Matt's Best Of The Decade: Let's Start The Ball Rolling
- Written by Matthew Toomey
As I mentioned last week, another decade is about to come to a close. Over the weekend, I put my thinking cap on to determine how I can sum up these 10 action packed years of cinema.
With roughly 10 weeks remaining this year, I’ve decided to do my wrap up over this period. Each week, I’m going to focus on a different genre and name my 2 best films from each. I was only going to name one film initially in each genre but just found it too hard. The buffer gives me a chance to expand a little further.
Just because a film featured prominently in my top 10 list for a certain year didn’t guarantee it a spot in my decade wrap. Some films do age better than others and have had the chance to see some of the films a second, third, fourth… time has helped me develop a better appreciation for just how great it is.
In total, I’ve seen and reviewed 2,021 films between 2000 and 2009. There’s still two months to go of course so the final total is to be determined. I point this out because it wasn’t an easy assignment trying to pick my favourites. I started with a brainstorming session on a bit of paper and slowly narrowed the field. It was sad to leave certain films out but I might sneak them in for a quick mention along the way.
Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Foreign Language Films
Foreign language films have exploded in Australia over the past decade. With many new cinemas opening their doors, the demand for different types of movies has increased. At the start of the decade, one of your only chances to see foreign language films was at the Brisbane International Film Festival. Now, it seems there’s a foreign language film released each week.
On top of that, there’s a multitude of mini festivals shown in Palace and Dendy cinemas. There’s also Bollywood which has infiltrated Australia – there’s a new film shown at the Hoyts Regent here in the city each week.
Having sifted through them all, my two favourites were:
Y Tu Mama Tambien (released in 2002) – full review can be found here.
The Lives Of Others (released in 2007) – full review can be found here.
I remember seeing Y Tu Mama Tambien at the 2002 Brisbane International Film Festival. It started with a full-on sex scene and it finished with one of my all time favourite endings – Julio and Tenoch sitting in a café with a narrator describing events. Mexican director has since gone on and made Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban (the third in the series) and Children Of Men. He’s creative and knows how to tell a story.
The Lives Of Others was my favourite film of 2007. It had won the Oscar for best foreign language film but even I wasn’t prepared for how good it was. It opened my eyes to a period of German history that I didn’t know much about. Many German films focus on the atrocities of World War II but this film was set in the 1980s – just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. I have to say that I was saddened to learn of the passing of star Ulrich Muhe who died not long after the film was released. Her earned a posthumous BAFTA Award for best actor but lost to Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood.
Honourable mentions in the foreign language category go to films including The Spanish Apartment, The Motorcycle Diaries, Downfall, Turtles Can Fly, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, The Counterfeiters, Summer Hours, No Man’s Land, The Man On The Train, Talk To Her and Kitchen Stories.
Next week, I’ll look at my favourite animated films of the decade.
Am I Getting Too Old? Or Are Movies Getting Too Violent?
- Written by Matthew Toomey
It’s mid October and we’re closing in on the end of another year but it’s just occurred to me that we’re closing in on the end of another decade. At some point in the next few weeks, I’ll have to do up a blog on my top 10 films of the past 10 years. It won’t be easy to choose but I’ll give it a crack. Some films that have appeared on my top 10 lists have definitely aged better than others.
I have just returned from a special preview screening of The Final Destination. It’s the fourth in the series which began back in 2000. I think all the actors from that first film are now living in a ditch somewhere. It was a film that brought death to the characters and unemployment to the actors. Well, maybe with the exception of Seann William Scott who is typecast now anyway.
You know you’re getting old when you think a film is too gruesome. It’s not that I couldn’t stomach the violence but I just can’t believe how far the boundaries have been pushed. There is no way that this could have been shown in a movie theatre 20 years ago. Maybe not even 5 years ago. How far can we go before we start a trend back in the other direction? Just like I’m waiting for political correctness to take a back seat.
I know this film will be popular so I won’t give away too many plot details. When I mean plot details, I mean death details. There’s no real story – it’s just people getting killed one after the other – just like in the Saw series.
But it’s disturbing to think that our society can find a film like this “entertaining”. One of the characters tries to kill himself before death gets to him first. He tries sleeping pills but throws them up. He tries to gas himself in the garage but it doesn’t work. He tries to hang himself from the ceiling but it doesn’t work. I can think of plenty of people who would find these scenes distressing. To cap it all off, two friends rescue him (from the hanging) and the magically realises the value of life and treats himself to a bottle of champagne. I didn’t realise depression was such an easy disease to cure.
I’m not sure which death scene was the worst. Each seemed to come with a lot of blood and a lot of body parts strewn all over the place. The way that the make-up artists and special effects crew have captured the look of a freshly extricated intestine is a sight to behold.
To each their own however. I think that if you want to see a film like this, you should be entitled to do so… within reason. If you want to be shocked and if you want to have guts flying at you in 3D, then this film is for you. Soak it up. Even I admit that it had its moments. Sometimes we need a film to get the blood pumping. I’d rather see this than a new Sandra Bullock movie.
Unfortunately, I have no idea how the Classification Board of Australia have deemed this an “MA” rated film as opposed to an “R” rated film. That means that any 15 year old can see this without parental supervision. It’s this ridiculous decision that raises my eyebrows. I know they will tell you otherwise but I think there are plenty of people in the 15-17 year age bracket who shouldn’t be exposed to this kind of violence and gruesomeness.
I then compare this rating with the R ratings dished out to films like Y Tu Mama Tambien, Candy and Zack & Miri Make A Porno. Did the fact that The Final Destination has a light-heartedness make a difference to those on the Classification Board? I still don’t know how it’s different from films like Halloween, Hostel, Wolf Creek and the last two Saw movies.
That’s my tirade for another week. I’m off to find something a little more conservative on the telly…
Caught Out By Creative Cinema Advertising
- Written by Matthew Toomey
Everything is back on track following my return from wet and windy Melbourne. I’ve been able to see 12 films over the past 10 days and we’re back on schedule.
Creative Film Advertising
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the Italian Film Festival is now underway at the Palace Barracks and Palace Centro cinemas.
I was there last Wednesday night at the Barracks for the gala opening night celebrations and screening of Vincere. I have to say that I was very pleased with the goody bags – a nice touch.
However, what I will remember most from the event was perhaps the most creative cinema advertisement that I’ve seen. It’s hard to take in cinema advertising sometimes (given that there’s often so much of it) but there are some very creative people out there making these ads. You have a little more flexibility in the theatres as well – you’re not limited to a mere 30 seconds like you are on television. It’s often the car or alcohol ads which leave me going “hey, that’s pretty cool”.
But it was actually pasta which grabbed my attention in this instance. The ad started with a guy on the screen sitting alone at an Italian café with a bowl of pasta in front of him. He then picked up his phone and started dialling. I wasn’t paying much attention at the time but suddenly, a guy’s mobile phone starting ringing in the middle of the theatre. He stood up and then started talking loudly to the guy on the other end.
My first reaction was how rude he was. I couldn’t believe someone had the audacity to speak so loudly on their phone during the movie. People were murmuring. Then, I realised. He was talking to the guy on the screen! The man in the audience would say something and then the man on the screen would respond. It was all scripted with perfect timing. This went on for about a minute (quite a funny conversation), they both hung up and the guy in the theatre left to a huge applause. How often do you see that? An ad getting a round of applause?
I have to give credit where credit is due and my hat goes off to Zafarelli pasta. I can remember the name as there was a free pack of spaghetti in my goody bag. I have to admit I didn’t remember the name first off – despite how much I was taken in by the advertisement. How odd.
Anyway, it was another movie-going experience to remember.
Toronto Film Festival
The Toronto Film Festival wrapped up two weeks ago and I haven’t had a chance to mention the winners. It’s always great to do well in Toronto since it’s the launch pad for so many Oscar hopefuls. Slumdog Millionaire won the audience award in Toronto last year and it went on to win the coveted Oscar for best film.
This year’s audience winners were:
1st – Precious: Based on The Novel “Push” by Sapphire. Yes, that is the full title. There’s been substantial buzz for this film for a while and the IMDB describes it as being about “an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child and is invited to enrol in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.” Sounds like a tough sell but I’ll believe the audience.
2nd – Mao’s Last Dancer. This has now been released in Australia and my mini review is above. I didn’t care much for it and am surprised to see it included here.
3rd – Micmacs. A French film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. The IMDB says – “A man and his friends come up with an intricate and original plan to destroy two big weapons manufacturers.” That looks like a very interesting movie to me.
The best documentary was won by The Topp Twins which will be out in Australia next month.
Now You See It
A couple of quick things before I finish up this week. In 1990, I appeared as a 13-year-old on a television show called Now You See It. I’ve finally gotten around to uploading the clips on Youtube and you can view them at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro22t7I2ERc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD2L1pCr8eI.
Those who know me well will get a kick out of them I’m sure. At least I got the one movie question right. I can’t believe I’d even heard of Ben Hur at that age.
I had a good friend ask me for what stance I’m taking on Roman Polanski and as this is a political hot potato, my comment is not to comment at this point in time. A lot of big name Hollywood stars are rallying behind Polanski and it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of him in the near future.
What Is The Longest Movie You Have Seen?
- Written by Matthew Toomey
I have returned from my wonderful week off in Melbourne with the Queensland Colts golf team. It was an absolute blast. Sadly, I’m now back to normality and am catching up on my movies. I saw 4 on Sunday alone – just two shy of my all-time record of 6 in a day. Thankfully, this week is relatively quiet so all should be back to normal within a few days.
Out this week in cinemas would have to be the longest movie I’ve ever seen – Che. One of my favourite films of 2004 was The Motorcycle Diaries and it focused on the early life of South American revolutionary Che Guevera in the 1950s.
Director Steven Soderbergh has continued the story with this new film. Che: Part One looks at Geuvara’s part in a successful revolution within Cuba in 1956. Che: Part Two then centres on a not-so-successful revolution within Bolivia in 1967.
If you watch both films back-to-back, you’ll need to allow 4 hours and 24 minutes. I’ve seen the first film (which was good but not great) and am just about to start watching the second one. There’s no full review attached with my e-newsletter this week but I’ll send it through tomorrow night once I’ve finished this endurance test.
The only film I can remember seeing which was even close to this duration was Hamlet in 1996. It ran for 4 hours and 2 minutes and I can still remember seeing it at the Hoyts Regent in the city. There were two old ladies who were asking questions throughout the movie (I think they were having trouble with the Shakespearean dialect) and every time they did, there would be someone in the audience yelling out “shhhhhhh”. It got a little tiring after 4 hours but thankfully there was a 15 minute interval in between – which allowed me to sneak downstairs to Maccas to grab lunch. So many memories.
Che opens this Thursday at the Dendy Portside and I believe they are showing it as two separate movies. I’ll be interested to see if they charge you twice or whether there’s a special deal. I’ll let you know next week.
Longest Movies Ever Made?
The fact that Che is so long has left me asking the question – what are the longest movies of all time?
According to the Internet Movie Database, the honour belongs to The Cure Of Insomnia which was released in 1987. It went for 87 hours and was shown at The School Of The Art Institute in Chicago. It is described as “Not really following any standard plot structure, the film mostly consists of poet L.D. Groban reciting his own poem of 4,080 pages, inter-spliced with X-rated film footage and rock music videos.” It sounds torturous and I have no plans to take it on.
Let’s get serious though and look at some more mainstream movies…
The Russian version of War & Peace (released in 1968), which I believe screened last year at the Russian Film Festival, ran for 6 hours and 54 minutes. Can’t say I’ve seen that one either.
The director’s cut of Cleopatra (1963) with Elizabeth Taylor goes for 5 hours and 20 minutes. Thankfully, the regular version goes for only 3 hours and 12 minutes.
One film that we’re all familiar with is Gone With The Wind. Adjusted for inflation, it is still the highest grossing picture of all time. That’s hard to fathom when you consider it ran for 3 hours and 58 minutes. If a current day film was that long, would people really see it? Our attention spans seem to be shorter and shorter in today’s busy world.
In 1995, I can remember seeing Nixon with Anthony Hopkins not knowing how long it was (forgot to check before I went in). I started to tire around the 2 hour mark but figured it would be wrapping up soon. I was wrong. It ended up going for 3 hours and 12 minutes. The director’s cut is an extra 20 minutes and I’m in no hurry to see it again.
Other lengthy films of note include Gettysburg (4 hours and 21 minutes), Once Upon A Time In America (3 hours and 58 minutes), Dances With Wolves (the director’s cut goes for 3 hours and 56 minutes). The Lord Of The Rings trilogy also deserves a mention with each film clocking in around the 3 hour mark.
When I think about it, I’d happily sit through a great 4 hour movie than a dodgy 90 minute movie. However, you don’t often know how good a film will be before going into the theatre and setting aside over 4 hours of your time (in the case of Che) is a gamble.
Italian Film Festival
In next week’s issue, I’ll cover all the buzz from the Toronto Film Festival which wrapped up next week. I don’t have the time to squeeze it into this week’s blog.
But before I go, I have to mention the Italian Film Festival which kicks off at the Palace Centro and Palace Barracks Cinemas from Wednesday, September 30. It runs for 3 weeks and there are around 30 different films being screened. I’m heading along tomorrow for the opening night preview and hope to catch a few other films along the way.
Tickets are $16 per person and you can find out more at the festival website - http://www.italianfilmfestival.com.au/.