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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From its opening toothpaste commercial and maddeningly catchy jingle, Sion Sono’s most recent masterpiece again reveals his unique ability to engross, entertain and supply audiences with an electric charge of out-there, crazy humour. In Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2014) we’re soon introduced to a series of characters whose lives will intersect with that of the commercial’s young star Mitsuko. Foremost amongst them is a trio of wannabe filmmakers who call themselves The F**k Bombers - Hirata, their director; Miki, “the king of dolly shots”, and Tanisawa, “the queen of hand-held shots”. Together they trawl the streets in search of action to turn into high art. When they encounter a young gang leader, Sasaki, about to take part in a rumble with a rival gang, Hirata is convinced they’ve found a potential action star, perhaps the next Bruce Lee. They also cross paths with a bloodied gang leader, Ikegami (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi), fleeing the aftermath of a massacre in which Mitsuko’s mother took vengeance against members from a Yakuza in competition with that of her husband Muto (Jun Kunimura). Ikegami subsequently takes over the Kitagawa Yakuza and plots revenge against Muto and his men.


Fast forward a decade and little has changed: the two Yakuza groups are still in opposition but headed for an ultimate showdown, whilst the F**k Bomber quartet has remained static, with the resolutely cheerful Hirata (Hiroki Hasagawa), their erstwhile leader, still supremely optimistic that the all powerful, overseeing Movie God will, sooner or later, bequeath him that fateful opportunity to make his one masterpiece, and “a hell of a movie” at that. Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) is the brooder of the group, retreating into bitterness at their stasis, waiting stupidly for a moment and time he's assumed will now never arrive. It’s not long after he blows his top and bails out, that the fateful moment arrives when the helpless sap, Koji (Gen Hoshino), abducted by Mitsuko (Fumi Nikaido) after she abandons her latest film mid-shoot, comes upon the group's plea to the Movie God, and calls for their assistance. Having an irate Muto - who has now captured the pair and only spares Koji's life because he's fooled into thinking he's a director - breathing down his neck, puts him in a precarious state. Thus, the moment of truth for F**k Bombers has arrived.


Sono’s film proceeds at a kinetic speed, with regular bursts of stylised violence, use of different film stock, rapid-fire editing and off-kilter angles. The film is uproariously funny, with a very Japanese take on of getting up close and personal in a verbal slanging match just one of countless hilariously interwoven elements of Sono’s blazingly nutty screenplay that tickles my funny bone again and again. Wildly uneven? Certainly, but that's part of Sono's MO, reaching for extremes whilst blowing narrative borderlines to smithereens. Unpredictable, unconventional and gleefully offensive are qualities rarely indicative of genius but they most certainly are when applied to this most idiosyncratic of modern Japanese filmmakers. Like compatriot Takashi Miike, Sono is absurdly prolific, latching on to 2 or 3 projects a year, but he’s well on the way to surpassing Miike in terms of quality. He’s come a long way in 15 years from his porn-film beginnings! His actors here are all astonishing, attacking the material with a reckless abandon, throwing themselves into the fray like a troop of dive-bombing kamikaze pilots.

What bleeds through – quite literally - beyond Sono’s blissfully twisted, playful sense of humour, is a love for cinema as a blessed, revered, subjective art form. Though he plays with genres like ingredients to be wilfully tossed into a blender, it’s this underlying passion that immerses us in his blown out worlds, with visceral assaults and gut-wrenching excess so audaciously conceived that they send a shiver of giddy excitement down your spine. The film’s full-throttle climax is a marvellous case-in-point, a set-piece that has to be seen to be believed. To give too much away would just be cruel. But What Sono’s film boils down to is a crimson-soaked, skewed poetical ode to cinema, to the outrageous passion of filmmakers so determined to achieve the nirvana of a perfect shot that they would die for their art and with a stupid grin etched on their faces as they did so. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is delicious, deliriously good fun, in its own twisted way a very unique kind of masterpiece. In fact, it's even better than that: goddamnit, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.








You must own Why Don't You Play in Hell?, out now on DVD from Madman Entertainment.







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In Order of Disappearance (Moland, 2014)

February 24th 2015 04:55




Director Hans Petter Moland’s latest, a snowbound, bitter black comedy carries with it a scent of the very familiar: the son of an ordinary working man, Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard), gets inadvertently mixed up with criminals after doing a good deed for a friend, and is murdered. The drugs in his system point to a habituation kept secret from his parents. Nils refuses to believe the obvious however, and when the son’s battered friend, who narrowly avoided the same fate, turns up with an alternate tale to the one the police would have him believe, Nils decides to do some investigating of his own. There’s no great procedural aspect to Nils’ detective work; one thug leads to the next one up the rung of the ladder as he beats a name out of them before a brutal revenge-fuelled dismissal.

The wonderful rich vein of black comedy that runs through Kim Fupz Aakeson’s screenplay gives In Order of Disappearance (2014) its depth, as do Moland's occasional clever touches, like the acknowledgement of each passing with a cross and name on an otherwise black screen - the first few after each body's been dispatched, wrapped in chicken wire, down a giant waterfall. The familiar ring to the synopsis can’t begin to do Aakeson’s writing justice, with wonderful little secondary scenes with peripheral characters providing humour and perspective to what might normally be extraneous in lesser crime films. Then there are the performances of the two lead characters headed for the ultimate showdown - Skarsgard as the stoic, wrathful Nils and the dazzling Pal Sverre Hagen as Greven, the vegan crime lord at the top of the food chain. With a hilarious mix of petulance and ruthlessness, he runs around like a pissed-off teenager as his life over-complicates and news of each disappearance filters through. Yet, like any mentally unglued bad guy, he still savours the prospect of coming face to face with his nemesis.

Add to the mix Greven’s bitter running battle with his Danish ex-wife over custody of their son, and a third set of criminals closing in - a Serbian gang led by the gently imposing Papa (Bruno Ganz, who may have appeared in films in more countries than any actor in history) - and you have a winning formula kept fresh by everyone involved with this underrated gem. It takes real skill to find the delicate balance that turns potentially unsavoury, uncomfortable subject matter into a guiltily enjoyable, crowd-pleasing affair. But Moland has pulled it off brilliantly on this occasion with a film that only improves upon second viewing.



In Order of Disappearance is now out on DVD through Madman Entertainment.









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Foxcatcher

February 19th 2015 02:00




In the astute hands of director Bennett Miller, the sensational true story retold in Foxcatcher (2014) is never sensationalised. The three main players at the centre of the drama are all fascinating character studies. Firstly, Steve Carell’s John du Pont, the obscenely wealthy man lacking the only qualities he ever really wanted: sporting talent, and the ability to impress his stern, withering mother (Vanessa Redgrave). DuPont’s chief obsession was wrestling, seen by his mother as a “low sport”, far beneath the dignity of the family name – a name entrenched in a rich history of equine endeavours.

From the matter-of-fact introduction of DuPont, it’s clear that there’s something ‘off’ about the man; he’s an eccentric philanthropist whose interest in utilising the brothers, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), and older sibling Dave (Mark Ruffalo), to head his wholehearted support of the American push for Olympic gold in 1988, proves to be a case of exorcising personal demons. Mark, facing a crossroads in his life, meekly surrenders to the prospect of a fresh start at du Pont’s Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania, whilst Dave, initially, can’t imagine uprooting his family’s life interstate. Long-held bitterness, jealousy, and resentment shape the trio’s interactions over time in always interesting ways. With intimations of unresolved sexual yearnings added to the mix, the film expands into a consistently mesmerising portrait of desperate obsessions.

What most distinguishes Foxcatcher is Miller’s downplaying of the material; Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye’s screenplay provides much of its tension from an accumulation of slowly evolving scenarios between the central trio. The film is wonderfully understated in all aspects. There’s an economy of words and sound, from the tense interplay between Mark and Dave whose brotherly trust and connection becomes compromised, and the ever-so-slightly skewed contributions of du Pont. Miller often allows him to hover on the edge of obliqueness, his words sometimes giving the feel of being meant for somebody else. On a secondary level, Rob Simonsen’s score is expertly crafted too; his orchestrations are mostly pared back to offer what is an often sparse, chilling clarity of musical accompaniment.

Carell, so often hamstrung by one-dimensional comedic roles that offer only a reverberation of physical and verbal tics as amusement, immerses himself into this character like never before. Yes, the prosthetic facial enhancements are distracting and pointedly shaped for unnerving effect in many set-ups, but the motivations of du Pont remain curiously impenetrable over time; the whole effect gives the film a compelling sense of unpredictability. Tatum gives perhaps his finest performance to date as the inarticulate Mark, whilst Ruffalo is never less than brilliant. Even in what essentially is an underwritten role, he exudes a rare command in balancing Dave’s rough-diamond strength with fragility. The man remains a class ahead of most actors in American cinema today.

As good as Foxcatcher is, it’s not without minor flaws. The understated nature of Miller’s aesthetic means that greater depth is sometimes sacrificed for meaningful absences of detail. This will be seen as a lack of substance by some, but there’s a strange beauty to be extracted from tantalising questions that don’t betray easy answers. One scene, in which the introduction of drugs leads to a seismic shift in a relationship, does feel like a rare false and incongruous note; it emerges from nowhere and seems to run against the grain of where this same relationship was headed. These minor quibbles aside, Foxcatcher proves to be another outstanding piece of cinema from the gifted Miller who completes a stunning trifecta after the peerless Capote (2005) and the ridiculously entertaining Moneyball (2011).









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Wise Blood (Huston, 1979)

February 17th 2015 03:24
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The Gambler

February 5th 2015 01:37
21
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American Sniper

February 3rd 2015 06:53
21
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Favourite Films of 2014

January 27th 2015 07:01
34
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Birdman

January 14th 2015 05:46
31
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The Infinite Man (Sullivan, 2014)

January 14th 2015 03:50
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Mr. Turner

January 7th 2015 03:45
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Recent Comments

Comment by David O'Connell
on Favourite Films of 2014

January 28th 2015 03:50
Thanks for dropping in for a look mate. My huge list is somewhat of a cop-out having found it absurdly hard to narrow down the candidates in such a strong year.

Our tastes aren't that far apart. Blue Ruin and Cheap Thrills were my two favourite films of MIFF 2013. Loved All is Lost too. Can't wait to see Enemy. The only one on your list that I didn't particularly like was Guardians of the Galaxy. Will keep an eye out for Julia and Starry Eyes too.

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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
on EDGE OF TOMORROW

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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