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


David O'Connell's Blogs

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Advanced Style

October 1st 2014 04:26

Flamboyant eccentricity has rarely been as endearing as in the female subjects of Lina Plioplyte‘s Advanced Style (2014). Aged between 62 and 95, these women, rather than wither away in dust-choked apartments, arrested by nostalgia-tinged reveries, seek to engage the world with their vibrant, assertive individuality. Their sense of fashion may range from the dubious to the hideous, with one woman using offcuts of her blazing orange hair as makeshift eyelashes and another turning empty toilet rolls into colourful wrist bracelets. But what can’t be subjectively denied by wearied preconceptions is their remarkable vigour, their lack of inhibition and their determination to keep pace with a world which tries to tell them to slow down and, at their age, to treasure every gasp of breath.

Based on Ari Cohen’s blog through which he sought to bring attention to the shifting diversity of styles of women of an advanced age on the streets of New York, the film is modestly but lovingly assembled, with Cohen himself hovering peripherally as a mentor and guide. But the indefatigable life-force of the women is what shines through. Some project a larger than life persona, others seem almost embarrassed by the attention. One or two regard any recognition as being long overdue, whilst the majority humbly accept the belated consideration as another layer of enrichment upon their already storied lives.

Advanced Style is, more than anything, about the transcendence of age, about the inoculation of the human spirit against the weight of numbers as years. If they cared at all for those who opposed their desire to persevere or evolve their idiosyncratic impressions of what constitutes sound fashion sense, they’d laugh in their faces. But these astonishing women are oblivious, carefree, anything but manufactured, and for these and countless other reasons, put us all to shame.

Advanced Style opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, October 2.


A Place in the Sun (Stevens, 1951)

September 24th 2014 02:24

Based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy and the subsequent play by Patrick Kearney, A Place in the Sun (1951) owes much of its impact to director George Stevens and his uncanny casting. For the lead, George Eastman, he honed in on Montgomery Clift and the magnetic young actor proved to be a perfect fit for the humble, poor George whose wealthy Uncle Charles (Herbert Heyes) lures him to the big city with the promise of an entry level job to kick-start his fortunes. George initially falls for the first co-worker who shows an interest: Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters in an impressively deglamourized role) seems like the girl of his dreams: honest, decent, and dependable. The flip side of the coin is glamorous young socialite Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor, in her first serious adult role at 17), who exudes class and acts as an alluring, sensual counterpoint. Seemingly untouchable, Angela doesn’t even register George’s presence the first time they’re in a room full of people together, but as he climbs the first rung of his uncle’s company, their paths fatefully cross again. Despite the rock solid presence of Alice in his life, the temptation of the privileged Angela and the lifestyle that comes with her is too potent and George, intoxicated by the possibilities, begins a double life that will inevitably bring inescapable complications and an intractable weight down upon his conscience.

So many moments scattered throughout A Place in the Sun are used for portentous or symbolic purposes: the eerie call of a loon, the wind whipped trees outside a window in which a still Angela is framed; the recounting of a tragedy that will be echoed, fatefully, later on. These and more, each one brilliantly weighted and executed by Stevens, underline the discordant notes that are powerfully reflected upon Clift’s remarkably expressive, tortured face. As George slowly suffocates from the increasingly irrational, jealous Alice, Stevens often closes in uncomfortably; we see a visage racked with the burden of tortured thoughts, sinister motives and potential outcomes. On a boat with Alice, vainly attempting to create an illusion of life moving on, troubles painfully but necessarily tucked away, we watch George squirm, awkwardly resting against the side of the stifling, inadequate vessel. The water closes in, his forehead swims in sweat. Clift’s nerve in allowing body language and non-verbal communication to foreshadow doom remains a masterclass in method acting. At the same time, Michael Wilson and Harry Brown’s screenplay continues to underscore the deeper psychological roots festering beneath the surface.

The film exquisitely explores the conflict of inner and external forces as well as how the yearning to exceed our origins, to delve outside of our comfort zone, as in climbing social strata, can be like playing with dynamite. For George there is the holy temptation of a beautiful woman who can elevate him but, with a devolving glance back at the past rushing to catch up with him, blow him sky high. A Place in the Sun remains a remarkable piece of cinema, brilliantly directed by Stevens, and performed by all three leads. The chemistry between Clift and Taylor is obvious with the pair becoming lifelong friends and influential in each other's career. The film also features a remarkable, psychologically probing score from Franz Waxman whose best work from the Golden era of Hollywood filmmaking stacks up with any of the other great composers beyond Herrmann and Rozsa.


The Equaliser

September 24th 2014 01:38

A loner, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), finds solace in an all night diner. Here, apparently unable to sleep, he has time to read his book, to refute the existence of the world and his regulation day job in a hardware warehouse. Occasionally he strikes up a conversation with another nocturnal hours regular, a young woman, Alina (Chloe Grace Moretz), who prostitutes herself for a Russian escort service. These two regulars talk only superficially but a rapport develops – one strong enough that when Alina is horribly beaten, Robert feels compelled to enter a viper’s nest and offer cash for her freedom. The Russians are insulted but McCall can’t just walk away. Much as the lead character in the book he’s reading, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, McCall won't back down or surrender. He does what an old man must do and a hailstorm of vengeance is enacted. The first wave of bad guys is swiftly despatched but soon the pimp’s boss sends his number one utility man (the ever versatile Martin Csokas) in to clean up the mess, leading to, inevitably, a series of destructive confrontations.

Antoine Fuqua’s latest film, which re-unites him once more with Washington after the latter’s Oscar-winning turn in the director’s Training Day (2001), is inspired by the British TV series starring Edward Woodward. McCall, we later learn, when he needs to send out feelers to some old operative confidantes, has been living in anonymity after having faked his death. The slowly evolving early scenes create a wonderful sense of this man and his new place in the world. His faith in a fellow co-worker’s ability to get the best out of himself and his repartee with younger co-workers establish him as a ‘good guy’. Yet there are telling hints of deeply ingrained traits, such as in the rigorous attention to detail in the way he ritualistically establishes his place in the diner each night. The regimentation speaks of a defining, inviolable discipline.

Adapted by screenwriter Richard Wenk, this new incarnation of The Equaliser (2014) is, predictably, utterly lacking in substance, yet there’s genuine suspense in scenes prefacing carnage, mostly set-pieces that allow Washington to put his swagger and hundred yard death stare on full display. Not many actors can walk into a room, cut a ludicrously comprehensive swath through weapons-laden foes and still command your attention. Fuqua ensures that McCall, once in full retribution mode, is framed like a sort of mythical figure out of a Western, coasting into rooms, indestructible and ruthless whilst harnessing a single minded intent. It’s farcical in the extreme, of course, with virtually everyone involved wasted, and yet still highly entertaining if you’ve the stomach for serious bloodletting and can turn a blind eye to the numbing inevitability of it all.

The Equaliser opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, September 25.



September 17th 2014 05:00

The Grandmaster

September 3rd 2014 04:36

Into the Storm

September 3rd 2014 04:32


August 27th 2014 04:38

Vernon, Florida (Morris, 1981)

August 20th 2014 08:34


July 31st 2014 02:30

Deliver Us from Evil

July 23rd 2014 04:29


Recent Comments

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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Comment by David O'Connell
on The Woman in Black

March 10th 2013 10:32
Yeah, quite looking forward to seeing this again on DVD Janice, very underrated little film - and a creepy one too despite the conventional, manipulative chills.

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Comment by David O'Connell
on Skyfall (2012) - Trailer Included

February 18th 2013 04:27
Audacious choice JD, can't say I'm with you despite enjoying it a lot, but you're a critic of great conviction.

My favourite scene of the film, hands down, is the intro to Bardem's character: that single, long take shot over the tied-up Bond's shoulder, with Bardem descending in the lift at the other end of the building, then delivering that brilliant monologue as he slowly approaches. Magic. Just a brilliant scene in the way it's both devised and executed. So simple and yet, in today's rapid-editing overload how often do we see something similar in a big blockbuster? That's the true benefit of hiring artists like Mendes and Deakins.

I do love Thomas Newman's score too, one of modern cinemas most influential composers really stretching himself in a type of film he's never really been handed before.

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