Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 of 2011

Happy New Years Eve everyone! As we farewell 2011, it's time to take stock of the year in cinema. Once again the marvellous Matt Ravier has polled Sydney critics for their best films of the year, so be sure to head over to A Life in Film to see the top 20 released and unreleased films, as well as all the great wrap ups. It turns out both my #1s take poll positions - winner!

Here are my lists, with links to reviews where possible:

  1. Drive
  2. Bill Cunningham New York
  3. Melancholia
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Black Swan
  6. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  7. Midnight in Paris
  8. Incendies
  9. Bridesmaids
  10. Jane Eyre

  1. Martha Marcy May Marlene
  2. A Separation
  3. Shame
  4. Hugo
  5. Tomboy
  6. The Arbor
  7. Tiny Furniture
  8. The Forgiveness of Blood
  9. Attenberg
  10. How to Die in Oregon

Another cinematic year has shot by and I’m left grappling with my sieve-like memory: Black Swan was released in 2011, right? Indeed I feel a bit sorry for the films from early in the year, especially lighter fare like Tangled or Rango - both of which I was giddy about at the time – as they seem to have found themselves elbowed out by art-house behemoths like Tree of Life and Melancholia. In fact it strikes me that my list reads a little like a who’s who of art-house snobbery, so forgive me! I promise films like The GuardThe Trip and even True Grit were vying for position on this list. And what of local cinema? The brilliant Burning Man, the delightful Griff the Invisible or Fred Schepisi’s impeccable The Eye of the Storm definitely deserve honourable mentions. As does Snowtown…for haunting my nightmares. Bring on 2012 (minus the apocalypse, please!)!

So there you have it. Have a very Happy New Years Eve everyone (whatever you do, don't waste it watching New Year's Eve!)! Here's to many many more film fun times in 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas!
Here's to eating, drinking and enjoying all the merriment the holiday season has to offer. And of course I'm looking forward to oodles of film fun in 2012.

But why wait til then? I'm just back from another delightful family celebration and kicking back with this guy on Blu Ray - can you pick it? (If you know me you probably won't even need to look!).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Giveaway: The Iron Lady

It's Christmas come early! Well, errr, actually late depending on how Australia Post goes - but regardless, thanks to Icon Films I'm delighted to have some tickets to give away for The Iron Lady.

The marvellous Meryl Streep has already garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, so you'd better catch this film to keep ahead of all the Oscar buzz.


London, 2008. In her well-appointed apartment, the elderly former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher prepares breakfast for her husband Denis, as she has every morning of their married life. It’s not until Margaret’s personal aide bustles in that we see that Margaret sits at the table alone. Denis is alive only in her imagination.

Once described in life as “always present, never there”, Denis is still present for Margaret. Is he a loving memory made flesh? A manifestation of her grief? Or perhaps her conscience, taking her to task?

Locked in the infuriating inaction of retirement and battling ill health, Margaret is ambushed by memories.  Fragments of her private life and of her premiership crowd in to her mind and she relives them in vivid detail.  As she struggles to maintain her equilibrium, Denis teases and needles her.  The struggle, the triumphs, the betrayals – in the end, what did she achieve? When all is said and done, was it worth it?

THE IRON LADY is the story of a woman who came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male dominated world. It is a film about power and the price that is paid for power, a story that is both unique and universal.  THE IRON LADY stars Academy Award-winners Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher and Jim Broadbent as her husband, Denis.

To win one of FIVE double passes to see THE IRON LADY, simply email me (subject: THE IRON LADY) with your name and address. Winners will be notified by reply. 

Australian release date: 26 December 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Interview: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Chris Miller (Puss in Boots)

Back over on TheVine, I had great fun interviewing Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek and director Chris Miller about their animated feline prowess in Puss in Boots.

Unfortunately I was suffering from a horrid fever and tonsillitis, but it turns out my state of semi-delirium was quite appropriate for talking to Antonio and Salma, who had done over 700 interviews! Hat's off to them for being so delightfully animated (sorry), after such an epic press tour.

Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 8 December 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Movie Club: Melancholia

Yes, the metaphors are quite literally the size of planets in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. But by God does he pull them off.

With a knockout performance from Kirsten Dunst, a luminous Charlotte Gainsbourg and a stellar supporting cast in Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt, Melancholia is the most artfully devastating dyad of depression. But it’s also not without a sense of humour…

Indeed Giles Hardie, Ben McEachen and I have a world of fun discussing this beautiful film, and maybe, just maybe, we wade in on the metaphors!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Limelight Magazine: Melancholia

The gravitational force of depression is devastatingly and magnificently explored in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia

By dividing his focus between the fates of two sisters, Von Trier explores the inner melancholic demons that plague Justine (Kirsten Dunst) on her wedding day, and the manifold fear Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) holds towards the strange, eponymous planet that appears to be bearing down on Earth. 

Von Trier also manages to outdo the jaw-dropping beauty of Antichrist’s operatic opening, with Melancholia’s first frames unfolding in an utterly stunning, ultra-slow motion sequence.

Dunst and Gainsbough are simply glorious on screen. Their effortless performances are masterfully supported by an enviable ensemble, which includes luminaries Charlotte Rampling and John Hurt, a wantonly underused Alexander Skarsgård, and an uncharacteristically effete Kiefer Sutherland. Audiences will no doubt pick their favourite of the film’s two parts, with Justine’s wedding feeling like a distilled, perfected version of Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married, while Claire’s angst builds towards the film’s transcendent climax. 

There is nothing subtle about the metaphors at work here, especially as von Trier steeps his film in Wagner’s epic tones. But depression as apocalypse is both a horrifying and beautiful sight to see, making Melancholia a piece of cinema that will leave you reeling.

4 1/2 Stars
Published in the December Issue of Limelight Magazine
Australian release date: 15 December 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interview: Brad Bird (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol)

I was already starstruck enough at the prospect of interviewing Simon Pegg, but to sit down with Brad Bird as well?! Of course I film geeked out! In fact, you'll get to see a bit on camera, as the brilliant, Academy Award winning director wraps up our conversation with a fun dose of film history.

Big high fives to my marvellous brother James for helping me learn the ropes of video editing.


Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 15 December 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Interview: Simon Pegg (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol)

Yes I got to interview Simon Pegg!! So much excitement! (Though alas I couldn't really justify gabbing about Spaced...another time perhaps.)

And even more exciting is the fact that you can actually see the interview (below or over on TheVine) because I've finally had a crack at video editing. I still have much to learn and finesse (be kind!), but I'm hoping this will be the beginning of a whole new chapter.

Published on TheVine
Australian release date: 15 December 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Movie Club: New Year's Eve

Yes yes I know The Movie Club is supposed to be about recommending the best in film, and New Year's Eve definitely doesn't fit the bill! But it did afford Melissa, Scott and I the opportunity to chuckle over why the celebs flock to these ensemble films, as well as chat about our favourite cinematic ensembles.

And to that end I cannot BELIEVE I forgot to mention Robert Altman! Cinema gods smite me!

If you can forgive the glaring omission, then watch the episode below and feel free to share your fave film troupes over on our Facebook page.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Movie Club: Attack the Block

Over on The Movie Club Melissa Wilson, Scott Ellis and I had lots of fun reminiscing about Spielberg's E.T, and busting out some dodgy South London accents to review Joe Cornish's fantastic debut Attack the Block.

Enjoy, innit!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Burning Man

No, this film isn't about a bunch of rich hippies getting stoned in the Nevada desert. Burning Man is a beautifully wrought and fiercely subjective kaleidoscope of anger and grief, directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (Better than Sex, 2000). Matthew Goode gives a searing performance as Tom, a simmering Bondi chef who explodes in fits of road rage, drinks like a fish and tries to shag around. Tom’s young son Oscar (an impressive debut by Jack Heanly) is relegated to the sidelines, and Karen (Essie Davis) gets on his case about it.

Why has Tom gone off the rails? Eventually Teplitzky lets us in, temporally jumping backwards and forwards through a series of punchy vignettes. We meet the vivacious Sarah (Bojana Novakovic) and slowly Tom’s self-immolation makes sense. Goode and Novakovic are utterly devastating together on screen, although grief comes more convincingly to Goode than anger, which never entirely resounds. But as a portrayal of a phoenix rising from the ashes, Burning Man is a must see.

4 stars

Published in The Big Issue #394
Watch The Movie Club episode on Burning Man

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Limelight Magazine: Restless

After his devastatingly arresting death trilogy (GerryElephantLast Days), Gus Van Sant takes a gentler look at the flipside of life with Restless. From the pen of first-time screenwriter Jason Lew, this poignant love story stars Australian Mia Wasikowska and newcomer Henry Hopper (son of Dennis) as a pair of outsiders drawn together by their shared fascination with death.

After meeting gate-crashing a funeral, Enoch and Annabel quickly become inseparable, whiling their days away deep in wilfully alternative conversations, while gadding about in an array of over-styled vintage outfits. But each has a sobering secret, and as their love burgeons amid the spectre of death, their fresh-faced youth becomes a potent reminder to embrace the time we have left.

Sweet but slight, Restless frustratingly feels like minor Van Sant. Though Wasikowska shines and Hopper makes a strong debut, Danny Elfman’s rather twee score does them no favours, nor does the screenplay’s more obvious notes on death and dying. Enoch’s imaginary friend – a WWII Kamikaze pilot (Ryo Kase) – is curiously saddled with the emotional heavy lifting, which ultimately prevents this tale from tugging much at the heartstrings.

2 1/2 Stars
Published in Limelight Magazine
Australian release date: 1 December 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Movie Club: X

Oops, I'm tardy posting this Movie Club episode of the fun chat Scott Ellis and I had with X director Jon Hewitt.

Click below to hear about the free production value that comes with shooting in Kings Cross! And no, I don't know what was going on with my fringe.

X is in cinemas now. 
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