Posts by Andrew:

    Umbrella Entertainment’s Drive-In Delirium Is Back

    February 5th, 2018

    Umbrella Entertainment’s Drive-In Delirium is back. After a kick ass Volume 1 & 2 set – check out our review here – this explosive set of trailers from the golden age of genre films returns for… well… I’ll let the press release and the trailer do the talking:

    DRIVE-IN DELIRIUM IS BACK & NOW DELIVERING

    1080p TIMES THE INSANITY! VOLUME 3 OF THE BLU-RAY SERIES HAS ARRIVED AND IT’S THE BIGGEST AND BEST ONE YET!

    Just when you thought that you’d seen every pulse-pounding, blood-drenched, flesh-filled scrap of trailer trash comes this third stupefying serving of mind-numbing, skull-splitting retro movie madness!

    Bulging with over 6 hours of non-stop sex, violence, vehicle destruction, cockamamie cosmic carnage (not to mention an overload of Bronson badassness) – DRIVE-IN DELIRIUM: THE NEW BATCH is a rip-roaring, off-road, high-def ruckus that proudly programs your Blu-ray player to DETONATE!

    Keep an eye on UmbrellaEnt.com.au for an upcoming release date.

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    Melbourne Women In Film Festival 2018

    January 30th, 2018

    MELBOURNE WOMEN IN FILM FESTIVAL 2018

    The Melbourne Women in Film Festival 2018, running from 22 to 25 February, is delighted to announce new additions to its program and tickets now on sale.

    Adding to this year’s stellar festival line-up is feature film Pretty Good Friends, written and directed by Sophie Townsend. Dubbed as Australia’s first ‘mumblecore’ film, (a subgenre of indie filmmaking characterised by its low budget and unpolished dialogue), the film embodies the energy and cool rawness of independent filmmaking. Set against the backdrop of Melbourne’s inner city, Pretty Good Friends focuses on Jules (Jenni Townsend), who moves back to her home city of Melbourne and in with her old childhood friend, Sam (Rain Fuller). Hoping to start a fresh, Jules struggles to maintain her old friendship while a new one emerges with Sam’s boyfriend, Alex (Nathan Barillaro). The film screens with Katrina Mathers and Graeme Base’s animated short film, The Gallant Captain.

    Panellists for Money Matters: Making a Film on a Micro-budget and Side by side: Gender Equity in Film and Music have also been announced. Discussing ways to finance a film on low budget for Money Matters are Cathy Rodda (Program Manager for low budget features at Film Victoria), Sophie Mathisen (filmmaker and Festival Director of For Films’ Sake), Kylie Eddy (writer, director and producer, Lean Filmmaking), and Natalie Erika James (writer/director), with moderator, Dr. Grady Hancock (Lecturer, Deakin University). Exploring the roles of women across screen and music industries in Side by Side are Anna Laverty (music producer, mixer, engineer and writer), Claudia Sangiorgi-Dalimore (multi-disciplinary creative artist), Michelle Grace-Hunder (photographer, radio host), and Triana Hernandez (filmmaker, music journalist), with moderator Dr. Maura Edmonds (Lecturer, Monash University). Both panels will be held at ACMI, Federation Square on Saturday 24th February. Money Matters is free to attend, but requires registration via the ACMI website.

    About the Festival

    The Melbourne Women in Film Festival is a not-for-profit festival aimed at celebrating and supporting the work of women filmmakers and creatives – from directors, writers and producers to cinematographers, sound designers and editors. This annual festival endeavours to promote the many talented women who work within all areas of film production, and to encourage and inspire women with creative aspirations to pursue their passions with confidence.

    Melbourne Women in Film Festival runs 22 – 25 February 2018 at ACMI, Hoyts Melbourne Central and RMIT Cinema, City Campus.

    Tickets for Melbourne Women in Film Festival 2018 are on sale now. Please visit mwff.org.au for more information.

    The Melbourne Women in Film Festival gratefully acknowledges the support of sponsors: Film Victoria, City of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT, SAE Creative Media Institute, Soundfirm Post Production, Lemac Film and Digital, Radical Yes, and Bird on a Wire Wines.

     

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    Australia’s First LGBTIQ Film to Be Released by Bounty Films

    December 11th, 2017

    This right here is exciting news. Bounty Films – the Australian company who has released a wide array of LGBTIQ films, amongst many other lesser known flicks – are staking helping bring history back to life with the re-release of Australia’s first LGBTIQ film, The Set. Based on an unpublished book by the great Roger Ward (Mad MaxTurkey Shoot), this film caused a stir way back in the seventies when it was released.

    Let’s check out the press release to find out more:

    The celebrate Australia passing same sex marriage laws, Bounty Film is delighted to release the trailer for their upcoming release of The Set which is Australia’s first LGTB film. The trailer has remained unseen since The Set’s theatrical release in 1970 and the film itself only been screened a handful of times since. The Set will be released for the first time ever on DVD and VOD in March 2018.

    The Set caused nations-wide controversy at the time of its release with its depiction of non-heteronormative relationships and drag performers. It was also the first Australian film to have graphic nudity and sex scenes.

    A young working-class man who sells shirts at a Sydney department store, Paul Lawrence, dreams of going to art school. When his girlfriend Cara leaves for London, Paul becomes the protégé of renowned designer Marie Rosefield. Marie belongs to ‘the set’, an upper-class clique whose members include Mark Bronoski, an influential artist. Bronoski commissions Paul to design a set for flamboyant British stage director John L Fredericks. Helping Paul is Tony Brown (Rod Mullinar), a handsome student who is dating Paul’s cousin, Kim Sylvester. As Paul becomes part of ‘the set’, he begins a homosexual relationship with Tony. Meanwhile, Kim’s mother, Peggy (Hazel Phillips), is bored with her marriage and has an affair with Bronoski. As the deadline for the set approaches, Paul starts to question his values and those of his new friends.

    Keep an eye on Bounty Films in 2018 for more info regarding release dates and the like. In the meanwhile, check out the trailer below:

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    Top 100 Mondo Posters – Part Seven – 40-31

    October 17th, 2017

    Welcome to the seventh entry in this ten part Top 100 Mondo Prints. Make sure to check out the posts covering entries 100-91 and 90-81 and 80-71 and 70-61 and 60-51 and 50-41 and 40-31 and 30-21 and 20-11 and 10-1.

    40. Mike Saputo’s Pet Sematary print is a genuinely fascinating print to behold. At first glance you think it’s just a really pissed off cat staring at a guy digging a grave, but as you look closer you recognise the cats ears make up the symbols that make the resurrection of the dead possible. The mouth of Church the cat consuming the coffin that holds the body of Gage, Louis’ son, is a haunting image that manages to evoke conflicted emotions – fear and grief and hope.

    The framing of the white clouds on the left against the pitch black dark sky on the right provides a contrast that helps direct your attention to the bright red in the middle. Heck, Saputo’s choice and placement of colour here is simply stunning. The dark black mound that Louis is digging in to swallows the bright red coffin entirely. It’s a crying shame this print isn’t given more love as it’s a complex print for a genuinely great horror film.

    Pet Sematary – Mike Saputo

    39. There’s a bit of a running theme with this list – dinosaurs. Some are raging, fighting creatures, destroying themselves as nature dictates they would. Others, like JC Richard’s Jurassic Park print show a tranquil aspect to dinosaurs as they go about their business, eating and existing. Dan McCarthy’s calming The Lost World print shows a line of brontosauruses walking through a forest. It’s simple, and it’s a print that’s atypical of his work that often displays nature in all its beauty.

    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literature allowed us to dream of a world where anything was possible, where dinosaurs existed at the same time as us. Dan McCarthy’s dream like print is one that I have hanging on my walls and I find myself losing time staring at it. It’s tranquil and peaceful, and oddly hopeful.

    The Lost World – Dan McCarthy

    38. While most of the entries on this list are great looking images that can be appreciated on your computer or tablet of choice, Kevin Tong’s The Invisible Man print is one that looks a million times better in person. The art of screenprinting is an interesting thing – it’s not just putting layers of ink down on top of each other to create art on paper, it’s also the design that goes in to making that image printable and as authentic to the original picture as possible.

    What works so well about this print is that Tong’s pencil work and sketching manages to convey the idea of this invisible man so very well. Set in a science lab, this image feels like somebody has sketched a theory on paper, presenting the world with a man tortured by his apparent visible absence within the world. The rags that hang around his head are taut as they are peeled off his face, his angst and fear being represented in the bunched up rags around his hands. Tong’s work covers many styles, but it’s his knowledge to use this style that (once again) pushes him onto that Mondo Mt Rushmore.

    The Invisible Man – Kevin Tong – Regular

    The Invisible Man – Kevin Tong – Variant

    37. I’ll have to be honest here – I haven’t seen Walter Hill’s cult classic The Warriors. I have a fair gauge of what the film is about, and know that it’s one I’ll need to get to sooner or later. Tomer Hanuka’s work has gotten better with age, but within the realm of Mondo prints, he has never topped his work on The Warriors.

    There is a feeling of motion within this print that is undeniable. Hanuka’s typography carries with the raging police officers as they chase the warriors of New York through a subway stop. The missing tiles on the wall show a city that is weathered, the muted colours evoke a feeling of exhaustion. It’s hard to evoke an era of a city so perfectly, (Martin Ansin did exactly that with his glorious Taxi Driver print) but Hanuka manages to do just that with this print. Even without knowing what persecution these fleeing folks are running from, you can’t help but hope that they manage to escape.

    The Warriors – Tomer Hanuka

    36. How do you make oil, religion, death and greed into an alluring, fascinating print? Well, if you’re Olly Moss, you combine all of those together into one jaw dropping, yet drastically simple print. Again, Moss creates work that often leaves you saying ‘why didn’t I think of that’?

    Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is a horror film that damns the foundation of America, slaying the marriage of church and state, and the eternal affliction that is greed. Here, the oil rig is transformed into a cross. At once, it appears to be a very cynical print that takes a dig at the symbiotic relationship between religion, mining and the land. The pitch black bottom half of the print gives way to the red-orange top half – devastation reigns, and there is most certainly blood.

    There Will Be Blood – Olly Moss

    35. In the words of Todd Slater, he sees Yoda’s resting place of Dagobah as ‘a place to disappear, … I see [Yoda] as being at one with the landscape. For this print I wanted to camouflage him as part of this murky planet using leaves, sticks, ferns and other flora found in the swamps. The kanji (Japanese characters) on the left side gives one word representations of the six stages I identified in Luke’s Jedi training: the meeting of a great warrior, the discovery of a Jedi’s strength, entering of a domain of evil, learning that size matters not, seeing the future and finally, the confrontation of Vader.’

    While the Jedi ghost forms are usually transparent glowing blue figures, Slater’s representation of a creature at one with the environment feels like a more appropriate display of Yoda as a character. The wise eyes of Yoda are unmistakable here, showing a warrior who is weary, yet still full of eras of knowledge and power. A simple concept that is perfectly executed.

    Great Warrior – Todd Slater

    34. Howard Hughes epic action film Hell’s Angels is a fascinating piece of film history, with the film being partially shot with bulky cameras in real, chaotic dogfights. Martin Scorsese’s film tells the tale of Howard Hughes, and through his eyes we get to see how Hughes would have filmed the iconic scenes of Hell’s Angels.

    Here, Hughes sits in a plane that’s zipping through the skies. Aeronautic stunts are abound here, with Hughes camera pointing directly at a plane in peril – smoke pouring from its tail. Instead of machine guns, it’s film cameras that’s shooting the action. Jonathan Burton captures what renegade filmmaking would have been like in the founding years of the format. As a further sign of respect to cinema, Burton’s prints were created with two varied palettes (Technicolour inspired two colour and vibrant three-strip).

    The Aviator – Jonathan Burton – Regular

    The Aviator – Jonathan Burton – Variant

    33. Within the energetic chaos that is Joe Dante’s Gremlins is one of the most insanely enjoyable and rapturous scenes of eighties cinema. The town has become overrun by these ugly creatures, and as quickly as they have been born, they’ve become film fans (whoever raised them did a great job). A cinema of Gremlins sit in a packed theatre, munching down on popcorn, throwing trash, and thoroughly enjoying Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It’s Looney Tunes madness writ large in live action.

    Rhys Cooper’s print smashes all the iconic Gremlins together, appearing in a crazed group, tearing through what could be the cinema screen. It’s madness, it’s joyous, it’s everything Gremlins is – fun with a bite.

    Gremlins – Rhys Cooper

    32. Another film on my shame pile is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Yet, just like Rosebud and ‘frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’, the characters of this sci-fi classic are larger than the confines of the film that holds them. Ricardo Montalban’s eyes pierce through the centre of this print, directly into your soul.

    The maniacal hands that loom over the Starship Enterprise, like a witch hanging over their magic ball. WeBuyYourKids choice of vibrant shades of pink, black and white works wonderfully to direct your eyes exactly where they need to be. A poster should make you interested in seeing the film, and this print does exactly that. Great stuff.

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – WeBuyYourKids

    31. At the centre of Joe Dante’s Gremlins is the tortured Mogwai Gizmo. He who unwittingly caused all of this destruction. Yet, at the centre of the many, many prints for the film, Gizmo is absent. In what is the best print for the film, Ken Taylor presents the mystical origins of Gizmo in the form of his true nemesis, Stripe.

    Stripe’s hands reach out in both Mogwai and Gremlin form – angling to do all manner of evil things to you. Ken’s use of circular icons helps differentiate the two figures, while also subtly informing the history of where these creatures came from. You can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, if this were hanging in that little shop in Chinatown that Billy’s Dad would have known better than to buy his son a ‘unique’ Christmas present.

    Gremlins – Ken Taylor – Regular

    Gremlins – Ken Taylor – Variant

    And that’s it for this round. Tomorrow we head into the home stretch with Part Eight covering entries 30-21.

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    Bad Santa 2

    November 24th, 2016

    Thirteen years ago, Terry Zwigoff unwittingly spawned a loosely related set of films focused around usually good people doing bad things. Bad Teacher, Bad Grandpa and another 2016 comedy, Bad Moms all following in the footsteps of Zwigoff’s semi-cult dark comedy, Bad Santa. Well, the time has come to dust off the old IP that shows the crass, vulgar, drunk, sexed up Santa Clause that is Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie Soke in Mark Waters Bad Santa 2.

    Bundled alongside the perennially vomit soaked Santa suit wearing Thornton, are previous films stars Tony Cox as the equally vulgar elf-costume wearing Marcus, Brett Kelly as the Kid all grown up, and new to the ‘series’ Kathy Bates as Sunny Soke – Willie’s tatted up, white trash, half-a-brain mother – and Christina Hendricks as Diane Hastings – the co-coordinator of a homeless shelter. Each play their part in a semi-retelling of the first films plot – that is, how to steal money from people with more than Willie has at Christmas time.

    Now, it’s been a long time since I saw the first film – in fact, it was Christmas Eve in 2003 that I last saw it, and I recall finding it amusing, if ultimately forgettable. The trademark dark, crass comedy is in abundance here, and no doubt the excessively anti-PC comedy will ruffle a few feathers here and there. For some, the comedic elements of seeing a drunk, older man pissing into his mail, and eventually managing to bang the hottest woman he meets in an alleyway, while also berating (read: racially insulting) his black smaller stature ‘friend’ may have grown tired as that particular trope has been worn thin over the years – or rather, has been seen for what it is, dated, mean spirited comedy. For many others who are less concerned about the moral compass of their comedies, then this will hit some of the right notes for them.

    What does work in Bad Santa 2 where films like Dirty Grandpa have failed, is that even though Willie and co.’s actions are disgusting and vulgar, they are fairly low key and somewhat tolerable. Willie is, for the most part, a man who is keen to keep his solitude just that – solitary. He doesn’t intentionally insert himself into other peoples lives, and as long as he’s got a bottle of some kind of hard liquor near by, then he’ll be fine. On paper it’s hard to understand why characters like Christina Hendricks Diane Hastings would want to have Willie’s, well, willie anywhere near them; but even though the film does stretch believability, the above average performances from Hendricks and Thornton somehow manage to make the idea that she would sleep with him palatable. Look, this isn’t high brow stuff and you’ll most likely forget the film as soon as you leave the theatre, but the key is that as long as you buy into what’s going on on screen while you’re watching it, you’ll should have a good enough time.

    Surprisingly, the relationship between Willie and his estranged mother Sunny Soke works quite well. It’s a well worn plot we’ve seen many times over – and it doesn’t take a genius to realise where it’s going either – but, there’s a reason why actors like Kathy Bates and Billy Bob Thornton have been working for decades: they can find the honesty within the bag of stolen money and for brief moments, you get a glimpse of some kind of humanity in these characters. This is nothing more than a paycheck gig for these actors, but they still put the effort in where it counts, and Bates definitely seems like she’s enjoying herself at times. Sunny is easily the most contentious character – she’s outspoken, against anything that could be considered politically correct, is only concerned about number one – herself. In a post-Trump world, it’s hard to find empathy for such a character, but Bates puts in the effort where it counts.

    Unfortunately where Bates and Thornton excel, the plot leaves them high and dry. It’s frustrating to see that promising actors are given so little to work with. Sure, the one liners that Thornton throws out with ease land most of the time, it’s just disappointing that there is little interest in the people they’re stealing from, and the film fails to give them a solid enough motive to actually want to steal money other than, well, they just want money. The heist/robbery aspect of the first film was easily the most forgettable element, so to have the climax of the film focused on that steals away any possible comedic moments. All attempts to make worthy ‘villains’ out of Ryan Hansen and Jeff Skowron’s conniving duo fail completely – instead presenting a bunch of scenes that would have been better served left on the cutting room floor.

    Supporting work from Tom Cox, Brett Kelly and Jenny Zigrino is good and each are given their moment to shine. Cox’s foul mouthed Marcus’ endeavour to get himself in Zigrino’s security guard Gina’s pants is oddly sweet and almost touching. Brett Kelly’s kid-grown-up Thurman Murman is like a dog who’s lost his owner as he treks across the country to be reunited with surrogate ‘dad’ Willie. Unlike the comedy directed at Willie, you never laugh at Thurman, but you also don’t get much more than him being overly optimistic and excessively dimwitted, making him extraneous to the greater plot. The less said about Octavia Spencer’s prostitute Opal the better – she’s an Oscar winner, she doesn’t deserve to be in roles like this!

    When Miramax first announced in 2010 that they were going to mine their back catalogue for potential sequels, many feared that we would suddenly have Shakespeare in Love 2: Love Harder and The English Patient 2: The Brexit Years appearing on our screens. With films like Bridget Jones Baby and Bad Santa 2 now being the resulting films from this IP cash-grab – one has to ask, why now, and why so late? The target audience for a Bad Santa sequel will enjoy this regardless – and there’s certainly worse films to see in a theatre – but to drag a sequel out thirteen years after the original feels like a wasted opportunity. Should we have had to wait this long for something that – like Christina Hendricks in an alleyway – seems like a sure thing? Probably not.

    Director: Mark Waters
    Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox
    Writers: Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross

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    Revelation Film Festival – 2016 Program

    June 11th, 2016

    Revelation2016

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Revelation Film Festival is back! What’s most notable about the festival – now in its nineteenth year – is just how massive the selection of films is on offer. At 104 pages long, this is the first Rev Program that has a spine! Within those 104 pages are about 140 titles spread over almost 200 sessions. There’s a lot of variety available. For those playing at home, I highly recommend downloading the pdf version right here.

    So, with that in mind, where do you start with the variety of films on offer this year? Well, let’s take a look and see what’s on offer.

    Each year there are some stunning special events on offer, and this year is no different. From opening film Demolition through to the yearly support of the Super-8 film format with the tenth Revel8 Super 8 Film Competition there’s some familiar events – Experimental Showcase, Get Your Shorts On, Magnolia’s Revelation Special and more. This year, the minds behind Revelation have decided to bring everybody back to their childhood by shining a light on the great revolutionary work of Jim Henson.

    Alongside screenings of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, there are looks at Henson’s commercials and experimental work through to a look at Henson’s work with the Muppets. Really, there’s no excuse to not get involved with this as screenings of some of Henson’s work will be shown every day at the State Library with other films being shown at Luna Leederville and SX. Check the website for details.

    One of the sessions of short films that I’m most excited for is the Indigenous Community Stories showcase. While Australia has had a few films that highlight indigenous stories, there’s just not enough. This showcase of short films is designed to archive ‘100 stories for 100 years and beyond’. This screens on July 12th at 7pm at Luna Leederville.

    With all the feature films and documentaries on offer, it’s hard to make a decision as to what to recommend. My favourite film of 2015 – Tehran Taxi – was a Revelation Film Festival film which wasn’t even on my radar when the program was released. The power and quality of the cinema on offer has always provided a few unexpected gems rise to the top. With that in mind, here’s my initial suggestion list of films to keep an eye on and try and catch while the festival is on.

    High Rise

    Revelation is no stranger to the work of Ben Wheatley having showcased his previous works. This time sees the adaptation of JG Ballard’s dark assessment of the class structure in a British tenement with Tom Hiddleston in the lead.

    The Whispering Star

    If anyone saw director Sion Sono’s previous work Tokyo Tribe, you’ll know that he is a director who pushes the boundaries of what is usually accepted in cinema. His unique vision is challenging, while often being very exciting. Where he’s previously put his stamp on musicals and horror, it looks like The Whispering Star is his vision of science fiction. I’m excited.

    Atmo Horrox

    Described by Revelation as one of the most gleefully twisted films that the festival has ever screen, Atmo Horrox looks superbly insane. Every years there’s a few unique horror films that get shown at the applicable horror film time slot and it looks like this is going to be one of the picks of the bunch.

    Art of the Prank

    At the launch of the festival, we were treated to the extremely enjoyable documentary Art of the Prank. This is a wonderful look at Joey Skaggs – a great prankster and superb manipulator of the media. There’s a joy about going into a film without knowing what it is that you will be seeing, and sure enough, Art of the Prank proved to be a blast. A highly recommend film from the festival.

    Weiner

    Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Weiner is the documentary about Anthony Weiner – a US Congressman who’s career was embroiled in various scandals. This looks to be entertaining, enlightening and very very interesting.

    All Things Ablaze

    Coming from the Ukranian protests in 2013-2014, All Things Ablaze is a documentary about the front lines of the warfare between protesters and police. This documentary looks to visually deliver images of protests that we’ve never seen before – a lot of the footage was captured from people on the front lines of protests. This looks to be as relevant as the recent Chasing Asylum.

    ————

    And that’s it for the films that I’ve already noted to catch at this years Revelation Film Festival. One of the new features implemented is the Rev Rewind – for the three days after the festival (July 18-20), the hottest films of the festival will get a short re-run, just in case you’ve missed a session.

    So, what films are you looking forward to from this years lineup? Drag someone along to a film that they wouldn’t usually see (heck, I’m sure you might be able to trick someone into seeing ‘that new Daniel Radcliffe film‘) – there’s always something to excite at Revelation.

    Tickets and schedule are all available here.

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    Revelation Film Festival Announces REVonDemand

    December 11th, 2015

    File this under: shit that will make your day.

    If you’re like me and every year that the Revelation Film Festival comes out, you sit down and play ‘kill your darlings’ and are forced into the cruel and harsh world of deciding what films will unfortunately have to be missed as there are so many superb high quality films showing. Pair this alongside the fact that not only will you miss a great feature length film, but also the kick ass short film that’s screened with that film, and you’re missing out on some great great cinema.

    So, with some great excitement this morning, I opened my email and found an announcement for REVonDemand – a new (as the name suggests) on demand service where some of the previous Revelation Film Festival films will be available. Here’s the spiel from the website:

    Want to experience the contemporary history of independent film seen through close to 20 years of Rev? It’s right here – with many titles exclusive internationally to this site. All have screened in the Rev program at some point from year 1 and we can’t wait to share them with you.

    We’ll be adding new titles and curated sidebars all the time so subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates – or better still, become a Rev member for a free film every month. We hope you enjoy the offer – we do.

    I can already see a few films from this years festival that I missed are available – Asphalt WatchersDo I Sound Gay? – and previous festivals films as well. Any avenue that allows people to gain access to the greatly underrated and underseen Assisted Living and Of Dolls and Murder is a huge tick in my book.

    Now to start building my wishlist of films that have screened that I’ve been dying to see…

    For more info and to see the current full list, head over here: REVonDemand

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    The Fault in Our Ability to Accept an Open Ending

    June 27th, 2015

    A while ago, we ran a blog called Your Acting’s Like the End of the World. Now we have a website it makes some sense to bring some of the ‘articles’ across to provide a little more content on this site. Periodically they’ll pop up. This is one of those posts:

    Spoilers below for The Sopranos, The Fault in Our Stars, The Dark Knight Rises and Inception.

    Earlier this week Martha Nochimson wore David Chase down enough to get some vague idea of how The Sopranos ended. The article can be read here in its entirety. Whether Chase finally gave in to the constant ‘what happens at the fade to black’ or merely wanted to honour his friend, James Gandolfini, by having his signature character ‘live on’ is debatable. Just as the ending itself is debatable. 

    That’s the nature of open endings, or vague endings. They’re designed to be discussion starters; designed to have the viewer or reader come to their own decision as to what has occurred to the characters. It’s one of the magical things about literature, television or films. The ability for the writer or director or show runner to decide at exactly what point the story should end and on what note. 

    For every cut to black that occurs with The Sopranos, you have a majorly definitive finale like Dexter becoming a lumberjack. Sure, Dexter could have sailed off into that hurricane with Deb’s body and the show could have faded to black and it wouldn’t be as greatly ridiculed as it is today. The ending could possibly even have encouraged discussion rather than turning the show into a butt of jokes. 

    The Sopranos on the other hand has a masterful ending. Part of what makes it a wonderful ending is that six years after the show finished, people have discussed the possibilities of what has occurred. Is Tony dead? Does the show just keep going? One of the theories which is worthwhile reading is the discussion of the symbolism of the number three

    Does having a ‘definitive ending’ from Chase now ruin the theories? Not at all. If the viewer is to take what is presented on screen as gospel, then theories are allowed to still continue on. Sure, David Chase created The Sopranos, but at some point a show, a book or a film stops being the product of its creator and becomes the product of the reader, the fans of the film or show. Is David Chase’s version of ‘what happened’ not just another fan theory then?

    In one pivotal moment in The Fault in Our Stars, the characters traipse across to Amsterdam to track down a reclusive author of An Imperial Affliction, a book which has had a profound effect on Hazel. The book ends mid-sentence, something which Hazel can’t accept as a finish for a book. The quality of the book is implied to be great, the importance of the lives of the characters reflecting the lives of Hazel’s own family and friends. 

    The reaction of the author, Van Houten, is understandable. He’s locked himself away in a far off country where people don’t have easy access to him. Piles of letters line his hallway, no doubt the majority of them filled with ‘what happens after the end of the book’. It’s a question that no doubt many authors, directors and show runners get asked – Christopher Nolan has probably avoided Comic Con as long as he has so he doesn’t have to answer whether the top stops spinning or not in Inception. 

    His anger comes across as arrogant, but as the writer it’s understandable; he’s finished with the story, he doesn’t have any more to say, and if he did, would he not have included it anyhow? The anger from his fans as well for not getting a clear answer is also understandable. Why, they’ve traveled all this way whilst they both have cancer, don’t they deserve an answer? Don’t they deserve what they came for? 

    Whilst The Fault in Our Stars is a wonderful film that explores young cancer victims. It’s devastating. It’s also why getting the answer to the ‘what happens after the end’ is so important to the characters. To Hazel it’s to get an answer that after she dies, her family will be ok. Her family will still have a life. It’s a heartbreaking moment in the film and is realised later on when she confronts her mother about what she will do when Hazel is gone. 

    The Fault in Our Stars inadvertently discusses the impact of open endings as well. Is it our right to demand closure or not? Closure is given for Hazel in the realisation that Van Houten’s An Imperial Affliction is a personal story, one that has affected his life and he needed to tell it. It’s so personal that the hounding from fans caused him to become a recluse because it also forced him to confront what the story meant to himself. The opening ending to him is not saying goodbye to his daughter who died. It’s another impactful moment in a film full of them. 

    So The Fault in Our Stars discussion of open endings give a clause of sorts to the discussion of open endings in literature. Yet, surely The Sopranos – a work of pure fiction – is not subject to this clause. In fact, surely many other open ended films are not subject to the clause. You don’t see The Coen Brothers or Cormac McCarthy addressing the ending to No Country For Old Men – it is what it is and it is what it should be. 

    Why is it difficult for audiences nowadays to accept this kind of ending in literature? Is it because modern audiences have become so used to having everything spoon fed to them? One of the benefits of an open ending is to challenge the audience, to make them think over what has occurred and the implications of it. 

    It’s interesting to see someone like Christopher Nolan go from a film like Inception – one of the finest open endings and discussion points in modern cinema – to a film like The Dark Knight Rises where the ending is so clear cut. The opportunity was there earlier in The Dark Knight Rises to suggest that Bruce Wayne has survived and to hint at that by having Alfred sitting in a cafe in Paris and look over to another table and smile. To have both Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne sitting there creates a paradox within the film – one of the richest men in the world in one of the most populated places in the world, a man who is considered dead, right there, out in the open. A paradox that an slightly open ending might have cancelled out. 

    The ending of The Sopranos is strong enough to continue to create debate that will carry on even with David Chase’s flippant comment. People will hopefully continue to debate the ending and continue to discuss what has occurred. Yet, as a modern audience, we need to be more accepting of these elements of modern literature – whether it be books, films or television. We trust that the creative decisions made by those in charge are the right decisions for the story and we enjoy being able to discuss these decisions. 

    What is your opinion of the ‘confirmed finale’ of The Sopranos? Should open endings be explained or left open for a reason? Leave your thoughts below.

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