Friday, August 10, 2018

MIFF- Karrabing Film Collective New Works and Now Sound: Melbourne's Listening

One of the great things about attending MIFF each year is getting to see Australian stories on the big screen. My first session for the evening was the Karrabing Film Collective New Works at the Kino Cinema, which consisted of three short films lasting around 30 minutes each. Night Time Go used manipulated archival footage to tell an alternative story of WWII where the Karrabing drive away the colonists trying to remove them from their lands in the Top End. The Jealous One was about fighting government bureaucracy to get on your own land, as well as a spirit jealous of his wife spending time with others. The final film, The Mermaids, or Aiden in Wonderland, was set at the end of the world where only Indigenous people can survive in the toxic landscape. After the screening elder female members of the Karrabing Collective did a Q&A with the audience, and talked about doing these films as a way to keep young people engaged and out of trouble, and be able to tell their own stories.

My other film for the evening was the world premiere of Now Sound: Melbourne's Listening at the Forum Theatre. This film was a documentary about Melbourne's music scene from 2016 to 2018. It covered a lot of different styles of music from indie to electronic and the various artists and subcultures around each scene. The film also explored specific issues such as the fight against gentrification and closure of venues, sexism and harassment in the industry, and the role of independent radio, labels and record shops in championing local music. As director Tobias Willis said before the film started, it's hard to capture Melbourne's entire music scene in around 90 minutes. A lot of the artists that I follow didn't make it into the film. I think the most interesting parts of the film though were when it explored the newer emerging scenes that to this point have been underrepresented in Melbourne.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

MIFF- Yellow Is Forbidden and Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist

Tonight I attended two MIFF films that were both fashion documentaries. First I went to the Kino Cinema to see Yellow Is Forbidden about Chinese designer Guo Pei. New Zealand filmmaker Pietra Brettkelly was at the screening and spoke about flying to China to get her to agree to do the documentary. Best known in the West for her yellow dress worn by Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala, the film focused on the lead up to Guo's first Paris fashion show Legend, which was inspired by cathedrals and featured recently at the NGV Triennial. While in Paris she also applied and was accepted into the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Referring to herself as the world's slowest fashion designer, her runway shows are filled with the most intricate and amazing creations that are often so heavy they are difficult for the models to walk in. I really enjoyed the film and learning more about how Guo Pei runs her fashion business in order to fund her true passion, haute couture designs.

Next I met up with Megan at Hoyts Melbourne Central for Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist about the life and career of British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Director Lorna Tucker wove together archival footage alongside present day interviews with family and the main players in Westwood's fashion business over the years. She had to fight for her independence from ex-partner Malcolm McLaren, as well as have her talents taken seriously by the British fashion establishment. Currently she co-designs her fashion line with husband Andreas Kronthaler, and has turned her focus in recent years to combating climate change. At the start of the film Westwood was reluctant to speak about past events she considered "boring" and by the end, the film raised more questions than answers on aspects of Westwood's life.

Friday, August 03, 2018

MIFF- Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. and Juliet, Naked

One of the big events in Melbourne during the winter is the Melbourne International Film Festival, which is running from 2-19 August 2018. Tonight were my first two MIFF films, which had a bit of a music theme. I began the evening at Hoyts Melbourne Central for the documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. about the life and career of the Sri Lankan/British rapper Matangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, best known as M.I.A. Drawing on her own personal footage and that shot by longtime friend Stephen Loveridge, it showed her teen years as a Sri Lankan refugee in London (her father, a leader of the Tamil resistant movement, remained in Sri Lanka), time in art school, filming on the road with Justine Frischmann of Elastica, trips back to Sri Lanka, and rise as a musician. While her debut album Arular was critically acclaimed, it was the global success of the Grammy nominated song "Paper Planes" off her second album Kala that made her well known worldwide. M.I.A.'s political activism, particularly around Tamil people in Sri Lanka, has often caused media controversy for her career, with a key flash point also being her performance with Madonna at the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show where she flipped off the camera. This film was an insightful portrait on M.I.A. and gave me a better understanding of her art, activism and music.

Next I headed over to the Comedy Theatre to meet up with Ebony for the romantic comedy Juliet, Naked, which was adapted from Nick Hornby's novel. Set in the British coastal town of Sandcliff, the film stars Chris O'Dowd as Duncan, an obsessive fan of 90's alternative US rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) who has long since disappeared from music. One day Duncan's long suffering girlfriend Annie (Rose Byrne) opens a package addressed to Duncan that contains the demo recording of Crowe's album Juliet (titled Juliet, Naked). While she listens to it and thinks it's insipid, Duncan loves it and posts a long review about it to the fan site/forum he runs. When Annie then posts a negative review, Tucker Crowe himself gets in touch with her to say he agrees with her assessment, and they begin to secretly correspond with each other about their lives. Duncan and Annie break up shortly thereafter, and Tucker ends up coming to London to visit his daughter who is having a baby and arranges to meet Annie. It's not all smooth sailing, but this Gen-X midlife crisis film was quite funny and sweet, with great performances by the whole cast.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The Breaker Upperers and RBG

Over the last two nights I went to see a couple new films that opened in Australia this past week. The first was the New Zealand comedy The Breaker Upperers. The film was written, directed and stars Madeleine Sami (Mel) and Jackie van Beak (Jen) as two friends who run an agency that breaks up couples through the use of different scenarios. Their main rule is to not get attached to clients, but that fails when Mel becomes friends with Anna (Celia Pacquola) and starts a relationship with young rugby player Jordan (James Rolleston). This leads to a breakdown in Jen and Mel's friendship, and the rest of the film focuses on the fall out. The movie did have some funny moments, including bit parts by Jemaine Clement as Jen's Tinder date and Elroy Finn (Neil Finn's son) as a client of the agency, but overall it was a bit hit and miss with the storyline.

Tonight I saw the documentary RBG, about the life of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With open access to Ginsburg, her family, friends and associates, the film details her remarkable life. Ginsburg was one of the few females in her law class in the 1950s, and argued a series of cases to the Supreme Court around gender equality in the 1970s. Nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, she has now served for 25 years, and is one of the few liberal justices left. As the Court becomes more conservative she has increasingly had to write powerful dissenting opinions on a number of cases. Ginsburg has also become popular with younger generations through the "Notorious R.B.G." internet memes, merchandise and portrayal by Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live. Now at 85 years of age everyone is hoping she can hold on until the 2020 Presidential election when hopefully she can be replaced by a Democratic president. This is a fantastic documentary that I highly recommend checking out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner Of Death

Photo by Phoebe Powell
Currently on at the Malthouse Theatre, Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner of Death is the latest play by writer Nakkiah Lui. In this tale of revenge, Dr Jacqueline Brown (Dalara Williams) is on an archaeological dig for a company when she discovers a human skull that turns out to belong to her great-great-grandmother. After learning about the massacre of her ancestors on the site by four white men, she is tasked with avenging their deaths by killing all 400 of the men's descendants within 28 days.

The superhero Blackie Blackie Brown is born, and as she goes on her killing spree and gains notoriety across Australia, she has to deal with the reality that some of these descendants (all played by Ash Flanders) are more innocent than others. The set design is a slanted white floor and wall with numerous trap doors and hidden compartments, and it allows for the fantastic animations and projections by Oh Yeah Wow to shine through and bring the action hero/comic book vibe of the production to life. The play is really well done and despite its humor does not shy away from detailing the atrocities of the past and their continuing impact on the present.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Mork Chocolate Brew House

Mork hot chocolates are well known in Melbourne, and today I went to the Mork Chocolate Brew House in North Melbourne to try some of their signature drink creations. The Brew House is located in a converted 1950s-era bakery and has items for sale along with a cafe where you can sit down for a hot chocolate or something more inventive.

One of the signature drinks we ordered was the Campfire, which is made of 70% dark hot chocolate served with maple smoke, charcoal salt and a toasted house-made marshmallow. To drink it you turn over the glass with the maple smoke, pour in the hot chocolate, add some of the charcoal salt and then stir it together with the marshmallow. Like the name suggests, it tastes like a campfire.

The other signature drink we ordered was the Forager, which is inspired by Australia. It contains macadamia hot chocolate, macadamia and wattle seed ice cream, eucalyptus honey, bush scents and foraged flora. After spraying the bush scent, you pour half the hot chocolate into the bowl, eat the ice cream, and then pour in the rest of the hot chocolate to drink. This one had a menthol taste due to the eucalyptus, but was still good.

The Mork Chocolate Brew House is located at 150 Errol Street, North Melbourne and open from 9am-5pm on Tuesday through Sunday.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Kimbra- The Primal Heart Tour

Tonight was Kimbra's sold out show at the Corner Hotel in support of her latest album Primal Heart. Opening the evening was Sydney electronic pop artist Exhibitionist (aka Kirsty Tickle). She and her band did a short set of songs, including one written with Sally Seltmann.

Kimbra's band members Spencer Zahn and Timon Martin came out on stage first before she joined them to launch into "Version Of Me." The set featured many songs off of Primal Heart, including "The Good War," 'Everybody Knows," "Human," "Like They Do On The TV," "Lightyears" and "Past Love," which she played on electric guitar as an homage to her early Melbourne days. For visuals they used many of the 3D computer animations from last year's Audio Electric show, which were projected onto the screens at each side of the stage.

Kimbra was so excited to be back in Melbourne and had lots of friends in the crowd. She played a few reworked versions of her older tracks during the evening with "Settle Down" (including a verse and chorus of "Somebody That I Used To Know") and "Two Way Street" off of Vows and "Love In High Places" off of The Golden Echo.  She finished the main set with a fantastic version of "Top Of The World," and then for an encore came out solo and closed with "Real Life." It was great to be able to see Kimbra live again, and she promised she'll be back sooner rather than later.

Here's the video for "Top Of The World"

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