"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause."
-Theodore Roosevelt

29 April 2012

Moving to Wordpress!

I have finally moved my blog over to Wordpress, and will now cease to post content on this site. Foyer Talk, including all archived posts back to July 2008, is still accessible through www.chilver.net.au.

17 March 2012

La Guerre Des Boutons

Taking Offspring Number One off to Manuka to get a bit of the benefit of having the French Film Festival in town was quite an experience! I haven't been to this cinema in years, and it hasn't changed at all (even the popcorn tasted like it might have been there since my last visit!). But this film made it all worthwhile.

La Guerre Des Boutons (or The War of the Buttons for those who are too lazy to figure that out!) proved an excellent choice given that we don't have time to see more than one this year. But really, how could you go wrong with any film in a French film festival?

The premise is simple; gangs of boys from two rival country towns in walking distance of each other elevate a long-standing tradition of conflict to all out war in which the greatest victory comes by the ceremonial removal of the buttons from the opponents' clothes. It may not sound all that terrifying, but the wrath of a French mother towards a son returning home with no buttons is nothing to be scoffed at!

The film is a romp, but in that inimitable French style, the humour is offset by some brilliantly crafted characters, whose more human side is shown as the impact of the Algerian War is felt in the town. The balance between humour and the film's more serious themes is impeccable, making La Guerre des Boutons a film for all ages.

12 March 2012


Hugo is a great film, although it is about half an hour longer than it needs to be and (coincidentally?) half an hour too sappy.

Set in Paris, it's the story of an orphan in the care of his drunkard uncle, who undertakes his uncle's work to remain in his home in Gare Montparnasse, to avoid ending up in an orphanage. His home puts him in the perfect position to pilfer the bits he needs to continue his dead father's work restoring an old automaton, but it also puts him at risk from the station's other denizens.

The story is excellent, and the visual effects stunning. The characters are beautifully composed, and the whole film sings... as long as you're patient. This film would have been so much better if it had been written by a Frenchman; its American screenwright, however, has seen fit to weigh it down with as much schmaltz as he could muster. It's a shame, because it would be just about perfect without it.

14 February 2012

The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep's magnificent Maggie Thatcher well and truly matches Helen Mirren's remarkable Queen. It helps, of course, that the script is so well written by Abi Morgan, but to humanise this incredible woman is a great achievement, whoever you give the credit to.

Of course, it is only her most obvious frailty that provides the window of opportunity. Morgan's script capitalises on the ageing Thatcher's senility, and I don't think there is any other way really to bring the woman down to earth enough for an audience to relate to her as a character.

The film lacks some of The Queen's zing. It creates magnificent character, but because of its broad sweep, it fails to create such a clear focus and the character is only just enough to cover the rather flat narrative structure.

The Iron Lady is a very good film, and one well worth watching. But just in case any of you Poms were thinking about it, I've now seen enough biographical films about your twentieth century politicians. They're really not that interesting.

28 January 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Late though I might have been, I finally managed to take the kids along to see The Adventures of Tintin. They weren't that interested at first, and I can understand why, since the marketing is targeted at a higher age group and is certainly intended to attract adults. And by the time we went, it was no longer showing at Limelight, and we had to settle for Hoyts.

I don't know why I particularly wanted to see this movie, as I never read the comics or had any experience of it before, but the trailer had me enthralled, and I was really keen. Obviously, the usual problem with films that you're really eager to see is that they fail to live up to expectations. Not the case with Tintin.

The characters are really engaging, especially the bumbling detectives who are simply the most hilarious of characters. Tintin himself is endearing in a very personable way, since he is admired by all the characters for his prowess, but is nonetheless genuinely concerned with other people's welfare. He is, at the same time, subject to frustrations and these shine through with pristine dialogue and amazing animation.

I'm not normally a fan of animation that looks too realistic, I'd usually prefer cartoons to look like cartoons, but in this context it just works.

The Adventures of Tintin is barely a children's movie; there is a fairly long-running theme of violence, but it is handled well, and though my daughters (age 10 and 7) tensed up a lot, I never felt uncomfortable with the level of violence they were seeing.

This is a great film, especially for its characters, but also for its excellent animation.