BBFF – Post #2 – Little Scout We Are Walking Out, Monk: Reloaded, Boxer, Aquadettes

8 Mar

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Watched some exceptional shorts in session #24 today! My absolute stand out favourite though was Boxer by 22 year old James Finlay. This four minute film depicts a young female boxer who, wary of her tough facade, dances with her punching bag rather than hitting it. The films simplicity was so refreshing. I felt like I could feel the texture of the bag by the way her hand softly slides along it. The editing was impeccable, the film begins with flashes of a harsh black and white workout and turns into a warm sunlit slow experience. I hope this goes up on vimeo or comes to Melbourne sometime soon so I can see it again!

All the films were about physicality and movement. I find myself drawn to these themes in short filmmaking too, in fact my first ever short film had a dance sequence in the middle of it for no real reason at all (needless to stay that film has never left my laptop). ‘Little Scout – We Are Walking Out’, was a brilliantly shot film about a ballet dancer who dances in the woods as the sun goes down. ‘Monk: Reloaded’ also used dance, but within a light installation that responds to the movement of the dancer. Both of these films show the dancer getting more and more confident as they let themselves go to physicallity. In a time when things often feel over-thought, watching this physical release is a great experience.

‘Aquadette’ felt very different to the rest. It is a documentary about a seniors synchronised swimming group. It focuses on one of the swimmers who suffers from MS and her battle to not just keep living but have quality of life as her health is deteriarating. I loved this and felt moved by her grace, humour and determination. The film is part of the ‘California is a Place’ series, check them out here.

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BBFF – Post #1 – Parrot, A Different Perspective, The Story Of Luke

8 Mar

BBFF 2013

 

I have the pleasure of my short film ‘Glare’ being included in The Byron Bay International Film Festival. I arrived here yesterday, and I have to say, I never want to leave! It’s such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere all around Byron, I already made two friends on the shuttle from the airport!

So I got in yesterday just in time to catch session #23. The session started with 20 minute short film ‘Parrot’ which was presented by Director Craig Foster and Producer Emma McKenna, then a 1m30 animation ‘A Different Perspective’, and finished with feature film ‘The Story of Luke’.

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I really enjoyed this session. It had the subtle theme of acceptance of people who are different. ‘Parrot’ was an interesting take on a coming of age film. In fact it almost was like a coming out film, accept the protagonist is not coming out as gay but rather as an atheist to his deeply religious parents. It was a great long short, and I have a feeling it won’t be long until we see a feature from this team.

‘A Different Perspective’ was a truly great little animation. A very simple idea of an alien planet where the perspective (as in background, middleground and foreground) is very different to ours on earth, was both beautiful and quite hilarious. And was such a cute little metaphor for accepting difference. I wish the director, Chris O’Hara, was here; it would have been really great to meet him!

‘The Story of Luke’ took me a little while to get into. The story focuses on Luke, a young man with autism, who after his sheltering grandmother dies he is thrust very suddenly into the world. At first I was a little frustrated by Lou Taylor Pucci’s portrayal of autism, it felt like a strange impersonation of Johnny Depp in ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’. But as the film continued it really did start to grow on you, and he became more and more convincing. As Luke goes on his quest to get a job and a ‘screw’ the film really turns into something wonderful. The character, all very flawed, were well drawn without being overdone. This was one of those sweet, quiet films that makes you sad when it ends because you really wouldn’t mind sitting with those characters for another few hours.

FLIGHT: Just like a Hangover

13 Feb

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Flight is like a big weekend. It begins with the expectation and excitement. Denzel awakens in a ruined hotel room next to a completely naked woman with an amazing body. He snorts a line and, camera tilt, the music starts and Denzel walks down the corridor in his cool Pilot outfit (see picture). You think ‘Wow this is going to be really fun!’.

And then comes the flight scene. It’s just what you expected but better. It’s over the top, it’s so full of suspense you want to close your eyes but you can’t! It’s campy but still so effective. You never want to get on a plane again. And then BAM suddenly it’s over. A little bit bloodier than you thought and you wish that the sexy flight attendant from the beginning didn’t have to die, but still – it was great.

Denzel is knocked out and suddenly it all changes pace. It’s like a Sunday morning. You wake up bleary eyed, looking around wondering what has happened. Wait, what? This is a story about one man’s battle with addiction? Oh. The rest of the film is just like a hangover: painful, slow and slightly sickening. I don’t mind addiction stories, but when it’s got such a strong dose of morality mixed in, it makes me want to puke.

Of course, by the end of it all you are just left wondering ‘Why did I do this to myself?’

COMPLIANCE: A Flawed Masterpiece

13 Feb

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‘There was the sense of trying to get something that would be believable, or maybe not even believable but acceptable, to audiences as sounding like it had some logic to it.’ Director,  Craig Zobel, in an interview with the AV club.

Compliance is truly an amazing film. Made with only fifty grand and shot almost entirely in one location, the film stands as one of the most gripping I have seen in a long time. The film is based off true events: a man called a series of 70 McDonald’s Restaurants in the United States over a period of ten years, posing as a police officer. He would tell a manager that one of the employees had stolen money from a costumer and ask them to confine and strip-search the employee. The caller would continue, seeing how far he could get the manager to go in the name of following orders. In the instance depicted in the film, they went very far. The viewing experience is pretty harrowing, causing many walk outs and heated debates on the film festival circuit.

As I said earlier, this truly is an amazing film. Since I saw it I have been unable to stop talking about it to anyone who would listen. It’s so close to being absolutely sensational except for a few pitfalls in the last quarter that are so dissapointing.

The suspense of the film is held in the conversations. The audience knows something the victims do not, so watching the poor manager cry as she forces the employee to strip is devastating. But in the last quarter the narrative goes so far off course, that the audience is left thinking that that section is fictional. In fact, it isn’t.The events that take place are so shocking that it would be a hard job to make them not necessary believable but ‘acceptable’ to use Zobel’s words. Watching the film it feels as though not even the director thaught it was plausable that those events took place. But they did. And if a little more ‘logic’ was injected into those climactic scenes, this truly could have been a masterpiece.

SLEEPWALK WITH ME: Birbiglia’s Big Dreams

11 Feb

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We all have dreams. Matt Pandimiglio has big ones. All he wants to be is a comedian. So he works in a comedy bar and fills in doing stand up when other comedians drop out at the last minute. Also he has big dreams. As in running out of a 3rd story window in your sleep kind of dreams.

I was very keen to see this film after hearing it was a true story about a man with REM behaviour disorder. When I was twelve I watched a doco on SBS about people that commit murder in their sleep (that stopped sleepovers for a few good years let me tell you). Sleepwalk With Me wasn’t quite what I expected. Mike Birbiglia stars, directed and wrote the film that follows a hectic few months of life where his career was made, and his longterm relationship ended. As his life becomes more and more split, he dreams become more and more hectic. And he starts acting them out.

This film was pretty enjoyable. It became too much of a romantic comedy in parts which was a shame. There was one part I really liked about it though. About a quarter of the way in Matt realises he’s not really a very good comedian at all. He is under the impression that just because it is his dream, because he has wanted it so very much, for so very long somehow he must be good at it. That just wanting it is enough. Matt  realises all of a sudden that he is actually going to have to try hard, get better, and take some risks in order to achieve his awake dreams. And also tie himself down so he doesn’t act out his sleeping ones.

The Silver Linings Playbook: My Oscar Pick

3 Feb

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So the Oscars are coming up and it is my favorite award show of the year. It was the Golden Globes, for the 3 years that Ricky Gervais hosted by now it’s back to being the Oscars. The Silver Linings Playbook is my favorite film among all the Oscar Nominees and I hope it wins all 8 of the awards it has been nominated for. I’m not stupid enough to think it will so in particular, I hope it wins best adapted screenplay for David O’Russell and best actress for Jennifer Lawrence.

Based on a novel by Matthew Quick and adapted and directed by David O Russell,  The Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of Patrick (Bradley Cooper), a man who has just been released from a mental hospital after a traumatic episode nine months earlier. Diagnosed with bipolar at 37, Pat is placed in hospital by order of the courts. His mother played by Jackie Weaver has come to pick him up against the hospitals wishes but Pat has served his time and now he is determined to put his life back together again.  He is in a hyper state of affirmation and is not taking his medication but he has one major goal, to get his wife back.

His time at home is fraught with problems, particularly with his father(Robert De Niro) who loves him dearly but is suffering from border line OCD. Pat can see the illness in his father more clearly now and doesn’t want to participate in his superstitions. It is into this melting pot of dysfunction that Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) enters . Tiffany meets Pat in a strange sort of setup and it is obvious that they are kindred spirits. Tiffany is suffering from her own issues. Her husband has recently died and she is a recovering sex addict among other things. Pat and Tiffany are both just as socially inappropriate and frank as each other and are strangely a good fit, but Pat will have none of it since he wants to get back with is wife. So they become friends and Tiffany offers to help him contact his wife, a prize for which she requires a reward, his help in a ballroom dancing competition. And so the romantic comedy premise is made.

The thing about this film that makes it so special is it’s authenticity. The realness of the characters and their relationships makes this film, a total anathema to the sugary style of average rom coms like some of Cooper’s earlier films e.g. Valentines Day. The accuracy and humor brought to the different characters mental afflictions is staggering and the performances don’t disappoint. Bradley Cooper shows an acting ability here, that I wasn’t sure he had. His mile a minute speak, his mental and physical struggle and his blossoming love all feel natural and empathetic. He hits it out of the park.

Jennifer Lawrence is even better. She is so real in this character that I actually thought it was her. The story is told from Pat’s perspective but she has you on her side in every scene. You want him to be with her because you’re in love with her. She yells, screams, she’s unstable, she calls Pat of his crap and she is doing everything she can to change her patterns and because she sees the potential in Pat so do we. She deserves an Academy Award at 22 and I will fight any one who says different.

This film is beautifully written, it sees the comedy in the absurd and tragic. It examines the crazy in all of us and never talks down. It talks to an audience about real life with mental illness. Never turning the story into horror film or a grueling drama which is where most audiences have previously encountered this subject matter.

This film loves it characters, Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro are vivid and engaging as Pat’s parents who are trying to navigate a situation they don’t fully understand. They love their son and will do anything for him even if they never get it right. Chris Tucker is also hilarious as Pat’s friend who keeps trying to escape the hospital.

I can’t stop thinking about this film and I am so jealous of everyone that got to be a part of it. See it now, you’ll thank me.

Les Miserables: A Film Trying to be a Stage Musical and Failing

9 Jan

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First off let me start by saying that I am a massive fan of Les Mis. I have seen the stage show performed three times and I have listened to the original stage recordings multiple times. I’ve seen the show once in Melbourne, once is London and once as a high school musical. Now here comes the shock, I enjoyed the film less that all three of these performances, even the high school musical.

Why did I find the film so extremely underwhelming, well I would say it’s mostly because of a major stylistic choice that I think sets the film up for failure. Director Tom Hooper who also directed ‘The Kings Speech’, decided that he wanted the film to be as much like the stage musical as possible. He wanted the film to  sound real and raw so he recorded the vocals live rather than recording the vocals in a studio. The the visuals also reflect a stylistic choice to look more like a musical that historic reality. This is obvious in scenes at the barricades, where I swear, there was a bigger stage barricade in the high school musical version I saw.

What is the point of turning a stage musical into a film, if you try to make the film as much like a stage musical as possible. Isn’t the whole purpose of a film version that it can exist on a much bigger scale than anything that was imagined on a stage. This means the visuals can be realistic and spectacular and sound can a achieve a beauty and perfection that live performances just can’t achieve. But instead of realizing this film as a film, they realize it as stage musical with a few more effects and untrained performers.

I mean if you want that raw live sound why not use real honest to goodness singers, not Hollywood actors. Hire people that can really do justice to that live recording rather than people who are only going to seem more flawed. Anne Hathaway is a perfect example of this, I perhaps may have enjoyed her singing if she had of been sweetened in a studio, instead all I could hear was her out of tune warbling. The fact that she had never done anything like this in her life was super obvious, and her whispering of half words in the name of emotion only made it more so. While some critics say she is the best thing about this musical and that her emotional interpretation is outstanding, I couldn’t help but feel it was ridiculous. In fact all I could think about was how in love with herself Hathaway must be. I felt her ego more than I felt anything about Fantine. She is the worst thing in this production.

Hugh Jackman is rather better but still suffers from a case of whispering emotional words. He has said that he felt that the live recording direction of the film really helped his performance and added to the music’s sense of emotion. But again I would state that ego may have gotten in the way here and that the music suffers for very little emotional reward.

The most impressive performance of all the cast was in fact Russell Crowe, as his singing was by far the most like the stage musical. He didn’t whisper any words, strained with emotion and his voice was clear and beautiful. As such I engaged with his character most of all and felt his death was the emotional high point of the film. Given my love for the musical, I am aware that it really isn’t supposed to be the emotional climax.

Other honorable mentions include Eddie Redmayne as Marius and Sasha Baron Cohen as the innkeeper, both of these actors held their own in their performances and were musically outstanding.

Beyond the performances and visuals and the music, the film in total just seems a little flat and unengaging. I didn’t feel the emotional journey and I got a sense of going through the motions. I spent most the film wishing it was better, wanting it be, trying to cry but feeling nothing. What a disappointment.