Category: Film

The Artist

What do you do when you watch a love/hate film and you neither love nor hate it? You’re in trouble, because while you come out on the side of positivity you’re not willing to fight to the death for it. You’ve got major issues with the film, but not enough to actively dislike the thing.

The Artist is second only to (the superior) Hugo in the Academy Awards nominations pool and it has the potential to clean up. This is largely a matter of style, because it hits that sweet spot beloved by critics and audiences alike: it’s slightly different, slightly unusual … and it has a little dog in it.

Shame

 

Compulsion is a terrible thing, taking over lives and robbing people of their humanity. Sexual compulsion is obviously one of the more private compulsions that one can have, and yet it can be more consuming than almost any other. Shame is about the obliteration of the self through the pursuit of sexual release.

Contrary to anything else that you may have heard, Shame is not about Michael Fassbender’s penis, although it is something that you see more than once. The plenitude of sex characteristics both primary and secondary on display belies one simple fact: Shame is one of the least sexy and erotic films about sexual acts ever made, rightfully and deliberately so.

The Australian R rating is an insult to director Steve McQueen, but there’s no fighting it: people got naked and engaged in a mechanical pantomime, and so we must protect all but the most rarefied from witnessing it.

15th Japanese Film Festival Day Three: Star Watching Dog and Patisserie – Coin de Rue

The third day of the Japanese Film Festival was attacked from all sides, but featured two stalwarts of the nation’s cinematic output: the weepy dog story and the sugary tale of a pattissier in the making, more commonly recognised as “the chef’s journey”.

Star Watching Dog

 

Japanese films have a tendency of making up Japanese folklore where they feel necessary. Does the star watching dog exist? The idea goes that dogs watch the stars, not knowing they can never reach them. Therefore, they always aim for the top.

Japanese dogs never banked on Laika.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011 Film)

 

You get a certain texture from a book written as a series of letters from one character to another. First, you get a strong sense of the character and how she perceives herself. Secondly, you get only her side of the story.

It’s hard to capture that sense of character on film unless you use voice over, and sometimes that seems lazy or intrusive. Still, something – anything – could have been done about We Need To Talk About Kevin, a film which reveals none of the nuance of its somewhat delicate subject matter and source material; a film which renders what was a true product of its time into a timeless jumble that veers between finely acted and merely over the top unpleasant.

15th Japanese Film Festival Day Two: Princess Toyotomi and The Magic Hour

The second day of the Japanese Film Festival was a bumpy ride, with one of the films essentially fizzling and dying before my eyes and the other providing solid laughter but not much in the way of substance. It’s a tough life at the festival.

Princess Toyotomi

At first I thought that Princess Toyotomi simply didn’t translate, but as it progressed it became increasingly clear that the film I was watching was simply incoherent, and more than a little bit stupid. Realising that a film’s lack of quality is not a failing on your own part is a great source of relief, because it’s near impossible to describe Princess Toyotomi as anything approaching a good movie.

15th Japanese Film Festival Opening Night: A Ghost Of A Chance

 

The Japanese Film Festival is always my favourite time of year. Any excuse to sit in a darkened room for up to eleven days is good enough for me, and Japan consistently releases some of my favourite style of films. Each year the JFF presents a selection – not always good, but normally always enough to raise a reaction from me.

 

This year the organisers went ahead with a plot to open the festival with a comedy, in stark contrast to the family melodrama of last year’s About Her Brother. While perhaps slightly too long (and not without a slight glitch), A Ghost Of A Chance was a fresh start for 2011, the festival’s fifteenth year.

Ghostbusters

“Bustin’ makes me feel good!”

Ghostbusters is legitimately one of the greatest films ever made. I like it more every time I see it, and I get more out of it each time I see it. There is something about it that simply works, whether it’s the encapsulation of New York City in 1984, the special effects that still hold up 27 years later, Bill Murray, Rick Moranis or simply its flawless script. The only element that is not all there is the soundtrack, which features a bizarre Ghostbusters swing on two occasions.

 

Still, this is a brand of perfection and it endures for that very reason. Not for Ghostbusters is the endless mystery of enduring popularity; Ivan Reitman, in his days of talent, laid his cards on the table: Ghostbusters is flat-out great.

Drive

 

Drive has been on the fingertips of everyone in Antipodean critical and festival circles for months. It wasn’t until this week, after being thoroughly sick of the hype, that I finally got to see it. Was it worth the wait? Definitely. Could I have done without Chris Murray introducing it in the same effusive tones as he did the execrable Kick-Ass last year? Indubitably.

 

Drive is a tonal delight, a package of constant surprises. Fortunately, its incredibly filmic nature means that the unwrapping can only happen before your eyes and not on my page. Drive is not perfect, but cumulative moments suggest that it very nearly is. It’s a film’s film, as only certain directors can make; it is most assuredly not an entry in the same canon as The Fast and the Furious.

The Help

Before I went to see The Help I braced myself for a horribly misguided racial nightmare, but in the final analysis I found myself quite surprised. While I can see where people would take issue with this movie’s themes and execution, I personally found that it was a fairly balanced and mostly unproblematic story about women discovering their agency in a terrible time and place in American history.

Despite the fact that I did a course called “Film in Black and White” I can’t pretend to be an expert on African American representation in cinema, and I will defer to other people on that, but The Help is a fundamentally good hearted movie that mostly fails to condescend; it aims only to drown out cinemas with the embarrassing sniffles of audience members who don’t know that they’re being played – overtly so, but not offensively.

Cowboys & Aliens

Cowboys & Aliens was dead before release. Many people, having forgotten the Cowboys and Indians of their youth – or having a youth spawned after we realised that genocidal war games aren’t the best things to aspire to – didn’t recall what was being referred to.

On top of that, they thought the idea was stupid, forgetting that the latter day prophet Gary Larson had foreseen it years prior:

(And believe me, it’s not that hard for multiple people to come to this same conclusion – but it’s strange that the most common source of this image has a tape mark on it.)

 

So a double genre piece is a hard sell to a lot of people.

“That looks like the biggest waste of a cast in Hollywood history,” one of my friends told me. While that’s far from accurate, Cowboys & Aliens is a strangely sterile affair – it’s as if it wants to be good and exciting but can’t quite jump the required hurdles, ploughing ahead in a straight and flat line.

 

I’ve seen outright hatred for this movie, but anyone who would put it on a “worst of 2011” list plainly hasn’t seen a bad movie this year. This movie isn’t deserving of excess praise, but it’s done nothing to earn derision.

 

Cowboys & Aliens is basically stunningly competent; never impressing, occasionally confusing, and sometimes raising racial quandaries, it gets the job done, and done okay.