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Her

‘Her’. Thank you, Spike Jonze, for an utterly brilliant, exploratory look at our future, and the collision of humanity and technology. Joaquin Phoenix confirms yet again that he’s one of the best actors going around. Scarlett Johansson’s voice acting, a joy.

Writing feelings on behalf of other people, programmatic feelings, faking feelings. This runs throughout, begging the question of what an authentic feeling is, and how much of a one-way, need-based thing it is at times.

And from a purely HCI perspective, ‘Her’ makes me a believer in voice interactions. It’s a deceptively simple take on technology that’s not constantly in your face via pieces of different size glass. No radical Minority Report hand-waving dominating here.

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Inside Llewyn Davis

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’. My favourite character and performance of 2013. Oscar Isaac is a revelation. I feel hopeless and sad.

The ending hit me hard because of all the brilliance before it. I was immersed inside Llewyn Davis’ world and had no idea what was happening. The writing, looking back, could be accused of putting him in predicament after predicament, but all I felt was sorrow, only questioning it briefly while watching. The world’s a cruel enough place, and as much as I love the character, he doesn’t have a lot of karma going for him.

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Man of Steel

‘Man of Steel’. The complexities of Clark Kent presented in a beautiful, emotionally rich manner. A super ensemble, score and vision.

Getting to see so much of Krypton brought forth sheer delight. The opening is stunning, creating a real sense of wonder. The first time Clark takes flight, all that wonder comes flooding back.

Inter-cutting flashbacks of Clark’s early childhood while he wanders the world alone searching for answers totally works from a storytelling standpoint. I could have asked for no greater exploration of the struggles of Clark Kent/Kal-El. Henry Cavill certainly looks and suits the many identities he takes on.

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For Those in Peril

There’s no way a debut has any right to be this good in nearly every respect. The visceral direction, cinematography, editing and sound design all reminded me of Shane Carruth’s ‘Upstream Color’. This has a lot more menace to it. Paul Wright takes you inside the head-space of an outsider who is suddenly even more so, coping with loss in an increasingly self-destructive way.

The surrealism of marching in a parade as Death, or igniting that red flare in the room are burned into my mind in vivid detail.

The ending. It can be looked at in many ways. To me, it’s an afterlife of sorts, where the boy enters the beast after he has lost (through death, being separated when sent to a mental home, a lost chance of love) everyone to be reunited with them, mirroring the fable we hear.

It’s the kind of emotionally rewarding, yet ambiguous ending that screams “FUCK YEAH!” I had the same reaction to ‘Take Shelter’. I absolutely adored it.

Haunting, assured filmmaking.

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SXSW Film 2013: An Unreal Dream

You know what makes a film festival special? Watching the unbelievable true story of a man wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife, spending 25 years in jail essentially coming to terms with his situation and accepting it, then finally being set free by saints that relentlessly fought for him.

OK, no, that’s a darn good story. What makes it special is the man himself, Michael Morton, walking on stage with John Raley, the attorney that worked pro bono for 7 years, and the director of this story, Al Reinert. The audience stood clapping for a good five minutes, tears flowing from basically everyone. His spirit and attitude to forgiveness during the Q&A was something to marvel. Being part of that moment, with those people, is an incredible feeling. It elevates a film to an experience, and that’s what film festivals are all about.

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2012: The year in movies

A list seen this year in Australian cinemas, at SXSW, and the Sydney Film Festival. I group this list by star-rating, and alphabetically within the groupings. It’s too difficult to rank linearly.

I’ve seen a lot this year, and a lot of old films too! 110 in this list plus at least 30-40 oldies. I’ve even tried my hand at filmmaking through the awesomeoness of Kino Sydney, and made two really bad short films; ‘Tearjerker’ and ‘Swings & Roundabouts’.

As to the ratings, I overwhelmingly loved and/or connected with each and every one of the films I’ve given 5 stars to, for many different reasons. If there were faults in them, I did not see them. So yeah, it’s all relative, and stacked top heavy. I rate them as soon as I see them, to avoid any normalising and brain hurting come end of year.

I thought about including original tweets, but looking back at them in retrospect, they’re too uneven, so unless I start writing seriously about every single film, at least the 5 and 4.5 star ones, I’m keeping it as just a list. All my ratings and extended thoughts are on Flixster or against the movies tag on this blog.

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End of Watch [spoilers, duh]

‘End of Watch’. Pena and Gyllenhaal have the best on-screen relationship of the year. One of the finest films this year. Wow.

Every moment between Pena and Gyllenhaal is so damn natural. To create a bond like that so quickly requires incredible writing and acting, but even more than that. A real sense of unequivocal mateship and brotherly love. Someone you would do literally anything for, without considering the gravitas of the situation, for better or worse. “Follow me into the house, man. Follow me in.”

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Argo [spoilers, duh]

‘Argo’. Ben Affleck, take a bow. A magnificent achievement in pacing and tension, bringing an unbelievable true story to life.

There’s a line towards the beginning, when they’re trying to sell The Hollywood Option, that goes something like, “And everybody knows they’d shoot in Stalingrad with Pol Pot directing if it would sell tickets.” 

This cynical undercurrent that still permeates through Hollywood today, arguably more so, grounds this film in a believability that would be hard to artificially create solely for this film. It’s one of the many cheeky shots the film takes, having a go at acting, directing and everything in between. 

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Rear Window in the age of oversharing

‘Rear Window’. The master of suspense in perfect control of his craft, focusing the lens on a subject that has been taken to the extreme today, and will only go further; voyeurism.

“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms” – Readers Digest, April 1939.

Watching people when they feel they’re safe, alone, in the comforts of their home, where they can be themselves. It’s a perverted concept. It’s also a darn intriguing one. “Mind your own business” doesn’t really work too well against the curiosity of human nature, especially when the concept has essentially been flipped on its head in today’s world of oversharing every little aspect of your life. Imagine someone looking at a Facebook feed for hours on end every day. Oh, wait…

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The 18 I saw at Sydney Film Festival 2012

The Sydney Film Festival really does get better every year. I didn’t even know if I’d be here for it this year, and bought 10 tickets anyway. A week into it, I bought 7 more, being gifted the final ticket by the new festival director himself, Nashen Moodley.

What a lineup Nashen and his team put together, surely encompassing everything cinema has to offer, and challenging audiences at the same time. The last minute addition of Holy Motors was the exemplifying cherry on top!

As I did with my end of year recap last year, I’ll group the films I saw by star-rating out of 5, alphabetically within the groupings, including original tweets about each, and links to extended reviews, where I’ve written them.

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