Saturday, January 31, 2009

31 January 2009

Now for something completely different - a film review! We watched 'Australia' about three weeks ago...

Well we finally got to see the film, "AUSTRALIA" today in Phuket. If Baz had wanted uncritical howls of support, all he had to do was conduct his pre-screenings in a country with a heap of ex-pat Aussies in the audience. It might have been cliched (David Gulpilil on one leg everywhere), full of potentially embarrassing moments, but somehow it just worked! Even with Thai sub-titles.

In the beginning I couldn't decide if it was a send-up of the epic genre, an odd kind of comedy, or too many categories in one box. After those cattle were pushed across the desert (and who cares about the geography, for pete's sake), I was right in there. The wonderful shots of a handful of stockmen holding a mob of 1500 shorthorns (and bless Baz, he got the stock right for the time - not a bloody Brahman in sight, or a Hereford) against the backdrop of that Western VRD country, all those table top hills and the dry spreading plains, had me in goosebumps of memory. And the cattle RUSHED! They didn't bloody STAMPEDE!! And the men were riding around the mob at night singing to them to keep them calm and half awake. He got so many details right, that I'll forgive him all the criticisms by the filmerati. The first third was pretty much a caricature of character and story, but it was allowed to develop into something a little less slapstick after that.

As a piece of tourism propaganda, it was so good I was thinking, What the heck am I doing in Thailand??? However the CGI in-fills were a bit amateurish for 2008, especially the Darwin port scenes that looked like Baz had just photocopied that painting about the Bombing of Darwin and cut and pasted it in the appropriate places. As for the bombing of Darwin itself, it was the part of the movie where I actually did have tears in my eyes. I suddenly thought, 'My God, this is my home being bombed! This is MY town!" I could feel Lex beside me reacting the same way.

And finally, could any discussion of "Australia" be complete without a reference to our boy Hugh. The scene where Nicole watches The Drover having a bath out of a waterbag was the Antipodean answer to a soggy Mr Darcy striding out of his weedy pond (and I LOVE Pride and Prejudice!). It was an hilarious scene, overplayed to the hilt, Jackman's very own Manpower moment. Great stuff! Nicole's Sarah seemed a bit overplayed at first as the caricature of English Duchess in the Outback, but even her role settled down into more drama than dramatics eventually.

David Wenham did such a good job as the bad guy, I almost cheered when Gulpilil skewered him with the iron bar from the top of the water tank.

All in all, it was as if Baz just had a lot of fun in the first half, and in the second said, come on guys, be serious now, we're supposed to be making a movie. It won't get an Oscar, and neither will Nic or Hugh, but that wonderful young boy who played Nulla should get a nomination for sure, and the cinematography. Yes it probably could have been tightened up in places, and perhaps it could have been a lot shorter, but it was great entertainment on a lot of levels. Can't ask for much more than that.

Finally, no one in the theatre had a clue why there was cheering and clapping coming from our row in the opening scenes of the film. The real hero of “Australia” was our very own Tom Silvester as the Qantas pilot!

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