Author: Alex Doenau


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.


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.


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.

Roxette: One Wish

“We’re a part of this together/could never turn around and run”

Roxette are celebrating 20 years with their release of the uninspired A Collection of Roxette Hits: Their 20 Greatest Songs, a title which Something Awful rightly ripped into despite my questioning the rest of their judgements on the content. That is not the big, important thing, though: the important thing is The Roxbox – Roxette 86-06. You get the impression that more work went into this collection simply from the name alone.

The Roxbox is a collection of 78 Roxette songs: some hits, some B-sides, some demos, some … album tracks? Anyway, the lead single in some countries, and number two on the Swedish charts at the time of this writing is “One Wish”:

I’ve been a Roxette supporter since 1995. So yes, I came late to the party. And yes, I let that support lay dormant until I needed them again in 2003, when my Look for Roxette was what sustained me through the HSC. This was, of course, in the days of my rabid obsessiveness. I cannot raise such passion anymore, a source of both relief and distress.

So what to make of “One Wish”? I showed it to my friend William, a casual fan of Roxette (who had rearranged “Listen to Your Heart” as a birthday surprise with another of my friends, but was dashed down during the week), and he said “it’s good that Roxette have retained their sound”.

I’ve listened to a lot of Per Gessle this year, because his two disc album Son of a Plumber had me enthralled for a couple of weeks. When I’m listening to Roxette, though, I’m generally hanging out for Marie Fredriksson to carry me away on the wings of her voice.
“One Wish” is something that we don’t see very often in a Roxette song: call and response! Per sings a verse, and then Marie! It’s not the usual “lead and support” conundrum, and if I were to listen to it again I would be happy that they are working together.

Marie has not, of course, sung on a new Roxette song since 2002’s “Breathe”, since she was diagnosed with a brain tumour shortly after recording. Per is good, don’t get me wrong, but I want the Marie that only Roxette can offer (Marie’s solo efforts – at least those in English [unlike my Per collection, I have no Swedish language Marie] – are uncompelling).

Still, I must let “One Wish” grow on me. On the other hand, I appreciated the constant play from other music videos that Roxette have made over the years, from the camaraderie of “Silver Blue” (also substantially the same as “Dangerous” but I prefer “Silver Blue”):

To the most attractive Marie ever filmed in “June Afternoon” (a music video that features the best and worst of Roxette videos):

Of course, a retrospective video is going to reveal that Roxette may have been popular but they were almost never (I hope) at the height of fashion. For the entire Joyride era into Tourism, Per looked like an over made-up train wreck whose hair might melt off his head at any moment.

Yet I can not help but love him.

The Roxbox is the (not perfect; you should have seen the ruckus at the revelation of the track listing!) antidote to The Roxette Collection. I mean, their fourth “best of” album, when they had only released two new studio albums between their first and second/third compilation, and none since!

The Roxbox is great for a collector like me. Discovering new Roxette is like, I don’t know, finding Life on Mars. While I really want a new studio album (you can do it, Per and Marie! I believe in you and your two solo albums apiece since Room Service!), I will content myself with See Me.

Rock on, Roxette. Prove to the world that Sweden’s got what it takes: pop, metal and one of the world’s most pleasant societies.

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.