Oct 312015
 

SET DEL FILM "LA GIOVINEZZA" DI PAOLO SORRENTINO. NELLA FOTO MICHAEL CAINE E HARVEY KEITEL. FOTO DI GIANNI FIORITO

October has been a weird month. Following a much needed break, and a short-lived feeling of refreshment, we have had a lot of social engagements and I have been dealing with some exhausting work-related pressure. I feel like I have had a lot of different projects going on at once, but haven’t achieved very much. I have done very little writing, unfortunately. This is both due to time constraints and being unable to articulate my feelings about some of the films I have seen (see The Lobster and Youth). Thankfully Sam has been picking up my slack. We have visited to cinema a lot – it has been a treat catching up with some of the Palme d’Or contenders at various festivals.

In addition to watching 25 films and juggling an anxiety-inducing amount of TV (five shows going at once, very unlike me), I also polished off Making Movies by Sidney Lumet. This has been described as the most honest account of the filmmaking process ever written. It is terrific, and I urge all film buffs to read it. Eye-opening stuff, and if it wasn’t already obvious that Lumet is one of the most intelligent directors to ever work, it will be clear after this. I also tackled Infinite Jest and saw all hope of my December 3 completion goal drift away as I struggled to page 115. I will persevere, and complete it, but I need a new approach. I am nowhere near Zen enough right now to take it in comprehensively. The NBA season has re-started so I can add that to the numerous distractions.

Coming up in November – we will be watching four films at the British Film Festival, including Sufragette and 45 Years, as well as Knight of Cups and Spectre. I will also dedicate some time to catching up on films missed earlier in the year. Also, expect the ‘Awards Season’ to commence, and we will try and cover this period as comprehensively as we can, similar to previous years.

Check out my thoughts on everything I watched in October after the jump: Continue reading »

Oct 292015
 

dressmaker

The Dressmaker leads Australia Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award nominations, with 12 nods including Best Film, Best Director, Lead Actress (Kate Winslet,) and Supporting Actress (Sarah Snook). The film which centers around an internationally acclaimed designer returning home to rural Australia was released in Australian cinemas today (October 29).

The critically-acclaimed post-apocalyptic film Mad Max: Fury Road received 11 nominations, including a Lead Actress nomination for Charlize Theron. I love that she has been recognised as the lead, because the film is utterly hers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see her in contention for an Oscar in the same category? We can only hope.

Warm-hearted Last Cab to Darwin received 8 nominations; while Holding the Man received 6, and Cut Snake and Paper Planes both received 5.

A look at the Best Visual Effects Or Animation category shows how many major Hollywood productions are looking to Australia for our innovation in special/visual effects. Pan, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ted 2, and Mad Max: Fury Road have all received nomination in this category.

This year has been a record-breaking year at the box office for Australian films, with the all-time box office record of $63.4 million (set in 2001) passed at the beginning of the month. The Australian film share of the local box office is currently (as of Oct 7) sitting at 6.8%, which is the best since 2001.

The AACTA craft awards will be presented at a dinner in Sydney on November 30, with the main awards presented at an awards ceremony at The Star Event Centre on December 9.

Check out the nominations after the jump.

Continue reading »

Oct 292015
 

dressmaker_2

In cinemas today: Mistress America, The Dressmaker, Sleeping With Other People, The Last Witch Hunter and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. 

Mistress America – Tracy (Lola Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) – a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town – she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes. I loved the latest Noah Baumbach-Greta Gerwig collaboration, it is one of the most relatable comedies of the year. Sam has reviewed the film, check it out at the link.

The Dressmaker – Based on the best-selling novel by Rosalie Ham, this bittersweet, comedy-drama is set in early 1950s Australia. Tilly Dunnage, a beautiful and talented misfit, after many years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses, returns home to the tiny middle-of-nowhere town of Dungatar to right the wrongs of the past. Not only does she reconcile with her ailing, eccentric mother Molly and unexpectedly falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy, but armed with her sewing machine and incredible sense of style, she transforms the women of the town and in so doing gets sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

Sleeping With Other People – Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie star as two romantic failures whose years of serial infidelity and self-sabotage have led them to swear that their relationship will remain strictly platonic. But can love still bloom while you’re sleeping with other people? Writer/director Leslye Headland’s (Bachelorette) sexy romantic comedy co-stars Amanda Peet, Adam Scott, and Natasha Lyonne. Bachelorette was a lot better than most gave it credit for, and with likeable leads this should be fun. I expect it is one for DVD though.

The Last Witch Hunter – The modern world holds many secrets, but the most astounding secret of all is that witches still live amongst us; vicious supernatural creatures intent on unleashing the Black Death upon the world. Armies of witch hunters battled the unnatural enemy across the globe for centuries, including Kaulder, a valiant warrior who managed to slay the all-powerful Queen Witch, decimating her followers in the process. In the moments right before her death, the Queen curses Kaulder with her own immortality, forever separating him from his beloved wife and daughter in the afterlife. Today Kaulder is the only one of his kind remaining, and has spent centuries hunting down rogue witches, all the while yearning for his long-lost loved ones. I think this one is for Vin Diesel fans only – it feels…familiar.

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting on Existence – Like his previous features Songs From the Second Floor and You, The Living Swedish director Roy Andersson takes up the theme of “being a human being” with this meticulously crafted, dreamlike black comedy. Sam and Jonathan, a pair of hapless novelty salesman, take us on a kaleidoscopic tour of the human condition in reality and fantasy, unfolding in absurdist episodes: a sing-along at a 1940s beer hall, a randy flamenco teacher, a thirsty King Charles XII of Sweden en route to battle, and a diabolical metaphor for the horrors inflicted by European colonialism. It is a journey that unveils the beauty of single moments, the pettiness of others, life’s grandeur, and the humour and tragedy hidden within us all. I caught this at SFF, and while not completely enamoured with the film Andersson has meticulously crafted this original comedy with a generous serving of individual highlights. 

Weekly Recommendation: Pigeon is a Melbourne exclusive, I understand, so Sydney-siders will have to live without it at the moment. But if you are a fan of Baumbach’s cinema (While We’re Young, paired with Mistress America, makes 2015 the year of the Baumbach) you can’t miss his latest. It is our pick of the week, though we are looking forward to seeing what Kate Winslet gets up to in The Dressmaker. 

Oct 282015
 

nosferatu_by_zeek_aran-d46svn9

The parameters of a horror film are often contentious. Some viewers may luxuriate in intense Zombie-eating gore, but go running for the exit when a character is stalked by a ghost. Identifying the most successful horror films is also an identifier of what frightens you as an individual, and everyone is different. For me – isolated settings and creepy noises almost always get me, as does the threat of intense unflinching violence.

There are a few films that would have made my list if I had opened up the range a little – Se7en, which I view as an (excellent) police-procedural thriller, and Shaun of the Dead, which is more of a comedy, are two examples. You may argue that The Silence of the Lambs and An American Werewolf in London fall into these respective categories, but I have included them because I value their horror elements more. If I were pressed I would file them under ‘horror’. Is Come and See a war film or horror? Most definitely a horror.

Then there are the sub-genres of horror – supernatural, psychological, monster, portrayals of true crime. Working out what the most successful examples of these sub-genres (and the genre as a whole) is very subjective. Two years ago I spent the better part of a year working through as many of the classic horror I had not yet seen. While I barely scratched the surface of what is out there, I put together a list I was proud of and felt was an educated assessment of the genre. Please find below an updated version of my ’50 Favourite Horror Films’, a list of sure-fire winners if you’re looking for quality suspense.

Continue reading »

Oct 282015
 

mistressamerica

Technology may have changed many aspects of our lives, but as the opening scenes of Mistress America show, the fish-out-of-water feeling young adults get when they start university/college is not one of them. Being new and away from home is still hard, and Tracy (Lola Kirke) is having a tough time fitting in. She isn’t a social butterfly, and she apparently doesn’t make the grade to join her university’s coveted literary society. Feeling lonely, she makes contact with Brooke (Greta Gerwig), her 30ish-year-old, soon-to-be step sister who lives in New York City. The two form an unlikely friendship, and Brooke’s unconventional lifestyle becomes a source of inspiration (both personally and creatively) for Tracy.

Continue reading »

Oct 212015
 

‘Bridge of Spies’ by DreamWorks Studios.

In cinemas this week – Bridge of Spies, Burnt, The Lobster, Alex and Eve and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.

Bridge of SpiesIn Steven Spielberg’s compelling and competently crafted new espionage drama Tom Hanks stars as James B. Donovan, an experienced and respected Brooklyn insurance attorney who is tasked with the duty of defending Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance), a Soviet spy arrested on U.S soil. Due to his involvement in the trial he is recruited by the U.S Government to negotiate the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War. Donovan journeys into East Berlin to make contact with both the Soviets and the Germans, offering his client Abel, whom he has saved from the Death Penalty, as a bargaining chip for their safe release. Donovan would become a celebrated humanist for this timely negotiation (and another exchange following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion), and wrote a book, ‘Strangers on a Bridge, The Case of Colonel Abel’, detailing the event. My review at the link.

Burnt Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) had it all – and lost it. A two-star Michelin rockstar with the bad habits to match, the former enfant terrible of the Paris restaurant scene did everything different every time out, and only ever cared about the thrill of creating explosions of taste. To land his own kitchen and that third elusive Michelin star though, he’ll need the best of the best on his side. This remarkably funny and emotional story is about the love of food, the love between two people, and the power of second chances. A sloppy screenplay and erratic editing prove distracting, but the film comes alive and finds comfort in the kitchen chaos. This is a flinty depiction of a flawed man seeking redemptive perfection and learning the lesson that chemistry in the kitchen stems from treating his team like human beings and not another utensil for manipulation [AB]. Sam’s review is at the link.

The Lobster – Winner of the Cannes Jury Prize, this is the new film from Yorgos Lanthimos (Alps, Dogtooth). In the near future, single citizens are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to pair off with a mate – or be turned into the animal of their choosing and hunted in the woods. It features an all-star cast including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seyoux and John C. Reilly. Reviews suggest that The Lobster is fiercely, unmistakably Lanthimos: surreal, grimly funny and strangely moving.

Weekly Recommendation: From the two that we have already seen this week, we like Bridge of Spies. We are very much looking forward to The Lobster. Will be well worth seeking out.

Oct 202015
 

burnt

Celebrity chefs are the new rock stars. People queue to see them, they sell out venues, command very high “performance fees” and have the attitude to pull it all off. In Burnt, our celebrity chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) has fallen from grace and is plotting his comeback. What he craves is power, infamy, and perfection. Burnt is reviewed after the jump.

Continue reading »