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AICN-Downunder: Garden State; Dust; Aquamarine; Wolf Creek; Pirates of the Caribbean 2; Candy; Saw 2; Batman

Father Geek here in Austin taking a little time off from all the crazy last minute preps for BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 6 this coming weekend to post the latest from our man Downunder before hopping a turn-around flight to Berlin to run a little errand for sister_satan. Being a big fan of the infamous Pink and a noted collector of esoterica she's ordered me to fetch her a brick from The Wall...

You had me at "dicks fuck assholes".


Nicole Kidman may be Australian of the Year, the first actor to receive the honour since Paul Hogan in 1985 (shudder). Kidman's biggest rivals are Steve Waugh, Australian cricket captain, and some unknown charity-doing losers. Rumours that Nic will be donning a pair of big fake ears to encourage voters are, with any luck, spreading like wildfire. Oh yeah, and here's some news...


* I know it's most likely rumour and conjecture and won't pan out, but I haven't seen it printed anywhere else and I'm desperate for the attention. Two actors are up for the role of The Joker in BATMAN BEGINS AGAIN. Australians Lachy Hulme (LET'S GET SKASE) and Bruce Spence (ROTK:EE) are rumoured to be stepping into Jack's boots. It's clear that they're going for thin, lanky and spooky, and will probably save on makeup and special effects if The Spence is cast.

* While the SAW sequel has been greenlit, it doesn't look like Whannel or Wan will be involved. They may sign on as producers, but both have said publicly that they want to move on to other projects. SAW II: HACKSAW has yet to sign on a writer or director.

* Geoffrey Rush is claiming he hasn't signed on to the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN sequels. Rush says he's read about it a lot on the net, but hasn't been formally approached. Given the rumour that Rush pulled out of EUCALYPTUS to do the Bruckheimer money printing projects, and appears to have nothing on his plate beyond the currently-filming Aussie project CANDY, you have to wonder... what's he up to?

* Sydney may soon be the city of choice for mermaid comedy (and how many times do you get sick of seeing THAT genre?) AQUAMARINE. Directed by Elizabeth Allen (who is probably best known for being Cary Woods's assistant on THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD), the film will star teen popster JoJo (who I've never heard of) and Emma Roberts (also, never heard of). Fox Searchlight, who is making the adaptation of Alice Hoffman's novel, will be glad to hear that Latauro does not fall into their projected demographic.

* Funding has just been approved for a psychological thriller set on a train. Either the film is mysterious like The Artist Possibly Known As Prince, or the title hasn't been released yet. Either way, the film will be set on the train tracks connecting Perth to Fremantle. And because I'm on a new "politeness" kick, I'm going to refrain from making jokes about either of those places.



Iven Sen received the award for his 1999 film DUST. Sen also wrote and directed the little-seen and under-appreciated 2002 film BENEATH CLOUDS.


Sundance is moving out into the world, with its inaugural competition featuring international product. The festival, which will be held in Park City, Utah in late January 2005, will feature two Australian films: documentary DHAKIYARR VS THE KING, and WOLF CREEK, the latter of which is based loosely on the Ivan Milat murders.


The awards will be handed out at the end of this week, with local nominees including John Seale for COLD MOUNTAIN, Andrew Lesnie for RETURN OF THE KING and Russell Boyd for MASTER AND COMMANDER.


Got your cameras ready? TropFest is one of the biggest film festivals in Australia, with a new theme announced each year. Each film must contain that year's theme, or "signature item". This year it is the umbrella. So do something creative with your brollies, put it on film or video, and get it to the festival by January 20.


GARDEN STATE made its debut at the sixth spot; and impressive achievement given the number of screens it appeared on. The rest... well, try not to cry...

Here's the leaders...
  • 5. BAD SANTA


Tim Allen over-estimates his appeal, Anne Hathaway is cursed, a documentary about pro-euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke tries not to kill its chances at the box office, two Melbourne boys repeatedly hack their way onto the Hollywood scene, and the SOUTH PARK creators still fail to make a more wooden film than THUNDERBIRDS.

Here's what's new downunder...
  • SAW



This is going to cause a wave of indifferent non-controversy, but Zach Braff is the best writer-director-actor since Orson Welles.

I've been racking my brain to think of any others. There are a bunch that I'm a big fan of, but most of these guys are either writers who don't want someone else messing with their work, or directors who can't find the stories they want to tell. Woody Allen and Kevin Smith, both of whom I adore, are writers who happen to direct. James Cameron is a director who happens to write (and, technically, doesn't act and so doesn't apply here). Then you've got someone like Edward Burns, who seems like someone who just wants to be in romantic comedies, so makes the same one over and over again.

GARDEN STATE contains far more thought and care than I was expecting. Braff, as witnessed on "Scrubs", has the most intuitive comic timing and delivery (and, with John C. McGinley, is part of one the greatest on-screen couples on television), so I was expecting funny. But he's not being outrageous funny here. He's the straight man to every other character, letting Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard take the best lines.

The script, though occasionally getting too caught-up in self-conscious quirkiness, avoids cliché. That's no mean feat, given the self-reflective romantic-comedy-drama is the genre that's most obviously prone to cliché (even more than the Action Blockbuster). It's thoughtful without being self-indulgent, romantic without being sappy, slow-paced without being boring.

The GARDEN STATE of the title, though a last-minute replacement for the ill-received LARGE'S ARK, does what every good title should: sets up the story and the subtext in one hit. Largeman, played by Braff, is in a state of vegetation thanks to prescription drugs and alienation, both of which he received from his father. Though brief, it's a beautiful performance from Ian Holm, and Braff doesn't rest on his casting achievement. This is one of the more sedate performances we've seen from Holm; clearly distinctive from his cop character in NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTEN, and certainly a world away from Bilbo.

Braff's direction is what surprised me. That it was as carefully thought-out as his script, and as beautifully realised as his performance. From his use of music ("Don't Panic" is as perfect an album-opener as it is a film-opener) to his placement of camera to his use of actors, Braff clearly knows exactly what he is doing. This is far more than a warm-up film, but if that's what it is, his follow-up will surely be mind-blowing.

Despite the comparison to Welles, this isn't CITIZEN KANE. Braff hasn't reinvented cinema, nor told an epic story spanning decades. It is, however, everything it needs to be. There is no element left wanting. GARDEN STATE is one of the most beautiful films of this year, and one you should not miss.


- With a considerably lower budget, Ted Griffin rescues his helming career by signing on to direct Steven Segal, Ashton Kutcher, Val Kilmer, Chris Klein, Stephen Dorff, Matthew McConaughey, Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Roy Scheider, Brian Doyle-Murray, Courtney Love, Tara Reid and Ben Affleck in OCEAN'S 13

- Oliver Stone signs Al Pacino to play Saddam Hussein alongside Luke and Owen Wilson as Uday and Qusay in HUSSEIN

- Joe Dante signs on to direct the feature adaptation of the DC comic AQUAMAN, describing it in a press release as "probably not redundant"

Peace out,


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