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Entries in Best of List (12)

Friday
Dec142018

THE SCREEN-SPACE YEAR-IN-REVIEW: THE BEST (& WORST) FILMS OF 2018

I decided late in 2017 that the New Year theme was going to be ‘change’. I was going to lose weight (didn’t happen); watch less/play more sport (got my diving licence, so that’s something); and, most importantly, turn my back on the alpha male heroic arc that has dominated film narratives since…well, forever. So I'm proud to say six of my Top 10 films headline female actors, eight if you count co-lead roles (amongst them, below, from left; Zoe Kazan in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Helena Howard in Madeline's Madeline, and Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade).

I admit to swimming against the current on Black Panther (I understand its importance, but…no, sorry) and Roma (gorgeous pictures do not a story make) and at time of writing, I’ve not seen award season frontrunners Vice and The Favourite (both out December 26 in Oz). Finally, apologies to Phantom Thread and I, Tonya, which I saw very late last year and which came out very early this year, slipping between the 'list-crack'. I only hope that the reputations of all involved with those fine films are not sullied by their careless omission from a Screen-Space list…

THE BEST FILMS OF 2018

10. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (Dir: Bryan Singer; USA, 134 min) Detractors went after it for sugarcoating the man's homosexuality and a rather conventional structure, but Bryan Singer’s adrenalized celebration of Freddie Mercury and the music he created with Queen was finely tuned for maximum crowd pleasure – like Freddie (brought back to life by the wonderful Rami Malek). Like the great myth-building musical biopics of yore (The Glenn Miller Story, 1954; Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1980; La Bamba, 1987), Singer’s exuberant song’n’dance act acknowledges the darkness but shines its spotlight on the talent. 

9. PROTECTION (Dirs: Phillip Crawford, Gemma Parsons; Australia, 91 min) Shot by kids mostly under 12 living in subsidised housing in the Illawarra/South Coast region of NSW, Protection conveys fear, hope, sadness and joy in a manner few films ever have. Directors Phillip Crawford and Gemma Parsons were on hand to assist and ultimately corral the footage, but Protection remains purely the vision of ordinary children with vivid imaginations and profound insights into the community and friendships that binds them.

8. MADELINE’S MADELINE (Dir: Josephine Decker; USA, 93 min) Josephine Decker’s coming-of-age drama takes no easy paths – Madeline (Helena Howard) lives on the razor’s edge of teen sanity, hoping a stint in experimental theatre under director Evangeline (Molly Parker), will help her deal with an increasingly erratic mom, Regina (Miranda July). The often non-linear narrative and visual histrionics will drive some to distraction; for others, it will be exhilaratingly abstract and achingly emotional. Howard may be the acting find of 2018. 

7. LETO (SUMMER; Dir: Kirill Serebrennikov; Russia, 126 min) “There is a sprawling sense of time and place to Leto…yet there is not a frame of the film one would want to see excised. The anti-establishment themes and love-conquers-all story beats inherent to the rock/pop biopic genre have been previously explored in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991), Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous (2000) and Anton Corbijn’s Control (2007), but rarely with such heartfelt melancholy, pained romanticism and evocative rendering of time and place.” Read the full SCREEN-SPACE review here.

6. (Dir: Johann Lurf; Austria, 99 min) A master of montage storytelling, Johann Lurf has edited celluloid visions of the night sky and galaxies stretching into deep space from 550 films, creating a record of how directors have pictured the universe since cinema began. No actors and only incidental sound and dialogue as it fits the Austrian’s constructural parameters, ★ is both a breathtaking technical marvel and deeply emotional journey for science-fiction purists. Read the SCREEN-SPACE interview with director Johann Lurf here.

5. THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (Dirs: Joel & Ethan Coen; USA, 133 min) Playing like a greatest hits package of Coen Bros film styles filtered through their adoration of the western genre, …Buster Scruggs captures Joel and Ethan perfectly melding their consummate craftsmanship with their love for classical American cinema. The mid-section story, ‘The Girl Who Got Rattled’ with Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck, is the most perfect part of a near perfect movie. (Yes, it’s a Netflix film, but it played Cannes first, so watch yer mouth, stranger). 

4. PROSPECT (Dirs: Christopher Caldwell, Zeek Earl; USA, 98 min) Lo-fi tech, pulpy flavoursome dialogue, a dirt-encrusted Star Wars-like aesthetic and a complex surrogate daddy/daughter central relationship are just some of the elements that made Prospect the most engrossing sci-fi thriller of 2018. In a year peppered with breakout star performances from young actresses, Sophie Thatcher as the hard-bitten prospector’s daughter Cee is a revelation. Read the SCREEN-SPACE interview with the actress and her directors here.

3. LUZ (Dir: Tilman Singer; Germany, 70 min) It was just to be the thesis submission for film school grad Tilman Singer (hence the 70 min running time), but word soon spread that his chilling horror vision Luz was something special. Through hypnosis, a young cabbie (Luana Velis) recalls the events that led her to a stark meeting room in an undermanned police station. Shot on 16mm and skimming between realities past, present and supernatural, Luz is a bewildering, unique nightmare of a film.

2. CLIMAX (Dir: Gaspar Noé; French | Belgium, 95 min) The old high-school prom “Someone spiked the punch!” dilemma gets the Gaspar Noé spin in Climax; the punch is sangria, the prom is a dance troupe rehearsal peopled by international hotties and the spike is LSD. Frankly, everything seems on acid in this film, even before the sangria is served; the opening dance number, a single-take marvel of twisted limbs and swirling cameras that positively lifts you off your seat, sets the tone and things amp up from there. In his best film since Irreversible, Noé crafts a hallucinogenic descent into drug-induced psychosis, fuelled by the disintegration of social, sexual and moral mores. Enjoy…

1. EIGHTH GRADE (Dir: Bo Burnham; USA, 93 min) Elsie Fisher (hand her the Oscar, please) plays Kayla, a schlubby, pimply, sullen nobody/everybody who springs to life as the star of her own upbeat YouTube show. She espouses life lessons to her audience yet struggles to apply them in her own school or domestic reality. Bo Burnham’s heartbreaking, often harrowing drama has been compared to Todd Solondz’s misanthropic masterpiece Welcome to The Dollhouse, but there is a singular central hopefulness to Kayla’s journey that demands you never lose faith in her; her arc is the most real and affecting in a year of cinema.

     

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: FIRST REFORMED; TULLY; A STAR IS BORN; FIRST LIGHT; COLD WAR; ANNA’S WAR; BLACKKKLANSMAN; AMERICAN ANIMALS; JURASSIC WORLD: FINAL KINGDOM; TRAUMA; MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT; LOVE, SIMON; SUPA MODO; STUCK; MEKTOUB, MY LOVE; CARRIBERRIE; ALPHA.

AND THE WORST…:

5. UNSANE (Dir: Steven Soderbergh; USA, 98 min; pictured, right) and 4. THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB (Dir: Fede Alvarez; USA | UK, 117 min) After TV success in The Crown, Claire Foy was poised for breakout success. Soderbergh’s gimmicky B-clunker Unsane (“Shot on an iPhone!” boasted the marketing) and the DOA franchise reboot The Girl in The Spider’s Web put the brakes on that momentum. She was good in First Man, but it tanked. Tough year for the young starlet.

3. THE PREDATOR (Dir: Shane Black; USA, 107 min) Hopes were high when alumni Shane Black opted back into the Predator franchise, the studio determined to resurrect the series after one too many crappy sequels. Post-production tinkering, tonal clashes and idiotic plotting resulted…in another crappy sequel.

2. OCCUPATION (Dir: Luke Sparke; Australia, 119 min) Overlong, overwrought, overbaked local grab at ID-4 level spectacle, Luke Sparke’s alien invasion malarkey is a fatal miscalculation of the Australian sector’s ability to pull off an effects-heavy actioner. The rubber-suited alien’s attack on a country football match aside, there isn’t an original or coherent thought in the entire shrill, shrieking mess, despite more cornball subplots and clichéd characters than a season of Neighbours. 

1. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (Dir: Brian Henson; USA, 91 min) About 10 minutes into Brian (son of Jim) Henson’s scummy alternate-LA puppet-private-eye dirge, the audience vibe had changed. We had already moved past the “Oh, this isn’t funny at all” stage, and were beginning to realise that, with 80-odd minutes to go, this Melissa McCarthy vehicle (what was she thinking?) was actually becoming grotesquely unwatchable. And, no, not even bong-pulling fratboys will dig it; no weed is that good.

DISHONOURABLE MENTIONS: THE NUTCRACKER & THE FOUR REALMS; FIFTY SHADES FREED; ELLIPSIS; A WRINKLE IN TIME; PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING; THE MEG.

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.

Sunday
Dec252016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS:...AND A LIST FIT FOR 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
For the TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS, SCREEN-SPACE gave to thee…

(to the tune of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’)

TWELVE VIRGIN VIEWINGS
ELEVEN NEW STARS RISING
TEN SOARING SPIRITS
NINE SORRY SEQUELS
EIGHT WONDROUS ONE-SHEETS
SEVEN CARTOON CLASSICS
SIX STUDIO SCORECARDS
FIVE T’RIFFIC TRAILERS
FOUR FLEDGLING FESTIVALS
THREE TARNISHED IDOLS
TWO PERFECT PARTNERSHIPS… 

…AND A LIST FIT FOR 2016

Finally, the obligatory end-of-year indulgence we film types preposterously call ‘The Best of… List.’ Smart film critics have taken to calling them ‘My Favourite Films’ or ‘Standout Pics We Loved’ or something like that, because to assume that one’s personal picks are inarguably better than anyone else’s personal picks is a bit dickish.

Thanks for reading Cine-Mas, my 12-part, 18,000-ish word review of the year in film. With 4 likes, 3 shares and 2 comments via Facebook, it clearly tapped the zeitgeist. I’m joking, of course. Thank you for the support and kind comments about Screen-Space, this soon-to-be-5 lark that you’ve come to know and disregard. I love you all, except those who commented on my review of The Red Pill, you fucking psychos. Appreciate the traffic numbers, of course, but the whole bigotry and misogyny thing…not cool.

So, in a year that saw me suit up for my first Cannes Film Festival, discover the (now-defunct) delights of the Hanoi Cinematheque and spend 40 minutes chatting movies with Ted Kotcheff, I’ve chosen a bunch of films that lingered longest in my increasingly bewildered mind. Some I saw in general release, when I was forced to sit with the phone-checking Neanderthals; others, in the rarefied palaces of the festival circuit or at press screenings (also, Neanderthals). I grant you the respectfully-titled “Screen-Space’s Indisputably Perfect 10 Best Films of 2016”… (no particular order, although we all know which is clearly the best, right?)

THE NEON DEMON: Nicholas Winding Refn paints a lurid, dazzling nightmare-scape of the LA fashion scene, in which competition is cutthroat and the ambition of unwary ingénues is consumed like mince. It is all perfectly shallow, magnetic to the gaze and wrapped in the execution of the most thrilling, divisive director working today. Left me stunned and giddy, but expect it to surface on a few ‘Worst of…’ rants as well; its Cannes premiere was raucous, and distributors have shied away from it in droves.

SING STREET: John Carney (Once; Begin Again) takes as his starting point the hoary old ‘Let’s start a band’ premise and proceeds to make a work that soars beyond that simple premise into something truly extraordinary. The feel-good, toe-tapping vibe hits a crescendo at the start of Act 3; how the film plays out is daring and utterly beautiful. Gets everything about '80s teen culture wonderfully right; the music, the fashion, the belief in romance is beat perfect.

LA LA LAND: Damien Chazelle does for dreamy LA romantics in La La Land what he did angry drummers in Whiplash. That is, paint a richly realised fantasy existence, where heartbreak, longing and struggle is every bit as crucial to the creative process as the journey of falling in love. The dance sequences exhibit old-school expertise and genre understanding; the all-in freeway opener is grand Hollywood, while the purely fantastic planetarium showstopper reveals a Euro influence. Emma Stone’s emotionally resonant spin on the ‘pixie dream girl’ archetype is the role she was born to play.  

YOUR NAME: 2016 was a stunning year for animation (see the names I’ve regretfully bumped to ‘The Next 20’ pile below). Makoto Shinkai’s romantic fantasy, which weaves the story of a dream-state connection between two teens separated by time, place and an impending act of God, struck a chord with Japanese audiences; a country healing from a run of natural tragedies found strength in this spirited, special fairytale love story. International audiences are responding to the deeply emotional, profoundly lovely ‘Romeo & Juliet’-like journey; if Shinkai’s story takes a hold of you, like it did your cynical critic, expect to be reduced to a sobbing mess.

THE WAILING: A schlubby cop and his slightly goofy precinct offsiders are drawn into a murder-mystery that runs the gamut from ‘random act ugliness’ to ‘serial killer intent’ to something otherworldly entirely. Hong-jin Na’s slow-burn horror classic wasn’t the breakout hit of his South Korean peer Sang-ho Yeon’s zombie rush Train to Busan, but in hindsight that level of audience acceptance seemed unlikely; few films in recent memory have kept doubling-down of the unblinking moments of inspired terror like The Wailing. Not for the first time in film history, Asian filmmakers offered the year’s most truly revelatory genre works.

THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK – THE TOURING YEARS: In collating and cutting together photos, footage and audio that spanned the great band’s vast, superb and turbulent history, Ron Howard (yes, that Ron Howard) has crafted both a vivid account of the scope of Beatlemania and an intimate insight into the dynamic of the greatest songwriting unit in the history of pop music. Some of the content will feel warmly familiar, but so much seems new and fresh and purely ecstatic; Howard captures the raw energy and unique personalities that brought the band together and the price they paid for attaining idolatry.   

ROGUE ONE: “A Hollywood franchise entrant that harkens back to an era before those words carried ugly loading.” Read our full review here.

RAW: “Raw is above all else a gut twisting work of classic body horror.” Read the full review here.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE: “A superbly crafted, white-knuckle chamber piece.” Read the full review here.

PERSONAL SHOPPER: “A moody, occasionally frustrating, often brilliant study in isolation, grief and disenfranchisement.” Read the full review here.

THE NEXT 20: THE FINEST HOURS; TONI ERDMANN; WAR ON EVERYONE; SULLY; FUKUSHIMA MON AMOUR; BLOOD FATHER; THE WITCH; DEADPOOL; PETE’S DRAGON; HELL OR HIGH WATER; SWISS ARMY MAN; GARY NUMAN: ANDROID IN LA LA LAND; THE SHALLOWS; DON’T BREATHE; KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS; ZOOTOPIA; FREE FIRE; THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE; ARRIVAL; TONIGHT SHE COMES.

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.

 

Wednesday
Dec212016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: FIVE T'RIFFIC TRAILERS

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

FIVE T’RIFFIC TRAILERS
It’s best if you don’t look at trailers like advertisements, because advertisers lie. Instead, consider trailers as perfect, beautiful little short films that create in you a longing for what you hope the long-form film will become. Sometimes the film delivers on that promise (Rogue One, most recently) and sometimes it doesn’t (Suicide Squad, anyone?), but it’s impossible not to be impressed by the artful, exhilarating skill on display in these five of 2016’s best…

SUICIDE SQUAD
The trailer was rousing, funny, positively pulsated with a good time vibe. The film? Not so much. In commercial terms, it did the job; the target demo had been so primed by this perfect mash-up of music and imagery, US$300million had been banked before any of us realised we'd been duped.

CAMERAPERSON
Kirsten Johnson's magnificent account of humanity is such a glorious, meta-rich celebration of the power of the movie camera, it was inevitable that it cut together as one of the trailers of the year. Set the tone for a work that delievers in spades; Johnson's 'truth in storytelling' approach to cinema is honoured accordingly.

FREE FIRE
Ben Wheatley's rat-a-tat, good time crime caper is shrink-wrapped into this giddy primer. It oddly gives a lot of time to Arnie Hammer, not the safest bet after The Lone Ranger and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but he is a scene-stealer in a film that also stars Oscar-winner Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley (hilarious) and Cillian Murphy, all having the time of their lives.

ONE MORE TIME WITH FEELING
The monochromatic lens of director Andrew Dominik (Chopper; The Assasination of Jesse James...) captured the underground icon Nick Cave at a moment of personal torment. The singer/songwriter was struggling with the creative process while dealing with the grief of losing a child. With admirable subtlety and restrained elegance, the trailer hints at the emotional turmoil that Dominik captures in his remarkable film.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
Not everyone favours the modern trailer maker's propensity for appropriating old songs and building mood around their manipulation. But when it's done well, as it is here for the JJ Abrams production that gave Mary Elisabeth Winstead the lead she has long deserved and John Goodman a legit shot at Oscar glory, it makes for a memorable pitch.

 

Special Mentions:

VICEROY’S HOUSE: Captures the grandeur and emotion of a shift in a nation’s rule; a little Oscar-baity, but rousing.

GET OUT: An incendiary premise is given full flight in this slow-burn mastercut of tension; not what we expected from director, comedian Jordan Peele.

THE NEON DEMON: Detractors of Nicholas Windig Refn’s fashion sector shocker screamed, “Style over substance!” The thrilling, disorienting trailer takes that to the nth degree.

THINGS TO COME: In what was The Year of Isabelle Huppert, this sweet, funny, edgy glimpse of Mia Hansen-Love’s drama just edges out the ad for Paul Verhoeven’s Elle as the best evocation of the great French actress at her finest.

SPLIT: James McAvoy goes full crazy as the split personality bad guy in M Night Shyamalan’s latest chiller.

THE WITCH: A 2015 film, but it rolled out internationally in 2016; the trailer to Robert Egger’s Sundance sensation captures the visual chilliness and desperately anxious ambience perfectly.