Matt's Blog

Australian Cinema: Me, A Choc-Top & An Empty Theatre

 

I must start this week’s issue by saying another well done to Spencer Howson and his crew at 612ABC.  The latest radio ratings were announced today and they’re on top once again – narrow victors over Nova 106.9 in the morning time slot.  Should I disclose that you can hear me on Spencer’s program at 6:50am every Thursday morning?  No, I don’t think I will.

 

Into The Shadows

 

On Saturday night, I went to see Into The Shadows at the Palace Barracks Cinemas.  The film is a new documentary which looks at a lot of the problems with the Australian film industry.  It talks about how difficult it is to obtain funding.  It looks at how many Australian films which do get made are “gloomy” and unmarketable.  It discusses how the major chains (Hoyts, Greater Union) stifle competition and make life difficult for independent cinema.

 

A key point it does make is how the public doesn’t support Australian cinema.  I think it was the 2007 year (from memory) where the box-office takings for Aussie films made up just 4% of our domestic box-office.  We spent more than 70% of our money watching American films.

 

It was an interesting doco but the irony comes in the fact that I was the only one sitting in the cinema.  That’s right – it was just me, a butterscotch choc-top and an empty cinema.  I can tell you now that this film will make next-to-nothing.  It’s a shame but that’s reality.

 

I’m not going to get into a long-winded debate about the current merits of the Australian film industry.  It’s a topic I’ve covered before and I do my best to promote great local product.  This year has been an exceptionally good year.  I know Margaret and David on At The Movies (without a doubt our most well known critics) also flog any Aussie film they can.

 

Unfortunately, our culture is heavily influenced by the Americans.  We watch their television shows, we buy their music and yes, we watch their films.  Don’t get me wrong – there is some good stuff that has come from the United States.  However, I am POSITIVE that they aren’t the “be all and end all” of creativity.  There are other countries who have equally gifted artists.  Yet for whatever reason, we get sucked in by the great American marketing machines and spend our dollars watching Transformers and Harry Potter.

 

I don’t have an answer but I do encourage everyone to expand their horizons – and not just watching something because Entertainment Tonight tells you to.

 

AFI Awards

 

Last week, the nominations were revealed for the 2009 Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards.  I was very disappointed this year by the change in voting.  Non-industry AFI members (such as myself) are now no longer able to vote for the best picture category.  This is something I have done for over 10 years and it has always given me pleasure.  There is a new audience award category but it’s just not the same.

 

Anyway, I must point out my disgust to see that Baz Lurhmann’s Australia was overlooked for a best picture nomination.  The film has made $37m here in Australia – the second highest grossing local production of all time (behind Crocodile Dundee).  To put that into perspective, only 5 other Aussie films have made more than $10m locally in the past decade.  I know that not everyone was a fan of the film but that massive box-office shows how popular it was and I think the majority of people did find it entertaining.

 

Instead, the 6 films nominated for best film this year are Balibo, Beautiful Kate, Blessed, Mao’s Last Dancer, Mary & Max and Samson & Delilah.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Samson & Delilah will win and it’s a worthy choice.  That said, I’m miffed at how some of the other nominees (without naming names) snuck in at the expense of Australia.

 

Another problem with the awards is that you see the same films nominated again and again throughout all the categories.  It’s the same as the Oscars too.

 

Look, that’s enough of my ranting in that regard.  The award winners will be revealed in December and you can view the full list of nominees here.

 

Matt’s Best Of The Decade – Thrillers

 

Now it’s time for part 3 of my best of the decade series.  We’re looking at a more familiar genre this week – thrillers.

 

I need to point out that there a lot of films which cross genres.  Many thrillers could just as easily be classed as a drama.  I had my trouble myself trying to split my own short-list of films between thrillers and dramas.  It gets even harder when you start looking at the romantic or comedy genres.

 

Anyway, it was a tough choice once again but the two films which I’ve settled upon this week are…

 

Donnie Darko (released in 2002) – full review is here.

 

The Talented Mr. Ripley (released in 2000) - full review is here.

 

Donnie Darko is a heck of a motion picture.  It’s got some really stylish stuff.  I loved the montage at the start of the film to “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.  Just as amazing was the final sequence set to “Mad World” by Gary Jules.  The story is complex and you’ve got to keep on your toes.  I’ve seen it several times and not even I am convinced I fully understand it.  The film also boasts one of the best individual scenes in a movie – the part where Jake Gyllenhaal confronts Patrick Swayze at an open forum.  I went through this scene a few weeks ago in my blog and I laughed so hard when I saw it for the first time.

 

The Talented Mr. Ripley is in my opinion, the best film from the late director Anthony Minghella.  Minghella will be more remembered though for The English Patient, which swept the Oscars in 1996.  I’ve read the novel on which The Talented Mr. Ripley is based and this is one of those rare instances where the full essence of the book (and maybe even more) comes through on screen.  It’s always been a benchmark for me on how to adapt a great novel.  Matt Damon’s character is incredibly complex – he is insecure but incredibly cunning at the same time.  He shares some wonderful sequences with Philip Seymour Hoffman (my favourite actor of the last decade).  It also has a great film score from Gabriel Yared (the soundtrack is in my collection) and ends on a perfect note.

 

Honourable mentions this week (which will get a certificate of commendation from me in the mail) go to Mulholland Drive (which will be mentioned again very soon), Hidden, Memento, The Pledge, Insomnia, The Mothman Prophecies, 28 Days Later, Mystic River, Notes On A Scandal, The Others, Collateral, The Bourne Supremacy, Wolf Creek, Let The Right One In, Duplicity and State Of Play.

 

Next week, we’ll look at the action/adventure genre.  I’ll also sneakily mention my favourite musicals.