2016 So Far

If you live in Australia, you’re in movie-goers luck right now: the two best dramatic features thus far this year are currently in cinemas, and the best feature length documentary opens on 18 August.


Sing Street and Goldstone are two very different propositions; I use that word as a deep cut reference to The Proposition, which, like Goldstone, is an Australian western. Goldstone is simultaneously full-genre and full-arthouse; it religiously revers The Western and The Detective Story while subverting both with its milieu and its staunch insistance on character development over plot tidiness. (Think less The Maltese Falcon, more The Big Sleep; less The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and way more The Searchers). Its stunning imagry rivals that of The Revenant of last year; its gaze is far more ordered than that film’s, though; the formal components of the shots are celebrated, and the shots themselves are magnificent. Like Mystery Road before it, Goldstone features another supurb turn from Aaron Pederson, who is one of Australia’s true movie stars: whatever it is, he’s got it.


There is zero ambiguity to the plot of Sing Street; you could follow it with your eyes closed, and that’s part of its appeal. This is a movie that sounds. It sounds with the music, it sounds with the beautiful dialogue beautifully spoken by beautiful Dublin accents from gorgeous, generous performers, and it sounds with the romance of life. Straightforward yet poetic, tough yet hopelessly romantic, charming yet gritty, funny yet sad, Sing Street, after Once, is John Carney’s second masterpiece.


Tickled, which opens on 18 August, is far too brilliant for me to say anything about it. It wouldn’t be fair, to audience member or filmmaker; this is one of those docs where the less you know, the better, becuase every single twist in the tale is surprising, and the best of them are head-spinning, jaw-dropping, and hysterical. Suffice to say that it’s a Pandora’s Box; a New Zealand entertainment reporter, rather innocently reseaching an audition notice for “Endurance Tickling”, gets drawn deeper and deeper into a dark, obsessive quest, with results both funny and deeply disturbing. Of these three movies, this was the one I was most completely taken with, and is my current “favourite” movie of 2016.

There have been some disappointments already this year: Money Monster, The Meddler, Everybody Wants Some!! and First Monday In May promised a lot more than they delivered. There have been some excellent surprises and gifts from nowhere: The Witch, The Invitation, Green Room, Hail Caesar!, Bad Neighbours 2, Warcraft. And there was How To Be Single, which was excreable.

The ships are lining up for the second half of the year, the “classy half.” It’s almost a certainty that Goldstone, which pretty much only has an Australian market, and Sing Street, which has been underwhelming at the box office in the US, will not be in the running for, say, the Best Picture Oscar. Tickled should be in the running for Best Feature Documentary, but it faces a Goliath in O.J.: Made In America, which was shown in its 7.5 hour entirety in enough LA and NYC theatres to be eleigible (and I’m glad; it’s great). So see these films nowish, before you get caught up in the then.

Money Monster


This  dunderheaded hostage “thriller” wants to evoke Dog Day Afternoon by way of Network and The Big Short, but those excellent films would be offended by such a comparison; they crackle and pop with energy and anger, while Money Monster is about as angry and energetic as a Yorkshire Terrier on Johnny Depp’s jet.

George Clooney plays Lee Gates, a television stock market analyst in the modern hyper-caffeinated US cable style – i.e., crass. During the live taping of his show, a poor young generically Noo Yawk schlub – incredibly awkwardly played by Brit Jack O’Connell – takes over the set with a gun and a bomb, and Lee and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) have to figure out how to stay alive until the situation can be defused. Of course, the gunman insists on them staying on the air. Cut to “typical Americans” in bars, workplaces etc watching it unfold – in real time! Gosh!

For those of us who spent the fifteenth of December 2014 glued to our television sets watching how a real hostage crisis goes down on live TV (originating in Martin Place in Sydney), the portrayal here is, naturally, completely artificial and borderline offensive. But everything in the movie is a total fantasy; it’s got a terrible, terrible problem with plausibility. Everyone looks like they’ve stepped out of a costume department onto a set – including the cops, the bystanders, and all those “real Americans” – but the story, and storytelling, is even worse. Time discrepancies, ludicrous character choices and inane dialogue all add up to an infuriating 98 minutes.

Along the way, Jodie Foster seems to give up on directing the film; it staggers and collapses, and the actors are left to wander vaguely, or simply sit down and cease to be. What happened to Dennis Boutsikaris’ character, Avery Goodloe? He must have wandered off to the catering table, and out of the film. Dominic West is wasted as the most generic Rich White Guy we’ve seen since the type became the go-to villain of the 2010s, Roberts is predictable, and Clooney is lumbered with having to deliver painfully unfunny wisecracks in the final act, which veers into comedy (probably realizing it wasn’t cutting it as drama; of course, the comedy tanks). All the cops stink. The only two who rise above the mess are Lenny Venito as Lenny (The Cameraman) – that’s how he’s credited, as though we needed reminding of his trade – and the exquisite Caitriona Balfe as an Evil Corporation’s Decent CCO. Told you it was a fantasy.