Monday, August 07, 2006

MIFFing In Action.

Apologies, I have been busy. And although my 'hectic' schedule has only been partially related to attending films at MIFF, let's just blame it for the entire blog absence thing, if only because the working/ 3CR-ing/ Deadwood-ing/ discovering I am still at uni and so actually have to attend (!), etc, are all factors not worth bothering about because they simply aren't as punny.


Sticky Carpet
, Friday 28 July, 9:15pm, ACMI

Um, well. It was okay. It kind of dragged a bit, to be honest. But it was a freaky surprise to see 3CR featured as if it was on a par with RRR and PBS, which I think will please the music show programmers, who really are underpromoted at the station (a condition which might change soon, I think, as one of the people on the Promotions Sub-Committee with me has PLANS. Not mwhaw haw haw plans. Just "we're under-utilising a great resource" plans). So anyway, it was fun to watch and annoy my brother by jabbing him with my elbow every time I a) saw someone I knew/recognised or b) felt the need to tell him things like "Pssst, that's Studio 3". Such information was greeted by him with an exasperated shake of the head, a response I duly ignored so that I could continue illuminating his experience of the film with various 'insider' gems like, "Yep. See that mural on the wall behind him? Tom painted that. Oooh, I sat in that chair just this afternoon. And look, look! They've spelled Iain's name wrong. Isn't this just fascinating for you?". Glares.

Al Franken: God Spoke
, Sunday 30 July, 7:05pm, Greater Union

Now, I'm a person who likes my Al Franken. I think he's nice. However, this film has kind of radicalised* my like for him, so I feel it my duty to inform you that, having seen this film, I WILL NOW NOT HEAR A WORD AGAINST AL FRANKEN. DO YOU HEAR ME? NOT ONE WORD CRITICISING AL FRANKEN WILL FLY WITH ME FROM THIS POINT ON. IF I EVER HEAR YOU MAKE ONE DISPARAGING REMARK ABOUT AL FRANKEN, WE ARE OVER. OVER! NOW, I WON'T END YOU OR ANYTHING. BUT WE WILL BE FINISHED AS FAR AS CIVILITY GOES. BECAUSE THE MAN IS THOROUGHLY RESPECTABLE AND DECENT AND HE WADES THROUGH SCUM ON OUR BEHALF. I am not kidding. He is a deeply lovely man. And the people he has to counter are despicable and low. Yes, I know this isn't groundbreaking news about Anne Coulter/Bill O'Reilly etc, but YIKES! Those douches are OBSCENE AND SILLY. IN A NASTY WAY. QUITE SIMPLY, THEY FOUL UP LIFE.

* However, not radicalised to the extent that I can't appreciate the fact that the hippie couple near us who insisted on doing the Nazi salute every time George W came on screen weren't, shall we say, COMPLETE. DOUCHES.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Sunday 30 July, 9:10pm, Regent Theatre

This was excellent. Really. It's just plain good. But it kind of made me want to disown one of my Irish great-grandfathers - the one who was working for the British oppressors, AGAINST HIS OWN PEOPLE, as a policeman. "Too right you got fire-bombed out of town!", says I with idiotic Cillian-inspired fervour, shaking fists. (Oh god I am so sorry for saying that, forefather of mine. I didn't mean it. And I am sure it was much more complicated for you than that. Just trying to feed your family and keep the public order, probably. Weren't you? I'm so sorry. I'm sure seeing your children cower under the kitchen table was horrendous for you, and I shouldn't be glib about it. And I wouldn't be alive if you hadn't pissed off your fellow countrymen and emigrated in fear of your life. I really am grateful for that. Again, so sorry for saying all that "too right" stuff. It's just that the film is quite powerful, you see... Sorry again) - and instead want to talk quite loudly about my other Irish great-grandfather, who died out in the field with the IRA, FIGHTING AGAINST THE OPPRESSORS and who will now be referred to as Cillian Murphy. Anyway, the film was actually more complex than my reaction is making it seem. It's very tense and conflicting, and you feel yourself saying to the characters, "You are a good person. Please, don't do anything you will be ashamed of... Oh." But you still know who's really really good. Because they die.

Beyond Beats And Rhymes: A Hip-Hop Head Weighs In On Manhood In Hip-Hop Culture, Monday 31 July, 7pm, Greater Union

This felt to me like a bit of a misfire, but it was worth seeing because of some of the instances that were captured. For example: Busta Rhymes, shame on you. But anyway, the concept was good, just poorly executed. Indeed, I think there are great riches to be found in people taking issue with stuff they LOVE when the stuff they LOVE is problematised by things like misogyny and homophobia. It's like when Tim says, "Man that Jamaican Dancehall's catchy. Wait, did he just say Stomp on the fag's head? OH DAMN. BUT IT'S JUST SO CATCHY!" (We were at Catherine's 21st birthday party. The quote may not be verbatim.) Anyway, my point is, it's a good subject, and something we all experience, I think. Because we really do love stuff. And that pleasure sometimes makes it very difficult to quarantine ourselves from being implicated in the stuff within the stuff we love that we really don't love. If you get my meaning. So yes, a rich subject. Pity then, that the guy at the helm of this film didn't quite have the chops for it, cultural-analysis wise. Seriously, if the premise of the film is "Homophobia is bad and misogyny is bad and gun culture is bad, (agreed) and yet it is present in a lot of popular hip-hop music", but then the film isn't able to give a good account of why is this so?, then the film fails. The dude's intervention was brimming with the language of cultural analysis, but lacked the precision necessary for meaningful conclusions or thoughtful clarifications. Instead, there was a tendency to draw conclusions without serious attention to context. Sure, Spring Bling is freaky and disturbing, but I wouldn't attempt to draw conclusions from it that can apply to the whole hip-hop culture and the messages that young people are receiving from it, without some qualifications. Sure, the behaviour on display may hint at wider attitudes, but you can only make that argument with integrity if you also acknowledge that the conditions of Spring Break-associated freakfests do heighten the freakiness on display. Also, I felt that the film's simplistic equalisation of all the 'hyper-masculine images that bombard us', was flawed. I don't think you can say that Man With Gun = Man With Gun, in terms of the impact it will have on da yoof. Tony Soprano with a gun in the context of a show like The Sopranos which explores many levels of morality and culpability, is not the same as a cowboy with a gun in an ugly old vengeance Western. You just can't lump them in together in a montage and say, "No wonder. Look at this celebration of violence". It's sloppy. It's Tipper Gore sloppy. For me, the thinking was muddled even to the point where the film ended up seeming to dust off a binary opposition in which rap is either conscientious or fun and daring and a bit (or very) wrong. I will admit that the film managed to kind of point to a valuable criticism, namely that the hip-hop that had begun as fun and daring and a bit wrong (ie. gangsta rap) had become the mainstream moneymaker and been leached of its original impetus, co-opted by Whitey and corrupted by market dominance, ending up a ridiculous parody running with a bad crowd. And I think it's perfectly fine to challenge mindless pap and to be concerned about its popularity and how it may contribute to the normalisation of hateful attitudes. Also, I think it's a good argument to say that the kind of mindlessness the film-maker took exception to does flourish in the absence of a sound and principled critique/considered challenge/presentation of alternatives. However, although those things do exist and I would have thought that one of the aims of the documentary was to disseminate them more widely, and to place them right in front of the people making hip-hop mistakes so these considerations are present for them (us) as reference points, they are precisely what was missing from this deal. Hmmm, maybe not missing, just lost.

Darkon, Tuesday 1 August, 3pm, ACMI

THIS WAS JUST FANTASTIC. A DELIGHT! The tone was finely judged, and by that I mean, ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. And by that I mean, HILARIOUS. BUT NOT CRUEL.

Flanders, Saturday 5 August, 7pm, Regent Theatre

See the image above? That was a frequent and almost pavlovian response, but without a discernible trigger. Indeed, when he climbed on top of her once again in the film's final scene, people in the audience actually laughed. Because it had become silly, and we had all long ceased to care a jot.

Bubble, Saturday 5 August, 9pm, Capitol Theatre

This film won't shake your foundations, but it's well made. A simple well-observed story, with an added point of interest in that it's weird to watch dolls being produced in their separate dismembered parts.

The Betrayal, Monday 7 August, 3pm, Forum Theatre

The above image I found for this film is black+white. But the film is not shot in black+white, just so you know. And if I was cheap-minded and fatiguing, I would say "No, this film is most definitely not black and white, haw haw haw (in more ways than one, eh! IF YOU GET MY DRIFT! THEMATICALLY). Because, you see, the story of the film is about a questioning of the loyalty (or, a becoming suspicious of the loyalty) of some Algerian conscripts in the French army in occupied Algeria in 1960. But, oh ho! Where is the true trahison, eh? Isn't it really on the French side, with the allegiance it asks of these Algerian men placing them in a terribly precarious position, not for their own sake but for the sake of France's interests, while to France they are disposable, 'not really French' and copping disrespect from all sides? THIS FILM IS VERY FUCKING GOOD.

Mutual Appreciation, Monday 7 August, 5pm, Regent Theatre

I really enjoyed this. It's just sweet and dithering and there's a gentleness and you just like these people. If I told you it was about some twenty-something New York indie kids you'd probably get all huffy and dismissive and assume it was pretentious wank. But you'd be wrong.

That brings us up to date with MIFF so far. I've still a few things to go on my Mini Pass, namely, Unrequited Love, Global Haywire, October 17 1961, and This Film Is Not Yet Rated. You will no doubt hear about them once I've seen them.

There is one more thing of note that I must mention. And that is, THE STROKES. Who I saw last night at Festival Hall. And it was the closest I've ever been to them ("them" being Julian Casablancas). I would estimate about 5 metres. And this pleased me. It kind of freaked my brother out, though. Afterwards he kept saying, "I know this sounds strange, because we've seen them before. But I mean, they were right there. Like, right there. As if they're people." He hasn't quite got over it. If he does manage to move on from that thought, it's usually to talk about how much people suck, because we had some doozies around us. But he wasn't the one being humped from behind all night, so I don't know what he's complaining about. Nah, it was of no great consequence. And once I'd ascertained that there was really nothing negatively aggressive about the motivations of the girl behind me, pummeling me with her whole body, grabbing on my shoulders and arms to steady herself every once in a while, ie. her complete lack of boundaries, poor duffer, I just devoted myself to staring at Julian Casablancas, enjoying myself, protecting the woman in front of me from a tranference of the onslaught, and making sure my legs didn't give out when the excitable child would knock against the back of my knees.

Fun fact: Julian Casablancas makes me go a bit silly in the head. For example, this morning, the morning after the concert, while I was preparing myself for the day, I became quite taken with the idea that it was not completely outside the realms of possibility that Casablancas would feel like dropping in to 3CR in the afternoon, when I would be there having a meeting. I mean, he's in town, I said to myself. What's so crazy about thinking he might take it upon himself to 'check out the community radio scene' and what-not? So I took extra care in picking out my outfit, and almost made myself late for my lecture. Do you see? I dressed for Casablancas. It was INSANE. For many reasons, I grant you. But the one that strikes me now is that, I dressed for Casablancas on the Monday, when the possibility of being in his presence was remote, but not on the Sunday night, when I was going to see him play a gig, ie, when being in his presence was beyond doubt. Wow. I have issues. But as I said, Julian Casablancas makes me go a bit silly in the head. It is therefore much more fitting, and no doubt more enjoyable for him and his ilk, that people more charming and hilarious than myself are the ones with the real stories to tell.

No comments: