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Friday
Feb022018

PROGRESSIVE IFFR FILM ROSTER WELCOMES #FEMALEFILMMAKERFRIDAY

The five randomly selected filmmakers below represent a very small cross section of the women directors with works on show in Rotterdam. On any other day we may have profiled Lisa Bruhlmann (Blue My Mind) or Lucie Plumet (Damien Décembre); Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam (Les deux visages d'une femme Bamiléké) or Veronique Sapin (Secret, Lies and Death); Monira Al Qadari (The Craft) or Noemi Sjoberg (Shadows), themselves only a tiny fraction of those whose works are screening at the IFFR. In honour of #femalefilmmakerfriday, we offer these brief bios of five women directors contributing remarkable works to international cinema…

ANNEMARIE JACIR, Dir: Wajib
Having been recognised by the global film publication Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema, Palestinian-born Annemarie Jacir (pictured, above) is at the forefront of film culture, education and activism in her homeland. Her 2003 Oscar-nominated short Like Twenty Impossibles was the first Arabic short film ever granted official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. Her feature Salt of this Sea (2008) became the first film directed by a Palestinian woman and was the Palestinian entry for the Foreign Language Oscar, as was her follow-up, When I Saw You, in 2012. She founded Dreams of a Nation, an initiative to promote Palestinian cinema; was amongst the founders of the Palestinian Filmmakers Collective; and, in 2003, launched the nation’s largest travelling film festival. Her IFFR selection, Wajib (2017) is her third feature film.

DEBORAH HAYWOOD, Dir: Pin Cushion
Citing Jane Campion’s Sweetie as a major influence, Brit filmmaker Haywood announced her own presence when her short film debut, Lady Margaret led to her selection as one of Screen International's 2007 Stars of Tomorrow. She quickly earned acclaim for her films Tender (2009); Sis (2011), which received Best Short at the Soho Rushes Film Festival and Best International Fiction Film at WOW Film Festival; Biatch! (2011); and, Tender Tender (2013). Pin Cushion is her feature film debut, the eccentric mother/daughter story chosen to open Critics Week at the Venice Film Festival, ahead of selection for Glasgow and Rotterdam. (Pictured, above; Haywood on the set of Pin Cushion)

CYNTHIA CHOUCAIR, Dir: Counting Tiles
Born in Lebanon, Cynthia Choucair studied film at the prestigious Institut d'études scéniques audiovisuales et cinématographiques, Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. She broadened her skills as an editor, director and producer on many Lebanese short films and documentaries, most notably Anonymes (1998), Pictures of Life (2000) and Al kursi (2002), her calling-card directorial effort that was selected by festivals worldwide. In 2007, she founded her own production house, Road 2 Films, where she produces documentaries, fiction films and cultural television programs for local Arab and European networks. Her roster of filmmakers includes such young female directors as Sandra Abrass, Lara Zakhour, Farah Kassem, Joelle Abou Chabke, Sabine Choucair and Pascale Abu Jamra. Counting Tiles exhibits all her skills as a documentarian, capturing moments of glee amongst the hardship of refugee life on Lesbos.

 

CHLOE ZHAO, Dir: The Rider
Of Chinese heritage, Zhao studied political science at Mount Holyoke College in the United States before completing the Graduate Film Program at New York University. Remaining based in the US, she wrote and directed a series of well-received shorts, including Post (2008), The Atlas Mountains (2009) and Daughters (2010). Her first feature film, the Native American family drama Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) had its world premiere at Sundance in the US Official Competition category, ahead of its international premiere at Cannes; the film earned festival kudos at Deauville, Jerusalem and Mumbai, as well as the Audience Award at the American Film Institute Festival. Zhao's second feature The Rider (2017), a feminist western, comes to Rotterdam after its Cannes premiere, where the director won the CICAE Art Cinema Award. 

LUISA SEQUERIA, Dir: Who is Barbara Virginia?
Portugese-born Luísa Sequeria studied journalism before entering the the world of filmmaking via documentary projects. Honing her craft in Mozambique at national broadcaster TVM before returning to her homeland, where she spent a decade at Rádio e Televisão de Portugal. Since 2010 she is the artistic director of Shortcutz Porto, one of the region’s leading short film festivals, as well as overseeing the Super 9 Mobile Film Fest, a festival for films made with the mobile phone. Together with the artist Sama she created the experimental animated series Motel Sama (2014) for Canal Brazil. In her debut documentary feature, Who Is Bárbara Virgínia?, Sequeria examines the all-but-forgotten life and career of the first Portugese woman to direct a feature film.

Wednesday
Jan242018

OSCAR SPLASHES OUT: THE SHAPE OF WATER, DUNKIRK LEAD 2018 NOMINATIONS

Nine films will vie for the Best Picture Oscar at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony, to be held March 4 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Guillermo Del Toro’s love letter to the Hollywood horror films of yore, The Shape of Water firmed as favourite to take home the top honour on the back of its 13 nominations.

Other nominees in the race for Best Picture are Dunkirk (8 nominations), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (7), Darkest Hour (6), Phantom Thread (6), Lady Bird (5), Get Out (4), Call Me By Your Name (4) and The Post (2). Award season contenders that failed to make the Best Picture shortlist include The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist and Mudbound.

A late season surge by Paul Thomas Anderson’s dressmaker drama Phantom Thread (pictured, right), which had trouble finding traction early in the awards race, appears to have scuppered the chances of several films who were once considered ‘sure things’. Both director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks were overlooked for The Post (it’s only other nomination was for perennial Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep, her 21st); actor/director James Franco and his tribute to ‘never-say-die’ filmmaking, The Disaster Artist were shunted, earning just a single nod for Adapted Screenplay.

The Hollywood men’s club that was the Best Cinematography category is no more, with Mudbound DOP Rachel Morrison becoming the first woman to be nominated in the category; it was one of four nominations for director Dee Rees’ slave story and represents the first non-documentary showing for streaming giant Netflix.

Greta Gerwig became the fifth woman to be nominated for Best Director for her coming-of-age drama Lady Bird, while first-time nominees in the major categories include Margot Robbie (Best Actress) and Allison Janney (Best Supporting Actress) for I, Tonya; Christopher Nolan for his direction on Dunkirk; Jordan Peele (Best Director) and Daniel Kaluuya (Best Actor) for Get Out; and legendary French New Wave figure Agnes Varda, who earns here first nomination at the age of 89 for her documentary Faces Places (pictured, below; Varda with Faces Places co-director, JR). While nothing came the way of Hugh Jackman for either Logan or The Greatest Showman, Margot Robbie's Best Actress mention and the nomination of director Derin Seale and star and co-writer Josh Lawson for their short The Eleven O'Clock meant Australian talent gets a look-in once again on the world of film's biggest night.   

Spielberg, Hanks and Franco were not the only high-profile talent to go home empty-handed. The blockbuster Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, failed to earn a single nomination; also on the no-show list, Battle of The Sexes, for which last year's Academy darling Emma Stone seemed destined for re-recognition; despite seven nominations in total, Three Billboards… director Martin McDonagh missed a Best Director slot (though did earn an Original Screenplay nod); Bret Morgan’s Jane, a profile of the great scientist Jane Goodall, seemed a certainty for the Best Documentary category; scene stealers Tiffany Haddisch (Girls Trip) and Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) in the Supporting Actress race; and, Fatih Akin’s In The Fade, which earned a Golden Globe for Foreign Language film and a Cannes trophy for leading lady, Diane Kruger.

The full list of nominees for the 90th Academy Awards are:

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET,Call Me by Your Name; DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, Phantom Thread; DANIEL KALUUYA, Get Out; GARY OLDMAN, Darkest Hour; DENZEL WASHINGTON, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: WILLEM DAFOE, The Florida Project; WOODY HARRELSON, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri; RICHARD JENKINS, The Shape of Water; CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, All the Money in the World; SAM ROCKWELL, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: SALLY HAWKINS, The Shape of Water; FRANCES MCDORMAND, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri; MARGOT ROBBIE, I, Tonya; SAOIRSE RONAN, Lady Bird; MERYL STREEP, The Post

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: MARY J. BLIGE, Mudbound; ALLISON JANNEY, I, Tonya; LESLEY MANVILLE, Phantom Thread; LAURIE METCALF, Lady Bird; OCTAVIA SPENCER, The Shape of Water

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: THE BOSS BABY; THE BREADWINNER; COCO; FERDINAND; LOVING VINCENT

CINEMATOGRAPHY: BLADE RUNNER 2049, Roger A. Deakins; DARKEST HOUR,Bruno Delbonnel; DUNKIRK, Hoyte van Hoytema; MUDBOUND, Rachel Morrison; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Dan Laustsen

COSTUME DESIGN: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Jacqueline Durran; DARKEST HOUR, Jacqueline Durran; PHANTOM THREAD, Mark Bridges; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Luis Sequeira; VICTORIA & ABDUL, Consolata Boyle

DIRECTING: DUNKIRK, Christopher Nolan; GET OUT, Jordan Peele; LADY BIRD, Greta Gerwig; PHANTOM THREAD, Paul Thomas Anderson; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Guillermo del Toro

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL; FACES PLACES; ICARUS; LAST MEN IN ALEPPO; STRONG ISLAND

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT): EDITH+EDDIE; HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405; HEROIN(E); KNIFE SKILLS; TRAFFIC STOP

FILM EDITING: BABY DRIVER, Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos; DUNKIRK, Lee Smith; I, TONYA, Tatiana S. Riegel; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Sidney Wolinsky; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Jon Gregory

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A FANTASTIC WOMAN, Chile; THE INSULT, Lebanon; LOVELESS, Russia; ON BODY AND SOUL, Hungary; THE SQUARE, Sweden

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: DARKEST HOUR, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick; VICTORIA & ABDUL, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard; WONDER, Arjen Tuiten

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE): DUNKIRK, Hans Zimmer; PHANTOM THREAD, Jonny Greenwood; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Alexandre Desplat; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, John Williams; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Carter Burwell

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): MIGHTY RIVER from Mudbound;; MYSTERY OF LOVE from Call Me by Your Name; REMEMBER ME from Coco; STAND UP FOR SOMETHING from Marshall; THIS IS ME from The Greatest Showman

BEST PICTURE: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito, Producers; DARKEST HOUR, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski, Producers; DUNKIRK, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers; GET OUT, Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele, Producers; LADY BIRD, Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O'Neill, Producers; PHANTOM THREAD, JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi, Producers; THE POST, Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale, Producers; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers

PRODUCTION DESIGN: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST; BLADE RUNNER 2049; DARKEST HOUR; DUNKIRK; THE SHAPE OF WATER

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED): DEAR BASKETBALL; GARDEN PARTY; LOU; NEGATIVE SPACE; REVOLTING RHYMES

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): DEKALB ELEMENTARY; THE ELEVEN O'CLOCK; MY NEPHEW EMMETT; THE SILENT CHILD; WATU WOTE/ALL OF US

SOUND EDITING: BABY DRIVER, Julian Slater; BLADE RUNNER 2049, Mark Mangini and Theo Green; DUNKIRK, Richard King and Alex Gibson; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

SOUND MIXING: BABY DRIVER, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis; BLADE RUNNER 2049, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth; DUNKIRK, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS: BLADE RUNNER 2049; GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2; KONG: SKULL ISLAND; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI; WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY): CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Screenplay by James Ivory; THE DISASTER ARTIST, Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber; LOGAN, Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green, Story by James Mangold; MOLLY'S GAME, Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin; MUDBOUND, Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): THE BIG SICK, Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani; GET OUT, Written by Jordan Peele; LADY BIRD, Written by Greta Gerwig; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, Story by Guillermo del Toro; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Written by Martin McDonagh

Saturday
Dec302017

THE CLASS OF 2018: NEXT YEAR AT THE MOVIES

When Hollywood bean counters spin their 2017 analysis, the year will not end with the studio suits rolling on beds of cash. Relatively speaking, of course; as December winds down, US box office takings will be around US$12billion, down a ‘whopping’ 2.5% on the record setting 2016. So the question that the great movie minds of Los Angeles need to address is, “How do we make up the deficit, and then some?”

A glimpse at the 2018 studio slates suggests the answer is superheroes, sequels, remakes and cartoons. Big surprise. There is some visionary stuff in the mix, but the roster largely recalls the year gone by, when franchise entrants like Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales looked tired; star vehicles like The Mummy underperformed and reheated properties like Blade Runner failed to ignite. But let’s see what is on offer and keep our fingers-crossed…: 

8 ‘New’ Marvel Films: There is no escaping the Marvel movie tsunami; with one arriving on average every seven weeks, the comic book adventures of our favourite ageing heroes will be everywhere, all the time. Big Daddy is, of course, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (pictured, right), welcoming back sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: Civil War, 2016). Also under the Disney/Marvel banner are Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER and Peyton Reed’s ANT MAN AND THE WASP. The last of the X-Men films produced by a pre-Disney consumed 20th Century Fox will arrive in the form of Josh Boone’s THE NEW MUTANTS and Simon Kinberg’s X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX. The most anticipated will be Fox’s DEADPOOL 2, with Atomic Blonde’s David Leitch at the helm after the unpleasant shunting of #1 director, Tim Miller. Sony Pictures have two left-field unknowns in the Marvel mix – Ruben Fleischer’s R-rated VENOM, starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams and the animated adventure SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, from the filmmaking team of Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, and Rodney Rothman.

The Next ‘A Star Wars Story' Film: Apparently, the set of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY was a little…angsty. The directors hired for the job, Phil Lord and Chris Miller got the boot in mid-June, with only days left of principal photography; enter Hollywood journeyman Ron Howard to see it through (after recasting and four months of reshoots). Miller and Lord played nice in their press statements (“We're really proud of the work we did on the movie and we wish everybody the best,”) but the scoop is that the pair clashed badly with franchise overlord Kathleen Kennedy and veteran series scribe Lawrence Kasdan. Rumblings suggest some extra polish is still needed ahead of its worldwide premiere on May 23/24/25 (check local listings).   

Three Anticipated Animated Follow-ups: After an erratic start in the competitive but lucrative animation arena, Sony Pictures Animation are milking their sole cash-cow franchise again next year, with director Genndy Tartakovsky and star Adam Sandler returning for HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (pictured, right). Director Rich Moore and writer Phil Johnston, both hot off the Oscar-winning Zootopia, deliver fresh adventures for John C Reilly’s oafish charmer in RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2. Towering above all animated entrants will be Brad Bird’s INCREDIBLES 2, a sequel 14 years in the making that reportedly picks up at the very moment the 2004 blockbuster concluded – the appearance of The Underminer (voiced by Pixar regular, John Ratzenberger).

Horror Lives Again!: After the record-breaking box office delivered by It, the sequel-generating momentum of The Conjuring films and the headline-grabbing breakout of Get Out, the horror genre is hot again. Serious studio dollars are behind such 2018 films as Adam Robitel's INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY; Brian Taylor's MOM AND DAD, with Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair; Julius Onah's GOD PARTICLE, a continuation of the Cloverfield mythology; Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren in WINCHESTER, from Australian brothers Michael and Peter Spierig; and, Steven Soderbergh's iPhone-shot UNSANE, with Claire Foy and Juno Temple. John Krasinski directs himself and wife Emily Blunt in A QUIET PLACE (pictured, right); Sylvain White's explores the new urban myth in his chiller SLENDER MAN; and, Cispian Mill's British horror-comedy SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ, reunites funny guys Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Michael Myers returns in David Gordon Green's reworking of HALLOWEEN, with original leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis. And very high on every horror fans watchlist is Luca Guadagnino's remake of Dario Argento's 1977 classic SUSPIRIA, to star Chloë Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, and Tilda Swinton.

Remakes/Relaunches/Rehashes: Showbusiness 101 teaches that it is easier and cheaper to repackage and relaunch a known brand than to start from scratch. In 2018, new spins on old favourites will come in the form of THE PREDATOR, directed by writer and co-star of John McTiernan’s 1987 original, Shane Black; Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander turning her Oscar cache into paycheque heft with Roar Uthaug’s TOMB RAIDER; Kingsman star Taryn Edgerton stepping into the tights as the star of a ‘gritty new take’ on ROBIN HOOD, from director Otto Bathurst; Lady Gaga filling the shoes worn by Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand before her in director and co-star Bradley Cooper’s A STAR IS BORN (pictured right); the return of Lisbeth Sander, this time in the shape of Claire Foy, for Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez’s franchise relaunch THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB; and, Gary Ross’ all-female heist caper OCEAN'S EIGHT, with Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Rhiannon toplining.

Sequelitis: Despite the underperformance of such ‘sure things’ as Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, XXX The Return of Xander Cage and Trainspotting 2, the studios will still cite 2017 hits like Logan, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Fate of The Furious as reason enough for a slew of new sequels. In 2018, filmic déjà vu comes in the form of Christopher McQuarrie’s M:I 6 - MISSION IMPOSSIBLE; David Yate’s FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEWALD; Wes Ball’s MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE; Steven S. DeKnight’s PACIFIC RIM UPRISING, starring Star Wars’ John Boyega; the conclusion to E.L. James’ saucy trilogy, FIFTY SHADES FREED, from director James Foley; JURASSIC PARK FALLEN KINGDOM (pictured, right), with A Monster Calls’ JA Bayona stepping in for shunned helmer (but credited screenwriter) Colin Trevorrow; showman Rob Marshall’s sequel to the family favourite, MARY POPPINS RETURNS, starring Emily Blunt; and, because the universe was screaming out for another instalment of ‘Karaoke; The Movie’, director Ol Parker’s MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN.

A Breath of Fresh Air: If you are desperate for something that threatens a hint of original thought or freshness of vision, you have these to look forward to. Steven Spielberg's virtual-reality adventure READY PLAYER ONE; Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in James Wan’s AQUAMAN, the only DC Comics property set for a 2018 release; Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey in Ava DuVernay’s YA publishing phenom adaptation, A WRINKLE IN TIME; Jon Turteltaub’s giant shark thriller MEG, with Jason Statham; Jennifer Lawrence reteaming with her Hunger Games’ director Francis Lawrence for RED SPARROW (pictured, right); Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s vidgame-inspired monster movie RAMPAGE, from Brad Peyton; the Robert Rodriguez directed sci-fier ALITA BATTLE ANGEL, from a James Cameron script; Anne Hathaway, replacing an on-the-slide Amy Schumer, in Alethea Jones’ BARBIE; Wes Anderson’s latest stop-motion fable, ISLE OF DOGS; Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman playing for big, broad laughs in GAME NIGHT; the Neil Armstrong biopic FIRST MAN, reteaming Ryan Gosling with his La La Land director Damian Chazelle; and, MORTAL ENGINES, director Christian Rivers effects extravaganza, based on an adapted screenplay by the Lord of The Rings team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens.

Friday
Dec152017

SCREEN-SPACE’S BEST (& WORST) FILMS OF 2017

Not a list, per se, and certainly not anything more than one cranky, old, cross-eyed critic’s rambling opinion. But one can’t begrudge the editorial team here at Screen-Space (i.e., me) the opportunity to put into some perspective a year of relentless movie going. Check out these stats – at time of writing, 475 movies for a total of 810.6 hours at an average 9.5 movies a week (thanks, Letterboxd). So, with the Best of The Best broken into genres, let’s launch into the annual rummage through my increasingly foggy memory and muster our ‘Best Films of 2017’ parade….

BEST ACTION: Josh and Ben Safdie’s Good Time, starring Best Actor Oscar material Robert Pattinson, was more thriller than action, but it got the heart racing like few 2017 films. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver seemed to have the top spot sewn up, until Charlize Theron’s brutal, brilliant ATOMIC BLONDE from director David Leitch upped the ante. The stairwell brawl is the best bout of bone-crunching action all year. Also in the mix were Doug Liman’s American Made and Peter Berg’s Patriot Day.

BEST HORROR: No horror film was as universally acclaimed as Jordan Peele’s GET OUT. Shaping as an unlikely but very real award season contender, it was scary as hell, but also smart, funny, stylish and perfectly timed to rattle Trump’s America. Quality horror was abundant in 2017 – consider Andy Muschietti’s blockbuster It; M Night Shyamalan’s triumphant comeback Split; Coralie Fargeat’s blood-soaked French shocker Revenge; Tyler MacIntyre’s high-school murder romp Tragedy Girls; and, David Lowery’s divisive but stunning A Ghost Story. And for the record, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother is…brilliant!

BEST TRUE STORY: Bending the rules a bit here, as Steven Spielberg's THE POST, with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep doesn’t drop in Australia until early January. But we got an early peek, and it is Spielberg at his most assured and fluent, a soaring drama that reinforces the crucial role a free press plays in a vibrant democracy (topical, much?!) Apologies to James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, robbed of our Best True Story crown. Also high amongst the recreation pics are James Gray’s majestic The Lost City of Z and, oddly enough, two tennis stories – Janus Metz’s Borg vs. McEnroe and Emma Stone and Steve Carell in Battle of The Sexes, from directing duo Johnathon Dayton and Valerie Faris.

BEST SUPER HERO FILM: James Mangold’s Logan was Hugh Jackman’s Hamlet, and he should be all over the Best Actor categories, but isn’t. The biggest game changer of the year, and the best super hero film in ages, was Patty Jenkins’ thrilling and emotional WONDER WOMAN, starring the year’s biggest new star Gal Gadot. Taika Waititi’s Thor Ragnarok and James Gunn’s Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 kept the genre buoyant; biggest surprise was Dean Israelite’s smarter-than-expected Power Rangers (Ed: our guilty pleasure of 2017).

BEST COMEDY: Hard to believe, but there’s not a single contender to challenge Michael Winterbottom’s A TRIP TO SPAIN for the Best Comedy crown. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprise their roles as thinly veiled versions of themselves, this time going a little darker as the realities of ageing set in. Kudos to Audrey Plaza, who made the most of the flawed but occasionally funny Ingrid Goes West and The Little Hours. If only to fill a bit more space in this category, we’ll admit to not hating Dax Shephard’s Chips as much as everyone else did.

BEST DRAMA: Nicole Kidman had arguably her best year ever, on screens both small (Big Little Lies; China Girl Top of The Lake) and big, first with Garth Davis’ breakout smash Lion and then with Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled (one of 2017’s great underrated works). Harry Dean Stanton’s final film, John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky, was the perfect farewell; the best teen film of the year was Ry Russo-Young’s existential mystery/coming-of-age drama, Before I Fall, starring a wonderful Zoey Deutch. We can’t split the year’s best drama vote, so it’s a tie – Sean Baker’s study of a family living on the fringe of American compassion, THE FLORIDA PROJECT, and Luca Guadagnino’s profoundly lovely and compassionate CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.

BEST AUSTRALIAN FILM: The kids are all right, at least as far as the local film sector is concerned. Best Australian film of the year was Jeffery Walker’s DANCE ACADEMY, a classic overcoming-the-odds drama that promised and delivered (not a boast many Aussie films can make in 2017). Other thoroughly energised, teen-themed winners included Neil Triffet’s Emo The Musical and Gregory Erdstein’s That’s Not Me (both of which will find appreciative audiences on home vid). The next wave of genre talents emerged in the form of Tristan Barr and Michael Godsen (the nerve-shredding, single-take illusion, Watch the Sunset) and Addison Heath (the bleak, beautiful The Viper’s Hex, co-directed by Jasmine Jakupi).

BEST NETFLIX FILM: If the most influential new production entity in the world is powerful enough to secure a slot at Cannes, it’s big enough to be given consideration on Screen-Space. It’s impossible to ignore such challenging works as Marti Noxon’s To The Bone, Dee Rees Mudbound, Chris Smith’s Jim & Andy, Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (also Cannes endorsed), Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch and Joon-ho Bong’s Okja. The new network's greatest triumph was Laurent Bouzereau’s FIVE CAME BACK, a 3 episode/180 minute documentary series in which present-day Hollywood visionaries Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Greengrass and Francis Ford Coppola (with Meryl Streep providing narration) honour the wartime contributions of their industry forefathers, John Huston, John Ford, Frank Capra, William Wyler and George Stevens.

BEST DOCUMENTARY: No factual film came close to Nick Broomfield’s tragic profile WHITNEY CAN I BE ME for emotional impact, but Brad Abrahams’ alien abductee oddity Love and Saucers, Jedd and Todd Wilder’s heartbreaking mystery God Knows Where I Am and Roger Donaldson’s Formula 1 biopic McLaren were standout performers in limited/festival release. The weirdest, most wonderful insight into unique creativity was Mike Brook’s Something Quite Peculiar: The Life and Times of Steve Kilbey, a bittersweet profile of the enigmatic frontman of cult band The Church.

BEST FESTIVAL FILM: Of the many wonderful films that were afforded one, maybe two festival sessions before disappearing back into the sales market ether, Kamili Andini’s Bali-set study in grief and fantasy THE SEEN AND UNSEEN proved cinematic perfection. Other mini-masterpieces that need further screen exposure were Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s dash-cam marvel The Road Movie and Joshua J Provost’s study in art-form co-dependence, Coalesce: A City Composed.

BEST REWATCH: The bigscreen session of Steven Spielberg’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND post-4K digital restoration was a bucket list event, though it was only one of the great retro-sessions in 2017. A 70mm screening of Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff and co-hosting a Romero tribute double feature of Night of The Living Dead and Creepshow, both at the iconic Randwick Ritz in Sydney’s east, were rare privileges. Old favourites that still delighted and enthralled included Blake Edwards’ Victor/Victoria, Woody Allen’s Love and Death, Michael Apted’s Coalminer’s Daughter and Steve Barron’s Electric Dreams, a film that now seems 20 years ahead of its time.

And THE WORST FILM OF 2017: Look at this miserable, misguided parade of objectionable duds - The Dark Tower, Planetarium, Three Summers, The Cure For Wellness, Baywatch, The Circle, Snatched and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. That said, none of them really challenged the indecipherable serial killer snorefest THE SNOWMAN for sheer incompetence. Tomas Alfredson’s all-star, all-shite cast, including Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, JK Simmons and (oh dear) Val Kilmer, stare at each other in the hope somebody in frame will save the scene/film. Not even the likes of DOP Dion Beebe, editor Thelma Schoonmaker or EP Martin Scorsese…MARTIN SCORSESE!!...could polish this cinematic turd.

Monday
Nov272017

MONSTER FEST FETES FIERCE FEMMES AT CLOSING NIGHT KUDOS

The closing night awards ceremony at Monster Fest 2017 became a celebration of girl power in genre cinema, with all four feature film prize winners centred by fearless lead actress performances. The 2017 festival jury, comprised of screening platform OzFlix boss Ron Brown, Events Cinemas programmer Jon Nilsen and Screen-Space’s own Simon Foster, noted the roster of quality films to feature strong female characters in this years line-up, which wrapped a sell-out season at Melbourne’s Lido Cinema last night.

The festival’s top honour, The Golden Monster, was awarded to Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Cold Hell (Die Hölle), a German/Austrian co-production starring Violetta Schurawlow (pictured, above) as a witness to a brutal murder who finds herself being stalked by the killer. The Monster Fest trophy continues the high-energy thriller’s award momentum; the director accepted the Best European Film silverware at Lisbon’s MOTELx Festival Internacional de Cinema de Terror, while Schurawlow collected the Best Actress honour at the prestigious Fantasia Film Festival.

The festival’s closing night selection, Coralie Fargeat’s directorial debut Revenge, a brutal, blood-splattered survival epic starring Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz (pictured, right) as a vengeful rape victim and Kevin Janssens as her toxic male tormenter, collected the Best International Film prize. The judge’s decision came on the back of some spirited debate, with both Rainer Sanert’s monochromatic arthouse-horror oddity November, starring Rea Lest, and Adam MacDonald’s slow-burn black-magic thriller Pyewacket, with Nicole Munoz, in the mix until the final decision was handed down.

Best Australian Film went to the crowdpleasing horror-comedy Tarnation, featuring Daisy Masterman, a raucous riff on Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead pics from Monster Fest favourite Daniel Armstrong (MurderDrome, 2013; From Parts Unknown, 2015; Sheborg Massacre, 2016). Turkish director Can Evrenol, who burst onto the horror scene in 2015 with the cult shocker Baskin, took out the Best Director award for his follow-up film Housewife, an typically disturbing ‘end-of-days’ vision that melds Rosemary Baby-type paranoia with Lovecraftian imagery with a game lead turn by Clémentine Poidatz.

Beyond the allotted categories, the Monster Fest jury also feted Gary Doust’s Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare with a Jury’s   Special Mention. The fly-on-a-wall account of the traumatic process director Craig Anderson went through to make his passion project, the low-budget splatterfest Red Christmas, was deemed to have captured the filmmaking spirit that drives so many of those who submit similar works to Monster Fest annually.

The extensive contribution of the short filmmaking community to the Monster Fest program was also acknowledged with plaudits going to Alberto Viavattene’s Birthday (Best Overall Short Film); Mia’kate Russell’s Liz Drives (Best Australian Short); Seamus Murphy’s Reunion (Best Victorian Short Film); and, Remi Weekes’ Tickle Monster (Best International Short Film).