I’m back in Brisbane after my whirlwind 3-day adventure at the Sydney Film Festival.  It was my first trip to the Festival and it appeared to be very well supported with big crowds and long queues.


Without wasting any more time, here’s my wrap…



Friday, 8 June 2012


I snuck away from work at lunchtime, caught a flight to Sydney and was at my hotel just after 4:30pm.  I chose to stay at the Hilton (because of its proximity to the cinemas) and I was not disappointed.  Ok, it was a little pricey but it was worth it.  I enjoyed the spa bath too.


Enough about that.  Onto the movies.  My first evening of films was at the Event Cinemas on George Street.  It’s a huge complex and the main cinema holds over 800 people.  It reminded me of the old cinema 3 at Brisbane’s Regent Theatre.  The two films I saw…


Where Do We Go Now? is a nice, albeit simplistic tale, of a group of women in Lebanon who come up with a cunning plan to stop the men in their community from fighting.  It’s a crowd-pleaser (no question about that) and whilst I don’t agree with the decision, I can why it won the Audience Award at Toronto last year.  Grade: B+.


Jeff, Who Lives At Home is a dumb comedy an unemployed bum (Jason Segel) who leaves his house to buy some glue but ends up being a part of his brother’s crazy adventure.  I hated these characters, disliked the “zoom in, zoom out” camerawork, and didn’t find much at all to laugh about.  Grade: C+.


The Festival started rather strangely for me as the Where Do We Go Now? screening didn’t have subtitles for the first 10 minutes.  People were scratching their heads and wondering whether this was part of the director’s intent.  Nope, it was not.  In the end, the screening was stopped and the movie restarted.


After the two films, I was lucky to catch up with a bunch of fellow critics who I know through Twitter – Simon Miraudo, Julian Buckeridge, Greg Bennett, Sarah Ward, Sam McCosh, Andrew Buckle and Ian Barr.  We started out at the Festival Lounge at the Grasshopper before moving to the Criterion Hotel, where we stayed until 2am talking movies.  Was tired the next morning but was well worth it.


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Saturday was always going to be my big day with 4 movies planned.  It was back to the Event Cinemas on George Street in the morning for…


First Position was an amazing ballet documentary that reduced me to tears.  It follows a series of kids as they navigate their way to the final of the Youth America Grand Prix in New York.  Director Bess Kargman picked a great group of people to follow and you’ll feel the tension as the camera zooms in on the faces of the dancers, coaches & parents.  Grade: A.


Beasts Of The Southern Wild came with big wraps having won key prizes at Sundance at Cannes. It took a while to warm up (such a strange setting) but it develops in a moving story that explores the relationship between father and daughter in a remote community near New Orleans.  In her first acting role, 8-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis is simply extraordinary.  Grade: A-.


For lunch, Julian took me to a terrific place just around the corner from the cinemas – the Encasa Deli.  They serve these awesome Spanish sandwiches (bocadillos) which well and truly gave me the energy to get through the rest of the afternoon.  After a quick/expensive shopping trip in the Pitt Street Mall, it was back to the movies for my evening sessions…


Not Suitable For Children is an Australian film about a guy (Ryan Kwanten) who desperately wants to father a child when he learns he has testicular cancer and will have his ball removed in a few weeks.  I’m sure people will see this because of Kwanten but it is Sarah Snook who steals the film as his flatmate.  It has its moments but it’s a shame that so much of this film is hard to believe.  Grade: B-.


Moonrise Kingdom is the latest from Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Life Aquatic) and whilst it’s not his best work, it has all his familiar trademarks and will leave you smiling many times.  It’s set on a small island and revolves around a young boy and girl who run away from home and have seemingly everyone pursuing them.  I’d have liked more from the great adult cast but the kids are fun and I’m always a fan of Anderson’s off-beat style.  Grade: A-.


I was pretty wrecked after another long day but I had time for a quick drink at the Criterion and caught up with Sydney film fans Mat Whitehead, Sam Downing and Sam Rodgers at some Cuban bar.  I was back at the hotel by midnight where my head hit the pillow very quickly.


Sunday, 10 June 2012

After an early morning check out, I dashed off for an early 9:30am start at the State Theatre for a screening of Bully.  It was my first glimpse inside the Theatre which I believe seats close to 2,000 people.  It’s such a shame we don’t have a similar venue in Brisbane!


Bully rubbed me up the wrong way.  I realise it’s an important issue but I found director Lee Hirsch’s approach too one-sided for my liking.  I wanted to see the perspective from the bullies themselves and also from a school (or two) that has done something to address the problem.  Grade: C+.


I had a few hours spare and so was able to squeeze in lunch at the luxurious food court at Westfield Centre Point.  I also managed to find a pair of black casual shoes!  This was a highlight of my week since I’d been looking for a pair that fit (I have big feet) since I wore my old shoes out at Toronto last September.


It was then time for my final two films as the rain descended over Sydney…


On The Road was a complete snoozefest.  It’s a decent looking cast on paper but this new film from Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) never got going.  Set in the late 1940s, we follow a budding writer’s travels back and forth across the U.S. but for what purpose?  Stuff happens.  More stuff happens.  The end.  I couldn’t have cared less what happened to these characters.  Grade: C.


Undefeated won the Academy Award for best documentary and whilst it doesn’t provide any new revelations into the world of high school football, it’s still an amazing story about a coach’s efforts to take his team and make them better people – both on and off the field.  One scene in particular left my eyes very moist.  Grade: A-.


The rain was pouring down as I left for the airport and having caught the last plane of Sydney (queue the Cold Chisel song), I was back in Brisbane by 11pm.


The standout films for me were First Position, Undefeated, Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts Of The Southern Wild.  If I had to pick one out, First Position was my personal favourite and I hope it gets a national cinematic release.


And that my friends, was that.  I’ll be closely following those that are still in Sydney for the Festival which still has another 6 days to go.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do it again next year!

Sydney Film Festival 2012
My accommodation at the Sydney Hilton. Nice!
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Picking up my media accreditation from the Press Centre.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Sunset on the Friday night in Sydney.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
The Festival box-office at Event Cinemas George Street.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
A look inside the 800+ seat cinema at Event George Street.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Catch up with Perth's Simon Miraudo at the Grasshopper.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Meeting Sydney's Andrew Buckle and Sam McCosh.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Critics drinking at the Criterion Hotel.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Meeting Melbourne critic Julian Buckeridge at the Criterion Hotel.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
The view from my hotel on Saturday morning.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
An awesome Spanish sandwich from the Encasa Deli.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
A healthy dinner at the Westfield Centre Point on Saturday night.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
My first look inside Sydney's State Theatre on the Sunday morning.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Shopping in the Pitt Street Mall.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
It only took 9 months but I finally found new black casual shoes!
Sydney Film Festival 2012
The "old style" candy bar inside the State Theatre.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
People lining up inside the State Theatre for On The Road.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
Down comes the rain on the Sunday afternoon.
Sydney Film Festival 2012
At the airport and ready to return to Brisbane with all the right things.