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Under the Dust: Blogging the film making progress

3 Aug

Before you start ripping into the last film you walked out on it might be worth sparing a thought for the film makers. They are real people who have no doubt spent the best part of their 20s going to film school,  organizing shooting schedules, using equipment and basically sacrificing their piece of the suburban dream just so we can graze on popcorn in the dark for a couple of hours.

Under the Dust is a new film blog by Jennifer Walsh that will chronicle the dizzying heights, death defying lows and creamy middles of getting a film off the ground.  Dealing with university film making departments who don’t seem to give a shit, trying to pay for a working with children checks for the entire crew; basically all the stuff audiences never think of when they use words like under developed and half-baked.

If you have ever tried to, or just thought about, making a film then this one’s for you.


MIFF recommendations #2: Neighbourhood Watch

9 Jun

I wanted to write a brilliant summary of the varied films that come out of Asia, but tried for 10 minutes and then gave up.

Basically I want to say, Asian cinema = good. Asian cinema = surprising.

From the announced films in MIFF’s Asia-land section, I am DEFINITELY seeing Love in a Puff. Might take a recently quit smoker with me to torture them.

Speaking of torture, City of life and death looks amazingly well-shot, and certainly one to see in the cinema. However, it looks quite traumatic, so you might need to do some mental preparation first.

I am not sure about Love Doll – while quirky Japanese comedies are my thing, this just looks a bit gross. It’s about a love doll that comes to life and has an enchanting magical adventure in real life, including striking up some sort of r/ship with her owner. But has she effectively been getting raped by this sad fellow? Not quite sure how they are going to deal with that one.

I’m looking forward to the complete program. So much.

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Open ended question, I know.

Now Showing: Festival of German Films

25 Apr

You’ve got to love the abundance of film festivals Melbourne puts on over the year. Yes you do! don’t argue with me. The German film festival (sorry ‘Audi Festival of German Films’) is on at the moment, and i’m definitely going to go down and check out a few of them at the Kino (films are also showing at the Palace Como).

I have a man crush on Mads Mikkleson (After the wedding, Casino Royale), so The Door is on my list (second and final screening tomorrow). What do you think you might see?

The festival also has a good blog up, with three great contributors: Lynden Barber, Peter Krauz and Kate Mathews.

Upcoming: Iron Man 2

22 Apr

I have to admit I was pretty sucked into the first Iron Man film. Iron Man 2 will be here in a matter of days and with the big budget film, comes the big budget trailer. Well 3 in fact. And a bunch of websites, like StarkExpo2010. The interactive elements offer some great possibilities, I particularly like the option to go in and get some behind the scenes info on a possible scene – a bit like a DVD easter egg feature, without all the waiting around that you get in a full length film. I also like the blank-faced hyper-reality of the second vids.

Anyway what do you think?

Ze Trailer

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Ze TED like talk

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Ze Corporate video

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Oh and thanks to Pascal Raabe at Rubber Republic for making these embeddable in WordPress.

The Other State (Film news etcetera from New Zealand) – August 2009

2 Sep

The Export

This is more Kiwis do good outside of New Zealand – Jemaine Clement stars in the new film from Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) – Gentlemen Broncos. I had to add it. Flight of the Conchords is one of NZ’s most successful cultural exports. So watch as Jemaine channels Patrick Stewart. Plus frightened leaping ocelot.

The Big Picture

District 9 becomes a massive success in New Zealand, as predicted.

A gigantic success in the US with a $37 million opening weekend.

And Australia? Not so much. Australian crowds preferred to see the critically panned rom-com The Ugly Truth. Good taste guys.

The Talent

Armagan Ballantyne – director of the Strength of Water (really good – I will look into Australian release dates for you) gets some attention for her feature debut. Deservedly so.

Lily and Ra is a short Ballantyne created as a part of Art for the World, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Ticket

The filmmakers of The Insatiable Moon have seemingly launched an appeal for lotto tickets to fund the production. The idea is that the public donates lotto tickets, and the production gets to keep any winnings. Interesting. Though the smart cookies at Flicks have pointed out that the filmmakers haven’t supplied any contacts to send your lotto tickets to… perhaps then just an ineffective stunt?

The Future Films

Predicament –Jemaine Clement (again), Aussie comedian Heath Franklin (Chopper – Harden The Fuck Up), Rose McIver (The Lovely Bones) and musician Tim Finn were recently announced as the cast of upcoming film Predicament. The film is described as a crime comedy involving black mail, adultery and murder. And I bet a fair amount of wacky hijinks. Read the press release at the NZ Film Commission site.

Under The Mountain is new adaptation of a classic New Zealand children’s favourite. This is not going to help my fear of volcanoes.

From Book... to TV... to Film

From Book... to TV... to Film

The Expansion Pack

One of my favourite music sites Cheese On Toast has expanded into film reviews. Sure, go ahead and read them, but just remember we’re your favourite film review site.

Until next time!

Morgan Stewart

MIFF website hacked!?

25 Jul

This just in…

Seems a Chinese nationalist has hacked the Melbourne international film festival website at its peak time; Midday on the first day of the festival.


*thanks to user ‘entroducing’ from the mess&noise forum for the info on this one.

hope i’m not doing a Richard Wilkin’s here; apologies in advance if so!

Read some of the back story to the MIFF / China debacle here.

I’ll put up more information as it comes to hand, but i’m off to the Anna Karina talk now.

Censorship: MIFF conflict with China throws festival into chaos

22 Jul

MIFF is in an 11th hour scramble to fill in gaps created by China’s withdrawal of 6 titles 3 titles/ 6 sessions from the festival, in protest over the inclusion of 10 conditions of love. The AGE covered this today but most sources cited were unable to comment, however Richard Moore called China’s behaviour, “uncalled for”. I’ll have the full list up some time today, though I am so dizzy I can hardly see what I am writing.


I reckon this is censorship; who’s miffed? Along with Looking for Eric and Blank City, that brings the total to 8 5 films removed from the festival this year (Though the reasons for Blank City still remain a mystery).

{Miff website}

{Andrew Bolt defends the arts and Richard Moore}


Perfect Life,

Petition — The Court of the Complainants,

Cry Me a River (short)

The Other State: Film news and etcetera from New Zealand – June 2009

29 Jun

The Short Film

Six Dollar Fifty Man

Six Dollar Fifty Man

Huge congratulations to the team (directors Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland) behind the NZ short film Six Dollar Fifty Man which won a special distinction at Cannes in May. This is only two years after winning the special distinction for the filmmakers previous short Run. Please someone give these guys a real budget – I want to see a feature! link

The Competition

Each year New Zealand’s filmmaking talent is put to the test during the 48 Hours Furious Filmmaking contest. This year’s competition took place over the weekend 8-10 May, with the Grand Final held on the 20th June. The concept is simple – make the best film possible in only 48 hours. All creative aspects of the film must be created in the 48 hours allotted; even genre and other random elements are provided just before the timer starts to prevent any cheating. Now in its 7th year, 48 hours has attracted the attention of Wingnut Films (Peter Jackson’s company) who now sponsor it and often enter a team to keep their talent on its toes.

Here is this years winner, Charlotte, from Dunedin based Team Line Men:

Charlotte is the first animated supreme winner. Here is my pick of the past winners. It’s called Jesse McCleod: The Journey from 2004, and has been described as “a friendly tale of family euthanasia”:

You can read more about the competition, and watch all of the previous winners here.

The Woman

This barely makes it as New Zealand news, as it relates to a British film (Bright Star) that premiered in France (at Cannes) starring an Australian (Abbie Cornish) – but it was directed by New Zealander Jane Campion (who lives in Australia). Whew. As with most ex-pat does good products the buzz in NZ was that Bright Star was set to win the Palme D’Or. While the film is receiving rave reviews from some, it also failed to set others worlds alight. One Little White Lies reviewer lists it in the best and worst: “Biggest Disappointment: That Jane Campion’s Bright Star, a turgid, middle-brow exercise in Quality Filmmaking, so successfully hoodwinked the general public.”

Bright Star will open the 2009 Auckland International Film Festival. I may go. I may also skip it and see Brüno which also comes out that day.

The Peter Jackson Empire

Peter Jackson has a lot on his plate – Lovely Bones is still in post-production, his Dambusters remake is still going ahead, and he is producing The Hobbit. This hasn’t stopped him from taking on a new role: leading a ministerial review of the New Zealand Film Commission. Jackson has been a vocal critic of the commission’s funding decisions in years past, this coupled with the brand new CEO might lead to a few positive changes down at the NZFC… {link}

The Film

Taika Waititi’s follow up to Eagle vs. Shark has just wrapped. The Volcano promises to be full of 1980s coming-of-age awkwardness. The buzz? – it’s gonna be ‘mean’. {link}

The Volcano

The Volcano

– Morgan Stewart


20 Jun

sunshine cleaning

One of the secrets to longevity in the world of film is to keep working! It might sound obvious, but I came to this realisation as I was exiting Melbourne’s Nova Cinema earlier this week (Monday afternoon to be precise, when tickets before 4pm are the princely sum of just $6), having just seen the charming comedy-drama ‘Sunshine Cleaning’, directed by New Zealander Christine Jeffs.

I was musing to myself about the clever casting of two of today’s brightest young actresses, Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters, and filing away in my trivia drawer the fact that both their previous big screen successes had seen them starring opposite the indomitable Meryl Streep. Adams had received her second Oscar nomination (the first was for ‘Junebug’) earlier this year for her stellar work alongside Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the convent-set ‘Doubt’, and the talented British actress Blunt more than held her own in the frantic fashion world of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ alongside Streep and Anne Hathaway.

andrzej wadja

Andrzej Wajda

Anyway, checking what else was playing that day, maybe a double bill was on the cards as ‘Sunshine Cleaning’ comes in at a swift 91 minutes. Unfortunately, I was just too late to be able to easily pop into ‘Katyn’, directed by the exceptional Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda. With time on my hands I began to muse on Wajda’s remarkable career in film which began more than fifty years ago in his native Poland.

And thus was the idea born to look at how age is seemingly no barrier in the world of film direction.

Woody Allen

Woody Allen

I began by thinking about one of my favourite directors Woody Allen, still making a movie a year at the tender age of 74, and in the process assisting in gaining Oscar glory for Penelope Cruz in this year’s ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’. Allen’s recent career renaissance, which began with ‘Match Point’ in 2005, shows no sign of slowing down and I’m excitedly looking forward to his latest ‘Whatever Works’ starring Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator Larry David.

Another legendary workaholic is Clint Eastwood, who constantly amazes me with his work ethic. At 79 years of age he’s still making hugely successful films. In the last year alone we’ve seen him direct himself in Gran Torino which is now his biggest grossing film ever in a (directing) career stretching back to his 1971 debut with the thriller ‘Play Misty For Me’. Eastwood’s second recent film was the period mystery ‘Changeling’ which scored an Oscar nomination for star Angelina Jolie, and he shows no signs of slowing down as he’s currently putting the finishing touches to the post-apartheid ‘Invictus’ with Morgan Freeman as South African president Nelson Mandela.

clint eastwood

Just thinking about these guys is wearing me out, so I’m going to have a breather before taking a more in-depth look at the hardest working men and women in Hollywood and beyond, and how some of film’s best-loved directors don’t, and won’t, let age get in the way of their creative genius. Watch this space!


The Other State: Film news and etcetera from New Zealand.

20 May

The Man

nzfcAfter Dr. Ruth Harley left the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) for Screen Australia last year, one of the biggest roles in the NZ industry was up for grabs. It lay vacant for quite some time – until Graeme Mason was announced as her successor in March. The press release gives a slice of his CV and he’s had a solid international career and seems likely to bring a commercial eye to the industry. What gets me about the press release is the films he has been involved with – The Usual Suspects, Trainspotting, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Spice World – The Movie, and When We Were Kings – wait. Go back [rewind?]. Spice World? Either the NZFC publicist has a sense of humour or this may be a mark of things to come…{link}

The Buzz

The Strength of Water is a NZ/German co-production that is doing the rounds on the international film festival circuit – apparently to much acclaim. This is good news for one of NZ’s most established independent producers Fiona Copland (Topless Women Talk About Their Lives, The Price of Milk) and for the creative talent behind the film – first time director Armagan Ballentyne and playwright Briar Grace Smith. It tells the tale of two young Maori twins in a relatively remote North NZ town whose lives are interrupted when a stranger comes to town. Perhaps drawing obvious Whale Rider comparisons (coming of age/Maori youth/remote NZ) will benefit the film and help it turn a profit for the NZFC. And maybe nab another young Kiwi an Oscar nomination. Who knows?


The Peter Jackson Empire

I can’t really talk about New Zealand’s film industry without mentioning Peter Jackson. Well I could, but might have my citizenship revoked. Jackson has released a pretty pic from his upcoming film adaptation of The Lovely Bones. I’m thinking this one’s going to be more Heavenly Creatures than Meet the Feebles…{link}


Lovely bones

The Quick Link

The Quiet Earth. I love a good kiwi post-apocalyptic film. Now available on DVD it seems. [God knows we all need a cheerful distraction from the GFC -Ed] {link} 

The Rant

And whilst the NZ film industry may be flourishing, making money from US investors and getting recognition from overseas festivals – back home we seem to be stuck in a screen culture stasis. Auckland in particular lacks any kind of screen/moving image scene. Though having stated that – I will now have those that disprove it (please, I welcome it).

In an effort to undermine my own theory – I searched for a cinema event or screening that offered something outside of the current releases – to no avail. No cult film or classic film screenings. No interesting events tied in with screenings. I figure it mustn’t be there if I don’t know about it – I should be the target audience, no? – A true cinephile with a largely disposable income. A last minute search revealed the Human Rights Film Festival is on this week. THIS week. How come I didn’t know about this before?

Unfortunately for Auckland, Melbourne is my point of comparison here – from ACMI to Rooftop Cinema to the Astor to MIFF* to smaller privately run or student run festivals – there never seemed to be a cinematically dull patch on the calendar.

This, my dear Auckland will have to change. Even if I have to do it myself.

Morgan Stewart  

*[not to be confused with the Malaysian International Furniture Fair -ed]