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  • Wild 2014

    Watched 27 Jan, 2015 1

    I walked 18km* to see this so if I was ever going to be simpatico with a Jean-Marc Vallée film then surely it would be this one. For the most part I was. It turns out that a Vallée film without a Vallée script is surprisingly tolerable. That's not to say that I'm going to fall in love with his needle drop approach to scoring or his near fetishisation of smoothly integrated flashbacks - particularly when those flashbacks start to…

  • An American Werewolf in London 1981

    Watched 25 Jan, 2015

    An American Werewolf in London starts very well, transitioning adeptly from a jokey beginning to a panicky death on the moors. If said moors seem rather conspicuously lit then it hardly matters given that Landis makes them feel very, very open and very, very flat. It stumbles a little as it progresses and unfortunate bits of very 80s cheese start to intrude. The romance starts in a more than mildly cliched (yet well performed) place but by the time it…

  • Kill Bill: Vol. 2 2004

    Watched 22 Jan, 2015

    Vol 2 is obviously designed to be part of the same film as Vol 1. It expects as to remember Beatrix's assassin name without any prompting and retains the same style. Which is to say it's style changes every half hour. However it is slightly more restrained on that front than the first half and its most memorable moments are not lengthy fights but lengthy chats. In the process it imbues both parts with honest feeling; transforming what was a…

  • The Last Wave 1977

    Watched 18 Jan, 2015

    In Peter Weir's preceding film (Picnic at Hanging Rock) white people get into trouble because they don't belong. The opening shot of the school and its manicured lawns sitting awkwardly amongst the bush makes this very clear. In The Last Wave it's because they have a very clear role in the world but they've forgotten or lost touch with it. Situating a white person within Indigenous culture seems like an odd move and to be honest I'm not sure I…

  • Smithy 1946

    Watched 17 Jan, 2015

    Smithy declares its intentions from the very beginning. It opens with a framing story in which a young RAAF pilot fails to recognise the name Charles Kingsford-Smith. He, and by extension the audience, are chided for their ignorance and subjected to a lengthy, dry retelling of Smithy's exploits.

    Like a young, earnest history teacher the film makes a concerted effort to connect Smithy’s pioneering flights to the contemporary experience, namely World War Two. What it fails to do however is…

  • Radiance 1998

    Watched 13 Jan, 2015

    "Operatic, isn't it?" comments Nona (Deborah Mailman) towards the end of Radiance and indeed it is. The use of parts of Madama Butterfly to score the film is entirely appropriate, even though the synths that make up much of the rest of the its soundtrack are a little overbearing. That's not in any way a slight on Radiance. The film's greatest strength is how it takes the pain of generations of indigenous women and turns it into 83 very personal,…

  • Paddington 2014

    Watched 13 Jan, 2015

    Never mind the supposed anti-capitalist subtext of The LEGO Movie, this kids' film makes its politics text. Paddington's journey out of "Darkest Peru" broadly aligns with the journey of refugees seeking refuge in the EU. Once he makes it to London and the arms of a regular British family the patriarch's (Mr Brown) arguments for throwing him out are UKIP talking points - all of which are demolished by Mrs Brown's humane good sense. If this makes Paddington sound like…

  • Kill Bill: Vol. 1 2003

    Watched 12 Jan, 2015

    Since this is only my second Tarantino film (the first was Django Unchained) it's hardly my place to pontificate on his methods in general. What I will say is that his borrowing from other sources has very different characteristics in the two different films that I have seen. Django Unchained borrowed almost solely from Spaghetti Westerns and played its tropes straight without a hint of subversion. (Spaghetti Westerns often dealt with serious subjects in serious ways - including racism.) The…

  • Birdman 2014

    Watched 10 Jan, 2015

    Birdman is so in your face that it makes a motif out of characters speaking directly to the camera. It's a manic, propulsive, eager little thing driven by a relentless drum score, a swooping camera and restless actors who talk as though they could burst into flames at any moment. It's populated by caricatures and filled with the kind of passionate nonsense that regularly fills columns exclaiming that Hollywood has run out of ideas, or that theater is a dying…

  • Bicycle Thieves 1948

    Watched 09 Jan, 2015

    It's kind of funny how notions of realism both do and don't change. In plot and tone Bicycle Thieves is strikingly similar to something the Dardennes might shoot (The Man with a Bike). Meanwhile the acting (by nonprofessionals), while lacking some of the more melodramatic flourishes of, say, Rome, Open City, probably wouldn't be widely accepted as realistic today. Similarly its style it bears absolutely no resemblance to today's handheld, follow-the-protagonist films and the swelling score that plays over the…

  • When Animals Dream 2014

    Watched 08 Jan, 2015

    There's a long history of feminist werewolf stories and it's easy to see why: Aside from the terror of big, nasty dogs the horror of the werewolf lies in a loss of control over one's own body. When Animals Dream gets great of mileage out of this subtext. Before the protagonist, Marie, has even begun to wolf out she's subjected to an intrusive doctor's examination and the unwanted attentions of a local boy.

    By the time she's asserting pride in…

  • Foxy Brown 1974

    Watched 06 Jan, 2015

    Never seen a Blaxploitation film before. Which is to say I've never seen a film swing so quickly from righteous indignation to crude exploitation to fist pumping empowerment. The righteous indignation part crosses from pleasingly direct into on the nose territory frequently - particularly when someone other then Grier or Fargas has to sell the line - and it takes a surprising amount of time for the plot to actually kick in but I suppose it wouldn't be an exploitation…