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Preview: Festivals Far and Near

By Cinema

Today, at the Virginia Theater in Urbana Ill., a few thousand cinephiles and Ebert-olytes are gathering for the first day of the 15th Ebertfest, formerly known as Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival. I should be with them — I even bought a pass back in November last year — but a change of job meant no annual leave and no money for the flight. Normally, I would just say, “there’ll always be next year” but with Mr. Ebert’s recent passing I don’t know if that will be true.

Instead, we turn our attention to local events and there’s plenty to keep us entertained on top of all the new commercial releases. For a start, the new NZFF Autumn Events initiative  — replacing the much-loved (by me) World Cinema Showcase — gets under way today and the festival organisation were good enough to slip me a few screeners so I could tip you off about some of the less-heralded titles. So, I’m going to presume you are already familiar with Lawrence of Arabia and will be camping out overnight to see the the only two screenings of the — reportedly — magnificent 4k restoration and instead I’ll take a look at a couple of docos and a couple of other features.

The Deep posterI was a little snarky towards the NZFF on Twitter when they announced that Baltasar Kormákur’s The Deep was going to play. After all, the last film of his that local audiences got to see was the woeful Contraband starring Mark Wahlberg. It turns out that was a Hollywood remake of an already successful Icelandic thriller that Mr. Kormákur produced and very likely his director’s fee made The Deep possible. So, snark withdrawn.

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Review: Twilight- Breaking Dawn Part 2, Monsieur Lazhar, Delicacy, Diana Vreeland- The Eye Has to Travel and Electrick Children

By Cinema and Reviews

Twilight: Breaking Dawn part II posterMy friend Simon calls Twilight “Twiglet” but that’s pretty much the maximum amount of amusement that I’ve managed to derive from a franchise that I have never managed to appreciate. Actually, that’s not quite true. During the latest — and final — episode, Breaking Dawn Part 2, I did laugh long and hard at the arrival of the fiddle-dee-dee Irish vampires with their red hair and their tweed waistcoats, part of a motley band of multi-ethnic sparklers assembled to fight off the threat from the Vettori (or whatever they’re called).

The Vulturi, led by simpering Michael Sheen, want to destroy (or absorb) the dangerous hybrid child Renesmee, a terrifyingly unrealistic CGI baby supposedly born just before Kristen Stewart’s Bella was finally converted at the end of the previous film. Despite being able to travel at the speed of light they take their time getting to snowy Washington state, allowing the Cullen’s — and their werewolf neighbours — to formulate a plan.

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2011 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

I’ve been watching reactions to other people’s “Best of 2011” with interest. It’s fascinating to see online commentors insist that films they have seen are so much better than films that they haven’t. Even though I do, in fact, watch everything I’m not going to pretend that this list is definitive — except to say that it gets a lot closer than most…

I also don’t believe in the arbitrariness of “Top Tens”. I have my own entirely arbitrary scale: Keepers, Renters and Respecters.

Secretariat posterKeepers are the films that I loved so much I want to own them — films that make me feel better just having them in the house. The first film I adored this year was slushy Disney horse racing story Secretariat. It should have been everything I hate — manipulative, worthy, a faith-based subtext — and yet I cried like a baby — expert button-pushing from director Randall Wallace. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was my favourite blockbuster. Superb direction by Rupert Wyatt overcame the flaws (ahem, James Franco, ahem) and it carefully walked the tightrope of both respect for its predecessors and kicking off something new.

The Tree of Life posterTerrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is my favourite film of the year by a long stretch. A second viewing allowed me to stop thinking about it and just feel it, meaning that I got closer than ever before to the soul of a film artist. Profound in the way that only the greatest works of art are. Tusi Tamasese announced himself with one of the most mature and considered debuts I’ve ever seen — The Orator placed us deeply inside a culture in a way that was both respectful and challenging of it. That film’s journey hasn’t finished yet.

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