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MIAF 2014 DAY 3: Sacrebleu Showcase & Paris Programs Launch

23 Jun

Vast amounts of the world’s best animation comes from France. Sacrebleu Productions is a French animation company that produces a lot of France’s amazing animation of all styles. The one common quality of the films in this showcase is beauty. In their own way, each one of these films is beautiful to watch. The best films of the session:

where dogs die

Where Dogs Die – Svetlana Filippova. Gorgeous sand animation about the eerie way that animals always seem to be the first to know about tragedies. This film looks stunning. And when you consider that a single sneeze could ruin an hour’s work it makes you appreciate the film even more.

My Little Brother From The Moon – Frederic Philibert. Very sweet drawn animation about a little autistic boy that is told through the eyes of his slightly older sister. What makes this film so adorable is that it tells the story of a child who is clearly different, and his sister realises this, but instead of fearing him or feeling sorry for him she does what she can to understand him; and it is all narrated by a young French girl.

blue room

Moi – Ines Sedan. Interesting film about gender confusion and eventual realisation; it involves a man who has a woman inside him, then a whole bunch of women and men dance together and the woman breaks out and all seems right. The black & white cut-out animation works perfectly with the film’s theme.

A Blue Room – Tomasz Siwinski. My perception of this film is a man in a room who is reflecting over his life during a near-death experience. He is dwelling on his regrets and considering what he would have done differently. Even if this isn’t the exact story, even if you are unable to find a story here it doesn’t matter because the painted animation and string instrument score make this film too beautiful to look away from.

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MIAF 2014 DAY 2: Australian Showcase, International Program #1, Late Night Bizarre

23 Jun

Australian Showcase

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The most important session of the festival to us Aussies; Australia never fails to impress me with its vast array of styles and storytelling techniques. I cannot stress this enough: here is something this country does so well that it simply needs as much support and exposure as it can get. 19 films made up this year’s Australian Showcase. It’s going to be tough picking a winner from this bunch; nevertheless here are my top picks:

Love the Way You Move: Slightly Off Centre – Aaron McDonald, Ben Ommundson. Fantastic music video involving a Soviet research team experimenting with shoes that turn people funky and give them sweet dance moves.

The Elephant’s Garden – Felix Colgrave. This is my pick for best Australian film this year. It is a totally psychedelic observation of nature from another universe. Full of colour, imagination, and an experimental soundtrack; this is why I love animation.

Second Chance – Chris Busuttil. Exceptionally cool neo-noir involving a criminal, Edmund, presumably a hitman with many regrets, adapting to everyday suburban life. The use of colour in this film is very clever. Edmund and his house are shades of grey whereas the outside world is full of colour. Every time Edmund gets a taste of the everyday world colour spills into him. The voice acting is also very well done, which can be the difference between a film succeeding and failing (unfortunately The Duck fails in this respect).

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Teagan – Igor Coric, Sheldon Lieberman. The touching true story of a transgender male going through his transition to become a woman. It is narrated by Teagan Thisby Young, the film’s subject. You can actually feel the pain in her voice while talking about her past and the relief she felt when she finally became a woman. The watercolour animation style aids the emotion of the film.

Bless You – Phillip Watts. Gorgeous little film meshing several different animation styles like traditional drawn animation, to cut-out to, to CGI; we are introduced to God who is creating Melbourne CBD in the style of SimCity. And then exactly like SimCity god creates a Godzilla-type creature and puts it in the middle of the city. Of course Godzilla happens to be adorable, but then he jumps on a chilli factory, god sneezes and the city is demolished. This all happens in 90 seconds. So simple, so great.

 

International Program #1

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The first session of the competition programs and what a way to start. This session was full of memorable films all for different reasons. The best ones were:

Sonata – Nadia Micault. I already brought this film up in my last post but it deserves another mention because it is so visually stunning.

Choir Tour – Edmunds Jansons. Quirky little Latvian film about a school choir on your. The minimalist look and the use of the choir as one rubbery blob with many faces makes this film stand out. The icing on the cake is how it finishes with an actual choir performing for the film.

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To This Day – Shane Koyczan. Incredibly powerful poem about identity and self belief translated into film in the most amazing way possible: through all styles of animation. 2D, 3D, CGI, stop-motion, collage, montage, cut-out, claymation, everything you can think of. The mesh of styles fits perfectly with the film’s topic of those who struggle and survive at school. The message is that beauty is within all of us; that we cannot dwell on the words of others; that we need to stay strong in the toughest of times. The many styles of animation, the story told through the poem, and the passion in the narrator’s voice makes this one of the most powerful films I have ever seen and is my pick for Best of the Festival.

Plug and Play – Michael Frei. The experience of watching this film is very much like watching a David Lynch film; you can tell there is a lot there even if you can’t make sense of it. The whole film is black and white with two hands, a light switch, two computerised voices, and a few people who have plugs or sockets for heads. Sounds simple, so why am I so desperate to see it again?

 

Late Night Bizarre

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Oh yes, the might Late Night Bizarre, the cult classic of the animation festival that has taken on a life of its own. You come to this session you know you’re not going to be the same coming out. It will either damager you or make you popular among your friends for having something to show them.

Cowpokes Livin’ On The Edge – John Akre. Simple cut-out animated song packed with dry humour about three cowboys who have camped too close to a cliff’s edge. The deep, monotonous vocals really drive it home.

Trusts and Estates – Janette Bonds. True stuff is the funniest. This film is an actual overheard conversation between four businessmen at a restaurant who do nothing but talk shit to each other. It’s one of those hilariously crass conversations that sometimes we wish we could record to remember the awesome burns we deliver to our friends.

Mister Super Juicer – Aaron Peeples. An infomercial about the greatest wet liquid, a time machine, a god, a lover, a miniature golden lighthouse with an infinite smile. I am of course talking about ‘juice’. I wish all infomercials were as delightfully psychotic as this one; TV would be so much better.

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Doctor Lollipop – Aliki Grafft. Fantastic spoof of the old Disney films involving singing woodland animals. Doctor Lillopop is a unicorn doctor who needs to perform surgery on a dinosaur who has eaten too many talking animals. Beautifully animated and hilariously executed this was no doubt a crowd favourite.

Rabbitland – Ana Nedeljkovic, Nikola Majdak Jr. Satirical stab at pretty much all politics. The pink rabbits have no brains, just holes in their heads, so they are always happy. Every day they have an election where they must vote, but only ever for the same group of evil girls. Some don’t make it back alive, but this is still a happy day in Rabbitland. The political satire comes from brainwashing, rigged elections, dictatorship, bending the truth, suppression, pick your favourite.

Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) 2014

20 Jun

Ahoy film fans! It’s that time of year again to celebrate the eclectic art form of animation. For the next 10 days animation will be filling ACMI cinemas in Melbourne’s Federation Square; and I’m talking REAL animation. The kind of animation you have not seen but absolutely should. This is a unique film festival in the way that the screening session are made up of a compilation of around 10-18 short films with a particular topic or theme. These topics can range from the competition films (which are in the running for the best of the festival), to national focuses (this year being France and South America), to studio focuses (this year being Canada’s Quickdraw Animation Society and France’s Sacrebleu Productions), to technique focuses, to a special screening for children (which I made an effort to see every year, being the big kid that I am).

Last night I attended the Opening Night gala screening, with complimentary sparkling wine. I felt so fancy. The purpose of the Opening Night is to get a taste of what the festival will be serving. The opening film was the incredibly beautiful Sonata directed by one of the festival’s special guests, Nadia Micault from France. Her film is a modern spin of the rotoscoping technique of animating popularised by Disney’s feature films. We then saw a couple of Australian films from the competition programme which are always so special to watch because contrary to what many may think, Australian animation is quite impressive and well worth a watch. Following these were some more foreign films, a film from the kid’s programme, the token abstract film, and some humorous CGI.

MIAF really is something special. It is supposedly the third largest animation festival in the world. Why not help it reach that number 1 spot? If it’s not as great as I’m making it sound, feel free to hurl abuse at me.

Check out the website for more info.

Roger Moore and Sean Connery Sit Down to Review Thunderball

29 Nov

The Bond saga continues…

Roger Moore and Sean Connery Sit Down to Review Moonraker

16 Oct

Simon Godfrey invites Sirs Roger Moore & Sean Connery to watch and review Moonraker. Via simongodfrey.co

Review: Stories We Tell (2013

9 Sep

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By Patricia Tobin

Stories We Tell follows Canadian writer/director Sarah Polley in uncovering her very own family secrets. Following her mother’s death when she was eleven, Polley started growing close to her father, retired British actor Michael Polley.  Her parents’ tumultuous relationship was an open secret, and Polley soon discovers the truth behind her mother’s extramarital affairs that might change her life forever.

Polley’s investigation behind her family history includes interviews with relatives and close friends, and re-created home movies footage, shot on Super-8. This blend of actual interrogation and fictional sequences reveals not only the multiple versions a story often consists of, but also the idiosyncratic nature of human beings. The interviews showcase Polley’s earnest siblings giving candid anecdotes, but sometimes opposing views on their parents’ relationship. The fictional home movies are certainly nostalgic – they help give audience members a chance to imagine what really happened, and is perhaps, also a mechanism for Polley to cope with the past. In addition, Polley‘s father, Michael, provides the voiceover narration of his own personal account, and Polley deliberately includes scenes of her father rehearsing the lines. This fusion of the real and the not-real plays with the fleeting nature of truth and memory, and questions just which account could be trusted. Furthermore, this interweaving of juxtaposing scenes recognises that all the different sides of any story are just so human.

Polley’s deeply personal tale encapsulates the core elements of every family – love, unity, and unconditional acceptance.  It acknowledges certain issues of belonging and aspects of identity as well, but the subject of family eventually becomes overshadowed by the notion of storytelling.

The most striking feature of Stories We Tell is Polley’s assertive authorship that shines in every scene. Throughout the documentary, her careful and calculated editing is highly evident – after all, she pieces together her family history to form a compelling narrative. Her authorial voice is firm and it is never lost amongst the numerous voices. This highly conscious, metafictional quality of the film gives rise to her own side of the story.

Stories We Tell is heart-warming and poignant, using intimate tales to present a film that appeal to all. As a documentary about storytelling, Polley’s discourse of intimacy and authenticity has a distinctly human feel. Polley is not afraid to reveal personal vulnerabilities and aspects about infidelity. Ultimately, Stories We Tell draws from the age-old tradition of storytelling. Narratives bring families together, or even apart, but most of all, it moulds individuals to who they are today.

Patricia Tobin is a full-time university student and a part-time marathon napper. She writes theatre reviews for ArtsHub and sub-edits for Lot’s Wife. She tweets at @havesomepatty, and writes about film at http://screenappeals.wordpress.com.

Review: The East (2013)

3 Sep

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By Patricia Tobin

The East is an environmental espionage thriller that presents an intriguing and daringly innovative mystery. Co-writer/actress Brit Marling stars as an undercover spy, code-named “Sarah Moss”, who infiltrates The East, an eco-terrorist collective. Led by the charismatic, saint-like figure Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), The East leads a bohemian lifestyle, practicing freeganism and bizarre practices of cleaning each other. At the same time, the group ruthlessly plots against heartless corporations who poison rivers and profit from lethal drugs.

 

The East is perhaps not a typical thriller per se, but it does have an underlying tone of suspense throughout. The film effortlessly retains the audience’s attention, anticipating the collective’s next move. In addition, The East’s excellent pacing injects a certain infectious vigour that propels the story forward. On the other hand, the film gradually manoeuvres towards the drama terrain with glimpses of character backstories and an unnecessary romance. Predictably enough, Marling and Skarsgård exchange longing stares that quickly become tiresome.

 

The crisp colours that represent the cold, corporate climate and the warm undertones that belong to the hippie lifestyle of The East eventually become indistinguishable. Co-writer/director Zal Batmanglij deliberately interweaves sequences from the different societies with abrupt cuts, to form an unforgiving world filled with madness, vengeance and brutality. It is easy to see which side Batmanglij leans towards, but The East rejects any clear indication for a good-versus-evil dichotomy. Ultimately, the film favours the underdog, but it dares to show the startling consequences of bearing an anti-corporate message.

 

Marling portrays Moss as a clever and resourceful agent, but her reasons behind her actions are highly unclear. At one point, she half-jokingly asks her boyfriend, “Why do I have this job?”. Her motivations are never addressed again, but Marling’s likeability and sharp acting skills attempt to make up for this oversight. Similarly, Skarsgård’s trademark broodiness and moral ambiguity is oddly charming as well. The supporting cast is decent too ¡ª Ellen Page’s Izzie is a radical extremist who has daddy issues and Tony Kebbell’s Doc is the team medic who struggles with his own dark past.Lastly, Patricia Clarkson stars as Moss’s stern-faced boss; her icy tone and glacial demeanour certainly gives a lasting impression.

 

It is easy to dismiss The East for its cumbersome cliches, the romantic storyline is redundant and regrettably, there is a token black guy in the group. However, the film’s immensely gripping storyline is irrefutably engrossing. The East boldly presents strikingly modern ethical dilemmas, and its refreshing take on an often overlooked topic in Hollywood should definitely be rewarded.

Patricia Tobin is a full-time university student and a part-time marathon napper. She writes theatre reviews for ArtsHub and sub-edits for Lot’s Wife. She tweets at @havesomepatty, and writes about film athttp://screenappeals.wordpress.com.

MIFF 2013: Bastards

14 Aug

By Brent Morrow

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French master Claire Denis’ latest launches into being a frame-spanning gush of water, with odd drops catching light as if specks and scratches on a particularly worn film print. Denis and regular DP Agnès Godard’s approach is as filmic as ever, despite having shot Bastards on the digital Red Epic, allowing for a murkier palette of grey-browns and as low lighting as possible to flatter the seediness of its world. The nocturnal deluge continues, reflected on the walls aside a pacing man and an unmarked envelope, then drowning a crime scene we learn is his suicide. A young woman wearing only heels wanders stupefied down a cobbled street. Denis elliptically feels her way into the mood, the narrative, seducing an active and attentive viewer, and probably baffling or boring a lazy one. Neither viewer will have to work as hard as for the overwhelming L’intrus, as Bastards sits closer to White Material and Trouble Every Day on the temporal/metaphorical ambiguity level. With this film it’s essential to ponder on how the quasi-detective fiction, puzzle-like manner plays on one’s associative reading of the narrative.

We wonder if the man killed himself unable to bear with some harm done to the girl (Lola Créton), or conversely if her incident somehow resulted from his death in nihilistic grief. The “answer” such as it is will for some time obscure that connection before becoming a good deal more complicated and disturbing than your mind could have inferred. This opening is not so removed from the subjectivity of Beau Travail and White Material in which the main characters seem to reflect upon their transformative experiences while riding public transport, informing the diegesis. That is, we could be privvy to the images conjured by Vincent Lindon’s navy merchant as he attempts to make sense of the shocking but vague details giving to him by his sister about her family’s recent traumas.

From here we assume Lindon seeks revenge on the wealthy tycoon (a Mabuse-like Michel Subor) whose money-lending is to blame for the aforementioned suicide of Lindon’s brother-in-law. This “revenge”, while not revealed to be a false lead (he stays at the apartment next to Subor, after all, and is shown Googling articles about the man), is at least distracted by or refracted as an affair with Subor’s young wife (Chiara Mastroianni), and in classic noir fashion (think Chinatown), turns drastically hopeless. Here, too, a vision of Mastroianni and police coming across her son’s wrecked bike in the woods, wedged between shots of Lindon lying in bed. His imagination predicting the revenge? An actual flash-forward? The narrative only approaches this again when Subor returns home with the boy to retrieve the bike. Denis allows us to now suspect Subor, or else an accident. Misdirection, perhaps, but it’s in the sowing of those seeds of viewer mistrust that Denis’ ambiguity makes good on the noir premise, and the title.

If Denis’ films are about the push and pull of family, the bittersweet or traumatic transition between homes (Friday Night, quite literally), Bastards follows suit. Lindon, beckoned back, attempts to clean up the mess out of some obligation to his family—yet he had eloped to the seas years prior, escaping them. His actions throughout the film are thus rather aloof, in self-interest, and ultimately he finds himself at odds with everybody. Mastroianni is tempted away from her comfortable family life by the masculine but benevolent presence of the sailor—demonstrated in one vintage moment of Denis sensuality in which she (both shes) gazes at the contours of Lindon’s muscled back beneath his shirt—before resolutely affirming her position come the end. And Créton presumably rebels via dangerous sexuality, but perhaps she is in fact obedient, masochistically so—the rotten fruit of bourgeois depravity. Denis customarily works with close-ups (so often here profiles meeting the edge of the frame with an ear centrally composed), barely visible faces we must cling to for all the uncertainty. Yet Créton remains impenetrable to us; one earnest declaration of love aside, she is entranced by Dionysian youth. Tindersticks take a cue from her: their score is a hypnotic stir of pleasure, ruin, and menace, more than crucial in establishing the film’s mood.

Bastards could be taken to task for its ultimately lurid content, where contrastly the non-hyperbolic universality of 35 Rhums and the microcosmic reality to the violence of White Material rise above. A metaphorical reading, the central family as symbolic of the aforementioned “bourgeois depravity”, may be too vague. Nonetheless, one can not ignore the ebb and flow of perturbing, violent films with the lighter, more tender efforts that make up Denis’ oeuvre (it is more accurate to say each film contains a complex combination of those extremes). Bastards is likely the most accomplished of her darker films, if for no other reason than the now-expert fractured assemblage of beguiling images towards a disquieting atmosphere and final impression. This is exciting cinema.

Brent Morrow watches A LOT of films and writes about them at Technicolor Red (http://bmtr.wordpress.com/). 

MIFF 2013: Capturing Dad

14 Aug

Ryota Nakano, 2012

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By Patricia Tobin

Capturing Dad follows the tale of two young sisters, 17-year-old Koharu (Nanoka Matsubara) and 20-year-old Hazuki (Erisa Yanagi), who receive some unexpected news from their mother (Makiko Watanabe). Their estranged father is dying, and are sent by their mother to visit him on his deathbed. However, he soon passes away before they arrive in the rural town of Ashigara. The girls now have to attend a funeral for a man they barely know, while confronting family truths and uncomfortable situations.

Capturing Dad succeeds with its stellar cast, primarily Makiko Watanabe as the stern, but caring mother. Watanabe displays deep motherly love and care, while balancing a cheeky, almost child-like demeanour when teasing her children. Matsubara and Yanagi are also promising young actresses, and provide some delightful moments as bickering sisters. 

Unfortunately, Capturing Dad ultimately suffers from poor execution, primarily under Nakano’s  direction. The film largely takes place on the day of the father’s funeral, where tense family dynamics would be great for the screen. However, Nakano does not seize or fully explore the all-too-common friction and strain among family and distant relatives. 

Capturing Dad aims to create a playful, off-kilter feel for dealing with the morbid subject of death and loss. However, it gradually becomes unclear what tone the film is trying to encapsulate. There are scenes that are genuinely weird and hilarious, including an ongoing joke about breasts among the tight-knit family. At the same time, there is an underlying sense of detached irony throughout Capturing Dad, which undermines the film’s heart-warming moments. 

In particular, the sisters’ younger half-brother Chihiro (Kaito Kobayashi) often serves as a reminder for familial kindness and care. Donning a crisp, white shirt and suspenders, the adorable Kobayashi attempts to befriend his sisters, but Capturing Dad‘s bemused attitude results in the sibling relationship being rather contrived.  

The ending, too, consists of a surprise element that feels utterly out of place, perhaps even unnecessarily forced. Capturing Dad struggles in finding a firm take on familial relations and grim matters. The film intends to retain a spirited outlook throughout, but its light-hearted touch slowly becomes muffled and unclear, turning sweet moments sour. 

Patricia Tobin is a full-time university student and a part-time marathon napper. She writes theatre reviews for ArtsHub and sub-edits for Lot’s Wife. She tweets at @havesomepatty, and writes about film athttp://screenappeals.wordpress.com.

MIFF 2013: O Apostolo – The Apostle

14 Aug

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By Gabby Easter

A gothic tale of the living dead, lost souls and redemption, The Apostle is a spooky stop-animation with a hint of a twisted Grimm’s fairy tale.

Ramon, voiced by Galician Carlos Blanco, is a second generation thief who escapes from prison, driven by an insatiable thirst for hidden treasure that he hopes will be his way out of his old life. Posing as a pilgrim on the path to Santiago de Compostela, a strange old man leads Ramon awry, promising a good nights feed and a decent rest. Don Cesareo (Xose Manuel Olveira), the creepy village priest, complete with a larger-than-head nose and a Vampiric feel, screams evil and untrustworthy, but Ramon is unaware of the threat until it’s too late. The quiet little town turns out to harbour secrets more sinister than just stolen jewels.

Meanwhile, and yes, it’s a typical ‘meanwhile’ scenario, the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela is on the hunt for some high profile pilgrims who have mysteriously gone missing. Paul Naschy voices the impudent, corrupt archpriest, intent on working his way up to papacy in style and comfort, with a penchant for fine wine and good food.

The characters are caricatures in a somewhat predictable plot, but the suspense, humour and craftily made sets are the redeeming features in the first stop-animation to come out of Spain. The not-so-subtle swings at the Catholic Church, almost entirely made through the Archbishop, are balanced out by heavy themes of redemption and salvation.

Almost three years in the making, and partially financed through Crowdfunding, the dedication and detail put into director Fernando Cortizo’s debut feature film is easily recognised, with a Goya nomination and a steady run of screenings at film festivals across the globe. Despite a shaky plot and the occasional technical mishap, Cortizo has produced a stop-animation that’s a little too spooky for the little ones, but eerie and entertaining enough for an older crowd as well.

Gabby Easter lives in Melbourne and writes for Time Out magazine.