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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Into the Black

WELCOME ALL.

So I had to go back to uni this week. Two month break really flew, I didn't even get to do/finish half the things I said I wanted to! I didn't realise how busy I would be over the holiday break and now that I'm back at university I won't have time to do everything else again until the next holiday break. Actually it wouldn't really be a holiday break since I won't be going back to uni at all (it's assumed that by that point of my life, I should be looking for jobs or something). Scary thought but now's not the time for fear. That comes later.

Already unhappy with this semester cause it feels a lot like my first semester in first year. Two of the four subjects I'm doing are pretty uninteresting and very boring. The only reason I have to do them is so that I can get the credit points needed to graduate. I'm sure I've gone on a tirade about how terrible my course has recently become but I figure I may as well tough it out and finish my degree, especially considering how much time I've put into it. Ugh, let's not dwell on university and talk about something else.  

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If you're planning on going to the Melbourne International Film Festival but are stumped for things to watch, I've compiled a list of things to watch in preparation for the festival. Think of it as a retrospective recommendations list! If you're keen to have a look, read all about it over at Meld.

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Also, Tuesday was Rose Byrne's 33rd birthday! So here's wishing the queen of Australia and the queen of my heart a happy birthday! What? I'm not embarrassing myself at all. Speaking of, anyone watching Damages right now? No? Fine.

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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING



Earlier in the year, I was blown away by the brute force of The Raid, a film that I thought really redefined what the action movie could be capable of. Immediately after I got home from seeing The Raid, I needed to find if there were any other films by director Gareth Evans and to my surprise, he and The Raid star Iko Uwais in another Indonesian action film, Merantau

Merantau is the story of a young man who goes on a ritualistic journey out of his countryside farm into the inner city where he becomes a man. Once he reaches the city however, he becomes entangled with some bad people and is forced to fight against them. Usually with action films I'm pretty lenient on the story. Yes, story does build drama and tension so that you can actually care for what's happening but in action films, story is more often than not secondary to the stunts. I could go on and say how ridiculous some of the story in this is but I won't. The story serves its purpose to allow for Evans and Uwais to do what they know - controlling and directing action.

The action in this film is nothing short of amazing. It's no where near as jaw-dropping as The Raid but its one of those films where, if you have the time, you'll pop it in, kick back and have fun. And that's Merantau for you, simply fun. The Indonesian martial arts practice, silat, looks fantastic on screen and, more than any other martial art, looks like as though it was designed specifically for the movies. It sounds silly but I feel that their movements are so rooted in theatricality that it makes me wonder why this form of fighting hadn't been used in film before (although I could be wrong in that assessment).

Also look out for the villain in this film. The guy that plays him, Mads Koudal, is fantastic. As cheesy as his acting may be, those of you who pine over villains that overact or seem like larger than life comic book characters are in for a treat cause this guy can get pretty nuts. Merentau really benefited from having him around, truly!

Merantau can be easily placed alongside films like SPL, Ong Bak and Fatal Contact as these films have helped breed a new wave of stellar Asian action films. It's almost a shame that Hollywood can't match these films for adrenaline, energy and excitement. Merantau's a nice action feature but its the entree. The real meat of it all is in Evans/Uwais' main course, The Raid. I wonder what's for dessert? 



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With nothing much to do this week, I figured it was best to get acquainted with the works of American director, Wes Anderson. The only film that I had seen of his up until this week was The Royal Tenenbaums which I enjoyed but didn't particularly feel it was as good as people had made it out to be. Overrated would be a good way of describing that film although I may get on some people's bad side for saying that. With Moonrise Kingdom soon to be released in Australian cinemas (August 30), I decided that this was the week to watch all his films. 

Wes Anderson has been something of an icon as far as the American independent cinema is concerned. Despite the big name actors who are constantly popping up in his films, Anderson's films have carried an energy about them which epitomise the American independent cinema. "Quirky" is a word often associated with his films and while that's not particularly a false claim to make, the American independent cinema can be categorised as such. You can certainly make an argument that Anderson had successfully paved the way for many other filmmakers to be as experimental and as "quirky" as him (films like The Brothers Bloom, Little Miss Sunshine, Ghost World, I Heart Huckabees) but then again you could also make the same argument about Jim Jarmusch or Steven Sodabergh, pioneers of the American independents. 

Regardless, Anderson's films have a strong poise and contain an indelible energy that embodies the independent films of America. His films are strongly associated with themes involving family, community and relationships. His characters are colourful and offbeat - fantastic, if you will. They don't necessarily fit the archetypes of what you'd expect. One might even say that Wes Anderson's films are a lot like Yasujiro Ozu's (although I myself cannot make such a claim, considering I've only seen one of Ozu's films). His unique visual style is instantly recognisable and there is no mistaking that what you're about to watch is a Wes Anderson feature. 


His debut feature, Bottle Rocket, was a delighfully charming effort. It starred brothers, Luke and Owen Wilson (both of whom made their feature film debuts in this) and was about a couple of guys who plan a big robbery. It feels similar to Reservoir Dogs albiet with Anderson's trademark brand of wit and sincerity. It's hugely enjoyable and is one of Anderson's best films, in my opinion. Owen Wilson is fantastic in it - a really humble debut. 


Rushmore put Wes Anderson on the map. A coming of age story about a teen who tries to win over the heart of a teacher at his school. Those of you who are familiar with Submarine are sure to enjoy this little feature although the similarities between both films are rather striking. In my opinion, Rushmore isn't as strong as Bottle Rocket but it's still a pretty decent film.


Arguably his most alienating film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is about an oceanographer's attempt to track down the shark that killed his best friend. My main problem with this film was that it didn't have the heart that his previous films had and was essentially an empty vessel of a film with nothing substantial to show for it. It's artificial and is completely detached from reality. It's his worst film and is severely disappointing. 


The Darjeeling Limited is a return to form for the director and I'd argue it's somewhat underappreciated. Everyone always puts Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums over as the defining films of Wes Anderson but I disagree and think that this is superior. The film is about three brothers who travel across India on a journey to cleanse their souls. I hadn't been moved by an Anderson film until I saw Bottle Rocket and then this absolutely floored me. It's a beautiful film that lovingly romanticises India and arguably features some of the best characters that Anderson has come up with to date. An absolute joy. 


Based off the Roald Dahl book of the same name, Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson's first animated feature but it still drums up the same familiarties that audiences have come to expect with Anderson. It's got the same visual style, oddball characters (whose characteristics are now amplified by the fact that they're anthropomorphic animals) and themes but the fact that it's animated somehow makes all of Anderson's nuances all the more magical. I certainly think that Fantastic Mr. Fox has a whimsical charm about it which makes the film so much more endearing. His style certainly works well within the parameters of animation and I'd certainly love to see another animated feature from him. One of his best, for sure. 

Instead of a trailer for each film, I've included a video that cuts all of his films together into a kind of tribute video. It's by Kees van Dijkhuizen, a Netherlands-baesd editor who has made some incredible cuts that I've featured in the past (if anyone remembers his Cinema series which highlights various films specific to the year of its release then you'll know what I'm talking about). Anyways the video is a good sampler for his films. Check it out!

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TIDBITS OF FILM NEWS


First up is this meaty, almost 6-minute trailer for the hugely ambitious spectacle that is, Cloud Atlas. The film is brought to us by Wachowskis, directors of The Matrix, and Tom Tykwer, director of Run Lola Run, and is based on a science-fiction novel of the same name by writer David Mitchell. The novel itself is comprised of six interrelated stories that as the trailer suggests, one action in one story will have a ripple effect throughout the rest of the stories. In a lot of ways, this looks like Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain only with more of a budget, a huge ensemble cast and more heavy thematics thrown at it. It basically looks like ten different movies in one. I'm pretty excited for this film and wasn't excited for it until I saw this gorgeous trailer. It's wildy bold and ambitious but even saying that is just putting it lightly.


The most intriguing part of this whole film for me is Korean actress Bae Doona, seen in the future segments of the film. She's a great actress and despite the relatively small amount of roles she's had, Bae has demonstrated that she's not only a capable actress but one whose screen presence immediately demands attention. I'm glad she's getting a big spotlight here. Her performance looks like it could be reminiscent of her Air Doll performance which I don't think is a bad thing. If anything, I would think that it'd allow more exposure for Air Doll, a hugely underrated film.


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I'm pretty sure this is just a series of internet episodes but nonetheless, I do think that this is a pretty neat concept even if this next piece of news isn't quite related to films. So it seems that I'm the only one who liked the film, Like Crazy, but that's okay because I'm interested in Drake Doremus' new project, The Beauty Inside. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead andTopher Grace and from what I gather, is about a man who wakes up every morning as a different person but its still essentially him on the inside. Okay that was a terrible synopsis on my part but I'll let the trailer do its job in telling the film to you.

I think it's a fun idea that this is a "social film", in that it's a film that's engineered by everyday people via social media. We'll see where this goes. Episode 1 lands on August 16 on their Facebook page and all the information about the film/series is there. Have a look and if you're interested, maybe you'd like to audition as well!


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There were rumblings this week of a potential Battle Royale television show. The show might be headed towards the CW, an American television network whose most popular shows include The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, and One Tree Hill. Um... yeah. I think all of that should speak for itself. If this does become a reality (and the only reason why the cult Japanese feature is being discussed at all is because of the popularity of The Hunger Games) I can't see this being as confronting or compelling as the original film and novel. Now if it were on HBO, AMC, FX or Showtime...
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And that's the way it is this week. As always, below you'll find the song to which this post's title owes itself to. It's from Chromatics' latest album, Kill for Love. The album as a whole is pretty spectacular, I'd recommend giving it a listen. 



End post.

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