Movies galore: the NZ International Film Festival is back #nziff

Our beloved winter event the New Zealand International Film Festival 2017 opens 28 July in Wellington offering a wide variety of movies from all over the world. To get into the mood, some of our movie buff staff listed their favourite titles from recent festivals and the results are below.

We have a lot of movies previously showcased at the festival. You can find the titles here – check them out to have your own festival at home.

Our Staff picks from the recent film festivals

A sensitive portrayal of a beautiful woman, now aging, who stubbornly wants to keep her apartment despite all odds.

Free to Run / A War / Paterson / Midnight Special / Chasing Asylum

The Rehearsal
A really great kiwi film based on the book by Eleanor Catton. I haven’t read the book but I from my understanding the film only covers part of the story, but you couldn’t tell it was missing anything.

When Marnie Was There
I really loved it. As with any Studio Ghibli film, it was visually stunning.

Goodnight Mommy
German horror/thriller, part of the new ‘wave’ of non-slasher horror films as represented by films like It Follows, Babadook & Under The Skin. 9 year old twins Lukas & Elias living in an idyllic isolated summer cottage waiting for their Mother to return from having plastic surgery. When she returns her face is covered in bandages, and slowly little things emerge about her seem that seem off. Gradually their suspicions increase… Is that really their mother under the bandages? The nasty twist may be easy for some to spot, but it’s still super creepy.

The Lobster
One you immediately love or loathe, a savage indictment of modern interpersonal relationships, taken to its natural dystopian extreme. In the near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. The newly single Colin Farrell navigates the surreal Hotel, and survives by escaping into The Woods to live with ‘The Loners’ who have their own sets of rules. Perhaps mislabelled as a ‘Comedy’ or a ‘Romance’. Very very deadpan, but plenty of great lines and moments if you can get into its mindset.

Green Room
Tight indie thriller sees a punk band fall afoul of a bunch of skinheads after accidentally witnessing a murder in an Oregon roadhouse. The claustrophobic setting is put to maximum effect as the skinheads (led by a nasty turn from Patrick Stewart) are determined to eliminate all witnesses. Sadly one of the last roles of the very talented Anton Yelchin.

Neil J
Midnight special
An indie feeling road movie/chase/Science fiction film with family relationship at its core rather than blockbuster special effects. Though it does have one or two nice visual effects to boot.

Swiss army man
Daniel Radcliffe distances himself even further from this Harry Potter days in this truly bizarre yet rather wonderful film about a magical corpse.

Captain Fantastic
A film that works on so many levels . It is touching, funny, serious, intense and a whole gambit more of emotions a really rounded film that asks us to question 21st century life and its true value. My pick of this selection of films.

This is an off kilter quirky gem of a film . Two Icelandic brothers who haven’t spoken in years conduct their affairs through their prize herds of sheep. Very black and wry humour throughout.

Turbo Kid
A film that revels in mega low budget science fiction of the 80’s ( in a really fun way) . All the tropes are there and one or two of the actors too!.

Inherent Vice
Set in a drug drenched 1970s an L.A. private eye investigates the disappearance of one of his former girlfriends a hypnotic, rambling, impressionistic film, immersive film perhaps not to everyone’s taste , But so vividly realised you can almost taste and touch 1970s Los Angeles .

High Rise
This is 1970s dystopian science fiction at its best, all exaggerated and exuberant bleakness concrete and chrome, hessian and wood, except for one thing this film was made in 2015. Its retro futuristic Science Fiction at its best and a total blast. The kind of film Ken Russell or Nicholas Roeg might have made back in the day.

Paterson – Jim Jarmusch masterfully crafts a quiet but lovely warm-hearted movie about a working class poet Paterson who lives in Paterson, New Jersey.
I, Daniel Blake – Anger within but with as little drama as possible, Ken Roach depicts the struggles of a widowed carpenter. One of his finest works.
Our Little Sister – A ‘sweet and lovely’ movie which offers beautiful tenderness and emotion though successive small moments of everyday life.
The Assassin – a sublime, breathtakingly beautiful film in which every scene is a work of art.
My Mother – about facing mortality but Italian auteur Nanni Moretti makes it a charming family drama which has a perfect balance of melodrama and comedy.
Embrace of the Serpent –The powerful tale of Western civilization vs. indigenous value takes us into the mysterious Amazon jangle with a stunning image.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – often described as ‘the Iranian feminist vampire western’. A little Indie gem.
Tehran taxi – Iranian master director Jafar Panahi ingeniously turns the taxi into a mirror of Iranian society. Serious yet playful.

From 2016: A War and Green Room – both are recommended for those with strong stomachs.
From 2015: Dope and The Mafia Kills Only in Summer – both are fine for anyone

Girlhood / Helvetica / Cabin In The Woods / Only Lovers Left Alive / Drowning By Numbers

Life Animated / Boyhood / The music of strangers : Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble / Amour / The Daughter

Building Up a Festival Mood #NZIFF

Our favourite winter cultural event is just around the corner. The 44th New Zealand Film Festival opens 24 July in Wellington with a pretty good line-up. You may or may not have thought about your plans for this year, but we have a lot of movies previously showcased at the festival in our DVD collection. Borrow them to get into festival mood or to have your own festival on your couch. You can find the titles we have here.

We also asked our cinephile staff to list up their favourite movies from the recent years’ festival. The results are the below. Check them out, too!

Only Lovers Left Alive (“completely fabulous”), Snowpiercer, Starred Up, Frank, Locke, Much Ado About Nothing, Jappeloup,
The Past

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Barbara, Yves Saint Laurent

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Syndetics book coverStories We Tell by Sarah Polley.
It was lovely! Beautifully put together archive footage and reenactments, an exploration too of family, remembering and narration.

My Pick – Under the Skin
The Runners-Up – The Dark Horse, Locke, Maps to the Stars, Nas: Time is Illmatic, Mud, What Maisie Knew, Frances Ha

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cover imageThe Dark Horse
Thoroughly enjoyed it!

Particlefever, The Dark Horse, Locke

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My favourites from last year were Reaching for the Moon and Two Days One Night.

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cover imageLady from Shanghai – Misunderstood film noir remains an underrated classic in the cannon of writer/director Orson Wells. Less about plot, he concerns himself with the emotional dynamics of character. The story of a dim witted innocent sailor (Wells) caught up in the intrigues of a beautiful femme fatale (a gloriously blonde Rita Hayworth) is almost beside the point. Full of stylish, and innovative cinematography (the aquarium meeting, & specifically the famous ‘Hall-of-mirrors’ shootout’) it’s almost post-modern before anyone invented that term.

cover imageA Hijacking – A companion piece to the recent ‘Captain Phillips’ sees the crew of a Danish tanker hijacked & imprisoned in their ship by Somali pirates. The movie focuses on the ship’s cook, anxious to return to his wife & child, and the arrogant CEO of the shipping company (Søren Malling, The Killing), who believes he can negotiate the Pirates demands down, just as he would in any business deal. A tense duel ensues between ‘Omar’ the negotiator for the Pirates & Malling, as time stretches on & conditions worsen for the trapped crew…

cover imageYou’re Next – Bonkers horror/slasher movie sees a young Aussie woman called Erin accompany her boyfriend to his family reunion at their Missouri vacation house, where his parents have gathered their 4 children & significant others together to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to all is that their neighbors have been brutally attacked by some crossbow wielding psycho’s wearing animal masks, who soon invade their gathering with lethal intent. Who are they & what is their motive? No matter, as also unbeknownst to all, Aussie girl Erin has had a less than ordinary upbringing and is soon bringing the fight to the invaders…Awesome carnage and dark humor ensue.

cover imageLady from Shanghai
When Orson Welles was still young enough and talented enough to be considered a maverick. Black and white, and nasty perfection.

Syndetics book coverFrank
Fictionalised (and glamorised) version of the Frank story that works in ninety minutes, but maybe only hints at some of the complexity and oddness of the original as told in various stories and podcasts by Jon Ronson. Still great and Michael Fassbender is Frank.

Syndetics book coverThe Double – Simon is timid, isolated and powerless. Suddenly his doppelganger appears in his life, doing everything Simon does, but better. Simon is horrified when his double begins to take over his life, in every way… This film has some of the best lighting design I’ve ever seen, and the atmosphere it builds is amazing. I also highly recommend Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine, also an NZIFF selection.

cover imageUnder the Skin – An alien in the body of a human woman comes to Earth to lure Scottish hitchhikers to their deaths. This film is very abstract, I’ve never seen another constructed in this way. You are taken to a new scene, while you are still pondering heavily what just happened for the next few minutes. It also has loads of gorgeous shots of the Scottish moors – worth watching for the visuals alone!

cover imageWhy Don’t You Play in Hell? – This is a totally wacky and fun film about a group of (very) amateur filmmakers, hoping to make the best movie in the world, even if it kills them – which it might! Although depending who you ask, this could also be considered a film about a 10-year rivalry between two yakuza clans over a toothpaste commercial. Either way, it is loads of fun (and gore).

cover imageUpstream Color – A very abstract film about love, fear, orchids… and pigs. Kris’s life is derailed when she is taken hostage by a thief and made to do things she can’t remember. The experience leaves her lost and fearful, but then she meets Jeff, who has had a similar experience. Together, they set out to reclaim their lives and discover what happened to each of them.

cover imageFrances Ha – Frances Ha is a lovely, lovely film about the strength of female friendship. Frances is trying to make her way in the world – she just wants to have an apartment, a job, have fun, but it’s not always simple. However, she will do what it takes to follow her dreams. Directed by Noah Baumbach, a festival favourite who has another film screening at NZIFF this year.

cover imageCutie and the Boxer – A wonderful documentary about a “boxing” painter and his wife, showcasing their lives and work, which you’ve probably never heard of. The film explores how the roles in their 40 year relationship have changed over time, and the ways that this made them stronger together. It is visually stunning, and the work by both artists is beautiful. Very funny too!

2013 – Much ado about nothing, Wadjda

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2014 – Snowpiercer, In order of disappearance, Only lovers left alive

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Winter Sleep – In a desolate but stunningly beautiful setting in Cappadocia, human egos and prides confront each other. This Bergman-esque compelling drama won the Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 2014 and deservedly so.
Two Days One Night – A tense redundancy drama features ever wonderful Marion Cotillard. Another impeccable movie by Dardenne brothers; the champion of social realist drama.
Under the Skin – Strange but poetic images and equally weird yet effective music are the driving forces of this unconventional sci-fi thriller. This might open up a new horizon of cinema.
The Past – Despite shooting in foreign soil (France) for the first time, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi once again delivers a remarkable family relationship drama. A masterful work.

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#NZFF 2015 literary adaptations!

The NZ International Film Festival draws near, and there are a load of literary-inspired works on show this year! Some are adaptations of novels and short stories, some are inspired by literary figureheads, and some are based on fascinating non-fiction titles. Hopefully there’s something here for everyone, and don’t forget to check out the full programme over at the NZFF website!

Going Clear directed by Alex Gibney
“Alex Gibney’s documentary sensation, based on Lawrence Wright’s best-selling history of Scientology and its apostates, gets the big screen treatment it deserves.”

Syndetics book coverBased on:
Going clear : Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief / Lawrence Wright.
“Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists–both famous and less well known–and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.” (Syndetics summary)

Inherent Vice directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
“Paul Thomas Anderson has taken Thomas Pynchon’s novel about the death of the hippie counterculture and turned it, reasonably faithfully, into a surreally funny, anxious and beautiful film noir.” — The Telegraph

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Inherent vice / Thomas Pynchon.
“Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon – private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog.” (Syndetics summary)

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland
“Present-day art world stars pay tribute in a lavishly illustrated profile of the arts patron extraordinaire who transformed a modest fortune and adventurous taste into one of the premier collections of 20th-century art.”

Image from AmazonBased on:
Out of this century : confessions of an art addict / Peggy Guggenheim ; foreword by Gore Vidal ; introd. by Alfred H. Barr.
“In this autobiography, noted art collector Guggenheim offers outspoken, tart, somewhat embarrassing personal reminiscences.” (Publisher Weekly)

Wrinkles directed by Ignacio Ferreras
“The subject of old age gets the kind of attention it deserves but is too rarely afforded in this funny, affecting and sugar-free animated tale of the survival strategies devised by two old men in a nursing home.”

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“Admitted to a home for the elderly because he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, for Ernest community life feels like an ordeal. But soon he accepts his new environment and decides to fight to escape from giving in to his awful destiny.” (Syndetics summary)

Merchants of Doubt directed by Robert Kenner
“Scoring its points through clearly stated arguments and pithy humour, Merchants of Doubt examines the methods corporations use to stymie political actions that would be good for public health, but bad for their bottom lines.”

Syndetics book coverBased on:
Merchants of doubt : how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming / Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.
Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades that link smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole.” (Syndetics summary)

The 50 Year Argument directed by Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi
“Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s doco celebrates 50 years of cultural and political debate in the pages of The New York Review of Books with octogenarian editor Robert Silvers, its tireless champion of intellectual freedom.”

Image from ZinioInspired by:
New York review of books.
(WCL magazine collection)
The New York review of books [electronic resource].
(WCL eMagazine collection on Zinio)

When Marnie Was There directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi
“A shy girl makes a mysterious new friend while convalescing in a sleepy seaside village in this gorgeous Studio Ghibli adaptation of the children’s novel by Joan G. Robinson. Animated by Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Arrietty).”

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When Marnie was there / Joan G. Robinson ; illustrated by Peggy Fortnum.
“Sent away from her foster home one long, hot summer to a sleepy Norfolk village by the sea, Anna dreams her days away among the sandhills and marshes. She never expected to meet a friend like Marnie, someone who doesn’t judge Anna for being ordinary and not-even-trying. But no sooner has Anna learned the loveliness of friendship than Marnie vanishes…” (Syndetics summary)

Holding The Man directed by Neil Armfield
“The memoir of a gay love affair that began at school when the author fell for the captain of the football team and ended in tragedy 15 years later is already a classic of Australian literature, and now an inspiring, heartbreaking film.”

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Holding the man / Timothy Conigrave.
“At an all-boys Catholic school in Melbourne in the mid-seventies, Timothy Conigrave fell wildly and sweetly in love with the captain of the football team. So began a relationship that was to last for 15 years, a love affair that weathered disapproval, separation and, ultimately death. This is a book as refreshing and uplifting as it is moving; a funny and sad and celebratory account of growing up gay.” (Syndetics summary)

End of the Tour directed by James Ponsoldt
“This charming and sensitive film about a five-day encounter between acclaimed late author David Foster Wallace and a Rolling Stone journalist is a transfixing human drama.” — Anthony Kaufman, Screendaily

Image from ZinioSyndetics book coverInspired by:
The work of David Foster Wallace
Rolling stone (WCL print magazine)

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry directed by Mary Dore
“All the anger, joy and turmoil of the 60s–70s feminist explosion comes alive in a vivid documentary, blending the recollections of key US campaigners with archival action likely to astound anyone who wasn’t there.”

Syndetics book coverReferences many classic works, including:
Our bodies, ourselves / The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective.
“Hailed by The New York Times as a “feminist classic,” and “America’s bestselling book on women’s health,” the comprehensive guide to all aspects of women’s health and sexuality, including menopause, birth control, childbirth, sexual health, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental health and general well-being.” (Syndetics summary)

Very Semi-Serious directed by Leah Wolchok
“New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff introduces his stable of oddball artists and guides us through the processes and philosophies that have kept publication in the magazine so highly prized for decades.”

Syndetics book coverFeaturing New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff:
The complete cartoons of the New Yorker / edited by Robert Mankoff ; foreword by David Remnick.
“Organized by decade, with commentary by some of the magazine’s finest writers, this landmark collection showcases the work of the hundreds of talented artists who have contributed cartoons over the course of The New Yorker’s eighty-two-year history. ” (Syndetics summary)
The New Yorker. (WCL print magazine)

45 Years directed by Andrew Haigh
“Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are deeply affecting in award-winning roles as a retired Norfolk couple preparing for their 45th-anniversary party, when a ghost from the past raises awkward, long-buried questions.”

Syndetics book coverBased on: a short story by David Constantine
Tea at the Midland / by David Constantine.
“Filled with characters that are often delicately caught in moments of defiance, disregarding their age, their family, or the prevailing political winds, this collection finds a space for resistance and taking an honest delight in it.” (Syndetics summary)

Prophet’s Prey directed by Amy Berg
“This unsettling look into indoctrination within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is another essential work from one of the world’s finest documentary filmmakers. Music and narration by Nick Cave.”

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Under the banner of heaven : a story of violent faith / Jon Krakauer.
“This text provides an account of Taliban-like theocracies in the American heartland controlled by renegade Mormon prophets. At the core of the book is a double murder committed by a pair of brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they were commanded to kill by God. Krakauer constructs a multi-layered narrative of polygamy, savage violence and unyielding faith.” (Syndetics summary)

Far From Men directed by David Oelhoffen
“This gripping existential Western – North African style – sees Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kateb play two men battling to survive in 50s Algeria. Based on a story by Albert Camus and scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.”

Syndetics book coverBased on: Albert Camus‘ short story The Guest.
The outsider / Albert Camus ; translated from the French by Joseph Laredo.
“Meursault will not pretend. After the death of his mother, everyone is shocked when he shows no sadness. And when he commits a random act of violence in Algiers, society is baffled. Why would this seemingly law-abiding bachelor do such a thing? And why does he show no remorse even when it could save his life?” (Syndetics summary)