Some of those of an older generation have, I've observed, noted how modern cinema is rubbish. It's all crashes and bangs, perhaps best epitomized by the success of superhero movies. And while yes, I thought Captain America: Civil War was stunningly overrated and ultimately a kind of brain torture, I also think it's a belief that doesn't bear scrutiny. There are plenty of immersive, engaging films that get made every year. A lot of them are indie, and most of them are unsuitable for the international teenage market (a market I respect, don't get me wrong), and therefore unlikely to merit a major advertising campaign. Great films are passing by every month, you just have to keep an eye on the kind of cinemas like Filmhouseand Cameo that show them.
Indeed, at Cameo cinema at the moment, is Wiener Dog, about a succession of flawed families and individuals and their temporary custody of a small sausage dog. The ending is not predictable, and it's a film which shines a light on peoples' quirkiness, lack of fulfilment, and inability to nurture themselves, much less a cute, unassuming animal. It also has Danny DeVito, who - as always – is fabulous. The whole cast, to be fair, delivers. Somewhere amid all the garish dysfunctionality are also a few dabs of light to take back home with you.
Another film at the Cameo still showing is Tickled, a documentary that spans New Zealand and the US. You may have noted my disclaimer to this section about how my reviews are affected by mood. Tickled is a case in point. It should have been a film I enjoyed: it follows an underground tickling scene, funded by a mysterious and intimidating benefactor. The journalist in the documentary then travels from NZ to the US to uncover the mystery. It sounds wacky, and kind-of is, but I fell asleep during it, missing a crucial five-ten-minute section in which the identity of the benefactor is first revealed. I must have been tired for this to happen, but I also wonder why it happened. Tickled is a documentary much more entertaining in its concept than its execution. You're watching it and sometimes shaking your head, tut-tutting at the strangeness of it. But I don't recall any stand-out moments of drama that had me stunned, or laughing out loud.
Unlike another documentary I watched at the Cameo, called Wiener. This one is, so far, the best thing I've seen in the cinema in 2016. It had me and the audience gasping and squirming and laughing throughout. Its premise is nothing so strange: it follows the youngish Democrat politician Anthony Wiener and his campaign to run for Mayor of New York. The campaign was handicapped by his penchant for Internet sex and the images he sent of himself, with erections nestling in underwear. So far, so unseemly. But the drama is in turns gripping and unbelievable; Wiener is a cocky (no pun intended), confrontational individual who gets into cringe-inducing scrapes not only in TV interviews as he seeks to rehabilitate his reputation, but also with the very people whose support he's trying to win out on the street. His campaign team are continually undermined by some new fresh allegation, and then there is Wiener's wife, the glamorous, super-connected and beautiful Huma. You see the strain on their marriage and also wonder how they can endure the constant media assault. You also cheer for him at times by his irrepressible enthusiasm as a campaigner and because, believe it or not, his political views and passion are at times admirable. Unlike Tickled, Wiener is a film where something dramatic or funny is happening every five or ten minutes. At the end, during one particularly challenging situation, the documentarist finally asks Wiener why he wanted to do this project. "I don't know," Wiener replies, as if he's as drawn to the car-crash of his political career and personal life as we are.