Movie Review – Brad’s Status

Ben Stiller ponders his lot in life in Mike White’s quietly humorous and thoughtful new film. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Brad Sloan (Ben Stiller) is nearly 50 and has a lot of stuff going on in his melon. His not-for-profit business has stalled, his one and only child – Troy (Austin Abrams) – is heading off to college and his marriage to Melanie (Jenna Fischer) isn’t the excitable romp it once was.

As a result, Brad lies awake at night yearning for what could have been, for the lives he could have led. His mind wanders to those he aligned himself with during college (Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Luke Wilson), who have gone on to enjoy riches and success in the intervening years, forgetting and distancing themselves from Brad and his painfully mediocre existence in the process.

Adrift in suburban Sacramento and surrounded by cheerfully complacent “beta males”, a father/son trip to Boston to look at universities only serves to reinforce these internal inadequacies; Troy, a talented pianist, has a shot at getting into Harvard, a college that outstrips Brad’s own education across town at Tufts. Is that pride, Brad feels, or jealousy?

Written and directed by Mike White, Brad’s Status aligns itself with a familiar feeling deep inside all of us; the competition we feel with our peers and the desire for something greater. A lot of this concern is voiced internally by Stiller as he tosses and turns at night or stares out of a plane window. White’s film spends a lot of its time inside Stiller’s head, partaking in lengthy monologues about paths not taken or grudges left unaddressed.

As a result, Stiller is lumped with a lot of the lifting, as he furrows his brow and shifts in his seat, searching internally for some shred of solace. It’s an impressive performance amongst a collection of impressive performances; his meandering unspoken reveries work in opposition with the concise musings that are said aloud as well as the sulky grunts offered up by his son.

White’s writing is effective (if a little on-the-nose) but the cast make it work, taking the heightened divide between Brad and those he yearns to replicate and running with it. Particularly impressive is Abrams, who manages a level of angst and wisdom only a teenager can muster, and Sheen, as a charismatic contemporary man who has hit it big in Hollywood and married well.

The pacing is suitably slow for a film all about feeling adrift and aimless, but not so much that it lacks drive or structure. In keeping with its themes, Brad’s Status doesn’t offer a rousing finale or a gutful of catharsis; viewers will need to go in search of significance and satisfaction, rather than have it dumped at their feet in the third act. It’s an apt ending, but not one that all will find enjoyable.

Meditative and introspective, Brad’s Status is an exhaustive and achingly honest exploration of anxiety and self-doubt. While it may feel a little familiar, there is joy to be found in its wry humour.

 

Brad’s Status is available in Australian cinemas from November 9.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 2017.

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Revelation Film Festival -Get Your Shorts On!

Revelation Film Festival crowd-pleaser Get Your Shorts On! came to town last week. Here’s the lowdown on the best of the best in short filmmaking in WA right now.

Josip Knezevic

Get Your Shorts On! encompasses the very best of what Perth has to offer in short films, and this year eight spectacular productions screened at Luna Leederville to showcase the creativity and skill of our local filmmakers. Of these, there were three standouts that I’d like to single out for Perth’s most promising talent.

3. Normal People
Producer:
Jenna Dimitrijevic
Director:
James Pontifex

Contrary to its title, this RAW Nerve funded short is anything but normal. An unfortunate party goer misreads an invitation and rocks up dressed as a panda only to discovers she is the only one in a costume. That is until she meets a man in a penguin suit…

Normal People is certainly an original piece of filmmaking, with some nice moments of quirky humour. My only disappointment is that it only runs for 7 minutes. Given more time on screen, I think these two loveable characters could have been fleshed out even more. Additionally, the concept is loaded with comedic opportunity that could have been further explored in a longer version… So the only question is, when do we get to see the feature film, guys?

2. Outline
Producer: Jess Parker
Director: Cody Cameron-Brown

Successfully funded by Pozible, Outline tells the story of a grieving young artist who seeks redemption in an unlikely place. She uses her craft to recreate her fallen friend in remembrance of her spirit and by the end of the film, you truly get the sense that this was an incredibly personal film for its creators. A simple idea that works marvelously on screen, I thoroughly enjoyed this 6-minute short with its beautiful artistry and emotional touches. Clearly others are being won over as well; the short was selected to appear in the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

1. The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius
Producer: Lauren Elliott
Director: Matt Lovkis & Henry Inglis

Hot damn, this was awesome! The Shapes: Cool Rock Video and I’m A Genius is my favourite from this year’s Get Your Shorts On! selection. Yes, on a technical level, this 3-minute animation is fantastically well crafted, but what puts this project in first place is it’s success as a musical. Its catchy beats are filled with ridiculously self-aware, funny lyrics; on my way out of the screening I could still hear the addictive songs in my head. With a joyous colour palette and eye-catching transitions, this short and sweet animation is a must watch!

 

Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Part 2

If we could bend time and space by driving around in a DeLorean, then we would go back and see everything that Revelation has to offer! But sadly, as we can’t be in multiple places at once, we can only bring you a couple more of the freaky and fantastical films screening around Perth. It all wraps up this weekend, so get in before it’s all over, red rover!

Der Bunker

Nikias Chryssos invites us into his madhouse, which is little more than a bunker in the German woods, filled with his nightmares.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

07 July - Revelation FF Der Bunker

I am fairly certain – no, I am certain that this is the first movie I’ve seen in which two grown men breastfeed from a woman who claims to have an evil alien living inside her leg. You can’t make this stuff up. The alien speaks to the woman (Oona von Maydell) like The Exorcist‘s Regan MacNeil through a vocoder and instructs that her son, Klaus (Daniel Fripan), be taught the ways of manhood. Meanwhile, her husband (David Scheller) sports a lively moustache, and their guest, a visiting student (Pit Bukowski), has to watch as his three maniacal hosts turn their home into the devil’s playground.

Der Bunker, directed by first-timer Nikias Chryssos, is an absurd extrapolation of a very serious topic. Parents want the best for their kids. But what happens when they want their German son to become president of the United States? Is that something Klaus can achieve in his lifetime, or in any German’s lifetime? Do they not see that he’s an eight-year-old boy who looks thirty-five, and that the alien leg of his mother will probably follow him to America and become its own reality TV show? These questions whizzed through my mind as I sat through Der Bunker, but I realise they shouldn’t be asked, because this is a movie that is completely unhinged from notions of reality. It exists purely within the inexplicable confines of the titular bunker, and in such a place, rules are boundless.

But movies need rules, don’t they? We need rules, or else we lose track of vision. Even The Lobster (2015), which ran away with its crazy ideas about love and the future, established for itself rules to live by, and it worked. Der Bunker is too wild for its own good. It lacks control, and has an ending that’s too tame for the abstract madness it introduces in the first two acts. I won’t spoil anything, but I wanted more madness. I wanted to be taken apart and put back together wrongly, so that nothing truly made sense anymore.

Der Bunker screens at Cinema Paradiso Sunday 17 July


Patrick’s Day

Perhaps Patrick’s Day has something challenging to say about mental illness – shame it’s an unpleasant experience you’ll want to put out of your mind immediately afterwards.

⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

07 July - Revelation FF Patricks Day

On his twenty-sixth birthday, which happens to fall on St. Patrick’s Day, a schizophrenic young man named Patrick (Moe Dunford) escapes the clutches of his overbearing and obsessive mother Maura (Kerry Fox) during a festival in Dublin. Patrick crosses paths with Karen (Catherine Walker), a suicidal air-hostess, who – on her last planned night of being alive – invites Patrick up to her hotel room to take his virginity. Patrick falls in love, and Karen begins to reconsider her decision, until Maura conspires with an eccentric local cop (Philip Jackson) to convince Patrick that Karen was simply a figment of his deluded mind.

It’s easy to see what writer/director Terry McMahon (Charlie Casanova) thinks he has created; a fresh, unflinching honest portrayal of mental illness that evades the usual trappings associated with the genre. There are hints of these at times, but in reality Patrick’s Day is a mostly hackneyed and unremarkable disability drama. A potentially ripe and well-intentioned idea drowned in its unconvincing execution, McMahon’s film has an unshakable sense poignancy that is often tempting to believe, but there are just too many rough edges and disharmonic parts to create a valuable whole.

The film’s most alienating aspect is its colossal and frequent shifts in mood and tone, which come across (perhaps intentionally, but ineffectively) as schizophrenic in themselves. Matching this is an equally inconsistent soundtrack, skipping from raucously loud Irish shanties to an obnoxiously pounding score.

The cast at least do their best with the wholly unlikable characters they’re given, especially Dunford, who remains believable even as McMahon is increasingly cruel and borderline distasteful to his lead. The cynicism and contempt really sets in when Patrick’s Day crescendos in a harrowing electro-shock sequence copied and pasted directly from Requiem for a Dream, then does a complete 180 degree turn in favour of an outlandishly optimistic outcome. If you don’t feel cheated, you’ll at least be disoriented enough to wonder if you’ve contracted schizophrenia yourself.

Patrick’s Day screens at Luna On SX on Saturday July 16


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival 

Behind The Scenes: PINCH

Tom Munday

Australian filmmaker Jeffory Asselin now has an extensive list of achievements to his name. The part-time filmmaker and Murdoch University media production manager has fuelled his career with several renowned short films including Three to One and Strike. His production expertise, extending from directing to screenwriting, producing and editing, makes him one of the industry’s most resourceful and cunning individuals.

In November 2012, the opportunity for a locally driven feature project came to fruition, and Asselin brought the industry and Murdoch’s brightest minds together for his first feature film, PINCH. The idea for the coming-of-age crime-drama came from his own unenviable life experiences. Growing up in a regional state-housing project, his imagination gave him enough inspiration to pursue his passion.

This Year’s WA Screen Awards placed a swath of high and low profile artistic endeavours in the spotlight. In the Best Feature – Drama category, PINCH  took on Kill Me Three Times, Paper Planes and The Reckoning, and in a historic, upset victory, Asselin’s production snatched the top prize. Placing local, salt-of-the-Earth cinema back on the map, the micro-wonder is set to trample through WA’s film festival circuit later this year. Hot off the presses from its world premiere at CinefestOz, the independent film will be coming to Perth at an event held on September 7 at Luna Cinemas, Leederville. Chatting with me on a Saturday morning, Asselin was eager to share his love and enthusiasm for cinema, his career and home state.

Get tickets to the PINCH Perth Premiere Screening here

PINCH won the WA Screen Award for Best Feature – Drama this year, how has the win influenced your idea of success in the industry?

I regard myself as an artist, and I never really went into filmmaking with stars in my eyes; I never really bought into the celebrity side of things. For me, success would be having my next project financed because of the competency of this project. That’s why we made the film because we all said right from the beginning – look, we can’t compete with the big boys. What we can do is make the best fricken film we can make, and prove to funding bodies and investors that next time we can make an even more cracking film if you give us a chance. Until that happens, it’s nice to be acknowledged and respected among your colleagues as a decent filmmaker. For us, it was really about proving ourselves as filmmakers, more so than going in with any view of winning prizes.

You beat major productions like Kill Me Three Times and Paper Planes; do you think the industry will gravitate towards story and character rather than scale?

The irony here is that we have a real crowd pleaser on our hands, but we’re struggling to get distributors on board who understand that. It’s a funny, fickle business, let’s put it that way. We’ve toppled three huge, flagship projects that have all got distribution – some are doing well, some aren’t, and here we are struggling to get someone to take it on in Australia.

You have to question the distributor’s mould. They were all screaming murder last year because all of these films failed, including Son of a Gun, I mean – look at the people they had on that! Son of a Gun was lucky to pull $100,000.00 at the box office. I’m just looking at it from a logical point of view that perhaps that mould isn’t working. We’re always being told you need an A-lister attached to sell your film, but I disagree with that. I actually think if you make a bloody good film, and you know who your audience is, I think you can make a film just as good, and make a profit out of it. We know from history that a lot of critically acclaimed films that come out of nowhere haven’t always had big actors in them. Or the other strategy is that you pull an actor out of retirement, dust him off, and put him back in the game.

I’d like to see Australia make more of these lower budget films, and not have to rely on the government funding, and create more of a business model, not a charity system. The Australian film industry at the moment is under pressure to go and compete with Hollywood, but we just can’t do it, and we have to be honest with ourselves; we just can’t do it with our budget.

The WA film industry has gone through several major changes, how do you see it developing over the next few years?

I think we’re going to see more of these low budget films because of the way technology is at the moment. I imagine there are going to be more films targeting video on demand, as opposed to theatrical release, and I think there’s more money in that.

You worked to bring Western Australia’s film industry and Murdoch University together with PINCH, how did they collaborate throughout the production?

Most of my other director colleagues work freelance, and do ads to make their bread and butter. I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t like the ad industry; it wasn’t really my thing. I wanted to be within the educational realm, so I got a job early in the piece working in a studio with a university, and I still make educational media products. I actually come from a very strong multimedia background as well, so I was fortunate that I got the job there, and then I eventually took over the studio and built it up, and chipped away at my short films on the side. Murdoch has always supported me in doing that because when you work for a university most of the staff are generally doing PhDs or some form of staff development. It worked out for me because I would utilise the resources there, and then if we picked up a couple of wins it would put some attention on the university, so it was kind of a nice little marriage. Especially with the PINCH project, it’s really put a lot of positive energy into our university, and I don’t think you can pay for that sort of publicity.

You filmed around Perth and regional WA, how did these locations accentuate the film’s tone and atmosphere?

One of the tips I always give to students is – don’t slouch on your location. I treat my locations like another character in the story. People tend to take the easy route when it comes to locations, and go, “hey – let’s just shoot there because it’s convenient”. I’m always looking for visually aesthetic backdrops, and I treat it like a paint palette.

Some of the places where we shot, you can’t go there by car. We went hiking up there because I would see these hills and think – hang on, I know you can’t get up there by car, but I bet there’s a nice shot up there. It’s little things like that, looking for places around Perth that people haven’t shot. All the big budget movies play the same tune – they go up to Broome, or they go down to Margaret River, but I find your dingier areas are more interesting that your clichéd, tourist attractions.

Lead actors Craig Hyde Smith and Alla Hand stand out immediately, how did their dynamic develop on and off screen?

I’ve worked with Craig before, and because I had no money, I had to try and find the best option. I always had Craig in mind, and I knew that he was capable of pulling off a feature, and I knew that his parents would allow me to take him for 7 weeks and take time off school because he was 16 at the time. For his age and his experience, he was just a treat to work with.

We ended up auditioning probably 50 girls for the other lead, and then I met Alla by pure accident. I was auditioning the Rhonda character at the studio, and I went out to grab my next talent, and screen test them when I saw her sitting in line with all of the older actors. She was obviously in the wrong line and I said to her, “you must be auditioning for another film because I’m casting for older characters here,” and she said, “yeah, I’m here for a student film”. So I walked her down to where she had to go, and I looked at her and thought – oh my god, she looks like my girl. Anyway, I told her I was screen testing for this role, and it turned out that she really captured me through the camera, and straight away I was like, “yep, she’s the one”. She hadn’t done a lot as well, and I kind of took a risk on everyone on the film because they all didn’t have a great deal of experience. I guess it’s one of those things; it’s a director’s intuition. I just had a hunch that these guys could do it.

I have to say it was one of those projects where I felt like with all the momentum I had behind me that it was meant to happen. Some projects you do – you’re just hitting walls constantly, and although we had our fair share of challenges with the project, I had this feeling… that we were doing this film for a reason, which you don’t often get.

All media courtesy of PINCH & Jeffory Asselin

Get Your Shorts On! – Top 3

To mark the end of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival, here’s a selection of my top films from the Get Your Shorts On! screening, which featured six WA-made short films that were each funded by ScreenWest & FTI.

By Courtney Loney

Eighteen years ago, in the basement of Perth jazz venue the Greenwich Club, what is now known today as one of Australia’s most vibrant and eclectic independent film festivals began. This year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival certainly did not disappoint with screenings held at venues from Leederville through to Fremantle showcasing a wide array of feature films, documentaries and short productions from every country imaginable.

We were lucky enough to check out some of the outstanding films on offer (Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival: Feature Films, Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival: Documentaries) and last week I was given the opportunity to view some of the greatest short films to be produced in WA in recent years at the regular festival screening category Get Your Shorts On!

Sadly, we will all have to wait until next year to be able to once again have the chance to see so many unique, independent films made both abroad and in our own backyard, but in the meantime, here’s my top 3 short films from the Get Your Shorts On! collection.

3. Setting Them Straight
Director:
Kaleb McKenna
Starring: Brett Dowson, Greg McNeil & Sarah McNeil

In a society that is finally paving the way for legal same sex unions, Setting Them Straight offers an unorthodox angle on sexuality.

As the title suggests Setting Them Straight  follows Josh (Dowson), a young man who reveals to his parents that he is actually straight after living the majority of his life as gay, or as he says “on the spectrum”. While most filmmakers choose to tiptoe around serious subjects, co-writers Kaleb McKenna and Brett Dowson dive in head-on to create a current and satirical story about the absurdity of sexual discrimination.

With the shift in our society’s tolerance in regards to Marriage Equality and Gay Rights, most parents these days are loving and accepting of their children, but judging from Josh’s parents response to the news, maybe they were a little too understanding of his homosexuality… possibly to the point where they actually like him better because of it! His parents – whose on screen chemistry can be thanked to their real life relationship – openly poke holes at their own marriage in the belief that the arrangement itself is flawed.

Setting them Straight was a great audience pleaser, and a nice way to open the Get Your Shorts On! category by challenging the status quo, and sharing a gorgeously over-the-top, yet humorous reaction toward a shift in point of view on a hot social issue.


2. Love In A Disabled Toilet
Director: 
Ruben Pracas
Starring
: Miley Tunnecliffe, Liam Graham and Claudia Cirillo

What do you get when you take an awkward situation, add a dash of sexual tension and top it off with toilet humour…?

Another film that executes such brilliance with its comedic devices is Love in a Disabled Toilet. It’s New Year’s Eve, and everyone seems to be having fun in the club, except for Dana, who is having a terrible time, which only becomes worse when she finds herself stuck in a disabled toilet with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend!

Produced by Jess Black and directed by Ruben Pracas – whom were both nominated for Young Filmmaker of the Year at this year’s WASA awards – this hilarious short film, starring writer/producer Miley Tunnecliffe, mostly takes place within the toilet cubicle. The clever use of the disabled toilet as the transactional context for essentially a Boy-Meets-Ex-Meets-Current-Meets-Ex also acts as a subtle homage to the “Sh!t Happens!” scenario. The walls literally appear to close in on the characters throughout the film creating a deepening claustrophobia, and awkwardness to the unraveling situation.

Each of the three key characters manage to move through a very quick series of emotional and physical changes, and bring out the best in some well-written snappy dialogue that was sure to keep the audience amused. Without spoiling the short film for any future viewers the key relationship twist literally depends on a single word, err, auto-corrected word that is!


1. Dark Whispers
Director: Ngaire Pigram
Starring
: Naomi Pigram

One of the richest and most ambitious films on the program is producer Kelrick Martin’s Dark Whispers – one of three Indigenous dramas from Spear Point Productions at this year’s festival.


Written by Ngaire Pigram, Dark Whispers is the story of an Indigenous woman grieving the death of her two sons who finds solace in the sweet song of the Magpie, or “Burrugarrbuu”. This film is imbued with symbolism of the magpie throughout; while you hear it mentioned in the traditional language, it is also a significant metaphor for the joy and grief experienced by the main character Debbie (Naomi Pigram). With a particular emphasis on sound in this film, one of my favourite scenes is where we hear the warbling call of the magpie in the morning, juxtaposed with images of the smiles of Debbie’s children.

The dreamtime stories credit the magpie with creating the very first sunrise, and perhaps this film holds some extra significance for those who relate deeply to this cultural symbol. The burrugarrbuu’s song is a poignant reminder for the mother of her love for her children, and also of her loss, but also that the world comes alive again every dawn when greeted by the laughing magpie.

With beautiful cinematography, and a heartfelt performance from Naomi Pigram, who was nominated at this year’s WASAs, Dark Whispers is not just telling an important indigenous tale, but is a showcase for the industry, which evidently paints a bright future for all WA Indigenous filmmakers!


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Red Mile Stone Productions & Spear Point Productions

 

Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Documentaries

Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll

Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll will warm the cockles of any Revelation Perth International Film Festival attendees’ heart this season.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday

Still from trailer for Parkerville Amphitheater - Sets, Bugs and Rock and Roll

Still from trailer for Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll

Much-anticipated Western Australian documentary Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs and Rock N Roll tells the overwhelming true story of one of the state and country’s best kept secrets. Opening in 1971, Parkerville Amphitheatre, located within the Shire of Mundaring just outside Perth, was considered a linchpin of Australian music, alternative art, theatre, and community spirit. Despite complaints from the council and neighbours, its founder’s (John Joseph Jones) never-give-up attitude and bright ideas made Parkerville an awe-inspiring landmark. The venue, having closed in 2001, is now a decaying shadow of its former self.

Directors Jenny Crabb and Susan Conte have spent the last several years bringing Parkerville back into the spotlight. Playing at this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival, the documentary aims directly at WA’s 40+ arts and entertainment crowd. Fuelled by nostalgia, the project covers everything associated with the venue’s conception. Broken into four parts, it effectively details its development, operation, downfall, and slow, painful destruction. Crabb and Conte’s vision, aided by everyone involved, provides a delicate balance of optimism and poignancy.

Crabb and Conte, restrained by the lack of recording and video footage, give each interviewee free reign. Focusing on John’s wife Derry and eldest son Lawrence, the documentary pays tribute to John’s extraordinary achievements. In addition, interviews with local musicians, theatre buffs, writers, and family friends craft a glorious and unique account of WA’s Woodstock. Now, as Perth’s live music scene is undergoing significant transformations, this documentary speaks directly to the state’s undying determination and artistic ingenuity.

Parkerville is a small production powered by the gargantuan support of Perth’s art and entertainment hub. This relevant and invigorating documentary is a sure-fire Rev. highlight.

Screening:
Sat 11th July, 4pm – Cinema Paradiso
Sun 12th July, 12:00pm – Luna SX


Being Evel

What goes up must come down. Although the basic laws of physics supposedly didn’t apply to legendary motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, they had a profound impact upon his life according to this insightful documentary from director Daniel Junge.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Rhys Graeme-Drury

Still from Being Evel

Still from Being Evel

Detailing Evel Knievel‘s zero to hero and back again story from humble origins to worldwide stardom, Daniel Junge’s film is an entertaining and well-researched examination of the complex man behind the star-spangled cape whose feats captured the imagination of a generation.

Junge rigidly adheres to a conventional doco template, but his mixture of different storytelling techniques keep the film cruising along at a good pace. A range of interviews with family members (Evel’s wives and children) and celebrity admirers (Johnny Knoxville, Travis Pastrana, Robbie Maddison) flesh out the impact Evel’s exploits had, as well as the legacy he has left behind.

Archive footage of his hare-brained stunts is both exhilarating and confronting; the shocking footage of Evel’s fateful Caesar’s Palace jump where he is tossed across the tarmac like a ragdoll is used for maximum effect.

The narrative does veer dangerously close to unrelenting jingoism in the first half, but Junge ensures that every shade of Evel is covered during the 99-minute runtime. His loveable tearaway image is slowly peeled back to reveal a more sinister and ugly side to the icon; his blatant disregard for authority gradually morphing into arrogance, chronic adultery and borderline insanity.

Being Evel is a warts and all depiction of an American icon, albeit one that does feel tonally uneven at times. Come for the stunts, but stay for the substance.

Screening:
Fri 10th July, 6:30pm – Luna SX
Sun 12th July, 5:15pm – Luna Leederville


Best of Enemies

It’s Buckley vs. Vidal in the verbal match of the century; perhaps history’s most famous and influential televised arguments of deeply intellectual, political and social context. The winner? Television and the media itself…

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan

Still from Best of Enemies

Still from Best of Enemies

Making its debut at this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival is Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) and Robert Gordon’s cerebral, politically-fuelled documentary Best of Enemies, an unexpectedly entertaining and, at times, emotional chronicle of the famous series of public debates between two intellectual heavyweights. In the conservative corner – author William F. Buckley Jr., right wing commentator and editor of the magazine National Review. In the liberal corner – patrician Gore Vidal, writer of countless plays, screenplays and novels (including the classic satire Myra Breckinridge). The two went head to head 1968, appearing in ten consecutive verbal disputes televised across the nation and defining civic discussion in the media itself for years to come. Punctuated with biographies of the pair, and the impact and outcome of each debate on the era, Neville and Gordon’s film makes for a compulsive and vital history lesson in media discourse.

It’s interesting to delve beneath the façade of opinions and wry words for a raw and visceral look at these two very different men; as each debate explodes it becomes clearer that Buckley and Vidal undoubtedly despised each other, yet always possessed a mutual respect, even amidst the increasing threats of violence. The Catholic Buckley disapproved of Vidal’s openly sexual and provocative notions, and vice versa, but most powerful are the final few debates, when the pair realise their escalating rivalry has become a product of the media; was genuine, passionate hatred merely entertainment? The film stumbles a little in its attempt to relate the impact to modern society, but for enthusiasts of political history this is a prudent and poignant relic.

Screening:
Sun 12th July, 2:15pm – Luna Leederville


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Susie Conte & Jenny Crabb, Madman Entertainment, Magnolia Pictures & Participant Media

Quick Picks – Revelation Perth International Film Festival – Feature Films

What Lola Wants

Fast, fun, and ferocious – What Lola Wants may just be Revelation Perth International Film Festival 2015’s boldest and brightest feature.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Tom Munday

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Sophie Lowe in What Lola Wants

Celebrity teenager Lola Franklin (Sophie Lowe) has run away from her Beverley Hills lifestyle into the wild, wild west. Believing she has been kidnapped, her parents stamp down a $1 million reward for her safe return. Lola meets rebellious, pickpocketing loner Marlo (Beau Knapp) in a diner, convinced he is the man of her dreams. Marlo, being hunted by Mama (Dale Dickey), is already neck-deep in trouble. The destructive duo heads out on the road, taking down anyone in his or her path. But which reward will Marlo choose – the girl or the money?

What Lola Wants is one of the biggest surprises of 2015. This crime-thriller is the pitch-perfect example of less is more – relying on character and tone over anything else. Australian writer/director Rupert Glasson injects his frenzying style onto every page and frame. Attributing to Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah, every plot-point, twist, and line of dialogue is drenched in pulp and viscera. Told from its lead’s perspective, it’s tough, sexy atmosphere sparks a thrilling pace. Glasson’s latest venture harkens back to some of Hollywood’s biggest middle-finger thrillers like Natural Born Killers and Badlands.

Glasson’s hyperkinetic, frivolous visuals bolster What Lola Wants’ simple-yet-effective narrative. Its lurid cinematography flaunts the American Heartland’s glorious scenic vistas. In addition, its scintillating score pays tribute to the dark, disturbing heart of the western genre. Indeed, touches including an animated credits sequences and comic-book-esque scene transitions deliver multiple surprises. Most importantly, the performances take charge from the outset – with Lowe and Knapp’s chemistry establishing their significant talents.

Bolstered by style and substance, What Lola Wants has more brains, brawn, and heart than anything 2015’s big-budget slate has offered thus far.

Screening:
Sat 11th July, 6:45pm, Luna Leederville


Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites

 Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites, though not for the faint-hearted, is a unique and mind-altering experimental-drama/black-comedy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday 

Teik Kim Pok in Alvin’s Harmonious World Of Opposites

The plot of Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites is, inexplicably, more intricate and perplexing than its title. Alvin (Teik Kim Pok) has not left the confines of his one-bedroom apartment for over 18 months. The agoraphobic nobody lives only with bizarre collections of toy pandas, Prince Charles and Princess Diana memorabilia, and vintage flour containers. Human interactions include obnoxious neighbour Virginia (Vashti Hughes) and video chats with his boss Angela (Allis Logan). With work and home-life difficulties building up, Alvin becomes paranoid after brown ooze begins dripping through the ceiling.

Writer/director Platon Theodoris’ feature debut is a unique and nightmarish examination of the Average Joe. His project meddles with several genres, concepts, and themes, with the first-two thirds highlighting the long-standing tedium of Alvin’s decaying existence. Sticking with Alvin inside his claustrophobic abode, the narrative’s repetitiveness and peculiarity illicit a unique physical, mental, and spiritual response. Similarly to David Lynch and David Cronenberg, Theodoris’ writing and directorial ticks put the audience on edge throughout its steady 73-minute run-time.

Alvin’s Harmonious World of Opposites’ final third becomes a Rubik’s cube-level obstacle course through awe-inspiring visuals and intricate ideas. Delving into Alvin’s baffling subconscious, Theodoris’ project switches valiantly from black comedy to existential angst. Scenic vistas and a stirring score establish the dramedy’s discussion of introspection, loneliness, and voyeurism. Pok, carrying every scene, conveys a bevvy of complex emotions with several key facial expressions.

This drama-thriller/black-comedy is a bizarre yet rewarding trip through Alvin’s dreamscape. Theodoris’ feature debut is set to be the “Did you get it?” flick of this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival.

Screenings:
Thurs 9th July 8:30pm – Cinema Paradiso
Sat 11th July 3:30pm – Luna Leederville


Plague

Here we go again…Plague is yet another exploration of the decisions we may be faced with if the world was to end in a zombie apocalypse.

⭐ ⭐
Review by Chantall Victor

Scene from Plague

Scene from Plague

Directed by Nick Kozakis and Kosta Ouzas, Australian film Plague aims to present itself as a horror film, but comes off as more of a psychological thriller – at least for the first 20 minutes. From then on it’s all downhill as sadly, the film meets its own death, and decays on the screen before the audience’s eyes for the remainder of its runtime.

Evie (Tegan Crowely) is stuck with a group of survivors in an Australian barn when she is confronted with the difficult decision of whether to stay and wait for her husband (Scott Marcus) – who may have been turned into a zombie – or go with the group in search of safety. Of course, true love abides, and she stays behind, only to encounter an unexpected guest.

I always look forward to an Australian made film because I believe the Australian industry has such potential, but unfortunately, this film will have to be an exception to my rule. Although visually pleasing — thanks to the make-up department, and cinematographer Tim Metherall — the film suffers from a lack of character development, and endless plot holes. At times the story becomes so unconvincing that it’s laughable — think the Australian version of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room – and so many elements are left unexplained. Overall, the aesthetics are just not enough to save this vague zombie flick.

Screening:
Sat 11th, 8:45pm – Luna Leederville


Images courtesy of Revelation Perth International Film Festival, Rupert Glasson, Big Name Studios & Burning Ships Productions

 

Movie Review – Son Of A Gun

Son Of A Gun is a refreshing Australian film devoid of kangaroos, heightened accents and sweeping shots of the outback. On account of its killer performances and awesome action sequences, I would easily call it the best Australian film of 2014 so far.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review by Cherie Wheeler

In the action/thriller Son of A Gun, 19-year-old JR (Brenton Thwaites) is forced to strike a deal with notorious criminal Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor) whilst serving a short term sentence at a maximum security prison in Western Australia. In exchange for protection from some unsavoury cellmates, JR must play a key role in a daring plan that will see Brendan and his comrades escape from the jail. Upon the successful execution of the break out, JR is inducted into Brendan’s crew, and an uncanny father/son relationship develops between the pair. Despite being in hiding, Brendan insists on attempting a dangerous, multimillion dollar heist at a gold mine in Kalgoorlie. When it all goes terribly wrong, JR quickly realises that it is every man for himself, and that absolutely no one can be trusted.

Australian films generally operate on fairly modest budgets, therefore we very rarely see an attempt on genres that rely heavily on special effects or epic action sequences. In the 1980s George Miller proved through his Mad Max franchise that Australia is more than capable of producing high quality action films for a fraction of the cost of the average Hollywood blockbuster, and now for the first time since then, writer/director Julius Avery has once again demonstrated this with Son Of A Gun.

At a question and answer session at Luna Cinemas in Leederville, Western Australia, Avery referenced the works of Michael Mann, in particular his 1995 film Heat, as his inspiration for the visual style of Son Of A Gun. These films are very similar in the sense that they both stay true to the conventions of the action/thriller genre, but they also include well developed characters, as well as an emotive storyline that underpins all of the action. Avery humbly admitted that he did not think his action sequences were quite as good as those in Heat, and as a fellow worshipper of this film I would have to agree with his admission, but nevertheless, Avery’s direction throughout Son Of A Gun is still pretty damn good. Particularly noteworthy is an insane car chase that takes place in the dusty plains of the mines in Kalgoorlie. The harsh sound design, coupled with the fast, brutal editing throughout this scene causes you to feel every bump in the road, and every violent collision between vehicles, as if you are right there with the characters. Avery said that whilst audiences are accustomed to the typical car chase sequence that manages to find its way into almost every action film, it was unlikely that they would have ever seen one against a background that is so unique to Western Australia; and he is 100% right. His exploitation of this location during this scene provides a truly original viewing experience.

The Queensland-born lead actor Brenton Thwaites has been popping up all over the place of late in films such as Oculus (2013), Maleficent (2014), and most recently The Giver (2014). You may remember him as the cocky, rebellious high school kid on Home And Away a few years back, but he has certainly come a long way since then. Kudos to Avery for casting Thwaites as JR as although the young actor is able to exude the tough and surly exterior of a teenage criminal, the moment he starts talking you realise he is just a naive and innocent kid, which perfectly sums up the character.

Ewan McGregor is scintillating on screen; he has this presence that demands your attention, to the point where he is almost a little too convincing. All of the performances from the supporting cast are top notch, especially that of Matt Nable, Jacek Koman, and a brief, but bizarre appearance from Damon Herriman. The only weak link is in JR’s love interest played by Alicia Vikander. She certainly gives it her all during an intense action sequence where she fights for her life, and for the most part she delivers a solid performance, however, in one scene where she helplessly witnesses JR attempt to fight his way out of a dangerous situation, her emotional reaction is incredibly superficial and very distracting.

I am a huge fan of minimal dialogue, or at least only using dialogue when absolutely necessary, so in this respect I am in admiration of Avery’s screenplay. On the other hand, I felt as though there were a few clunky elements in the script, such as the overuse of chess references, and the collage of a perfect life that Thwaites’ character constantly carries around. There is also a not-so-subtle inclusion of a shot of regular teenage boys hanging out and riding their bikes when JR is in the middle of a crisis. Although I understand the reasoning behind the inclusion of each of these elements, I think they could have been handled with a little more grace, but these are only minor problems that I had with the film.

What really sold the film to me was the unexpected, dark humour; the whole audience was cracking up during certain parts. I’m not sure how much of it was intentional, but this comedic relief was really effective. I’ve already said this on Twitter, but I will say it again; Son Of A Gun is definitely the best Australian film of 2014 so far, and consequently I am giving it 4 stars.

Images courtesy of EntertainmentOne