It’s early days yet for film-of-the-year talk, but 2014 already has a significant frontrunner in Wes Anderson’s absolutely wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is heading to NZ cinemas this week. Following 2012′s festival favourite Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson once again tries his hand at a period piece, reimagining 1930s Europe through the zany adventures of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at the titular hotel, and his trusted lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori/F. Murray Abraham). Fiennes gives one of his most memorable performances as the charismatic and eccentric concierge, and Anderson has assembled another stellar ensemble around him, including Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Léa Seydoux, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. Grand Budapest is every bit as meticulously stylised, deceptively poignant and dryly funny as we have come to expect from Anderson — perhaps his funniest and most accessible effort yet — and longtime fans will not be disappointed. A Fistful of Culture has five double passes to offer lucky readers, courtesy of 20th Century Fox, and you can find more details below.
The good folks at the New Zealand International Film Festival are brightening up our April once again with this week’s return of the Autumn Events, a delightful entré to the festival’s main course in July that presents legends of the big screen on gloriously big screens (The Civic in Auckland; The Embassy in Wellington). Last year’s inaugural programme provided one of my cinematic highlights of 2013: a 4K-restoration of David Lean’s masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia, in all its widescreen glory (Christchurch, Dunedin and Napier audiences still have this to look forward to). This year’s programme offers more of the same, with restorations of no less than three of my all-time favourite films — Carol Reed’s definitive noir, The Third Man; Werner Herzog’s haunting historical epic Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Stanley Kubrick’s peerless Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – not to mention the electrifying Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront and elegant Audrey Hepburn alongside Fred Astaire in Funny Face. Perhaps even more exciting than revisiting these classics for many is the inclusion of Hayao Miyazaki’s much-anticipated final film, The Wind Rises – itself likely to be considered a classic in due time — which makes its long-awaited NZ debut in both subtitled and dubbed options. This 2014 line-up is sure to make for one overwhelmingly satisfying weekend at the movies, and A Fistful of Culture is lending a helping hand to one lucky filmgoer with a double pass to The Third Man up for grabs below.
Paolo Sorrentino’s stunning The Great Beauty (or La Grande Bellezza) makes its way to New Zealand cinemas this week after wowing festival audiences throughout last year, ultimately besting some stiff competition to claim both the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film — a just result following its baffling awards snub at Cannes. Sure to be remembered as a modern classic of Italian cinema, Sorrentino’s latest film — which was a highlight of the 2013 NZIFF and one of my top 10 films of last year — marks another fine collaboration with the great Toni Servillo, who previously starred in 2008′s excellent Il Divo. A Fistful of Culture is proud to have five double passes to giveaway thanks to Trigger Marketing, but be sure to get your entries in quick as passes to this must-see film will go fast.
Spike Jonze’s Her will likely be snubbed by the Academy next week, but don’t let that oversight fool you as this is one of the most ingenious and resonant American films in recent years — one which is likely to become a Millennial touchstone. Joaquin Phoenix delivers yet another great performance here as a withdrawn writer who, following a difficult divorce, falls in love with his advanced operating system (remarkably voiced by Scarlett Johansson). This frighteningly plausible near-future premise is wonderfully realised by Jonze, with dazzling visuals and production design — as well as a terrific score performed by Arcade Fire — and Her is his most profound and poignant film. A Fistful of Culture is delighted to have five double passes to giveaway courtesy of Sony Pictures, and you can find the competition details below.
For those who haven’t been paying attention recently, Matthew McConaughey is currently in the midst of a terrific renaissance — or McConaissance; the increasingly prolific actor gave a great performance in Mud last year, stole the few scenes he was opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, and is currently doing some of the best work of his career on HBO’s incredible True Detective. He also won a Golden Globe and earned an Academy Award nomination last month for his transformative performance in Dallas Buyers Club. A shockingly thin McConaughey plays real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, who began smuggling unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas during the mid-80s to combat his own illness as well as make a profit. Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto — who also underwent drastic weight loss and is nominated for Best Supporting Actor — co-star in Jean-Marc Vallée’s acclaimed film, and A Fistful of Culture have three double passes to giveaway thanks to Trigger Marketing.
The biggest breakout success of last year’s SXSW Film Festival was Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12, which centres on a compassionate social worker who supervises at-risk teens while hiding troubles of her own. Brie Larson gives a revelatory lead performance that is sure to put her on everyone’s radar, and Cretton’s quietly powerful film has justly been acclaimed as one of the most resonant and authentic indie dramas in recent memory. A Fistful of Culture has three double passes up for grabs courtesy of Madman, and you can find the entry details below.
Stephen Frears is back in top form with Philomena, a powerful and affecting true story that is easily his best work since The Queen. Judi Dench is wonderful as ever as the titular character, a kindhearted Irish woman who wishes to track down the son she was forced to give up by the Catholic church, and Steve Coogan (who co-writes) is perfectly cast as the cynical journalist who reluctantly ends up telling her story. While it may seem like a predictable feel-good film on the surface, Philomena is often poignant in unexpected ways thanks to Frears’ avoidance of sentimentality and the subtle performances of his great leads. A Fistful of Culture has three double passes to giveaway thanks to Trigger Marketing, and you can find the entry details below.
Morgan Neville’s spirited music doc 20 Feet From Stardom won over audiences during the NZ International Film Festival earlier this year, and this insightful and often moving film is now returning to NZ cinemas for those who missed it. Just as 2002′s Standing in the Shadows of Motown shed long-overdue light on the overlooked session musicians of the era, 20 Feet details the varied careers and lives of several talented back-up singers — including Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lenner, Lisa Fischer, Táta Vega and Jo Lawry — who collectively worked with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler and Sting (each make appearances throughout). Featuring exciting archival footage, enthusiastic performances and most importantly some great characters, this loving tribute to unsung heroes is a must-see for any music history buffs and A Fistful of Culture has three double passes up for grabs courtesy of Trigger Marketing.
Sundance favourite Nicole Holofcener (Please Give) returns this year with Enough Said, a very promising romantic comedy starring a resurgent Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) and featuring one of the final performances by the late, great James Gandolfini. The film centres on a divorced single parent (Louis-Dreyfus) who falls for a sweet man (Gandolfini), only to have matters complicated when she befriends his bitter ex-wife (Catherine Keener). This looks to be a charming, insightful comedy about grown-up romance and A Fistful of Culture has five double passes to giveaway thanks to 20th Century Fox.
One of my more anticipated films of the year is The Counselor, a star-studded thriller — including Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt – that tantalizingly pairs author-turned-screenwriter Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men) and director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner). The film has been divisively received by U.S. critics, with several comparing it to Andrew Dominik’s similarly uncompromising Killing Them Softly (one of my favourite films of 2012), which makes me all the more curious. A Fistful of Culture has three double passes up for grabs courtesy of 20th Century Fox, and you can find the entry details below.