Oct 072014


The Japanese Film Festival is back for 2014 with over 50 titles featuring in the varied programme.

JFF opens its 2014 program with the Australian Premiere of Lady Maiko, a musical comedy directed by Masayuki Suo (Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t; Shall We Dance?) based loosely on the Audrey Hepburn classic My Fair Lady.

Closing out the festival, Yuya Ishii, the director of last year’s award-winning opener The Great Passage, returns with his latest offering, The Vancouver Asahi, set pre-WWII when Japanese immigrants were migrating to Canada. Based on the true story of the Japanese-Canadian baseball team of the same name, this sporting tale of underdogs overcoming racial discrimination, shows that baseball and life are not about winning – it’s about how well you play the game.

Other festival highlights include:

The Light Only Shines There (Mipo O, 2014) – Japan’s entry for the foreign language Academy award, the film details the romance between an unemployed man and his friend’s sister.
Tokyo Tribe (Sion Sono, 2014) – the ultra-cool hip-hop musical Tokyo Tribe (pictured) takes you down to the underbelly of Tokyo for a surreal night of turf wars. JFF will also screen Sono’s Why Don’t You Play In Hell, a bizarre showcase of gangster violence taken to comic extremes.
The Snow White Murder Case (Yoshihiro Nakamura, 2014)- a compelling commentary on a media-obsessed world in an atypical who-dunnit mystery.

As well as new release films, the festival also runs an accomapnying programme of Japanese classic films, which include many must-see treasures. This year, JFF Classics 2014’s overarching theme pool the talents of critically acclaimed directors and actresses of the 1950s and 1960s. Mikio Naruse, Kon Ichikawa and Kenji Mizoguchi are amongst the current selection of internationally renowned directors, alongside leading actresses of the time, Hideko Takamine, Ayako Wakao and Machiko Kyo.

The Japanese Film Festival tours nationally October-December, as well as visiting Auckland during November. For information about dates for your city, tickets and the full programme, visit the official festival website.

Japanese Film Festival’s official channels

Website: japanesefilmfestival.net
Facebook: japanesefilmfest
Twitter: @japanfilmfest / #JFF2014AU

Oct 022014


The annual Jewish International Film Festival returns to Melbourne and Sydney – and, for the first time Perth, Gold Coast and New Zealand – with an incredibly rich global selection of 49 award-winning features, documentaries and shorts within 11 categories.

Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, will open JIFF in each city. This compelling French/German/Israeli co-production, which screened as part of Directors’ Fortnight at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, affords a rare insight into the rabbinical court and its treatment of women as we follow the five-year quest of Viviane Amsalem to obtain a ‘gett’ (Jewish divorce) amidst a process where tragedy and absurdity abound. Above and Beyond, a riveting documentary that encapsulates the indomitable Jewish spirit, will screen on Closing Night.

What lies between these two films is a selection of outstanding features and documentaries sourced from Israel, Germany, France, USA, the Philippines, Switzerland and Ireland that will enthrall, inform and captivate audiences from both within and beyond the Jewish community.

Highlights include:
THE GREEN PRINCE (Germany/Israel/UK/USA) D: Nadav Schirman
Category: Hamatzav (The Situation)
Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award (World Cinema: Documentary) and Best Documentary at the 2014 Ophir Awards, this is a gripping account of terror and betrayal based on the best-selling book, Son of Hamas, a memoir by Mosab Hassan Yousef. Palestinian Yousef, is ready to fight Israel, but at 17, is arrested for smuggling guns. Interrogated by Israel’s security service, he is sent to prison, where he turns and, deeply ashamed, agrees to spy for Israel. But for his Shin Bet handler, there is no greater prize than operating the oldest son of a founding member of Hamas.

THE FAREWELL PARTY (Israel) Directors: Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon
Category: Triumph of the Spirit
Nominated in 14 categories at the 2014 Ophir Awards this off-beat comedy, which won the Venice Day’s People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Venice Film Festival, is a compassionate tale about life, death and friendship. Ezikiel and his friends at a Jerusalem retirement home build a euthanasia machine to help their terminally ill friend. When rumours of the machine begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help, and the group is faced with an emotional, ethical dilemma.

MY OLD LADY (France, USA) Director: Israel Horovtiz
CATEGORY: Meant to Be
An uplifting, superbly acted story about what life can do to you while you’re making other plans, and about making the most of the time we have. A down-and-out, harried New Yorker (Kevin Kline) travels to Paris to sell a valuable apartment he has inherited from his estranged father. Once there he finds the apartment inhabited by a refined older lady (Academy-Award winner Maggie Smith) and her daughter (Kristin Scott Thomas). She tells him that, legally, he cannot sell the apartment until she dies.

Festival dates & locations

SYDNEY: 29 October – 16 November Event Cinemas, Bondi Junction
MELBOURNE: 5 – 23 November Classic Cinemas, Elsternwick
GOLD COAST: 15, 16 & 23 November Event Cinemas, Robina
PERTH: 15, 16 & 23 November Event Cinemas, Innaloo
NEW ZEALAND: 16 & 23 November The Bridgeway, Auckland

Tickets are now on sale

Visit the official website at: www.jiff.com.au
Follow the festival on Twiiter: @JewishIFF

Oct 012014

Gone Girl

You get a call from your neighbour that your cat has somehow got out. You come home, collect the cat and deposit it back in the house, however something isn’t right. The door is open, there’s a mess in the lounge and your wife is gone. Gone Girl is reviewed after the jump.

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Sep 302014

To call this trailer highly-anticipated would be an understatement. Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film Inherent Vice is set to screen at the New York Film Festival (currently underway) ahead of its theatrical release. Australia isn’t going to get this until early 2015, so by then I’m sure we’ll have a pretty good idea of how the film has been received.

The film is adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name, which I made it 1/4 into reading before abandoning. It’s not that the story wasn’t interesting, it’s that I found the way it was written incredibly hard to digest. I’m hopeful that the film will be more accessible, we’ll see…

The official synopsis is as follows:

When private eye Doc Sportello’s ex-old lady suddenly out of nowhere shows up with a story about her current billionaire land developer boyfriend whom she just happens to be in love with, and a plot by his wife and her boyfriend to kidnap that billionaire and throw him in a loony bin…well, easy for her to say.
It’s the tail end of the psychedelic `60s and paranoia is running the day and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” that’s being way too overused—except this one usually leads to trouble.
With a cast of characters that includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, LAPD Detectives, a tenor sax player working undercover, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists… Part surf noir, part psychedelic romp—all Thomas Pynchon.

So, what do you think?

Sep 302014


Last month I saw 2 films at the cinema, this month it was 32. After wanting to go for so long, it’s kind of hard to believe that the Toronto International Film Fest is done and dusted. Other than the fest and the long plane trips there and back, I didn’t see a whole lot else. On the TV front I finished the entire series of 30 Rock, a show that I can’t say I love but I can say I liked. I loved the relationship between Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, but the rest was rather patchy. I saw 41 films in September, which for me is a lot. Check the round-up out after the jump.
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Sep 232014


So, it’s done. I, with my fear of flying, made it all the way to Toronto and attended the Toronto International Film Festival. I hope to have a steady flow of reviews up on the site over the next month, but for now here’s a brief summary.

*29 films viewed at the festival (list here)
*2 films skipped - Wasteland, which I heard was terrible and Bang Bang Baby, I was just too tired
*8 films viewed on the plane
*The best film I saw at TIFF by a country mile was Nightcrawler
*Nightcrawler was one of only two films which audiences burst into applause mid-film
*The other the horrifically painful The Last 5 Years and I have no idea why people clapped
*I didn’t cry this festival, but Coming Home got me the closest
*FAQs are generally awkward and bad, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are
*The award for ‘the film shoved in at the last-minute to my schedule which turned out to be incredible’ award goes to Coming Home, with Beyond the Lights and Hungry Hearts the runners-up
*The worst film was Manglehorn. David Gordon Green goes on my list of directors I am wary of because they are too hit-and-miss. Other members of this list include Michael Winterbottom, Françis Ozon and Jason Reitman.
*I had one great morning of celeb spotting and let me tell you Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is ever bit as handsome as he appears to be on the screen
*My one fangirl moment was seeing Mark Ruffalo onstage for Foxcatcher. *swooooooooon*
*I was surprised by how TIFF is a festival of two halves. Thursday->Monday is absolutely packed with celebs, press packs with their red lanyards (and often pushy, entitled attitudes) and lines like nothing I have seen outside of Japan. From Tuesday the press start to leave, there are less big red carpet events and you can mostly forgo lining up
*It’s much harder to pick films for a festival where most of the films are world premieres, thus the number of not-so-good films I saw was probably higher than most festivals.
*Certain veteran TIFF goers make pirate noises when the anti-piracy ad comes on. It’s weird and you should stop it
*The volunteers are incredible. How these people could have a sunny deposition when looking at my sleep deprived, grumpy face at 8.30am is beyond me. Kudos TIFF volunteers, you made it something special
*Beer is dangerously cheap and I drank my weight in it
*Toronto has perfected the art of city pubs, but you have to work a little harder for good [healthy] ethnic food
*The blocks are always twice as big as you expect, so wear comfortable shoes. Actually this applies to the first half of the festival, regardless of how far you have to walk. You will spend hours upon hours lining up, so treat your feet kindly
*The people are so nice that you’ll consider never leaving (but then you remember how cold it gets). Huge shout-out and love to Ryan, Lindsay, Courtney, Bob, Matt, Kurt, Amir, Max & Shannon (& others)for making it such a fantastic festival
*It was worth every cent
*I want to go back

Sep 212014


In this edition of The Forgotten, Andrew Gillman explains why The Truth About Cats and Dogs is far more than just another generic rom-com. Thanks for contributing this piece Andrew, it’s a great read. [Ed]

I am a rom-com tragic. This is an odd juxtaposition of terms since (a) romantic comedies are supposed to be all meet-cute to happily ever after ending with only a minor third act detour into sadness of any kind and, (b) Any suggestion of tragedy pre-supposes that Christopher Nolan is now making films about “wuv twu wuv” (The Princess Bride) which I am fairly certain hasn’t happened.

Through thick and thin, from Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn/ Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan good to Matthew McConaughey and Drew Barrymore bad, I have watched romantic comedies through every rose-strewn, diamond-twinkled rise and fall in the much-maligned genre’s fortunes.

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Sep 172014


This is the thirteenth post in the “The Best Films Set In…” series. The setting can be a place (like Tokyo), a location (like the beach), or a time (like Winter). In these posts I’m going to pick my 5 favourite films that are set in that particular place/location/time and explain why I like them.

For this edition, I’ve handed over the reigns to Sydney film enthusiast and critic, Lisa Malouf. Lisa has picked an American city for the setting of her list. It’s a city that can be both beautiful and gritty, and is the setting of a large number of excellent crime genre films. Thanks for sharing your list with us Lisa. [Ed]

The city of Chicago conjures up many associations for different people: it could be historical figures Al Capone and Eliot Ness, its nickname ‘the windy city’, or the famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company, or maybe as the one-time home of the Obama family, and the long-time home of both Oprah Winfrey and the late great Roger Ebert. For me, the first thing I reflect upon when thinking about Chicago is just how many terrific films were set (and often filmed) in this city.

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