AICN-DOWNUNDER: RUSSELL CROWE FABRICATIONS, NZ FLICK OUT OF THE BLUE, AND A WONDERFUL DREAM!!
Published at: Oct. 21, 2006, 2:28 p.m. CST by merrick
Who am I? I'm the guy who does my job. You must be the other
Sorry, it's been a bit of time since the last column. You can put it
down to a mixture of busy-ness and laziness, but if I'm honest, it was
definitely the busy-ness. Lots of stuff going on, and all of them leaving me
too wiped to spend the two hours it takes me to realise this column actually
takes me closer to five to put together.
So, what's been going on the past three weeks? Well, the Australian film
industry pulled itself out of the quagmire! That's right, we got a whole
infrastructure going. The Australian Film Commission was able to keep making
films about girls in remote outback locations who come of age without anyone
getting too upset, because we were able to set up a studio system based on
the British model. We started making blockbuster films with an Australian
Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman,
Geoffrey Rush and Eric Bana all decided to stay put in Australia to star in
the films, which were being directed by Philip Noyce, Bruce Beresford, John
Hillcoat, Clara Law and Gillian Anderson. Romantic comedies were made in
Melbourne, heist films were made in Sydney, gritty dramas were made in
Queensland, fantasy epics were made in Tasmania's rolling countryside, and
historical war films were made in the northern tropical areas. All of the
films had big budgets and all were of exceptional quality.
The films all grossed highly, and there was no longer a stigma amongst
the cinema-going public at seeing "one of those Australian films". The
industry thrived, and suddenly producers were looking to develop new talent
and were encouraging them to develop and make multiple pictures. Both the
old school government funding bodies and the newly-arrived privately-owned
studios were giving development money to genre films and high concept
Then I came across a scarecrow who needed a brain, a tinman who needed a
heart, and a lion that needed courage. For some reason, we let the brainless
scarecrow pick which film we should go to, and we ended up in MATERIAL
GIRLS. That was the beginning of the end, and suddenly Australian films were
drying up and the industry fizzled and faded, and it was like some horrible
In its withering death throes, the Australian film industry returned to
normal, the pretty actors returned to America, and Philip Noyce begun
prepping THE SAINT 2. The scarecrow was hired to develop scripts for the
FFC, the tinman begun teaching directing style at AFTRS, and the cowardly
lion got a job at the OFLC.
And that about brings us up to speed.
In this week's installment of "Let's make up a rumour about Russell
Crowe", it seems that Crowe is going to be appearing in THE BLOODY ASHES, a
biopic of the great Australian cricketeer Donald Bradman. Except that he's
not. At all. Crowe and his representatives are too busy denying rumours
about him to actually sign him onto any projects. But all that will change
next week when Crowe signs on to play Mrs Margaret Whitlam in a new science
fiction fantasy biography.
Anthony Hayes, who appeared in the excellent LOOK BOTH WAYS, will direct
TEN EMPTY from his own script. The film will shortly begin shooting in
Adelaide, and is described as an "ode to fatherhood".
A few months ago, I secured my credibility in the film critiquing world
by being the only one who dug the hell out of Geoffrey Wright's MACBETH. Now
you in the mother country can join in the chorus of "Why do people keep
giving Latauro bandwidth?" when Revolver Entertainment unleashes the film
upon the United Kingdom. Or the United Queendom, as I like to insist it
should more accurately be called. Usually, I don't find distribution sales
interesting, but there's something about an Australian version of "Macbeth"
being released in the home of Shakespeare that tickled me enough to bother
with the keystrokes.
Addison Heath is an indie filmmaker in Australia who is one of many
slogging away without those precious budgets. He's currently shooting MONDO
TRANS-NECRO, yet another one of those films about a necrophiliac
transvestite, an adult baby and a bipolar teen. In the meantime, he's
promoting his films BLACK FOREST 1 and BLACK FOREST 2: VINNIE D'S REVENGER,
which, in Heath's words, are "both slasher/gross out comedies that promote
drinking till you piss blood, and fucking teenage girls gaping stomach
wounds". Check out the trailers at https://www.youtube.com/blackforestfilms!
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
AUSTRALIAN FILM INSTITUTE AWARDS
Now, I like Geoffrey Rush. I think he's an excellent actor, but
constantly confusing acting with presenting is proving to be a bit of a
problem at the AFI. Following Russell Crowe's disastrously unfunny stint
last year, Rush has been confirmed as the presenter of this year's AFI
Awards, to be held on December 6 and 7 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.
December 6 will feature all the unpopular awards which are usually won by
ugly nerds in rumpled clothing, and December 7 will be the televised Pretty
People Version. Any chance we can get Shaun Micallef to host it in 2007? I
even promise to watch the ceremony start to finish if he does!
NICE SHORTS AWARDS
November 1 is the deadline for this year's Nice Shorts Awards. Entries
can be submitted on DVD, MiniDV, or full quality data (.avi or .mov). For
more information, internet your way to www.niceshorts.tv and do what the
computer tells you.
30TH MOSTRA DE BRAZIL
I once got a Mostra de Brazil. Took a week for the swelling to go down.
You can use that one if you like. In the meantime, the Australian section of
South America's "main film event" has been announced, with 10 CANOES,
SUBURBAN MAYHEM, CANDY, 2:37 and LOOK BOTH WAYS screening, and Alex Frayne's
MODERN LOVE playing in competition.
THE DEPARTED is pretty much my favourite film of the year so far, and
I'm so happy to see it on the top spot. Actually, another of my favourite
films is on this list. Can you guess which one? Yes, it's GARFIELD 2! No,
STEP UP! No, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA! No... well, I'll let you figure it out
The mere fact of this film prevents me from making any sarcastic
comment, the long-awaited sequel to JUNIOR comes out, and Wayne Rogers
sticks the boot into Elliot Gould.
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE LAST TRAPPER
When a filmmaker emails me to ask if I want to look at their work, I
usually respond with "Absolutely! Send it on! I'd be happy to take a look!".
The packages then sit on my table for anything up to six months as I pass
them and say "I really should get around to watching those soon". Well, I
finally got fed up with my own procrastination (and the guilt got to me),
and got stuck into them (nearly all of them, I should point out -- will get
to the others next week). Yikes. My punishment for waiting so long is that
these films actually turned out to be really good. Check out the
mini-reviews below a review of OUT OF THE BLUE from a guy called The
Iconoclast. Now, I should warn you to take the review with a grain of salt.
This is the first time I've received a review from The Iconoclast, and the
review is incredibly positive. Almost suspiciously so. I Googled the guy's
real name, but couldn't find a connection to the film, so I'm hoping that it
means OUT OF THE BLUE is, in fact, a work of genius that we'll all be
enjoying sooner rather than later. Take a read and decide for yourself.
OUT OF THE BLUE Reviewed by The Iconoclast
Hey kids. As often, I am a long-time reader, first time writer, an
American ex-pat living in Dunedin, New Zealand. I thought I'd drop a line
about a stunning new local film, Out of the Blue, that hasn't made so much
as a ripple in the United States, though it did get some good reviews after
premiering in Toronto a few months back. It's not often we get to see
anything before anyone else does way down here at the south end of the South
Island, but this one hits close to home, so we get it first.
Out of the Blue is based on one of the most contentious, most difficult
incidents in the recent history of New Zealand, one that took place a mere
half-hour's drive from where I sit writing this. On 13 November, 1990, in
the tiny seaside community of Aramoana, a local man by the name of David
Gray took up a rifle and shot dead 13 people for no apparent reason.
Confusion reined in the village for the next 24 hours as a small band of
local police, outgunned and inexperienced, tried to track Gray down.
The film, from the director Robert Sarkies, who previously directed what
was until now the definitive Dunedin film, Scarfies (released in the US as
Life 101 or Crime 101), takes on the killings from the inside. If Out of
the Blue must be compared to another film, it really resembles Paul
Greengrass' Bloody Sunday more than anything else. The same ingredients are
there: hand-held cameras, unknown and non-professional actors, and finally
the tangible sense of place and community, but this is its own film that
could have been written and shot in no other place on earth.
Sarkies takes his time setting up, in rich, telling detail, life in
Aramoana and, knowing what's coming, it's almost unbearable. He leaves the
bomb ticking under the table for a good half hour, and when it finally
blows, when Gray finally takes up his rifle, it's shocking. For the first
time in recent memory, the sound of a gunshot in this film is deeply, truly
frightening. Much of the violence takes place off-screen, which actually
makes it worse, as Sarkies never really lets the audience know what's going
on anywhere outside of the frame. He refuses to make sense of the action
and the geography of the town, so in the audience, we are dislocated and
confused, wondering where the next shots will come from, just like the
people on the screen. And it wrecks you.
New Zealand boy made good Karl Urban tackles one of the larger roles, as
one of the local cops, and he nails it, down to the last time we see him
working on his roof. Matt Sunderland gives Gray a twitchy, haunted quality,
but he never lets us forget that he's a human being, much as it might
comfort us to do so. Sarkies plays with the sound design and the focus at
key moments when Gray's haggard face, framed in extreme close-up, fills the
screen. This isn't all Gray's story though, and the film shows us little
flashes of heroism and stoicism on the part of the trapped townspeople.
These little acts threaten to overwhelm the film at one moment near the
close of the film, but Sarkies never gives in to the sentiment that he could
so easily have ended with.
What kills in this film are tiny details: a child's arm; Gray tuning a
radio and catching a fragment of The Chills' song 'Pink Frost'; a snippet
from the classic Kiwi children's book Harry McClary; little moments of
laughter; the stacks of books in David Gray's house; and, unforgettably,
four cops having a smoke at the end of a hard day on the job.
What makes the Aramoana story such a touchstone for New Zealanders is
its corruption of the national mythology of the Man Alone (the title of the
seminal 1949 novel by John Mulgan), which views the lonely outsider, the man
against society, as a romantic, borderline heroic figure. We see the man
alone in many New Zealand films; from Goodbye Pork Pie to In My Father's Den
to Bad Blood to Smash Palace and Sleeping Dogs (and if you haven't seen
these, they are all very much worth watching). He is the natural figure for
a small nation at the ends of the earth, and Gray's rampage chilled New
Zealand to the core, something that resonates from every frame of the film.
Even for a recent arrival, it hits with an almost physical impact.
Out of the Blue has secured North American distribution, so keep your
eyes peeled. It's a cinematic experience of the highest order, and a
necessary corrective to much of the world's view of the country we are so
used to seeing in rousing fantasy epics. There is more of what New Zealand
is in any five minutes of this film then there is in the whole of the Lord
of the Rings cycle, beautiful as those films may be. Much like The
Proposition in Australia, this film is New Zealand grappling with itself and
its history, and, much as you might want to, you can't take your eyes of
KNIFE SHIFT Reviewed by Latauro
There's something about a short film that causes me to not expect much.
I think because there's so little audience for short films, I don't expect
people to put too much effort into them. I'm certainly not expecting the
production values displayed in KNIFE SHIFT, which are used to great effect.
It's easy to pour money into sets and cameras just because you have it, but
it's much more satisfying when a film matches its tone with its level of
production value. KNIFE SHIFT is anything but gratuitous.
I don't like spoiling plots when I'm reviewing feature films, and
reviewing shorts makes this even more difficult, but the long story short:
KNIFE SHIFT is a terrific little film noir mystery that doesn't waste its
time. It doesn't need two hours to tell a tale of mystery and deception, and
so the streamlined storytelling keeps your attention well. Lead actor Craig
Hall is great, the music is great, and the ending is... well, a little
strange. I'm still not entirely sure about something that happens there, but
it didn't stop me from loving the film. One to check out if the opportunity
TEN MINUTES Reviewed by Latauro
TEN MINUTES is an interesting idea that's designed perfectly for a short
film. In fact, I think I responded well to this film because it could so
easily be an episode of "Amazing Stories" or "Twilight Zone". It's a
fantasy-oriented film that pretends it's going to be a standard
search-and-rescue plot until it introduces a few ideas that add some really
The sound design is utterly brilliant, and is partly responsible for the
two times I jumped out of my seat. And this is on my TV during daylight
hours. There's one jump in particular that will almost certainly ensure the
director's next job.
A tad rough in places, but absolutely worth the watch.
BROTHER Reviewed by Latauro
Okay, so I'd had two solid hits, and was fairly sure that the third film
I put in (chosen at random) would be where my luck ran out. I opened the
package and opened up the best presentation I'd ever come across. How much
money did they spend on this? From the packaging alone, it looks like they
spent a million bucks (which, in the case of Australian short films, is a
Luckily, a fair bit of money was saved for the film as well. The first
time I watched it, I didn't notice the plot. That's not a bad thing. I was
so overwhelmed by all the elements (the oft-mentioned production values,
cinematography, soundtrack, and cracking lines of dialogue), that I didn't
really care about the story itself until the second viewing. And the story
turned out to be a good one. This is the sort of film you pray to appear
when you're sitting out a mediocre short film festival. At the risk of
diluting my credibility even further by adding another positive review to
the mix, this is a damn fine film that should do big things.
- Pornographic production companies file a law suit against Ridley
Scott's new film PENETRATION when they can't think of a better title for the
- John Cusack and Dianne Lane sign onto polytheistic rom com MUST LOVE
- Following the news that Keisha Castle-Hughes, who is playing the
Virgin Mary in THE NATIVITY STORY, is pregnant, Israel announces plans to
kill the baby playing Jesus in thirty-three odd years