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Get thee to the movies

Bookings for the 47th Wellington Film Festival open at 10:00am tomorrow, Thursday 5 July. Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of the movies.


Nicolas Cage in Mandy

It’s been a great year at the movies already. I never thought two superhero sequels (Incredibles 2 and Deadpool 2) would be two of my half-year highlights. And it’s been another banner year for my favourite genre, horror. But there’s nothing that packs so much cinematic goodness into a short period of time as the New Zealand International Film Festival seasons screening around the country. Time to dive in to Wellington’s programme.

What are we talking about?

The 47th Wellington Film Festival started small at the Paramount in 1972 and is now a behemoth event with 154 feature-length films from 35 countries playing over 17 days on ten cinema screens around the city, beginning on Friday 27 July. We get a large crop of films hot from the Cannes Film Festival, four world premieres. Plus shorts. Great shorts.

Book now, and book online

Bookings open online and in person (at the NZIFF office in Reading Courtenay Central) from 10:00am Thursday 5 July. Not a booker? Remember, “that Festival film will come back” are six very dangerous words. Many movies never return to big screens in Wellington, and they don’t always get the presentation (Embassy big-screen!) that they deserve.

Or, that film you really wanted to see sells out quickly (yes, even at the 700+ seat Embassy). For instance, the acclaimed swansong of the late great Harry Dean Stanton, Lucky, has three screenings only with 70 seats at each. That’s not a lot of seats.

And the commitment to booking means that you make an effort to get off your chuff and see something great while using the Festival’s excellent online booking system. Setting up your Wishlist to programme your schedule is almost as much fun as the Festival itself (okay, it’s not). Would that all event websites were this good.

That said, take chances

Busy and unpredictable life? The $150 ten-trip pass is a great way of keeping your schedule flexible, though it’s venue sales only for sessions that haven’t sold out. Note: while many sessions do go quickly, sometimes great seats that have been set aside for special guests become free shortly before screenings- but don’t count on it.

Take a chance with me

The Festival is your chance to see films unlikely to ever appear anywhere else, in all genres.

I am particularly looking forward to the following.

Birds of Passage and Cold War – the Opening and Closing Night films of the Festival; there’s always a reason such films are given major prominence in the programme.

Burning – another Special Presentation, of a South Korean film based on a Murikami sho story that had all of Canes raving (didn’t get a prize, but then neither did Toni Erdman, the best film of its year).

Mandy – no one does batshit crazy like the always-working Nicolas Cage, who has the widest range of hit-to-miss films of any major star (he has debts to pay, and he’s not choosy about roles), and revenge shocker Mandy looks like a cult winner for him. There will be blood.

Searching – I saw this at the Festival programme launch and it’s so clever, suspenseful, artfully constructed using only scenes viewed through screens, and very much up with the technological now. The less you know going in, the better (though that is always true….)

McQueen – a documentary about the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Should be gorgeous.

Terror Nullius – incendiary Australian montage film that mixes up hundreds of movie and TV fragments with scant regard for copyright, to make political points and connections.

Leave No Trace – the new film by director Debra Granik, whose Winter’s Bone was an absolute stunner. Featuring young Wellington actress Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie who wowed Sundance.

The Image Book – The last film by French legend Jean Luc Godard to screen at a Festival here, 2014’s Goodbye to Language (3D-taken-to-new-depths), continues to resonate with me. I’ll go for anything by the old master.

The Green Fog – I’ll also see anything by Canada’s greatest living filmmaker, Guy Maddin. Guaranteed to be weird and wonderful, and like Terror Nullius, making expert use of archive footage – including Rock Hudson and Chuck Norris.

And I am planning to get to a whole lot more. Just need to wrangle that Wishlist schedule..

You don’t have to trust me, though

There are other folk who watch many more movies than I do, and write or talk about them more eloquently.

Many of them write authoritatively in the official NZFF programme, which as always a thing of beauty, whether online or in glorious print.

Have a listen to NZFF director Bill Gosden doing his annual quick-fire run-through with Simon Morris for RNZ’s At the Movies. That’s a great starter.

David Larsen, whose film festival blogging for Metro at last year’s Auckland Film Festival was a superb feat of volume under pressure, is taking up the challenge again – this time for The Spinoff. He writes about his plans – and unorthodox selection procedure – in this Spinoff preview.

Now based in Wellington, David will be joined for the WFF by Ockham-winning novelist Pip Adam, with Aquila, Jacob Powell and Doug Dillaman taking care of business in Auckland. Nice one, Spinoff!

Doug writes about his picks in his Monster Lookout blog here and here. Still more to come from him.

That’s enough for now. Time for you and me to get to the programme.

See you at the movies!