All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

LADYBIRD: SACRAMENTAL AS ANYTHING

Greta Gerwig the actor has undoubtedly benefited from her time on set and in the company of Woody Allen, Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach.

From her exposure to these giants of modern cinema, Greta Gerwig the writer director has blossomed and bloomed, giving us LADYBIRD, a lovely, layered, luminescent work that has earned five Oscar nominations and made the field so much harder to pick.
LADYBIRD elevates the teen/coming of age movie to sacramental level without ever degenerating into the saccharine.

Set in Sacramento in 2002, LADYBIRD is primarily the love story between a mother and her daughter, a love story that is tempestuous, tortured and taut.  Saoirse Ronan plays the title character, a high school senior whose academic achievement is no impediment to her ambition to applying for a university post far from home.

Her mother, Marion, played by the incomparable Laurie Metcalf, wants her to stay at home and attend a local college, a cheaper, practical option.  And so the friction between mother and daughter is fuelled by the dreams of one and the practicality of the other.
In the middle is dad, Larry, played by Tracy Letts, devoted spouse and sperm donor, diplomatically trying to broker peace between the warring factions under his roof.

Ladybird, meanwhile, is experiencing her burgeoning sexuality, and two boys loom large on the canvas of carnal knowledge. These characters are played by Hollywood hot bods, Timothee Chalamet, Oscar nominated for his performance in Call Me By Your Name, and Lucas Hedges, currently playing Frances McDormand’s son in the Oscar nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

With LADYBIRD, Greta Gerwig has made a film that takes place immediately in the post-9/11 world, which ushered in the complete erosion of the middle class in America. The invasion of Iraq and the terror of war and the uncertainty of the job market are effectively used as the backdrop to crushes and conflicts, families and friendships, illustrating how life doesn’t divide itself up into subjects.

There’s not history over there and personal life over here. It all happens together.

The characters in LADYBIRD are fascinating and embraceable because of their flaws, not in spite of them. Supporting players are given their own weight and back stories.

Ladybird steeps herself in the school dramatic society and Gerwig has endeavoured to shoot the picture always having a sense of the proscenium, of the film unfolding in a series of placed scenes like Stations of the Cross presents the story of the Passion.  Certainly Catholicism pervades the picture with its aspects of faith, forgiveness and reconciliation.

LADYBIRD is laugh out loud funny and feel inside deeply. Greta Gerwig, nominated for both writing and directing Oscars, has re-imagined the teen movie, just as Guillermo Del Toro has redefined the creature feature in The Shape of Water.

 

SWEET COUNTRY: FIRST GREAT AUSTRALIAN FILM OF THIS YEAR

As the debate continues about the appropriate date to celebrate our national day, a provocative piece of programming invades our cinemas this Australia Day.

SWEET COUNTRY begins with a close up of a boiling cauldron into which first is placed a black substance, soil, perhaps, followed by a white additive, sugar maybe. The audio is of a confrontation, a fight between men.  This simmering commencement is an encapsulation of the themes examined in Warwick Thornton’s expansive film. Continue reading SWEET COUNTRY: FIRST GREAT AUSTRALIAN FILM OF THIS YEAR

PHANTOM THREAD: SWOON SWANSONG FOR DAY-LEWIS

Nominated for six Oscars, PHANTOM THREAD is an exquisite achievement of narrative power, visual splendour and aural perfection, redolent of the best of Hollywood’s golden years.

Nominated for Best Picture of the Year, PHANTOM THREAD is the sum total of its awesome collaborative parts. Continue reading PHANTOM THREAD: SWOON SWANSONG FOR DAY-LEWIS

MOTHER: THE PRIDE STRIPPED BARE.

Noni Hazlehurst in MOTHER. Photo above : Brett Boardman.

A half lit, twilight world of smoke, seagull squawk, dried leaves and garbage bags, the audience is bidden to a modern day midden by set designer Kat Chan. This is the habitat of Christie, a woman top of the heap in the garbage tip of human refuse.

Destitute, disenfranchised, derelict, Christie is made “feel like a criminal” because of her poverty and homelessness. Vulnerable and vilified, she is a victim, somewhat of her own making, but ignominiously ignored by the system and the community at large.
For most, the word ‘mother’ conjures comfort and affection, but in Daniel Keene’s play, MOTHER, the character, Christie, conjures discomfit and affliction. Continue reading MOTHER: THE PRIDE STRIPPED BARE.

FACES AND PLACES: ART AFFIRMING LIFE

Oscar nominated for Best Feature Documentary, FACES PLACES is a road trip of two minds, Agnès Varda, whose unique cinematic vision since the 1950s has earned her a loyal following of enthusiastic cinephiles around the world, and the iconic photographer/muralist JR, boasting over a million followers on Instagram. These two artists have more in common than one might imagine. Continue reading FACES AND PLACES: ART AFFIRMING LIFE

MY URRWAI : GOING HER WAY @ BELVOIR STREET THEATRE

Photos by  David Charles Collins.

Mime, dance, song and stand-up comedy make up MY URRWAI a soulful, mostly sunny sixty minute solo show by Torres Strait Islander dynamo, Ghenoa Gela.

In wordless depiction that becomes clear by repetition and the inclusion of simple English, we learn Ghenoa’s place in her family’s hierarchy. Fourth child, second daughter.

A Torres Island family living in Rockhampton, Ghenoa’s parents are determined to keep their culture alive and impress a strict regime of daily dance practice. Perceived as a chore between chores and school and prayers, it becomes a passion.

Like most adolescent girls, she dreams of breaking away from her small town and making a bid for some kind of stardom in the big city. Away from her family and roots, she embraces independence but also grapples with identity – racial, sexual, and cultural. Continue reading MY URRWAI : GOING HER WAY @ BELVOIR STREET THEATRE

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE @ CARRIAGEWORKS

Production photos by Prudence Upton.

It’s not for everyone, but maybe it should be. This chow is a symphony of sophisticated naivety, slapstick with a bitch slap, a carnival of two, the accomplished performance artists, Jo-Ann Lancaster and Simon Yates.

These two are the founders of Acrobat, pioneers of circus performance for the past score years and more, and IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE is their latest offering for everyone, even though it’s not for them. Continue reading IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE @ CARRIAGEWORKS

HANGMAN: RICHER THAN REACHER

Devoured in one sitting is an exaggeration but HANGMAN is certainly an accomplished and compulsive thriller that kept my appetite to return to its banquet of kidnapping and bloody murder.
Richer than Reacher, HANGMAN’s protagonist is a literary kin to Hannibal Lecter, but without the sophistication of sourcing, saucing and sauteing. Continue reading HANGMAN: RICHER THAN REACHER

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI: OSCAR CONTENDER NO PRETENDER

The bar is raised mighty high for the first official film release of the year, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.
If you see any film better, 2018 will be a bumper year. If you see any film its equal, it will be a bumper year. Continue reading THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI: OSCAR CONTENDER NO PRETENDER

JUST TO BE SURE: A SURE FIRE COMEDY BY CARINE TARDIEU

JUST TO BE SURE seems to be the perfect title for a film about a chap who mine sweeps for a living.

Erwan is a bomb disposal expert, a widower with a social worker daughter about to become a single mum, when, suddenly, shockingly, an unexpected emotional bombshell explodes. Continue reading JUST TO BE SURE: A SURE FIRE COMEDY BY CARINE TARDIEU

BIG IN JAPAN: TRUE TALE OF A BIG FAME HUNTER

“Fame is the spur”, wrote blind poet John Milton, “…to scorn delight and live laborious days.”  These days, fame is a burr, a pricking, prickling thing, an aspirational Aspergers as inspirational as intestinal gas.

BIG IN JAPAN is a competent if not complimentary documentary on the complementary psychosis of instant celebrity.  Dave Jones and his film making mates venture to Japan – where The Ventures were bigger than the Beatles in 1964- to like, share and go viral in their pursuit of the infernal question, What is Fame? Continue reading BIG IN JAPAN: TRUE TALE OF A BIG FAME HUNTER

THE FLORIDA PROJECT: ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR

Blistering, bold, no holds barred, bah humbug festive season buster starring Willem Dafoe as the super of a block of Orlando apartments, THE FLORIDA PROJECT is the story of precocious six year-old Moonee, a stunning juvenile performance by Brooklyn Prince, and her ragtag group of friends whose summer break is filled with childhood pranks, possibility for misadventure and a sense of opportunity. Continue reading THE FLORIDA PROJECT: ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR

THE JEWISH JOKE : AN ESSAY WITH EXAMPLES (LESS ESSAY MORE EXAMPLES)

Just in time for Chanukah or if you’re that way inclined, Christmas.

THE JEWISH JOKE: AN ESSAY WITH EXAMPLES (LESS ESSAY, MORE EXAMPLES) gives us historical and cultural essay exemplified by hysterical cultural examples. I’ve been working non start all day to come up with that tautology.

Author Devorah Baum tells us, if Jews love anything, it’s telling the difference. How do you tell the difference is the Jewish question par excellence and the standard question of any number of classical jokes. Continue reading THE JEWISH JOKE : AN ESSAY WITH EXAMPLES (LESS ESSAY MORE EXAMPLES)

PADDINGTON 2: A SEQUEL TO EQUAL

It’s been a big year for the bruin.

Earlier we had a scene stealing bear in the woods in Logan Lucky, then the bizarrely beautiful Brigsby Bear, and more recently the appearance of Pooh in Goodbye Christopher Robin.

Now we have a year capper with PADDINGTON 2, that rare beast, a sequel as good, if not better, that the original – a sequel among equals.

Pint sized Paddington may look like an Ursa minor, but his courage and kindness makes him an Ursa major, a selfless bear bearing bonhomies with bare faced good will.

Exquisitely voiced again by Ben Whishaw, Paddington is that splendid blend of nobility and naivety, a scrupulous Peruvian of impeccable courtesy with a benign gift for catastrophe. The road to hilarity is paved with good intentions and Paddington’s good intentions lead him to be incarcerated after being wrongfully found guilty of bear handed burglary.

Paddington’s imprisonment puts him in close proximity to a career crim, Knuckles McGinty played with utter glee by Brendan Gleeson. Knuckles is the prison’s cook and gives new meaning to the term Knuckle Sandwich, but he is soon charmed by the affable bear, and incorporates Paddington into his planned jail break.

Meanwhile, Paddington’s adoptive family, the Browns, are furiously trying to find the real culprit and clear their erstwhile ursine’s name.
In the first movie, Nicole Kidman was superb as the ice-cold Millicent Clyde, who wanted to catch, kill, and stuff Paddington and put him on permanent exhibition. The character was a wee bit scary for some younger audience members, so the new villain has been toned down with Hugh Grant playing vainglorious actor, Phoenix Buchanan, master of disguise, and purloiner of Paddington’s freedom by framing him with bare faced lies.

PADDINGTON 2 boasts the all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent and Peter Capaldi as the nasty, neighbourhood watchman, Curry, with notable newbies such as Joanna Lumley, Noah Taylor, Ben Miller and Jessica Hynes. Brill!

Appropriately for a bear bearing the name of a famous train station, PADDINGTON 2 features a thrilling train chase that’s full steam ahead in thrills and laughs.

VFX and CG Supervisors, Andy Kind and Glen Pratt and Animation Director, Pablo Grillo, along with the huge VFX team at Framestore, are again charged with the stunning challenge of making this “real”, a challenge met superbly in a glorious homage to early silent screen comedy.

Many of the creatives from the first film are back to ensure the further adventures of Paddington Bear live up to the quality achieved in the original film, and the care taken for this care bear shows in every frame.

Check out the clobber by Academy Award Winning costume designer, Lindy Hemming, and Gary Williamson’s stunning production design.

Charming beyond belief, PADDINGTON 2 is a perfect holiday movie, a great big bear hug of a film. Grin and bear it? More like guffaw and bare it!

WONDER WHEEL : WHEN MOURNING BECOMES ECLECTIC

Light on laughs but colossal in its homage to American theatrical drama of the 2oth century, Woody Allen‘s WONDER WHEEL is a dark carnival attraction bathed in golden light by wondrous cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro.

Channelling Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, and funnelling his own septuagenarian sensibilities through the prism of nostalgia, WONDER WHEEL tells the story of four characters whose lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s.

Ginny (Kate Winslet), a melancholy, emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house. The world was once her oyster, now she’s shackled to the shucked, and Humpty (Jim Belushi), her shambling and dishevelled carousel operator husband.

Ginny meets Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright and embarks on an affair. Meanwhile, Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, appears and asks for sanctuary and succour from her dumb sucker of a gangster husband. Continue reading WONDER WHEEL : WHEN MOURNING BECOMES ECLECTIC

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: A DICKENS OF A STORY

 

I can see the producer’s pitch huddled together at the Bar Humbug after too many eggnogs – or Martinis, olive or twist…
Let’s do yet another Scrooge story, this time an origin story, where we get the inception of the miserly monster fermented from the fevered brain of a writer’s blocked Charles Dickens.

A Christmas Carol and Scrooge and even Scrooged have been used thus far as titles in this merry go round roll over of remakes and reimaginings, so what the Dickens shall we call it??  I know, let’s call it something imaginative, innovative and festive, like THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS. Continue reading THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: A DICKENS OF A STORY

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: MORE THAN JUST A PILE OF POOH

What could have been a pile of poo, GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN bears up rather well.

It begins on rather a sombre note during WWII and then flashbacks to the Somme and the mire, the mud, the maggots, a world far removed from the sunny, honey days of Pooh Bear.

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is a great story about success and its consequences, which is always an interesting subject.  A.A. Milne was phenomenally and unexpectedly successful, Continue reading GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: MORE THAN JUST A PILE OF POOH

BETTER WATCH OUT: NATIVITY PLAY GONE NATIVE

Add a touch of Home Alone and a tincture of When A Stranger Calls and a pinch of Rope and Psycho you have the best genre picture made in Australia since I dunno when.

You better watch out for this film, to miss it will make you cry.  Better not pout, you’ll probably shout, certainly scream, I’m telling you why it is as fun as a scary clown. Continue reading BETTER WATCH OUT: NATIVITY PLAY GONE NATIVE