Thursday, July 23, 2009

One minute film reviews

The Auckland Film Festival has swung around again. I usually ignore blockbusters throughout the year, saving up money to attend at least six items at the film festival. My favoured choices are the documentaries because they rarely return, even on DVD. Anyway, this year, money was tight, so I saw only three films at the festival (and hopefully one more this weekend). They were:

The September Issue
Why Anna Wintour would open the doors of Vogue's inner sanctum to documentary filmmaker RJ Cutler after she was brutally satired in The Devil Wears Prada - the gods of couture only know. But then as you watch this film, you sense that Wintour did it as a clever marketing ploy: she is perpetually smiling for the camera. It's a film that she can be proud of, too, because it is not just about the cult of Wintour/Vogue, but also a film about professionalism, passion and work ethic.

Grace Coddington, Vogue's creative director, serves as the perfect foil to Wintour's wintry persona. Coddington seems more down-to-earth, forgiving, looser, warmer; it is a revelation to see the both of them bristle against each other. As Coddington puts it, "I know when to stop pushing her. But she doesn't know when to stop pushing me."

These people know they're not taken seriously by a large percentage of the planet, yet they care, so so much, about what they do. As all my fellow artists know, that takes self-validation, belief, and supreme self-confidence.

Ponyo
Had to see this on the big screen. Hayao Miyazaki just keeps getting better and better. He never dumbs it down for the kids - or the adults, for that matter! His films are also educational. Imagine watching this movie as a child and learning about lighthouses, morse code, how a steamboat works, using a generator to power your house in the event of a blackout, how the people of a village pull together in the event of a tsunami, how to treat Nature with respect...

The only thing I found uncomfortable was a scene involving a mother driving recklessly. So un-PC, yet Miyazaki gets away with it! :-D

Big River Man
This is the story of Martin Strel, an endurance swimmer, as told by his son. The film documents Strel's swim along the entire length of the Amazon river, an expedition that leads to strange events... I don't want to give it away. Suffice it to say that this is a very engaging film about its gregarious, crazy, obsessive subject - a man who sets tremendous physical goals for himself while sticking to a diet of whisky, beer and horse burgers. Strel could easily have been a subject for a Werner Herzog film. 'Nuff said!


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