Author: Alex Doenau

Japanese Film Festival Day One: Always – Sunset on Third Street

The tenth annual Japanese Film Festival is the fourth that I’ve attended, and it’s certainly grown since I first attended, one month out of high school. Featuring 19 films instead of the customary 8-10, this is the first time I’ve not been able to see all of them.

The opening night, at the Festival’s new Greater Union George Street location and open to the general public for the first time, was introduced by Japan’s Consulate General to Sydney. He spoke of the appeal of Japan’s films lying in that they are made specifically for Japanese people, as opposed to the determined worldwide demographics of Hollywood.
This is not solely the domain of Japan, of course; films where the characters truly belong to their surroundings have long been favourites of mine. That’s why a lot of independent films work: Little Miss Sunshine, despite featuring an Australian actress as one of its leads, had a quintessentially American feel. I’m a fan of the milieu film, and Japan has no shortage of those.

Always happens to exist in one of my favourite subgenres of Japanese film: nostalgic pieces about post-war Japan, presented in a fashion so romantic that it may never have even existed. This is a subject that I have managed to touch on with semi-frequency on Anime Pilgrimage.
Like many Japanese films, it’s extreme in its sentimentality. I don’t quite understand why “sentimental” became a negative adjective, because when the sentimentality isn’t false it can tug at your heart without making you feel manipulated (that manipulation of emotion was precisely why I couldn’t stand Finding Nemo).
It’s a film of broad characters, but of the variety that have become known and beloved all throughout Japan. Like so many of the films that they show at these festivals, I had the beginnings of tears in my eyes at the end. We call that a victory.

Viva! Piñata!

Having been quite underwhelmed by Perfect Dark Zero (more on that later), and having yet to try Kameo (soon, my sweet), I’m finding myself eagerly anticipating Rare’s next effort, Viva Piñata:

Moral of the story? Kids are suckers!

Possible Reasons A Good Year Failed

I saw A Good Year before it saw wide release, but things got the better of me and I didn’t get around to writing of it. Since then, it has been considered a major flop – by Rupert Murdoch himself. Let us consider why, in list form, this is:

  • Russell Crowe is no longer a marketable actor.
      Rather like Michael Jackson, people have found it hard to separate the “art” from the “artist”. Crowe isn’t a pedophile, but his temper is more famous than himself. This is why Cinderella Man failed at the box office, despite being quite good (it did the sort of business that The Da Vinci Code deserved).
  • Hating the French has become one of America’s favourite pastimes in recent years.
      Americans love hating the French; why an American would want to see Russell Crowe fall in love with France and a French woman boggles the mind. If you applied the mindset to the British, the movie is essentially about forsaking Queen and Country for Sunshine and Sand.
  • Young Australian film enthusiasts still hate Abbie Cornish for Somersault.
      Also she speaks with a Scarlett Johansson accent. It’s scary.
  • Rabid Gene Wilder fans blame Freddie Highmore for Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
      Hey, it could happen – just look at the point about hating the French.
  • A Good Year

    I’m not quite certain I get Ridley Scott. Why did he make A Good Year? Not once did the words “Deckard is a replicant” flash up subliminally for a fraction of a second in the background. Russell Crowe’s character did not dream of a unicorn, nor did Didier Bourdon’s character leave him an origami model of the same.

    To Scott’s credit, though, incest is briefly contemplated, if quickly despatched.

    In A Good Year, we have a seachange story that is identical to all other sea changes: a man consumed by work comes into contact with his old life, in the idyllic countryside, and realises that something’s lacking.

    It plays exactly as you would expect it to, but there are a couple of surprises simply because the trailer didn’t deem it necessary to give them away.

    Popcorn Taxi: Catch a Fire

    The Third and Final Act of Australia Week

    An excellent film presented by an excellent interviewer, and ably assisted by an excellent actor and director.

    To cement the legendariness of this occasion in the eyes of the audience, one member said to Tim Robbins “I’ve been reading about you, and you seem quite liberal and committed to egalitarian causes. Why then do you always play dark bastards?”
    Robbins, upon less than a moment’s reflection, responded: “The sanctimonious liberal isn’t a very interesting part.”

    There you have it.

    Boytown

    Part 2 of Australia Week!

    We’re Boytown: population five/ At the end of each show, we go home to our wives

    In September, I said that Boytown looked like a funny film that would be a success. In contrast to Kenny‘s $500,000 budget, Boytown boasted $5,000,000 in funding.

    Kenny, having made $6,000,000 is, budgetwise, a huge success. The Australian mark of a smash (international) movie is $10,000,000. Yet, given that it is not a very likely sale to foreign markets, Boytown has to be loved all across Australia to achieve even vague success.
    Boytown is not smash material. It’s funny and it’s sweet, but it hasn’t received good reviews. That can be attributed to its most sour ending that, while funny, left me feeling cheated.

    Flashbeer

    Australia Week: Intermission!

    A lot of the ads on Australian TV are either dubbed over American ads (which are a true pain to watch), cosmetics ads brought to you by the face of that brand (if we’re lucky, Natalie Imbruglia), or the singularly unimaginative Brand Power ads.

    Very rarely do we get a true narrative ad anymore that is worthy of comment, short of that of a father telling his child that the Great Wall of China was built by “Emperor Nasi Goreng to keep the rabbits out. There were too many rabbits.”
    The child then takes this information and disseminates it to his class in the form of an oral report. This is supposed to inform us of the great study aid that is broadband internets.

    The most entertaining and polished ads on television are, surprisingly, for beer. The ads for Bundaberg are strangely ocker tales of a polar bear and his human mates, but they are nothing compared to the mighty power of the new Carlton Draught ad, “Flashbeer”:

    I believe that beer ads are largely preaching to the converted, as beer drinkers generally know their own tastes, but this one is funny.

    The strength of beer ads has been in question since last year’s “Big Ad”, which was beloved the world over, but did not really achieve its goal of “selling some bloody beer”:

    Still, as a teetotaller, I enjoy these “expensive ads” because they are among the most creative on television, and the most Australian. As I approach the final sentence, I realise that I don’t really watch enough television to be able to present a full expose of the Australian commercial industry. Also, both of those ads are for Carlton Draught. Still, I’ve no doubt that the two ads I’ve presented represent the best of the best.