BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2005 PART I

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The 14th Brisbane International Film Festival was some of the most fun I ever had. I had graduated from University and moved back in with my parents but was still working at the hospital casual. I bought a BIFF Take 10 Pass and decided to go hard or go home. Evidently so did the organisers of BIFF, there were over 200 films screened, a free public screening program across the suburbs for kids called Cine Sparks and a relocation to South Bank Cinemas. While the bulk of movies screening were at South Bank, the BIFF Offices were still located at Regent. In 2004 the whole program ran out of the Regent in their 4 cinemas. This time they were screening downstairs in the classically elegant Regent 1, in the 1970s refurbished Regent 3. Over at South Bank films were screening at South Bank Cinema 3 and 4. The former IMAX screen (the only one in Brisbane and no more even then) South Bank Cinema 5 was where the Showcase screenings occurred. While a bigger cinema I don’t think there were special conversions for playing on this screen. Of course all these years later I can’t recall exactly what I bought tickets for and what I get into as a Volly though I will try.

I can tell you one day we needed to get something from the Regent down to South Bank. There is a lot of downtime as a Volly. I was 25 and overweight but maintaining irregular exercise with weights and jogging. I offered to run from the South Bank Cinemas across the river into the Regent in the city. There were cars allocated to the festival from one of our sponsors Mazda but God bless’em they let me do the run. As I ran across the fountain courtyard at South Bank I saw a bagpiper and offered him some change. I asked could he play The Bonnie Banks O’Loch Lomond? I ran off to the bridge in the hot sun hearing his notes fade into the background of the traffic and the wind blowing over the bridge. A long time ago a tourist bus driver sang this to me and a group in Scotland and I’ve asked every bag piper to play it ever since. A young one once answered he didn’t he was just learning. Another night in town an older player with some personality told me “Every bagpiper knows that song!”. Maybe I settled for Scotland the Brave that day, maybe it was the young guy. Maybe it was someone else and I heard Loch Lomond. I can’t remember which but I remember smiling like a big kid as he powered my legs forward as the sweat began to pour and I had to pace my breathing. I was young, hanging out at the film festival again, running with the wind and enjoying every second.

Most likely I saw the movies I did in 2004 for free during shifts as a volunteer. In 2005 I decided I would buy tickets to movies I really wanted to see so as a paying customer I could relax I wouldn’t be called away. I also did shifts as a Volly at all hours of the day any day of the week. Still I didn’t attend Opening Night as Volunteer or cinemagoer. I was just too shy.

Just wanted to let Beetley Pete know a favourite of his Bombon: El Perro screened at BIFF 2005. Unfortunately, no I didn’t see it Pete but I will.

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I AM A SEX ADDICT: There was a screening at Regent Cinema 1 at 7:10mpm on 30JUL2005 but most likely the first film I paid to see at BIFF that year was I Am A Sex Addict at South Bank Cinema 3 at 6:40pm on Thursday the 28th of July the day after opening night with U-Carmen eKhayelitsha from South Africa. If you see the photo above and notice the word sex in the title you’ll pretty much know why I chose to see this. I was a young man, always been a horndog and was single. I was interested in depictions of sex, discussions about sex and relationships and what could be learned about sexual addiction. So was this film some smut or did it have something to say? I believe the latter, Caveh Zahedi was genuinely a sex addict and was far from likeable with some of his decisions in his life. Yet the honesty to say that and put himself forward warts and all seems brave. Caveh Zahedi attended BIFF 2005, before the film screened he was asked to introduce the film. The only thing he would say is “Everything you’re about to see is absolutely true and actually happened.” There was humour in it to be sure but also some dark places. I’m not sure I would like Caveh very much. He films people when they want their privacy, was snarky that a porn star didn’t want to do a sex scene with him and revealed one co-star as an alcoholic. He does throw that kind of full disclosure about himself painting himself in an uncompromising and embarrassing light at times. It would be interesting to see now what I think of it but at the time I found it fascinating and remember it as a good movie that also raised interesting discussion. Caveh must have known that and fronted up to the crowd afterwards where he was quite charming, self effacing but also straight forward. It was nice to see that by film’s end he was in a solid relationship and happy.

THE LOVE CRIMES OF GILLIAN GUESS: Right after in South Bank Cinema 3 at 9:10pm was the Canadian film The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess. Again a pick from my insatiable 24 year old libido. Directed by Bruce McDonald and starring Joely Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) the film tells the story of the real life case of juror Gillian Guess who slept with the man on trial who she was on the jury for. Another film that would be fascinating to watch in through the prism of now and some hopeful extra maturity. A few things stand out, first of all the film I remember being very sexy. Secondly with the running set-up of Gillian telling her story on a talk show and flashbacks to her adolescence perspective was everything and we were treated to looking at Gillian’s story in many different ways. Despite the sexiness, Bruce McDonald I believe had some insight into how women can be viewed. How some can be led to believe that their sex is the only power they’ve got and how people can appear one way and that’s not the whole story. How men can view women too. How condescending and smug they can be at times. This was one of my favorite films I saw at any BIFF and something I probably would never have seen otherwise. It also turned me on to seeing Canadian films if I could at BIFF. Sadly alas I missed Maudie and Weirdos (which I found out was directed by Bruce McDonald too) this year but maybe next time.

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BADLANDS: There was a program at the 14th Brisbane International Film Festival, amongst others called Blacktop Dreams which concerned 14 road movies. The 14 were It’s A Mad Mad Mad World, Two-Lane Blacktop, They Live by Night, Vanishing Point, Gun Crazy, Badlands, Don’t Look Back, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Backroads, Near Dark, Roadgames, The Road to God Knows Where, Wrong Side of the Road and Gallivant. Out of the 14 I saw 5 and I still that I didn’t get to see Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. In addition free screening next door at the Suncorp Piazza had the Mad Max movies, Thelma and Louise, The General and goodness knows how many more possible road movies. Jack Sargent who had written Lost Highways: A History of the Road Movie was a guest at BIFF 2005 and at the break up party I asked him about Thelma and Louise but we’ll get to that later. I had seen The Thin Red Line at the cinemas and not been particularly impressed but Roger Ebert had loved Terence Malick and I had read his review of Badlands several times over the years. So on Friday 29JUL2005 at South Bank Cinema 3 for a 3:30pm session I saw it. Related imageBadlands is a beautiful film, still most probably Malick’s best. Telling the story of a young man who went on a killing spree and the girl he took with him it introduced the world to Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. Having grown up watching them as middle aged people it is still a treat to see them in such a different light, Sheen really did have a bit of James Dean about him in this film. There are no easy answers for why they what they did or how they felt about it. Maybe they just weren’t right in the head, maybe they were scared, in love, maybe they just didn’t want to lose. Their restless, boredom, sadness but also romance is captured wonderfully and I was delighted to find a first rate car chase in the film. Tyres don’t always hold, there’s a power in early car chases where the cars always look like they could lost control. The first classic film I saw at the film festival, what it gave me was an opportunity to see films that hadn’t come to DVD and hadn’t been seen in years let alone on the big screen. Now this is less of a big deal, the Gallery of Modern Art regularly holds screenings of classic films on large screens and cinemas hold special screenings of classic hits regularly now. However a lot of these will be digital screenings, a 35mm print was shipped to Australia to watch this in 2005. For me too, there is something about 35mm film on a big screen even with scratches which is really special. These are experiences I will miss and hope are not completely non-existent in the future. Albeit digital does things easier and with people like Roger Deakins it can look good. I remember carrying a 35mm print up some stairs with another guy and this was only half of the film. They’re heavy. In the projection room I looked over and saw what looked like a videocassette. I was told that was a digital copy. It looked unimpressive, surely that was not the future sitting right there?

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ME AND YOU EVERYONE WE KNOW: Later that day at Regent Cinema 3 there was a film screening at 9:30pm and I attended. It sounded like a quirky love story about outsiders who were hurting. Written and directed by Miranda July and starring her along with John Hawkes I was very interested in it. It started off with Hawks burning his hand which was interesting but sadly I have to say I kind of snoozed and so can’t really fairly tell you what I thought. Having missed some of it I might have even left. This does happen from time to time I have to admit.

PHIL THE ALIEN: You may recall from the post about BIFF 2004 that Phil the Alien was intended to screen there due to some legal issues with the music. It screened twice at BIFF 2005, on Saturday 30th of July at 11:15pm in Regent Cinema 1 and on the following Friday at 10:45pm in South Bank Cinema 3. I’m fairly certain I saw it at the Regent but memory can play funny tricks. I thought Phil the Alien was everything I hoped it would be, telling the story of an alien who crash lands in the wilds of Canada and is befriended by a young boy. The anti E.T. follows with Phil becoming a drunk and a Christian rock singer amongst other things. The biggest star in it at the time was Nicole deBoer who some will remember from the latter seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and who was a completely different character here. Alumni of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart may also be recognised by some here. It was the feature film debut of Rob Stefaniuk who wrote, directed , co-edited and starred as Phil. To my joy it came out a year or two later at my local video story on DVD and got my brother and father to watch it. They didn’t seem so impressed but I can tell you the packed crowd there at BIFF 2005 laughed and clapped and cheered. It was a fantastic crazy Canadian cult film to see at a midnight screening at a film festival with similar minded folks. We might have had to wait another year to get it but Phil the Alien proved well worth the wait. The music by the way was a crucial part of it and I’m glad we waited.

 

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THE GENERAL: On Sunday 31JUL2005 at the Suncorp Piazza 1:30pm I went and saw Buster Keaton’s The General with my friend Mike. This as it turned out would be the only time Mike and I went to BIFF together. The silent film was accompanied live by organ player Ron West who played his organ at the Majestic Theatre in Pomona which still screens silent films and is Australia’s longest continuously running cinema. Ron himself only recently retired in 2011, of course having Ron come and perform in Brisbane was a special treat. The genius of Buster Keaton has not dimmed in all the years, a fantastic physical performer who told a story effortlessly The General still entrances with its scope, speed, daring and yes heart. I was surprised to hear it was not a huge success at the time and led to Buster Keaton having less creative freedom subsequently. In the end though good films endure and their makers remembered. I was glad to see such a film with my friend.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2016

In the past 14 months if ticket stubs and memory is to be believed I saw 50 films in a cinema. 7 of them were released in 2015 for that year’s Oscar race even if I came to see them in Australia cinemas in early 2016; they were Youth, Steve Jobs, Spotlight, The Force Awakens, The Big Short, The Hateful Eight and Brooklyn. There were a handful films I saw more than once and they were mostly blockbusters Batman Vs. Superman, Rogue One and with far more enthusiasm Deadpool and after seeing The Force Awakens twice in December 2015 I went back for third, fourth and fifth helpings. There’s only one other film I’ve seen five times at the movies and back then I had a lot more diverse social circle. Whatever the flaws of Star War 7 and Deadpool there was real love and affection that drove me back to them to watch rather than waiting months for release on some other platform.

I didn’t see the well-received Australian made Hacksaw Ridge directed by Mel Gibson whose personal faults have never pushed me away from his work – I look forward to seeing his latest effort but weekend after weekend I shook my head and made a different choice or stayed at home. Hell or High Water is a different story, I wanted to see it but by the time I suspected it must have hit our shores I found out I had missed the boat by a couple of months when I was very busy with work. My best friend has the best tastes in popular culture and has led me to many a great film I would have ignored. He’s pointed out Your Name is one to see and fellow bloggers have also praised it. I hope to find out for myself soon. I am interested too in the collaboration of Isabelle Huppert and Paul Verhoeven with the film Elle. I’ve barely seen any foreign films and certainly none of the well regarded ones this year. Like Room from last year I’m interested in Manchester by the Sea but just don’t feel like seeing a movie that will make me more depressed at the moment.

So it seems silly to really sit here and write a list of my Favourite Films for the year. Yet I found it kind of interesting to see I’d written a review on my site of every film I’d seen in the cinema and two that were original content for Netflix. Films I hadn’t seen at the movies but were 2016 releases like Triple 9, Zootopia and The Secret Lives of Pets didn’t encroach on a hypothetical top 10 so why not rank them.

One final disclaimer, these are not the 10 best but my favourite films from the year. Yes I am trying to grade them on artistic merit but films that made me feel more are going to see their stocks rise and how I feel about them is going to link back to what appeals to me personally I’m afraid. In a way it’s easier to pick a Top 5 than a Top 10 because of this.

The 43 films were as follows and I’ll even belatedly throw in a star rating based off Ebert’s 4 Star system.

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The Founder January 18th 18 Likes 393 Views ***

 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Published August 11th 24 Likes 99 Views ****

Eye in the Sky Published March 29th 8 Likes 96 Views ****

Bad Moms Published October 11th 14 Likes 66 Views ***

Deadpool Published March 17th 6 Likes 61 Views ****

Star Trek: Beyond Published August 20th 14 Likes 56 Views **1/2

Batman vs. Superman Published April 1st 7 Likes 56 Views ***

Sully Published September 27th 13 Likes 55 Views ***1/2

Suicide Squad Published August 26th 15 Likes 53 Views **1/2

 

Arrival Published February 8th 15 Likes 49 Views ***1/2

The Girl on the Train Published February 3rd 13 Likes 47 Views ***

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Published September 6th 12 Likes 47 Views ***

Jackie Published February 10th 12 Likes 46 Views ***1/2

Finding Dory Published August 20th 10 Likes 44 Views ***

Moonlight Published February 12th 15 Likes 42 Views ***1/2

La La Land Published February 2nd 13 Likes 42 Views ***1/2

Love and Friendship Published August 29th 14 Likes 41 Views ***

Ghostbusters (2016) Published August 20th 10 Likes 41 Views **

 

Fences Published February 18th 17 Likes 39 Views ***1/2

The Siege at Jadotville Published February 13th 14 Likes 39 Views ***

The Nice Guys Published August 10th 11 Likes 39 Views ***1/2

Eddie the Eagle Published April 23rd 7 Likes 39 Views ***

Hail, Caesar! Published April 20th 11 Likes 35 Views ***1/2

Office Christmas Party Published February 17th 10 Likes 34 Views **

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Published September 30th 14 Likes 34 Views ***

Jason Bourne Published August 25th 9 Likes 33 Views **1/2

Central Intelligence Published August 14th 14 Likes 32 Views **1/2

Captain America: Civil War Published May 27th 7 Likes 30 Views ***1/2

 

The Accountant Published February 9th 17 Likes 28 Views ***

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Published January 18th 13 Likes 25 Views **1/2

Alice Through the Looking Glass Published August 10th 12 Likes 24 Views **1/2

Zoolander No. 2 Published March 29th 2 Likes 24 Views **

Blair Witch Published January 18th 9 Likes 22 Views ***

X-Men Apocalypse Published September 29th 11 Likes 21 Views ***

The Boss Published April 22nd 4 Likes 21 Views **1/2

The Huntsman: Winter’s War April 21st 7 Likes 21 Views ***

Doctor Strange Published January 18th 11 Likes 20 Views ***

Sausage Party September 30th 9 Likes 20 Views **1/2

 

Rogue One Published January 13th 11 Likes 18 Views ***

Bridget Jones’s Baby Published January 18th 11 Likes 17 Views **1/2

Kung-Fu Panda 3 Published February 17th 7 Likes 13 Views **1/2

 

Hidden Figures ***1/2 Published at http://scenestr.com.au/news/movies-and-tv/hidden-figures-review-20170223

 

Out of them I’ll go into a bit more details about some that deserve an Honourable Mention and those that are my 10 favourite films of 2016 – for now.

 

Honourable Mentions

 

Image result for bad moms gifsBad Moms Published October 11th 14 Likes – 66 Views ***

The best popular mainstream gross out comedy of the year and centred around motherhood no less. After years of watching guys do it, it’s nice to see the girls proving they can be as irresponsible, self-centred and crazy as the boys. “Kunis, Bell and Hahn share a nice chemistry in this film with Kunis holding it all together as the lead, Bell doing some inspired physical comedy and Hahn stealing the show by doing whatever the hell she wants. A late scene where she explains motherhood to Kunis gives the film heart and a message. All the best gross out comedies have these two qualities. There’s been a few comedies released this year, none of them had the audience laughing as much as Bad Moms. Do yourself a favour.

 

Image result for siege at jadotvilleThe Siege at Jadotville Published February 13th 14 Likes – 39 Views ***

A company of Irish soldiers faced an onslaught of a far superior force in war torn Congo in 1961. Their heroics have been made into a film sparing no expense from Netflix. Knowing this really happened and what they received upon their return gives this movie depth and heart. “The Siege at Jadotville is a real throwback to old war movies that your Dad loved to watch on a Sunday. Modern production values are there and a dry Irish sense of humour bleeds through every now and again but the cast are mostly types not people, the soldier with glasses, the sniper (Sam Keeley as Billy Ready), the gruff old Sergeant (Jason O’Mara as Company Sergeant Jack Prendergast). Their emotive faces tell enough and Jamie Dornan acquits himself well as Commandant Pat Quinlan who as a person gets the most rounded out beside the exasperating political figures.

 

Eddie the Eagle Published April 23rd 7 Likes – 39 Views ***

Eddie the Eagle is cookie cutting filmmaking about sports and underdogs and yet it charms the hell out of you just like its hero. Eddie the Eagle was a very special underdog indeed and Taron Egerton gives a wonderful performance while Hugh Jackman charms as a gruff coach who didn’t exist in real life. “Eddie the Eagle implausibly showed up at the 1988 Winter Olympics as Britain’s sole Ski Jump competitor. His performance was so significantly behind the second last place getter that a new rule was instituted making it more difficult to place in the sport for the Olympics. There are those to this day who were embarrassed that he was there and confounded by his popularity. That’s because they don’t know what it’s like on that factory floor or in that office cubicle. Eddie had dreamed the impossible dream and we like dreamers. We need them, when they achieve something they keep our dreams alive. They make anything possible, thank you Eddie.

 

Batman vs. Superman Published April 1st 7 Likes – 56 Views ***

Both this blockbuster and Rogue One were flawed beyond belief but neither was boring and in light of the growing conveyor belt sameness of Marvel’s work and other disappointing blockbusters for the year I can’t help but reflect that the good stuff in these films should be recognised. Zack Snyder has created a dark downbeat nonsensical universe in his DC films which has completely missed the point of Superman as a hero. However Batman and Alfred Pennyworth yet again star on the big screen and play a new variation of their characters and relationship with humour, charm and action. The best fight scene with Batman ever put on screen is in this movie, it just doesn’t feature Superman. The hypocrisy of the ‘heroes’ actions and the comical motivations deflate the film but this is still a vision that is unique and oddly compelling. “Yet when he [Christopher Reeve as Superman] said “I never lie.” you not only believed it but you believed in the possibility and rightness of such a thing. He felt pain being belted into a building and outright desperation whenever Lois was threatened. Yet he was inherently good and awesome as a symbol too. Cavill strutting into the Senate hearing halfway through this film could’ve been an opportunity for Superman to say something but alas…

 

Related imageRogue One Published January 13th 11 Likes – 18 Views ***

Rogue One has a lot of good ideas that shed new light on the Rebel Alliance and the Empire from the original Star Wars. The ideas for all the characters are interesting too but barring the comic relief of Alan Tudyk as K-2SO they never become too emotionally involving. The technical proficiency of the action and special effects though shine throughout and the third act purely on a spectacle level maybe the most epic and satisfying of the year. “We are told who they are rather than shown half the time and when we are, we just don’t care. The plot is always moving from planet to planet and set piece to set piece that the characters themselves barely get a chance to interact and grow relationships. We know they are inherently good people and we do want them to succeed but we are not scared for their safety and that is a huge misgiving for this type of film.

 

Image result for the girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train Published February 3rd 13 Likes – 47 Views ***

A sexy thriller (seriously there’s like at least 4 or 5 sex scenes and they’re all sexy), that flirts with gender politics and has a mandatory neat twist. Elevated by the cast, none shines better than Emily Blunt who is on fine form here. “The film works strongest when dealing with perspective and prejudice, why do the other women stare at Megan in yoga class. Are they threatened by her beauty or do they know something about her character? Is she highly sexual or do others like to imagine so? Is she a victim, a manipulator or something more sinister?  The answer is of course the same it has always been, the same it has been for most men and women since time immemorial. She is not one thing or the other.

 

wtf tina fey whiskey tango foxtrot kim barker robert carlockWhiskey Tango Foxtrot Published September 6th 12 Likes – 47 Views ***

I sent an application to the United Nations once saying I wanted to go work in Afghanistan. I never got a reply. Watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reminded me of a time and place I wished I’d found myself a part of even if I should have done a lot more than wish if that’s what I really wanted. When the call came for journalist Kim Barker she answered it and the resulting film about Kim Baker delights as a workplace war comedy starring the talented Tina Fey and allowing Margot Robbie and Christopher Abbott to shine in supporting roles. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot tells another story from the War on Terror, it invites us to laugh and then maybe to think but mostly the coda for the film is to live your life to the full, embrace the challenges, get through them and then move on and live your life the best you can now. Like in war. Operation Enduring Freedom ended on the 31st December 2014. US Troops remaining in Afghanistan serve as part of the ongoing Operation Sentinel’s Freedom.

 

Image result for jackie movieJackie Published February 10th 12 Likes – 46 Views ***1/2

Natalie Portman’s performance is on key throughout this challenging film which breaks down how a lot of the Kennedy myth was put together but may only truly be enjoyed by those who believe in the power of it for better or worse. A haunting moody piece about grief and how we react to it, the film is also slow paced at times but can’t be faulted for demanding full attention from its audience. “Grief stricken at the loss of a husband who cheated on her, cool and collected at times and at others almost hysterical certain facts long known but never pondered come forward. She held her husbands blasted apart head in her lap all the way to the hospital. What the hell does that do to someone? Less than a week later she marched through Washington with world leaders despite all kinds of security concerns that an assassin could target them again. She took her kids to the coffin and she trained her son to salute it with the whole world watching. Why was ensuring President Kennedy’s legacy so important in helping her grief for an imperfect man that she loved?

 

Related imageMoonlight Published February 12th 15 Likes – 42 Views ***1/2

Split into three distinct moments in one young man’s life, Moonlight shows clearly what legacy the action of loved ones can have on a child’s development. Despite the cost of bullying and betrayal that Chiron endures there is hope at the end of this story. Hope for his life is just beginning. “Left to fend for himself, a drug dealer named Juan notices him one day and befriends him. Why he feels compelled to do this is only hinted at but he is played by Mahershala  Ali whose performance looms over the rest of the film. He is the only positive male figure the boy nicknamed Little will ever have teaching him how to swim in one beautiful scene of the boy being cradled in his arms amongst the waves. This is a hard man who shows this boy nothing but gentleness, the most obvious answer to why is he immediately recognised something in Little of himself and wants to protect the innocence he has lost but this man is a criminal and there are limits to what he can do. Perhaps we’re all protective of children and their fragility, there is a scene where Chiron asks what a certain word his mother called him means and it kind of breaks your heart.

 

Image result for lala landLa La Land Published February 2nd 13 Likes – 42 Views ***1/2

Arguably the best looking film of the year, I wonder how much came from digital enhancement. With two winning lead performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who share fantastic chemistry the film delights with big musical numbers that make the best use of modern technology. Ambitiously adding subterfuge to his own movie writer/director Damien Chazelle also offers up a film about artistic ambition and the struggles that come with daring to dream. The ending was not expected but is powerful and heartbreaking. Suckers for perfect happy endings beware but hopefully at the very least this encourages Hollywood to make more musicals and one with the modern possibilities engaged here. “The film opens up on the disused freeway ramp where parts of Speed were shot with an impromptu dance number by many stuck in LA traffic with a one take tracking shot over several vehicles and choreographed dancers. It’s kinda awesome but has little to do with what the rest of the film will be about.

 

THE TEN

 

10. Captain America: Civil War Published May 27th 7 Likes – 30 Views ***1/2

When you’re the big dog, people like to kick you if they smell opportunity and Marvel have become so successful it’s tempting to take for granted what they do except nobody else seems to be doing it nearly as well. There are missed opportunities, there’s no distinct visual style here and we suspect a little too easily that everything is going to be alright no matter what the stakes. Yet these guys always bring it back to the characters and never more so than here. Everything Captain America does here is for a childhood friend who he served together with in war and thought was long dead. Tony Stark well you’ll have to see the film but this plays off eight years of world building throughout the franchise and nobody else is doing that with their franchises. They lack the patience and they lack the heart. Plus that airport scene.”Which is fine because the film is not really about the Sokovia Accords, it is about Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and what lengths Steve Rogers will go to protect his friend and fellow veteran while at the same time Tony Stark is trying to protect the Avengers as best he can. Stark and Rogers have always been at odds with their contrasting personalities and world view points. There is an extra layer there in the sense that Rogers is partially a creation of Howard Stark’s and a friend of Tony’s Dad. He’s perversely both father figure and rival son for Stark Senior’s approval. The ground work for this had been laid previously and in this film finally gets paid off.

aliens scifi spaceship arrival9. Arrival Published February 8th 15 Likes – 49 Views ***1/2

Arrival is a thoughtful blockbuster about the need for us to communicate better with each other and with the outside world. A film that plays with the concepts of time as it tells a simple universal story of hope, fear, love and loss. Oh yeah there’s aliens in it too. “It feels right and real that contacts with aliens would be set up in a tent city with dimly lit rooms and the lime green shading of a hospital full of tired middle aged bureaucrats questioning each other’s ideas on a regular basis. The aliens themselves are always seen with a sense of wonder (their design is original and interesting too), how to get to them starts off in a simple fashion but is suitably otherworldly and unnerving.

Image result for fences movie8. Fences Published February 18th 17 Likes – 39 Views ***1/2

This is a hard movie to watch at times but it always feels real even if set bound like the stage play it originally was. There are rich themes about mortality, legacy, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, infidelity and the history of race in America. The central character is hard to watch at times, hard to understand, hard to forgive and we share in that challenge as audience members with the characters around him who are part of his life. This is writing and performing of the highest level and Denzel is so good as Troy Maxson but it is Viola Davis in one powerful moment articulating the limits and trials and hopes and dreams of 1950s housewives everywhere that is devastatingly beautiful and painful that makes this film such a must see. “As the film goes on Maxson inhabits scenes he‘s not even in, after watching him with his family throughout we grow to feel some of their emotions. As he winds up for another lecture we shake our heads at the repetition and the lack of self-awareness and yet when he’s gone we feel the lack of his presence as keenly as the family does. We understand perhaps that for better or worse we are who are fathers made us and whether they did us proud or said they loved us we want to make them proud and we do love them.

7. Hail, Caesar! Published April 20th 11 Likes – 35 Views ***1/2

A movie for people who love the movies made by people who love movies too. Set in 1950s America there are parallels to today’s world, call-backs to the type of films old Hollywood produced and that wonderful intelligent witty dialogue that we’ve come to expect from the Coen brothers. Plus look out for Alden Ehrenreich who steals the show and whose star is on the rise. As a film buff I loved it. ” Yet this is not a film that exclusively looks back with rose tinted glasses, the Red menace of the Cold War evokes the same fear that ISIS does now, there is a Latino starlet Carlotta Valdez (Veronica Osorio) hoping for the same opportunities afforded her white co-stars, this is the era of McCarthy which may remind us a little that we now tear ourselves apart with political tribalism and humming in the background when Hollywood is in the final bloom of its Golden Age is the advent of stars demanding more and television only a few years away threatening the revenue streams that were taken for granted.

6. The Nice Guys Published August 10th 11 Likes – 39 Views ***1/2

What a year for Ryan Gosling, in La La Land he sang and danced and proved Emma Stone and him should make another five films together. Nominated for an Academy Award for La La Land, his best performance this year gone is as a washed up Private Investigator, flawed father and comic relief to tough guy Russell Crowe. He is fearless in this film at being funny and get the word out because we need more movies like this. A tough fun throwback to the period it is set in of 1970s film noir by writer/director Shane Black. “Crowe with his impish smile and easy charm points to possibilities, the film’s best scene maybe in a park late at night with Healy talking to the younger Ms. March. She tells him you’re not a bad person and the look on Crowe’s face says he wants her to believe it.

5. Sully Published September 27th 13 Likes – 55 Views ***1/2

Sully has a lean runtime as it is but in search of drama they beefed up the PTSD angle of the flight crew and positioned the crash investigative team as antagonists. It might have been more interesting to go into more detail of his wife’s story or that of the flight attendants relayed in Sullenberger’s memoir but no matter. Whatever its flaws, Clint Eastwood has directed the best action set pieces of 2015 – yeah you fucking heard me. I wept not one tear for Jyn Erso or Batman but when that ferry arrived at the wing I felt my face crack. As someone who has read a lot about the story, the things that he got right honour so many who lived through this on that fateful day. It’s an extraordinary story rendered justice and pathos on the big screen by two of America’s icons. Eastwood and Tom Hanks. “Sully is an American hero. We should cherish that simple reassuring fact until the end of time that such things can be true and real in this day and age. Yet Chelsey Sullenberger is also a man, a quiet professional of considerable skill and talent but a human being with flaws and doubts like the rest of us. Clint Eastwood’s film accepts both these truths can co-exist but has something to say about how each responded to the events of January 15, 2009.

4. Hidden Figures Published February 24 at Scenestr ***1/2

Hidden Figures is a Hollywood rendering of an important story of bright African American women who broke down career barriers and overcame racial prejudice in a volatile time for America socially. With a rocking soundtrack from producer Pharrell Williams, great humour and pathos there are scenes that may not have played out like this in real life but they’re satisfying and emotionally moving. “Whether it is Costner smashing down a segregated toilet sign, Parsons comically reeling at Henson’s insight or a several female calculators led by Spencer marching into the new computer room to run it. Contrived though it may be, it is uplifting storytelling and aspiring for young girls out there interested in science and maths that have been wrongly told that’s not their strong suit.

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople Published August 11th 24 Likes – 99 Views ****

Every year there’s always a film that surprises you and comes out of nowhere to become one of your favourites. A story of one boy camping out in the New Zealand wilderness with his ‘uncle’ the film boasts a great sense of humour, wild characters, an involving family unit in flux and the best car chase ever put to film in New Zealand. “His name is Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), he’s a big kid who’s had it a bit rough, he’ll tell you he doesn’t care about anything, ready to argue with anybody who puts him down and he’s constantly using words from pop culture to describe himself as a bad-ass street kid. Aunt Bella sees right through him in 10 seconds flat. A home maybe the most important thing you can give a child and by that I don’t mean a nice house to live in. Bella (Rima Te Wiata) lives with Hec (Sam Neil) who was a wanderer who used to live in the woods before he met her. Kids are not the only ones who need a good place to call home.

2. Deadpool Published March 17th 6 Likes – 61 Views ****

We don’t get great blockbusters as much as we like to think; the superhero genre has been with us for a while now and needed a shake-up. A film like Deadpool made against the odds cannot be celebrated and praised enough no matter how much money it makes. This was hands down the most fun I had at the movies last year, witty and meta in a way I could only have dreamed about in the past with well-made action sequences and characters who had well defined and believable relationships. A gem. “T.J. Miller as Wilson’s best friend Weasel has his moments which are a bit like his comedy. His acceptance speech at the Critic’s Choice Awards last year was awesome but the guy just doesn’t always do it for me and that’s true here too. I suppose since this is a review I should probably be more articulate in my opinion of Miller but  I really would rather write about how amazingly hot Jennifer Garner is. I mean seriously those cheekbones, that smile. By the way Jenny there was absolutely nothing wrong with the black one.

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1. Eye in the Sky Published March 29th 8 Likes – 96 Views ****

It turns out the first great film of 2016 was for me the greatest film of 2016. Released so long ago it never had a shot at the Oscar race the fact remains this is a near perfect film dealing with current discussion points about drone warfare, counter terrorism and the intertwining of the battlefield with politics. It boasts the late great Alan Rickman’s final performance but the film belongs to Helen Mirren as military commander ordering a strike and Aisha Takow playing a little girl selling bread on a street corner in Kenya. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

Well as always thank you for reading and I encourage you to mention in the comments your favourite films of the year and why. As Oscar nears it’s interesting to note how many of the Ten are not in contention at that ceremony. Of those that are, I found this video about them from Screen Junkies very amusing.

-Lloyd Marken

MY BUDDY ROG

Pulitzer Prize Winning Film Critic Roger Ebert passed away April 4, 2013 aged 70 years old. When I started dating my wife I referred to him as ‘My Buddy Rog’ whose review of Australia would ensure Karen would not refer to him as ‘Her Buddy Rog’. That’s how much his writing meant and make no mistake I do not truly consider him a friend. We never met and I never knew the man. You should leave the word friend for people truly close to you. Yet the expression ‘My Buddy Rog’ reflects something. Roger Ebert was a great writer but he wrote for everyone. He was not a snob who didn’t appreciate blockbusters but he was mercilessly witty when putting down films with poor writing or bad intentions. You really have to discover him for yourself so I will try to keep this short.

When I was 9, I was handed a copy of his 1989 Four Star Movie Guide and I quickly leafed through to find reviews on movies I knew. I was already aware of the making of movies and was interested in reading films being judged for their components. Star Wars, Superman and Who Framed Roger Rabbit were all dutifully there. As the years went by I came to read other reviews and seek out those films too. There are still many to see but this is how I came to know Roger. Through his words. I did not hear his voice when I read those reviews and having not seen most of the films what I enjoyed about the reviews was his own writing. The review for Claire’s Knee and Lucas were mesmerising. Runaway Train promised amazing visceral stunts. One review related an alcoholic smashing a battle of booze and then trying to soak it up and drink some drops from a towel. This would become more poignant with his own later revelations. I would argue some of his reviews were a work of art themselves and I direct you to his American Graffiti review for an example of why I fell in love with Ebert the writer. Here is but a taste from the master,

When I went to see George Lucas’s “American Graffiti” that whole world — a world that now seems incomparably distant and innocent — was brought back with a rush of feeling that wasn’t so much nostalgia as culture shock. Remembering my high school generation, I can only wonder at how unprepared we were for the loss of innocence that took place in America with the series of hammer blows beginning with the assassination of President Kennedy.

The great divide was November 22, 1963,and nothing was ever the same again.”

In the mid-1990s my family got a copy of Cinemania ’95 CD and I could suddenly read his reviews of films that he didn’t give 4 stars to. Then the internet came into being and I found his reviews posted on the Chicago Sun Times website with all his current reviews and one’s going back to 1985. I was going to university and studying film and often would look to see how Ebert had judged the works of these auteurs. As an American critic he was a man of his time, Pauline Kael and the like were changing the nature of film criticism as the French New Wave hit in the 1960s with Fellini doing his thing in Italy and then the great American Film Renaissance began with Altman, Coppola, De Palma, Lucas, Mazurky, Peckinpah, Scorcese, Spielberg. Film reviews used to be allocated to a journalist every week to be quickly done up for opening day but this changed as the position of films in pop culture developed and Ebert became the face of this.

In America he is probably best known for Siskel and Ebert where he and Gene Siskel sparred over their opinions of new releases. I never read Siskel’s writings but with the help of YouTube I have been able to newly discover such an indelible part of Ebert’s success. Now I know Ebert’s voice but more importantly how great the two were as a double act. What a pair.       

Ebert blogged on his website and some of his writings were part of informing my opinions as a young man. We didn’t always agree but I appreciated how well he considered this world and how much empathy he felt for his fellow humans. You didn’t have to agree with him, he welcomed discussion of the things that were important. When salivary gland cancer robbed him of his voice and transformed his appearance Ebert’s blog became a vital form of communicating to the world without relying on software to give his words a voice. His blog took on a new life those last few years when he refused to go quietly into the light. My favourite piece of his and one of my favourite pieces of writing is the following about his father http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/my-old-man

 Sometimes he poignantly referred to mortality in such late great reviews for Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and Amour. After his death, My Life was released which is a wonderful documentary that details his life story and showed the deep bond he had with his beautiful wife Chaz. Karen watched and enjoyed My Life and liked Roger too after viewing his story. I marvel at an interview Ebert had with Howard Stern where he holds himself quite well against the shock jock. That is the man we all lost with his jaw and yet for me those last 8 years he remained as full an entity as he ever had been. It all came back to the words he wrote because they were the most important thing and he still had that. Yet the words stopped too, 3 years ago. I’ve found good critics out there since. I love some of Vulture’s and The A.V. Club’s writers on television series and I enjoy some of my fellow bloggers insights. But there is only one Roger Ebert and I miss having his opinion to read. Still there are films he reviewed I have not yet seen and reviews I have not yet read. That is the legacy of his work. I care to imagine the legacy of him is his family and friends. If that is the case, my buddy Rog gave a lot in this life for us to enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

SPOTLIGHT: NOT JUST ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST PICTURES BUT AN EMOTIONALLY RIVETING STORY

The Boston Globe was founded in 1872 by six Boston businessmen and by the 1890s Wikipedia tells me it was a stronghold with an editorial staff dominated by Irish Catholics. Wikipedia also tells me Tom Winship succeeded his father as editor in 1964 and transformed The Boston Globe from a local paper into regional paper of national distinction. When he stepped down as editor in 1984 it had won not just its first Pulitzer Prize during his twenty year reign but a dozen. From 1993 until 2013 The Boston Globe was owned by The New York Times. In the 1990s it launched an online website which has regularly been ranked as one of the ten best newspaper websites in the country. The quality of their digital work can be seen for example here in this piece. It is a prestigious publication with a storied history, something Boston can be proud of. There are several shots in Spotlight with The Boston Globe marquee; a little romanticism is shown not just for The Globe but for print journalism in general.

This is not a tale about regular journos doing the regular beat to hit that print deadline every day. Spotlight is a specialised team of veteran and talented reporters who are given sometimes months to unearth the specifics of the story. When they pull the lever it needs to be good and it needs to be right because litigation lawyers for the paper have to be ready to stand firm. They are good and they do get it right and in doing so they make the world a better place. They are able to do this type of long form investigative journalism due to the deep coffers of major broadsheets. Coffers that are getting smaller in the digital age it should be noted. In 2001 the team started work on their biggest story, the covering up of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church in Boston. As the story broke the scope of it has increased to a global crisis for the Church and its faithful. As Spotlight reporter Michael Rezendez has been quoted by People magazine as saying “Even though I was a lapsed Catholic, I still considered myself a Catholic and thought that one possibly, some day, I would go back to being a practising Catholic. But after this experience, I found it impossible to do that – or even think about doing that. What we discovered was just too shattering.”

The Spotlight team is led by their editor Walter “Robby” Robinson portrayed by Michael Keaton who carries tremendous gravitas as an elder statesmen in this film that it is hard to believe this guy was Beetlejuice. I’ve spent my lifetime watching this man and even in something like Duplicity or Batman he brought such energy to his performance. Not here, here he is quiet and he carries the movie – Mark Ruffalo is not the star. Speaking of Mark, he’s terrific as Michael Rezendes the type of role you might have handed to a young Michael Keaton both professionally determined and yet often radiating a certain swagger. Brian d’Arcy James, predominantly a stage actor, plays Ben Bradlee Jr. who uncovers some interesting facts in old archives before realising uneasily that former perpetrators might be living close to his house. Rachel McAdams one of the most talented young actresses working today plays Sacha Pfeiffer who is the journalist who gets the brunt of the interviews with actual victims. A personal viewpoint of the abuse is never really shown. We meet the victims as adults hurting but determined to tell their story and we see them from the perspective of the journalists who are moved by their stories but have to be professional and have to discern what is true. The reporters confide in each other as the story begins to make them confront their own beliefs, heritage and feelings.

Many years ago a very wise man came to my house with a DVD to watch called The Station Agent. It was reflective of his taste and of many experiences where my best friend introduced me to great films I had never heard of. Director Tom McCarthy has been a filmmaker I have followed ever since. In that film he dealt with broken people discovering they could love again and have a place in the world. One character was getting over the death of a child and McCarthy was spellbinding in the way that he would cause greater effect by underplaying everything and showing wise restraint. That wonderful gift is on display here in a film that deals with something very painful.

Demographics have changed in Boston as they have throughout the rest of America but for the purposes of popular culture there is something distinctly Irish Catholic about Boston, MA. You can imagine then the trauma at the heart of an old respected local broadsheet staffed predominantly by Irish Catholics unearthing the first real proof of the Catholic Church’s cover up of abusive priests. It is arguably two great big Boston institutions at war with each other and there are several small meeting room scenes where old Boston guys sit down and talk about what to do with the kind of polished charm that makes one uneasy. Michael Keaton is riveting in these moments.

Sidenote: Many years ago Keaton starred in another journalism ensemble The Paper, one of those good dramedies Ron Howard did so well back in the day, which was about the daily beat of a regular journalist but also carried this film’s romantic idealism for the good, good journalism could do. Film Critic Roger Ebert who always considered himself a journalist first and foremost loved that movie. I think he would’ve loved this one too and Roger I miss you, I miss your thoughts and your wonderful words about movies even when I disagreed with you.

Films like this make a splash at awards season but often can struggle to find a wide audience. They get labelled ‘Important’, ‘Well Made’ with a ‘Terrific Ensemble Cast’ but people may hesitate to know if the film will involve them or worse be too confronting. Yes Spotlight is well made and about something important boasting an All Star Ensemble. However it is so much more, it’s terribly moving as the victims tell their stories and also as various forces seek to turn around our heroes. The crowd I saw it with on a Tuesday night was visibly moved . At the end we got up without a sound and left the cinema quietly and solemnly. Like we were leaving Church.

-Lloyd Marken

YOUTH IS WASTED ON THE OLD

Roger Ebert once wrote “That the firemen are going to come looking for all of us one of these days, sooner or later.” in reference to mortality in the film Amour. Within 3 months he was dead after fighting on without his voice and limited mobility for years. He did not go quietly into the night but the firemen had come. The giants of my adolescence as eclectic as Ebert and Tom Clancy are disappearing from my life. Youth shows me that Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel remain as strong as ever but here are playing characters well aware that there are a handful of years left in their lives. You can’t help but marvel at the passage of time.

Keitel and Caine share a lot of similarities in their personas and histories. Both served in the military as young men overseas, Caine as a Royal Fusilier in Korea and Keitel as a U.S. Marine in Lebanon, both rode film renaissances of their eras on either side of the Atlantic, both are identified with rough neighbourhoods of their youth Caine a Cockney from London and Keitel a Jew from Brooklyn, both got some big breaks in films playing criminals and both have been re-discovered by hip young filmmakers who revitalised their careers. Michael Caine is 82 and Harvey Keitel is 76, these are not ages where you believe you have all the time in the world left but they thankfully still enjoy working and we are the more fortunate for it.

Michael Caine stars as retired composer Fred Ballinger who is vacationing in the Swiss Alps at a health resort. His oldest friend, director Mick Boyle is also staying there brainstorming his new film with some young screenwriters. Also present is Rachel Weisz playing Lena Ballinger, Fred’s daughter and assistant who is married to Mick’s son. There is an overweight retired soccer star, the latest Miss Universe shows up and Paul Dano as a young film star who wants to do a good picture rather than be remembered playing a robot in a broad comedy. Jane Fonda essentially has one scene where she shows up as Boyle’s former star and muse Brenda Morel to be asked to headline his new ‘legacy’ film.

The film has its own leisurely pace observing each day one by one as Boyle fusses over his film, Ballinger is hounded to return to perform for the Queen and Lena deals with the aftermath of her marriage imploding. A key scene for revealing Fred’s current state is the only weak moment in the film because the Queen’s emissary appears remarkably ignorant and insistent. A great fallacy that comes naturally to us is that the old must somehow be wise but Youth shows clearly that both Fred and Mick still have questions they can’t answer even if they understand how fleeting and poignant it all is. It is a pleasure to watch these two performers bounce off each other. Caine as far back as The Ipcress File knew the power of a silent gaze and Keitel who has remained physically in shape all his life appears with still the exuberant energy of a boy ready to take on life. Your oldest friends bring out the child in you; there is something special when you see peers interact with each other. Many years ago in a hospital ward I finally saw my grandfather wasn’t just a grandfather but a brother and a young man somewhere inside bubbling to the surface. Notice how Caine plays a scene with Keitel compared to Dano or a young boy.

The film (relatively low budget) looks fantastic, the retreat itself surrounded by beautiful pine forest mountainsides has a courtyard where hip young bands play on a lit stage at night. In the morning rows upon rows of guests of various ages move through pools, saunas and massage tables in various states of undress. There is a celebration of flesh in all its forms in this film which reflects the earthy quality of Europeans when it comes to sex. Americans get excited by the garter underneath a skirt. Europeans count all the freckles and wrinkles on a bare thigh before devouring it lustfully no matter what the number. After all the firemen are coming. Even Madalina Diana Ghenea as Miss Universe displayed on the film’s marketing for a famous titillating descent naked into a pool is introduced as a human being before being celebrated as a goddess.

Director Paolo Sorrentino is a compelling visual artist engaging in both full blown dream sequences and one compelling close up shot of Weisz as she speaks about much that has been left unsaid for far too long. After that confrontation not much else is said between father and daughter for a bit and then it is. It can go like that sometimes with family. Lena worries about Fred and Fred worries about Lena but in the end they will find their solutions to their life crises themselves. It is nice to be loved though. The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

-Lloyd Marken