Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 6: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, A Fistful of Dollars, Primer, Blood Simple, Turn Me On Dammit

I did this at my home town a fair bit too.
Week 6 : Tim's Choice
(We went a bit overboard this week and ended up watching 5 films. What else are you supposed to do while waiting for the next Breaking Bad?)

Thunderbolt & Lightfoot

Clint Eastwood's getting the band back together (for a repeat robbery, given they can't find the cash from the original heist), and Jeff Daniels is the nicest sidekick on earth. "I don't wish to be forward, but we'd like to exchange cars with you. So the faster you get out, the better it'll be for your ass." Car chases, robberies, and really floral pants! While we were watching this I drank many G&Ts and consequently fell asleep around half an hour before the end. Tim can fill you in.

A Fistful Of Dollars

A Poncho With No Name rides into town and plays two warring families off against each other to make some cashola. Dusty, violent, and squinty, with an approved level of whistling. Samurai stories seem to translate really well into Westerns for some reason - perhaps the notion of the anonymous wandering stranger looking for a bit of action suits its widescreen landscape. "My mistake. Four coffins."


Dudes build a time machine, then things get complicated. I watched Primer a while ago after it was screened at MIFF one year, but found it completely incomprehensible. On re-watch, I discovered this was because the copy I was watching had such bad sound that I had assumed the characters were meant to be mumbling their way through the entire film. The scene where they're having a conversation next to a noisy fountain? My entire copy sounded like that. So I was pleasantly surprised to be able to piece together most of Primer together this time around, even though my appreciation of the last ten minutes or so is mainly limited to "that man needed to go to that place because of time". As Tim said to me, it's bizarre to read reviews that insist you have to be a scientist to make any sense of this movie. How on earth will they deal with Orlando?

Blood Simple

Marty thinks Abby is cheating on him (he's right), and hires a private detective to spy on and kill her and her lover. In traditional Cohen fashion, then things go a bit crazy: add many double/triple crosses and stir until the plot thickens. Despite being a Cohen fan I'd managed to miss out on this one. Neo-noirish (though Abby is more femme inconsciente than femme fatale) and blackly humorous, with some excellently squirmy gory scenes. Gets my vote for "best method of extricating trapped hand" on film.

Turn Me On, Dammit

Alma know what she wants, the trouble lies in the practicality of getting it. Frequent calls to the sex line aren't cutting it, but when her school crush Artur awkardly pokes her leg with his penis outside the school dance (and then denies it), the whole school and her friends turn on the now-nicknamed "Dick Alma". Awkward, sweet and funny - this film reminded me of the tone of Lukas Moodysson's lovely Show Me Love (and not just because both sets of teenagers hate their small home town). When I see YA films like this, and others in MIFF's Next Gen program each year, it annoys me that these films never see release in Australia. When there are such good YA films being made across the globe, why are we doomed only to the kind of romance that comes with Transformers or Twilight? Alma would flip them the bird.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 5: Before Sunset, Waco: Rules of Engagement, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

I pretend this is my apartment, though in reality I couldn't stand the clutter.
Week 5: My Choice

Before Sunset

One of my all time favourite films and definitely my favourite of the three "Before _____" movies. Nine years after their magical night in Vienna, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet up again in Paris. They are both older, married, more wearied and cynical - but the spark is still there, and Hawke is due at the airport in a few hours.I just love this film, seeing their initial dismissal of that night together nine years ago break down into their acknowledgement of how life-changing it was for both of them. It's bitter-sweet - all the time they've missed together based on an immature trust in fate - and when Hawke starts telling Delpy about his dreams I basically lose my shit and cry for the rest of the movie. I won't spoiler, but Before Sunset also has my favourite last two lines in a movie: best understatement ever.

Waco: Rules of Engagement

Hey, so you thought cults were crazy? Check out the US government! This detailed documentary explores the attempted raid and following 51 day siege that ended with the Waco Davidian compound erupting into a fireball that killed 76 people (including over 20 children). There's a lot of congressional hearings, examination of infra-red footage taken while the FBI pumped massive amounts of tear gas into the building with army tanks, and footage both from inside and outside the compound during the siege. Regardless of what weapons the nutty Christian sect was stockpiling, the ATF 'publicity' raid was a disaster, and the FBI methods of psychological and physical intimidation are shocking to watch. "It was known that the Davidians did not have children's gas masks. It was hoped that the 'maternal instinct' would lead mothers to bring their children out." Now, where have we heard that sort of bullshit before?

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Mark Bittner is a homeless musician who takes up residence in a little cottage on Telegraph Hill, San Fran (thanks to some benevolent rich folks who own the apartment above), and befriends a flock of parrots that live in the area. Bittner slowly becomes part of their bird family - knowing each bird by name, and caring for the sick ones in his cottage (which has an open cage door policy). A delightful, closely examined little film about the small things that can bring meaning and motivation to a life. I had read about this doco a long time ago and somehow never got around to seeing it. And as the review promised, the very final seconds of the film have an entirely perfect twist that made me erupt into joyous sobs and flailing, and made Tim say "Can you please stop whacking me?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

The 5:2 Fast Diet: a disordered eating revolution

Every man and his intermittently fasting dog is doing the 5:2 diet at the moment.  While periodic fasting is hardly a new method of dieting, this particular form caught the public imagination in late 2012 after the airing of a BBC documentary “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”. Hosted by medical journalist Michael Mosley, and followed up by his best-selling book, the show convincingly demonstrated the many benefits of eating normally for 5 days a week and severely restricting calories for the other 2: not just weight loss, but increased longevity, reduction in susceptibility to forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, decreased insulin sensitivity, lowered cholesterol, the list goes on. And weight loss. Did I mention weight loss? Because let’s be honest, that’s the main attraction. The book’s a bestseller, and every second person is talking about their 5:2 journey, from Kate Langbroek to Kate Middleton’s uncle. Even Benedict Cumerbatch is on board. The appeal is pretty undeniable. You eat what you usually do for 5 days of the week, and for the other 2 you restrict your calorie intake to 500 (for women) or 600 (for men). And you lose weight. These ‘fast’ days are non-consecutive, so you can always have that biscuit tomorrow. For those who struggle to maintain a consistent healthy eating and exercise regime (ie. most people), the 5:2 diet is quite the dream discovery. After all, anyone can manage to diet 2 days a week, right? You’ll have to ditch alcohol on those days too (unless you choose to use up your 500 calories on a couple of glasses of wine), so there’s the added virtue in that. Of course, the weight loss depends on you not eating the entire fridge on your ‘non-fast’ days,  but most testimonies in the 5:2 book say the need to overcompensate fades quickly, once your body realises you’re not going to be surviving on 500 calories every day.

Looked at in this way, the 5:2 diet seems like a sustainable “way of life”. But filtered through an eating disordered perspective, it suddenly seems much more unhealthy. There has been very little medical research done on the long-term effects of the 5:2 diet, and rigorous valid studies are as yet absent. The claim that only restricting caloric intake for 24 hours at a time does not suppress metabolism is unsupported. But even if we just consider the wealth of anecdotal evidence flooding the internet, a trend of thoughts and behaviours emerges. While dieters report additional perks such as clear-headedness, increased energy and better digestion (along with easy weight loss), many like Lucy Cavendish also report dizziness, obsessive thoughts about food, irritability, tiredness, headaches, and on their ‘non-fast’ days, eating everything in sight. They advise drinking lots of water when you’re hungry, and loading up boring meals with low-calorie, high-flavour condiments such as salsa and mustard. To anyone familiar with restrictive or binge/purge eating disorders, this sounds like a roll call of warning signs. In 1944, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment took 36 men and reduced their caloric intake from 3200 to 1560 per day (more than 2.5 times what the 5:2 diet allows on fast days – but this was every day) over a period of 6 months. The men quickly developed symptoms similar to those displayed by those with eating disorders: an obsessive preoccupation with food, irritability, difficulty concentrating/sleeping, and demonstrated binge eating on re-feeding. Sound familiar?

While the 5:2 diet is touted as a sustainable health miracle, if I turned up to a therapist  and described this as my personal eating regimen, and my accompanying thoughts/feelings – but left out the 5:2 brand name - I'd most likely be told that my eating was disordered, and probably offered psychological and practical strategies to try to help correct this. This is not to say that the 5:2 diet will cause someone to develop an eating disorder (though, as the book mentions all too briefly, the diet should be avoided by those with these illnesses). But the diet does normalise thoughts, feelings and behaviours that mimic those of eating disorders. In a society already so consumed by food and weight concerns, we are edging ever closer to explicitly encouraging pathology, clothed in seductive marketing and masquerading under the name of health.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 4: Boxcar Bertha, Killing Zoe, The Warriors

Can you dig it?
Week 4: Tim's Choice

Boxcar Bertha

"America in the 30's was a Free Country. Bertha was jes' a little bit free'er than most." When Bertha's dad's plane goes KA-BOOM and takes him out with it, she hooks up with a union organizer and they have sex and rob a lot of trains and hold up fancy parties for the attendees' jewels. "Not my tiara!" Martin Scorsese's second feature film is likeable enough, though not particularly Scorsese-ey. Barbara Hershey does her best Sissy Spacek impression (but with 35% more teeth). Watch out for UNEXPECTED REALLY VIOLENT BIT!

Killing Zoe

Zed rocks up in Paris, generously fucks Julie Delpy (what was she thinking), and then he and his mates do an awful lot of drugs after they decide to rob a bank the next day. Miraculously chipper the next morning, they show up at the bank: but OMG Julie Delpy works there! Evidently fucking people like Zed doesn't bring in the big bucks.
Zed: "So Eric tells me you like Viking films. Viking movies."
Oliver: "Yeah...I guess."
Zed: "I love that stuff! Those helmets with the fucking horns on!"
Pretty much the highlight there, of a boring, relentlessly misogynistic, grubby little drug-fucked shoot-out plus tits.

The Warriors

When a "no weapons" truce is broken at a mass gang meeting, The Warriors are framed for killing the leader of the most powerful gang in NYC. They gotta get home, running the gauntlet of a spectacular array of costumed rival gangs who are out for their blood. I'd never heard of this film, and was completely surprised by it - there's a lot more West Side Story than The Outsiders going on here. (Yes, I know, my references are odd. My film education has been...uneven.) The gaudy gang outfits are brilliant (my favourites include the French mimes and the goth base-ball players), and the fight scenes often suggest conceptual dance over realistic violence. It's a bizarre and stylized film, and the rotoscoped segues between scenes heighten the strangeness beautifully. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to dig out my pink roller-skates.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 3: Mama, The Angel's Share, Before Sunrise

90s fashion choices ftw
Week 3: My Choice


There are abandoned feral children and a creepy maternal thingy they call Mama is looking after them! Somebody should probably warn their new adoptive parents that Mama doesn't share well. This movie isn't particularly terrifying as far as these things go (and they can go quite a long way), but has a surprisingly sad and unpredictable ending, and features lots of excellent atmospheric scuttling. Perfectly enjoyable in a Nell-meets-Mrs-Voorhees kind of way.

The Angel's Share

Glaswegian Robbie is on community service and turns out to be a whisky savant. Sounds like a perfectly standard Ken Loach plot, non? Well, non, obviously. I found this film to be really strangely paced until I worked out I was just waiting for the Horrible Loach Twist Of Despair. But no! It's consistently upbeat and for once I didn't want a whisky just to recover from a Loach encounter. (I do generally really like his films, by the way. But oh, Kes.)

Before Sunrise

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy take a chance on their bond-at-first-sight, and wander around Vienna together being terribly charmingly earnest and awkward and 90s. While its successor (the older and wiser Before Sunset) is so far my favourite of these films (I've yet to see the third installment), I genuinely adore Before Sunrise in all its naive and bumbly glory. I love it in the same dorky-teen, passionate way that I love Dead Poet's Society. And Julie Delpy is definitely my idol (yes, even when she's sporting the unfortunate 90s outfit of tiny-tshirt-under-shoe-string-strap-dress-with-flannel-shirt-tied-around-waist).