LLOYD’S RECAP OF THE FILMS OF 2018 AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

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New Year’s Eve I was scrambling to get a submission in for HEAVY Magazine which I have been contributor for since April 2017. I’m not always able to be as prolific as I would like but a chance to contribute as one of their film reviewers to a recap of the year’s films was too good to miss out on. Similar to how I feel honoured to contribute to end of year countdowns for X-Press magazine. I’ll of course be putting together my annual Favourite Films of the Year later on in 2019 but this will give you an idea of who is in the running at the moment for a Top 10 entry. You can find the post here https://heavymag.com.au/a-re-cap-of-the-films-of-2018/

I hope you enjoy and feel free to comment or give any social media love.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE YEAR THAT WAS 2018 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

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My sister and I on her wedding day. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Five years on from my very first post and how time flies. I’m very grateful for my blogging community which has grown my confidence and given me an outlet I desperately needed in my life. As is customary I am doing a quick recap at the end of the year. In 2018 a lot of old posts proved more popular than my new posts. The new posts  for the most part act as links to where I am published elsewhere occasionally offering some behind the scenes info in a more informal manner. I will only be listing posts published this year.

America is still No.1 in terms of readership, Australia has retaken No.2 from the UK and Canada remains in fourth place as always. Cracking the Top 5 this year is India with newcomer Hong Kong making a strong showing in the latter half of 2018 and reaching No. 6. Germany which had a grip on N.5 for most of the year slips to No. 7 and Japan, New Zealand and Malaysia leave the Top 10. In No. 8 France returns to the Top 10, the Philippines makes if for the first time in No. 9 and holding on to a Top 10 position is Indonesia as the country with the tenth most views. Overall there were less views from the U.K. and Canada but more views from the rest of the Top 10 countries with all 10 cracking triple digits in number of views. Which I guess makes for a more diverse readership.

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                               9,519 Views
  2. Australia                                                                                                                   1,898 Views
  3. The United Kingdom                                                                                              1,714 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                         685 Views
  5. India                                                                                                                             361 Views
  6. Hong Kong SAR China                                                                                               200 Views
  7. Germany                                                                                                                      188 Views
  8. France                                                                                                                          113 Views
  9. Philippines                                                                                                                  108 Views
  10. Indonesia                                                                                                                     106 Views

 

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Out of the 108 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. In 2018 much to my surprise we stayed steady at 16,706 views and 12,185 visitors with the site receiving 1,091 likes and 1,046 comments. There has been a slight downtick in liking and commenting of posts which makes sense since my focus is less intense on growing my blogging community and some fellow bloggers have given the game away. One thing about the results strongly supports an idea I have of where to put my energies next. Overall I just want to say again how much it means to me to have my core group and how much I appreciate anybody who reads and enjoys the blog.

 

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2018

 

  1. INTERVIEW WITH GRAVITY AND OTHER MYTHS MEMBER JASCHA BOYCE AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                                                                                        75 Views
  2. ROCKET MAN – PRELUDE                                                                                           58 Views

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    Copyright Lloyd Marken
  3. ROCKET MAN – THE WEDDING OF THE YEAR                                                       57 Views
  4. MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2017                                                                                52 Views
  5. I WAS A NINTH DEGREE BLACK BELT NARCISSIST                                             50 Views
  6. I LIKE PADDINGTON 2 TOO                                                                                       45 Views
  7. THE YEAR THAT WAS 2017 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS                        44 Views
  8. CUCKOO FOR COCO                                                                                                     42 Views
  9. BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART I                                                               40 ViewsBIFF 2008
  10. 100 POSTS PUBLISHED                                                                                               38 Views
  11. ROCKET MAN – THE RETURN COMMUTE                                                               38 Views
  12. A QUIET PLACE REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                                          38 ViewsScenestr77
  13. ‘LORD OF THE FLIES’ BY BEENLEIGH THEATRE GROUP REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                                                                                                                      37 Views
  14. INTERVIEW WITH ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL DIRECTOR PHILIPPE PLATEL AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                                                      36 Views
  15. MY NAME IS MAURICE MICKLEWHITE, NOW THERE’S NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT KNOW THAT                                                                                                      35 Views
  16. ‘CHER: HERE WE GO AGAIN’ BRISBANE OPENING NIGHT REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR MAGAZINE                                                                                                34 Views

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    Copyright Lloyd Marken
  17. TOP 10 FILMS OF 2018… SO FAR LIST… AVAILABLE AT X-PRESS MAGAZINE                                                                                                                    34 Views
  18. BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2007 PART II                                                             34 Views
  19. I, TONYA REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                                                      34 Views
  20. COVER STORY ON CHUCK NORRIS AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                         33 Views
  21. ROCKET MAN – AN AUSTRALIAN IN LONDON                                                      33 Views

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    Copyright Lloyd Marken
  22. ROCKET MAN – THE CANTON ROUTE                                                                      33 Views
  23. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                    31 Views
  24. BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2007 PART I                                                               31 Views
  25. INTERVIEW WITH, THE GENIE OF ‘ALADDIN’, GARETH JACOBS AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR                                                                                                                      31 Views
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Karen and I with the cast of Aladdin. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

It has been very nice to see some of the posts that were enjoyed the most were ones that were very personal including about travelling to attend my sister’s wedding overseas and recollections of the Brisbane International Film Festival. I’m also glad that everybody seems to enjoy my list for the best films of the year and look forward to doing another one for 2018 around Oscar time. Also blogging about my first cover story for Scenestr has proven the most popular post on my blog for 2018 which is very gratifying. It was a lot of fun and a real privilege to do the interview with Jascha Boyce.

 

'First Man'

 

For Your Consideration

So here is the point where I urge you to consider some of the posts I’m most proud of. Most are already listed and have proven popular like my Rocket Man posts and review of Cher’s concert.  I would ask you to consider my review for the movie First Man over at Scenestr which is perhaps my favourite of the film reviews I wrote this year. Any of the Scenestr cover stories I would highly recommend which included a profile on Chuck Norris, an interview with outgoing Adelaide Cabaret Festival Artistic Director Ali McGregor, with SNL star and stand-up Michael Che and with Jascha Boyce.

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Well that’s it for another year so thank you so much to everybody who reads my humble blog and I would like to take this moment to thank my fellow bloggers for their continued support Pete, Cindy, GP, Don, Vinnie, Jay, Sean, Paul, Allen, John K, Michael, Jet, Eddie, Alex, Paol, Jordon, John R, SJS, DB, Emma, 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

BIFF 2018
Rosie and I on Opening Night of BIFF 2018 on assignment for Scenestr magazine.  Copyright of BIFF from their 2018 Facebook site.

 

TOP 5 BEST THINGS ABOUT THE ROCKY MOVIES AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

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This is my fifth Top 5 for Heavy and my seventh Countdown. With the release of new season of Game of Thrones last year I went all out with a Top 10 Countdown where each piece averaged over 500 words and was published separately counting down to the telecast of the first episode. It was a lot of work that I was happy to do but can’t maintain as a side gig with all the other work I do. A Top 5 of Tom Hank’s best films followed which was a lot shorter and I decided doing something akin to that format was sustainable. It also appeared to be really popular. When it came time to do another Top 5 on Stranger Things Season 2 I found there was too much to choose from and decided to do a Top 10 instead. Top 5s have continued though with Thor: Ragnarok, Star Trek: DiscoveryBlade Runner 2049 and now A Top 5 of the Best Things about the Rocky film series which you can find here https://heavymag.com.au/top-5-best-things-about-the-rocky-movies/

In the summer of 1993 heading out of primary school into high school I got out from my local video store what was at that time all five Rocky films and I fell in love. Even as a child I knew number one was the best and it has stayed with my throughout the years. The great regret of my life possibly is that I did not pursue boxing as a sport in my youth. Rocky is not really about boxing though, as the great film critic Roger Ebert once wrote “It’s about heroism and realizing your potential, about taking your best shot and sticking by your girl. It sounds not only cliche but corny-and yet it’s not, not a bit, because it really does work on those levels. It involves us emotionally, it makes us commit ourselves.” The sequels continued the story with diminishing returns until Rocky Balboa salvaged some dignity and went out on a good note. Then came Creed by Ryan Coogler which was even better. Now there is Creed II and I hope it’s good but also that this closes the door on this franchise. We shall see.

It’s been a while since I’ve published with Heavy magazine due to other commitments and time constraints but it is always a pleasure and I hope you enjoy. Feel free to comment on the site of what would be your picks. I look forward to doing a few more in the near future.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.

-Lloyd Marken

100 POSTS PUBLISHED

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After seeing Raw starting a tradition of Grilled Burgers while on assignment. Copyright Lloyd Marken

 

 

I probably wanted to be more Steven Spielberg than Roger Ebert growing up. Maybe Mel Gibson or Harrison Ford perhaps. But whenever I thought about film critics it just sounded like the best every day job you could have if you didn’t get to be a movie star. In 2004 in my final year of uni I had a film review published and it kind of made a dream come true but despite a few follow up efforts nothing really came of it. 2017 is many years on from 2004 so you can understand that when Scenestr published a film review of mine it was not something I took for granted. Suddenly things were possible, I set goals but remained scared this had been a fluke or I’d be found out. Since though I’ve submitted successfully to five publications, seen countless shows and films and interviewed some remarkable individuals. So I thought I would take stock because in April last year the idea of being published 100 times seemed very far away.

I’ve been published 9 times with Perth based X-Press Magazine recently, 8 times with Buzz Magazine where I mostly get to write about blockbusters, 25 times with Heavy Magazine, once with FilmInk magazine and I’m counting the review with Utopia from all those years ago. Rounding out the 100 is the 56 times (20 interviews, 16 reviews of theatre shows, 15 film reviews and 5 stand-up performances) I have been published with Scenestr magazine produced by the incredible team at Eyeball Media Enterprises.

This would maybe be the part where I tell you what some of the highlights were for me but they were all highlights so instead I’d like put it out to you gentle reader. Was there a review or an interview that you read over the past year that you still remember and think was kinda cool? It’s a tricky question I know, of those I regularly follow I couldn’t tell you their favourite posts. I liked when you got married or talked about Warren Zevon or waxed lyrical about Meg Ryan or said the Girl from Ipanema was a good song and quoted Frasier or wrote about your girl or hung shit on a bad teen comedy or relayed the sad facts of a long ago war. But maybe your memory is better than mine so who knows but I’d be interested to hear what you think.

As for me I just count myself very lucky to get this side gig and have it continue and that you here in my small blogging community continue to support me. It means a lot.

-Lloyd Marken

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Karen and I with the cast of Aladdin. Copyright Lloyd Marken

BLADE RUNNER 2049 TOP 5 ICONIC IMAGES AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

Heavy15I’m lucky enough to have another Top 5 published at Heavy Magazine highlighting the work of cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins on the occasion of his 14th Oscar nomination won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography this week for Blade Runner 2049. I felt the film was one of the best of last year and was happy to see Deakins win following such incredible work over the past four decades which includes Sid & Nancy, The Shawshank Redemption, Jarhead, No Country For Old Men, Skyfall and Sicario. You can check out some of the iconic looks of the film here https://heavymag.com.au/top-5-blade-runner-2049-iconic-images/ Feel free to leave a comment or share and I hope you enjoy.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.

-Lloyd Marken

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2017

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Last year I sought to do a review of every movie I saw in the cinemas. I decided early on for this year I would not repeat that but I will hopefully list all of the films I saw at the movies and then offer some thoughts on what were my favourites.  This list always come a little later then the end of the year when some American 2017 releases and Oscar hopefuls have reached Australian audiences. I contributed to an end of year list for X-Press Magazine which you can find here http://xpressmag.com.au/the-x-press-top-20-films-of-2017/ I was pretty lucky this year, I saw free screenings courtesy of my wife, went to preview screenings as a reviewer for Scenestr Magazine and attended for the first time the Bryon Bay Film Festival and the triumphant return of the Brisbane International Film Festival.  All up it appears I saw 57 films last year on the big screen and reviewed 27 and counting for various publications. It was a thrill to say the least but plenty were missed, The Florida Project stands out to me as an Oscar contender I would have liked to see along with The Post, Molly’s Game and Call Me By Your Name. Plenty of interesting films have slipped past my radar too like Raw, Happy Death Day, It Comes At Night, Okja, and many more. Most indie and foreign which I am really regretful about but I will get to them in due course hopefully. So as always any list from me is subjective, last year I hadn’t seen Nocturnal Animals and 20th Century Women and I guarantee they would’ve been in that Top 10. None the less it’s always fun to look back and do a summation so here goes. Ratings are based on the classic 4 Star scale as per reviews I read growing up by the great film critic Roger Ebert.

David Stratton: A Cinematic Life Not Reviewed **1/2

Kong: Skull Island Published 15MAR17 18 Likes – 72 Views **1/2

The Dancer Not Reviewed **1/2

The Lego Batman Movie Not Reviewed ***

The Fate of the Furious Published at Scenestr Magazine 12APR17 ***

Get Out Not Reviewed ***

Berlin Syndrome Published at HEAVY Magazine 02MAY17 ***1/2

Going in Style Not Reviewed **1/2

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Published at Buzz Magazine 24MAY17 **1/2

Alien: Convenant Published 22MAY17 15 Likes – 46 Views **1/2

The Mummy Not Reviewed *1/2

Baby Driver Not Reviewed **1/2

Despicable Me 3 Not Reviewed **

Atomic Blonde Published at Buzz Magazine 28JUL17 ***

The War for the Planet of the Apes Not Reviewed ***

The Dark Tower Not Reviewed **

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Published at Scenestr Magazine 10AUG17 ***

Fun Mom Dinner Not Reviewed 1/2

The Party Not Reviewed **

Citizen Jane Not Reviewed **1/2

That’s Not Me Not Reviewed **

The Way Station Not Reviewed ***

Paris Can Wait Not Reviewed **1/2

The Mountain Between Us Not Reviewed **1/2

Victoria and Abdul Not Reviewed **1/2

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Published at Scenestr Magazine 21SEP17 **1/2

Thor: Ragnarok Published 06NOV17 10 Likes – 40 Views ***

Bad Moms 2 Published at Scenestr Magazine 02NOV17 ***

You’re Killing Me Susana Published at Scenestr Magazine 20NOV17 ***

Murder on the Orient Express Published at HEAVY Magazine 22NOV17 ***

Justice League Published at Buzz Magazine 17JUL18 **1/2

Wonder Wheel Published at Scenestr Magazine 07DEC17 ***

Goodbye Christopher Robin Not Reviewed **1/2

Coco Published 10JAN18 13 Likes – 30 Views ***

IT Not Reviewed ***

Lady Bird Published at Heavy Magazine 25JAN18 ***

The Disaster Artist Not Reviewed ***

 

Honourable Mentions

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The Trip To Spain Not Reviewed ***

In lesser hands this could get terribly tedious, two middle aged men travelling around eating to their hearts content and occasionally bedding women considerably younger than them. The Trip remains perhaps the best, following comic performers Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves in a fictional film made to appear like real life as they bickered on a paid trip through a series of eateries in a regional area. My wife who did not care for that movie has thoroughly enjoyed the follow ups that coincidentally or not coincidentally left the Gothic Northern English countryside for the sunnier sea breezes of Italy and now Spain. For me the sequels are variations on the original classic but here with the pair getting ever slightly older the musings on ageing, legacy and regrets bite a little harder and these are themes I’ve always been fascinated with. In a packed preview screening the ending certainly left an impression. I liked it.

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The Last Jedi Published at Buzz Magazine 06FEB18 ***

Far from a perfect film I have a suspicion this will be a pivotal film for the franchise and fans growing up with the series now. There are pacing problems, unfocussed plot lines, and issues with the depiction of Lue Skywalker but overall there were a lot of great moments as well. Here’s hoping we can get a satisfying trilogy capper in two years. “Some fans will cite it as a watershed moment in the franchise; others will hang their heads and never forgive for some of what happens here. The rest of us will probably feel torn, this is not the greatest movie in the series but it may be an important one.

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Australia Day Published at Scenestr Magazine 04SEP17 ***1/2

It could be bias on my part, Australia Day was shot in my home town, I’ve read reviews that did not find it as praiseworthy as I did. Yet I keep thinking back on scenes that drew me in, the way the stories played off each other. Set over one day, yeah that day, and following a variety of characters who differ in race, age and which side of the law they operate on the climax I found deeply satisfying. Touching on themes of community and family and what happens when both break down I still highly recommend this film. “The anchor of the film is the performance of Bryan Brown who is neither a straight forward hero nor a man who can sit idly by as terrible things are done in the world. In a film dealing with the cost of parents who aren’t there, he effectively becomes a guardian to this young girl Lan Chang who, while barely understanding a word of his English, sizes up that this is a good man.

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Darkest Hour Published at Heavy Magazine 15FEB18 ***1/2

Darkest Hour is a good film bolstered by a great performance that encapsulates an extraordinary individual at the height of their powers and responsibilities. Gary Oldman shines with a different yet familiar take on the icon and while one see the strings of manipulation being tugged by the filmmakers this remains a stirring take on a pivotal moment in history. “Director Joe Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel delight with some shots whether it is sunlight shining through a window onto Ben Mendelsohn’s King George that make him appear for a second like the real face that adorned all that currency once upon a time. Or the way that a bombed landscape seamlessly transitions into the dead eye of a corpse. The devastation of war rote large in the smallest measure of life lost.

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Wonder Woman Published at Buzz Magazine 13JUN17 ***

If the this was about the ten best characters of last year, Wonder Woman would win hands down. After dicking around with the nobility of Superman for the past decade, Patty Jenkins showed Warner Bros how to tap into what made their DC characters so likeable rather than running away from it. The finale is too CGI heavy, its jarring to see the battlefields of World War One used as a playground for a comic book movie and the villains are underwritten but Wonder Woman is a triumph on many more levels. The first section of the film shows no men (no plus size ladies either but that’s a discussion for another time) and by not trumpeting it-the film makes a very strong point. Yet beyond all the firsts that this film achieved is a great story well told. There’s fantastic chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine in an elegant romance and partnership (he’s the not quite as capable but still loyal sidekick), fine comic relief from Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, several tones deftly handled and Gadot not only stepping up to the plate as the awesome Wonder Woman but also underplaying as the straight person in the comic English scenes. Some of the action sequences are first rate too, excitingly shot and well choreographed. These things are so hard to get right and such a joy to see in a blockbuster. Even with the CGI tell me you don’t care when that plane pulls into the sky at the end?”Wonder Woman all our hopes depend on you and the magic that you do” or so the song goes. The Amazonian has not let us down even if her first solo big screen outing is not without flaws. The success of Wonder Woman paves the way for more big budget comic book films with a female protagonist, more blockbusters helmed by female directors and creates anticipation for more DC film adaptations and it does all of this by following one simple rule – make a good movie.

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Paddington 2 Published 12JAN18 11 Likes 30 Views ***1/2

Paddington 2 is like the preceding film, charming in every sense of the meaning of that word. A family film in the classic sense of the word it wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and wins you over with its goodness. Moving, funny and very English the only thing I’d argue is maybe a few more guffaws would’ve been in order. “Maybe I rarely laughed out loud but I smiled. I smiled the kind of smile you only smile when you’ve been absolutely charmed and I was charmed by that film and more importantly by that little Peruvian bear. He always looks CGI but there’s fantastic design work from the animators to make you fall in love with this bear backed up by Ben Whishaw’s voice work and spirit of Michael Bond’s books. Paddington is always polite, always has his heart in the right place and always tries his best and believes in the better nature of people unless they invoke a good hard stare.

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Film Stars Don’t Die In LiverpoolPublished At X-Press Magazine 01MAR18  ***1/2

More than just an observant and honest story about a May-December romance, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool displays a great sense of time and place and how they inform our personal choices and our convictions. It won’t be for everyone, it’s not really a fun film but it is a great film about this particular story that I have often reflected upon in the days since seeing it. “It also has a lot to say about routine and principals and how they guide your decisions. In the film’s most heartbreaking scene, a father tells his son what they’re going to do and you know the only wisdom he is relying on comes from these types of principles. Neither can be sure that it is the right thing to do but it is the “right” thing to do and so they do it.

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The Square Not Reviewed ***1/2

The opening night film at the 2017 Brisbane International Film Festival was the The Square winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Written and directed by Ruben Ostlund it tells the story of Christian (Claes Bang) the curator of the X-Royal art museum in Stockholm, Sweden. On his way to work one day he is pulled into a confrontation with a girl being chased by her partner, rallied by another bystander to stand their ground against him. After a little push and shove the man leaves and then the girl. Christian finds he has been pickpocketed in the exchange. To say more about the plot would take away one of the joys about the film but I will say it has themes linked to the new exhibition Christian is promoting called The Square. “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” The film has a lot to say about ideas of masculinity, art, femininity, classism, race, inflated opinions of art. It has a dark sense of humour, I found it riveting until somewhere close to the finale I did not find the resolution as memorable as the set-up. Yet The Square continues to haunt in a way that few films do. I imagine men of physical courage and carefree attitudes would not find much of interest here but since I’m neither I was fascinated.

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Their Finest Published at Heavy Magazine 25APR17 ***1/2

Their Finest might have slipped under a lot of people’s radar but it is a gem of movie. Meta, moving, funny with a buttoned down performance from the talented Gemma Arterton. I’ve read some dismiss it as clichéd and for the grey haired mob. Allow me to offer a well thought out counter argument – fuck them. “Bombs drop on London, the war threatens to derail the film and the very spirit of resistance these intrepid British storytellers seek to inspire in the local populace starts to shine through within their own actions. Some critics have labelled Their Finest a callback to an older era of films suggesting to take your Gran to see it. It is true it is set during 1940 and has comforting truths long established about love and the human spirit. The kind of truths, that don’t go out of fashion if you have a beating heart.

I, Tonya Published at Scenestr Magazine 24JAN18 ***1/2

Recently watching a documentary on Tonya Harding I noticed a few things the documentary did well that the film did not and vice versa. We don’t get Nancy Kerrigan’s story in I, Tonya and we don’t get friends musing on the possible inner workings of Tonya’s mind. What we do get is one helluva thrill ride jam packed with great performances and a kinetic energy that drives the plot. We are moved by individual scenes several times and fascinated by what is going on screen. But we never know what the truth is, how can we be engaged by these people if we don’t know which depiction of what happened is true. That central conceit of the film creates a distance between the audience and the story and only the work of Margot Robbie, Alison Janney and the under-rated Sebastian Stan shrink that distance. “Tonya Harding became a villain perhaps not without reason, but also out of narrative convenience, and the script by Steven Rogers seems to ask who was Tonya Harding truly and was she really a villain. The film is also not interested in offering a definitive answer, since it is not interested in giving a definitive account of what happened. Rogers noticed differing stories in interviews from Harding and former husband Jeff Gillooly, and decided that contradiction would be part of the film’s storyline.

 

THE TEN

 

 

10. Thee Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Published at Heavy Magazine 08JAN18 ***1/2

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri boasts another great performance from Frances McDormand in a film that fails to play to any conventional outcome. McDormand plays a mother who lost her daughter and is dealing with her grief. A wonderful haunting tale, my only complaint is I never quite buy the motivation of one character’s decision but it proves a major catalyst for the plot that unfolds. It may not be an enjoyable film but it is unforgettable one. “Three Billboards though thinks an awful lot about that daughter and a million others who disappeared or were found dead one morning. Their murderers never discovered, never brought to justice. Their violence acts unanswered, stewing away in those left behind. Not just murders either, throughout the film there is anger displayed for a lot of things whether it be long-term prognosis from a Doctor, a date being embarrassed to be seen with you, or in most cases just the way someone who knows you really well can say something that hurts you and how much you can’t let that go unanswered. This is a film about how violence circles back around, the power of anger, the pain of regret but also about the strength of kindness and the delicacy of tolerance.

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9. Spider-Man: Homecoming Published at Buzz Magazine 28JUL17 ***1/2

How do you make the sixth Spider-Man movie since 2002 interesting? Well instead of telling the story everybody has already seen you tell the story that hasn’t been told before. That of Peter Parker the high schooler. This is a film that has so much going for it, the action escalates in scale but never stops being about real human figures straining and getting hit. There was a wonderful ensemble of side characters who amuse and delight. There’s great comedy and Easter Eggs regarding the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most importantly the comic book action is focussed on themes and plights that everybody can relate to. If I have one complaint is that I would have preferred to have seen Tony Stark trying to be a good mentor. His actions and motivations here are hypocritical obviously in service to not having him take up too much screen time. In light of the comedic and visual delights of Guardians 2 and Thor: Ragnarok, the gravitas of Hugh Jackman’s exit in Logan and the ground breaking joy of Wonder Woman – it’s easy for another Spider-Man movie to get lost in the shuffle but this is a great comic book movie. We’re not always so lucky. “Peter Parker may have been in high school in earlier films but here he is a high schooler and a lot of the story revolves around the challenges you navigate in that environment rather than facing down crooks as a masked crusader. This is John Hughes by way of Marvel and for the most part it proves fresh and engaging as a result. After six films this is Spider-Man as you’ve never seen him before and as you always should have.

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8. The Shape of Water Being Edited ***1/2

The Shape of Water will top many end of year lists. It has rich subtext, is wonderfully constructed in terms of narrative and look, throws in a few surprises and boasts a wonderful cast doing great work. An adult fairytale it delights from start to finish even in the way that it can graphic or dark in humour. I’ve never seen a woman boil on egg on a daily basis either if you know what I mean and I like it. There are a few missteps though for me in terms of filling out back story for maximum effect. The love story is based on ideas, the male romantic lead in a lot of ways remains a mystery and that failed to engage me as much as I hoped the film would. However what it has to say about power dynamics, the boundaries we have to overcome and the power of choices makes this a film to pore over again and again. Not to mention the cinematic beauty of it. “Of course themes and allegories are great but they don’t really matter if you can’t engage the audience. Screenwriters del Toro and Vanessa Taylor craft an interesting romance between two creatures who never speak a word to each other. One of them risks an awful lot faster than expected with very little to motivate them except how the other makes them feel. While that might be difficult to believe completely, the writers have argued is there anything more romantic than that mindset?“.

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7. Phantom Thread Published at Heavy Magazine 25FEB18 ***1/2

A mesmerising film that parodies adult relationships with dark humour and relentless suspense. We don’t know where this is headed but we’re constantly fascinated by these people and their disgraceful behaviour. Where I was excited to see Lady Bird and The Shape of Water to see if they would top this list, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the meticulously constructed film from director Paul Thomas Anderson. Bravo to Daniel Day-Lewis on another great performance with his two co-stars Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps delivering just as much. “Artists can be sensitive and emotionally volatile but they’re only allowed to indulge this if they are successful. Into this life comes the latest muse/victim/lover in the form of a young French woman who was working as a waitress. There is not one person in this movie that mainstream audiences will identify as behaving normally or in a way that is healthy for relationships. That is one of the film’s delights, the other is if you think the story is going to play out one way or another-the movie has other ideas.

6. Logan Published at Scenestr Magazine 09MAR17 ***1/2

Logan was a breath of fresh air to a competent but stale genre in the way that Deadpool was the year before but for completely different reasons. A stand alone story with stakes that were final, it took risks in telling a story that was sad and beautiful about the circle of life, the power of family and the struggle of ageing. There was plenty of action but there was also moments that were heartfelt and real. Hugh Jackman struggled 17 years to get Wolverine just right and while I wish we’d gotten films more worthy of his performance we got the one that counted. I’m not sure if the villains could’ve been stronger or that the third act loses some focus but it remains one of the best comic book films I saw this year if not the best. “Anybody who has ever cared for an ailing loved one or reconnected with an absent parent may be surprised to see moments of familiarity in this comic book movie but will be no less moved. ‘Deadpool’ last year appeared like a breath of fresh air with meta humour and an anarchic attitude. 20th Century Fox now releases a different type of superhero movie again on the other end of the emotional scale but no less anarchic, an elegiac moving Western set in the future.

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5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Published at Buzz Magazine 05MAY17 ***1/2

It goes back and forth for me what was the best comic book movie of the past year – Guardians 2 or Logan? Expectations were high for this one following the original, not as clean and slick as that one, this maybe the better film due to a resolve to have more emotional payoffs. A few small things might get missed the first time through which add a lot to character arcs when noticed upon second viewing. Still this universe and characters remain as charming as ever and the pressure is on for the trilogy capper now from director James Gunn. “Sometimes Marvel Studio films are criticized for all having the same look, with their director’s visions compromised to fit within the shared cinematic universe but Gunn’s Guardians films remain unique and true to his sensibilities. They’re funny, occasionally gross and as Cat Steven’s Father and Son plays in a gloriously lit up galaxy far, far away they are moving – oh so moving. This is one of the year’s best.

4. The Go-Betweens: Right Here Published at Scenestr Magazine 10OCT17 ****

The Go-Betweens were musicians’ musicians not rock stars and there is a price to be paid for never quite breaking through. There is a price to be paid in any fellowship but what you achieve hopefully endures. This is wonderful re-telling of the lifetime of a band through a nostalgiac era of music with a romantic notion of this particular type of band. More evocatively it is old friends looking back on the time of their lives with regret, hurt, joy and great poignancy. It was a joy to watch from beginning to end, I look forward to what director Kriv Stenders (Australia Day, Red Dog) does next. “The band ended abruptly, and like its trailer the film does too. Life too can end abruptly and it feels that director Kriv Stenders is articulating this on purpose. Life is fleeting, memory does play tricks, some things don’t need to get dug up and some connections can’t be reforged again. Some things endure because they were real and they meant something and in that sense, The Go-Betweens now have a documentary that reflects the appeal of their music very well.

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3. Dunkirk Published at Heavy Magazine 02AUG17 ****

Christopher Nolan’s war film was not to everybody’s liking, there were things present that usually I would criticise in this film but defend with this one. For most people the most compelling part is the story of Mark Rylance’s character because it is the closest to a fully formed narrative and fleshed out character. To me the themes of courage and choices and how people perceive reality and need stories resonated. As a spectacle I was grateful to see money well spent on creating and using real scale. As an experience I was wrapped up in the moment and excited about the bringing together of three separate narratives. As a message I was touched by Nolan’s celebration of gallantry and acknowledgement of the chaos and fear which gives such heroism its impact. In that way it was an unabashed emotional film despite it’s meticulously put together structure. It is a great film, maybe Nolan’s best. “In the air Tom Hardy plays a RAF fighter pilot providing air cover for the ships against the Luftwaffe’s superior numbers, concerned as much with his fuel gauge as he is with the enemy knowing that one more minute over France could save countless lives. Then there’s Mark Rylance, a simple fisherman who with his young son and another boy has set off to make a difference by crossing the English Channel to pick up as many soldiers as he can in his humble boat. The closer they get to war the more foolhardy his decision seems and the more admirable.

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2. Blade Runner 2049 Published at Buzz Magazine 22JAN18 ****

Blade Runner 2049 is the reason we go to the cinema. Beautiful, epic and all in service to a story with ideas and passion. This is the kind of blockbuster that should be being made and all the more reason to be sad about its box office. However I suspect many will grow to discover it on blu-rays and streaming. I was blown up by the cast which included 4 women at its centre playing a diverse array of characters (Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis & Robin Wright), Harrison Ford playing a man with many regrets and hurt and Ryan Gosling in an understated yet emotional performance. The look and sound of the film expands from the original but stands on its own using new technology. This is a form ultimately about relationships and what we can do to forge real ones despite the advent of technology. “She prompts him to do things, intervenes against others when he is not present and makes her own decisions. Yet all of this comes from coding responding to interactions with him. Does that mean it’s not real or is that any different from the way human are biologically designed? There is a scene later in the film that could provide the answer and it is heartbreaking, Ana De Armas plays so many notes effortlessly and this should prove a break-out role for her.

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1. In This Corner of the World Published at FilmInk Magazine 24NOV17 ****

The Number One Choice has surprised again with a film that I saw earlier in the year, wasn’t widely seen by others and did not get unseated by the Oscar frontrunners. Set in the lead-up to and through out World War II we follow one young woman’s journey through these events from the Japanese home front. An anime with beautiful images, striking sequences and great attention to historical detail. This is a film that reckons with war and the horrors of it but also the strength of people, the hope of peace and the enduring power of family and love. I was deeply moved by this film, it is for me the best film of the year. “Perhaps the greatest courage is shown at the end when survivors slowly go on, day by day. What has been lost can never be regained but those of us who are alive, have to go on living. And maybe in the living, one day there will be a world worth living in, if not for us then for the next generation.

 

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, like last year I found this video about them from Screen Junkies very amusing.

-Lloyd Marken

PHANTOM THREAD REVIEW AVAILABLE AT HEAVY

Heavy14I’m lucky enough to do another review for Heavy Magazine, this one for Oscar hopeful Phantom Thread. A gorgeous period piece with possibly the last performance onscreen from the great Daniel Day-Lewis. The two female lead performances from Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville threaten to outshine him in a film that surprised me and that I ultimately really enjoyed. You can read more of my thoughts here https://heavymag.com.au/film-review-phantom-thread/ and please feel free to comment with your own.

Heavy is an independent magazine and website that is all about the music and specifically heavy music and supporting the Australian music scene in general. Fortunately for me they do cover film as well and I have been fortunate to have a few things published there.

-Lloyd Marken