Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy Of Martin Phillipps

Not only is it currently MIFF in Melbourne, but Palace Cinemas are also holding a Music Film Festival at its cinemas around Australia featuring music films from the past 40 years. Tonight was the closing night of the festival with a screening at the Palace Westgarth of the documentary The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy Of Martin Phillipps.

The Chills are one of the great bands to come out of the Dunedin music scene in New Zealand in the 1980s on Flying Nun Records. The documentary is a brutally honest accounting of the history of the band, which has had 21 different line ups over the years as founder and lead singer Martin Phillipps pursued his musical vision. There are interviews with Martin and many of the former members of The Chills about their experiences in the band and on the road, which for some were still raw and painful. It also showed the highs and lows of the band with the breakout success of the 1990 album Submarine Bells (one of my favorites of all time by any artist) and trying to surpass those heights with subsequent releases.

The other overarching story line of the film was Martin's health issues. A former drug addict and alcoholic, he has had hepatitis C for over 20 years. At the start of the film we watch his doctor give him the grim news that due to his poor liver function he has a 30% chance of dying within 12 months. While put onto an experimental drug treatment to cure his Hepatitis C, the news sets Martin in motion creatively to finish off music ideas and go through the many massive collections of things in his house, some of which fed into an exhibition on The Chills at the Otago Museum. Overall it was a fantastic music documentary with insights into the creative genius of Martin Phillipps and just how much the music industry has changed over the years.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Sensory Underground: An Immersive Dining Experience Featuring Tokyo Tina

Tonight Mary and I got to attend Sensory Underground, which was billed as an immersive dining experience featuring the food of the restaurant Tokyo Tina. We entered the dining space under Fed Square through a door on Platform 13 of Flinders Street Station. On arrival we were given a little cocktail in a glass jar before being shown to our seats on one of the long communal dining tables.

As this was a multisensory dining experience set in the future, we were treated to different performances during the evening, including lighting installations by Kit Webster, an electronic soundtrack by Rival Consoles, and a robots den curated by Paul Findlay as we left the building.

The dinner by Tokyo Tina was four courses and themed around environmental sustainability. The entree was about finding new sources of food and included a bag with some very tasty crickets.

The first course of tinned fish and sashimi was themed around not wasting anything. It had a tin can that contained diced salmon belly, crispy fish skin, and salmon roe on a bed of salmon liver mousse with kombu crackers. There was also kingfish and salmon sashimi with yuzukosho dressing. All of it was yummy.

The main course was themed around being plant-based and wasting nothing through having it served on a sesame cracker plate. The two dishes were miso roasted cauliflower, walnut and tofu cream, and crispy Jerusalem artichoke, and a pork terrine under a blanket of pickled persimmon.

The final course was dessert, which was themed around future food. It had a 3D printed piece of chocolate along with a yuzu curd doughnut, which was very light and fluffy.

Overall it was a fun experience over the 90 minutes of the dinner, although it felt a bit rushed as we were the first seating for the evening. I'm not sure if the whole immersive experience was as fully realised as it could have been, especially considering the $129 cost (which didn't include drinks).

Monday, August 12, 2019

MIFF- It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story and We Are Little Zombies

MIFF 2019
My first MIFF film for the evening was with Sally at the Kino Cinemas for Eric Friedler's documentary It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story about the famous jazz label. I had no idea that it was founded by two Jewish/German immigrants who escaped the Nazis in Berlin. Childhood best friends Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff had a deep love of jazz music and set up the label in 1939. They both took care of the musicians who worked for the label during a time of racial segregation, and those musicians considered them to be friends. The label's distinctive album covers were due to Francis Wolff's amazing photographs and some cutting edge graphic design. It's a wonderful story of friendship and features some amazing music and interviews with key people in the history of Blue Note Records.

MIFF 2019
Next I headed to Hoyts Melbourne Central for the Japanese film We Are Little Zombies. This incredibly creative film by Makoto Nagahisa is about four young teens who meet at a crematorium after the deaths of their parents from different circumstances. The film is structured like a video game as you learn about Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi and Takemura and their lives. The four end up forming a pop band that becomes a viral sensation with their very catchy songs, but it's all short lived. The film is visually exciting with a unique storytelling structure. Definitely check it out if you get the chance.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

MIFF- Suede and Extra Ordinary

MIFF 2019
This afternoon I continued my MIFF journey at Hoyts Cinema with the British documentary Suede: The Insatiable Ones. Belinda and I were both big fans of Suede back in the day, so it was interesting to watch the story of the band's history, which included unexpected people like Mike Joyce of The Smiths auditioning for the band, and Ricky Gervais, who managed them at the start for a short period. The film contained interviews with many of the key players and band members over the years as well as archival footage from the studio and on the road shot by drummer Simon Gilbert. I didn't know lead singer Brett Anderson had such a bad drug addition in the late 1990s that it led to the band breaking up. They did reform in 2010 for a charity gig, which went so well that eventually the band started recording together again. It's a really good film and those early songs still stand the test of time.

MIFF 2019
After dinner at Cookie I headed back to Hoyts and met up with Sally for the quirky Irish comedy Extra Ordinary. Rose (Maeve Higgins) is a driving instructor in her small town, but she also has a not so secret past in dealing with paranormal activity. It is only when she meets widower Martin (Barry Ward) who is being haunted by his dead wife, that she agrees to use her talents to help him and his teenage daughter Sarah out. However, things get a bit more serious when one hit wonder Christian Winter (Will Forte) decides to resurrect his music career through doing a virgin sacrifice, and targets Sarah as his victim. Rose and Martin team up to help save Sarah, and the movie really kicks into gear once they end up at Christian's castle to fight for Sarah's soul. It was a funny little film and very entertaining.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

MIFF- Watergate and What You Gonna Do When The World Is On Fire?

MIFF 2019
The latest two films I saw at MIFF were both American documentaries. On Sunday afternoon Sally and I met up at the newly renovated, beautiful art deco Capitol Theatre on Swanston Street for the *four and a half hour* documentary Watergate - Or: How We Learned To Stop An Out Of Control President by Charles Ferguson. The films used a mix of archival footage from the news and Congressional hearings, interviews with many of the key players, and re-enactments of the Nixon tapes with actors to tell the story of Watergate and how it all unfolded. Despite the length it was quite engrossing, and of course there are many parallels to what we are currently living through with the Trump administration.

MIFF 2019
This evening Megan and I went to the Forum Theatre to see Roberto Minervini's documentary What You Gonna Do When The World Is On Fire? about New Orleans. Shot in high contrast black and white, the film follows four different members of the black community in the city over a summer. There's Judy who owns a local bar, brothers Ronaldo and Titus, Mardi Gras chief Kevin, and members of the New Black Panther Party who are fighting for social justice. The film cuts back and forth between the different people, and there isn't much of a cohesive narrative to bring all the different threads together. The highlight of the film for me was the lovely relationship between the brothers as Ronaldo looked after and taught his younger brother Titus about the realities of life they face.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

MIFF- Beats and Come To Daddy

MIFF 2019
Last night I attended another two films at MIFF. I started my evening at the Kino Cinemas for the Scottish film Beats, based on the play by Kieran Hurley and shot in black and white by director Brian Welsh. Set during the mid-1990s rave scene in Scotland, childhood best friends Johnno (Christian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn MacDonald), who have very different home lives, are in search of an illegal rave warehouse party advertised via pirate radio. They make some friends along the way and have a night to remember, although not entirely as they planned. It was a really enjoyable film although the thick Scottish accents were at times difficult to understand.

MIFF 2019
Next I headed to the Sofitel Auditorium where I was joined by Belinda for the late night showing of the comedy/horror film Come To Daddy. There was a brief intro by the director Ant Timpson, which gave us a glimpse of what was to come. The movie stars Elijah Wood as Norval, a thirty-something hipster who after receiving a handwritten letter travels to the remote coastal home of his father, who abandoned him as a child. It's a bit of a slow burn at the start but there are lots of twist and turns in the plot (which I don't want to give away) and it became a comedic bloodbath towards the end with some completely over the top ways of killing off the villains.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

MIFF- Matthias & Maxime and The Australian Dream

MIFF 2019
It is time once again for one of my favorite winter events in the city- the Melbourne International Film Festival. This year's festival runs from 1-18 August, and I have even become a MIFF member this year to make my moving going experience even easier. I began my festival last night at Hoyts Melbourne Central for French-Canadian film director Xavier Dolan's latest film Matthias & Maxime. It focused on twenty-something childhood best friends Matthias (Gabriel D'Almeida Freitas) and Maxime (Dolan) and their circle of friends over a few months before Maxime moves away for two years to Melbourne (which was an amusing subplot for those of us in the audience). While up at a summer cabin the two agree to appear in a short student film by Matthias' sister in which they have to kiss, and this event triggers underlying dormant feelings that drive the plot for the rest of the film. The film was good and has some recurring familial themes from Dolan's previous films, but I think it didn't have the same cinematic beauty of some of his earlier works.

MIFF 2019
This morning Sally and Megan joined me at The Plenary in the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre for the film that opened MIFF, the Adam Goodes documentary The Australian Dream. While the other current documentary out about Adam, The Final Quarter, pulled together media and archival footage from the last few years of Adam's AFL playing career when constant booing forced him from the game, this documentary involves Adam himself. It focuses on his life story, from his family life growing up to his AFL playing career, and sets his story within the broader context of racism in Australia and how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been treated since European settlement. The film has interviews with with a wide variety of people involved in Adam's life as well as journalist Stan Grant, who was a screenwriter for the film and did the fantastic speech in 2016 that really set the broader context of what Adam was dealing with to the Australian public. After the film there was a Q&A with the British director Daniel Gordon, and their goal is for this film to have an international release.
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