Category: Film

Popcorn Taxi: Catch a Fire

The Third and Final Act of Australia Week

An excellent film presented by an excellent interviewer, and ably assisted by an excellent actor and director.

To cement the legendariness of this occasion in the eyes of the audience, one member said to Tim Robbins “I’ve been reading about you, and you seem quite liberal and committed to egalitarian causes. Why then do you always play dark bastards?”
Robbins, upon less than a moment’s reflection, responded: “The sanctimonious liberal isn’t a very interesting part.”

There you have it.


Part 2 of Australia Week!

We’re Boytown: population five/ At the end of each show, we go home to our wives

In September, I said that Boytown looked like a funny film that would be a success. In contrast to Kenny‘s $500,000 budget, Boytown boasted $5,000,000 in funding.

Kenny, having made $6,000,000 is, budgetwise, a huge success. The Australian mark of a smash (international) movie is $10,000,000. Yet, given that it is not a very likely sale to foreign markets, Boytown has to be loved all across Australia to achieve even vague success.
Boytown is not smash material. It’s funny and it’s sweet, but it hasn’t received good reviews. That can be attributed to its most sour ending that, while funny, left me feeling cheated.

Muriel’s Wedding

Part one of Australia Week!

Muriel’s Wedding is the sort of movie that I watched when I was far too young to understand it. Last time I saw it I probably appreciated it more (I remember giving a good case for it in an English class), but that probably counts for nothing because I didn’t remember it.

Muriel’s Wedding was the breakout role for Toni Collette, and it chronicles her escape from a suburban hellhole populated by shrill harpies led by Sophie Lee.

It came out at around the same time as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and all foreigners who dared watch both of these films became convinced that Australia was obsessed with ABBA. What they may also have noticed is that while Muriel’s Wedding is promoted a comedy, and is quite funny, it’s also horribly depressing.

We can still do that with works like Kath & Kim (more funny than depressing, but still too true for comfort), but our industry has become in recent years largely bland and formulaic. Or so one would have to assume; no one actually goes to seem them. When our films of the last decade have been good, though, they’ve been excellent.

A Prairie Home Companion

If you watched the Academy Awards this year, you may recall that Robert Altman was awarded an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. The best thing about all that I saw of the ceremonies was the presentation of the award: Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin came out onto the stage and wigged out and talked all over each other to create the illusion of an Altman film on the stage.

I’d be lying if I said I knew a hell of a lot about Altman, but A Prairie Home Companion is so sublime that I want to know more about him. Even if that means watching Robin Williams in Popeye.

The Devil Wears Prada

Anne Hathaway looks pretty for just under two hours while Meryl Streep plays a bitch with rare patches of vulnerability for roughly the same amount of time. Everyone else except for the gay man is a two dimensional person brought onto the screen to say their lines and advance the story.

From the hit literary genre “complain about your former employers”, previous home of The Nanny Diaries (soon to be a film starring Scarlett Johansson as the titular nanny), comes The Devil Wears Prada. It’s pleasant if undemanding and displays a lack of finesse in its morality. Remember, folks: working is good, being a nice person is bad. You can’t dedicate yourself to your job without being a bitch. Know this and know this well!

Children of Men

There are several kinds of dystopian stories, and many of them deal with a world where Britain is one of the sole superpowers. You can take them as a gradual build up of making a bad situation worse, as in V for Vendetta, or the situation has already reached the zenith of terribleness and the characters have to struggle to survive with a definite sense of immediacy.

Children of Men is an example of the immediate school of dystopia: quick, bleak, grey and terrible.


Spy movies are enjoyable because they frequently dispense with logic in order to provide their thrills. Stormbreaker, based on an allegedly popular series of childrens’ books (I can be forgiven for not keeping up to date with the childrens’ literature), is designed specifically to be a sort of James Bond for children, right down to MI6.

Yet, with an M rating, not all children will be allowed to see Stormbreaker. Sure, maybe the tweens and teens will, but none of the children of overprotective parents. To that end, I chose to go in their stead.

What we have in Stormbreaker is a spy story that features a villain with a feasible plan that is well executed, but the worst motive for super villainy ever. It’s not rocket science and, at several points, it is nothing more than an advertisement for Nintendo, but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable.

Trailers: Threat Level Beta

At An Inconvenient Truth last night, I was subjected to some more trailers that I wasn’t quite expecting, from movies I had only heard of in passing.

The first was The Holiday (YouTube trailer), which I had thought was a book before it was a movie. Apparently not. Anyway, it’s a romantic comedy about switching Britain for America and vice versa, with Cameron Diaz saying “England is so quaint! Look at its old world appeal!” (carefully ignoring the tackiness of modern English culture) and Kate Winslet saying “America is so … American!” (I don’t know how to characterise America in this film).
Cameron Diaz meets Jude Law, and Kate Winslet meets … Jack Black? Jack Black is my hero, so if I can get the requisite girls in line, I might go and see this movie.
As a general rule, you can tell the calibre of film that Black is in by the state of his facial hair.

The other, more eyecatching, and possibly more noteworthy film, was Marie Antoinette:

Bubblegum pink titles? Contemporary music? People speaking with their “natural accents”? This is what we call “post modernism” or similar. I have an interest in the French Revolution fuelled largely by the anime Rose of Versailles, which is a wildly romantic and fairly balanced account of the times of France from Marie Antoinette’s rise to her fall. It was the sort of thing that I could keep people constantly updated on as I came up with new examples of decadence.

Marie Antoinette is, by many (positive) accounts, more of a trifle; A fluffy confection of a film that revises Marie Antoinette’s image. I like the idea that she felt the whole of Versailles was silly, because it was, but the problem in my mind is that in time she came to believe in the silliness and drove France into a ditch of famine, poverty, and, eventually, cycles of bloodshed.

I won’t mind seeing a sympathetic Marie Antoinette, as the Antoinette of Rose of Versailles travelled between extremes of shrewishness and tears. I suppose it may be just like Doctor Who or James Bond: the actor you saw first is the character. Which incarnation of Antoinette will be the one that sticks?
Considering the different tones taken by these films, I may be able to accept both accounts on their own merits. Whatever the case, I’m intrigued: the trailer has done its work.

Post script, ironically written before I finished writing the rest:
Damnit, I just read what Roger Ebert had to say about the film’s reception about Cannes and now I know how it ends. Sure, I know this history reasonably well, but you can never know when a historical recount ends until it stops being told. That article is interesting until the last paragraph, so don’t feel bad about reading it.
It’s also notable that Ebert got the same impression based on a hypothetical that I did from the ending of Rose of Versailles.

An Inconvenient Truth

“Oh no!” they cry, “He’s gone and seen a Leftocrat bleeding heart liberal movie! Run for the hills!”

Nothing says “prevent global warning” like “cartoon violence”.

Feel free to run. If you don’t like Al Gore, you’re probably not going to like this movie. I’d like to think that global warming is not really a political issue for the most part, but as this is part biopic that serves to show precisely why Gore does what he does, it does delve slightly into his own campaigns over the years.

Personally, I agree with that which Gore sets out here: we have a problem. I really need to see South Park‘s “ManBearPig” to get another view on the matter (despite the fact that I think the evidence is fairly well … incontrovertible) because there’s no way in heck “Al Gore’s Penguin Army” is anything approaching worthwhile. Even if I had something against Gore, the “Penguin Army” clip would still be crap.

An Inconvenient Truth is an almost bleak but more hopeful than expected examination of the world at large. Despite the fact that Australia deserves its place on the shame list for being one of only two developed countries to not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, this documentary should not be ignored. Unless you really want to, you know, drown. Or you want me to guilt you about your grandchildren’s futures. I can do that.

Please Note: This topic has the capability to be somewhat inflammatory, so if you disagree with this post please just walk away.

Little Miss Sunshine

The title “Little Miss Sunshine” appearing across the face of the suicidally depressed Steve Carell is proof that irony lives.
Another installment in the great tradition of American road movies, Little Miss Sunshine is one of those “melanchomedies”* that uplifts as it saddens.