2016 Sydney Film Festival - Julieta

Pedro Almodovar's latest film is based on three short stories from the book Runaway (2004) by Alice Munro. It is Almodovar, I will go and see it. His films range from fantastic to still better than anything else being made at the moment. 

So I ended this year's Sydney Film Festival as I began, with a movie about the lives of women, based on three short stories by women writers. Almodovar is a beautiful film maker and his framing of his subjects are like beautiful photographs. I enjoyed the film although I was not completely convinced by the central issue of the breakdown in communication between the characters.  I would also like to find the soundtrack as the score was amazing. This is a good Almodovar movie, but not a great one. 

2016 Sydney Film Festival - Sing Street

Set in Dublin, Ireland in the 1980s, this is a story of a boy who starts a band to impress a girl he likes. It was the darling of this year's Sundance Film Festival and most critics have really enjoyed it. Did it live up to the hype?

This is loads of fun, especially for the 1980s music fan. It is like a combinations of The Committments (with the very same Maria Doyle Kennedy) and Gregory's Girl. The performances are great, the songs are really really good pop songs and you leave the cinema with a smile on your face. This is the second movie I saw in two days that are family friendly coming of age films set in a decade where fashion and music were bright and rambunctious. One more and we may have a trend. We definately need more movies like Sing Street and Girl Asleep.

2016 Film Festival - Everybody Wants Some!!

Named after Van Halen song, Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater's follow up to Boy is equally as personal to him as it is an exploration of his college years in the 1980s. 

This film has divided audiences. Some completely reject the young jocks at college story, with its posturing and drive to get drunk and sleep with as many girls as they can. Others just went along for the ride, enjoying the ride and watching the freshers at college try on different personas. We have all been there. I think we have expected our stories about the high school or college experience to be wrapped in a genre - a gross out sex comedy, a romance, an acapella competition. What they forget is that it is a time when people talk rubbish, try on new clothes, and in some cases, even learn something. Linklater shows this time and also adds on a layer of commentary about masculinity. He also uses some of the most awesome music to go with it.

2016 Sydney Film Festival - Girl Asleep

Girl Asleep is the debut film from director Rosemary Myers and writer Matthew Whittet adapted from their original play at the Windmill Theatre as part of the 2014 Adelaide Festival. This is the blurb from the Sydney Film Festival which convinced me to buy a ticket:

Navigating puberty in 1970s suburbia, Greta (Bethany Whitmore) doesn't want to grow up. Her mum is embarrassing and her sister disinterested. Geeky Elliott (Harrison Feldman) is her only ally. Greta's surprise 15th birthday party is on track to be the worst night of her life – until she's flung into an odd fairy-tale universe with a warrior princess (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). Filled with wild musical flourishes and moments of colourful theatrics, Girl Asleep resists the adult world as much as its lead character.

This film reminds me of Strictly Ballroom, the other highlystylised, very Australian film that started on the stage and then brought to screen bythe samu creators. Girl Asleep, however, is aimed at a younger audience. It is great fun and a wonderful coming of age movie. I highly recommend it to kids of all ages, the adult ones too

2016 Sydney Film Festival - The American Epic Sessions

One documentary in four parts shown in three sessions. That is pretty much how you get to see The American Epic Sessions, a documentary that captures contemporary American artists lay down songs from the beginning of the twentieth century. The director, Bernard MacMahon focuses on capturing the 'lightning in the bottle' of a raw, unedited live take of a song.

This is a fascinating series of documentaries for the music nerd who likes to know how the original vinyl records were made and the history behind those songs. This was one of the first time these films were seen by a cinema audience and they were well received with a insightful Q&A with the director and the editor, Dan Gitlin. These films track the origins and growth of American pop music and ultimately the growth of a nation of immigrants into a dominant cultural influence across the world. 

The rawness of the one take, three and a half minute song is explored in the fourth movie when the songs are recorded on the original technology by modern artists. As music producer Jack White (of the White Stripes) says in the film, the musicians turn up like they are coming to church, dressed in their Sunday best and prepared to put on their best as there is no dubbing or editing. All live and in one room.

Keep an eye out for these movies on a television or streaming service near you this December and take some time out to witness some history in the making.

2016 Sydney Film Festival - War on Everyone

Again another choice made on the strength of loving the director's previous movies. War on Everyone is from British director, John Michael McDonagh who also made The Guard and Calvary. I am slightly disappointed that this film does not also star Brendan Gleeson, but you know, Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard are almost as awesome.

Described as a black comedy that evokes the buddy cop movies  and TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s, War On Everyone certainly has a mixture of some laughs and some violence. However, it did not quite work for me. The tone was uneven, as it seemed to lurch from parody (like Hot Fuzz) to serious. The opening scene sums up the movie well. The two cops are in their car chasing a mime who is running down the street. The one cop, Bob (Michael Pena) says to the other (Terry) something like "do you think a mime makes a noise when he is hit by a car?" They then run the mime over and he doesn't make a sound, he just mimes the exclamation as the car hits him he then lies bleeding out on the street. If you found that humour to your liking, then this movie may just be for you.

There are a couple of elements I really enjoyed, namely the fantastic clothes and style of the characters, and a really great soundtrack. Lovely use of Glen Campbell. Yes, Glen Campbell. It really does fit with the film as it combines with the clothes, location of Albuquerque, and concept of masculinty of the characters, especially Terry. John Michael McDonagh's love for this American style flawed heroes of the 1970s and 1980s is all up there on the screen, however, the film did not always work for me, especially following the wonderfully crafted The Guard and Calvary.

2016 Sydney Film Festival - Goldstone

The opening night film for the 2016 Sydney Film Festival is Goldstone from Australian director, Ivan Sen and lead actor Aaron Pedersen. I caught the follow up session on the weekend. I saw Sen's previous movie Mystery Road at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival which introduced us to Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) and loved it. I am very happy to see more of this world.  

This is a beautiful slow burn crime movie that rarely gets made anymore. Drenched in its Australian outback location and embued by wellrounded characters, this film highlights the underbelly of the resource pillaging that has driven Australia's economy in the last few years. It is a like reading a great crime novel. Just go and watch it. Actually watch it in a double bill with Mystery Road and marvel in the fantastic partnership of film maker Ivan Sen and Aaron Pedersen. More films please sirs.

2016 Sydney Film Festival - Janis: Little Girl Blue

Janis: Little Girl Blue is the 2015 documentary from Oscar nominated director, Amy Berg. Watch her talk about making the film during The Hollywood Reporter documentary roundtable. Very insightful.

Biographical documentaries about famous artists are hard to make unique as some to most of the facts about that person's life is known. Especially how it all ends. Berg anchors the emotional elements of her documentary around Joplin's open, raw, powerful and leave it all there stage performances. Joplin's drive for love, acceptance, and honest comunication is all there on stage, and the absence of that love and acceptance when she is off stage is keenly highlighted and gives us insight into possble reasons for Joplin's heavy drug use. What is quite apparent is the huge natural talent Joplin was and that her death cut short what could have been a monumental body of work from a great artist.  Check out the perfornace below that announced her arrival on the music scene, and watch Joplin blow the audience away. 

With Big Brother and the Holding Company, she performed the song at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 to an enthusiastic audience and critical reception. The first performance on June 17 was not filmed, so the band was persuaded to perform the song again on the next day.

This is a well made documentary and a must see for Janis Joplin fans.

2016 Sydney Film Festival - Certain Women

I loved, loved Meek's Cutoff (2010), Kelly Reichardt's beautiful western starring Michelle Williams. So, I signed up for this movie straight off. Here is the blurb from the Sydney Film Festival, which tells you the film is "based on Maile Meloy's short stories, tells three connected stories of independent Montana women trying to understand and shape the world around them." I have not heard of Maile Meloy, but here is a Q&A with her that tells you a bit about her. This movie also boasts a wonderful cast of great actresses - Reichardt favourite, Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart and new comer Lily Gladstone.

The cast of  Certain Women  at the 2016 Sundance Film Festoval

The cast of Certain Women at the 2016 Sundance Film Festoval

Like her previous work, Certain Women is beautiful and languid. It is a study of exteriors and interiors, from the wild winter landscape of Montana to the emotional life of the women in the three interconnecting stories. It is a quiet movie that has a couple of stand out scenes that will linger in your mind days after you left the cinema. The performances are really great throughout, however I must highlight the luminous Lily Gladstone, who says so much with very few words.

One for a lazy contemplative Sunday afternoon.