Saturday, August 22, 2015

Oh Mercy- When We Talk About Love Tour

Tonight Mary, Tash and I attended the kick off of Oh Mercy's When We Talk About Love album tour at Howler in Brunswick (I love a gig that I can walk to). The opening act was six piece band Crepes, who sounded great with their indie, jangly guitar sound. Next up was four piece Totally Mild, who had a very loose set due to DJing in the afternoon and enjoying themselves a bit too much.

Oh Mercy took to the stage and started the sold out gig with "I Don't Really Want To Know." It was good to hear some of my favorite tracks off the new album such as "Sandy," "All Roads Lead To You," "Let Me Be Him" and "Without You." There were some interesting screen projections from old movies and other sources during each song, with my favorite being the old school Collingwood footage - a brave choice considering their big loss to Richmond today. Mid-set Alex sent off the band to perform a beautiful solo version of "Lady Eucalyptus," which had the room listening silently.

We also got some songs from each of the previous releases, including "Stay Please Stay," "Keith St," "Drums" and "Lay Everything On Me." I must say that it is on these tracks in particular that I really miss Simon, Eliza and Rohan as the current arrangements really lack the nuance that they would bring knowing those songs inside and out. As is becoming tradition, there was a new cover song towards the end of the set with the band playing an impassioned version of Leonard Cohen's "One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong." The evening ended with "Deep Heat," and all in all it was a pretty straight forward show with some strong vocals by Alex.

Here's an acoustic version of "Lady Eucalyptus" from the BRAG Sound Sessions:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

MIFF- Democrats and Only The Dead

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My last two films for the Melbourne International Film Festival were politically themed documentaries. On Monday night I saw Democrats about the creation of Zimbabwe's 2013 constitution. After the 2008 election resulted in a coalition government, representatives from Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai's MDC-T party were charged with working together to create a new constitution. Shot over three years, the film follows Paul Mangwana from ZANU-PF and Douglas Mwonzora from MDC-T, the elected co-chairs of the Parliamentary Select Committee COPAC.

As they travel the country consulting with citizens about what they want in the constitution, the farcical conditions and intimidation of people by ZANU-PF was ever present as they bussed people into consultations and coached them on what to say. During the drafting process Mwonzora was arrested and put in jail for a few weeks for no reason, which delayed things at a critical juncture. The process dragged on for years and has some tense moments, but in the end members from both parties managed to work together to write the constitution, which was passed in a referendum. Unfortunately for the people of Zimbabwe, a lot of those democratic rights are still not in place as Mugabe continues to hold power.

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Tonight's film was journalist Michael Ware's documentary Only The Dead about his time as a war correspondent in Iraq. Working for Time and CNN, he covered the United States' invasion of Iraq, toppling of Sadaam Hussein's regime, and subsequent descent into war with the rise of al-Qaeda and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Pieced together from footage he shot on a handheld camera over a 7 year period, it shows the absolute brutality of war from the front lines as Ware embeds with both insurgents and the US military for some significant battles in cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi. It is an honest and personal portrait of the realities of war and the effects it has on everyone involved.

We were very fortunate to have a Q&A session with Michael Ware after the film, and I really appreciated his insights, candor and at times humorous observations. When asked how he was still alive, he answered he had no idea. If you get a chance to see this film please do. It's not easy to watch but I think it is important to understand that war is not the sanitised version we see reported on tv.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

MIFF- The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and 808

movie, MIFF
I had another double header of films tonight at the Melbourne International Film Festival. First up was the coming-of-age drama The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, based on Phoebe Gloeckner's graphic novel of the same name. Set in San Francisco in 1976, it focuses on 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley), a high school student and aspiring artist. At the start of the film she loses her virginity to her mother Charlotte's (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). Minnie continues to have an affair with Monroe and also gets involved with other people through her sexual awakening. The film is an honest portrayal of teenage sexuality and refreshingly done in a non-judgemental way. Bel Powley is fantastic as Minnie and I also liked the animated touches throughout the film.

movie, MIFF
The other film I saw was the music documentary 808, about the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer machine. Only 12,000 of them were produced by Roland in Japan over a 3 year period from 1980. However, the machine has had a long lasting impact on music, spawning the back beats and rhythms of many different songs from hip-hop, rap, R&B, pop and various forms of electronic and dance music. This documentary shows how various artists have utilised the 808 machine over the years and found different ways to program and expand the types of sounds you can get from it. It's amazing how much influence this one machine has had on music throughout the world.

Friday, August 07, 2015

MIFF- Fresh Dressed and Dope

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Tonight's Melbourne International Film Festival films had a bit of a hip-hop theme. The first one was the documentary Fresh Dressed, which covers street style in NYC in the 1970s, its emergence throughout the US in the 1980s and 1990s (which coincided with the rise of hip-hop and rap music), the boom and bust of urban fashion labels, and more global expansion into style trends today. The film features interviews with musicians, fashion designers and label owners, and people who were around during those periods. It's a great chronicle and historical record of the importance of looking fresh, and the use of clothing and accessories to demonstrate status and aspiration for some in inner city communities.

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The second movie I saw was the coming-of-age comedy Dope. Set in Inglewood, CA it focuses on three high school friends who are geeks and outcasts in their high school and community. They are obsessed with 1990s hip-hop and dress accordingly (after seeing Fresh Dressed their fashion was pretty on point). Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends end up going to a birthday party for local drug dealer Dom (A$AP Rocky) and after a shoot out at the club, Malcolm inadvertently ends up with a gun and large amount of ecstasy in his backpack. The movie follows their adventures as they try to figure out a way to get rid of the drugs without getting killed by the people who are after them. It's a well written and acted film with some quite funny moments throughout as the geeks manage to emerge on top at the end of the day.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

MIFF- Iris and The Wolfpack

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I've attended a couple more documentaries this week at the Melbourne International Film Festival. The first was on Monday night for Iris, about legendary New York fashion icon and interior designer Iris Apfel. Iris is instantly recognizable by her large round black glasses and unique style (particularly her use and layering of chunky accessories). The film explores the 93 year old's life and career along with her husband Carl. Her energy, work ethic and enthusiasm for fashion and design are still strong after all these years, and she is still very much in demand. It is amazing how many beautiful pieces of clothing, jewelry and furniture she has collected from around the world. The film is a lovely portrait of a truly original person and trailblazer.

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Tonight's documentary was the antithesis of the life Iris has had being able to travel the world and collect things. The Wolfpack follows the Angulo family, whose nine members live in a cramped Lower East Side apartment. With an overbearing and paranoid father controlling their lives, the six brothers, one sister and mother are rarely allowed to leave and go outside. The boys were allowed to watch films though, and to keep themselves entertained would recreate their favorite movies and use everyday household objects to make their props and costumes.

Director Crystal Moselle filmed the brothers over a 5 year period as they began to venture out into the world and gain control over their lives. Having seen a 20/20 interview with them a while ago I was familiar with their story going into the film. However, it was sad to see the damage that had been done from being confined growing up and not able to socialize in the outside world. Despite all this the brothers appear to be quite sweet and supportive of each other, and it was great to watch them blossom and experience things for the first time (like going to a movie theater and Coney Island).

Sunday, August 02, 2015

MIFF- The Overnight, Sherpa and Gayby Baby

The Melbourne International Film Festival has begun and this year I have taken the plunge and bought myself and eMini Pass, which will get me into 10 films. This weekend I have caught three films- one comedy and two documentaries.

movie, MIFFThe Overnight is about a married couple who move from Seattle to Los Angeles with their son. Nervous about making new friends, Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) encounter Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) at the park when their two sons start playing together. He invites them all over to his house for dinner, and the movie covers what happens when the kids are put to bed and the two couples keep on partying. There are some funny moments throughout the film (particularly around some prosthetic appendages) and Jason Schwartzman nails the Los Angeles hipster who dabbles in a bit of everything and has too much cash to burn.

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Sherpa is a documentary that shows life on Mount Everest from the Sherpa's point of view, with a focus on the 2014 climbing season where an avalanche killed 16 Sherpas. The film follows veteran Sherpa Phurba, who works for one of the main expedition companies and has submitted Everest 21 times (and would break the world record if he made it up again). It is an interesting exploration of the treatment of Sherpas by the rich Western climbers and how tensions have been rising between the two groups over the past few years as the Sherpas demand better treatment and compensation for the dangerous work they do. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, and we were fortunate enough to have the director Jennifer Peedom attend our screening (although I couldn't stick around for the Q&A).

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Gayby Baby is another documentary that portrays four Australian kids around 12 years old - Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham - and their families. Shot over a couple years you get to see the kids grow older, deal with adolescence and articulate so clearly what it's like to grow up in a household with same-sex parents. The film is also a great portrait of parenting in modern times as these families really allowed some intimate and honest moments to be captured on film by the director Maya Newell. Maya, as well as one of the families, were at the screening and did a Q&A session after the film was shown. At a time when the marriage equality debate is still going on in Australia, this is an important film for people to see.
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