Matt's Blog


We Have An Oscar Frontrunner: The Social Network


We’re 9 months into the year and its time for the best films to step up and reveal themselves.  The awards season kicks off in early December and it’ll be a bloody battle right up the Oscars on February 27.


As always, the recent film festivals in Venice and Toronto have given the big studios a chance to showcase their contenders.  It’s kind of like a fashion show.  They hold onto their best stuff and launch it in glitzy style (with stars, parties) over the course of a single week.


A few films made an impact but the big talking point is a film which didn’t screen in competition at the two major festivals - David Fincher’s The Social Network.  You have only had to read a few news sites to see references to Citizen Kane.  I’m trying not to buy into the over-hype but it’s obviously leaving a mark on those who see it.  It’s the clear Oscar frontrunner.


The exciting news it that the release date has been brought forward here in Australia.  We’ll now have the chance to see it on October 28 and I’m hoping my media invite comes through very soon.


Columnist Jeffrey Wells provided a great summary of the Toronto Film Festival which you can read right here.  He speaks of a number of films in addition to The Social Network which I can’t wait to see.  They include Black Swan, 127 Hours, Let Me In, The King’s Speech and Biutiful. 


It’s been a long weekend and that’s all I’ve time for this week.

Launching A New Film Pie Column & Early BIFF News


It’s been two weeks since my last blog as I’ve been off with the Queensland Colts golf team who were competing in the Australian Interstate Series at Wynnum.  It was a fun week with the team finishing second behind Victoria.  I’ve a bunch of photos from the week on Facebook for those who are interested.


As a result of being in camp, I went 10 days without seeing a movie.  I think it left me with withdrawal symptoms.  I don’t think I’ve gone that long without a trip to the cinema since I did a Contiki tour of Europe in 2004.  I made up for the shortfall by seeing 4 movies on Sunday (which also happened to be my birthday).  It was short of my record of 6 movies in a day but it was a decent effort anyway.  I’m now back on track and all is well in the world.


New Column


I’ve been lucky to meet some interesting people through Twitter and now I have one of them contributing to my website.  If there’s one area of cinema where I’m weak, it’s my knowledge of classic movies.  I spend so much time watching all the new releases that I struggle to find time to watch the great films from year’s past.


Peter Taggart is filling the Film Pie void by putting together a weekly column which reviews cult and classic offerings which you’ll discover at your local video store (possibly gathering dust).


You can access Peter’s column by clicking here and he’s starting off this week by looking at the 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy his work.


Brisbane International Film Festival


Details have been out for a few weeks but I haven’t had a chance to mention them yet in my blog.  This year’s BIFF promises to be something different – there’s a new date, new venues and a new director.


The Festival will run from November 4-14 and will be shared between the Palace Centro, Palace Barracks and Tribal Theatres (the old Dendy George Street).  Richard Moore is at the helm this year and is a former director of the Melbourne International Film Festival.


I’m very keen to see the line up of films and I’ll be sure to keep you posted in future blogs.


Tomorrow When The War Began


In my review, I raised the question as to whether the marketing strategy for Tomorrow When The War Began would pay off.  The answer is a resounding yes.


The film has taken $8.97m so far at the Australian box-office.  It’s opening weekend of $3.8m was the biggest since Baz Lurhmann’s Australia in November 2008.  It’s also the first locally made film to top our box-office since Australia.


It’s great to see the Aussie public getting behind the film and hopefully it’ll fuel a few sequels in the near future.  Well done to director Stuart Beattie.


Toronto Film Festival


I say this every year but if there’s one film festival I wish I could attend, it’s Toronto.  Hundreds of films are shown and for many high profile releases, it’s the chance to kick start their Oscar campaigns.  I love reading the columns from bloggers in Toronto to hear which films have lived up to the hype.  This year’s festival finished up over the weekend.


I’ll provide more detailed coverage on this year’s Oscar contenders in an upcoming blog but I want to make mention of the very importance People’s Choice Award.  Previous winners have included Precious (2009), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Tsotsi (2005), Hotel Rwanda (2004), Whale Rider (2002), Amelie (2001), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), American Beauty (1999), Life Is Beautiful (1998) and Shine (1996).  All went on to receive Academy Award nominations.


This year’s audience winner was The King’s Speech.  It boasts a great cast including Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Geoffrey Rush and Timothy Spall.  It tells the story of King George VI (the British monarch before Queen Elizabeth II) and how he overcame a dreadful stutter with the help of a speech therapist.  Reviews have been great so far and it seems a shoe-in for a best picture nomination.


That’ll do it from me for another week.  Over and out.


Is It Ok To Go To The Movies On Your Own?


Is it ok to go to the movies on your own?


That’s a question that I’ve been asked many times.  I know some people who would say “don’t be a fool, of course there’s nothing wrong with that.”  I know others who think the complete opposite.  A good friend of mine (who falls into the later category) accidentally locked himself out of his unit once.  He reluctantly went to a movie all by his lonesome while waiting for a spare set of keys to arrive.  I don’t think he enjoyed the experience but maybe that because he was watching Nicolas Cage in The Ghost Rider.


For me, the answer to this question is simple.  I see more than 200 movies a year and for at least half of that total, I’d be on my own.  Don’t worry.  I’m not a loser.  I don’t think so anyway.  In my defence, I say (1) some previews are during the day and most of my friends work, and (2) some movies look that bad that I’d feel guilty dragging a friend along.  I now present The Bounty Hunter (with Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler) as exhibit A.


Maybe it’s just me but I also feel a lot of pressure when taking friends to see a movie.  Often running though my mind is “I hope they like it.”  I hate taking people to something they don’t enjoy.  They may as well of sat home and watched the X-Factor on TV.  Well, maybe not the X-Factor but you get my point.


If the film is a comedy, it’s easy to gauge someone’s opinion from the number of times they laugh.  For other films, it’s trickier.  I’ll often sneak a glance and check their body language to see if I can pick up on anything.  All is revealed on leaving the cinema.  I can put forward the same question every time – “sooooo… what did you think of it?”  Hopefully the answer is a positive one.


As I’ve spoken about before, there’s often a danger in hyping up a movie.  I took 5 friends to see Inception a few weeks ago.  I’d already been to the preview and given the film an enthusiastic thumbs up – my only A+ of the year to date.  Two of my friends hated it and another was unable to form an opinion (due to the amount of time he spent asleep).  I know it’s fun to argue about movies but I still felt somewhat deflated.  I wanted them to like it.  I wanted them to see it for the amazing cinematic achievement that it was.


There are other advantages to seeing a movie on your own.  Firstly, you can sit wherever you want.  Tony Martin and I are on the same page when he says the best seat is the one “away from the f***wits”.  I aim to sit up the back and near an aisle (trying to avoid the major crowd).  I have to make this request every time I go to Event Cinemas because of their reserved seating policy.  It’s good to be away from the bulk of the audience because (1) there’s less chance of having people talk around you, and (2) you can often spread out.


As much as I dislike reserved seating, it can be of benefit if you’re buying just a single ticket.  If a session is almost sold out, it’s pretty hard to find two seats together unless you’re prepared to take on the front row (guaranteed torture for any film with subtitles).  If on your own, you can sneak in at the last minute and nab that one-off seat in the back row.  Hopefully it’s not in between a guy who has smuggled in a kebab and a girl who spends the whole movie typing texts into her glowing iPhone.


Another big plus is that you can see a movie whenever you want.  If you’re trying to line up a group of friends, it can be tricky finding a time and day that fits snugly into their Outlook calendars.  This can be dangerous for movies only getting a small release.  If you wait longer than a week, you run the risk that it’ll disappear and be replaced by more profitable Hollywood fare (e.g. Sex & The City 2 running on an endless loop).


Above all else though, seeing a movie on your own can be a great way to unwind.  I’ve come out of many movies feeling a lot better than before I went in.  I’d hate to miss that awesome feeling just because I couldn’t find someone to see a movie with.


I confess there are times when I’ve felt uncomfortable sitting on my own in a movie theatre.  My case in point - seeing a film targeted at pre-teens.  To have a middle aged guy sitting on his own in the back of cinema full of screaming kids might look a little strange.  Thankfully, my sister sacrificed two hours of her time and saw The Spongebob Squarepants Movie with me in 2005.  I wasn’t so lucky with the Hannah Montana / Miley Cyrus 3D concert movie back in 2008.  It was embarrassing enough buying the ticket from the pimple-faced teenager at the counter.  I really think I need to start taking a pen and pad to these kind of movies.  I need to at least look like a critic.


When I’m waiting of a movie to start, I often peruse the audience to see if there are any other folk on their own.  You generally don’t see too many.  They tend to be more frequent in action films (I’m guessing the wife/girlfriend had better things to do).  Film festivals also tend to throw up more people willing to go it alone.  I guess their love for film outweighs the possible awkwardness that many perceive.  Nice to see.


Am I in the minority when I say yes, it is ok to go to the movies on your own?  I hope not.

Speaking With Caitlin Stasey, Star Of Tomorrrow When The War Began

Caitlin StaseyLincoln Lewis & Mitch Lewis
At the Emporium Hotel and speaking with Caitlin Stasey,
star of Tomorrow When The War Began
With Lincoln Lewis, star of Tomorrow When The War Began
and his brother Mitch, fellow critic from Nova 106.9.

For the third week in a row, I bring to you another exclusive Film Pie interview.  My stars must be aligned at the moment.


I’m speaking with Caitlin Stasey, star of the new Australian action-thriller, Tomorrow When The War Began.  Many will remember Caitlin as playing Rachel Kinski on Neighbours between 2005 and 2009.  This is her first major film role and she’ll be worth keeping an eye on in the near future.  Here’s what she had to say…


Matt:  Many people dream about being an actor and they never actually make it.  Only the small minority get through.  Where does your love for acting come from?  How did you start out?


Caitlin:  My mother instilled a love for arts in me from a very young age.  I’ve always loved watching old movies.  I loved Gone With The Wind, Wuthering Heights and things like that because I loved pretend, I loved make believe.  I started off with a child agency and I strongly urge that parents don’t sign their children up to agencies.  It really increases your sense of self but not in a good way.  It makes you so aware of how you look.  It makes you quite vein.


That said, I was lucky with mine because as a result of signing, I got a job on The Sleepover Club and then with Neighbours.  I’ve got a lot to thank my first agency for but in retrospect, I wonder if maybe I should have waited a little longer.


Matt:  How old would you have been when you started out on Neighbours?


Caitlin:  With Neighbours I was 14 turning 15.  I was very young.


Matt:  How do you balance up the school work?


Caitlin:  I sort of didn’t.  I’m not proud to say that I didn’t.  I loved learning and I still have a real thirst for learning and research but I didn’t care for things I was learning about at school.  All the history we were doing was about the dark ages and I didn’t give a stuff about the dark ages.  It’s a time when religion ruled the world and there was no progression – morally and intellectually.  The books we’d read were really dull as well.  I love things like To Kill A Mockingbird, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and things like that but they’d force us to read these other books I couldn’t stand.


I did homeschooling for a long time – from 17 onwards – but that kind of fell away.  When you’re young and you’re in an adult environment, your priorities are somewhat altered.  You want to hang out with these adults and spend time doing adult things.  School work doesn’t qualify.  Part of me wishes that I had of paid more attention at school because I never actually finished.  I’ve put my studies on indefinite hold for now.  I hope to go back eventually but to do what, I’m not sure.  I’d love to study sociology.


Matt:  You mentioned some of the books kids are forced to read at school.  Apparently Tomorrow When The War Began is the new craze.  All the kids are reading it…


Cailtin:  Yeah.  We didn’t get to read that at school.  We had this new wave of Australian literature about farmers and the dreamtime because people have such varied opinions about the invasion of Australia and the stolen generation.  At the time, it didn’t really interest me but now I love reading books about Australia and things like Tomorrow When The War Began.  When they were forced on to me, I couldn’t care less.  I wanted to read about wizards and vampires.


Matt:  I’m guessing you had to read this book at some point.


Caitlin:  Yes, I read it when I was handed the script.


Matt:  I went along to the Queensland premiere which was a big night.  The first reaction I had when I saw the film was… wow, you’re in this a lot!


Caitlin:  Yeah, it’s told from my perspective so there’s no way of avoiding Ellie.  It’s her story.


Matt:  How’d you land the role?


Caitlin:  I was fortunate enough in that Stuart Beattie, the director, had been looking up pictures of Australian actors on Google for whatever reason.  He doesn’t know how he came across the photo but he found a picture of me.  He said that’s what Ellie should look like but he didn’t know if I was an actor or some completely random girl on the internet.


I went for my first audition and then got a call back.  I sat with Stuart for about an hour or so – just chatting for the most part… and then yeah, I found out that I’d been awarded the role.


Matt:  We should talk a little bit about the film.  It’s about a group of teenagers who are out camping in the bush and then they come back to find the world has changed.  Their town has been invaded.  All these characters are very different.  How would you describe Ellie as a character?


Caitlin:  Ellie is essentially an every-day girl.  The girl next door.  She’s very logical, very grounded, very intelligent but she’s also a little reserved with her emotions.  She finds it hard to “feel” things – she’s always thinking and she’s always coming from a diplomatic point of view.  She’s just a girl who has been thrown into an extraordinary circumstance.


She’s incredible under pressure but a lot of that is a result of her upbringing.  She’s not a hero per say but she’s a reluctant hero.


Matt:   It is a good role.  The character goes through quite a transformation during the film.  She’s a lot more courageous in the end.


Caitlin:  Yeah.  The war is a huge element of the story but it’s more about Ellie coming to terms with her feelings for Lee and her friends.  It’s a coming-of-age story essentially – her right of passage.


Matt:  What I liked about the film was the tension.  There’s that first scene where you’re trying to work out what’s going on and you’re hiding amongst all the cars.  It’s a really intense scene.  How do you build yourself up for that as an actor?


Caitlin:  It’s scary when you think about it.  We’ve got a dozen or so people running around behind the cameras but if you focus in on the fact that there’s three of us in this massive car park and we’ve no idea where our families are.  Although you can’t empathise, you can relate in a way.  You know that you would panic, you would be terrified in that situation.


There are also these men running around with guns.  I’m really uneasy when it comes to gun even if they are fake.  They make me feel really uncomfortable.  That was helpful I suppose in making me look uneasy.


Matt:  There must be a lot of special effects involved – there are guns and a car chase.  This would have all been new for you as an actor?


Caitlin:  Definitely.  I’ve never experienced anything like that before.  With Neighbours, we didn’t have (a) the budget, or (b) the make those kind of scenes.


Matt:  With the guns and the explosions, are you actually in there?  Or did you need a stunt double?


Caitlin:  Yeah, most of the time we were in there.  I think there was one explosion where we weren’t but that’s because it was fairly dangerous and people had to be set on fire afterwards.  Most of the time, Stuart liked seeing our faces.  He wanted the audience to feel like we there.  The thing that makes this story is that these are ordinary teenagers that teenage audiences would love to do so you need to see them and realise it’s them that’s doing it.  It’s not an adult pretending to be a 17-year-old girl who is doing it.


Matt:  Now the director is an Aussie – Stuart Beattie.  First time as a director but many people will know his works.  He’s written a lot of scripts including the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.  What was he like?  How did he operate as a director?


Caitlin:  Incredibly generous.  I said to him I don’t know what I would have done and how lucky I was that my first film experience was with him.  He’s never been this imposing figure.  He’s never been Stuart Beattie the famous screenwriter.  It was just Stuart our director and Stuart our mate.  The whole process was incredibly collaborative.  There was no middle man between us and him.  It was always – “go directly to Stuart and talk about anything you need.”


I would talk to him about personal matters as well.  I had anxiety over the fact that Ellie had to be done perfectly and come across as she is in the books.  I was terrified of letting people down but he always had faith in me and was so patient.  I can stress enough how patient and wonderful and kind he is.


Matt:  Do you still get your opportunity to put your own mark on the character?


Caitlin:  Yeah.  I’d say “I don’t think I’d say that” and “a teenager doesn’t talk like this”.  We trusted Stuart implicitly about everything other than his sense of music.  He has dreadful taste in music.  We all sent him our songs and suggested you should listen to things like the Flame Trees by Sarah Blasko which is now in the film.  There were a bunch of songs we sent and said “you should use this in the film”.  Thank god he listened because he wanted to have 80s power ballads.  We love him to death but it’s funny to think this man is so out of touch with his music tastes.


Matt:  So if I’m buying the soundtrack it’s kind of a best of album from the cast?


Caitlin:  It’s basically all our favourite songs and I think that’s really important.  The score is beautifully written too and I think teenagers are more acceptable of classical music these days because it’s been integrated into our modern day music.


Matt:  I get the impression that the film is aimed at a younger audience.  Who would you say this is marketed at?


Caitlin:  I know our main demographic is from 15 to 25 or so.  The books have been out since about 1993 so a lot of people who started reading them are well into their 30s by now.  We’re aiming it at teenagers because it is a story about them.  It’s a story about your everyday teenager who has been flung into this completely alternate reality.  Of course we want their parents to love and we want their grandparents to love it but I suppose our main target audience are the teens of Australia.


Matt:  Has there been talk of follow ups?  Sequels from other books?


Caitlin:  Yeah, we want to make 2 and 3 but we can’t commit until we see know how well the first film has done.  We’d love to be part of it though.


Matt:  Let’s talk quickly about all the PR side of things.  I’ve heard you on the radio and seen you at red carpet premieres.  This must be all pretty new for you as well.  Does it get tiring or is it energising?


Caitlin:  It is tiring but it’s also nice.  The main problem with marketing Australian films is that their budget never allows them to do so.  With us, our main priority is pushing the film as hard as we can.  It’s rewarding but it’s exhausting.


Matt:  I’ll finish by asking what’s next for Caitlin Stasey?


Caitlin:  I’m going to be the next Doctor Who.  I think it’d be a great idea to make Doctor Who a female. 


Matt:  Caitlin, thank you very much and I hope the film is a big success.


Caitlin:  Thank you very much.