Month: July, 2013

Frances Ha

On Friday afternoon Seema and I saw Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha. This well written original screenplay (by Gerwig and Baumbach) is a feel good film that hits its target perfectly. Not motivated particularly by its narrative, Frances Ha concerns the titular Frances (played by Gerwig) as she stumbles through that period of limbo between studenthood and settling down to a job, relationship etc. It’s a real slice of life that is rich with familiar characters, the kind that we’ve all known or met at some stage in our life. I found this film to be so well weighted in all respects. It is funny, quirky, intelligent, and infectious, yet is careful not to overcook any of these. I’m still puzzled by the odd decision to shoot this character driven film in black and white … although it didn’t seem to detract either so I’ll just leave that well alone.

Frances Ha is a must see!

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Afterward we headed out to Cafe Abyssinia in Sandringham for some Ethiopian cuisine. Never had Ethiopian before, but boy it was yummy! Thanks to Nana and Mikee for looking after the kids :0)

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Next Thursday it’s Sofia Copola’s Bling Ring.

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The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

Today was always going to be a really tiring day. Start work at 6am. Then after work up to the library to study. Fry my brain on phenomenological theories of the embodied spectator. Then straight downstairs to the Academy Cinema to watch a couple of hours of Slovoj Žižek. Zip home for dinner, then off to play a 9.30pm game of indoor cricket. Head back on pillow at midnight. Great fun … although I could do without the work part.

Two years ago I saw The Perverts Guide to Cinema. It was fascinating. I find Slovoj Žižek a really interesting person to watch, even if he is sometimes difficult to keep up with. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology pairs the man himself with Sophie Fiennes (Director) again for another round. This time it has less to do with cinema and concerns more his philosophy of ideology. He carefully illustrates his concepts with film examples, which is the currency I understand. So again, I found this fascinating to watch … if not slightly frustrating as I struggled to clutch all his ideas in my overflowing brain. Trailer below.

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Next up tonight is Francis Ha. Should be a lot less strenuous on my addled mind.

Computer Chess

Computer Chess is a faux documentary set in 1979 about a computer chess tournament. Watching this film is like trying to engage with someone with severe Aspergers … it is an odd experience, and there a palpable sense of disconnect. This however, makes complete sense when you acknowledge that this is a world populated with odd and disconnected characters. Once you understand this then Computer Chess is much more rewarding to watch. I commend Andrew Bujalski (Director and Writer) on making a very clever and well thought out film, but despite this, I still found the film’s disconnected nature to be just too distracting. While I admire its intent and depth, I simply wasn’t compelled to put more effort into its finer details, of which there seems to be plenty. Perhaps too clever for its own good, Computer Chess is still growing on me slowly as it settles, and over time its true genius might reveal itself to me … but probably not.

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Next up The Perverts Guide to Ideology.

Mistaken for Strangers

Mistaken for Strangers is an odd, yet interesting, documentary that is still settling in my mind. Lead singer of successful indie band The National, Matt Berninger, asks his somewhat aimless younger brother, Tom, to tour with the band as a roadie. Tom does, but takes his camera with him and documents what unexpectedly turns out to be a film about him and his struggles living in the shadow of a successful sibling. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but one thing is for sure; this is certainly not a film about The National. Either Tom is not a particularly skilful film maker, or he is cleverly pulling the wool over my (and arguably his brother’s) eyes. The whole film just seems a little too simplistic and obvious. Yet somehow I get the nagging feeling that there is something bigger afoot going on here. I sense something a tad more intentional than Tom is leading on. He might have the last laugh …we shall see.

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Tonight I see Computer Chess. Will report back tomorrow.

Mud

Film two on my Film Fest list was Jeff Nichols’ Mud. This has been a while coming but finally I saw this last Saturday with Seema. We both saw Nichols’ previous film, Take Shelter, a few months back and loved it. Mud has a similar tone and pace to Take Shelter although its subject matter is quite different. I won’t go into the plot as you can pretty much gather this from trailer below. Suffice to say that this is an excellent film that had me engrossed from start to finish. Superbly shot, timed, with authentic attention given to its characters. Worth also mentioning the excellent acting by the two main protagonists Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Perhaps the slightly over explained and contrived ending was the only let-down … I would’ve preferred more mystery. But this is a minor quibble in what was a suberb film. I cant wait to see what Nichols comes up with next.

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Tonight’s NZIFF film is Mistaken for Strangers. Will report on this tomorrow hopefully.

North by Northwest

I saw my first 2013 NZIFF film yesterday afternoon; Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest at Auckland’s wonderful Civic theatre. I had no idea it was such a light-hearted film and was expecting something a little different. However, taking in to account its age I found myself thoroughly entertained. It goes without saying that the cornfield scene is an exceptional piece of film-making … no music just great cinematography, and editing. Below is the clip but bear in mind it is poor quality and missing the superb build up.

Got home after the film, tired, only to find that the kids had hired a film (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) to watch over dinner. I was kind of dreading it but I was pleasantly surprised by a very funny and enjoyable film. Good pick kids … zoowee mumma!

Tonight, Jeff Nichol’s Mud.

12 Years a Slave

Here is the trailer for Steve McQueen’s latest film 12 Years a Slave. I’m a huge fan of McQueen. Hunger, and particularly Shame are nothing short of exceptional films. Looking at this trailer I can’t help but feel a little flatlined by it. It seems a noble topic, but there is a suggestion by this trailer that this is a move into mainstream movie making and I feel this will suffocate McQueen’s distinct and interesting style. Add to that a stellar cast … surely this can only obscure McQueen as an auteur. Most likely I’m reading waaay too much into it. Regardless, I’m looking forward to this film.

NZ International Film Fest … here we go!

At last! The NZ International Film Festival begins this Thursday. Here is their website. I’ve managed to shoe-horn in nine films to see. They are:

North By Northwest – Hitchcock’s classic. I’ve never seen it and it’s playing at the Civic … a safe bet!
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Mud – I loved Nicol’s Take Shelter (still yet to see Shotgun Stories). I think McConaughey is great, an actor who’s talent has been tarnished by his fame. Been looking forward to this one for ages. Seema and I are both going assuming we find a baby sitter that night.
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Mistaken for Strangers – I think I can quite safely say that The National is my favourite band at the mo. This is a doco about the band, made by Matt’s (lead singer) metal-head brother, who incidentally hates indie rock. Makes for an interesting start. This doco could go pear shaped, but will be interesting regardless.
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Computer Chess – I am going to this entirely based on the very appealing trailer, and a few recommendations. A faux doco set in the seventies about, yep, you’ve guessed it, Computer Chess.
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The Perverts Guide to Ideology – “We are responsible for our own dreams”. Sounds like an interesting premise for this doco. Watching academic Slavoj Zizek is both comical and fascinating, and if his last psychoanalytical exposé on Cinema is any indication, then this will be a very interesting, if somewhat hard to keep up with, experience.
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Francis Ha – I don’t know too much about this one apart from its trailer and a few recommendations. A black and white comedy with Greta Gerwig directed by Noah Baumbach … gotta be good.
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The Bling Ring – It’s Sofia Copola, so why not. I’ll have to put aside my dislike for all things, like, Valley, like, you know.
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Only Lovers Left Alive – Vampire films are everywhere now, but there is a huge difference between the utter shite that is the Twilight series and Alfredson’s superb Let the Right One In. I’m trusting that Jarmusch is firmly in the right camp. Tilda Swinton is a mesmerising actress to boot.
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To the Wonder – Seema and I finish off with a bit of Malick. His Tree of Life masterpiece is on my all time favs list. If this is half as good then I’ll be happy.
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I’ll be back with my thoughts on them as they happen … ooh, so excited!