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My favourite Australian movie of 2009
My favourite Australian movie of 2009, "Offside" is a boisterous story about old friends. It works as a tribute to a major strand of suburban Adelaide society and I think that in years to come it will be regarded with the same sentimental fondness many Sydney people feel for "The FJ Holden" (1977), or Melbourne people (such as myself) feel for "Death in Brunswick" (1991).
This is a story about two brothers who want the same thing, but go after it in different ways. For Charlie (Terry Rogers), it's all about winning; for Frank (Peter Evangelista), the quest is football excellence. Meanwhile, their suburban team is made up of old school friends who have a range of issues of their own. Damon (Peter Michell) is married to Isabella (Elena Carapetis), who is slowly turning her ocker* husband into an Italian. Angelo (Sam Tripodi) is married to Lisa (Kimberley Hart); she wants him to focus on starting a family. Kon (Frank Romeo) and Mark (Saxon Cordeaux) are slackers; they work for Sarah (Chloe Gardner), who fancies Charlie. And Charlie fancies Katie (Georgii Speakman), the unattainable sexy blonde with a secret.
The guys are all approaching the end of their football careers. Family responsibilities, age and business pressures combine to make this their last season together and they would love to go out as champions. To this end, they embrace serious training and adopt a few questionable tactics. When Uncle Vito, the godfather of the piece, backs the boys to win the cup to the tune of $50,000, the tensions increase.
Meanwhile, Charlie's search for true love hits a major hurdle. In a moment reminiscent of Harvey Keitel's problem – updated to 2009 sensibilities – in the Martin Scorsese movie, "Who's That Knocking At My Door" (1967), Charlie has to decide if Katie is the kind of girl he can safely take home to mother. This film contains other muted echoes of Scorsese's struggle with his Catholic upbringing, suggesting first-time writer/director Gian Carlo is emerging from a similar place.
Terry Rogers (Charlie) and Peter Evangelista (Frank) carry the movie. Rogers brings athletic good looks, excellent timing and the kind of smoldering sensitivity that would play well in a major romantic comedy. (He managed a number of scenes with his shirt off and looked good enough to embarrass Hugh Jackman.) Peter Evangelista makes a welcome return to the screen after a long absence. He has the kind of quiet intelligence you can see on the screen and the calm he managed in the midst of turbulent exuberance made the whole thing work.
Special mention to Elena Carapetis (Isabella), for me the 'find' of the movie. It turns out she is a NIDA graduate and has been around the stage and television ("Heartbreak High", "Blue Heelers") scenes for years, but I hadn't come across her before. Elena played the sensible, caring wife with absolute conviction. If she gets the opportunity in other roles, she has a chance of becoming one of the great Australian supporting actresses.
Georgii Speakman (Katie) has the sexy good looks you'd expect of someone in her role, but she doesn't depend on them. She handles herself with timing, grace and sensitivity. Chloe Gardner (Sarah), as the ambitious pursuer of Charlie and patient boss of Kon and Mark, showed she has the potential to play an excellent James Bond-type seductive female villain.
Anthony 'Lehmo' Lehmann (Leechy) didn't rely on his background as a stand-up comedian (a welcome departure in Australian film circles), but used his limited opportunities to impose a physical and psychological presence on screen. I'd love to see him given an expanded role in another movie.
The characters in "Offside" are messy human beings, with all the anxieties, insecurities, dreams, confusions, misunderstandings and failings common to ordinary people everywhere. For anyone who grew up in an ethnic Australian neighbourhood, this film will be an amusing trip down memory lane. For people from a more Anglo background, it works as a window into a culture which is distantly familiar, yet filled with subtle differences.
Another of the surprises of this low-budget film is the music. I didn't recognise any of the band names, but the music is varied, appropriate and exciting.
"Offside" extracts every cent of value from the dollars spent, and then some. The cast turned in remarkable performances, and the crew achieved extraordinary results, given a 28 day turnaround with limited access to locations. Could it have been improved? Of course. A big bag of money would have lifted some technical areas, but it would be a mistake to focus on that too much. Sometimes the sound leaves dialogue unclear, but that's mostly in scenes where there is a lot of crowd noise, such as at parties, where crowd noise obscuring speech is a common experience. Given that this was an independent film, made without recourse to any of the government funding agencies, the results are well above any reasonable expectation.
All in all, an enjoyable movie. Highly recommended. I give it 7/10.
*ocker. Slang, meaning 'an uncouth Australian'. Typically convivial, working class Australians, with a fondness for drink and off-colour humour. Chips Rafferty, Bryan Brown, Bill Hunter, and Paul Hogan have all portrayed men from this class on screen.
Lovely, gentle, sweet
I've only ever seen the 85 minute version on DVD, which is a pity. I assume the missing 15 minutes all came from the end, because it wraps up in a bit of a rush. Apart from that solitary regret, I have to say I loved "Undercover". Loved it all - the bush towns, the historical Sydney, the 1930s department stores, the fashion, the cars, the music, the people. Especially the people.
Geneviève Picot as 'Libby', John Walton as 'Fred', Michael Paré as 'Max', and Sandy Gore as 'Nina' dominate the movie and carry us on a fictionalized version of the true story - a journey from antipodean obscurity to world-wide fashion influence. Special mentions to Peter Phelps as the persistent, if unlucky, 'Theo', and Barry Otto as the woolly and wild-eyed 'Professor Henckel'.
This largely unknown film deserves a far wider audience. While the Australian film industry continues its current obsession with dull, turgid, heroin-addict-prostitute-and-petrol-sniffing-aboriginal social realism stories, it frightens away the audience for entertaining and educational films like this one.
Don't be put off. This is a great little movie. A true story. There's music and dancing, love and loss, philosophy, and a battling underdog. Enjoy it!
Cattle Call (2006)
Dull, dull, dull
You're thinking, "National Lampoon"? It must be funny! No. It's not funny. No laughs, no chuckles, certainly no guffaws. It's not even mildly interesting.
Three deadbeats set up a fake casting agency. Using no money. Huh? They rent a studio-like office and convince hundreds of desperate women that their stupid questions about sex and men have some connection to a movie audition.
They get caught out, are sodomised by some butch lesbians with electrical implements, charged with fraud, go to trial, then, in one night, magically pull together some bits and pieces of video-tape, sufficient to convince a judge it was for real all along.
Oh, and the main deadbeat gets the beautiful girl anyway.
Dross. Don't waste your time. No, even the lesbians-with-the-electrical-implements bit was mercifully brief and dull. Really. Okay, some of the other stuff was even more dull, but this was dull, too. [ 2/10 ]
Crooked Business (2008)
An Australian crime caper movie that treads heavily in the footsteps of Guy Ritchie. Very heavily. Ponderously so. Lots of freeze frames. Lots of criminal slang, just in case you forget they're criminals, which (wink, wink) they're not. Not really. Just partial to some of the good things in life which would never come their way in the course of honest endeavours.
There's Elmo, who breaks the fourth wall to explain every tedious little detail to the audience. There's Stevie, who is probably bright enough to do a Bunnings commercial, but no brighter. There's a gang of English toughs, led by 'Bondi' Bob McLean. There's a gang of Chinese toughs, led by Peter Cho. There's a gang of Jewish toughs, led by Lou Wiseman, except the word 'Jew' is never heard -- they're all "four by twos". Rhyming slang, get it? There's a loose cannon Bikie. There's a couple of interchangeable briefcases. There's Peppermint Jack, the wise grandfather who punctuates the movie, speaking directly to camera to inform us of the rules of successful criminal living. There's that staple of films noir, the troublesome woman. This one has unbelievably bad interchangeable accents -- Italian, American, Australian -- and an equally unbelievable string of stories, all culminating in the provision of a bag of counterfeit money which saves the day in a tricky piece of story resolution. The criminal gangs manage to step on one another's toes in just the right order. There's lots of bang! bang! bang! and all the bad Bad Guys are dead, leaving the good Bad Guys grinning like three year-olds who have just discovered sweetened condensed milk. The End.
All in all, it's a nice try at a caper movie. There are lots better, including the writer-director's earlier attempt "Gettin' Square", and there's plenty worse. [5/10]
The English Patient (1996)
This is a movie that divided audiences. A lot of people complained about how slow it was. ("Hurry up and die!") The script is only 135 pages long, and much of that was left on the cutting room floor, yet the movie still runs for 150 minutes!
[ What's missing from the movie? Hana's fiancé makes several appearances in the script and it's sad when Hana learns he is dead. In the movie, she suddenly becomes depressed after somebody prattles on about "Picton", as if that meant something. Kip had a major story of his own, all cut from the movie. At one point in the movie he tells Hana he "wants to be found." That has a corollary in the script, but it was cut, leaving the line dangling. There's stuff about the sexuality of some of the other team members, almost all cut, but with a couple of tiny, unexplained moments left in the movie. ]
The scene is set by a reading from Herodotus (ancient Greek historian) of the story of Candaules, king of Lydia, and Gyges, a soldier. Candaules wants Gyges to be impressed by the beauty of his naked wife, so he sets up an opportunity for Gyges to spy on her when she undresses for bed. The nameless Queen learns of what happened and tells Gyges he must either submit to death for what he's done, or kill Candaules and take his place as King. Assassination follows, with the Queen and Gyges living together happily ever after.
When Geoffrey Clifton leaves his wife Katherine behind in the desert while he goes off adventuring, she comes close to dying in a sand storm. Almásy brings her through safely. Subsequently Katherine jumps into bed with Almásy, Geoffrey finds out and, consumed by jealousy tries to kill the three of them by crashing his plane into Almásy on the ground. He dies at once, Katherine dies some undefined time after, and Almásy much later.
The dates in the movie don't make much sense. They meet in the desert in 1938. Start the affair during that year and snatch a grubby bonk in a cupboard during the 1938 Xmas Party. The desert story ends after everyone goes home in May 1936, by command of the British Government. Almásy is supposed to be collected by Geoffrey in the plane and be taken out, except he tries to crash the plane into him instead. This must be May 1939. Almásy places the injured Katherine in a cave and heads off for help. He is arrested by the British Army, from whom he escapes, and is assisted by the German Army with fuel to fly another plane back to the cave. This suggests the military situation in North Africa of 1941 or 1942. The plane, with a perfectly preserved corpse in the front seat, is shot down by the Germans (date unknown). Almásy then appears as the Patient in an Allied Hospital train in 1944 in Italy. He lingers until after the European war ends in May 1945.
This is, allegedly, a romantic movie. The "romance" consists of a married woman having an affair with a bloke she meets in the desert. The high point is the second time they're shown getting together, on her first wedding anniversary, while the cuckolded husband sits in a taxi outside the hotel waiting for her to reappear. He is aware of what is going on inside, but confines his response to sucking warm champagne out of a bottle. If that is "romance", I know I could live a long time without any, thank you so much.
At the high point of passion, Almásy rips Katherine's blouse open. He is rewarded with sight of a chest to match that of many adolescent males. As compensation, Kristin Scott Thomas provides a view of her pubic region as she decamps a bath. Sexy? No. This is followed by Almásy sewing the blouse together again, which is as close as the movie comes to unbridled excitement.
If you enjoy lingering views of desert sand, try LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.
Hubba, hubba, hubba!
This is a wonderful neo-noir. A heist movie which is mostly about the aftermath. A simple story, told in a direct, fast-paced way, with tons of mood. It opens with a presumed-to-be-dead man walking across a bridge, straight into the big, bad City. This is his Rubicon: there will be no turning back.
Porter (Mel Gibson) is a man who, when his wife dies, has lost everything. He has his own moral code and pursues an outstanding debt with the single-mindedness of someone with Asperger's Syndrome. He is violent in pursuit of his goal, but not gratuitously so, not within the context of this particular world, where crime and violence are everywhere and pleasure is sought in the context of deliberately inflicted pain. Body count: 18.
The pivotal character in Porter's life is a former employer, Rosie (Maria Bello), a prostitute. Her friendship has to be in question now, given she works for the gangsters who have Porter's money. This is a story about the unbending of a proud, stubborn man. The fact Porter is willing to ask Rosie for help represents a major change for him, and provides a basis for the eventual 'happy ending', such as it is.
Meanwhile the bad guys get theirs in various and appropriate ways. Traps are circumvented, the powerful bested, the cunning wrapped up inside their own puzzles, and the corrupt caught in a web which, even if they didn't exactly weave it themselves, they have every moral right to find themselves inside.
Mel Gibson's famous smile is only on view twice in the movie, first time when he struggles to mimic the smiling face of someone whose identity he is about to borrow, and once for real at the end, when he is about to sail off into the sunset with the girl and the money.
The supporting actors are excellent. The double-crossing ex-partner Val Resnick (Gregg Henry), the junkie wife (Deborah Kara Unger), Rosie (Maria Bello), dominatrix Pearl (Lucy Liu), gang bosses Bronson (Kris Kristofferson) and Fairfax (James Coburn) stand out.
My only quibbles about the film are (1) the way Carter dies. (I've been shot! Hold dramatic pose. Make short speech. Move into another dramatic pose. Hold.) It's not quite Peter Sellers in THE PARTY (1968), but it's a borderline pantomime performance. And (2), the almost total absence of people from the streets of what must be a very large city. At certain moments it feels like a ghost story. But not for long. There's always another bit of action coming that will distract you from these minor quibbles.
An A-grade heist film. Highly recommended.
Almost as good as GALAXY QUEST!
You could watch this and enjoy the characters and their journey but, without the appropriate background information, you've gotta know you'll be missing out on the bulk of the fun.
The decision you have to make, dude, is whether you should watch FANBOYS, or go watch STAR WARS first. And here's how you make that decision. Can you answer the following portal entry questions:
1. 'Episode V' was directed by who?
2. In 'Episode VI' when Leia shoots down two scout troopers, why doesn't she take one of the speeder bikes instead of walking?
3. What was Luke Skywalker's call sign, during the Rebel assault in 'Episode IV'?
4. What is the name of Chewbacca's home planet?
5. What is the name of the planet that Leia gave Grand Moff Tarkin as the false location of the Rebel base in 'Episode IV'?
6. What's the name of the gunner in Luke's snowspeeder?
7. Are you feeling lucky, punk? No, no, skip that, it's not a STAR WARS question.
50% or better and you're ready for FANBOYS. Less than that, go watch STAR WARS first.
Oh, and one other thing. That better be your lucky R2 poking me!
Another great movie you've never heard of before.
Add this obscure film to your list of Must-See movies. It's one of those elusive 'great' movies most people have never heard of, much less seen.
Powerful, emotional, evocative, foot-tapping.
Did you like "Titanic"? You'll love "The Legend of 1900".
Do you like music, especially jazz? You'll love "The Legend of 1900".
I laughed and I cried. A great film. (What more can I say?)
Although it is a totally different film, "The Legend of 1900" has many of the elements found in the brilliant Swedish movie, "As It Is In Heaven" (2004) -- music, friendship, and love. Sometimes, inspiration is where you least expect it... Give it a try, you'll find inspiration in "The Legend of 1900",
A busy day at the bank.
This is a British heist movie. I bought the DVD because I like heist movies, but this one was a disappointment. There is a good, original idea at the heart of it, but the execution lets it down.
The direction is of the clunky television variety. I kept thinking I was watching one of those snarly, macho British cop shows, except the robbers got (slightly) more screen time than the cops. The big 'surprise' at the end is clumsily signaled early on.
The story leaps about in time and space, with the same tiny slices of story being told over and over again, with incremental increases at each iteration. If you want to see a movie with multiple viewings of the same event, done properly, watch the Stanley Kubrick heist, "The Killing".
There is probably less than an hour of actual story-time to the movie. It has been padded out to 79 minutes by the repetitions and an exhausting, irritating and near-impossible-to-read title sequence at the beginning.
If you really want to watch "Tu£sday", look for a DVD version with English sub-titles, unless you're fluent in a variety of British accents. I was guessing at much of the dialogue, with frequent recourse to the rewind button for second and third hearings of a line.
And if all you want is to see a good British heist movie, try: "A Fish Called Wanda", "The Bank Job", "Daylight Robbery", "The General" or "Sexy Beast".