Maniac (1980)

Maniac (1980)

A great “video nasty” breaches the boundaries of good taste, finding something uncomfortably real behind them. Many video nasties lose their impact over time as censorship slackens, but that’s not the case with Maniac. This is thanks to Joe Spinell’s sweaty anti-charisma as the titular maniac, Frank Zito, combined with Tom Savini’s legendary makeup work (he’s…

Charlie's Country

Charlie’s Country (2013)

Within Charlie’s (David Gulpilil’s) sorrowful gaze is an encapsulation of a people denied the land and culture that is theirs. The discourse around this denial and its ramifications is generally driven by white people under the assumption that Indigenous Australians are a problem to be solved. The draconian “intervention” is the largest example of this ideology…

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in Sex Tape (2014)

Sex Tape (2014)

It’s pretty easy to disparage Sex Tape, the second film in a year to feature product placement from Apple and YouPorn (the first? Don Jon). Its entire premise – a married couple (Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel) find themselves frantically hunting down stray iPads after their sex tape is inadvertently shared with friends and family…

Paris is Burning (1990)

Paris is Burning is a document of the New York drag ball subculture of the eighties, providing a precise record of the intricate minutiae that came to define these LGBTIQ gatherings: the language, the fashion, the behaviour –in such fascinating detail that it remains a cultural touchstone. Sub-cultures create meaning through specificity. You say this…

Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee

The Nobel Prize winning Diary of a Bad Year is a structurally unique piece of reflexivity, presented as three distinct texts combined on each page: the first, a piece of left-wing political commentary true to the Howard/Bush/Guantanamo Bay era; the second, the inner thoughts of the author of that commentary, “Señor C” (a barely-disguised analogue…

Enemy (2014)

Enemy (2014)

Denis Villeneuve’s collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal has produced two films thus far: last year’s preposterously-plotted yet consistently engaging thriller, Prisoners, and now, Enemy. There aren’t a great many similarities between the two films; the former was literal and methodical while the latter is elliptical and abstract. Prisoners solidly held to genre conventions while Enemy takes…

M (1931)

Fritz Lang’s tale of a community torn apart and then united by the threat of a child murderer has a lot to say about power in civilisation. The contrast between the police investigation – driven by increasingly draconian measures – and the criminal underworld’s approach to these tragedies demonstrates powerfully how the polite notion of…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rejects the modern blockbuster’s inclination towards weightlessness; for a film about super-intelligent monkeys, this is a surprisingly heavy picture. While its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt, 2011), half-heartedly feinted at social resonance before shrugging and descending into frivolity, Dawn unapologetically bears the burden…

The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013)

Is there anything more reliable in cinema than the crime drama? We have our middle-aged, grizzled police officer. He chain-smokes, drinks heavily, and seems to send his shirts to be custom-ruffled daily. He doesn’t get along with people – he’s taciturn, gruff, and so forth – but, dammit, he gets results. You will be shocked…