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MIAF 2015 DAY 3: Panorama – International #1; Tama University Showcase

25 Jun

Panorama – International #1


Here is a classic example of misconception. I have known about the Panoramas for 5 years and I have avoided them for 4 years. Why? Because these were international films that, for some reason, were not good enough to make it into the International Competition programs. Why would I want to spend my time watching inferior films? Well turns out I was too quick to judge (the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, I’m getting better I swear) and I will explain why.

Think about all of your favourite films. Can you honestly say that each one of them has the potential to open the Cannes Film Festival? Of course not, because some of your favourite films are great but are not exactly award-worthy. Think about the guilty pleasures you might have, or the films that hold a personal attachment, or the films you know to be stupid but make you soil yourself in laughter, or the films that did not work overall but brought light to some ideas and concepts that spoke to you in a way that other films couldn’t. These are the films that make up the Panoramas. Here are films that missed out on official competition selection but were, for some reason, worthy to be viewed on a large screen.

Can you say you have seen Iranian animation? How about Afghani animation? Well with the Panoramas this is a possibility. Sure these films may not win any awards, but the Panoramas give these little-known filmmakers from unlikely countries the chance to have their work on the big screen where it belongs. This session was made up of playful and thought-provoking films, and these were my top picks:

Crowded – Andrew Khosravani, Cristina Florit Gomila. Playful looking cut-out animation that has a very real point to it. Planet Earth has a finite amount of space, yet population is rising exponentially. How long will it take before space runs out?

Pidge – Renee Zhan. Dark satirical animation about a pigeon trying to commit suicide by jumping from a building. With a hilariously deep, monotonous voice the pigeon reflects on his life, decides he wants to live, but is swooped by an eagle. There is a lot of dry humour packed into this film; the type of humour that doesn’t necessarily make you laugh but is appreciated as if it was. The characters are animated brilliantly given the film’s barren tone.


Fantoons: Chasing Mr Big – David Calcano, Nacho Rodriguez. Why isn’t there more animation like this? I’m talking about the type of animation reminiscent of early Warner Bros. The animation with basic stories (in this case a fan boy wanting to see his favourite band, Mr Big, live in concert) but told in the playful, energetic, totally absurd manner that only animation can display. The animation where shoving a chilli pepper up a bulldog’s arse is the most logical mode of transportation.

Driving – Nate Theis. Another film taking a humorous look at a real issue – road rage. Seriously people, what is the point? There is something about being behind the wheel of a car that can turn innocent people into dicks, and for what? To get to your destination 7 seconds earlier? This film illustrates that not only do you look ridiculous but there is a likely chance you will hurt yourself and others.

Tama University Showcase

Tokyo Ondo

I’m just gonna put this straight – the Tama University Showcase may very well be the greatest single session I have ever witnessed in my six years of MIAF. That school has summoned all the power of Godzilla to stomp the shit out of any doubt you have that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Don’t you love having your high expectation not only matched but surpassed? Because I certainly do, and I have this ingenious college to thank for that. The high expectations were due to Tama University winning the student reel award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival on its first attempt. I tend to unfairly expect a lot when it comes to sessions dedicated to specific nations, as if every animator from that nation is on an identical diet of animation-genius supplements. Unfortunately these high expectation can fall very hard. Last year’s French showcases left a bitter taste in my mouth of blue cheese on a mouldy baguette. Japan’s showcase in 2013, however, left the delicious taste of warm sake with a side of takoyaki garnished with edible gold shavings. I am happy to announce that Japan has scored once again.

The students of Tama University spend the first three months of their animation course without drawing, sculpting, cutting, or digitally creating a single thing; instead they learn about music. They are taught that animation is all about rhythm and timing, and what better way to learn about these than having a thorough understanding of music. This principle plays a prominent role in every one of the films from this session. Watching this showcase is like consecutively watching every film from your favourite actor – although the films are slightly different they all share one vastly important element that pushes all the right buttons. In the case of the Tama films that element is the heavy reliance of music to provide the foundation for the animation. Every film in this showcase is fantastic in its own way, but these were my favourites:

Garden – Shungo Suzuki. Vibrant pastel colours of vegetation and animals on a black background with a cheerful score. Not a single frame skips on the detail. Suzuki has a masterful understanding of colours and knows when to mix and mould them together in a way that is challenging but never confusing. It’s one of those films that is so pleasant to watch that you can get lost in them.

Tokyo Ondo – Misaki Uwabo. Energetic and sporadic animation perfectly incorporating the crazy randomness that Japan is famous for to create a romanticisation of Tokyo. Can you see something 100 miles away that you want to get to? Then try riding a 10-billion yen coin as a unicycle on your stretched-out arm to get there.

airy me

Airy Me – Yoko Kuno. Music video to the song “Airy Me” by ambient pop artist Cuushe. A lesson that must have been taught extensively at Tama University is the importance of scale and space dimensions. Every student at some point demonstrates their understanding of space with fast-moving interior tracking shots; but no film does it better than Airy Me. Imagine seeing the point-of-view perspective of a fly as it is buzzing around hospital and you will have some idea of what this film looks like. It’s difficult to believe that the slightest angle or shift in a different perspective is an entirely new illustration. The fluidity is of such a high level that if it wasn’t for the yellow saturation or anime-looking characters you would forget that it was animated. Overall it is a sad tale of being drugged up in a hospital bed, but the animation and song connect perfectly on an emotional level and is my top pick for the session.

The Story That Might Be A Dream – Miryan Paku. Supposedly near-death experiences make your life flash before your eyes; but is your life really worth holding on to? In five minutes this animation teaches that life really is worth living, so you’re better off not arguing with your loved ones over petty issues like what channel the television is on.

Chu-Chu – Ryoko Tanaka. Continuing with the theme of vivacious colours with a dominant soundtrack, this film stood out for its heavy use of cut-out animation. I would say more about this film but I would just be repeating myself. These films had a lot of the same feel to them yet at the session’s conclusion I just wanted more.

MIAF 2014 DAY 10: 3 Days In Paris – Historical, Best Of The Fest

30 Jun

3 Days In Paris – Historical


As the last Paris experience didn’t go as well as expected, I thought I would give the French another chance. As I explained in my last Paris post, French animation is generally very well done. France is a nation that is not only passionate about the art form, but they have a widespread understanding of its purpose and relevance, which is why we are going to continue being blessed with its presence. So imagine my disappointment from once again being let down by sub-par French animation. I probably shouldn’t have got my hopes up about this session being “historic” seeing as the earliest film was from 1990, but in the past the historic session have been among my favourites and since this year’s festival didn’t have much in the way of history I was hoping that this session would fill the void. It did not. It’s bewildering, really. I don’t know whether it was a poor selection of films, or maybe the top studios in Paris were missed, or maybe Paris isn’t where France’s decent animation comes from (it is a very big country after all), but these films were soulless and lacked substance. The animation itself wasn’t bad, but it was pretty standard when compared to the rest of France and the rest of the festival. My biggest issue was that most of these films seemed utterly pointless. Too often when a film ended I asked the question “why would you bother going to all that effort for this?” I’m hoping there is something cultural that I am missing; that maybe you have to be from Paris to understand these films because right now I am lost. There were only two films from this session that even remotely tickled my fancy and they happened to be the two oldest films (now I really need my history fix). They were:

Le Balayeur

Clinic – Alexander Bubnov. Totally psychotic animation about medical fears. There’s the GP whose immunisation needle snaps off in the posterior of a patient, an optometrist who plucks eyes out patients and pins new ones in, and a whole lot of medical horror we can only wish will never happen to anyone. The animation is cartoony while being darkly humorous.

Le Balayeur – Serge Elissalde. Well drawn pencil animation about one freaky ape-looking street sweeper who attacks everything that comes near his sweeping area. He smashes things with his broom then shoves them down the drain. A young girl’s ball goes down the drain and the freaky man tries to fish it out, taking out everything he had shoved down there in the first place. He then goes to jail. The morel of the story is: assault and vandalism with a broom is not the best way to avoid prison.


Best Of The Fest

elephnats garden

All good things must come to an end. Best of the Fest is a joyous time where the greatest films of the festival are honoured. It is also a sad time because as the final credits of the final film reach the bottom, the festival disappears like a mirage. Attempts to organise an official after party ceased years ago, presumably because it took energy away from the more important event – the festival. Anyway, the festival is what we came for and the festival is what we get. This year’s MIAF brought some intense mixed feelings. Where there is normally a lot of variety within the session creating an overall feeling of “very good” or “not so good,” this year’s festival had more of an extreme feel to it where some sessions were “amazing” while others “sucked.” Those Paris showcases were nowhere near as good as anticipated and were the major disappointments of the festival. Late Night Macabre and Quickdraw’s 30th Anniversary (even with its positive back story and purpose) suffered from too many sub-par films. But on the other hand, the quality of the South American showcases was a very pleasant surprise. This year also had the best Australian Showcase, Kids Program, and Late Night Bizarre that I have witnessed in my 5 years of attending the festival. And let’s not forget the International Competition Programs that were packed with fantastic films, and International Program #2 being arguably the best single session of anything I have seen during my time at MIAF.

I am very proud (and a little bit smug) to announce that this year the judges got nearly everything right, many of the honoured films being those that I either predicted or mentioned as standout films. I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but come on; you got to admit it’s a whole lotta fun predicting the winners at award ceremonies. Pity no one was taking bets here.

The Best of the Fest session begins with festival director, Malcolm Turner, announcing the best films and honourable mentions of each competition category, and then an assortment of the films are screened. After we view a handful of the top films there is a break where the judges announce the best Australian student film, the best Australian film, the best international student film, and then the grand prize of “Best of the Festival.” As I mentioned above, every film that won I have already written on, so feel free to Ctrl+F the film’s title to see my earlier review of them. The list of the festival winners can be found at the MIAF website.

It made me exceptionally happy to see the films To This Day, Land, and Ex Animo win their international programs as they truly were in the top tier of films for the whole festival. I was incredibly excited about The Elephant’s Garden being hailed as the best Australian film as part of me didn’t think it would win. That film winning best Australian film is like a David Lynch film winning the Academy Award for best feature – it’s that strange and different film that has a strong cult following, but deep down you know the award is going to go to the obvious biopic or drama that wins every year. Well done The Elephant’s Garden!


Marilyn Myller winning the Best of the Festival gave me some initial mixed thoughts. “Best of the Festival” means that this one film was of a higher quality than any other competition film. I have a history of allowing the Best of the Festival to go straight over my head; as in, I remember being in the session while the film played but the film did not leave an instant impression on me. This does not mean that I feel the top pick was inferior, just that many of these animated films don’t instantly slap you in the face with their awesomeness; they take a bit more understanding.

Thankfully MIAF does something that every award ceremony should do – explain why the winning film deserved to win. The judging for MIAF comprises of real industry professionals who are not part of a secret organisation and who are not afraid to reveal their identity. These are people are animators themselves who live animation. They travel around the world visiting many animation festivals and hence are given the opportunity to witness a lot of the competition films on multiple occasions. It also gives them the chance to dig deeper with certain standout films. To simply sum up the case of Marilyn Myller, the film was basically technical mastery on a level that is difficult to comprehend. Firstly, director Mikey Please used a type of foam as his animation medium; something that is insanely complex as it involves carving new sculptures for pretty much every movement. But the interesting lighting that I mentioned in my review of the film is ever more complex. Please’s lightning setup to create his amazing shadows and scattered patterns over a completely white landscape was so advanced that pretty much every frame has its own unique setup.

This explanation would divide the audience right down the middle for two reasons. Reason 1) The bonus knowledge of this film may give it an unfair advantage and for a film to be truly deserving of winning then it should have widespread appeal and not need to rely on all the behind-the-scenes extras that only then make you understand its worthiness. Reason 2) Here is an animation festival created by and attended by true animation enthusiasts and therefore the most unique and complex animation (with the explanation to help those less familiar to understand) should be more than deserving of the top prize. Admittedly I was initially in the first category. I felt that it was an interesting film but not my favourite of the festival. I have since come to change my mind on the matter; not that I now believe it is the best film of the festival (I still stand by my To This Day pick) but I respect the decision to name Marilyn Myller the best of the festival because if festivals like MIAF don’t publicly honour the tireless efforts and technical genius that some true artists of capable of, then who will?

MQFF- An Ordinary Family

27 Mar

Though films focussing on ‘coming out’ and ‘family reactions’ do appear a lot in Queer cinema, and at times one does wish everyone could just move past it, it is because it is a process that is constantly being faced by both those in and out of the Queer community. Whilst societies consciousness at large may be changing toward the LGBTI community and such issues as equal marriage, adoption rights, death rights, and so on -with many being played out and debated more and more in mainstream outlets- it is still something quite different to have a direct family member to put a face to the cause. It is this struggle of going from only hearing about or have a distant acquaintance with such an issue to being thrust into a position where you are expected to make a decision that will have real-life effect, and it is the build-up and consequences of one brothers decision that An Ordinary Family (Mike Akel) focuses on.

Seth (Greg Wise), having apparently tried for years to be what his family wanted and expected of him, eventually gave up, moved away, and started a relationship with William (Chad Anthony Miller). Yet a few years on the need for family approval and acceptance is still strong. Thus, summer finds Seth going back to Texas for the annual family vacation and bringing William with him. However it quickly becomes apparent that only his sister-in-law new that Seth was not only bringing William but that he was gay. Cue awkward family dinner, awkward family breakfast, awkward family conversations, etcetera.
With the father now deceased, the family patriarch is Thomas (Troy Schremmer), a Minister who not only disapproves of Seth’s “lifestyle choices” and doesn’t want William to be alone with his children, but also resents Seth for abandoning the family after their family died. It is this strained relationship that the film centres around as other family members slowly come to accept William. One such convert is Chris, who is married to Seth’s sister Sharon and has a habit of making the most inappropriate comments. Initially he not only denies that Seth is gay but then becomes worried that William will make a pass at him. However, as the week plays out, Chris and William end up bonding over various aspects of their lives.

Akel’s tight directing and strong ensemble cast make this film one of the better films that focuses on the issues still facing many individuals and families over coming out and everything attached to it.

MQFF- Break My Fall

18 Mar

Break My Fall (2011) documents the last four days of a couple in their mid-twenties as they try to navigate through the indie-scene of East London where people wake up at night and taking drugs every few hours to get through the day is par for the course. As Liza’s (Kat Redstone) 25th birthday approaches her 4-year relationship with girlfriend Sally (Sophie Anderson) seems to unravel before the viewers eyes. The characters themselves, however, seem to be completely unaware that not only is their relationship crumbling around them but, really, the relationship ended long ago and they are really just clinging to memories of the past and a misguided hope for the future.
The insecure Liza and disaffected Sally are also in a band together, yet can barely manage a rehearsal due to their chaotic home life. This band opens up the introduction of their two closest friends; Vin (Kai Brandon Ly)-a hustler trying to woo Sally away from Liza-, and Jamie (Collin Clay Chace) -a barman who is trying to find the perfect man- with the two men being as oblivious about the dark undercurrent as the two girls.

Written, produced, and directed by first timer Kanchi Wichmann the film has a very ‘this is my first film’ feel to it. Edgy youths with asymmetric haircuts and cool clothes, music (Wichmann also has a history in music, and film-clip style montages are abound), un-focused images, relationship angst, hand-held camera work… you name it, this film has it. But it appears to work, largely due to the strong casting of Redstone and Anderson.
The film does lag in places, especially when dealing with elements outside of the central relationship, possibly due to the fact that the film was originally conceived to be a short. But Wichmann is able to pull your attention back to the lives of the protagonists, most notably with the scenes where she appears to interweave what feels to be memories with current events taking place in the lives of the two girls, leaving the viewer recognising that this bleak and doomed relationship was once something fertile and beautiful, and not something to be taken lightly.

Another screening of Break My Fall is on Thursday 22nd, 5.30pm at Greater Union.


25 Jan

By Lizzie Lamb of

  This film with its hit-list cast is generating the kind of buzz that makes me vomit in my mouth a little bit, and damn it all if I wasn’t a little biased by the Oscar-bait concept and title. But regardless of my utterly unfair prejudices, this film is very well done.

  We were fair warned of full frontal nudity and R-rated subject matter, which seemed a little OTT but that they seemed giddy at the prospect of Michael Fassbender’s wang and just couldn’t quite contain themselves. And not to trivialise a film that is both beautiful and harrowing, but what a wang it be. And the places it does go…


  Sex addiction is a very modern sort of theme, and I’ve seen a number of films either directly about it or at least nebulously involved. And finally I have seen one that answers a question that has been burning in my mind since I first found out boners make boys feel nice. In an effort to avoid spoilers I’ll not say what that question is and how it is answered, but it’s nice to see Steven McQueen thinks outside the box (so to speak). And while I don’t wish to be fatuous in general, I feel an awful lot of reviews you’ll read will be dreary pieces of gravitas. THAT, my friend, is not fair to the gentle humour McQueen also represents. There is light in this dark world, it’s only made sadder that the leads aren’t cast in the glow.

  Now this is a serious film, as you’ve no doubt heard, so no dicking the toaster or secret diary of a call girl-esque fetish tourism. The title is apt, the Shame sits like a third character in every scene, squatting over any potential happiness Brandon and his sister Sissy (she’s hot for a reason) may dream of. The tension between these two is palpable, and I don’t mean that in a bullshit Brad-and-Angelina-punch-and-snog way, I mean these two characters are torn in so many directions that any semblance of stillness is just a thousand ropes pulling them tight. It’s electric viewing.


   One could follow the trend and mention Carey Mulligan’s stirring take of New York, New York, but it’s easy to tug at the heart with a song. Frankly, it’s just the most potent example of McQueen’s long-take formula, and if I may I’d state an extended shot of Brandon jogging through the night streets of the song’s New York is what adds kick to the juice.

  This film is the devastating flipside to our hyper-sexualised culture, the sex becomes meaningless and titillation impossible. We know Brandon is a complicated creature, and McQueen respects his characters enough not to sensationalise their turmoil by exposing it. All we know is Brandon and Sissy are damaged people with surrogate tear ducts: Sissy her veins, Brandon his cock. The saddest moments in this film are orgasms, the deadest places are the most opulent, and the most happens at the slowest times. Well worth seeing, and if the Oscars were worth a damn I’d probably give a couple to this picture.

You will not find this guy on chat roulette.

In cinemas February 9

Lavazza Italian Film Festival Review: A Quiet Life (2010)

26 Aug

By Michael De Martino

(Claudio Cupellini, 2010, Italy, in Italian and German, Drama, 105 minutes)

A Neapolitan man, Rosario (Toni Servillo), runs a restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany. Suddenly Diego (Marco D’Amore), a man from his past, arrives on his doorstep and opens old wounds from Rosario’s past. The hidden life of crime is exposed as Rosario’s secrets unfold.

While I generally like to see a film with no prior knowledge of its content, this film will no doubt suffer criticism from those who are unfamiliar with the Camorra (Neapolitan mafia) and their garbage scandals. This information, which is only briefly touched on at the beginning of A Quiet Life, is absolutely vital to the story. Without this knowledge the film risks being dismissed as just another on-the-run style family drama.

A Quiet Life loses points not for being bad or ineffective, but because it’s not all that interesting. Only a handful of characters are ever presented, leaving little chance for suspense. Most of the action is merely fast editing which is frequently unnecessary.

In saying this, the film is entirely carried by a fantastic performance from Servillo. The wide emotional spectrum displayed by Servillo is executed with such expression that we have no choice but to remain engaged by his acting. Effective supporting roles from D’Amore and others further enhance this film being centred on the acting.

Although I wouldn’t go as far as saying this is a “must-see,” it is worth the experience. Especially if you happen to be Neapolitan.


MIFF: The Fourth Portrait (2010)

5 Aug

As the title suggests, this will be a fragmented story, perhaps one of identity and isolation.  And so it begins delving head first into the confused and lonely world of a child.  Xiang (Bi Xiao Hai) sits alone waiting for his father to take his last breath, the subtle image if his placing a paper napkin over the man’s face, as if not to visualize his passing, makes one cringe with sadness.  I felt the urge to run to the screen to hold him, but obviously unless this was a Woody Allen film, such a thing would not be permissible.  It does not improve, the beginning that is, as director Mong-Hong Chung, makes us watch this lonely child walk home to wash his father’s only appropriate funeral attire by a rush of water on the street.

Do not be fooled, although his first portrait is littered with solitude and uncertainty, this little boy is nothing less than a fueled character.  His story takes us through uncertainty first, as he struggles to find food, yet leads us to a friendship with a school janitor that provides him with guidance and love.  A grandfather figure that takes him, to his long ago exited mother,but keeps him close, shadowed with wisdom and support.  It is almost a pity that there is no portrait of this man, for it is he who truly shapes Xiang’s choices.

He finds instead a sort of camaraderie with a middle-aged petty criminal, who takes him on raids and tells him about dreams of escape.  This is perhaps one of the first times this child has known happiness, so we forgive him lapping it all up.  And it does, in retrospect, offer him the opportunity to get away from his mother’s tormented house.  This man, or part of him, gains the second portrait.  Leaving us with certain questions as to Xiang’s ideas of idenity.

The third portrait is of his dead brother’s ghost, tormented , walking his path alone.  This creates a form of mission for Xiang, as he becomes almost detective like trying to understand the true fate of his older brother, and in turn the isolation and underlying hatred brewing within his mother’s house.

Xiang’s journey is slightly frisky as he moves through the paces of sorting out his place in life.  However, it is the mind of a child, what in each moment matters most, and what provides him with gratification and shelter.

Score: 7/10


MIFF – The Solitude of Prime Numbers

5 Aug

The beauty of character defined stories, lie usually within the portrayal of one personal journey.  As viewers or readers we find identification to their uncertainties, fears, melancholies and achievements, playing their choices against ours and perceiving, perhaps, chances lost or possibilities gained.  ‘The Solitude of Prime Numbers’ (directed by Saverio Costanzo) gives us more, let’s us look at the other side, the unknown perception of the person other, both sides of love and loss, both sides of opportunity and chance.  Layered through delightful imagery so cleverly appropriate to the time and feeling of the place the character is currently journeying through.

This is the story of Alice (Alba Rohrwacher) and Mattia (Luca Marinelli), two lost souls that should have been destined to reign their lives alone.  But who meet by chance when young, and through her persistence remain seemingly distant friends.  Both suffer disillusionment from their families, through guilt and neglect, presenting scars that haunt them throughout their lives.  Mattia (young: Vittorio Lomartire) presents himself an isolated being, filled with guilt for the loss of his sister, he scars his body in punishment; perhaps for the lack of association from his over protective, yet distant parents.  Alice (young: Arianna Nastro) suffers a similar fate, a lone child, her father pushes her to grow to fast, using her as trophy display for his uninterested friends.  While his wife fills her body with alcohol and silence, leaving Alice with no true affection or guidance.  Alice is scared also, physically by an accident caused through neglect, and in her heart by a lack of acknowledgement and affection.  She craves these, and seeks out Mattia, almost through an instant identification of their pains.

It is through their friendship and quiet understanding that they begin to accept that forgiveness is possible.  That there is a chance of belonging and happiness, no matter how distant it may seem, as long as you allow another into your past.

‘Prime Numbers can Only be Divided by Themselves and One’

Based on a book by Paolo Giordano

Score:  9/10

Film Review: The Beaver: 90 minutes of rich people crying

28 Jul

Fact: Real Beavers are more entertaining than this movie.

The Beaver, as a notion, confused me slightly. The pitch sounded like what could at one end of the spectrum be a Farrelley Brothers-esque joyous romp in gross idiocy, or a Coen Brothers joyous romp in clever lunacy. What I got instead was neither, which should teach me never to have expectations. But then again, while this film was neither of these things, it wasn’t something else either. This film, when I wasn’t too busy rolling my eyes or squirming to notice, was very very sincere. It was about a man talking through a beaver puppet, and was not even remotely funny. That marketing error is mistake number one.

Mistake number two was Jodie Foster thinking anyone would care about Walter Black(Mel Gibson)’s personal journey, or any of his family members. Here is a group of people who live privileged, white, upper-middle class existences. They have ironic jobs like ‘Roller-coaster Engineer’ (ooooh, is that, like, a metaphor?) and ‘Toy Manufacturing Mogul’. They are Super-hot valedictorian gifted artist head cheerleaders. They are super intelligent gifted writers with mystique. They are adorable blonde haired ragamuffins who are undemanding and sweet natured. They live in houses with marble kitchens, heated swimming pools and his ‘n’ her’s Mercedes. Oh, and did I mention they’re all depressed? And have identity crises? And just can’t bear the tortured pain of being white and wealthy in the western world? And nobody takes their pain for serious because they’re rich and white and educated? Poor dumplings! Little snootchie! There there.

Walter Black has approximately five minutes of misery time, in which he runs a toy company he inherited (something established early that he was not in fact qualified for or capable of) from his father. Walter wants to kill himself because he is super-depressed. Maybe this is justified, maybe not. All the film seems to be saying at this point is WAH! WAAAAAH! JUST BECAUSE I HAVE EVERYTHING ON A PLATTER DOESN’T MEAN I HAVE TO BE HAPPY! WAAAAAAH! Which yes, I agree Jodie, mental illnesses like depression can effect people entirely across the socio-economic strata. Why though Jodie, why are we supposed to be interested in this guy? Just because he’s depressed? And he’s a father? Is this an everyman story? Your conflict COULD have come from doing the same thing, but with a guy wherein it actually MATTERS if he shows up to work. We’d see him struggle with being forced to keep it together, a journey that really matters. Instead, Walter is indulged endlessly by a bunch of saps with his signature on their paycheck.

So, mistake number three. You’ve given us a rich guy with everything, who might like to kill himself. Instead, he starts talking through a beaver puppet. Brilliant! Now he can say whatever he likes! And what does he like to talk about? Why, the fact that he has a puppet on his hand, that’s what! There is a lot of incendiary talk from the beaver about slashing and burning and rubble. There was comic AND dramatic potential in that. So what do Walter and the Beaver do? Why they do some woodworking with their neglected blonde child, is what! Heartwarming stuff. There’s a bit of psychobabble about starting again and erasing the past, and Walter apparently needs the puppet to do it. This is accepted by everyone immediately. The older son sulks about it for a while but mostly he’s thinking about himself. Mostly, everyone just thinks about themselves. The audience mostly thinks about lunch.

So then a bunch of stuff happens, and while it is theoretically very touching and junk, it still sounds like a bunch of people stamping around banging the pots of their misery. Mel Gibson does a good job with his acting, I can’t deny that. But this mess can’t be saved by performances. If you want a make a comedy, make it funny. If you want to make an art film, make it deep. If you want to make a weepy, make it sad. And if you want to see a film that plays like a streak of noisy beige against a cinema wall, see The Beaver.

In Cinemas August 4. If you care.

(By Lizzie Lamb,

MIFF 2011: 33 Postcards

26 Jul

By Mia Robinson

97 Minutes, Mandarin and English.

Director Pauline Chan presents a beautifully told, original story with 33 Postcards.  

Mei Mei (Zhu Lin) grew up in an orphanage in China.  Sponsorship from Australian Dean Randall (Guy Pearce) meant that she could receive an education and a sense of family that care for her, however remote.  The orphanage choir travels to perform in Sydney, and it’s Mei Mei’s one chance to meet the man who has been sponsoring her and writing to her for years.  Once in Sydney, she runs away from the group and endeavours to meet Randall.  Along the way she meets and befriends Carl (Lincoln Lewis), falls in with some bad company, has a few Aussie adventures of her own, and all beliefs about Randall’s supposedly “Brady Bunch” life (as depicted in his letters) are confronted.

This is a story that deals with belonging and redemption, but most importantly it explores what these two people from very different worlds have in common – a feeling of being alone.  Mei Mei’s demonstrative nature develops as a perfect balance next to Randall’s restraint.  An Australian and Chinese co-production, the film employs iconic imagery of Sydney and the countryside of China, along with a wonderfully melding of Australian and Chinese music.  However, 33 Postcards should not be limited to either nationality, it’s a universal story that is sure to please any audience.  You many need to take a tissue.

7 out of 10.

For trailer please visit:

33 Postcards is out through Titan View.  It should get a general release in November.