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Curating The Sydney Film Festival: Clare Stewart

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Promotional banner for the 2010 Sydney Film Festival I’m just back from a talk at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art called “Creation + Curation”, run as part of the Creative Sydney festival.

The Sydney Film Festival is also running at the moment, and festival director Clare Stewart was one of the speakers at this afternoon’s event, along with Ute Noll (photography curator), Dom Alessio (Triple J Radio) and Joseph Shea (IzRock).

The gorgeously attired Clare talked through her background as a film programmer and the process involved in putting together the Sydney festival. Here are a few highlights.
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Written by Darren Smith

5 June 2010 at 7:05 pm

Queer Picks From The Sydney Flicks

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Twentysomething Quebecois director Xavier Dolan, who will have two pieces showing at the 2010 Sydney Film Festival.It’s that time again, ladies and gentlemen – Sydney’s Film Festival (2-14 June).

This year I’ve changed my tune. I’ve done my research and booked my tickets BEFOREHAND.

The festival is showing a number of queer films, including two from 20something Quebecois director Xavier Dolan (pictured right).

So, here goes.
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Written by Darren Smith

25 May 2010 at 12:21 am

Film | Howl (2010)

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Still from "Howl", the movie about Ginsberg's epic poem.In the past few days, synchronicity visited me twice, and both involved rediscovery. First was a forgotten old jacket of mine that caught a visiting friend’s eye. Two days later, a jacket with the exact pattern and design popped up in Roberto Cavalli’s Fall 2010 collection (picture in this article).

That same week, Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem “Howl” drifted into my consciousness. A few days later, I discovered a movie about the poem and Ginsberg’s obscenity trial premiered (at the Sundance Film Festival). Here’s a bit of a sneak peak.

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Written by Darren Smith

23 January 2010 at 1:03 pm

Film & Music | It’s All A Blur

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Poster for documentary on Blur, "No Distance Left To Run"

From one band documentary to another – this time it’s Blur.

No Distance Left To Run: A Film About Blur premiered in the UK this week. Reviews so far are positive, praising a well-shot and intimate account of the band’s rise to the heights of British pop.

The documentary is directed by Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace, whose combined résumé includes this music video for Franz Ferdinand. The pair’s work in the music industry obviously gives them great access to the four band members – Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree.

I confess, yes, I am a Blur groupie. One of my great concert moments was seeing them perform at Sydney’s Metro and reaching out to touch Albarn’s hand in what can only be likened to this. They, together with Pulp, captured everything I loved about big britpop at the time.

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Written by Darren Smith

16 January 2010 at 11:49 am

Film | Some Kind Of Monster

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Poster for "Some Kind of Monster"So, last night I put down my knitting, switched on SBS and watched Some Kind of Monster, a documentary on the making of Metallica’s album, St Anger. But the only monster in this film is also the white elephant – the record industry. In fact, I believe it’s the one about to devour the four band members in the promo poster to your right.

Their eighth album, St Anger, followed a six-year production break and bassist Jason Newsted’s departure. Directed by first-timers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the film was intended to document the album’s production.

What ensues, though, is something quite unexpected. You see, a lot has happened in six years and, combined with Newsted’s departure, stints in rehab and mid-life crises, the three remaining band members are quite the dysfunctional bunch. So psychotherapist cum “performance-enhancing coach” Phil Towle is brought in to help the trio work through their differences so they can get on with the job of producing another album stroke comeback.

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Written by Darren Smith

13 January 2010 at 8:09 pm

Film | La Notte (1961)

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No one does ennui with such effortless chic and glamour as the Italians. It’s no less true for this beautiful portrait of hubris from auteur director Michelangelo Antonioni. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the art of cinema at its best.

La Notte (The Night) follows estranged married couple Lidia (the superb Jeanne Moreau) and writer Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni). It opens with the couple visiting a mutual friend on his deathbed – not even the company of death can move Lidia or Giovanni together. The film then follows them until dawn the next day.

To recount the plot feels ridiculous and incredibly insufficient because this movie really stands outside our conventional experience of cinema. It’s not driven by narrative or plot. Which is not to say there isn’t one, just that it’s not driving the car.

Because the plot is backseat, everything else has room to move – things like the jazz score, photography, design, mood and location.

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Written by Darren Smith

10 January 2010 at 10:12 pm

Film | Paranormal Activity (2009)

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Paranormal Activity movie poster“It’s not a ghost. What is it?”

Oren Peli’s first stab at film-making is a fun, truly frightening experience in the style of The Blair Witch Project.

Meet Micah and Katie. They’re your normal (if not, annoying) young couple, living together and “engaged to be engaged”. But something paranormal is happening to them – they’re being haunted by a malevolent spirit. Intent to capture said spirit on film, Micah purchases a hand-held camera to record movements in the house.

It’s this camera that tells the story. Each night they sleep, Micah sets up the camera in the bedroom, positioned (teasingly) to overlook the hallway. In their waking hours, it’s following their movements. Much of the non-still filming is done by Micah.

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Written by Darren Smith

28 November 2009 at 2:38 pm

Film | 2012 (2009)

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2012 movie posterThe Ancient Greek pantheon of gods was rife with tussles for preeminence between the immortals. And quite often the mere mortals were Sim-like pawns in these wars of might.

After watching 2012, I can’t help but think that God and Roland Emmerich are two such immortals pitched in a battle over who can play out the best disaster on the world stage. Emmerich’s thrown everything at it for his latest pitch.

For those who’ve escaped the epic promos, 2012 is a movie about the end of the world. It is the final year of the Mesoamerican calendar and, as legend has it, the final year of existence too. And this is the basic premise of the movie — surviving apocalypse.

In 2009, a group of scientists discover the world will indeed end in 2012. World leaders listen and act, collaboratively setting in motion plans for nothing less than the survival of the human species (remember, this is fiction). Of course, the citizenry are not informed, else anarchy break loose.

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Written by Darren Smith

14 November 2009 at 3:56 pm

Web | Promoting the End of the World Online

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2012 is the new movie from Roland Emmerich about the end of the world. It’s due for release in Australia on 12 November 2009. You can read about the movie and watch the trailer here.

But in this post I’m going to talk about the movie’s online presence, because one of the really fascinating things about 2012 is its online promotion. This movie has not one but eight websites, and with some really fun interactive content, as well as an interesting use of social media.

A lot of work has gone into “spilling” the film’s narrative into real life through the web. Of course, the film has an official movie site, but the remaining sites are for organisations and characters. You might recall the promotion for The Blair Witch Project, a groundbreaking campaign that unfolded the story on the internet before the release to give the impression that this mockumentary was actually based on real events.

The use of the web to promote 2012 is very similar, though less about creating an impression of reality and more about extending the experience of the movie to the net.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s take a look at the campaign.

Online promotion of 2012 movie

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Written by Darren Smith

14 October 2009 at 11:19 pm

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Film | Moon (2009)

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Moon_revised

Ground Control to Major Tom … or in this case, Sam Bell. Moon is the Space Odyssey 2001 meets Philip K Dick film from director (and Bowie son) Duncan Jones.

It’s the not-too-distant future of a post-climate changed planet Earth. Us humans have discovered a new and seemingly sustainable source of energy — fusion power from the Moon. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell; Frost/Nixon) is stationed at a base that harvests the energy on the moon. For the duration of his 3-year contract, he’s pretty much alone. Well, all except for GERTY, an artificially intelligent computer modelled on Space Odyssey’s HAL9000 and with a penchant for using emoticons for expression. GERTY is voiced by Kevin Spacey.

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Written by Darren Smith

11 October 2009 at 2:08 pm

Music | Doin’ It For The Thrill (Concert Review)

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I’m just back from seeing UK electro-pop outfit La Roux perform their Sydney gig at the Enmore Theatre. And here’s my verdict.

Let me be upfront and honest. It was not an impressive concert. The punters were there to hear the hits, the band itself was peripheral. I felt the same endearing feeling I’d feel if my 11-year-old nephew was on stage doing his thing … for the thrill. I’d be supportive, proud and encouraging. And that’s how I felt.
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Written by Darren Smith

30 September 2009 at 1:18 am

Film | Elegy

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elegy_1

Elegy is a brooding, poetic look into a man coming to terms with his autumn years and about to discover the fragility beneath his virility. The plot’s a little insubstantial, but the movie is redeemed by stellar performances from its leads — Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz.

David Kapeesh (Kingsley) is a 50-something cultural critic and academic who’s starting to reckon with getting old. He emancipated himself from marriage early on to lead an independent, epicurean life in a stunning New York apartment. Everything is as he wants; he’s playing it all very cool. That is until he catches the eye of his student, Conseula Castillo (Cruz).
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Written by Darren Smith

17 May 2009 at 7:20 pm

Film | Has Lars returned to The Kingdom?

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antichrist

It looks like Danish film director Lars von Trier is returning to the supernaturalism of his roots with his soon-to-be-released horror flick Antichrist.

A couple (played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsborough) go to a cabin in the woods to mourn and get over the death of their son. But, rather than finding bucolic bliss they instead discover that nature is indeed “the devil’s church” and soon become extremely reluctant parishioners.

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Written by Darren Smith

15 April 2009 at 3:25 am

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I’m Gonna Start a Rock’n’Roll Group

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Well, actually, I’m not. But, in 1957, John Lennon did. The band was called The Quarrymen and the rest is history, as they say.

Nowhere Boy, a new film and directorial debut for Sam Taylor-Wood, chronicles the teen years of Lennon and the set-up of skiffle band The Quarrymen, later to become The Beatles. Lennon is played by Aaron Johnson, with Kristen Scott-Thomas playing his Aunt Mimi.

The film is based on the book Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird.

Opens in Australian cinemas on 26 December 09.

Written by Darren Smith

30 November 2009 at 11:11 pm

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