View Post

Exclusive Clip: Spontaneous

Australian actress Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Knives Out) stars in this pitch dark teen comedy from writer/director Brian Duffield. In the film she plays a smart-mouthed high schooler whose classmates randomly start exploding into blood and guts, and at the same time, she falls for fellow student Dylan (Charlie Plummer).
View Post

#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump

Documentary, Home, Home Entertainment, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

The intersection of mental health and politics is dicey at best, especially in modern discourse. It can be weaponised just as easily as it can succumb to Schrödinger logic, where it’s either non-existent or a profoundly serious concern, depending on the vibe. It is with this in mind that the entire idea behind this documentary – one that seeks to clinically examine the psyche of the man in one of the world’s most powerful seats of office – could easily fall into the kind of self-sabotaging sensationalism that would render it useless, even to those it’s meant to appeal to. But thankfully, director Dan Partland shows enough aptitude to avoid such a fate.

#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump sets out to hold President Trump up to the same scrutiny as those in the US military who have a fraction of his access to the American nuclear arsenal, framing itself as genuine psychological analysis beyond the armchair variety favoured by social media and mass media pundits.

It starts out on solid footing, emphasising how much psych frameworks like DSM are based on observational data, the difference between garden-variety narcissism and malignant narcissism, dipping into sports and even animal psychology to add the necessary layers, and even how mental health issues don’t automatically equate to ‘unfit’, using the classic example of Abraham Lincoln’s battles with depression. It’s just that, much like the difference between malignant and benign tumours, when it’s malignant, it has a tendency to not only get worse but spread.

The documentary also cuts through the caricaturing of Trump by ‘The Left’, as it highlights how behind all that meme armour and ‘lol triggered’ appeal within his fanbase, there is a reason why people voted for him in the first place. Showing that psychology at this scale is far from isolated, how Trump’s psyche informs his policies, his connections with other world leaders, and his presentation towards his support base, brings out the film’s insistence on it being malignant, with working-class voters having their ugly sides brought out by someone playing Mark Antony in this absurdist’s rendition of Julius Caesar.

While there are moments of cheeky partisan fun to be had, in particular from Anthony Scaramucci’s deliciously-descriptive words about Trump as politician and businessman, the film as a whole treats the rhetoric of a man who basically managed to “Yes, and…” his way into the White House with refreshing seriousness. And by showing the cold and cunning mechanics behind his actions and mannerisms, it helps to make a bit more sense out of how his ascendence marked the start of a dark collective mood, with the cultivation of vindictive social tumours creating an ever-widening political divide.

With voting for the next election underway in the US, one can only hope that this showing of good faith psychiatric duty and bipartisan analysis will cut through the usual line-drawing that accompanies political docos, and help push against this malignancy to Make Empathy Great Again.

View Post

Canneseries: Finding Gold in the TV Age

Now in its third year, Canneseries moved from April to October as a live event, though unfortunately mainly took place virtually for international press and guests, instead of on the Riviera. Still, there were plenty of tasty morsels of new international TV series to savour.
View Post


Australian, Home, Home Entertainment, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Slow-motion, skull-cracking violence sets the scene for Below, inspired by Ian Wilding’s award-winning play of the same name. Wilding’s screenplay shifts the action from a mining town to a slightly dystopian outback immigration detention centre run by the evil guards from Newhaven Border Solutions, no doubt privatised out by the Australian Government. Dark web con-artist Dougie (Ryan Corr) finds himself working there to repay a debt to his Scottish stepfather and detention centre guard Terry (an almost unrecognisable Anthony LaPaglia), after an online bribery scam he sets up under the moniker ‘Dreadnought’ goes south.  

Detainees faced with little to no chance of freedom are microchipped and numbered. Self-harm becomes the norm, so to flatten the curve inmates, or their extended family members, are threatened with a trip to ‘the cage’ as punishment. Curve flattened, Terry and his cohorts reinvent the cage as a fight club for their captives. Ever the shyster, Dougie revitalises his Dreadnought persona and offers a live stream of the fights to voyeurs on the dark web. When champion fighter Azad (great work from Phoenix Raei) cops a shiv to the throat, Dougie’s conscience kicks in and he must find a way to help Azad’s orphaned little sister Zahra (Lauren Campbell) escape to a new life of freedom in Australia.

Skilfully directed by Maziar Lahooti on his first feature-length film, Below paints a pitch-black comic portrait around the horrors of Australian immigration detention. At one point Dougie exclaims ‘every day in here is like a holocaust movie’, he wants out, so sets up another pay per view fight, this time between detainee ‘King Ciggy’ (Robert Rabiah) and three double-ended dildo wielding female MMA fighters (Deanna Cooney, Lee-Ann Temnyk, Shimain Osbourne).

Performances are inventive and energetic, with Corr and LaPaglia excellent and Morgana O’Reilly as detainee guard Michelle hilarious. Director of photography Michael McDermott adds another character to the film with his footage of the foreboding detention centre.

Below‘s darkly comic undertones don’t shy away from the nightmare existence of a people locked away in a system designed to break them. Lahooti’s film, while bleak, shines a light on Australia’s moral compass and when those ethics are questioned, we’re left with a glimmer of hope.