Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Film is the Map

There is a Tom Waits lyric;
"That's not the road, it is only the map" ("The Part You Throw Away")

This I think, is a fairly applicable statement for all art, and especially true of film.
Film is after all the medium that can most look like the world we see around us (wonderfully it can also be most unlike the world we see around us), and it is not impossible for one to confuse memory of sight, with memory of image.

Film isn't the road; it is not our life, it is not our journey.
But film is the map; it is our lives, it is our journeys.

Film is the map of empathy.
The map we can use to understand and meet the other.
The map we can use to feel not only the hurt of others, but the hurt we cause others.

Film is the map of relationships.
The map we can use to know.
Know, even those closest to us.
Know, through the wisdom and folly of others, who they can & cannot be; who we can & cannot be.

Film is the map of community.
No one person is going to feel or experience everything that is portrayed on film.
Not every story is our story, not every choice one we will have to make.
But a community may.
A community is made up of more feelings, more experiences, more choices.
The story of the cinema, the grand directory of film; provides a language for the whole community -
because there is nothing a person can feel, experience, or choose that is not mapped out on film.
A map which continues to expand and deepen.

Film's not the road, it is only the map... but never underestimate a map.
A map is useful before the road, on the road, and after the road.
A map names.
A map explores.

Regardless of how many roads our feet have trod, it is the map that draws it all together.
Showing one road's relation to another.
Displaying the interwoven and interdependent nature of it all.
A map explores and reports, guides and grows, informs and evolves.

This is why a bad film is so abhorrent;
it misdirects us, it leads us down dead ends, it leads us away from the road, or worse -
it portrays the road for something the road is not.
This is why a good film is holy;
it is revelation -
life & people, stories & choices are mapped & disclosed, told & retold, learnt & embraced.


Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Edge of Tomorrow - and the restoration of hope

Last week I wrote a post about my frustration with summer blockbusters, essentially I was sick of them. However at the end of that notion I expressed that I was holding out hope; because who knows what was coming around the corner. How apt it was that hope was on the Edge of Tomorrow.

(I'm sorry for that, but the title really is the worst part of the film, and so I had to... that said, the film itself...)

... IT IS FUN!
It moves with a refreshing briskness; at once allowing the movie room to have fun, whilst never condescending to its audience with self-reference.
Which made it fun.

Cruise gives his best performance in years. Unlike so many "action stars" to come after him, he works every second of this movie to convince the audience that everything they see is actually there.
Which made it fun.

It handles its message with deftness, never resorting to monologues faux-philosphising about the nature of this and that.
Which made it fun.

The visual affects were superb and always aimed at adding to the narrative or characters. The editing revels in giving you only what you need whilst continually contributing to the exquisite pace of the movie.
Which made it fun.

See it.
Did I mention it was fun?

I can only hope more blockbusters will follow in its stead, abandoning self-importance, self-seriousness, and self-reference for a dedicated pursuit of fun, for giving one's audience something to grab hold of, for dedication to the narrative. 
Because if the regeneration gimmick of this movie teaches us anything; it's that, like war, war (action) movies are only going to repeat and continue again and again and again and again.
For more words on this film, read Julien Faddoul's great review at The Cinema Touch

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

I'm getting so sick of blockbusters - also review of The Son (2003)

I have a brother with autism. One of the things we love to do together is go to the movies, the movies that attract his attention are generally movies with plenty of explosions and effects, heroes and villains.
I have a friend who is a cinefile. One of the things we love to do together is watch movies, the movies that attract his attention are a little more varied in scope and style.

Last week I watched two movies; one with my brother, one with my friend. Those two movies, for me in this moment, highlighted everything that is wrong and right with the cinema.  

The first film was X-Men Days of blah blah blah, another one of these carbon copy blockbusters which utilise every technique and technology known to man in an attempt to create action, drama, suspense, tension, or at least something resembling cinema... rarely do they succeed in any way at all. And X-Men: Today is Tomorrow's Yesterday - which from my limited knowledge of the comics, should be Do The Right Thing with superpowers - becomes yet another example of all sound and noise signifying nothing. A collection of ideas and images half thought through and vaguely executed. It is in no way the worst of this genre of 'summer blockbuster' but it was a stark reminder of the increasingly undeniable fact: this isn't cinema.

Then I watched The Son (2003, dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne), safe to say the polar opposite of Marvel project 17, a film which abandons so many things that we have been told 'make a movie', a film which presents the bare essentials (and one may argue, not even that). But a film nonetheless, which is infinitely more interesting, suspenseful, dramatic, and cinematic than that other film with all it's millions of dollars and dozens of Oscar nominees. The Son reminds us of why people invented cameras and added sound - they wanted to tell stories. They wanted to tell more stories to more people. They wanted to show us more places. They wanted us to feel more. The Son is exactly this, while its story could be told through other mediums, it's storytelling could not.

People may feel that this argument is antithetical. That surely the movie set simultaneously in an alternate future and past, filled with explosions and people who turn into fire is the story that most suits the cinematic method. But cinema is form of intimacy and subtlety, of glances and expression, of knowing and unknowing, of withholding and releasing, of here and now. This is cinema.     
The Son is cinema.

I will make one small disclaimer, one last ditched statement of hope for the days of future past... a disclaimer is borrowed off another story from the cinema:
"Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere"
And I can only hope so, because these movies, like my brother's appetite for them, have no end in sight. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

2013: Top 10 films and awards

Well here it is... long overdue, but then it's still 1992 here in Australia so it takes a little longer to see enough of the (shall we say) premiere films to justify finalising some sort of list/awards.

I play fast and loose with my awards, the general structure is 5 nominees, including a 2nd place and winner. But sometimes I abandon that, or work around it by cheating. You see, I'm the despot of this little kingdom so my want is my pleasure. I see the point of all this as getting across some thoughts about the year in film (and those who contributed to it) so if that's done better outside of structured rules, so be it!

Enough prologuing - let's get to the good stuff.

Top 10 films of the year

10. 12 Years a Slave (dir. Steve McQueen)
Freedom is only an idea, and like most ideas it can be forgotten or remembered at a moments notice.

9. Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine)
So is this what YOLO means?

8. Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuaron)
At that moment, when we find ourselves untethered, floating aimlessly in the great darkness; it is then we need to remember - from the earth we came, and to the earth we return.

7. Wolf Children (dir. Mamoru Hosoda)
Let children be children, even if they want to be wolves.

6. The Wolf of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese)
At that moment, when we find ourselves untethered, floating aimlessly in the great darkness... SCREW PHILOSOPHY - Money, $EX, drugs, fame!!!! ..... and more drugs.

5. No (dir. Pablo Larrain)
So wait, advertising is the hero?

4. Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach)
Growing up is hard to do. It takes much longer than it ought. But then what do I know; I'm not a real person yet either.

3. Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
Sing, fuck up, rinse, repeat. The only advice worth taking is impossible to follow. 

 2The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki)
Beauty never enters the world without consequences; from the garden, to Helen of Troy, to airplanes... beautiful airplanes - what a gift, now we can scoff at the sky saying 'you too are now part of our world'.

1. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)
Where are we now? How can we go back to the old stories? To sunrises, trains, harpsichords, boats, and sunsets? Our story now is indivisible; we are as much each other as ourselves.

Honourable Mentions
The Bling Ring, Captain Phillips, The Croods, Enough Said, From Up On Poppy Hill, I'm So Excited, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Unspeakable Act.

The Awards

Best Director

Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Hayao Miyazaki (The Wind Rises)
2nd - Pablo Larrain (No)

Richard Linklater (Before Midnight)

Best Actress

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine (Spring Breakers)
2nd - Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)

Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)

Best Actor

Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)
2nd - Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Best Supporting Actor

Alfredo Castro (No)
Ryan Gosling (The Place Beyond the Pines)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
2nd - Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)

James Franco (Spring Breakers)

Best Supporting Actress

Eva Mendes (The Place Beyond the Pines)
Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Colleen Clinkbeard (Wolf Children)
2nd - Cary Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)

Best Ensemble

Inside Llewyn Davis
Before Midnight
Frances Ha
2nd - The Wolf of Wall Street


Screenplay (original or adapted)

Kirk DeMicco, Chris Sanders (The Croods)
Joel and Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Mamoru Hosoda, Satoko Okudera (Wolf Children)
Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder (Place beyond the Pines)
Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said)
Terence Winter (The Wolf of Wall Street)
John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
3rd - Pedro Peirano (No)

3rd - Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)

2nd - Hayao Miyazaki (The Wind Rises)

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)


Sergio Armstrong (No)
Christos Voudouris (Before Midnight)
Harris Savides, Christopher Blauvelt (The Bling Ring)
2nd - Bruno Delbonnel (Inside Llewyn Davis)

Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)

Monday, 10 February 2014

In honour of an engagement - The Before Series

I got engaged on the weekend, and so I thought I'd share a little thought on a particular film saga that has taught me a lot about relationships (for better or worse).

Before Sunrise: Strangers on a train make a pact - these things are doomed to complication, no one can remain emotionless in Vienna. 

A young and idealistic film about young and idealistic lovers - a good idea turned into aimlessly wandering toward an end point they haven't fully thought through... that's your early 20s right there!

Before Sunset: She knew him once (well, twice) though he was younger then, his hurt is seen clearer at the dimming of the day.

Maturity has changed these two; they have less time, they have more depth, they have less hope, they have more baggage... we have more fun.

Before Midnight: Where are we now? How could we go back to the old stories? The old Jesse & Celine? We are as much each other as ourselves.

We are in deep, scary waters now... every word, every glance, every moment has the power to tear down an entire city. With all the lessons we learn, all that we experience; with our greater intelligence, understanding, maturity, and wisdom... we can still act like foolish teenagers; stubbornly destroying everything in our wake.   

The Before movies are the embodiment of a rich and beautiful relationship - full of love, heartache, fun, frustration, pain, and truth. Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke have reached the level of the great maestros who can now play the instrument of this story with a level of skill, ease, nuance, and boldness that we rarely experience. So sit back and watch a saga that never stops giving and revealing.

For Heather.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Revisited - Top 10 of 2012

It's almost a year since I first put out my top 10 of 2012, but movies do not stay the same. Thus, with my 2013 list about a month away (it's Australia guys, Nebraska hasn't been released yet, give me a break), I thought it might be nice to revisit the list and see what's changed.
Note: I still haven't seen Amour - terrible, right?

10. Lincoln: Time is helping. The absurdity of modern politics is helping. The depth of the screenplay and performances are helping. The ending still isn't helping.

9. The Cabin in the Woods: I still think about this and chuckle, and then every time I watch a horror movie (which is rare) or see a horror movie preview (less rare) I think about this movie and admire.

8. Django Unchained: This has certainly slipped. I still love the performances, and the 'evening at Candyland' sequence only increases in power and awe. But as people pointed out to me at the time, and I am now coming to realise - this should either be an hour shorter, or two hours longer.

7. Magic Mike: Don't retire Mr. Soderbergh, Mr. Miyazaki isn't, so come home... come home.

6. Holy Motors: I need another 10 years to get everything that's going on... but one helps.

5. Silver Linings Playbook: Would this have been a challenger to Gravity/12 Years a Slave? It's a whole lot better than American Hustle, so by that logic... oh well, it's held up pretty well, not as strong as The Fighter. Which makes me concerned about this trajectory Mr. O. Russell.

4. Zero Dark Thirty: Mr. Scorsese should contact Ms. Bigelow and compare notes for their end of year sociology paper: 'herd behaviour in the reception of art' -- This is one heck of a film.

3. The Color Wheel: I haven't revisited this film, I haven't really needed to, it's etched on my mind.

2. Moonrise Kingdom: The 2012 film I have re-watched the most, I've also shown it to the most people. Still hilarious, still touching, still picking up on more details, still the finest love story of the decade so far... oh wait, there may be a 2013 contender... anyhow, it's wonderful!

1. The Master: Where are you now Freddy Quill? How could another movie come and take The Master's position atop the mountain? No other film looks more like the cinema than this, no film takes its audience to the same depth as this, no film has me changing my mind as to what is going on as this, no other film (of 2012) is as aptly named as this... this is the master.


Thursday, 23 January 2014

10 tweetable notions on Coen brothers films

I'm trying something a little new, that will hopefully continue with future films. Feel free to come play; either in the comments or on twitter using the tag #filmicnotions

Basically they are short thoughts on films, not reviewing/criticising them, rather trying to capture a little of their nature... hopefully after these 10 you'll get the drift.

Miller's Crossing: A coward weeping in the woods evokes the pity of an Irishman; he was reminded of his hat.

Barton Fink: You think your life's tough? I'm in pictures now.

Fargo: This isn't what they were thinking when they coined the phrase: "in the family way."

The Big Lebowski: Everyone wants to be an individual; this individual's name is The Dude.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Nothing distracts from the task at hand quite like music.

No Country for Old Men: A conscience is one hell of a liability.

Burn After Reading: As we lay our heads on the pillow; exhausted from hijinks and hullabaloo, we ask ourselves: was anyone ever shot over less?

A Serious Man: Larry: "Why G-d? I'm not an evil man." G-d: "Larry, don't sweat the small stuff; the worst is yet to come."

True Grit: Take me back to a time when the men were true, the women had grit, and the horses weren't unionised.

Inside Llewyn Davis: Sing, fuck up, rinse, repeat. The only advice worth taking is impossible to follow.

Hope that was enjoyable, the invitation is open, add you own!