Thursday, December 31, 2009

2006

Notable titles that I missed from 2006 include The Wind that Shakes the Barley, The Illusionist, Blood Diamond, Apocalypto, The Painted Veil, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Good Shepherd, This Film is Not Yet Rated, Sherrybaby and Night Watch. Clearly I missed some titles that made an impression, but I blame that on a) bad release schedules (as in, over a year late or not at all) and b) lack of interest. Although I have no excuse for stuff like Iwo Jima, a Best Picture nominee and all! I had it sitting on my DVD player for three months before returning it unwatched. I think Flags of Our Fathers scarred me too much!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Slave Boy

In his new movie Jamie Bell plays a slave.

In his new movie Jamie Bell plays a slave.

In his new movie JAMIE BELL PLAYS A SLAVE!

His "master"? Channing Tatum. Blegh. Nevertheless, Jamie Bell as a shirtless slave is something that I will pay good money to see, even if it means watching that waste of space that is Channing Tatum. I mean, I did with Jumper, so why not with this new The Eagle of the Ninth movie? The newly released stills (via) don't exactly give the movie much hope of being anything other than a collection of scenes involving Channing Tatum wearing a dirty breastplate and sporting bad facial hair while Jamie Bell wears, appropriately, not much else but pants.


Yes, I think that'll do.

When Bad Posters Strike: I Love You, Phillip Morris

I feel a bit bad for this poster. It's a foreign poster (Russian, I assume) and, quite obviously, they haven't quite got the money to make anything decent. Still, that doesn't excuse Jim Carrey's head looking like one of those ancient voodoo shrunken heads on top of the body of an extra from Querelle, or Ewan McGregor looking like a Ken doll that even Barbie would reject. Honestly.


And yet all this just makes me want to experience this movie even more. It sounds and looks like a disaster in every conceivable way. The yellow! The costumes! The dogs! The belt buckle! THE BELT BUCKLE!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Viewing

Hi there! I didn't anticipate being away from the blog for so long, but I haven't really had anything to talk about and I've been waiting to write this entry. Did y'all have a nice Christmas break? I... didn't, but there ya go! Such are the continually evolving nature of precarious family and personal relationships.

I did, however, get to the cinema a few times and I thought I'd share. I've been to the cinema three times in the days since the annual tide of Boxing Day Releases and I have certainly had some ups and downs. Boxing Day in Australia is a very big day as seemingly 38 movies get released simultaneously. I have already seen The French Kissers (Les beaux gosses), meanwhile I have yet to see include Bright Star, The Lovely Bones, Nowhere Boy, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakual and Old Dogs, only two of which I am actually going to make the trek to see, and hopefully I do that within a week or so!

The choice of movie for the annual Boxing Day pilgrimage was Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. I have only seen one Guy Ritchie film in my life and that is Swept Away, so I am unfamiliar with his more praised titles Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. They did not interest me at the time of their release and I still don't have any particular desire to see them since I am keenly aware that Sherlock Holmes, as much as I did enjoy it, doesn't particularly represent Ritchie's initial Brit-thug aesthetic.


Who has the better chemistry?

Sherlock Holmes is an admirable affair and I'm sure it will prove popular with fans of British people walking around in the rain and making jokes about tea. Robert Downey Jr's new found resurgent career is obviously not in danger of disappearing anytime soon - unless he pulls a Kidman and decides to make movies with sophomore auteurs - but I can't get on board with his performance here. Too self-conscious and aware that he is portraying "Sherlock Holmes". Jude Law on the other hand is s delight as Watson, and isn't it a relief that the makers didn't return to the idea that Watson must be, to quote Marisa Tomei, a short, stocky, bald man.

I much enjoy a puzzle (I can't work them out to save my life, but I like watching others try) and while the story behind Sherlock Holmes doesn't exactly allow for audience participation - you can't expect viewers to cotton on and go "aah, yes! of course!" when a dehydrated rhododendron appears as an apparently clue during one sequence midway through - I did get a kick out of the big reveal come films end. The villain, as played by Jeremy Northam lookalike Mark Strong, is a wet blanket of a villain, but that's par of the course these days isn't it?. Alas, you're not watching for him, you're watching for Holmes and Watson. And, I guess, to try and see the hidden gay subtext. Although, considering Downey Jr has been out there telling everybody that Holmes and Watson are essentially lovers and that director Ritchie has a thing for oddly-placed gay characters (or so I've read) is it really subtext or just actual text?

Technically there is much to admire. Jude Law looks immaculate in Jenny Beavan's intricate costumes and, even if she is fairly useless in performance and plot, Rachel McAdams sure is picturesque with all those big hats and dresses. The production design is great to admire, but Philippe Rousselot's lensing is, at times, incomprehensibly dark. Hans Zimmer's score is wonderful though, which is something to be thankful for when music has become such a stale medium for big blockbusters (something that not even Avatar could truly steer itself away from). All-in-all I am sure you will have an enjoyable time at the cinema with Sherlock Holmes and you probably will again in 2012 when the sequel comes out. B

A far less enjoyable time at the movies is to be had with Did You Hear About the Morgans? Such is the trouble with this time of the year, going along with friends to see dreck like this purely because, hey, it's festive and you want to be around mates. I can honestly say that as much as I like Sarah Jessica Parker I did not want to be around here with this sorry excuse for a film around her. And, even more so, I did not want to be around Hugh Grant and his face that looks like a very well-worn leather couch.

Grant does nothing except bumble through predictable gags and one-liners while Parker acts like an annoying shrew. Writer/Director Marc Lawrence doesn't give the audience anything to suggest that these two crows ever would have liked each other let alone would have been married for as long as they had. They are no likable or enjoyable to be around and much is made of Parker's character being so "full of life" and yet the film shows her as a neurotic workaholic. A much better film could have been made focusing on the lives of the assistants of these two headaches, but even they - Elisabeth Moss and Jesse Liebman - are turned into clueless dolts. The telegraphed plot, stolen bit by bit from other movies, and a lack-lustre finale make The Morgans a near insufferable mess. There's a funny line at film's end, however, so... there is that! D

The last film of my trilogy was (finally) Spoke Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are. It's been out for a few weeks now, but haven't had the chance to go, but I did now and while it wasn't the classic movie that I perhaps expected, it is still a lovely experience. I don't have much to say about it to be perfectly honest. It's incredibly well-designed from the costumes to the art direction to the visual effects (and the "wild things" which seem to cross all three boundaries) and the acting is sublime. It just felt something was missing. The emotion just didn't hit me in the gut, perhaps because the character of Max sort of does ruin everything and acts like a spoilt brat. I don't really know. B-

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reposessed Plot

So, this new Repo Men movie, poster below, starring Jude Law and Forrest Whitaker is Repo! The Genetic Opera but without all the musical numbers and without the terrible performances by Paul Sorvino, Sarah Brightman and co. Right?


But does it have Paris Hilton's face falling off?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Posters

I like how the American poster for Michael Hoffman's The Last Station plays up the duel romance notion of the film whereas the foreign version below uses the fact that Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer's characters spend 95% of the movie's running time at loggerheads with each other.


I'm not sure what that says about Americans, but maybe they prefer their older movie stars just as lovey-dovey as their young ones. I think the film's marketing would work better playing off the warring spouses aspect. Otherwise it just kinda looks like a strange inter-generational romantic comedy or something.

Speaking of The Last Station, I saw it yesterday and I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised. It's actually quite fantastic. I haven't the foggiest idea when it is being released here (and I believe it's one-week qualifying run in the USA has ended, only to be resurrected sometime in January), but I hope that whenever it gets out there people go and see it. A lot of people say Clint Eastwood has a very classical style of direction, but I'd put this film forward as being of a very old fashioned, classic style of film. It's not flashy, the camera doesn't shake about and do grandiose things that make people's eyes bug out of there head, no. It's simply made, but wonderfully so. It looks fabulous and I can see Michael Hoffman going somewhere far larger in scale with his next project and pulling it off with aplomb (it was the grieving scene towards films end that sealed that deal). I can see this film existing in any past decade, which means it should be a hit with "certain audiences", if you know what I mean.

Nobody lags in this film, both in front and behind the camera. Helen Mirren is as wonderful as you have heard and probably deserves that Academy Award nomination she's going to get in the unrealistic world of Oscar prognostication (meaning, the likes of Tilda Swinton, Katie Jarvis and Charlotte Gainsbourg aren't getting anywhere near Oscar so I can accept Mirren getting in over them) and the likes of James McAvoy, Anne-Marie Duff and Christopher Plummer are all ace. I didn't even mind Paul Giamatti, despite his character being a vile, retched beast! I'd also like to FYC the costume design by Monika Jacobs, which I think works wonders in evoking this period.

Sure, the actors all speak in English dialogue with English accents, but what can you do? I'm sure it would have been just as good in Russian, but it's not so there's no point crying about it like some puritans have and will continue to always do. B+

2005

I'm not sure why I had Batman Begins and The 40-Year-Old Virgin on the 2004 collage, but there ya go. I'm not editing it now! Some notable titles that I missed are March of the Penguins, Paradise Now, Tsotsi, Downfall and I've heard such good things about the "director's cut" of Kingdom of Heaven, but the theatrical version scarred me something shocking so I'm not going back to that particular well any time soon.

Masha Masha Masha!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pick Nick!


Anyone who reads encyclopedia Nick Davis, aka Nicks Flick Picks, will know he has the tendency to disappear from time-to-time (that's what being a teacher does, I'm afraid), however, you really need to be reading now. Something new and fantastic is popping up every day! First we took a trip down memory lane with a diary of some of his best and worst cinematic experiences over the past decade and then he took a critical eye to his own opinions and conceptions of key films from each year over the past ten years. Now he's counting down his top 100 films of the decade and it's already a doozy.

Let's face it, these sort of lists are coming - and will continue to do so - thick and fast these days and a large percentage of them (including my own when I get around to it) are merely a rearranged list of the same movies. #100-#91 alone includes titles such as Greg McLean's Wolf Creek and Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique. Lars Von Trier's Dogville and Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead. Joon-ho Bong's Mother and Bennett Miller's Capote. And then there is the assortment of ultra-arthouse titles that have never even been released in Australia (Day Night Day Night, Johnny Mad Dog etc). Oh how I long for the day.

So yes, get over to Nicks Flick Picks pronto and you can literally spend hours perusing. Even when you're done with all the '00s retrospective stuff go and read some of his scholarly reviews. I recommend The Black Dahlia (a review that is as re-readable as a film can be re-watchable), The Cell and Psycho '98 because they're such interesting takes on movies that you probably don't like (I, however, do. Very much).

BTW, isn't my photoshopping second to none?

RIP Brittany Murphy


I'm not going to write much about Brittany Murphy because, unlike some of the others who have passed this year, I didn't have that much of a recurring love for Brittany Murphy. It's been sad over the last few years to watch her vanish despite being genuinely talented. It's been sort of like Lindsay Lohan, but less in the open, you know? Of course I'll always love her Tai from Clueless ("you're a virgin who can't drive!") and I remember when her catchphrase from Don't Say a Word - "I'll never tell... anyofyou" becoming quite popular in the school yard.

However, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Murphy's passing is the loss of her musical side. Not many people know that she had a #1 hit on the Billboard dance charts with her Paul Oakenfold collaboration, "Faster Kill Pussycat". She did and it's a great song (from a dreadful album, it must be said). And then there was her work in George Miller's penguin musical Happy Feet. She was far and away the start of that movie and she proved her musical chops on the numbers "Boogie Wonderland" and, my personal favourite from the film, "Somebody to Love".

I've included both below so do watch. Murphy was, apparently, set to return to Australia to record her vocals for Happy Feet 2, so it's a shame we won't be able to hear any more of that gorgeous voice.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Warning: This Movie is Probably "Indie" and "Quirky", Part 2

Last week I showed you the new poster for a movie called According to Greta. I wrote this:

The poster uses the time honoured tradition of quirky indie movies and has gone with a notepad hand-drawn motif so I can't help but assume that it is indeed quirky and indie. It's probably got "jokes that mask a hidden sadness" and "tells truths that we don't want to admit". etc.

It also stars Hilary Duff. Say wha...?

I had never heard of that According to Greta movie before, despite actually being released on DVD here in late November, which says a lot. Flash forward to a week later and I now bring you the poster for a movie called Stay Cool, another movie I had never heard of until I saw this.


As you can see, the poster uses the time honoured tradition of quirky indie movies and has gone with a notepad hand-drawn motif so I can't help but assume that it is indeed quirky and indie. It's probably got "jokes that mask a hidden sadness" and "tells truths that we don't want to admit". etc.

It also stars Hilary Duff. Say wha...?

Incident at Uluru and Other Undiscovered Aussie Films

I had never heard of The S.P.A.S.H. until today when Matt Riviera mentioned it on Twitter. They are "The Society for the Preservation of Australian Secret Histories, which is an independent organisation dedicated to the discovery and study of undocumented, suppressed and censored historical events that have occurred in Australia since becoming a federation on the 1st of January 1901." Basically they work in showing you things that have heretofore been unseen.

Thing is, it's all a big ruse. I love it!

The S.P.A.S.H., I take it, is essentially a new and interesting way for whoever it is that runs the joint to get their work out there. The first of their "undocumented, suppressed and censored historical events" to be uncovered is the work of cult leader Ray "Millennium Ray" Author" who ran a cult/film studio in the Australian outback. The studio was called Dreamtime 79 and they made many films as a way of getting the Dreamtime cult message to large audiences, an effort that ultimately failed. What we have left is this suspiciously well-preserved series of poster artwork for films such as Incident at Uluru, TasMANIA!, Cemetary Dogs and The Lair of the Lyre Bird.

Some of the absolutely stunning pieces of artwork are shown below, but click here to see the rest of them. If you're going to make up an entirely fictional cult movie studio as a method of showing off your poster designs (including an extensive history) then I think they deserve to be seen.



Is it bad that all of these posters are better than almost all of the posters made for real movies? And that all of these movies have such wonderful titles and delicious artwork that I instantly want someone to actually make them. They would have to be in the style of 1970s and '80s "ozploitation" flicks though. What a hoot!

Of course, the whole thing could be entirely real, in which case...

Friday, December 18, 2009

To Sing and Die in L.A.

I just wrote up a bit of retrospective fluff at The Film Experience, talking about two of my favourite films from 2004. Collateral and Prey for Rock and Roll are both set in LA, but other than that they have nothing in common other than I like them. Go check it out if you so desire.


Whoops! Careful of that delightfully placed desk chair, Tom!

The Long Original Song Short List

At this time of the year I usually compile a series of links to allow all you readers out there to listen to all (or most) of the eligible songs for the Best Original Song category at the Academy Awards. Other places feature some songs, the ones most likely to be in the hunt for nominations, but I sought out the original songs from titles such as 56 Drops of Blood (exactly), but nobody ever seemed to give me credit so I won't do it again. It's too much work for, literally, no return.

At 63 contenders, this year's list is four longer than 2007 and fourteen longer than 2008. This year has quite a few musicals with original songs, which immediately puts them at the top of the queue. I think we can instantly drop Hannah Montana: The Movie from the running though, especially since "The Climb" wasn't deemed eligible and, thus, isn't on the longlist alongside "Back to Tennessee", "Hoedown Throwdown" and others. I've never mentioned it on here, but I have a bit of soft spot for "The Climb" and quietly wanted it to be nominated. Oh well. "Throwdown" would be the closest thing this category is getting to a "hit" being nominated, which is sad and frightening.

Rob Marshall's Broadway adaptation Nine has two contenders; "Take it All" and "Cinema Italiano". I'd wager that both will be nominated, but sadly if only one makes it will probably be "Cinema Italiano". I like that song, performed by Kate Hudson, but "Take It All" is a stunner and Marion Cotillard performs her arse off (that is a good thing) during it. I haven't seen the movie, but the audio of it leaked a while back and gosh I hope Cotillard gets up on that Oscar stage to perform it. That would go a long way to making up for the travesty that is La vie en rose, yes?

Crazy Heart, a film starring Jeff Bridges as a country musician, has two contenders from a much larger list of original songs from within the film. "The Weary Kind" is an obvious contender, but after the snubbing of Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler" who really knows? At least "The Weary Kind" is featured within the film and not merely as a credit closer.

"Down in New Orleans" is apparently the big gun from Disney's traditionally-animated The Princess and the Frog, but with three other songs on the list of eligible tracks, I wouldn't be surprised to see another make it. I haven't seen it yet (out on 1 January) and haven't heard any of the songs.

Some other interesting inclusions was a song called "AyAyAyAy" from Chilean domestic sociopath film The Maid (a movie I feel I underestimated when I saw it at MIFF in August). I don't remember the song, but it's cool that it's in there. "Petey's Song" from Fantastic Mr Fox was a hoot and I'm glad Jarvis Cocker make the list. "Dove of Peace" from Bruno is another one that has me smiling even if I know it hasn't a chance in hell of being nominated. Can you imagine having the likes of Bono and Elton John on stage performing it alongside Bruno himself? I like Lykke Li's "Possibility" from New Moon too (fact: the soundtrack is actually very good!), but the prospect of anything Twilight-related being Oscar-nominating makes me feel unwell. The prospect of Karen O, however, being an Oscar nominee (for "All is Love" from Where the Wild Things Are) is delicious. I don't remember either of the songs from Dr Parnassus either, is that bad? "Trust Me" from The Informant! was funny and "Stu's Song" from The Hangover? It will fall to the wayside ala "Dracula's Lament" from last year's Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Such is life.

Lastly, I'd like to pat myself on the back for correctly querying whether Mary J Blige's "I Can See in Color" was even in Precious long enough to qualify. The track didn't show up on the AMPAS press release so I imagine it did not and was ineligible. Here's hoping the likes of Paul McCartney and U2 don't get nominated just for existing like they did at the Golden Globes!

Shark Attack!

First there were competing croc flicks, now two killer shark movies are on the way. Just because we're Australia doesn't mean we don't suffer from that strange phenomenon of having two nearly identical movies be made at the same time. It's the Volcano/Dante's Peak or Deep Impact/Armageddon scenario. It's happened with Clubland and The Black Balloon, it happened with The Combination and Cedar Boys (albeit in a purely semi-racist way) and it happened with Greg McLean's Rogue (about a killer croc hunting a small group of tourists) and Black Water from Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich (about a killer croc hunting a small group of tourists) and now it's happening again!

Traucki, minus Nerlich, is set to release The Reef next year, about a killer shark hunting a small group of tourists... on the great barrier reef! That will then be followed by Bait, which has just received funding from Screen Australia. Traucki will have the edge being released first, but the Russell Mulcahy-directed Bait will be in... wait for it... 3D! Bait will be, if memory serves, the second Aussie film to be filmed in 3D after Philippe Mora's Salvador Dali biopic, although who knows if that will ever get off the ground. Hopefully Mulcahy can make a film in the spirit of Razorback and not, ahem, Resident Evil: Extinction.

A 3D shark pic from "Highlander" helmer Russell Mulcahy tops the list of 22 projects in Screen Australia's final funding round of the year. "Bait 3D," the first 3D pic backed by government coin, concerns a coastal town swamped by a tsunami that brings with it a pack of sharks.

I think the word you're looking for here is "LOL!" Although that doesn't quite beat Piranha 3D's reasoning that an earthquake splits the ground beneath a lake, thus releasing a torrent of blood-thirsty piranhas, but I digress.

The Reef, being from Andrew Traucki, is bound to be one of my most anticipated titles of 2010. Black Water was an exceptional horror flick. I didn't do any "awards" for 2008 - or even a top 10, bad me - but Black Water would have featured prominently. If he can do with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef that he did with a crocodile in a swamp then The Reef will be bonza!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2004

My favourite year of the decade (followed by 2000 and 2001). This was the year I started to see far more movies in the cinema and came across an unparalleled number of A-grade films (eight to be exact, plus a lot of A-). Some of the more glaring gaps in my 2004 roster include BAADASSSSS!, Brother to Brother, A Dirty Shame, The Sea Inside and the second half of Team America: World Police (don't ask).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seeing in Colour

I'm not going to write a review for Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire just yet because I actually missed the first ten minutes or so due to human error - my human error, I went to the wrong cinema! However, even though I missed the start I can say that it is a great movie. A flawed one, definitely - I'm thinking the screenplay is to the blame for that, not really knowing how to flow between scenes quite so easily - but a great one nonetheless. Amazing performances all around and Lee Daniels (and his casting agent) show such rich ability to find interesting faces and voices. Xosha "fluerescent beige" Roquemore being particularly memorable. And I really liked the gay representation, too. That Daniels was able to put something so subtle and nicely done into this movie shows quite a bit of promise.

I had a realisation though. When Mo'Nique wins her Oscar - because, let's face it, who's going to beat her? - the three black women to have won Oscars in these past ten years will be Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson and Mo'Nique. No matter what any hardcore fans of these ladies say, there's no denying that they were hardly the most respected thespians before their Oscar-winning roles in Monster's Ball, Dreamgirls and Precious respectively. Meanwhile, far more prestigious names such as Ruby Dee, Viola Davis, Sophie Okonedo and Taraji P Henson have gone home empty-handed. And no, Queen Latifah doesn't fit into this argument so I am ignoring her.

Does the Academy have some urge to reward the unexpected from black women? Some sort of token "good on you!" notice? And if Gabourey Sidibe wins Best Actress, too? Hmmm. A look at the black MEN to win Oscars this past decade and it's a completely different ballgame. Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Jamie Foxx portraying a famous blind singer in a middle-of-the-road biopic. You won't find anybody scratching their heads 10 years in the future at the idea of Freeman winning an Oscar. And for a Clint Eastwood movie, too. But no matter how good they are, I no doubt reckon plenty will raise an eyebrow at any of the trifecta of women up above. "Halle Berry won WHAT?!?"

This blog entry isn't leading anywhere, I just thought it particularly interesting. If you have anything to add then please do so in the comments. Do you think Mo'Nique deserves to win that Oscar despite having done nothing to previously warrant attention? Will history be kinder to the likes of Washington, Freeman and Fox simply because they had the fortune of winning for more prestigious fare, even if none of them are as good as the female winners? Hmmm...

In a completely different topic, is Mary J Blige's "I Can See in Color" played for long enough in Precious to qualify for Best Original Song? I remember hearing a brief snippet during the film, but other than that I don't remember a thing about it. Brokeback Mountain had the same issue with "A Love That Will Never Grow Old" if you recall and was wondering why nobody had mentioned this. Carry on.

Monday, December 14, 2009

AFI Wrap Up

Friday and Saturday nights over this past weekend saw the AFI Awards be held here in Melbourne. You can read my thoughts on the night and the winners at a couple of places, none of which are this very blog. Strange. Click on over to Onya Mag for a look at the night with red carpet photos and a look at the ceremony in general. You can then click to The Film Experience for a rundown of most of the winners and a look at how the wins effect Oscar chances for Samson & Delilah (Foreign Language Film), Mary and Max (Animated Feature), The Cat Piano (Animated Short) and Miracle Fish (Live Action Short).

Ta da.

The Token Gay

My friend Georgie and I have this thing we do whenever we watch a movie on DVD; we point out all the token characters. It's fun! There are several tokens to which we can make note of. There's the "token black" (usually sassy, calls the main female character "grrl"), the "token asian" (usually works with computers and uses chopsticks to eat every meal) and the "token fat friend" (rare because pretty people tend to always have pretty friends, but this token is usually only there to, indeed, make the lead look prettier). It's not racist or offensive of us, but a funny way of making light of the fact that movies exist in worlds in which, at birth, each person gets assigned one friend who is a minority and that is the only minority friend they will ever have. Even South Park has a black character named Token, so we're not the only ones.

The most common of all the tokens is the "token gay". Unless you're Star Trek in which case over 300 years of political evolution has ceased to bring an end to gay discrimination in the military, but I digress. The token gay is not only the most common - especially when it comes to reality TV - but, in cinema, also the most offensive. The token gay never actually adds anything to the story so much as briefly appear from time to time in order to show how accepting a film's main character is. It's a "See! She sees people for what's inside and not for the unsightly rainbows sprouting from every pore of their face!" sort of deal. They need to be there, but they can't be anything more than a throwaway gag.

Most of the time the token gay is into fashion, gossip and being hopelessly alone and fixated on making the lead character's love life more interesting than their own. They are used as shopping partners and not much else. A lot of the time the token gay is a vile and awful representation of a homosexual and far more offensive and homophobic than if the film makers had just decided to make their characters live in a world strangely empty of anyone who isn't white, straight and living in an apartment that, in the real world, would be wildly unaffordable to anyone who isn't earning $100,000 a year.

Sidebar: Isn't it so annoying when an assistant (hello The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses, Ugly Betty) somehow earns enough to live in a massive loft apartment in Manhattan? I'd gladly work their jobs if it meant living that lifestyle!

Today as I watched Phat Girlz - no, seriously, bare with me here - I was struck by how vile the token gay was. In this movie though he also counts as the token white. I don't know if I should be taking this as racist as well as homophobic, but something ain't right either way. Are there no clownishly flamboyant gay dimwits who are black? Considering he is the only white character in the whole movie with more than one line (other than Eric Roberts, truly a double take moment) a case could be made, but I won't.

Geting back to how grossly portrayed the character of "Ramón" is, he is stereotypically acted by someone you nor I has ever heard of called Felix Pire. In the first scene that we meet him he is proclaiming to be married despite speaking in a high-pitched voice, working in the female fashion department at a department store while wearing a plaid suit and yelling "ooh, miss thing!" at Mo'Nique. Is that some sort of weird gay joke or setting up a big "Accept yourself, girl! I did and it's FABULOUS!" moment come film's end? I don't know since it's neither funny nor does it lead anywhere. It's never mentioned again!



He then goes on to conveniently describe the movie title. "That is PHAT! P.H.A.T. Pretty Hot and Thick." I always thought the T stood to "tempting" (thank you Money Talks starring Chris Tucker with, er, Charlie Sheen and Heather Locklear. wtf?) I guess that shows how down I am with decades-old African American slang, yeah?


The line that goes along with this image is "mama said knock you oooooouuuuut" as he notices the outfits his voluptuous black friends are wearing, which says more than I ever could.


I just... honestly don't know what to say. It's like Hank Azaria in The Birdcage, but without any remote semblance of actual comedy.

I can just see a crowd full of cinema-goers laughing at this character, screaming "oh my god, he's so gay!" Sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. Then at the end of Phat Girlz Ramón turns into a catwalk emcee for "Thick Madame", the new clothing line created by Mo'Nique's character Jazmin. He wears a fur vest, PVC pants and nothing else. He was clearly more of a fan of Sonny than Cher judging from that ensemble, but where are the bell-bottoms?


As for the film itself? It is so hopelessly awful in almost every conceivable way. It's not even so-bad-it's-good like I was hoping. It looks cheap, it is nasty and is profoundly ugly to look at. First-time writer/director Nnegest Likké hasn't made anything since. I guess all those flip edits and embarrassing screenwriting ("bitch... it's an American term of endearment!" for example) didn't endear herself to anybody. As for Mo'Nique? I'm glad I'm seeing Precious tomorrow to help wipe this movie from my mind. Although, in all honesty, any movie that has an entire scene devoted to "you so ugly" and "you so fat" jokes inside a restaurant called FATASSBURGER has got to be worth something, right?


Warning: This Movie is Probably "Indie" and "Quirky"

This is a poster for a movie called According to Greta. The poster uses the time honoured tradition of quirky indie movies and has gone with a notepad hand-drawn motif so I can't help but assume that it is indeed quirky and indie. It's probably got "jokes that mask a hidden sadness" and "tells truths that we don't want to admit". etc.

It also stars Hilary Duff. Say wha...?


I like to imagine there is a scene where Ellen Burstyn slaps Hilary Duff to the tune of some twee guitar-strumming indie rock band.

Please note that I have no idea what this movie is and have never heard of it before and, thus, am making complete and utter assumptions about it and its quality. There's a very possibly chance that According to Greta is actually quite good, but I think we can all safely assume it will be no Raise Your Voice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vote 4 S4D

I found this Oscar ad at Quickflix Blog (via Awards Daily for Warwick Thornton's Samson & Delilah. The film is Australia's submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at next year's Academy Awards.


I so hope it can manage a nomination, although I'm sure it'll be very tough. This Academy member doesn't get my hopes up, unfortunately.

Are there any foreign films that did not strike a chord for you?
I disliked the Australian film (Samson & Delilah)...

Sure the voter goes on to say "but even that one had something going for it", but that doesn't get you nominated, I'm afraid. I haven't been able to find any FYC ads for Mary and Max, which is competing for Best Animated Feature, but there are stories popping up all over the place about the film and its writer/director Adam Elliot, so hopefully voters are paying attention!

Meanwhile, Samson & Delilah and Baz Luhrmann's Australia were the big winners at last night's AFI Industry Awards. That's the ceremony before the big ceremony (that's tonight) where all the craft awards are announced as well as some of the TV stuff. Australia won for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects, while Samson & Delilah took the member's choice awards along with Best Sound and Best Cinematography for Thornton himself. Robert Connolly's Balibo took the prize for Best Editing.

On tonight's show we'll find out the winners of the categories such as Best Film, Best Director and the acting prizes. I predict Samson & Delilah to take Film and Actor, while the acting prizes will be spread amongst Blessed (Best Actress, Frances O'Connor), Beautiful Kate (Best Actor, Ben Mendelsohn plus Best Supporting Actress, Rachel Griffiths) and Australia (Best Supporting Actor, Brandon Walters). The screenplay awards will probably go to Warwick Thorton (for Original Screenplay) although Adam Elliot would be a sentimental favourite, I think. Best Adapted Screenplay will surely go to either Connolly for Balibo or Rachel Ward for Beautiful Kate. I'm thinking the former, but ya never know!

I'll have a write-up of the AFIs hopefully appearing on Onya on Monday. Wow, that was a lot of "on", wasn't it?

Friday, December 11, 2009

That's PHAT!

I received this email the other day. It was from Quickflix, Australia's answer to Netflix for all you international folk, and started with this:


Hi right back atcha! They're right though, I did return Happy Together, which I also recently blogged about. I then read on...


Hahah! That is amazing, yes? Yes!

Quite a change there, I must say. From Wong Kar-Wai's elegant gay love tragedy to a movie called Phat Girlz (with a Z, like Liza) starring a woman with an apostrophe in her name.

I received the latter disc in the mail today and am going to sit in bed tomorrow and watch it in all of its (presumed) stunning glory. I had a dream last night that Mo'Nique actually came charging through my bedroom wall just like she does on the poster (below) for Phat Girlz. Isn't that a frightening/amazing prospect?


Precious: Based on the Novel PUSH by Sapphire, meanwhile, will be released here in Australia on 4 February, but I get to see it next Tuesday! I am so freakin' excited y'all, I can't quite put it into blog words. Two Mo'Nique movies in such a short about of time? Yet, And as great as Precious looks, Mo'Nique doesn't become a model for a plus size fashion designer in it so advantage Phat Girlz in the Mo'Nique stakes.


Kidding aside, it will be deliriously bizarre to go from watching Lee Daniels' Shadowboxer recently as well as Phat Girlz to the movie that could make them Oscar nominees (or, in the case of Mo'Nique a bonafide Oscar winner). And you know what movie I'm seeing before Precious? Fantastic Mr Fox! Viva la Whiplash!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 10/12/09

9 - Shane Acker's adaptation of his own Oscar-nominated short film actually came out yesterday (on the 9th, you see). 9 is a thoroughly enjoyable, but minor, animated action sci-fi adventure. There are some genuinely thrilling action sequences, it's just a shame that the end feels so lifeless (er, since the movie is about dolls and machines the whole thing is kinda "lifeless" in a literal way, isn't it?)

Away We Go - What better way to not turn people off with the foul marketing campaign than by not advertising it at all! Not sure where it is, but there must be some form of marketing out there somewhere, right? I sure haven't seen it (thankfully - I couldn't bare to look at that poster again). I like (in an ironic way) that Mendes went from a movie in which he cast two of the biggest stars in the world (DiCaprio and Winslet - first names not required, see) to a movie in which the two main cast members are virtually unknown to anyone outside of America or The Office fans (so, not many in Australia).

Planet 51 - I first saw the poster for this at Hoyts a year ago and it's only just getting a release now. How very strange.

Religulous - Not many people went to go see Andrew Denton's anti-religion documentary a few years back so I'm not sure why they'd go see this one with Bill Maher (a virtual non-entity here in Australia). Strangely, a few weeks ago I noticed that one of the cinemas in Geelong was screening Expelled: No Intelligence Required, which I found very odd. I hadn't even heard that it was being released here, let alone to alone to a suburban cinema in Geelong. Hmmm.

DVD Releases for the Week 10/12/09

Balibo - Great Aussie movie about the Balibo five. See it!

Cedar Boys - A really superb Aussie thriller from first-time director Serhat Caradee. If you're in Australia then please do see Cedar Boys. It's so good and didn't deserve the disastrous box office results it received.

Coraline - I am still kicking myself for not seeing this Henry Selick movie in cinemas. It was released at a really bad time (during MIFF plus illness and lack of money). It's out in 2D and 3D versions.

Terminator Salvation - LOL!

Blu-Ray of the Week: I haven't seen it, but if you're not going to see Black Narcissus on the big screen then you might as well give it a shot on Blu-Ray. I don't own a Blu-Ray so I can't watch it on Blu-Ray either. *grumblegrumble*

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Best Albums of 2009, Part II

Yesterday we counted down position 11-6 in Stale Popcorn's top albums of the year. Now we get to the pointy end. Who managed to squirm there way into the top five? Read on to find out...

5.
Dragonette
Fixin to Thrill
In a year that Lady GaGa all but swallowed the pop world whole, I was instead focusing my electro-loving self on this four-piece from Britain. This album is filled with electronic hooks that are vibrant and joyful without pretensions. From the title track to others like “Big Sunglasses”, “Gone too Far”, “Pick Up the Phone” and “Stupid Grin” are like balls of energy and light. Far too often these days there is a pretentious indie vibe in this genre – and it was present in Dragonette’s debut album, Galore – and it’s completely absent on Fixin to Thrill. It is also free of the hard edge that stopped Rihanna’s Rated R from reaching its true potential. And with lead singer Martina Sorbara aping Grace Jones on the cover? AMAZING!

4.
Leona Lewis
Echo
I admit that I took to Leona’s (no surname necessary, thank you very much) Echo more than many others. I find the act of releasing an album almost entirely of ballads to be incredibly brave in today’s music landscape where throwing everything AND the kitchen sink is all it takes to have a hit track. That the best song on Echo is in fact the high tempo 120bpm “Outta My Head” isn’t a negative, but just a sign that perhaps on the next record Leona can venture more into that territory. However, as Echo stands there are so many lush and sublime songs – I’m looking at “Brave”, “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “I Got You” and lead single “Happy” – that call such excellent attention to Leona’s amazing voice and with ace production. There are so many songs on here that beg me to listen to them over and over again that I couldn’t not place her this high.

3.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It's Blitz
The sound of a band with such a keenly identifiable sound changing course and jumping on a mainstream bandwagon is often cause for alarm. Naturally, leave it to Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to give a great big fuck you to the Pitchfork indie wank followers who worship them by jumping onto the electro train. The biggest surprise was, however, not that they would go there after the astonishing rock of Show Your Bones and Fever to Tell, but that it was actually very good. The electronic music of It’s Blitz feels so organic to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and songs such as “Zero”, “Heads Will Roll”, “Hysteric’ and “Skeletons” all help form the most exciting – if not necessary the best – Yeah Yeah Yeahs album yet. What will they do next? I haven’t the faintest idea, but I can’t wait to find out.

2.
Lily Allen
It's Not Me It's You
I was a fan of Allen’s Alright, Still, but her sophomore effort, It’s Not Me It’s You represented a big leap forward by one of the most fascinating pop stars of the decade. It surprises me that this album proved to be such a stayer on the charts. And that Allen wasn’t even releasing the album’s best material as singles (apart from “The Fear”) makes the success even sweeter. “Everyone’s At It”, “Back to the Start” and the gut-wrenching “I Could Say” were all stellar examples of Allen at the top of her game. Here’s hoping those silly retirement quotes are just Allen keeping one killer of a poker face for her next charge.

1.
Natalie Imbruglia
Come to Life
An album of such heartbreaking tenderness, Come to Life has quickly become the pinnacle of Imbruglia’s career – trumping “Torn” and anything that followed – despite the fact that the album has become a near-infamous chart disaster. What went wrong seems fairly easy to pinpoint; lack of marketing and lack of radio support. I won’t understand why radio didn’t pick up the bitter electro funk of “Want” (the album’s lead single) but they didn’t the rest is history. Fortunately for the album’s fans – and there are indeed more fans than just I – songs such as “Fun” (a modern day “Nothing Compares 2 U”), “Twenty”, “Scars” and “Lukas” (a sure fire contender for song of the decade) will live on. The masses can keep the Black Eyed Peas if it means I get to keep Come to Life. My full review is available at Onya Mag.

Et voila! That's all for the albums of 2009. Coming up I have the top singles of 2009 to be followed soon after by the top albums and top songs of the decade! Can we say exhausting, much? Yes we can!

The Best Albums of 2009, Part I

It's that time of the year! It's list-making time, of course, and while I would normally leave this sort of stuff until the new year, I have a "best albums of the decade" list to get through as well and that's going to take more time to curate. I should point out that my music listening habits changed in 2009. No longer do I write album reviews for a local rag so I no longer receive all the free albums that have made making lists in years past so chaotic and diverse. I wasn't forced to listen to anything I didn't particularly want to.

The list below are 11 titles that I feel incredibly passionate about. I wanted to stop at 10 but #11 just kept itching at me and I felt I needed to include it. I have some honourable mentions to get out of the way first as well as the prestigious honour accolade of Worst Album of 2009.

SEVEN HONOURABLE MENTIONS FOR 2009:

Lungs by Florence and the Machine was far too long, but Florence’s voice helped the album overcome its samey-samey nature outside of the truly stellar tracks like "Dog Days are Over", "Kiss With a Fist" and "Rabbit Heart". Spinnerette’s self-titled album had some truly killer stuff such as "Baptized By Fire" and "All Babes are Wolves" on it, but was also excessive and a bit too histrionic at times. Rihanna’s Rated R leaned far too heavily on a hard urban sound rather than the European sound she should have gone with, but I can't deny there was amazing material like "Rock Star 101", "The Last Song" and "Wait Your Turn". Trying too hard to please America will not work!

Passion Pit had an explosion of electro on Manners and Beyonce’s best was not I Am… Sasha Fierce, but in fact Above & Beyoncé, the album that continued the trend of Beyoncé being better in remix form. Meanwhile, I still don’t know what to make of The Crying Light by Antony and the Johnsons. Get back to me in a few years on that one. And, of course, there is Lady GaGa’s The Fame Mons†er. If it had a few more tracks of the quality of “Telephone” and “Bad Romance” then I have no doubt it would be on here.

THE NICKELBACK HONOURARY WORST ALBUM OF 2009:

Timbaland
Timbaland Presents... Shock Value II
I wasn't a fan of Shock Value - in fact it was my #7 worst album of 2006, sitting unpretty between dirge by Ultrabeat and Cicada - but at least that one had a few tracks worthy of keepsake. Volume II, however, has nothing. It is dreadful in every conceivable way. Timbaland is one of those artists that is far better when producing for others than he is making his own music (although his colab albums with Magoo are quite good) and nothing makes that more evident that this album. He's roped in strange "featured" artists (Miley Cyrus, JoJo, Jet, Chad Kroeger of Nickelback and Daughtry) as well as the usual suspects (Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Keri Hilson). Flat and boring songs with nothing that even approaches his weakest moments with early proteges like Aaliyah and Missy Elliot. There's no other word for it: Disaster.

THE STALE POPCORN TOP 11 ALBUMS OF 2009!

11.
Sarah Blasko
As Day Follows Night
It’s actually hard to believe that when I first listened to Blasko’s third album, As Day Follows Night, that I was disappointed. I thought she was treading water and that she had failed to truly move on from What the Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have and Overture and the Underscore. It wasn’t until months later that I took another punt at it and hit my forehead with the palm of my hand. What was I thinking? Blasko’s vocals really are as dreamy as ever, and the lyrics – she was clearly dealing with “stuff” as she wrote it, evidenced plainly enough in the album title – are potent. The extra bonus disc called Cinema Blasko, in which she recreates five of her favourite songs from cinema including “Xanadu”, “Maybe This Time” and “Something Good” is what made me need to include it in this list.

10.
Phrase
Clockwork
Phrase, not the Hilltop Hoods, is my pick for Aussie rapper of the year. It was the Hood that got all the press, all the praise and all the chart-topping sales, but it was Phrase who released the superior record. The first Aus-rap that didn’t actually sound like Aus-rap (a cringe-inducing sub-genre I must confess) and that actually sounded like it belonged on the world stage. Phrase’s use of Wendy Matthews on a reworking of her ‘90s hit “The Day You Went Away” is truly superb, the ethnic electro of “Paradise” alongside Jackson Jackson and the wild frenzies of “Burn it Down” and “Street Lights” amongst others are great and help allow Clockwork to rekindle some of the love affair I’ve had with hip-hop.

9.
Little Boots
Hands
Little Boots took a time machine, but only went back four years and for that I am thankful. 2005 was an epic year in the evolution of pop music and Hands is reminiscent of some of the best albums from that year. Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor, Girls Aloud’s Chemistry and Goldfrapp’s Supernature are all in good company with Little Boots who makes such great pop in the form of “New in Town”, “Earthquakes”, “Click” and “Remedy”. And then she even managed to get Phil Oakey on board, which shows a panache and intelligence.

8.
Adam Lambert
For Your Entertainment
If American Idol is a tool for an upcoming artist to weave there way through a list of various styles and influences and deciding what sticks then Adam Lambert’s debut record after placing second, in the American reality series, sees him continuing the exploring. Whether he’s aping off of Freddy Mercury, George Michael (on album highlight “Fever”), Matthew Bellamy, Richard Marx or even Cliff Richard (you cannot tell me that “Broken” doesn’t remind you of “Some People”!) For Your Entertainment almost never fails to be interesting. Sure, the album is mostly based around radio friendly populist modern rock hooks, but there’s something fascinating about listening to this openly gay male sing about being openly gay. Whether he’s flirting with post-disco (“If I Had You”) or extolling lyrics such as “I was born with glitter on my face” and the pro-homo “Aftermath” (surely set to subvert TV soundtracks) the album is such a great listen and one that proves track-after-track that Lambert is unafraid to be the extrovert and that is something to be cultivated.

7.
Lisa Mitchell
Wonder
Many people would be aware of my aversion to the recent upswing in popularity of female singers who sound like twee pixie fairies whose songs sound like some sort of cutesy moopsy floopsy falala music. That I had such a positive reaction to Lisa Mitchell’s Wonder is, indeed, quite wondrous. However, when I really dug into the album I realise it wasn’t such a surprise. Sure, Mitchell has a tendency to sound like she’s whispering into a microphone, but when her whispers are so beautiful – those howls on “Coin Laundry” are some sort of national treasure – I can’t resist. That songs like “Oh Hark!”, “Sidekick”, “Neopolitan Dreams” and the aforementioned “Coin Laundry” have such irresistible hooks and melodies is just further icing on the cake.

6.
Bertie Blackman
Secrets and Lies
Much like one of the bands you’ll see tomorrow, Bertie Blackman took a lean towards electronic music with her latest album, Secrets and Lies, and came out the other side rosier than ever. Bigger sales, more popularity and even an ARIA award for her efforts. In a year in which I started to become disinterested with the barrage of electro-pop (the most prevalent genre of 2009 I would say), I guess it figures that it took artists like Blackman to flip it on its head and make it far more interesting than it had gotten. Her song writing skills are still there, top notch as ever, and that voice fits with the production like a glove, just listen to “Clocks”, “Thump”, “Sky is Falling”, “Byrds of Prey” or “Heart” for perfect examples. If you have never heard Blackman’s album – and I imagine many of you readers have not – and you’re after an easy comparison, I’ll say that at times she sounds just like Imogen Heap, but without all the frou frou.

Tomorrow we continue to look at the best albums of the year with position 5 to 1. Who will be on there and what will be left of them where will they place?