Thursday, 20 February 2014

The 1st Annual(?) Cavvie Awards!

We have put together our list of the best 10 films of the year as well as handing out some slightly dubious awards. Now that you've heard this gem of film criticism you can skip the Academy Awards. And at 4 hours it's only half as long.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Imitation of Life: What Delightfully Subtle Sati- MY EMOTIONS!

Douglas Sirk was the great infiltrator of Hollywood, subtly lambasting Eisenhower-American values under the guise of critically unloved "women's pictures", while leaving a deluge of subtext for future feminist film theorists and new wave directors. Most of Sirk's melodramas have lost their actual tear-inducing ability now as they are mainly viewed by hardened cinephiles, guided to them by the likes of the more overtly edgy Rein Werner Fassbinder and Todd Haynes. Yet Imitation of Life is possibly Sirk's masterpiece because he manages to bring the distaste for his adopted society to the surface and wring the emotion out of it.

The colour palette here isn't as stunningly over the top as All That Heaven Allows because the relatively strong script doesn't require cinematic showmanship to carry it along. Instead Sirk pulls a cunning narrative bait-and-switch, starting to tell us the story of aspiring actress Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) before trailing off into the tortured lives of submissive black maid Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore) and her fair-skinned daughter Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner). As the "struggles" of Lora become more inane and materialistic the plot line involving the black characters becomes darker and more visceral. In his final Hollywood film, Sirk slowly peels off the glossy veneer he'd brilliantly disguised his films with earlier to tell one of the most viciously honest stories of contemporary racism in America. Sirk never made another Hollywood film, and although this film had nothing to do with it (in so far as not provoking significant controversy) it's thrilling to see one of Old Hollywood's most cunning, considered and pragmatic directors kick off his heels and lay into the broken and vacuous culture that had nurtured him.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Spring Breakers: Never Mind The Subtext... Here's Some Sex & Pistols

Harmony Korine is a shoe-in for the club of directors who boast an effortless skill for compositional proficiency while dealing with often incoherent and inane subject matter. What's kept Korine as an arthouse hero rather than a schlocky outlaw is that he doesn't seek to overcome or transcend this status but outright embody it. Dragging his camera across the tackiest corners of America, he creates such extremely impressive images of exploitative hedonism while defiantly rejecting anything resembling cerebral or narrative-guided film. Under a certain criteria Spring Breakers is a masterpiece but it's best to leave your expectations, political-correctness and perhaps even your brain at the door. Make no mistake, this is 90 minutes of supreme stupidity but it's no lesser a film for it.

When Spring Breakers was released a few months ago, the baited breath that accompanied it was divided between the tabloid culture that built these tarnished Disney princesses and jaded, snobby film buffs. The people in the middle were left confused as to exactly what the hell was so special. With it's gaudy promotional material, stunt casting and R18+ rating, Spring Breakers confused many as to who exactly it was trying to please. There was a general consensus that this film mattered but few could exactly say why. Is there a fanciful morality tale at the core? Broad cultural satire? Subtle undercurrent of pathos? No, there's none of that. The movie comes exactly as advertised and then some. But my God does Korine know how to hold a camera.

The shots and there unique colour schemes are so hypnotically engaging and creative. Korine manages to fuse the hues of a night club light, lip gloss, bright bikinis and hair streaks to create an irresistible palette. The film is almost entirely composed of a contrast between drab decaying buildings and off-puttingly bright pinks and yellows. It's the kind of aesthetic that, on paper, makes you want to throw up but I can't state enough how well it works. When the film starts it slowly coasts through the familiar territory of small-town banality before it makes the inevitable shift towards the non-stop nudity and liqueur of Girls Gone Wild style partying. Both settings are familiar territory but Korine finds ways to make the fresh again, which is particularly amazing considering how many lame spring break montages have cluttered up film and television. The film's greatest moments are reserved for the third act though, where everything descends into a surreal mashup between Scarface and a Britney Spears video. If you think that that analogy sounded strained, don't blame me, the comparison between those two cultural icons is made explicit in the film.

There's little to decode or analyse here and if there is it doesn't feel sufficiently thought out or compelling enough to focus on. It's mainly about the visceral fun of the characters and the viewer. It's best expressed by the girls' voice-mail messages to their mothers and grandmothers, a device that may strike some as contrived but nicely underscores the whole experience. They described their time in Florida in religious, sophisticated terms  and the first assumption is that they're just lying to shield their reputation. But the praises they sing about their absurdly over-the-top Florida holiday is completely sincere because there is something completely transcendent about this pink-hued, blood-splattered, T&A filled road trip. It's a glorious tribute to hedonism that doesn't shy away from the inherent ugliness that comes with it. But don't confuse it for a critique; that would defeat the purpose.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Breaking Bad Podcast... Bitch!

So we've started a little sub cast in celebration of the upcoming end of television masterpiece Breaking Bad. We're blasting through the first 41/2 seasons before doing weekly looks at the new episodes. If you subscribe to the podcast then you'd have noticed the first episode is up and the rest are going to be uploaded to the designated feed: Cavaliers Break Bad. So search that in iTunes, or whatever you use, and here's the first episode.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Cavaliers Do Television Now!

As the final eight episodes of Breaking Bad are scheduled to begin soon, we wanted to celebrate with a look back at the entire series in a few podcasts before tackling the new episodes as they air. The first of those episodes will be uploaded soon but in the mean time I've decided to create a sister site Cavaliers Do Television. You can find it on the toolbar at the top and at the moment there is only a review of the recent season of Mad Men. I plan to give weekly reviews of the final (thank god) season of Dexter and as I'm marathoning through Game of Thrones expect a season-wide review of the three that have aired. This is all terribly main stream I know but hopefully I'll take a look at some more niche favourites later on.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom: A Barrel of Shit-Smeared Laughs

There is no cinematic dare that is in quite the same league as Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom. Banned in most countries for most of it's lifetime, it walks the line between gratuitous torture porn and thoughtful art house cinema. Nothing proves that point better than the bizarre Australian law that declares it illegal to screen the film without the accompanying bonus features to put the film in it's proper context.

Watching the film now, with all the hype surrounding it, the most stressful aspect is perhaps the idea that you won't be traumatised enough. Watching the brutality and depravity on display, it feels like any response short of vomiting and crying would make me an unfeeling monster. Austrian moralist director Michael Haneke would probably brow-beat me for displaying any emotion other than disgust. However as distressing and terrifying as the film is, it is not quite as shocking and horrifying as it's reputation. There's something more sinister beyond that.

Pasolini uses the Marquis De Sade's outpouring of id in the face of  oppression and applies it to corrupt contemporary Italian politics and the legacy of Mussolini's fascism. Unlike the unconvincing political metaphor's of grizzly movies like Hostel and A Serbian Film, Salo draws a very clear and immediate connection between the depicted depravity and it's political themes, lending credence to the theory that Pasolini was politically assassinated. The film is a period piece about the end of fascist Italy and the sadistic men of power wax lyrical about political and moral philosophy while raping and torturing teenagers. There's no subtlety at play: Pasolini plays out the opulent and selfish indulgence of fascism (and perhaps a corrupt capitalist state) to it's most hideous extreme. The film is much more powerful for this reason and the content is so vile and off-putting that no subtlety would be able to escape anyway.

Salo is divided into four chapters, with the first dedicated to rounding up the doomed youth and the rest detailing their fates. The Circle of Manias is the most overtly sexual, filled with humiliating mind games and almost erotic acts of teasing. Things kick up a notch in the Circle of Shit where things turn to... shit.
In the most infamous scene of the film, a girl is punished for mourning her dead mother by being forced to eat faeces. It's an extremely distressing moment, the camera not pulling away for discretion and the girl exhibiting the most human outburst of misery in an otherwise cold film. After this point there is nowhere to go, I could not be disturbed by anything else Pasolini had to throw at me, and he had a lot. In the climactic Circle of Blood, the rape and torture is seen through the binoculars of the far-removed men of power, nicely capturing the audiences detachment in the moment. The victims, the perpetrators, Italy as a whole and even the viewer lost their humanity about half way through, so the absurdly brutal finale feels inevitable and unimpassioned. This is why Salo is one of the most effective depictions of dehumanisation, it really takes the audience into it's perverted world.

There's a lot more to Salo then can be summarised here and it is definitely a film worth seeing if you can stomach it. Perhaps the most perverse thing is, I feel I should one day watch it again.

Download This Podcast Motherfucka! I Dare You, I Double-Dare You

In an effort almost as long and profane as the Kill Bill saga we take a look back at the complete ouvre of Quentin Tarantino. In the spirit of his self-aggrandizement we declare that the result is 'kick-ass'. We hope you enjoy because we had to fight Miramax to keep the run-time this long.