David O'Connell

Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Joined April 24th 2008

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Avid film score collector, film fanatic, reader (crime fiction/modern literature mostly), sports watcher - from a couch! Also review Australian films at www.infilm.com.au


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January 14th 2015 05:46

In every pored over frame of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s extraordinary new film Birdman (2014), we feel the pain of washed up movie star Riggan Thomson’s (Michael Keaton) failings as a father, of the hollowness of his marriage’s disintegration and of the existential torment so intrinsically linked with his yearning for artistic credibility. Known primarily for his portrayal of unconventional superhero Birdman in a trio of obsolete outings, Riggan has poured all his resources into a one-shot stage venture, writing, directing and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver stories. But he’s up against it as his past ‘glories’ threaten to overshadow him, whilst an array of acidic doubters lay in wait for a seemingly inevitable, humiliating failure.

Going behind the scenes over the course of a few days in the lead up to the show’s debut, Inarritu’s film, which he co-wrote with a trio of screenwriters, becomes a remarkably vivid, candid and mesmerizingly intimate portrait of Riggan, his co-workers and those closest to him, all of whom hover in and out of frame. It’s this visual approach adopted by Inarritu and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki that is truly remarkable. They’ve produced a fluid, often graceful, frequently kinetic, punishingly real cinematic immersion. In some senses their realisation is visionary through its means of prolonging the illusion of a continuing, single shot that transcends time and space, day and night. Hitchcock, though lacking the technology, made a noteworthy attempt at rigging prolonged shots in Rope (1948), whilst Aleksandr Sokurov created a work of art with his glistening jewel of perfection Russian Ark (2002). Even the horror genre has seen attempts at pulling off the single take shot conceit, with Gustavo Hernandez’s passable Silent House (2010) quickly mirrored by an inevitable American remake a year later.

Inarritu’s film never draws undue attention to its modus operandi and aesthetic approach. The flawless ensemble of actors flowing in and out of scenes around Riggan maintains the sense of naturalism. Keaton, in a gift of a late-career role, makes every post a winner, pouring sadness, hope, futility and mortal terror into Riggan as he rides rapidly swaying fortunes. Edward Norton is almost as good as the repellent but hilariously conceited Mike Binder, a hotshot actor drafted in at late notice. Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Zack Galifianakis (in a rare straight role) are all exceptional, whilst even the problematic Emma Stone rises to the level of the material as Riggan’s difficult daughter. Punctuated with razor-sharp dialogue, withering exchanges and impassioned pleas, the film eclipses Inarritu’s past work, including his star making debut Amores Perros (2000) and his last film, the transcendently bleak Biutiful (2010). His films have always been distinguished by their clever construction (mostly thanks to screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga’s work on his first three) and here he uses the enigmatic, internal haranguing of the sinister yet talismanic Birdman inside Riggan’s head as the multiple voices of ghosts past, an impinged-upon conscience, the cold-hearted realist and the crooked fatalist in us all. This is what Inarritu’s masterful ultimately film boils down to: metaphors explicit, oblique and strange, imbued with the sputtering hopes and dreams of the individual and wrapped around an indelibly humane core. Destined to be considered a classic.


The Infinite Man (Sullivan, 2014)

January 14th 2015 03:50

Hugh Sullivan’s feature film debut is the antithesis of the average Hollywood by-product – those bloated behemoths squandering mega-budgets on lame stories ‘constructed’ with a paucity of often offensively dim-witted ideas.The Infinite Man (2014) succeeds on an intimate scale: a single location, a trio of actors and yet full of ingenuity, ideas and heart.

Sci-fi without the aid of special effects is difficult to pull off – and almost impossible without an intriguing narrative foundation on which to build, manoeuvre and expand.The Infinite Man stretches its paltry resources to the limit, creating an entertaining overlapping tale of a man, Dean (Josh McConville), determined to re-create and recast as perfect a meaningful weekend for he and his partner Lana (Hannah Marshall) as they struggle through a tough patch. Nothing like the flicker of nostalgia to stoke an old flame. However Dean’s plan is stymied when the couple return to the motel of a previous trip and find it dusty, desolate and abandoned to the elements.

Dean isn’t completely put off and using his prowess as an inventor, begins to implement his latest work by travelling through time to start all over again. Soon, the circuitous loop he invents begins to create mayhem as further corrections bring him face to face with parallel versions of himself, Lana and another of Lana’s suitors, the cocksure Terry (Alex Dimitriadis). As various strands overlap, the resolute Dean remains determined to work around the glitches and set himself and his beloved back on the path to romantic bliss. The idealised vision he clings to as a blueprint for success for he and Lana is endearingly wrought. All credit must go to both Sullivan for the deceptive complexity of his narrative and McConville who forces us to empathise and root for the hapless Dean who initially seems annoyingly anal.

With a retro console, a few buttons and funny looking headgear Sullivan has the most fundamental tools with which to kick-start his sci-fi premise. It’s a case of the sheer genius of simplicity working to maximum effect, restricted budget be damned. The cannily chosen locale, the abandoned structure in the middle of nowhere in South Australia, is a another great asset for the production. For all his clever convolutions Sullivan never forgets to lace his twisty narrative with humour; much of which successfully blends with the drama thanks to Dean’s earnestness and bouts of petulant anger as well as the work of Dimitriades who is clearly in his element even in a support role.

The Infinite Man is released on DVD by Madman on Friday, January 16.


Mr. Turner

January 7th 2015 03:45

Erudite, literate and populated with a sparkling array of secondary characters, this is director Mike Leigh’s poetic re-imagining of the life of one of Britain’s most famous painters, J.M.W. Turner. The film is notable not only for the ambition of its author but also the remarkable central performance of Timothy Spall as the irascible artistic genius. Turner is a man alive with fascinating contradictions: though he was clearly never a ‘people’ person, he was often capable of great tenderness, evidenced in both his love for his father (Paul Jesson) and the woman, Mrs. Booth (Marion Bailey) who would become his last long-term companion. His former wife receives minimal respect whilst Turner barely acknowledges his daughters, and treats the later passing of one as a minor detail to be skimmed over like any other domestic irritation.

Leigh of course takes great liberties in rendering his own depiction of Turner, but the composite he builds is of a man whose genius was tempered by his intolerance of routine and bouts of lustful need. From a humble examination of his domestic routine in the opening scenes, including regular trips about to feed his inspiration, the film builds up a wonderful momentum. Leigh crams the margins of his narrative with the richest minor details whilst remaining faithful to the imposing central figure of Turner. He doesn't shy away from detailing the man’s darker side and in any other film, Spall’s portrayal might have been seen as a grotesque caricature and gross misrepresentation of the artist. Yet, the effect is the complete opposite, even as Turner’s grunting assent and dissent pepper his verbal exchanges, ultimately for the comedic effect as much as for preserving its idiosyncratic integrity.

The joy of any Leigh film comes in the casting of unknowns who seem born to play their parts, no matter how minor. There’s not a false note to be heard in Mr.Turner (2014), a film that lavishes attention upon a significant artist whilst avoiding heedless veneration; examines his process yet never denies him very human foibles. It’s a funny film too, poking fun at the times, the aristocracy, and the world of artists both subservient to and betrayed by all their temperamental excesses. Leigh’s film, in many ways the finest of his career, is a work of art itself, elevating the form with its dazzling dialogue, truthful insights and exceptional attention to detail.


Life of Crime (Schecter, 2014)

January 7th 2015 02:11

Maps to the Stars

December 17th 2014 03:33



December 10th 2014 03:36

20,000 Days on Earth

December 5th 2014 03:40

Wetlands (Wnendt, 2013)

December 2nd 2014 04:50

Force Majeure

December 1st 2014 04:58


Recent Comments

Comment by David O'Connell
on Interstellar

November 13th 2014 07:53
Don't worry fog, despite its flaws, it's still a great ride nonetheless. Plenty of awe-inspiring scenes and enough solid writing to keep you immersed in it all the way. Look forward to hearing your report!

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Comment by David O'Connell
on TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT: a review

November 12th 2014 04:41
Always great to see another review from you foggy! A too rare treat - especially when we're on the same wavelength as we are with this. I generally love the Dardennes' work but have to admit real disappointment at this latest film from them. Their aesthetic choices are in line with their past work and it doesn't detract from the raw power of their characterisation and storytelling usually for me but this one was plain dull. Nothing - including an Oscar winner as headline act - could overcome the flaw of having a series of scenes playing out over and over again without any sort of dynamic development in the narrative. The ending annoyed the hell out of me too!
Hope your in good health mate. Take care until next time, Dave.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on The Two Faces of January

June 25th 2014 04:10
Thanks fog! Will definitely be a part of that, would be great to build a sense of community here again amongst people with a passion for film amongst other things. Actively supporting one another's efforts sounds like a winner.

I think you'll enjoy this one mate - not the most riveting narrative of all time but impeccably acted - by Viggo especially - and a classy production all round.

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Comment by David O'Connell

June 24th 2014 06:16
Great to see you back here again fog and writing!!
Sadly missed in this ghost town of ours.

I haven't seen this yet but have been hearing plenty of other positive words too. Oblivion wasn't too bad all things considered and this seems like a step up in quality from that. You're right about Cruise too - much maligned but regardless his star power is undeniable and his presence alone is usually enough for me to give many of his films a chance.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on How I Live Now (Macdonald, 2013)

April 15th 2014 06:34
I've heard that. Would definitely like to read the book at some stage to see how much has been altered.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on In Bob We Trust

October 31st 2013 02:06
Many thanks for the anecdote fog, hope you're doing well these days mate!

And yes, Father Bob is indeed a truly great man! A national treasure.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Kick-Ass 2

August 21st 2013 04:44
Thanks Bryn, you're a harsh man! But I do remember you not quite getting onto the original's wavelength too. The film is superfluous in the extreme - I'll be the first to admit that, but I just can't hate it.
I actually loved Carrey in this but his role is absurdly underwritten; there was real potential there I think for something great.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Antiviral

April 17th 2013 06:01
Hey Bryn, Rialto Distribution have got this. Had the media screening last week and sadly it's only screening at the one cinema - the Nova - down here from the 25th. Hopefully it's getting some sort of a look in up your way too.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Killing Them Softly

April 2nd 2013 01:05
Great to hear that JD. It baffles me though how many people tell me how much they couldn't stand this. Obviously incapable of appreciating its finer, subtler qualities, which is a real shame.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Side Effects

March 10th 2013 10:36
Yeah mate, apparently it's painting and occasional theatre that will occupy his immediate future, perhaps TV work too if it's top-notch. But says he's done with features - a little sad, I love his chameleonic qualities even if his rapid output means he's a little hit and miss. The Limey, Underneath, King of the Hill and Out of Sight will long remain favourites.

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