You are here

Australian

Paper Planes

Paper Planes

If you do it right, you get to be the Aussie ambassador to Japan!
No-one else wants the job, so it's more of a punishment than a prize

dir: Robert Connolly

2015

Of course Australia needs more Australian films that Australians want to watch. Australia Australia Australia we love you. We won’t have a sustainable film industry (with such a small population, with so much cultural cringe, with so much downloading possible) until we can make the big hits that support the other ‘quality’ productions that no-one other than a few hipsters, a bunch of confused pensioners on Cheap Mondays, and Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton want to see.

Paper Planes has been very successful. A caveat on that is that it’s been very successful for an Australian film. A decent outcome box office-wise for an Australian film would be the very definition of a disaster for most American flicks, but that’s a different argument.

And it deserves to be a success. It’s the very definition of a crowd-pleasing, mass audience family flick. It has the exact contours, rhythms and beats of an underdog triumph / sports movie (which is not a bad thing at all), and though it is constructed from bunches of clichés, the performances manage to wrest the material away from its more mawkish tendencies.

It’s also horribly, horribly emotionally manipulative. There are scenes so potent in their ability to wrest tears from the tear ducts of adults (as opposed to kids) that you feel like a fool crying over such clichés. But they work.

Rating:

Any Questions for Ben?

Any Questions for Ben?

No, there are absolutely no questions for Ben, please stop asking

dir: Rob Sitch

I really wanted to like it. I went in hoping it would be good. Support the local team and all that. My love for The Castle, The Dish, Front Line, The Late Show, The D-Gen before that knows no bounds. The Working Dog chaps are all kinds of all right in my book.

I never allowed for the possibility that this could be so… so very painful.

Any Questions For Ben? might have worked with anyone else as the lead. It might have worked with Idi Amin or Madonna or Yasser Arafat playing the main character. Anyone else possibly could have carried off the role. Probably not me, but then again, shy, awkward, pasty, chubby, cross-eyed me would probably have done a more convincing job than this guy. The Ben of the title (Josh Lawson) is completely unconvincing as a charismatic high achiever with the world on his plate, and he’s even more unconvincing when he starts to question the point of it all.

Rating:

Burning Man

Burning Man

You should really let a doctor have a look at that. There's
got to be a cream for it, or at least an injection

dir: Jonathan Teplitzky

This Australian film from last year has nothing to do with the week-long Burning Man festival in the States which happens every year (which coincidentally starts today, Aug 27th) and is capped off with a massive effigy of a burning man. It is, however, about a man who is burning.

He is burning with desire, with the clap and probably a few other factors are making him blaze, but as the film opens, what he’s burning with is actual fire.

Tom (Matthew Goode) is a chef, and like all chefs depicted in film, is a hard-charging hyper-caffeinated arsehole. Well, maybe it’s not fair to say all of them on film are Type A personality arrogant arseholes. I think there was one who wasn’t. It might have been Remy the rat from Ratatouille. But all of the rest of them tend to be shown as alcoholics and drug abusers who shag anyone at any time.

Anyone who has spent time with people like this in real life knows how false a picture of the food services industry this truly is. I mean, I’ve known stacks of people working like this in high pressure kitchens, and they NEVER drank on the job or smoked dope during a break or shagged co-workers in the alley behind the restaurant. Also, they never get trashed after work every other night, nor is Monday the night when they tend to go completely crazy, since they’ve usually worked all weekend.

Rating:

Tomorrow, When the War Began

dir: Stuart Beattie
[img_assist|nid=1358|title=Yesterday When We Weren't Stereotypes, but people, with thoughts and feelings|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
An Aussie version of Red Dawn? Sign me up right now! I'd watch the shit out of such a movie. And I did, I guess...

Red Dawn, that brilliantly stupid 80s flick about American teenagers leading a guerrilla war against their Communist oppressors, deserves to be a template worth replicating. Of course, I’ve heard that they’re making a new Red Dawn, which I think is completely redundant now, with this flick having been made.

Of course, though cheesier than a three-cheese pizza, this flick doesn’t have a scene where Harry Dean Stanton yells with a demented gleam in his eye: “AVENGE ME, BOYS, AVENGE ME!”

And for that alone there need to be multiple competing versions of this meme out there.

Rating:

Beautiful Kate

Beautiful Kate

She deserved better, they all did. Except the dad.

dir: Rachel Ward

2009

It’s a good thing Rachel Ward directed this film. Not only because she brings a deft and empathetic eye to a ‘difficult’ story, and renders it both meaningful and Australian despite its American origins. It’s also because if a guy had directed this, you’d accuse them of being a dirty, dirty old man, instead of being a sensitive and accomplished filmmaker.

She also, in a clear instance of welfare handouts, gives a plum role to her husband Bryan Brown, who plays a dying patriarch. Do you reckon he had to earn his spot in the film on the casting couch, by sucking and fucking his way to fame and stardom? I wouldn’t put it past her.

This is a good film, but the subject matter is rough, more than a bit rough. It’s downright discomfiting. Any story with elements of incest in it by default is going to be hard watching. And the elephant in this room is so large and so grey that it practically squishes every single other element. Almost.

There’s death, there’s very wrong sex, there’s suicide, and there’s the rage you can only feel towards parents, all here up on the screen for our delectation. Enjoy!

Based on a novel by Newton Thornburg, Beautiful Kate’s setting is transformed from being set just outside of Chicago, Illinois, to the exactly identical setting of the South Australian Flinders Ranges. Ned (Ben Mendelsohn) is a writer summoned back to the family property (called Wallimbi or Gumby or Mallulabimbi) where his saintly father Bruce (Bryan Brown) is loudly dying. Wait a second, maybe Bruce isn’t that much of a saint. In fact, like all of the male characters in this, maybe he’s a bit of a prick.

Our main character, who’s also dragged his much younger bimbo girlfriend Toni along (Maeve Dermody), doesn’t seem to be that perturbed about his father dying. In fact, he seems only mildly put out by it all. He and Bruce clearly loathe each other, and they’re both running down the clock. Brought together by genuinely saintly sister Sally (Rachel Griffiths), they are forced to spend time together by dint of Bruce’s infirmity, and Ned’s need to get some last digs in before Bruce fades away into oblivion. But of course it is every parent’s entitlement to be disappointed in their living kids, and to eternally idealise the ones cut down in the prime of their youth, and none died younger or more youthful than Kate.

Rating:

Samson and Delilah

Samson & Delilah

True love finds a way in the end, we hope

dir: Warwick Thornton

2009

Samson and Delilah is unlike any other film, Australian or otherwise, in its depiction of Aboriginal characters or an Australian story. It is unflinching, and brutal, and beautiful. It might take its name from the biblical story, but this tale is far more real, current, tragic and yet hopeful in its ultimate realisation.

It is not a romantic flick, mostly. There isn’t much dialogue. It’s as meticulously crafted as any work of art you’re likely to ever see, but its purpose isn’t to entertain. Though there is occasional humour to leaven the grim circumstances of these lives, it remains true to the characters and the reality of their situation. A situation not exclusive to the characters in this film.

It’s not easy going, not by any stretch. But then, why should it be?

In an isolated community in the Northern Territory, Samson (Rowan McNamara) wakes up, sniffs petrol for a while, rubs his head then gets up and wanders around. He has nothing to do all day. The isolated community is so small that it probably consists of about 5 shacks, a shack church and a shop. Heat vibrates off everything. A communal phone rings and rings, but no-one answers it.

Music is what wakes Samson up each morning. His brother (Matthew Gibson) and his terrible band play the same song all day long. They play it all day long every goddamn day. The repetition, like the oppressive heat, is maddening but reassuring in its permanence. The phone keeps ringing unanswered.

Delilah (Marissa Gibson) wakes up each day, pushing aside the towels and textiles that serve as blankets, and then wakes up her nanna, whom she feeds medicine to. Delilah is young, Nanna is very old. They have, like Samson, their daily ritual too. They spend half their day producing art, the other half with Nanna praying in the chapel.

Samson doesn’t do much, but he does do a bit to annoy Delilah and get her attention. He never speaks, but he communicates constantly. Then he goes to sleep after some deep sniffs from the petrol tin.

The next day repeats, with minor variations. The day after repeats again, with minor variations. Then everything changes forever.

It’s tempting to joke about the opening half hour of the film as being some kind of aboriginal take on Groundhog Day, but it serves a greater purpose without having to do anything with that film at all. They live grim, stunted lives where every day is like every other until terrible things happen to jar the wheels from their tracks.

Rating:

Last Train to Freo

dir: Jeremy Sims
[img_assist|nid=814|title=Trapped on a train with some fearsome feral bogans|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=397|height=575]
Well, this week’s a real bogan fest here at movie-reviews.com.au, because we have another Australian flick that is utterly dependant on criminal bogans as two of its main characters. Hooray!

Last Train to Freo, surprisingly enough, is about some people travelling on the last train (for that night) to Fremantle, the West Australian port city south of Perth. Two of the people on the train are clearly dangerous criminal thugs. And, as often happens on public transport, thugs can often be overcome with the delusion that they are charismatic and special, and that everyone on the train wants to hear from them.

It’s a delightful circumstance to be trapped in. It’s happened to me a few dozen times, so I assume it’s happened to you, gentle reader. These characters are at the mercy not of the private companies that now run most of the trains in Australia, but of the tyranny of distance and these two thugs.

The thugs (Steve Le Marquand and Tom Budge) clearly have no problem with jail time, with personal space or human dignity. One is tall, hideous and grandiose (Marquand), the other is a nervy and crazy junkie (Budge), but in a seemingly less dangerous way. They discuss various moronic topics on their journey before they are joined by the other passengers.

Rating:

Ten Canoes

dir: Rolf de Heer & David Djigirr
[img_assist|nid=836|title=Ten Canoes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=330]
For the first Australian film made entirely in an indigenous language, Ten Canoes has quite modest ambitions. There’s nothing political or activist going on, it’s not representing anything that deep or significant about indigenous culture, contemporary problems or earnest, well-meaning social commentary. So you can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Ah, that’s better.

It’s just a story within a story about a bunch of people living at the top end of Australia before colonisation. Pretty simple. They make fart jokes, they believe superstitious nonsense about sorcerers and people doing bad stuff to them by putting spells on their shit, and they sometimes covet each other’s wives. Simple people living simple lives.

We are introduced to the storyteller, voiced by David Gulpilil, who pretends he’s going to start the story with ‘a long time ago, in a land far, far away’, then takes that back after laughing. He then tells us gradually of the Dreamtime process of birth for his ancestors, and the way of all births, being the soul waiting at their individual waterholes until it becomes time for them to be put in their mother’s womb before being born.

Rating:

Subscribe to Australian