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Analysis and Comment (156)

2010’s Animal Kingdom – one of many films to benefit from the legacies of the Whitlam government. EPA/Simon Mein/Sony Pictures

Australia’s film industry owes a debt to Gough Whitlam

Filmmakers and audiences – indeed Australian arts and screen culture more broadly – owe a deep debt of gratitude to Gough Whitlam and the government he led. Although the foundations had been laid by Whitlam’s…
David Fincher’s film shows the desolation of failed suburban promises. Twentieth Century Fox

What Gone Girl tells us about American degrowth

The film Gone Girl (2014) is dividing critics along gender lines. Men see it as a gripping, fresh thriller while women have expressed alarm over a range of issues. Chief in recent days is criticism of…
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…
Light levels in film have markedly declined from 1935. Mirjaleed Biteng

Explainer: film lighting

Lighting is a fundamental property of cinema. So called “writing in light”, photographed images, whether live-action or cell animation, need illumination. It is the most essential part of a cinematographer’s…
The road to light, camera, action. Bill McKelvie/Shutterstock

An independent Scotland could become a film powerhouse

The current independence referendum presents the film-making community in Scotland with an unprecedented opportunity to develop a film culture befitting a modern nation state. They should seize it without…
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…
This is carnal science fiction cinema. Sancho McCann/Flickr

Anatomy of an Ant: Doomsday in Phase IV

I will often say to my film students that if you want to know what aches a culture at a particular historical juncture then you need to visit and spend time with the catastrophic imagination of science…
In a four-hour long film, we have all the time in the world to consider the misogyny, misanthropy and pathos. MIFF

Who has the time? Four hours of Norte, the End of History, at MIFF

For an expectant crowd of cinephiles sitting down to see a four-hour film, it is easy enough to identify with Fabian, the main character of Norte, the End of History, that screened at the Melbourne International…
Wiig and Hader are well cast and convincingly play the troubled ‘Skeleton Twins’. MIFF

The Skeleton Twins, a dark comedy about mental illness

As the Melbourne International Film Festival draws to a close for another year, what better way to finish than with a comedy? Well, not quite. Craig Johnson’s latest release, Skeleton Twins, starring Kristen…
Blues singer Marlene Cummins is the subject of Rachel Perkins' latest film, Black Panther Woman. MIFF

A blues song to break the silence: Black Panther Woman at MIFF

I sing this song. I sing it for my sisters. For I feel the backbone of our struggle in this country, Trying to keep it together.Koori Woman – Marlene Cummins Rachel Perkins’ latest documentary, Black Panther…
US actor Robin Williams has been found dead aged 63 in his home in Marin County, California. AAP/ Tracey Nearmy

Robin Williams gave us a lifelong masterclass in comedy

American actor and stand-up comedian Robin Williams has died today, aged 63. Barack Obama posted a statement about his death and noted, in a rather odd turn of phrase, that “he arrived in our lives as…
Jodorowsky saw Dune as a chance to bring 1970s avant-garde ideas to mainstream audiences. MIFF

Jodorowsky’s Dune: an acid trip without the acid at MIFF 2014

One of the big attractions at the Melbourne International Film Festival this year is Frank Pavich’s documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013). The film retells the story of cult Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s…
By telling the stories of Boni, Titi and Ho, Jalanan brings to the screen the hardships and precarious lives of marginalised people in one of the most economically promising Asian countries. Courtesy of Jalanan Movie Team

Jalanan: Busking and dreaming in the city

Daniel Ziv’s documentary feature Jalanan (Streetside), currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival, is a film that seeks to move its audience. Documentaries sometimes invite viewers…
Australian poet and dramatist Christopher Barnett is the subject of These Heathen Dreams, a documentary screening at MIFF. MIFF

These Heathen Dreams: rage and tenderness at MIFF 2014

I met the Australian poet Christopher Barnett in Nantes in 2009. He strode the narrow streets in his long leather coat, occasionally crossing the road in front of cars, staring drivers down. When I asked…
New Indian documentary cinema: Children of the Pyre. MIFF

Death begets life in Rajesh Jala’s Children of the Pyre

Rajesh Jala’s Children of the Pyre (2008) is one of seven documentary features in the India in Flux: Living Resistance strand at the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). The film is a finely…
A still from Pablo Mazzolo’s Photooxidation, one of the films on the Experimental Shorts program at MIFF. MIFF

Seeing sounds, hearing images: Experimental Shorts at MIFF 2014

The nine films that comprise the Melbourne International Film Festival’s Experimental Shorts program confront viewers with questions about image, form and genre. The Experimental Shorts program is an annual…
Marion Cotillard stars in Two Days, One Night, currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF

Two Days, One Night: working hard for the Dardennes brothers

Audiences familiar with Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes won’t need any recommendation to see their latest film, Two Days, One Night, which is on the program of the Melbourne International…
Rinko Kikuchi stars in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, currently screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter enchants at MIFF 2014

For the most part we live in disenchanted times: everyday life and the political landscape seem increasingly dried of their magical possibilities. Instead they are filled with dross and drone, the relentless…
Do you need a degree to make a movie? Recent research shows that it will help you get a job. Jonathan Kos-Read

A degree helps for jobs in TV and film – eventually

It’s Open Day season at universities across Australia. Prospective students are pondering whether it’s worth doing a degree or not – and in particular, whether it will increase their chances of gaining…
Traditionally, audio-visual archives have emphasised preservation and put access second. Thomas Christensen

Files can’t wait: the future of the National Film and Sound Archive

It goes without saying these are difficult times for the country’s museums and archives. In recent months, the National Library, War Memorial, Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and others, have all flagged…
“I’ve never been at a film where so much food was put away.” © 2014 Paramount Pictures Corporation and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Hercules, body envy and the challenge of being man

Who wants to be Hercules? Judging by the huge amount of internet interest in the diet and fitness regime of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, former professional wrestler and star of the latest Hercules film…
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…
John Williams with Boston Pops. Chris Devers

How one man changed the landscape of film music

Walt Disney is, to many people, the most influential person who has been in film. And after all, he garnered the most accolades, receiving as many as 59 Oscar nominations. But there’s another film titan…
Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club – but films about the contemporary experience of life with HIV/AIDS are in short supply. EPA/ETTORE FERRARI

HIV/AIDS on screen: by focusing on history, we ignore the present

Consider the last three major films gracing our screens that explicitly deal with HIV/AIDS – the Academy Award-winning, highly acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club in 2013, followed by Ryan Murphy’s much-hyped…
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes continues with the premise of the original. Twentieth Century Fox

Thought you’d sussed out Planet of the Apes? Think again

As Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opens, it’s worth remembering that the racial conflicts and the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s underpin the original films. The traditional evolutionary hierarchy…
David Gulpilil starts in Rolf de Heer’s new film Charlie’s Country, a subversive comedy shot in the Northern Territory. Image.net/Entertainment One films

Charlie’s Country: David Gulpilil confounds our romantic fantasies

Rolf de Heer’s new film Charlie’s Country, which opened yesterday, examines the day-to-day experiences of an older man in Arnhem Land as he struggles for independence and respect in his home town. The…
Vidal sprinkled an almost limitless supply of bon-mots across our recent history. Antidote Films

Lest we forget: Gore Vidal and the United States of Amnesia

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia – by the Australian film-maker Nicholas Wrathall – has been doing the rounds of festival circuits since its release last year, and is currently showing at special…
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…
Death in Paradise has proven a rating’s hit for the ABC – why would that be? ABC

Australia’s screen industry workers should watch more TV

Television is a voracious medium – and yet I would argue many of those commissioning screen content in Australia have little appetite for experimentation. Australia’s digital free-to-air service, in metropolitan…
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…
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…
It’s impossible to overstate the way this kind of viewing makes Altman’s ouevre newly accessible. 3 Women, Sydney Film Festival

Framing Robert Altman at the Sydney Film Festival

For me the most exciting way to negotiate the ample program of the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) is to focus on its retrospectives, and this year the lens is on the American film directors Robert Altman and…
A rich and complex mise-en-scène activates the viewers’ entire sensorium. American Hustle, courtesy Roadshow Entertainment

Explainer: mise-en-scène

Out of all the intoxicating phrases that emerge from the study of film, my personal favourite is mise-en-scène, translated from French to mean: what is in the frame. The phrase conjures up the splendour…
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…
We were promised hoverboards by 2015 – ain’t gonna happen. dangerismycat

We love reliving the 1980s, but only as farce

History is generally made of things that happen. This truth often prejudices us to ignore the importance of the things that don’t. In this spirit, I would like to bring attention to the significance of…
Depardieu seems to embody and embrace the grotesqueness of the scandal. EPA/Boris Pejovic

Film incites France’s fury by condemning DSK where the courts did not

The extent to which the Dominique Strauss Kahn scandal is still a raw wound in France has been made very clear after Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York was screened in Cannes – out of the main film festival…
Some films were made to be projected – which is why we need our archives to make copies in their original formats available to scholars and fans. girl/afraid

YouTube isn’t the answer to tricky questions about film

Last month a major restructure at the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) in Canberra was announced, including a tranche of job cuts and the closure of the Arc cinema. Many in the film community were…
Sue Ford, Self-portrait (1986). A major retrospective of the feminist photographer and film maker is on display at the National Gallery of Victoria. Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne © Sue Ford Archive, Melbourne/National Gallery of Victoria

Feminist maverick Sue Ford at the National Gallery of Victoria

Australian visual artist Sue Ford built a reputation as a feminist maverick through her 23 solo exhibitions from 1964 until her death in 2009, and a major exhibition of her work is on display at the National…
‘If somebody doesn’t like you, fuck 'em, they’ve got bad taste’. EPA/Juan Herrero

Cockney cool Bob Hoskins eschewed Hollywood glamour

Bob Hoskins, who died on April 29, was a distinct presence in every film in which he featured. Extraordinarily versatile, he excelled as charming everyman, murderous gangster, sympathetic loser or manipulative…
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…
The producer’s work does not finish with the film’s theatrical release. garryknight

Explainer: what does a film producer do?

If you step back from the perceived glamour of the feature-film industry for a moment and look at it through dispassionate eyes it becomes obvious it’s really about creating a new product and taking it…
Films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel offer more than style over substance. Fox Searchlight

Wes Anderson is one of cinema’s great auteurs: discuss

Ford or Welles, Scorsese or Coppola, Altman or Campion? One of the most passionate cinema conversations we can enter into is discussing the work of a director we’re heavily invested in. The talk can get…
Betty Balfour, loving life and laughter. Courtesy of BFI National Archive.

Discovery of lost silent film raises hopes for more finds

The discovery of 1923 British silent film Love, Life and Laughter, widely hailed as a “lost masterpiece”, is exciting in returning a film celebrated upon its release as a highpoint in British cinema. Fantastic…
No burning out quick for Mickey Rooney. PA Archive

Mickey Rooney was the child star who kept on working

Mickey Rooney, the Hollywood star who found fame while still a teenager, has died aged 93. Rooney’s passing comes only months after that of fellow child star Shirley Temple. Like Temple, Rooney was the…
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…
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…
Isabella Rossellini took the live version of her short film series Green Porno to the Adelaide Festival. Jody Shapiro/Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival review: Green Porno

The Italian actress Isabella Rossellini openly discussed her exploration of sex, violence and depravity in Adelaide this month. No, it wasn’t the launch of a tell-all Hollywood book – but the Australian…
Stills from Steve McQueen’s student film work. Goldsmiths, University of London

The film industry finally wakes up to what artists have to offer

Steve McQueen’s success at the Oscars has prompted much talk of the connection between art and film, and his ability to “straddle these two worlds”. But why is it so surprising that these worlds must be…
Director Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda a shocking omission from the Oscars. Daniel Dal Zennaro

Festivals and funding need to support female film directors

The Oscars aftermath has begun to die down for another year, and stars are perhaps now starting to get over their hangovers. The racial diversity of this year’s awards has been widely championed, but we…
George and Sandra were relieved to hear they wouldn’t actually be filming in space. Warner Brothers

How Harry Potter magic turned Gravity into Oscar gold

The huge success of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity at this year’s Oscars is a genuine cause for celebration for much of the UK film industry – not least for the many visual effects artists involved in its creation…
Personal transformation triumphs in American Hustle. Courtesy Roadshow Entertainment

Wigs, tans, boobs: American hustling for Oscars

“Some of this actually happened.” So reads the non-committal title card that precedes the opening scene of David O’Russell’s sixth feature, American Hustle (2013) – a film nominated for 10 Oscars at the…
John Jarratt as Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek 2 … so what’s the problem? Courtesy of Roadshow Films

Margaret, David, Wolf Creek 2 and, oh … torture porn

Well, I’m outraged, I tells ya. Outraged! This is such a shameful snub. Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, beloved hosts of ABC’s At the Movies, have apparently refused to review a major new Aussie…
The red carpet has become synonymous with fashion triumphs … and disasters. Daniel Deme/AAP

She wore what? How to read the Oscars fashion script

“She wore what‽” From the fashion commentary on the red carpet to the supermarket checkout, the 2014 Oscars fashion script will be no different at the 86th Academy Awards this weekend. But what we can…
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…
The differing depictions of ‘captaincy’ play key roles in the film. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Captain Phillips finds depth in human detail

This article contains spoilers. Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips advertises itself as little more than a tense, claustrophobic thriller – a dramatic re-telling of the 2009 incident in which Somali pirates…
A star’s public persona is a very tricky business. Matteo Bazzi/ EPA

The Cate Blanchett persona and the allure of the Oscar

No one is ever who they purport to be. And I suppose I’m most interested in the gap between who we project socially and who we really are. – Cate Blanchett, December 2013. With this month’s BAFTA win coming…
Philomena – an example of storytelling at its best. Alex Bailey © 2012 Pathe Productions Limited, British Broadcasting Corporation, British Film Institute and Philomena Lee Limited

No SFX please, we’re British! Why Philomena deserves its Oscar nominations

What do we expect from Oscar “Best Picture” nominations? A star-studded cast and breathtaking performances? Action sequences and special effects that blow our minds? Or a story so big we’ll remember it…
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…
Shocking? Christian Geisnaes

Nymphomaniac and our obsession with laying it bare

After a series of orgasmic promotional posters Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac hit UK cinemas on Saturday 22nd February. And unsurprisingly, everyone is talking about it. A four hour double feature of explicit…
“Wenders meets Fellini” in The Great Beauty. Courtesy of Palace Films

Does The Great Beauty signal an Italian film renaissance?

Paolo Sorrentino’s film The Great Beauty is one of the five films nominated in the category of best foreign film in the 2014 Academy Awards, which take place on March 2. If it wins, the Oscar will follows…
Jarman in the 60s, seeing things differently. Ray Dean/KCL

Time-travelling Derek Jarman is a beacon for the humanities

It is 20 years since the AIDS-related death of Derek Jarman, filmmaker, painter, author, gardener – and a crucial voice in gay politics in Britain. And when you look at his work today, two decades can…
Meryl Streep - Oscar worthy? Dominic Lipinski/PA

August: Osage County is less than the sum of its parts

This article contains spoilers. John Wells’ film August: Osage County tells the story of a family which has gathered for the funeral of its father. Ostensibly, they are also there to help its ill and drug-addicted…
Barbara Sukowa plays German intellectual Hannah Arendt in Margarethe von Trotta’s biopic. Heimatfilm

Review: thinking on screen – von Trotta’s ‘Hannah Arendt’

In 1961, German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt was sent by The New Yorker to cover Adolf Eichmann’s trial, in Jerusalem, Israel, where he faced execution for crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes…
Not-so-Brit awards. Joel Ryan/PA

Baffled Baftas don’t know how to be British

Britishness seemed to be main motif in the BBC’s broadcast of the 2014 Baftas. When host Stephen Fry mentioned the event was the highlight of the British film calendar, he backtracked and asked, “Is there…
Sochi as a media spectacle has epitomised Vladimir Putin’s aspirations for his Russia. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

Sochi on screen: how Russia is being sold to Russians

All modern Olympics employ directors who stage-manage the huge spectacle of the Games – and Sochi 2014 is no different. So what does this stage management tell us, internationally, and what is it intended…
Shirley Temple as Little Miss Marker in 1933. PA

Was Shirley Temple really a star for more innocent times?

The recent death of Shirley Temple at the age of 85 appears to buck the trend for the tragic child star. In marked contrast to the likes of Judy Garland and Michael Jackson, Temple made the transition…
A film industry is an ecosystem and needs all its parts. Village Roadshow

The Lego Movie builds the case for Australian know-how

The Lego Movie was released to a legion of fans in the US last Friday and massive box office success. So what do a Hollywood movie and a Danish toy company have to do with Australia? Well, quite a lot…
2013 Oscar Winners (L-R) Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway and Christoph Waltz EPA

Explainer: the Oscars

The first thing to understand about the Oscars is that, as a measure of the aesthetic value of films, they are completely unreliable. To understand why this is the case, we need to know what exactly “The…
Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey, right) changed HIV treatment in the US. EntertainmentOne

How the Dallas Buyers Club changed HIV treatment in the US

This article contains spoilers. In the award-winning movie The Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey plays the role of Ron Woodroof, a real-life Texas cowboy who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1985…
The 3rd AACTA Awards could have been renamed A Celebration of Baz. Tracey Nearmy/AAP

To make films is human, to Baz Luhrmann, divine

In retrospect, it seems a foregone conclusion that The Great Gatsby would have blitzed the 3rd AACTA Awards, held in Sydney last week. As a A$120 million budget film that took more than A$28 million at…
This is one that should have been left alone. Abraham Caro Marin/AP

Don’t reject the movie remake, sometimes it’s worth it

Even the briefest glance at recent cinema listings and television schedules suggests that the remake is everywhere. Currently showing in the UK is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, an update of the 1947…
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who starred in Silver Linings Playbook. Warren Toda/EPA

Mental illness on screen – a new world of hopes and aspirations

It is a basic tenet of mainstream filmmaking that you want the audience to identify with your protagonist: to go on an emotional journey with them, to empathise with them. What, then, are the particular…
Hoffman helped steer American cinema back to an emotional integrity it had lost. Daniel Dal Zennaro/EPA

Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead, and simply can’t be replaced

American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has been found dead in the bathroom of his Greenwich Village Apartment, apparently following a heroin overdose. When we first saw him, bounding up to Marky Mark at…
Robocop will hit Australian screens next week. Does it have what it takes to deliver a record-breaking return on investment? Kerry Hayes/Columbia Pictures Industries Inc and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

How to pick a box office winner

Can we predict which films will turn a massive profit? Studio honchos would surely like to think so. In fact, an empirical and scientific study of the feature films that returned the highest rate of profit…
A Jewish victim at Klooga Death Camp. Jeremy Hicks

Unearthed Soviet Holocaust films remind us to be vigilant

A one-off programme on History’s H2 channel and Sky News has broadcast for the first time some film footage I discovered depicting the Holocaust. This may seem unremarkable: in the digital age, smartphones…
A still from the film, The Act of Killing. ©2012 FINAL CUT FOR REAL APS, PIRAYA FILM AS AND NOVAYA ZEMLYA LTD

The Act of Killing: Oscar nod lifts the lid on Indonesia’s dark past

Academy Award nominations rarely enter into the domain of politics, and certainly have not delved into Indonesian politics in the past. This year, however, is different. US-British director Joshua Oppenheimer’s…
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…
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…
Nymphomania is in the eye of the beholder. Flickr/Orofacial

What makes a woman a nymphomaniac?

A woman masturbates, has erotic feelings towards numerous men and women, and an “excessive” desire for sex. Is she a nymphomaniac? Filmmaker Lars von Trier is reigniting debate on the subject with his…
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…
Oscar contender Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock, relied heavily on visual effects – but the industry itself is struggling. AAP Image/ Warner Bros Pictures

Visual effects are changing cinema – but can the industry keep up?

It’s the season to be making predictions about 2014 Oscar wins, and although Australian audiences are yet to see Best Picture favourites from the likes of Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), David…
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…
What kind of filmmaking does Tropfest encourage? Go_OffStation

Has Tropfest gone troppo? Implications for Australian film

Sunday night in many ways marked a great achievement for the Australian short film genre, with the live broadcast of Tropfest – “the world’s largest short film festival” – on national television via SBS…
Bamboozled won best film at Tropfest on the weekend, causing much controversy. Tropfest

Why playing trans people for laughs at Tropfest is lame

On the weekend, Bamboozled was awarded the best film prize at the Tropfest. It has sparked controversy for its homophobic and transphobic narrative devices. The film portrays an encounter between Peter…
It’s a film about the vision and style of Cormac McCarthy – but does it work? Twentieth Century Fox

Review: The Counselor, a film that talks like a book

The Counselor is a collaboration between one of the last century’s literary greats, novelist Cormac McCarthy, and one of the filmmakers who has helped define contemporary, mainstream American cinema, director…
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…
The British Film Festival offers much to please audiences – but how connected is it to the Brit diaspora? nickwheeleroz

Do we need a film festival to fly the Union Jack?

When it comes to film festivals, Australian audiences have plenty to choose from. Virtually every week there is a film festival from a different ethnic, national, religious or cultural group vying for…
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…
Beyond: Two Souls – not a film, not a game, but definitely entertaining. AAP

Two Souls, one body: the rise of convergence entertainment

Beyond: Two Souls isn’t a film. It isn’t a game. The interactive adventure game, released by French developers Quantic Dream for Sony’s Playstation 3, is a melding of the two. Using sophisticated motion-capture…
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…
Illegal downloading has become a free-for-all. Josh Russell

Online pirates may be willing to pay - if the price is right

Data released by Ofcom yesterday show that internet users who illegally download films, music or games actually spend more money on legal downloads than those who always play by the rules. Online piracy…
The treatment of Quvenzhané Wallis at this year’s Oscars highlights prejudices that still exist in Hollywood. Michael Nelson/EPA

Quvenzhané Wallis, race and misogyny at the Oscars

Young actress Quvenzhané Wallis was one of many women subjected to derogatory misogynist “jokes” during this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Those directed at her were particularly vicious. When the satirical…
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…
Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” set in the context of slavery, depicts stark racial stereotypes. AAP/ Facundo Arrizabalaga

How Quentin Tarantino unchained Django (and historical facts)

This year, America will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, a presidential decree that effectively abolished slavery in all states in rebellion during the Civil…
Jaden Smith stars with his father Will in After Earth, yet another end of the world movie. Columbia Pictures

Apocalypse Now: why the movies want the world to end every year

The last few years have begun with predictions of the Apocalypse hanging over us. The Rapture was supposed to come in 2011, with US preacher Harold Camping first saying it would come in May then readjusting…
Our obsession with worlds worse than our own says more about our future than we might realise. x ray delta one

Science fiction and dystopia: what’s the connection?

The future in science fiction is often presented in a dystopian setting. Certainly films such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca and Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men follow this pattern…
James Holmes was a crazed loner, but the people in the cinema at Aurora have stronger stories about blockbuster movies. EPA/RJ Sangosti/ Pool

The Aurora shootings: blockbuster movies can bring out our best

The immediate information emerging in the aftermath of James Holmes’ murder rampage in Aurora, Colorado, makes a good case for the idea that media violence begets the real thing. A closer look, however…
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…
Australia’s film industry, much like the automotive industry, depends on subsidies to survive. phill.d

Protectionism: a matter of national pride

In Australia’s political history, elements of both Coalition and Labor governments have used arguments of cultural identity and national pride to justify policies of economic protectionism. The practice…
We don’t know which storms will turn into deadly tornadoes. RAGardner4

Tornado Alley 3D: an authentic storm chasing experience

Everyone loves a good storm. Rolling thunder, a spectacular light show and fat drops of rain that make the earth smell like summer. Although thunderstorms are far more belligerent than your average cloud…
Australia’s classification system has been updated to ensure the audience can judge whether content is appropriate for them. Flickr/kennymatic

Bringing media classification into the digital era

Media classification in Australia is being dragged into the digital world. At the moment it’s based on analog legislation, unsuited for today’s convergent media. But proposals unveiled today will transform…

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Belaboring the Big Black Brute

It was a matinee screening in a small town in Massachusetts. I’d stayed for the credits, feeling an odd need to confirm that I’d heard Dido on the soundtrack. Only one other person had been in the cinema…

Media studies goes (back) to school

There was a brief flurry of panic as Ofqual, the UK government agency charged with looking after school qualifications, left both film studies and media studies out of the list of subjects students would…

This is a summer of truly awful blockbusters

I’m trying to figure out why I’m so disheartened with the movies this summer. It’s true that the season began badly. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a disappointment. The aerial sequences at the…

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…

Why I won’t be going to see Nymphomaniac

Quite apart from the obvious reason, that four hours of anyone’s life is a lot to ask, the heart and soul of it is that Lars von Trier is one of the great proofs of the auteur theory. Auteurists believe…

The truth of an illusion - Tom Cruise in Oblivion

Take a very ordinary blockbuster of the summer of 2013. Joseph Kosinski, hot from rebooting the Tron franchise, directs Tom Cruise as a clone seeking some lost vestige of humanity (so nothing difficult…

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