A Good Year

I’m not quite certain I get Ridley Scott. Why did he make A Good Year? Not once did the words “Deckard is a replicant” flash up subliminally for a fraction of a second in the background. Russell Crowe’s character did not dream of a unicorn, nor did Didier Bourdon’s character leave him an origami model of the same.

To Scott’s credit, though, incest is briefly contemplated, if quickly despatched.

In A Good Year, we have a seachange story that is identical to all other sea changes: a man consumed by work comes into contact with his old life, in the idyllic countryside, and realises that something’s lacking.

It plays exactly as you would expect it to, but there are a couple of surprises simply because the trailer didn’t deem it necessary to give them away.

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.

Boytown

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.

Flashbeer

Australia Week: Intermission!

A lot of the ads on Australian TV are either dubbed over American ads (which are a true pain to watch), cosmetics ads brought to you by the face of that brand (if we’re lucky, Natalie Imbruglia), or the singularly unimaginative Brand Power ads.

Very rarely do we get a true narrative ad anymore that is worthy of comment, short of that of a father telling his child that the Great Wall of China was built by “Emperor Nasi Goreng to keep the rabbits out. There were too many rabbits.”
The child then takes this information and disseminates it to his class in the form of an oral report. This is supposed to inform us of the great study aid that is broadband internets.

The most entertaining and polished ads on television are, surprisingly, for beer. The ads for Bundaberg are strangely ocker tales of a polar bear and his human mates, but they are nothing compared to the mighty power of the new Carlton Draught ad, “Flashbeer”:

I believe that beer ads are largely preaching to the converted, as beer drinkers generally know their own tastes, but this one is funny.

The strength of beer ads has been in question since last year’s “Big Ad”, which was beloved the world over, but did not really achieve its goal of “selling some bloody beer”:

Still, as a teetotaller, I enjoy these “expensive ads” because they are among the most creative on television, and the most Australian. As I approach the final sentence, I realise that I don’t really watch enough television to be able to present a full expose of the Australian commercial industry. Also, both of those ads are for Carlton Draught. Still, I’ve no doubt that the two ads I’ve presented represent the best of the best.

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.

Stormbreaker

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.

Joanna Newsom: Sprout and Bean in one

Joanna Newsom has a new album out next month! Joanna Newsom, AKA “Kasbah Harp Lady”, is a woman whose voice is not to everyone’s taste. Yet she has an undeniable charm about her.

Just observe her harmonising with herself in “The Sprout and the Bean”:

I went and saw Joanna Newsom last year (report here), and she was great. I was smiling all the way through her unassuming, charming set. She had a true rapport with the audience, although it turns out that her interminably long songs are going to be no less interminable for Ys when it hits the stores next month.

I was surprised to see on YouTube the following recordings of Newsom singing “Inflammatory Writ” at the concert I was at!

Inflammatory Writ, part I
Inflammatory Writ, part II

I’d embed them, but they’re not embeddable. I could just be making things up here, but I could swear you can hear my laughter in the second one, after she thanks someone for loving her.

The question you must ask yourself at times like these is this: Are y’interested?
It’ll serve you well.