12 Months of Movies 2006: June

June and July: suspiciously light on ticket stubs. Is my diary lying to me? Will the internet reveal the hidden secrets? Only a quick search that I am presently too lazy to make will provide the answers!

June 2006: notable for the Sydney Film Festival, and one particularly excellent film.


June 9, 6:00, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 7)
I was worried about Cars, so I gave myself the dubious reassurance “John Lassiter making a bad movie is like Miyazaki making Howl’s Moving Castle.”
Some of my wiser friends noted “but Miyazaki did make Howl’s Moving Castle.”
My answer: “Exactly
The first ever children’s animated movie made entirely for middle aged men, Cars is so specific to the tastes of John Lassiter that it is difficult to imagine anyone else liking it. Even the most easily pleased child (which, when it comes to shiny CG, is most of them in these days of cynical babysitting) would be hard pressed to find this movie, which is nostalgic for an age that never existed for them, interesting in the slightest.
I got it double bad because the film is so American that it lacks any humanity that would make it accessible to anyone else. I like movies that have the flavour of their country about them, but if they offer nothing else I cannot recommend them.
To be fair, Cars gets bonus points for making Owen Wilson’s stock character from every-movie-that-isn’t-by-Wes-Anderson into a car. Oh yeah, that is precisely why I go to the movies.

Sydney Film Festival

The Sydney Film Festival films come from another world, and are therefore not counted as part of the 2006 rankings.

Burke & Wills

June 15, 6:45, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 2; ticket missing)
An Australian film, black and white in its cheapness and unrelenting in its bleakness. It turns out that one of the characters was actually schizophrenic, although this was presented in such an accurate fashion that only those in the audience familiar with schizophrenics could recognise him as such.
I don’t know quite what I thought of this film; I think that it was quite good in many ways, but in others it was understated. The schizophrenic character was represented in such a deliberately detached fashion that it was hard to feel for him, and his boisterous counterpart was perhaps too boisterous.
Yet, if I say too much more, I will reveal that I can’t remember a terrible lot about this film beyond the key points. It’s certainly worth looking into, if you ever find it.

Perhaps Love

June 16, 9:05, State Theatre
Check it out! It’s a Hong Kong musical, choreographed by a big Bollywood choreographer, with some cinematography by Australia’s own Chris Doyle! Yet the problem with Perhaps Love is that it is distinctly strange. The relationship dynamics in this love triangle are never balanced properly, the use of a pan-Asian cast is a distraction, and the purpose served by the songs is never really clear.
The film was not helped by the fact that I was sitting near some of the worst audience members ever, and that the entire cinema laughed at the death scene that involved falling from a great height because the special effects were frankly terrible.

In a fit of bizarreness beyond anything that Popcorn Taxi ever had to offer, Jiao and I waited outside the theatre afterwards and he got to talk to director Peter Chan while I watched on in silence. He’s a nice guy. He’s made nice movies. His movie within a movie with confusingly defined characters, though … not exactly my cup of tea.

The Bet

June 17, 6:35, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 2)
A privately funded Australian film which is yet to see distribution in Australia! The Bet was a well made if nasty film, from the writer of The Bank, which had a markedly more happy vengeance storyline. 
With its sensitive portrayal of suicide and its sickening account of personal corporate greed, The Bet is unpleasant but more real than many other Australian films that see wider release but to no avail. Capable of doing well here, even if Australian films turn me off primarily because many of them are like watching myself go to work.

Mind Game

June 18, 4:30, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 1)
You know you’re onto a good thing when the first thing you hear after the credits roll on a film is “that was rubbish!”
Mind Game was great. So great that I must see it again. Accomplished anime from Studio 4o, Mind Game has everything you could ever hope to see, including rectal disarmament and paint dancing. It has one of those phenomenal endings that can be put together if you put a little thought to it and, having had much experience of this sort of experimental anime, I was on hand to help out my friends. A true ride; typing this reminds me why I watch anime.

Film Festival Suite ends here

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

I almost missed this one in the cinema, and it would have been a damned shame. With direction by Tommy Lee Jones and a script from Babel‘s [Guillermo?], The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada turned out to be an understated and powerful film. “Wetbacks” seem to show up all over the films I’ve watched over the last year, and this is one of the most humane treatments that I have seen. Regardless of your feelings about them, illegal immigrants are still people. The titular Melquiades Estrada was not just a person; he was someone’s friend. Out of respect for that friendship, Tommy Lee Jones sets across the border to deliver Melquiades’ body to his hometown, with the border patrol man who accidentally shot him in tow.
It seems low key, and felt in the way that only a relatively low budget film can be. I got the feeling that Tommy Lee Jones genuinely cared for Melquiades Estrada, and the film. The ending was excellent and moving: a rare, great, and sadly obscure film.

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