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Winged Creatures (2008)
Glossier Than Normal
'Fragments' was enjoyable but mostly predictable. A film that demonstrates Rowan Woods will be able to direct with the best of them. But unfortunately it is a departure from the broody and rough as guts nature of his Australian hits "The Boys" and "Little Fish". It has no real grit, and the majority of confronting scenes are softened by timely cutaways.
The strength of the film is its stellar cast. But even they seem to be going through the motions.
Having fallen in love with Jeanne Tripplehorn's multi-layered polygamist role in "Big Love" it was disappointing to see her sidelined in this film to take on the token role of grieving widow. It was frustrating to have the story preoccupied with Dakota Fanning's experience of the shooting, without being able to watch more of Tripplehorn.
The most engaging performance comes from Forest Whitaker. Stumbling around drunk for most of the film, he is so broken yet easy to empathise with. But again his character verges on the predicable outcome of a gambling addict. His redemption comes, but not as we expect it. Thus also redeeming the film.
Guy Pearce is completely unhinged, but a sap of a character. Kate Beckinsale is a clichéd single mother. But both act their roles with such conviction that they are engrossing to watch for the duration.
The unfortunate thing about this film is the mysteries are not that mysterious. It could have been more entertaining if there had been more reveals like there was in "Little Fish". This said, it is an exploration of human emotion and the core cast convey this well. The human struggle to appear in control at all costs, remains the focus and is demonstrated well.
This film was almost switched off about half an hour in due to how depressing it seemed with themes of abortion, sexual abuse and generally dreary Austrian weather. However, sticking it out was worth the pay off.
The characters in Nordrand were vivid representations of a hard-working middle class, and those oppressed by a misguided upbringing. Nina Proll's Jasmin is the most dominant, yet overcome character in this piece. Her struggle to remove herself from her home situation seems to be told through universal clichés, while still maintaining an essentially Eastern European feel.
Most enjoyable to watch is Jasmin's love hate relationship with Edita Malovcic's Tamara, as the two young women discover that each other have weaknesses, and support each other in different ways.
The most confronting part of this film is the treatment of Jasmin by her father, but luckily this is mostly glossed over from a visual perspective. But the ramification of the way he treats his children infiltrates the rest of the movie, making it an intriguing dynamic to watch Jasmin's interactions with the rest of her family. Each member is well drawn. The scene on Christmas day when Jasmin's mother brings food to the place Jasmin is working devastates as Jasmin struggles to respond to the woman who has allowed her own children to be mistreated in the worst sense.
It is great to see a city like Vienna explored through the lens without the shine it's usually given to attract tourists. The streetscapes are more reminiscent of what I felt I saw when travelling Graz. But obviously behind the shiny veneer of Mozart and Klimt there is the stories of people like Jasmin and Tamara in Nordrand.
The Secret Life of Us (2001)
This is my most favourite Australian Drama
This is a TV show that will speak for a generation for generations. The cast for the entire series was the most dynamic ensemble cast on Australian TV in recent times along with "Seachange". There have been negative comments about the fourth series because it had a rather different feel to the other series. Especially since Sam Johnson left the program. However the characters in this series were just as strong. Stephen Curry and Brooke Harman especially created most intriguing characters. In previous series Dan Spielman, Gigi Edgley, Vince Colossimo and Jessica Gower brought exceptional performances. And of course Deb Mailman, Sam Johnson and Claudia Karvan were the real appeal of the show. It is a pity that this show was axed in such an understated way in such a late time-slot. We have not since seen anything that matches this program come out of Australia but hopefully in the near future there will be something on the horizon.