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Picks of the Week for 12 Jan 2019

By Cinema, Reviews

It has been a long time between drinks here at Funerals & Snakes but that does­n’t mean that I have been idle. I con­tin­ue to write and broad­cast for RNZ (filling in for At the Movies on RNZ National and writ­ing for the Widescreen chan­nel on the web­site) and since the begin­ning of 2019 have tried to post at least a couple of reviews a week.

My deal with RNZ means I can­’t repost that work here but there is no reas­on why I can­’t start run­ning sum­mar­ies and high­lights for my many ‘fans’. I’ll prob­ably try and restart the news­let­ter, too, although what form that might take is still to be decided.

Rancho Notorious will be back in some form in 2020, too.

Anyway, here are this week’s picks:

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Review: Kick-Ass 2, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Much Ado About Nothing & Frances Ha

By Cinema, Reviews

Alexis Denisoff and Amy Acker in Joss Whedon's adptation of Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

There has been much dis­cus­sion in the circles in which I move about the quant­ity of films released to loc­al cinemas. Not only are there too many films com­ing out every week – too many for each one to gen­er­ate much heat at any rate – but the ones that are com­ing out aren’t always the right ones. Smaller dis­trib­ut­ors are push­ing everything they have into the sys­tem regard­less of their poten­tial and some of the majors – with big­ger mar­ket­ing budgets and over­heads to worry about – are ditch­ing their art­house and mid-range titles and push­ing them straight to home video.

[pullquote]Who says Americans can­’t do Shakespeare? Nonsense.[/pullquote]At the same time, mul­ti­plex screens are full of big budget com­mer­cial gambles, with box office estim­ates based on loc­al his­tory and the hope that Twilight-like light­ning might strike twice. See which ones in the list below fit into which cat­egory. (Clue: if your film has no hi-res English lan­guage poster avail­able online  and your only offi­cial web­site is in Japanese, maybe you can­’t really sup­port it in NZ cinemas.)

Farewell, My Queen posterBenoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen goes behind the scenes of Louis XVI and – more spe­cific­ally – Marie Antoinette’s court dur­ing the dark days of the revolu­tion as the régime tottered and fell. We see these events from the point of view of Her Majesty’s book read­er, a young ser­vant played by Léa Seydoux. Initially besot­ted by the Queen (Diane Kruger), her faith is shaken by the rev­el­a­tions of cor­rup­tion, waste and – intriguingly – Antoinette’s rela­tion­ship with the duch­esse de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen).

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Telluride Diary part seven: The show (part four)

By Cinema, Travel

It’s now Saturday morn­ing in NYC and Telluride already seems like old news. Venice has just announced its prizewin­ners (The Master obv. – or not so obv.) and Toronto is in full flow. Still, I have one more day of my Telluride Film Festival exper­i­ence to record and I’d bet­ter get it down before I forget.

The Monday of Telluride is a catch-up day. Most of the celebrit­ies and hon­our­ees have depar­ted and a lot of the pro­gramme is announced the night before, extra screen­ings of pop­u­lar titles (or at least the films that most people were turned away from. This is an excel­lent plan and I was able to fill in quite a few of my gaps (though not all).

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Telluride Volunteer Fire Station.

The first screen­ing was the Q&A ses­sion for Sarah Polley’s new doc­u­ment­ary Stories We Tell, a film that had gen­er­ated quite a bit of buzz over the week­end. Polley – with gor­geous six-month-old daugh­ter in har­ness – briefly intro­duced a film that at first intrigues, then sur­prises and finally delights. She has done a mar­vel­lous job of mak­ing what might have been an indul­gent piece about her own per­son­al dra­mas into some­thing uni­ver­sal. I sin­cerely hope this gets a decent New Zealand release so I can review it at more length but I’m also going to hold back the details of the story so read­ers without access to Google might come to it as unsul­lied by spoil­ers as possible.

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Telluride Diary part five: The show (part two)

By Cinema, Travel

Saturday dawned early and I was grate­ful that the first screen­ing of the morn­ing was at the Chuck Jones’ in Mountain Village, barely a fif­teen minute shuttle from my accom­mod­a­tion. Time to grab a cof­fee and then wait in line for an 8.30am repeat of the Roger Corman Tribute from the night before. This time the host and inter­rog­at­or would be Leonard Maltin (famil­i­ar to all New Zealanders of a cer­tain age, I think) instead of Todd McCarthy.

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A fairly rep­res­ent­at­ive pic­ture of Mountain Village architecture.

Before Mr Corman was invited on stage, we got to see an excel­lent doc­u­ment­ary on his life and work, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. After that, Corman entered the stage to a stand­ing ova­tion and we were treated to insights and stor­ies from an exceed­ingly well-educated and thought­ful entre­pren­eur and artist for almost an hour. The sur­prise for me was hear­ing about Corman’s lib­er­al polit­ics and how he might have steered his film­mak­ing in that dir­ec­tion if it had­n’t been for the com­mer­cial fail­ure of The Intruder (1962, star­ring William Shatner as a white supremacist).

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Review: 3:10 to Yuma, 2 Days in Paris, Love in the Time of Cholera and I Served the King of England

By Cinema, Reviews

3:10 to Yuma posterThe for­tunes of the Western rise with the tide of American cinema. During the 70’s indie renais­sance we got rugged clas­sics like The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid and The Long Riders, then in the 80’s and 90’s Clint Eastwood re-examined his own myth­ic West in Pale Rider and Unforgiven . (The less said about Young Guns 1 and 2 the better.)

The past 12 months have offered us two Westerns that are as good as any of the last 30 years: The Assassination of Jesse James and James Mangold’s homage to the clas­sic 3:10 to Yuma which opened in Wellington last week.

Yuma is a story (by Elmore Leonard) with great bones: poor, hon­est, ranch­er Christian Bale is suf­fer­ing because of the drought and for $200 takes on the des­per­ate task of escort­ing cap­tured out­law Russell Crowe to Contention City, where he will catch the eponym­ous train to the gallows.

But Crowe’s gang are on the way to lib­er­ate him and Bale’s sup­port is dwind­ling to noth­ing. The ten­sion rises as the clock ticks towards three o’clock.

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