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Analysis and Comment (59)

Movie theaters have seen declining box office revenues over the past two years. Michael Gabler/Wikimedia Commons

Event cinema could save the movie theater

If Dumber and Dumber To, Interstellar and Big Hero 6 didn’t get you to the movies last week, you weren’t alone: just before Thanksgiving, Box Office Mojo put year-to-date gross receipts at almost $9 billion…
In Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey plays the protagonist, Cooper, who wears many hats: everyman farmer, laconic space hero, grieving father. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Interstellar: Nolan’s flawed masterpiece

At about the midway point of Interstellar, a spacecraft descends into the atmosphere of a pristine white planet. Gliding downwards, the tip of the craft brushes against a cloud, and the cloud shatters…
Movies such as Matrix Revolutions are explicit about their desire to make us think. AAP Image/Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow Films

Thought experiments: the films that turn us into philosophers

Showbusiness is about entertainment, right? Film-going should be fun. We want to laugh or squeal or sigh as emotion arises in us when the music swells and the camera zooms in for an extreme close up…
After Isaac Newton, earthquakes could be deterministically linked to a distant divinity. Earthquake in Haiti, American Red Cross

A moral world in which bad things happen to good people

On All Saints Day in 1755 the earth quaked beneath the city of Lisbon. Crowds rushed to open spaces near the sea only to be engulfed by a tsunami. The philosopher Voltaire lamented the tragedy in his Poem…
The vampire stars of What We Do In The Shadows, a new New Zealand film released today. Kane Skellar/Madmen Films

What We Do in the Shadows – the NZ gothic with sharp comic chops

Yes, some vampires like to live in looming, crumbling, cobwebby castles. But some, the vampires of What We Do in the Shadows, a New Zealand film released today, like to live in flats in Wellington. This…
How can big data help us to better understand the cinema habits of movie-lovers around the world? Kenneth Lu/Flickr

Big Data at the movies: the Kinomatics project

The backlash against “big data” studies is well underway. And no more so than in the area of humanities and creative arts research. If I had a dollar for every person who has told me over the past year…
A testament to Bacall’s strength of personality was her ability to move beyond the shadow of being Mrs Bogart. Insomnia Cured Here

Beauty and brawn: Lauren Bacall’s noir feminine legacy

Lauren Bacall carried with her an air of mystery and intrigue in life – and now in death. She died of a stroke today at the age of 89 at her home in Los Angeles. As sex symbol – the Look, the Voice – lover…
Caesar (Andy Serkis) is the leader of the ape nation in a scene from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Weta/20th Century Fox

Oscars for animals? Andy Serkis should be beating his chest

The notion that a chimpanzee could win an Academy Award for acting (or anything else) seems farcical at first glance but, of course, it’s not an actual chimpanzee being discussed in the case of the latest…
The muscle man. Kerry Brown/© 2014 Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures.

Brain or brawn? New Hercules film is bringing back the muscle

Hercules is once again back on our screens. This latest version has Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson in the title role, alongside an international cast which includes a host of British stars. John Hurt is Cotys…
Good Vibrations tells the story of Belfast’s punk scene against the backdrop of the Troubles. Curious Films

Belfast’s punk scene brings Good Vibrations … and Troubles

Punk music’s role in overcoming sectarian divides during one of the bloodiest chapters in northern Irish history isn’t a topic we hear much about. But that’s the subject of the film Good Vibrations, currently…
The hero’s journey in three stages - separation, initiation, return - offers a narrative framework for understanding character progression. Pineapples101

Are you monomythic? Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey

When you tell someone a story, do you plan it out beforehand so that it’ll sound good? Do you carefully plot what you’ll say, in a specific order? Or does the story find a way of telling itself, the plot…
Norman McLaren working on Begone Dull Care, 1949. National Film Board of Canada

Norman McLaren: a late, great animator now drawing applause

Animation is all around us – from Pixar to manga to animated gifs. As with any creative field, it has its unsung heroes – the innovators who have shaped and defined the art form. So it was a great delight…
Director Richard Linklater goes for the complexity of lived time in Boyhood. Sydney Film Festival

Linklater puts the hood in Boyhood at the Sydney Film Festival

Boyhood is the front-runner in this year’s Sydney Film Festival Competition, to be decided on Sunday. In it, American writer and director Richard Linklater looks at a young boy’s life from the beginning…
Guy Pearce plays Eric, alongside Robert Pattinson as Reynolds, in Australian director David Michod’s second feature film The Rover. Sydney Film Festival

The Rover brings unremitting fury to the Sydney Film Festival

The Sydney Film Festival Offical Competition this year has featured a range of male (and a few female) protagonists who are either without domicile, or whose domicile is severely threatened. I have already…
Melodrama makes the universe morally legible. Sydney Film Festval

Does Locke have the drive to win the Sydney Film Festival?

The phone connection illuminates the dashboard screen. “Ivan Locke,” says the man behind the wheel. “Ivan. Where are you?” says a woman’s voice. “I’m in the car,” he replies. This direct way of answering…
An ambitious, powerful film – bodes well for this year’s festival. 20,000 Days on Earth, Sydney Film Festival 2014

Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth opens the Sydney Film Festival

The Sydney Film Festival (SFF) opened last night, kicking off not only one of the landmark cultural events of the city, but a program that draws films from almost 50 countries throughout the world. As…
Vidya Balan, who stars in India’s first female detective movie, Bobby Jasoos, features at this year’s festival. AAP Image/Miranda Brown Publicity., James Gee

Melbourne’s Indian Film Festival needs to strengthen its ties

The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) kicked off last night with Bollywood’s cult classic curry-western Sholay in 3D format. This year IFFM is screening 46 films from four countries in 17 languages…
It’s not easy to access classic Australian cinema – so it’s good Charles Chauvel’s films are being re-released. (C) Released by arrangement with the Chauvel Film Trust

Blast from the past: a new life for Charles Chauvel’s great films

All national cinemas outside of Hollywood have to strive hard to maintain their local industries – and Australia is no exception. So Umbrella Entertainment is to be commended for re-releasing on DVD over…
The Lego Movie demonstrates a surprisingly acute understanding of the boundaries between childhood and adulthood. Nick D.M.

The Lego Movie understands what separates kids and adults

I’m sitting here in my office, having made several false starts on this piece, and my phone has just buzzed. My five year old son – who an hour ago accompanied me to a packed screening of The Lego Movie…
Let the floodgates open. © Niko Tavernise, Paramount Pictures Corporation

Can religion sell? Noah and the search for an audience

The trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah features a craggy-faced, bearded Hollywood star, a cast of hundreds and a host of incredibly well-rendered CGI animals. The latter might be a sign of our times…
Does Aim High in Creation! create the conditions for active resistance to fracking in Australia? Production still from Aim High in Creation!

Kim Jong Il says … always Aim High in Creation!

The history of revolutionary cinema has been marked by a number of mercurial manifestos. Sergei Eisenstein, for example, believed in the brute potential of editing to activate the political senses. Fernando…
Frankenstein’s monster meets his maker – again – in I, Frankenstein. Getty Images

Here be more movie monsters: Frankenstein, Godzilla, whatevs …

Just when you thought that pile of death-dealing demons heaped up in the bargain bin at your local Kmart couldn’t get any higher … 2014 is turning out to be yet another year of monsters at the movies…
Australia’s most prolific Oscar winner, Catherine Martin, was awarded her fourth Oscar for production design on The Great Gatsby. What is it that production designers actually do? AAP

Explainer: what is production design?

When we watch a movie, how do we know where and when it is taking place? This is just one of the questions a production designer working on a film or TV show helps audiences answer. They do so through…
It’s not just money that emerging filmmakers need – they also need help getting their work screened. vancouverfilmschool

My low-budget film? I don’t need money, I need a distribution deal

Earlier this year The Conversation published an article by Rebecca Mostyn about the audience for Australian films. The article includes useful stats pertaining to Screen Australia’s slate of feature films…
The film adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s memoir Tracks explores how both travellers and tourists experience the Australian landscape.

Tracks, a film that lets a woman thrive in the outback

In the new film Wolf Creek 2, the menacing outback serial killer Mick Taylor asks his unsuspecting tourist prey, “what the bloody hell are you buggers doing out here?” This phrase could equally be used…
Lupita Nyong'o won Best Supporting Actress at the 2014 Oscars. Paul Buck/EPA

The Academy Awards and racial diversity – what are the odds?

Oscars nominations and winners this year offered an unparalleled level of racial diversity. In the headline categories, Lupita Nyong’o won for Best Supporting Actress, Alfonso Cuarón was the first Mexican…
Zero gravitas. Warner Bros. Pictures

Why Gravity does not deserve the Best Picture Oscar

Gravity has been nominated for ten Oscars, and sauntered away from the BAFTAS with a controversial Outstanding British Film award under its belt too (much of it was shot in the UK, yes, but the stars shining…
Cinema group Hoyts may find itself on the market again, but the giant could face a rocky few years. Flickr/Devar

No plain sailing for cinema giant as Hoyts heads to float

Cinema company Hoyts Group is again considering listing on the stockmarket, tipped to take place sometime later this year. It’s expected that the float will be valued at around A$700 million. The group…
Tom Hanks stars in the Best Picture-nominated film, Captain Phillips. Can Hollywood dish out moral lessons? EPA/Warren Toda

Oscars-worthy: dramatised acts of giving don’t redeem Hollywood

It’s Oscars season and there’s plenty of controversy, as usual, about what’s made the cut and what hasn’t. But I want to focus on what will be the most dramatised moment of Sunday’s award ceremony: the…
Cult director Godfrey Reggio’s latest film, Visitors, screened in Sydney last week – with a live performance of the Philip Glass score. Prudence Upton/Sydney Festival

After Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors – review

Godfrey Reggio’s film Visitors, which screened last week with a live Philip Glass score at the Sydney Opera House, represents the continuation of an aesthetic project that began with the landmark Koyaanisqatsi…
Sometimes too much is just too much. Martin Scorsese’s latest film is swamped by its excesses. Paramount Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street is a howling disappointment

The Wolf of Wall Street is Martin Scorsese’s Scarface – and that isn’t meant as a compliment. I watched Brian De Palma’s 1983 film again recently. I had been looking forward to it: the Blu-ray edition…
How keen are Australians to see locally made films such as The Sapphires? AAP Image/April Fonti

Explainer: where’s the audience for Australian films?

Around 25 new Australian feature films are released into the market each year – so who’s watching them, when and how are they watching, and what makes them choose home-grown films over imported blockbusters…
The meaning of independent film has changed since Robert Redford established the Sundance Film Festival in 1981. EPA/George Frey

Is the Sundance Festival arthouse – or just Hollywood as usual?

The 2014 Sundance Film Festival starts today in Park City, Utah. Launched in 1981 by Robert Redford and friends, this year’s festival showcases a selection of new independently produced films, all vying…
Lupita Nyong'o and Alfre Woodard star in Steve McQueen’s new biopic. Chris Pizzello/AP

A life more terrible: the women of 12 Years a Slave

The United States was in the middle of a civil war 150 years ago and, while Abraham Lincoln had just issued the emancipation proclamation, it would still be another 18 months until freedom finally came…
HG Wells (left) with actors on the set of Things to Come, a 1936 adaptation of his futuristic novel. James Vaughan

Cinema classics: five of the best science and technology films

Cinema did not emerge from a eureka moment, but rather through the incremental innovations of pioneers such as the Lumière brothers, Étienne-Jules Marey and Thomas Edison. So it is unsurprising that filmmakers…
Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, stars of Blue is the Warmest Colour, at the Cannes Film Festival. EPA/Ian Langsdon

Strong, diverse and controversial: queer film in 2013

From limited theatrical releases to the queer film festival circuit – and being refused classification – 2013 has seen films with LGBT content distributed to audiences by a variety of means. Box office…
The jury of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival had its say on the films of the year in May. EPA/Guillaume Horcajuelo EPA/Sebastien Nogier

The good, the bad and the groundbreaking: movies of 2013

Warning: this is not a list of the best movies of 2013. There were plenty of movies released this year that stirred up debates about cinema and who makes it. They were the ones that made me sit up and…
If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes … Jodi Sita

What eye tracking tells us about the way we watch films

In Blade Runner (1982), Roy Batty, the leader of an outlaw group of Nexus-6 replicants, undertakes a quest to “meet his maker”. When he encounters Chew, the genetic designer of his eyes, he mocks: “Chew…
An excerpt from Alison Bechdel’s comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (1985). Wikimedia

What the Bechdel test doesn’t tell us about women on film

Four cinemas in Sweden recently pledged to rate films based on whether they pass what is known as the “Bechdel test,” a means of evaluating gender bias in film, named after American graphic artist Alison…
Casting stars such as Rachel Griffiths isn’t enough to overcome a broken distribution system. Paul Miller/AAP

The horror at the heart of Australian cinema

There’s more than one reason the new Australian film Patrick – released last month – is a horror story. Sure, it’s a fright flick, based on the 1978 orginal, in which a creepy coma patient uses telekinesis…
Let’s be honest: the sofa’s often better than the cinema. AAP/HBO

Youth vs truth: how box sets beat the box office

The northern summer of 2013 was a bad one for Hollywood. After Earth, The Lone Ranger, White House Down, World War Z and Pacific Rim were among the million-dollar turkeys. And you may have noticed the…
In letting go, we have the chance to find ourselves. Warner Bros Pictures/AAP

Gravity lends weight to cinema – and always has

Cinema’s relationship to gravity is a fascinating one. At the time of its birth, in 1895, cinema was seen as a revolutionary machine that didn’t simply defy gravity through moving pictures seemingly suspended…
Considered to be a celebration of cinematic achievement, the Academy Awards doesn’t always reflect the best cinema has to offer. Matt Brown/HO EPA

Mo money, mo problems: how the Oscars ruin cinema

Like many students of film, I have a love/hate relationship with the Academy Awards. I eagerly read all of the predictions on various blogs, get into heated debates among friends over the nominees and…
Director James Cameron at the launch of the 3D version of Titanic. EPA/Franck Robichon

OMG Titanic was like for realz #wtf

Trending on Twitter this week has been Gen Y shock and awe that Titanic isn’t just the name of a film. Apparently someone has accidentally stumbled onto the fact that the Titanic story was a tad more than…
The Australian film Any Questions for Ben? has begged another question – what makes a film Australian? AAP Image/Marianna Massey

Strewth! How Aussie does Australian cinema need to be?

What makes an Australian film truly Australian? Do there need to be Aussie characters? Aussie actors? Aussie subject matter? Australian humour? Australians are good at obsessing about what makes them different…
The covers of two of the first editions of Tintin. AAP

Tintin, human rights and politics

An upsurge of interest in Tintin, the cartoon boy reporter who was the creation of Belgian artist Hergé (1907-1983), has accompanied the release of the Tintin movie, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret…

Columnists (12)

Mega-sound makes cinema the new rock n roll

It has been almost a truism of television, in the discussions of professionals and the analyses of academics, that television broadcasting is a sound medium with added pictures, while cinema is a visual…

Remembering Peter O'Toole

I cannot be entirely sure – the building is now entirely refurbished under a new name, and there is no easily accessible record, but sometime around 1970 I believe I saw Peter O'Toole in Waiting for Godot…