Posts by Andrew:
Like standing in the eye of a hurricane, assessing every piece of debris flashing past your face, it often a fool’s errand to try and critique a crisis as it’s unfolding. The hurricane in question is one President Donald J. Trump, and with his feature directorial debut, Ike Barinholtz attempts to throw as much biting political comedic material at the critically sensitive leader. While his name is never mentioned in The Oath, it’s clear that the titular oath is one that is referring to a possible future under Trump’s leadership – one where the citizens of America are required to sign a ‘Patriot’s Oath’, an agreement that states that the citizen is loyal to the President and that they will out anyone who criticises him. It’s an idea that may have appeared illogical years ago, but in the midst of Trump’s America where he takes offense to things that he isn’t even mentioned in, it now seems downright possible.
The people of America are given ten months to sign the agreement, with the due date falling on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. Barinholtz wastes no time getting to the set-up, opening up with husband and wife duo Chris (Ike Barinholtz) and Kai (Tiffany Haddish) sitting on their bed watching the news of ‘The Patriot’s Oath’ being announced, and then quickly flashing forward ten months to Thanksgiving. Chris and Kai have agreed to host the family dinner, with Chris’ far right leaning brother, Pat (Ike’s actual brother Jon Barinholtz), and his left leaning sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein), coming, alongside parents Hank (Chris Ellis) and Eleanor (Nora Dunn). However, they’re not alone as Pat has brought his Tomi Lahren adjacent girlfriend Abbie (Meredith Hagner) along, and Alice has brought her partner Clark (Jay Duplass) and kids for the ride.
The set-up takes the basic concept of political divide within families, and applies it to a time where families are supposed to unite and support each other, and shakes it up vigorously. Through the sheen of the militant right, fake news, unbending left leaners, and overwhelming political turmoil, The Oath shines as a searing indictment of politics as a whole around the world. While it’s easy to see The Oath as a pure piece of anti-Trump-ism, it is delivered with enough negatives for either side of politics that it manages to straddle a difficult middle line of being mildly partisan.
To be clear, Chris is the ‘lead’ of the film, and we see the events unfurl from his perspective, but Barinholtz knows to not make him a completely infallible character, weighing him down with an overeager desire to engage with politics and remain ‘woke’ at all times. It’s here where MVP Tiffany Haddish really shines as Kai, the anchor to keep Chris grounded as much as possible. As the aggression and violence amplifies, with Chris willing to burn everything down over a difference of opinion, Kai reminds him that ‘hey, yeah, this whole oath thing is a problem, but we have a kid to raise’. Haddish has already proven to be a genuine, exciting talent, with her performance in Girls Trip being one for the ages. Here, as Kai, she delivers a truly heartfelt performance that marries her sublime comedic talents with genuine empathy. If there’s one reason to watch The Oath, it’s for Tiffany Haddish alone.
Haddish is not alone as a force to be reckoned with, with Billy Magnussen appearing halfway through the film as a government officer coming to question Chris’ decision to not sign the oath. He’s joined by the always reliable John Cho, who doesn’t exactly manage to equal Magnussen’s electric performance. With Game Night, Ingrid Goes West, and The Oath, Magnussen affirms he is a genuine talent capable of harnessing a rare comedic energy that will have you crying with laughter. At once, Magnussen’s Mason is both dryly comedic, and then downright terrifying, often in the same breath.
While Barinholtz’s direction leaves a little to be desired as he struggles with pacing sometimes (not to mention the fact that the whole film is completely overlit), it’s his script that gives everyone the right material to work with. The back and forth between Chris and Pat’s girlfriend Abbie is genuinely hilarious, with Meredith Hagner clearly relishing being able to play the despicable and outwardly offensive Abbie. The hyper-personal vibe that comes from the interactions between Chris and Pat has me wondering whether Barinholtz is drawing from personal experience, or if the bond between real life brothers is just that strong that they can play it up for a film.
The mileage for your enjoyment of this kind of material relies on your tolerance for political comedy. This is not as biting as Veep, but nor is it trying to be. It’s clear that Barinholtz is working through some contentious ideas with this material – ones that are tested on twitter day in/day out – and, fortunately, the writing is strong enough to stand the test of time. This isn’t a film that’s going to age quickly, given the basic theme of political divide is an eternally salient one, and as Barinholtz cheekily suggests at the conclusion, it is something that is American as apple pie.
I enjoyed The Oath immensely. It scratched that political comedy itch perfectly, and did so with great performances from some of the best rising talent in Hollywood today.
Director: Ike Barinholtz
Cast: Ike Barinholtz, Tiffany Haddish, Billy Magnussen
Writer: Ike Barinholtz
If 55% of communication is made up of body language, then the pressure put on the remaining 45% when it is primarily employed to help create a tense, powerful narrative in a visual medium like film, is immense. Writer/Director Gustav Möller sets himself a massive challenge of wringing as much tension out of a phone call as possible with his white-knuckle drama, The Guilty. He’s joined by co-writer Emil Nygaard Albertsen, and actor Jakob Cedergren, to tell the story of a police officer on the last night of his assigned role as dispatch officer, and the one emergency phone call that shapes his night.
While the ‘person on a phone’ narrative has been used as a gimmick before – some more effective (Locke) than others (Phone Booth) –, here it is employed as a way to put the viewer in the shoes of an emergency dispatch officer and allowing us to get a glimpse into the work life pressures that come with the role. The TV show 911 manages to give this role that society often takes for granted more coverage, but there it is done so with added glitz and glamour. Here, the singular setting of a small office space amplifies the claustrophobia that comes with having a person on the other end of a phone line that is desperate for a strangers help, which can only be provided via voice alone.
The focus is almost solely on Jakob Cedergren’s Asger, with the people he talks to on the other end of the phone solely existing as voices alone. Other than the knowledge that he has an important meeting the following day that will decide whether he can return to on field duty, the reason why Asger has been relegated to desk work is never explored. Yet, through Asger’s dialogue and his actions, we can glean what kind of behaviour caused Asger to be disciplined in such a way. This subtle B-plot works in service of a truly engaging, powerful A-plot where an emergency call from kidnapped Iben (Jessica Dinnage) has Asger using all his available resources to try and locate this terrified woman.
The anxiety conjured by the ferocious and immediate urgency that comes with the role of being an emergency dispatch officer is tangible. Möller manages to sit you down alongside Asger in a small room as he deals with each call as they come through. At once, the calls are deceptively casual, with the emergency that is being reported being one of perceived low importance from Asger. Yet, Möller and Albertsen’s script never belittles these emergencies, giving each one that comes through the telephone line the respect it deserves. However, for Asger, as the connection to Ibsen drops in and out as the night wears on, he has to manage his aggression over menial calls that are about basic issues like an inebriated person calling in about being lost in a city, or a car broken down. This aggression informs Asger’s character, suggesting he has a low tolerance for day to day problems that exist throughout society.
Jakob Cedergren’s performance as Asger is truly brilliant, but as a viewer we’re given the privilege of seeing his physical performance, allowing us to read his facial expressions as his night wears on. For Jessica Dinnage, her performance exists in voice alone, and it’s here that the majority of the tension within The Guilty is created. Through her words, her fear, her anxiety, and subtle background noises, we are able to conjure a mental image of her situation, which gradually changes and morphs as the calls carry on. It’s truly stunning how immediately our prejudices are exposed when a caller rings through with a problem, even though the role of a dispatch caller is supposed to be an impartial one, merely acting as a conduit for immediate danger to be transformed into eventual safety.
The tension within The Guilty is potent. It’s edge of your seat, heart in your throat stuff, paired with a truly compelling narrative that has you completely engaged all the way through to its unsettling finale. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
Director: Gustav Möller
Cast: Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Jacob Lohmann
Writers: Gustav Möller, Emil Nygaard Albertsen
Destroyer is a punch in the gut, every day, for decades. It’s a bruise conjuring force of anguish and aggression that works like a soldering iron on an open wound, cauterising trauma that will never heal, only causing more trauma. Directed by Karyn Kusama, written by Kusama’s frequent collaborators Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, Destroyer encompasses the home of Nicole Kidman’s finest performance.
Erin Bell (Kidman) is a detective who stumbles onto an already cordoned off crime scene, recognising a tattoo on the body that suggests that the criminal she once investigated undercover is back in action. Said criminal, Silas (Toby Kebbell), is an overpowering beast who controls a small group of drug addled thugs, letting them off the leash every so often so they can relinquish a bank of their customers money via brute force. As Destroyer flashes between present day and earlier in Erin’s life when she was a young detective, fresh to the scene, we glimpse the way her life has unfolded within the cruel hands of trauma and PTSD.
As a young detective, Erin is enlisted with her partner Chris (a never better Sebastian Stan) to infiltrate Silas’ crime operation. The Erin of the past is youthful, observant, and possibly a little too enamoured by the idea of the life that takings of Silas’ crimes may offer her and Chris. The Erin of the present has been worn down by the life she was born into, as well as the actions of her past. Any superlative I throw at Nicole Kidman’s performance here is not enough – she delivers a career defining performance of pure intensity that shows her inhibiting decades of lived in trauma in a startlingly real way. Kidman has continually pushed herself into new, challenging areas with the characters she portrays, amplifying her skills as an actor in every way possible.
Julie Kirkwood’s cinematography finds a new way to expose the elements of Los Angeles. Kusama and Kirkwood show the cracked asphalt streets of downtown LA in all its desolate glory. What nature exists in between the roads and houses is desperate and thirsty, the ground yearning for some kind of relief. It’s truly masterful how Kusama has managed to manoeuvre the world that Erin exists in to reflect her inner self. The sun drenched housing of LA looks exhausted, giving the impression that it has simply had enough and cannot take any more.
The score by Theodore Shapiro is quite simply one of the finest I’ve heard in a film in a long time. At once, it is tender and understanding of the pain that Erin lives with, and yet, when the tension gradually amplifies, Shapiro’s score reflects this with ease. It quietly immerses you into Erin’s world, slowly washing over you like an unexpected high tide that leaves you gasping for air.
The makeup by Carey Ayres and Bill Corso needs to be applauded as well, as they manage to transform Nicole Kidman into a much younger version of herself, and then transform that youthful vibrancy into an internally tortured soul. The dark welts under Erin’s eyes suggest that she is someone who has no idea of the concept of sleep and rest. The presence of the same tired marks under her daughters eyes show how insidious the nature of residual trauma is. Erin’s relationship with Shelby (a superb Jade Pettyjohn) is expectedly fractured, with Erin having long lost any chance of reconciliation or meaningful bond with her daughter. Instead, there is a core reliance on father Ethan (Scoot McNairy once again proving he’s one of the finest unsung talents working today) to help guide Shelby through a broken life.
The supporting cast is truly exemplary, with searing performances from all involved. Tatiana Maslany is unrecognisable as Petra – a drug addled wannabe-mastermind. Bradley Whitford echoes his unsettling performance in Get Out here as a wealthy businessman who leers over Los Angeles in his mansion. James Jordan has one particularly unsettling scene as a dying diabetic that pushes both himself and Nicole Kidman to their limits. Toby Huss makes an always welcome appearance as well, making for a minor Halt and Catch Fire reunion with Scoot McNairy. And, once again, Toby Kebbell delivers a performance that ideally should launch his career even further into the realm of ‘must cast talent’.
Kidman’s continual effort to work with interesting women directors is once again shown to be a great decision, as her collaboration with Karyn Kusama has both talents creating work at the peak of their craft. While the discussion in 2018 deservedly revolved around the work of Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here), and Chloe Zhao (The Rider), Kusama’s name is one that was disturbingly absent from the conversation. This is not to suggest that Granik, Heller, Ramsay or Zhao didn’t deliver exemplary films (all four featured on my Top Films of 2018 list), but merely that Kusama’s work with Destroyer deserved to be in the conversation. For my money, Destroyer is one of the finest films of the year (2018 or 2019, depending on your location), and alongside those films, deserves every accolade that it received, and definitely warranted many more.
Destroyer is a masterwork. When paired with You Were Never Really Here, Destroyer becomes a powerful assessment of mental illness and the effects of trauma on a life. It is brutal, uncompromising, and devastating to sit with. To call this essential viewing is not enough.
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy
Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
For the dog lovers out there, we’re used to watching films where dogs are part of the main plot, and inevitably, one of the dogs dies to create some kind of empathetic moment. Fortunately, with Matteo Garrone’s film, Dogman, we’re spared any canine deaths. Instead, we’re delivered a tale about a man who has clearly lived his life under the thumb of bullies and oppressors. That man is Marcello (played by Marcello Fonte with a Cannes award winning performance), a meek individual who runs a grooming salon somewhere in downtrodden Italy.
Permeating throughout the town is the stench of the physically overwhelming Simone (Edoardo Pesce). This is a man who has each business frightened by the violence he enacts on others just to get his way. Yet, he isn’t a gangster, or a mob boss, or anything like that – he is simply a brutish, violent individual who manages to persuade others to do what he wants through fear. He is so used to getting everything in life, that when he loses three hundred euros on a gambling machine, he head butts it and drags it outside, all the while the store owner begs him to not do so, and eventually relents and gives him his money back just so he doesn’t ruin the shop any further. This is a world that carries no repercussions for Simone’s actions, and that suits Simone just fine.
However, in between running his humble dog grooming salon, Marcello also provides Simone with cocaine. The relationship that Marcello and Simone have is one that thrives on oppression – only Simone is benefitting from the relationship, all the while Marcello misunderstands the connection the two have as some kind of friendship. To be clear, Marcello never outwardly appears to consider Simone a friend, per say, but more a relationship where he has been bullied in life for so long that he finds some kind of comfort or normalcy in this kind of bond. The relationship Marcello has with his daughter feels entirely vacant, and even more so with her mother. The few times they do spend together, it’s spent diving in an ocean that is cloudy.
Marcello is a quiet individual who merely wants to spend time with his dogs, and also his daughter whom he sees every so often, but given his timid nature, he struggles to stand up for himself. He is not a young man, and it’s obvious that it’s taken him a long time to build (what he considers) strong friendships with the people who live in the town. So, when Simone pushes him into a difficult position that has a logical out, Marcello follows the path he is most familiar with – namely, bending to the force of Simone.
Matteo Garone’s direction is at once both subtle and extremely heavy handed. He wants you to know the brutality of Simone, but also wants you to empathise wholeheartedly with Marcello. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive – one doesn’t exist without the other. Yet, Marcello’s weakness is often too on the nose – we naturally empathise with him, and the relationship he has with the dogs is nice, but there’s simply not enough life given to him as a character. Which, admittedly, is an exceptionally difficult aspect of delivering a narrative where the lead character has been (essentially) beaten into submission their whole life, and we’re meeting them at a point where the bullying has shaped them into a person they never imagined they would be. How do you create an empathetic, full character out of someone who is, at best, only half of who they should be?
I can relate to the character of Marcello because I know what life is like growing up having been bullied. I can empathise with the fear of another beating causing you to do things you would never morally or logically do otherwise. I can also understand and empathise with the comfort that spending time working with dogs will bring. But, I fear that for many viewers, the exceptionally uncomfortable mire of unease that Marcello lives with will be something that is either too foreign for them to comprehend, or simply too dark for them to willingly engage with. There is no lightness in Marcello’s world, but that doesn’t mean to say that he is not a happy individual. He has been through so much pain growing up that he has learned to find some kind of abstract comfort in it, and in turn, has found the small moments of positivity that keep his days going forward. He is not depressed, he is simply weathered by life and yearning for some kind of connectivity with the people around him.
And that in itself is the most depressing aspect of Dogman. Marcello is simply a man who wants to connect with other people, yet, because of his introverted nature and his inability to articulate what he wants, he simply cannot.
I like this film, I appreciate what Matteo Garrone does with the character of Marcello. Garone is a curious filmmaker, one who explores Italian life through lenses that we’re not usually privy to from Italian cinema. Yes, his crime epic, Gomorrah, was a modern look at Italian gangsters, but it felt different and new. Dogman is equally different, yet no less critical of Italian life. Is Garone suggesting that Simone is the brutish manifestation of all the crime bosses that have come before in Italy, their presence still looming large over life across the land? Which would naturally make Marcello the submissive townsperson beaten into submission over decades by an unavoidable hand that hangs over all?
I feel I’m stretching here, but it’s mostly because I’m looking for more than what is presented. I appreciated my time with Dogman, particularly the brilliant performance from Marcello Fonte, but the murkiness of the world leaves a little too much unexplored. But, when the conclusion rolls around, I felt as lonely and longing for some kind of connection as Marcello did. Maybe that’s the point? At which, if it is, then it leaves me pondering a question I have asked myself many times before – if a films intention is to leave you feeling discontent and disconnected, and it manages to create these uncomfortable feelings for you, then has it succeeded? And, if it has succeeded, does that make it a good film? Does a film that works to make you feel negative feelings – and not in a ‘lesson learned’ kind of way, as many holocaust films leave you feeling – become a good film for having done so? Obviously, there are more contributing factors to a films quality than what the emotion you are left with at the end, but it is a question that is worth rolling around in your mind.
Dogman certainly achieves what it intends to do, but that in itself isn’t enough.
Director: Matteo Garrone
Cast: Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce, Alida Baldari Calabria
Writers: Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso
I’ve had this review sitting at the top of my ‘to do’ list for a good two weeks now. Yet, whenever I sat down to write, it slipped my mind. I simply forgot that it needed to be done. Which is a mighty shame as that in itself says a lot about The Sisters Brothers – the latest film from Jacques Audiard, working here for the first time in English.
The titular brothers are played by John C. Reilly as Eli and Joaquin Phoenix as Charlie, and as siblings they work together as criminals in colonial America, dolling out punishment and reaping bounties for Rutger Hauer’s crime boss, The Commodore. As the tale begins, they are sent off on a journey to track down Riz Ahmed’s scientist, Hermann Kermit Warm. Meanwhile, unaware to the Sisters Brothers, Jake Gyllenhaal’s opportunistic crim, John Morris, has encountered Ahmed’s genius and works his way into being a part of whatever invention Hermann has in hand. It’s clear from the cast that exceptional talent is purely dripping from this film.
With a script by Jacques Audiard and Thomas Biedgain, based on Patrick DeWitt’s book of the same title, The Sisters Brothers certainly exudes attention to detail and care to depict the era as faithfully as possible. There has always been something of a skewed perspective when foreigners craft tales about a country, where they are able to see life through different eyes than the people who live within its borders – think of Canadian Ted Kotcheff’s view of Australia with Wake in Fright, or Brit Andrea Arnold’s look at the youth of America with American Honey. Audiard carries an inquisitive tone to this glimpse of America. He’s clearly curious about the way America dealt with massive changes within society as towns and cities were conjured out of the dirt, and in turn, how the inhabitants lived with a wealth of inventions that worked to change their daily lives.
John C. Reilly’s Eli is easily the most engaging character, with Reilly delivering a career best performance as a man who is continually curious and concerned about the way the world is morphing into some kind of abstract of the world that has existed before. When Eli purchases a toothbrush, he finds the novelty of such an item entrancing, and the existence of the toothbrush in his life almost becomes a catalyst for him rediscovering the world around him. Is there more to this life of crime? Is the prostitute that he visits an actual person and not someone to simply sleep with? What would happen if, as brothers, the Sisters managed to turn their nefarious gains from crime into a life of business and servitude to society? Is the horse that he rides capable of emotions, making him more than a simple tool?
The concept of the deconstructed Western has been worn to death, so much so that the Western genre is nowadays almost purely filled with deconstructed Western’s. While the notion of diving into American history at a massively pivotal point, and looking at it from a scientific perspective, all sounds interesting, it’s surprisingly devoid of any level of immediacy that secures its place in your mind. The curiosity Audiard has for this era and those who lived at that time never fully rubs off on a narrative that feels more meandering than contemplative. Yes, Eli is open to questioning what his role in America is, but the trigger happy Charlie wrassles the film down to the basic roots of the Western genre – namely, shoot first, ask questions later.
Admittedly, the gunfights are inventive and exciting to watch. The opening fight in particular is stunning to watch, as a darkness drenched world erupts into chaos as gun powder lights up the night and bodies collapse on the ground with a thud. Yet, for all the excitement that the violence creates, Audiard manages to tut-tut the actions of Charlie by making him a reckless devil who tears through the world with almost wanton carelessness. When the brothers encounter a town that had been crafted at the hands of a woman, Charlie sees this as an affront to the inhabitants and sets about tearing it down with bullets and willpower. Joaquin Phoenix is solid as Charlie, but there is a feeling that he is sleepwalking through this performance, as if he’s already been here before as an actor.
It’s a trope we’ve seen utilised over and over again – two brothers who work together, with one who can’t change his ways, getting the two into trouble –, and unfortunately The Sisters Brothers struggles to breathe life into it. With that said, it is by design that the blending of Eli’s progressive mindset and Charlie’s destructive nature does not gel with ease. There needs to be friction and discomfort for the thematic elements to work, which unfortunately doesn’t make for particularly exciting viewing. Further to this, Riz Ahmed’s Hermann and Jake Gyllenhaal’s John appear to exist to add to the notion that men are naturally self-destructive and greedy. The opportunistic nature of masculinity fosters a realm of self-service where the only person that matters is himself.
Where The Sisters Brothers concludes is wonderful and apt for the story that Audiard has told. It’s a gentle conclusion, rather than a very possible ominous and destructive one, and one that suggests that while the characters of The Sisters Brothers are regularly destructive, they are still empathetic creatures. If there’s a ‘full stop’ remark that Jacques Audiard appears to be making about America, it’s that for all the violence that helped make the country what it is, not much has changed in the decades that have yawned between then and now. Except, maybe, the way that the criminal behaviour of the Sisters brothers has been turned into regular business practice due to the insidious nature of capitalism.
In the moment, The Sisters Brothers is entertaining, and regularly amusing with a spattering of empathetic comedy, and while the themes it explores are salient and interesting, it is simply not enough to allow the film to linger in your mind in the same way that the majority of Jacques Audiard’s work does. And, now that I’ve written my review, I will unfortunately go back to forgetting that I’ve seen this film, only to have it be the answer to the question ‘what has Jacques Audiard been up to lately?’ that I will no doubt ask myself in six months.
Director: Jacques Audiard
Cast: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Riz Ahmed
Writers: Jacques Audiard, Thomas Biedgain (based on The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt)
The year is in full swing, and with a new year means a new line up of Australian Revelations films. The first flick on the pile is one of the best Australian films of 2018, The Pretend One. Matt Eeles from Cinema Australia gave it a perfect rating, and I included the film in the Thirty Best Australian Films of 2018 list.
A quick refresher of what Australian Revelations is:
Run by Perth’s best film festival, the Revelation Film Festival, Australian Revelations celebrates Australian cinema with monthly screenings at The Backlot Perth, where attendees get to sample a bunch of great food and drinks, and enjoy a top notch film in a superb cinema set up.
So, March’s entry is The Pretend One, a film about a young woman, Charlie (Geraldine Hakewill), living in rural Queensland with her best friend Hugo (Michael Whalley). They tend to the farm they live on with Charlie’s father, Roger (David Field). Charlie and Hugo have been friends for their entire lives, which isn’t hard when you realise that Hugo is just an imaginary friend. But, what happens when Hugo starts interfering with Charlie’s life? Well, you’ll have to watch the film to find out.
As with every Australian Revelations, there will be an Australian produced short film before the film, with this months entry hailing from the WA Screen Academy from director Rachael Fitzgerald and writer Ana Victoria Neves.
Pick up your tickets here.
However, if for some reason you can’t make it to this screening, then fear not as there will be extra screenings around Australia. Check the list below to see where The Pretend One is screening in your neck of the woods.
SYDNEY: Mon March 18 at 7pm – Event Cinemas George St and Weds March 20 at 7pm – Event Cinemas Bondi Junction
CANBERRA: Monday March 25 at 7pm – Event Cinemas Manuka
PERTH: Monday March 25 at 6.30pm – Backlot Perth
MELBOURNE: Tuesday March 26 at 6.45pm – Cinema Nova
ROSEBUD, VIC: Friday March 15 – Peninsula Cinemas
DALBY, QLD: Tuesday March 19 at 7pm – Dalby Cinema (fundraiser for RACQ LifeFlight)
CHINCHILLA, QLD: Tuesday March 26 at 7pm – Chinchilla Cinema (fundraiser for RACQ LifeFlight)
AVOCA BEACH, NSW: Sunday April 7 – Avoca Beach Picture Theatre
BRISBANE: Weds May 15 at 7pm – New Farm Cinemas (fundraiser for MND and Me Foundation)
In a bid to wear and own more things that help push Australian cinema, I stumbled onto the artwork of Melbourne based artist, Nordacious. Inspired by Australian film, and a bunch of other great pop culture, Nordacious has an exciting line of shirts, mugs, and other things that have some truly awesome artwork on it.
There’s a wealth of Muriel’s Wedding material – my personal favourite being the ‘Stick Your Drink Up Your Arse, Tania!‘ shirt – alongside a loving ode to Neighbours icon Toadie, and a dedication to Australia’s true queen Lee Lin Chin with a ‘The Chin is In‘ shirt.
Needless to say, if you need some Aussie kitsch in your life, well, go and pick something up from Nordacious. I do need a new cushion for my couch, and the luscious mullet locks of Ryan Moloney’s iconic Toadfish might be a fitting addition.
Reflections in the Dust is the second feature length film from independent filmmaker Luke Sullivan. Featuring searing performances from Sarah Houbolt and Robin Royce Queree, this is a post apocalyptic glimpse into the world of toxic masculinity and how it manufactures itself in a father/daughter relationship. With powerful cinematography from Ryan Barry Cotter, this is an impressive film that shows the tenacity of micro-budget filmmaking.
Andrew caught up with writer/director Luke Sullivan to talk about how the film came about, what kind of process went into writing the film, and how Luke went about the casting process.
Reflections in the Dust hits Australian cinemas on March 7th at the following locations:
Ok, so the Oscars have wrapped up quick smart for this year, and as is the tradition, through bleary eyes and a film conjured hangover, we look forward to next years big event to see what could possibly end up with Oscar glory.
Which is why the appearance of Taron Egerton and Elton John performing Tiny Dancer together at Elton’s annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party – now in its 27th year. The party is hosted by Sir Elton John and David Furnish, and has raised over $6.3 million for the global effort to end AIDS.
An auction was held at this years event for items associated with the upcoming Dexter Fletcher film Rocketman. During the event, Taron Egerton was invited on stage to sing an Elton John song, at which Egerton said that he’d only sing if Elton joined him on stage. And, well, they did.
Dexter Fletcher replaced director Bryan Singer after he was fired from the four time Oscar winning film, Bohemian Rhapsody, which helped Rami Malek on his way to Oscar glory with a Best Actor win. Much was made about the fact that Malek wasn’t actually singing in the film, instead a composite of Freddie Mercury’s voice, Malek’s singing, and another singer, were mixed together to create the singing in the film. Bohemian Rhapsody also won Best Sound Mixing and Editing awards. Will Rocketman repeat this kind of glory and success at next years Oscars?
Check out the video below, and have a look at the poster for the film. And let us know if you’ll be checking out Rocketman when it hits theatres on May 30th this year.
Grief is an all-encompassing entity that consumes your life if left untamed. In Kasimir Burgess’ film Fell, the grief that takes residence in Matt Nable’s Thomas after the accidental death of his daughter Lara (Isabella Garwoli) becomes enough to weigh him down, cementing him to the site of the trauma, dragging him silently away from the life he once knew. Thomas lingers in the region where his daughter died, like a living spectre haunting the world, silently awaiting the reappearance of the man who claimed his daughters life, Luke (Daniel Henshall), after he has spent years in prison for fleeing the scene after claiming her life with a truck. What Thomas intends to do with Luke when returns is gleaned as the slight plot unfurls ever so slowly to its atmospheric conclusion.
Matt Nable’s beleaguered Thomas is so sullen that you could be mistaken for thinking that there is little more to Nable’s acting ability than being able to stare into the middle distance and look sad. But, glimpse a little further beneath the surface, and you can see that Nable is working through varying layers of grief. As Thomas resurfaces under the name Chris, seeking employment in the same logging group that Luke once was employed at, he comes in contact with a troupe of Aussie blokes doing it tough. The supporting cast is made up of a who’s who of great Australian actors – Reef Ireland (Downriver), Damian Hill (West of Sunshine), John Brumpton (Pawno), Daniel P. Jones (Strange Colours), Adele Perovic (Lost Gully Road), and more – all showing why they have left a mark on the Australian film industry in roles that take up mere moments of screen time.
I’m coming to Fell years after its release, and watch it with the sorrowful exploration of masculinity that thrives in Alena Lodkina’s Strange Colours in my mind. The two films complement each other profoundly. Where Fell takes the realm of grief and applies to masculinity, and the way Australia gradually tears down the beauty in the world via logging, Strange Colours takes sorrow and realises how men have found a world of comfort in their solitude. Both show worlds that are increasingly becoming outdated, and explores how they are managing to exist in today’s society.
Natasha Pincus’ believes it is exploring these themes with greater detail than they actually are – which is not to say this is surface level material, it is just that like Matt Nable’s performance, the heart of Fell is beating very deep within its core. It’s an outwardly cold, eagerly distancing film that embodies the spirit of Nable’s Thomas, who creates a home for himself in the middle of the forest in an abandoned hut. Thomas embraces the solitude, and the film does so with him. This makes for a difficult watch at times as you can almost feel the film pushing you away, yearning for you to not engage with its grief for fear that you too will become burdened with sadness. It’s a strange thing to witness a film that utilises deflection of the viewer as a way of portraying the spirit of its main character, but it’s the feeling that permeates from Fell.
Marden Dean’s cinematography captures the meditative atmosphere that Kasimir Burgess is aiming for. Set against the ever dwindling remains of the Australian forest, Fell often feels like it is reaching for relevance via mood and mist, and while it does manage to execute a dour glimpse into the mind of a man wracked by guilt and trauma, it does so with a level of heightened artfulness that can easily be mistaken as pretentiousness. Dean’s cinematography here once again affirms that he is one of the finest cinematographers working in Australia today, especially when viewed alongside the vibrant Boys in the Trees and the sea-focused Breath. Nobody captures the Australian wilderness (both suburban and regional) quite like Marden Dean does. If nothing else, Fell is a visually powerful film.
Fortunately, there is a lot more than just stunning imagery, which is amplified when paired with sound design that captures every crack, groan, and thud, of the giant eucalypts as they fall and are claimed as part of the loggers jobs. The process of evisceration of a tree is clearly documented, from suiting up in the morning, to climbing a giant tree to ascertain what region needs to be felled, to coming home and cleansing the days pains away with a beer. It’s not immediately clear of the thematic relevance of the logging when paired with a narrative that’s focused on grief and revenge, but it sure is impressive to watch.
Fell does tend to stray into the realm of ambiguity a little too often, making it a slight victim of ‘first film syndrome’ where the filmmakers reach further than their talents allow. But, it is an effective film in the moments that matter, with Matt Nable delivering a solid performance that is supported by exceptional technical elements.
Director: Kasimir Burgess
Cast: Matt Nable, Daniel Henshall, John Brumpton
Writer: Natasha Pincus