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world cinema showcase

Telluride Diary part seven: The show (part four)

By Cinema and 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).


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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World Cinema Showcase 2012

By Cinema and Reviews

After a splendid Wellington Film Festival last year, the New Zealand International Film Festival might be forgiven for putting their feet up and taking it easy but instead they have gone out of their way to produce another basket of goodies to fill the Easter weekend and beyond: the grandly titled World Cinema Showcase.

Arguably the only real difference between their two events now is the scale — and the lack of Embassy big screen — but there is quality all over this year’s Showcase. Like they do at its older — wintrier — sibling audiences are surely tempted to try the “will it come back” lottery but those odds are deteriorating all the time. Indeed, at time of writing one film (Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus) has already been withdrawn from the commercial release schedule and Showcase screenings are the only chance to experience it on the big screen.

As is my wont, though, I asked the Showcase people to feed me previews of the little battlers, the unheralded, the films that are often overlooked by a media demanding big names, headlines and page views. I was given 10 to look at, a couple dropped off as I didn’t feel up to recommending them, but I’ve added two more that I saw (or partially saw) at last year’s Festival. So, here’s ten to watch at Showcase 2012.

Beats, Rhymes & ife: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest posterMusic docos have always been a major component of both Festival and Showcase and several hundred Wellington moviegoers were disappointed when a power cut interrupted the July screening of Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. They (meaning I) get a chance to see the conclusion of this fascinating portrait of hip-hop pioneers in an uncomfortable middle age. Also dealing with the fallout from success are the folk duo Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, Oscar winners from the 2006 film Once. As The Swell Season, they toured and recorded, trying to ride the wave they were on and keep their relationship intact at the same time. Hansard’s troubled family background and Irglová’s youth conspire against them however and the film of their post-Oscar lives is more about a relationship fizzling out than your usual rock documentary. Which is good because there’s nothing startling about the music.

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Review- Billy T: Te Movie, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Incendies, Of Gods and Men, How I Ended This Summer, Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Something Borrowed

By Cinema and Reviews

Billy T: Te Movie posterProspective new migrants to New Zealand should be shown Ian Mune’s movie Billy T: Te Movie in order to weed out the uncommitted. Of course, we needn’t tell them that the country has changed beyond all recognition in the the last 25 years — that would spoil the fun. We could stick a hidden camera on them and giggle (I think I know what the giggle should sound like too) as the full horror of New Zealand’s unsophistication in the 70s and 80s is revealed.

Billy’s success was symptomatic of that strange immature clinging to overseas ideas that riddled New Zealand culture at the time — he was inspired by awful Northern comics like Bernard Manning and Les Dawson — but he was also a catalyst for the change and Mune’s doco tells his story well. My only complaint — for a change — is that it isn’t long enough — some of the most interesting aspects of Billy’s life are skirted over pretty lightly. I could have done with more from Jim Moriarty, for example, about what it was like as an activist to watch the only Maori on tv perpetuating ugly stereotypes. In fact, they could have swapped more analysis for some of Billy’s lamer jokes and I wouldn’t have minded.

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Preview: World Cinema Showcase 2011

By Cinema

For this year’s World Cinema Showcase preview I started with a list of all the films I wanted to see and then realised that I had used up my entire world limit. So, forgive me if these briefs are brief but this year’s Showcase is as heavyweight as it’s ever been (and runs for three days longer so everything can fit).

I’m not sure why one Festival would need two films about New York street photographers but if you have to choose between them, skip Smash His Camera – about the paparazzi self-publicist Ron Gallela – and tune in to the delightful Bill Cunningham New York instead.

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Review: The Hurt Locker, Clash of the Titans, Nowhere Boy & Valentine’s Day

By Cinema and Reviews

The Hurt Locker posterIt took well over 18 months for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker to get a general release in New Zealand – a year in which it steadily built audiences and critical acclaim at worldwide festivals and public screenings. In fact, until it was nominated for a Golden Globe late last year the film had no New Zealand release date scheduled and many film buffs resorted to illicit online sources to try and see (what was being touted) as one of the films of the decade.

This is a worrying trend. Increasingly, some of the best films are heading straight to DVD (sometimes, if the timing works, with a Film Festival screening but not always) and, despite New Zealand having a fine track record for supporting arthouse and thoughtful product, I find myself confronted every week by rubbish like Law Abiding Citizen and Bounty Hunter. Somewhere along the line the distributors have lost their nerve: The Blind Side, which won an Academy Award for Sandra Bullock last month, has only just been given a slot by Roadshow (Warner Brothers). A Serious Man was one of the most brilliant and intelligent films I’ve ever seen and only one print was placed in Wellington – and it was a Coen Brothers Film!

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2009 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

Welcome to the 2010 “cut out and keep” guide to video renting (or downloading or however you consume your home entertainment these days). I suggest you clip this article, fold it up, stick it in your wallet or purse and refer to it whenever you are at the video shop, looking for something to while away the long winter evenings of 2010.

First up, the ones to buy – the Keepers. These are the films that (if you share my psychology and some of my pathologies) you will cherish until you are old and the technology to play them no longer exists. Best film of the year remains Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. Mashing together several archetypal stories with a vivid visual style and a percussive energy, Slumdog may not represent India as it actually is but instead successfully evoked what India feels like, which is arguably more important. After Slumdog everything I saw seemed, you know, old-fashioned and nothing has been anywhere nearly as thrilling since. There are films you respect, films you admire and films you love. Slumdog is a film you adore. “Who wants to be a … miyonaire?” indeed.

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