Blogging the 2010s — 110 — November 2016

Looks like it was a month of movies!

Three more Wollongong Library videos

Having returned the three I wrote about yesterday, I now have a rather different selection. The first is a movie I had never heard of, though it was made as recently as 2014 and featured in Sundance 2014. Rotten Tomatoes gives a mixed verdict. I shall wait and see.

Rudderless-Band

The movie is Rudderless.

Billy Crudup plays Sam, a former high-profile advertising executive whose life is torn apart by the sudden death of his son. Living off the grid on a docked sailboat, he wastes away his days while drowning his pain in alcohol. When Sam discovers a box filled with his son’s demo tapes and lyrics, his own child’s musical talent is a revelation for him, a grieving father who felt he’d been absent from his son’s life. Communing with his deceased son’s dashed dreams, Sam learns each song and eventually musters the will to perform one at a local bar. When Quentin (Anton Yelchin), a young musician in the audience, is captivated by the song, the unlikely duo forms a rock band that becomes surprisingly popular and revitalizes both of their lives.

Fred Topel’s Sundance 2014 Review: Rudderless enthuses:

As director, William H. Macy must have learned from Paul Thomas Anderson because he creates dynamic scenes and camera moves, from the media swarm in the immediate aftermath of Josh’s death, to a montage of performances in which one fluid shot cuts into the next. Wow.

“Wow” is a what I was thinking throughout Rudderless. Wow that the screenplay by Macy, Jeff Robison and Casey Twenter dealt with tragedy in such a classy way, expanded on grief to make it constructive and balanced the fun and heart with sensitivity. Wow that a simple story about music and humanity looked so elegant. Wow that the songs made me happy even though I knew they came from a sad place. Wow that both the opening and closing night selections of Sundance were such powerful films. Just wow.

Next is Australian miniseries Waterfront (1984). Yes, Jack Thompson.

waterfront)

Set in late 1920s Melbourne, WATERFRONT begins with the Waterside Workers’ Union refusing to abide by the award-conditions handed down with the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The waterfronts of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne are effectively shut down. Nationalist Party Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce, authorizes legislation permitting the employment of non-union labour on the wharves and the shipping bosses respond by hiring newly arrived Italian immigrants desperate for work. These ‘scabs’ face expected bitter resentment by the Union as well as shameful and overt racial intimidation and abuse…

There is a Wollongong connection in that the screenplay is by Mac Gudgeon; see my June 2015 post The Secret River revisited.

The Secret River is already listed on the International Movie Database with a ranking of 8.9/10 so far.

Looking at the scriptwriters one finds a Wollongong connection. The writers are Kate Grenville herself, Jan Sardi, and Mac Gudgeon who was born in Wollongong. Indeed when I arrived to teach in 1970 Mac Gudgeon and his father were quite famous. Mac Gudgeon Senior celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014.

Finally, Redfern Now: Promise Me (2015).

RN3slide8

I have seen this before but look forward to seeing it again. See Redfern Now: Promise Me review – final, unsettling showing from a superb cast — 4/5 stars.

…True to the depth of the series, Promise Me is uninterested in simple notions of right or wrong, and sees injustices in human behaviour largely as a result of lack of perspective.

Redfern Now stands distinct from other productions in part because it focuses on Aboriginal stories in suburban rather than rural and remote locations, where they are traditionally represented in film and TV. But it is the film-makers’ ongoing ability to recalibrate dramatic conflict as a means of pursuing consequence rather than resolution that plays a larger part in what makes it one of the defining Australian dramas since the turn of the century…

Related: my post Redfern Now and my own nostalgia.

Three great video picks from Wollongong Library

I have to return these beauties today, but not before they have given me much pleasure, and food for thought. The one that appealed to me least was The Virgin Suicides (1999).

the-virgin-suicides-record-scene

strange movie, based on a 1993 novel by Jeffrey Eugenides and directed by Sofia Coppola. Wikipedia sums up its reception:

The film was generally well received by critics; it has a 76% Metacritic rating and a 76% Rotten Tomatoes rating. The New York Post heaped praise on the film: “It’s hard to remember a film that mixes disparate, delicate ingredients with the subtlety and virtuosity of Sofia Coppola’s brilliant The Virgin Suicides.”  The Philadelphia Inquirer outlined its attributes: “There’s a melancholy sweetness here, a gentle humor that speaks to the angst and awkwardness of girls turning into women, and the awe of boys watching the transformation from afar.”

The next appealed to me more: Gus Van Sant’s To Die For (1995).

diefor

Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix

Suzanne Stone is an aspiring TV personality who will do anything to be in the spotlight, including enlisting three teenagers to kill her husband, played by Matt Dillon. I agree with this reviewer on IMDb,

Matt Dillon is wasted as the husband (in more ways than one). I’m surprised he agreed to do the part. Kidman is mesmerizing and makes us believe in a slightly unbelievable character. We’ve all known narcissistic little darlings who would kill you for the right shade of eye shadow, but to see it acted out so coldly and with such appalling stupidity, yet with a psychology so bizarre that it has to be real, fairly takes your breath away. It was especially apt that she had him killed so that her pointless little docu-drama “Teens Speak Out” could become newsworthy enough for national exposure. Consciously she doesn’t realize this: she has no introspection; she just acts.

Also cute is the way the picture is framed: a pseudo-documentary within a pseudo-documentary. Everything is so well orchestrated that when Kidman gets her surprising, but entirely appropriate comeuppance at the end, we are quite pleased.

The pick of the crop – and such a good crop! – is:

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in 12 Years a Slave (2013)

What a well-deserving Oscar winner!

Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

Must read: History Versus Hollywood finds that the “true story” is truer than most. The UK Daily Telegraph wrote in June 2016:

Dir: Steve McQueen. Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Adepero Oduye, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson

Soon after its world premiere last year, 12 Years a Slave was widely described as the best film that has yet been made about American slavery.

That’s a big claim — and, I believe, an accurate one — although it raises an interesting question. Where, exactly, is the competition?

The new film from the British director Steve McQueen is an adaptation of the memoirs of Solomon Northup, a freeborn black American family man from upstate New York who was kidnapped, shipped to the South and sold to the owner of a Louisiana plantation in 1841. There have been other films about American slaves, and films that have described or depicted the American slave trade in some way too: not many, but enough high-profile ones, from Gone With the Wind all the way to Mandingo, for the topic not to feel like unmapped territory….

To measure the importance of this we must go back to 1915. That year saw the release of D.W. Griffiths’ The Birth of a Nation…

But Griffiths’ film has almost no truth in it — and it is monstrously, numbingly racist. Its black characters are drunks and rapists, played by gurning white actors in blackface, while the Ku Klux Klan are shown to be saviour knights of the new republic. Think again of that strange lack of films about American slavery, and wonder how long it will take for cinema to exorcise these demons. In that light, 12 Years a Slave isn’t simply a masterpiece, it’s a milestone. This, at last, really is history written with lightning.

You won’t easily forget scenes like this:

12-Years-a-Slave-Lynching-Scene-02-720x300

See Australian photographer Kat Clay on Kidnapped shadows: the cinematography of 12 Years A Slave.

Last week I caught up with Oscar nominated film, 12 Years A Slave. The intense narrative of Solomon Northup, freeman kidnapped and taken to the South, is an exceptional story accompanied by exceptional cinematography. Sean Bobbitt shot the film, and is notable for his professional relationship with Steve McQueen, having filmed the director’s previous works Shame and Hunger. Strangely enough, I haven’t seen a single one of his other works, but having seen 12 Years A Slave, I would certainly be interested in seeking them out….

Rudderless: an excellent blind choice

09 Miles Heizer as Josh

Miles Heizer as Josh in the opening scenes of Rudderless

Saw this yesterday pre-Cricket – we won by the way, at last! Back a few days I wrote:

Having returned the three I wrote about yesterday, I now have a rather different selection. The first is a movie I had never heard of, though it was made as recently as 2014 and featured in Sundance 2014. Rotten Tomatoes gives a mixed verdict. I shall wait and see.

Rudderless-Band

The movie is Rudderless.

Billy Crudup plays Sam, a former high-profile advertising executive whose life is torn apart by the sudden death of his son. Living off the grid on a docked sailboat, he wastes away his days while drowning his pain in alcohol. When Sam discovers a box filled with his son’s demo tapes and lyrics, his own child’s musical talent is a revelation for him, a grieving father who felt he’d been absent from his son’s life. Communing with his deceased son’s dashed dreams, Sam learns each song and eventually musters the will to perform one at a local bar. When Quentin (Anton Yelchin), a young musician in the audience, is captivated by the song, the unlikely duo forms a rock band that becomes surprisingly popular and revitalizes both of their lives.

Fred Topel’s Sundance 2014 Review: Rudderless enthuses:

As director, William H. Macy must have learned from Paul Thomas Anderson because he creates dynamic scenes and camera moves, from the media swarm in the immediate aftermath of Josh’s death, to a montage of performances in which one fluid shot cuts into the next. Wow.

“Wow” is a what I was thinking throughout Rudderless. Wow that the screenplay by Macy, Jeff Robison and Casey Twenter dealt with tragedy in such a classy way, expanded on grief to make it constructive and balanced the fun and heart with sensitivity. Wow that a simple story about music and humanity looked so elegant. Wow that the songs made me happy even though I knew they came from a sad place. Wow that both the opening and closing night selections of Sundance were such powerful films. Just wow.

Just wow!! There is a jolt in this movie that I didn’t see coming, but I can’t say a word about that, can I? Here’s another review:

Skillfully directed by William H. Macy, “Rudderless” is one of those small independent films that it’s a privilege to discover. The cast, led by Crudup, does a fine job of conveying the ups and downs of life and how people deal with them. Yelchin is equally good, giving a layered and nuanced performance that is miles away from the earnest Ensign Chekov he plays in the “Star Trek” films.

Supporting work by Laurence Fishburne, Selena Gomez and director Macy keep the film moving and the original songs are both well written and memorable. The script, which Macy worked on with writers Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison, hits all the right notes and packs an emotional wallop you never see coming. Director Macy keeps the story moving and never allows the emotions to become forced, hitting a home run with his feature film directorial debut.

Glad I made this blind pick! 4/5 stars from me!

rudderless

And see also:

Perhaps I was the only person in Oz watching this yesterday…