We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day.

Mercutio: I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air
And more inconstant than the wind

Romeo & Juliet, Act 1, Scene 4

Verona

I will never forget the first time I saw Romeo & Juliet. I was young and despite knowing the outcome of the tragic love story I was utterly unprepared for the blunt realness of the characters, the utter truth of their emotions and intentions, and the stark, gut-wrenching sadness of the climactic scene which left me breathless, shaken to my core, unearthing emotions that I had never known in my short life but were curiously understandable and resoundingly authentic.

Since then I have performed, directed, taught, and studied the play in many different forms and each time, without fail, the work reveals further shades of beauty, paradox, irony and consequence. And each time I am left astonished by the power and truth of this most ubiquitous of tales.

One of the great geniuses of Shakespeare is his acute awareness of narrative timing: when to reveal certain information and to whom, making the audience an unwitting and unwilling party to circumstances the characters are unaware of until it is too late, positioning the viewers in that torturous realm of bearing too much knowledge while possessing too little power, and with nothing to do but watch helplessly as events hurtle toward their inevitable conclusions. And with this very deliberate tactic Shakespeare masterfully underpins the ever-present power of fate that the characters observe in the throes of their helplessness throughout the play.

Fate and premonition feature large in Shakespeare’s work, and the audience is constantly challenged to consider the play of cause and effect in each character’s arc, the agony of thwarted plans and mislaid intentions. Shakespeare uses this powerful form of character-sympathy to great effect, causing us to align ourselves not only with Romeo and Juliet, but with the entire cast, the good and the bad. We find ourselves in admiration of Tybalt, entranced by his unflinching honor and prowess, qualities even the cynical Mercutio is forced to respect in his appraisement of Tybalt’s character. We are ever grateful for the presence of the able but peace-loving Benvolio, loyal and caring to a fault, but a man’s man when the occasion calls. The Nurse and Friar Lawrence play stable, wise adults amidst the tumultuous broil of youthful passion, but are real enough to make mistakes and to accept their own powerlessness in the face of the all-consuming hatred between the two households.

But above all it is Mercutio who steals the play. From the moment he first appears we feel the tangible pull of his tragic fate as strong as that of Romeo’s. Yet in a way his story surpasses even his friend’s in the depths of its heart-wrenching sadness because he is the only one who is ultimately faultless and can see the entire charade for what it is: “nothing but vain fantasy, which is as thin of substance as the air and more inconstant than the wind.”

Mercutio is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Shakespeare’s ‘fool’ characters whose mocking humor betrays his insight into the reality of circumstances; the futile struggle against the pride and inconstancy of man. His death is among the most telling and tragic moments of the stage, because with him dies the truest of all loyal, wise and innocent spirits.

For even up until his death Mercutio truly wants to believe in the invincibility of his friendships, he wants to believe in the love that Romeo proclaims, he wants to believe in the innocence of their youthful rebellions, he wants to believe in the honor and nobility of Tybalt’s pride, and yet he knows that it is all doomed. This, as much as his defence of Romeo’s honor, is what drives him in anger to challenge Tybalt, knowing as he does that underneath their boyish tussling death waits concrete and inevitable.

John McEnery’s portrayal of the character in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film interpretation is one of the truest renditions yet. From the madness of the Queen Mab speech through to his untimely death, the sheer mortality of the character quivers beneath McEnery’s every mocking phrase and slapstick outburst. Never once does he misinterpret or let slip the intensity of Mercutio’s loyalty to Romeo, even in the throes of death. McEnery’s Mercutio knows the imminence of his fate, and yet when he meets it, he wrestles still with the senselessness of the loss of his young life at the hands of an ancient, baseless feud. This is what makes his famous curse so much the fullness of despair and fatality: “A plague on both your houses!”

Mercutio

Taking us far beyond a simple, tragic love story, in Romeo & Juliet Shakespeare captures completely the beauty and violence of young male friendship, rivalry and loyalty, and through each new interpretation it is those scenes, full of hot-blooded mateship and mischief, that are most savoured, that enthral our emotion and attention: the lewd and tempestuous fight scene at the opening of Act 1; the bizarre yet insurmountably potent Queen Mab speech; the verbal jousting between Romeo and Mercutio in Act 2; and finally the catalytic opening of Act 3 which brings about the death of Mercutio and Tybalt and the banishment of Romeo, and which, some would argue, is the truest climax of the story, packing as much emotional significance as even the lover’s tomb scene.

Romeo & Juliet is more than a tale of ill-fated love and the impotence of pure intentions amidst an ancient vendetta of hate; it is the embodiment of the nobility and beauty of friendship and loyalty, never so strong as in the emotional upheaval of blind youth.

It is a celebration of the colour, life and passion of human relationships, a message that Mercutio sings loud throughout the play and which will never ring dull on the ears of a contemporary audience, not in the past, not now and certainly not into the future.

 

Elise Janes

 

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The Oscars Live

Chris Rock hosts a night of notable whiteness. At least there are some controversial topics explored in the films on the table, and some tension in long-nominated artists we’re all hoping will finally go home with a golden boy tonight.

oscars-2016-nominations-snubs-discussion

My pre-ceremony thoughts:

  • Mark Ruffalo is brilliant. Spotlight is brilliant. They need to win.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio saw me through my youth with What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo & Juliet, and Titanic. He is LONG OVERDUE for this award. For goodness sake someone give it to him.
  • So many Australian nominations, mainly because of the highly acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road. Let’s see if it can be the next Ben Hur/Titanic. Hooray for us!!

12:30pm: Opening monologue

Rock dubs this year’s Oscars “the white People’s Choice Awards” and takes a stab at last year’s white guy host, Neil Patrick Harris.
Commenting on why black people bother with the industry at all, he jokes “I don’t need to lose another job to Kevin Hart”.
Finally he comments on why you can’t ask woman what they’re wearing and in the meantime creates a wonderful mental image of George Clooney in a lime-green tux with a swan coming out of his ass.

12:40pm: First two Best Picture nominations announced
Spotlight
Bridge of Spies

12:45pm: Best Original Screenplay

Have you ever wondered why they kick off with the writing awards? Original Screenplay is one of the top categories and there are some big options on the table tonight. As already mentioned, I am favouring Spotlight wherever possible. It’s a brilliant movie.
WINNER: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy for Spotlight
Hooray!!!!

12:50pm: Best Adapted Screenplay presented by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe

Only Russell Crowe could read the screenplay excerpts with such authority.
WINNER: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for The Big Short
I wonder, what’s with biopics? Why do we love them?

1:00pm: Satirical clip on the lack of coloured people in tonight’s nominated movies featuring Whoopi Goldberg and Tracey Morgan, among others, taking invented roles in Joy and The Danish Girl.
It does make you wonder why they thought a white woman inventing a mop would make for essential biopic viewing.
This prompts Rock to create a Minority Outreach Program.

1:02pm: Music performance from Sam Smith, introduced by Sarah Silverman

Silverman making digs at the chauvinism of James Bond and fails to not be annoying as always.
Performance from Sam Smith, “The Writing’s on the Wall” from the movie Spectre.
Apparently he was incredibly nervous about the performance, probably because it’s just him on the stage without backup dancers and boobs to distract people from his actual talent. Good thing he has more than enough talent to carry him.
Which makes me wonder why he gets an embrassingly small amount of applause. Because he’s English?

1:07pm: Two more Best Picture nominations presented by Kerry Washington & Henry Cavill
The Big Short
The Martian 

1:10pm: Best Supporting Actress

I’m wondering why Rachel McAdams? Her emotional range was the width of a pencil. Which was appropriate, but surely not Oscar-worthy.
WINNER: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl
She looks loverly. Like a sparkly dessert version of Belle from Beauty & the Beast.

1:20pm: Best Costume Design presented by Cate Blanchett

I love Cate. Love her. Statuesque, noble, dignified, beautiful, articulate, intelligent, talented. And Australian.
WINNER: Jenny Beaven for Mad Max: Fury Road
Beaven also designed for A Room with a View. How very—not like Mad Max. Clearly a talented woman.
Squeezes in a comment about global warming.

1:20pm: Best Production Design presented by Tina Fey & Steve Carrell

WINNER: Colin Gibson & Lisa Thompson for Mad Max: Fury Road

1:26pm: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling presented by Jared Leto

WINNER: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega & Damian Martin for Mad Max: Fury Road
More Australians! Hooray!

1:30pm: Two more Best Picture nominations presented by Benicio del Toro and Jennifer Garner
The Revenant
Mad Max: Fury Road
Gosh I hope Leo wins this year. I hope I hope I hope.

1:36pm: Best Achievement in Cinematography presented by Rachel McAdams

WINNER: Emmanuel Lubezki for The Revenant 

1:40pm: Best Achievement in Film Editing presented by Praying Chopra and Liev Schreiber

In the nominations we are reminded that Star Wars happened this year. Where did that one go?
Btw, I think Liev Schreiber is great 🙂
WINNER: Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road

1:42pm: Rock takes the satirical Black History Month a step further with Angela Basset confusing Will Smith with Jack Black.

1:50pm: Best Achievement in Sound Editing presented by Captain America and a black guy (haha)

WINNER: Mark Mangini and David White for Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

WINNER: Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudoff & Ben Osmo for Mad Max: Fury Road

1:55pm: Best Achievement in Visual Effects presented by Andy Serkis

WINNER: Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington & Sara Bennett for Ex Machina

2:00pm: Olivia Munn & Jason Segel comment on the Science and Technology Academy Awards, which they hosted last week.

 2:02pm: Rock unleashes his ‘daughters’ to sell Girl Scout cookies to the audience and makes a jab at Leo’s $30million paycheck for The Revenant.

2:05pm: Best Animated Short Film presented by the Minions

WINNER: “Bear Story”
Beautiful heartfelt thank you speech from the Chilean winners.
Is it just me or is Chile an exercise in diversity from the USA? Is that not something to be celebrated?

2:11pm: Best Animated Feature presented by Woody and Buzz Lightyear

WINNER: Inside Out from Pixar

2:15pm: Music performance from The Weeknd introduced by Kevin Hart

The Weeknd performs “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey with the help of some acrobatics, burlesque costumes and a string section.

2:20pm: Rock surveys the people of Compton outside a movie theatre to uncover their opinions on Best Picture this year with amusing results. Btw this is the same gag he pulled for his 2005 hosting stint.

2:30pm: Best Supporting Actor presented by Patricia Arquette

Mark! Mark! Mark!
Oh. Wrong Mark.
WINNER: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies

2:40pm: Best Documentary Short Subject presented by Louis CK

Louis is a funny guy. Love his work.
Touching on the plight of documentary film-making he jokes “this Oscar is going home in a Honda Civic.”
WINNER: “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
Amazing acceptance speech from winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on the power of documentary making to change governmental policies.

2:42pm: Best Documentary Feature presented by Daisy Ridley and Dev Patel

WINNER: Amy

2:50pm: Rock reveals that his girls made $65 243 from selling Girl Scout cookies to the audience.

2:52pm: Honorary Awards and general pleasantries from Whoopi Goldberg and Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

2:56pm: In Memoriam introduced by Louis Gosset Junior and serenaded by Dave Grohl performing “Blackbird”

David Bowie, Leonard Nimoy, Alan Rickman, James Horner, Wes Craven and Christopher Lee among the farewells this year.

3:04pm: Best Live Action Short Film presented by cute kids in tuxedoes

WINNER: “Stutterer”

Best Foreign Language Film presented by Sofia Vergara and Byung-hun Lee

WINNER: Song of Saul by Laszlo Nemes, Hungary
Yay Hungary!

3:11pm: Vice-President Joe Biden gets a standing ovation and responds with “I’m the least qualified person here.” It’s a relief to know there are still good leaders in the world.

Music performance from Lady Gaga “Til It Happens To You” from The Hunting Ground

Wow. Goosebumps.

3:22pm: Best Original Score 

One of my favourite categories. Apart from Directing, Composing is the category that requires the most training, technical ability and complexity of talent. These guys are heroes of art.
WINNER: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight
I can’t believe this is his first win! After eight nominations and an honorary Oscar a few years back. Such an incredible composer. Love his work

Best Original Song presented by Common and John Legend

Some great nominations this year!
WINNER: Jimmy Napes & Sam Smith for “The Writing’s on the Wall” in Spectre
Sam Smith dedicates his win to the LGBT community and Chris Rock follows up with “no jokes here, you ain’t gonna get me in trouble.”

3:30pm: Two more nominations for Best Picture presented by Olivia Wilde and Sacha Baron Cohen
Room
Brooklyn

3:36pm: Best Director presented by J. J. Abrams

Personally I am hoping it’s Tom McCarty for Spotlight but I really think it’ll be between Iñárritu and Miller.

NOMINEES:
Adam McKay, The Big Short 
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant
George Miller, Mad Mad: Fury Road

WINNER: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Well deserved! Again, is this not diversity of some kind?

3:45pm: Best Actress in a Leading Role presented by Eddie Redmayne

Of course I vote for Cate Blanchett, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went to one of the younger options.

NOMINEES:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

 WINNER: Brie Larson

Wowsers! She was up against some real talent. Well done.

3:52pm: Best Actor in a Leading Role presented by Julianne Moore

Come on, Leo. It’s time.

NOMINEES:
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio

Yay! YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!

4:00pm: Best Picture presented by Morgan Freeman

Here we go, the big deal. I’m hoping for Spotlight but we’ll see, there are some real good movies on this list…

NOMINEES:
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

WINNER: Spotlight

Yes! Such a good movie. Go see it if you haven’t already. Brilliant screenplay, fantastic ensemble cast, excellent directing.

Closing thoughts from Chris Rock: “Black lives matter.”

 

 

 

Facebook Pages: Top Ten

The Top Ten Facebook Pages You Can Like to Stay in the Know

facebook

A well-put-together Facebook News Feed can be just as informative as a newspaper, or watching TV in the morning. Following a varietyof Facebook pages eliminates the need to actively seek out information on a daily basis. Having a tailored News Feed means all the right information is delivered straight to your device. In a world where everyone is constantly on the move, social media is a great platform one can use to stay informed, from any place, at any time.

Here are ten Facebook pages recommended for your feed.

Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera broadcasts news from the Middle East. Al Jazeera’s Facebook page is a useful source for anyone who is interested in not only their local news, but also global news. Al Jazeera often covers major news stories that the Australian media neglects to report on.

Higgins Storm Chasing

HSCThe Higgins Storm Chasing Facebook page is run by a bunch of people who are really passionate about weather. The team at Higgins Storm Chasing posts forecasts and warnings. Unlike the Bureau of Meteorology, Higgins Storm Chasing posts a large amount of photos sent in by fans of the page, making it an engaging source.

 

Daily Mail

The Daily Mail posts news updates, regularly. They also post articles about a variety of topics. It’s unfortunate that the Daily Mail’s headlines are often misleading, and sometimes contain major spelling errors. It’s a good source of information, but not 100% reliable.

Bright Sidebright side

Bright Side aims to make the world a little brighter. Bright Side creates and shares positive, inspiring content that will make you feel better about the world we live in.

Courier Mail

If you live in Brisbane, it’s likely you’ve grown up reading the Courier Mail, or at least know someone who used to read the paper every Saturday. The Courier Mail reports on the latest local news.

Music Feeds

The Music Feeds Facebook page posts Australian and International music news, reviews and interviews. A wide range of genres are covered.

TODAY

Many people watch the TODAY Show for Australia’s national treasure, Karl Stefanovic. Now that he’s making less appearances on the show, it’s likely you’re reluctant to watch as much as you used to. Now, all you need for your TODAY Show fix is the TODAY Show Facebook page. They post great highlights. The light-hearted feel of the show translates well onto TODAY’s social media.

Queensland Police Service

Someone at Queensland Police Service has a really awesome sense of humour. QPS regularly post updates about local news and traffic; often, there is a sneaky pun or pop culture reference thrown in for your enjoyment.

Pedestrian.tv

ped-tv-logo

 

Pedestrian.tv posts a mix of entertaining articles about news and pop culture. Pedestrian.tv really speaks its mind. It’s quite tongue-in-cheek at times. A very entertaining source.

 

Lucky PeachObsession-Cover-Lucky-Peach-Magazine

Lucky Peach is a quarterly journal of food and writing, with each issue exploring themes through essays, art, photography and recipes. If you can’t afford the magazine subscription, Lucky Peach’s social media is a great, free source of information. Their
Facebook feed has an interesting mix of articles, catering to foodies all over the world. Lucky Peach’s email newsletter is quite impressive too.

 

In the comments section below, let us know your favourite Facebook page.

Carmel Purcell

Top Ten Vintage Christmas Films to Save You From Netflix Specials

Not all Christmas movies are created equal. Finding a good festive film requires an increasingly long trek through the morass of animated holiday specials, random variety shows, Hallmark made-for-TV goo and just plain bad efforts from studios who should know better.

So if you’ve exhausted all the usual go-to’s, look no further. Here are ten classics that are guaranteed to warm the cockles of your Christmas heart.

10. The Holly & the Ivy (1952)

An English clergyman realises the error of his ways as he reconnects with his estranged famliy at Christmas. Based on a play by Wynyard Browne the film bravely examines the complexities of family and the ambiguities of emotional neglect with unexpectedly heart-warming results.

9. Three Godfathers (1948)

3 godfathers

Nothing says Christmas like a John Wayne western, right? A hard-hitting, surprisingly emotional reimagining of the story of the three wise men as wild west bandits fleeing the law who stumble across a mother and her newborn son in the desert.

8. We’re No Angels (1955)

A comedic counterpart to the gunslinging godfathers, here three convicts on the run share Christmas dinner with a family and upon learning of their financial troubles decide to forego their devious plans and perform a few good deeds. Humphrey Bogart plays a loveable con as only he can.

7. Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)

mon oncle

Not as vintage as the other offerings on this list, but a classic in it’s own right. Set in Quebec, this movie is often cited as the best Canadian film ever made. Benoit accompanies his uncle to retrieve the body of young boy at Christmastime. A beautiful meditation on life and death, family, age and the innocence of youth.

6. Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

Judy Garland in her sparkling prime in a big screen musical about the lives and loves of four sisters around the time of the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair. Not a Christmas movie per se, but it gave us the perennial classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and for that we will be forever grateful.

5. A Christmas Carol [Scrooge] (1951)

Arguably the best rendition of the ubiquitous Dickens story, it is a sheer joy to watch veteran actor Alastair Sim in the titular role as he transforms utterly from a miserly old man into a redeemed champion of the virtue of generosity and the value of human life.

4. Holiday Inn (1942) & White Christmas (1954)

holiday inn

Bing Crosby dazzles in both movies, singing and dancing his way through colourful holiday shenanigans and general musical greatness. There’s snow, romance, timeless Irving Berlin tunes, and all the festive kitsch you could desire. Holiday Inn comes out slightly ahead simply because it also features the incomparable Fred Astaire.

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The classic tale of a Macy’s Santa Claus who may or may not be the real deal. An ingenious portrayal of the power of childlike faith to overcome adult narrow-mindedness, cynicism and doubt. There are several remakes, but try this one first.

2. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Charmingly set in Budapest, this movie is an embodiment of everything that was once grand about romantic comedies. Two shop assistants who can’t stand each other gradually realise they have fallen in love as anonymous pen pals. A gorgeously tangled plot handled with surprising range, it manages to never get too sweet or too sour.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)

its-a-wonderful-life

James Stewart takes the helm in the top two movies on this list, and really, who else can be the hero of Christmas vintage if not for the man who brought us George Bailey, the troubled businessman facing personal crisis on Christmas Eve. A surprisingly dark concept for a Christmas movie, George is rescued from suicidal contemplations when the angel Clarence takes him on a journey through his past to show him how different the world would be if he had never existed. The final scene, that look on Bailey’s face as he realises the true value of his life to those around him, is one of the most life-affirming moments in cinema.

 

Elise Janes

 

TV Shows in 2015 (or, Not Quite a Top Ten List)

We live in an age of lists. The 10 best authors, 10 best films, 10 best songs about love and loss and war and hope. Almost by definition, a list presupposes a kind of expertise, that the maker of the list is in a position to weed out the dross and provide a subjective but nonetheless informed short-cut to quality. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but, for me, thinking about a ‘10 best of for 2015’ is complicated by the birth of my son. I don’t have a pool of anything that isn’t newborn related from which to draw and measure my 10 best of. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, and I didn’t expect to eat as much fiction or music or cinema, or whatever it was I did before I became a father, in 2015, but 10 isn’t a big number. It’s less than one of something a month. But all I could afford were glimpses of things, their place in a list, and sometimes, in the background, the TV. So, without further ado and in no particular order, a glimpse of my top 10 TV shows for 2015.

UNREAL  

UnReal exposes the sick, twisted heart of shows like The Bachelor.

UnReal is a dark and satirical look at the making of a reality dating show, Everlasting, loosely based on The Bachelor. It’s produced and co-written by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, and based on her film Sequin Raze. Shapiro is a writer, filmmaker, artist and musician, and spent nine seasons working on The Bachelor in the US which provided her with the meat for UnReal. UnReal begins at the beginning, with Everlasting’s executive producer, Quinn, conducting the opening sequence from the master control suite. The season’s first contestant arrives in a horse-drawn carriage, and alights carrying a violin, which she proceeds to play. The bachelor gives the show’s host a kind of WTF nod as the contestant introduces herself as Shamiqua. Cut! Quinn yells. They can’t have a black contestant opening the show, she’s not ‘wifey’ enough. When Quinn’s accused of being racist she replies it’s not her, it’s America. Meanwhile, Rachel, one of the producers under Quinn’s wing, is en route to the Everlasting villa with some of the other contestants. She’s wearing a T-shirt that reads THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE, and lies on the floor of the limo amidst a forest of clean white legs and heels in a tightly framed shot that gives her a kind of claustrophobic, interred look, like she’s in a coffin. Which in many respects she is. They all are. The bachelor, the contestants, the crew. For this is a nasty world full of savagery and conflict where the only governing constant is the drug of the show, to which everybody’s bound but from which no-one can completely escape. And the Network looms large, fucking and corrupting and violating everything it touches to ramp the tension and secure its slot in its time. There is nothing else. And although UnReal isn’t as overtly vicious as Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, it’s on the same spectrum. SBS has acquired the rights to season two and will probably air in 2016.

HAPPYISH

aHAPPYish

Happysish is about happiness, and unhappiness, and the overpopulated terrain that lies between. It was originally called Pigs In Shit, with Philip Seymour Hoffman slated for the lead until his death in 2014. The role eventually went to Steve Coogan, and the program survived one 10-episode season before the axe. It rated poorly, received mixed reviews from critics, with many calling it smug and self-satisfied rubbish, and was perhaps one of the finest comedies to come out of the US since Community. Coogan plays Thom Payne, an intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive advertising executive struggling with the 21st century. He lives in Woodstock, New York, with his partner, an intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive artist, and their young son. The ad agency where Thom works is being taken over by a couple of German wunderkinds who represent the most abject and perishable aspects of creativity, and are vaguely reminiscent of the Bond villains Mr Wint and Mr Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever; smiling, genial, and lethal. But not all the action takes place at the office or revolves around work. Thom’s real passion is literature, and writing, and thinking – the writers and thinkers mentioned in each episode are given acting credits, like STARRING SIGMUND FRUED, CHARLES BUKOWSKI, AND SEVEN BILLION  ARSEHOLES. Or the final episode which starred CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, PHILLIP LARKIN, AND JOSEF STALIN. Which go a long way to painting the melodies of the show. May it rest in peace. Five stars.

MR ROBOT

aMr RobotMr Robot begins with the protagonist, Elliot, a young man dressed in a black hoodie with a handsome, intense face, sitting in Ron’s Coffee Shop watching the door. The owner, Ron, comes in and takes a table. Elliot joins him, and by way of introduction tells Ron that Ron isn’t his real name, he changed it from Rohit Mehta on buying Ron’s Coffee Shop six years ago. Rohit (Ron) looks alarmed. Who are you? he says. Elliot continues, saying he likes Ron’s Coffee Shop because the Wi-Fi’s fast. So impressed was he by the speed, he explains, he hacked the network, and discovered Rohit runs a website called Plato’s Boys, and that onion protocoling isn’t as anonymous as Rohit might like to think. Rohit demands to know what Elliot wants. Money? Elliot doesn’t give a shit about money. Elliot says that although he doesn’t jerk off to little boys, he understands where Rohit’s coming from. He knows what it’s like to be different. He’s been different his whole life, and as he gets up to leave, sirens can be heard in the distance. They’re coming for Ron, with Elliot’s anonymous tip timed to prevent Ron from contacting his systems administrator and wiping all the incriminating data. Elliot leaves. Because this is what he does. He hacks into people’s lives finding injustices to fix, inadequacies to help, and lies to out. His awkward and misplaced heroics finally lead him to an anarchist group called fSociety, and so begins their journey to bring down corporate America. Apart from Christian Slater, who plays the enigmatic figurehead of this ragtag collection of misfits, the cast, along with its maker, Sam Esmail, are unknowns. Which is massive, given it was picked up and distributed in the US by NBC. Mr Robot’s billed as a cyber-punk thriller, and owes as much to David Lynch as it does to Fight Club, Taxi Driver, and Stanley Kubrick, and proved a canny broadcasting move as it now has a cult following moving into its second season.

THE LEFTOVERS

aThe Leftovers 1The premise is simple: one day, 140 million people disappear from the planet without trace, cause, or any obvious connection. This is the bedrock upon which the series is based: what if something truly inexplicable happened in our lifetime, something without precedent, like the big bang, and without inherent logic or reason? What then? How do we live with such an event, and the overwhelming unknowing of what happened, and whether what happened might one day happen again? How do we tame this wild ignorance into something we can manage and discuss over dinner? The Leftovers is one of the most important television programs on air. It asks, when faced with something so beyond our abilities to rationalise or understand, why do we turn to belief? Why do we need to believe it must be this, or that? And once determined, why the need to bunker down in camps of believers and non-believers? This is the religious imperative. And The Leftovers wonders what it is that religion fills, but like UnReal and Mr Robot, The Leftovers is a drama, not a polemic, and it doesn’t assume to know the answers. It’s about the people, the leftovers, the ones who stayed behind, and what’s possible in a world where tomorrow may in all likelihood never come.

THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE

aThe Man in the High Castle

Another show that carries a dangerous premise is The Man in the High Castle. Taken from a novel by Phillip K Dick , it’s a revisionist take on World War II, with the Axis powers winning and dividing the US into three parts: The Pacific States of America governed by Imperial Japan, the Greater Nazi Reich which runs the length of the east coast and west as far as Texas, and a neutral band between the two called the Rocky Mountain States. There’s a resistance, and the pilot wastes no time setting up the violent tensions of occupation. Then a spanner. One of the protagonists finds some newsreel footage of Japan’s surrender aboard the USS Missouri in 1945. Like The Leftovers, you’d be hard pressed to find a more dramatic rapture event than this. If the footage is to be believed, then everything is a lie, and somewhere, in some not too distant space-time continuum, there’s an alternative reality where the Allies won the war. It’s a bit like Winston’s paperweight in 1984. Where once ye abandoned all hope, now there is a window. Needless to say, when the occupying forces discover this footage exists, the chase is on. Which is as far as I got, so no spoiler for this little nugget.

GOTHAM

aGothamGotham is a noir prequel to the Batman story that revolves around the day-to-days of the Gotham City Police Department, in particular Detective James Gordon. Unlike the Leftovers, or The Man in the High Castle, Gotham doesn’t break any ground. But to its credit, it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. The production is lavishly operatic, with all the tropes, stereotypes and social idioms of the comic book given a bang crash pow course in moral complexity, and the acting highwires between the histrionic and the ridiculous without ever losing its grip. Which is no small feat. However, what struck me about Gotham was the music. In the first episode, a singer auditions for a nightclub spot with Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain. Next episode the New York Dolls pop up. Iggy Pop, The Stooges. Then in episode 04 another singer auditions for the same nightclub with a pared back version of Spellbound by Siouxsie and the Banshess. Now, Souixie and the Banshees don’t get out much these days, and given what had preceded it, I checked out the credits for SOUND. Turns out to be Graeme Revell, frontman for the 1980’s punk industrial electronic group SPK. Revell’s been composing for TV and film for over two decades, with all sorts of titles to his name, from Dead Calm in 1989, to The Crow, Bride of Chucky, The Matrix and its sequels, Pitch Black and its sequels, Lara Croft, Sin City, Dennis the Menace Strikes Again, and the list goes on. I was reminded of Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance who wrote the score for Balibo, won a Golden Globe with her score for Whale Rider, and is perhaps best known for her work with Ridley Scott on Black Hawk Down, The Insider, and Gladiator. Or the French electronica duo Air who scored Sofia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides. Or Clint Mansell, formerly with Pop Will Eat Itself, who scored The Fountain with Kronos Quartet. Or Trent Reznor’s score for The Social Network. Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood. These are more than bands or musicians providing a song to top or tail a movie or soundtrack a car chase, but an industry shift away from traditional composers like Morricone and Williams to the Billboard alternative music charts.

I’m not sure what it all means, if anything, these swings in cinema and TV, with the recent crop of movie stars appearing in shows like Hannibal, True Detective, House of Cards, Fargo, the trend some say began with The Sopranos and The Wire towards a more literary narrative arc, programs that can’t be dipped into like tracks on an album but have to be watched from the beginning to the end, episode by episode. Maybe we’ve become more demanding, as an audience. Who knows? What’s good to know – even though I didn’t make it to 10 – is that quality television is starting to become more fashionable than it has for some time. Which makes parenthood just that little bit easier. Or not. Who knows?

 

Sean Macgillicuddy

 

Serial, True Detective & Me

Three days ago I discovered the podcast Undisclosed. Hosted by three lawyers Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller & Susan Simpson, this series is a deeper dive into the 1999 Baltimore murder case of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of Adnan Syed for her murder and a more in-depth look at the legal issues in play originally served up to us in 2014 as Serial, a 12-part series brought to us by Sarah Koenig and the team @ This American Life.

UNDISCLOSEDI wanted more. I wanted Serial Series 2 but had no idea when it might land in my podkicker episodes feed. I was staring into the great white unknown, man, and was left feeling uneasy. I’d caught the bug. My ear holes were hungry for serialised drama. I’d recently devoured The Message and swallowed what there is of Limetown whole.

The Undisclosed team are catching-me-up. I’m neck deep in the nitty-gritty. In two days I’ve gorged on ten eps, with fifteen to twenty more stored in the pantry. I get too easily torn between believing we’ll never know who and why Hae Min was killed to thinking that each new discovery the pod-hosts bring us will be the crucial game changer.

And then, last night. It was 11.35pm. I was just about to turn off the bedroom light and invite sleep into my life when I refreshed my podkicker one last time. As the app refreshed, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, fluffed my pillows. Then…

BOOM!

I shit my pants.

There it was: ‘Serial. Episode 01 – DUSTWUN’.

SERIALI stared in awe. I was reminded what Christmas morning was like as an eight year old – overwhelming excitement at receiving something I really wanted and would really appreciate. There would be newness in my life. A new door was about to be opened to me. A mystery would be presented and dissected. Questions raised, answers sought and yet still doubt and uncertainty would linger. ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sarah and team for finally coming back into my life,’ I almost whispered. I downloaded right away.

And as the ep poured its 40.62 megabytes of data into my feed’s open mouth, I got a twinge in my chest. A moment of pause. Hesitation. ‘Shit,’ I thought, in response to my reaction. ‘Is this doubt creeping in, already?’

Yes. Yes it was. Doubt bleeding out worry. Worry the colour of apprehension. Not red. Not blue. Yellowy-white. Aw, man. It will be great, won’t it?

I was in this state for a few minutes after, in between turning off the light and drifting into sleep. So today, I need to address it.

Like the first series of True Detective, I’d put Serial #1 in a snow globe. As close as anything could, these series came as close to fully realising what they had set out to do. And coming from a place of utter authenticity with a focus, not on garnering mega-success and creating a franchise, but delivering the full truth and experience of the story they were telling.

TRUE DETECTIVEThe second series of True Detective has been out for months now. All 8 episodes are parked in my IQ DVR. They remain recorded as yet unviewed. I’ve stayed away from any reviews of the series but not the chatter which seeps into podcast conversations and other general sources of pop-culture tete-a-tetes. I want so much for this show to build on what Nic Pizzolatto, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey delivered to us in the first iteration. My expectations are (were?) sky high. The first series was so bang on. Characters with balls. Storylines that cut sharp. The mise-en-scene of Louisana. Its expanses. Its poverty. Its parochialism and strong faith.

It all clicked. It was intelligent, didn’t pander and spent much of its time elbow deep in the shit of humanity. And now, after overhearing much negative and dismissive talk of the second iteration, I’m nervous and afraid. I don’t want this ideal that I hold tightly in my head to be affected. ‘Why?’ I ask the universe, without having watched a solitary second of the new series. ‘Why did it have to be True Detective? Why couldn’t they just call it something else?’

And on and on and on this self-pitying crap went.

I self-medicated by watching The Sopranos. When that ended I was introduced to Coach Eric Taylor and the Friday Night Lights crew. That worked, for a while. It worked until specifically 11.35pm last night. And now I know it’s something I’m going to have to confront.

I have to let Serial #2 become its own thing. Let it be what it will be. As Marc Maron says in his 2011 book, Attempting Normal, the situation is in my head. Sometimes that’s just how it will be.

So Serial mark-2, will it fill the void, quench the thirst, feed the beast? No, because it’s not meant to. That shit is on me. I can’t put my failings and shortcomings on someone else’s thing.

But I can tune in and give it my time. I can crack open the snow globe, allow newness into my life. Be open to wonder and surprise.

Serial: Episode 01 – DUSTWUN is loaded into my playlist and I’m about to jack-in. To all embarking on the same journey, good luck and enjoy!

Because of Marty McFly

If you were born in or around the 80s chances are Marty McFly featured large in your childhood. Something about the combination of his wide-eyed wonder and teenage recklessness made Marty the kind of guy you’d want to hang around. The many harrowing experiences he endured simply endeared him to us further, as he saved himself from oblivion several times and repeatedly outwit the many iterations of Biff Tannen via the assistance of a handy hoverboard or some mad guitar skills, or the inevitable pile of manure.

In fact many of you would still count the Back to the Future trilogy among the best movies ever made. I know I do, not simply for the sheer entertainment value, which is significant even thirty years on, but because the films spoke intimately and intelligently to the sense of adventure and personal triumph that we all crave, making them truly timeless in their appeal and also their relevance.

Back-to-the-Future-2

The movies had a vast impact on popular culture, with the crazy inventiveness of the narrative spawning references wide and varied from hiphop tunes, to presidential addresses, to the emergence of 80s skateboard culture. And the mild DeLorean was never the same again.

In honour of this very great of days, 21 October 2015, I’d like to acknowledge the linguistic contribution of Back to the Future to our modern vernacular. Here are fifteen things you now say because of Dr. Emmett Brown and his silver DeLorean.

Great Scott!

Manure! I hate manure!

Nobody calls me chicken.

Whoa. This is heavy.

Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 mph…you’re gonna see some serious shit.

Why don’t you make like a tree and get out of here?

The time-travelling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women.

You’re the doc, Doc.

What happens to us in the future? Do we become assholes or something?

I foresee two possibilities. One, coming face to face with herself 30 years older would put her into shock and she’d simply pass out. Or two, the encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, and destroy the entire universe!

I’m your density.

Well, that is your name, isn’t it? Calvin Klein? It’s written all over your underwear.

It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.

If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

Happy Back to the Future Day, everyone.

Elise Janes

Before Sunset

Few movies have the boldness to be both utterly romantic and painstakingly realistic, holding our emotional response in some sort of excruciating stasis between hope and despair, made all the more raw by the immensely empathetic nature of the lives and thoughts and feelings of the two central characters. This movie came out in 2004, a year before I first visited Paris, and now the two are inextricably linked in my mind. I cannot visit Shakespeare & Co without imagining that heartbreakingly casual reconnection between Jesse and Celine, nine years in the making.

file_577430_before-sunset-location-map-0472013-174949

In an age when it is all to easy to give audiences exactly what they want, Richard Linklater has become a master at the slow burn, engaging us whole-heartedly in bare-faced dialogue that is at the same time both lyrical and recognisable, carrying us along an ebb and flow of intimacy and smokescreen that seems, if possible, to be even more genuine than our own personal experiences.

Before Sunset is the central movie in a trilogy of exceptional films, each made exactly nine years apart and each one a continuation of a conversation between two characters who seem at the same time made for each other while also unreachably different. In 1995’s Before Sunrise, Jesse and Celine first meet by chance on a train to Vienna and spend a night walking its cobblestone streets talking life, love and art.

There is no hidden agenda in this movie. There will be no betrayals, melodrama, phony violence, or fancy choreography in sex scenes. It’s mostly conversation, as they wander the city of Vienna from mid-afternoon until the following dawn. Nobody hassles them.

– Roger Ebert on ‘Before Sunrise’

After promising to meet again in six months’ time, we as an audience are left hanging for nine years until we rediscover them as they rediscover each other over a day in Paris, gently edging toward revelations about the questions we desperately want to know: are they married, are they happy, are they meant to be together? The third iteration came another nine years later, in 2013’s Before Midnight, where we discover what has become of them since that fateful reconnection on the banks of the Seine.

Will there be a fourth film in 2022? We both hope and fear it to be so. Such is Linklater’s remarkably uncontrived effect on his audience.

Filmed in long uninterrupted takes that trick us into the feeling of real-time, these movies are dialogue journeys that take us on a winding path through all the beautiful and tragic ideas we have always wondered but rarely voiced.

All three movies make grand use of their European city backdrops, incorporating history and geo-social landmarks into the narrative, making the trilogy that much more beautiful and entrancing. After the first movie, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy joined the production team as writers, adding an indispensable layer of realism to their onscreen relationship.

The movies have consistently scored exceptionally high on IMDB, Meteoritic, Rotten Tomatoes and even Roger Ebert. They are timeless, beautiful, deep and entangling, and you will find yourself revisiting them again and again.

If ever there was a fitting narrative tribute to the phases of the sun as paralleled in the waxing and waning seasons of life, it exists in these three films.

 

Elise Janes

One Thousand Words

The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. It’s the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the Island City, and the blood-metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches, and mosques, and of a hundred bazaars devoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers.’ 

(Roberts, 2003)

Busy_Street_in_India

I’ve been back in Australia for one week now and already, India feels like a dream. I’ve fallen back into mundane routines. It’s week two of the uni semester and I’m back to work. The busy cycle of adrenaline and fatigue has already taken away that freeing feeling of confidence and possibility I brought back with me to Australia. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I find myself thinking about the pink soap box of Sard I left back in India in the guest-house. I tried once to wash my clothes by hand, only to be left with damp clothes smelling of dirty air, curry and vomit. As unpleasant as this reflection is, it reminds me of the reality of India. I must remember that study tour wasn’t all smooth sailing and exploring. There were times in India that were very challenging for me. Despite this, India was great. It’s fueled me with knowledge. It’s changed my ambitions, my perceptions. It’s changed my life.

I think back to when we visited the set in Vasai. The area seemed very industrial in contrast to the green landscapes surrounding it. People across the road from our bus were chipping away at white stone in the sun. As we walked closer to the set, we passed a group of ladies working with clothes. They sat in an area that looked like the back of a petrol station or a dirty, concrete toilet block. And yet, in their hands they held beautiful, intricate, colourful garments. ‘Embroidery for film costume overlaps considerably with embroidery for private clients and the fashion market, and its specialists share the same social attributes. Several independent workshops are located in known slum areas of the city, where artisanal industry flourishes owing to the concentration of urban craftspeople and the availability of affordable space’ (Wilkinson-Weber, 2014).

The culture of India and the Bollywood industry runs so differently, so uniquely. Everyone and everything has purpose or potential. The slums aren’t seen as places of poverty, but, rather places of productivity. I went to India expecting to see an industry like Hollywood where people pursue film from an early age for the creativity and the popularity. In India, you work for money and for survival. Even those with a lot of money produce films ‘to sell popcorn’ and pocket the rupees. Professionals in Bollywood acquire skills through practice and seem willing to take on anyone with a drive to learn.

India 1

On the set in Vasai, we talked to well-renowned actor, Sachin Tyagi. He seemed more than willing to speak to us and was very charming. He admitted that sometimes acting is good but, most of the time it is torture. What I loved most about the study aspect of study tour was learning from the honesty of people in the industry. Here in Australia, I feel that guest speakers always strive to be inspirational. They are all about fulfilling dreams. In India, Vivek Vaswani taught me that ‘you have to set goals, not dreams. Because, you wake up from dreams and they are gone. Always deal with facts when you make decisions. You must make mistakes.’ These are truths I needed to hear. These are facts that work in the entertainment industry, an industry that is quite frankly, less about dreams coming true and more about profit.

In the meeting with Hansal Mehta, we were told that in India, everyone’s values, the things they say even, come from what they’ve seen in films. I feel that even at twenty years of age I am still confused about my own identity and my own values. This study tour has made me surer than ever that the way I’m going to form values and learn in my life is to do what I’m passionate about, travel. Meetings in India taught me that if I pursue producing I should take advantage to co-produce on international projects, get to know international filming laws and treaties. Working internationally in film would be an invaluable experience. However, I’m not sure if I’d focus on producing. Learning so much about producing and directing made me realise that maybe it’s not for me. I think I’m more passionate about writing, specifically travel writing or scriptwriting.

I found myself very drawn to and inspired by the meeting we had with the scriptwriter. It was interesting to observe that the scriptwriter had the ability to balance writing for films with other roles in the industry. He still had time on top of this to engage with his hobby, creating mash-ups and film trailers. At Everymedia, I learned that in public relations you take a small part of an interview and turn it into a big story. In the same way, I suppose I’ve taken a small aspect of the study tour and brought it to the forefront of my mind.

Listening to the scriptwriter, taught me that telling a story you want to tell will make you enjoy writing.  One day you’ll read something and think ‘there’s an idea there.’ You have to believe in the idea because you will spend six months with it. ‘Any script that we write we make sure it’s not more than two locations because if I have to freight the equipment to 5 different locations, I’ll go crazy if I don’t have that kind of money to move. Dangerous Ishq is a film that actually needs 5 different locations, but I’m shooting one around Bombay and shooting around Rajasthan and finding everything there, otherwise I would have to go to Mysore and go to Calcutta, and I can’t afford that’ (Tejaswini, 2013). This reflection from Tejaswini reminds me that if I pursue scriptwriting or any role in the entertainment industry, I need to remain realistic. I need to be smart about the content I create and make the most of the resources available to me.  In the scriptwriting meeting, I also learned that inspiration often comes out of writing for other projects. I believe that in my life, a lot of what I do will stem out of working a variety of jobs. I am an indecisive person and my career will likely be fluid as a result.

India 2

Photo credit: Joe Carter

There are so many pieces of advice I learned on study tour that I can apply to any profession in creative industries. Hansal Mehta for instance, taught me that it is important to stick with a story and always have a pitch and a visual in your mind. And, never forget the heart of your story. As Gautam Kohli said, have a big idea and take it to the end. Suparn Verma taught me that industry is about establishing relationships and using them, there is nothing else to it. Komal Lath taught me that you should always have teams of three so you can depend on at least A, B or C being available. You should have about six people in your line of business and you should have a point one and a point two. Point two should have a link directly to the person you need to reach, perhaps a star or a valuable contact. Komal Lath also reminded me of a crucial fact. Everyone in society wants something for an exchange. ‘Filmmaker Arin Crumley, of Four-Eyed Monsters fame, attended Cannes this year to make connections for his next, in-progress feature. He describes his strategy: My process has been talk my way into events I’m not on the list at, talk to people about what they’re looking for, and through my own insights and ideas, see if I can help them. And through that people are offering to help me. It’s been a big lesson in working together as a community’ (Macaulay, 2012).

Study tour gave me the opportunity to learn information that I’d never considered before from people who live in a culture so different to my own. The fact that I’ve been to India gives me an advantage. I should take aspects of the way India works and apply it to my work in Australia. For example, in writing I can consider the structure used for content in Bollywood. Structure in Indian film is much different to Hollywood. In Bollywood, there are two different movies in one, before and after the interval. In Creative and Professional Writing we learn to avoid being cliché. By writing a story with the same structure as a Bollywood film, I immediately move away from what is cliché in the Western world. I can produce something with my background knowledge of Bollywood that will separate my work from other people’s.

I am so thankful for the experience of study tour. It was such a privilege to learn from inspirational and genuine people who seemed so confident in you and willing to help you. In Australia, most professionals in the industry would not give you the light of day. Sharing this experience with a group of students who are so like-minded and driven and interesting was what made study tour the best it could be.  I miss the experience every day. It is amazing how transformative three weeks of your life can be.

Take me back to the fifth of July. I want to do it all again.

 

Carmel Purcell

First published on Carmel’s blog.


Ganti, Tejaswini. 2013. Bollywood. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Macaulay, Scott. 2012. “12 Tips on Networking from the Cannes Film Festival.” Filmmaker, May 30. Accessed August 10, 2015. http://filmmakermagazine.com/46168-1-tips-on-networking-from-the-cannes-film-festival/#.Vccp1vlbGed.

Roberts, Gregory D. 2003. Shantaram. Australia: Scribe Publications.

Wilkinson-Weber, Clare M. 2014. Fashioning Bollywood: The Making and Meaning of Hindi Film Costume. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

 

The Elusive Australian Film Festival

The Palace Cinemas recently hosted a German Film Festival at their locations around Australia. The full program consisted of a staggering amount of films, almost fifty, all of which were produced within the last few years and demonstrated a vast range of genre and narrative. While I expected to be impressed I was nevertheless genuinely surprised at the quality and diversity of the films on offer, featuring remarkable performances, tight scripts, and exceptional production quality.

These days it’s difficult to have a conversation about national cultural capital without reference to native screen productions. And while Germany has never lost the glory of its musical, artistic, dramatic and literary legacy, it is now firmly establishing a platform on the world film stage as well.

who_am_i1Each film on offer was unique and seemed to revel in Germanic culture of the present and the past, representing national roots in subtle yet distinct threads without the usual pedantry or self-consciousness that one associates with non-Hollywood movies. Even the references to Hitler and the holocaust were charmingly unaffected: they seem to be able to acknowledge the best and worst of their identity without attaching any unnecessary gloating or guilt. In other words, these films made me feel that perhaps Germany is one of the most self-aware, successful, advanced, and emotionally secure nations of the modern age.

Naturally this got me to thinking about the Australian film industry and what kind of festival we would produce in similar circumstances. I was interested to discover that while the Palace’s German Film Festival is in it’s fourteenth year, the Australian Film Festival began in 2012, just three years ago. And while the GFF screened in eight locations around Australia, the AFF is only available to those privileged enough to live in Sydney.

Germany has a population of roughly 80 million, about four times that of Australia, which while significant is not as vast a difference as that between our respective artistic outputs. Yes, Germany has an impressive cultural history stretching back centuries at least, and including some of the most notable advances in Art music, visual arts, theatre and literature, but considering the impact the two world wars had on their economy and industry they are producing a remarkable amount of viable artistic product. Researching further I found this rather detailed description of the German arts funding model, which demonstrates the immense value they place on local cultural institutions.

While Australia has a fairly respectable artistic scene in terms of music and theatre, our film culture, like our literature, is still trying to free itself from a strange sort of identity crisis. Ask one of your friends to name just ten good Australian films made in the last three years. Chances are they can’t. That’s not because ten great films don’t exist, but mainly because no one has seen them. They aren’t promoted in film festivals. They aren’t screened four times a day in your local cinema. They are barely advertised at all.

Now ask your friend to name ten movies set in the Marvel Universe. Exactly. That might be a somewhat vulgar comparison but at the very least it demonstrates the shockingly low value we place on our own screen industry.

australia_nicole_kidmanAnd if you find someone who can name ten good Australian movies, I guarantee almost all of them take place in the outback or deal with an aspect of bogan culture or some gory true-crime event. Or star Hugo Weaving. I saw only three German films and was immersed in three completely different yet symbiotic representations of German culture: a cyber-thriller complete with native trance music and Europol agents; a period drama featuring stunning landscapes and historical literary figures; and a schoolyard comedy with ironic references to youth culture and modern generational identities.

There are plenty of great Australian directors, screenwriters and artists making compelling and authentic narrative statements. But they should be more accessible and they should be better funded. Our film students should be encouraged to make modern crime thrillers as well as deep psychological portraits of the Australian bush. We should be able to investigate our own colonial history beyond just The Man from Snowy River. We should be able to represent all aspects of Australian life without drawing on the usual cringe-worthy stereotypes of outback hardship, beer-drinking ute drivers, crocodile hunters or chain-smoking teenage mothers.

Until our government finds some kind of artistic soul and makes the connection between cultural identity and actual funding, the survival of Australian films is really up to the Australian public. We need to make a choice to spend money and time on local talent instead of re-watching Captain America for the third time, and then maybe one day we’ll actually have a film industry that can afford to make huge studio blockbusters.

Try having your own Australian Film Festival one weekend. The local DVD store probably doesn’t stock anything beyond The Castle and Muriel’s Wedding, so you might even have to fork out and buy the movies (you’re not going to find them on Netflix or Apple TV). Try some new releases like Theses Final Hours, The Babadook, or The Rover. Then there’s Animal Kingdom, Red Dog, Felony, Paper Planes or The Proposition, and this great list of films from the 00’s.

Of course you’ll notice the afore-mentioned propensity toward bogans, horror, and the outback. If you do manage to find a modern thriller, urban drama, or even a comedy that doesn’t major on awkward Aussie stereotypes or self-satisfied quirkiness, please let me know. That would be a film miracle. In this age of ‘diversity’-mongering our narrow-minded oeuvre seems embarrassingly parochial.

It’s no Palace International Film Festival. But at least it’s a start.

 

Elise Janes