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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Fineshrine

Hello (goodbye and hello).

To anyone that was expecting a post last week, I apologise for skipping yet another week. I swear it isn't because I've grown lazy with my blog - I've just been busy with a lot of things from work to catching up with friends and essay-writing. But really, if you want to know where I am or what I'm doing you can always just hit me up on Twitter or Tumblr, right? Good, glad we got that cleared up. Where was I?

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I've been attending the Reel Anime 2012 mini film festival that just wrapped up this week at the Nova. Lovely little season of films which I'm sure to grab as soon as they become available for home release. And as much as I love going to the Nova, I will say that one of the films I saw at the festival was smeared thanks to some rude patrons who kept talking all the way throughout it. Terrible people. Anyways, as always you can find my thoughts on the films below.

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Picked up a copy of Borderlands 2 over the week and have been obsessing over it. Played quite a bit of it with my mate and so far we're both like 20-something as far as levels go. Not sure what the level cap with this one is but I'm assuming it's like 50 or something. I dunno, I'm just really enjoying the game right now and am finding my experience with it very similar to the first game. Still need to pick up a ton of other games though but I'll probably need to actually WORK before I get the money to buy my collection back up.

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Managed to break down my "custom" topic question for world cinema class this week and have begun writing the essay to the question/problem I asked. Yeah, don't get too confused by that. Writing about Korean cinema. Well, to be more specific I'm writing about the 2003 film Memories of Murder and how the film is a representation of the anxieties expressed by South Korea during the 1980s. Loaded, right? But there's a lot to draw from there. Original question I was going to explore was, "How has contemporary Korean cinema defined the country's identity?" but I figured that was too broad for a 2,000 word essay. It's too bad there's not enough writing on South Korean cinema to substantiate my claims but I'll have to work with what I got, I guess. Actually having fun researching this. Ugh, why am I even talking about this?!

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Speaking of Korean cinema, I wrote a piece for Meld Magazine about my experience at this year's Melbourne KOFFIA event. The piece seems to have been well received  I dunno. People like it, I guess. But anyways, I actually had fun writing that piece and it's probably because I had a great time at KOFFIA so be kind and read it, yeah? Awesome!

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And to celebrate the forthcoming Blu-ray release of Wong Kar-wai's 2000 masterpiece, In the Mood for Love, the Criterion Collection released a video that provides three reasons why everyone should watch the film. Hard to disagree with the points they've made, I must say. And yes, if you haven't figured it out yet, In the Mood for Love is undoubtedly one of my all time favourite films. I'm pretty sure it's like my second or third favourite film now. I'm starting to become a little jaded when it comes to the position of where Fight Club should be to be quite honest. Anyways, check out the video below and then check back with me about the actual film itself because I want to know what other people think of the film.


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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING

Now I know I haven't been writing fully-written reviews/thoughts on films I've seen but just know that the process can sometimes be time-consuming and I want to be able to post on a regular basis. Which pretty much means that sometimes I won't be able to get around to writing fully-written ones. Just a warning for the future I suppose (although I'm sure I've said this many times in the past before). But yeah, that and I've been kinda busy as well. Anyways, here we go!

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At this year's Reel Anime 2012, I got around to seeing three of the four films screening at the mini-festival and thought that they all had something special to offer. These three films have certainly been my most anticipated feature-length anime titles so it was great to be able to catch them on the big screen and at a fantastic venue like the Nova. The three titles that I refer to are Wolf Children, From Up on Poppy Hill and Children Who Chase Lost Voices from below.

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Directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars), Wolf Children is essentially the story of a mother and her two children, both of whom just so happen to be werewolves (although they can seemingly turn into a wolf at any given time, rather than waiting for a full moon). I will never grow tired of seeing Mamoru Hosoda's art style - I think that the way his characters are drawn suit the kind of stories he is capable of telling. Wolf Children was my favourite film of the festival simply because it was one of those great "slice-of-life" kind of films that left you feeling refreshed and inspired. An elegantly told story with some lovely characters accompanied by a beautiful score. Luckilly for us, we get to have Wolf Children just a few months after it released in Japan! Also was a pleasant surprise to see that Japanese actress Aoi Miyazaki voiced the mother in this.


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Goro Miyazaki (Tales of Earthsea) didn't receive as much adulation as his father, legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, with his debut feature film but I feel that with From Up On Poppy Hill is something of a redemptive feature for Goro. It's not a particularly great film, by any means, but it's certainly an admirable effort. A step in the right direction for him although he does have a long way to go. And although the film is scripted by his father, one would think that the third act of the film could have been vastly improved. The ending does a disservice to the rest of the film which is a shame considering how well controlled the first two acts were.


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Children Who Chase Lost Voices was my least favourite film on the festival although perhaps the reason for my unenthusiastic reaction towards the film is due in part to the audience that I watched it with. There were some people sitting behind me and my friend who talked all the way through it and it took two "shooshes" and a "shut the fuck up" from another patron for them to actually be quiet. Horrible movie-going etiquette! Had to rant there... Anyways, the film is essentially Makoto Shinkai's (Voices From A Distant Star, 5 Centimeters Per Second) love letter to Studio Ghibli. However, despite the lovely touches of homage to Ghibli, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an overly long film that's packed with far too many weighty ideas and concepts. As with all Shinkai films, backgrounds are gorgeously animated creating a dreamy atmosphere all throughout but other than that, there's not much else I took away from the film. Shinkai is a talented director, of that I am certain. But this film isn't necessarily a good representation of what he is capable of. 5 Centimters Per Second remains his best film and that's only an hour long too!


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Some few months ago, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry screened at MIFF but I was unfortunately unable to catch it. I had heard some positive reactions towards the documentary from people I knew and was interested to see what it was about. The film was made by freelance journalist, Alison Klayman, and covers Chinese artist Ai Weiwei as he prepares for a few overseas exhibitions. The film is less about the art of Ai Weiwei and focuses more on his political activism against China. Like Ai, the film is never apologetic for its depiction of the Chinese government and while it may seem terribly one-sided, the film also depicts Ai as a fallible man who makes bad judgements every so often. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry provides a deeply interesting portrait of a fascinating figure - a figure that stands as a symbol for creative expression and free thought not just for artists but for the marginalized in China. A film about human rights. The closing shots of the film are especially powerful.


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Not official poster but Mondo posters are usually the best thing ever.

Opening this week is Looper, a science-fiction/noir hybrid of amazing proportions. Set in the future of 2044, the film uses previously explored concepts of time travel in other films and brings them together into one fine amalgamation. The film moves at a rather quick pace but I personally never felt out of the loop (excuse the pun) when it came to how well explained the world of the film was. Too many films dabble far too much in exposition and explaining the rules of the world (see: Tron Legacy). Looper gets it out of the way within 10 - 15 minutes and establishes the world quickly enough for us to really get into the story and boy does it have a story to tell. Smartly written, the film takes ideas from other time travel films but adds to it and provides its own mechanics. It feels so rich in subtext and it never feels too predictable. Honestly is one of the most fun films I've seen this year in a cinema. It's not perfect however, there are a few undeveloped ideas which could have been further elaborated on to give a more emphatic meaning on the narrative/characters but otherwise a solid effort and another excellent film from Rian Johnson. If you haven't been paying attention to him yet, you better do so now.

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Once again, going to forgo Tidbits of Film News and leave it there. This blog post's title owes itself to the electronic/R&B outfit, Purity Ring and is from their album Shrines. I love the album and you should too. Maybe. I dunno. Just listen, yeah?


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Monday, 17 September 2012

Touch by Touch

Delayed greetings.

I didn't put up a post last week because for one I didn't have much to write about but mostly because I've been too busy with the Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) to really get behind writing anything. But alas, here we are. And yeah, I was meant to update yesterday or on Saturday but I found myself busy with Reel Anime as well. More on that next week but seriously, I'm just burnt out on films right now. Never thought I'd hear myself say that!

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Much of last week was taken up by my time at KOFFIA. All the films that I saw at this year's festival were pretty amazing and certainly unique in their own right. I only have good things to say about the event but I'll be sharing that with Meld sometime in the very near future so keep a lookout for that one (I'll link it through my blog once it gets published). Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to next year's program! Things can only go up from here. This is the video for the Melbourne leg of the KOFFIA event. I'm in it for like a few seconds - try and find me if you can. Reviews of KOFFIA films below.


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Yes, it's actually week eight of thirteen at my uni (well week nine as of writing this)! Kind of bizarre how quickly it has all rushed by but it's been a pretty easy-going semester so far which is kind of a relief considering how freaked out about it I was at the very beginning. Managed to get through a presentation on Wednesday, hand in all documents pertaining to my television screenplay and hand in my short story in the past two weeks so I won't have a huge chunk of essays and documents waiting for me until several weeks from now. Good to know.
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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING


Several weeks before I saw Moonrise Kingdom, I went on a major Wes Anderson bender and caught up with all of the films that he has made to date. So needless to say, my anticipation for Moonrise Kingdom was pretty high by this point. It's his latest film and there's been plenty of positive buzz about the film and while I can definitely attest to the quality of filmmaking at work here, I still hold a soft spot for The Darjeeling Limited and Bottle Rocket and think that they are my favourite films of his. But that's a personal choice, of course.

Set during the 1960s, the film takes place on an island where two love-struck children go missing, causing manic disruption on the island as authorities try to locate there whereabouts. Simple enough to work within the function of a Wes Anderson feature where eccentric characters and oddball situations run rampant. Moonrise Kingdom is quite possibly Anderson's best film, technically speaking, and while there isn't a lot to fault from it, I must say that the story of Sam and Suzy, as cute as it may be, came off as being a bit of an uncomfortable experience in some parts. Young love is always cute but the way that Anderson has depicted it here almost feels like he's sexualising the children. And of course, I highly doubt that this was Anderson's intention but a few of the scenes left me wincing and feeling a bit awkward about watching what was unfolding on screen.

Considering the fact that all of Anderson's adult characters up until now have been infantilized and given childish traits, the move to focus on the naivety of young love translates much better when appropriated with the mindset of children. While it can be argued that Moonrise Kingdom would be Anderson's most crowd-pleasing film, it's interesting to note how each film of his become more and more evocative of his style with Moonrise Kingdom being much more embedded in the director's unique aesthetic than his previous effort, Fantastic Mr Fox. But if you haven't seen Moonrise Kingdom, maybe you should check it out - I'm sure it's going to be one of those films you'd have to watch out for come awards season. Only time will tell.


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KOFFIA 2012 REVIEWS

Initially I was going to do nothing but full reviews and really make this post a lengthy read to make up for missing a week but then as I started writing I realised that I'd have enough reviews to get me through missing two weeks. And I didn't want to do that so instead I'll just make it a similar deal to how I went about with my Wes Anderson feature a few weeks ago. I did write fully written ones for everything up to The Frontline but then got a bit exhausted and burnt out on writing reviews which eventually all sounded the same, I dunno. But anyways, here we go!

This year's theme for the Korean Film Festival in Australia was all about discovering connections. The films programmed in this year's festival, I think all, in their own way, reflected that theme really strongly and gave a very impressionable and memorable film festival. Running in it's third year (and the second time it's touching down in Melbourne), I personally hope KOFFIA remains a mainstay as far as film festivals in Australia is concerned. Korean cinema has really established itself as one of, if not THE, premier cinema of Asia to watch out for in these last years so I wouldn't want to miss out on any of the quality films coming out from this country.



Opening the festival was Sunny, a nostalgic throwback to the 80s that's warm and heartfelt film. Interestingly enough, the film uses the girls' friendship in a way that can be read as an allegorical take on South Korea's anxieties during this dark period in their history. Aside from the seriousness of these turbulent times, Sunny charms with its memorable soundtrack of '80s hits which evoke the strengths of friendship and the power of nostalgia. Never missing a beat, essentially what the film comes down to is this -  if the girls from Take Care of My Cat grew up during the '80s and had a rocking sense of humour, they'd have grown up to be the women in Sunny. Hugely enjoyable - a film that transcends its "chick flick" label and grows to become a universally appealing experience.


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Having made its Melbourne debut at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival, The King of Pigs made its way to KOFFIA and delivered a unique and unflinching psychological study on the cruelty of bullying and a critique of class/social status. Where Sunny is warm and inviting, The King of Pigs is dark and brooding. It screened straight after Sunny and, whether it was a deliberate decision or not, felt like it really complemented Sunny as both films deal with the strengths of friendship in different ways. The King of Pigs demonstrates how the intangible essence of a traumatic memory can cause a reverberation in life and how with it's two hour running time, provides a much more harrowing journey. An endlessly intriguing film, one that provides a glimmer of hope as far as mature Korean animation is concerned.


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On the other end of the animation spectrum is, Leafie: A Hen into the Wild. The film was a massive success back in South Korea which is a surprise considering how Korean animation has struggled to persevere in the landscape of Korean cinema. Based on a popular children's story, Leafie might seem rudimentary by western standards but there's a poise about the film that makes it seem comparable to that of Bambi. A surprisingly powerful film, Leafie deals with strikingly mature content in a way that invites discussion between parents and  their children. It's a gorgeously animated feature that's both engaging and satisfactory.


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The Frontline was South Korea's official submission into the Academy Awards earlier this year so it goes without saying that the film has some sort of prestige behind it. It's set during the 1950s and is about the daily battles between North and South at Aerok Hill - a battleground that changes hands on a very routine basis. Early on the film, there feels like a strong Joint Security Area influence but The Frontline breaks away from this comparison. The film doesn't just use the war as a sight of spectacle - although the battles themselves are quite striking and shot superbly - but uses it to engage with the psychological duress of the soldiers who've been fighting a war with seemingly no end in sight. At times, it can feel a little hollow but a standout performance by Lee Je-hoon (who can also be seen in the outstanding film, Bleak Night) makes the film that much more engrossing.


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Kim Ki-duk is a widely revered name in Korean film so it was a welcome joy to be able to catch his film Spring Summer Fall Winter... and Spring on the big screen (and in 35mm no less). Hailed as one of his best films, Spring Summer, is a multi-narrative story about a monk at different stages of his life and spans across several seasons. As beautiful of a film as it is, I can't help but feel alienated at times due to the religious overtones of the film - like as if having an appreciation/understanding of Buddhism would enhance the viewing experience. Nonetheless, each segment of the films plays out like a wise parable and is immaculately shot with grace and poise. Dialogue is sparse but there's no need for long-winded conversations - it's a quiet, almost spiritual experience. An engrossingly wondrous film.


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Films like The Client prove just how fun a good law thriller can be and it showed with the audience I saw it with. The fun of the chase is what makes the ride all the more fun and a good audience wants to guess and hypothesise as much as the characters on screen do. It's why a film like this has maintained a strong sense of popularity amongst audiences for so long. Despite the rather awkward and slow pacing of the film's first half, by the second half, The Client really picks up and really gets the ball going. And sure, it offers nothing new in the ring of law thrillers but overall its just a fun film aided by a formidable cast of actors who I'm sure to check up on.


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I've been meaning to watch The Day He Arrives for a while now as the trailer for the film really impressed me when I first saw it a year ago. Having seen it now, I'm unsure of how I feel about the film. At times it's mesmerising but at other times it's confounding. The film didn't feel necessarily boring, although I can definitely see why one would think it, but there were a lot of variables about the film that I found really intriguing such as the use of repetition, the omnipresence of the number three, and the characters in the film - all of whom are fascinating in their own little way. By no means a serviceable film, this one's not quite for the casual viewing crowd. The Day He Arrives demands considerable attention and has a strange quality about it that not only arouses the need for a repeat viewing (at least for me) but also evokes a somewhat ethereal essence about it. An interesting film to say the least.

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Going to leave it at that for tonight. No Tidbits of Film News this week. Anyways, I'll leave you with this brand of 80s synthpop taken off the soundtrack of Sunny and is by a European group called Joy. Crazy addictive track this is and I especially loved how it was used in the film. Enjoy.


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Monday, 3 September 2012

Ultraviolet

Hey all.

Excuse the lateness of this post. I've had quite a busy week. This will be short so as to keep within the whole "weekend update" thing I have going here. Okay, let's begin.

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Went with a friend to a retrospective for Korean director Lee Chang-dong after winning a double pass to it. It was a last minute thing and I had never seen a Lee Chang-dong film before so for it's nice to have my first time with his films be on the big screen.

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Not sure if people know but the last three months I've been volunteering with ACMI's Public Programs office and last Thursday was my last day with them. I really enjoyed helping out and it was nice to do something different for a change. Administrative work is my totally my speed and pace, haha. Anyways, the office was kind enough to throw me a little going away morning tea which was extremely nice of them. Such a lovely group of people, truly!

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On Saturday I went to a little (emphasis on little) tattoo exhibition at the Ian Potter Gallery in Federation Square with a friend and my cousin. It showcased a lot of, for lack of a better word, native islander tattoos and honestly, I've never seen a bad tribal tattoo. In fact, I think tribal tattoos are the absolute best in terms of tattoos - lot of interesting use of shapes and patterns. Afterwards we kinda just stayed at the Nintendo centre upstairs at EB Games and played a game of Mario Party 9. Good times.

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And to end this little bit, here's a bit of Elizabeth Olsen. I feel certain that this is my new favourite photoshoot of hers. But then again all of them are. Just... I can't. Successfully dead. Lizzie for Bullett Magazine, GO!




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WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING 

Normally I'd write some (poorly) fully-written reviews here. I won't do that this week. I'll just do brief sentence summaries of each film I saw. I don't have the time man!

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Really wanted to like Cosmopolis but David Cronenberg makes it really hard to actually enjoy it. I feel that this is a certain type of movie made to cater to a specific crowd of people, whoever they are. Needless to say it isn't for mass consumption and I wager that even the most ardent of Cronenberg fans will find this alienating and confounding. Dialogue sounds intelligent but lacks conviction and meaning but perhaps that's cause of my understanding of capitalism. Ironically enough, a soulless work.


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My first Lee Chang-dong film, Secret Sunshine. Absolutely stellar film anchored by a terrific central performance by Jeon Do-yeon. Funnily enough, kept thinking that this film was essentially Sympathy for Mr Vengeance without the revenge/violence factor. Felt the need to draw the comparison between Lee and Paul Thomas Anderson as well although that's a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, a stupendous effort by Lee who provides a captivating character study of a unravelling woman in pain and heartache.


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Green Fish, the second of the Lee Chang-dong retrospective. Not as good as Secret Sunshine but does have some rather beautiful photography (which I would say benefits from the 35mm print I saw). Friend and I agreed that a lot of the film felt reminiscent to Wong Kar-wai's earlier works although lacking the thematics and tone with which Wong's film evoke. A promising debut feature film to say the least but falls short of being outstanding.

No trailer online unfortunately.

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A movie about a group of action movie veterans doing what they do best. What can go wrong? Quite a bit with The Expandables 2 it seems. Underwhelming is putting it lightly. Sure, there are maybe one or two exciting scenes but most of the film lacks the bravura and scale with which a film like this ought to have. A more poorly written than the first which is damning and bewildering considering that there seems to be more emphasis on plot here (shocker!). Disappointing effort although Jean Claude Van-Damme as a villain is probably the best idea anyone's ever had in the history of the world (hyperbole all the way!).


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I'll forgo Tidbits of Film News this week and end it here. This week's blog post title comes from Miami Horror's album Illumination. Check the song out below and I'll see ya'll next week.


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