Soaking It Up At BIFF 2009
- Written by Matthew Toomey
I’m a day late with this week’s Film Pie and to be honest, I’m surprised I have the energy to write anything at all. The last week has been incredibly hectic at the Brisbane International Film Festival and the next week is going to be just as busy.
Opening Night – An Education
The opening night film was An Education and it was a really great film. I’ll talk about it more when its released nationwide in October. I managed to snap a photo with star Carey Mulligan on the red carpet and you can see below. The film was well received talking to a few people afterwards.
What I enjoyed most about the night was the after party in the packed lobby of the Regent Cinemas. As this is tipped to be the last festival at the Regent (the Birch, Carroll & Coyle lease ends in June 2010), I tried to soak up the atmosphere as much as possible.
The Regent cinemas are beautiful. There’s the downstairs area with the quaint Aromas coffee shop. There’s the neat little bar tucked away under the huge marble staircase. There’s the incredibly spacious foyer and the beautiful artistry on the walls. There’s the grand Showcase cinema. I could go on and on.
In recent years, business has been slow for the Regent and I’ve seen many films where it’s just me and a few other strangers in a very large theatre. It was awesome to see this grand complex packed out and everyone having a good time. I’ve got a few photos as a keepsake and they’re up on my Facebook Film Pie group.
You can view a Youtube video at http://www.youtube.com/user/trapdoorfilms1#play/uploads/1/YjcFQwTOCjI which has been put together by the BIFF crew and does a great job capturing the night.
Movies, Movies, Movies
Since opening night last Thursday, I saw 3 films on Friday night before leaving Brisbane at 5am on Saturday morning for a golf trip with the Queensland team to Tenterfield in New South Wales. I then saw 1 film on Sunday night, 2 films on Monday night and 2 films tonight. I’ve got tickets to see another 6 films over the next 5 days – plus, there are 5 films out in normal release which I’m yet to see. I think I’ll enjoy the break when it all comes to a close.
With the exception of An Education, there hasn’t been a major standout but the film I enjoyed most was 500 Days Of Summer. It’s a romantic comedy/drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. It’s nothing new but it’s got style and I like these two as a couple – they’re two of my favourite young actors. Chemistry is everything and these guys had it in my eyes. I could easily see it again and will review it in full when released in September.
The audience vote is currently being led by Looking For Eric which I wasn’t overly fussed about. 500 Days Of Summer has the number 2 spot in the audience voting and that’s fine with me.
I’ll run through all the films I saw in next week’s issue but coming up in the next few days are Unmade Beds and Subdivision. I’ve also had a chance to see the closing night film, Balibo, which also has my recommendation.
I had a chance to speak with the Festival’s Executive Director Anne Demy-Geroe last night and she said that ticket sales have been up and that she’s very happy with how this year’s Festival has been going great. She didn’t want to say too much more as not to jinx it.
She was also unsure about where next year’s festival might be held if the Regent is unavailable as expected. My personal preference would be the new Palace Barracks but I think it would struggle to cater for the Festival’s huge crowds. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
I’m now off to get some well earned rest. See you at BIFF!
3D Set To Explode & Toomey Award Winners Revealed
- Written by Matthew Toomey
Have you got your tickets yet for the Brisbane International Film Festival? If not, why not? I won’t be doing it for you. Get to the BIFF website and secure your tickets before its too late. The festival kicks off this Thursday and runs for 11 days.
I don’t usually go along to opening night (too busy, too expensive) but I’m making an exception this year to check out An Education, the new film from writer Nick Hornby (About A Boy, High Fidelity, Fever Pitch). The reviews have been terrific and all the buzz has been around the performance of 24-year-old Carey Mulligan. My favourite awards site, http://www.awardsdaily.com/, has listed Mulligan as the only actress so far this year to have turned in an Oscar worthy performance.
Mulligan will be at Thursday night’s screening and its great to have her here in Brisbane.
I’ve booked tickets to 11 films in total – 1 each day on average. I might add a few more to the list depending on how I feel. It can a draining experience and it’s best not to go too hard too early.
Toomey Award Winners
The winners for my 10th annual Toomey Awards have been unveiled. You can view the full list at - http://www.thefilmpie.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=639&Itemid=57.
The Wrestler took the top prizes for best film and best director. It also won best actor for Mickey Rourke. It was well and truly my favourite film over the past 12 months.
The other two films to take home three awards were Persepolis (the only other A+ from me in the last year) and Revolutionary Road.
3D – Here We Come!
It’s been spoken about for decades but 3D technology is starting to take off in movie theatres. We’re seeing more 3D movies than ever. The problem is that many cinemas are cash strapped at the moment and can’t afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on special 3D digital projectors.
The film which may break this technology wide open is James Cameron’s Avatar. It’s been shrouded in secrecy for some time but finally, footage has been seen by the general public at the Comic-Con in San Diego. Columnist Jeffrey Wells, who is usually a cynic (it’s why I like his style), had this to say – “I was transported, blown away, melted down, reduced to adolescence, etc. I mean, I saw some truly great stuff.”
What has intrigued me most about the whole project is how James Cameron hasn’t made a single film since Titanic in 1997. He made the highest grossing motion picture in the history of cinema. It made $600m in the United States – a record that still stands today, despite inflation. He could have done anything in the wake of Titanic. Instead, he sat back and waited for this. It’s the most anticipated movie of the year for me. The release date is 17 December 2009 here in Australia. Bring it on!
If you’re wondering what it’s about, here’s the quick blurb from the IMDB – “In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture.”
Are We Over Harry Potter?
The box-office results from the weekend made for interesting reading. Harry Potter fell 61% and now sits in the number 2 spot behind G-Force. What’s interesting about the series is that it was the first film which made the most money - $317m in total in the U.S. Usually, it is the sequels which reap the big dollars – once the public has been caught up in the series and needs to know more. I still suspect this 6th film will finish with around $270m but judging from some of the lukewarm responses, I’m not convinced that the series will finish on a high in 2010 and 2011.
You can read an interview with director David Yates at http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2009/07/qa-harry-potter-director-david-yates-talks-deathly-hallows.html where he talks about the next two films. He answers the question about why the last film has been split into two parts. He also talks about how he plans to give part one of the Deathly Hallows a very different look to part two. Maybe there’s hope for David Yates yet.
See you at BIFF!
A "Disaster" Of A Movie Season
- Written by Matthew Toomey
I’ve been less than impressed with this winter’s blockbusters. Only a few have stood out – Star Trek, I Love You Man and The Hangover.
Coming soon is a new disaster movie called 2012. It’s directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow) and looks at some worldwide apocalyptic event.
I’m not too excited but I love this spoof trailer on Youtube which has been put together - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW2qxFkcLM0. In a time when films are more about explosions and special effects than storyline (e.g. Transformers), it’s great to see someone highlighting this fact in an amusing way. Make sure you check it out.
Speaking of trailers, you can check out this real trailer of Ethan Hawke’s new vampire movie, Daybreakers. I only mention it because this film was shot here in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast (at Movie World). I can remember them closing down a few streets here in the city to film certain scenes just over a year ago. I wonder if it’ll be any good? We’ll find out in early 2010.
Harry Potter has been the talk of the town over the past week. I’ve had a few fun discussions with people about whether or not they liked it. I think the general consensus has been negative but it hasn’t stopped its box-office. It chalked up $159m in its first weekend in the States. That’s huge stuff.
The same can’t be said for Bruno which fell a whopping 73% in its second week. It has less than $50m to its name in 10 days of release. Not too good.
That’ll do for me this week. It’s late and I’m tired after watching last night’s British Open finale. Seeing Tom Watson fall at the final hurdle was tough to take. We see all these sporting movies that have fairy tale endings. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out like that. The guy is pure class though and the way he handled himself afterwards was just terrific. I know he’ll be disappointed but he’s proven himself many times before – 8 major championships says enough.
A Look At This Year's Brisbane International Film Festival
- Written by Matthew Toomey
The Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) will be held over an 11 day period between July 30 and August 9. I first attended BIFF in 1995 and have had a lot of great memories over the years. One of these days, I’ll have to do a tribute piece.
So what’s so great about BIFF? Well, it’s a chance to see over 100 different films. Each week, we have an average of 4 films released in major cinemas. Here’s an opportunity to see a bunch of films that will never get an Australian release.
Here’s a look at some of the key features from this year’s BIFF:
· A spotlight on actor Amitabh Bachcahn – 2 of his films will be screened.
· A spotlight on actress Jeanne Moreau – 4 of her films will be screened, introduced by David Stratton.
· A huge focus on world cinema.
· A group of films from Queensland filmmakers in honour of our state’s 150th anniversary.
· A separate “Asterisks” program which highlights the world of abstract, artistic and challenging films.
Many stars and filmmakers will be attending BIFF including Carey Mulligan (the star of An Education who is tipped to earn an Oscar nomination next year) and veteran Aussie actors Anthony LaPaglia and Gary Sweet. It’s great to hear the question and answer sessions which follow many of the screenings – it can provide an insight into how the films were made.
At each screening, audience members can rate the film on a scale from 1-5. These votes are then tabulated with the most popular films announced at the close of the festival. There are also special juries which select winners in specific categories (e.g. Asian Cinema).
I like to spend my time seeing some of the more high profile releases. I know some will get a nationwide cinema release down the track but it’s still cool to see them in advance, particularly when stars are in attendance. The cost for most sessions is around $15 (or $13.50 for concessions). Showcase films (there are a handful of those) are $20. The gala opening night, which includes an after party, is $55.
You can find out more and book tickets through the BIFF website - http://www.stgeorgebiff.com.au/. It can be wise to book early – especially for the bigger films. I’ve been burnt before by waiting too long.
If you’re looking for a sampling of what’s on offer, here are some of 10 films that I intend to see. Hopefully I’ll see you at the festival!
An Education – Thu, 30 Jul at 7:30pm
Romance, drama, intrigue—An Education is an entertaining portrayal of the growing pains that accompany early adulthood. Set in the London suburb of Twickenham in 1961, the story centres around Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a witty overachiever in her last year at a strict girls’ school. Enter David (Peter Sarsgaard), a charismatic older man whose seemingly innocent intrusion into Jenny’s life catalyses her dreams of becoming a cultured socialite. A romance quickly develops between the pair, and Jenny’s previously steadfast educational commitments all but evaporate with the promise of marriage—that is, until an untimely truth surfaces about David, teaching Jenny that her real education has only just begun.
Balibo – Sun, 9 Aug at 8pm
When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, five young newsmen working for Australian television were caught in the crossfire. Well, that’s the official line. This powerful and suspenseful political thriller re-creates the events surrounding their shooting by Indonesian soldiers on 16 October, intercutting them with the story of an older journalist, Roger East, subsequently invited to East Timor by José Ramos-Horta to uncover the truth behind their deaths. But the important questions asked of East by Ramos-Horta in the film, questions never satisfactorily answered in several subsequent investigations, concern not the Indonesian but the Australian government. East was one of three journalists in East Timor at the time; Jill Jolliffe was working as a freelancer for Reuters, and it is on her book that Balibo is based. This is an important story for Australians, and the film’s co-writer and director, Robert Connolly, shows here both the same moral concerns and the ability to weave them into a compelling piece of film that he exhibited in his directorial début, The Bank, which he also co-wrote.
Eden Is West – Fri, 7 Aug at 7:30pm
Gentle-natured Elias, an illegal alien from an unidentified country, survives a swim to shore from a human-cargo carrier to wake on a nudist beach of a Mediterranean resort catering to the privileged. With limited language skills, he scrambles to hide his identity and with arresting good looks is soon negotiating sexual advances. This is a more lighthearted look at the problem of illegal immigrants than the usual dire portraits. It raises questions about identity, racism, relationships, and how we survive and coexist in fractured societies where the many have far less than the lucky few. It is about survival instincts and the unjust barriers that exist for those forgotten people who desire to live a better life at all costs. In Eden Is West, Paris offers the lure of magic and the realisation of dreams.
Away We Go – Sat, 1 Aug at 7:15pm
Thirtysomethings Burt and Verona discover they are going to have a child. Expecting support from Burt’s parents, who instead leave for a two-year overseas holiday, they turn their initial dismay into an opportunity to embark on their own literal journey of discovery. Taking to the road, they visit old friends in places from Miami to Canada; from new-age intellectuals to slightly desperate crazies, from the negligent to the overly protective, each welcoming parent proffers well-meaning advice to the fleeing couple. From Sam Mendes (who won an Academy Award for best director for his début, American Beauty), the subject matter of this offbeat indie film, liberally laced with irony, humour, and tenderness, made ‘with a little speed, and a little lightness of touch’ (Mendes in interview), is perhaps a surprise after last year’s Revolutionary Road. But the precision of the craft is exactly what we would expect from this master director.
Prime Mover – Sat, 8 Aug at 7:15pm
Set in the trucking recesses of Dubbo, Prime Mover is a masterful blend of action and drama. The story follows Thomas (Michael Dorman, Suburban Mayhem), a talented pinstriper whose dream is to trade in his paintbrush for his own eighteen wheeler. Every bit a cowboy, Thomas is both charming and reckless, a lethal combination with which he courts Melissa (Emily Barclay, Suburban Mayhem), a local petrol-station attendant. But ambition can be unforgiving, and a seemingly innocent dealing with a loan-shark causes some unforgiving bumps in the road that threaten to jackknife everything Thomas has accomplished. Directed by David Caesar (Dirty Deeds, Mullet) and featuring the acting talents of William McInnes and Ben Mendelsohn, the film hurls the audience down an emotional and philosophical highway. Central themes include family, trust, and the challenges of chasing the dream of a lifetime.
The September Issue – Tue, 4 Aug at 7:15pm
Legendary Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is often called the devil or the fashion pope, and the magazine’s September issue is the veritable glam bible of the fashion world, created in the buzzy, consumerist heart of Manhattan, with brilliant shoots in Paris and Rome. In this engaging fly-on-the-wall documentary, we observe the extraordinary style guru editing the magazine, obsessing over tiny details, brooking no opposition, and, with moments to spare, triumphantly delivering the ‘biggest one in our history’: 840 pages of the headspinning fall-preview issue. As the mega-issue somehow takes shape amid the turmoil, Wintour’s fascinating sidekicks are witnessed toiling, arguing, and bitching—especially the spectacular André Leon Talley, editor-at-large, and Grace Coddington, genius creative director, who pulls off an inspired eleventh-hour masterstroke. We are also given more intimate glimpses of Anna’s softer side as a daughter, sister, and proud mother.
Unmade Beds – Wed, 5 Aug at 7:30pm
Unmade Beds is a gritty yet playful film about youth squatter culture in London. Directed by Alexis Dos Santos, this story follows Axl (Fernando Tielve) and Vera (Déborah François), two foreign nationals who take refuge in the warehouse-dwelling bohemian underground. Axl and Vera never officially meet, although they share the same space and often cross paths. The motivation of each character is revealed incrementally throughout the film, and back stories remain preciously guarded. Axl is in London to find the father who abandoned him as a child, and Vera seeks to escape the memory of a failed romance. From these two starting points, the audience gains an endearing perspective on the youthful experiences of having sex, drinking alcohol, and sleeping in the occasional unmade bed.
Bathory – Fri, 7 Aug at 9:40pm
Veteran Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko uses his iconic visual style to bring to life the legend of Erzsébet Báthory. Considered one of the most prolific murderesses in history, Báthory has been dubbed the ‘Blood Countess’ for her alleged preoccupation of bathing in virgins’ blood. Jakubisko endeavours to show the Hungarian noblewoman in a different light—the victim of political sabotage rather than the crazed, paganistic hedonist of her legend. The film stars Anna Friel as Báthory and Karel Roden as her political opponent Juraj Thurzo, and a well-known cast of Czech and Slovak actors, including Deana Horváthová-Jakubisková and Bolek Polívka, play supporting roles. Jakubisko’s first English production is the most expensive movie made in Central Europe to date. Hailed as a commercial success in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this gothic tale is a rare treat for those interested in medieval costume dramas.
Subdivision – Thu, 6 Aug at 7:15pm
When southern developers move in on local Hervey Bay builder Digger Kelly, who does everything the old-fashioned way, he finds that quality is apparently irrelevant to them and that he cannot compete. After his son goes out on his own, quoting against him, things go from bad to worse, not only for Digger but also for the whole community, as the division between family and friends parallels that of the farming land. Directed by Sue Brooks (Japanese Story [BIFF 2003]), Subdivision oozes authenticity in its portrayal of semirural Queensland, aided by the presence in the ensemble cast of veteran Aussie actors Gary Sweet as Digger, Bruce Spence as his mate Singlet, and Kris McQuade as his wife. Local personality Ashley Bradnam, who co-wrote the film, plays the lead. A comedy with a big heart, a lot of humour, a few ‘gross’ moments, and broad appeal.
About Elly – Wed, 5 Aug at 5pm
When Ahmad, recently divorced from his German wife, returns for a few days to Tehran from Germany, his university friends organise a weekend excursion to the Caspian Sea and indulge in a bit of matchmaking by bringing with them Elly, a young kindergarten teacher. But it all goes terribly wrong when the reluctant Elly goes missing, and suddenly nothing is as it seemed. When a fiancé appears on the scene, the men all run for cover while the woman who invited Elly dissembles erratically to protect Elly’s reputation. In the ensuing suspense and entanglement of well-meaning lies, the veneer of modernity in Iranian gender politics is savagely stripped away.