Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review of Jurassic Lounge

What did you do on Tuesday night? I bet it wasn’t as cool as what I did! Does this sound a little childish? If so, well tough, I can’t help it. I’ve been thrown back to the giddiness of childhood fun by the delights of Jurassic Lounge. There’s so much to say about Jurassic Lounge it’s honestly hard to know where to begin.

I’ve been to Jurassic lounge once before, not long after it had started, earlier this year I think, the layout was different then and it felt a little too crowded and not all that easy to get around. But now with the new season, a little reorganising of the bars and silent disco has, in the words of Robert Frost “made all the difference” and it’s a breeze to negotiate even in heels.

If I had to sum up Jurassic lounge in a single sentence I’d say it’s like revisiting childhood with wine. So really what better way to spend a Tuesday night? $15 gives you access all areas and a free drink from the bar. You can wander drink in hand, through two large floors of exhibitions stopping where ever you like to marvel at the wonders of the natural world. There are some scary looking creatures amongst the specimens most of which have extremely long sounding Latin names which I could not pronounce let alone spell.

Not everything you’ll see is dead either. You can handle various stick insects and look at tree frogs, lizards and snakes up close and personal. My friend liked the lizard so much we had to make a return trip to see him. Quite how he feels about being her new face book profile picture history doesn’t relate.

A large dinosaur which roamed around the ground floor of the museum was also quite a hit and had two body guards with him to ensure safety, his or ours I’m not quite sure, though certainly lots of dinosaur stroking went on. Yes it is amazing how excited a bunch of adults get about a man in a dinosaur costume! Or maybe it’s not really when you come to think about it.

The most exciting thing about Jurassic Lounge, even more than the man in the dino suit, is that even though you’re given a run sheet when you enter there’s always a sense of surprise about what you might find around the next corner. It could be a silent disco, a man doing taxidermy, a games room, belly dancers or, well the list goes on and on. It’s an adventure and how often can you say that these days? It should also be said that the staff and volunteers are super relaxed and friendly. There never seems to be the slightest issue with carrying glasses of wine or bottles of beer through the undoubtedly precious exhibits. Everything is easy and exciting.

Sadly all good things must end, but before they do get a fake dinosaur tattoo, that’s my new motto. If nothing else it gives you something to smile about while waiting for the bus home. I’m hoping that if I don’t wash my wrist for a week it might just last until next Tuesday. Let’s hope so kids, let’s hope so!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In a Better World - Make sure you see it

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the best films don't always win an Oscar.  Nor do they always screen for very long in cinemas.   In A Better World falls sadly into the latter category.  In Sydney it screened for about a week at limited cinemas.   I was lucky enough to see it at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, where the director Susanne Bier received a standing ovation at the post screening Q & A. An auteur in the true sense of the word. There is NO mistaking a Susanne Bier film.

She uses shots of the natural world as chapters or signposts for story shifts in her films. This was a stunning idea in After the Wedding and she reprises the technique again here. In this film, as in After the Wedding, Bier moves her central character between Africa & Denmark. This time the scenes in Africa are more developed and integral to the films story. And again she looks at themes around death and forgiveness.  But although there are similarities between After the Wedding and In A Better World the latter is a very different film, which at it's core comments on whether anything is really gained from revenge.

Anton played by Mikael Persbrandt returns home to Denmark from an African refugee camp ravaged by war. At home Anton's marriage is falling apart and his eldest Elias son is being bullied at school. When a new boy in school, Christian, defends Elias against the bullies a new friendship is formed, but Christian is secretly deeply scarred over the recent death of his mother.  He convinces quiet, sensitive Elias to join him in an act of sabotage and revenge which could ultimately have fatal consquences. The adults in the film, especially Anton are left to trying to help the boys understand the complexities of revenge and forgiveness.
A powerful film on many levels and another stunning effort from Susanne Bier. I should add by the way, that in fact on this occasion Oscar got it right and In A Better World won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heartbeats - A film pulsing with life

Heartbeats written, directed by, and starring Xavier Dolan opens this week at Dendy Cinemas, Newtown -

It's release is limited to one cinema in Sydney which is a shame because it is a beautiful visual feast from the opening shot through to the last line of the credits. For any film students seeking a deeper understanding of mise en scene every take of this film provides a perfect example.

The premise is that two friends become mutually infatuated with the same man, thus putting aside their friendship and becoming rivals for his affections.  The resulting heartache is palpable.  The narrative is lose and flowing, the colours are vivid and passionate, the soundtrack is vibrant and pulsing, very much in keeping with heartbeats and heartaches. Xavier is sparing with dialogue allowing the visuals to do the work. All this is made more extraordinary because Xavier was just 21 when the film was made.

I can't recommend this film highly enough. Run to Dendy Newtown, don't walk or you might miss it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Still Walking - It might be hard to find outside Japan, search it out.

I saw Still Walking at the Vancouver Film Centre one evening in late August. I knew nothing about the film I simply wanted to get out of the pervading downtown heat.  This heartwarming and subtle film by director Hirokazu Koreeda utterly transported me for 114 minutes to a small village in Japan.

Still Walking is the story of a family who come together annually to mourn the loss of their brother and son, who died many years before. He died while saving a stranger from drowning.  The stranger, a child at the time, is now in his early twenties and is forced by obligation to come and visit the family every year.  He hasn't made much of himself or his 'second chance' at life and the family (especially the mother) makes sure he knows it.  While all this could be bleak, it really isn't. It's a family just as fractious and funny as any other.  In the end Still Walking  reminds us that no matter how different we are from our parents or how we fight them we will often inevitably take on some of their traits.  And moreover that we'll miss them when they're gone. 

A film about getting older, growing up and moving on.  It might be hard to find outside Japan, but search it out.
The Rush Line at Toronto Film Festival 2010 - In no particular rush