Wednesday, October 27, 2004

a.k.a Attack of the Very Big Snakes, again, for some more

It was 39 degrees in Sydney, and we have no air-conditioning. Only one thing to do: see a movie in a nice cool multiplex with a big mega-cup of coke and ice. But I missed out on the beginning of The Terminal by twenty minutes. The billboard informed me that I’d have to wait an hour and a half for the next session.

Or, I could wait twenty minutes, and see Anacondas: Search for the Blood Orchid.

At moments like this, it’s like I become a cartoon version of myself with good/bad movie angels poised over each shoulder.

Good movie angel: There’s been some interesting reviews about The Terminal – which is an adaptation of a book with post cold-war themes and ideas of self / nation / society.
Bad movie angel: Immediate gratification! The B-grade awesomeness of Really Big Snakes! Spot that cliché! The “who dies first” bonanza!
Lyn: Hmm. You both present compelling arguments. It’s a tough call.
Good movie angel: [sighs] Save it. You’re totally going to see Anacondas.
Lyn: [guiltily] Heh. Uh, yeah. I just wanted to let you down gently.
Good movie angel: [huffily] Yeah, whatever. You lost me a few years ago when you hired Children of the Corn part II . . .
Lyn: Wow. I forgot about that.
Good movie angel: . . . thereby paying actual money to see Children of the Corn part II . . .
Lyn: Yeah, okay.
Good movie angel: . . . during which people were actually impaled through the neck by the corn.
Lyn: Yes. My taste sucks. I think everyone gets the idea.

So, Anacondas. Originally the sequel was going to be titled “Venom”, but then someone remembered that anacondas aren’t actually venomous. (Ha! so stupid, it must be true.)

The plot concerns a bunch of pseudo scientists entering the jungles of Borneo in search of an orchid which only blooms for a brief window each year. Ten or so people assemble to go and get the flowers before it’s too late. It’s not clear why more than half of these people are here. By my count you need two: someone to steer the boat, and someone to pick the damn flowers – and yet, there’s like ten people tagging along. Guess what those extra people are for?

I’m happy to report that despite the fact that this flick has a bigger budget than the original, the snakes are still just as fake, the humans just as ridiculous, and the result still as oddly satisfying. It’s a derivative sequel, but refreshingly, the theft isn’t from the original Anaconda – this is Deep Blue Sea with snakes. I counted around eight plot elements that have been “borrowed”. Maybe in a mega-sequel it’ll be the sharks v the snakes. (Don't laugh. Match-ups are hip right now, yo. In fact, I think I'm gonna write that script proposal right now . . .)

There’s hilarious overuse of Creepy Music Signalling Impending Doom. Inept use of the fake-out (creepy music and tension building only for it to be a mouse / penguin / whatever). My favourite example of this is when someone hears a noise in a tiny cupboard on the ship. The creepy music plays, they’re sidling up to the cupboard – and I’m prepared to hazard a guess that the twenty odd metre anaconda is not going to turn up in a 50 cm wall cupboard. Unsurprisingly, this turns out to be right.

The film also overplays what I call "horror movie Darwinism” – selection of those who survive on the basis of a fairly random moral code of ethics. You do something vaguely heroic? You’ll live. You swindle, cheat and/or lie? You’ll die. Yawn.

Lots of awesome exposition, funny because they try and make it sound so authoritative by using buzz words like "genetics" and "mating season". It's like you become that mean kid at the back of the class who's sensed that the teacher doesn't know the answer to your questions and keeps on pushing to make it obvious. What’s that? the ability to regenerate cells is only contained within the genetic structure of a single obscure orchid which blooms in the wilds of Borneo but only for three weeks every seven years? Of course, Professor! Now tell me more about this "snake orgy" . . .

And oh god, the direction! The direction is so cheesy. It’s like watching a soap opera – whenever someone says something witty, the film has a chain of reaction shots: the blonde chick looks amused, and she looks at the Latino guy who waves expressively with his hand, getting the attention of the ship’s captain, who picks his teeth with a knife and glowers. (These reaction shots also happen every time the Very Big Snakes come out to eat someone, and the last reaction shot is usually the monkey.)

And that’s not even mentioning Snake Vision. You know, those great shots where the camera is off scurrying through the undergrowth, and you can practically hear the director choking on his cocktail and screaming out with a megaphone to the exhausted camera guys working the crane “no! we need smooth movements! Smooth and winding like a snake!” Hee hee.

But, you know. The movie theatre had awesome air conditioning on a too hot day, my soft drink had lots of ice, and the jungle looked pretty. It was a great ridiculous, silly B movie, and didn’t try to sell me a moral (Day After Tomorrow), or impress upon me that Oh My God, The Entire Human Race Is At Stake Here (A v P).

Very Big Snakes. Gotta love 'em. (No?)


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Forgot my homework

Man. I forgot my disk, again. You'll just have to wait for my hard-hitting review of . . . a film I'm too embarassed to own yet that I just paid money to see.

I was going to put up an old post that I never got round to publishing, which was a conversation between a zombie from Dawn of the Dead and a zombie from 28 Days Later. I thought it was hilarious when I wrote it (and you know, it made some pertinent points about the differing depictions of zombies in both films), but then I re-read it, and went - eh. Now I'm looking for it, it's gone.

The only bit I remember is the beginning:

Zombie from 28 Days Later: How's it going?
Zombie from Dawn of the Dead: Oh, can't complain. Walked over there. Hit a wall. Came back.

I'll leave you to imagine the lost genius of the rest of it.

* * * * * * * * * *

So, I feel I should offer you guys something to read.

Check out what Mcsweeneys has to say about zombies. And baseball.

This is so the movie that I would write. (How did I find out about the top-secret government program? Oh, you know. Google.)

And saving the best for last: versions of well known films in which the protagonist has been replaced with Leon Trotsky.


Friday, October 22, 2004

Can't get it out of my head

Everyooooooooone has had more sex than me! Oooooo!

Everyooooooooone has had more sex than me! *little dance!*

Man, it's so hard to work in these conditions.

And just for something a bit more substantive, here's another rant by Humphrey of TISM that I left off my last post:

[this was right after they played some footage of a song I can't remember, but it involved the lyrics "all my prayers have now been answered / Delta Goodrem has got cancer"]

Humphrey: "You know that band, Jet? They're really hardcore and alternative. They wear thongs onstage at the ARIAs. They swear. And they dis Australian Idol. I mean, how fucking edgy is that?"

(. . . and just watch the clip already. You know you want to.)


Thursday, October 21, 2004

John Safran v TISM

I went to see this Popcorn Taxi special event. Easily the strangest night of my life – TISM interviewed onstage by John Safran. It was supposed to be about this new DVD from TISM, but naturally, the plan went a little awry.

I'm gonna give you a breakdown of the evening. I do this more as a coping mechanism for my own sanity.

I – John Safran
John Safran was introduced as our host. Unexpectedly, he’s a great live onstage presence – engaging, hilarious, and a charming mix of self-deprecation and self-obsession.

A few highlights:

[as soon as John is on stage, some guy rocks up to the front with a placard saying “I wuv Rove”]
John: [blinks] Oh. Is this a happening?

John: I just want you to know, I turned down The Panel to be here tonight. Yeah, sure, The Panel would have got me more national exposure. But I just knew that if I didn't turn up, some lefty pinko would be on the internet talking about how I shafted Popcorn Taxi, and how I’m just becoming a commercial whore.

John: [reading from DVD promotional material] " 'Humphrey B Flaubert and Ron Hitler Barassi will sign autographs and womens’ breasts after the show.’ See, that’s not Safranesque humour. I never make jokes about sex. It just makes people uncomfortable.”

II – DVD, live concert footage, part 1
We get to see a couple of excerpts from the DVD – TISM live in concert. The perfomance of “Greg the Stop Sign” is only marginally hampered by the fact that the singer stagedives into the mosh pit and stays there (without a mike) for most of the song, whilst the audience tears his silver suit to pieces and rips his mask off. The rest of the band seem completely unconcerned about this. When the bouncers finally drag him out, the guy recoups, pauses, and jumps straight back out there again.

III – The video clip competition

Some guy from Madman DVD chats with John about how TISM ran the competition for creating a video clip for their song “Everyone has had more sex than me” because they were too cheap to pay for making one.

John asks the Madman DVD guy about how the TISM sales are going, because, you know, he’s curious to compare it with the sales for Music Jamboree.

Madman guy rolls his eyes, looks at him, and is all - John, I don’t think you need to worry.

We then see a clip reel of the video clips which did not win the TISM competition. Most are crazy, crazy, crazy. One features John Howard, and is disturbing. There’s a really cute 3D one where the song is sung by a chorus of little sperm.

Then, they play the winning clip in full. It is fantastic. It also achieves the impossible – it’s perfectly appropriate for a TISM song, and yet, absolutely adorable. Created in three and a half weeks by an animator who works for Disney.

John interviews the animator, and asks him questions like “will you be fired for this?” and “did you use stuff from work to make this clip?” The audience asks questions like “do people still try and splice porn into animated films?”

V - DVD, live concert footage, part 2

We see more live footage of TISM playing a few songs. Still crazy. In “defecate on my face”, instead of actually singing, someone hands a mike to these guys in the front row, who do a great job of singing (perfectly) all the relevant lyrics. TISM stands around on stage, doing these bizarre dance moves which are a cross between “Can’t get you out of my head” and a Nazi rally.

VI – TISM onstage

Humphrey B Flaubert and Ron Hitler Barassi arrive onstage. Crowd cheers. They are dressed in head to toe silver space suits with these bulges in them which means that if they stand up in a certain way, they each resemble a giant erect silver penis.

Humphrey on arriving on stage walks up to John, touches John's forehead, and immediately starts convulsing around on the stage (a reference to the exorcism episode in the just aired final of John Safran v God). Heh. He then gets up, turns to John and says: “Look. Seriously though, what we all really want to know, is – was it real?”

Surrealness ensues. It’s as if John is being interviewed about the exorcism by a guy who has actually watched the episode very carefully and anaylsed John’s body language, and compared it to stuff John has done in the past in a good exercise of media analysis. But said guy is dressed in a silver space suit penis thing. Ron is bored and starts to wonder around the stage playing with his microphone. He ends up in the front row of the audience next to some girl.

John: Yeah, look. There was a stage when I thought, I don’t want to dick around with this. I don’t want to go into this being clever, I want to go into prepared or ready to accept whatever happens.
Humphrey: so it was real?
John: Either he hypnotised me, or yeah. It was real. One of those.
Humphrey: But did you talk to him or meet him before the exorcism?
John: Only over the phone a few weeks beforehand.
Humphrey: So he couldn’t have hypnotised you over the phone.
John [rueful, but straightforward]: Yeah. I know.
[long pause]
Humphrey: [insert row of expletives]
John: Yeah. I know.

VII – TISM finally start talking about themselves

The scary weird members of the audience ask scary weird questions. TISM successfully make fun of everyone who asks a question, whilst giving away absolutely nothing about anything.

For example:
Audience member: Wherefore now for TISM?
Ron: It’s William fucking Shakespeare!
Humphrey: Yea, verily for you are a wanker.

VIII – DVD - Weird shit

An unreleased video from the DVD. Unreleased, for the TISM song “I may be a c*nt, but I’m not a f*cking c*nt. Involves a stripper.

Then, some random concert footage which essentially involved the humilation of some gig organiser.

Yeah, look. I’d pretty much just started shaking my head and giggling helplessly at everything by this stage.

IX – End

Humphrey hopes that we enjoyed driving out from where we all live – “which must be a long trip from way out west, Parramatta direction”. He hopes he gave us a paradigm shift. “Paradigm. You can all look that up when you get home.”


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Love Actually and other airport scenes

I hated all of Love Actually in about thirty different ways (I made a list somewhere, but I hated the film so much that I don't even want to revisit my reasons for hating it). Anyway, remember that scene in the airport at the beginning? Hugh Grant voiceovers that airports aren't that sad, because they show that love "actually, is all around" - you see people meeting each other or farewelling, and hugging, and so on. And I call bullshit. Airports are depressing as hell. They're grey, impersonal, and vaguely suspicious. People search your luggage and take your nail clippers, and then they serve you bad coffee and don't let you go through to the departure lounge to say goodbye. Love is probably all around at death row executions when the family turns up to farewell the guy getting killed as it's their last chance to reconcile with the black sheep of the family, etc, but that doesn't make a gas chamber a cheerful place.

There's a fantastic Douglas Adams quote on the first page of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (or perhaps the sequel?) - which talks about how architects must sit around for hours to make airports depressing. It's a good quote, but right now, I'm too depressed to even look it up.

Anyway. Screw you Hugh Grant. Screw you, creator of Love, Actually, that guy I hate so much that I seem to have purposefully forgotten his name. Screw you, makers of airport coffee.

Now I feel better.


Monday, October 18, 2004


Collateral is a great film, and you should totally see it - a superbly rendered two character piece about a hitman, a taxi driver, and a very, very long night. Both the leads – Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise – are excellent. And Mark Ruffalo in a secondary role is superb, in his usual not-wasting-a-gesture way . . . he’s as much of a talent as Edward Norton, but less showy about it.

From here on in are spoilers - none of it is really giving much away, but it’s such a pleasure to watch the action unwind in the film I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice to read on if you haven’t seen the film. Divided into mildish spoilers (for those who already know quite a bit about the film and don't mind having some of the minor stuff spoiled for them) and strong spoilers (where I give the game away).

[Here be mildish spoilers: if I were you, I'd skip these if you haven't seen the film]

Collateral is a tale about Vincent the hitman (Cruise) and Max the taxi driver (Foxx). It’s unusual in an action piece like this one for any depth of character to be established at all beyond the most basic level of motivation and conflict. A lesser film would have started with Vincent getting into Max’s taxi. But this is not a lesser film – and so we see a long introductory section where Max drives other people around. Most importantly, Max meets Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith) when she steps into his taxi and starts to argue about the route. In his interview on At the Movies*, Foxx agreed with Margaret that this section of the film was vital in establishing Max; because these scenes make us care, see how he interacts with people, and what makes him tick.

For Foxx, these early scenes with Max are about “connection” – and I agree. We see Max drifting through the opening scenes until his chemistry and understanding with Annie spark of something significant, a connection, a meeting of minds. When she gets out of the taxi, Max is back on autopilot, not really engaging with what’s going on around him. He picks up Vincent, talks to Vincent without really engaging, or attempting to really engage with Vincent's conversation. And then . . . BANG - that scene from the previews where a body falls from the sky onto the windscreen of the taxi. Vincent’s world is tilted off its axis (in appropriately enough, a fall from the heavens which even he can’t ignore). It’s a terrific moment in the film, and you can see Max suddenly, belatedly dragged into the “now” of “what the fuck is going on”, the realisation that he’s suddenly in over his head. He connects again, with Vincent – beginning the real rapport of this film. A conversation over the course of a night, in which both know that Vincent will kill Max once the job is done.

One way the film suggests you can understand these men is through their respective professions: Max as taxi driver, Vincent as hit man. Vincent is active, someone who makes things happen, who creates chaos. Max is passive – as a cab driver, he drives around people who have things to do, he enables other people to be “active” and yet is never quite active himself. When Vincent moves, he galvanises the world; when Max moves, he is doing it for a fare, to achieve someone else’s destination.

(This certainly reflects both Vincent and Max’s self images at the opening of their conflict as alternately confident and insecure. However, the film certainly erodes both these positions. Isn’t Vincent, after all, also a person for hire, who doesn’t really decide his own destiny? And hasn’t Max’s job given him a range of insights, abilities and strengths?)

Another early hint on the nature of these characters is their brief references to music. One of Max’s first lines in the film is when Annie has climbed into his taxi, and asks him to turn up the radio. “Oh, you like the classics, do you?” he asks.** Max himself, it’s implied, likes the classics – we hear him later play a brief little piece of solo piano music on the radio. When Vincent talks about music, it’s quite different. He likes jazz, bringing it up more than once, and talking about jazz greats with authority. Without too much underlining, this is another means to compare the men: Vincent is all about improvisation, whereas Max is about routine.

(But again – this gets blurred as the movie progresses. Vincent may talk about liking improvisation, but there are a few key moments when Max changes the rules. And here, we find that Vincent doesn’t like improvisation at all, where that improvisation results in his authority or control being contested. Further, a loss of such control doesn’t just annoy him, there’s brief moments each time where he seems almost at a loss, as if he can’t comprehend it.)

[Mega spoilers. Be warned.]

Central to the film is how both Vincent and Max see themselves: as individuals, as part of L.A, as inhabitants of the world, and as humans in the tide of humanity. Vincent makes his position explicit, as at several moments he gives short monologues on his views of life, the universe and everything. We’re all so insignificant, Vincent seems to suggest, that a few deaths here or there don’t matter. Questions like “who is this man” or “why are you killing him” are just irrelevant, and Vincent refuses to consider them simply because we’re all so random, so minor within the scope of time or space. Their deaths will be so insignificant to the world, Vincent argues, so why feel guilt, remorse or responsibility?

Max’s views are not as explicit. When Vincent attacks L.A through his story about a dead man on the subway, Max simply responds with “I live here”: which indicates that he does feel personally challenged by Vincent’s opinions, but is not itself an answer to Vincent’s point. Vincent’s various stories, manifestos and insistence on the cheapness of human life initially meet with little or no rebuttal from Max. It’s not only the gun that’s pointed at his head, it seems that he can’t counter Vincent’s glib self-justifications, possibly because he hasn’t thought about the meaning / status of human interactions - he just lives here. But Max visits his sick mother in hospital every day, and has a personal relationship with the guy who sells him petrol. The simple moral way he acts and expects others to act indicates that he does approach the world with an opposing belief system. It just takes a little longer for Max to figure out how to actually say this: to speak up and assert his opposing ethics.

And this is probably the most compelling arc of the film. Max has moral absolutes in conflict with Vincent's view of the world, but he just won't/can't contradict Vincent and say them. He has dreams, he won’t live them. He has abilities to get out of his rut, he won’t use them . . . in one sense this film is about Max becoming engaged, connected, switched on about his life. As Max’s mother said, [paraphrasing] “it would take a gun at his head to make him do anything”. When she says this in the film it seems at first to just be funny – but it turns out to be true in another sense. It takes a gun at his head for Max to start, finally, doing.

I think this is a great film, but I can pinpoint my moment of greatest disappointment with it: the scene where the identity of the last target is revealed. I remember sinking down in my seat a little and thinking – oh, damn. The conclusion was still satisfying enough – especially the nice symmetry of the ending which somehow managed not to be trite or contrived. And if you must have a shootout showdown on a train (which is frankly, way overused), at least in the hands of a director this good it will still be effective enough to end the film well.

But from the point we saw that photo, I immediately felt the film had shifted gears into being just that touch more Hollywood. Up til that moment, I was living with the horrible certainty that at the end of the film, no matter how much I’d like to convince myself otherwise (like that scene in the jazz bar), Vincent will kill Max. The shift of the film back to Annie meant that I knew Max was going to live; and changed the film into more of a hero quest rather than a dark exploration of human nature.

Still as Jase pointed out to me in our long discussion after our session of the film, coincidence and fate does play a huge part in this film. Vincent nearly doesn’t get into Max’s cab at all. The entire interaction of the two lead characters is based on chance – that Vincent would choose this cab. It’s sort of chaos theory writ large, consequences and reactions stemming from random events. Making the final target not incredibly unrealistic, but just a further intersection of chance / luck / fate. And just like the result of the flurry of bullets traded at the end of the film.

Anyway. With a changed ending, this film could have been genius. As it is, it's merely very very good and still the best action / thriller since forever. Kudos to the Aussie screenwriter for writing so convincingly about L.A that I had to double check this morning that he was actually from Sydney.


* This interview, and the nuclear level of chemistry between Margaret and Jamie Foxx made me wish that someone would pitch a script where these two became a buddy team of sleuth / investigators out to solve crimes. I’d watch it.

**And this moment distracted me for almost the next ten minutes – because although the “you’re a fan of the classics” line indicates that you were meant to draw the above conclusions, the piece of music playing at this point of the film is a Groove Armada track off their recent Lovebox album. A song of 2003 can’t be meaningfully referred to as a “classic”. I wonder what happened here – did Mann originally intend to use another song? Was the soundtrack a last second switch? No idea, but damn this was distracting! (Note to Jason: before you ask, just because you made me paranoid, I looked up the Collateral soundtrack, and voila - track #3 is Groove Armada, Hands of Time. And of course, you would be on an aeroplane right now so that I can't gloat about being right.)


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

The ubiquitous Ben Stiller is fast becoming a tired brand. I loved Zoolander – unpredictable and uneven, but just the funniest weirdest comedy I’d seen in forever. Then, we had a whole stack of boring Ben Stiller comedies, none of which were actually funny. But now? We have Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. And just like that, my love for Mr Stiller is back.

As in Zoolander with its male models, there are many inherently funny things peopling the world of Dodgeball. Dodgeball the game is itself funny. Pirates are funny. Fitness freaks? Funny. Russian women with a unibrow? Funny. Instructional videos from the 50s? Funny. This film had me within the first minute or so, when Stiller's smarmy gym manager says in his promotional ad: "we turn Frankenstein into Franken-fine!"

But what this film does really well is that it both follows and subverts a formula. We have all seen this story so many times – a group of underdogs engage in a tournament to win against the bad guys. It’s the plot of pretty much every sporting film, ever. And Dodgeball uses this formula as its structure, whilst at the same time cracking jokes about how predictable it is. A not-too-spoilerish example: there’s a scene where Stiller’s evil gym owner is intimidating the team from Average Joe’s, with “you’ll never make it!” style threats. But whilst the scene is a standard, it plays hilariously just because Stiller’s character is so, so stupid that his “threats” have the audience in the aisles. There are similar twists on the pre-competition training scenes ("you can dodge a wrench? you can dodge a ball"), the locker room motivational speech, the schtick of commentators at matches, the “we can’t do it without you” eleventh hour moment, and a dozen more clichés than you can poke a stick at. Seriously, very funny.

And because the film follows such a fixed structure as its base, it doesn’t suffer from Zoolander’s problems with focus – this is a much more cohesive film than Zoolander, with less dead air and more purpose to its action. The comedy is still just as weird, but the writers never lose track of the ball, so to speak.

And it’s just funny, really laugh out loud, I-know-that-joke-was-lame-but-screw-it-that-was-hilarious kind of funny. On some level you’d have to be clinically dead not to enjoy this movie.

So Ben, you have regained my affection. I give it three months before you screw it up by starring in another “romantic” “comedy” with Drew Barrymore.


Monday, October 11, 2004

My Election Day

Liberal - an older guy, who was “friendly” to me in a “I’m trying to intimidate you” kind of way.
Lyn - (a.k.a "me") handing out Labor leaflets.
Green - young, sweet guy who looked frequently overwhelmed.
Socialist - Young socialist dude who seriously acting like it was his favourite day of the year.
Democrat - Weedy guy in an akubra hat. Didn’t talk to anyone. Looked depressed.
Crazy Man
Old Lady
Friend at Party
with special guest stars Tanya Plibersek, Mark Latham and Kerry O'Brien
and introducing: a baby


Liberal: So, are you a student? [the way he says it, this isn't a question].
Lyn: No. I’m a lawyer.
Liberal: Oh.
Lyn: [jokily] Yes, just one of the many highly educated Labor voters.
Liberal: . . . [Editorial note: I totally floored him here. It was glorious]
[five minutes later]
Liberal: Are you a Labor member?
Lyn: No, actually.
Liberal: Ah. A "true believer".
Lyn: [pause] Yeah. I guess I am.

Two old ladies rebuff my leaflets, take Liberal guy's stuff, and walk into the booth.
Liberal: [Aiming for funny, but kind of gloating] Well, I guess that’s two votes!
Lyn: Yeah. And you did so much to get those.
Liberal: . . . [Editorial note: Lyn - 2. Liberal guy - o]

Crazy Man: [to Green, yelling aggressively] No! I’m not taking your leaflet! I’ll vote for you when you fight bushfires!
Green: Huh?
Crazy Man: You heard me! When you fight bushfires! [walks into booth]
Green: [puzzled, a little freaked] When I fight bushfires? Did he mean, like me personally?
Liberal: Didn't he mean, like, the party policy? or . . .
Lyn: Don't worry about it. He was crazy.
Green: Yeah?
Socialist, Lyn, Liberal: [insert various reassuring forms of "totally dude".]
Green: [relief] oh, man. That was kinda scary.
Socialist: Heh. Fight bushfires, everyone!

Liberal: Anyone got sunscreen?
Socialist: You should be fighting bushfires!
Lyn: My feet are sunburnt.
Socialist: Go fight bushfires!
Lyn: Isn't it time to retire that yet?
Socialist: No.

Old Lady: [walks up to Lyn] You have to win this election. You just have to.
Lyn: I know how you feel. After this much John Howard, I think some of us are at breaking point . . .
Old Lady: [takes my hand] But I remember. We used to be compassionate in this country. We used to care about people, not being so greedy. And now, none of those things matter. Australia has changed so much, and I’m starting to feel like we can’t ever change it back.
Lyn: [searching for words] Well . . . it’s important to keep hold of ideals. And to remember our aspirations for our country. And . . . we can beat him, if not today, then next time around.
Old Lady: [almost crying] Well. Good luck to you today.
Lyn: [almost crying] Yeah.

Lyn: Labor? Voting Labor today? Hi, would you like some information about Labor?
Lyn is approached by very familiar looking woman.
Lyn: [looks at woman] [looks at Labor how to vote info with candidate information] [looks at woman] Woah! I don’t think you’ll be needing one of these!
Tanya Plibersek: [laughs] Thanks so much for doing this today.
[insert short dialogue, during which Tanya says such gracious and lovely things, any attempt to script it would be doing her an injustice.]

Random poodle runs past Lyn.
Lyn: [thinks it looks like a conservative voter] [glares]

SCENE: ELECTION PARTY, evening, int.

Kerry O’Brien: [on TV] [Stating various statistics on crushing Labor defeat]
Lyn: I love you Kerry.
[Someone on the tally room floor holds their baby aloft behind Kerry so that it has a national television debut.]
Lyn: Aw, baby! And the baby holder. I love you, baby holder. That was cool.

[Partygoers are defacing a John Howard campaign poster. A rogue liberal supporter in attendance has written “three more years!” on Howard’s forehead. Lyn draws a small arrow and writes “fucking” between “more” and “years”. She then draws an arrow pointing at Howard’s chin, and writes “weak chin”; not because she feels this is particularly accurate, but because there was a big space down there which needed something snarky to fill it.]
Mark Latham: [concedes]
Lyn: [sigh] I’m going home.
Friend: But there’s still heaps of beer!
Lyn: [sigh] My heart just isn’t in it tonight.
Friend: [impressed pause] Wow. You must really care about your politics.
Lyn: Dude, I know. When Melbourne Bitter can’t ease your pain . . .

SCENE: BALMAIN, night, ext.

[Lyn is walking home, singing Billy Bragg under her breath. ]

"Jumble sales are organised and pamphlets have been posted
Even after closing time there’s still parties to be hosted
You can be active with the activists
Or sleep in with the sleepers
While you’re waiting for the great leap forwards . . ."

[Pan upwards to moon in a really quite pretty night sky. Fade to black. ]



Friday, October 08, 2004

Alien v Predator

The promotional tagline for this film is "whoever wins, we all lose". Heh. So true.

Like probably most of the "losers" who have seen this film, I feel ripped off, but in that relieved sense of "well, at least that's over with". Because I was always going to see it, so an upcoming dithering video rental moment is now neatly averted. I can walk past A v P straight onto Alligator! or the original Pirahna which I still haven't seen, or any of the other great bad horror films that can at least blame their crapness on their budget.

In most horror movies, there's a often really punchy moment when someone spells out the "why" or "how" or "who" of the monster - depending on which of these is the point of tension with the audience. In the first Alien film, this mostly a "who" kind of a thing - as the nature of the beast is gradually revealed, from the eggs, to the bursting out of the chest, to the sudden growth, the acid for blood, and then finally - when we see it towards the end for the first time. In Predator, I think it's more of a "why" moment - when we figure out that the predator of the title is essentially a bounty hunter collecting skins. Notice that in both these reveals, the suprising or horrific information is shown to the audience as we experience it along with the lead character.

And then we have AvP. Which has a "why" moment, in the sense of "why are aliens and predators both in this film at once?" This is answered in a beautiful moment midway through the film when a character stops in front of some “ancient" mural and exclaims “wait! I’ve read the hieroglyphics! This preposterous and laughably convoluted plot is all becoming clear to me now!” Exposition, complete with a hilarious flashback to ancient times, as we see the Babylonians, or the Sumerians, or whoever (this was never made particularly clear) getting chewed up in the first battle, as the guy voiceovers the story over the top.

And it's just wasted. Okay, not entirely wasted, because I certainly got a laugh out of it. But when will people learn? - you don't need to over explain things in horror, you don't need to come up with elaborate sets, and reasons, and age-old traditions, and conflicts from the dawn of time shit. This does not make something more scary, it just makes it more elaborate and more silly. And if you really have to go down this path, you have to find a better way for your audience to figure this out than just having "exposition guy" tell you the pertinent facts.

There wasn't a defining moment, no set-piece that people would take out of the theatre - just a whole run of action, where scenes blur into each other. There are no "quiet" scenes, no moments when you've got time to get scared. Everyone dies so fast, it's impossible to keep track of the body count. And there's no build up of tension either. The non-stop action approach means that around any corner these people run around, there's going to be an alien and/or predator - without fail. Pinning all the tension on which one it will be this time means that the film isn't that scary. (However, it does mean that the AvP drinking game will be a winner. Alien related death - do a shot! Predator related death - stand up and beat your chest Arnie style, and then do a shot! etc).

The thing that surprised me the most about this film is that it actually could have been good. Leaving aside the setting (several thousand feet below Antarctica), the obligatory tough chick (who does Everest climbs and has set-piece "I watched my father die in agony" story), the recycled concept of the "assembled crack team" a.k.a "cannon fodder" from Aliens, the cheesy shots of space ships moving around that looked straight out of Spaceballs (we brake for no one!) and blah, and whatever. You're left with a few core elements that could have been great - rats in a maze, realising that you're being manipulated, thinking you've figured out one villain and how to beat them, only to suddenly find that you're being hunted by another . . .

My verdict? It was watchable, but it sucked. Not as bad as Ghost Ship, not as cheesily good as Anaconda. Just in that sad, kind of earnest middle ground, where you're alternately impressed by some whizzo special effect, then depressed by how much money people are prepared to spend on films that they know are going to be shit.


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