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2005

Good Night and Good Luck

dir: George Clooney
[img_assist|nid=929|title=Edward R. Murrow, where are you when we need you? Oh, that's right. Dead.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=343]
The most important aspect that a period piece has to get right is to evoke a sense of place and time. Depending on the time it is set in, an essential part of that is representing just how different that time and place were compared to the present day equivalent. It’s also handy when you can illustrate what hasn’t changed at all, no matter how much time has elapsed between drinks.

Good Night, and Good Luck goes a long way towards setting itself properly just through the use of black and white film. It not only convinces us straight away that we are looking at a slice of the past, but it also ‘colours’ the content, so to speak. Since the film deals with the medium of television as a newborn child, the era itself is defined by its limitations and the remnants we have left of their broadcasts in shades of stark light and dark.

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Factotum

dir: Bent Hamer
[img_assist|nid=920|title=When will people learn: being a drunk doesn't make you Bukowski. Hating women and occasionally writing turns you into Bukowski|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=316|height=463]
Getting to watch a flick based on a Charles Bukowski novel appeals to a pretty narrow crowd of people. Anyone familiar with his work and his life knows that the story is going to follow a narrow path: it’ll deal with drinking, women and writing, and little else. Maybe a few fights. Bit of throwing up and examples of scuzzy living, some poetry, and that’s it.

But they’re already sold on the idea anyway. The difficulty is in selling it to anyone else.

This movie, produced by a Norwegian director and film crew, is an adaptation of the Bukowski novel Factotum. Factotum (the book) is about an alcoholic based on Bukowksi who drinks constantly, works shitty jobs, and writes. He also takes up with some women, lives like a bum, and writes some more.

Factotum (the movie) stars Matt Dillon as Hank Chinaski, who drinks constantly, works (and gets fired from) shitty jobs, writes, takes up with women, lives like an unrepentant bum, and writes some more. It is virtually plot-free, like an episode of a reality television show devoted to the Biggest Loser that has nothing to do with weight.

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Constant Gardener, The

dir: Fernando Meirelles
[img_assist|nid=932|title=Before the fall|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=416|height=300]
A diplomat’s wife is raped and murdered. The diplomat is given an explanation, which seems entirely plausible, considering his wife and where it happens. He doesn’t believe it, though, and neither do we.

No, this isn’t a film about White People in Trouble in Dark Places. This isn’t a culture clash about the first world versus the developing world. It is a film about a quiet and harmless bureaucrat who wants to find out who his wife was, and wants to understand how and why she died.

Of course then it does become the Little Guy versus The Man, but any story of this nature needs someone we care about (our Hero) versus someone who doesn’t like them very much (the Baddies). This is a simplistic but believable take on what a spy / government thriller could be like in the real world we live in beyond the cinema screen. This world, this hallowed world with its constant conflicts of interest and its negation of the worth of human life, especially amongst those whose standard of living doesn’t match our own. Also, they look different from us and are therefore kinda funny.

There is always the risk of something like this being preachy, or looking like a begging charity ad headed by some well-fed and well-groomed actors, using their Compassion face, telling us ‘Every three seconds, a child dies in Africa. You can make a difference.’

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Water

dir: Deepa Mehta
[img_assist|nid=931|title=Praying not to be a woman or at least a widow in the next life|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=422|height=437]
A little girl at the age of eight becomes a widow during the latter part of the 1930s. Hindu holy texts dictate widows can never remarry, and must live in seclusion for the rest of their days, to be punished for the sin of having their husband’s die. Or, they can perish upon their husband’s funeral pyre. Or, even better, they can marry their husband’s younger brother. Talk about having an abundance of options in your life.

Chuyia (Sarala) is sent to an ashram filled to the brim with women whose husbands are long dead. An ancient widow, Auntie (Vidula Javalgekar), recalls the sweets served at her wedding when she was seven, with longing, despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that she’s toothless, and easily in her eighties, and has spent most of her life as a widow.

The widows, who wear white saris and have their hair cut very short to mark their status, are ruled by one of the eldest and fattest of their number, Madhumati (Manorama) who eats fried food forbidden to widows whilst the others starve, and doesn’t mind a bit of dope every now and then. The rest of them live miserable lives overflowing with bitterness and regret. The most they hope for is to die and be reincarnated as men.

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Mysterious Skin

dir: Gregg Araki
[img_assist|nid=924|title=Oh, the confidence of youth|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
My alternative Rating is 0 out of 10 - or no stars for this flick

They say that it takes courage to make certain films. Sometimes there’s more courage in enduring them.

Mysterious Skin is a deeply disturbing film. It is well made and well acted, with a beautiful soundtrack by Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins fame). None of that makes its subject matter any easier to deal with, or the movie overall any more enjoyable when you walk away from the cinema like someone emerging from a car wreck.

Based on the novel of the same name by Scott Heim the story focuses on the lives of two boys, Neil (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Brian (Brady Corbet), who are linked by something horrific that happened to them when they were eight years old. What is even more horrific is that one of them cannot remember what happened, and it has left him an empty shell grasping for meaning in the clueless dark. The other remembers it very well. Too well. It has defined his life in ways all-encompassing and wholly destructive.

Brian searches for answers to his blackouts and nosebleeds through finding out about alien abductions and vile experiments onboard UFOs. Neil finds fulfilment through getting paid for hot gay sex and listening to 80s goth music.

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Munich

dir: Steven Spielberg
[img_assist|nid=923|title=Munich|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=337|height=500]
It pains me to say I enjoyed a Steven Spielberg film. It pains me even more to say that he managed to make a really, really good film here in the case of Munich.

I’ve long believed Spielberg was some mutated or evolved form of sea anemone that had somehow climbed out of the ocean, grabbed a movie camera and started making flicks about a species he didn’t really know or understand. I don’t mean sharks or aliens, I mean people. As in Soylent Green is people.

I still don’t think he really knows or likes humans, but in Munich he’s managed to make a compelling, complex and entertaining espionage thriller with a surprising amount of depth. Which involves humans, so maybe something has changed.

Munich deals with the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics where Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and a few German police officers as well. The arseholes, calling themselves Black September, directly involved mostly bit the bullet after brutally dispatching the hostages, but the film deals with the other people who were believed to be involved in planning and organising the massacre.

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Memoirs of a Geisha

dir: Rob Marshall
[img_assist|nid=930|title=Japan? Never heard of it. Although I do appreciate the music of David Sylvian|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
I guess this was a highly anticipated adaptation of a bestselling book. To my eye, for the last five years, upon riding and enjoying the many virtues of public transport, if a fellow passenger wasn’t reading a Harry Potter book, or one of Dan Brown’s magnum opuses, they usually held a white book with a vivid set of red lips on the cover.

As something of a fan of Japanese history and culture (read: a pretentious dilettante), curiousity killed and skinned my cat about the whole production. So I endeavoured to read the book before seeing the film. Because it’s nice, occasionally, to have an informed opinion on something.

The book, to my surprise, was not, actually, the memoirs of a geisha. It was a purely fictional story written by an American guy, Arthur Golden, who researched a heap about the life and times of the geisha, and who probably doesn’t look that good in a kimono. So that was my first let down.

Then, as I read, I realised the story was essentially a Japanese version of Pretty Woman, that cinematic classic of the Golden Age of Hollywood. That was my second.

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Match Point

dir: Woody Allen
[img_assist|nid=922|title=I know, I know: No-one cares if she can act or not|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=431|height=300]
He tried to stealth this one under our radars, he did. Outwardly, there’s practically no signifiers to indicate that this is a Woody Allen film. It’s a drama, and he hasn’t done a ‘serious’ drama since the days where he was directly ripping off Ingmar Bergman.

In the last few years he’s been content to peddle mostly bland, ineffectual comedies about the same topics he’s always been focussed on. They include the loving of Barely Legal women by men old enough to be their grandfathers, repeated infidelity, being chronically misunderstood, the full spectrum of neurotic behaviours, the unattainability of ‘true’ love that works for any period of time, or the lack of any real lasting happiness.

All hilarious stuff. He puts out a film a year on the cheap, with name actors who work for him practically for free, so it doesn’t really matter that they’re crap. He’s iconic, even if no-one watches his movies any more, and he’s as prolific as Bollywood, with about as much restraint and as little subtlety. Usually.

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Look Both Ways

dir: Sarah Watt
[img_assist|nid=939|title=Good advice from a helpful sign|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=382|height=254]
Since this flick cleaned up the major awards at this year’s AFIs, in a strong year for Australian cinema, I thought I’d give it a look, despite the fact that it’s been out for a donkey’s age. I do so prefer to keep things fresh for you, my loyal and easily bemused readers.

What we have here is not a failure to communicate, but an Australian version of those terrible films coming out of Britain perpetrated by those Working Title people. You know the ones, often directed by Richard Curtis, with random swearing substituting for humour, and more treacle and saccharine than you’ll find at your local confectioners. If you’re not up with Richard Curtis’ ‘oeuvre’, then think Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the diabolical Love Actually.

You’re looking at a large cast of characters, connected tangentially to each other, affected by central plot devices and prone to musical montages. And weepy rainy moments where everyone, generally living in the same town or geographical location, is sad at the same moment, mirrored by the weather.

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Last Days

dir: Gus Van Sant
[img_assist|nid=937|title=What 90s musician does he remind me of? Hmm, I know. Hootie of Hootie and the Blowfish fame. You rocked, Hootie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=400]

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