6/09/2010 12:25:00 am

SFF

Posted by Tom French |

I've often dreamt of making full use of the Sydney Film Festival. I'd love to take two weeks off and just watch movies all day.

Alas, this year was not the year. But on Saturday I did manage to find a day mostly free to watch movies. So Ryan and I went movie watching. Three movies in one day. Excellent.

Movie One: Ordinary People

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This is a film about how war makes ordinary people willing participants in atrocities very quickly and easily. At least I think that's what it's about. It was certainly the most pretentious and arty of the films we watched. It was shown in a cinema full of film snobs who say they love movies, but only go to the cinema three times a year.

I think watching the film brought out my rage at the pretentious attenders of the Film Festival. Because they have this love of cinema, which doesn't extend to going to the cinema to watch the movies that everyone is watching. In fact they don't go to the movies, they only watch "films", because they're snobs.

I know all this because I judged the back of their heads in the darkened cinema.

Of course the film should have made me angry about war and stuff, but there were more immediately pressing issues for me to be concerned about.

But if I must talk about the film, it was about the day in the life of a young, Russian (probably) soldier, who spends most of the film sitting around, sleeping, drinking vodka. Every now and again he executes "terrorists". The film had many long silent shots of this guy sleeping, staring at the sky, riding on a bus, and drinking vodka, just as you expect to see in a Dendy cinema. It seemed to be about how mundane and ordinary life is, except when you're putting people to death.

It wasn't a bad film really, though it can't have been that good an arty film because I think I understood the point. But it has certainly confirmed my desire never to be soldier in any army. Despite how much I love guns and tanks and stuff, I hate killing people more. Thank you, film.

If I was Margaret or David, I'd give it three and a half stars.

Movie Two: Cell 211

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Now this was a freakin' movie!

The Sydney Film Festival described this as a film that "delivers a sharp uppercut to the fiercely clenched jaw of the Spanish penal system." If that doesn't make you want to watch the film, nothing will. The Spanish penal system has been crying out for a sharp, celluloid uppercut for a very long time and we're glad someone has finally gotten around to delivering it!

By golly this was a good film. I didn't go in expecting much, but I think this is the best prison film I have ever seen.

It's about a prison guard who gets caught in the middle of a riot on his first day of work and pretends to be a prisoner to survive. It's amazing. It's tense, got brilliant characters, it doesn't preach, it has plenty of blood and unflinching uppercutness (which made many of the film goers gasp and say "oh my"), and it has a tight, well paced, fast moving story.

If you get the chance to see this film, see this film. It'll make your month.

Movie Three: The Loved Ones

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After a falafel roll and a can of drink, it was time for our third film. Jemma joined us for this.

The Loved Ones is an Australian horror film. I didn't know anything about it, but I was looking forward to watching something in English.

It turns out we were at the Sydney premiere and the Director, Producer and some of the actors had come along to introduce it and do a bit of a question and answer afterwards.

Once the film started I really wanted to like it, because the director was there. I didn't want him to see that I wasn't impressed. But I didn't have high hopes, because Australians don't tend to make a lot of good movies. Especially not horror or action. (Though Wolf Creek was pretty good).

Once the film started it seemed to confirm my fears. It was just your average horror film. A carbon copy of every teenage slasher flick to come out of Hollywood in the past 30 years. There's the requisite troubled main character, hot girlfriend, nerdy best friend, sex scene, kidnapping by a freaky man and high school dance. It was all there. I was really disappointed that this director I just saw interviewed had made something so unoriginal.

And then at the beginning of the second act, the whole film took a brilliant twist. A really simple one, but it changed the whole deal, and suddenly it was a new take on an old idea, done with humour, wit, and charm. I'd tell you what it is, but if you can watch the film without knowing what's coming, it'll make it all the more exciting.

It being a horror film, there's plenty of blood and painful torture, but it's also a whole lot of fun. It's obviously made by a guy who loves horror movies to bits. It's like Shaun of the Dead if only Shaun was actually a good zombie movie (though it's still a good comedy).

This was excellent film number two of the day. If you can handle a horror film, go see this one. It's one of the best horror films I've seen in a long time. And it's Australian. Who'd have thought?


So there's my SFF experience. Maybe next year, I'll take the two weeks off work and just watch "films" the whole time. That'd be great. And pretentious. Oh my.

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