The Dominion Post
Here’s 20 of the best for Rialto’s 20th
From Richard Roxburgh’s Rakish lawyer to Carey Mulligan’s debut, these are our favourite things to have aired on the indie specialist. James Croot reports.
They’ve been providing Kiwis with the very best of independent features, documentaries and TV shows since The Sixth Sense shocked audiences and Shakespeare in Love somehow took out the Academy’s Best Picture.
Yes, August 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Sky TV’s Rialto Channel, the commercial-free, Kiwi-owned and programmed haven for fans of film festival movies and new and classic cinema from all around the globe.
As DVD stores have disappeared and the range of movies available to view has narrowed somewhat, it has become increasingly important as an outlet for titles that might not otherwise be available to view on our shores.
To celebrate Sky’s Channel 39’s significant birthday, Stuff has looked through their archives and come up with a list of our favourite 20 films and shows to have aired on there since 1999.
An Education (2009)
Based on the memoir of acerbic interviewer Lynn Barber, this is a sumptuous-looking, beautifully told and superbly acted coming of age story.
Danish director Lone Scherfig shows an eye for detail, recreating a London on the cusp of the Swinging Sixties, while Carey Mulligan gives a spellbinding and beguiling performance that perfectly captures the impetuousness yet innocence of youth.
The Escapist (2008)
The best prison-break movie since The Shawshank Redemption also boasts a stunning piece of audience misdirection by writer-director Rupert Wyatt.
In a role especially written for him, Brian Cox is a standout as an old lifer desperate to see his troubled daughter one last time. But this is a movie where the ensemble rules, with Damian Lewis, Dominic Cooper and Joseph Fiennes providing Cox with superb support.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Although the premise now sounds like Total Recall meets (500) Days of Summer, Michel Gondry’s bizarre non-linear and fractured romance is a haunting and heartbreaking account of love gone awry.
Jim Carrey has never been more restrained and yet is an engrossing presence while Kate Winslet, criminally overlooked at the Oscars in 2005, is at her charismatic best as the unforgettable, multicoloured Clementine.
Four Lions (2010)
A humorous version of 2005 Israeli film Paradise Now, terrorism as The Office, Dad’s Army-meetsJackass.
A comedy as black as a bogan winter fashion collection, this Chris Morris movie is at once deeply unsettling and in all likelihood one of the funniest films of the past decade. Morris spent three years researching the project, speaking to terrorism experts and imams, as well as ordinary Muslims.
The Handmaiden (2016)
Memoirs of a Geisha this ain’t. Fans of Korean director Park Chan Wook will have some idea of what to expect from this unlikely adaptation of Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith.
From Old Boy to Lady Vengeance and Stoker, Wook has created blood-soaked and sensual tales of revenge that boast imagery that sears into your memory. If the plot is filled with salacious moments and head-spinning changes in direction, then the true delights of The Handmaiden are in the details.
A History of Violence (2005)
Best known for visceral, extremely violent or disturbing works like The Fly and Crash, Canadian director David Cronenberg reined in his macabre inclinations to produce one of his most accessible works. His trademark visual flourishes and black humour remain – but they are here backed by a fantastic performance from Viggo Mortensen and Josh Olson’s superb script, which explores the nature and genesis of violence and deftly and devastatingly displays its emotional and physical consequences.
The Hunt (2012)
The charismatic and compelling Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) plays Lucas, a teacher trying to start his life again after a messy divorce in this dynamite Danish drama.
Troubled by her parents’ bickering, Lucas’ best friend’s daughter seeks solace in his arms and company, but when her developing crush is scorned, her hurt and hatred towards him is misinterpreted by his principal and her parents as a sign of something far more sinister. Director Thomas Vinterberg’s film will raise your hackles, tug on your heartstrings and make you despair at modern humanity’s inability to communicate.
The King of Kong (2007)
There will always be those who believe that video games are meant to be played for fun. They’ve obviously never met Billy Mitchell or Steve Wiebe, the stars of Seth Gordon’s documentary.
Combining interviews with fly-on-the-wall-footage, on-screen graphics and an eclectic 80s-inspired soundtrack with a cast of colourful characters, this is a compelling, comic and strangely chilling look at the world of professional retro gaming.
The Lives of Others (2006)
Florian von Donnersmarck’s debut film again mixes fascinating procedure (the scenes setting up the bugging equipment are a highlight) with superbly subtle, but gripping, human drama, and a dash of paranoid, political thriller.
Cinematographer Haden Bogdanski’s work is stunning – his use of fish-eye lenses, grey landscapes and light and dark are the perfect accompaniment to the action on screen, making the audience complicit in the surveillance.
Man on Wire (2008)
Proof of how far documentaries have come in the 21st century.
James Marsh’s account of Philippe Petit’s audacious 1974 walk between New York’s twin towers boasts more tension in it than most conventional Hollywood thrillers. It’s the combination of interviews, actual footage, recreations and an evocative score that make this such a compelling and now, thanks to the events of September 11, 2001, poignant watch.
Mary & Max (2009)
This is a charming, heart-warming and heartbreaking film about the most unlikely friendship since Harold and Maude. And it’s animated.
As well as taking the stop-motion art form into more adult territory with themes of mental illness, alcoholism and general unhappiness, director Adam Elliot displays incredible attention to detail. The incredible vocal cast includes Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The end of the world has never looked more haunting or beautiful than in Lars Von Trier’s operatic science-fiction thriller. Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg play sisters whose troubled relationship decays even further as a planet called Melancholia heads on a collision course with Earth.
Evocative and provocative, it makes great use of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to score our planet’s final moments.
Me and you and Everyone we Know (2005)
A cautious, clumsy and at times catastrophic courtship between writer-director Miranda July’s wannabe performance artist and John Hawkes department store show salesman may be central to July’s story, but they are just part of a world filled with crazy and colourful characters.
Hilarious and bittersweet, this is jam-packed with memorable moments to make you smile or sad.
Rake (From 2010)
The Rialto Channel’s first foray into series programming came up trumps with this hugely entertaining ABC dramedy about a barrister who frequently finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
Richard Roxburgh spouts memorable one-liners as if they were Shakespeare while the cast list oozes quality from Sam Neill to Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths and a cadre of Kiwi regulars, including Danielle Cormack, Robyn Malcolm and Roy Billing.
Samson & Delilah (2010)
Make no mistake, this is a haunting and heartbreaking tale that almost rivals Leaving Las Vegas for its sheer sense of hopelessness and descent into darkness.
Fixed cameras and long takes mean there’s no escape for the audience when Samson takes in the vapours. It proves you don’t need stars or a big budget to make an Aussie film with a potentially global impact.
Summer of Sam (1999)
The film that helped launch the career of Oscarwinning actor Adrien Brody. He plays a wannabe punk rocker in this drama inspired by the events in New York in the sweltering heat of 1977. That’s when the city was terrorised by a serial killer known as the ‘‘Son of Sam’’, whose random shooting attacks (mainly on women in parked cars) resulted in the death of six people and the wounding of seven others.
Director and co-writer Spike Lee does a terrific job of creating a sense of place, space and time, using real-life locations where possible.
This is England (2006)
July, 1983. Liverpool has just retained the first division football title and The Police and Paul Young top the charts. But although Britain’s stoush with Argentina over the Falklands is now over, 12-year-old Shaun (Tommo Turgoose) has his own battles to fight.
This is inspired by writer-director Shane Meadows’ own childhood. Here, he creates a palpable sense of time and place through his evocative script, motley cast of characters, a mixture of naturalistic sound and composer Ludovico Einaudi’s moody score, as well as spot-on costuming.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
An expertly-crafted, slow-burning, modern-day western which rivals Unforgiven or The Searchers in its unblinking portrayal of life. Despite a premise that has the potential to be Weekend-atBernies-meets-Brokeback-Mountain, director and star Tommy Lee Jones plots a course which never veers into farce or sentimentality but still boasts rich humour and packs a powerful emotional punch.
The Trip (2010)
Director Michael Winterbottom uncovered a seam of rich comic genius by pairing Wales’ secondfinest impressionist, the affable Rob Brydon, with lanky Lancastrian Steve Coogan.
Realising that his two Tristram Shandy stars could start an argument over anything with hilarious results, Winterbottom reunited them for what is essentially a series of conversations, arguments and general one-upmanship over lunches. A delightful mix of fly-on-the-wall reality and middle-aged-angst humour.
25th Hour (2002)
One of the first movies set in New York after 9/11, Spike Lee’s adaptation of David Benioff’s novel features a searing performance from Edward Norton as a Gotham drug dealer who re-evaluates his life in the time he has left before serving a seven-year jail term. ‘‘Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends,’’ is his (and possibly your) new mantra to live by.