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Several Werner Herzog shorts and doco's;
16 days and 50 films at the Melbourne Film Festival;
Films at Sydney Film Festival;
Films at the Iranian, Jewish, Mexican, British, Israeli, Japanese, Antenna Documentary, Czech/Slovak, Turkish, Melbourne Queer, Korean, Italian, Russian and French film festivals (Melbourne loves a film festival!!).
Various film programs at ACMI - including screenings of all 10 of Kieslowski's Decalogue (strictly a TV series);
Classics I've never seen on the big screen at The Astor Theatre.
Repeat viewings of some favourite films.
Not too mention new releases in the cinema and the occasional DVD.
An * means I've seen it before.
Best Film - in no particular order: Behind The Candelabra Enough Said Frances Ha Gloria Gravity The Great Beauty Medianeras (Sidewalls) Nebraska The Rocket The Turning
Honourable mentions go to: Her, Walkabout, Still Life, Broken Circle Breakdown & A Matter of Life or Death (Stairway to Heaven)
Best Documentary - in no particular order: The White Diamond Village at the End of the World In Bob We Trust Cutie and the Boxer Blackfish Continental Lessons of Darkness Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry Wings of Hope Chasing Ice
Honourable mentions go to: Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Leviathan, Journal De France & London: The Modern Babylon
And the worst films: Polisse, Tower & Paradise: Love
I've done pretty well this year - two film festivals, Sydney and Melbourne helped bump up the numbers on this list, as did some long haul flights.
There have been some real wonders - Beasts of the Southern Wild, Shame and The Master amongst them and some real duds - To Rome With Love, Damsels in Distress and including, sadly, too many Australian duds - Mental, A Few Best Men & Hail.
Most of these films were seen on the big screen, including the Qatsi trilogy with a live accompaniment by Phillip Glass & Orchestra playing the original music and The Master in it's original 70mm format. Many were seen on DVD, some on TV and some on the smallest of screens - a seat back airline screen.
Most were first time viewings - some were revisits for the first time in years - Point Break, Picnic at Hanging Rock and some are regular viewings - Big Business, I am Love.
In total 253 films.
And as for the best - well, my top 5, in no particular order:
Searching for Sugarman Shame Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present The Imposter Beasts of the Southern Wild
Here's to 2013...
One of the worst films I've seen
It started quite well, but after a while, I found it incomprehensible the way the team handle the cases. They were so extremely aggressive and often quite vile: asking the woman about her sex life in a such a rude manner, as she was the culprit or the girl who lost her phone, laughing in her face. Or the way the harass the girl who's just had a stillbirth. Really? This is how police deal with sensitive cases? I don't think so. And multiple agents interviewing people seemed unreal as well. Dealing with some of the crimes would no doubt be hard to deal with and difficult to keep emotions in check, but there is no professional conduct, no calm, collective approach or even respect and that seems outrageous.
Get Low (2009)
Felix Bush lives in a small hut in the midst of a forest, a hermit, who's life remains something of a mystery to the local townsfolk who seem to have made their own stories and rumours up about him. Growing old and weary, Felix decides to thrown a big party, a funeral party - his own.
Involving the local funeral home, he builds on his plan to tell a story, one that interests Mattie who has just arrived back in town after losing her husband. The two have a connection and Mattie seeks a truth, one that Felix seems reluctant to give, perhaps because after holding it in for 40 years it's more difficult to reveal what he's held close to his heart and made him the man he's become.
In the beginning the film appears to a be a wry look at the end of life, but gradually the film changes from funny to moving as Felix faces his hidden past. Robert Duvall as Felix, gives a truly wonderful performance, gentle, yet misunderstood and deep down very pained. There are also fine performances from Sissy Spacek as Mattie and the ever brilliant Bill Murray adds his superb skills to the role of funeral home owner Frank Quinn - I don't think I could ever tire watching him.
Scored with some wonderful music this wonderful film grows on you gradually and in the end I found this very moving as Felix not only faces the ghosts of his past, but also faces the final days of his life and as he finally manages to let out what has shaped his life, it is difficult not to be moved by how one event alters lives irrevocably.
A charming, endearing, moving piece of film making.
More of my reviews at my site: iheartfilms.weebly.com
Des hommes et des dieux (2010)
A powerful story that shows war effects everyone.
In 1996 as the Algerian Civil War raged a group of 9 Trappist monks live a simple and peaceful life near a small village in the mountains. They have given their lives to God and worship and pray daily; inbetween they treat the locals for ailments and help them fill out forms; they walk they land; plants crops for themselves or make honey to sell at the local market. Eventually though the war comes to them and a rebel leader asks fro medical help for his men, which is refused on the basis that they do not leave the monastery to treat people. The rebels go, but the experience is enough to scare the priests and give them concern for their safety.
They discuss the option of leaving and some decide it is the only choice while others feel it would be a form of running away - that they devoted themselves to God and that this place is their destiny means that is where they need to be. Tensions mount however as the government tries to get them to leave and violence becomes worse. After much soul searching the monks all vote to stay. But the rebels return taking 7 of them hostage. Weeks after being taken the monks are murdered; an event that continues to remain confused as to whom killed them.
This remarkable film starts quite slowly, showing the monks go about their daily routine. Once their peace is interrupted, tension mounts and the film takes on a different feel. The predicament the monks feel is one that any one can relate to; it's not even a question of faith, it's human instinct. But of course these men are of God and this brings further issues; leaving is almost like giving up the faith. But it is also abandoning the village that relies on them as much as they rely on the village.
It gradually becomes a very powerful film as the monks come together and decide to stay despite the risks and it is also a very emotional film as the outcome if finally revealed. Beautifully filmed, with the stark landscapes of Morocco standing in for Algeria and fine subtle performances this is a fine film with a tragic story.
More of my reviews at my site; iheartfilms.weebly.com
Could have been so much funnier
Graeme and Clive are best mates; they are also comic book nerds on a dream trip from England to the US and after attending a comic-con they head off on a road trip to see some famous alien sites. Their trip takes a surprising turn however when after a car accident they meet Paul, an alien. The pair help Paul who is trying to get back to his own planet after being held by the government. Along the way they pick up bible bashing Ruth who quickly becomes an alien believer and the foursome travel in an RV to the meeting point, all the while being chased by Federal Agents, Police and Ruth's dad most of whom want Paul dead.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team up again here, but take things Stateside for the first time after the British set hits such as Shaun Of The Dead. Some of the previous films from these two are brilliantly funny and it's difficult not to go into this with high anticipation and it does start well, but As the film progressed, I realised I just wasn't really laughing. There are some nice moments in this and a few times I laughed out loud, but for the most part it felt rather lifeless and obvious jokes fell flat. All of which is a shame as not only is the premise a great one, but with a superb cast it should be fail proof, but this time Pegg and Frost don't pull it off well enough.
Graeme and Clive are a lovable duo and Paul himself is fun even if being voiced by Seth Rogen seems a wrong choice and towards the end the film works better, but it all felt a little lifeless and judging by the reactions of other audience members, either 20 odd people don't have a sense of humour or this just isn't that funny.
more of my reviews at my site iheartfilms.weebly.com
The Tempest (2010)
Shakespeare's last play The Tempest tells the tale of a sorcerer Prospera and her daughter who have been cast off and banished and find themselves on a barren island where she takes Caliban as her slave. Many years later she creates a tempest to wreck the ship carrying those that banished her and the survivors of the ship find themselves on the island including the kings son who falls for Prospera's daughter. Throw in a spirit slave who helps Prospera bring the newcomers to her and the slaves of the King who side with Caliban to destroy Prospera and you have a real blend of genres. Julie Taymor brings another Shakespeare play to the big screen after her magnificent version of Titus. The Tempest is really a blend of drama, romance, fantasy and comedy and with it's supernatural and magical elements it's quite a story to bring to the big screen. Changing the lead of Prospero to a female role, makes little difference and Helen Mirren as Prospera is very good, but performance wise she is the only standout with the rest of the cast going through the paces; and casting Russel Brand as the jester does not bring enough light relief and makes me wonder since when did Russel Brand become an actor? Taymor tries to makes this as natural as possible, but that's difficult to achieve with it's fantastical elements and many of the these moments fail, including the spirit Ariel, whose appearances are like Caspar The Ghost and only when he appears as a sign of madness to the king and his men as a dark ominous bird does the fantasy finally work. The film also feels stilted at times and for something that contains so much fantasy and magic it feels for the most part bland and dull and bad use of music, much of which sounds like something from a bad rock music doesn't help achieve anything. Interesting use of landscapes and Mirren's performance are worthy elements but that's not enough to redeem the film, which with Taymor at the helm doesn't work nearly as well as her previous efforts.
Absorbing and emotional
Anton works as an aid doctor in a war torn African nation, whilst back in Denmark his son lives with his wife whom he is separated from. Their son, Elias, is frequently bullied at school, but when a new kid, Christian, whose mother has just died, tries to defend it sets off the catalyst for a series of events that threaten to tear many lives apart. Christian fights back against the bully and the two boys become friends. But when Anton comes home to visit and gets into a near fight with another man, Christian is determined to show the man whose boss and ropes Elias into making a homemade bomb.
This Danish film won the Foreign Language Award at this years Oscars and it's easy to see why. On paper the story is complex one, as the two boys and their families interweave through a series of events that bring to the fore the pain of loss, loneliness and despair. It is a beautifully constructed film, one that becomes utterly absorbing through it's wonderful imagery and superb performances, with standouts from the young boy that plays Christian and Mikael Persbrandt as Anton, and a powerful story that resonates well after you leave the cinema.
The film's main focus is of conflict in it's various guises; Anton sees it in his work in Africa as women are mutilated to see what sex their baby is; in Denmark Christian struggles with the death of his mother and takes it out on his father who is trying himself to deal with the situation. The conflicts themselves are dealt with in many ways, with further confrontation or by just walking away and that itself presents one of the films questions, that being what is the best option? Is revenge sweet or does it make matters worse.
The film is engaging and full of small moments that anyone can relate to, even if there are moments where it takes a a step too far, such as the boys readily making the bombs. But that's a small niggle among a film that is a prime example of fine film making and one that packs a emotional punch.
Check out more of my reviews at my site iheartfilms.weebly.com
Les amours imaginaires (2010)
Anyone can relate to this painfully funny film.
Francis is gay and his close friend Marie is straight, two little things that threaten to tear the friendship apart when at a dinner party they meet 'Adonis' like Nicholas. Both feel an instant attraction to the blond curly haired beauty who seems to exude sexuality, passion and an artistic creative side. The attraction grows as the trio becomes firm friends, spending more and more time together and Francis and Maris both try to impress Nicholas by dressing like his favorite movie stars or hanging out in places he might be and then pretending it's just chance when they meet.
Nicholas though never states a defined interest in either playing ambiguously towards the two leading them to have little idea where they stand. As the friendship progress's the two sleep with partners in the hope of gaining some sexual satisfaction elsewhere when they can't have it where they really want it and all the time the pangs of jealousy grow stronger between the two as each bids for Nicholas' affections.
This second feature from Canadian Xavier Dolan is a far cry from his debut (I Killed My Mother), which I found a grating and dire experience. In contrast this is a brilliant portrait of unrequited love that perhaps anyone can relate to. As a film maker, there is no doubt that Dolan had talent and in this film it really shines. The film is as frustrating though as it is funny and real; Dolan populates his film with beautiful 'trendsetters' who at times look like a bunch of espresso swilling bourgeois idiots and that I found annoying and there are times when it falters on some clichéd territory. Yet this is outweighed by fine performances, great camera work, including some nice slow motion shots and a brilliant visual impact with it's array of costumes and in some sequences bright colour. Dolan also douses his film with some vibrant and perfect musical choices that at times add to the realism of the plot.
And it's that plot that works so well; everyone has felt an attraction to someone and gone out of their way to 'impress' them in the hope they might make something unrequited become less so. The ability to be able to relate makes for an at times painful but also very very funny film and whilst it does have some faults this is a really solid and wonderful film.
More of my reviews at my site iheartfilm.weebly.com
Never Let Me Go (2010)
Beautiful and tragic story
Kathy, Tommy and Ruth spend their childhood in a boarding school, but this is no ordinary school and nor are they ordinary children. As they learn from a new teacher who feels it important they learn who they are, they are donor children conceived specifically to provide organ donations to the general population. Among the shock of this notion a bond forms between Tommy and Ruth, one that Kathy seems to dislike, but as the trio grow up and are moved to a middle house before they start their donations she lets the relationship continue. Kathy becomes a caretaker, someone who looks after the donors until they have completed (died) and it's during this time Kathy has an opportunity to have the relationship with Tommy she's longed for and if rumours are true possibly have a chance to live as a normal couple for some time.
Based on the best selling book, this is a very intriguing story; it is set in the 70/80's in what is a alternate history to what we live in. The very notion that people are bred simply to provide organ donations makes for a very uneasy prospect and by the time they start to donate, it made me feel quite sick, the thought that you may donate two, three or more times, each time getting sicker and weaker. But it's also tragic that these people's lives have been already chosen and that there is no way out. The film works well really splitting it into two eras, with our trio of characters introduced to us as children and then young adults, we almost grow up with them which makes the outcomes even more the difficult.
With it's wonderful recreation of the era, filmed with muted tones the film looks wonderful and performances from the young cast are excellent for the most part; I seriously dislike Keira Knightly - that mouth is annoying to watch, but this is not her film, it's Carey Mulligan and in this she is superb, playing the reserved Kathy. Sally Hawkins and Charlotte Rampling also have small but pivotal roles. The film falters a little because it doesn't explore the donation idea enough for the audience to understand, whilst there are hints that each donor has a 'double', it's left very ambiguous and the film never strays very far from our trio and their direct involvement.
However this is startling effective, beautifully made film that is ultimately very tragic and at times very moving and is enough to give me the urge to read the book.
More of my reviews at my site iheartfilms.weebly.com
The Way Back (2010)
Epic, but far from engrossing
As war begins to rage in Europe and Poland is split between Germany and Russia, a young Polish man finds himself in a Gulag in Siberia in squalid conditions among a motley group of men from various backgrounds. Conditions are horrific, made worse by the harsh winter weather and life is made even worse if you are chosen to work in the mines. One inmate declares he knows a gap in the fence and a group of inmates decide under the cover of a winter storm to make a run for it. They manage to get away, far into the surrounding forest as the blizzard rages around them. But being free of the Gulag doesn't mean total freedom, not only do they have to fight the elements, but there are wolves as well a bounty given to locals if they capture runaways and somehow of course they have to get out of Russia.
The men make their way south, with the idea of getting to China. It's a long way, through the frozen lands of Siberia and along the way one of them succumbs to the elements. Further south, they pick up a young woman, another runaway Pole and on reaching Mongolia they discover that Communism has taken hold there, meaning safety is not guaranteed, leaving them the only option to cross the Gobi desert and make their way to Tibet and over to India.
This film by Peter Weir is based on the 'true story' - although that's been debunked- and it's an epic tale. The journey is huge, yet somehow for most of the group they will endure anything to survive and get back to those they love. It should be an engrossing story, but it really doesn't manage to maintain interest. For starters this mammoth trek feels like a mammoth (cinema) trek, which goes on far too long; I found myself not wanting them to reach safety for themselves, but for me as I couldn't wait for the film to end. Also, it's difficult to relate to these people, some are criminals, some are viewed as criminals by others, but we rarely get to know more about these people other than a few snippets gathered (conveniently) by the woman. Because of this it's difficult to find an emotional connection to these people who by all accounts are going through a huge life altering journey.
It's a shame as it really should be an engrossing story, but it all feels very formulaic in it's presentation and while performances are okay, with actors playing various nationalities and there's an abundance of accents (and surprisingly all the characters speak fluent English!), the film just drags towards the end and it's main redeeming feature is the glorious variety of landscapes that fill the screen.
More of my reviews at my site iheartfilms.weebly.com
Inside Job (2010)
Fascinating but rage inducing.
Narrated by Matt Damon this Oscar winning documentary attempts to explain what/who caused the massive financial meltdown that occurred over the last few years. It's a complicated matter with banks and finance/mortgage companies taking control of assets they shouldn't, governments and CEO's blaming one another and nearly all cases the public are the ones that suffer as companies fail, jobs and house are lost and lives ruined.
Whilst for most a greater understanding of the financial world and how it runs is something lacking, the film acknowledges this by trying to present this in a step by step process that highlights many of the causes and factors with easy to understand graphics and charts. Talking heads help explain a more personal aspect to events and come from an array of sources from within the industry, many of whom face a barrage of questions and statements that they clearly has them squirming.
The film presents a shocking inside look into an industry that most have little understanding of but it's done well enough to make anyone angry enough about the denials by the financial institutions, but also the constant recycling of people (mostly men) with the industry and government departments that brings about a never changing cycle of behaviour. More shocking is the fact that some of these CEO's and other bigwigs not only got away with financial murder but they were and many still are paid handsomely with bonus's being handed out that were at times mind boggling - $54 million here, $34 million there, with one man receiving $161 million dollars, which leaves you more gob smacked than you can really be and is enough for you want to rip your hair out in horror.
This is an intelligently present, informative film that strives to make sense of a situation that effected millions and still does to this day, it perhaps would have been better had the human impact been explored more than it was.
More of my reviews at my site iheartfilms.weebly.com