Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Wolf Creek

We bought this on DVD a few days ago. You know, one of those spur-of-the-moment purchases when you weren't supposed to be spending any money. What can I say, we're weak.


As far as horror films go, Wolf Creek is pretty well up there. It was actually kind of refreshing to see the Aussie outback used for something like this rather than your average romantic adventure. The story is compelling and, although it's a little slow to get going, it draws you in and makes you want to stay. The sense of inevitabillity is huge. Right from the start, there are little hints that soemthing is not quite right; that everything will not go according to plan.

John Jarratt is simply amazing as Mick Taylor, the truly evil serial killer. Jarratt has been in stacks of Australian TV dramas, but I'm afraid I really only remember him from presenting on Better Homes and Gardens, so for me seeing his stunning performance was spectacular. Truly, I can't say enough about how well Jarratt created Mick Taylor. Much amazement. The making-of doco shows Jarratt talking about getting into character and finding the truth of it. He says he had to totally let go of himself, because "it's not him. John Jarratt just can't do this".
Writer/director Greg Maclean talks about Jarrat, on set, remaining in character a lot of the time, and speaking to him and other crew as Mick Taylor. It seems Taylor was a very difficult skin to climb in and out of, so perhaps Jarratt wanted to minimise moving in and out of the evil persona.
So yes, I was mightily impressed and a little inspired by Jarratt's performance.

The other cast were great too, though. The roles consisted of an awful lot of pain, torture, and terror, and Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi and Nathan Phillips coped with it really well. I was a little bored by the "ooh aren't we having fun" over-acting at the beginning, but I don't know, maybe they were exaggerating on purpose in order to contrast with the darkness later on. All three of them performed beautifully once the horror began, through what must have been a fairly harrowing shoot.

And again, my favourite film character - the Australian outback - plays a central role. And does it well, if a little wet in this one. Apparently when their shoot days were overtaken by rain, they decided to make the most of it and tweaked the script a little to allow for the rotten weather. And, boy, it sure did work.

I guess the outback is McLean's favourite film character too - I see his next film, Rogue is shaping up to be another horror in the outback. I'll be looking forward to it.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Dead Man's Chest DVD Commentary

First, thanks to Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio for providing the commentary, full of interesting insights and random facts. Also for all your patient online question-answering which has provided all of us wannabe film industry addicts with much fodder for discussion... and a bit of envy at the being-paid-for-living-in-paradise-while-making-really-cool-movies thing. :)

Here's some of the interesting stuff T&T talked about in their commentary:

Beginning from the opening wedding montage, Ted and Terry say they were aiming for a more impressionistic, rather than straight story-telling, style with the film. Orginally, apparently, the first scene was going to be Captain Jack's entrance via the Turkish prison, followed by the sequence of events on the Black Pearl up to the losing of the hat, and THEN to the abandoned wedding sequence. That theory was similarly abandoned upon a first viewing when it was felt to be too jarring for the audience - moving from a literal story-telling style (Captain Jack's scenes) to the impressionistic style, was too hard to relate. So the choice was to put the impressionism right up there at the beginning, and then introduce the audience to the "juxtaposition" of different characters' scenes in small vignettes. This juxtaposition determines how the audience sees the story and understands the character - T&T believe this is easier to relate to, because in real life that's what you see - small chapters of people's lives and it's up to you to fill in the blanks with your knowledge and imagination.
So, they say that they purposely tried to get away from the normal "one-main-character, three-act story" in favour of an impressionist "mosaic".
Which I really like. I think too often we can get caught up in the belief that a film needs to be as "realistic" and "believable" as possible. Really, there is so much value in a story presentation which allows one to be lost in a different world that is not reality. Indeed, sometimes the best way to make a story real to an audience is to set it outside of reality.
Similarly, one comment made was Billy Wilder saying - "give the audience the two plus two, and leave them to come up with the four themselves". I like it ("simple, easy to remember").

The Passing of Time
This idea is first introduced in the Black Pearl's rum cellar when Bootstrap Bill appears to warn "Time's run out, Jack". Ted or Terry (don't ask me to keep track of which voice was which!) pointed out a lovely image that I hadn't noticed before; when Captain Jack reaches for the run bottle and sand pours out of it, Bill says his line about time. Like sand through the hourglass.... it's a really nice image, and it helps to set up the idea of not only Captain Jack's time being up, but time being up for all those who belong in the world of Pirates, adventure, and a free world.
Which, of course, is reinforced later, and throughout, by Lord Beckett, his veritable army of EITC men, and his map.
The map, say Ted and Terry, is a symbol, to Beckett and to the audience, of the level to which the EITC, with the backing of the Crown, are taking over the civilised world. As the film progresses the map becomes more complete, and in it's final scene it is finished, signalling, perhaps, the end of the world as we (well, Captain Jack and his kind) know it. Also very important to this idea, they said, was the finding of the EITC spices in the cannibal-tribe hut. Another clue that the company is pushing Jack's kind further and further.

Creating the Story
Ted or Terry said that when they were asked to write a sequel or two, they had to make a decision; they could have made a whole new story (in the way the James Bond series does), or they could "retroactively engineer a larger story from the story of Curse of the Black Pearl. Obviously, they chose the latter, and the story points they built on were:
~ The compass. Thanks to a stroke of luck, they were able to change the purpose of the compass slightly to fit a bigger story. Originally (way back when writing the first film), the compass was indeed intended to point only to the Isle de Meurta. But that fact never made it into the actual film (it was left as something mysterious), so Ted and Terry simply changed the facts to read that the compass in fact points to whatever the person looking at the compass "wants most at that time. How clever. (oh, and they were very insistent that it was that definition, that the compass does not point to the person's "heart's desire" but to what they want most right then.)
~ Captain Jack's entrance - they wondered briefly if they could ever create an entrance as good as his COtBP entrance, before deciding they never could. So they settled for coming up with one that wouldn't "suck relative to that". I think they succeeded, I love the coffin-blasting entrance.
~ The "they made me their chief" line. It was an impro'd, throwaway line in the first film, and it became the inspiration for a very important sequence of DMC. Ted or Terry said that the cannibal tribe sequence is "a tribute" to that original line.
~ "Why is the rum always gone?" This line from Captain Jack recalls the island scene with Elizabeth and gives a small clue to what may be going on in his head.

which brings me to

Captain Jack's attraction to Elizabeth
Ted and Terry made quite a big deal of this possibility, starting from when Captain Jack remarks about the rum being gone. Apparently this indicates that Elizabeth "is playing into Jack's thoughts to some degree". Later, the problems Jack is having with the compass are attributed to this as well, as well as the fact that in Tia Dalma's hut, Captain Jack is the one who knows the answer of a woman being the thing that vexes all men.
The biggest hint, I thought, was near the end in the oft-debated moment in the longboat, when Captain Jack looks at the compass, registers an odd look, then rows back to the Pearl. One writer said that it was purposely left ambiguous but that he thought the compass had been pointing towards land. The other made a disagreeing sound, and said "no I think... no... well, I'll just say I think it was pointing the same way the whole time actually".

and Elizabeth's Frustration
This was also highly emphasised by Ted and Terry as very important to Elizabeth's character and story in DMC. Her frustration at not having been "married" yet is made evident in the jail-cell scene with Will, and reiterated several times, most obviously the "marri-age" scene with Captain Jack and their almost-kiss at that point.

The Importance of the Cannibal Island
I have to admit I never really got the importance of this sequence. It just seemed like a weird excuse the torture actors and stunt people with long sticks and cages. However, I have been enlightened.
The cannibal island sequence is, according to T&T, vital in progressing Captain Jack's storyline from avoidance of fate to an action plan to move with. Up until this point he was only trying to get to somewhere safe, to save his own behind. After this point, he knows without a doubt that there is nowhere safe for him:
~ At sea, the Kracken is after him.
~ In civilised society, the law and the EITC are after him, and
~ In uncivilised lands, cannibals are after him.
Therefore, the only option left is to actually make a plan and face the music (because, as we learned in COtBP, Captain Jack doesn't make a decision or a move until he absolutely has to.
So there you go; the mindlessly funny action sequences have a purpose. :)

Ted and Terry seemed quite amused by their own use of this word - one of them said sarcastically "oh come on, big summer movies don't use literary devices!"
They mentioned three main instances of foreshadowing. First, the fact that Captain Jack arrives in a coffin and says something about taking a short "side-trip". And related, the fight scene when he falls into a grave near the church. Third, for Elizabeth - when she's fighting in the tavern and she knocks Norrington over the head to stop the fight. The comment was "she's willing to hurt someone she cares for" to save the day.

Hints for At World's End
There were a couple of little hints. At Tia Dalma's hut and at Davey Jones' organ, big drama was made of the matching locket and music box. And also at the hut one of them said "every single thing in here has meaning if you really take notice". A really interesting one was about Captain Jack as the god in human form with the cannibals. They were talking abotu that idea being based on a real bear-worship tribe somewhere in Asia etc, and one of them said that Captain Jack as the god-man was a "subtle set-up for something that goes on in Pirates 3". Mmmm, interesting. I imagine it's something to do with how the Captain survives the Kracken and "defeats death" in some uber-spiritual/supernatural way.
One more random comment was that many things that are "in plain sight" in DMC will be revealed to be much more important in AWE. Cool. :)

Okey dokey, that's it. All my notes, laid bare. And much tidier.

Hope that's at least vaguely interesting to someone. :)


I just typed about 10 paragraphs about the DVD commentary! My daughter turned the computer off! Aagghhh!

Again, I'll be back later. *sigh*

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Or not.

Too tired. Going to bed. Back with more tomorrow.


Dead Man's Chest on DVD


Sorry Merlin. I did say I would watch the DVD with commentary the minute it was released and post here quick-smart. But my DVD didn't get to me as soon as it should have (thanks Aus Post!) and I didn't get to watch it until last night. And it's birthday weekend here. Of a 4-year-old kind.


It was oh-so-lovely to see Captain Jack again. And William even; I'm quite impressed with Orlando lately. And Gibbs. And Norrington. And Pintel & Ragetti. Oh okay, it's good to have them all back again.

I'm a bit disappointed that there's no actors' commentary, or one from Gore. My guess is that they were already being kept too busy with the two-movies-at-once thing, so they weren't called upon for commentaries.

However, there is a Ted and Terry commentary and I found it a lot more interesting than I'd thought I would. There were a lot of insights and a lot of comments that they admitted were answering questions/debates from all the online discussion about aspects of DMC. There are even a few tiny hints about possible plot points for At World's End.

I'm realising as I type that I don't remember all that much of what I wanted to relate form the commentary. So, I shall watch it again tonight (as soon as the kiddies are in bed which will be within the hour), and take notes, and be back in about 4 hours with a nice long post about it.


The "making of" doco, "According to Plan", was really great. It shows the enormous undertaking that such a big film is. Ships, trucks, islands, hurricanes, construction, heat, stunts, water, water, water... Everytime I see something like this, especially about a film I connect so well with, I just get that flame again, the "I wanna be there!" feeling. You can see on screen the "family"ish relationships everyone builds, and the hard work they do, the crafting of an idea into a reality, the feeling of desperate need to "make it work". I love that.

There are lots of other great extras too. Particularly amusing is the section of "Creating the Kracken" where we see how they made that slime fly all over Jack. Johnny says it's disgusting but he's smiling that adventurous smirk while he says it. :-)

Anyway like I said, I'll be back later.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Lord of War

Talk about harrowing. Lord of War is the kind of film that makes you bawl and gasp and hate it even though you just can't stop watching.

It's really well made and the performances are brilliant. Nicolas Cage as the amoral, money-hungry illegal arms dealer is scary and disturbing and so believable. His character was sickening. He knows without a doubt that the guns he is making money from are killing millions of completely innocent people, and he chooses to not care, to turn a blind eye. Even after he loses the people closest to him, he still goes on, deciding not to care. There are several moments in the story where his loyalties are tested, and while watching, at each point, I thought "this is it, he's going to do the right thing now and admit his mistakes". But no. Each time I was truly shocked that he proved me wrong. He was so fascinatingly, conflictingly, wrong. I almost said "evil" then, but I didn't even feel like he was evil. Just as if he was so apathetic that he was really unable to make any choice other than the one he'd orginally made to sell guns. That was all he could do, and choosing to do anything else would be admitting himself human and fallible.

Ethan Hawke was wonderful too. It took me until at least halfway through before I realised the cocky investigator was Hawke. I love when actors lose themselves like that.

By far the most disturbing part of the film, for me, was the very end, when some text comes up saying "Based on actual events", followed by "The five biggest arms dealers in the world are the governments of the USA, China, the UK, Russia, and (somewhere else, I can't remember). Those five nations also make up the UN Security Council."

Scary, yes? That's the bit that got me crying more than the disturbing and awful murders in the actual film. Freaked me right out. Who exactly are we supposed to depend on to keep the sodding world safe, huh?

So anyway, brilliant film. I recommend it. But not if you're not in the mood for a good old mind-disturbing freak-out session.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006


is crap.

That's all I have to say about that.

Okay, not really. I guess I should explain why it's crap.

~ Firstly, almost all of the dialogue is just exposition. Didn't you know that passengers on cruise ships always have casual chats about the fact that there's an opening in the hull around the propellors? Of course they do.
~ And related to that, there's no character building, just a few glances at character when something dramatic is happening (ie something more dramatic than the general ship-sinking activity). The audience has very little reason to care about the main characters because we don't really know them.
~ Really stupid things happen that just wouldn't happen. For example at one point the main characters are traipsing along corridors looking for an exit and when they stop to talk, the mum realises the son has wandered off. Honestly, people. When you're desperately trying to escape a sinking ship and you've already almost lost your son once, you just don't let him wander off. And a terrified child in said sinking ship doesn't just wander off. It was such a stupid moment. Then, we see the adults trying to free the child from behing a locked gate as the water's rising over their heads and all I could think was why doens't he just go back the way he came, he wandered in there on his own after all? The kid disappears (shock! panic! NOOO!) and then, lo-and-behold!, he's found his way back the way he came through an easily opened door. My goodness. It was awful. And there were too many other "oh that SOO wouldn't happen!" moments.
~ Something that was quite hilarious - all the main characters had some kind of awfully convenient background that helped them solve their dilemma. Every second scene had someone saying "I used to be a firefighter, I can...." or "I'm an architect, I know how this was engineered". After a while the group of friends I was watching with were joining in with similar sentiments like "I used to be a man-of-steel, I can just break us out of the hull". My contribution was "It's okay, I was an actor in the original Poseidon movie, I know exactly how to get out".

Anyway, enough rambling about an awful film.


to R-the-Director for being mean about him not calling me back. He sent an email this morning saying that the producer (his friend) is dealing with his mother being hospitalised for a serious operation so shooting has been pushed back and casting hasn't been decided yet.

He's going to send me a revised draft of the script and call me later on to discuss it. So I guess I'm still in with a chance.

I really need to work on this "do-an-audition-and-then-forget-all-about-it" thing. Or I"ll go mad with all the toing and froing and assuming.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton to direct STC

Here's a bit of news.... a couple of days old, but hey, I'm slow. Actor Cate Blanchett and her husband Andrew Upton (a playwright) have been announced to take over as Artistic Directors of the Sydney Theatre Company. They'll take over from Robin Nevin in 2008. Which is great, I think - it'll give the STC a new lease on life (not that it particularly needs one, but a new, younger leadership will be refreshing), and it'll give Cate more time at home in Sydney with her boys. That sounds nice. :-)

I'm thinking with love of the family and friends of Belinda Emmett . Sending my thoughts and prayers in your direction, and in the direction of the millions of women affected by breast cancer in Australia and around the planet.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Watching "Cars" again...

and I forgot to mention the other great song in it - "Get Your Kicks on Route 66".

I am so going to drive Route 66 the first time I go to the states. (and don't you Americans dare tell me it's not as cool as it's supposed to be. Let me pretend.)

Thursday, 9 November 2006



R-the-sodding-director did not call me today.

I think it's fairly obvious that I didn't get the role. I just can't decide whether I feel angry about him being too much of a wuss to call and say so, or just plain miserable about missing out on a great role.

Both, I suppose.

I was going to write some opinions/reviews/rambles/whatever it is I do with films today - lately I've watched 8mm, Lord of War, V for Vendetta, Poseidon, and Scary Movie 4 - but I can't be bothered. So there.


I have watched "Cars" about a hundred times in the last couple of weeks.

No, not exactly. I have watched it twice, and wandered in and out and overheard it from the next room who-knows-how-many other times. It's my girls' new favourite movie, you see.

I really like it. Well, I did really like until about the 67th viewing.

The soundtrack is fabulous. Great songs like "Life is a Highway" and a really fun 1950s-esque do-boppy song that I still haven't remembered to look up in the credits.

It made me cry. Yes, I cried about some animated talking cars and their poor neglected town. (another great song in that bit, which is why it made me cry - they know how to get to people don't they? Soppy music does the trick!)

Anyway, today I insisted on Mary Poppins, to try to rid my brain of said animated talking cars. You just can't beat Mary Poppins.

Sorry to be such a slack blogger.

Howdy-ho. :-)

Trying to be cheerful. Can you tell?

Apparently I will definitely get a phone call from R-the-director today. They were definitely making a decision last night. Not holding out any hope really.

A little tidbit - This conference (The XIII Biennial Conference of the Film and History Association of Australia nad New Zealand) looks really interesting. If you're in Melbourne. I'm kinda drooling over all those session titles....

~What is Cinematic Realism?
~Transnational Utopias: Centre and Periphery in Baz Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Films
~Australian international cinema
~Two or Three Things I Know About Stanley: Inside Dr Strangelove at the Kubrick Estate
~Darwin, sex and taboo in Jungle films of the 1930s
~Testimony in the Umbra of Trauma: Film and Video Portraits of Survival
~The Politics and Cultures of the Contemporary Film Archive
~Stop the World, I Want to Get Off: Uses and Abuses of the ‘New Cinephilia’
~Happiness, or Something Like It: Family in the contemporary American “smart” film
~Everyone was watching! Embarrassment and shame in women’s narratives of cinema-going

Anyway, I won't be there and I don't personally know anyone who will be so there's not much point to this post. Just that it looks really interesting.