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Entries in Australian (4)

Thursday
Mar292018

AUSSIE CINEMAS FATTEN UP ON EASTER MOVIE TREATS

Australian exhibitors could not be more grateful for the annual Easter Holiday box-office surge. With the award season favourites closing out their runs and the American summer blockbusters just around the corner, the March/April window would be bring patchy revenue if not for the Easter break and the accompanying school holidays (the rainier, the better). From virtual realities to gay romances to prehistoric soccer, the Easter 2018 line-up offers an eclectic mix. SCREEN-SPACE reviews eight new bigscreen entries vying for your non-chocolate Easter dollars (with apologies to SHERLOCK GNOMES, but you kinda know what you’re in with the punny sequel)…

BLOCKERS
Director: Kay Cannon
Stars: Kathryn Newton, John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Gideon Adlon, Geraldine Viswanathan (pictured, above).
Plot: Julie, Kayla and Sam are three high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter are three overprotective parents who flip out when they find out about their daughters' plans. They soon join forces for a wild and chaotic quest to stop the girls from sealing the deal - no matter what the cost.
Verdict: The ‘capital-C’ comedy moments deliver the pacing and skill that have become de rigeur in this post-Apatow movie world; anything goes, if the timing is right. But the narrative works best when debutant director Kay Cannon applies her understanding of strong independent women; she wrote the Pitch Perfect films and was a key creative on TV series 30 Rock and Girl Boss. Leslie Mann gets an all-too-rare shot at a leading role, and nails it; John Cena and Ike Barinholtz share scene-stealing honours. Admirably, the teen characters are as fully-fleshed out as the protagonists. Middle section sags, but Acts 1 and 3 are hilarious. RATING: 3.5/5

A WRINKLE IN TIME
Director: Ava Duvernay
Stars: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey (pictured, right), Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Levi Miller.
Plot: Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg's classmate Calvin O'Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.
Verdict: The desperation of all involved to make this adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved YA fantasy novel soar infests this monumental dud. From director Ava Duvernay’s heavy-handed direction to the suffocating special effects to the cumbersome, plodding sentimentality and bloated self-importance that imbues the grinding plot, A Wrinkle in Time throws everything at the screen with no idea as to how to make it gel. A lifeless lead performance from Storm Reid and utter lack of humour doesn’t help; garish set/costume/production design proves nauseating. RATING: 1.5/5  

THE DEATH OF STALIN
Director: Armando Iannuci
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Jeffrey Tambor.
Plot: Moscow, 1953; Soviet leader Joseph Stalin collapses unexpectedly of a brain haemorrhage. A frenetic surge of raw panic spreads like a virus amongst the senior members of the Council of Ministers, as they scramble to maintain order, weed out the competition, and, ultimately, take power. In the end, who will prevail after the death of Stalin?
Verdict: There is ‘political farce’ and then there is Armando Iannuci’s The Death of Stalin, a comedy so black as to almost absorb one’s capacity for laughter. Iannuci’s past pointed barbs designed to tear apart the hypocrisy and immorality of our leaders (TV series Veep and The Thick of It; the feature In The Loop) did the job but left us with one finger grasping humanity; not so The Death of Stalin. It’s funny, but in the same way that joke about the uncle who walks into the woods with his nephew at sunset is funny; we laugh, and we get why we laugh, but everything about the humour is painfully uncomfortable. RATING: 3.5/5

   

LOVE, SIMON
Director: Greg Berlanti
Stars: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Tony Hale, Katherine Langford.
Plot: Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, it's a little more complicated. He hasn't told his family or friends that he's gay, and he doesn't know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he's fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing.
Verdict: Far too many contemporary teen comedies anoint themselves as ‘Hughes-ian’, desperate to align themselves with the smart, sweet, insightful teen movies of the genre’s golden years, the 80s. Finally, a film earns the accolade; Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon is a deeply moving, genuinely funny, gorgeously cinematic film that recalls the iconic filmmaker’s outsider classics Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful, as well as Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. That Berlanti’s film might also be at the forefront of the next great teen film era – in which teenage protagonists alter how their world understands and accepts who they are on their terms – makes it an extraordinary achievement. RATING: 4.5/5   

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE
Director: Aki Kaurasmaki
Stars: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Ilkka Koivula.
Plot: When the authorities turn down his application for asylum, Syrian refugee Khaled is forced underground, where travelling-salesman-turned-restauranteur Wikström finds him sleeping in the yard behind his establishment. He offers him a job and a roof over his head and, for a while, they form a Utopian union with the restaurant's waitress, the chef and his dog.
Verdict: The best films from Finnish director Aki Kaurasmaki find the faintest glimmer of hope amongst the darkest deadpan melancholy (Leningrad Cowboys Go to America; The Man Without a Past; Le Havre). The Other Side of Hope may be his most effortlessly constructed yet deeply affecting film to date; it won him the Best Director Silver Bear in Berlin last year. One immigrant’s seemingly insurmountable struggle to deal with his new life in modern Helsinki is real-world funny; there is not a false note in the film’s humanity, despite a reality that at times seems entirely cinematic. RATING: 4/5

EARLY MAN
Director: Nick Park.
Voices: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Miriam Margolyes, Timothy Spall, Rob Brydon, Richard Ayoade
Plot: Plucky caveman Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat from Lord Nooth, who plans transform their land into a giant mine. Not ready to go down without a fight, Dug and Hognob must unite their people in an epic quest to defeat a mighty enemy - the Bronze Age. The field of battle – the newly-invented realm of the soccer pitch.
Verdict: The Aardman Animation oeuvre aren’t the films you go to for gut-busting laughs. Curse of The Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run and their masterpiece, Shaun the Sheep, were sweet, gentle, character-driven charmers; when Aardman went for broad schtick, with 2012’s The Pirates! Band of Misfits, it produced their least satisfying film. Early Man falls somewhere in between. The high concept comedy seems to circle around inspired moments of mirth; one senses there is a better movie lurking inside director Nick Park’s hit/miss grab at World Cup football fever relevance. The stereotypically ethnic bad guys feel anachronistic in 2018, too. RATING: 2.5/5 

 

PAUL APOSTLE OF CHRIST
Director: Andrew Hyatt
Stars: James Faulkner, Jim Caviezel, Oliver Martinez, John Lynch, Joanne Whalley.
Plot: Risking his life, Luke ventures to Rome to visit Paul -- the apostle who's bound in chains and held captive in Nero's darkest and bleakest prison cell. Haunted by the shadows of his past misdeeds, Paul wonders if he's been forgotten as he awaits his grisly execution. Before Paul's death, Luke resolves to write another book that details the birth of what will come to be known as the church.
Verdict: The resurgent faith-based film genre grows sturdier with Andrew Hyatt’s retelling of the story of apostle Paul and his mentoring of friend and follower, Luke. Well-crafted and solidly dramatic, the film rises above recent shoddy, preachier Biblical renderings (notably the God-awful Samson, featuring Billy Zane and Rutger Hauer). Not likely to convert any heathen non-believers; the narrative feels deceptively fictitious, which may not please the devout. It is, however, an immensely watchable story, with solid performances from Jim Caviziel (returning to the flock 14 years after his iconic role in The Passion of The Christ), Oliver Martinez and the terrific James Faulkner. RATING: 3/5

READY PLAYER ONE
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Ben Mendehlson and Hannah John-Kamen.
Plot: In an overpopulated 2045, people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant if eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg, hidden somewhere in the OASIS. When unlikely hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger.
Verdict: Should Steven Spielberg, arguably the most influential pop culture figure of the last 40 years and inspiration for much of what author Ernest Cline celebrated in his bestselling novel Ready Player One, be the filmmaker that oversees the blockbuster adaptation? Of course he should; who better to reflect upon the decades that made Spielberg the most successful filmmaker of all time than Spielberg himself. The result is the most playful, exciting and beautifully envisioned Spielberg-directed movie since 2002’s Catch Me If You Can. The great director has some issues wrapping up all the strands of the story; the last half-hour is a bit clunky and he allows some awkward sentimentality to seep in. The journey, however, is filled with some truly wondrous sequences that confirm the director can still craft thrilling popcorn entertainment better than anyone on the planet. RATING: 4/5 

Friday
Dec152017

SCREEN-SPACE‚ÄôS 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.

Saturday
Apr222017

SCREEN-SPACE @ 5: MY FAVOURITE SCREEN-SPACE MOMENTS.

April 22 marks the fifth anniversary of this determinedly ad-free and search-engine unfriendly labour-of-love. A warbling discourse of approximately 30,000 film-related words, as a start-up we covered a forgotten Werner Herzog classic, the revival of a kitschy 3D spaghetti western and a review of something called The Avengers – none of which represent the best work I have done. Which begs the question, “What is?” Under the guise of shameless self-congratulation, I zero in on my favourite articles from the five key categories collectively called Screen-Space…

BLOG / ...
The ‘Blog’ content stems from an immediate, instinctive need to write (REMEMBERING BILL PAXTON; TONY SCOTT: UPON REFLECTION…; TIFF AUDIENCES STILL WARM TO THE BIG CHILL) or often random thought patterns (THE FEVER DREAM THAT IS SHARKNADO; WHATEVER HAPPENED TO…? HOLLYWOOD’S MISSING MOVIES; THE RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF KEVIN COSTNER). I had fun taking the great filmmakers down a peg in my 2012 two-parter THE WORST 20 OF CINEMA’S BEST; I still get choked up when I re-read THE BEAUTIFUL WORDS OF MELISSA MATHESON and REMEMBERING HAROLD RAMIS; and, my animosity towards the terrible stereotypes in Madagascar 3 led to ANIMATION IN BLACK AND WHITE: ARE HOLLYWOOD CARTOONS RACIST? I enjoy the silly dialogue I have with myself called IN BOB WE TRUST, in which my sane, informed pro-De Niro voice stands against my dickish De Niro-detractor voice. But the grandest Blog folly I have undertaken is the THE TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS, a mammoth 18,000 word dissection of the 2016 movie year. I had a concept going in, even a few of the categories headings (an In Memoriam list called TEN SOARING SPIRITS; a box office analysis titled SIX STUDIO SCORECARDS), but I soon realised that the daily output required to realise such a project was…daunting. Got it done, though. Earned four Facebook likes, too. 

REVIEWS / ...
If the Review pages have taught me anything, it is, “Don’t piss off misogynists or Seth McFarlane fans.” Scathing reviews of Cassie Jaye’s lopsided MRA doco THE RED PILL and Seth MacFarlane’s non-comedy A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST met a bitter backlash; “Simon, you’re a f***ing moron,” stated one eloquent wordsmith. Similar ill will from THE HOBBIT and MCU fans poured forth when I dissed their heroes, but I embraced their (mostly) respectful counterpoints. I take pride in supporting advocacy works that highlight crucial social issues (BULLY; GIRL RISING; GIVEN; LAST CALL AT THE OASIS; UNDER THE GUN; I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO) and little-seen indie work, for whom a good review can carry festival and marketplace cache (WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CONCRETE; ARROWHEAD; THE QUARANTINE HAUNTINGS; THE HUMAN RACE; SUNDAY; GIRL ASLEEP). Of the 297 reviews, two of which I’m particularly fond are the 2016 Cannes Film Festival opener, Woody Allen’s CAFÉ SOCIETY, and the personal perspective that infused my thoughts on the Brian Wilson biopic, LOVE & MERCY. None have flowed so freely as my 5-star rant for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY; a childhood of conjuring my own expanded Star Wars universe was honoured by Gareth Edwards’ perfect tentpole blockbuster, which I think my words reflected.

FEATURES / ...
‘Features’ has emerged as the flagship section of SCREEN-SPACE, home to the majority of the film festival and award season coverage; all those ‘BEST OF… / WORST OF…’ pieces surface here. It is here you will find the interview content, my favourite part of the job (well, not the transcribing). I recently boasted that my chat with the Raw director, called IN THE FLESH: THE JULIA DUCOURNAU INTERVIEW, was a favourite, which I stand by. Certainly those conducted on the rarefied ground of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival are a highlight, amongst them BOGDAN MIRICI, NICOLE GARCIA, KOJI FUKADA, BRUNO DUMONT and ANURAG KASHYAP. I’ve had the extraordinary good fortune to chat with my film heroes, including actors MICHAEL BIEHN, TOM SKERRITT, TEMUERA MORRISON, MARLON WAYANS, CATHERINE KEENER and MICHAEL PARE; directors GASPAR NOE (Irreversible; Love), RAMIN BAHRANI (99 Homes), COLIN TREVORROW (Safety Not Guaranteed; Jurassic World); CATE SHORTLAND (Lore); cult hero STEVE DE JARNATT (Miracle Mile; Cherry 2000); and, Iranian auteur NIMA JAVIDI (Melbourne). My most enthusiastic interviewee was German director MAIKE BROCHHAUS, who couldn’t believe her X-rated romantic comedy Schnick Schnack Schnuck had been discovered in Australia; actresses ANNA MARGARET HOLLYMAN and NADIR CASELLI were also utterly charming. I am eternally grateful to the many independent sector auteurs who have contributed their time and personality. Arguably my most cherished interview was the face-to-face I had with an energised M NIGHT SHYAMALAN, whom I sat with just as his thriller The Visit was ushering in his career resurgence.

INDUSTRY / ...
Although envisioned as a ‘business section’, the ‘Industry’ pages have allowed for more personal writing. In R.I.P. DAVID HANNAY, I reflected upon the Australian producer’s remarkable career while lamenting the passing of a cherished industry presence; a work colleague from the VHS boom years, retiring distribution veteran Bob Wright granted me his only interview, titled 21ST CENTURY MAN. As he weathered the storm that blows in when a big-budget pic flops, director Alex Proyas vented to me in PROYAS CASTS DARK SHADE OVER OF GODS OF EGYPT DETRACTORS; similarly, Wyrmwood director Kiah Roache-Turner contributed an exclusive self-penned statement on the personal impact of film piracy in ZOMBIES, PIRATES AND ME: A DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT (the only content in our five year history not written by yours truly); and, THE HISTORY OF LGBT CINEMA IN AUSTRALIA PARTS 1 and 2 was the result of an immense research undertaking. The most satisfying of all Industry pages has been FOUNDER OF HANOI FILM HEAVEN REFLECTS ON REEL LEGACY, a melancholy chat with American expat Gerald Hermann and the movie memories he helped create as head of Hanoi Cinematheque, an arthouse outpost in Viet Nam’s bustling metropolis that was scheduled for demolition a matter of weeks after our interview.

HORROR / ...
I created the ‘Horror’ page to house edgier content from my beloved genre without fear of offending visitors. The search for content has led me to the organisers of such internationally renowned horror film festivals as The UK’s Frightfest, Brazil’s Fantaspoa, Toronto’s Midnight Madness, the Freak Me Out section of the Sydney International Film Festival and LA’s Hollywood Horrorfest. No mention of the ‘Horror’ pages would be complete without acknowledgement of Sydney’s A Night of Horror/Fantastic Planet and founder Dr Dean Bertram, who has supplied countless screeners and contacts since Day 1; check out this summary of the coverage I afforded ANOH/FP 2013. Ours is a relationship I undertook to honour with the sentimental piece, FEST ALUMNI RECALL GLORY DAYS AS GENRE LOVE-IN TURNS 10. Shout-out to the teams at SUFF, MUFF, Monster Fest and Revelations for all the reciprocal love over the years. ‘Horror’ has been home to young buck directors SEVE SCHELENZ (Peelers), BRYN TILLY (Umbra), DANE MILLERD (There’s Something in The Pillaga), JEFF RENFROE (The Colony), CHRISTOPHER AD CASTILLO (The Diplomat Hotel), JEREMY GARDNER (The Battery) and MICHAEL O’SHEA (The Transfiguration), as well as established greats JON HEWITT (Turkey Shoot, 2015) and TODD FARMER (Jason X). My favourite piece may be CANNES CLASSICS BOWS REFN’S RESTORATION OF BAVA BRILLIANCE, my account of that evening in Cannes when Nicholas Winding Refn presented the 4K makeover of Mario Bava’s Planet of The Vampires.

The future? A long-overdue refit is in order; I’ll be launching the SCREEN-SPACE Online Store in the weeks ahead; and, in true Sally Field fashion, I’ll continue to harangue and harass everyone I meet to LIKE, really LIKE my social media platforms (Facebook here, Twitter there). Thank you, for indulging me this outlet and responding with your kind words of encouragement. And, most importantly, a special thanks to a certain lady friend of infinitely superior talent and standing for supporting all I do here. X  

Thursday
Dec222016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: FOUR FLEDGLING FESTIVALS

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

FOUR FLEDGLING FESTIVALS
There can be fewer more arduous undertakings than staging a start-up film festival. In 2016, four rookie events surfaced in Australia that proved that determination, free-thinking and a willingness to place faith in an equally passionate support network meant that the uphill slog that is launching a film festival is not only possible, but can yield results of a global standard…

WINDA FILM FESTIVAL, November 10-13; various venues, Sydney, New South Wales. OFFICIAL WEBSITE
‘Winda’ means ‘star’ in Gumbaynggirr, one of the indigenous languages of Australia’s north-eastern seaboard. It proved a particularly ideal name for this new film event, a celebration of native cultures from across the globe that unites the aims of The Wurhu Daruy Foundation, New Horizon Films and Screen Australia with that of the imagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, the world’s largest presenter of indigenous screen content. “These films shine a light on our shared celebrations, struggles and stories, siving us insight and connection to the universal storylines of indigenous nations,” said Pauline Clague, WINDA Artistic Director. Opening with Lee Tamahori’s New Zealand hit, Mahana, the program embraced narratives from such nations as Russia (Dmitry Davidov’s Bonfire); Finland (Suvi West’s Spaarrooabban); Canada (Adam Gernet Jones’ Fire Song); Australia (Ivan Sen’s Goldstone) and Western Samoa (Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa’s Three Wise Cousins). New tech enriched ancient storytelling with the Virtual Reality sidebar, which featured Lynette Wallworth’s Martu tribe story, Collisions, and Ben Smith’s Yolngu culture celebration, Welcome to Garma.

MELBOURNE DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL, July 9-11, Howler Art Space, Brunswick, Victoria. OFFICIAL WEBSITE
When SCREEN-SPACE spoke to Festival Director Lynden Stone in June, he spoke of the very clear direction he had for his new venture. “We want to present a socially liberal film festival comprised of a diverse and challenging slate that supports and promotes women, Aboriginal, Asian and LGBTI documentaries,” he said. Which is not to suggest this was some hand-wringing, issues-based sobfest. “Whilst I love ‘showcase’ documentary film festivals, I find their schedules and programming to be incredibly serious,” Stone said. “We wanted to look at creating a fun and exciting documentary film festival that was playful with documentary genre.” Hence such crowdpleasers as Jeff Hann’s Coffee Man, Gavin Bond’s Todd Who? and Robin Vogel’s Churchroad. The vast list of competitive honours featured Aaron Beibart’s A Billion Lives, Em Baker’s Spoke, Marketa Tomanova’s Andre Villers – A Lifetime in Images and Giovanni Coda’s Bullied to Death.

WOLLONGONG FILM FESTIVAL, Saturday October 29; Project Contemporary Art Space, Keira St. Wollongong, New South Wales. OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
Festival director Gia Frino (pictured, right) launched the Wollongong Film Festival with a focus on the contributions of women to the art of filmmaking. Submissions were only accepted if women were credited with one of the six key roles during production. “I am a pretty staunch feminist,” she told the local press as part of the event’s launch, “(and) every year I try to empower women in some shape or form.” The festival donated all proceeds to the One Girl initiative, a movement that is bringing education and hope to impoverished African women. “It’s not about ‘here have some money’,” said Frino, who serves as an ambassador for the charity, “it’s actually about giving the girls the power to change their lives.” The international film community responded, with submissions from as far afield as Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Spain, the Phillippines and New Zealand, as well as homegrown talent. Honours went to Lena Kralikova Hashimoto for her student short, Atomka Genpatsu (Japan); Samain Husseinpour for the short film, Fish (Iran); Adnan Zandi for Butterflies (Iran), in the Most Empowering Feature category; Freyja Benjamin, producer and star of the Australian short Strangers in The Night, as Most Empowering Female; and, Jon Bling’s locally made Never Forget, for Best Feature. 

NOOSA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, November 3-6; various venues, Noosa, Queensland. OFFICIAL WEBSITE.
Organisers decided make a bold statement with the Noosa International Film Festival, launching the kind of ambitious, extensive program one rarely sees at a start-up event. As the festival guide proudly declares, ’140 Films 4 Days 4 Towns 5 Venues.’ Festival director and President of the Noosa Chamber of Commerce, Peter Chenoweth, stated that the beach resort town was ideal for a celebration of global film culture. “We’re blessed in that Noosa is a melting pot of skillsets, from financial wizards to film buffs to people with PR and promotional skills,” he told local media. “Add to that the encouragement and help we’re receiving from a whole raft of people within the film industry, and we already have the makings of a very successful and prestigious event.” The big ticket items were ‘Inside Cinema’, a presentation on the art and craft of cinematography by Australian great John Seale; the Opening Night screening of Bernard Bellefroid’s Melody, starring Rachel Blake; and, a rare showing of the German Expressionism silent masterpiece, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The short film competitive strand and the day-long ‘Ecoflicks’ environmental-themed sessions ensured local talent and issues were also addressed.