Posts by Andrew:
To celebrate the release of the new film, Rocketman, we have five double passes to giveaway. It’s a simple competition – all you have to do is head on over and like our Facebook page and send us an email letting us know you’ve liked the page. Simple! Winners will be chosen on Wednesday the 29th of May, so get your entries in quick! Competition is open for Australian residents only.
Rocketman is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. The film follows the journey of transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into the international superstar, Elton John. This inspirational story – set to Elton John’s most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton – tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture.
In Cinemas May 30.
In the catalogue of ‘conversation starters’ that I have up my sleeve, sitting comfortably alongside ‘why you should watch more Australian films’ and ‘have you seen how great my dog Cheese is?’ is the conversation of ‘have you tried Run Amuk hotdogs yet?’ that you’ll catch me monologuing about. I shouldn’t have to tell you why the food group that is the hotdog is the greatest food group in the world, but unfortunately, sanity doesn’t come to us all. The grand realisation that the stunningly simple concept of a sausage in a bun with some sauce is the source of all of life’s solutions is one that only comes with copious consumption of this holy entity.
For those who are concerned that this is going to be a gooey ode to meat, fear not! A hot dog is not bound to the world of meat, and it’s quite easy to substitute a beautiful brat for a fantastic falafel and still gain the wisdom that comes from the hot dog. After all, it’s not always the ‘dog’ part of the hotdog that makes up the greatest quota of deliciousness, but in fact, it’s how you adorn the dog with its finest dressings that truly makes the hotdog a feast for the Gods.
One of the things that makes the hotdog such a reliable food group is that no matter what country you visit, you will always find a hotdog to occupy the space of your stomach. And once that hotdog is in your stomach, you will feel grand and good and complete, and feel as if you’re back on the right path that you’re supposed to be on. Whether it’s the dirty water hotdogs of New York City, or the divine bratwurst and sauerkraut of the dogs in Germany, or maybe it’s the neeps and tatties concoction of Scotland, you’re going to find a hotdog to satiate all hunger anywhere in the world.
While I’ve long thought about moving out of Perth and traipsing to another city or country, there’s one thing that keeps me here – a certain hotdog joint near one of the many beautiful beaches in Western Australia. Having travelled all over the world and made a point to eat a hotdog wherever I go, I’ve kept a running tally in my mind of where the good dogs are, and although the dogs around the world have all been delicious, there’s been no better hotdog than those found at Fremantle’s Run Amuk Hotdogs.
Owners Jodey and Emily recently celebrated their seventh year of operation, and the day of celebration was intense. It was also more than a little heartwarming to see the community of Perth come out and support the art of creating the finest hotdogs one could hope for. Sure, they were coming for more than just the hotdogs – after all, Run Amuk also create a mean coleslaw, a thirst quenching lemonade (with just the right amount of ginger) that really hits the spot, and an array of milkshakes that are a meal all to themselves (give the Reece’s Peanut Butter Milkshake a shot, you’ll die happy).
This dedicated group of people who live and love hotdogs make the regular pilgrimage to Run Amuk to bathe in their brilliance. You may think I’m laying it on thick, but seriously, when you walk into the building, with Where’s Wally adorned tables, a few old bus seats, a wall covered in donated toy cars, and a truly overwhelming mural of a neon hotdog by Perth’s own Straker, and then you walk up to the counter and meet some of the nicest and warmest people… well, you can’t help but say ‘everyone should visit this place’. And, on top of that, if meat isn’t your thing, then the option of making your dog vegan is there.
Click on over for the Top Ten Run Amuk hotdogs…
Jennifer Kent’s career could have followed a completely different path than it did after the massive success of The Babadook. At one point, Kent was on the short list to direct Wonder Woman, only to knock down all offers and opt to make another film in Australia. For the Australian film lovers out there, this is music to our ears – Kent is one of the most exciting new talents to come out of this country, so to see a brutal film that addresses the horrors of colonialism come from a woman’s perspective is thrilling.
Travis Akbar caught The Nightingale in Adelaide last year at the Adelaide Film Festival and gave it a perfect rating, calling it a revenge story that heals a nation at the same time as it opens fresh wounds.
It’s not going to be long for everyone else to be able to see this film, with it opening around the world in August. For now, turn on your cold shower, as you’ll definitely need one after watching this knock to the guts trailer.
In a recent episode of the Indiewire Filmmaker Toolkit podcast, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum director Chad Stahelski talks about the roll of the stunt co-ordinator. He explains about the way a stunt co-ordinator works, employing narrative cohesion to their stunts, and inventing ways of making action and violence work. Stahelski explains how he’s applied his extensive history as a stunt co-ordinator to the mentality of being a director, and by doing so, he’s managed to craft a series that feels organic and vibrant. The stunts are not merely an action set piece, but an organic, natural, flowing piece of the whole that makes the film work.
I bring up John Wick as a way of leading into the inadequacies of Guy Ritchie as director, and as he’s billed here, a co-writer, of the new live action version of Disney’s Aladdin. Always an odd choice to take the helm of this fantastical tale of a street rat-turned-pseudo Prince thanks to the magical genie he helps retrieve from a thousand year sojourn in his lamp, Ritchie’s failures as a director are evident in the rare moments of quiet that litter the film. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between, with a wealth of songs from Alan Menken, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul, to break up the monotony.
Admittedly, I’ve avoided Guy Ritchie’s films like the plague. After his early work that helped make his name – Lock, Stock and Snatch –, left me with that certain feeling you get from eating too many lukewarm brown sauce covered potato chips wrapped in yesterdays news, and in turn, I have avoided his work ever since. If I were to go on the ‘talking’ scenes alone in Aladdin, then I’d be justified in having skipped a catalogue of films full of cockney blokes banging on about beating up thugs and bagging sheilas. But, again, these moments of downtime are few and far between in a film that’s full of vibrancy and life.
As the film does, I’ve written this review like you’ve already seen the original animated Aladdin – an unfair assessment. Cliff notes version – Aladdin (Mena Massoud), regular street thief, encounters Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) one day in the markets as she takes a trip to the ‘people’ undercover. They immediately fall for each other, but due to the massive class divide, obviously can’t be with each other. Relatable. Action meets consequence, and before you know it, wannabe Sultan, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), arrests Aladdin and bundles him off to the Cave of Wonders. Inside this cave sits a magic lamp, of which Jafar needs Aladdin to retrieve as payment for his freedom. But, of course, that doesn’t happen, and Aladdin ends up being the one to retrieve the magic lamp and awaken the magical genie, erm, Genie (Will Smith). Gifted with three magic wishes, Aladdin, and his trusty sidekick monkey Abu, aim to work their way back into Princess Jasmine’s arms.
There’s a lot of spinning plates to deal with as Ritchie and co-writer John August try and give breathing room to every and all narrative thread, plus a few additional ones. In a bid to give some side characters a bit more vibrancy, like Nasim Pedrad’s Dalia, they instead overwhelm the plot with tropes and happenstance (this person finds that person attractive so they are now married forever), meaning that come the climax, it’s clear that they need to hit the fast forward button, with a few obvious cuts taking place to ensure that the credits are reached swiftly.
While Ritchie has honourable intentions as a director, they’re only survived by the technical brilliance of his dance choreography team, the always brilliant Menken songs, and the vibrancy and energy that Will Smith brings to the whole endeavour. This isn’t to say that Massoud and Scott aren’t good – they’re great –, it’s just that they’re so often overshadowed by the pure energy of Will Smith. Smith’s Genie appears a good half hour into the film, and it’s clear that for that first half hour, Massoud is struggling to carry the film and fly the banner of being the titular character. Scott is more comfortable, given some truly absurd moments to act against (the less said about the exceptionally out of place, and yet, still welcome, Billy Magnussen, the better), and a superb supporting cast of Kenzari, Navid Negahban’s Sultan, and Nasim Pedrad’s handmaiden Dalia, to work with.
While John Wick’s success comes from Chad Stahelski’s deep knowledge of stunt choreography, and in turn, his understanding of how to organically build this into a narrative, it’s clear that Aladdin’s failures become more evident when a song and dance routine kicks in. These glitz and glamour moments are the reason you need to put money down to see Aladdin on screen, and it’s all thanks to choreographer Leah Hill and her team, all of which help bring the animated films elaborate dance routines to life. It’s not exactly like for like, but the energy and vibrancy that existed in Ron Clements and John Musker’s original is mostly kept intact and honoured in this live action version. Ritchie’s direction in the moments leading up to these musical moments is stilted and awkward, making it painfully clear that this is not only the first time he’s working with the medium of musicals, but also that it’s likely that Ritchie only just watched his first musical in the lead up to directing this film. Yeah, that’s a low blow, but it’s also a low blow from Ritchie to put added pressure on his cast to provide all of the energy and vibrancy themselves. It’s this lack of organic transition from walk and talk to full blown musical that makes Aladdin feel a little stilted at times, yet no less lifeless. In turn, this helps remind that while film is a collaborative medium, the bulk of the collaborative orchestration comes from the director, so when a pole in the tent is a little bent, it’s clear who to point the finger at.
Will Smith is the most alive he’s been on screen in at least a decade. He’s clearly having fun, relishing the ironic freedom he’s given to play the enslaved-to-the-lamp genie. Mena Massoud is good, with splashes of greatness, as Aladdin, with a few dance sequences that confirm exactly why he was cast in the role. Marwan Kenzari is suitably ominous as Jafar, with Kenzari given the goods to chew on all the scenery in all the right ways (even if Jafar’s climactic song is excised completely). But, the real takeaway from the film is Naomi Scott as Jasmine.
2019’s Jasmine is given a lot more agency than the animated Jasmine ever did. Here, she’s presented with a future where, to become a ‘leader’, she has to marry a prince because of the ‘laws’ of the land, at which point that prince will become the sultan and Jasmine will be his loyal wife. Understandably, this is a ludicrous idea, and Jasmine works to challenge the notion that she can’t take over the throne from her father. She’s regularly challenged and told that she needs to be seen, and not heard. Naomi Scott excels as Jasmine, clearly digging into subtext that isn’t obvious on page, and showing that no matter how privileged you may be, the tendrils of oppression will find a way to keep you down. Scott is given a new song to sing – Speechless – that doesn’t entirely meld with the existing Aladdin tracks right away, but will likely become just as memorable after a few listens. Come the climax, it’s clear that this is Jasmine’s story first, and Aladdin’s story second, and this reimagining is all the better for this decision.
With all of this said, and a review pretty much completely written, I find myself in an odd situation when it comes to reviewing Aladdin. I grew up with the original film, having memorised the songs and the narrative beats perfectly, so much so that when the iconic notes start to play in this version, I couldn’t help but let my heart soar a little. I’m inherently cynical about these live action remakes, especially when the original screenwriters are denied a credit and benefits from them, but admittedly, it’s hard not to be swept up in the energy and vibrancy that Menken’s songs, and the narrative brilliance, brings. I’ve wilfully fallen into the trap and found myself enjoying it completely.
Yeah, this isn’t a perfect film, and it certainly feels every minute of its 128 minute run time, but it’s pure nostalgic bliss for me, and that in itself is a rarity. I’m usually fairly critical of the role of nostalgia when consuming pop culture, especially given that it’s utilised as a shorthand for getting viewers on board with what they’re engaging with, forcing them to neglect other shortcomings of their media content of choice, but dammit, I simply don’t care this time. I’m on board with this film completely, warts and all, and couldn’t help but wipe a few tears from my eyes at the end.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith
Writers: John August, Guy Ritchie
There’s been a wealth of introspection in the past few days from media outlets who all predicted the wrong result for the Australian election. ‘How did they all get it so wrong’ is a phrase that’s been bandied about, as if the same outlets have forgotten entirely about a certain American election in 2016 that followed a similar trajectory. While there’s a lot to digest about the prospect of another three years of inaction on the climate emergency we find ourselves in – lest we forget the fact that our Prime Minister once elevated a chunk of coal high on the floor of Parliament as if it were his own personal Academy Award – there’s also very little than can be gained by wondering how we ended up where we did.
Sure, we could ask, was it the franking credits? (All the while still googling about what exactly are franking credits?) Or, whether those soon-to-be-out-of-work-regardless-of-what-party-got-in miners in northern Queensland were merely voting out of self-interest so that the Adani mine would get built (or is it dug?), and they had a theoretical job to move into? (They won’t, as Adani has already said that they’d import employees from India, who in turn will be replaced by robots; the lucky souls that they are.) Or, maybe it was people who were protest voting because this party is no better than that party and really they’re exactly the same so what’s the point of voting anyhow so I’ll just put a dick on my paper and be done with it, #democracysausage? (This played a major role in it, given that Clive Palmer essentially paid $60 million to get the ability to demand the LNP to approve a massive coal mine. Wasn’t life much better when Big Kev was the Queensland export that spruiked stuff with obnoxious catch phrases?) We could ask about why people have become disconnected with politics, and all we’d be able to do would be to point wildly at everything til our faces turn blue and we collapse from the rapidly increasing amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but then that’s as idiotic as asking who your parents voted for. (Don’t do it folks, it’s only going to make the next family dinner more awkward.)
All those questions are valid, but they’re self-sacrificing and relatively pointless in the grand scheme of things. For left-leaning folks, life is a constant mire of anger and aggression – you’re fucking pissed at the state of the world, and your outlets for that anger are restricted to yelling at people online, crying in bed, and asking your cat why they won’t love you as you try and pat them as they run away terrified. But, you often live in a bubble of noise that mildly cannibalises itself every so often. If you’re left leaning, then you sure as fuck need to have been a left leaning person for the entirety of your life, having never made a mistake or strayed from the path of progressiveness. And, if you’re someone who intends to run for a politics in some capacity, you best live your life like a saint and ensure that your digital footprint is free from off colour jokes that aged as poorly and as quickly as Kevin Spacey’s cat film Nine Lives did.
Yeah, this’ll sound like ‘oh poor me’, because dammit, it is ‘oh poor me’, but when you’re a left leaning person, your life becomes a constant battle against literally everything else. It’s a constant contradiction where your mere existence is enough to warrant a raised eyebrow. ‘If you’re so concerned about the earth, then why don’t you just kill yourself?’ is a phrase I’ve seen pushed around the internet from time to time in response to vegan activists, and sure, that’s a fair question – after all, every single one of us consumes things on a daily basis that drain the earth’s resources, putting further strain on the world at large. And believe you me, given my mental health and having lived with depression and anxiety for quite some time now, in my darkest moments I’ve considered about how much better off the planet would be without me in it. (I haven’t come to an exact answer to this, but the narrative I lean on is that nobody would be able to care for my dogs in the way that I do, so I better stick around to make sure they are loved in the way only I can provide.)
Over the past decade and change, there’s been a continued, gradual demonization of all things left leaning. For as long as I can remember, the term ‘tree hugger’ was always one to be scoffed at – you can be anything in life, just don’t ever be a filthy, stinky, kombucha drinking tree hugger. Go and be a coal miner before you ever become a mother loving, pet patting, anti-cow tipping, tree hugger. The antagonism delivered at ‘greenies’ (another term that’s been co-opted as a slur by the right) is often presented in a way that suggests that ‘greenies’ hate people. That’s not entirely true (well, at least in my case, my introversion is the reason I hate people, not the fact that I kinda want the only planet I’ll ever live on to be safe and ok to continue going).
‘Why do you want to take peoples jobs away from them!’ is often yelled at those who present clean energy ideologies into the world, hoping that someone with half a brain will catch it and actually do something with it. I’d always wondered what it would have been like to be a driver of a horse-drawn carriage, right at the time when cars were becoming a thing, and now I know. Except, I wonder if people at that age were yelling at the car drivers saying ‘why do you hate horses’ and ‘why do you want to put horses out of work’. (I have many reasons why horses should be out of work, but this is not the article for them, and all I have to say is, they know why they should be out of work).
Innovation breeds success, and if there’s one thing that can be taken from capitalism, it’s that success (so we’re often told) breeds employment. When one of the circular arguments that festered during the election campaign spawned meme after idiotic meme gathered traction, I couldn’t help but groan with indigestion over how moronic it all was. Sure, it was an election campaign, and it’s only natural to be turned off all food when you’re engaging in said election campaign, but the argument that the Labor party was ‘gunna steal yer utes’ and ‘replace them with electric cars’ was bandied about with vigour from the right-leaning media, well, I couldn’t help but check if I still had any codeine left in the cupboard to help drown out the madness (I did not, shame). Now’s not the time to argue the benefits of setting very attainable goals for clean energy outcomes in the future, but when the Liberal party was already spruiking the idea of trying to have more electric vehicles in Australia, and then they argued against that idea because Labor also came up with the idea, well, it shows you how idiotic politics can really be. After all, the Liberal party killed the car industry, and here both sides were, presenting an idea that could actually revive the industry, and in turn, create jobs. (‘But you filthy unwashed lefties hate jobs!’ Yeah, and we also hate how prevalent hummus has become too.) (To be clear, I love jobs, and I love hummus. I want more of both please.)
Here I am, engaging in a favourite left-leaning past time: getting distracted. See, with so many things to be angry about, it’s hard to focus your attention. Do you get angry about the increasing amount of slavery that’s existing in the world? Or, maybe you should get angry at the rise of displaced people around the world, which in turn has created the largest humanitarian refugee crisis the world has ever seen? Or, maybe you should get angry about the rising attacks on women’s rights and quite literally everything to do with their body? Or, you should get angry about the fact that the sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road will become irrelevant very soon as the minutes tick down on the twelve year clock to stop the climate emergency we find ourselves in? Or, maybe you should be angry about the fact that some filmmakers who were documenting penguins in a remote area in the middle of nowhere created a ramp to intervene with fate when the penguins were trapped in a ravine, almost certainly bound to die a slow, painful death? (No, don’t be angry at that one. Penguins lived, and unless you suffer from sphenisciphobia, then be happy that penguins lived.)
What I’m getting at is that it’s pretty fucking exhausting being justifiably angry all the time. Selectively, it’s easy to point out why anyone in their logical mind should be angry and upset about each of these things occurring. Logically, you can break down the reasoning as to why everyone should be concerned about this, that, and the other. But, by merely presenting a clear and rational argument why refugees need to be given asylum, or why slavery needs to be fought, or why women’s rights need to respected and entrenched in law, or that clean energy needs to be established, is such a progressive, radical concept, that you’re tagged as insane or illogical for wanting to do any of these things.
I was born into a world where there was already discussions taking place about the thing that was then known as climate change. It wasn’t an emergency in the 1980’s, and throughout the 1990’s it was still not an emergency, but the discussion was being had. I recall watching Werner Herzog’s film Lessons of Darkness at, of all places, Dreamworld on the Gold Coast. I recall watching the plumes of oil spewing up from the earth like a child who horrendously failed the Warhead challenge, and thinking, good thing that’ll be sorted by the time I’m older. Optimism is sweet when you’re a kid, but it seems that not even the youth of today are able to hold onto optimism as something to cherish, given the amount of kids who have protested around the world for action on this climate emergency.
Aussie icon Briggs has a new song out – Life is Incredible – that is easily one of the finest of the year. Andrew catches up with him to chat about what goes into making Briggs, well, Briggs, and what it’s like making music in Australia.
Check out the billboard here.
Documentary filmmaker, Damon Gameau, has returned with the follow up to his massively successful documentary, That Sugar Film, with a film that is a letter to his daughter. 2040 is a promise to his daughter that there will be a positive future for her, and a cleaner, greener future where the climate emergency we are in has been course corrected.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum makes a firm case that John Wick is the greatest Time Crisis player ever. He never misses a shot, moving through violent scenario after violent scenario with ease, dispatching faceless goons with gusto. I can’t recall if the Time Crisis arcade games ever had a deep respect for dogs, but as reliable as ever, John Wick sure does.
It’s third time round for the world’s most adept assassin as John Wick is now excommunicado – assassin speak for persona non grata. Instead of legging it to the nearest Ecuadorian embassy, Wick launches himself onto the rain drenched streets of New York City, looking for a path to survival. If you missed the second John Wick flick, then rest assured that John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum gives you the study notes version of what’s going down, while at the same time ensuring that if you’re a newcomer, you’re not going to have a case of Endgame-itis and have no idea what on earth is going on.
The basic narrative – the world of assassin’s is out to kill John Wick as a bounty on his head gradually increases the longer he stays alive – is fine, routine action film stuff. But, as with John Wick 2, there’s a real desire from director Chad Stahelski to colour in the moments between the biffo and add some kind of context to what’s going on. So, this means shovelling on a wealth of world building, which in turn means that viewers are pleadingly requested to tolerate the talk in between the reason they slapped down hard earned dollars – well executed, bloody, balletic, action.
This is a mildly unfair criticism of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – the fact that the plot barrels along like a runaway freight train, dragging the ever beaten Wick from New York, to Casablanca, to the middle of the desert, and then back to New York again, allows for some nice, varied action set pieces. But, it also allows for grand tedium and middling dalliances into Wick’s Russian heritage. When the basic plot of John Wick involved a man seeking revenge for the death of his puppy is given a nod in this entry from a thug who says ‘all of this over a puppy’, well, one can’t help but wish that the ‘plot’ elements at play were a little more focused. The bells and whistles of this mystical ‘table’ of people who live by a set of rules, and trade lives with ancient coins, all sounds interesting and exciting, but when applied to a very basic concept (one that works brilliantly, mind you), it all starts to feel very extraneous. In between all the agro and stunning athletics, I yearned for a pared back narrative that threw out all the world building naff and simply stuck with a ‘John Wick VS the World’ thrust.
To continue the mildly unfair criticism (hey, it’s my unpaid job guys, go support my patreon, hit like, thanks for subscribing), the reason why I want to belabour the point of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’s tedious plot is that when the action is action-ing, this is a film that sits comfortably alongside Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission: Impossible – Fallout (these series sure do love their semi-colons and hyphens) as one of the finest modern action films. The first half hour or so is exhilarating, with rapidly escalating violence that will leave you vibrating in your seat. After a tussle in a library, Wick’s ‘Escape from New York’ leads him through the streets and to a stable, where in turn, he utilises all his skills, and the mighty rear ends of a few horses, to help off some generic thugs. This is the equivalent of Henry Cavill resetting his shoulders in the impactful bathroom battle in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, or that jaw dropping moment where a war boy jumps from one rollicking vehicle to another with explosive spears in hand in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Then, when Halle Berry’s dog loving assassin comes into play, the action ramps up even further, with a truly stunning sequence involving dogs and gunplay. Berry spent months training with the dogs for this sequence, building up a genuine relationship with them, and I’ll tell you with complete certainty – it shows. Given Stahelski’s stunt background, it’s expected that this is where the John Wick series shines the brightest. Action is legible, coherent, and clear. Each punch is felt with genuine impact, and in one gut thumping climactic shoot out, every shotgun blast is felt with thudding immediacy. No doubt about it – this is a film to see on your local cinemas best screen with the finest audio output.
For some, it may be an unfair comparison to hold the John Wick films up against Mad Max: Fury Road or Mission: Impossible – Fallout, but when there are so few films that employ real, hand to hand, brutal combat, in the way that the Wick films have done, then it feels like it’s not too much to ask of them to elevate the narrative threads a little bit. Sure, the supporting cast is great – it’s always welcome to see Anjelica Huston and Halle Berry given solid material to work with, and series regulars Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, and Lance Reddick are always fine, and Billions actor Asia Kate Dillon is a welcome addition too – but the narrative material they’re working with is all a little too wishy-washy. Sometimes simplicity is key. Sure, Mad Max: Fury Road is merely a road trip to nowhere and back again, but it’s what happens on the journey that makes it sing. For the John Wick series, the inclusion of off screen string pulling table sitting nefario’s needlessly complicates matters. It’s not as easy to bend this narrative into a breakneck action ride, given the core concept is one man against everyone, but it’s also up to the director and writers to not allow me to sit there in the quieter moments and contemplate exactly how John Wick is surviving the supreme beating that he’s endlessly receiving. Maybe Keanu Reeves really is a God.
I’m repeating myself now, and in turn, giving you a guided tour of what the ‘plot’ beats of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum feel like. This is mostly because I can’t really give you the vibe of what the action feels like in a written review, and I am certainly not athletic enough to make a YouTube video of me acting out why it’s so good. So, I’ll just say this again: when John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is firing on all cylinders, and the action is moving with all the propulsive energy of a space shuttle taking off, it is amongst the finest action films in modern history. When Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman from The Raid films appear, and thank John Wick for being able to fight against him, you get a grand appreciation of how loved the action in this series is. The respect and care given to the genre is paramount (as is clearly seen with nods to The Villainess and Enter the Dragon), and that in itself is something to be applauded.
Keanu Reeves has said that he’ll keep making these films as long as people keep going to see them, and besides keeping Reeves employed and making good movies, you should definitely head along and see John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum as soon as possible. Celebrating the art of stunt work that is executed to perfection, with perfectly choreographed fight sequences that hit your heart like a defibrillator, means that rewarding this kind of cinema with your dollars is your basic duty as a film goer. Support and celebrate this kind of cinema.
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Lance Reddick
Writers: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, Marc Abrams, (based on characters by Derek Kolstad)
The Sydney Film Festival line up has launched, and it’s as extensive and exhaustive as you’d ever expect. As is the case with this being one of the major, most prestigious festivals in Australia, there’s more films than you can shake a proverbial stick insect at. With a dive into the work of the late, great Agnes Varda, and an exploration into the work of many of Australia’s great women directors, there’s a clear nod given to women filmmakers the world over.
But, as expected with a list of about, oh, 250 films, it’s hard to know where to even start. Yeah, there’s some major festival high lights that might get your ears tingling (High Life, The Dead Don’t Lie, Danger Close, I Am Mother), but these are all films that you’ll be able to see somewhere, somehow, down the line. So while it’s nice to be able to see major films before everyone else, it’s also worthwhile reminding that hey, part of what makes film festivals so darn good is the fact that there is going to be a wealth of films that will only ever be screened at the festival, and in turn, are only ever available at the festival.
To try and do my bit, and help provide some kind of guidance as to what is worthwhile seeking out, here is a list of ten films that you should definitely try make time for at this years Sydney Film Festival.
As the Australian Financial Review once gloriously stated: ‘World is Fukt’, and if the recent UN Report is to go by, it’s more than just ‘fukt’, but it’s well and truly destroyed. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is the work of three directors (Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky), who join together once again to explore the devastation of mankind on the world. From burning elephant tusks, to mines in Russia, this is one film you don’t want to miss on the big screen. Sure, it’s depressing as fuck, but it’s impressively depressing.
If you happened to miss Tracey Moffat’s Bedevil at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year, then you have another chance to catch this unique, great slice of Indigenous cinema at the Sydney Film Festival. Now, this one is on my shame pile, and it’s mostly because it’s been so darn hard to find. But, thanks to David Stratton, who is working with this years festival to provide a ‘David Stratton Selects’ program, where he has selected ten films directed by trailblazing Australian women, Bedevil is given another chance in the spotlight.
Where Bedevil looks at an almost forgotten slice of Indigenous cinema, Paulette McDonagh’s The Cheaters provides audiences with a glimpse of Australian silent cinema. Many people forget that Australia had a booming silent film industry, one that was inevitably harmed by the unavoidable reach of Hollywood. Outside of The Sentimental Bloke, The Story of the Kelly Gang, and a handful of other films, it’s arguable that many are simply unaware of Australia’s silent film output, and they’re certainly going to be unaware of the work of many women directors in the period. Paulette McDonagh worked with her sisters, Isabel and Phyllis, and The Cheaters is one of their surviving films. This is a rare, great opportunity to see Australian history in action.
Penny Lane directed one of the most fascinating documentaries of recent years, Nuts!, a film about a man who cures impotence with goat-testicles, so the mere presence of another film by her on a festival line up is enough to put her on the ‘must watch’ list. Hail Satan? is a look at the rise of Satanism in America, exploring how this controversial group intends to shake the grounds of ‘religious freedom’. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this film, and it’s likely to be another film (just like the next one on this list) that tells a bigger than life story, one that can only be true.
I don’t know anything about the story that The Kleptocrats covers, but after reading a short synopsis, where some $3.5 billion goes missing from a Malaysian wealth fund, and having everything from real estate to the financing of the Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street thrown into the mix, well… holy shit am I interested. Especially given the name of the scandal is the ‘1MDB scandal’, and my movie focused mind can’t help but think that IMDb really messed up this time, The Kleptocrats looks like it’d be a jaw dropping event of a film.
The Lord of the Flies is one of the most vital, devastating exposes of masculinity. Amanda Kramer’s film Ladyworld plants eight teenage girls in a house, trapping these birthday party celebrators in the house after an earthquake. Deep in survival mode, the girls have to survive the devastation from the earthquake – and themselves. Transforming the idea of William Golding’s classic book into the world of teenage girls sounds ripe for thematic vibrancy.
Look, if cinematic endurance tests are you thing, then you really can’t go past Sátántangó – a seven and a half hour black and white masterpiece by one of cinemas most celebrated filmmakers, Béla Tarr. This is a film that’s been on my ‘to watch’ list for a long while, and given the easily distracted nature of watching epic films at home, there’s no better opportunity to strap yourself in and pay attention to this masterwork than at this years Sydney Film Festival. If I was going, this would be top of the list.
Australian cinema has had a fair few romantic comedies over the past decade (I Love You Too, Not Suitable for Children, and of course, Top End Wedding), so it’s nice to see another one on the pile. This one stars Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte as a down on his luck bloke who – through chance and circumstance – teams up with stand up comedian Sunny (Philippa Northeast) to help her deal with hecklers. Standing Up for Sunny looks to be charming, entertaining, and a nice breath of fresh air amongst a sea of somewhat less than uplifting films.
There has been no shortage of stories about Sydney-siders living their lives, with Suburban Wildlife adding to the ever growing catalogue. This is one is written and directed by debut filmmaker Imogen McCluskey, and if the response from Cinequest Film Fest is anything to go by, this is one that’s well worth seeking out. Sure, it’s another story about suburban people living their lives, but the familiarity of these stories isn’t any reason to avoid films like this. If anything, it’s another reason to seek out Suburban Wildlife, to see how a new voice views the world of suburbia.
The Western genre is– just like the sci-fi and horror genres – one that is drenched in masculinity. Stories about life on the frontier is so often about men, directed by men, and written by men, so when a film like The Wind comes along, it should peak your interest. Written by Teresa Sutherland, and directed by Emma Tammi, this is a look at what happened to the women of the frontier world who were left to fend off the homestead while their men were off being cowboys. Again, you don’t see stories in the Western genre from a woman’s perspective often, so if you’re a fan of that genre (and it appears this one has a dash of horror in the mix too), then do not miss this.
So, that’s my list of ten films you should seek out at this years Sydney Film Festival. There is a wealth more films in the line-up (up to 250 films people), so head on over to the schedule and get booking now, as some films are already selling out.
Let’s not mince words here – Pawno is one of the genuinely great modern Australian films. An instant classic, with superb writing and acting from one of the best talents Australia was ever lucky to witness – Damian Hill.
Not enough people saw it on its release, and sure as shit not enough people know about it now. Fix that problem this month at Perth’s Revelation Film Festival‘s monthly Australian Revelations screening of Paul Ireland’s brilliant film.
Damian Hill and co-star, John Brumpton, were nominated for AACTA awards, with Hill gaining a double nom for acting and writing. If that isn’t enough to get you to book your ticket right now, then go read my review right here. Damian Hill is – and always will be – a fucking champion, and is missed every single day. Pawno is a reminder of a talent gone too soon.
Pick up your tickets right here for the screening which takes place at The Backlot Perth on May 27th.