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.

JASPER JONES

JASPER JONES is a gem.

JASPER JONES is based on the best-selling Australian novel by Craig Silvey. The novel has received broad critical acclaim and commercial success including being short-listed for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2011 and short-listed for the Australian Miles Franklin Literary Award in 2010.

Pic opens with schoolmates Charlie and Jeffrey debating the attributes of the super hero, and how Spiderman is an urban superhero who would be out of his comfort zone in their small, rural town.

For Jeffrey Superman and Spiderman are the supreme embodiment of a superhero, but for Charley it’s Batman, whose super power is not supernatural like the kid from Krypton, but courage like the caped crusader.

Courage is at the forefront of JASPER JONES, and author Craig Silvey has courageously adapted his novel with Snowtown scribe, Shaun Grant.

Idle banter about bantering idols and childish choices like “Would you rather wear a hat made of spiders or have a hand with fingers replaced by penises?”, give way to more pressing matters when Charlie answers a midnight summons from town outcast, Jasper Jones.

Charlie accompanies Jasper to a billabong where the body of a 16-year-old girl, Laura Wishart, hangs from an eucalypti tree. She was Jasper’s girlfriend, his only friend, and now she is dead. Charlie immediately wants to contact the police but Jasper is adamant that they cannot, as he will be blamed because he is Aboriginal and explains that he already knows who is the killer; it’s Mad Jack Lionel, the town recluse and former abattoir worker who is rumoured to have slaughtered a woman several years ago. Continue reading JASPER JONES

T2 TRAINSPOTTING : AN IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL

First there is opportunity, then there is betrayal. This the repeated refrain of TRAINSPOTTING 2, a sequel that is not skeletal like so many sequels are.

There’s meat on the bones and dramatic marrow as well as the band get back together twenty years later to deal with old wounds and then largely fuck up all over again.

First there is opportunity to recapture the rapture of the original film, reuniting director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge, source author Irvine Welsh and most of the original cast. Then there is betrayal of the fans who count Trainspotting as a seminal film of the twilight of the Twentieth Century.

Marvellously, the opportunity is not betrayed, and T2 is a sequel among equals.
The film gets off to a sly start with ex junkie, Renton, now a gym junkie, tread-milling his way to cardio overdose. Continue reading T2 TRAINSPOTTING : AN IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL

THE WRONG HAND : JANE JAGO’S BRILLIANT FIRST NOVEL

There’s no disputing the good writing and deserved bestsellerdom of books like Gone, Girl and Girl on a Train, just as there is no disputing the good writing and deserved bestsellerdom of Australian fiction that conjures comparison with these international blockbusters.

I recently waxed lyrical over Emily McGuire’s An Isolated Incident (run the search on this site), and I unequivocally wax the same lyricism for Jane Jago’s THE WRONG HAND.

This is a strong meat story of juvenile homicide, the taking of a young male life by two other young males. Based on the James Bulger case, Jago has written an absorbing narrative of the families affected, and the fate of both victims and the perpetrators. Continue reading THE WRONG HAND : JANE JAGO’S BRILLIANT FIRST NOVEL

SPOOK STREET : AN EMINENTLY ENTERTAINING READ

Featured image – talented, versatile author Mick Herron.

In prose and dialogue drier than a perfect Martini, SPOOK STREET may have a double O in its title but its tone is more Le Carre and Deighton than Fleming, although there’s the odd nod to Bond, in a sly “What would James do?” way.

These spooks are not strictly MI 5 or MI 6, this bunch is MI sfits and MI istakes.
“Slough House was a branch of the service, certainly, but ‘arm’ was pitching it strong. As was ‘finger’, come to that; fingers could be on the button or the pulse. Fingernails, now; those, you clipped, discarded, and never wanted to see again.”

The series has had a River run through it – River Cartwright – and he’s pretty much front and centre in SPOOK STREET. Continue reading SPOOK STREET : AN EMINENTLY ENTERTAINING READ

TONI ERDMANN : AN UPLIFTING, MEMORABLE COMEDY

TONI ERDMAN is a nigh on three hour cinematic humoresque, about the powerful protectiveness of the paternal and the universally acknowledged truth that parents are put on earth to embarrass their children.

The film leaves an early calling card about its deliriously laconic pace in the opening scene where a delivery man is kept waiting a wee while to have his door knocking answered.

When someone finally comes to the door, the courier is told the recipient is not him, but his brother, a person just released from jail for letter bombing offences. The courier is asked to wait while the addressee is summoned. Continue reading TONI ERDMANN : AN UPLIFTING, MEMORABLE COMEDY

FENCES : A GREAT PLAY, NOT SUCH A GREAT FILM

Based on August Wilson’s Pulitzer and Tony award winning play, Denzel Washington’s production of FENCES never escapes its theatrical roots. Astonishing then that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated the film for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

FENCES is only marginally more cinematic than those National Theatre filmed plays that are presently doing the art house rounds.
The great strengths of the film are the performances and with wall to wall words, from the roof of the mouth to the basement of the base baritone, you understand why actors of the calibre of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis would be attracted to such mouth filling verbiage. Continue reading FENCES : A GREAT PLAY, NOT SUCH A GREAT FILM

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA : AN EXTRAORDINARY NEW FILM BY KENNETH LONERGAN

Film makers are either torch bearers or pall bearers, their pictures either lighthouses shining over seas or drearily and turgidly shouldering moribund movies that should have been buried before they were born.

Kenneth Lonergan is a torch bearer, with a track record of three bona fide beacons as writer director, pictures that illuminate and lead intelligent taste. His directorial debut YOU CAN COUNT ON ME was a superior sibling story, starring Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, his second film, MARGARET, was a disgracefully underrated career high for Anna Paquin, and now his third, His latest film delivers delivers a hat trick. Or to mix the bat and ball metaphors, three home runs. Continue reading MANCHESTER BY THE SEA : AN EXTRAORDINARY NEW FILM BY KENNETH LONERGAN

PATRIOTS DAY : A SEARING RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS

Great score, great cast, a gripping set piece and a marvellous edgy quasi doco feel for the lead up to the incident, PATRIOTS DAY is the apotheosis of the teaming of director Peter Berg and his star of choice, Mark Wahlberg.

A searing re-enactment of the Boston Marathon bombings in Boston in 2013, the film was originally titled Boston Strong, which seems eminently more suitable and more palatable to non jingoistic audiences.

Title aside, though, PATRIOTS DAY is a prime procedural thriller concerning the lead up, the event and the aftermath, and is absolutely gripping in its three act play out.

Continue reading PATRIOTS DAY : A SEARING RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBINGS

MOONLIGHT : A MASTERFUL TRIPTYCH OF ONE MAN’S STORY

Forging the cinematic identity of Miami through stories that “go beyond the typical portrayal of a beautiful but vapid party town.”, MOONLIGHT is a masterpiece triptych of one boy’s story.

Featuring a trio of gifted actors, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, inhabiting a single character, Chiron, MOONLIGHT tells the story of one young man’s coming of age in a tough Miami neighbourhood.

We first meet Chiron as an uncertain and tentative boy known as “Little”. Picked upon by his peers and neglected by his crack addled mother. Ironically, Little is rescued from his persecuting peers by Juan, the drug dealer who supplies his mother. He takes Little home to his girlfriend, Teresa, and teaches him to swim, and instils a sense of self pride.

The second act finds Chiron a bullied teenager grappling with his sexuality. Tenderness and violence, retaliation and repercussion, bleeds into the final chapter where Chiron, now known as “Black” a grown man, deals drugs in Georgia.

MOONLIGHT also features a stunning supporting ensemble, including Naomie Harris — playing with tough, impassioned grace a crack addicted single mother trying to raise her young son amid tempestuous personal struggles — and Mahershala Ali as the indelible early mentor, Juan. Both these actors have been nominated for Academy Awards for their performances, part of the eight Oscar haul of nominations the film has earned.

MOONLIGHT has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, Barry Jenkins, who, in cahoots with his cameraman, James Laxton, also nominated, creates an eloquent lensing as the camera choreographs around its subjects, whether it be the dizzying dance of the carousel or the shaky subjective pursuit of people or a ball.

Jenkins is also up for Best Adapted Screenplay, fashioned from a story by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Rounding out the eight nominations are Best Film Editing, Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon, and Best Original Score, Nicholas Britell.

With all its integrated facets, MOONLIGHT is an authentically moving experience that is powerful, poignant and quietly passionate.

DENNIS KELLY’S ‘OSAMA THE HERO’ @ THE KINGS CROSS THEATRE

The provocatively titled OSAMA THE HERO by Dennis Kelly is an examination of the hothouse hysteria that the West has been laden with due to the twin towers of terrorism and trepidation.

Asked to present a school project on an inspirational character, nerdy Gary chooses Osama bin Laden as his subject. After all, Gary argues, Osama inspired manifold minions by giving up his manifold millions to live in a cave and lead a jihad, fighting on the frontline. Poor taste compounded by paranoia makes poor Gary a pariah. And when a garage explodes, he is thrown on the pariah heap, a pyre built of perverts and paedophiles. Continue reading DENNIS KELLY’S ‘OSAMA THE HERO’ @ THE KINGS CROSS THEATRE

PERFECT STRANGERS : A COMEDY OF MANNERS FOR THE TECH SET

Here’s a film for the  tweeting, texting, sexting crowd we’ve all become part of, thanks to the insidious and ubiquitous mobile phone.

PERFECT STRANGERS is the positively ironic and glib title of a dinner party game of dare for the digitals.

The titular perfect strangers are actually seven long-time friends (three couples and one bachelor), all in their forties, who gather one night for a dinner party and agree that no private calls or messaging will disrupt their evening. Instead, in a communal fit of ‘we have nothing to hide’ bravado, they place their devices on the table, and all incoming calls and texts are shared with the group. (Letting a caller know they’re on speaker is considered a cheat).

What seems, however, seems at first like an innocent and playful distraction between friends quickly turns into something more, as the messages start to reveal some eye-opening secrets and how little they may truly know about their partners and friends. Continue reading PERFECT STRANGERS : A COMEDY OF MANNERS FOR THE TECH SET

LION

Deserving of a lion’s share of both box office booty and award adulation, LION is a raw and roaring tale of loss and recovery across two continents and twenty five years.

Saroo is a five year old scamp living with his mother and older brother in a rural village of India. One day, he accompanies his brother in search of work in a town quite a journey from his village.

Travel tired, he is told to rest and not to move at the railway station. Searching for a comfortable cocoon in which to slumber, Saroo cradles inside a carriage. On wakening, he finds himself on a train destination unknown, and not knowing how long or how far he has travelled.

The traverse seems as big as the universe and he is delivered to a big city, time and distance unbeknown to the little tacker. Lost, bewildered, traumatised, he has a string of misadventures before finding himself in an orphanage and finally into the safe haven of adoptive parents.

The trans sub continental train ride seems infinitesimal compared to his final destination, the great Australian footnote state of Tasmania.

And so Saroo grows into adulthood under the adoring care of mother and father and saddled with another Indian orphan as surrogate sibling.

Torn between his devotion to his adoptive parents and a desire to reunite with his biological family, he decides to delve into a bit of detective work to position his present with his past.

The first great Australian film of the year, LION has a pride of talent before and behind the camera. Continue reading LION

‘TIM BURTON: THE ICONIC FILM MAKER AND HIS WORK’ BY IAN NATHAN

Unofficial and unauthorised, Ian Nathan’s TIM BURTON: The Iconic Film Maker and His Work is a handsome and illustriously illustrated study of the creator of Frankenweenie and Edward Scissorhands, to name just two iconic characters conjured by one of the most curious movie directors in contemporary cinema.

In his introduction, Nathan writes that, partly, the endeavour of the book is to describe the advent of the adjective Burtonesque. “If you use the word Burtonesque any film fan will know exactly what you are saying.”

Undeniably, there is a distinctive look to Tim Burton’s films, and like all great cineasts, image takes primary over narrative. Ian Nathan has had the great good sense of papering this book with images, and let his subject do the heavy lifting, sometimes in his own words, sometimes by his colleagues and collaborators. Continue reading ‘TIM BURTON: THE ICONIC FILM MAKER AND HIS WORK’ BY IAN NATHAN

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY

One of the eagerly anticipated cinema releases of this month is LION starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. For those who missed his previous film, THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY, there is now the opportunity of catching up with this woefully underrated gem.Infinitely fine film that makes maths add up to a grand sum of entertainment.

Writer/Director Matthew Brown’s THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY shows all the pluses and none of he minuses in a sterling piece of bio-pic the equal of, if not superior to, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.

Beginning in Colonial India, 1913 we are introduced to Srinavasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) a 25-year-old self-taught genius, whose obsessive, solitary study of mathematics compels him to scratch out his calculus on the slate floors of an old temple, not such a strange place considering Ramanujan believed that an equation has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God. Continue reading THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY

PRIZE FIGHTER : UPSTAIRS @ BELVOIR STREET THEATRE

I haven’t been ringside since I attended a bout of World Championship Wrestling. That “sport” of course was totally theatrical, a silly pantomime of phoney biff but with a certain athleticism.

La Boite’s production of PRIZE FIGHTER at Belvoir is also totally theatrical, but with a more striking athleticism and a much more sober and sombre aesthete.

Isa is a Congolese refugee getting by in the ‘burbs of Brisbane as a boxer. Trained in the jab and duck by his brother, his killer instinct was honed as a child soldier, press ganged into service by the same guerilla gang that massacred his family. Continue reading PRIZE FIGHTER : UPSTAIRS @ BELVOIR STREET THEATRE

JACKIE

 

It’s true, it’s true, Pablo Larraine has made it clear. JACKIE is one of the most striking films of year!

Narratively, visually, acoustically – JACKIE takes the biopic into a shattering and totally satisfying new stratosphere.

The director of No, The Club and Neruda, all made in his native Chile, has moved north to fashion a fabulous film about a fairy tale time that became known as Camelot.

In mythical Camelot, that fine round table land of noble knights and fine ladies, the winter was forbidden till December, but for Kennedy’s Camelot winter came far too early, in November, 1963; exit the twenty second with a fatal shot.

Writer Noah Oppenheim retells this fabled story with its infamous finale solely through the eyes of Jacqueline Kennedy, structuring the film around Theodore H. White’s LIFE magazine interview with the First Lady, that took place a mere week after the assassination of her beloved husband, United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Continue reading JACKIE

SEX AND DEATH STORIES : SOME NOT SO LIGHT HOLIDAY READING

How we come in, how we go out, sex and death; these are the governing drives, our two greatest themes. Humid embrace, cold sweat.

In the vigour to mortis anthology, SEX & DEATH, edited by Sarah Hall and Peter Hobbs, twenty splendid stories that excoriate and excruciate the extremes of the exquisite remind us of what we already know – intuitive muscle memory – but can’t quite reconcile; the cognitive dissonance of living and dying and the attempts at loving in between. Continue reading SEX AND DEATH STORIES : SOME NOT SO LIGHT HOLIDAY READING

PETER CORRIS FAREWELLS CLIFF HARDY WITH ‘WIN, LOSE OR DRAW’

Peter Corris’ latest Cliff Hardy, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is the last Cliff Hardy.

This amounts to a win, lose and draw situation for the legion of Cliff Hardy fans.

It’s a win because it’s a neat, clean, shaved and sober story, and Corris doesn’t care who knows it. Like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, WIN, LOSE OR DRAW begins with Cliff Hardy being hired by a lucre lousy dad, Gerard Fonteyn, to investigate the disappearance of his daughter, Juliana, a statuesque fourteen year old vanished from their Vaucluse waterfront last December. Continue reading PETER CORRIS FAREWELLS CLIFF HARDY WITH ‘WIN, LOSE OR DRAW’

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

One of the best films of the year, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP is now available to be loved and befriended in the privacy of your own home.

A sly story of sex and sensibility, the script is based on an obscure short fiction called Lady Susan by Jane Austen, adapted for the screen and directed by the wily Whit Stillman.

Set in two hundred year ago England, the film starts explosively with a domestic disturbance at a stately country home and the ominous narration “If only it hadn’t been for Langford how happy we might have been.” Delicious. Continue reading LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

PATERSON – A FINE NEW FILM FROM JIM JARMUSCH

Here’s a ready made New Years Resolution. See Jim Jarmusch’s new film, PATERSON.

Set in Paterson, New Jersey, the film is about a local bus driver called Paterson, and chronicles both the routine and the surprises that make up seven days of his life.

Paterson lives with Laura, whom he adores, cuddling and caressing her crannies as he nestles her nooks on waking, come work day or weekend.

On the first morning, she wakes too, telling him of a dream in which they were the proud parents of twins. Preternaturally, Paterson encounters twins throughout the day, and the days thereafter. Continue reading PATERSON – A FINE NEW FILM FROM JIM JARMUSCH

BRYAN CRANSTON’S MEMOIR : ‘A LIFE IN PARTS’

Part memoir, part acting manual, Bryan Cranston’s A LIFE IN PARTS is a six decade odyssey through a life that has seen him play many parts on the great stage of life.

Seemingly, Cranston had little chance of avoiding being bitten by the acting bug as, “My parents met like most people do; in an acting class in Hollywood.”, but a seminal event in his childhood almost robbed us of this thrilling thespian, a mortification during a school play.

Saying so long to to the stage, Cranston embarked on a series of employment adventures that included farmhand, beast feeder, house painter, security guard and marriage celebrant. He also embarked on a motorcycle saga with his brother Ed.
“With the Steppenwolf road anthem ‘Born to be Wild’ playing in our heads, we blasted out of California on motorcycles for parts unknown. Duration unknown. Everything was unknown.” Continue reading BRYAN CRANSTON’S MEMOIR : ‘A LIFE IN PARTS’

A UNITED KINGDOM

A black man and a white man slug it out in the ring. It might be Marquess of Queensberry rules in a hallowed hall of a major English university, but the playing field is far from level as the privileged pale person appears to get away with bending the rules to beat his Black opponent.

It’s a pertinent reminder that pigment was still a primary prejudice of the Britain of 1947, despite the progressive pose adopted that year of independence for India, ultimately punishing because of the appalling legacy of Partition.

The Black Man being duded in the boxing ring is a king, but not a real king like a Windsor or a Tudor, as the British would have it. Disparagingly, he would be the King of Congo Bongo Land. His name is Seretse Khama and his story is the basis of the drolly titled A UNITED KINGDOM. Continue reading A UNITED KINGDOM

THE MENKOFF METHOD

The opening shot of THE MENKOFF METHOD features a Melbourne tram.

Thirty years ago, director David Parker made Malcolm, a landmark Australian film about a Melbourne tram driver, so the expectation that this new film of his would be as wonderful and quirky seemed to be telegraphed with this establishing shot.
Not so.

THE MENKOFF METHOD is quirky, but comes nowhere near a coo-ee of Malcolm when it comes to comedy or heart. Continue reading THE MENKOFF METHOD

IAN FLEMING : THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TYPEWRITER

Pay attention, 007!  Bloomsbury have published your creator’s letters.

Letters? You must be joking.

I never joke about his work, 007.

Emails, texts, tweets?

No, 007, letters, fully fledged, beautifully written correspondence with publishers, proof readers, and his public, with you as the principle subject.

I’m flattered. What’s it called?

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TYPEWRITER. It contains a selection of letters that charts the progress of his literary career from a January holiday in Jamaica to a September memorial service in London, spanning a dozen years.

This opusculum, to use one of Fleming’s favourite words, has been arranged in seventeen chapters covering your published case files.

Opusculum? Sounds like a SPECTRE torture chamber.

It actually means a small or minor literary work. Each of these letters is indeed a literary work, full of candour, style, and flourish that has sustained his reputation and popularity.

Seventeen chapters you say? That’s three too many. Fleming only published fourteen volumes of James Bond adventures. Continue reading IAN FLEMING : THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN TYPEWRITER

MICHAEL CONNELLY : THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE

Evocative of Raymond Chandler in title THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE, Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch title also channels Chandler in tone with a per fine ounce of a dotty, near dead, industrialist’s issue with his issue.

THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE is a two tiered intriguer that has Harry Bosch working two cases, one officially sanctioned by the San Fernando Police Department involving a serial rapist dubbed The Screen Cutter, the other a private investigation for ailing aviation billionaire, Whitney Vance.

In a prologue – that’s book talk for a pre title sequence – a US Army helicopter made by the Vance company is shot down over Vietnam half a century ago. That short sequence resonates throughout the novel, until it neatly dovetails into the book’s end. Continue reading MICHAEL CONNELLY : THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBYE