Thursday, 15 August 2013

MIFF 2013 - Part 2

Now that MIFF has come to a close for another year, let me shake off the rising melancholia by reminiscing about the films I saw in the second half of the festival. (There’s already a blog about the films I saw in the first half. How productive of me) I feel like I saw a bit of an eclectic mix at the festival this year, work shifts preventing me from buying tickets early meant that often what I wanted to see was sold out and I had to make do with what seemed the best on, but perhaps this is the best kind of festival viewing.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Easily the best thing I saw at MIFF this year. A Bonnie-and-Clyde-style outlaw film but one set after the point that most finish, where the couple have already been separated by 4 years of incarceration. It stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as the two leads and both do remarkable jobs; I completely forgot that I was watching two actors that I really like for the entire duration of the film. It would be really easy for me to struggle to empathise with these kind of characters but the writing here too is so good that I had no problems. The Texan landscape of the film too is gorgeously shot. It’s a relatively slow moving film but one that is completely engrossing. I’m fairly sure it’s having a release post-festival (even if only at the Nova), and would highly recommend.

Magic Magic
This was a film that it seemed no one was really sure of. I’d grown so accustomed to the way that people applaud at the conclusion of festivals films that the silence that followed this was deafening. It took a full 2 minutes before people started to clap, and even then it was fairly unenthusiastic. I don’t necessarily know if that’s because people hated it, or like me they just didn’t know what to think. A week on from seeing it I’m still not entirely sure if I liked it or not. The film follows the bizarre events that befall an American girl on holidays in Chile visiting her cousin and some of her cousin’s friends. It features scenes that are funny, and scenes that are disturbing in equal measure, and ultimately leaves it completely open to interpretation as to whether the protagonist is mentally-disturbed or sick, a drug addict, or afflicted by something supernatural. Michael Cera gives a performance that is at times reminiscent of his typical, socially awkward persona, but is even more so deeply unsettling.

Another documentary to add to the two that I saw last week. Exposed follows the lives of 8 men and women working in New York’s burlesque scene, exploring how they got into it and what they aim to get out of it. It really interestingly focuses on the political side of things; how these artists seek to challenge the dominant ideology through embodiment of the transgressive. Mostly this is a challenge to views on sexuality and gender, though other shows depicted in the film make comments on disability and consumerism too. For me as well, it showed me how little it was that I knew about burlesque and the diversity of acts within the art form. There were definitely some acts that I thought would be amazing to see, and others that looked only barely entertaining. Definitely an interesting insight on the whole, though not a film for anyone who has even the slightest of issues with nudity.

Thanks for Sharing
This was one of the special screenings on the last day of the festival, which meant I had the pleasure of a cinema only half full (after two weeks of feeling like I’m sitting on top of people in sold out sessions). A comedy about sex addiction from the writer of The Kids Are Alright sounded exactly like my cup of tea. Another film that has a release date set for after the festival, and would be worth a view once Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has had a watch. This film is nothing to rave about but is a solid watch, all the actors do decent jobs in the roles they have. This film features singer P!nk’s acting debut and though I was determined to hate it, as I do most of her music, she pulls it together for a convincing enough job.

Another year of MIFF gone, hopefully Melbourne’s other festivals will keep me entertained until next year rolls around.

Friday, 2 August 2013

MIFF Week 1

End of week 1 already, eep! I had huge plans for MIFF this year; something like 50 films highlighted in my guide and a plan to watch something every night that I wasn’t working. Unfortunately (of course) that was a bit of a pipe dream, but I still made it to 3 films in this opening week of the festival.

Drinking Buddies
My first film of the festival, a return to the glory of MIFF! A quirky pleasing romantic comedy from the mumblecore tradition that seems to dominating the festival circuit at the moment. The perfect thing to get me back in the festival mindset. Rom coms are usually just about my least favourite genre of cinema, but this one does alright. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson play best friends working together in a microbrewery who clearly have a lot of chemistry but are both dating other people. I’ve read a few reviews of this one that seem to centre on the “terrible ending” but for me it totally worked. I’m trying for minimal spoilers here, so all I’ll say is that one of the things that puts me off most romantic comedies is an delirious, overly syrupy ending designed to encourage the masses to marry and reproduce. This such ending Drinking Buddies mercifully shies away from, providing instead an ending that is both realistic and complicated. My only real criticism is that I couldn’t really see what either of the leads saw in their respective partners to begin with, it was too obvious that the leads were much better suited to each other

The first thing that needs to be said about this film is that it is directed by Alex Winter, aka the-guy-who’s-not-Keanu-Reeves-in-Bill-and-Ted’s-Excellent-Adventure. I liked the film anyway, but liked it so much more once I discovered that fun fact. This solid documentary traces the rise and fall of Napster and its creators. As someone who has only really known a world where music is shared online, it was fascinating to explore the revolutionary thinking surrounded this program’s conception. My only real gripe is that I wish they spent a little less time looking at how everyone involved in Napster came to be so, and instead looking at the influence of Napster on social media communities like Friendster, Myspace and Facebook, as well as the influence on music distribution models like iTunes and Spotify. Those for me were two of the most interesting points raised in the film, and yet they were only really mentioned in passing.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
Arts degrees are really good at providing one with theorist’s names to drop when we want to sound smarter. Slavoj Zizek is near the top of my personal list for this purpose, so how could I resist a film where he talks about what films say about us. Zizek here inserts himself into the very sets of our favourite films to tear apart their ideology one at a time. This documentary is thought-provoking and unexpectedly funny, but most definitely also long and intense. He moves really quickly through the material, so while I found everything he had to say interesting and entertaining, I was struggling to see what the overall point of the film was. Zizek also drops the theories of Jacques Lacan and Immanuel Kant into his musings with little to no introduction to the material, leaving me to wonder if anyone who hadn’t completed a liberal arts degree would be able to follow (my friend and I who both had were still struggling at points). In any case, hearing Zizek talk about the ideological implications of a Kinder Surprise makes for at least a good movie.

Bring on the second half of MIFF!