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Entertainment

Archive | Entertainment

Welcome to ‘The Yabba’: Review of Wake in Fright

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Drafthouse Films
Drafthouse Films

Drafthouse Films

Welcome to “The Yabba”- short for Bundanyabba, a mining town in the Australian Outback. “Where nobody cares where you came from or what you’ve done” as John Grant’s new drinking buddy in the local Outback bar explains to him. “I’m a doctor. I’m also an alcoholic. But nobody cares about that. You won’t either…as long as you join the guys in the bar in rapid serial beer drinking- opening the throat and pouring the stuff down, quickly and sequentially.” A fair recipe for alcoholism. And no effete pommie behavior, either.

You must join in the pounding of the bar tables. Singing. Gambling racket. Fighting. Laughing like hyenas. There are whole scenes of huge straw headed bright red faced heads thrown back laughing and laughing and howling like dogs or like damned souls in a pot—pure Brueghel. (In case you were wondering, in the Yabba there is a grand total of one indigenous Australian guy who keeps well to himself.)

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Wake in Fright: 2012, the Film Odyssey

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Drafthouse Films
Drafthouse Films

Drafthouse Films

What is Wake in Fright? A newly restored, outrageous Australian film classic to be screened at Film Forum this Wednesday. The two key people involved in the making and publicizing of the film are executive director and producer Ted Kotcheff, and his close personal friend director and producer Antonio Saillant. Wake in Fright is variously described as one of the three great Aussie film classics ever made (along with Mad Max, and Walkabout), an expression of the Australian soul, a great favorite of Martin Scorsese, and of director and Executive Producer of TV’s “Law & Order,” Ted Kotcheff. It is also described as a deeply dark, raunchy, terrifying, madly intense film experience. It is a celebration of guns, booze, wanton destruction of outback-wild life, and descent into madness. Those who see it are inevitably blown away.

Wake in Fright is one of a kind. It is one of only two movies to hold the “Cannes Classic” distinction. 40 years after its first showing it has garnered rapturous press and all parties concerned are extremely excited to be bringing it back to New York and LA – in short it is rolling. This article about Wake in Fright and the men who created it, preserved it, and finally made it available to the public -even after a hiatus of 40 years — will be in two parts. This first article introduces the film Wake in Fright and also introduces Antonio Saillant, a film producer and ardent green activist, and a close friend of Wake in Fright’s producer/director Ted Kotcheff, who has taken a leading role in publicizing the film. The second part will expand on the elements of Wake in Fright but will primarily center on an interview- a celebration of the life and work of the inimitable Ted Kotcheff.

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One Hundred Million Porcelain Seeds: Review of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

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Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei

A few years back I became acquainted with some Chinese grad students working at Teachers College Library’s conservation lab. They were charming, very quick learners, whose fingers were exquisitely adept, and they quickly became amazingly skilled at cleaning and repairing old books. One day the topic of the Cultural Revolution came up—in fact, I think we had found archival photos of the Chinese intellectuals working in rice fields outside of Beijing.

The Cultural Revolution appeared to me to have been a civil war, waged by the government against its citizens. Even those who appeared to have emerged in fine shape continued to suffer psychological pain as a result of their “re-education.” My Chinese friends, to all appearances light-hearted, and not at all prone to self-revelation, gasped at the sight of these images and began to cry. They had been part of the group of intellectuals and artists targeted for “re-education.” They began slowly and reluctantly to tell us about the cruelties they had been subjected to. It was an appalling story, which I never forgot.

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Review of Takashi Miike’s Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

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Tribeca Film
Tribeca Film

Tribeca Film

The question I posed in my review of Grand Illusion, a film in which the action took place within a POW camp and the war was almost entirely offstage, was, “where is the war?” One might well ask the same question of Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai. Or perhaps – how are we (Japanese, samurai) to live without war? Takashi Miike’s Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is set in 1600, in a newly peaceful Japan. Many Japanese are delighted to have the warring states at a relative peace with one another and to get a chance to settle down and make money.

To the warrior class, the samurai, this peace of the Tokugawa shogunate, or bakufu, which includes the indolence of peace and the contemptible wish of the merchant class to amass money, are morally and socially bankrupt and they are devastating to their way of life. For one thing, they can’t easily make money—their skills as warriors are no longer needed. Many lack the ability to create new skills. They slide into poverty. The peace of the shogunate has robbed the samurai of their code of honor, their livelihood, and their very reason for being. It is a peace in which the status of the samurai has fallen so far that the ruling bakufu refuses to allow them even to repair their castle, which is falling down around them.

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Review: Daniel Espinosa’s Easy Money

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Nordisk Film
Nordisk Film

Nordisk Film

Daniel Espinosa’s Easy Money is a gripping, intense, truly unnerving gangster movie with a heart or two, but heart in the mouth terror is always around the corner. The movie never let up with the fear and the violence—the hallmark of a fine thriller. And the English title was well chosen- it lays the irony on with a trowel. Not only is the cocaine/money central to this film not easily gotten, it vanishes- seized by the cops after the gang wars. And the living is not easy either—big score or no big score, just about everybody dies. Espinosa’s Easy Money has two interacting themes- the brief rise and long fall of a feral handsome cold young business school poser who believes falsely that he can join a group of gangsters and beat them at their own game with his business school smarts.

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Review: Iara Lee’s Cultures of Resistance

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Youtube
Youtube

Youtube

When we think of “resistance,” what mostly comes to mind is guerrilla warfare: Vietnamese closing in on the besieged French at Dien Bien Phu; Angolans ambushing Portuguese troops outside of Luanda; Salvadorans waging a war of attrition against their military oligarchy. But resistance doesn’t always involve roadside bombs or military operations. Sometimes it is sprayed on a Teheran wall, or rapped in a hip-hop song in Gaza. It can be a poem in Medellin, Colombia—arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world—or come from a guitar shaped like an AK-47.

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Review: Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion

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Rialto Pictures
Rialto Pictures

Rialto Pictures

In the 21st century, war movies are intensely popular, even if it’s warfare on the industrial level. We’ve become accustomed to movies that follow a formula, regardless of whether they’re supposed to be realistic or have taken a page out of a comic book. The Rambo genre, for example, is marked by made for action figure hulks, gigantic figures whose testosterone is enhanced with steroids and whose martial arts skills are both manual and hi-tech. The one man army exhibiting the technological capacity for creating as much devastation as an entire platoon could have done in Vietnam.

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Review of the BBC’s This World: Inside the Meltdown

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Associated Press
Associated Press

Associated Press

The BBC documentary, Inside the Meltdown, on the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant is oddly powerful in its depiction of the savage destructive nature of the environment as it battered and subsequently caused the meltdown of the Fukushima plant. Other depictions from the documentary worth noting are a chaotic and near criminal power company TEPCO (not hyperbole—TEPCO employs many yakuza), and a prime minister faced with terrifying choices all of which may lead to disaster, while having to depend on the advice of TEPCO. I should note that even if you think you’ve seen this story, you haven’t. Much of the footage and dialogue is unique and revealed for the first time.

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Crazy Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Heaven

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Bob Morehouse
Bob Morehouse

Bob Morehouse

As I watched, and attempted to appreciate Crazy Wisdom, a documentary about Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the legendary bad boy of American Tibetan Buddhism, now being screened at the Rubin Museum, I discovered that I was meditating about my own Tibetan Buddhist retreat several years ago. Although I have never met Trungpa, I did experience a brief flash of enlightenment, when I meditated with Trungpa’s adherents on a three-day retreat in upstate New York. It was far from pleasant, but it was instructive. The grounds of The Tibetan Buddhist Lodge were deeply peaceful, and incidentally, deeply green.

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The Ides of March and Hollywood on the Campaign Trail

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Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

George Clooney’s new political drama, The Ides of March, tells an old story in a predictable, unrealistic fashion. The film portrays American electioneering as far worse than corrupt—here it’s downright moral pestilence. Thankfully, the reality of campaign work is brighter and more entertaining. That is why so many young people seek it out. A key character, missing from The Ides of March, assures an abundance of comedy on the typical campaign trail: the American voter.

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American Recession on Film

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Birdsong Pictures
Birdsong Pictures

Birdsong Pictures

Hollywood mostly provides escapism during hard economic times, but there is a continuous commentary on American materialism in its smaller films. Across the 70s, 80s, and up until the present recession, protagonists struggle against their materialist instincts. Some use recession as a chance to conquer their fears of economic loss. Others try to sequester a space for spirituality and fail. Consider the year 1973 in film, a pivotal milestone in U.S. economic history marking the end of the post-World War II economic boom.

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Review: That Girl in Yellow Boots

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IndiePix Films
IndiePix Films

IndiePix Films

In That Girl in Yellow Boots, the heroine, Ruth, a half Indian-half English 20 year old, with huge eyes, has come to India to find her Indian father. Ms. Koechlin’s Ruth is a lovely desperate mixture of Hilary Swank and an earlier, Jean Shrimpton. In addition, Ms. Koechlin is also the screenwriter. Ruth’s search is driven by mementos of her father — one, a family photograph, which includes her mother and sister, and only her father’s hand because her mother has torn the rest of his body out the photo.

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