Saturday, 13 December 2008


Crikey! Throw another goanna on the barbie mate. I scored this hot date last Saturday night with my hot new wife so we opened up the gates on our white picket fence, jumped in our roo pouches and bounced on down to the local flicks. We got fat on pancakes (just doing my bit for the urban obesity epidemic) and went to see Austraya.

I have a bit of a thing about actually experiencing cinematic experiences in actual cinemas, so it was either that or the latest 007 offering, but I reckon the James Bond franchise lost it's mojo after Diamonds are forever and takes itself far too seriously these days. Where's the willing suspension of disbelief? Speaking of disbelief, despite all the Australia hype, controversy, promotional tie-ins, advertising, potential cringe factor and generally bad reviews, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Australia is fairy tale, in Baz Lurhman's trademark fantastical, flambouyant style. People who are looking for something else need not apply. It is simply a high quality popcorn flick, and an engaging tribute to the golden age of Hollywood through the screen of 1940's Northern Australia, a land and time of much mythology. It's not challenging. It's not dark. It's not historically accurate. It's characters are not well developed. But it doesn't need to be it be, nor is it trying to be. It's light entertainment and a visual feast. Just switch your brain off and go for the ride.

A movie that names itself "Australia" is destined to cop a shitload of flak in a modern society so historically young, diverse and idealogically divided, and perhaps the title hasn't helped locally. But its an international film and most other nations consider Australia a bit of an enigma, and Baz does nothing to stop the mystery, in fact he plays on it through lavish cinematography, enhanced to being super-real, aided through world-class digital effects. The cut of young aborigine Nullah rising slowly out of the marsh on horseback, framed by purple crocus, water reeds and a crimson sky was exquisite, a fusion of Monet and Arthur Streeton. Preying on our age-old attraction for the romanticised, noble savage and the "mysterious" walkabout, Baz does nothing to explain that when you're a nomad, you tend to walk about a bit, but it's the mysteries of life that make the world an interesting place, and the cinema is one of the best places to explore that fascination.

As you can probably tell, I'm going in to bat for this one. I know critic's job is to be critical, but I feel that many cultural commentators have missed the point of this film. It shows that anyone in this country who dares to put their head up and try to tell a yarn about a long time ago, in a land far, far away is likely to get their head blown off, and that's a shame. We really are a sensitive lot when it comes to representing ourselves to the rest of the world.

Such cultural obstacles will continue to inhibit the potential of the Australian film industry and will do nothing to foster investment in larger budget projects. It would seem that if you want to tell an Australian story, no matter how fanciful on the big screen, don't have a big budget, don't tell anyone about it and don't have any punters come to see it. Then no one will know if you are offending them or not.

Australia is the ultimate popcorn flick. Sure the Japenese didn't really land on Mission Island because the place doesn't exist, and the cliffs in the Kimberley aren't really the 1000m drop that is presented to you. And the characters are all cliched and the ending is a bit disappointing, though not the director's preferred ending, but it's a fantasy-cum-tribute movie, not a freakin documentary. Some people will judge a film by its ability to provide a thought-provoking and challenging experience, and movies that do that are great. But I like going to the movies to ecscape the realities of life, and I can forgive a movie that may have a dodgy script, acting, etc if it makes it up to me through cinematic experience and willing suspension of disbelief.

And I'd turn gay for Hugh Jackman. So I'm giving it 4/5 packets of beer nuts. What do you reckon?

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At 13 December 2008 at 11:51 , Blogger Miles McClagan said...

She's never topped BMX Bandits though has she?

At 13 December 2008 at 17:21 , Blogger eleanor bloom said...

I like your approach.
I've avoided seeing it so far but now I might give it a chance.

And I agree re Hugh Jackman. If he were gay... I'd definitely turn into a man for him.

And agree with MM above. I recall liking Bangkok Hilton and Dead Calm (for the cute guy mostly... hey, I was young). But she really is a hard actress for me to watch. Of course, soppy romanticism quite suits her (Cold Mountain) so she may be alright in this.

When seeing the shorts I did cringe at their obvious and slightly uncomfortable use of Aussie slang. But if I'm in the mood for a romantic, escape-fest I shall have a bo-peep. Strewth, crikey, etc.

PS - and CONGRATS on finally tying the knot! Beer nuts all round!

At 13 December 2008 at 17:31 , Blogger Kath Lockett said...

Nice work, MATP. I do a few tiny, lesser-known movie reviews for an Adelaide paper (the big ones are snapped up and only the minnows are offered to me), and before the media screening of the truly excellent 'I've loved you so Long' all the cynical, fulltime reviewers were commenting on how they went in to 'Australia' all geared up to hate it, but ended up really enjoying it.

I'm planning on seeing it. Sometime. One day - whenever Sapphire's on a playdate and I have a spare three hours....

Oh and WIFE, hey? Is that what your tropical holiday a few months ago was about - a honeymoon? Are you ever going to give us, your faithful readers, more details?

At 13 December 2008 at 23:52 , Blogger meva said...

I remember seeing a poster for Austraya in a cinema recently and saying to my hot date 'Look! She can't even act in a bloody photo!'

Given that, my hot date's brother looked daggers at me after he told me that in Austraya Nicole was a beautiful aristocrat. 'Beautiful?' said I. 'Now that would take some acting.'

At 14 December 2008 at 16:45 , Blogger The Man at the Pub said...

Nicole Kidman may not be a great actor, but she is pretty good looking. I'm a boy. I know about these things.

A wedding post is coming, but we're still waiting for the #@!&ing photos. Went to Bali in August for a friends wedding Kath. It was like a pre-wedding honeymoon for us. We couldn't afford a post-wedding honeymoon after that, but were going camping soon (hoorah!)

At 9 January 2009 at 21:31 , Blogger Asphodel said...

Ah, finally a review good enough to give me an excuse to drag my friends to it!


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