Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): A Quick One - Australia

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Quick One - Australia

[As December, and with it 2008, comes to a close, let me take a moment to look back on several recently viewed (but undiscussed) movies. Each "Quick One" will be a paragraph, with the open invitation for you to keep the discussion going by leaving comments.]

Standing at the box office, I hesitated. Milk wasn't playing until 10:00, too late, as I was expecting an early morning. Meanwhile, there was Australia, ready to start in a few minutes. And yet...reviews and my own inclinations had led me to believe I would not like it. But I had to see something; as with many other New Englanders, I'd lost power (it would be out for several days, by the end of which, unable to prepare food, freezing with lack of heat, I was forced to eat my cat...just kidding. Though sometimes I suspect if he was big enough, he'd eat me. So I don't feel so bad making jokes like this.) Anyway, Australia. My suspicions were proven correct. Though the opening minutes promised a colorful, magically-tinged adventure, I was in for a disappointment. Australia was turgid, tedious, and silly, with cuts accumulating so fast that you couldn't get a bead on the action. Too much CGI too, but that's a given these days. Anyhow, the kid was all right, and I liked the idea of tying his hopes and dreams in to The Wizard of Oz - though clips from that movie only made me long for the classical clarity of a Victor Fleming. And now I hear that Baz Luhrman wants to direct The Great Gatsby...to which I can only say, may my boat bear me back ceaselessly into the past, because I don't think I can deal with this future...

6 comments:

Tony Dayoub said...

I really enjoyed Australia, for three reasons:

1) It engaged in a magical realism that used to be so widespread in Hollywood films, and is so rare these days.

2) It was epic both in scope and length, another rarity in cinema today.

3) It was shamelessly humanistic and sentimental, two qualities that the majority of the youngest generation of critics look at disdainfully I fear.

Was it flawed? By all means it was. But no more flawed than The Dark Knight, and no more fanciful. But I think had this film been more "dark and realistic" it would have gotten a pass just like the Batman sequel did. And I say this as someone who enjoyed The Dark Knight, but realizes that outside of Heath Ledger's performance, it is as worthy of an Oscar as Australia is.

MovieMan0283 said...

I did read your review of Australia, which was one of the more favorable and may have tipped the scales for me to go (damn you!) But seriously, while I'm sure Luhrman meant every word of his humanism and sentimentalism, it came off as phony and hackneyed to me, a grab-bag of cliches delivered without much palpable conviction. Perhaps Luhrman just put too much on his plate and got overwhelmed - perhaps epic storytelling requires a greater patience and sense of awe than Luhrman exhibits. But I can see how this could work if you're in the right mood for it, which I just wasn't.

I think The Dark Knight was flawed and not especially outstanding in the direction department, but I did find the story more compelling than that of Australia. At any rate, I appreciate the different viewpoints - and for what it's worth, the parts of the film I liked the best revolved around the little kid and the "magical realism" bits, which I could definitely have used a lot more of.

Sam Juliano said...

Movie Man, my friend, I ithink your declaration that AUSTRALIA is "turgid, tedious and silly" pretty much sums up the general concensus, and I am loathe to take you to task for being perfectly candid about this admittedly "all over the map" film that needed a good editor and sharper focus.......and yet, in spite of all that, I basically agree with Tony Dayoub , and I got all wound up in its humanism, "magical realism" and its epic scope. In short, it was entertaining and often exhilarating in spite of itself. I have a close friend who hated it, but we have already made our peace. I like your style on the shorties---giving a general position and encouraging the posters to sustain the discourse. Let's just say MovieMan that the day I saw it I wa sapparently "in the right mood."

Great blog, I will visit as often as I can.

MovieMan0283 said...

Sam, fair enough. I can definitely see this as a messy film that can either work or not work depending if you're game. And anyway it seems to be paying its penance in the public arena, whereas something like King Kong still pisses me off because it was all the things Australia is, plus presumptuous and smug to boot (and really not very humanistic at all), yet it got respectable reviews and huge box office.

Though I may have just opened up another can of worms there (any Kong fans in the house?) so perhaps I should keep my mouth shut for the moment...

Daniel Getahun said...

King Kong got respectable reviews? I won't even bother to check - that would be paying too much attention to the movie.

You may already know that I'm with you and Sam on this one. And I like the new feature. I've not reviewed a fair number of movies recently and I've been wondering if I should try something like this. Chances are I won't, but it's a thought.

MovieMan0283 said...

Daniel, right now it was more an end-of-the-year thing, but I will probably take it up in the future when there's a lot of films I'd like to discuss and muse on, without going too in-depth.

King Kong was on Roger Ebert's end-of-the-year top 10 list and had a pretty good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Go figure.