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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 So, snark withdrawn.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: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jack & Jill and Contraband

By Cinema and Reviews

For this writer, the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks were the defin­ing glob­al event of my life­time. It was the day when any­thing became pos­sible – even the utterly unthink­able. It was the day when sheer ran­dom­ness and extreme force col­lided to prove that we have only the thin­nest ven­eer of pro­tec­tion from the world des­pite all the prom­ises that have been made to us since childhood.

Since that day, I have nev­er con­sciously sought out 9/11 foot­age to watch. That first 20 minutes of tele­vi­sion news (switched on after being woken by Hewitt Humphrey’s ter­ri­fy­ingly calm announce­ment on Morning Report) was all I could man­age that day. I have no need to re-traumatise myself thank you very much.

So what to make of 9/11 cinema? For ten years it has been an almost impossible top­ic to suc­cess­fully turn into art. The lit­er­al retell­ings of the day’s events (United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center) were the least awful, emphas­ising hero­ism in the face of impossible odds and not attempt­ing any­thing meta­phor­ic or allus­ive. In the clumsy Remember Me – in which Robert Pattinson goes to vis­it his estranged fath­er (Pierce Brosnan) in the WTC North Tower that fate­ful morn­ing – 9/11 was used as a cheap gotcha, a way of pro­vok­ing a reac­tion that the story couldn’t man­age on its own.

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