Sunday, July 10, 2016

Like a MIFF in a candy store

I'll be going to a lot more films at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival than I ever have before.

In fact, I figure to be more than doubling last year's output.

While in 2014 I saw five films during the 18-day festival, last year it was reduced to four, in part because I had a friend visiting during that time (he attended two with me, but I didn't think we should spend all our nights watching movies). Both years, though, the financial considerations of $20 per ticket were also a factor, though we did score a couple free here and there.

This year, that's not such a consideration. This year, the sky's the limit.

Okay not really. But my wife and I both plan to go crazy.

When she bought me a gift card for two MIFF screenings back at Christmastime, little did we know how little we'd need them.

The biggest change this year is that I have access to the lion's share of a credentialed minipass. ReelGood, the site I write for, has gotten us a complimentary minipass, which entitles us to ten tickets for evening sessions and another three bonus for weekday daytime sessions. We have to review all the movies we see, but that's a small price to pay. My editor isn't interested in going except to three sessions of shorts, so I have seven other sessions at my disposal to do with what I like. (I could probably also go to the daytime sessions except that I'm back to working full time.)

My wife won't be working at all during the month of August, and all but four days of the festival fall during that month. So she has decided that we should buy an extra minipass, the cost for which can be defrayed by the gift card she'd already purchased. Plus she's already come into possession of some free tickets through her work.

So really, we're looking at this schedule and just licking our chops. It's the best program in the three years I've been here, in terms of movies I'd already been looking forward to seeing. Here's what I've already got on the schedule, tickets in hand (or in email, anyway):

Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade) - Alison Willmore of Buzzfeed (and Filmspotting SVU, where I know her from) came back from Cannes raving about this one, and that was enough to sell me. It's a 162-minute German movie about a father-daughter relationship where the father dresses up in unusual costumes and forces his daughter into improv scenarios, which she must play along with in order to save face around people she knows who are important to her. Alison repeatedly assures us skeptical viewers that the movie is infinitely more powerful than that premise sounds. Many critics thought this was going to win the Palme d'Or.

Christine (dir. Antonio Campos) - This is the movie about that television reporter, Christine Chubbock, who killed herself on the air. She's played by Rebecca Hall, of whom I'm a big fan. I haven't seen a movie by Campos before but have heard great things about him. (I guess he only has two movies, Afterschool and Simon Killer.)

Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch) - The new Jarmusch film about a bus driver living in Paterson, New Jersey, played by Adam Driver. Don't know anything more about it than that, but thought it was worth a shot just based on those elements.

Graduation (dir. Cristian Mungiu) - Mungiu directed a movie I ranked #2 for its year (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) and one I ranked #1 for its year (Beyond the Hills). Needless to say I was all over this, though I don't know anything at all about the plot.

The Salesman (dir. Asghar Farhadi) - Farhadi is in the same boat as Mungiu by having directed a #1 film for me (A Separation), and I was a big fan of his The Past (which I did not see in the year of its release in order to rank it) as well. I guess this has to do with the deterioration of a relationship during the rehearsals for a staging of Death of a Salesman.

And oh so many other great choices where I just haven't pulled the trigger yet.

My informal goal with movies I choose at MIFF are twofold:

1) Catch movies that will release late in the ranking year in the U.S., which I otherwise won't be able to see in time to rank them because they won't release in Australia until February. I haven't been particularly successful at this in the past, as I've either seen movies that ended up coming out in Australian theaters in September or October, or not coming out in any theaters until the following ranking year. Last year was a mixture of both -- The Lobster came out in Australia in plenty of time to see it last year, though not in the U.S. until 2016, and The Witch didn't come out in either country until 2016. I think a couple of mine are good possibilities to hit that sweet spot this year.

2) See at least one movie that is totally random that I had otherwise not heard of, preferably a foreign film (though I've already got foreign movies well covered with three of my five choices). Past choices have included White God; Black Coal, Thin Ice; and One Floor Below. Have not definitively fixed on this choice for this year yet. But you can bet I'll take the plunge on something that seems promising.

It's very possible that this will be our last MIFF while living in Australia. We don't know exactly what our future holds, though it seems likely we'll still be here a year from now. Nothing is definite, though.

So if there is a year to go hog wild, this is it.

All other hogs better steer clear of us.

No comments: