year is going to allow me to release some projects that have been in ‘development hell’ for almost a decade.

BUT I’m constantly seeking self improvement and there are several things I’ve been wanting to make a habit in my life. I have a clear picture of who I want to be and what I want to do with my life, so I’m constantly striving towards that image.

One of the major things I’ve wanted to  be able to do is to read more… But I just didn’t seem to have time. AN ENTIRE BOOK?! THAT’S TOO MUCH!

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To give you an example of how my last eight or so years of reading has been, I’ve read a LOT of comics (though last year even my comic reading dropped significantly) and I usually manage to read about two to four books a year (usually business and finance books, I rarely make time for fiction anymore).

Which is odd, considering I’m a fiction writer. Huh.

WOW! You might say, that’s a LOT more than what I read in a year!

Well, considering that I used to read a full novel every day and still had time to accomplish everything I needed to… I’m going to say that my reading has someone diminished since college. Ha.

Well, I took December off in order to kind of reassess my life and my goals. Make sure I was still headed in the direction I wanted to head and to plan to set myself (and my family) up for success in the upcoming years. I’ve been so frustrated over the last several years because I can’t find the sort of inspiration I’m looking for; I watch movies, television shows, SORT OF play video games… Yet I have this sort of empty feeling that doesn’t tickle my mind and I’d often just kind of feel like I could be working on a project instead of consuming the media I am consuming.

I’ve constantly been looking for that feeling that I’d felt when I was younger, when I was more creative and expressive, when I had a seemingly endless supply of stories and ideas… But for some reason, over the years, I’d begun to lose it. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was…

Well, about a year and a half ago my phone stopped working and I lost my constant access to social media (and generally the internet). I realized very quickly that I was incredibly addicted and was, of course, spending a tremendous amount of time on these sites. (Hereby attributing to the ‘I don’t have enough time to do ‘x’ excuse.)

In December, aside from taking it off from projects, I also took it off from Facebook entirely and managed to discover that I actually have a TREMENDOUS amount of free time. That is when I picked up some of Kevin Strange’s bizarro stories. It’s not secret that I’m drawn to weird stories, filled with unique characters and just a bizarre, out of the ordinary premise; some of my own stories or pitches reflect that, I’m sure. If it is a fantastically told story on top of that; all the better. I’d been wanting to pick up some of Kevin’s stories for awhile, but after I had actually read some of Strange’s stories (in particular Texas Chainsaw Mantis) I began to realize something; that feeling of inspiration and imagination that I had felt before college?

I got that feeling from reading.

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Obviously! Duh! Over the years, as I’d begun to read less and less (as I got ‘busier’). I became less creative and became less inspired.

RIGHT after that I began to read quite a bit every day and ended the year by reading (and finishing) about four different books and a small set of short stories. So, I immediately I realized that reading was more than just a hobby or a goal for me; it was a NEED. Reading is a source of creativity, inspiration, and stimulation.

I was happier, I had an influx of creative ideas, I enjoyed the media that I was consuming more, and my mind was more focused on the other things I was trying to accomplish. I knew in that moment that I needed to get off my ass and start reading more.

HEY! It’s a new year! Let’s make a resolution! 

Well, for the most part what I’ve realized that most people don’t go into this sort of momentous task without having a specific set of tasks in mind that will help this accomplish their overall goal. That’s why only 8% of people succeed in their resolutions. They’re too broad with what they want to accomplish.

So how am I going to make reading a habit? Well, I’m taking a very similar approach to the whole #FinishIt method that I’ve been successfully using over the last several years to accomplish various projects that I’ve been wanting to do for over ten years. This version, however, will take the form of a 100 day goal.

Every day for one-hundred days, my goal is to read as many books as possible.

Yikes. That’s a big goal. Well, after I broke it down, it seemed more reasonable; thirty days to establish a new habit, the bite-sized goal from now until then is to read at least two chapters a day in a book. This gives me a very straight forward, broken down goal that I can accomplish every single day for the amount of time I need to (the 100 days). A bunch of smaller tasks accomplished each day takes me a step closer to getting to where I wanted to be overall.

Instead of waking up in the morning and browsing Facebook, I wake up in the morning and read a chapter in a book. Instead of browsing Facebook when I’m bored, or before I got to bed, I read a chapter. Now I ONLY get onto any social media when I have a reason to and (big surprise) I’m accomplishing a lot more.

Well, I’m almost two weeks into the new year and guess what? I’ve almost read two books. With this method, I’m on track for reading a book a week. How awesome is that? I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing on fifty days and on one-hundred days… But so far I’m going strong!

So, in summation; I realized that, despite already cutting down my social media time SIGNIFICANTLY, I still waste a massive amount of time on it. I’m using my time to accomplish things that don’t matter and just eat up my time instead of accomplishing my goals. So, instead of using social media as a method of entertainment, I’m doing something else more productive and beneficial to my life. Reading.

What are some of your goals for this upcoming year? What do you want to accomplish?

Nathan Seals is an independent filmmaker, artist, and author who has created various comic books, films, role-playing systems, and card and board games throughout the years. He’s either insane, or a genius. Either way he’s having fun.

It’s no secret that I love movies.

There is just something magical about this visual medium that draws you into new worlds, the lives of these people we aspire to be or want to learn about. We want to experience things that we wouldn’t in normal every day life and just escape our every day lives for awhile. I’ve consumed movie after movie over the years and my taste has become a bit more refined (read: cynical) when it comes to the films I watch. Being a filmmaker myself, I tend to break down things like plot and editing structure, effects, creative attempts (and successes), choreography, character believably… I’m constantly comparing it to what I would do, or how I would adapt or change the material to make it better. I’ve spent years consuming every interview, behind the scenes, books, classes, breakdowns, essays, articles, I’ve talked with filmmakers, writers, listened to thousands of podcasts and seen a countless amount of movies in my lifetime all in pursuit of my goal of being a filmmaker. Film is something that is constantly on my mind and a set of skills I seek to refine and improve every single day.

It’s probably safe to say that I love film as an art form, through and through, even the ugly stuff that no one talks about. It is also a good chance that I’ll end up dabbling in the movie industry my entire life and it also means that I have a particular taste that has developed through both my consumption and analysis of the industry…

So when a movie really pulls me in and I don’t sit there wondering why they chose that plot beat, how they cut the movie weird, or how bad the CG was. Instead if I am in awe of how they managed to pull off that incredible effect, what was happening in the story, or what was going to happen next to the characters I was rooting for, or even how stunningly beautiful the cinematography was; that means that I consider that a good film.

This list is comprised of ten of the few dozen films I managed to watch this year, despite being incredibly busy and wishing that I could have watched more. These are the films that sucked me in and made me realize what I loved about film. Believe me, these days, that’s a difficult thing to pull off.

#10: Suicide Squad

Whoa whoa, I know what you’re going to say, this one was going to end up on my list either way, right? You know as well as I do that I am a major DC comics fan, and I really love movies. So this is the golden combo. It was an obvious choice, right?

Well. Honestly, I’ve never been that much of a fan of the Suicide Squad (in the comics). I think the concept is kind of cool, but the insistence of the company on pushing the team down our throats over and over is kind of frustrating, as a long time reader of all things DC I’ve seen more half hearted attempts at making this team cool than the amount of times I’ve seen Batman complain about his parents being dead. Plus the obvious inclusion of Harley Quinn to provide some sort of eye candy to the reader is also kind of frustrating. (But don’t get me started on how Harley has been treated lately. That’s a topic for another day.)

Somehow, though, the title keeps selling and people eat it up. It’s a popular title with them, so it was an obvious choice to convert that into a movie. It was just kind of rushed through production, which is a shame, because you can see a lot of great pieces there that could have made the film great.

So why did this end up on my list anyway? It was a movie that took several risks. They tried something different and ALMOST succeeded. From their unique take on Joker, to throwing an attempt at commentary as to why the world needs Justice League, giving it a unique ascetic and even playing around with the soundtrack.

This is a lot more than what you can say for the majority of big budget blockbuster films that are coming out these days.

Consider that you do not have the ability to remember one Marvel movie soundtrack, but you immediately associate the Bohemian Rhapsody to Suicide Squad. DC attempted something TWICE in one year that most studios wouldn’t even dare. Despite the fact that they got a lot of hate over it, I admire the attempt and consider this one of the great attempts at creative freedom within the superhero genre before the fans ruined everything.

#9: Doctor Strange

This one ended up my list despite being one of those films that felt like a cookie cutter version of Doctor Strange. (I mean, come on, it was Iron Man with magic…) The film was exactly what I expected, then threw in something a bit more elaborate when it came to adapting Kirby’s original (very 60’s) art. The visual effects were seamless and stunning, the final fight was actually pretty fantastic, including the big encounter with the major baddie, and literally every encounter with some sort of magic was filled with an original idea or really attempted to pay tribute to what originally made the character so great. In that, I really respect Marvel and how they treat their content.

I honestly only wished that they had taken a bit more of a risk with the film. They had a lot of potential to go super weird and out there with it, but they chose the safe route, which is basically what I’d expect from a Marvel movie these days. If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it. It really just comes down to this; it’s not how I would have done it, but that’s okay.

#8: 31

I love Rob Zombie movies. Hate if you want, but I love how seriously he takes his horror. There is so much ironic self awareness in movies these days that it’s nice to see a filmmaker work within a genre he has mastered and actually take it seriously. Even with a concept as silly as the one in 31 was. This featured several great actors having fun in their roles, and even some strange bizarro-type moments in it that will get you to either cringe or shake your head as to how disturbing it is. (Hispanic midget Hitler was a nice touch.) Sure he had to censor some of it, but the spirit of the movie comes through and I really enjoyed this flick.

#7: Hush

Upon review, I noticed that this was a great year for horror. It was difficult to not JUST put horror movies on this list. I watched Hush because I liked the concept and I’d heard that it was a filmmakers challenge to himself to write a script that didn’t feature much (if any) dialogue. So after watching this film, I realized that I was immediately sucked into the world and I was completely on the edge of my seat the entire time. Overall, this was a great horror film that featured a surprisingly low body count. If you haven’t seen this and are a fan of horror, go watch it immediately.

#6: The Jungle Book

This one surprised me, actually. After seeing Maleficent and realizing that Disney was going to be pumping out one of these live action remakes of their classic animated films over the next decade, I was starting to get a bit jaded. However, after watching Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book I remembered why he was at one point considered one of the top directors in his field. He basically created the cinematic Iron Man from the ground up, just winging it during production, and it STILL was a solid film. Anyway, I used to love the story of Jungle Book and I’ve likely read the novel a hundred times. Every aspect of this, from the special effects, to the perfectly cast characters, throwbacks to the Disney songs and some flourishes, like making Christopher Walkens King Louie GIGANTIC made this a unique, but also very faithful adaption of the Jungle Book story I love so much.

 

#5: Deadpool

This was one of 2016’s superhero movie triumphs. In this really meta-self aware movie mentality the industry is suffering from right now, this movie (ironically) served to riff on that, as well as provide something that is really difficult to find in many of these superhero movies that have come out over the last several years: a protagonist that is funny and sympathetic. In a world of rich playboys, impossible technology, giant organizations, and world ending plot lines, it was really refreshing to see a story about a guy, trying to get revenge on another guy, and win back his girl.

The entire film is littered with references and hilarious dialogue, a simple plot, but written brilliantly to bring out the most of both Ryan Reynolds performance and to really showcase the character and potential for greatness when you just let people who care about a character or franchise take the reigns and just let them run with it.

#5: Star Wars: Rogue One

I wasn’t expecting much going into this one. After hearing that they were going to do a spin off between actual episodes of the franchise I was hesitant. In fact, I’m kind of going through Star Wars burnout right now, between the constant bombardment of clips, images, and products from the franchise, that on top of the previous movie bringing it to the forefront of pop culture topics once again, I really wasn’t excited to go see this film…

But when I watched it the other day, especially in the aftermath of Carrie Fischers death, the movie made me realize why I loved Star Wars to begin with. I really wanted another film set during the time period of the original trilogy, because that is what I love about the series. That SPECIFIC time period. Stormtroopers, Vader, the Emperor, the weird 80’s ascetic mixed with World War II imagery. It’s all fantastic and it was an exciting moment to revisit that period in Star Wars lore once again. In fact, I want to see another.

Rogue One had some great characters, awesome cinematography that you’d expect from anything but Star Wars (honestly), and a fantastic plot line that really helped to start to flesh out the Star Wars universe BEYOND lighsabers and Skywalkers. I honestly loved this film more than Episode 7 and would love to see more films set during this time period. I hear the next one is a Han Solo spin off, so we’ll see what happens with that.

#3: Yoga Hosers

A lot of people hate Kevin Smith. I’m not really sure why, though admittedly I’ve gone on record by saying that I think he’s great, but I don’t think I could work with him. Mostly because we’d likely clash heads when it came to the direction of where we wanted to take a film. HOWEVER his last two movies, Tusk and Yoga Hosers were unique and hilarious flicks that really made it difficult to see Kevin Smith as someone who cared about what people think. He’s literally making the movies he wants to see; tell me that doesn’t make you a little jealous. I’ll literally support everything he does from now on, as long as he keeps up this honest, pure, unfiltered art he is producing going. I’m crazy excited for Moose Jaws.

 

#2: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

WHAT NATHAN, BvS ISN’T YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE OF THE YEAR?! Nope. But it’s close. First let me preface this by saying: watch the ultimate edition. It sucks that studios can manipulate us into thinking that they’re doing us a favor by releasing pieces of a film in the theaters and then selling us the whole film later on to appease us, but that’s neither here nor there.

Batman v. Superman is number two on this list mainly for the feeling the movie gave me when it started. When, during the opening scene, you see Bruce Wayne frantically attempting to get to the Wayne Building, only to watch it get destroyed in front of him, all during the EXACT time span that the final fight happened in Man of Steel… I literally teared up I was so excited to finally see such a great, cinematic, depiction of the DC universe on the big screen in the hands of such an ambitious director. Sure, he takes himself too seriously. But I’m tired of having to hear how stupid superheroes are every single movie. I’m tired of the jokes and the stupid humor, I want to see an opera, I want to see gods and monsters fighting and the politics of how something as massive as superheroes will effect our world.

This movie also had something major going for it that Suicide Squad didn’t: FANTASTIC cinematography. In fact, when I was watching Suicide Squad I immediately noticed the aesthetic difference and it threw me off a bit. Thinking over my experience (and subsequent experiences) with this film, I realized that this was a fantastic moment in time that we might lose in the future, due to the controversy surrounding it.

It took risks. It had a vision of what it wanted to be and was that thing. It cast villains in strange ways, and spun the familiar lore of the stories in order to bring something MASSIVE to the big screen. Something unrivaled by all other superhero movies up until that point. This movie wasn’t about a beam of energy destroying a city, it was about superheroes conflicting with each other and the consequences of that. It was a marvel of cinema, the ultimate collection of storytelling, cinematography, effects, talented actors, and stunning choreography. Ultimately, this movie was exactly what it needed to be and did a fantastic job of establishing the tone of this brand new DC Universe.

#1: Don’t Breathe

This is my top movie of 2016. Why? It takes a lot of horror tropes and actively avoids them. With an original antagonist and a plot that has an incredible amount of twists and turns for being a film that just takes place in a single building, this entire film had me leaving the theater in shock. I couldn’t believe how incredible this movie was, how well acted, and how solid it turned out to be. I don’t want to spoil too much if you haven’t seen it, but believe me, it is well worth the watch.


Same as last year’s ‘Yearly Round Up’ there were MANY movies that didn’t make this list that likely would have if I had taken the time time watch them.
In fact, having looked over the list of movies I hadn’t seen as opposed to those I had seen, my inner movie nerd-slash-indie movie creator side cringed a little. In fact, I spent more time watching the big blockbuster films of the year, than I did actually focusing on what I’d heard to be the big triumphs in film for 2016, or at least movies that I’d likely have enjoyed enough to add onto my top ten list. This is something I need to address in 2017 and I’ve made a note of it to more actively seek to watch movies that might not be as big or popular as some of the major.

This is also part of my 2017 effort to kind of step out of the mainstream media culture in an attempt to get a more rounded look at movies and art in general in order to grow as a person.

I’ve noticed that I need to learn to take more risks when it comes to things like movies or books, instead of just focusing on what I KNOW I’ll like or what I KNOW will be (at least moderately) good.

While I enjoy the big blockbuster titles, my focus needs to shift more towards supporting these lesser broadcasted movies because in this mid-tier section is where a lot of great, fresh, and innovative ideas in film are being created there amongst the crap.

 

Anyways, here are the movies I REALLY wanted to see, but DIDN’T: Rise of the Legend, The Bodyguard, The Purge: Election Year, 10 Cloverfield Lane, A Monster Calls, The Nice Guys, Moonlight, Hell or High Water, The Forest, Lights Out, Nerve, Swiss Army Man, Spaghettiman, War Dogs, The BFG, The Girl on the Train, The Accountant, The Greasy Strangler, Godzilla Resurgence, The Girl With All The Gifts, Pet, Before I Wake, Snowden, The Magnificent Seven, King Jack, The Girl on the Train, A Girl Like Grace, Railroad Tigers, Hail Ceaser, Midnight Special, The Shallows, The VVitch, La La Land, Nocturnal Animals, Neon Demon, and Green Room.

What are some of your favorite movies from this year? Let me know in the comments below!

“Nathan Seals is an independent filmmaker, artist, and author who has created various comic books, films, role-playing systems, and card and board games throughout the years. He’s either insane, or a genius. Either way he’s having fun.”