BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2010 and THE LOST YEARS

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I didn’t go to BIFF in 2009, I had started a new relationship and a new second part time job and so that was that. During decluttering I found a program for BIFF 2010 which featured Jucy, the next film from All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane director Louise Alston but that was for a gala screening and I remember Karen and I went and saw the film at a normal screening so it must have been just after BIFF. BIFF 2010 was significant for a number of reasons far more momentous than whether I attended or not.

First of all Artistic Director Anne Demy Geroe who had been there since the first BIFF in 1991 stepped down at the beginning of 2010 to pursue a PhD in Iranian cinema at the University of Queensland, she now teaches at Griffith University various film classes. As a volunteer I had very little to do with Dr Gemy-Deroe or Ms as she was then but its undeniable the impact that her imprint on what BIFF was and is cannot be measured. BIFF suffered following her tenure and I noticed her last year in attendance at BIFF 2017 on opening night. It was good to see her there, it just wouldn’t be BIFF if she wasn’t there.

Other changes were in store in 2010, the festival moved from late July/early August to November and the Regent cinemas were no longer around so BIFF screened at Palace Centro and the new Palace Barracks cinemas and the Tribal Theatre over on George Street. When I was a young man, Tribal Theatre was owned by Dendy cinema but had come under new management. The Tribal Theatre actually had a long history of being a place to go for alternative cinema for Brisbanites but whatever plans the owners had, the Tribal Theatre is no longer with us. I have fond memories of Napoleon Dynamite, Bowling for Columbine and other films when it was Dendy and of seeing films for BIFF in 2010 year at Tribal. The Regent Cinemas I was even more sad to see go, in 2009 I signed a petition for them to be kept but petitions don’t always work. Money talks but here is but a reminder of what was lost albeit the grand foyer remains.

 

The 19th Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 4th to the 14th of November 2010 and featured 101 features and 51 shorts. Significantly down from say the 2005 program but still larger than the return of 2017. Some of the language in the program reflects changing times urging people to surrender their small screens and think big while also stressing that BIFF was going digital. Following earlier artistically vague and thematic posters from the past here there was a more direct reference to the Brisbane CBD and classic mainstream cinema. For the record the Opening Night film was Cane Toads: The Conquest and Closing Night film was Reign of Assassins starring Michelle Yeoh and as usual I attended neither. There were a lot of great things happening at BIFF 2010, a writer’s room showcase, a dive-in cinema showing Jaws and Deep Blue Sea over at Splash Leisure Fitness Centre, Monsters, The Room, The Dark Crystal, Winter’s Bone, a tribute to Jack Cardiff (I really wanted to see The Red Shoes), Lebanon. I would have loved to have seen those but there were four films we saw and they were as follows.

 

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COPACABANA: My first Gala screening at BIFF and my first screening at BIFF at Palace Barracks took place on Friday 12NOV2010 at 6:30pm. I went and saw the film with a group of friends including Karen and Karen B. Telling the story of a mother and daughter it starred the esteemed Isabelle Huppert as a free spirit who seeks to change her ways when she realises her daughter is so embarrassed by her – she has not invited her own mother to her wedding. Very French and very charming we all enjoyed the film. Standing outside on the walkway outside the cinema after the film it seemed to take forever until the food arrived and was carried around by staff on platters as we all sought to grab some and fill our bellies while also grabbing a glass of something. Eventually those small tasty morsels add up and we were close to full. Most of my screenings at BIFF were solitary experiences maybe with one other person. I note that here I was with a group, an experience that has been repeated at the Alliance Francois French Film Festival and the Italian Film Festival but not often at BIFF. Although I’ve never gone to a screening alone since 2008 and this would start with BIFF 2010. I also saw Andre again who had made his first feature.

 

RESTREPO: Karen and I saw this American documentary the next day at Palace Barracks 2, Saturday 4pm 13NOV2018. Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington made the film while embedded with a platoon from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in the Korengal Valley for a year. The war in Afghanistan was ongoing at the time and Australian casualties were seeing a sharp rise. Film Festivals can’t help but reflect what is going on in culture at the time. Restrepo was an outpost named after Private First Class Juan Sebastian Restrepo a platoon medic who was killed. While the Korengal Valley was one of the hotspots of the war at the time the film footage reflects the confusion and fast movements of combat. The enemy is seldom seen and its hard to always know what is going on. A lot of action involves indiscriminate sudden rounds coming in and the outpost responding in kind but never really knowing the result. Afghan civilians and attempts to build things with them are shown too but there’s a definitely a feeling of disconnect. For the soldiers it boils down to missing home and girls and just trying to get by day by day. The most haunting part comes during Operation Rock Avalanche where in the heat of battle a soldier finds one of his friends mortally wounded and breaks down sobbing and wailing like a little boy. The striking reality of combat for all to see. An important film that should be seen by many.

 

I LOVE YO PHILLIP MORRIS: From Restrepo we headed to Palace Centro 1&2? (seriously the program says both) at 9pm Saturday 13NOV2018 to watch this French/U.S. co-production which sports one of the best Jim Carrey performances and some of Ewan McGregor’s more admirable work of recent years. Carrey plays a gay conman and McGregor his true love whom he met in prison. Even these handful of years earlier it was seen as unusual for two mainstream stars to be playing gay men whereas now we might complain if the roles weren’t cast with gay actors. I found their love scenes authentic and moving, the relationship is sweet and non-explicit anyway. Carrey delivers a great performance nonchalantly narrating throughout some classic lines but also evoking a real sense of hurt and longing near the end. Based on the life of Steven Jay Russell it is an affecting character study but there is not much else to it. We’re sad the two men are apart, we marvel at some of Carrey’s antics but in the end a criminal is in jail for ripping people off. What drives someone to do that? The film offers no answers.

 

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK: It’s hard to pick a favourite from the films I saw at BIFF 2010 but it may just be this film which we saw at Tribal Theatre 2 on Sunday 14NOV2010 at 4pm. I didn’t know a lot about Joan Rivers before watching this except for some plastic surgery jokes. What I found was a comedian whose humour I admired. An example is how clearly the pain her husband’s suicide caused her and the jokes  she relentlessly she brought to bear about it at her own expense to win you you over by sheer willpower. Whether you like her comedy or not this is a stirring examination of a late in life comedian’s unwavering work ethic and a fantastic pondering of what makes somebody like that tick. One of my favourite later Roger Ebert reviews is about this film and David Letterman I feel spoke so eloquently about the appeal of Rivers upon her passing in the clip below.

 

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MELANCHOLIA: I got married in 2011 and would not be surprised if we didn’t attend BIFF that year but its possible we saw Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia at Palace Centro as part of BIFF. This was BIFF’s 20th Anniversary so it’s nice to think I was there. Maybe it was later when the film received national release. New to Lars Von Trier’s style I found the story of a woman (Kirsten Dunst in an exceptional and difficult performance) seeing the impending doom of the Earth haunting and thought provoking. I saw it with Karen and our friends Rosie and Sandro who I wrote about a hike we took together here Sandro was a man’s man but also very kind and respectful at all times. I miss him. BIFF increased it’s slate of films and partnerships in 2011 and saw an increase in attendance and box office. Then there was a change of government.

 

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THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY: In 2012 funds were tight but when I saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly would be screening on a big screen at BIFF, we found a way and saw it at Palace Centro cinemas. There’s not a lot more I can add about that classic except if you haven’t you really should. At the time Sergio Leone’s westerns with their sweaty faced protagonists seemed like a like a new type of realism in the 1960s. Now with the anti-hero firmly established in popular culture, the mythic qualities of the storyteller get more recognition. It’s hard to argue he made a better film than this one but Once Upon A Time In The West makes a good case. The later film about the West giving way to modern society and with it the men who populated it. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly capping off a trilogy of bandits and mercenaries is meditative about violence and death with the American Civil War serving as a backdrop. A transformative score from Ennio Morricone and great performances from Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.

I didn’t go to BIFF In 2013 even though money may have been less of an issue but the part time job did take up a lot of my time and energy. As it turned out this was the last Brisbane International Film Festival for some time. The Qld State Government cut funding through their organisation the Pacific Film & Television Commission (now Screen Queensland) which was mainly responsible for BIFF and in corralling several corporate sponsors. The Brisbane City Council stepped in and created the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival and a group of academics got together and created the Queensland Film Festival which is still going. This is very admirable but I’m afraid I attended neither, in the case of the former I was livid that BIFF had been stopped and effectively replaced by BAPFF. As late as mid-2017 I drew plans to write these series of posts to start an underground movement (not really?) to call for BIFF to be brought back and then a strange thing happened. They brought back BIFF. To be continued.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE YEAR THAT WAS 2017 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

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Following on from last year I’m doing a quick recap of stats for 2017 which I always find a little interesting. This year the site has seen a few changes, a lot of posts now refer to reviews I’ve had published elsewhere and don’t include screenshots or gifs from movies which may attract views. I don’t know. My stats have gone through the roof due to the large interest shown to a post I did on the movie The Founder which I think got placed on a site by WordPress that increased traffic to the post. At the same time I haven’t engaged with my fellow bloggers or sought to grow my blogging community and so you’ll see number of likes has decreased as a result. All I can say is I enjoy my current blogging community and the size of it and am grateful for their continued interest and I want to remain able to keep up with them semi-regularly and so don’t worry a lot about getting new followers. Always nice to grow though. I have some plans for 2018 but I had some plans for 2017 and not all of them came to fruition so we’ll just see what happens.

The United States retains the crown for most views this year, the United Kingdom comes second place after barely coming in third last year with Autralia now in third place. Congratulations to Canada who remains in fourth and has cracked over 1,000 views for the year. It was hard fought but Germany cracks the Top 5 this year. Spain, Brazil and France all fall out of the Top 10 this year. A post I wrote about a good man I knew who passed away saw an uptick in views from his homeland of Malaysia and one of his favourite countries in the world Japan. Goodbye Kelly Chen, you will are so obviously missed by so many far and wide. I’m particularly touched to see my post has resonated with those who knew him best. Any mention of Taika Watitti sees an uptick in New Zealand view. Congratulations to Indonesia and India who cracked the Top 10 this year, hope you’re enjoying the blog.

 

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                               9,126 Views
  2. The United Kingdom                                                                                              2,339 Views
  3. Australia                                                                                                                   1,848 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                      1,057 Views
  5. Germany                                                                                                                      166 Views
  6. Japan                                                                                                                            163 Views
  7. Indonesia                                                                                                                     120 Views
  8. New Zealand                                                                                                               113 Views
  9. India                                                                                                                             100 Views
  10. Malaysia                                                                                                                         92 Views

 

stats 2017

 

Out of 105 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. In 2017 this grew to 16,767 views (more than a third of which were for The Founder Review), 11,891 visitors, 1,240 Likes and 1,707 comments. This was helped in no small part thanks to the support and interest from my fellow bloggers.

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2017

  1. Ray Kroc…What An Asshole                                                                                5,992 Views
  2. Goodbye Kelly Chen and Thank You                                                                    303 Views
  3. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Lucy From Going In Style               187 Views
  4. Extras Who Add A Little Something – Kathy Larson and Missy Wolff           141 Views
  5. The Appropriately Titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back                                    131 Viewstime jack nothing reacher
  6. Review of Young Australian Filmmaker Shorts Available on Scenestr         127 Views
  7. Extras Who Add A Little Something – John B. Destry                                         112 Views
  8. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Dr Lamar from Gattaca                     89 ViewsRelated image
  9. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Stephanie from The Naked Gun      89 Views
  10. Star Character Actors: Stephen Tobolowsky                                                         85 Views
  11. Best Dressed Award Season 2017 Part I                                                                 85 Views
  12. The Mystery Blogger Award Nomination                                                               84 Views
  13. The Seven Ages of Clint Eastwood                                                                           80 ViewsImage result for honkytonk man clint eastwood
  14. The Long Overdue Film About Jadotville                                                               76 Views
  15. Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine                                                                             72 Views
  16. You Can’t Keep A Good Kong Down Even If You Should                                     72 Views
  17. Star Character Actors – J.T. Walsh                                                                            71 ViewsImage result for j.t. walsh young
  18. Over 1,000 Views for The Founder Review                                                            70 Views
  19. Major General John Cantwell – Hero, Veteran, Human Being                            69 ViewsImage result for major general john cantwell
  20. La La Land: A Modern Musical                                                                                 68 Views
  21. The Seven Ages of Harrison Ford                                                                             67 ViewsImage result for harrison ford WITNESS
  22. Spider-Man: Homecoming and Atomic Blonde Reviews Available at Buzz    66 Views
  23. My Favourite Films of 2016                                                                                       65 Views
  24. Minor Roles That Had A Major Impact – Jaguar Owner from Speed                 64 Views
  25. The Perspective of the Girl on The Train                                                                64 Views

As you can see the posts about extras and characters actors were very popular so I hope to bring them back in a way in 2018. Also I really liked the idea of doing the Seven Ages posts but unfortunately the time needed and the titles that have to be seen makes that challenging. Going through all the posts and figuring out what got most likes will simply take too long but please continue to like my posts if you like them because it is always a thrill for me when I see those little icons below the post. A lot of my posts were about reviews published elsewhere this year which seem to attract attention mostly from my long time core readers. Thank you very much for supporting me in these new ventures, it has meant a lot and I think also shows my editors that I do have an audience that I bring along with me. It really is appreciated.

For Your Consideration

Now it’s time for some shameless self-promotion where I point out reviews I’m very proud of from that year that you might want to check out. In going over the 105 posts for the year there were many I’m pleased with and glad found an audience but citing them seemed redundant. They are a time and place and people either read them then or will discover them later. Some of the posts I do on here now have become more personal whether it is me remembering BIFF or describing a recent holiday to Newcastle. 20171001_110615There are some reviews I’m proud of and some reviews I’m not. Yet again they either found an audience or they didn’t, people seemed to like the Tom Hanks Top 5 over at Heavy and had lots to say about my review of Dunkirk. My review for Queensland Ballet’s Raw and Hidden Figures at Scenestr will always have personal significance for me and I worked really hard for them to be good. I felt energised when writing about The Go-Betweens: Right Here than I was when writing about Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I enjoyed my list of Best Films for 2016 Image result for eye in the skyand look forward to doing one for 2017 once the bulk of Oscar releases arrive here in Australia. Come on Ladybird! I should take this opportunity to mention that 20th Century Women and Nocturnal Animals would have easily made the 2016 list if I had seen those movies at the time. I’m humbled to see the review of The Siege at Jadotville was met with approval from someone who’s father had served at Jadotville. If from my small corner of the internet someone has learnt a bit more about the Irish at Jadotville or the strength of Major General John Cantwell then that makes me very proud. In the end though I just want to say cite two pieces. The first is a review I did of the movie Fences, I just like my review which mentions something about one of my grandfathers. Image result for fences movieThe second… Many years ago I worked with a young man on the set of a film being shot on the Gold Coast named Vigilante. He passed away earlier this year and while I didn’t know him very well I was struck by thoughts of how he had lived his life. Not just personal career achievements but the measure of the man was in how he had treated others and enriched their lives. This is a legacy to aspire to and I tried to put into words my memories of him in a post. I would urge people to take a look if they haven’t. His name was Kelly Chen.

Well that’s another bunch of stats for another year. I would like to take this moment to thank you all for your continued support Pete, Cindy, GP, Don, Vinnie, Jay, Sean, Paul, Allen, John K, Michael, Jet, Eddie, Alex, Paol, Jordon, John R, SJS, DB, Emma, The Film Blog guy, Jersey Dreaming, Robin, Eric and anybody else who takes the time to read these posts. It would be helluva lot less fun without you all.

-Lloyd Marken

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MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2016

In the past 14 months if ticket stubs and memory is to be believed I saw 50 films in a cinema. 7 of them were released in 2015 for that year’s Oscar race even if I came to see them in Australia cinemas in early 2016; they were Youth, Steve Jobs, Spotlight, The Force Awakens, The Big Short, The Hateful Eight and Brooklyn. There were a handful films I saw more than once and they were mostly blockbusters Batman Vs. Superman, Rogue One and with far more enthusiasm Deadpool and after seeing The Force Awakens twice in December 2015 I went back for third, fourth and fifth helpings. There’s only one other film I’ve seen five times at the movies and back then I had a lot more diverse social circle. Whatever the flaws of Star War 7 and Deadpool there was real love and affection that drove me back to them to watch rather than waiting months for release on some other platform.

I didn’t see the well-received Australian made Hacksaw Ridge directed by Mel Gibson whose personal faults have never pushed me away from his work – I look forward to seeing his latest effort but weekend after weekend I shook my head and made a different choice or stayed at home. Hell or High Water is a different story, I wanted to see it but by the time I suspected it must have hit our shores I found out I had missed the boat by a couple of months when I was very busy with work. My best friend has the best tastes in popular culture and has led me to many a great film I would have ignored. He’s pointed out Your Name is one to see and fellow bloggers have also praised it. I hope to find out for myself soon. I am interested too in the collaboration of Isabelle Huppert and Paul Verhoeven with the film Elle. I’ve barely seen any foreign films and certainly none of the well regarded ones this year. Like Room from last year I’m interested in Manchester by the Sea but just don’t feel like seeing a movie that will make me more depressed at the moment.

So it seems silly to really sit here and write a list of my Favourite Films for the year. Yet I found it kind of interesting to see I’d written a review on my site of every film I’d seen in the cinema and two that were original content for Netflix. Films I hadn’t seen at the movies but were 2016 releases like Triple 9, Zootopia and The Secret Lives of Pets didn’t encroach on a hypothetical top 10 so why not rank them.

One final disclaimer, these are not the 10 best but my favourite films from the year. Yes I am trying to grade them on artistic merit but films that made me feel more are going to see their stocks rise and how I feel about them is going to link back to what appeals to me personally I’m afraid. In a way it’s easier to pick a Top 5 than a Top 10 because of this.

The 43 films were as follows and I’ll even belatedly throw in a star rating based off Ebert’s 4 Star system.

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The Founder January 18th 18 Likes 393 Views ***

 

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Published August 11th 24 Likes 99 Views ****

Eye in the Sky Published March 29th 8 Likes 96 Views ****

Bad Moms Published October 11th 14 Likes 66 Views ***

Deadpool Published March 17th 6 Likes 61 Views ****

Star Trek: Beyond Published August 20th 14 Likes 56 Views **1/2

Batman vs. Superman Published April 1st 7 Likes 56 Views ***

Sully Published September 27th 13 Likes 55 Views ***1/2

Suicide Squad Published August 26th 15 Likes 53 Views **1/2

 

Arrival Published February 8th 15 Likes 49 Views ***1/2

The Girl on the Train Published February 3rd 13 Likes 47 Views ***

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Published September 6th 12 Likes 47 Views ***

Jackie Published February 10th 12 Likes 46 Views ***1/2

Finding Dory Published August 20th 10 Likes 44 Views ***

Moonlight Published February 12th 15 Likes 42 Views ***1/2

La La Land Published February 2nd 13 Likes 42 Views ***1/2

Love and Friendship Published August 29th 14 Likes 41 Views ***

Ghostbusters (2016) Published August 20th 10 Likes 41 Views **

 

Fences Published February 18th 17 Likes 39 Views ***1/2

The Siege at Jadotville Published February 13th 14 Likes 39 Views ***

The Nice Guys Published August 10th 11 Likes 39 Views ***1/2

Eddie the Eagle Published April 23rd 7 Likes 39 Views ***

Hail, Caesar! Published April 20th 11 Likes 35 Views ***1/2

Office Christmas Party Published February 17th 10 Likes 34 Views **

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Published September 30th 14 Likes 34 Views ***

Jason Bourne Published August 25th 9 Likes 33 Views **1/2

Central Intelligence Published August 14th 14 Likes 32 Views **1/2

Captain America: Civil War Published May 27th 7 Likes 30 Views ***1/2

 

The Accountant Published February 9th 17 Likes 28 Views ***

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Published January 18th 13 Likes 25 Views **1/2

Alice Through the Looking Glass Published August 10th 12 Likes 24 Views **1/2

Zoolander No. 2 Published March 29th 2 Likes 24 Views **

Blair Witch Published January 18th 9 Likes 22 Views ***

X-Men Apocalypse Published September 29th 11 Likes 21 Views ***

The Boss Published April 22nd 4 Likes 21 Views **1/2

The Huntsman: Winter’s War April 21st 7 Likes 21 Views ***

Doctor Strange Published January 18th 11 Likes 20 Views ***

Sausage Party September 30th 9 Likes 20 Views **1/2

 

Rogue One Published January 13th 11 Likes 18 Views ***

Bridget Jones’s Baby Published January 18th 11 Likes 17 Views **1/2

Kung-Fu Panda 3 Published February 17th 7 Likes 13 Views **1/2

 

Hidden Figures ***1/2 Published at http://scenestr.com.au/news/movies-and-tv/hidden-figures-review-20170223

 

Out of them I’ll go into a bit more details about some that deserve an Honourable Mention and those that are my 10 favourite films of 2016 – for now.

 

Honourable Mentions

 

Image result for bad moms gifsBad Moms Published October 11th 14 Likes – 66 Views ***

The best popular mainstream gross out comedy of the year and centred around motherhood no less. After years of watching guys do it, it’s nice to see the girls proving they can be as irresponsible, self-centred and crazy as the boys. “Kunis, Bell and Hahn share a nice chemistry in this film with Kunis holding it all together as the lead, Bell doing some inspired physical comedy and Hahn stealing the show by doing whatever the hell she wants. A late scene where she explains motherhood to Kunis gives the film heart and a message. All the best gross out comedies have these two qualities. There’s been a few comedies released this year, none of them had the audience laughing as much as Bad Moms. Do yourself a favour.

 

Image result for siege at jadotvilleThe Siege at Jadotville Published February 13th 14 Likes – 39 Views ***

A company of Irish soldiers faced an onslaught of a far superior force in war torn Congo in 1961. Their heroics have been made into a film sparing no expense from Netflix. Knowing this really happened and what they received upon their return gives this movie depth and heart. “The Siege at Jadotville is a real throwback to old war movies that your Dad loved to watch on a Sunday. Modern production values are there and a dry Irish sense of humour bleeds through every now and again but the cast are mostly types not people, the soldier with glasses, the sniper (Sam Keeley as Billy Ready), the gruff old Sergeant (Jason O’Mara as Company Sergeant Jack Prendergast). Their emotive faces tell enough and Jamie Dornan acquits himself well as Commandant Pat Quinlan who as a person gets the most rounded out beside the exasperating political figures.

 

Eddie the Eagle Published April 23rd 7 Likes – 39 Views ***

Eddie the Eagle is cookie cutting filmmaking about sports and underdogs and yet it charms the hell out of you just like its hero. Eddie the Eagle was a very special underdog indeed and Taron Egerton gives a wonderful performance while Hugh Jackman charms as a gruff coach who didn’t exist in real life. “Eddie the Eagle implausibly showed up at the 1988 Winter Olympics as Britain’s sole Ski Jump competitor. His performance was so significantly behind the second last place getter that a new rule was instituted making it more difficult to place in the sport for the Olympics. There are those to this day who were embarrassed that he was there and confounded by his popularity. That’s because they don’t know what it’s like on that factory floor or in that office cubicle. Eddie had dreamed the impossible dream and we like dreamers. We need them, when they achieve something they keep our dreams alive. They make anything possible, thank you Eddie.

 

Batman vs. Superman Published April 1st 7 Likes – 56 Views ***

Both this blockbuster and Rogue One were flawed beyond belief but neither was boring and in light of the growing conveyor belt sameness of Marvel’s work and other disappointing blockbusters for the year I can’t help but reflect that the good stuff in these films should be recognised. Zack Snyder has created a dark downbeat nonsensical universe in his DC films which has completely missed the point of Superman as a hero. However Batman and Alfred Pennyworth yet again star on the big screen and play a new variation of their characters and relationship with humour, charm and action. The best fight scene with Batman ever put on screen is in this movie, it just doesn’t feature Superman. The hypocrisy of the ‘heroes’ actions and the comical motivations deflate the film but this is still a vision that is unique and oddly compelling. “Yet when he [Christopher Reeve as Superman] said “I never lie.” you not only believed it but you believed in the possibility and rightness of such a thing. He felt pain being belted into a building and outright desperation whenever Lois was threatened. Yet he was inherently good and awesome as a symbol too. Cavill strutting into the Senate hearing halfway through this film could’ve been an opportunity for Superman to say something but alas…

 

Related imageRogue One Published January 13th 11 Likes – 18 Views ***

Rogue One has a lot of good ideas that shed new light on the Rebel Alliance and the Empire from the original Star Wars. The ideas for all the characters are interesting too but barring the comic relief of Alan Tudyk as K-2SO they never become too emotionally involving. The technical proficiency of the action and special effects though shine throughout and the third act purely on a spectacle level maybe the most epic and satisfying of the year. “We are told who they are rather than shown half the time and when we are, we just don’t care. The plot is always moving from planet to planet and set piece to set piece that the characters themselves barely get a chance to interact and grow relationships. We know they are inherently good people and we do want them to succeed but we are not scared for their safety and that is a huge misgiving for this type of film.

 

Image result for the girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train Published February 3rd 13 Likes – 47 Views ***

A sexy thriller (seriously there’s like at least 4 or 5 sex scenes and they’re all sexy), that flirts with gender politics and has a mandatory neat twist. Elevated by the cast, none shines better than Emily Blunt who is on fine form here. “The film works strongest when dealing with perspective and prejudice, why do the other women stare at Megan in yoga class. Are they threatened by her beauty or do they know something about her character? Is she highly sexual or do others like to imagine so? Is she a victim, a manipulator or something more sinister?  The answer is of course the same it has always been, the same it has been for most men and women since time immemorial. She is not one thing or the other.

 

wtf tina fey whiskey tango foxtrot kim barker robert carlockWhiskey Tango Foxtrot Published September 6th 12 Likes – 47 Views ***

I sent an application to the United Nations once saying I wanted to go work in Afghanistan. I never got a reply. Watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot reminded me of a time and place I wished I’d found myself a part of even if I should have done a lot more than wish if that’s what I really wanted. When the call came for journalist Kim Barker she answered it and the resulting film about Kim Baker delights as a workplace war comedy starring the talented Tina Fey and allowing Margot Robbie and Christopher Abbott to shine in supporting roles. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot tells another story from the War on Terror, it invites us to laugh and then maybe to think but mostly the coda for the film is to live your life to the full, embrace the challenges, get through them and then move on and live your life the best you can now. Like in war. Operation Enduring Freedom ended on the 31st December 2014. US Troops remaining in Afghanistan serve as part of the ongoing Operation Sentinel’s Freedom.

 

Image result for jackie movieJackie Published February 10th 12 Likes – 46 Views ***1/2

Natalie Portman’s performance is on key throughout this challenging film which breaks down how a lot of the Kennedy myth was put together but may only truly be enjoyed by those who believe in the power of it for better or worse. A haunting moody piece about grief and how we react to it, the film is also slow paced at times but can’t be faulted for demanding full attention from its audience. “Grief stricken at the loss of a husband who cheated on her, cool and collected at times and at others almost hysterical certain facts long known but never pondered come forward. She held her husbands blasted apart head in her lap all the way to the hospital. What the hell does that do to someone? Less than a week later she marched through Washington with world leaders despite all kinds of security concerns that an assassin could target them again. She took her kids to the coffin and she trained her son to salute it with the whole world watching. Why was ensuring President Kennedy’s legacy so important in helping her grief for an imperfect man that she loved?

 

Related imageMoonlight Published February 12th 15 Likes – 42 Views ***1/2

Split into three distinct moments in one young man’s life, Moonlight shows clearly what legacy the action of loved ones can have on a child’s development. Despite the cost of bullying and betrayal that Chiron endures there is hope at the end of this story. Hope for his life is just beginning. “Left to fend for himself, a drug dealer named Juan notices him one day and befriends him. Why he feels compelled to do this is only hinted at but he is played by Mahershala  Ali whose performance looms over the rest of the film. He is the only positive male figure the boy nicknamed Little will ever have teaching him how to swim in one beautiful scene of the boy being cradled in his arms amongst the waves. This is a hard man who shows this boy nothing but gentleness, the most obvious answer to why is he immediately recognised something in Little of himself and wants to protect the innocence he has lost but this man is a criminal and there are limits to what he can do. Perhaps we’re all protective of children and their fragility, there is a scene where Chiron asks what a certain word his mother called him means and it kind of breaks your heart.

 

Image result for lala landLa La Land Published February 2nd 13 Likes – 42 Views ***1/2

Arguably the best looking film of the year, I wonder how much came from digital enhancement. With two winning lead performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who share fantastic chemistry the film delights with big musical numbers that make the best use of modern technology. Ambitiously adding subterfuge to his own movie writer/director Damien Chazelle also offers up a film about artistic ambition and the struggles that come with daring to dream. The ending was not expected but is powerful and heartbreaking. Suckers for perfect happy endings beware but hopefully at the very least this encourages Hollywood to make more musicals and one with the modern possibilities engaged here. “The film opens up on the disused freeway ramp where parts of Speed were shot with an impromptu dance number by many stuck in LA traffic with a one take tracking shot over several vehicles and choreographed dancers. It’s kinda awesome but has little to do with what the rest of the film will be about.

 

THE TEN

 

10. Captain America: Civil War Published May 27th 7 Likes – 30 Views ***1/2

When you’re the big dog, people like to kick you if they smell opportunity and Marvel have become so successful it’s tempting to take for granted what they do except nobody else seems to be doing it nearly as well. There are missed opportunities, there’s no distinct visual style here and we suspect a little too easily that everything is going to be alright no matter what the stakes. Yet these guys always bring it back to the characters and never more so than here. Everything Captain America does here is for a childhood friend who he served together with in war and thought was long dead. Tony Stark well you’ll have to see the film but this plays off eight years of world building throughout the franchise and nobody else is doing that with their franchises. They lack the patience and they lack the heart. Plus that airport scene.”Which is fine because the film is not really about the Sokovia Accords, it is about Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and what lengths Steve Rogers will go to protect his friend and fellow veteran while at the same time Tony Stark is trying to protect the Avengers as best he can. Stark and Rogers have always been at odds with their contrasting personalities and world view points. There is an extra layer there in the sense that Rogers is partially a creation of Howard Stark’s and a friend of Tony’s Dad. He’s perversely both father figure and rival son for Stark Senior’s approval. The ground work for this had been laid previously and in this film finally gets paid off.

aliens scifi spaceship arrival9. Arrival Published February 8th 15 Likes – 49 Views ***1/2

Arrival is a thoughtful blockbuster about the need for us to communicate better with each other and with the outside world. A film that plays with the concepts of time as it tells a simple universal story of hope, fear, love and loss. Oh yeah there’s aliens in it too. “It feels right and real that contacts with aliens would be set up in a tent city with dimly lit rooms and the lime green shading of a hospital full of tired middle aged bureaucrats questioning each other’s ideas on a regular basis. The aliens themselves are always seen with a sense of wonder (their design is original and interesting too), how to get to them starts off in a simple fashion but is suitably otherworldly and unnerving.

Image result for fences movie8. Fences Published February 18th 17 Likes – 39 Views ***1/2

This is a hard movie to watch at times but it always feels real even if set bound like the stage play it originally was. There are rich themes about mortality, legacy, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, infidelity and the history of race in America. The central character is hard to watch at times, hard to understand, hard to forgive and we share in that challenge as audience members with the characters around him who are part of his life. This is writing and performing of the highest level and Denzel is so good as Troy Maxson but it is Viola Davis in one powerful moment articulating the limits and trials and hopes and dreams of 1950s housewives everywhere that is devastatingly beautiful and painful that makes this film such a must see. “As the film goes on Maxson inhabits scenes he‘s not even in, after watching him with his family throughout we grow to feel some of their emotions. As he winds up for another lecture we shake our heads at the repetition and the lack of self-awareness and yet when he’s gone we feel the lack of his presence as keenly as the family does. We understand perhaps that for better or worse we are who are fathers made us and whether they did us proud or said they loved us we want to make them proud and we do love them.

7. Hail, Caesar! Published April 20th 11 Likes – 35 Views ***1/2

A movie for people who love the movies made by people who love movies too. Set in 1950s America there are parallels to today’s world, call-backs to the type of films old Hollywood produced and that wonderful intelligent witty dialogue that we’ve come to expect from the Coen brothers. Plus look out for Alden Ehrenreich who steals the show and whose star is on the rise. As a film buff I loved it. ” Yet this is not a film that exclusively looks back with rose tinted glasses, the Red menace of the Cold War evokes the same fear that ISIS does now, there is a Latino starlet Carlotta Valdez (Veronica Osorio) hoping for the same opportunities afforded her white co-stars, this is the era of McCarthy which may remind us a little that we now tear ourselves apart with political tribalism and humming in the background when Hollywood is in the final bloom of its Golden Age is the advent of stars demanding more and television only a few years away threatening the revenue streams that were taken for granted.

6. The Nice Guys Published August 10th 11 Likes – 39 Views ***1/2

What a year for Ryan Gosling, in La La Land he sang and danced and proved Emma Stone and him should make another five films together. Nominated for an Academy Award for La La Land, his best performance this year gone is as a washed up Private Investigator, flawed father and comic relief to tough guy Russell Crowe. He is fearless in this film at being funny and get the word out because we need more movies like this. A tough fun throwback to the period it is set in of 1970s film noir by writer/director Shane Black. “Crowe with his impish smile and easy charm points to possibilities, the film’s best scene maybe in a park late at night with Healy talking to the younger Ms. March. She tells him you’re not a bad person and the look on Crowe’s face says he wants her to believe it.

5. Sully Published September 27th 13 Likes – 55 Views ***1/2

Sully has a lean runtime as it is but in search of drama they beefed up the PTSD angle of the flight crew and positioned the crash investigative team as antagonists. It might have been more interesting to go into more detail of his wife’s story or that of the flight attendants relayed in Sullenberger’s memoir but no matter. Whatever its flaws, Clint Eastwood has directed the best action set pieces of 2015 – yeah you fucking heard me. I wept not one tear for Jyn Erso or Batman but when that ferry arrived at the wing I felt my face crack. As someone who has read a lot about the story, the things that he got right honour so many who lived through this on that fateful day. It’s an extraordinary story rendered justice and pathos on the big screen by two of America’s icons. Eastwood and Tom Hanks. “Sully is an American hero. We should cherish that simple reassuring fact until the end of time that such things can be true and real in this day and age. Yet Chelsey Sullenberger is also a man, a quiet professional of considerable skill and talent but a human being with flaws and doubts like the rest of us. Clint Eastwood’s film accepts both these truths can co-exist but has something to say about how each responded to the events of January 15, 2009.

4. Hidden Figures Published February 24 at Scenestr ***1/2

Hidden Figures is a Hollywood rendering of an important story of bright African American women who broke down career barriers and overcame racial prejudice in a volatile time for America socially. With a rocking soundtrack from producer Pharrell Williams, great humour and pathos there are scenes that may not have played out like this in real life but they’re satisfying and emotionally moving. “Whether it is Costner smashing down a segregated toilet sign, Parsons comically reeling at Henson’s insight or a several female calculators led by Spencer marching into the new computer room to run it. Contrived though it may be, it is uplifting storytelling and aspiring for young girls out there interested in science and maths that have been wrongly told that’s not their strong suit.

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople Published August 11th 24 Likes – 99 Views ****

Every year there’s always a film that surprises you and comes out of nowhere to become one of your favourites. A story of one boy camping out in the New Zealand wilderness with his ‘uncle’ the film boasts a great sense of humour, wild characters, an involving family unit in flux and the best car chase ever put to film in New Zealand. “His name is Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), he’s a big kid who’s had it a bit rough, he’ll tell you he doesn’t care about anything, ready to argue with anybody who puts him down and he’s constantly using words from pop culture to describe himself as a bad-ass street kid. Aunt Bella sees right through him in 10 seconds flat. A home maybe the most important thing you can give a child and by that I don’t mean a nice house to live in. Bella (Rima Te Wiata) lives with Hec (Sam Neil) who was a wanderer who used to live in the woods before he met her. Kids are not the only ones who need a good place to call home.

2. Deadpool Published March 17th 6 Likes – 61 Views ****

We don’t get great blockbusters as much as we like to think; the superhero genre has been with us for a while now and needed a shake-up. A film like Deadpool made against the odds cannot be celebrated and praised enough no matter how much money it makes. This was hands down the most fun I had at the movies last year, witty and meta in a way I could only have dreamed about in the past with well-made action sequences and characters who had well defined and believable relationships. A gem. “T.J. Miller as Wilson’s best friend Weasel has his moments which are a bit like his comedy. His acceptance speech at the Critic’s Choice Awards last year was awesome but the guy just doesn’t always do it for me and that’s true here too. I suppose since this is a review I should probably be more articulate in my opinion of Miller but  I really would rather write about how amazingly hot Jennifer Garner is. I mean seriously those cheekbones, that smile. By the way Jenny there was absolutely nothing wrong with the black one.

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1. Eye in the Sky Published March 29th 8 Likes – 96 Views ****

It turns out the first great film of 2016 was for me the greatest film of 2016. Released so long ago it never had a shot at the Oscar race the fact remains this is a near perfect film dealing with current discussion points about drone warfare, counter terrorism and the intertwining of the battlefield with politics. It boasts the late great Alan Rickman’s final performance but the film belongs to Helen Mirren as military commander ordering a strike and Aisha Takow playing a little girl selling bread on a street corner in Kenya. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

Well as always thank you for reading and I encourage you to mention in the comments your favourite films of the year and why. As Oscar nears it’s interesting to note how many of the Ten are not in contention at that ceremony. Of those that are, I found this video about them from Screen Junkies very amusing.

-Lloyd Marken

THE SEVEN AGES OF CLINT EASTWOOD

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

-William Shakespeare

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Hello and welcome to the first edition of The Seven Ages of where we will be discussing Clint Eastwood.

A few things to keep in mind, inspired by Shakespeare’s words I am endeavouring to relate the trajectory of a career and lifetime of an artist through these seven ages. Whether it is where the actor was in their career and where the character was in their life will be the criteria.

I’ll admit it was hard for me to decipher what each age would be about and found the website Quora most helpful to that end. By all means check them out.
Effectively for the purposes of these posts the Seven Ages will refer to these criteria.

  1. Infant – This could be an early role of little note when the actor just got their foot in the door or their first starring role.
  2. Schoolboy – Yearning for freedom and adventure but still reliant on the protection of their elders. Perhaps where the actor shows raw talent or does a terrible film or still works under a more esteemed mentor. If not fresh faced and young then still a relatively new quantity to the audience.
  3. Lover- I think Shakespeare intended this age to reflect lust, hot air and a lack of awareness that comes with youth. For the sake of this I might consider that or just put it down to their most romantic role.
  4. The Soldier – Essentially the age while still relatively young somebody decides on their code and goes out into the world to conquer it and being highly competitive to do it too. For an actor this maybe the moment where they truly define a persona for themselves that will stick. If they’re already a star it might be where they re-invent themselves and perhaps not without controversy.
  5. The Justice – maybe the height of someone’s stardom where they’re aged but established. Powerful even if coasting on their achievements from when they were the age of the soldier. Reflection comes to them too now and with it wisdom.
  6. Pantalone – Now the inevitable decline begins. Still in the world but it is passing them by. For a star who is smart this will often seem them partnered with a new up and comer or Lover or Schoolboy if you will.
  7. Old Age – For most actors this may be a pitiful last appearance which only embarrasses old memories or it may be a performance of a character at this stage of life. At death’s door what will be their parting wisdom, their learned lesson?

This hopefully will be an ongoing series and I fully intend to do Gene Hackman (as soon as I see Night Moves and I Never Sang for My Father, c’mon Netflix Australia!), stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Bogie, Hepburn, Tracey, Fonda, Grant and actresses like Sigourney Weaver, Shirley Maclaine and Meryl Streep. I chose Clint Eastwood straight up because there are few films of his that I haven’t seen and I would prefer someone over 70. Please note these seven ages refer to Eastwood and his acting performances. You could do a whole other one of him as director. This is also not a list of his best films or my favourites otherwise Firefox would be in there. If you think other ones will be a better pick for an age feel free to chime in. Do you have a landmark role for each decade Eastwood has been on the big screen? Let’s dig in.

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1. Infant – A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Early films of no note include Eastwood playing a jet pilot in Tarantula. The TV series Rawhide made Eastwood a star as drover Rowdy Yates. I’ve seen neither. Clint Eastwood the movie star began with the Dollars trilogy and they begin with A Fistful of Dollars. A remake of Yojimbo, Eastwood starred as The Man with No Name (well marketing would have you believe anyway) riding into a border town and using the rivalry between two crime families to his own advantage. An immoral anti-hero, outnumbered, fearless, barely speaking and scowling a lot behind cigar smoke to add to the mystery. When people do impersonations of Eastwood they’re channelling everything he did in this performance. He picked the items for his costume in Beverly Hills before leaving for Europe already an assertive collaborator but Eastwood the man tipped his hat to directors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel later in Unforgiven, he learnt from them and it all started here at the infancy of his career.

Runners Up: Tarantula, Rawhide, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Dirty Harry.

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2. Schoolboy – Dirty Harry (1971)

Don Siegel directed Clint Eastwood in four movies, encouraged him in his own aspirations to direct and with Dirty Harry gave him a new kind of iconic role that didn’t involve him riding a horse into town. In Eastwood, Siegel got a star like no other and this was the apex of their collaborations. Before Dirty Harry Eastwood is making the genre rounds after Leone, a cop thriller here, a war movie there and even a musical. Afterwards Eastwood has his second massive hit and starts to control more of his career. As far as characters go there’s nothing childish or self-pitying about Lt Harry Callahan but there is idealism albeit not a very conventional one. Dirty Harry keeps bending the rules because he wants to protect the innocent and stop the criminals. We may not agree with the tearing up of civil rights but he in his own way believes in a better world. Lt Callahan could right the wrongs we couldn’t’, punish the attackers we feared, tell the bureaucrats where to go. Pure fantasy, a movie star persona all the way.

Runners Up: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Beguiled, Coogan’s Bluff, Where Eagles Dare, Paint Your Wagon, Kelly’s Heroes.

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3. Lover- The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Like all tough guy stars the romantic roles are few and far between for Mr Eastwood even after all these years. He’s explored sexuality for sure often with strong women threatening him in The Beguiled. Tightrope questioning men’s lesser base natures and conversely the need to protect their women. Close to two decades before Fatal Attraction came out, Eastwood himself made a film about a one night stand gone awry in Play Misty for Me. Clint shared warm chemistry with a dozen female co-stars not the least of which was real life love Sondra Locke.

Yet when I think romance and Clint Eastwood I think about that old man standing in the rain at a service station smiling. Clint was 65 in that film, fans of the book probably would have had him as their last choice to play photographer Robert Kincaid but he’s perfect in it. Robert is on assignment in rural Iowa to photograph some bridges and strikes up a relationship with housewife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) while her family is away. Passionate and tender like he’d never allowed himself to be on screen before. Streep famously related a story where he turned away from the camera in one scene. “No they can’t see the tear.” He said of his audience and yet we know it’s there and we’re right there with him.

Runners Up: Play Misty for Me, The Beguiled, Heartbreak Ridge, Tightrope.

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4. The Soldier – The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

You could argue the Dollar films were Eastwood establishing himself or Dirty Harry or High Plains Drifter. There is one film though that I think shows Eastwood as a full entity in his own right with still white hot ambition. In a career of great films and great performances The Outlaw Josey Wales might be it. Eastwood still plays him as a superman able to outdraw 3 men at once, fearless again with a mean streak of humour but maturity is creeping in. The story goes that Wales is a simple farmer who loses his family and fights in the border clashes of the U.S. Civil War. While an invincible superman the realities of war and loss surround him and the family he mourns come to be replaced by another forcing Wales to admit on some level he is still capable of love and vulnerability. It’s interesting to note that Wales cannot win the day without said family. Eastwood is pushing his boundaries here and one could argue he never made a better film than this. Coincidentally Wales the character is a soldier of a sort.

Runners Up: Dirty Harry, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Play Misty for Me, High Plains Drifter, Heartbreak Ridge.

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5. The Justice – Honkytonk Man (1982)

The biggest movie star in America for many years Eastwood always had a great grasp of his star persona and long before Unforgiven he would like to play different takes on it. Bronco Billy’s cowboy was shoe salesman case in point, Sudden Impact put Harry Callahan in the position of bringing a rape victim to justice. In Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Eastwood played well a worn down bank robber given a new leash of life from Jeff Bridges. In Heartbreak Ridge at the height of Rambomania he made a service comedy that got the danger of combat and tasked his ultra-macho Marine with finding a better way to express his love for a woman as retirement loomed. You don’t need Grenada in that movie, he’s not teaching his platoon to win wars he’s teaching them to be good men. Anybody who’s been through military training will understand the power of that.

Yet what was the most personal film he ever made at the height of his star power? During the Great Depression Eastwood as a boy drove around with his family as they looked for work. In adapting Clancy Carlile’s novel Honkytonk Man Eastwood shows us a similar time and journey, telling us the story of Whit ‘Hoss’ Stovall accompanying his Uncle Red during the Great Depression as Red, a singer, attempts to make it to the Grand Ole Opry. Eastwood sings in the movie and there are plenty of slapstick adventures along the way kind of like a boy’s own adventure. Kyle Eastwood (coached a little by Locke) acts damn well opposite his father projecting wide eyed naiveté and worldliness about how imperfect his Uncle is. A scene late at night in the car involves one of those late night drive conversations you might have with an elder and how many regrets and lost loves will stick with you down through the years. Eastwood felt no need to apologise for this film in any way, there’s no real action or bell and whistles. It’s a character piece and maybe Clint Eastwood’s best performance as a man….just a man like the rest of us with hopes, dreams, frailties and Marys we could have done more right by.

Runners Up: The Dead Pool, Sudden Impact, Unforgiven, In the Line of Fire, Heartbreak Ridge, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, White Hunter Black Heart, Pale Rider.

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6. Pantalone – In the Line of Fire (1993)

Eastwood segued nicely into playing older men with reduced abilities happy to share the spotlight with younger co-stars or make fun of the cop genre Callaghan spawned. In Unforgiven he took everything he knew about his persona and the Western and turned them on their head. Showing a gunslinger in reduced ability that may have only ever had it because he was fearless when drunk. Yet it is a treatise on his career and more impressive for his directing than his acting. For me In the Line of Fire is the performance I’m more drawn to for this age. Eastwood saves the day in his first scene every bit the movie star persona as Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan. Soon though we see that façade fall, the criminal he is trying to stop played by John Malkovich outwits him at every turn and is always one step ahead of him. Horrigan never proves smarter than his antagonist throughout the whole film. In a few moments Eastwood even shows Horrigan clearly afraid of him and afraid of death. It makes the Agent’s choices in the finale that much more powerful. Physically Eastwood who has always kept himself in good shape allows himself here to be seen old, napping, sweating and lonely in his little old apartment even as he tries to talk like a man on the make with a woman half his age in fellow agent Lilly Raines played by Rene Russo. He doesn’t even get to win arguments against bureaucrats anymore. Yet Eastwood the star is more compelling with his vulnerabilities not in spite of them and when the time comes to squint those eyes and shoot straight you better not bet against Clint!

Runners Up: Unforgiven, Absolute Power, True Crime, Bloodwork, The Rookie, Million Dollar Baby, Honytonk Man, Bronco Billy, Space Cowboys.

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7. Old Age – Gran Torino (2008)

Million Dollar Baby haunts like few films can. Easily one of Eastwood’s best in the past year and with a character in Eastwood who is full of regrets and seldom few things to look forward to but if there is a message about life it is given by Hilary’s Swank’s Maggie and Eastwood as director. For a last great performance from a man who is facing death, lost a great deal and imparts one final wisdom then it is the character of Walt Kowalski. A Korean War veteran, retired auto factory worker and widow Walt is quickly becoming isolationist in his demeanour and circumstances. The neighbourhood he lives in has changed, the values he was raised on have been left behind, the family he provided for have no time for his harsh words and stern judgement. Then he is forced into action to protect others and finds himself re-engaged in the world, he finds purpose again and community and with it vulnerability. If Eastwood was afraid to show his tears a decade earlier in Madison Country here he goes for it and after a lifetime of playing violent avengers Walt finds a new way to stop the cycle continuing to spin that requires more courage than raising a gun.

Runners Up: Million Dollar Baby, The Trouble with the Curve, Pink Cadillac.

Well feel free to let me know what your picks would have been in the comments below and thanks for reading.

-Lloyd Marken

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SULLY: THE MAN IN THE AIR

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Sully is an American hero. We should cherish that simple reassuring fact until the end of time that such things can be true and real in this day and age. Yet Chesley Sullenberger is also a man, a quiet professional of considerable skill and talent but a human being with flaws and doubts like the rest of us. Clint Eastwood’s film accepts both these truths can co-exist but has something to say about how each responded to the events of January 15, 2009.

On January 15, 2009 Flight 1549 took off from La Guardia airport in New York City. At 2,000 feet before levelling out of ascent multiple birds struck the aircraft disabling both engines immediately. They never got higher than 2,800 feet with the major urban population of New York City beneath them. In 200 seconds the plane had landed on the Hudson river, a feat of piloting in itself which was truly extraordinary. From the point that the plane hit the water to the point where all survivors were on the pier was 24 minutes. To have had anybody survive such a landing would have been remarkable. It was in the dead of winter in the northern hemisphere, the conditions meant that the odds of at least somebody perishing were extremely high. Five individuals were injured or hospitalised but no one perished. All 155 souls on board survived the water landing and immediately the story of the Miracle on the Hudson raced across the world. The incident was the inverse of September 11, 2001. An incident involving an aircraft and New York City where good prevailed, professionalism and heroism saved the day, people were rescued not murdered.

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At the centre of it all an airline pilot who had served in the United States Air Force, a Texan who had learnt to fly at 16 in a crop duster over clear prairie skies and had that cool 70s moustache from the golden age of air travel. In other words-America. Knee deep in casualty reports from Afghanistan and Iraq, and the fall out from the Global Financial Crisis here was the story New York, America and the world could feel good about. The movie Sully understands this but also understands that the word survivor is not used randomly, everybody on board went through an ordeal and they would happily have never gone through it if given the choice.

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Saying Tom Hanks portrayal here is his most low key does not give credit to his Captain John H. Miller or Jim Lovell but Sully is a very shy man at heart and Hanks embodies that. Not a perfect physical match for the real man American’s favourite everyman movie star was the inevitable choice and the role comes at the right moment for his age and in his career. There could’ve been more interesting choices but none better. The rest of the cast is superb, Aaron Eckhart is so laid back as co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles that it may be taken for granted how good his performance is. Looking more like his real life counterpart than Hanks, Eckhart is laidback but more expressive than his co-star. Skiles had only just qualified on the Airbus but was a Captain in his own right demoted due to airline cutbacks (basically experienced and overqualified for the job he was doing). A lot of focus and attention has gone the way of the man who said “My aircraft” and took the controls and not much to the co-pilot and Skiles has weathered that with good humour and grace but Sully will be the first to tell you there were two men in that cockpit that day and both did their jobs superbly. I was pleased to see Skiles as a buttress of support in this film and a calm assertive figure in the narrative. Watch a scene where Skiles makes it easy for Sully to meet him downstairs. Eckhart is so natural as the character that beneath a brown moustache long term fans of the actor have failed to recognise him. Possibly too low key for an Oscar run hopefully some lauded film critics society will tap Eckhart for his performance here and give him an award.

 

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Eastwood always an actor at his best when dialled down gets similar performances form a wealth of character actors including Molly Hagan, Ann Cusack, Jamey Sheridan, Valerie Mahaffey but Laura Linney who shined against type in Mystic River is wasted here. Reduced to playing scenes of calling each other across the other side of the country Hanks and Linney do well. We get that his wife is part of his strength, we feel their isolation and we see how disruptive the investigation and media attention was to the family. These scenes convey a lot that is important to know but they are conventional wife scenes in these kinds of films. It would be fair to suspect there was more to it in real life; Sully’s wife is in her own right a strong, layered and inspiring woman. Image result for sully filmYou won’t get half of that from this film and that’s nothing against Linney. Faring not much better are the air hostesses who played the biggest role in evacuating the plane in a timely and safe manner. Their professionalism is conveyed in telling body language. As the lights fade out in the plane they move forward with a smile telling people to keep their seatbelts on before surmising to each other we’re turning back. But blink and you’ll miss just how important it was that Doreen Welsh (Molly Hagan a long way from Herman’s Head) wounded by the crash with water streaming into the back of the plane got passengers to turn around head out through the forward exits. More justice is done to the calm professional and earnest work done by FAA Air Traffic Control Specialist Patrick Harten. Harten’s scenes are done with minimal fuss and lots of close ups on the actor Patch Darragh. Calm, professionalism, minimal. Those words get used a lot to describe the actions and demeanour of people in a crisis who come through. It’s difficult to not repeat them throughout a review of this film or a recollection of this story. These people were calm and professional and did their jobs with a minimum of fuss.

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As filmmaker Clint Eastwood’s films often bear these hallmarks too, the ‘action’ sequences cut all music, bear few flourishes with camera movement but have a grounded real world approach. Compare the nightmare Sully has at the beginning to the actual water landing later in the picture. There is no music played, the insides of the aircraft have been painstakingly recreated to be as true to what was there on the day as possible. The effect is to put you in that moment as best they can and to not do anything that will remind you – you are watching a film. Weeks after Suicide Squad, it is a joy to see effects in service to story and action that is both moving and involving. If the special effects house has done a decent if not mind blowing recreation of the flight then several practical effects cannot be faulted. Considering how difficult it is to recreate such a scene that few saw the achievement of the effects is in keeping with the tone of the film.

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Clint Eastwood is 86 years old this year and it’s fair to suggest maybe that every film he makes he is putting forward his views on the world as a parting message. The director has been doing that since at least Unforgiven and maybe even all the way back to Play Misty for Me and he’s rebelled against expectations again and again. White Hunter Black Heart was not a jovial biopic about a beloved Hollywood director making his greatest film, at the height of Rambo mania Heartbreak Ridge was mostly a service comedy and surprisingly romantic, Gran Torino which promised Eastwood reclaiming his star persona had something to say about the cyclical nature of violence and Million Dollar Baby was not just a heart-warming sports movie. Sully is not just about two pilots landing a passenger jet on a river. Clint Eastwood is not a director known for his subtlety but his images have haunted throughout the years. He chooses exactly the second the first ferry arrived to rescue the first passenger off the wing to play music. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre I attended at that moment, subtle can be overrated sometimes. Hanks plays Sully’s relief at hearing the magical number of survivors in the hospital with a noticeable turn of his face and holding back tears. Yet look afterwards when Hanks walks over to a window and holds his tie around his shoulders like a man finishing a long day at the office.  Image result for sully and skilesSee Eastwood line up a shot of Hanks ascending the ferry stairs with the plane in the background. Some of these choices are more nuanced and when they are not they are truly moving. The adults are making a blockbuster today kids so just sit back down and learn a thing or two.

A couple of themes resonate, Eastwood celebrates the human factor of what the cockpit crew did, when technology failed them, rather than going through the PAM or worrying about the odds Sullenberger ‘eyeballed’ it. Eastwood wants to celebrate a man making the call in the heat of the moment and backing himself and places the Safety Board investigating the landing as villains who don’t know what it is to have been there. Their hard 180 reverses throughout the film are the kind of black hat obviousness that Eastwood is famous for, you may recall how repugnant Hilary Swank’s family was in Million Dollar Baby.

Eastwood also plays up the dichotomy of a man being celebrated in the media as a hero as he is being torn apart behind closed doors with his reputation, pension, career and life’s work on the line while trying to quietly endure post-traumatic stress. You get the sense despite Katie Couric’s presence that Eastwood doesn’t think much of the media. At one point a journalist stands on the river and reports live to the camera that the people on the plane located behind him “Have minutes to live.” It’s a subtle dig by Eastwood standards but the message is clear “Look at you standing there doing nothing.” Theodore Roosevelt once said “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly.

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Eastwood clearly celebrates Sully as the man in the arena but he places alongside him Skiles, Welsh, Donna Dent, Diane Higgins, Harten, the ferry crews, every passenger on that plane, the members of the NYPD, FDNY and USCG, the nurses, doctors and ambulance staff. The best of New York, of America, of humanity. These are things to be cherished and not to be lost as people who grew up in dustbowls, defeated Nazis and built the jet age give way to a generation who have never known the Middle East without war, the proliferation of unstable employment, reduced economic growth and social isolation. The world is troubled, as it was and always will be but we can meet any challenge if we remember who we are. At our best we’re Chesley Sullenberger and his team. Heroes.

-Lloyd Marken