Monday, September 15, 2008

The Trouble with Baz

//Be forewarned, this entry is a bit of a rant. Only fans of Baz Luhrmann and those anticipating Australia should bother reading and nod their head accordingly\\

For whatever reason, Baz Luhrmann's Australia is copping a bit of flak, don't you think? Whether it's from people here in Australia who think - gosh - it's downright embarrassing to have a movie with the audacity to call itself Australia that is - gosh - appealing to a GLOBAL audience and not just an audience of about 12 people who scoff at the thought of film being anything other than a way to tell dreary tales of woe. This is the oddest thing of all, considering so many people routinely complain that we don't make movies that appeal to wider audiences. That this is a movie that has struck the media's interest is also, apparently, reason for venom. Because if there's one thing our industry doesn't need is to actually get people excited about an Australian movie. No siree! No way!

And then there are people who seem to have a grudge against it because it's - gosh - a BIG movie (or, "epic" if you wanna go there) that is daring to be different in a time when it's cool to be quirky, dark, violent and small and things like grandeur and romance are ripe for scorn. Because that's what cinema is all about, doncha know - copying and regurgitating whatever is cool to the point of nausea.

And then there are those who think the trailer is a "spoof" of the films it is trying to homage and who think it'll be a disaster because it happens to star Nicole Kidman and is directed by a man who actually wants to make big beautiful movies that aren't the status quo. If it were Christopher Nolan serving this up then people wouldn't have a doubt in the world, but Luhrmann makes "fruity" movies with sequins and velvet curtains and that's just not cool. Not like those big manly men's pictures, isn't that right, Shane Danielsen (ugh). Just look at Martin Scorsese. His The Age of Innocence is amazing and one of his very best, yet it is routinely dismissed because it's got pretty dresses and there aren't any gangsters shooting people or yelling at one another with expletive-filled rants (as good as those movies are).

And don't even get me started on people who routinely say it will "flop", yet when it comes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (directed by another man's man director David Fincher) they routinely forget that that movie cost upwards of $170 million. As the Pet Shop Boys once opined, se a vida é.

So, it was with glee that I continue to await Luhrmann's film. I don't care what the naysayers have to say. I read articles like this one at Times Online with unparalleled happiness.

“There’s a crushing ambition behind the film,” Luhrmann says. “We don’t make things very often, and when we do, we try to make something that isn’t always out there, a meal that maybe isn’t being served every day. Some of my favourite films are sushi, rarefied treats, but this sort of event cinema is like a Sunday meal — it’s got a starter and a main course and a dessert. It’s high comedy, high tragedy, tears, laughter, costumes. Everything big. Big actors. Big landscape.”

Isn't that last part what many people said about The Dark Knight, too? But that was a dark and violent superhero movie so I guess it's alright. :/

//We now return to regular programming\\


Middle-P said...

i am hoping i like it. i am just really scared/wary of epic films, because they so often flop, and by setting my expectations on the flop level instead of too high, i can be pleasently suprised...

Paul Martin said...

I think it's inevitable that I'll see it, even though I have low expectations of it. Why? Well, in spite of liking Strictly Ballroom a lot and loving Romeo & Juliet, I was underwhelmed by Moulin Rouge. On face value, there's much for me not to like about Australia: I generally don't like epics as a genre (think The English Patient), which seem to be crafted to win awards. I generally don't like melodrama and I generally don't like blockbusters. Australia looks like it's trying to be all three.

But I'm talking about my taste. My taste is not really mainstream. This film should appeal to the masses who do like all of the above and I sincerely hope the film does well, whether I like it or not. Just like All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane; not my thing but it's well-made and deserves to do well with the target audience.

syms....via iPhone said...

Tall poppy syndrome mixed with cultural cringe is what we're seeing here with the criticism. And Australians have this sort of thing down to an art. Unless you're saying the criticism is coming from outside Australia as I can only feel it seething within

Glenn said...

It's a bit of both, Syms.

Anil Usumezbas said...

I'm sorry glenn but I also have very low expectations because I think Australia will turn out to be ordinary and nothing more.

If the film proves me wrong, great. If not, forget after seeing.

Paul Martin said...

At least Baz is trying something different. I get the impression that this is a sincere attempt at boosting and popularising the Australian film industry. He has a proven track record and could no doubt put his hand to many other projects but is doing something on home soil, even if it's with partial foreign funding (but so what?).

Among other things, what Australian cinema needs is diversity and this film should provide something we haven't seen before.

Glenn said...

Exactly, which is part of what I just don't understand about people who seem to care about our industry. Sure, it's got foreign funding (as well as local) but what Australian funding body is going to give anyone $100mil? In order to have an industry that is diverse we need to suck up the pride and just admit that we can't build an industry without these sort of movies. I'm sure if it weren't for Baz' success with Strictly Ballroom that we wouldn't have seen half the interest in our films that we did for a while there and I'm sure all the profits he has made the industry have gone towards something far more "highbrow" or "arthouse".

To make smaller films, you need big films. And why not support them instead of just chiding them. It's something I'll never understand.

At least you get it, Paul. Plenty of others don't.

Anonymous said...

I've been excited about this since it was first announced. What could be better than a huge, glorious film set in Australia?

The box office figures seem to prove that most australians have little interest in seeing those small australian movies but are prepared to turn out in large numbers for the latest american blockbuster. So why not a big australian film made with american money?

The formula has worked well in the UK where Bond, Harry Potter and many others have been funded by the Hollywood studios and yet retain an essential britishness. They also attract a huge british audience.

Renee said...

Sorry to say, but everything I've seen so far on this movie, it all seems very cliche. Neither one of the trailers did anything for me. I'm actually reminded me very much of Pearl Harbor.