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Friday
Jan172014

SNUBS, SURPRISES, ELATION AND DESPAIR, LIVE FROM THE SAMUEL GOLDWYN THEATRE

The films that will battle out the 2014 Oscar ceremony convey a sense that the power brokers amongst Hollywood’s ivory towers are rewarding their own Generation X influences, ie money, fame and fantasy, with a thin coating of honourable indignation. David O’Russell’s wildly self-indulgent spin on self-indulgence, American Hustle, and Alfonso Cuaron’s existential sci-fi saga, Gravity (pictured, below) lead the nominations with 10 nods, followed by Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave with 9, in a field that showed scant regard for old-school, Oscar-friendly contenders.

BEST PICTURE:

American Hustle Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
Captain Phillips Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
Dallas Buyers Club Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
Gravity Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
Her Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
Nebraska Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
Philomena Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
12 Years a Slave Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
The Wolf of Wall Street Nominees to be determined
But what about…?: Oscar voters displayed a sparrow’s attention span this year, with no film prior to the early October release date of Gravity earning a Picture nomination. Which meant no glory for Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station or Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. The Coen Brother’s long, happy history with the Academy was halted with the shut-out of Inside Llewyn Davis; Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight might’ve figured at one point. Unlike past years, no foreign language or animated feature stepped up.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:

Christian Bale in American Hustle
Bruce Dern in Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (pictured, below)
But what about…?: Bale and DiCaprio were no certainties and point to a younger influence amongst AMPAS members; even Bruce Dern, the one veteran amongst the group, is a counter-culture figure who has often been at odds with the studio system. The most glaring no-shows are Robert Redford (All is Lost) and Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks), though consider that Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Joaquin Phoenix (Her), Forrest Whittaker (Lee Daniel’s The Butler), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt) and Hugh Jackman (Prisoners) also missed out.

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:
Amy Adams in American Hustle
Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (pictured, below)
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Judi Dench in Philomena
Meryl Streep in August: Osage County
But what about…?: The British. Sure, Judi Dench is deservedly present, but where are past Oscar favourites Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks) and Kate Winslet (Labor Day), both of whom deserved a nod over Ms Streep’s histrionics in August: Osage County. The presence of Dench and Aussie icon Cate Blanchett can’t hide the fact that international cinema was disgracefully ignored in this category, with Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Colour), Berenice Bejo (The Past) and Zhang Ziyi (The Grandmaster) all missing out.

BEST DIRECTOR:
American Hustle
David O. Russell
Gravity Alfonso Cuarón
Nebraska Alexander Payne
12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen
The Wolf of Wall Street Martin Scorsese (pictured, below, on-set)
But what about…?: Spike Jonze earned an Original Screenplay nomination for Her, but if the film was going to be a serious contender he needed to feature here. Hanks’ snubbing suggests Captain Phillips fell out of favour at some point, explaining Paul Greengrass’ omission. Perennials such as Allen and the Coen’s lost momentum; newcomers JC Chandor (All is Lost) and Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyer’s Club) have put the Academy on notice. A longshot was PeterBerg for his masculine handling of the action in Lone Survivor, but that didn’t pan out.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper in American Hustle (pictured, below)
Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club
But what about…?: Jonah Hill is the category bolter, having found no love from most of the award ceremonies to date. His inclusion probably bumped the late James Gandolfini (Enough Said), John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis) or possibly James Franco (Spring Breakers). Daniel Bruhl was unlucky, having been great in both Rush and The Fifth Estate, two box-office non-starters.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts in August: Osage County
June Squibb in Nebraska
But what about…?: Oprah. Also Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), but it was Ms Winfrey who appeared podium-bound when The Butler became a breakout hit.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:
The Act of Killing Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen (pictured, below)
Cutie and the Boxer Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
The Square Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
20 Feet from Stardom Nominees to be determined
But what about…?: The role that Gabriella Cowperthwaite’s stunning Blackfish has played in changing the way the public view sea mammals in captivity has been as profoundly impactful as the similarly-themed 2010 Oscar winner in this category, The Cove. Also notably absent is Sarah Polley’s vividly original Stories We Tell, which has won LA and NYC film critic honours and the National Board of Review Best Docomentary prize.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
The Croods Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
Despicable Me 2 Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
Ernest & Celestine Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
Frozen Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
The Wind Rises Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
But what about…?: Pixar. Planes was sub-par and never stood a chance, but surely Monster’s University had the edge on Despicable Me 2. It is only the second time Pixar have not featured in this category; the previous no-show was Cars 2.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
The Broken Circle Breakdown Belgium
The Great Beauty Italy (pictured, below)
The Hunt Denmark
The Missing Picture Cambodia
Omar Palestine
But what about…?: AMPAS really stuck it to their French colleagues, all but ignoring the eligible films that featured amongst the Cannes 2013 winner’s list (The Past; Ilo Ilo; Heli). Despite critical momentum, Australia’s The Rocket (utilizing the Lao dialect), Brazil’s Neighbouring Sounds, Hong Kong’s The Grandmaster and Saudi Arabia’s Wadjda were unrewarded.

For a full list of nominations for the 86th Academy Awards, click here.

The 86th Academy Awards will be held on March 2 at the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles.

Tuesday
Dec032013

2013 AACTA AWARD NOMINATIONS

The mega-budget extravagance of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby faces off against the meagre means of Kim Morduant’s The Rocket in what is shaping up as a David and Goliath arm-wrestle at this year’s Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards.

Nominations for the 3rd annual industry sector backslap were announced today, with Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, Tony Krawitz’s Dead Europe (5 nominations) and the anthology effort The Turning (7 nominations) rounding out most nods in the key categories.

Our most flamboyant director’s take on F Scott Fitzgerald’s very American literary classic divided critics but did enough to earn 14 nominations, the most of any film from the qualifying period. Amongst its noms are Film, Director, Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Actress (Carey Mulligan) and three names across the two supporting acting fields (Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Debicki). As expected, the state of the art production dominated the technical sections, with costume design, production design, sound and editing all honoured. Craig Armstrong’s music and Luhrmann and Craig Pearce’s adapted screenplay are also in the running.

MIFF’s Audience award winner, The Rocket (pictured, right), nabbed 11 nominations, including Film, Director and Original Screenplay. The film’s diminutive and charismatic leading man, Sitthiphon Disamoe, scored a Best Actor nomination (a category that he has already won, at the Tribeca Film Festival). Co-star Alice Keohavong snared a Supporting Actress mention; Thep Phongam, so memorable as ‘Uncle Purple’, is Supporting Actor nominated. 

The Rocket is one of the films that explore the plight of indigenous cultures that have been recognised by the AACTA voting committee. Ivan Sen’s crime thriller Mystery Road (6 nominations) and Catriona McKenzie’s Satellite Boy (2 nominations) are contenders, as is Rodd Rathjen’s Himalayan-set story of personal discovery, Tau Seru (Small Yellow Field), which is vying for Best Short Fiction Film honours.

No doubt surprising some but delighting many of those that saw the film was the recognition afforded Colin and Cameron Cairnes pitch-black horror-comedy 100 Bloody Acres, which snared Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Angus Sampson; pictured, left) nods. Categories were further filled out by Mark Lamprell’s Goddess (3 nominations), Anne Fontaine’s Adoration (4 nominations) and Ben Nott and Morgan O’Neill’s Drift (4 nominations).

First among notable omissions must be Aaron Pedersen’s commanding lead turn in Mystery Road, along with stellar work by Robin Wright (Adoration), Damon Herriman and Anna McGahan (100 Bloody Acres), Judd Overton (DOP on Return to Nim’s Island) and several of the creative team behind Boyd Hicklin’s cricket comedy Save Your Legs.

The full list of nominees for the 2013 AACTA Awards, including Short Film, Documentary and Television categories can be found here. 

Tuesday
Dec032013

25th ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW

A heady mix of contemporary French films will contrast retrospective strands from two of European cinemas giants at the 2014 French Film Festival, touring Australia in March and April under the stewardship of the French cultural initiative, Alliance Francaise.

From its launch in 1989, the event has grown to become the biggest foreign-language film festival annually in Australia; organisers boast that it is one of the world’s largest celebrations of French cinema outside of France. The public continues to respond; attendance figures have risen an astonishing 194% over the last eight years, with screenings now held in six capital cities. In 2014, a ‘Best of…’ season will debut in Byron Bay, an artistic regional centre on the New South Wales north coast.

Next year’s event will launch 40 new works, including 32 Australian premieres, from such celebrated auteurs as Betrand Tavernier (political satire Quai d’Orsay; featured, below), Sylvain Chomet (whimsical fantasy Attila Marcel), Phillippe Le Guay (the feel-good comedy Cycling with Moliere) and Bruno Dumont (controversial period drama Camille Claudel 1915, with Juliette Binoche; pictured, top). The event kicks off in Sydney on March 4 with the International Premiere of Nils Tavernier’s rousing sports drama, The Finishers.

International guests have yet to be confirmed, although there is no shortage of star power on display. In addition to Binoche, stars featured include Diane Kruger (Guillame Gallienne’s Me Myself and Mum), Daniel Auteuil (Christian Duguay’s Jappeloup), Romain Duris (Regis Roinsard’s Populaire), Tahar Rahim and Lea Seydoux (Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central), Gabriel Byrne (Jerome Bonnell’s Just a Sigh), Jean Dujardin (Eric Rochant’s Mobius), Mads Mikkelsen (Arnaud des Pallieres’ Michael Kohlhaas), Tcheky Karyo (Belle and Sebastian) and Fanny Ardant (Marion Vernoux’s Bright Days Ahead).

Of particular interest is the Festival organiser’s faith is first-time works from a new wave of French directing talent. Anne Weil, co-directing with Philippe Kotlarski, debuts on the 70’s-set thriller, Friends from France; Stephan Archinard and Francois Prevot-Leygonie adapt the play, True Friends; cinematographer Christophe Offenstein’s epic open-sea adventure, Turning Tide (pictured, right); Jean-Marc Rudnicki’s crowdpleaser, Wrestling Queens; and, David Perrault’s monochromatic crime thriller Our Heroes Died Tonight, a supremely stylish exercise in noir than has drawn comparisons to Tarantino and Scorsese.

In tune with the celebratory tone of the 25th anniversary gathering, two of the greats of French film will have some of their most iconic works screened. Fully restored versions of classic works from comedy great Jacques Tati will be on show. These include Jour de Fete (1949), Mon Oncle (1958; featured, below), Mr Hulot’s Holiday (1953), Parade (1974), Play Time (1967) and Trafic (1971). The Closing Night film will be chosen by audience poll from Tati’s retrospective. And rarely-seen works from new-wave great Francois Truffaut will feature in one of the Festival’s most prestigious programming strands in its history (titles yet to be announced).

Honouring their nation’s presence and legacy in the Pacific, the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival will also screen a selection of titles from Le Festival du Film Documentaire Oceanien (FIFO), the region’s leading factual film screening platform, held in Tahiti.  Films screening are Gils Breussail’s seafaring chronicle, And Sail to the Australes; Vincent Perazio’s mystical shipwreck story, La Monique, A Caledonian Wound; and, Alain Gordon-Gentil’s and Laurant Ramamonjiarisoa’s autobiographical account of Belgian cult-figure, Jacques Brel, The Home Stretch.

The Alliance Francaise French Film Festival will post details of the schedule closer to the event on its official website. 

Wednesday
Nov062013

FOREIGN TOONS COLOUR OSCAR'S PALETTE

Of the 19 films that were announced overnight as 2013 contenders for the Feature Animation Academy Award, international cinema represented itself glowingly with nine works from seven countries (including Canada's The Legend of Sarila; pictured, below) submitted for AMPAS member consideration.

Following in the footsteps of the live-action Best Film category, the animated film Oscar race often reflects box office dominance over artistic endeavour. In 2005, eyebrows were raised when Aardman Animation’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (pictured, below) trumped both Howl’s Moving Castle and Corpse Bride; last year, Pixar took home its 7th trophy for Brave, bettering the arguably superior Frankenweenie and ParaNorman.

One thing is certain – the Oscar apple never falls far from the LA animation tree. Hayao Miyazaki’s 2002 masterpiece Spirited Away, produced by his Japanese company Studio Ghibli, is still the only foreign film to score the big prize (Brit Nick Park’s Aardman outfit was a Dreamworks Animation partner; 2006's Happy Feet was Oz-made but US-backed). Of the 44 nominations bestowed since the award began in 2001, only eight have been from overseas territories.

When the Oscar nominations are announced on January 16, tradition dictates that the likes of Monsters University, The Croods, Despicable Me 2 and Epic will feature prominently. But there are some fine works for the Academy members to consider from off-shore animation artisans…:

Ernest and Celestine (Dirs: Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner; France)
Adopting a gentler water-colour palette, this adaptation of Belgian children author Gabrielle Vincent’s series of books is already a sensation internationally, boasting festival wins at Cannes, Dubai and Seattle in addition to it’s Cesar for Best Animated Film (pictured, right).

The Fake (Dir: Sang-ho Yeon; South Korea)
The latest from the director of The King of Pigs debuted at Busan to a critical reception that underlined the film’s relentless bleakness but praised its artistry. “Though the narrative feels pregnant with rage, his approach never seems to be colored with anger, rather his touch is marked by a sadness”, said Twitch.com.

Khumba (Dir: Anthony Silverston; South Africa)
Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation secured top-tier voice talents (Liam Neeson, Steve Buscemi, Laurence Fishburne, Richard E Grant) to ensure their ambitious $20million African adventure, about a zebra missing half its stripes determined to find its place in the world, found favour with international audiences.

The Legend of Sarila (Nancy Florence Savard; Canada)
The animated industry of The Great White North rolls the dice on its first stereoscopic 3D effort, a vast adventure set against the dwindling natural resources of the wild, beautiful hinterland and of how the native Inuit people, led by three determined youngsters fighting a spiritual force, must learn to cope.

Rio: 2096 A Story of Love and Fury” (Dir: Luiz Bolognesi; Brazil)
Best Feature winner at the revered Annecy International Animated Festival, documentary maker Luiz Bolognesi feature debut takes on a ‘Cloud Atlas’-like narrative that explores a romance set against 600 years of Brazilian history. A heady, adult-oriented mix of traditional cell and state-of-the-art CGI animation.

Apostolo (Dir: Fernando Cortizo; Spain)
The lone stop-motion animated work in contention, Cortizo’s feature debut is a dark, gothic fantasy. The tale of three escaped criminals searching for hidden booty in the oddly eerie enclave of Xanaz, it both beguiles discerning young viewers whilst offering social satire for adults to contemplate. The score is by legendary composer, Phillip Glass.

Three films from the Japanese Animation Industry
Given the traditional love for the artform held by the population of Japan, it is no surprise to see three works in contention for Oscar glory. This year’s breathtaking works from the spiritual home of international animation are The Wind Rises (Dir: Hayao Miyazaki), an autobiographical account of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of Japanese fighter planes in World War II; A Letter to Momo (Dir: Hiroyuki Okiura), a child’s supernatural odyssey which pays particular homage to the great Spirited Away; and Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion (Dir: Akiyuki Shinbo), the third instalment in the popular anime adventures of everygirl-warrior, Madoka.

Monday
Oct142013

ANNUAL CONFAB EMBODIES LOCAL SECTOR FILM FERVOUR

The 68th edition of the Australian International Movie Convention (AIMC) is in progress on Australia’s idyllic Gold Coast tourist mecca. This annual coming-together of the exhibitor and distributor sectors is one-part boozing-&-schmoozing party time and one-part dissection of the key issues impacting the cinema-going culture of this nation.

Following the charity golf challenge that traditionally kicks off the AIMC, the event opened in earnest at the Jupiters Casino resort Screening Theatre (pictured, above) with a splash of Hollywood hoopla last night, Sunday October 13. The Australian premiere of Tom Hanks real-life thriller, Captain Phillips, courtesy of Sony Pictures, proved a heart-pounding success; attendees happily flocked to the DeLuxe Open Bar for some nerve-soothing cocktails that ensured the party atmosphere was maintained well into the wee hours.

The Paul Greengrass directed film kickstarts a week of much-anticipated screenings, always a highlight of the Convention. In 2013, the vast delegate contingent will see advance screenings of Universal’s Last Vegas (Dir: John Turteltaub; stars, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas); Hopscotch Entertainment’s Philomena (Dir: Stephen Frears; stars, Judi Dench, Steve Coogan); Warner/Roadshow’s August Osage County (Dir: John Wells; stars, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts); 20th Century Fox’s Enough Said (Dir: Nicole Holofcenter; stars, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, James Gandolfini); Pinnacle Film’s Dallas Buyer’s Club (Dir: Jean-Marc Vallee; stars, Matthew McConnaughey, Jared Leto); Icon’s Filth (Dir: Jon S Baird; stars, James McAvoy, Imogen Poots); Paramount’s Bad Grandpa (Dir: Jeff Tremaine; star, Johnny Knoxville); Walt Disney’s Delivery Man (Dir: Ken Scott; stars, Vince Vaughan, Chris Pratt); and, Studio Canal’s Cuban Fury (Dir: James Griffiths; stars, Nick Frost, Ian McShane).

Traditionally, the titles selected for AIMC showings are those from which the distributors hope to gain the most positive word-of-mouth, translating into broader bookings amongst the exhibitor sector.

In addition to the marketing might of the Hollywood majors, the Australian Independent Distributors Association (AIDA) is afforded a major evening function during which execs present first-glimpses of their product for the year ahead. These include Becker Film Group (set to release in 2014 the Toni Collette/Simon Pegg project, Hector and The Search for Happiness); Curious Film (high off the success of Kim Morduant’s The Rocket, will soon release the dark genre work Errors of the Human Body); Madman Films (readying Blackfish and How I Live Nowfor late 2013 slots); and, Rialto Distribution (launching in 2014 the latest from international superstar Mads Mikkelsen, historical drama Michael Kolhass, and the animated French charmer, Ernest et Celestine).

The outpouring of love for the year ahead in cinema is tempered by incisive key-note addresses and lengthy panel discussions as to the state-of-play of the Australian movie-going landscape. In 2013, the Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts, the Honourable George Brandis will take the podium alongside executives from the National Association Cinema Operators Executive Director Michael Hawkins and Chairman Peter Beattie; Chairman of the Motion Picture Distributors of Australia (MPDA), Marc Wooldridge; and, Regional VP of industry leader Rentrak, Steve Ashmore.

Known for determinedly keeping an eye on the future of film distribution and exhibition in Australia, the 2013 AIMC has drawn upon some of the industry’s most forward-thinking minds to address issues confronting the sector. News Corp’s Group Director of Digital Product and Development, Alisa Bowen, ruminates upon the impact of social and digital media in the years ahead; top-tier execs from Village Cinemas, Majestic Cinemas, Studio Canal, Hoyts Technology Group, Deluxe Digital and Paramount Pictures take on the contentious issue of Digital Delivery under the moderation of MPDA GM Lori Flekser; and, perhaps of most importance, will be the lecture given by KPMG’s Demographic Group partner Bernard Salt (pictured, right) entitled ‘Managing and Engaging Generation Y’.

Above all else will be the re-emergence of beloved industry figure, Australian Film Institute (AFI) Chairman Alan Finney. Having fought off life threatening illness for much of the last 12 months, Finney will be in attendance to present the AFI portion of the event.

The sense of celebration that surrounds the AIMC has ensured it has remained an integral part of the Australian film calendar for close to seven decades. Revellers traditionally go well into the night, following such extravagant events AIMC Trivia Night and the Gala Convention Wrap Party. Expect 2013 to be similarly fuelled by the attendees united passion for the local industry.

Full details of the 2013 Australian International Movie Convention can be found at their website.

Monday
Oct142013

RIVIERA SET TO REVEL IN ANTIPODEAN FILM ARTISTRY 

Cinema works from Australasia descend upon the French Riviera for the 15th annual Recontres Internationales du Cinema des Antipodes, a celebration of the diverse film cultures of the South Pacific. The celebration kicks of today in Saint Tropez.

Bernard Bories, President of the Cinema des Antipodes organising committee, has used his welcoming address to cite the many qualities that distinguish the cinema of the region. “This window opening on the far ends of the world will once again reveal diversity, uniqueness, harshness, poetry, humour, sensitivity, and a love of wide open spaces,” he states.

The seven-day event, comprises 14 feature films, 9 documentaries and 16 shorts, launches with the French premiere of Drift, co-directors Morgan O’Neill and Ben Nott’s account of Australian surf culture in the 1970s starring Xavier Samuel, Myles Pollard and Sam Worthington (pictured, right). The festival will wrap on October 20 with Nadia Tass’ Fatal Honeymoon, the made-for-TV account of the true-life investigation into the diving death of an American newlywed on Australia’s Barrier Reef; starring Harvey Keitel and Garry Sweet, the film premiered on US TV in 2012 but has earned a rare big-screen slot at the fest.

Australian actress Radha Mitchell (pictured, left) has been appointed President of 2013 Jury, and will oversee the judging of six features with Australian-born/London-based director Daniel Nettheim (Angst; The Hunter) and French thespians Patrick Braoude, Vahina Giocante and Frederic Gorny. The Australian films in competition are Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, David Pulbrook’s Last Dance and Catriona McKenzie’s Satellite Boy; the Kiwi industry is represented by Dean Hewison’s How to Meet Girls from a Distance, Tim van Dammen’s Romeo and Juliet: A Love Song and Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland’s Shopping.

Non-competitve screenings include Craig Lahiff’s road-movie thriller Swerve; Miro Bilborough’s romantic drama Being Venice; Lawrence Johnston’s account of the making of On the Beach, Fallout; Nicolas Brike’s NZ surfing doco Sewn; and, Alyx Duncan’s familial tearjerker The Red House. Two rock-umentaries focus on the music that has been influential to Down Under culture – Ian Darling’s Paul Kelly Stories of Me and Ray Argall’s Rock of the Antipodes: The 80s.

A retrospective showing of Mario Andreacchio’s much-loved 1995 family pic Napoleon is the centerpiece of Antipodes Junior, a programming directive featuring films both for and about children; notable amongst the selection is Paora Joseph’s Maori ancestral odyssey, Tatarakihi: Children of Parihaka.  

The sector’s smaller but no less potent film industries are addressed via a strand of two Indonesian features, Kamila Andini’s acclaimed The Mirror Never Lies and the omnibus project, Rectoverso (pictured, top), a collection of five shorts from first-time women directors based upon the writings of Dewi Lestari. Elsewhere, Nune Luepack’s hour-long sociological thinkpiece Imulal, Une Terre des Racines et des Reves indicates that the filmmaking pool of New Caledonia is a richly talented one.

Recontres Internationales du Cinema des Antipodes runs October 14 to 20. Full details can be found at the Festival’s website.

Monday
Sep232013

WEEKEND WITH KATE: REVIVING SYDNEY'S CINEMA CULTURE

For three decades, the all-consuming tide of multiplex-cinema expansion has consigned Sydney’s arthouse auditoriums of yesteryear to movie buff memory. But the Golden Age Cinema, located in the fully-restored Paramount Pictures Building, is bringing back the days of retro-cinema glory. Charged with re-introducing a modern metropolis to the big-screen thrills of such diverse classics as Badlands and Caddyshack is film programmer, Kate Jinx (pictured, below).

“I grew up with the Valhalla posters in my family house, thanks to my older sister who wallpapered her room with them, and until I was old enough to get there myself in the 90s, I’d memorise the sessions - Meet the Feebles, Bliss, Koyaanisqatsi, Betty Blue,” Jinx reminisces of the iconic, long-gone Glebe fleapit as an abiding influence on her love of cinema. “I think that independent cinemas are hugely vital to a city’s culture. I miss the Valhalla! I miss the Mandolin! I miss what the Chauvel was like when Palace also had the Academy Twin. I think it’s the right time for a new, independent cinema such as Golden Age that has both new and repertory programming to open up and to be offering a new kind of experience.”

Her obsession has led to a varied career, including a popular review show on radio station FBi and film-themed performance pieces at venues such as The Museum of Contremporary Art. However, getting the film programming duties at Sydney’s first new inner-city venue in many years was particularly daunting. “I experienced the full four stages of shock, I think,” she laughs, admitting, “no one has never entrusted me with a whole cinema, let alone a brand new one.” Putting his faith in Jinx is Barrie Barton and his projects-based collective Right Angle Studios whose mission is to ‘understand and improve life in our cities’; among many of the group’s initiatives was the launch Melbourne’s Rooftoop Cinema in 2005, now an integral part of the southern capital’s movie culture.

The refurbished 60-person cinema is steeped in Sydney film history; its Surry Hills venue (pictured, right) has been a cherished site for the industry since it opened in 1940, when it screened newsreels for service personnel. “The design of both the cinema and the bar are very much in-keeping with its history, but with a modern sense of drama and a flash of futurism,” says Jinx, pointing out that those who have attended the first few weeks of screenings have been a wonderfully eclectic cross-section of new and old buffs. “It’s been fantastic to see who turns up for our Sunday classics - it’s always a total mix of people who have seen the film dozens of times and people who are seeing it for their first.”

Frankly, it is a dream job for any lover of film and Kate Jinx is fully aware of the privilege that programming for The Golden Age Cinema affords her. “I’ve got a bit of a lengthy, completely ridiculous list I’m working on. Jacques Rivette’s Celine & Julie Go Boating tops it,” she confides, citing the 1974 head-trip classic. “I’m as excited to be able to play a fully restored 2k version of The Battle of Algiers or Badlands as I am about playing a rock documentary like Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me or Poltergeist on a Friday night. I just want the space to be able to show a good variety of films we like and believe in and think deserve an audience. [And] to bring some of the charm and romance of ‘going to the movies’ back.”

Session times and venue details are available here.

Thursday
Aug292013

SOUTHERN COMFORT: THE 2013 ADELAIDE FILM FESTIVAL PREVIEW

A programme strand celebrating water in films, an interactive multimedia horror event and a trip down memory lane to the days of ‘drive-in theatre’ glory are some of the left-field highlights to emerge from the launch of the 2013 Adelaide Film Festival (AFF).

The sixth edition of South Australia's biennial celebration of cinema opens on October 10 with the Australian premiere of John Curran’s Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska. Under the stewardship of CEO and debutant Festival Director Amanda Duthie (pictured, below), the 11 day event will close October 20 with the highly-touted Cannes entrant A Story of Children and Film (pictured, above), director Mark Cousins’ cinematic-essay featuring clips from 53 films that capture the role of children in the development of the artform.

Audiences will savour works from 48 countries, including an official In Competition strand that features 12 new films from such world cinema giants as France’s Claire Denis (Bastards), Chile’s Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Dance of Reality), England’s Kevin McDonald (How I Live Now), the U.S.A.’s Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive) and Iran’s Asghar Farhadi (The Past).

The 2013 jury is presided over by producer Al Clark (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Chopper) and includes Animal Kingdom producer Liz Watts and The Sapphires’ director Wayne Blair, as well as international guests Maryanne Redpath, Director of the Berlinale Generations section, and Lawrence Wechsler, Artistic Directort of the Chicago Humanities Festival.

Of the 28 world premieres that are launching during AFF, eight diverse projects will have emerged directly from the festival’s own Investment Fund initiative. In addition to Tracks (featured, above), these include Rolf de Heer’s walkabout drama Charlie’s Country, starring iconic indigenous actor David Gulpilil; Sophie Hyde’s 52 Tuesdays, a chronicle of one year in the life of a teenager whose parent is undergoing gender transformation surgery; and director Warwick Thornton’s The Darkside, an all-star omnibus film of traditional ghost stories featuring the likes of Deborah Mailman, Aaron Pedersen and Sharri Stebbens.

International cinema that will be screening for the first time on these shores includes Declan Lowney’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, the first big-screen outing for Steve Coogan’s comedic cult-figure; James Toback’s Seduced and Abandoned, in which the director and star Alec Baldwin traverse the Cannes Film Festival's independent funding quagmire; Alain Guiradie’s homosexually-graphic murder mystery, Stranger by the Lake; co-director’s Luigi Acquisito’s and Bety Reis’ Beatriz’s War, the first feature shot by the nation of East Timor (pictured, right); and, legendary documentarian David Attenborough’s 3D odyssey of the insect world, Micro Monsters.

The eclectic events calendar that runs concurrently with the screening schedule will feature the high-profile honouring of Shine director and local lad-made-good Scott Hicks with the Don Dunstan Award; a seminar hosted by acclaimed artist Bill Morrison on the power of the clip-footage image, entitled ‘Art of the Archive’ (accompanied by a rare screening of what many consider his masterwork, Decasia; featured, below); a retrospective of 1960’s American activist filmmaker Shirley Clarke; and, Ursula Dabrowsky’s reimaging of her ‘Demon…’ trilogy of low-budget horror works as an interactive tablet narrative, retitled Demon House.

If all of that sounds like too much time spent inside, take your passion for films outdoors. On Saturday October 12, the Adelaide Showground Main Arena will transform into a drive-in theatre for a screening of Randal Kleiser’s blockbuster 1978 musical, Grease.

For full details of the 2013 Adelaide Film Festival programme of events and to book tickets, click here.   

Tuesday
Aug272013

THAT'S A WRAP: THE 2013 AMERICAN SUMMER MOVIE SEASON IN REVIEW

It was the Summer Season that drew more attention for its misses than its hits. US audiences took to the studio chum, as expected of them, but they were also merciless in their ambivalence if the film gathered a stink and generous in their love if something felt fresh. SCREEN-SPACE takes an analytical eye to the US summer movie season to see what worked and what didn’t (all figures in US$, as of August 27)…. 

BLOCKBUSTERS: The top 6 films at the American summer box office were, not altogether surprisingly, five sequels and one reworking of an old property. The crown for the season went to Iron Man 3 ($408.6m/#1), followed by Despicable Me 2 ($350.7m/#2, which surged after what was considered by many an underperforming $83.5m opening), the Superman reboot Man of Steel ($290.3m/#3), Monster’s University ($261.8m/#4), Fast & Furious 6 ($238.5m/#5) and Star Trek Into Darkness ($227.4m/#6). Numbers 7 through to 10 represent the real achievers; these were fresh, untested visions that had troubled production histories, up-and-down pre-release tracking and shifted release dates. But World War Z (Brad Pitt’s biggest box office hit ever, with $199m/#7), the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy vehicle The Heat ($156.3m/#8) and The Great Gatsby ($144.9m/#9) defied the odds. The greatest achiever, however, would have to be James Wan’s chilling The Conjuring ($131.7m/#10), which proved the word-of-mouth sleeper hit of 2013’s warmer months, despite no A-list stars and its embracing of the horror genre (often considered a niche market sector). Sony Pictures had their toughest box-office summer in years, their top-grosser the number eleven title, Adam Sandler’s low-brow safe-bet Grown Ups 2 ($128.9m/#11; pictured, right).

SURPRISES: An early-season opening slot allowed the high-concept adventure Now You See Me enough time to grow legs, ultimately conjuring up $116.4m/#13. Alternatively, the late-summer slot for Lee Daniel’s The Butler is proving a very savvy bit of late-season programming, with the Forrest Whittaker film at $51.7m/#28 after only 2 weeks. The Wolverine ($125m/#12) and The Hangover Part III ($112m/#14) maxed out the current potential of their respective franchises, in all fairness. Studios love it when relatively inexpensive properties hit big, with returns on such mid-range investments as Sony’s This is The End ($96.8m/#17), Warner’s We’re The Millers ($91.2m/#18), Universal’s The Purge ($64.4m/#24) and the Lionsgate/Summit stand-up concert pic Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain ($32.2m/#33) helping to offset huge tentpole budgets. The arthouse sector found no breakout smash hit this year, but still secured a share of the season takings with The Way Way Back ($18.6m/#35), Fruitvale Station ($15.2m/#36), Blue Jasmine ($14.5m/#37) and the music-doco 20 Feet from Stardom ($4.3m/#48) all solid performers.

DISAPPOINTMENTS: Much has been written about The Lone Ranger since its limp opening and there is no escaping the fact that Disney will take a bath given its cost, but it did manage to creep up to an ok $90m/#19. Same thinking applies for wannabe blockbusters that underperformed, such as Pacific Rim ($99.2m/#16, though home-vid will be a boon for Warners), White House Down ($72.4m/#21), Elysium ($69m/#22) and The Internship ($44.6m/#31). The audience answered the question, “Do we really need sequels to these films?” with Red 2 ($51.6m/#29) and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters ($48.4m/#30) finding little love. Apart from the two Top 10 animated sequels, family audiences weren’t impressed with the summer offerings, with Epic (#107.3m/#15) Turbo ($78.7/#20), The Smurfs 2 ($62.5m/#25) and Planes ($59.6m/#27) all below par. And much buzzed-about prestige titles that sputtered along but found no traction included Before Midnight ($8.1m/#42), The Bling Ring ($5.8m), Frances Ha ($4m/#49), The East ($2.2/#52; pictured, right) and What Maisie Knew ($1m/#65)

BOMBS: We cut The Lone Ranger some slack, but there is no defending the financial black holes that were After Earth ($60.5m/#26) and RIPD ($32.7m/#32). The last few weeks of summer are traditionally not a happy launching ground; this year, the Harrison Ford/Gary Oldman thriller Paranoia ($6.2m/#44) felt the sting of audience apathy and final figures for several still-in-release films, such Kick-Ass 2 ($22.5m/#34) and The World’s End ($8.7m/#41), could go either way. DOA titles in the summer of 2013 were Only God Forgives ($775k/67; pictured, right), The Hunt ($540k/#72), Lovelace ($334k/#78) and Prince Avalanche ($118k/#93).

All figures with thanks to Box Office Mojo.

Wednesday
Jul242013

TORONTO WELCOMES FOUR OF OUR FINEST

Four Australian features have been selected to screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the most prestigious gatherings on the international calendar.

Amongst the 37 world premieres that will unspool between September 5 and 15 are fresh works from filmmakers Paul Haggis (Third Person), Bertrand Tavernier (Quai d’Orsay), Dennis Villeneuve (Prisoners), Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas Buyers Club), Jason Reitman (Labor Day) and Richard Ayaobe (The Double). Opening the event will be Bill Condon’s Wikileaks expose The Fifth Estate, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange; closing out the fest is Daniel Schecter’s Life of Crime, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s The Switch and starring Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes and Tim Robbins.

Joining the list of world firsts will be Matthew Saville’s Felony, his long-awaited second feature after the success of 2007’s Noise; and Jonathan Teplitzky’s UK/Australian co-production, The Railway Man (pictured, right).

Just as Noise examined a police officer struggling with reality, so too does Felony, which tells of a decorated cop who covers up the fatal consequence of his night on the drink. Backed by two of Australia’s most high-profile production outfits in Goalpost Pictures (The Sapphires) and Blue Tongue Films (The Square), Saville has corralled a top-notch cast that will ensure TIFF buzz is high – on-the-cusp Hollywood star Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher; A Good Day to Die Hard), Joel Edgerton (doubling up as screenwriter) and Melissa George.

Teplitzky’s The Railway Man is the director’s first international effort, after well-received local films Burning Man, Getting’ Square and Better Than Sex. Starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, it recounts the true story of Eric Lomax and his quest to find the Japanese officer who tortured him while he was a World War 2 POW.

John Curran’s Tracks (pictured, top), already announced as the Opening Night engagement for this year’s Adelaide Film Festival, will have its North American premiere in Toronto. The screening will represent the beginning of the final stages of the film’s marathon chronology; the project, which tells the real-life story of a young woman (played by Mia Wasikowska) who travails the West Australian desert on camel, was in pre-production 20 years ago with Julia Roberts attached to star.

And Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road, which had its world premiere as the opener for the Sydney Film Festival in June, has secured its first offshore slot ahead of its mid-August national release on local screens.