Words, Words, Words: The World Of Blurbs

September 22, 2008

It’s festival time in Melbourne. Actually, it’s always festival time in Melbourne. Arts, Film, Comedy, Fashion, Writers, Design, Stencil, Cycling, Jazz, Brass, Animation, Fringe, Moomba, Tap, Travel Writing, Italian, Scarf, Funk… and that’s just the first five pages of Google results. Melbourne has a festival for everything. But how do you decide which film to see? Which comedy show? Which travel writer? Which scarf?

In most cases your guide will be the festival program, and the description of each event. 150 words need to convince you to commit your time and money, to get off the couch and turn off those old tapes of Chances – “The best kabuki puppet western you’ll see all year!” “I laughed so hard I mislaid my socks!” “Gong Li is the most beautiful woman on Earth!”

Anne-Marie Peard wrote about the launch of the Melbourne Fringe Festival program a couple of weeks ago, and we talked about blurbs during the Melbourne International Film Festival. But what makes a good blurb? What needs to be in that magic paragraph to pull in the punters and let the sun shine in?

The Outland Institute assembled a panel of experts to address this deeply important issue…

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John’s MIFF blog: No Place (part 2)

August 12, 2008

Yesterday I presented my Melbourne International Film Festival wrap-up, and also gave room for some our regular Institutees to speak. Last up is the glorious Syms Covington (who normally lives here). He rants exclusively for The Outland Institute.

This year’s MIFF was an interesting one for me. It was the first time I had attended the fest in three years, having been stuck in Sydney town for that period, and also because I could directly contrast it with my experiences at SIFF about a month earlier. The two festivals are vastly different, and I have Richard Moore to thank for that. The Sydney Film Fest is strutting off in its own direction with its big blue prize, eyes firmly on everything but Australian film, while MIFF had the tenacity to not only program some of the best Aussie arthouse films around (as well as new genre surprises like The Horseman and Acolytes) but to devote a whole strand to the ‘drunken uncles’ of the Australian film industry – the ones the more ‘respectable’ contingent of the industry has been actively ignoring at the parties for years – the filmmakers who made what is currently being referred to by the trendy Tarantino-coined moniker of “Ozploitation”.

Indeed the Ozploitation bent of this year’s MIFF was the thing that pushed me over the edge to travel south. I’d had the opportunity to see Not Quite Hollywood previously at a closed screening, and fallen in lust with it. I was terribly excited by the possibility of attending opening night just to experience the film again in a room filled with not only the genre benders profiled in the film, but the very film industry snobs that had blacklisted many of these films originally. For me, the film and opening night shenanigans were well worth the trip down. The only thing that would have made it better was if there had been screens either side of the stage filming “reaction shots” – like at the Oscars – of the old snobs shuddering in their hush puppies and sensibly ironed fawn slacks. I am seeing it again with a crowd of industry folk at the AFI Awards Screenings night in Sydney, so hopefully someone will have acted on this idea by then.

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John’s MIFF blog: There’s No Place Like Home

August 11, 2008

And so another year’s Melbourne International Film Festival draws to a close. The rubbish is strewn across the turf, the drunken young women have collapsed on the trams, and the vomit is being hosed down from the VIP tent – no, wait. That’s the Melbourne Cup. Let’s start again.

Ah, MIFF. You come, toy with our affections, then leave in the night. Yet every year we come back. You mock us, yet we want you so. You temptress. You seductress. Both dominatrix and mother to us all.

Like all art, film is subjective. Our response to film is not only based our our preferences and tastes but can be altered by our surroundings – would I have enjoyed Let The Right One In more if the gentleman next to me hadn’t spent the whole film munching through a box of popcorn larger than his head? Probably. Would I have enjoyed My Winnipeg less if I hadn’t been so exhausted from chasing horses all day that I was more than willing to fall under it’s hypnotic spell, like the sleep-walking residents Guy Madden describes? Maybe. Am I now aware that even the most deserved criticism of the festival is likely to bring on the fury of The League Of Festival Directors, like a Marketing Team descending in the night? Oh yeah.

So here is my completely subjective take on the 2008 Melbourne International Film Festival (after all, if you didn’t want my opinion you wouldn’t be here, would you?)

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John’s MIFF blog: “je regrette, je ne parle pas Francais”

August 4, 2008

My intention with this MIFF blog was not to review individual films, but to give you a taste of the festival as a whole – to explore what makes it this festival and not – say – that one. I find, however, that with a week to go I don’t have much more to say. This year’s Melbourne International Film Festival has been just fine, there are popular and unpopular films as you’d expect, and only the occasional drama (off-screen, that is).

On the other hand, there also hasn’t been that excitement you would expect by now, the rush of good (or bad) word-of-mouth that often propels a festival such as this (“You’ve got to see the Etruscan leper musical, it will change your life!” or “Last night I saw Book Of Revelation“). I also don’t have any celebrity stories to pass on – did Morgan Spurlock sacrifice a goat in his hotel room? Did George A Romero set fire to Eureka Tower? No, sadly. Remember when Larry Clark attacked his film’s distributor during the 2002 London Film Festival? Ah, those were the days.

So let’s talk about subtitles.

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John’s MIFF blog – Three Chords And The Truth

July 31, 2008

Continuing my apparent inability to watch anything that isn’t an arts documentary, I saw a couple of music documentaries last night.

The second of these was Rock N Roll Nerd, which follows the career of musical comedian Tim Minchin. It was a well made documentary, with two very strong points in its favour. First, director Rhian Skirving is obviously a friend of Tin Minchin and his wife Sarah, so they’re remarkably candid on camera. Secondly, exceptional timing means that Skirving can follow Minchin‘s career from its very beginning, even shooting his first Edward Scissorhands haircut. Minchin‘s determination is clear from the start, and it’s interesting to watch him develop his act and persona as the film goes on (even changing his entire look to create a stage presence he thinks will be more sellable). Possibly slightly longer than it needs to be, it’s a solid piece of work.

The first was I Think We’re Alone Now, a film that follows two fans/stalkers of former pop sensation Tiffany. You might not remember Tiffany – her biggest hit was in 1987. And so was her other hit. But 20 years later she’s still being followed/stalked by obsessive fans, and this documentary follows two of them. Sean Donnelly‘s film is rough-hewn video, with no attempt to pretty things up. The credits are handwritten, and it’s not even widescreen. It’s all very unglamourous, which suits the subject perfectly.

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John’s MIFF bloggette – Glitches in the Matrix

July 29, 2008

A frustrating evening at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Monday as a strange confluence of wrongness occurs.

After all the delays, trailers, introductions, and big-ups to my homies, Dead On: The Life And Cinema Of George A. Romero hit what must be a new MIFF record, starting a full 45 minutes after the advertised time. Festival-goers planning to attend a nine o’clock screening had to choose whether to leave halfway through this film or arrive halfway through the next. It might have helped if they hadn’t decided to include an unlisted short film by Romero‘s daughter, Tina. Her short was hardly the worst thing ever, but it looked like the second-year film it is, and the audience response could best be described as “polite”. Surely if the film is both a) running late and b) longer than you have programmed for, adding short films is not the answer. (The film itself I would describe as “Brighton Grammar girls do Battleship Potemkin as a rock eisteddfod.” Do Americans have rock eisteddfods?). The documentary itself looked good, and I hope one day to see the end of it.

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The George A. Romero Title Game… Of The Dead

July 29, 2008

As part of our ongoing tribute to horrormeister George A. Romero, here’s a game for you to play at home.

Choose any film title and try adding “Of The Dead” to see if you can turn it into an appealing zombie flick. Not every combination works, but some are box office gold.

I tried going through the top 50 of IMDB’s Top 250 and was taken with these, any of which I would happily fork over my money for:

The Godfather Of The Dead
12 Angry Men Of The Dead
Rear Window Of The Dead
Memento Of The Dead
Taxi Driver Of The Dead
To Kill A Mockingbird Of The Dead
It’s A Wonderful Life Of The Dead

That last one’s my favourite – it sounds heart-warming. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his face chewed off by re-animated corpses.” Stars Jimmy Stewart.

Feel free to leave more titles in the comments below.

Finally, the statisticians at WordPress show me the Institute’s attendances went through the roof yesterday, so hello to all our new visitors! Tracey in the Outland Institute Gift Shop was totally exhausted by the end of the day, and needed a nice Kingston and a sit-down. (Also, we’re totally out of Wong Kar-Wai slippers, so please don’t ask.)