Ben

Aug 222015
 

southpaw image

Southpaw is not a film about sports and personal glory through sporting achievement. Southpaw is about how we engage with the complicated sport of life. It is about the techniques we deploy to achieve victory and avoid being knocked on our asses, and the blind spots that keep us thinking those techniques work even when they threaten to destroy everything. It concerns itself not with the aforementioned personal glory in beating the snot out of someone, but with issues relating to grief and emotional intelligence. I don’t remember the last time I saw so many men crying in one film (and often not about themselves!). While the generic structure of a sports film still holds it together, leading many to describe it as hackneyed, there are many ways in which it undermines traditional macho ideological tropes and refutes the hollow victories of the genre.

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Feb 012015
 

foxcatcher1

Films about white males living in a fantasy world are just about one of the most unoriginal and over-used dramatic structures around; that doesn’t mean they can’t be brilliant or interesting films, it’s just that we appear to be stuck inside of an obsessively male and delusional-culture mindset. This will come as a surprise to very few people (probably only to the aforementioned group of males). There are presently such an over-abundance of films that inhabit these fantasy worlds. There is no single reason why, just as there is no single way to engage with these fantasies. Examples currently in cinemas approach the topic with either total dedication (American Sniper), questioning exuberance (Birdman) or fascinated perplexity (Foxcatcher), being the three most prominent examples right now. These three films tend towards the destructive and the depressed.

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Jan 212015
 

sniper

Clint Eastwood’s filmography is a mixed bag of genres and intention, one that I haven’t spent much time with over the last ten years. I can’t help but feel that he is a real world representation of The Dark Knight adage of ‘Live long enough to see yourself become the villain’, but I was very much willing to give him and his recent output the benefit of the doubt. American Sniper held my attention and at no time was I bored. The action is directed in a classical manner that is works very well. Everyone gives interesting, controlled and charismatic performances. However, I could not accept the way it embraced a lie. American Sniper doesn’t give a damn about anything except for The Legend, a myth that it refuses to question or to ever let slip into a grey area. Every question raised is rhetorical, with no answer required or wanted. Eastwood has a smooth operator’s way with social issues, one that makes the audience feel like a protest has been raised without ever questioning the linkages and incidents that pulled us into the situation.

[Spoilers for American Sniper are included in the discussion ahead – Ed]

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Sep 172014
 

Lucky-Bastard

Before we begin, please take a minute to read Lukas Kendall’s article, What Happens When You Make An NC-17 Film.

Film is a powerfully subversive format. It climbs into your soft tissues, stirring hormones and ideas. Amos Vogel, writing in the 1974 classic Film As A Subversive Art, wrote that “short of closing one’s eyes – in cinema, a difficult and unprecedented act – there is no defence against it”. However, as noted by Kendall, closing one’s eyes in the cinema isn’t the problem; simply getting it in front of your eyes at all is the greater difficulty. Lucky Bastard has engaged itself in a cultural war, one with a frontline that is mired in the sucking mud of ‘rules of art’, ‘good taste’ and ‘acceptable content’.

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Sep 032014
 

wrenched

I had heard of Edward Abbey’s infamous novel, ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’ (1975), but I was unfamiliar with the man himself. Watching Wrenched, and listening to Abbey speak, I felt that there was no better way to summarise the core of his activism than in his own statement: “A bulldozer tearing up the hill-side is committing a kind of terrorism against life”. Underneath it all lies the terrifying vision of machines tearing and devouring the natural world and all living things that inhabit it. ML Lincoln’s documentary, Wrenched, concerns itself with Abbey and his legacy, of the groups and ideals that grew out of his fertile beliefs, and it will make you angry, hopefully in a good way.

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Sep 022014
 

gringotrails

Opening with a quote from Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe, “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints”, Gringo Trails concerns itself with the problem of uncontrolled tourism, and the positive breakthroughs made by eco-tourism. A globe-trotting documentary, it bustles across a variety of tourist locales, demonstrating the need for more education and awareness from backpackers and holidaymakers. Chief Seattle’s words are allowed to hang over the film, standing as an ideal and a warning, as we are introduced to the pitfalls of a rampant tourism industry powered by cashed-up foreigners whose only concern is for themselves and the bragging rights to some glorious narrative of authenticity and adventure.

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Sep 012014
 

north of the sun

The Environmental Film Festival Melbourne (EFFM) is now entering into its fifth year, running from the 4th till the 12th of September. It offers a selection of feature and short documentaries, along with a plethora of guests and panels discussing an assortment of topics. Their mission statement, as taken from their website, states that:

“The Environmental Film Festival Melbourne entertains with groundbreaking films, traversing the relationship between humans and their environments, challenging the way people think about the natural world and inspiring them to discuss, explore and act on important environmental issues”.

First and foremost for both the festival and the selection of films is the power of a community drawing together to shape the world that we want. The best festivals foster a community around the ideas they present, and with a fine selection of panelists accompanying most of the screenings this is shaping up to be a very worthwhile proposition for Melbourne audiences.

What: Environmental Film Festival Melbourne 2014

When: Thursday Sept 4 – Friday September 12, 2014

Where: Kino Cinemas, Collins Place, 45 Collins St, Melbourne

Website / Full Program / Tickets: www.effm.org.au

Jul 252014
 

Guardians of the Galaxy

I have no intention of spoiling any details, jokes or events of this film so the following review will stick to allusions and a generalised examination.

My grandfather had the greatest impact on my love for sci-fi. He had a towering floor to ceiling bookshelf, divided into three sections: mysteries, war, and sci-fi. The former two did little for me, but I’ll never forget those sci-fi covers, Panther editions especially. It took many years for my reading level to catch up enough to finally begin reading them, but those covers, from E.E ‘Doc’ Smith through Robert Heinlein and unto Asimov’s Robots, are ingrained in my psyche; giant robots, strange alien trees, spacecraft in shapes that spoke to some strange lizard brain mythology. Today I saw a film that understood the allure of those images, and captured the complex strange world from which they sprang.

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