Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a look at the goings on downunder from our own Latauro. He's got info on a New Zealand Horror film called BLACK SHEEP that sounds really fun (please be about killer sheep, please be about killer sheep, please be about killer sheep... UPDATE, it IS about killer sheep! Check this out: CLICK HERE FOR WETA ART!!! It looks awesome! Thanks to Spydaweb for the heads up) as well as THE DECEMBER BOYS, Daniel Radcliffe's first big non-Potter role, which has just started shooting in Australia. He's got tons more, too, so read on! Enjoy!
This isn't good cop, bad cop. This is fag and New Yorker.
It occurs to me lately that the Australian film industry is not in dire straits.
This has been a pretty good year for local films. THREE DOLLARS, WOLF CREEK, THE PROPOSITION, LOOK BOTH WAYS, LITTLE FISH... I mean, generally I consider it a good year if we get two films of high quality, let alone a bunch! Last year saw Chloe Maxwell nominated for an AFI -- who would have thought that this year there'd be such an embarrassment of riches that actors who deserved nods wouldn't get them! Astonishing!
Now, I've been shaking my head at the state of the industry and using this column to discuss what could be done to improve it. Most people think we're doing badly, others use the above examples to show how well we're doing. The more I think about it, however, the more I realise that the Australian film industry is not in the danger zone. Why?
We don't have a film industry.
It took a bunch of successes for me to realise it, too. I was looking at them and thinking, "Wow, this is a great collection of films... but we're still doing badly". Then I started wondering what it would take for me to believe the industry was doing well. A high quota of great films and I'm still not satisfied? What the hell does it take?
What it takes is some momentum. This isn't the start of a new wave. It's not indicative of what next year's slate will be like. Greg McLean notwithstanding, how often does a filmmaker in Australia go straight into their second film? John Hillcoat brought out THE PROPOSITION this year, but his last film was TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, nine years ago. Rowan Woods was critically-acclaimed for THE BOYS, but it took him seven years to get LITTLE FISH made. Andrew Dominik made one of the greatest Australian films ever with cHOPPER, but that was back in 2000. Only now has he started work on his next film, but it's over in America and stars Brad Pitt.
Unlike other countries, Australia does not encourage filmmaking careers. The official line is that we're open to first time directors, but isn't that a double-edged sword? It's great that we give a leg-up to the little guy, but where does he go after his film makes $100 000 at the Como and he loses the AFI to Philip Noyce?
To have an industry, we need to be able to take our successes and build upon them. We need to have some sort of funding body in place that can cultivate writers and directors. While Palace Films, a non-government body that has funded some of our best work (CHOPPER, GODDESS OF 1967, etc), seems to be slowly building a style and network, it's still early days, and they're still small. The majority of our films comes from state and federal funding, and it's not enough.
If these bodies are going to encourage first-time directors, we need to have another system in place to pick them up. Government funding is terrific, but we need a studio system. I'm not saying we need a big, American-style collection of behemoths. Maybe model ourselves on the British system. We certainly have enough famous directors and actors to sustain it. It may just be lip service, but every Australian actor talks about how they'd love to come back and work in their home country if only there was the work available. There's certainly an audience there. If we can get past our pretentious hatred of genre pieces, cast anyone from Russell Crowe to Guy Pearce to Eric Bana to Hugh Jackman to Nicole Kidman to Cate Blanchett to Heath Ledger, I think we'd find ourselves with some pretty big hits. WOLF CREEK is topping the local box office at the moment, and that's without star power backing it up. Imagine if we took a film as good as that one and put some stars in it. I think we'd find ourselves with an international hit.
Of course, it's all academic (isn't everything?). But I do feel a little more realistic in my view of the industry as it stands. I still get excited at individual films (if you haven't seen THE PROPOSITION yet, you haven't lived), but despite those particularly successes, I'm not excited about our industry; we haven't got one.
New Zealand genre film BLACK SHEEP has just been greenlit. The film, a horror centered around the fact that sheep in NZ vastly outnumber humans, has scored WETA to handle the effects -- and WETA is full-pelt into it. This one's high on my anticipation scale...
DECEMBER BOYS, which will feature the first big non-Potter role for Daniel Radcliffe, will begin shooting this Monday in South Australia. The film follows four orphans who slowly give up on the hope of being adopted as the years go by. Given the number of seasoned actors who can't nail the Australian accent, I'm very curious to see how Radcliffe handles it.
Still in New Zealand; I don't usually report on TV stuff, but a new fantasy series called MADDIGAN'S QUEST has just completed post-production. Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, the story follows a traveling circus on a quest to save their home city of Solis. I mention is because (a) after keeping the whole production very, very quiet, the producers showed me some cool shots from the show, and (b) the cool shots are really, really cool. Now, I know as well as anyone that awesome visuals doesn't automatically mean great product, but if the quality of the story matches the quality of the screenshots, this Australian/New Zealand co-production could be something pretty special.
AWARDS AND FESTIVALS
NEW YORK CITY SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL 2005
The Australian short A MESSAGE FROM FALLUJAH screened in Official Competition at the New York City Shorts Film Festival. The film screened at the Peter Norton Symphony Spaces in NYC.
23RD INTERNATIONAL FICTS SPORT MOVIES AND TV FESTIVAL 2005
The Ewan McGregor-narrated doco TROY'S STORY about Australian motorcyclist Troy Bayliss has picked up the Mention D'Honneur at the ceremony in Milan on November 1. The film was written and directed by Australian William Mather-Brown, who died tragically in June of this year whilst saving his children from drowning in the Le Var river in France.
Remember that surge of national pride I told you to feel last week? Feel it............. NOW! Yes, a 100% Australian production (those two English actresses are really Australian! Amazing!) has topped the box office. Makes you cry. Haven't yet seen the latest Cameron Crowe, but will finally be catching it this Sunday night.
RELEASED THIS WEEK
A lame remake of A LADY VANISHES is made lamely for lame-oes, casting directors Robin D. Cook and Kim Hardin break casting and genetic barriers, the crazy remains of Timothy Treadwell are explored by Herzog, an unexpectedly arousing documentary about Mark Felt makes us all a little uncomfortable, an Australian comedy gets its release seventy-three years after completing production, three well-deserved comebacks jump into the one film, and Dave Chappelle's non-union French equivalent gets dancy.
INSIDE DEEP THROAT
KISS KISS BANG BANG
Wow. What a pile of unmitigated shit.
Glancing over the press notes, I realised that Francois Ozon was a filmmaker whose work I'd been interested in for some time. I'd wanted to see 8 WOMEN and SWIMMING POOL, but hadn't got around to it. After seeing 5X2, I no longer plan to.
The "plot" follows a woman (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, a French Felicity Huffman) and a man (Stephane Freiss, an ultra-French Vincent Cassel) as they... um... have a relationship. Sort of. There are five vignettes, played backwards. We begin with the couple divorcing, go to an awkward dinner party, then to the birth of their son, then to their marriage, and then to their meeting. The reason for this device? The film would not be worth watching forwards. Hell, it's not worth watching backwards.
Monsieur Ozon, I'm a fan of low-key character dramas. Some of my best friends are low-key character dramas. But even the most benign Woody Allen film has a story to it. Interesting characters. Things that HAPPEN.
For ninety minutes, I was waiting for some sort of interesting plot twist. And I'm not talking about some MEMENTO-style mind fuck. I just wanted there to be a reason I'm watching. I mean, if it's just a character piece, you need to create characters we care about. If you're going to tell a story backwards, there needs to be a reason for it. As pretty and potentially full-of-meaning that final shot actually is, it's too little, too late.
What's most disturbing is that we get two scenes that tell us in pretty clear terms that rape is okay. Yes, even if though the woman may protest at the beginning, shout, try to push you off, etc, she really does want it. Just keep going, she'll get into it. If this is an attempt at controversy, it's lame. If it's meant to be ironic, it's not. It's just two cases of a woman enjoying being raped.
One other thing: could we have a little more quality control with subtitles? For a start, "alright" is not a word. Secondly, why are the subtitles in American English? "Mom"? "Realize"? Given the almost unstoppable infusion of American culture into everything we watch and read, can't we at least be spared when seeing a French film? It sounds like a petty complaint, but it's not. It's a clear message from the distributor that we (English, Australians, New Zealanders) are of secondary importance to the American market. It's just not acceptable.
But back to the film itself; I've always found the uniquely American hatred of the French to be pretty random and meaningless. I've always found stereotypes of the French to be pretty stupid and pointless. However, if I wanted to enforce or reinforce those stereotypes and convince someone that the French really do make boring, plotless, pretentious, middle class shite, this is the film I would show them.
KISS KISS BANG BANG
Yes; it really is that good.
I've never been a massive fan of Shane Black. I didn't really care how much he got paid for LONG KISS GOODNIGHT; I cared more about the fact that it sucked. I never really liked LETHAL WEAPON and never saw THE LAST BOY SCOUT. It's only recently that I've started to appreciate his contribution to cinema. Still doesn't mean I like the films, though.
KISS KISS is brilliant. It's a collection of interweaving mysteries that all tie together, featuring characters who grew up reading detective novels. After the first act, the film gets a bit convoluted and vague, but it gets it together towards the end. It's a staple of these films that the audience is sometimes left behind, but KISS KISS is perhaps a shade or two too confusing. Just a shade or two. You won't be coming out of the film asking your friend just what in the hell happened, but you might find yourself squinting around the second act.
The biggest joy, for me at least, was watching Robert Downey Jnr getting a role he so richly deserved. Even when he joined Ally McBeal in its "unwatchably shite" period (which, admittedly, took up the majority of its run), I continued to tune in for Downey and Downey alone. The man is so insanely charismatic and charming, it's a crime his sordid past has prevented him from more lead roles. Maybe that's why this one is so satisfying; it's so damn rare!
Val Kilmer doesn't have as much to do, but he's still brilliant as Gay Perry. I grew up loving a lot of Kilmer's roles (say what you want about WILLOW, but Madmartigan rocks), and, like Downey, he's had a lot to overcome. Remember that period in the 90s when all the top directors (by which I mean Joel Schumacher and John Frankenheimer) were loudly proclaiming that Kilmer was an egomaniac who was impossible to work with? I really didn't think we'd hear much from him after that. Lately he's been enjoying something of a comeback, with his performance in SPARTAN being, in my opinion, something of a career high. For him to go from Mamet to this film is very satisfying.
There's so much to love in this film. The dialogue is really, really snappy; the plot is inventive and unrelenting; the production values are all stylish and cool. Michelle Monaghan is really good, but her character isn't terribly appealing; it's a minor complaint, though, and doesn't really get in the way of the film.
My hope is that this film kicks off a bunch more. I'd love to see a series of detective films with Downey and Kilmer; especially if they're all as good as this one.
I want to know who is responsible for this film. I want to know who to blame. It can't be Terry Gilliam. I've seen all of Gilliam's films, and all of his work is brilliant. You can see his signature in every single shot. In fact, there are few directors working on the same visual level as Gilliam (the only one that comes close is Australia's Clara Law). That's how I know Gilliam had nothing to do with this film; there's not a single shot in the film that suggests he was anywhere on set.
It might be the Weinsteins. There was a lot of talk of their interference with the shoot, and while it's tempting to dismiss them as mindless executives getting in the way of a brilliant auteur, you just can't put a finger one what it is they actually did. Besides, even studio meddling couldn't produce a film *this* bad.
No, while the directing is sloppy and practically non-existent, I think the majority of the blame should go to Ehren Kruger, whose script is so thoroughly bad, he should consider changing his name to Akiva Goldsman Jnr. I'm now convinced ARLINGTON ROAD was a fluke. An accidentally-brilliant film that I'm now happy to credit to Mark Pellington. No, after the atrocious SCREAM 3, the bland RING, and a series of low-key thrillers that looked too boring to bother with. But this script... my god...
It's such a great opportunity. It sounded like the perfect material for Gilliam. A fantasy with a bit of an action/buddy comedy spin. Two charismatic stars who, luckily, happened to be really good actors. A chance for a big hit that would enable him to get QUIXOTE back off the ground. No, Kruger's script is an incomprehensible mess of a plot, with nonsensical character motivations, cliched characters, and a really muddled attempt to bring a whole bunch of fairy tales together.
One of the most ridiculous things are the English accents sported by Jake and Will Grimm. Neither of the characters are English, and the rest of the cast has (approximately) accurate accents. It's another one of those "Well, if the two leads aren't American, at least make them English" ideas; English is the acceptable form of "foreign".
It also confirms my theory about villains. In a typical US film, the lead actor will be a handsome, white American. More often than not, the villain will be English, be it Sean Bean in NATIONAL TREASURE, Sean Bean in THE ISLAND, or Sean Bean in RONIN. If, however, the lead character is English, the villain must then be French. As I said earlier in my 5X2 review, the random hatred the Americans have for the French is perplexing. Only America could take an important historical event, like the Nazis invading France and blame it on the French. Here, we have to suffer through more of this boring stereotype, as every Frenchman our brave heroes encounter is either a fool or bad to the bone. It's phenomenally tiring, and only increases my contempt for Kruger's work.
The performances aren't great. Matt Damon probably comes off the best, giving a performance that might have been really good had he been treated to some direction. Heath Ledger walks the very fine line between giving an interesting performance and coming off like a twat, and unfortunately spend most of the time on the latter end of the scale. I like Ledger. I don't really like any of his films, but I've always liked his work. Here, he goes overboard, lapsing into self-conscious tics that might have worked had he also been given some direction. The supporting cast is quite lame, with Lena Headey incredibly miscast as the tough love interest, Jonathan Pryce embarrassing himself in the stupid villain role, and Peter Stormare going for broke and failing as the Italian villainous fool. It might be because she has the least to do, but of all the supporting actors, Monica Bellucci is easily the breast.
It's a real pity the film had to be this bad. No one I speak to can believe it, and most of my friends are planning to see it anyway. I can understand that. Despite all of the bad reviews I read from reviewers who I generally trust, I was still chomping at the bit to see it, and rushed eagerly to the press screening on Friday. It's Gilliam. No one can quite believe it's this bad unless they see it. As I said, the blame should probably be laid squarely at the feet of Mr Kruger, although part of me is impressed: it must take an incredible amount of self-delusion to write a film this badly.
- The DGA and WGA file a suit against Paramount, when it announces production on a new film that *won't* form the first part of a new trilogy
- George Lucas vows to keep the script for INDIANA JONES IV secret from both Spielberg and Ford until the end of post-production to ensure safety from "spoilers and quality"
- Lorenzo Lamas will play Doc Brown and Justin Long will play Marty McFly in a new TV series of BACK TO THE FUTURE which will take place between parts one and two and flesh out the moments we never saw