Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy-Go-Hawkins

Okay, here's a fact about me. I pretty much dislike a good 90% of the people I ever meet. I just my a niggling need within my brain to point out a person's flaws quietly to myself as they very quickly ware out their welcome in my life. I don't have the patience to deal with socially inept, rude, inconsiderate and just-plain-awful people. I deal with them too much that I have stopped caring. I figure if someone can't put a smile on their face for a brief 30 seconds and a polite tone-of-voice while they ask a stranger to help them, well, I shouldn't have to treat you with any more respect.

And then there are people like Poppy Cross in Mike Leigh's Happy-go-Lucky. She seems to be an even more maddening beast of character, the type of which I would recoil from - it's like the opposite of what I typed above. Instead of being way too grumpy or angry she is way too happy and lively. How can anybody be like that with a complete stranger? A simple smile and nice calm demeanor is enough for me to not want to punch you in the throat.


And yet... and yet... I thought Sally Hawkins' performance as the unfatiguable (my spell check tells me that is not a real word, well bah to them) Poppy is so good that the viewer swings wildly between love and hate during the entire movie and, frequently, during individual scenes. I, personally, wouldn't want Poppy as a friend, but that Hawkins could exude the correct mix of daftness and charm is a testament to all that Oscar buzz that has been lingering since her win at Berlinale earlier this year. She doesn't have any B-I-G moments like Brenda Blethyn's Oscar-nominated turn in Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies, yet it's far more of an exterior performance than Imelda Staunton's Oscar-nominated Vera Drake.

She has moments of hilarious overtness such as when she hangs around with her friends (a large portion of the film as a matter of fact) or a trip to a chiropractor and then there are times when it appears her mask - if you think she wears one - is about to slip such as a fight with her driving instructor (played by Eddie Marsan) on the side of a road. And yet it doesn't. It would have been easy to have a breakdown sequence - a midway plot diversion into domestic violence territory threatens it - but she doesn't and I am thankful to Leigh and Hawkins that they avoid it. And even when, at times, you can't imagine anybody wanting to spend more than five minutes with this batty loon they throw in a romantic development that is endearing and rather lovely.


The film, structureless as it is, is a breeze to sit through. It's two-hour run time simply glides by and I found myself not caring how long it went for. Happy-Go-Lucky is a treat and, as cliched as it may sound, a breath of fresh air in the British film stakes, which - from my perspective anyway - have been far from sunny (in terms of subject matter, not quality). Here's hoping those Oscar voters see through the teary breakdowns and dreariness that is so often in line with what performances are deemed as important enough to nominate and that Hawkins can shine through. B+

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 30/10/08

Centre Stage: Turn it Up - Perhaps the only country in the world where this sequel will got theatrical is Australia. The original was a huge hit and I guess they thought "why not?" when even stuff like Make it Happen can make a cool few million at the box office. And now instead of the ballet of the the original, they've decided to make this movie about hip-hop dancing. Ugh. So there goes any chance of this being "unique" in any way shape or form, right?

Choke - What's Joel Grey doing here?

Death Race - Starring Jason Statham and, naturally, Joan Allen, this remake of Death Race 2000 is sorta crap but also sort of silly fun. Meh. I don't remember much of it, but I remember not hating it with every fibre of my being, so that's a plus!

RocknRolla - Did anybody else experience the trailer for this movie at a cinema? I did and I didn't understand a single second of it. Directed by Guy Ritchie, starring Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton, Tom Wilkinson and Toby Kebbell who was impressive last year in the Ian Curtis biopic Control.

Spirit of the Marathon - Documentary following the participants of the Chicago Marathon.

DVD Releases for the Week 30/10/08

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - I don't quite understand the level of vitriol that this movie has elicited from people. As South Park recently joked, this movie (and anyone in it for that matter) did not rape your childhood. Idiots.

er... that's it.

TV Screenings for the Week 30/10/08

31/10/08, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), C10, 8.30PM - Why are you watching this on TV? WHY?!

01/11/08, Freaky Friday (2003), C7, 6.30PM - My friends didn't believe me when I told them this Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan body swap comedy was actually good. Then we watched it on DVD and they were shocked. The point of this story: I am always right.

01/11/08, Spider-Man 2 (2004), C9, 7.30PM - Still the best superhero/comic book movie. Yes, not The Dark Knight, ya hear?!

01/11/08, The Interpreter (2004), C10, 8.30PM - Not quite sure what this movie did to make so many people hate it so much, but this Sydney Pollack-directed politico-thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn is actually quite good. The bus sequence, especially, is a great moment that recalls Hitchcock's Sabotage.

03/11/08, Stage Door (1937), ABC1, 1.10AM - Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers film that was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Andrea Leeds) and Best Writing (Screenplay).

03/11/08, Sylvia (2003), 7HD, 1.00PM - Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig "before he was a star!" as they say in a movie about Sylvia Plath.

03/11/08, Swing High, Swing Low (1937), C31, 10.00AM - Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray.

That Madonna Thing

I would mention this, but I don't think I will believe Madonna is touring until she is on Australian soil walking onto a big brightly-coloured stage, okay?! Not even releasing tickets (which I soooo hope to get btw, duh!) will suffice because plenty of artists have reneged even after tickets going on sale.

So, yes, I remain hopeful that we will get to see her show - although this idea of a "pared back" concert is a load of bull - but... I remain pessimistic. Madonna has a knack of doing that to Australian fans.

AFI Award Nominations Announced: Three Blind Mice Snubbed Harder Than George W Bush at MENSA

This just in: Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger is a three-time AFI Award-nominee and Three Blind Mice is not. The at times mindbogglingly awful film that features a montage dedicated to making fairy bread got nominations and Matthew Newton's sincere, honest, funny and touching portrayal of men lost in the urban wilderness did not. No, really! I am being entirely serious here. I know it sounds like a brutal practical joke that the best Aussie film of the year (well, at least, the best within the eligibility period, ahem) received nada, along with the also excellent Men's Group, when some of the worst - I'm looking at you too The Tender Hook - got given spots on at least three categories each. Oy... let's look closer.

BEST FILM
The Black Balloon
The Jammed
The Square
Unfinished Sky

The nominations for Balloon, Jammed and Unfinished Sky aren't surprising considering they're the only three Aussie films in the past year to gain a considerably box office following, but give a little clap for The Square. After brutally dying an instantaneous death at the box office and not even managing much of anything at the IF Awards, it bounces back here. Well done to the Edgerton boys for finally getting a bit of luck.

BEST DIRECTION
Elissa Down, The Black Balloon
Dee McLachlan, The Jammed
Nash Edgerton, The Square
Peter Duncan, Unfinished Sky

4/4 with Best Film.

BEST LEAD ACTOR
Rhys Wakefield, The Black Balloon
Guy Pearce, Death Defying Acts
David Roberts, The Square
William McInnes, Unfinished Sky

This is surely McInnes' to lose, but I'd like to mention that Guy Pearce is terrible in Death Defying Acts. His awkward fluctuating accent being the worst of his misdeeds. Surely Matthew Newton (Three Blind Mice), Clarence John Ryan (September) or even Jason Gann (Rats and Cats) would have been better choices. No "surely" about it, actually, they flat out would have been better choices. Yikes.

BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Noni Hazlehurst, Bitter & Twisted
Emma Lung, The Jammed
Veronica Sywak, The Jammed
Monic Hendrickx, Unfinished Sky

I really expected the luminous Gemma Ward to get nominated for The Black Balloon. Especially instead of Emma Lung, of who I am a big fan but this year was very strong for the Aussie ladies. The other big miss was, of course, the stunning Gracie Otto, the best performance I saw in any of the AFI contenders

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Luke Ford, The Black Balloon
Erik Thomson, The Black Balloon
Joel Edgerton, The Square
Anthony Hayes, The Square

If Anthony Hayes is the supporting actor in anything it appears the AFI will nominate him. Christ, give it a break! Where are the actors of Men's Group (particularly Steve Le Marquand)? I'm genuinely quite surprised none of them got nominated.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Leeanna Walsman, Bitter & Twisted
Toni Collette, The Black Balloon
Meave Dermody, Black Water
Saskia Burmeister, The Jammed

The only major complaint I have about his category (again, the women were very fine this year) is that Maeve Dermody is obviously the lead in the ace killer croc flick Black Water. Nevertheless, if it takes category fraud to get her noticed then so be it, I suppose. She truly was great.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Elissa Down & Jimmy The Exploder, The Black Balloon
Cathy Randall, Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
Dee McLachlan, The Jammed
Joel Edgerton & Matthew Dabner, The Square

No, seriously! Esther Blueburger over:
Three Blind Mice
Men's Group
Bitter & Twisted
September
The Independent
Rats and Cats
Hell, even Cactus!
The film should've been ruled eneligible due to that torturous Lue-Burger-B (or whatever the fuck it was) scene being included TWICE! Ugh. Rancid. If Cathy Randall is reading this (and considering the amount of times her name has come up here is a good bet it'll show up on google) I hope she's keenly aware that her screenplay was a big ol' load of tosh.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Stephen Vagg, All My Friends are Leaving Brisbane
Peter Duncan, Unfinished Sky

Aww. What a poor slightly pathetic category. It's like when Frida and The freakin' Time Machine were the only movies nominated for the Best Make-Up category at the Oscars in 2003.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Denson Baker ACS, The Black Balloon
Haris Zambarloukos BSC, Death Defying Acts
Geoffrey Simpson ACS, The Tender Hook
Robert Humphreys ACS, Unfinished Sky

Did they not watch September?

BEST EDITING
Veronika Jenet ASE, The Black Balloon
Rodrigo Balart, Black Water
Dee McLachlan & Annne Carter, The Jammed
Suresh Ayyar ASE, Unfinished Sky

I'm surprised the AFI professional voters actually gave Black Water one nomination, let alone two. This editing citation for Balart is very good news indeed.

BEST SOUND
Ben Osmo & Paul Pirola, The Black Balloon
Liam Egan, Tony Murtagh, Phil Judd MPSE & Des Kenneally, Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
Liam Egan, Tony Murtagh, Phil Judd MPSE & Gary Wilkins, The Tender Hook
Andrew Plain, Annie Breslin & Will Ward, Unfinished Sky

I can only imagine that these Egan, Murtagh and Judd people have friends in the voting field considering their work was so completely unspectacular on one (that'd be Blueburger) and completely woeful on another (The Tender Hook, which couldn't even make a boxing match sound atmospheric).

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Michael Yezerski, The Black Balloon
François Tétaz & Ben Lee, The Square
Chris Abrahams, The Tender Hook
Antony Partos, Unfinished Sky

If I'm remembering correctly, the music in The Tender Hook was by far one of the film's only good (and not merely half-arsed or outright terrible - boy, have my opinions on that film swung incredibly toward the negative) aspects so I won't quibble, but Roger Mason's work on September was stunning so WHERE IS IT?!

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Steven Jones-Evans, Children of the Silk Road
Gemma Jackson, Death Defying Acts
Peter Baxter, The Tender Hook
Laurie Faen, Unfinished Sky

I guess all you need to earn a nomination here is to be set in the past because that is surely the only reason The Tender Hook got a nomination here for it's wildly inventive (that was sarcasm) use of empty factories and the wonderfully original (read: not at all) way they just didn't use lighting because, well, there was nothing to light up. I actually though Jones-Evans' work was that film's finest achievement.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Wenyan Gao & Kym Barrett, Children of the Silk Road
Susannah Buxton, Death Defying Acts
Shareen Beringer, Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
Cappi Ireland, The Tender Hook

I was surprised they didn't give Gabriel (a movie defined by the words "complete and utter shite") a token nod here for it's sci-fi-horror-fantasy garb over the school uniforms and mutton-dressed-as-lamb outfits of Esther Blueburger.

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR
Eric Bana, The Other Boleyn Girl
Russell Crowe, American Gangster
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Jack Thompson, Leatherheads

If Heath Ledger loses this I will EAT A HAT! This category (and it's female equivalent, below) is a strange one, no? Surely there were more impressive turns than Eric Bana and Jack Thompson?

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Judy Davis, The Starter Wife
Rachel Griffiths, Brothers & Sisters
Nicole Kidman, The Golden Compass

I love that they nominated Kidman for The Golden Compass, although I thought she was astounding in Margot at the Wedding. I'd also like to know why they nominated Blanchett for her tired Elizabeth sequel and not for I'm Not There.

YOUNG ACTOR AWARD
Danielle Catanzariti, Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger
Tom Green, The Ground Beneath
Saoirse Ronan, Death Defying Acts
Clarence John Ryan, September

The only nomination for September comes here. How sad. And, really, once you've gotten an Academy Award nominations (such as Ronan) I think you should, perhaps, not be eligible for what are essentially "breakthrough" awards, no?

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Death Defying Acts
Double the Fist (TV)
Gabriel
H20: Just Add Water (TV)

And here are a selection of the TV awards:

BEST DRAMA SERIES
City Homicide
Rush
Satisfaction
Underbelly

Well, this is going to Underbelly, right? Even if all Victorian voters haven't seen it... right? :P

BEST COMEDY SERIES
Chandon Pictures
Hollowmen
The Librarians
Summer Heights High

Normally I'd say anything by Working Dog is the winner by default (Hollowmen) but, well, it's up against Summer Heights High and how can they ignore the genius that is Chris Lilley again? It deserves to win for, if nothing else, the moment when Lilley's Mr G character states in a classroom roleplaying game "Thank god you're here, Grandma's been raped!"

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A COMEDY SERIES
Rob Carlton, Chandon Pictures
Rob Sitch, Hollowmen
Robyn Butler, The Librarians
Chris Lilley, Summer Heights High

Again, I'd normally be trumpeting the work of Robyn Butler here, but Chris Lilley folks. That was a performance for the ages.

The rest of the TV nominations can be found at the official AFI website.

My internet is playing up so I can't upload pictures at the moment

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Regular Programming Will Return Soon


Despite watching two movies yesterday - neither of which were particularly good - I had no desite to actually write about them or any movies in general. As you can tell by yesterday's barage of musical goodies (and then some more!) I had other things on my mind. However, worry not you movie loving folk because I will soon enough be back on your wavelength again. I really want to write some movie reviews, but I'm not watching anything lately that's begging for that treatment so you'll have to wait for something like that.

So, yes, hold on tight folks. We're getting to "that time" of the year that every movie obsessive both loves ("So many must-see movies!") and hates ("So many must-see movies!") and I'm sure there'll be plenty to write about in no time.

Girls Aloud By the Numbers

Because this is all anybody really cares about anymore, isn't it?

Confirmation Aloud

WOW!

I am here to confirm that, yes, Girls Aloud's Out of Control is phenomenal. I know a lot of people who read Stale Popcorn (particularly non Europeans) may just think whenever I talk about Girls Aloud I'm acting like a crazed loon and that these gals are nothing more than a throwaway pop outfit (because, oh I dunno, they're not male and don't play guitars and sing songs about "important" things), but to listen to an album like Out of Control is truly a transcendental experience. It is a euphoric, life-affirming, world-stops-turning moment. It is the sort of album that demands - nay, DESERVES - to be given the same sort of respect that is automatically given to whatever Bob Dylan throws out (you can insert any other Clint Eastwood-of-music type in there). I almost can't fathom how truly astounding this epic of an album is.

Out of Control will change your life.

Out of Control is a classic.

Out of Control is a masterpiece.

I'm rambling and can't quite think straight. I need to sleep and collect my thoughts a bit more coherently in the morning. A proper full review is obviously forthcoming, but needless to say it's an A+ experience. Truly stunning in every sense of the word.

WOW!

(She) Bop Girl

Aah, Australia in the '80s. You certainly can't mistake this as being from any other country can you? It's actually quite interesting how you can instantly tell something from the 1980s and whether it specifically came from America, the UK or Australia. These days a lot of it all looks alike and seems so indistinguishable, don't you reckon?

This is "Bop Girl" by Pat Wilson, a #2 hit from 1983. The song is written by her husband Ross Wilson (of Daddy Cool fame) and the clip was directed by none other than Gillian Armstrong. And, yes, that is who you think it is (however brief).

OMG THIS JUST IN!!!!!!

In shocking new developments (read: not very, but it's still pleasantly surprising nonetheless) the new single by Lily Allen, from her forthcoming album It's Not Me, It's You - I prefered Stuck on the Naughty Step, personally - is flat out BRILLIANT. Like, crazy amazing brilliant. Better than "LDN" - almost perhaps probably. That chorus is out of this world. If more songs used repetitive piano chords and electro beats in songs then there would be more amazing songs in the world, don't you agree?

Really, it's a stunner. Guess we have another album of the year contender (edit: turns out the album isn't out until 2009, so 'til then...) on our hands. Oh, the song is called "Everyone's At It" and it's about taking drugs (but now in the way you think). Amazing.

Do the Jane Fonda

For those who are addicted to the execrable "Jane Fonda" by Mickey Avalon (which, it must be said, is about threesomes) I would like to point them in the direction of 1982 when Fonda herself released an album. No, it wasn't Fonda singing - although wouldn't that be a hoot? "War What Is It Good For" perhaps?) but is instead Jane Fonda's Workout Record!


Yes, yes, Jane Fonda's Workout Record, where each track is a workout song for a designated part of the body. Warm up to The Jackson Five's "Can You Feel It", work those arms to REO Speedwagon's "In Your Letter" and tighten up the buttocks to Jimmy Buffett's "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Altitudes" (how apt). Billy Ocean's "Night (Feel Like Going Down)" is what you need to get those legs and hips into shape, while Linda Clifford's disco stormer "Bridge Over Troubled Water" will those abdominal muscles into a sexy six-pack all before cooling down to the sounds of "Harbor Lights" by Boz Scaggs, naturally.

[src]. And you can click here to listen to Bob Sinclar's "Gym Tonic" which even samples Jane Fonda's workout routine dialogue.

"The whole philosophy behind this album is a holistic approach to physical and mental well-being. From the up-tempo 'Stomp' by the Brothers Johnson, to Boz Scaggs' soothing 'Harbor Lights', there's much music here to provide a variety of dance and exercise experiences to fill not only physical, but also emotional needs.
The music forms the basis for a series of carefully structured exercises (from beginner thru advanced) which utilize each part of your body in specific sequence.
Whether you're 15 or 50, with the help of this album and a little hard work, you can achieve a well-proportioned healthy body - not to mention the outward glow that comes from feeling good inside.
So be in harmony with your age. Learn to understand and respect your body. It's your temple. And remember, discipline is liberation!"



Buttocks tight!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Australia - One Month To Go


In 31 days I will be sitting in a dark cinema experiencing the wonders of Baz Luhrmann's Australia. Well, if it's ready in time. Come on Baz, I know you can do it!

Poster of the Day: Trafic


Trafic (1971)
dir. Jacques Tati

Sorry for being a bit out of sorts these last few days. I've just been really tired and busy and not particularly enthused enough to spend much time blogging. I hope to be out of this mood later today though. Yoko Ono will get me through.

I Can't Imagine

Anybody who can't feel compassion for someone like Jennifer Hudson - celebrity or not - at a time like now is clearly a terrible person. Such a personal tragedy that I can't even begin to try and imagine. Respects to Jennifer and the rest of her family. I just wanted to throw this out there 'cause... well... it kinda makes you grateful, ya know?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Slumdog Gorgeous

Quite a lovely use of colour, no? Perhaps the best since all those posters for Wong Kar-Wai's My Blueberry nights. Doesn't exactly strike me as the image to sell an Oscar movie though. Although, perhaps that's the idea precisely.

This Week in "Oh Steven Soderbergh, Why You So Craaazay?!?"

Steven Soderbergh. Where would we be without him? The cinema is an exciting place because of him, don't you think? Not content to make only Oscar-baiting (and very good, it must be said) movies like Erin Brockovich, Traffic and the 2009 release The Informant, plus crowd-pleasers like the Ocean's franchise, he also likes to dabble in a bit of experimentation. Bubble was a fascinating, but flawed, little movie, The Good German was immaculate but a bit empty and his upcoming four-hour Che Guevara biopic, Che is a feat in itself.

Never one to rest on his laurels, it has been announced that his project will be... well... just read it for yourself.

Steven Soderbergh fresh off of shooting CHE, is not wasting any time in casting Hugh Jackman and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a live action, musical of CLEOPATRA in 3D.

Oh yes, you read correctly. CLEOPATRA! 3D! MUSICAL! HUGH JACKMAN AND CATHERINE ZETA-JONES! WTF?!

I seriously can't quite comprehend what the hell is going on in Steven Soderbergh's mind when he thinks up stuff like this. And then to have the music be written by Guided by Voices? That's even stranger. I was thinking it would be better to go with something a bit more edgy. For example, can you imagine a 3D "Cleopatra" music with music by MGMT? Or, and I've thought this ever since listening to Fiona Apple's original Extraordinary Machine album, Jon Brion needs to write a musical pronto. Although, perhaps, one based around Cleopatra mightn't be the right one.

Also, Hugh Jackman's pecs in 3D. I know that's entirely superficial of me, but whatevs.

Nevertheless, isn't this news just utterly bonkers? Before he films this movie though he's making a tiny-budgeted (like Bubble) movie starring porn star Sasha Grey. Let's just be thankful that Che didn't ruin his career like so many people thought it would. It shall be an interesting few years in the career of Steven Soderbergh, don't you agree?

In other 3D news, courtesy of My New Plaid Pants here is the extra-extra-cheese poster for My Bloody Valentine 3D. Other 3D horror flicks coming up soon are Final Destination 3D and Piranha 3D. Amazing.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Being Ray Lawrence

Ray Lawrence is one of my favourite directors. He doesn't make many movies - only Bliss (1985), Lantana (2001) and Jindabyne (2006) make up his resume - but when he does it's always a corker. I need to rewatch Bliss as it's been far too long since I saw it on the tele, but Lantana is, justifiably, routinely labeled the finest Australian film ever, while Jindabyne was my #1 film of 2006. Hell, Lantana would've been my #1 of 2001 if it hadn't have been the strongest year of the decade.

So, naturally, I shot right up in my seat when I read Inside Film's list of October funding grants and saw sitting pretty at the top was a title called Being Dead with it's director listed as none other than Ray Lawrence. I was even more excited to notice Beatrix Christian is returning to screenwriting duties after doing absolutely stunning work on the script for Jindabyne. Christian will be adapting a 1999 book by Jim Crace and is another case of a bunch of Aussies taking an international story (Crace is British) and adapting it to Australia after Jindabyne and last year's Unfinished Sky, which was Peter Duncan's acclaimed remake of the Dutch film The Polish Wedding. I always think this sort of thing is to be encouraged, so I'm glad some Australian filmmakers are actually doing it.

Being Dead is a poetic thriller. A married couple is savagely murdered; their bodies left to decay in the dunes. When their estranged daughter returns home to find them, she uncovers a dark secret history...

The film has only received a "letter of intent", which I believe implies that it'll be granted funding very soon (somebody like Syms can explain, perhaps), but hopefully this means we'll have another Ray Lawrence film on our screens before too long. Here's hoping we never have to go 16 years between drinks ever again!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 23/10/08

Brideshead Revisited - Cinematic retelling starring Emma Thompson.

Celebrity: Dominick Dunne - Australian documentary about the Vanity Fair writer who has lived a fascinating life. Sounds really great.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People - This movie, starring Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst and the chick from Transformers, seems to be getting a decent-sized marketing push here. Odd, considering it absolutely DIED at the American box office and when that happens a movie tends to go direct-to-DVD.

Monkey Puzzle - Australian drama about a group of bushwalkers lost in the Blue Mountains. It definitely sounded interesting when I read about it a few months ago, but David & Margaret's critique wasn't as encouraging.

Saw V - Surely this is a joke, right?

The Women - Meg Ryan, Vanessa Williams Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Mendez, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, Debi Mazer, Candice Bergan, Carrie Fisher, Cloris Leachman, Joanna Gleason, etc. Shame the movie is, apparently, such a dud.

DVD Releases for the Week 23/10/08

First Sunday - Apparently LL Cool J has been making these "Sunday" movies. I'm not sure if any of them ever got a release here.

Flawless - Demi Moore and Michael Caine. DEMI MOORE AND MICHAEL CAINE! There are so many things wrong with that sentence.

Happy-Go-Lucky - Mike Leigh's comedy starring Oscar-buzzed Sally Hawkins who I actually thought was also quite great in Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream earlier in the year. I guess she does lower-middle class really well!

The Incredible Hulk - No.

Shutter - Another American remake of an Asian horror flick. Stars Aussie Rachael Taylor and Joshua Jackson.

What Happens in Vegas - Should stay there and NEVER BE RELEASED.

TV Screenings for the Week 23/10/08

24/10/08, Bandits (2001), C7, 12.00PM - An actually funny comedy starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett.

24/10/08, United 93 (2006), C10, 8.30PM - Last week on Friday night we got Munich and this week it's United 93. What's wrong with these programmers? Seriously!

25/10/08, Bad Girls (1994), C7, 12.00AM - Because sometimes an idea sounds so bad it has to be seen to be believed. Andie Macdowell and Drew Barrymore IN A WESTERN?

25/10/08, Sleepers (1996), C10, 8.30PM - For a movie that stars Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Minnie Driver, Brad Renfro, Billy Crudup and Dustin Hoffman I never hear this movie mentioned. Ever.

25/10/08, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), ABC2, 10.30PM - Because it's one of the greatest movies ever made and you absolutely MUST see it. MUST!! Agnes Moorehead's performance truly is a thing of wonder.

25/10/08, Dawn of the Dead (2004), C10, 11.35PM - Still one of the best horror pics of the dead. And one of the best actions pics, too. I reckon this would sneak onto my Top 10 from 2004 if I really thought about it.

26/10/08, With Honors (1994), C9, 1.50AM - More to see where Madonna's amazing "I'll Remember" comes from than anything relating to wanting to see Patrick Dempsey with a dirty mo'.

27/10/08, Dirty Harry (1971), C9, 10.45PM - I've never seen any of the "Dirty Harry" movies. Is that wrong of me?

28/10/08, A Woman's Secret (1949), ABC1, 2.30 - The description in the guide sounds tantalising - "A former singer kills her protege" and stars Maureen O'Hara and directed by Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause). Oh, yes!

29/10/08, The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005), SBS, 12.05AM - All these Romanian films keep popping up on TV and then I forget to watch them. Ugh! I really want to try and see this one though as I've heard exemplary things about it.

29/10/08, The Quiet American (2002), 7HD, 1.00PM - Michael Caine received an Oscar nomination for this Phillip Noyce-directed war drama.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

13 Words to Strike Fear Into the Hearts of Man

From InContention:
Miramax Films has been holding back on “Doubt” considerably, part of the old-school mentality that you want to play up your hand like it’s a big secret before finally dropping it on the unsuspecting masses. The same can’t be said for “Revolutionary Road,” which has honestly been in the editing room waiting on Sam Mendes to come back to the film and finish it while he’s been multi-tasking other projects. Ditto “Australia,” which I even heard could be pushed to 2009 last week.

I... I... but... ummm... I... aaagh... I... NOTHISCANNOTHAPPENAAGH!!!!

Carry on.

Monday, October 20, 2008

MUFFy, not Buffy

Every time I see the Melbourne Underground Film Festival referred to by it's acronym MUFF I giggle to myself because it reminds me of that hilarious line from April Fool's Day, which as an aside has been remade?!? - "It's not Muffy! It's her twin sister Buffy!" Hilarity!

Nevermind that, that's just a weird case of getting sidetracked.

MUFF announced their award winners and I was pleased to read that brutal revenge tale The Horseman won the Best Australian Film award as well as the Best Director prize for Steven Kastrissios. The film, which is apparently to receive a theatrical release later this year or early in 2009, was the joint winner for Best Australian Film actually, sharing the honour with horror bullying flick Acolytes. I saw both of them at MIFF and I think anybody who reads this blog will know my stance on them (The Horseman review, Acolytes review).

What I found strange though was that Joel Edgerton won the Best Australian Actor award for his role as a serial killer in Acolytes, when he is a) a supporting actor in the film, and b) nowhere near as good as Peter Marshall in The Horseman. I had no problem with Edgerton - he's fine, but not exceptional - but Marshall's performance was dynamite and incredibly disturbing in it's intensity. How the film could win Film and Director honours and not acting is a bit strange. Alexandra Weaver won the Best Australian Actress prize for drug-runner drama The Run, while supporting honours went to Michael Piccirilli and Megan Palinkas for Devil's Gateway and No Through Road respectively. Grisly-looking horror flick The Gates of Hell won for Special Jury Prize and I have included the (American) trailer below. For all the ribbings Aussies give Americans about doing our accent poorly, I couldn't help but laugh at the TERRIBLE American accents the cast seem to be attempting there.

The rest of the winners can be found at IF.

"Why would he want to meet the same woman who once said 'If the city of Atlantis is lost, how can Bobby Vinton appear there twice a year?'"

Poster of the Day: The Shining


The Shining (1980)
dir. Stanley Kubrick

Movie Poster Addict occasionally throw us these specially-created posters and they are almost always something amazing. This newly designed key art for Kubrick's The Shining was produced for a special Alamo Drafthouse screening (whatever that is) by Jeff Kleinsmith. As MPA correctly mentions, posters made after the fact can work in much different ways to other posters. In this case we already know the story behind the movie and we know about the maze and that gives it a great quality. If this poster were used for the movie back in 1980 it would have still been quite nifty, but perhaps a bit confusing to audiences who weren't clued in to the property.

Still, this is quite a great design, isn't it?

Sweet Valley AMAZING!

I'd like to point you in the direction of this hilarious entry at The Outland Institute, which is all about Sweet Valley High. I'm sure many Australians of my generation will remember watching the TV series on Saturday morning alongside shows like Saved by the Bell (and Saved by the Bell: The New Class!), Clueless and others.


The link, however, is about the books and boy is it hilarious. Some of my favourite moments:

It appears that Sweet Valley High takes place in a world without cock.


On page 4 a body is found, drained of blood and with punctures in the neck. On page 116 Elizabeth thinks it might be a vampire! The girls aren’t exactly bright.


Being a cousin in the world of Sweet Valley High is a bit like wearing a red shirt in the original Star Trek, or being a friend of Jessica Fletcher – you really shouldn’t worry about making any long-term plans.


If only he didn’t eat people he’s probably end up running the Sweet Valley Cinemateque, or working on his one-man show about Kafka for the Sweet Valley Fringe Festival.


...and so on. AMAZING! If you are of a certain age and remember the books/series click on over and have a blast of a read, I know I sure did.


let's play!

"Coming Soon"

That appears to be the Weinstein's personal matra, doesn't it? Everything about them seems to be "coming soon". I checked out their official website today and thought I'd see what they had up about the new film by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot and The Hours) starring Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet and was, of course, greeted by this:


For a movie that is out in seven weeks and two days, the fact that they don't even have a trailer (or poster, for that matter) is both worrying and typical. Word on the Oscar blogosphere is that The Reader is far from being complete and that the Weinsteins are just being greedy and now that their partnership with MGM has come to an end I wonder how they are ever going to market this movie. They do realise, don't they, that in order to get people to see your film you must release a poster and a trailer and actually market it. Or are they taking cues from the Australian film industry? Oy....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

You, Too, Can Lick Toni Collette's Behind!


These are Australia's Favourite Films, according to the AFI internet survey. So, really, they're most likely not Australia's five favourites, but for the sake of argument we'll say that this is entirely comprehensive and binding.

The inclusion of titles like Gallipoli, Muriel's Wedding and The Castle aren't surprising in the least, but even I raised an eyebrow that the trannies and drag queens of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert made it in with their overtly queer sensibilities and sexual humour. Kudos to all the others who voted for it (I did, obviously). I was also a little bit surprised to see Ray Lawrence's Lantana in there. Not because it's not deserving - it most certainly is - but it's a very intellectual and highbrow film and, even though AFI voters obviously responded enough to it in 2001 to award it all the major awards at the ceremony, I thought it may have faded from the memory of audiences who prefer the comedies - which is why I thought Kenny would make it in, actually. These five films will be "immortalised" (hah) on a collection of stamps. Boy, Australians love their collectable stamps, don't they?

Anyway, it's a good lineup. Despite what people say about our industry (naturally, all Aussies) we have quite a good selection of bonafide classics that people respond to. It just begs the question - where are today's Muriel Weddings or Gallipolis, you know?

In other AFI news, it turns out that they haven't been able to secure Geoffrey Rush for a third year and so now hosting duties will fall to Stephen Curry. He won an AFI Award last year for his performance in Graham Kennedy biopic The King and gave a funny speech, so hopefully he's decent. He also starred in The Castle, so there's a nice parallel for you. I go back and forth on Curry though, don't you?

You Know You're Watch An Australian Music Awards Show When:

YOU KNOW YOU'RE WATCHING AN AUSTRALIAN MUSIC AWARD SHOW WHEN:
a) Two co-presenters make unscripted jokes about Spotlight,
b) Dance music actually gets treated with respect,
c) Chris Lilley gets a near-hero welcome,
d) The "hot new thing" sweeps the awards (and will surely be snubbed when they release their sophomore album),
e) Brian McFadden shows up and his actually-Australian actually-nominated girlfriend Delta Goodrem does not,
f) All of the above


I won some shit!

I routinely say that the ARIA Awards are, perhaps, the best produced award show going around in any country. The fact that Australia's music industry isn't as big as America's means they don't need all those repetitive and useless categories such as Best Pop Recording with Vocals by a Former Reality Show Contestant Featuring a Ubiquitous Rap by Somebody Who Has Never Actually Released an Album of Their Own (<-an aproximation of what the Grammys have become, for sure). Yet, because of this very limited pool of contenders it means that they don't need to pander to "respectability" and can, instead, nominate stuff like The Presets' epic "My People" for Single of the Year as opposed to some song nobody heard by some old has been musician. And the lack of said categories also means more performances and, let's face it, anybody actually watching a music awards show should be treated to some good performance, shouldn't they?


The performances are almost always impeccably done. Do we remember Miss Connie blowing the mothafuckin' roof off last year's ceremony during a Sneaky Sound System medley? or Gotye's electrifing performance and even the John Butler Trio going mano-e-mano with Karl Urban? This year didn't disappoint, either. Sam Sparro more a freakin' CAPE (yes, folks, A CAPE!, unfortunately I did not get a picture of that), Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu got the prerequisite "not a dry eye in the house" spot and did it perfectly, The Veronicas continue to improve and are well one their way to being one of the best pop act IN THE WORLD (no joke), Pink proved she already is one of them and Faker were energetic and so on. Performance of the night probably belongs to The Presets who rocked out (with their cocks out) with "My People". It probably helps that "My People" is one of the greatest songs in many a year, but it was a kick to see Julian Hamilton dressed like Grandmaster Melle Mel-goes-to-Mardi Gras. I do wish though Gabriella Cilmi had have sung "Don't Wanna Go To Be Now" instead of the lethargic "Sweet About Me".


Plus, it helps that Australians actually like Australian music - something that differentiates the Aussie music and Aussie film industries, natch - and that the industry is open to more mainstream and popular choices - again, something that differentiates the Aussie music and Aussie film industries. And since Rove McManus' production company took over, the sets and selection of hosts have routinely been applause worthy. I know Hamish & Andy aren't everybody's bag, but you can't deny they do a better job than David Campbell did many years ago, surely the awards show's nadir. One of the best things about the show is that by the end of the night there is legitimate excitement about who will win the Album of the Year award (the big prize of the night). It helps that the fans who make up the moshpit give the night a sense of true excitement. By the time Rove and Pink walked out the crowds were going mental and it is something that is missing from every other awards show I watch (including the MTV Awards, which, by the end, have worn people out).


This year's winners were, more or less, to be expected. Gabriella Cilmi, as much as I quite liked her Lessons to be Learned album, will surely join the ranks of Delta Goodrem, Jet, Missy Higgins (somewhat) and many others who struck multiple-ARIA gold with their debut record and then snubbed despite their subsequent work being better. Single of the Year is a stretch for "Sweet About Me", but when the ARIAs like you, they really like you. Gurrumul's win for Best Independent Release was probably the highlight of the night. Just so wonderful to see him up there and was nice to see the younger fans in the pit responding to him and his performance. Would have been nicer to see him win Album of the Year, too, but The Presets' win in that very category was akin to Kylie Minogue winning the Single of the Year for "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" a few years back: Validation. Something that I can never imagine the Grammys doing, that's for sure. The voters could have very easily given these prizes to yet another pub rock musician, but that they didn't is something special (but Cilmi overload wasn't necessary either).

All in all, a good night and an award show that everyone involved should be proud with.

Poster of the Day: The Story of O


The Story of O (1975)
dir. Just Jaeckin

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Duffy Will Rain On Your Parade

The new Duffy video clip is HI-LAAARIOUS! Dave at Victim of the Time has some funny comments to say about her "Rain On Your Parade" clip with a James Bond twist, but it's true that "the woman herself needs to get some life in her cheeks and learn how to tell the make-up man when enough is enough", and Duffy was clearly not paying attention during that episode of Welsh Idol where they get somebody to teach them "stage movement" (I imagine they do that episode once in every season, no matter what the country) because her boots were most definitely not made for walking, or dancing, or stomping, or even standing judging by the awkwardness on display here.



Nevertheless, I love the video. I just think it is so '80s. It, in fact, reminded me of two videos. Firstly, Tina Arena's 1990 hit single "I Need Your Body". So much backlighting and shadows and short outfits and weird nonsensical dancing!! I've talked about this amazing song before And, secondly, Kim Wilde's "Keep Me Hanging On". Wilde's stunning remake of the best song The Supremes (or Diana Ross solo for that matter) ever did shares many an aesthetic with Duffy's video. The spotlights! The prevalence of darkness! The washed out zombie face!


So, what have we learned from all this? A world of AMAZING, that's that!

Friday, October 17, 2008

No! No! No!!!!


This album art, as designed by the amazing Adem with and E, is far and away better than the actual shitty awful cover they have gone with. It doesn't even make sense, let alone look good! ugh. Truly terrible. So bad, in fact, that I can't even post it - just click here to look at the abomination that is the Out of Control cover.

Isn't that, seriously, THE WORST ALBUM COVER OF ALL TIME!! I am not joking.

Deceptive!

I watched Deception last night. You know, that movie about Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman being apart of a sex club! Don't remember it? Don't worry, I don't think many people do. I was watching it last night, however, on DVD and as I was sitting there at 1am watching the film begin to unravel and I thought to myself "Yes, this movie is sort of crap, but it's the sort of movie I can imagine being a perfect movie to watch at 1 in the morning," that I predict will show up on late night television a lot in the future as sleazy counter programming to all those infomercials and televangelists. It's not exactly challenging, but it has a decent central idea and it's always nice to see people like Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams (let's not start on Ewan McGregor, okay? He's had a rough few years!) and I thought the cinematography had a nice griminess to it with all those empty office buildings and creepy deserted streets.

And then the movie continued and I soon decided "No, this is just kind of crap!" I would like to know what parallel version of New York City Deception was set in because I don't think I've ever seen the city look so empty. Characters walk down empty street sidewalks and drive down empty roads and stand at empty subway stations. It was all quite strange. And, really, it's about as "erotic" as a wet sock (unless that's your "thing", in which case replace that euphemism with something else) and is, basically, a daytime movie with bigger stars and more titty shots. The final scenes, however, are really poor. I think the constant almost icky night sequences had tricked me into thinking this film had "atmosphere" when it really had nothing of the sort.

Brian Helcomb at CinemaBlend actually has the perfect quote to describe this movie (which I found on Rotten Tomatoes):

This film would make a perfect commercial thriller for James Spader and Rob Lowe were it still 1994.

Indeed, the very best things about the movie were Charlotte Rampling, who seemed to be the only person in the cast having any fun with the fact that her character is a high-powered business executive having raunchy anonymous sex, and, then, of course, this scene...


I am a simple man, true. C-

PS; Can somebody give Lisa Gay Hamilton something good to do again. It's been a while.

The Scariest Poster Known to Mankind

During my recent 100 Greatest Movie Posters countdown I included several posters that scared the bejesus out of me - Irriversible, The Birds, Pink Flamingos (teehee, not really) - yet I think I have come across one that trumps those and any others.

In my regular traipsing around of the Internet netherworld I come across many things I never knew existed, and one such thing was the following film poster. I'm not sure how or why I didn't know this poster existed since I had been following - and subsequently posting - all the posters and marketing material that was released for this film. This it a Norwegian piece of key art that was designed by Egil Haraldsen of Exil Design and I found it at Subtitles to Cinema.

Look and BE TERRIFIED TO THE CORE!!!


Oh sweet baby jesus AAAAAAAAAGGGHH!!

No, seriously! How scary is that shit?! I want to say "I want that on my wall!" but, in all honestly, it would probably frighten me beyond belief everytime I looked at it. Just in case you actually need reminding why this poster is so scary... well... here's the original film screencap that the poster takes it's central image from.


Somebody who has not seen David Lynch's mindbending surreal 3-hour mindfuck experimental horror film INLAND EMPIRE will not be able to properly grasp not only how terrifying this poster is, of even how the image even comes about (even those who have seen the movie probably can't explain the circumstances between the terrifying screaming face sequence that appears randomly and without logic). But the idea of putting it on a poster is almost brilliantly insane. I guess if you're trying to attract people in the mood for something odd and scary-looking then it's a good moment from the film to use on a piece of key art, no? It sort of just proves a striking, startling and all-too creepy image to place on a poster.

I watched the documentary Lynch (one) this past week, which follows Lynch as he goes about making INLAND EMPIRE (it will apparently be followed by two more parts titled Lynch (two) and Lynch (three), natch) and it made me really want to rewatch this amazing piece of cinema, something I haven't done since seeing it at MIFF over a year ago. I need to relive the scary face moment (all of them, since this is a Lynch movie starring Laura Dern it is a given that she appears with all sorts of crazy expressions on her face at various points in the movie), I want to relive that terrifying moment on the movie backlot and the entire surreal third act set on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard. And so on.

To quote Randy (Jamie Kennedy) in Scream 2 - "Absolutely terrifying!"

And, just for comparison sakes, here are the other INLAND EMPIRE posters that were released.


Black + White Friday: The Wizard of Oz


I'm still buzzing from seeing Wicked last weekend. I know the opening passage of the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz, is in black and white, but I wondered if the film would be half as magical if the entire film were filmed in the colour palate. Consider it a mad experiment by the Wizard, of sorts.


It's in the second half of the eighteenth minute that the transition to colour finally occurs (I coulda swore it wasn't that long!) and, as you can surely imagine, it doesn't quite have the same impact in black and white.


Munchkinland just doesn't look as fun, does it? Technicolor, bless!


Watching this scene reminds me of that old black and white filmmaking technique where the costumes would be in crazy colours that merely worked well in black and white, which is why "colorization" is so bizarre. If black and white movies were changed to colour they'd be horrific and crazy-coloured. Case in point - the Wicked Witch of the West. She's a bright green, yet you wouldn't know it by looking at this black and white version. She just looks like she has a strong tan.


David Lynch. He loves The Wizard of Oz. Just watch Wild at Heart for proof (witches! face makeup! bubbles! etc!) However, one thing I only just thought about was how similar the Scarecrow in Oz looks like that undescribable horrible clown-face being from INLAND EMPIRE. The Scarecrow's face is scary if you think about it. He has a bag for a head, yet he has facial muscles, lips and eyes that move. Imagine if the baghead character from The Strangers suddenly started talking!


Without all those crazy technicolours, it all looks a bit like camouflage.


On one hand, I wish the lion didn't look so silly with his obvious costume-wearing, but then I also think that's part of the charm. It is almost like watching an incredibly high budget school production, at times.


This is one moment that still looks gorgeous compared to the original.


It just struck me now, but I think Santa Claus Conquers the Martians look a bit of influence from this movie.


This looks like something out of an underground fringe performance art show involving dungeons, kimonos and S&M, which is a frightening prospect, I think we can all agree. Perhaps the cast can smoke the Wicked Witch's ashes as opposed to Kurt Cobain's.


I feel like she should be about to go into the dance routine from The Red Shoes! Wouldn't that be surreal?!