BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART IV

BIFF 2008

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KATYN: I’m led to believe that following Chop Shop at Palace Cinemas on Tuesday the 5th of August I went across town to Regent 1 to see Katyn from Poland at 9pm. For a late session there seemed to be quite a few people there and it was enthusiastically introduced by the BIFF presenter. Why had I been drawn to it. I think like it was with S21 in 2004 there is a morbid curiosity for me in the acts of great terror and the powerful resilience that survives it. The need to remember horrors and to hopefully learn from them. Katyn was directed by Andrzej Wajda who served in the Polish Resistance during the war and whose father was killed in the Katyn massacre. Polish officers who became POWs following the German invasion were rounded up the Soviets when they took control of the country in1941. 20,000 were murdered by the Russians who later claimed it was the Germans. For 50 years under communist rule no one could speak openly about the truth of the massacre but the Polish people knew and eventually the truth came out when the Warsaw Pact fell. The Polish Reserve Officers murdered were the best and brightest of their generation, the future captains of industry and leaders of the nation. Wiped out. Wajda made an excellent film which I found seriously riveting having never known of the subject matter. Another great film that sadly I fail to recall many details of but I remember clearly being moved and saddened. Deeply saddened.

 

 

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RAJA 1918: Another education into a piece of history I knew little about followed with the next film I saw Raja 1918 back at Regent 1 the next day August 6 at 7:10pm. This film from Finland told the story of a young military officer being sent to man run a border post near Russia following the Finnish civil war. With the creation of the Soviet Union some are fleeing Russia but Finland itself in a delicate new nationhood does not want to offer refuge.  These larger realities are framed in a story about a young man trying to do the right thing and pulled in different directions. Another excellent movie with something to say. The film’s producer Jorn Donner father, Kai Donner’s experiences was the basis for the main character.

 

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STONE: The same night I went to the next session at 9:30pm in Regent 1 to watch another film in the Ozploitation program – Stone. Growing up every now and again you’d see a VHS of a very old movie with a cool looking cover that made it look like it was cut from the same cloth as Mad Max. The film was Stone and now I was seeing it. Sandy Harbutt wrote, directed and starred in the 1974 classic about a cop going undercover with a biker gang to capture a serial killer amongst them. A celebration of the outlaw spirit, the cop goes native learning to respect the biker’s ways. B-grade, cheap, nasty I found it dated and in parts average but still shot through with some intent and craft. Tellingly I mentioned the screening to a stand offish IT guy at QUT. He talked about being a motorcyclist and seeing Stone back in the day upon release. He spoke with such fondness maybe even reverence that I doubt he would find for many other films. Stone like films of its ilk may not impress a lot of us but for some it speaks to them in the way that most culture doesn’t. Counter-culture indeed.

20171022_004038SIDE NOTE: I didn’t know it at the time but this was the last time I went to see a film at BIFF at the Regent. I saw a lot of movies at Regent with Karen over the next couple of years. The Duchess just a few short weeks later, Milk, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, preview screenings of Kick-Ass and Zombieland which were nights to remember. Amongst others. The last films screened there were in June 2010 and the cinemas have since been demolished. The foyer is heritage listed and remains. I also remember years earlier going to see Catwoman with my friend Rach. Catwoman  of course sucked but there was Catwoman from the theme park Movie World and she cracked her whip just above us in the first few front rows. But when I think about the Regent I first and foremost think about BIFF, the BIFF offices upstairs gotten to via the older elevator, the ghost stories about the storage room beneath the stairs, the old paintings on the old walls, the secret staircases I dragged 35mm reels up, the bar where we hung out after volleying. The Regent and BIFF are forever linked together in my memories, moments in time that I am forever grateful for.

 

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THE VISITOR: Thursday August 7 and I checked in to see The Visitor after work at 6:50pm at Palace 1. No doubt feeling a little fatigued at this point but I was excited to see the next film from the director of The Station Agent who you may recall my dear friend Mike introduced me to. It was also starring character actor Richard Jenkins. It told the story of a middle aged professor and widow who discovers people are living illegally in his New York apartment when he visits there for a conference. Its true that this film has something to say about immigration and so forth. The couple he finds in his apartment are supercharged charismatic (one of them Danai Gurira pre The Walking Dead and Black Panther fame) and endearing but director Thomas McCarthy has in three films shown a great gift for subtlety and letting scenes stand by themselves to let you the viewer take away what you want. That kind of understatement can be frustrating for those of us who want an emotional catharsis of which I include myself but his films remain some of my favourites. The Station Agent, Best Picture Winner Spotlight and this The Visitor. All about those who are forgotten by society and all about the need for humans to look after each other.

 

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BLACK ICE: Friday night 08AUG2008 at 7:20pm in Palace Centro 1 screened the Finnish German co-production Black Ice. My goodness this was a sexy film and a well made one. To call it a thriller is perhaps misleading, to say it is about adultery seems unfair too. It’s actually about a female friendship that comes out of an unlikely set of circumstances which raises questions about how it will ultimately resolve itself. Starring Outi Maenpaa (she’s really terrific and beautiful) as a doctor and wife of an architect who finds out her husband (Martti Suosalo) is having an affair with one of his students played by Ria Kataja. The wife adopts a persona to get to know the mistress better and understand why her husband has been unfaithful. Instead she and the mistress become quite close. Black Ice also stunningly captures the wintry landscape Northern Europe and the clear black and white palette of the film stands in direct contrast to the murky morality of the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it and urge anybody to check it out but I wouldn’t say it is ultimately a happy film.

 

Dead Time: Kala: From Black Ice I believe I had tickets to Dead Time: Kala in Palace Centro 1 as well at 9:40pm. At this point I’d been staying up late 8 nights in a row to see various films and it eventually all caught up with me. Dead Time: Kala was from Indonesia directed by young Joko Anwar, it was trumpeted as a mix of comic book style and neo noir trappings with subtext about Indonesian society and early Sam Raimi energy. I can neither confirm nor deny any of this since I slept through most of it but I can tell you what I saw looked fantastic in terms of visuals. I apologise Mr Anwar but you known I’m tired when I fall asleep in a movie theatre. I should really make amends and track it down for a viewing now.

I have dim memories of grabbing a few bites to eat in the restaurant outside Palace Centro throughout the week and catching cabs home but in the end this extravagance would have to end. I was about to start the final weekend of BIFF 2008 and following it my life would centre on someone other than myself.

-Lloyd Marken

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BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART II

BIFF 2008

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LATE AUGUST, EARLY SEPTEMBER: Saturday the 2nd of August 2008 and I went to see Late August, Early September at 2:30pm in Palace Centro 1. This was part of a 4 film retrospective on the early works of French director Olivier Assayas including Paris Awakens (1991), Irma Vep (1996), Late August, Early September (1999) and Sentimental Desires (2000). Also screening at BIFF that year was Boarding Gate from Assayas. While sitting down waiting for the film to start I noticed the girl from UQ with blonde hair whom I volunteered with at BIFF 2004. I was surprised and quite happy to see her but did not go over to her. The film started. One of the weirdest things for me in doing these retrospectives is realising how much I have forgotten about movies. Movies have always been my passion and I could effortlessly retain details about them as I struggled to remember things for school tests. It was a running joke with family and friends. Part of getting old is forgetting things you once knew and it has thrown me to realise that I have forgotten an awful lot about movies. Reading from the program I see the film is about a writer weighing up his career options and a group of friends in their late 20s over a year where one is terminally ill. It seems a slice of life film about the transition from youth to middle age and the tug of making money or being an artist. Being French it is also about sex and relationships. One thing I do remember is Virginie Ledoyen as the girlfriend of the writer having her own secrets. I recall being satisfied with the film, thinking maybe it meandered but it was interesting enough and even then felt a little nostalgic (1999 was a great year). But honestly I don’t remember much.

After the film I had to walk past the girl from UQ and I said hello and she said hello much to my relief. I struck up a conversation and we hung out throughout the afternoon. She was an incredibly kind and intelligent woman. She once described the film Raise the Red Lantern to me in such a beautiful way that I’ve always wanted to see the film ever since. She was doing a thesis on Asian cinema and spoke so well of China and filmmaking. She had a great way of looking at things and I really enjoyed our chats. She also had a gentle manner about her that I found very endearing. We did catch up again but I’m afraid we never really pursued it much further and part of that was I started a new relationship following BIFF 2008 and time just got away. I’m sure she’s doing well and kicking ass and do miss her. I of course had a crush on her a bit and fate had handed me two opportunities to hang out with her which I sadly squandered. It goes like that sometime.

 

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CARGO 200: I was attracted to see Cargo 200 in the sense that it was a Russian film looking back at the dying days of Soviet era in 1984. I think I knew it would be dark and satirical but I really didn’t know what I left myself in for when I attended Palace Centro 2 at 8:50pm Saturday night after walking back from New Farm. Following on from Hunger and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days last year, Cargo 200 was one of the roughest films I saw. Unlike those two, the horrible things depicted going on here were done with an intended heightened sense of reality. It involves a girl, daughter of a Communist Party leader being kidnapped and kept hostage by a police officer because well he’s just a sick fucker. No I don’t have a problem remembering this film. Well shot with specific choices throughout it’s obvious director Alexei Balabanov is good at what he does. There’s a lot of things that haunt, the girl’s empty threats about her father being a powerful man as we see his ignorance and ineptitude at her kidnapping. We’re desperate to see her rescued as the film centres more and more on the horrible police officer Captain Zhurov played expertly by Alexsey Poluyan an impotent mostly mute man who lives with his mother and tortures the girl (Agniya Kuznetsova)with almost casual cruelty. Alas Balabanov doesn’t deal in easy answers and happy endings. A well made film with something to say even if in an over the top mode but hard going and not for everyone.

 

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FOUR WOMEN: Sunday August 3 I went to Palace Centro 1 at 6pm to see Four Women from India. Cut from the same cloth as Padam Onnu: Oru Vilapam from BIFF 2005 in the sense that it was about the difficulties women face in Indian culture. Directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan it told four separate stories about The Prostitute (Padmapriya), The Virgin (Geetu Mohandas), The Housewife (Manju Pillai) and The Spinster (Nandita Das). I found that film fascinating and moving as each woman in her story makes choices as best she can in the face of societal discrimination. Two things stand out from the packed screening which held a Q&A with Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

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Adoor Gopalakrishnan at the Q&A of Four Women at BIFF 2008 in Palace Centro 1 taken on old Motorolla phone with 1.3 Megapixel camera. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

When Adoor was asked about the symbolism of the location in one scene he replied that’s simply how the location was saying he had not intended anything more than that. This bewildered the interviewer and the crowd for whom such things had resonated. Secondly I recognised a female academic from my workplace at QUT at the screening and hailed from the subcontinent. I asked her later in the week what she thought of the film which I loved. She however told me that she would like to see different types of films being made about that issue or maybe focussing on other issues. It’s always nice to get a different perspective.

 

 

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THE MAN FROM HONG KONG: Following the Q&A with director Adoor Gopalakrishnan I darted across to Regent Cinema 1 in town to see my next film from the Ozploitation programme at 9pm. I’ve had a lifetime of watching American productions get made here but be set elsewhere. The Australian film industry I grew up with made some spectacular films The Lighthorsemen, Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max but I always wondered what it would be like to make a full action blockbuster in Australia. The closest to the visuals I guess would be Sydney getting shown off in Mission Impossible 2 but that seemed all wrong too. Little did I know the film had already been made and released in 1975. There are a whole bunch of films lost to time before the VHS era and part of the joy of going to a film festival was not only discovering these lost treasures but having them showcased and put up on the big screen. DVDs have helped too but you have to promote the films and get them into the culture again and as streaming takes off I’m seeing again a lot of classic titles just be lost to time.

Anyway the screening for The Man From Hong Kong in that beautiful classic downstairs Regent cinema late on a Sunday night was a film festival event in the best sense. Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, the film starred Jimmy Wang Yu as a Hong Kong cop out in Australia to bring down a major villain played by George Lazenby (who I think fared here even better than he did in his James Bond outing). Along for the ride were Rebecca Gilling, a young Sammo Hung, and Roger Ward and Hugh Keays-Bryne (the crowd absolutely erupted when he got put in his place by Wang Yu) both of whom would go on to feature in the original Mad Max. Also Bill Hunter is in there somewhere because Bill Hunter had to feature in every Australian movie ever made. It’s the law. Since it’s the 1970s there’s a lot of racist jokes going around but Wang Yu lets his fists do the talking eventually winning the day. Lazenby who knew martial arts also dives thick into the action and it blew my mind when I saw a series of classic 1970s Australian sports cars present in a full on car chase through Australian country roads that could measure up to anything being done today. There’s also a fight on top of Ayers Rock, (not possible today due to recognition of the sacred value it holds to the Aboriginal people now being recognised as Uluru) and they blew up the floor of high rise in Sydney’s CBD. It’s trashy, dated, over the top and fun as hell. One of the most fun films I saw at any BIFF but it only got better.

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Most will know about the classic Australian directors who came of age in the Australian film renaissance, amongst them Gillian Armstrong, Philip Noyce, Peter Weir, Fred Schepsi, Bruce Beresford but I had never heard of Brian Trenchard-Smith who is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite directors. Who stepped forward after the film to do a Q&A with Trash Video legend Andrew Leovold. I think I attended with a mate of mine who I worked with at QUT and we had a blast. Trenchard-Smith like his more well known contemporaries has gone on to work overseas too but in films like Leprechaun 3 and 4. He also directed Nicole Kidman in her film debut BMX Bandits.

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The now long gone Regent 1 with Brian Trenchard-Smith holding court on the left during the Q&A. Apologies to the low quality but it gives you sense of the atmosphere hopefully. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Here he regaled us of tales from The Man From Hong Kong‘s shoot including one where he set himself on fire to convince Lazenby to do the same for a fight scene. According to IMDB however when Lazenby shot the sequence he struggled to get his jacket off and subsequently received burns to his arm. You can see this in the finished film. Another close call can be seen in the final shot of the trailer where a car explosion saw the door come flying off towards camera barely missing the cameraman. Such stories are covered in the excellent documentary Not Quite Hollywood which screened at BIFF 2008 and covers a lot of the films from the BIFF 2008 Ozploitation program including The Man From Hong Kong. Apparently none of the car chase was filmed with closed roads or permits either. Brian also told us that the hero car a 1974 Chrysler Valiant Charger got smashed up for real and was then sent back to the wreckers and repaired. Then the car was sold and apparently when the buyer saw his rego number in the movie he understandably was taken aback. Image result for the man from hong kong

 

The film also features the classic Sky High by Jigsaw. When I was a teenager in the 1990s a group called Newtown did a cover of Sky High which was a favourite of mine. I was surprised and delighted when I heard the original in the film which charted around the world and is a bonafide classic. My goodness this film just has fuckin everything!  It might be hyperbole, all kinds of genre films got made over the years by the Australian film industry, but I think there’s something very special about The Man From Hong Kong. Check it out if you haven’t already. My friend Brian and I took off into the night and had a few drinks at the nearby Treasury casino before heading home to get up for the work next day. It had been a great weekend at BIFF 2008 and there were still lots of films to see. Little did I know the next day would change the course of my life.

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART I

BIFF 2008

It’s almost comical to look back at this now, but I bought a lot of tickets in 2008 to see movies at BIFF. It even seems shameful in retrospect but oh how I love movies and I could and so I did. The 17th Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 31st of July to the 10th August. Opening night film was Where in the Wold is Osama Bin Laden by Morgan Spurlock and Closing Night film was The Edge of Love starring Kiera Knightley and Sienna Miller. I saw neither nor did I attend Opening Night. What was odd is that there were a few films running after The Edge of Love on the last night so I don’t know if there was a party for the Vollys or when it started. I stuck with my decision to not be a Volly that year and cashed up with a full time job living at home I prepared to go nuts as a festival goer. I figured it would not take long to make back the money but little did I know that my life was about to radically change. There were a lot of great films at BIFF 2008 and it is interesting to note how some of choices were informed by simply being able to get to a cinema in time and also my own work hours so I missed festival darlings like Man on Wire, Son of Rambow, In Bruges and Persepolis which were all shown here. I still intended to see many films from many continents, sex as a subject attracted me and there was a fantastic retrospective on Australian B-grade cinema in the 1970s. Growing up I had heard a lot about the renaissance of Australian films in that decade with Picnic at Hanging Rock, Newsfront, The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and My Brilliant Career. But these were a different type of Australian classics that pre-dated Max Max and I was anxious to see as many as possible. I’m sure I was scheduled to see a seminar as well but can’t be sure what it was now.

 

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HUNGER: One of the great joys of going to a film festival is the discovery of new talent in smaller films before everybody comes to recognise them. I have Irish roots and am always interested in stories that cover The Troubles and so it was, I chose to see Hunger at Palace Centro cinemas at 4:30pm on the 1st of August. At least I think it was since I can’t be sure of some of the sessions I attended now. Hunger was about a hunger strike carried out by IRA prisoners in the early 1980s. Such a simple sentence cannot capture what awaited me and the care with which the director would showcase the horror of his tale. The prisoners live in cells with nothing sleeping on the ground on hard concrete. They draw in their cells on the walls but they don’t use pencils. They’re beaten as they find ways to cause trouble with whatever means they have. There’s no end to the violence and squalor and we come to realise its killing the humanity in the guards too. The leader of the prisoners is a man who really existed called Bobby Sands who starved himself. The politics seem remote from the whole damn thing, we see men suffering and we’re left to wonder what the hell could justify it but also understand that its something very real and important to Sands.

A film virtually without dialogue, halfway through what seems an exhausting observance of what we do to ourselves Sands sits down with a priest (the excellent Liam Cunningham who would go on to do Game of Thrones) and discusses his resolve to not eat. In a long unbroken take for 17 minutes they talk and then the camera cuts to a close-up on the face of the actor who plays Sands. The next few minutes leaves you speechless. This was tour de force filmmaking and acting. The actor who played Bobby Sands and director would re-unite in 2 more films so far. Those films are Shame and the Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave but I saw Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen’s first work together in 2008 and was riveted.

 

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THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS: On the same night I raced across to see the classic The Battle of Algiers at 7:15pm at GOMA Cinema A. This was part of a program on Resistance and Terrorism in Post War Europe. Hunger not part of this program seemed an appropriate entrée (in fact In The Name of the Father also about The Troubles and prisoners screened as part of the program). There’s not a lot to add here about The Battle of Algiers (1962) directed by Gillo Pontecorvo which is a well known classic. I probably owe watching it to Roger Ebert.  Basically it covers Algeria’s war of independence against France in the early 1960s. It is shot like a documentary film, as IEDs were killing soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan it felt timelessly relevant. Not just for a small force targeting civilians but also for the way that an occupying force can have good intentions. As the French commander notes, some of them were part of the resistance against the Nazis. Easily one of the best films to see at the Festival and a pleasure to see it on somewhat of a big screen.

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ALVIN PURPLE: The Ozploitation program featured many films that were covered in the documentary Not Quite Hollywood which screened at BIFF 2008. Sadly I missed it here but caught up with it in general release not much later. I did a few of the programmed films and the first was Alvin Purple which was scheduled to start at 9:10pm at Regent 1. One of my work colleagues from QUT who set me up with Karen noted I was going to struggle to all these films before they started and given Algiers runtime it was definite that I would miss the opening of Alvin Purple which I promptly did. I don’t know if she could understand why I would see so many films and still buy tickets to one I would miss the opening of but Alvin Purple was not often on the big screen and I liked the look of a naked girl with leather boots and a jockey helmet with whip so missing the first 10 minutes was something I was prepared to forgo. Alvin Purple starring Graeme Blundell for a certain generation is a classic (and features plenty of young Aussie actors who would go on to have long careers including Blundell and Jacki Weaver. While it was all very risqué for the time it has probably remained a favourite due to its own humour. Since it was before my time I held no nostalgic emotional baggage for it but found it light and funny and sexy. I think I read somewhere it was the highest grossing Australian film at that time (1973).

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DIARY OF THE DEAD: Believe it or not it was still the 1st of August 2008, Friday when I saw my fourth film of the festival and the night at Regent 1 at 11:15pm right after Alvin in the same cinema. I had seen Land of the Dead and I think the original Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero and so was interested to see what he did with Diary of the Dead. Diary of the Dead wasn’t a great landmark film in the way that his classic Dead films were but it was perfect for a late night Friday session at the Regent and BIFF. I distinctly remember the crowd erupting at one character’s actions in the film. Set around a zombie apocalypse it follows young film students as they capture everything on their handheld cameras. It is admirable to have seen that at such a later time in life Romero was still interested in trying new things and commenting on society through zombies. I’ve read he changed dramatically the way he shot footage to allow for the look of the film to reflect the students just capturing things in the moment. Well that was it for the first night of BIFF 2008.

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2007 PART III

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RESCUE DAWN: Thursday night and I went to see Rescue Dawn at Regent Cinema 3 at 7pm. I was not too familiar with the great director Werner Herzog but the idea of a German who became a pilot for the United States Navy and was shot down over Vietnam intrigued me and it starred Christian Bale coming off Batman Begins. It was a fantastic a film, a little low on budget for its flying scenes but right on the money in terms of portraying how harrowing POW camps and the jungle can be. It has a real lived in quality to what is ultimately a remarkable story. What these POWs endured was horrible and Bale is ably supported by Steve Zahn (honestly people need to give him a bigger career) and Jeremy Davies. It was noted that Herzog who made the documentary about the same subject matter Little Dieter Needs To Fly ten years earlier now had a narrative retelling that was more grounded than the documentary such was his nature. Whatever Dieter Dengler was a truly fascinating man and I was glad to watch this film.

 

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Bamako: Friday and I had to hustle from work to see Bamako at Palace Cinemas at 5:30pm. My first movie from Africa I had seen at BIFF (a co-production between Mali/France/United States) I am sorry to report I was not blown away by it. Telling the story of a court in a small village that puts on trial in a over the top manner the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. I’m sure there were interesting ideas here about modern corporate colonialism and the continued exploitation of the third world but all I can remember is a fun scene involving Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon fame. Obviously people told this story with noble intent and great passion about things that matter but my only memory is it was not a very good film. Still terrific song.

 

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Squatterpunk: I had some time to travel across to GoMA Cinema B for Squatterpunk at 9pm the same night. Whatever I thought of Squatterpunk it was an experience which we need more in art and film festivals in general. Director Khavn filmed in one day on Mini DV in black and white around the slums of Manilla a group of children. The film was silent and live in Brisbane, Khavn and his band The Brockas performed music alongside the images. There was no dialogue that I could remember and the music was loud and not always easy listening. Truly unique, raw and real. It may not have always held my interest or pleased my senses but it communicated effectively the poverty of some areas of the world and the resilience of some humans to survive in it.

The next day I volunteered my last shift for BIFF from 3pm to 1am at Regent Cinema 1. Regent Cinemas are gone now and so are my days as a BIFF Volly. They don’t even have them anymore. I know Day Watch was a film to see that night but I don’t recall taking it in or any other freebies. Maybe I wanted to just take in the moment. 2007 felt very far away from my experiences in 2004 only a short 3 years earlier. I can’t imagine the melancholy for others when BIFF went away later. I remember a gentleman who looked homeless once coming in and discussing films with someone. I saw David Stratton again and at one point William McInnes the week earlier. He was there for The Night and Unfinished Sky. I caught a glimpse of The Night‘s ending which was moving and Unfinished Sky was made by New Holland Productions who I went to once for a job interview. I did not get the job but I enjoyed the interview and was happy to see those producers enjoying success.  There was also a VIP guest from America there who I can’t remember the finer details about but I think worked on film festivals there.

The next day I came in for the break-up party for the Vollys which was to be held in the Regent bar as in 2004. Pizzas were ordered in and set up around the bar as Vollys worked the last screenings. Promptly VIPs attending the last screening in Regent 1 walked out into the bar and started tucking into the pizza. This is no fault of their own, such things could be expected from a Closing Film but the organisation of it would have been different in the past to avoid it. The scraps of pizza handed to the unpaid Vollys and tireless front of house staff for their thank you party was just one more indication that it was time to leave volunteering behind. I had seen one film Australia (from Brisbane no less!), Canada, China, France, Mali , The Philippines, Romania, Sri Lanka,  3 films from the U.S. and an Australian documentary. I had truly covered a wide spread of films from around the globe. For me the highlights were 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Away From Her but Rescue Dawn, Bella, Waitress and The Search for Weng Weng all made an impression at the time. I hung out with the staff and my fellow Vollys. Being a small part of BIFF’s history is something I’m very grateful for and I have many fond memories. I think the staff who worked BIFF in those days really created something special I am particularly grateful to have met and worked with the fantastic front box office staff. We drank but if we went to Jimmys on the Mall this time we didn’t stay long.

The VIP from Hawaii whom I had spoken to earlier in the Festival was going to Byron Bay the next day. She was easy to talk to and a wonderful person. As everything wound down her and me ended up at the nearby Pancake Manor (an old Church me and my best friends frequented) and we talked some more. She was a little bit older than me and I don’t know if either of us did any obvious flirting but we were there talking at 2am alone. She had curly dark hair and this beautiful purple red dress kind of Grecian in design and what looked like very soft skin. I had been a skinny man who had put on some weight and she cut a very attractive figure. I carry a lot of guilt about the times I did pursue fleeting moments and maybe that is why this time I did not say anything. We had a really nice chat for hours and then I stood dutifully on the side of the road waiting for a cab with her. It could be my own warped imagination but the conversation seemed less easy at this point. There was an air of awkwardness now as if something was being left unsaid. I think when her cab came we hugged and lingered but she got in that cab and I went home. Perhaps it was for the best, very probable she was not interested…or maybe we were just two shy lonely people who had a nice night that could’ve been capped off in a pleasing way. Fortunately this was just the beginning of romance for me at BIFF. At the Brisbane International Film Festival 2008 I met my wife.

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2007 PART II

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From GOMA I went and volunteered at the Regent on Sunday evening late and then went to work the next day. The week ahead would see no let up as he had bought tickets to see at least one movie every weeknight. I was working at QUT and so found it quite easy to walk uptown to the Regent Cinemas located in the Queen St Mall. A grand cinema and for me the heart of the BIFF I remember. All lost in time but here we go with some more memories.

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Walking On The Wildside:  Monday I went to Regent 1 at 6:50pm to see from China Walking on the Wildside. There was also a short from Thailand called Graceland directed by Anocha Suwichakompong about a man meeting a mysterious woman one night in Bangkok and setting off a new journey. I can’t quite dredge up memories of it I’m afraid. Walking on the Wildside a Chinese/French co-production and shot on 35mm was made in the Shanxi province by Han Jie. It follows a gang of youths in an industrial province. Not much happens and I kind of felt the film’s lack of structure hurt it in the end because it kind of became boring. However I was seeing a part of the world I’d never seen before and watching individuals who had been raised in a different culture while reflecting some of the West’s influence as well. That is what I really enjoy about going to film festivals and so while not a particularly strong film it offered something different with its low budget verisimilitude style.

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Bella: Bella started an hour later upstairs in Regent the same night. I’ve read some bad reviews of Bella but I really was moved by it at the time and it also won People’s Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. I also don’t want to give away too much of the plot except to say that it follows a day in the life of two people. Jose (Eduardo Verastegui) is a beautiful man unkempt in the way that usually suggests something has hurt his spirit and now he’s just happy to work at his brother’s restaurant where there is a waitress named Nina (Tammy Blanchard)  who is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Written and directed by Alejandro Monteverde whose wife Ali Landry makes a small but pivotal performance too I was surprised to find that it is labelled a Christian film. Faith is certainly present and but I found it far from a religious film. These are people dealing with real struggles and yes they’re looking for answers but they find them in themselves and their choices. There is a very crucial flashback that I think says a lot. When you’re a moral person you go back when you want to leave. We find a person broken and wracked with guilt but in how he responded to his mistake reveals his future. Certainly a labour of love from all involved and a beautifully shot film and well told story.

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Away From Her: The next night I went to see Away From Her at 7pm in Regent 3 after work. My grandfather had dementia before he passed and I guess that may have informed this choice or maybe it the fact that Alison Polley who starred in Go and Dawn of the Dead was directing. Maybe I was just keen to see another Canadian film. I don’t know but it may have been the best film I saw that year. A Canadian film starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent as Fiona and Gordon. The kind of active good looking well off older couple we probably all aspire to be. Then Fiona gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and eventually the symptoms proliferate until she goes into a home. Then the film gets really interesting because not only is Fiona starting to treat Gordon like a stranger and crush on a male resident in the home but she also seems to be hinting at the fact that many years ago Gordon, an academic had an affair with a student. I think at this point we should commend Julie Christie on such a lengthy and stellar career. Christie bravely portrays someone with that condition but the emotional crux of the story is watching Pinsent as Gordon. It’s a slow burn of a film in the same way that the disease slowly takes everything away from a loved one. Under 30 and making her feature film debut Polley doesn’t put a foot wrong in terms of pacing and style effectively moving us to a knock out emotional finale.

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Waitress: Following in the same cinema Regent 3 at 9:20pm (yeah I got out after 11pm and went to work the next day a lot during this week) was Waitress. There was a lot of poignancy attached to the film when it screened at BIFF following Sundance. The director of the film Adrienne Shelly was murdered before it screened at Sundance, she was only 40 year old and had become a mother two years previous. Her husband has since set up the Adrienne Shelly Foundation which provides stipends, funds and scholarships to artists. Waitress is about a waitress Jenna (Keri Russell) in a diner who makes pies that are the stuff of legends. She is married to an abusive husband who is beyond pathetic when she falls pregnant. The examining Doctor is a new guy in town played by the strapping Nathan Fillion as somebody who is not very strapping. They go at it like bunnies accordingly. Maybe the film won’t hold up today but as a young man it was refreshing to see two films in one night worlds apart in tone and focus but directed by two incredibly talented women telling stories with a female eye. Shelly herself appears as a wallflower co-worker/friend as does the ever dependable Cheryl Hines on hand to get some laughs. The film made me laugh but it also made me think and it made me angry. Angry for how women can get chewed up in this world by some pretty pathetic men. I don’t think its an accident that there’s no major negative female characters in this film but then again Jenna (Keri Russell) can be pretty hard on herself enough.

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Sankara: I would have had to have left early on Wednesday to get to Regent 3 at 5pm for Sankara from Sri Lanka. Directed by Prasanna Jayakody the film is about a Buddhist monk doing some restoration work on a monastery where he is entranced by the beauty of a local woman. A lot of work went into the sounds and look of the film reflecting natural beauty and spiritual turmoil but I found it slow and too ponderous. Maybe worth a reappraisal. After watching the central female lead Sanchini Ayendra walk around in film with a natural look and simple clothes I was shocked when she stepped forward for a Q&A after the film. Decked out in a green top and white jeans with make-up she immediately looked a stunning beauty. Image result for sachini ayendraI would had no idea watching her performance in the film that she had been Miss Sri Lanka. The juxtaposition has always made me wonder about the presentation and perception of what is beauty and how we can be fooled or just be plain foolish. But then again she looks quite pretty naturally in this promotion still. Either way it was a privilege to meet a star and have her as a guest at BIFF.Image result for sachini ayendra

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4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days: Starting at 9pm I had to make my way from Regent 3 to Palace Cinemas 1 for this winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes from Romania. I’ve seen some pretty hard going films at BIFF and this was up there. Directed by Cristian Munglu and starring Anamaria Marinca in a performance for the ages. It is set in the late 1980s at the end of Communist rule when abortions are illegal. Marinca is Otilla helping a friend get one in a state that does not allow it so of course what is to be a harrowing ordeal becomes even more so. There’s not a lot more I can say by that but Otilla’s need to maintain secrecy comes at cost in a variety of fashions and shows just what strong women will endure when they are left little choice but to get on with it. One of the best but also most harrowing films I have ever seen.

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2007 PART I

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2006 was a rough year I’d rather not talk about but in 2007 I was working full time and was eager to return as a volunteer to the Brisbane International Film Festival. I like the idea of trilogies so for some reason I wanted to be a Volly 3 times rather than 2 but I also had the sense that this would be the last time I would do it. Given how much fun I had in 2004 and 2005 this feels odd but I guess I just had a sense of things passing and not being able to hold them in place. The 16th Brisbane International Film Festival was launched with Opening Night film Fay Grim and closed with Angelina Jolie’s A Mighty Heart running from 2nd August 2007 to 12th August 2007. Again I didn’t attend Opening Night. I did buy a Take 10 Pass and I did Volunteer on weekends now that I was working regular hours during the week and I did see most of the old gang of front box office staff who I had missed since 2005. There were two films I was keen to see that I didn’t get which include The Walker by Paul Schrader and the Oscar winning Once. I also note with interest a favourite film of Karen’s, The Jammed a harrowing tale about sex trafficking was also screened here. I did aim to see films from every continent again and I think I did alright.

 

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FLANDERS: Friday night after work I raced across to town to see Flanders at 7:10pm in Palace Centro Cinema 2 back when the only Palace cinemas in town were Centro. Flanders was a fascinating film to start off my BIFF viewing that way. Made in France by Bruno Dumont, the Iraq War was in full flight at the time. Flanders shows young French men from the farming community of Flanders conscripted and sent to fight in a Middle East or North African landscape, (These scenes were shot in Tunisia). An unconventional film, the characters don’t follow normal behaviour (I heard one sex scene described as two hedgehogs mating) certain plot developments are kept abstract and in the end nobody seems to have the answers but Dumont’s invitation to fill in the gaps and stand for multiple generations and wars speaks volumes. Some of his framing also recounts plays but other times he closes in on shots that still haunt me over a decade later. A perfect festival film that makes you think and is not the usual fare.

 

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ALL MY FRIENDS ARE LEAVING BRISBANE: The next day I volunteered at Regent 1 Saturday evening. This film screened there at 9:30pm according to the program but I was positive it took place in one of the upstairs cinemas because they had stairs to them and I remember sitting on the steps for the film. It was the directorial debut of Louise Alston to a hometown premiere and she was given a bouquet of flowers at the beginning. I was handed them at the back of the cinema and told to hold onto them and hand them back at the end where there was going to be a Q&A. We’re talking a massive bouquet with a bag of water inside them and so forth. I watched the film on the steps by myself which I enjoyed. The film stars Charlotte Gregg and Matt Zeremes as friends who are in a rut post uni. At that point two of my best friends had moved away to Sydney and the other to Canberra. My career wasn’t going anywhere and I yearned to go overseas. My love life was on the operating table losing a lot of blood too. So you could say the film tapped into the zeitgeist as far as I was concerned  and it was mostly this insight I enjoyed rather than laugh out laughs. It was nice to see Brisbane up on the big screen too and there was a relaxed confidence from the filmmakers plus I really enjoyed Charlotte Gregg’s performance (she later went onto some success with Underbelly but is now mostly a food and health writer) and Ryan Johnson (who is really entertaining).

As instructed after the film ended I raced down to the front to give the bouquet back to Ms Alston who was about to do a Q&A with the audience. So naturally she didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing and neither did I really beyond that it was what I was supposed to do. I can’t be sure all these years later but I think thankfully they ended up lying on the ground or a seat with met off to the side wondering why I just didn’t hold them longer. I’m sorry Ms Alston. The Q&A was a great success, actors often seem less at ease in them than directors and writers who find it easy to discuss themes and intents whereas some actors are actually really shy. Ryan Johnson was charming and funny and completely at ease and I thought this guy has got something.

I’m not sure what happened next, probably we handed out voting cards as the audience left the cinema but whatever it is it ended up the whole place had become quiet and deserted and I saw Louise Alston walk back into the empty cinema. I followed her inside and saw that she was surveying the scene, having a moment of realising her first feature film had played to an audience on a big cinema screen. I quickly left, having feel blessed to have witnessed her moment but not wanting to spoil it. There are a handful of people really who can ever do this and she is one of them. Such scenes are one of  the joys of BIFF like seeing the local producers of Australia Day having dinner after their Qld premiere last year at BIFF.

 

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THE SEARCH FOR WENG WENG: Many years ago as a uni student at QUT I was asked if I wanted to come along to the Valley to go to a Trash Video Film Club night. This was in a bar upstairs that looked like it was from another time. Kids sat around on bean bags everywhere and ordered drinks and we watched B-Grade genre films from around the world. It was curated by Andrew Leovold who ran Trash Video store in the West End which stored old VHS tapes of films you couldn’t get anywhere else. The Film Club nights were a great advertisement for his store as they showed highlights of different films you could get out from there. I went a few times throughout over 2 or 3 years, getting an appreciation for Horror films from around the world, seeing Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) and also running into the Spierig Brothers. They came one night to show all the short films they had made before their first film Undead. They also gave away tickets for some new film called Shaun of the Dead with a quiz about Undead. I was a big fan of Undead but people were struggling to come up with answers. After one question I exclaimed in frustration having known the answer but not remembering it. One of them asked me if I had known the answer and I said yes and so they gave me the tickets and poster.

I asked Andrew a couple of times what he thought of BIFF and the Australian film industry in general. As a purveyor of schlock his answer surprised me, back then he had a pretty tough view of the industry and audiences saying we needed to be more discerning. I think something he loved about the films he celebrated were that many were true originals whatever their other limitations. The Trash Video Film Club was a very special place for a young person to hang out in and I am forever grateful for Andrew and his team for what they created there. It should be noted that even with the advent of illegal downloading and streaming we don’t always seem to have easier access to some of the titles that could be easily rented out at Trash Video. Of the few nights I went to the Film Club the highlight perhaps remains my first where I went and saw a program of James Bond spoofs which was followed by For Your Height Only. For Your Height Only was released in 1981 starring Weng Weng and was made in the Philippines post US productions. At one point the Filipino film industry was the 3rd largest in the world.

Which is a long way of getting to the next film I saw at BIFF 2007. Andrew Leovold went to the Philippines to look for the 2foot9inches Weng Weng whose fate was shrouded in mystery. The resulting documentary screened at BIFF at Gallery of Modern Art Cinema B at 3pm on a Sunday when I was doing a volley shift although I was covering Cinema A ten paces away. Once again I was lucky enough to get to go in and watch The Search for Weng Weng which celebrated everything great about his films and the film industry in his country at the time. Leovold introduced the film and was true to form. This was the first year BIFF had sessions running at GOMA, that I know of, and as people left the cinemas that day they were told by staff they couldn’t go to the public toilets as the Museum was closing. GOMA is on stretch of land with the Queensland Art Gallery, State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Museum. At the time the nearest public toilets were at least several hundred metres away if not more. I was furious and one of the front of house staff just told the security guard that he needed to go so he was going to go…and he did. BIFF 2018 has just been announced with its base being at GOMA and I’ve had many positive experiences since then including at the cinemas but it was really a piss poor way to treat patrons. Hopefully they’ve learnt their lessons.

Leovold is a larger than life showman who dresses like the uni students he appeals to but as time has gone on he has been able to reveal more and more a keen intellect. I noticed him leave the venue with a crowd (mostly friends I suspect and what appeared to be a younger girlfriend) and decided that a new part of his career was beginning at this BIFF with his first film and he has gone from strength to strength since. Danny one of the front of house staff who had been so kind to me over the years was also significantly involved in work of this film so people were starting to move onto new and better things.

-Lloyd Marken

THE YEAR THAT WAS 2017 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

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Following on from last year I’m doing a quick recap of stats for 2017 which I always find a little interesting. This year the site has seen a few changes, a lot of posts now refer to reviews I’ve had published elsewhere and don’t include screenshots or gifs from movies which may attract views. I don’t know. My stats have gone through the roof due to the large interest shown to a post I did on the movie The Founder which I think got placed on a site by WordPress that increased traffic to the post. At the same time I haven’t engaged with my fellow bloggers or sought to grow my blogging community and so you’ll see number of likes has decreased as a result. All I can say is I enjoy my current blogging community and the size of it and am grateful for their continued interest and I want to remain able to keep up with them semi-regularly and so don’t worry a lot about getting new followers. Always nice to grow though. I have some plans for 2018 but I had some plans for 2017 and not all of them came to fruition so we’ll just see what happens.

The United States retains the crown for most views this year, the United Kingdom comes second place after barely coming in third last year with Autralia now in third place. Congratulations to Canada who remains in fourth and has cracked over 1,000 views for the year. It was hard fought but Germany cracks the Top 5 this year. Spain, Brazil and France all fall out of the Top 10 this year. A post I wrote about a good man I knew who passed away saw an uptick in views from his homeland of Malaysia and one of his favourite countries in the world Japan. Goodbye Kelly Chen, you will are so obviously missed by so many far and wide. I’m particularly touched to see my post has resonated with those who knew him best. Any mention of Taika Watitti sees an uptick in New Zealand view. Congratulations to Indonesia and India who cracked the Top 10 this year, hope you’re enjoying the blog.

 

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                               9,126 Views
  2. The United Kingdom                                                                                              2,339 Views
  3. Australia                                                                                                                   1,848 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                      1,057 Views
  5. Germany                                                                                                                      166 Views
  6. Japan                                                                                                                            163 Views
  7. Indonesia                                                                                                                     120 Views
  8. New Zealand                                                                                                               113 Views
  9. India                                                                                                                             100 Views
  10. Malaysia                                                                                                                         92 Views

 

stats 2017

 

Out of 105 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. In 2017 this grew to 16,767 views (more than a third of which were for The Founder Review), 11,891 visitors, 1,240 Likes and 1,707 comments. This was helped in no small part thanks to the support and interest from my fellow bloggers.

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2017

  1. Ray Kroc…What An Asshole                                                                                5,992 Views
  2. Goodbye Kelly Chen and Thank You                                                                    303 Views
  3. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Lucy From Going In Style               187 Views
  4. Extras Who Add A Little Something – Kathy Larson and Missy Wolff           141 Views
  5. The Appropriately Titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back                                    131 Viewstime jack nothing reacher
  6. Review of Young Australian Filmmaker Shorts Available on Scenestr         127 Views
  7. Extras Who Add A Little Something – John B. Destry                                         112 Views
  8. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Dr Lamar from Gattaca                     89 ViewsRelated image
  9. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Stephanie from The Naked Gun      89 Views
  10. Star Character Actors: Stephen Tobolowsky                                                         85 Views
  11. Best Dressed Award Season 2017 Part I                                                                 85 Views
  12. The Mystery Blogger Award Nomination                                                               84 Views
  13. The Seven Ages of Clint Eastwood                                                                           80 ViewsImage result for honkytonk man clint eastwood
  14. The Long Overdue Film About Jadotville                                                               76 Views
  15. Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine                                                                             72 Views
  16. You Can’t Keep A Good Kong Down Even If You Should                                     72 Views
  17. Star Character Actors – J.T. Walsh                                                                            71 ViewsImage result for j.t. walsh young
  18. Over 1,000 Views for The Founder Review                                                            70 Views
  19. Major General John Cantwell – Hero, Veteran, Human Being                            69 ViewsImage result for major general john cantwell
  20. La La Land: A Modern Musical                                                                                 68 Views
  21. The Seven Ages of Harrison Ford                                                                             67 ViewsImage result for harrison ford WITNESS
  22. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Atomic Blonde Reviews Available at Buzz    66 Views
  23. My Favourite Films of 2016                                                                                       65 Views
  24. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Jaguar Owner from Speed                 64 Views
  25. The Perspective of the Girl on The Train                                                                64 Views

As you can see the posts about extras and characters actors were very popular so I hope to bring them back in a way in 2018. Also I really liked the idea of doing the Seven Ages posts but unfortunately the time needed and the titles that have to be seen makes that challenging. Going through all the posts and figuring out what got most likes will simply take too long but please continue to like my posts if you like them because it is always a thrill for me when I see those little icons below the post. A lot of my posts were about reviews published elsewhere this year which seem to attract attention mostly from my long time core readers. Thank you very much for supporting me in these new ventures, it has meant a lot and I think also shows my editors that I do have an audience that I bring along with me. It really is appreciated.

For Your Consideration

Now it’s time for some shameless self-promotion where I point out reviews I’m very proud of from that year that you might want to check out. In going over the 105 posts for the year there were many I’m pleased with and glad found an audience but citing them seemed redundant. They are a time and place and people either read them then or will discover them later. Some of the posts I do on here now have become more personal whether it is me remembering BIFF or describing a recent holiday to Newcastle. 20171001_110615There are some reviews I’m proud of and some reviews I’m not. Yet again they either found an audience or they didn’t, people seemed to like the Tom Hanks Top 5 over at Heavy and had lots to say about my review of Dunkirk. My review for Queensland Ballet’s Raw and Hidden Figures at Scenestr will always have personal significance for me and I worked really hard for them to be good. I felt energised when writing about The Go-Betweens: Right Here than I was when writing about Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I enjoyed my list of Best Films for 2016 Image result for eye in the skyand look forward to doing one for 2017 once the bulk of Oscar releases arrive here in Australia. Come on Ladybird! I should take this opportunity to mention that 20th Century Women and Nocturnal Animals would have easily made the 2016 list if I had seen those movies at the time. I’m humbled to see the review of The Siege at Jadotville was met with approval from someone who’s father had served at Jadotville. If from my small corner of the internet someone has learnt a bit more about the Irish at Jadotville or the strength of Major General John Cantwell then that makes me very proud. In the end though I just want to say cite two pieces. The first is a review I did of the movie Fences, I just like my review which mentions something about one of my grandfathers. Image result for fences movieThe second… Many years ago I worked with a young man on the set of a film being shot on the Gold Coast named Vigilante. He passed away earlier this year and while I didn’t know him very well I was struck by thoughts of how he had lived his life. Not just personal career achievements but the measure of the man was in how he had treated others and enriched their lives. This is a legacy to aspire to and I tried to put into words my memories of him in a post. I would urge people to take a look if they haven’t. His name was Kelly Chen.

Well that’s another bunch of stats for another year. I would like to take this moment to thank you all for your continued support Pete, Cindy, GP, Don, Vinnie, Jay, Sean, Paul, Allen, John K, Michael, Jet, Eddie, Alex, Paol, Jordon, John R, SJS, DB, Emma, The Film Blog guy, Jersey Dreaming, Robin, Eric and anybody else who takes the time to read these posts. It would be helluva lot less fun without you all.

-Lloyd Marken

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