South Solitary, 2010

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Set in 1928, South Solitary (directed by Shirley Barrett) centres on Meredith (Miranda Otto), an unmarried woman in her mid-30s who accompanies her cantankerous uncle (Barry Otto) to the eponymous island when he takes up his post as head lighthouse keeper.

Their new neighbours are as frigid as the weather, though Meredith does begin to forge a tentative friendship with Nettie (Annie Martin), the daughter of Alma and Harry Stanley (Essie Davis and Rohan Nichol) and Harry, himself, is friendly and flirty from the outset. Not much is seen of Mr Fleet (Marton Csokas) until later in the film, but his seeming prickliness rankles Meredith.

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The entire cast is very good and Miranda Otto is excellent in the lead as the insecure, affection-starved Meredith. Csokas’s Welsh accent leaves something to be desired – I’m not sure why he couldn’t have just been from New Zealand, exactly – but it’s not so bad that it distracts from the story nor does it distract from his compassionate performance as the shell-shocked Mr Fleet.

What could be a dour or sombre story is lightened by moments of humour and I found myself laughing out loud quite frequently, mostly at something strange one of the characters had said or done.

The film is at its best in the second half when Meredith and Mr Fleet are together and I almost wish the first half had been shorter so we could spend more time with them getting to know each other, forging their companionship. At 120 minutes it could have easily been shorter but the pacing is generally very nice and I didn’t find myself getting restless as I often do with longer films.

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The love story is very real and charming. It’s lovely to watch it unfold. There is a natural awkwardness to their relationship that I enjoyed a lot. And Mr Fleet does embroidery! Be still my heart. This isn’t a typical period drama romance, it is quiet and restrained, but it is all the more charming for it. I will always feel fondly toward films about two people who have nowhere else to go, nowhere to fit in the world, finding each other.

South Solitary has been on my watchlist since it was first out at the cinema. I wish I had seen it back then as the cinematography, by Anna Howard, is just gorgeous. It would’ve been better served by the big screen than my small, outdated analogue TV but the experience was by no means ruined. The costumes are great, too.

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All in all, it’s a nice little film and if it sounds even remotely interesting to anyone, I’d recommend it. Plus there is a sheep in a baby bonnet. If that doesn’t entice you to check it out, I don’t know what will!

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Crimson Peak, 2015

One thing I keep saying is that I’m not a fan of horror films. This isn’t entirely true, because some of the best films I’ve seen are horror. The problem is, I just hate being scared (and I scare easily). But there are some movies I just desperately need to see and I push my worry of nightmares ,and sleeping with the lights on, aside. One of these was Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, which my friend (another self-proclaimed scaredy cat) and I vowed to watch together. During the day. We finally got around to it a couple of weeks ago. I only decided this week to do a post on the film, though, and thought publishing it on Friday the 13th might be fitting.

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I think this will be more a look at the visual aspects of the film that I loved, as I reacted to it more on that level. While I agree with many others that the plot was predictable and the story itself didn’t have much meat to it, I honestly wasn’t bothered. I often like predictable. The mood and atmosphere were more important for me in this and it fit with the Gothic horror/romance throwback del Toro was going for. It made me think particularly of Rebecca and Jane Eyre. (Granted, both are more substantial story-wise, but the influences are obviously there).

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I have a thing for lighting and the lighting in this made me want to cry it was so perfect (or, at least, perfect for my own aesthetic taste). I especially loved the scenes where yellow/orange and green light were used together (like the first image of Jessica Chastain at the top of this post and the one below). But the image directly above, with more subtle lighting, is lovely too.

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The entire design of this film is exquisite, especially the costumes (I’m planning on doing a post on the costume designer, Kate Hawley, for my Designer Spotlight series). They made me want to wear mutton sleeves and crimp my hair but I think I’d end up looking more ’80s tragic than Victorian tragedy.

Some of my favourite costumes (I’ll save the rest for that post on Kate Hawley):

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And some of my favourite interior shots:

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The set design is so important in this film and Allerdale Hall is a character in its own right, guiding the atmosphere of the second half of the film. From the red clay that seeps up through the soil, to the roof caving in, letting in light and leaves and snow, to the cluttered, dusty rooms it screams ‘Sinister!’ With its decay and bleak surroundings, it is almost the ultimate Gothic horror mansion. I’m not necessarily a sucker for haunted house stories (I’m not keen on ghosts) but I love stories set in creepy, remote mansions.

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I hadn’t read much of del Toro’s influences for Crimson Peak before watching it (though following him on twitter I got an idea) so I was glad when I read this and saw that Rebecca and Bava’s films were influences as I had felt they were while watching this.

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Jessica Chastain really stole the movie for me. She was phenomenal – I love the way she carried herself and the design of her character. I love how Lucille slowly unfolds as a character throughout the film. She definitely had some of my favourite costumes, too. Mia Wasikowska was fantastic as well, and Edith’s costumes are more obviously impressive than Lucille’s. I’m looking forward to writing all about the costumes of this film one day.

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I need to watch this again for a number of reasons, one of which is that there’s so much going on visually that it’s hard to think about it all on first viewing. Looking at these screencaps I’m already noticing a lot that I missed on first viewing but it undeniably left a deep impression on me. I should really watch more of Del Toro’s films.

Little Shop of Horrors, Director’s Cut

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They may offer you fortune and fame
Love and money and instant acclaim
But whatever they offer you,
Don’t feed the plants!

Little Shop of Horrors has been one of my favourite films for a long time but it was only recently seeing it onstage that gave me the kick in the pants I needed to finally watch the director’s cut with the original ending. I already knew about the ending and had seen clips but actually seeing it in the continuity of the film feels entirely different.

Because I’m discussing the ending there are, naturally, spoilers but my blog is never spoiler free really (except for new releases).

As much as I’m a sucker for happy endings (which I admit begrudgingly) the original ending for Little Shop of Horrors is just so much better. The workmanship alone is something to behold, recalling The War of the Worlds and other monster/alien fare from the 1950s with cities being demolished and citizens gobbled up. The army of Audrey II’s are menacing and the miniatures are perfectly constructed by Richard Conway.

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‘Finale Ultimo (Don’t Feed the Plants)’ is also a really great song, and a brilliant climax for the film – the entire sequence is just incredibly impressive in every way.

Technical achievements aside, it also makes more sense. There is a feeling of chaos building throughout the story as Seymour’s life spins out of his control, and the original ending, which is utter chaos and destruction, caps it off perfectly.

However, I also understand why test audiences reacted so badly. Aside from the fact that unhappy endings aren’t exactly par for the course in Hollywood, Audrey and Seymour are really likeable characters. We may laugh at them at times (“l’d put on…cheap and tasteless outfits, not nice ones like this.”) but we also feel a deep empathy for them (at least, I do). Audrey, especially, because Ellen Greene has a rare ability to be utterly camp while simultaneously imbuing the role with pathos.

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So seeing them consumed by a hungry plant that’s bent on world domination is a bit difficult to swallow (if you’ll pardon the pun). Seeing Orin and even Mr Mushnik being eaten makes us feel a certain vicious glee but Audrey and Seymour’s deaths are just truly tragic, if inevitable.

As it mentions here when you see this onstage there is not only a certain distance because of the lack of close-ups but the actors come out for the curtain call, and Audrey and Seymour are alive again (they also perform in ‘Finale Ultimo (Don’t Feed the Plants)’). But this doesn’t happen when we see a movie. They’re just…gone. It’s obvious, though, from what I’ve read that its fans (now) acknowledge that the original ending is superior and more fitting.

It would’ve been a terrible shame, a tragedy really, if the original ending, that so much love and work went into, was lost forever. I’m glad it’s not. And I’m glad I get to choose which ending I want, depending on how I feel. Do I want Seymour and Audrey to go ‘somewhere that’s green’ and live happily ever after? Or is the ‘somewhere that’s green’ they go to inside Audrey II?

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April 2016 Roundup

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Bits and bobs or things that made me happy:

-The teaser trailer for Rogue One dropped and I, among many others, cannot wait until December. Felicity Jones has been a favourite of mine for ages so I’m really happy to see her in something like this. There were also other trailers for Suicide Squad and Fantastic Beasts, both of which I’m looking forward to. (As well as one for The Birth of a Nation, I think, or was that March? Time is a strange thing).

-Apparently Warren Beatty is thinking about a Dick Tracy sequel at some point which is…interesting. Dick Tracy is one of my favourite films and I’d certainly welcome a sequel if it was as colourful and bizarre as the first.

-A couple of people created a census or survey of dialogue in a whole heap of movies looking at how many words are spoken by men vs women, and so on. The results aren’t surprising but the more data there is about the imbalance in representation, the better.

-These polaroids from the set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show are incredibly cool and fun.

-This seriously adorable photo of Doris Day with her dog on her 92nd birthday gave me the warm fuzzies. That’s about it for this section!

Favourite April watches:

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I managed to watch 15 new-to-me movies for April (two of which were shorts), which isn’t as many as I’d hoped but still a pretty good effort. My favourites were probably Jesus Christ Superstar (pictured above), Shock to the System (pictured below) and Zootopia (the only I saw at the cinema). Despite my love of musicals, it never occurred to me to watch Jesus Christ Superstar before, which was very remiss of me. It’s an outstanding film and I thoroughly loved it. I couldn’t stop listening to “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” for a few days after that.

Shock to the System had been on my radar for a while, and was the last of the Donald Strachey films I’d yet to see. It’s nothing outstanding in terms of mysteries but Donald and Timothy are great characters and, in a genre where minority characters are often only victims or killers, it’s nice to see them better represented (though they are largely white).

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I also watched four Mario Bava films (The Girl Who Knew Too Much (pictured in the top banner), Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Lisa and the Devil, and Kill Baby, Kill). Objectively, I’d say Kill Baby, Kill was the best but my favourite was The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Hatchet for the Honeymoon (pictured below) was a close second merely in terms of the way it looked. Bava’s films are very striking.

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I only got to the movies once in April but I’m glad it was to see Zootopia. It’s a lovely, delightful film.

Resolutions updates:
Watch more movies made by women.

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I watched five movies directed by women in April: Æon Flux; Somewhere; Dating the Enemy; Crossroads and Saute ma Ville, as well as rewatching The Brady Bunch Movie.

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The best was definitely Somewhere but I enjoyed Dating the Enemy the most. I found that Crossroads wasn’t anywhere near as bad as most people make it out to be, nor was Æon Flux. The Brady Bunch Movie is one of my favourites and I think it’s totally bizarre and completely underrated.

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Watch more Australian films.

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The only new-to-me Australian film I watched in April was Dating the Enemy (pictured above) which, while silly, was very enjoyable. I love Claudia Karvan and Guy Pearce and it was a very easy watch. I also rewatched Strictly Ballroom (pictured below), which will always be a favourite of mine.

I wasn’t well enough to get to the cinema to see any of the Australian films I mentioned last month but I’m crossing my fingers that I get around to seeing them before they leave cinemas. A Month of Sundays, which is one of them, is Anthony LaPaglia’s first film in Adelaide, his hometown! (Warning for auto-play video in that link).

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I was happy to read that Girl Asleep, which I stupidly missed at last year’s Adelaide Film Festival, has been picked up internationally and will be released here in Australia in September.

Write (and read) more!

I think I will take out this section, from next month. It’s really more of a personal thing, which extends beyond wanting to write and read more about cinema. Having this section in the roundups doesn’t seem to have helped me keep on track, so I’m not really sure it’s that necessary. I will think about it, though. I suppose it could be a good place to post links of what I have written during the month, which would make it more useful than just me waffling on about whether or not I’ve written anything.

April reading recommendations:

Oscar Isaac on ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’: ‘It feels like we’re making an independent film’ at The LA Times

Jessica Chastain: ‘It’s a myth that women don’t get along’ at The Guardian

The Bury Your Gays Trope Hurts Real Queer People & it Needs to End at Her Campus

‘I Will Survive!’: Australia’s 10 best LGBT Films at The Guardian

Hollywood’s upcoming films prove it loves Asian culture – as long as it comes without Asians at Media Diversified

Celebrating the Sly Subversiveness of ‘Josie and the Pussycats’, 15 Years Later at Flavorwire

Sofia Coppola and the Silent Woman at Bitch Flicks

On the Road Again with Thelma & Louise at Harper’s Bazaar

How non-white Aussie actors are struggling for recognition at Daily Life

Anti-Vaccine Doc ‘Vaxxed’: A Doctor’s Film Review at THR

Roger’s Favorites: A Table of Contents at RogerEbert.com (so far I’ve read the Sally Potter post)

Directed &/or written by women, May 2016

Australian cinema release dates.

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Films directed/co-directed by a woman opening in May 2016:

The Meddler directed by Lorene Scafaria, release date 19th of May 2016 (via Palace Cinemas)

Limited runs:

The Silences directed by Margot Nash at Mercury Cinema

There are also a number of movies directed by women screening at Essential Independents in May and June: The Fits, Yosemite, Near Dark, River of Grass and The Virgin Suicides.

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Films written/co-written by a woman opening in May 2016:

Mia Madre co-written by Valia Santella (directed by Nanni Moretti) release date 5th of May 2016 (via Palace Cinemas)

Alice Through the Looking Glass written by Linda Woolverton (directed by James Bobin) release date 26th of May 2016 (via Hoyts)

Check below for where the films are screening:

Palace Nova; Hoyts; Wallis; Greater Union; Capri Theatre; Odeon Star; The Regal Theatre/Trak Cinemas.

Once again, I’m just one (forgetful and easily overwhelmed) person and can sometimes miss things so, please let me know if I have! I think doing these once a month means I sometimes miss films that pop up unexpectedly but I don’t think I could manage doing them more frequently, just yet.

Note: information correct at time of publishing.