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Film Review: “Call Me By Your Name” #SydFilmFest 2017


Call Me By Your Name is a gay romance set in Italy. It is gently paced and beautifully set, but I think it runs far too long.

In the clip above you get a good feel for what is not so great and what is great about this film. Armie Hammer first talks about his own reaction to portraying male-to-male sex and then his younger less experienced partner in the film, Timothée Chalamet, really gets to the heart of what makes this film of the celebration of love special – the complete “lack of a violent oppressor or deterrent to this love”. Armie’s character in the film is ultimately uncomfortable with himself, but I think his portrayal also lacks the multiple dimensions that Timothée brought to his role.

I agree with Jordan Hoffman from The Guardian who highlighted the very supportive father-to-son exchange towards the end of the film. It is a wonderful moment and reinforces what Timothée says of the film above. Beautiful, but a little long. 3.5/5

Film Review: “Wind River” #SydFilmFest 2017


Wind River is a very well-made and intelligent crime drama from the US that is filled with action and violence. It has a very strong cast with the two leads being Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. Renner plays a wildlife officer and hunter who finds the dead body of a young Native American in the frozen Wyoming wilderness and he assists Olsen, who plays a rookie FBI agent, to track down the killer(s). Renner and Olsen are both convincing, but I was particularly impressed by Olsen acting which covered such diverse aspects such as authority, cockiness, nervousness, fear, anxiety, vulnerability, empathy and curiosity.

There is plenty of action and a big shoot-em-up towards the end, but there are also many sensitive and amusing scenes touching on the lives of Native Americans and others living in such harsh climates. It is also beautifully shot in what must be very trying conditions for film makers. Very entertaining. 4/5

GLAM Sector Conferences in Australia

Here are my thoughts on GLAM sector collaboration and conferences in Australia. Firstly, we should stop having so many library “conferences” every six months. There just isn’t enough interesting, new or relevant material to justify participation.

Maybe we should consider having one major library conference (run by either VALA or ALIA, or both) every second year and on the other years we get the whole GLAM sector together and ALIA, MA, ASA and anyone else (like CAUL, NSLA, etc.) cooperate to run the one Australian GLAM conference. I’ve said this for years and nobody listens. It would be a useful first step in learning from each other, collaborating and maybe even starting to have one united voice for the impact of culture in our society. Who knows, perhaps we could even make major progress on a digital strategy for the whole sector?

Being 17 – review #sydfilmfest

Violence, not knowing, so many feels, adolescence, sexual identity and discovery, teenage angst, and sexual tension. No Griselda, I was not binge-watching Home and Away! Quelle horreur! And I say that with some meaning and cleverness because Being 17 is a very French film. Of course I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Being 17 is a long film at almost two hours, but the story is told very well without being heavy handed, and easily held my attention. (This is no small feat!) It is a gently-paced story that focuses on two teenage boys finding their way in life in a small village somewhere in the French Pyrenees. Part of their journey is their gradual sexual awakening that is accompanied by an increasing desire for each other. It isn’t all smooth sailing and nor is it predictable and full of cliches.

The cast are all well chosen and bring a rare authenticity to their respective roles. The acting from the two young boys is consistently great, even in the sex scene, and their attraction to each other seems very realistic. There are a number of touching scenes and these are all handled very sensitively. (I didn’t end up crying.)

The cinematography and scenery is beautiful, especially some scenes in the snow and high in the mountains, but it isn’t self-indulgent and the camera doesn’t dwell anywhere unnecessarily.

Being 17 was my opening film for SFF in 2016 and it sets the bar pretty high from the outset. I guess the film made me think about my own coming of age and brought up some memories of similarly confusing situations that were probably based around some kind of sexual tension or desire. It was good to see that it was probably a full house. What a shame that we don’t get the chance to see movies like this more often in Australia. They leave the pretentious Hollywood dross for dead.

My Bruce McAvaney Specialness Rating*: 4

*The Key

1 – Special, but not in a good way.

2 – Pretty ordinary really.

3 – Not especially special.

4 – Most people would think this to be special.

5 – Especially special, or as Bruce would say “Oh, that’s special!”

 

Sydney Film Festival 2016

 

My rather ambitious list.

Sorry I’ve not been around for a long while. It’s a long story and not really one I can tell right now. At least I can talk SFF. Last year I swore that I would be more selective and not try to see too many films or at least not see too many on any one day. Well, that just didn’t happen. So here is my list with a short explanation about why I selected that film.

Being 17 I’m a sucker for most French films that tell personal stories and this one is about a gay/queer relationship. Unlike many I also don’t mind coming of age stories. I may cry.

(I’m then away for work on the next two days of the festival, 9 & 10 June. Oh no!)

Goldstone I guess this outback noir thriller could bomb, but I’ve liked Aaron Pedersen in most things he has done and it looks interesting. I also like thrillers and it looks a bit eccentric. Hopefully the storytelling will be good.

High Rise “Tom Hiddleston heads a fabulous cast (Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller) …” Well you got me right there. This is also described as a sociopolitical satire, so that too grabs me. I’m sure Tom will forget to put his shirt on at some stage.

It’s Only The End of the World This Xavier Dolan film is sure to be one of the most talked about at the festival, if only because it is a film by Xavier Dolan. I’ve loved and hated some of his earlier work, but who could miss a film with both Gaspard Ulliel and Vincent Cassel? I guess some people could, but I cannot.

War on Everyone I’m a huge fan of John Michael McDonagh. The Guard and Cavalry were both marvellous. Not just for the laughs and the humanity that ran deep through both, but for his fantastic ability to tell a story and entertain with the English language. J.M. McDonagh makes brilliant films and understands what cinema should be able to do!

Goat Pure escapism. Oh, and the James Franco cameo.

Land of Mine I’m a bit of a sucker for good war stories and this one is bound to be surprising and somewhat confronting. It is based on a true story that I’ve not heard or read about so that’ll be good too. I hope I don’t have to cry.

Rosita I wonder whether this will be as good as an old John Clarke film on the same subject A Matter of Convenience? In any case I watch enough stuff on SBS to be a fan of both of the male leads Jens Albinus (The Idiots, The Eagle, Borgen, Everything Will be Fine and Deutschland 83) and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (The Legacy, Royal Affair and he is also in Land of Mine, above). I like a lot of Danish productions.

Europe She Loves I added this one at the last minute to fill in some time between Rosita and Demolition with a friend of mine who is also going to both. I think this is my only documentary this year. It is said to be a frank and revealing look at four couples in four different countries. Hopefully it is more humorous than gut-wrenching.

Demolition No, I didn’t select this just because of Jake Gyllenhaal! It was mostly because he is said to be good in it, but it also sounds like a decent emotional yarn. And who can resist a sad Jake?

Desde Allá This queer drama from Venezuela looks confronting. I’ve seen a very similar story handled very well in a recent French film (that I cannot remember now but I will eventually), so it’ll be interesting to see how the psychological drama is handled here. I’ve heard good things about it.

The Endless River This one is a bit of a punt, but it was written up as being beautifully shot and brutally realistic, so I’m hoping for an engrossing experience.

Teenage Kicks Selected for most of the same reasons as Being 17, but this queer drama is Australian.

Red Christmas I had to have one horror film and it is in Newtown, so close to home if I get scared. Apparently this Australian film has an axe plus thrills and kills. Little else is required.

Everybody Wants Some!! Richard Linklater’s latest film has had some good press and it looks pretty enjoyable.

Closet Monster Another queer coming of age / coming out film. But this one also has a touch of horror and the young Canadian film maker Stephen Dunn is already attracting critical acclaim. Connor Jessup plays the main character and he was great in American Crime recently. So I’m ending my festival in much the same genre as I began it.

16 films all up. Wish me luck. (I hope my boss allows me to take my annual four days of SFF leave!)

What Maisie Knew – Review

This is yet another beautiful film from the Festival. It is very, very well done. A really beautiful portrayal of the impact on children of relationships, like marriage, that simply do not work or have run their time.

I will usually see anything with Julieanne Moore in it and she is brilliant as the terrible mother as you actually feel sorry for her because she keeps adding humanity to her character that makes it real. Onata Aprile is also brilliant as the six year od Maisie. You feel that she really does know what is going on around her and the film skilfully stops short of her character taking control of it all.

The additional attraction is Alexander Skarsgård and I guess I would go and watch any film with him in it, even if he was just playing a chair. He is no hero in this, just someone who also falls in love with Maisie, as well as Maisie’s father’s new wife.

It’s a must-see film if you enjoy stories like this. No special effects, no big star egos getting in the way, no 3D, no stunts or violence, just very enthralling story-telling. 5/5

Another new/old bike


Latest addition. It’s a 26 year old Hillman road bike with Reynolds 531 tubes rebuilt as a single speed at Deus Cycleworks. It was my first race bike.

It is kinda an eclectic mix. The big White Industries hubs provide a lot of bling, so it isn’t all black. And they nicely match the breaking surface of the Mavic rims. I am struggling up steep hills in Sydney from a standing start, so either they have too big a gear on it or I’ve been spoilt recently by all the gears on my Bianchi & Pinarello road bikes. If I get the old Allsopp fixed I’ll almost have a different bike to ride every day of the working week. It has a gold chain because they didn’t have a decent black chain in stock. Looks OK. And it still seems like a nice fit to ride.

I just have to ride with a pump, even if it is only a few km. All those years on long rides I guess. Not that I can remember them at all really. Must have been someone else …