Queensland Film Festival – Inaugural Programme Announced

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Jun 262015


The Queensland Film Festival (QFF) has announced its full inaugural programme. From July 24 to 26, the festival will bring twelve features and two shorts that demonstrate the depth and breadth of contemporary filmmaking. Three of the feature films and one of the short films will enjoy their Australian premieres.

The festival is bringing films to Brisbane that otherwise wouldn’t get a screening in the city. With its focus on films that would be otherwise unseen, it fills part of the hole left by the departure of BIFF 2 years ago. There is also a point of difference from the new Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival (BAPFF), which screens a region-focused selection of films, some of which get a cinema release.

“We are delighted to reveal the complete lineup for this year’s QFF,” said co-director Huw Walmsley-Evans. “Strong community support, particularly from Foxtel Movies, New Farm Cinemas and the Queensland University of Technology, as well as from the city’s dedicated and passionate cinephiles, has helped make this festival happen.”

As co-director John Edmond notes, “contemporary cinema is thriving around the globe, and Queensland wants to share in it.” He continues, “we’re simply grateful to be able to showcase some of the amazing films that, at the moment, would otherwise not be screened in Brisbane.”

Abderrahmane Sissako’s TIMBUKTU opens QFF, presenting a depiction of life under jihadist rule that speaks to our troubled times. TIMBUKTU provides a perfect example of the kind of work the festival aims to highlight; although it received an Academy Award nomination (Best Foreign Language Film) in 2015, and also cleaned up at France’s Cesar Awards.

Other highlights include:

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (Peter Strickland) – An absolute must-see on the big screen for its inventive sound design and luscious production design.
P’TIT QUINQUIN (Bruno Dumont) – An absurdest murder mystery that opens with the discovery of human body parts stuffed inside a cow
JAUJA (Lisandro Alonso) – a colonialist Argentinian western starring Viggo Mortenson. The played at Cannes in 2014 in the Un Certain Regard and was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize.

For more information, head over to the official festival website or follow the fest on Twitter

The full festival line-up is after the jump.

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New Zealand International Film Festival 2015 Picks & Recommendations

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Jun 252015


To help you with your selections, or possibly make it harder, we’ve listed our picks for your 10 trip pass. These are films we haven’t seen but would be seeing if we were lucky enough to be going. We’ll live vicariously through all of you I guess….*cries*. Seeing more than 10? We’ve also listed every film in the programme we have seen and can recommend. We’ve even linked to our reviews.

We’re going to assume that Opening Night is a given and take that straight out of your 10 pass. Direct from Cannes, THE LOBSTER is Greek New Wave director Yorgos Lanthimos’ English language début. Soak up the opening night buzz and be one of the first to see this film.

Our picks and recommendations for the rest of your fest are after the jump.

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Introducing: Director of the Month

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Jun 232015


Back when I was blogging daily on The Film Emporium I learned a lot about some of the world’s greatest filmmakers through my ‘Director of the Month’ feature. Among them: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Andrei Tarkovsky, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jean-Luc Godard, David Cronenberg, Robert Altman, Sam Peckinpah, Dario Argento and Hayao Miyazaki. A lot of work, but a lot of fun. I have missed the challenge and with the motivation to continue to expand my knowledge of world cinema I have decided to bring it to An Online Universe. 

Starting next month, and continuing at least through until the end of the year, I will focus on one director each month. I will watch 3-5 of their films (depending on accessibility, which is a big factor) and write…something. It might be a review of the individuals film. It might be an essay discussing several films linked by style or theme. Here are some of the directors/director pairings, and select films, I am going to be considering:

Todd Haynes – Safe, Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There

Douglas Sirk – Imitation of Life, All That Heaven Allows, Magnificent Obsession, The Tarnished Angels, Written on the Wind

Louis Malle – Black Moon, My Dinner With Andre, Atlantic City, Au Revoir Les Enfants

Claire Denis – Chocolat, Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, The Intruder, 35 Shots of Rum, White Material, Bastards

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Fox & His Friends, Berlin Alexanderplatz, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Veronika Voss, Lola

Barry Levinson – Diner, The Natural, Rain Man, Wag the Dog

Jean-Luc and Pierre Dardenne – La Promesse, The Son, L’enfant, The Kid with a Bike

Edward Burns – The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One, Sidewalks of New York, Purple Violets, Newlyweds

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger – 49th Parallel, The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I Am Going, A Matter of Life & Death

Yasujiro Ozu – Tokyo Story, Floating Weeds, Late Spring, Early Summer, I Was Born, But…

Please let me know if there are other films from these filmmakers that you love and suggest I see, or would love to learn more about. If I have left out a film, there is a chance I have seen it. I am also open to filmmaker suggestions. If there is a filmmaker you wish me to check out and dedicate a month to, drop me a comment.

In Cinemas: 25 June 2015

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Jun 232015


In cinemas this week: Love & Mercy, Far From the Madding Crowd, Zero Motivation, Eden and Ted 2. 

Love & Mercy – We all know the music, but few know the true story of musical genius, Brian Wilson and his struggles with brilliance and balance. Love & Mercy paints an unconventional portrait of the artist by interweaving seminal moments from his youth and later life. The role of Brian Wilson is masterfully shared between Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) as the younger, 1960s Brian; and John Cusack (High Fidelity) as Wilson in the 1980s. The film explores the many challenges Brian has faced, both from his point of view in his younger years; and from the perspective of his now wife, Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) when she meets Brian in his 40s and under the questionable medical care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). The Beach Boys were already experiencing chart topping success with Surfin’ Safari, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls and Good Vibrations when Brian found himself driven to move in a new musical direction. Whilst this would ultimately lead to the creation of what is widely ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time ‘Pet Sounds’ it also lead to the band breaking up and Brian breaking down. Sam and I both agree that this is refreshingly unconventional dual-era musical portrait effectively gets into Wilson’s fractured psyche and leaves piercing impact. The empathetic performances from Dano and Cusack blend seamlessly, and the sound design is outstanding. Read Sam’s review at the link.

Far From the Madding Crowd – Based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd is the story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance. This is a lovely story and I rather like the actors. Mulligan plays a strong-willed, independent woman who didn’t come across as being a horrible person at the same time. Rare. Schoenaerts continues to be an effortlessly compelling screen presence, while Sheen is very good too. Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) is an excellent director, his decisions elevating what could have been a conventional period drama into something far more memorable than I expected. Beautifully shot in 35mm, with striking costumes, I felt transported to the period.

Zero Motivation – Set in a remote desert military base, a platoon of young women soldiers, all Israeli conscripts, serve out their time playing computer games, singing pop songs, and conspiring to get transferred to Tel Aviv — while endlessly serving coffee to the men who run the show. Here’s an Israeli film filled with funny, quick-witted, zany women who wield their staple guns like automatic weaponry. If there is a war going on, it’s one against boredom, bad uniforms, dopey rules, and doing everything in triplicate. Debut filmmaker Talya Lavie is Israel’s answer to Lena Dunham: Zero Motivation won the top prize for narrative world cinema at the Tribeca Film Festival. The feisty performances from the young actresses are all effective; the snarky humour found in the mundane certainly draws some comparisons to Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H. Through the prism of war and compulsory service, Zero Motivation tackles the complexities of female life – feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, untameable desires, and the search for an identity in a ridiculously bureaucratic environment that strips an individual of one. I’m not sure a female-centric black comedy about the Israeli Defense Forces has formerly existed. Well, it does now, and it is a good one. It is a refreshing and witty, and shows a confident handling of conflicting tone and loose, freewheeling narrative storytelling. (Review at the link).

Eden – Eden is an affecting trip into the electronic dance movement in Paris whose rhythms echo its textures and feeling. Based on the experiences of Hansen-Løve’s brother Sven, the film follows Paul, a teenager in the underground scene of early-nineties Paris. Rave parties dominate that culture, but he’s drawn to the more soulful rhythms of Chicago’s garage house. He forms a DJ collective named Cheers, and together he and his friends plunge into the ephemeral nightlife of sex, drugs, and endless music. Saw this at TIFF, and it ended up being one of the biggest disappointments of the festival. Some brief thoughts from the festival at the link.

Weekly Recommendation: Haven’t seen Ted 2. Probably won’t. But with the exception of Eden, which I didn’t really connect with though admired on some levels, I can recommend the others. Eden, I understand, is screening exclusively in Sydney at Golden Age Cinemas, while Zero Motivation will also be a tough one to track down. Love & Mercy and Far From the Madding Crowd have both just screened at the Sydney Film Festival and they were two of the strongest I saw. 

Trailer: Sicario

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Jun 222015

Director Denis Villeneuve’s SICARIO has its first official trailer. The film premiered at Cannes to mostly positive reviews, and from what I’ve read Villeneuve (Prisoners, Enemy, Incendies) has directed another nail-biter.

When you have a director as interesting as Villeneuve coupled with a fierce Emily Blunt, what’s not to be excited about?

Official Synopsis:

In Mexico, SICARIO means hitman. In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elite government task force official (Josh Brolin) to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Led by an enigmatic consultant with a questionable past (Benicio Del Toro), the team sets out on a clandestine journey forcing Kate to question everything that she believes in order to survive.


SICARIO hits Australian cinemas on September 17, 2015.

2015 Sydney Film Festival Poll

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Jun 212015


Here we are with another (probably my last) Sydney Film Festival critic and fan poll. I asked a number of friends, acquaintances, film critics and film buffs, to send me a list of every film they saw at this year’ Sydney Film Festival with a 1-5 star rating. I tallied up the results and have laid them out below. Thanks to everyone who took the time to participate.

In addition to what Sam, Shaun and I put together here on An Online Universe, there was a lot more fantastic coverage of this year’s festival. Here are some other sites to check out – 4:3 Film (Conor Bateman + many other contributors), Screen-Space (Simon Foster), The Cue Dot Confessions (Mike Scott), The Limerick Review (Lisa Malouf), Trespass Magazine (Alex Doneau), ccpopculture (Dave Crewe) and Graffiti With Punctuation (Blake Howard).

While there weren’t that many five star grades given this year (Tehran Taxi with 4 and Me & Earl & the Dying Girl with 3, topped that list), the quality of the festival is clear in that many films scored a 3.5+ average. In the table after the jump I have only included films with four or more grades, but first I have included a list of those with three or less (votes/ave).

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2015 Sydney Film Festival Diary Days 9-12

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Jun 182015


As I reach the end of my 2015 Sydney Film Festival Diary I have been fighting off a lack of post-festival motivation to get this done. There are two films I watched over the last four days that I haven’t been able to review – Cemetery of Splendour and The Assassin. The former I enjoyed, but watched on the verge of slumber. It is a mesmerising film, suited for that sleepy atmosphere, but I have no idea how to describe the experience. The latter I appreciated on a visual level, but struggled to make sense of the story, which doesn’t clue in an audience with cultural or historical context. I am not sure what to say about either, and I feel like it is better to leave them alone. But, after the jump you can find my reviews of Phoenix, Tangerine, Arabian Nights: Volumes 1-3, Seymour: An Introduction and Me & Earl & the Dying Girl. 

And, you can find all of my personal awards, and final ranking of films here:

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2015 Scandinavian Film Festival

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Jun 182015


The Scandinavian Film Festival is pleased to announce its full repertoire of twenty-two features framed by the witty opening night comedy HERE IS HAROLD (Her Er Harold) and closing night film INGRID BERGMAN: IN HER OWN WORDS (Jag ar Ingrid).

The latter sees Stig Bjorkman deliver a revelatory documentary on Bergman’s personal life through her diary, interviews with family members and never-before-seen private footage, providing a captivating look behind the scenes of the remarkable life of a young Swedish girl who became one of the most celebrated actresses of American and World cinema.

Swedish-Finnish actress and well-known comedian Bianca Kronlöf will be present in Sydney and Melbourne for their opening nights and an exclusive Q&A following the screening of her film UNDERDOG (Svenskjävel), which sees her play 23-year-old Dino, who has fled the mass unemployment of her home country in search of a more worthwhile existence in Oslo, Norway, only to end up in the centre of a scandalous and intense love triangle.

Other Festival highlights include:

Grimur Hakonarson’s RAMS (Hrutar), which was awarded the top prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section. RAMS centres on two brothers from a remote Icelandic farming valley who haven’t spoken in 40 years, but have to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them — their prize-winning flock of sheep.

Anne Sewitsky (winner of Sundance’s World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in 2011 for her début feature, Happy, Happy) returns with HOMESICK (De Naermeste), an intimate portrayal of one woman desperately trying to rewrite past emotional injuries.

Danish Academy-Award winning director Bille August’s SILENT HEART (Stille hjerte), a masterfully crafted drama where three generations of a family gather in a large isolated country home faced with a mother’s ultimate decision.
Check out the full programme & purchases your tickets @ http://www.scandinavianfilmfestival.com/

Festival dates & locations