ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT FEATURING ‘LORO’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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The first time I went to the Italian Film Festival was in 2008 and I asked Karen to come see with me Giorno E NuvoleDays and Clouds (2007). In the heady first weeks of dating Karen and I did not care for the film and did not care that we did not care for it. Just another date that’s real purpose was for us to be together. Centred around a well off middle aged couple declining to harder living conditions as the employment of the well establish husband is radically altered. Depressing and heartbreaking and all too real in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. One thing that still remains with me years later is the power of the lead actress Margherita Buy.

 

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In 2009 we decided to play it safer and went with Michael Winterbottom’s Genova starring Colin Firth as the father of two daughters and a widow who moves to Italy as an academic to provide a seachange. Well intentioned, with beautiful scenery and thoughtfulness it still proved for the most part unengaging to us.

 

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Not trusting our own judgement we deferred to our friends in 2011 who had made good selections in the past for the French Film Festival and went to see Habemus PapumWe Have A Pope. Coming off a 10 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival that moved director Nanni Moretti to tears something must have been lost in translation because I laughed nor cried but I did fall asleep on the lazy sunday afternoon screening we went to.

This is no reflection on the film festival itself, if you look at the programs for the years we went you will see universally acknowledged modern classics and crowd pleasers. It seems we just had a bad run of luck or made poor decisions for own tastes. Following the wonderful opportunity to interview Palace CEO Benjamin Zeccola last year for Scenestr magazine about the 2017 Italian Film Festival, I thought for sure I would take him up on one of his recommendations and see maybe a comedy like War for Love but alas circumstances kept us from the film festival last year too.

This year the opportunity to attend opening night for Scenestr magazine came up and having had such a wonderful last year at the Brisbane opening night for the Cine Latino Film Festival I couldn’t wait to take Karen with me this time. The film was Loro, directed by Paolo Sorrentino who made easily one of my favourite films of 2015 Youth along with the fantastic This Must Be The Place (2011) and The Great Beauty (2013), the latter I watched in anticipation of seeing Loro. Loro is easily the best film Karen and I have seen at the Italian Film Festival and an interesting film that holds your attention for the most part. It re-teams Sorrentino with Toni Servillo who gives a fantastic performance as the magnetic Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The opening half an hour becomes tedious despite its fireworks visuals and editing as it focusses on another character but when Servillo arrives the film grips. Upon reflection thought it comes across as some great ideas but lacking in overall vision. I suspect this is intended but I can’t say that excuses the lack of discipline. You can read more of my thoughts here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/loro-italian-film-festival-brisbane-opening-night-review-20180921 but I cannot deny that the film lingers and Sorrentino remains one of my favourite directors to watch.

 

As for opening night itself, Karen and I had a wonderful time. There was a cheese table that had many a party goer hovering nearby, a live band, much wine and tasty h’orduvres making the rounds as the 2018 Lavazza Italian Film Festival kicked off in style. Grabbing our goodies bag though Karen and I eventually had to make our way home for me to start on my review. Our luck at the Italian Film Festival is definitely improving and there are plenty of wonderful films to check out this year yet.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises, Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for WA, SA, NSW, Vic and QLD every month. If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts including festivals, stand-up comics, fashion, theatre and film. I feel very fortunate to get to write for them.

-Lloyd Marken

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INTERVIEW WITH COMEDIAN BECKY LUCAS AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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I have been fortunate to interview another talented stand-up comedian for Scenestr magazine. This time with Becky Lucas who has a new show Since Day Dot coming up at Sydney Fringe Festival with regular collaborator Cameron James. I really got to pick Ms Lucas’s brain about the art of comedy and her continuing success where she offered some great reflections. As is often the case you’re spoilt for choice with which quotes to use and how to craft the piece discussing the upcoming show but also revealing something about the talented and fascinating individual you’ve been given the great opportunity to talk to. I hope I’ve captured some of this with Ms Lucas. You can read the interview here http://scenestr.com.au/comedy/becky-lucas-teams-up-with-cameron-james-for-sydney-fringe-comedy-20180823

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Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises, Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for WA, SA, NSW, Vic and QLD every month. This interview was published in print in the September issue for New South Wales issue which is always a thrill for a GenX guy like myself. A digital copy of that issue can be viewed here http://scenestr.com.au/read/NSW/2018/28-NSW/scenestr-NSW-28.html#p=37 If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts including festivals, stand-up comics, fashion, theatre and film. I feel very fortunate to get to write for them.

-Lloyd Marken

REVIEW OF ‘ODE TO MAN’ AT BRISBANE FESTIVAL AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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Scenestr put the call out for shows running as part of the Brisbane Festival and I was lucky enough to attend with Karen, Ode to Man on the second of its four night run at my old campus Kelvin Grove at QUT. The hills remain steep as I chose to park from the opposite end of where the show was playing. Describing Ode to Man as a one woman play written and performed by the whip-smart and talented Emma Mary Hall feels limiting and fails to reflect the contribution behind the scenes in dressing the stage and proving audio visual projections throughout. However you would describe it, it was thoughtful and insightful and perfectly fit the setting of a university theatre with many students in attendance too. There was a Q&A afterwards with Ms Hall too. You can read my review here http://scenestr.com.au/arts/ode-to-man-review-brisbane-festival-2018-20180913

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and now Victoria! every month too.

-Lloyd Marken

REVIEW OF ‘DINNER WITH LAUREN WEISBERGER’ AT THE BRISBANE WRITERS FESTIVAL AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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As previously mentioned I did a work elective in my final undergrad year at QUT where I was part of a group of students who wrote the newspaper for the Brisbane Writers Festival in 2004. Until the past couple of years it was one of the proudest moments of my short aspirations of being a writer and it still remains important to me. It may be coincidence but I suspect not that I never really went back to the writers festival in subsequent years until the call went out from Scenestr for interest in reviewing events at this year’s BWF. I consider myself very lucky as a result to have been able to attend the Dinner with Laura Weisberger at Gerard’s Bistro.

I was in attendance by myself and so was pleased when I saw an old friend Karen B arrive. As you maybe aware Karen set me up with my wife Karen. We stood and chatted while delicious entrees were served on trays around us and bubbly was sipped. Karen had a far greater knowledge of not only Weisberger and her work than I did but it turned out the Brisbane Writers Festival was a big deal for her and something she regularly attended much like the Brisbane International Film Festival is important to me.

As we made our way indoors for the main event we were directed to allocated seating but I was lucky enough that my friend was only two people away at the next table. I was not sure of the format and wondered if I was at a press table and was expected to ask questions of the famous author on behalf of my publication. As I sat waiting, the current news anchor for Channel 10 in my home state, Georgina Lewis introduced herself and her friend Elissa to me as they sat down opposite. Another beautiful woman wearing a star necklace and long blonde hair said hello to me by name as if we were old friends. This was Mary Dickinson who amongst other things runs her own blog site and regularly contributes to various publications including Style Magazine. That was enough for me, I dashed over to the gentleman who had directed me to my table and asked if he could confirm the format of the evening. He mentioned what I was most familiar with, there would be an interview followed by questions open to the audience but I would not be called upon as a reviewer to say anything which is what I had been expecting would be the case but had wanted to confirm given the wattage at my table. Perhaps sensing a little nervousness he assured me “Don’t worry you’ll be sitting next to Johnny the owner who is very approachable.”. Terrific. The thing though was that this was quite true.

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The evening began with Marie-Louise Theile who used to be the Channel 10 news anchor and now runs her own company interviewing Lauren Weisberger in front of the bar while we all listened. Those attending had shelled out $165 a ticket for a three course meal at one of Brisbane’s trendiest restaurants with the author. Weisberger in town to promote her new book When Life Gives You Lululemons did not disappoint. You can read my review here http://scenestr.com.au/arts/dinner-with-lauren-weisberger-review-brisbane-writers-festival-20180907 of the dinner but suffice to say it was fun. I found the décor of the fashionable James Street eatery appropriate to the event with a panelled wall of various wood evocative of books on a shelf and intimate reading areas you find in grand old libraries.

Afterwards I kept my mouth shut I hope for the most part and just quietly listened during dinner and took my notes for future reference when writing the review later. However there were little moments when me and my fellow diners talked a little about ourselves, I remember talking about my marriage and my interview with Ali McGregor. Mostly I listened and talked to Karen at one point but appreciated the generosity and friendliness of my fellow diners who walk in different circles to me but were treating me no differently. I even got an old fashioned out of the mix which hit the spot nicely. The meal was super impressive including possibly the best pork I’ve ever had. I went to buy a copy of Lululemons and get it signed by Lauren who kindly did and posed for a picture. While everybody else was eating she was taking one table of guests at a time and doing this. Karen left and I took my queue to follow, after all as I had a review to write and a day job to get to in the morning. I gave my leave to everyone at the special table I had gotten to sit at and stole off into the night with some pretty cool memories and a brand new book. Lauren Weisberger, the Brisbane Writers Festival and Scenestr have kindly provided me once again with another highlight I am grateful for.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and now Victoria! every month too.

-Lloyd Marken

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Posing with best selling author Lauren Weisberger after she signed a copy of her book. Copyright Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART IV

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THAT’S NOT ME: This little Australian film directed by Gregory Erdstein is the kind of little local film that can be championed by home country festivals and boost them towards international deals. One of Karen’s picks I was still happy to go along and had solid hopes. If you’re keeping score all of Karen’s choices came a cropper and mine didn’t fare much better but I picked the best film of 2017 so there’s that. Karen still stands by The Party and I still don’t think it’s that great. We saw this film at Palace Centro Cinema 7, Thursday night at 6pm 31AUG2017 and grabbed some chow from a nearby Italian restaurant after.

Co-written and co-produced by star Alice Foulcher, who plays dual roles of aspiring actress Polly and her twin Amy also an actress who gets a big break and is off to Hollywood. Specialising in the kind of awkward understated character driven humour that Ricky Gervais made an industry out of, I admired a lot in this film but can’t say I really enjoyed it. I admired the work from Foulcher and the rest of the cast, to be natural in their performances and to play their roles as imperfect humans.

I liked the low production values that still lit atmospherically backyard townhouse parties favoured by young broke artists getting older every day. I liked how it was shot in L.A. and Victoria and showed how clearly without the 35mm film lenses of my childhood Hollywood more and more is just another pretty Pacific Ocean town not too different from where I live. As a comedy though I seldom laughed and as a character piece I found it more and more challenging to get caught up in the plight of this flawed character no matter how honest and real she was written and performed.

 

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AUSTRALIA DAY: Those who follow my blog will recall I covered with some excitement getting to review this film at BIFF for Scenestr magazine. Australia Day screened at 6pm, Palace Barracks Cinema 1 Saturday 02SEP2017 with BIFF 2017 closing down the following day. It turned out to be a great way to finish off BIFF 2017 with a good local film made here in Brisbane. As “press” I got to mingle at a party beforehand and by mingle I mean stand and chat to my wife. I did notice Hornblower himself – Iaon Gruffudd was present. BIFF 1.jpgAfter the film there was a Q&A with some cast, producers and director Kriv Stenders who also made the excellent closing night film of BIFF 2017 The Go-Betweens: Right Here which I later saw at Byron Bay. Kriv Stenders is one of the great modern directors of Australian cinema and the producers were local boys, of Hoodlum Productions, who had done good and were making their first feature film. Karen and I went to Libertines again afterwards for delicious crab sliders and other favourites where I noticed them celebrating with loved ones.

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Libertines on the night of 2nd of September, 2017. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

You can read more of my recap of events here and my review of the film here but suffice to say it was a great way to end our attendance at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017. Australia Day was a moving energetic film perhaps not subtle in its themes but I found it terribly effective and affecting. I put it in Honourable Mentions for my end of year list and I still stand by it. Getting to be on assignment for Scenestr at BIFF was a personal highlight and I was pleased everything went well.

 

All up Karen and I had seen 7 films, 2 from Asia (one animated from Japan and another from Vietnam), two films from the U.S. (one a documentary), two films from Australia and one film from Europe (in this case the U.K.) Not a bad collection and while only two really passed the grade with me they did so by a far margin. BIFF is returning in 2018 and I hope to share some memories with you about it soon. I also hope to write about my attendance at the Sydney Film Festival in 2008 at some point but we have come to the end for now of my recaps of past BIFFs. I hope you have enjoyed, I admit there is a nostalgic twinge for the ones of the previous decade that I do not get for 2017 but time moves on. You treasure memories and create new ones and I look forward to making many new BIFF ones. I will close by thanking Palace Cinemas once again for bringing back my beloved BIFF.

-Lloyd Marken

INTERVIEW WITH COMEDIAN SAMMY J AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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Late last year I was able to interview comedian Randy Feltface who regularly collaborates with Sammy J and now I have been able to speak to Sammy J as well for Scenestr magazine. It was an utter joy speaking with Sammy J who was very encouraging and friendly. After the interview was over my entire mood had lifted, I think this is part of his appeal with audiences – Sammy brings joy.

A Melbourne lad he was on hand to promote his new show at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, The Fifty Year Show Part III which is run every five years having started in 2008. Deceptively ambitious I was fascinated by the concept of the show which recaps current events and trends while also bringing back elements of previous shows. This will allow it to cover fashion, news and so forth but also more poignantly life itself and in a particular way the careers of all those involved. It’s interesting to think of a 75 year old Sammy J mounting the last edition and what kind of a performer he will be at that point. Getting a young fit man to strip down to his undies in the show will play differently as time goes on and yet probably get as many cheers in the last show as in the first if that person is still agreeing to it. Because we age and we evolve and already Sammy is acknowledging that, as he moves to include more female performers this year. You can read my interview here http://scenestr.com.au/comedy/sammy-j-continues-his-50-year-show-at-melbourne-fringe-20180911 nd if you’re a Melbourne reader I suggest you take the opportunity to go and see the show for yourself.

 

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Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises, Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane every month. For the month of September they returned to the Melbourne market with the debut print edition of Scenestr in that city! It is a thrill to have had a shortened version of my interview with Sammy J feature in that first issue on page 38 which can be seen digitally here http://scenestr.com.au/read/VIC/2018/01-VIC/scenestr-VIC-01.html#p=39 If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts including festivals, stand-up comics, fashion, theatre and film. I feel very fortunate to get to write for them.

-Lloyd Marken