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AICN-Downunder: Peter Weir's SHANTARAM, Luhrmann's TEN THOUSAND HORSES and more!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here on BNAT eve with a little piece from our man from the land downunder, Latauro. He's got the skinny on all things Aussie and Kiwi for ya'. Enjoy!

Freddie, every time you light my cigarette, I know you're lying to me.


It's been a pretty awesome fortnight to be a film geek. Correction: it's been a pretty awesome fortnight to be me.

Where do I begin? Well, a while back I carefully selected the film geeks from my circles of friends and brought them together for night of film geekery. Recently, this has evolved into a fortnightly process whereby we each take turns programming a film double. The last one was ENTER THE DRAGON followed by Jackie Chan's YOUNG MASTER. The next double will be Fellini's 8 1/2 and Fuller's SHOCK CORRIDOR, neither of which I've seen. The anticipation is palpable.

Anyway, it's two weeks ago and we've just had the Bruce Lee/Jackie Chan night. Two days later, I'm at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image to see Malcolm McDowell. Let me tell you, it's not the easiest thing in the world trying to save nine really good seats by yourself when the session is packed out. Still, seven of my friends showed up on time and we settled in. I was keeping an eye out for my friends Joel and Sarah; I'd got Joel a ticket as a belated birthday present, and was getting a bit nervous about the time. Then I spotted them on the other side of the theatre. I waved my arms. He saw, waved back, and stayed where he was. It took my a moment to figure out why. McDowell was standing in front of him. The bastard got to shake his hand, and even received a friendly hit on the shoulder from Mr De Large. Needless to say, the moment Joel sat down next to me, I began scraping McDowell DNA off his shirt and rubbing it on my own. I'm not a proud man.

I don't know how long McDowell was meant to speak for exactly, but I'm pretty sure he ran over by about an hour. Nobody cared. In fact, some of us wanted him to keep going. The man was humble, witty, funny, and interesting. If you're ever in a position to see him speak, take it. You won't be sorry.

The anecdotes about Ian Holm, Albert Finney (is it just me or does every single British actor cite Holm and Finney as the greatest actors they've ever seen? McDowell certainly did), Sir John Gielgud, Stanely Kubrick and everyone else you'd expect were brilliant. Never knew that McDowell had the lead in POOR COW before he was replaced by Terence Stamp. Wonder how THE LIMEY would have turned out in that alternate universe...

Interesting bit of DVD news. Apparently McDowell had been trying to get IF... released on DVD, and was getting no response from the head of Paramount's DVD division. Then a group of filmmakers known as the Pizza Club invited McDowell to attend their private screening of IF... At the end, he asked if they would consider applying pressure to Paramount to get the DVD released. The next day, McDowell received a call. He didn't tell us when it would be out, but he has recorded a commentary and participated in interviews, so the thing is definitely coming out.

The next night was the AFI awards, and I'd managed to score an invite. Not the actual ceremony, mind you, but to the red carpet event. Not terribly thrilling, but we had a prime position on the balcony (if you watched the telecast, you would have seen fleeting images of me in the background over Hugo Weaving's shoulder). Star spotting isn't my favourite pastime in the world, but the beer was free and plentiful (fresh bottles arrived before the previous one was emptied), and it was kind-of fun. I was a bit surprised to see McDowell turn up, and even more surprised to see the crowd saving their loudest cheering for Eddie McGuire.

A few days later I was at the Astor Theatre seeing, for the first time, THE GRADUATE and BLOW UP. THE GRADUATE was awesome, just as great as everyone's always claimed. BLOW UP was an interesting one for me. I hated the first act, loved the second, and hated the third (disaffected tennis-playing mimes? Are you kidding me?). It gave me a negative feeling towards the film, but I've softened a bit. The more I think about it, the more I want to check it out again on DVD. As much as I loved that sequence with the photo development, I still think I missed something. Definitely one to watch for. (The experience was added to with the Astor cat -- not Marzipan -- wandering along the aisle and jumping onto my lap during the final thirty seconds of the film.)

The next day, a massive order arrived from Amazon, including the three disc WIZARD OF OZ, the THIN MAN collection, the HANZO THE RAZOR trilogy, and that massive STAR TREK twenty-disc film box.

Then, in roughly a twenty-four hour period, I got to see press screening of GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK and THE ARISTOCRATS, and then a non-press screening of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE on the massive V-Max screen. And I already have primo seats book for KING KONG.

Life really doesn't get much better than this.


Peter Weir, Australian genius export who gave us WITNESS, THE TRUMAN SHOW and MASTER AND COMMANDER (like you didn't know) will next lend his "Action"-yelling skills to SHANTARAM. The film follows the true story of Gregory David Roberts as he breaks out of prison, escapes to India and leads a life containing two cumulative hours of interesting material. Interestingly, Johnny Depp will star as Roberts. Not that I don't love Depp's work, but there are a lot of big A-list Australian actors of the right age who can do the accent convincingly. I doubt Depp will resort to the usual faux-cockney tripe we usually hear, but still...

The new Baz Luhrmann film -- which I believe is called TEN THOUSAND HORSES or something similar... I got told by a prospective crew member over a beer, like, three months ago -- will begin shooting soon with a budget of $40million. Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman will star as two people who fall in love or sing or try to get three words out before the next slam cut.

According to, Lachy Hulme is coming around to what the rest of us knew all along: he probably won't be playing the Joker in BATMAN KEEPS GOING. Though he's been in talks, Hulme acknowledges the role will almost definitely go to someone else. I'd repeat the roster of rumoured actors, but I don't think any of them have come from the production itself.

In an interview with, George Romero said that Simon Baker is suggesting that LAND OF THE DEAD 2 takes place in Australia. This is unlikely to happen (if you read the quotes, it sounds more like buddy-buddy kidding around than an actual plan), with Romero suggesting that if there *is* a sequel, it'll probably take place in Canada. He did say, however, that Baker would most likely be re-recruited for the follow up.

New Zealand indie film FUTILE ATTRACTION (from director Mark Prebble) has completed post-production thanks to cash from internet donations. The film is being released on DVD soon, but it needs your support. Read more at

SWEET FA has just entered pre-production, and will begin shooting in January of 2006. The low-budget Aussie flick is set to shoot on HD, and will star Matthew Okine (HOUSE OF WAX, AQUAMARINE) and newcomer Luke Ellis. Writer/director Mick Skelton describes the film as a "road movie on foot". Check out the website at

Lastly, props to the staff from the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra. Last Saturday night a massive hailstorm threatened to destroy 65 000 photographs and scripts from Australia's film history. Acting quickly, the seventeen staff members were able to save every item, ensuring that nothing was destroyed. The Federal Minister for Hailstorms defended the actions of his department and refused to apologise. "A bit of ice never hurt anybody," Mr Abbott said.



The red carpet thing ended not with a bang, but with a fizzle. The big rumour -- that Eric Bana was going to arrive by hovercraft -- did not eventuate, so we all left. After some truly amazing Chinese food and some quick sobering up, I got home in time to watch the actual broadcast on the box. Having not seen the majority of the films nominated (I'm ashamed to have not yet caught LOOK BOTH WAYS, LITTLE FISH and THE OYSTER FARMER), I won't comment on any of the wins, but rather the ceremony itself. There was obviously a conscious effort to make it more glamourous than previous years, but the whole thing was scuttled by the choice of host. Russell Crowe may have brought big attention to the awards, but he just wasn't cut out to host the thing.

I think he's a great actor, but what you need here is a comic. Remember a few years ago when Shaun Micallef made the Logies not just watchable, but hilarious? ("Now, it's no secret that our next host has a terrible drug problem..." *consults piece of paper on podium* "Oh, I'm sorry, it IS a secret.") The repeated references to the phone-throwing incident were lazy and predictable. The ad-libbing was lame. The only one who did worse was Australian icon Jack Thompson. Clearly "tired and emotional" out of his skull whilst presenting the lifetime achievement award to compatriot Ray Barrett, it was a nail-biting five minutes just waiting to see if he could make his way through it.

Hopefully next year we'll have just as many successful local films and a host who can really do something with the event (Shaun Micallef, Andrew Denton, John Safran, etc)

(The following list is a selected combination of the winners from the Craft Awards portion held on the 25th and the Pretty People We're Happy To Present to the Public portion on the 26th.)

Best Film - Bridget Ikin (LOOK BOTH WAYS)
Best Lead Actor - Hugo Weaving (LITTLE FISH)
Best Lead Actress - Cate Blanchett (LITTLE FISH)
Best Direction - Sarah Watt (LOOK BOTH WAYS)
Best Original Screenplay - Sarah Watt (LOOK BOTH WAYS)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Robert Connolly and Elliot Perlman (THREE DOLLARS)
Best Supporting Actress - Noni Hazlehurst (LITTLE FISH)
Best Supporting Actor - Anthony Hayes (LOOK BOTH WAYS)
Best Editing - Alexandre de Franceschi ASE, John Scott ASE (LITTLE FISH)
Best Original Music Score - Nick Cave, Warren Ellis (THE PROPOSITION)
Best Production Design - Chris Kennedy (THE PROPOSITION)
Best Costume Design - Margot Wilson (THE PROPOSITION)
Best Sound - Sam Petty, Peter Grace, Robert Sullivan, Yulia Akerholt (LITTLE FISH)
Best Cinematography - Benoit Delhomme (THE PROPOSITION)Best Children's Television Drama - Ann Darrouzet, Dave Gibson and Jenni Tosi ("Holly's Heroes")
Best Comedy Series - Selin Yaman and John Safran ("John Safran vs God")
Best Light Entertainment Series - Ted Robinson ("The Glass House")
Best Television Drama Series - John Edwards and Claudia Karvan ("Love My Way")
Best Telefeature or Mini Series - Andrew Benson and Greg Haddrick ("The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant")
Best Documentary - Dennis O'Rourke (LAND MINES - A LOVE STORY)
Best Short Fiction Film - Tony Krawitz (JEWBOY)
International Award for Best Actor - Russell Crowe (CINDERELLA MAN)
International Award for Best Actress - Emily Browning (LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS)
Byron Kennedy Award - Chris Kennedy
Life Achievement Award - Ray Barrett


With over three hundred and sixty-five legitimate award ceremonies celebrating Australian film, television, theatre and Eddie McGuire each year, it's inevitable that two of them will clash. Nevertheless, with a membership roster full of people who will never be invited to a televised event, the AWGIES took place on the same night as the AFIs (not to mention the same night as that Canberra hailstorm), and we presume the Melbourne Bitter was flowing like nectar. Some selected "high" lights included:

The Hector Crawford Award for significant contribution to the craft via a body of script editing work - John Alsop
The Monte Miller Award for an unproduced script by an Associate member: Jacqueline Cook for RAW
Telemovie, Original - Tony Krawitz for JEWBOY
Telemovie, Adaptation - Peter Duncan for HELL HAS HARBOUR VIEWS
Feature Film - Michael Frank for RA CHOI
2005 Major AWGIE Award - Melissa Reeves for THE SPOOK (stage play)


It really is festival season at the moment, ain't it? The IF Awards, celebrating seven years of not being an acronym for Independent Films, were announced only a day before the AFI Uggo Awards. The Sydney ceremony (the AFIs took place in Melbourne) had an identical lineup of nominations, but only a similar set of winners. Drum roll, please...

Best Feature Film - THE PROPOSITION
Best Actress - Cate Blanchett (LITTLE FISH)
Best Actor - Hugo Weaving (LITTLE FISH)
Best Direction - Sarah Watt (LOOK BOTH WAYS)
Best Cinematography - Benoit Delhomme (THE PROPOSITION)
Best Script - Sarah Watt (LOOK BOTH WAYS)
Best Music - Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (THE PROPOSITION)
Best Editing - Denise Haratzis (LOOK BOTH WAYS)
Best Sound - Sam Petty, Peter Grace, Robert Sullivan and Yulia Akerholt (LITTLE FISH)
Best Production Design - Chris Kennedy (THE PROPOSITION)
Box Office Achievement - Vincent Sheehan, Liz Watts and Richard Keddie (producers) (LITTLE FISH)
Best Short Film - Kath Shelper (producer), Warwick Thornton (director) (GREEN BUSH)
Best Animation - Julia Lucas, Susie Campbell, Mark Shirrefs, Anthony Lucas (producers), Anthony Lucas (director) (THE MYSTERIOUS GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO)
Best Documentary - Deborah Szapiro, Georgia Wallace-Crabbe (producers), Janet Merewether (producer/director) (JABE BABE: A HEIGHTENED LIFE)
Best Short Documentary - Marco Ianniello (producers), Sascha Ettinger-Epstein (director) (SENTENCES)
Award for Rising Talent - Kath Shelper
Living Legend IF Award - Jack Thompson
Independent Spirit Award - Wayne Coles-Janess (IN THE SHADOW OF THE PALMS)
'What IF?' Award for Best Unproduced Screenplay - Ben C. Lucas and Anthony Vercoe (ALL FLESH MUST BE EATEN: THE MOVIE)
Festival of the Year - Sydney Film Festival


For anyone planning on attending this year, we offer the following tip: stay clear of Harvey Weinstein. The man tears the cheques off so fast, it's like he's auditioning for Gambit in X4 (note: this will be Australia's entry into the Eurovision Joke Contest, and will be read by Bud Tingwell). You might, however, be interested to check out the following Australian films which will be screening at the next festival: Gilliam Armstrong's UNFOLDING FLORENCE: THE MANY LIVES OF FLORENCE BROADHURST, JEWBOY and THE PROPOSITION. New Zealand film NO.2, directed by Toa Fraser, will screen in competition. Additionally, CLARA and that frustrating-to-type-out JASPER MORELLO film will both screen in the International Shorts Category.


Gilliam's worst film ever (why, Terry, why?!?) shot to number one last week, but has now dropped to fifth place. Word of mouth is a two-way street, you know. SAW II held onto its number two position whilst Mr Potter predictably magicked all of your money into his Gringotts account.



The most effective anti-French propaganda film oozes onto the screen, Tony Scott burns up some film stock, Elijah Wood stars in the remake of the Zero Mostel comedy UKRAINE BE SERIOUS!, Potter goes forth, ancient Russian cinema not involving Battleships is re-released alongside..., ...crazy award-winning Jules Verne-style animation, MIRRORMASK gets its description moved down a place so its alphetising doesn't screw with that Jules Verne thing I had going there, Jackie Chan gets sick of waiting for Chris Tucker and dusts off his own franchise, another IRA film totally bombs at the box office, Chiwetel gets Swanky, Steve Martin cradle-snatches, REM bassist Mike Mills takes time out to direct an indie comedy (kidding, I know they're different people), Ryan Reynolds appears in a film whose title sums up his relationship with good scripts (too long a bow?), and Anthony LaPaglia continues the obliteration of his Australian accent.

5 X 2



I've often stated that I'm a pretty big Soderbergh fan. With the exception of OCEAN'S 12 -- which can't be forgiven by pointing out its obscure influences; I'm sorry, it's just a bad film -- I adore everything that he and his Section Eight crew put out. It's therefore been interesting to watch Clooney launch himself into the directing field.

CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND was expertly amateurish. Clooney's direction was slick, but it was clear he was yet to find his feet. He didn't come out of the gate with a clear style; merely facsimiles of the styles by Soderbergh, the Coen brothers, and the other brilliant directors he's worked with. None of this is a slight; I'm glad he was so heavily influenced by the best in the business.

It's with GOOD NIGHT, however, that he's really showed his colours (doing so, oddly enough, in a black and white film). While still using the Peter Andrews-style cinematography, he seems to be using it to his own effect. There's a very strong presence behind the camera, and it's the thing that makes this film such a massive success.

The story of newscaster Edward R. Murrow standing up to Joe McCarthy is one that could easily slip into preachiness. McCarthy is so universally acknowledged as being a Bad Man, that Clooney could probably have got away with loudly proclaiming such a thing. He resists, instead showing a group of people who feel compelled to defend the few who were singled out as communists, even when defending those people would draw suspicion to oneself. (It's really hard to write a sentence like that without realising what an incredible play "The Crucible" is, but that's neither here nor there.)

Even when doing the noble thing, the characters still have their moments of doubt where they wonder if they've become the very thing they are fighting against. How will history view them? Those small character moments are the film's backbone, as they drive home the film's point: that both sides thought they were doing the right thing, but only one would be eventually viewed as virtuous.

If there's one thing Clooney's clearly held onto from Soderbergh and the Coens, it's deft casting. With the sheer number of movie stars that would have jumped at the chance to star in a Clooney film that proclaims human rights to be a good thing, Clooney went with someone that only the cinephile community would recognise: David Strathairn. I've been a fan of Strathairn for years, in films like LA CONFIDENTIAL, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, and one of my all-time favourites, SNEAKERS. His work as the blind Whistler in SNEAKERS was, until now, his career-defining turn, the one that deserved to be remembered above all others. Kids, if you thought he was good before, you haven't seen anything yet. His performance as Murrow blows everything he's done out of the water.

He slips perfectly into his character, barely recognisable beneath his Murrow veneer, but without resorting to tics or theatrics that would tempt most. Even in wide shots where he's only visible in the corner between other actors, he draws the eye. Murrow is shown to be a strong presence in every room he's in, and Strathairn somehow manages to get this across whilst apparently doing nothing. It's my favourite performance of this year, narrowly beating out Joseph Gordon-Levitt in MYSTERIOUS SKIN.

The rest of the cast support him aptly, with Patricia Clarkson, RObert Downey Jnr, Jeff Daniels, Ray Wise, Frank Langella and Clooney himself all giving ego-less performances. It's nice -- and surprisingly rare -- to see every actor in a film slip so easily into their characters. It only serves to improve the film.

Special mention must also be given to Joe McCarthy, who plays himself. It was an interesting choice to only use stock footage, but it pays off. Showing McCarthy in his own light was just about the only way to do justice to him whilst showing how completely and totally wrong he was. Allowing him to dig his own grave was much classier than Clooney and co-writer/producer Grant Heslov doing it themselves.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's intelligent, important, but never anything short of entertaining. I can't recommend it enough.


Mere hours after getting out of GOOD NIGHT, I was in the adjacent cinema for THE ARISTOCRATS. It's really cool being part of the press. You get to see movies early and for free. Of course, "for free" is a tricky term. I parked in the wrong car park, so instead of getting free parking for two hours I had to pay $33. Then, because the film ran later than I was expecting, and I was running extremely late for a class I had to teach, I was forced to take a short cut through a toll way, thus taking my "free" cinema experience up to nearly $50. I was clearly primed for a morning of comedy.

If you haven't heard the setup, it's basically one hundred comedians telling the same joke -- the oldest joke in vaudeville history -- in their own way. It's a joke that been deemed too filthy to tell to audiences, and comedians only ever tell it to one another. Sound boring? Sound tedious? It's not.

The setup of this film, which drew me because of its high concept nature, should not work in practice. The joke should get boring, or old, no matter how many different ways it's told. The filmmakers -- Paul Proveza and Penn Jillette -- intercut the joke with comedians talking *about* the joke. They may be breaking one of the oldest rules of comedy (never analyse a joke), but it works. It actually makes the joke funnier. (This is something I've noticed with things like "The Simpsons"; the rare jokes that are actually funnier the more you think about them.)

It's hard to talk about this film to those who haven't seen it, so I'll leave you with a recommendation. The film had me laughing so hard that my cheeks were hurting at the halfway point. And if you think seeing it with a group of stuffy film critics would suck, they actually broke into applause at one point. How many times have you seen that happen with *any* audience?

Unless you're recovering from facial reconstruction surgery, or don't like dirty jokes, or have a weak heart, you have to go see this film. Funniest film of the year.


- Rick Baker and Richard Taylor join for the Section Eight giant-monkey-senator-goes-on-rampage-through-1950s-Stalingrad in MIGHTY JOE MCCARTHY

- Ben Affleck begins work on "Project Redlight", a new reality series that sees him signs onto films in order to see their funding pulled


Peace out,


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