Melbourne International Film Festival: How the Blogathon Was Like A 6 Course Dinner
The MIFF 60 Films in 17 days blog-a-thon is a lot like eating a six-course dinner. I can account for this as I have now done both in the last month.
Course #1 – Warm yoghurt soup with lamb pieces / The week before MIFF started
The promise of a large meal and a large festival lay ahead, but from the first course – that tastes delicious but barely touches the sides – you overestimate your ability to consume so much food / so many films. Somehow, by breaking the 60 films down into daily instalments of approximately 3 films a day, you tell yourself that it’ll be a walk in the park, and, wow what a great opportunity this is to see so many films and write about them! Bring on the next course you think!
Course #2 – Some sort of dumplings, pickled veg, ricotta, hummus and bread / The first weekend of MIFF
The second course arrives and it literally covers every square inch of your tiny table. The first weekend of MIFF kicks off and you cram 12 films into 3 days, you think this is a good start until you discover one of your fellow blog-a-thoners has managed to see 6 in his first day.
You pick a little from each plate, something old (The King of Comedy), something sweet (Jess + Moss), something that blows you away (Melancholia), something that stays with you (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and something that gives you food poisoning (Outside Satan).
The second course is big, it fills you up more than the soup and you’d be happy to skip straight to dessert but you realise you have 4 more courses to go and 14 more days of films to see.
Course #3 – Loaded pides served three ways / Day Four of MIFF
You try to identify the filling in one of the pides, it’s sweet and different, and you recognise it as figs, something you wouldn’t normally eat. On Day Four of the festival you only see one MIFF film (Detroit Wild City) and then opt to go to the media screening of Captain America: The First Avenger, along with many other MIFFsters. It’s different, not sweet but cheesy, and just the break you need even though you’re only just beginning your 60 films challenge.
Course #4 – I’m not a shrimp I’m a King Prawn … and salad / Week 1 of MIFF
The prawn is big and coated in a rich sauce but the salad is light and refreshing. In the first week of MIFF you see many films rich in characters and with strong narratives, some that become your favourites of the festival.
There’s Project Nim, which brings you to tears and leaves you depressed for the rest of the day, Miranda July’s quirky The Future, straight from Cannes – The Kid With a Bike, seeing Mike Mills in Conversation and the following day watching his sophomore film Beginners, tackling the mesmerising masterpiece A separation, and having the light and refreshing Page One: Inside the New York Times, Pool Party, Troubadours, and The Matchmaker playing in between.
You could call it quits here, pay the bill and miss out on the rest of the courses. You’re happy you wore clothing with an elastic waist – just as you dress in jeans and jumpers to counteract the numbing Greater Union and Forum seats – you don’t think you could possibly fit another mouthful or film in, but you’re going to try!
Course #5 – Quail, Some kebab thing, Grain salad and rice / The final week of MIFF
Another course that covers your entire table, you explain to your partner what a quail is, much like you recall the synopsis of a film to those you meet between films in the festival lounge. You remark on how nice pomegranate seeds are and how you should incorporate them more this coming summer in salads, just as you promise yourself you’ll stop wasting so much time going to screenings for films you know aren’t worth your time.
The kebab is a highlight, spicy and rich, like French drama Polisse, which you stumble into unknowingly and are blown away by, much like Natural Selection the following day. There are the disappointments, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye delivering less freaky plastic surgery than you were hoping for, and Our Idiot Brother having a great performance from Paul Rudd but falling flat in the screenplay.
You enjoy Being Elmo but are unprepared for the worst day of the festival in which you see Familiar Ground and almost fall asleep, followed by Innocent Saturday, where you almost fall asleep, then Life in a Day, where you almost fall asleep, and ending with “sexy” Aussie thriller X, where you can’t stop laughing at the weak screenplay and questionable acting.
Then your faith is restored, the quail is small but delightful, and deliciously sweet, just like Tiny Furniture by writer director Lena Dunham, which brings a smile to your face. And just like that course #5 and week #2 of MIFF are over, and you’re ready for dessert – the final weekend of MIFF and Closing Night.
Course #6 – Watermelon with whatchamacallit drizzle, Whiskey jelly with chocolate chip mousse and a hot cherry doughnut / The final weekend of MIFF and Closing Night festivities
You made it! Sure you may feel like throwing up, your legs are weak and your vision is blurry – but you’ve made it through 6 courses and 60 films! Others are there to congratulate you, tell you how amazed they are that you made it, but only those who have experienced it truly appreciate what you’ve gone through, and how it’s possibly changed you. You vow not to eat for a week, or you vow never to do something this crazy again, but, like a pregnancy, you soon forget the pain and you begin to think, sure, I could see 60 films in 17 days again!
You eat things the wrong way; you start with the watermelon before diving into the indulgent chocolate mousse and cherry doughnut. You only realise afterwards that the watermelon is meant to be the refreshing end to an extravagant meal, and you wish that you’d planned things differently.
In hindsight I should have made Drive my final film, gone out with a bang and enjoyed the closing night party knowing I didn’t have to get up the next day for another four films. But it was still delicious this way, Drive was amazing, the closing night party was indeed memorable, and I had some fun films on the last day to finish my MIFF experience.
The Hollywood Complex, Another Earth, Super and even Essential Killing were all enjoyable films, perhaps made even more so by knowing the end was near. This way it, enjoy the last few mouthfuls even if you feel like you may pass out, because after this it’s back to home cooked meals with the occasional dinner out.
The waiter comes over, you have final drinks on the last night of the festival, you talk about the meal and MIFF, what were your favourites, what you liked the least, then the waiter tells you that next time you come, if you give 48 hours notice, you can order a whole suckling pig, you want to cry. You’ve loved this meal, and the festival was amazing, but you’re happy you don’t have to think about it for another 12 months, after which you’ll be revived and ready to dive back into another 17 days of films, though perhaps a few less than 60 next time.
Films of the festival that restored my faith in cinema (in no order):
The Hollywood Complex
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Detroit Wild City
Jess + Moss
Films of the festival that hurt me in places I couldn’t show on a doll:
Think Global, Act Rural
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
Participating in this challenge has made me realise a few things, firstly that it’s easy to consume but hard to create. Watching 60 films is a challenge yes, but more so is sitting down after a full day of films to write something that not only makes sense to the reader who isn’t sleep deprived, but to also write something meaningful beyond a synopsis. There were various days during the festival where I struggled with this, but after 17 days and 60 films my word count sits at 19,614, the majority of which I hope say something meaningful.
The challenge also showed me how much I meant to several people in my life, and I now realise that should I ever feel underappreciated all I have to do is disappear into a dark cinema for two weeks. For anyone feeling like they aren’t loved, I would whole-heartedly recommend the MIFF 60 challenge, though perhaps there are easier means to achieve this result.
The biggest thank you of the festival, apart from the various people, local and interstate guests, I met along my film travels for a drink and a chat, is to my fellow blog-a-thoners – Simon Miraudo, Thomas Caldwell, Glenn Dunks, Luke Buckmaster and Brad Nguyen. Having the opportunity to see films, discuss films, and read these writers’ reviews every day for 17 days was a truly special experience and one I won’t be forgetting fast.
Films are only one part of a film festival, an experience that isn’t complete until you connect with your fellow movie-goers. The MIFF 60 films in 17 days blog-a-thon taught me this and though it is sad to see it end for another year, MIFF 2012 will be here before we know it.