Sunday, November 27, 2005
And the winner of the Best Film AFI is . . . Look Both Ways.
Which I'm pretty happy about, for reasons spelled out below. I think this was the only (sorta, kinda) surprise - all of the other awards went the same way as with the IF Awards, didn't they?
Anyway, what a great year of Oz films. It was a pleasure to vote this year, and a struggle to only pick four to number on my ballot. But a little shout out to all the films I saw:
The much lauded Look Both Ways, Little Fish and The Proposition - which I've discussed a bit below.
Lost Things: the poignant and scary horror film which has a special place in my heart, not least because I'm apparently the only person in Australia who has seen it.
Oyster Farmer: Kerry Armstrong shines, but that's just predictable. The script has issues, but there are moments which really work (the bath, the dock, and especially the taut scenes between the farmer and his estranged wife.)
Peaches: A film that in any other year would have waltzed into best picture contention. Had its flaws but also had charm and a visceralness to it . . . the texture of those peaches.
A Man's Gotta Do: One of those "comedies" that's trying a bit too hard. Dear John Howard (the actor), please stick to television.
Hating Alison Ashley: Saskia Burmeister rocks. If I was a 14 year old girl, I think I would have adored this film, and even so I still found it pretty loveable in its way. However, Delta Goodrem should stick to singing, or better yet, just go away.
Human Touch: Not recommended, not one of Paul Cox's better efforts. But some of the visuals are still with me months later. (One of the characters is an artist who builds a massive installation, an intricate structure made of long wire pipes strung up to represent a cave. The play of light and shadow, like sunlight shafting through from somewhere else. Awesome.)
The Extra: a charmless annoying effort by Jimoen. The only thing that made me sit up was a truly startling monologue by Shaun Micallef. (I miss you Shaun!)
You and Your Stupid Mate: David Stratton gave this zero stars saying that it indicated the dark places where the Australian film industry had reached. I laughed out loud within the first thirty seconds. Sure it wears thin, but thanks to Nathan Philips, this wasn't nearly the endurance effort I thought it was going to be. (cf: The Extra).
And my to rent list is pretty great:
Three Dollars (David Wenham! and I've even read the book already).
The Magician (This film is so my style).
The Illustrated Family Doctor (visually inspired by Jacques Tati's Playtime. I love that movie! Starring Jessica Napier - not so good)
The Bridegroom (part one of this "series" of films was the wonderful One Night the Moon.)
Wolf Creek. (grrr. argh.)
Dreams for Life (the only film I know nothing about, and hence, intriguing!)
And that's it for this year. I swear, the Australian Film Industry should pay me a retainer.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
The Australian film awards scene is on us (again) and the IF Awards were the first cab off the rank. The three most nominated films (as at the AFI Awards) were The Proposition, Look Both Ways, and Little Fish - with other assorted nods towards Oyster Farmer and Wolf Creek.
I have seen all of these except for Wolf Creek (because I'm a scaredy-cat. Okay, more because it sounds like a really unpleasant experience - I prefer my horror with zombies or giant snakes.) And yes, all the stories are true: it was a really strong year for Australian film. To me, it says a lot that other pretty good Australian films (Three Dollars, Peaches) which in other years would probably have been best film contenders, had to scrape for nominations in any category.
For the most part, I think the If Awards got it right, and are a good indicator of where the AFI Awards are likely to go:
- Little Fish was an evocative powerful film, but had an uneven script (the heist plot and the Sam Neill character were weak points). It won the lead male/female acting categories for its incredibly strong cast.
- Look Both Ways is probably the most satisfying film - I have the most affection for it, and it's my "most likely to see again" of the bunch. It's also the best film of the three as an entire "work" from beginning to end. This fact is reflected in its awards (direction, script, editing). I bet Justine Clarke only missed out to Cate Blanchett's lead actress award by a whisker. Trivia note: I bought the soundtrack, and it's excellent.
- The Proposition - the violence is overpowering - but it's also making a strong (and unmissable!) argument about the bloodshed of Australian history. It's also a film that no one has really made before in Australia - a really dark Western. Anyway, the awards here (best film, cinematography, music) capture that even though Look Both Ways was a whole film, and Little Fish was amazingly acted, this film just went further, in tone, in scope, and and in vision - it's the film most likely to be remembered of the three.
In other news, Green Bush which I loved at the Sydney Film festival, got best short again (yay!), continuing its incredible run. This screened on SBS a few months back - but you should keep an eye out for it if it resurfaces. Such a great little film.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Doom and The Chronicles of Riddick
Today I'm in a position to answer the big questions.
Q: Which is worse, Doom or Riddick?
A: Doom. No contest.
Q: Is Doom scary?
A: Not remotely.
Q: Come on. I thought the video game was pretty tense.
A: Yeah, it was pretty atmospheric. Pity the film missed this entirely. There's just lots of incredibly lame jargon about mapping the human genome which sounds like it was written by someone who skipped year nine biology to smoke pot in the toilets.
Q: But aren't there monsters galore in the game?
A: Yes. Which was, you know, the entire appeal of the game. Why the guys who made the film didn't figure this out is a complete mystery to me. For 95% of the film, there are no monsters - or if there are monsters, you don't get to see them (due to shadows, weird camera angles, etc). No one buys a ticket to Doom looking for Hitchock-style suggestion and building up of suspense. We want righteous onscreen carnage, god damn it.
Q: So what happens when you finally see the monsters?
A: That kind of explains why they hide them for so long. They're really lame.
Q: But how's the Rock?
A: He's okay, I guess.
Q: You sound non committal.
A: You know when you try on a pair of jeans, and they're not great, but you know, they're okay? And you think "well, buying jeans is a pain in the arse, and at least I'll have solved my jeans problem for this year, so I may as well get them." That's the kind of movie star the Rock is. Good enough for situations where you can't be bothered thinking of anyone else better.
Q: Harsh. Well, to move onto Riddick, what do you think of Vin Diesel?
A: He's a bit the male equivalent of Angelina Jolie to me - he's usually in crap films, but it's pretty much just sitting back and admiring that body in motion. And my god, those arms.
Q: Are Vin Diesel's arms merit enough on their own to justify an entire film?
A: Almost, friend. Almost. I mean, holy crap, they're pretty good arms.
Q: So how was Riddick?
A: It was alright as entertainment, but disappointing in that it could have been great. There's a great middle section involving a prison break, and a dash across the surface of a deadly hot plaent. That was fantastic - if it was me, I would have made that the entire film. Instead, there's all this intergalatic war shit going on which is somehow both overexplained and underexplained at the same time. Characters are all sci-fi politics 101 "here's how it is" setting up the origin of the bad guys, but there's too much meaningless detail, and no one takes the time to make the audience care.
Q: Alternately, do you think it's possible that it was all explained pretty well, but you just didn't notice because of the magnetic power of Vin's arms?
A: Uh, yeah. That's maybe possible. Did I mention, good arms?
Q: Isn't Oscar nominated Dame Judi Dench in Riddick?
A: Yes. She must have needed an extension on her house.