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20/20 Filmsight - Film Criticism by David O'Connell

Film Criticism by David O'Connell

I'm a Sydney-based film reviewer that loves to review local screenings and film festivals. Want me to cover your event? Email me at cibbuano ~AT~ orble ~DOT~ com.

Favourite Films of 2014

January 27th 2015 07:01


1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
2. Winter Sleep (Niri Bilge Ceylan)
3. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
5. We are the Best! (Lukas Moodysson)
6. Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)
7. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
8. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
9. Her (Spike Jonze)
10. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
11. Force Majeure (Ruben Ostlund)
12. 20,000 Days on Earth (Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard)
13. Locke (Steven Knight)
14. Tracks (John Curran)
15. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino)
16. Gloria (Sebastian Lelio)
17. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho)
18. The Invisible Woman (Ralph Fiennes)
19. Le Week-End (Roger Michell)
20. The One I Love (Charlie McDowell)

The next ten:

21. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
22. Mr.Turner (Mike Leigh)
23. Starred Up (David Mackenzie)
24. Frank (Lenny Abrahamson)
25. Begin Again (John Carney)
26. The Double (Richard Ayoade)
27. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves)
28. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
29. Calvary (John Michael McDonagh)
30. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois)

Favourite new films unreleased in Australian cinemas during 2014 :

1. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Sion Sono)
2. Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
3. Catch Me Daddy (Daniel Wolfe)
4. Stations of the Cross (Dietrich Bruggemann)
5. Love is Strange (Ira Sachs)
6. Amour Fou (Jessica Hausner)
7. A Girl at My Door (July Jung)
8. Black Coal, Thin Ice (Yi'nan Diao)
9. Han Gong-ju (Lee Su-jin)
10. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her and Him (Ned Benson)

Favourite scores of 2014:

Godzilla – Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
The Double – Andrew Hewitt
The One I Love – Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans
Snowpiercer – Marco Beltrami
Guardians of the Galaxy – Tyler Bates
The Railway Man – David Hirschfelder
A Million Ways to Die in the West – Joel McNeely
Under the Skin – Micah Levy
The Maze Runner – John Paesano
Tracks – Garth Stevenson



January 14th 2015 05:46

In every pored over frame of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s extraordinary new film Birdman (2014), we feel the pain of washed up movie star Riggan Thomson’s (Michael Keaton) failings as a father, of the hollowness of his marriage’s disintegration and of the existential torment so intrinsically linked with his yearning for artistic credibility. Known primarily for his portrayal of unconventional superhero Birdman in a trio of obsolete outings, Riggan has poured all his resources into a one-shot stage venture, writing, directing and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver stories. But he’s up against it as his past ‘glories’ threaten to overshadow him, whilst an array of acidic doubters lay in wait for a seemingly inevitable, humiliating failure.

Going behind the scenes over the course of a few days in the lead up to the show’s debut, Inarritu’s film, which he co-wrote with a trio of screenwriters, becomes a remarkably vivid, candid and mesmerizingly intimate portrait of Riggan, his co-workers and those closest to him, all of whom hover in and out of frame. It’s this visual approach adopted by Inarritu and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki that is truly remarkable. They’ve produced a fluid, often graceful, frequently kinetic, punishingly real cinematic immersion. In some senses their realisation is visionary through its means of prolonging the illusion of a continuing, single shot that transcends time and space, day and night. Hitchcock, though lacking the technology, made a noteworthy attempt at rigging prolonged shots in Rope (1948), whilst Aleksandr Sokurov created a work of art with his glistening jewel of perfection Russian Ark (2002). Even the horror genre has seen attempts at pulling off the single take shot conceit, with Gustavo Hernandez’s passable Silent House (2010) quickly mirrored by an inevitable American remake a year later.

Inarritu’s film never draws undue attention to its modus operandi and aesthetic approach. The flawless ensemble of actors flowing in and out of scenes around Riggan maintains the sense of naturalism. Keaton, in a gift of a late-career role, makes every post a winner, pouring sadness, hope, futility and mortal terror into Riggan as he rides rapidly swaying fortunes. Edward Norton is almost as good as the repellent but hilariously conceited Mike Binder, a hotshot actor drafted in at late notice. Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Zack Galifianakis (in a rare straight role) are all exceptional, whilst even the problematic Emma Stone rises to the level of the material as Riggan’s difficult daughter. Punctuated with razor-sharp dialogue, withering exchanges and impassioned pleas, the film eclipses Inarritu’s past work, including his star making debut Amores Perros (2000) and his last film, the transcendently bleak Biutiful (2010). His films have always been distinguished by their clever construction (mostly thanks to screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga’s work on his first three) and here he uses the enigmatic, internal haranguing of the sinister yet talismanic Birdman inside Riggan’s head as the multiple voices of ghosts past, an impinged-upon conscience, the cold-hearted realist and the crooked fatalist in us all. This is what Inarritu’s masterful ultimately film boils down to: metaphors explicit, oblique and strange, imbued with the sputtering hopes and dreams of the individual and wrapped around an indelibly humane core. Destined to be considered a classic.


Mr. Turner

January 7th 2015 03:45

Erudite, literate and populated with a sparkling array of secondary characters, this is director Mike Leigh’s poetic re-imagining of the life of one of Britain’s most famous painters, J.M.W. Turner. The film is notable not only for the ambition of its author but also the remarkable central performance of Timothy Spall as the irascible artistic genius. Turner is a man alive with fascinating contradictions: though he was clearly never a ‘people’ person, he was often capable of great tenderness, evidenced in both his love for his father (Paul Jesson) and the woman, Mrs. Booth (Marion Bailey) who would become his last long-term companion. His former wife receives minimal respect whilst Turner barely acknowledges his daughters, and treats the later passing of one as a minor detail to be skimmed over like any other domestic irritation.

Leigh of course takes great liberties in rendering his own depiction of Turner, but the composite he builds is of a man whose genius was tempered by his intolerance of routine and bouts of lustful need. From a humble examination of his domestic routine in the opening scenes, including regular trips about to feed his inspiration, the film builds up a wonderful momentum. Leigh crams the margins of his narrative with the richest minor details whilst remaining faithful to the imposing central figure of Turner. He doesn't shy away from detailing the man’s darker side and in any other film, Spall’s portrayal might have been seen as a grotesque caricature and gross misrepresentation of the artist. Yet, the effect is the complete opposite, even as Turner’s grunting assent and dissent pepper his verbal exchanges, ultimately for the comedic effect as much as for preserving its idiosyncratic integrity.

The joy of any Leigh film comes in the casting of unknowns who seem born to play their parts, no matter how minor. There’s not a false note to be heard in Mr.Turner (2014), a film that lavishes attention upon a significant artist whilst avoiding heedless veneration; examines his process yet never denies him very human foibles. It’s a funny film too, poking fun at the times, the aristocracy, and the world of artists both subservient to and betrayed by all their temperamental excesses. Leigh’s film, in many ways the finest of his career, is a work of art itself, elevating the form with its dazzling dialogue, truthful insights and exceptional attention to detail.


Maps to the Stars

December 17th 2014 03:33


December 10th 2014 03:36

20,000 Days on Earth

December 5th 2014 03:40

Force Majeure

December 1st 2014 04:58


November 18th 2014 03:10

Two Days, One Night

November 11th 2014 06:48


November 11th 2014 05:11

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