Monday, May 12, 2008

The Unwatched: The List

I have 50 unwatched boxed movies in my collection and I'm going to watch them all and blog about it here...

After seven years working as a film journalist I've amassed a fairly hefty collection of unwatched DVDs. For the last few years I've hauled a great number of these around with me as I've moved from place to place, all the while maintaining their presence in my collection without succumbing to the possibilities of Ebay (well, not entirely anyway). Whilst it's bad enough having films you have never seen in your collection, it's even worse when these aren't screeners, but rather physical boxed copies taking up space in my life. It seemed a reasonable move to separate them from the rest of my boxed DVDs, doing so I found that I had 50 as yet unwatched movies. When you look down the list you'll consider it quite scandalous, but trust me, the job of a film journalist doesn't involve sitting around doing nothing but eating popcorn and watching movies – that's only half the job some of the time.

This page will remain standing throughout the blogothon and I might recommend that any other film blogger might want to make their own list and start knocking off the films in their collections they haven't got round to watching yet. As I review each film I'll make sure the entry on this linked up so you can see what I've had to say about the film. Hope you enjoy the ride:

[ed note: As I buggered off to New Zealand snowboarding for 3 months, followed by 3 months in the bush, I haven't been able to write about these movies. I have seen some, and those have been struck through]

13 (Tzameti) (Géla Babluani, 2005)
A Fistful Of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)

Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)
Basqueball (Julio Medem, 2003)
Battleship Potemkin, The (Sergei M. Eisenstein, 1925)
Belle Noiseuse, La (Jacques Rivette, 1991)
Casualties Of War (Brian De Palma, 1989)
Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)
Coffee And Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2003)
Cold Fever (Friðrik Þór Friðriksson, 2003)
Dark Days (Marc Singer, 2001)
Dawn Of The Dead (George A. Romero, 1978)
Day Of The Dead (George A. Romero, 1985)
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (Carl Reiner, 1982)
Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
Easy Riders Raging Bulls (Kenneth Bowser, 2003)
Elephant Man, The (David Lynch, 1980)
Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
Gozu (Takashi Miike, 2003)
Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946)
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (Stanley Kramer, 1967)
Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai, 1997)
High And Low (Akira Kurosawa, 1963)
Hired Hand, The (Peter Fonda, 1971)
I Live In Fear (Akira Kurosawa, 1955)
In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
Last Tango In Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)
Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1943)
M (Fitz Lang, 1931)
Man From Laramie, The (Anthony Mann, 1955)
Man Who Knew Too Much, The (Alfred Hitchcock, 1934)
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (John Ford, 1962)
Metropolois, Osamu Tezuka’s (Rintaro, 2001)
Miracle Of Bern, The (Sönke Wortmann, 2003)
My Architect (Nathaniel Kahn, 2003)
Ong-bak (Prachya Pinkaew, 2003)
Orwell Rolls In His Grave (Robert Kane Pappas, 2003)
Pale Rider (Clint Eastwood, 1985)
Play Misty For Me (Clint Eastwood, 1971)
Professionals, The (Richard Brooks, 1966)
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard, 1990)
Saddest Music In The World, The (Guy Maddin, 2003)
Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003)
Subway (Luc Besson, 1985)
Taxi 2 (Gérard Krawczyk, 2000)
This Is Not A Love Song (Bille Eltringham, 2002)
What’s That Knocking At My Door (Martin Scorsese, 1967)
WMD Weapons Of Mass Deception (Danny Schechter, 2004)
Year Of The Dragon (Michael Cimino, 1985)


Hiatus over: Sydney Film Festival 2008

April was a busy month and I'm sorry that this burgeoning blog got put on a temporary backburner. I'm back now and come baring news. I've been asked to take over the running of the Sydney Film Festival website from now until the end of the festival. It's a huge honour and a big responsibility, but I'm excited about the challenge and looking forward to the films that are in the program. I will also be hosting a video podcast during the festival along with another team so I strongly encourage you all to log into the site and check it out.

If you're feeling generous with your support I'd also appreciate it if you could join the 55th Sydney Film Festival on Facebook and add it as a friend on Myspace, and help us expand the groups by getting your friends to check out what's going on. The festival kicks off 4 June with Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky and concludes on 22 June with the Oscar-nominated Best Animated Feature Film Persepolis, which is certainly on of the list films I'm most looking forward too.

Mathieu Ravier has written some more comprehensive previews over at Last Night With Raviera, which are worth checking out. To tell you something of the festival though I should mention that it is one of the 10 oldest film festivals in the world, a fact that certainly surprised me. This year's festival includes some 300 films, with 16 World Premieres, 135 Australian Premieres, and 12 features in the inaugural SFF Official International Competiton for 'new directions in film', with the prestige and cash prize of $60,000 that comes with it. The films in competition are:

I'll be trying to update the blog as much as I can during the festival to let you know what's happening; albeit in a casual, on-the-fly manner. Some other things to mention. By time you're reading this Dark Habits should officially be its own dot com. Yep, I remain determined to make this damned thing respectable. I've also bought the url for Just Another Clumsy Romantic, and I hope to breath new life into my travel blog as and when I get a spare moment. Lastly, I have separated a pile of boxed DVDs in my collection that are films that I have, as yet, never seen. I will post the list here and my plan is to start knocking them off and writing about it.

Comments after the bump...

Type rest of the post here


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dentler leaving SXSW

After five years leading the SXSW film festival to the premier independent film festival, Matt Dentler is stepping down. Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks from indieWIRE caught up with the pair and you can read what they had to say here. I met Matt at my first SXSW last year and found him to be a thoroughly nice guy. All the best to him for the future.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What a day it has been

Last night around 1.30am (this morning then I guess) as I was thinking about going to be a posting something briefly on here about the last couple of films I've seen and not reviewed yet, the news was just breaking about Anthony Minghella's death at 54. I went to bed feeling shocked and contemplating writing a small piece about the director today. I awoke after an intense night of dreams to discover that Arthur C Clarke had passed away at the age of 90. Bizarrely enough (though perhaps not) I had also spent the night dreaming about death and space – not that I want to disturb anyone, I'm very adjusted to the strange workings of my unconscious and the depth to which it explores my inner thoughts, and lucid nature of the projections in my sleep.

In my dream death was most certainly a doorway. I was able to observe somehow the souls of the departed propelled on a voyage to another world, away from our tiny planet and solar system. Where they were heading I do not know, but I can't remember thinking what an awfully big adventure that would be. In my dream I wanted to pitch the idea as a film, which by the way was a dream within the dream. It didn't go down so well with what was a skeptical audience. That and the fact that even within my dream I was confused about what I had dreamt.

I not going into deeper details about my dream I assure you. I guess the point of talking about it here is that, however limited, it was a vision of sorts. A creation within my own limited imagination that seemed fantastic at the time. With Minghella and Clarke, the world lost two of its great visionaries while two families lost part of their world. There's not way of measuring either loss, suffice to say we are all a little bit poorer that such talented people are no longer among us to show us the voyage of human potential down a river limited only by the size of ones imagination.

More on this after the bump...


Anthony Minghella dead

This feels like some really way out there news, I can barely believe it as it breaks, but British director Anthony Minghella – director of The English Patient, Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr Ripley – has died at just 54 years of age. I'm still a bit stunned and distracted from the post I had planned on Vantage Point and Death Defying Acts.

The story coming out of the BBC quotes Minghella's agent confirming the news but details beyond that are in short supply. I don't want to write anything more than this until more is known. Either way, the world lost another of its most talented artists today.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Classic scene #1: "But not a snitch"

A new series from Dark Habits. I thought about keeping it purely to classic monologues, and I think by and large I will try, but there's just so many wonderful moments, jokes, gestures and sequences in film history that I'd rather not limited the scope of discussion.

The first scene I've picked is purely because it is one of my favourites: Lt. Col. Frank Slade's (Al Pacino) character reference for the young Charlie (Chris O'Donnell) at the end of Scent Of A Woman (1992).

There's no doubt that Al Pacino chews up the scenery in this classic coming-of-age movie, but is there anyone on the planet that can chew it up quite as well Sonny? I don't think so.

From the moment he is rammed down our throats, Frank Slade sets a new bar for the definition of an asshole. Miserable, full of hate and anger, Slade rallies against everyone who comes his way. Charlie is the prep school boy charged with babysitting this big cry baby with a filthy mouth and bad attitude, for one weekend in New York City. Booze, hookers, fast cars and suicide are on Frank's mind, but Charlie has his own problems to deal with. On the verge of being kicked out of school, Charlie must decide whether to jeopardise his future or snitch on his classmates who have done something unbecoming of 'Bairdmen'.

The movie won Pacino his long-deserved Oscar even though it was almost certainly one of those awarded as career recognition – like Scorsese for The Departed. But I for one love seeing the old man flexing his chomps in outrage in this crowd pleasing finale.

Well, you don't need me to ramble on about it. Just watch for yourself:


Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Shotgun Critic #3: The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Building them up or tearing them down in 5 minutes...ish

The two and a half hours runtime of The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (Jesse James from here on) felt more like an out-of-body experience than a cinematic one. Yet a cinematic experience in the purest sense it most certainly was. Roger Deakins is arguably the finest cinematographers working in Hollywood today with a CV to match any of the greats in film history. His work here though is ably matched by Brad Pitt and Cassey Affleck as the eponymous James and Ford respectively.

I loved the drenched autumnal hues and dreamscapes that Pitt haunts with quiet menace. I loved Affleck as he explored the fine line between obsession, forbidden lust and jealously. And I loved director Andrew Dominik's exploration of celebrity, betrayal and American mythology. If you missed it at the cinema, rent the DVD now because I Jesse James might just be a modern classic overshadowed by the similar heavyweight releases of 2007, No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

Kind like, but better than: The New World

Read a descenting view from SF Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub HERE.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Swayze has cancer

It might just be that I'm getting older, but it feels like actors and filmmakers I've grown up with are becoming endangered species. Not a week seems to go by without someone dying, and now I get wind that Patrick Swayze has pancreatic cancer. First Ledger, then Schneider, now the cooler – what the hell?

From being a rumour that appeared this morning, to confirmation by Swayze's publicist and doctor, we at least know that its not as grim as first thought. WENN reports Dr Fisher saying: "Patrick has a very limited amount of disease and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far. All of the reports stating the time frame of his prognosis and his physical side effects are absolutely untrue. We are considerably more optimistic."

Ok, so apparently he was diagnosed back in January and is already undergoing chemotheraphy at the Stanford Medical Centre. To read more and the disease click here. I'm not gonna get into this much, but it should be noted that of all the cancers, pancreatic has the least amount of funds going into researching prevention, detection and treatment. It's also the bastard that got Bill Hicks. On the other hand, Steve Jobs survived it (the list of survivors vs victims on wikipedia doesn't bare looking at) and went on to give the world slick phones and mp3 players, which are great, but I really miss those "Chomsky and dick jokes".

In the mean time, if you wanna show support, go to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and donate. Failing that, throw a Swayze marathon starting out with The Outsiders, followed by Dirty Dancing and, well, you know the rest.

And I pulled this quote off his imdb bio:

I have a great deal of faith in faith; if you believe something strongly enough, it becomes true for you. I would like to believe that my father is right here with me in this room and that he's my guardian angel, that there's life after death -- because if there isn't, why are we here? I don't believe that just flesh and bones can contain from the point of view of physics this very real recorded energy inside of us. Whether it's true or not, we need to believe it.

And if all you need is something to cheer you up, check out the video below from Master Pancake theatre of Alamo Drafthouse fame. I didn't get to see this one while I was living in Austin, but I sure would have loved to...they just don't make 'em like this anymore:


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Shotgun Critic #2: Life As A House

Tearing films down, or singing their praises in five minutes...ish

Only rich people living in LA make films like Life As A House. Two hours of pious, tear-jerking rubbish, in which Hayden Christensen whines and whines until you're begging for his father (Kevin Kline) to hurry up and die already from his terminal, yet quite painless, cancer. Actually you're begging for Kline to die the moment your eyes are poisoned with the sight of him peeing in his Y-fronts. But first he must built the house he always dreamt of, share his troubled memories of his own father with his son, rebuild his relationships with the other people in his life, and piss off his humourless neighbour. Gripping cinematic viewing indeed.

One by one the film ticks the cliches off its wrap sheet and throws in a clumsy, and vaguely offensive if it wasn't so simpleminded, comparison of sexual confusion to drug use. If nothing else at least this film acts as another exhibit of Christensen's ability to convey emotion without the remotest iota of soul.

Kind like but better than: Message In A Bottle
Kind like but worse than: American Beauty

Read a proper review here...


Monday, March 3, 2008

The Shotgun Critic: Some Kind Of Wonderful

Here begins the first in Dark Habits' series of five-minute shotgun reviews as I continue my adventures in the whole universe of movies I have not yet seen...

Some Kind Of Wonderful isn't classic John Hughes by any stretch, it no doubt it carries his classic hallmarks (though directed by Howard Deutch). Dweeby boy with brave and romantic soul (Eric Stoltz) secretly loves school pretty girl (Lea Thompson) with asshole boyfriend (Craig Sheffer). Dweeby boy meets pretty girl, who breaks up with rich asshole boyfriend. Meanwhile tomboy best friends (Mary Stuard Masterson) disapproves while secretly loving dweeby boy. plot to embarrass dweeby boy is hatched. Pretty girl and dweeby boy come of age – while misunderstood school bully (Elias Koteas) and helps dweeby boy in teenage triumph over rich asshole ex-boyfriend. Dweeby boy realises he should be with tomboy.

Stoltz is pretty disturbing with Michael Jackson-esque voice and totally insincere as a 16-year old. Probably cos he's nearly old enough to have a 16-year old. The ending is at total anti-climax, but does allow Elias Koteas to totally steal the movie with some great lines at the end: "I didn't know James lived in a hen house. It must be a hen house because I don't seen anything but chicken shit!"

Ok, so this took me 15 minutes. I definitely need to work work on that. Fun movie if you pretend you're at a half-hearted 80s party.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

To tell you a little something of the person who writes these pages...

Scott Henderson is a freelance journalist currently based in Sydney, Australia with a 10 years experience writing mainly about film, but also on subjects as diverse as music, lifestyle, youth culture, history, politics, technology and even the paranormal ("sometimes shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who ya gonna call?")

A former features editor for DVD Review magazine (now DVD and Blu-ray Review), Scott has contributed to SBS, Hotdog, Total Film, SFX, Senses of Cinema, Essential Home Cinema, Channel 4 Film, Time Out, Home Entertainment Week and Scifi Now. In 2008 Scott was the website coordinator at the Sydney Film Festival, where he also co-produced and hosted a daily video podcast from the festival.

When Scott hasn't been writing about film and making magazines he has: gained an MA in Anthropology and Cultural Politics, traveled in America for a year, worked and snowboarded for a season in New Zealand picking veggies in Victoria. He is currently to be found plying his trade as a film critic and writer for Street Press Australia, The Vine and Filmink.

Below is are a few of the features Scott has written over the past few years, though not all his published work by any means.

You can contact Scott via scott.journalist[at]

NB: the thumbnails are not links, just the text guys, just the text.


'24' creator Joel Surnow and Carlos Bernard, DVD Review #80

Michael Ironside, SFX #132

Kevin Bacon, DVD Review #79


Expandable posts!

After many many hours of trying, I finally figured out how to create expandable posts.

Many thanks to Hackosphere for helping me get my coding right...

Oh, and what do you think of the new banner? I plan to rotate anyway as I continue refamiliarise myself with photoshop.


Lost: The Constant

As I absorb episode five of the forth season of 'Lost', I can't help but spare a thought for those who threw in the towel and jumped into bed with the first new scifi drama that promised 'answers'. The cheap one-season stand that was 'Heroes' doesn't come close to the level of dramatic excellence and scifi mystery that 'Lost' is currently operating at. Of course I'm biased, but unashamedly so, for me this is one of the best written shows on TV.

There is a moment from the beginning of season 2 that sums up the experience of following 'Lost' with the kind of faith that the Israelites followed Moses. Locke and Jack are fighting over the button, in the hatch they've found, on the mystery island, where everyone has visions and the weirdest shit ever is pretty much par for the course, when this exchange occurs:

Locke: "Why do you find it so hard to believe?"
Jack: "Why do you find it so easy?"
Locke: "It's never been easy!"

And aint that the truth. In the face of a sea of doubters – all of whom are now rushing back to 'Lost' like men who cheated on their girlfriend with some fantasy girl who turned out to be nothing but a fantasy without substance – some were men (and women) of faith, and with that comes reward. It's not often you get to say that about television shows. Run over such long periods of time it's rare to see ending that accomplish a sense of satisfaction, and the payoffs along the way fall somewhat hollow because the trust is betrayed and doubt pervails. Perhaps audiences patience were tried too hard by shows like 'The X-Files', which in the end spent nine years going nowhere in particular. Other shows have lost themselves too, great shows like 'Northern Exposure' which forgot that it was about the New York Jewish doctor in this tiny town in Alaska; or (god forgive me for saying) 'Quantum Leap' which never sent its hero home; and 'The Sopranos' which ended with more bing than bang.

You may think me premature, but I believe that all the signs in these first five episodes are that a) the Carlton Cuse and David Lindelhof have had a masterplan all along, and b) we are moving at pace toward that end.

Far from saying the last couples of seasons have been perfect – not something I expect, the journey is more interesting when flawed – I just feel that 'Lost' is the genius child that went through its still brilliant adolescence and is now hitting the level of maturity its writers always had the potential for and showed in flashes. Has the show ever been so dynamic (since season 1) for five episodes on the trot like this?

It helps of course that this week saw the next chapter in Desmond's (the ever brilliant Henry Ian Cusick) story, my favourite character in 'Lost' since his deranged appearance in episode one of season two. My favourite because not only is he Scottish, has a fine beard, refers to everyone as 'brother', and saved the world for three years by pushing the button, but because Desmond is the modern day Odysseus with girlfriend Penelope (Sonya Walger) his modern day, well, Penelope. Theirs is the great love story in this whole island adventure, some might even say it is epic ("spanning years and continents; lives ruined, blood shed. Epic"). And while the love triangle of Jack, Kate and Sawyer has made for good TV these past three years, the sincerity of Penny and Desmond's relationship is what really sells me, it is taken me to the edge of tears on more than one occasion, and the phone call at the end of 'The Constant' was no exception.

Then there was the time-traveling. You have to appreciate the way in which one of the biggest reveals (though we kinda knew it was coming) in the 'Lost' mythology was sidelined by the love story of Desmond and Penny talking for the first time in three years, saving Desmond's life. Not only that, but perhaps after years of trying, here's a piece of fiction that has finally explained the premise in a coherent manner. Maybe it's just me, but while it left me with plenty to digest, my brain didn't become 'fused' nor did I suffer an aneurysm. And how about the stuff with the Black Rock and Paul Robinson, aka Charles Widmore, aka the superbly sinister Alan Dale buying up the 1st mate's diary – found seven years after the ship disappearance with pirate treasure in Madagascar (can I hear you saw Polar bear in Tunisia?).

Speaking of which, what is the deal with anthropologist Charlotte? I have a suspicion she knows much more than we think and is closely tied to the original Dharma group. Some other questions left over:

• Can there be any doubt left that Michael is Ben's man on the freighter?
• Will Sayid get the chance to torture him if he is?
• Who is the captain?
• Who is everyone else on the ship for that matter?
• What's in the 1st mate's diary and does the freighter belong to Charles Widmore?
• Why does Daniel need a constant – is time travel why his memory is skew whiff?
• Why didn't the water drain out of the sink in the toilets???

Just eight episodes to go this season and I would recommend everyone make the most of them.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tinker, tailor

After launching one sleepless night all of two days ago, Dark Habits continues to evolve. I've added an RSS feed to the page you you can be sure never to miss a post and if you look down the right hand site you will find a host of websites to investigate. If you don't want to navigate away from Dark Habits (why would you?!?) just apple click or cntrl click to open in a new window. The festivals section is as yet incomplete, but its a somewhat thankless tedious task copy and pasting the link into blogger so that is what there is for now.

I would ask that anyone you can think of film/tv related sites to add please email them to me or comment at the end of this post. I was also thinking of creating a list of podcast at some point if that's of interest - i have a few in mind, but suggestions of more greatly received.

Some plans that I am currently working on for the manner in which Dark Habits receives its attention day by day: short analysis of my favourites online movies reads; whether they be ezines or blogs; weekly water cooler poll; The Lost Column, out this weekend overview; or am I giving too much away. Well, keep your eyes to the ground.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Strangers in the dark

"Chapter one.
He adored cinema. He romanticised it all out of proportion, as he was with much of life. To him, no matter the time of year, there always existed a small theatre where strangers gazed at shadows dancing to the hypnotic notes of a John Williams score."
No, that's not it. Let's try that again...
"Chapter one.
He was too romantic about film. He loved the predictability almost as much as he loved the unexpected. To him, the movies meant femme fatales and hard-boiled private dicks who seemed to know all the tricks."
Ach, too cliché – not for my taste, but everyone else for sure. How about something more profound...
"Chapter one.
He adored cinema. To him it was a battleground of our consciousness and a metaphor for our schizophrenic soul. The same lack of integrity that caused so many people to become apathetic was turning the cinema of his dreams..."
Woah, lighten up will ya. I still want people to read this thing.
"Chapter one.
He adored cinema, although to him it was a metaphor for the schizophrenia of our soul and the downfall of our dreams. How hard it was to watch films corrupted by advertising, celebrity, executive power, censorship, Tom Cruise..."
Too angry, I don't want to be angry.
"Chapter one.
He was as torn and romantic as the movies he loved.
Behind his carefully arranged desk was the coiled insight of a malcontent critic. Cinema was his art; and it always would be."

[Oh, and welcome to Dark Habits – a new project from Just Another Clumsy Romantic]