IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD: Again Mike was steering me to good things with his recommendation of Japanese animated films. On a whim I choose to see a Japanese animated film that was screening at BIFF 2017. On a quiet Sunday afternoon 27AUG2017 Karen and I arrived at Palace Barracks for a 12:45pm session and I saw the best film of the year. Set before and during World War II, it followed the story of one young girl’s personal growth into a woman set against the backdrop of Japan’s transformation during those years ending with the agony of defeat and the simple need to rebuild no matter the trauma if there is to be a better tomorrow. A film that took Japan 70 years to make but it is a timely reminder of the true losers in war and the hope that comes from tomorrow. I was later lucky enough to have my review of the film published in the magazine FilmInk but I never see truly happy with the words I use to recommend it. See it for yourself.
CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY: Monday night after work Karen and I went to Palace Centro Cinema 7 to see the American documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City at 6pm. Some good documentaries have screened at BIFF and Citizen Jane had a lot to say about rising populations and the urban housing projects of yesteryear. There are many lessons that could be learnt from the showdown between activitst Jane Jacobs and urban planner Robert Moses in mid-20th Century New York that is relevant to today. Yet as the film went on I found myself asking for a different viewpoint, it seemed the film lacked any nuance or alternative argument. It wanted to celebrate Jane and belabour these foolish men who had built buildings but torn down communities. A under-resourced but indomitable spirit and intelligent mind going up against big interest groups is compelling to be sure but I couldn’t help but feel there was more to it than that. That Jane Jacobs had got it right and if not for her efforts we would have lost out more but why she had to fight, whether there were good intentions gone wrong there, what the solutions ultimately are for us now in the 21st century I felt the film could have gotten into a bit more. By not presenting somebody from the other side arguing their case you don’t really have a debate that you win. Just an echo chamber that feeds your narrative. Still maybe I was tired, I think I may have nodded off for a little and it wasn’t a bad film by an means.
THE WAY STATION: Wednesday night 30AUG2017, 6pm we went to Palace Barracks Cinema 1 for The Way Station from Vietnam. Trumpeted it as a seminal moment in the history of the Vietnamese film industry it was a gala screening we attended. Directed by Hong Anh a famous actress in Vietnam it won best film, best actor and best cinematography at the ASEAN film awards. Not bad for her feature debut. It follows the story of a young man who gets work in the kitchen at a small restaurant and starts to learn the secrets of the compound he lives and works in. It was a passion project for Hong Anh and it deals with ideas of gender, sex and family. We had a Q&A afterwards with Hong Anh and 2017 Festival Co-Director Maxine Williamson and something that impressed was her discussion of how to shoot the space of the restaurant. For me they did a great job of keeping it interesting, maintaining clear sense of geography and also bringing forth such a strong sense of place that it almost becomes another character. In some ways this a tragic story and I can’t deny that it was not one of my favourites but it was shot well, had interesting ideas and took me to another small pocket of the world I had never been in which I what I love best about the films I see at BIFF. Afterwards we came outside to eat food put on by the nearby Libertines which Karen and I both love. These included little bamboo boats with mushrooms dumplings inside them.
It is always a thrill to get to review a film and to attend a critics screening which is what I did on Wednesday night when I saw The Happytime Murders at New Farm Cinemas for Scenestr magazine. A new milestone was reached too, my first media screening where I had to sign an agreement not to breach a media blackout. Karen has taken me to preview screenings previously where mobile phones were confiscated but this was something new for me as a critic where I kept my phone but turned it off during the screening. I was attending a screening at 6:45pm Wednesday and the ban lifted 7am Thursday morning. One can never be too careful. I always enjoy going to New Farm cinemas and hitting the local Pig’n’Whistle afterwards before heading home to write my review.
Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland every month and the first issue for Victoria is coming out this month too.
The Brisbane International Film Festival‘s triumphant return in 2017 included many features long missed. There was a Baltic spotlight, short films, world premieres, a showcase of Masters, opening and closing night film (The Square and The Go-Betweens: Right Here which I was lucky enough to see at the Byron Bay Film Festival and placed in my Top 5 Films of last year) and a retrospective on Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev which included Return, The Banishment, Elena and Leviathan with at its centrepiece his latest film Loveless. Buying tickets we wanted to cast a wide net and I also wanted Karen to get some picks in plus schedule around our jobs. We missed The Baltic Spotlight also in the running was Ali’s Wedding, Loving Vincent (Karen has since seen it), Maudie and Loveless (alas two Canadian films too including one directed by Bruce McDonald who did The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess from BIFF 2005), Last Men in Aleppo and Returnee from Kazakhstan (just the type of obscure foreign film that can transport you to another place on Earth at street level so to speak), Aussie flick Watch the Sunset and Karen was keen on My Year with Helen. Saw none of them but I was very grateful to be back at BIFF seeing multiple films. It perhaps should be noted that beyond the focus of a film festival most of these films missed I have not gotten around to seeing which I think there is something in that. A film festival really elevates and spotlights interesting movies.
THE PARTY: This was one of Karen’s choices (although it had been on my shortlist) which we went to see late Wednesday night 23AUG2018 at The Palace Barracks Cinema 1 at 8:15pm. It was the ninth anniversary of the first date I went on with Karen. So we had dinner beforehand at Libertine restaurant which included delicious crab sliders, beef san choi bao and delicious cocktails.
Copyright Lloyd Marken
Copyright Lloyd Marken
The Party shot in black and white and directed by Sally Potter follows a dinner party of well to do privileged members of class celebrating the hostess Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) having ascended into the parliament ministry. Of course as the guests arrive simmering tensions come to the boil from old friends, partners and unexpected guests. Just describing it gets me all excited about the possibilities but alas I found the characters for the most part unlikeable and the comedy lacking. One of those films where people think they are cleverer and funnier than what they actually are and more is the pity given the extraordinary cast including Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy and Timothy Spall but there you have it. Karen on the other hand loved it so they’ve got that going for them.
FUN MOM DINNER: Now to another of Karen’s choices in the form of a comedy from America starring the amazingly talented Toni Collette in what has to be arguably the worst movie I saw last year and probably one of the worst if not worst films I ever at the Brisbane International Film Festival. It was Friday 25AUG2018 at 6pm Palace Centro Cinema 7.
Okay it’s a film about mums having a night out on the town, a more mature and nuanced attempt at the premise of Bad Moms except well that film was funnier and better. Sorry. I admire the ambition to go deeper in terms of characterisation but the film is trying to have it both way by remaining a broad comedy. Classic example, two Mums don’t like each other so they light up a joint and hilarity and reconciliation ensues. Except it doesn’t. Bridget Everett’s character ran the gamut between being obnoxiously opinionated and bossy (at both the beginning and end – did her character learn nothing during the course of the story) and honest and profound at tother times. The only shining light was Molly Shannon’s take on a older divorcee trying to find her way back to true confidence and happiness. There are good ideas but close to zero good execution. Even in the most lacklustre films I’ve seen at BIFF I”ve been able to defend the ambition and lack of funds of new filmmakers, originality of ideas, the transformative ability of taking me to another culture and landscape. Maybe I’m harsher on Fun Mom Dinner because it takes me to California, had the benefit of some money and is totally unoriginal but when I think of the worst film I saw last year this always comes to mind. Bad Mommy, Bad Mommy and not in a fun way.
Following on from the wonderful opportunity to attend a critic’s screening of The Breaker Upperers I got a chance to interview both Jackie van Beek and Madeleine Sami whom co-wrote and co-directed the film in addition to playing the leads. This was my first chance to interview feature film directors and was a real treat to discuss the film with them having already seen it. While I have my misgivings about the second half I was eager to discuss this with them (as writers) because I think the themes they were communicating were a new take and very important to them. This proved to be true and was very exciting to hear them talk about the choices they made and why and hopefully I bring that across in my published piece. Hearing them talk about their approach as directors with their own acting experience was inspiring too. Beyond that, these are two remarkably talented artists and funny women and I wish them the best in future endeavours. The chance to review the film which I enjoyed and interview the two thoughtful and hilarious people behind it was a real treat thanks to my work for Scenestr. You can check out the interview here http://scenestr.com.au/movies/the-breaker-upperers-madeleine-and-jackie-get-real-20180725
Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises, Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane every month. This interview also featured in my hometown QLD August edition on page 41 which can be seen digitally here http://scenestr.com.au/read/QLD/2018/1107-QLD/scenestr-QLD-1107.html#p=41 The interview was also published in the NSW edition on page 28, SA edition on page 23 and a shorter version in the WA edition on page 27. If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts including festivals, stand-up comics, fashion, theatre and film. I feel very fortunate to get to write for them.
Recently I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go another critics screening again, the second time for Scenestr magazine and the first time at the Blue Room Cinebar. Located in a Western inner city suburb, it offers the premium experience of a bar and full menu delivered to you while you watch in the cinema. On the job, I felt a bit awkward about getting food but my wife was hungry and truth be told so was I and it was dinner time having just come from my other job. I split between my two desires, ordering food but avoiding stuff like pizza that would be hard to handle in the dark. Instead we got Three Stages Potato Trilogy which included garlic aioli, shoestring fries, steak fries and sweet potato fries. We also got the highly recommended Mighty Peking Duck spring rolls. I was pleased to see in the crowd of critics we were not the only ones to get food. Having never been there I must say it was a lovely experience going to the cinema.
The film I was there to review was from New Zealand and called The Breaker Upperers. Starring, written and directed by the New Zealand duo of Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek. They play Mel and Jen who play cons on people to help their partners break up with them. A great comedy that has slows down a little in its second half to explore some of the themes introduced earlier. You can read my review here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/the-breaker-upperers-review-20180727
Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland every month and expanded last month to print in Victoria too.
Last year for a brief period I did a series of posts about small parts in major films that stood out to me or changed the narrative of the film in addition to ones about star character actors. These posts have continued to garner views since I ceased posting new ones and last month one of them started “trending” according to WordPress. This was my post about John B. Destry’s appearance as the Zamboni Driver in the movie Happy Gilmore. I have plans for how to further develop what I started with these posts and seeing these stats gives me hope. Maybe I’ll have more news later but for now a few stats.
On 18JUN2017 the post was published and by month’s end accrued a healthy 28 views by the standards of this site. It was the fourth and final out of this monthly series of posts. By year’s end it had acquired 112 views with a monthly best of 31 views in December 2017. In the first month of this year it received a new monthly view of 64 views and broke that record with 97 views in February. Numbers varied but continued along this line throughout 2018, with this post and similar ones from last year often topping new content each month. A very encouraging sight to do further work in this field. Then on the 7th of July, 2018 there were 50 views alone. For the weeks of July there were 159 views (an increase of 736.84%), 264, 163 and 85. There were 703 views in July 2018. To give you an idea of the traffic increase, throughout 2018 the daily average for most months was 2 views and in July it shot up to a daily average of 22 views. The post is currently at 1,312 views.
You may ask sooooooo what? Unlike the Ray Kroc post there’s no interesting story here about being featured on a different platform by wordpress. The post got discovered a little bit, shot up in views, then most likely shot up on search engines and as a result shot up in views and is now diminishing. By the way the The Founder review is currently at 6,508 views. I have no idea what the stats are for my posts for online magazines but in terms of my site – getting over 1,000 views is significant and stats are a little interesting to me and some others so I felt like posting about it. At the end of the day I’m happy to get anybody to read my stuff and am proud of some of my posts that got only a small amount of love but it is fun when something like this happens.
It was Karen who texted me that BIFF had ceased to exist years ago and it was Karen who texted me that BIFF was back on last year. It kind of struck at the right time and enthused to show what support I could, Karen and I bought a few tickets and I finally went to the Opening Night of the Brisbane International Film Festival. Palace Cinemas came on board as major partner of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017 effectively making it possible and making it happen in short turnaround. In some circles this has been criticised for compromising smaller community led events with commercialisation. As cinemagoing dwindles in Australia and other countries, film festivals have remained lucrative and seen an increase in numbers.
Palace cinemas has been at the forefront of this. I’m of two minds when it comes to this but for me it really boils down to the fact that without Palace cinemas we may not have seen the return of BIFF at all. On opening night at BIFF 2017, Antonio Zeccola was thanked and given credit for making the return of BIFF possible. It made me feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to thank his son Benjamin, CEO of Palace Cinemas, earlier for the return of BIFF. This is personal for me having been a long time attendee and former volly and while I would not want it to be not without business considerations and ambitions for the Zeccolas but I feel that it is personal for them too. They are business people yes but they have made their business cinema and it appears that has been borne out of their ongoing love for the art form.
The 23rd Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 17th August to the 3rd of September (moving it back closer to the time of year it used to run) showcasing over 60 films from Australia and the rest of the world. There were the two venues of Palace Barracks and Palace Centro. There were no volunteers and the staff listing was significantly smaller than the years I was a volly. This was seen as a re-launch and a testing of the viability of BIFF. As much as things had changed though, as much as my heart aches at fond memories of the Regent and my twenty something self racing around excitedly, BIFF 2017 was a wonderful experience for me and proof that we turn over to new pages and begin anew.
THE SQUARE: Opening night I came from work to meet Karen and her best friend Erin to watch The Square. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier that year I was more entranced with the film than the girls. Directed by Ruben Ostlund it tells the story of a museum curator who gets caught up in a series of escalating situations. Pointing a finger at the contradictions of art, wealth, altruism and gender tropes I found it riveting although the conclusion was underwhelming for me.
The thoroughfare where years earlier we had eaten at the Gala screening for Copacabana in 2010 was now jumping with people again. There was champagne when we arrived and later when we came out there was a board of donuts hanging on pegs. Appearing like an art installation several minutes passed before some brave soul grabbed one off a peg and chomped it down but once that happened people quickly got the idea. Delicious.
There was a bath tub with glitter balls in the middle of the thoroughfare and a dancer inside a bubble. From the official website there is a picture of me grabbing something delicious.
I went upstairs and stood in line for a caricature portrait. As I was sketched I talked to my renderer about the struggle to be an artist and pursue that in a way to make a living out of it. It was a really good conversation and I was well pleased when he handed me a very handsome looking portrait. Karen and Erin though criticised it for not looking like me at all. Given the handsome visage I saw before me I was not pleased with this response. I ask you to be the judge.
Walking around I saw what appeared to be a few familiar faces from BIFFs gone by that I was happy to see there. Time marches on, things change but BIFF was finally back and I couldn’t be happier.