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Review: Jindabyne and more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

This week’s Capital Times film review, annot­ated and illus­trated: Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence); Crank (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor); The Nativity Story (Catherine Hardwicke); Unaccompanied Minors (Paul Feig) and Deck The Halls (John Whitesell). Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions and oth­er impres­sions will arrive in a oth­er post. It’s late.

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Review: Children of Men and more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Children of Men posterI grew up under the high-heeled jack­boot of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, when post-apocalyptic vis­ions of futur­ist­ic fas­cist dic­tat­or­ships seemed to turn up as reg­u­larly as London buses. Back then we all felt that the world was at risk from the insane plans of a men­tally defi­cient, war-mongering, US pres­id­ent cap­tured by the military-industrial com­plex. Of course, now things are com­pletely dif­fer­ent (ahem) but Children of Men still seems like the product of a bygone era.

20 years into a grey British future: the pop­u­la­tion is sterile and extinc­tion of the human race is inev­it­able. Alcoholic pub­lic ser­vant Clive Owen is per­suaded by ex-girlfriend and freedom-fighter Julianne Moore to trans­port some pre­cious cargo to the coast but her plan (and her team) is soon shred­ded by the forces of reac­tion and Owen is forced to go it alone. There are sev­er­al abso­lutely jaw-dropping set-pieces and I won­der wheth­er the people of Bexhill real­ised what sort of mess was going to be made of their quiet little sea­side town. Never lend any­thing to a film crew!

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Review: Kenny and more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Kenny posterFilms like Kenny are usu­ally called “mock­u­ment­ar­ies” for two reas­ons: they appear to be doc­u­ment­ar­ies but they’re not really and (in films like Spinal Tap and TV’s “The Office”) they usu­ally “mock” their sub­jects. This is different.

In a delight­ful first fea­ture by the Jacobson Brothers, porta-loo plumb­er Kenny Smyth is a par­agon of a man: he loves his fam­ily; takes pride in his job; and finds the bright side of situ­ations that would force most of us to jump head first in to a bath of deoder­ant. The film fol­lows our hero (played to per­fec­tion by Shane Jacobson) through a few weeks of an event-filled Melbourne spring, cul­min­at­ing in the big one: over 125,000 people at the Melbourne Cup. While he per­forms his (lit­er­ally) thank­less tasks, Kenny stoic­ally puts up with an unre­li­able ex-wife, a co-worker with diarrhoea (of the verbal kind) and a fath­er who is one of the great screen mon­sters of all time (played with an admir­able absence of van­ity by the real Jacobson pere, Ronald).

Kenny is a philosopher-plumber, a bard of the bath­room, and has that mas­tery of the ver­nacu­lar that Australians seem to excel at: “Mate, there’s a smell in here that will out­last reli­gion!” is my favour­ite but there’s plenty more.

Kenny is my num­ber one film of the year and the fun­ni­est Australian pic­ture since The Castle. Highly recom­men­ded to any­one who has ever taken a dump (or had a Henry-Pissinger).

Kokoda poster2006 is the Year Of The Veteran and fol­low­ing Clint Eastwood’s out­stand­ing Flags of Our Fathers we now have an Australian salute to the men who served in the Pacific in WWII. Kokoda is the story of the Australians in Papua New Guinea in 1942, when they really were the last line of defence between the Japanese and the main­land and it is a tre­mend­ous example of effi­cient and atmo­spher­ic story-telling.

The film bene­fits from a lack of famil­i­ar faces as unne­ces­sary star power does­n’t get between us and the char­ac­ters, though lead Jack Finsterer has a bit of the young Mel Gibson about him. I’m not con­vinced that every Australian sol­dier in the Pacific had NIDA cheekbones and gym-bunny pecs but that’s a minor quibble for a film that con­vin­cingly hits so many oth­er marks. Even more remark­ably, the film was made over a two year peri­od by a group of 2004-vintage gradu­ates of the Australian Film, TV and Radio School but it would be a great achieve­ment by any­one, even a grizzled old vet­er­an like Eastwood.

A Good Year posterFinally, Ridley Scott re-unites with Strathmore’s finest, Russell Crowe, for A Good Year, a bosom-obsessed throwaway about a self-involved fin­an­cial trader who inher­its a broken-down château and vine­yard owned by his Uncle (Albert Finney). All involved seem to have spent the entire pro­ject with one eye on knocking-off time and why not if you’re sur­roun­ded by red wine in Provence in Summer? Australian one-hit-wonder Abby Abbie Cornish plays a beau­ti­ful Californian wine-expert who may be Uncle Henry’s ille­git­im­ate … sorry, I’ve lost you, haven’t I? A Good Year is about three months too long but it’s a Russell Crowe film and, by defin­i­tion, they have to be epic these days no mat­ter how slender the idea.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 15 November, 2006.

Update: Abbie Cornish spelling corrected.

Animation Recommendation

By Cinema

Fast Film stillFound online:

An extraordin­ary piece of anim­a­tion, screened at Cannes in 2003 but now avail­able on DVD from the film­maker. And at stut­tery old YouTube. Hat-tip to CartoonBrew.

The visu­als were achieved by print­ing out thou­sands of film frames (over 65,000 to be exact) and fold­ing them into three-dimensional shapes. The paper-objects were then pho­to­graphed and com­pos­ited in After Effects. I can’t even ima­gine the effort it took to mash-up hun­dreds of live-action films, often times with three to four films in each scene, and make it all work in a nar­rat­ive con­text. It’s an incred­ible cre­at­ive achievement.

I’ve just sent away for a copy.