Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Oscar Nominations

I actually, personally, think the Oscars and certain other awards shows are really contrived and meaningless, but anyway....

Announced today were the nominations for the 79th Academy Awards.

I've not yet seen any of the films nominated for best motion picture - I shall try to see them in the month before the awards, though, so that I will have an educated opinion to yell at the TV when the award is announced. :)

In fact, I've only seen four of the films on the whole list of noms - Dead Man's Chest (Art Direction, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects), Cars (Animated Feature and Original Song), Marie Antoinette (Costume Design) and Happy Feet (Animated Feature).

I'm really pleased to see that three of the 5 "Actress in a leading role" noms - Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep - are from the older end of the scale. It does get a bit boring seeing all the young thin people all the time! Happy to see Kate Winslet there too - she is one of my favourites, not just for her acting but her values and truthfulness in life.

A nice surprise in the live action short film category is The Saviour, by Peter Templeman and Stuart Parkyn from the Australian Film Television and Radio School. Well done to Peter and Stuart!

And how exciting to see Abigail Breslin as supporting actress - imagine being nominated for an Oscar at age 10! But from all reports, she sure deserves it.

Anyway, I'm sure that if I'd seen more of these films I'd have more to say about the noms - mind you, that would require all of them being released in Aus by now!

Monday, 22 January 2007

Shantaram news

It's been announced that Shantaram, which has been talked about and in pre-production for years, finally has a new director. Mira Nair is attached and the plan is to start filming around October this year.

I'm desperately hoping that at least some shooting will take place in Australia. (the [true] story is of an escaped Australian criminal who flees to India and has all sorts of adventures) And no, not just because I'd like to see Johnny Depp in Aus, but because the film industry here is just starting to pick up after quite a slump and this kind of project happening here would be exciting. However I imagine most of the film will be shot in India, and I *think* I read a while ago that the studio shooting would be done in England. But hey, I can keep hoping.

I was given Shantaram, the book, for Christmas, and from the first few pages I've read so far I think I'm going to love it. I'm excited about the film.

From the sublime to the ridiculous....

We've watched a few really ridiculous movies here lately.

Saturday night we started with Miami Vice. Hmmmm. I was thinking that perhaps if I knew the original TV show at all I would understand and/or appreciate it more. It's pretty awful.

Luckily, we watched it with some friends so we enjoyed predicting all the ultra-predictable moments, then laughing and groaning at the really unbelievable ones. The storyline was muddled and the characters were confusing. The incidental moments dragged on forever while vital pieces of information were skimmed over in an instant. I'm completely baffled as to why there was such hype about this when it was released.


Next, for some more groaning and hilarity, we watched Snakes on a Plane. Yes, mo-fo snakes on the mo-fo plane. Talk about entertaining! I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. Seriously, if the filmmakers were aiming for side-splitting hilarity, they succeeded brilliantly.

'Tis indeed a pity that that's apparently not what they were aiming for. The characters are cliched, predictable, unlikable and ridiculous. There are so many characters for whom you actually wish death-by-snake-bite the moment you meet them, and are pleased when your wish not only comes true, but happens in a hilarious moment of insanity.

Actually, there was one moment that was seriously NOT funny - snake poison was sucked from a pustulating wound. We all nearly vomited.

Won't waste anymore time on that piece of craziness except to say how truly bizarre it is that movies like that get made, and marketed so well. The mind boggles.


Yesterday we watched Clerks 2.

I am so disappointed with it. If it weren't for about 10 minutes of revolting, completely unnecessary and totally unfunny action (a sequence involving bestiality), it would be a really great film. In fact, someone should just cut out that whole sequence (well, most of it anyway) and it would be a great film.

Start from the beginning, though. The characters are great, the actors are great. It is, of course, fun to see Jay and Silent Bob again (I haven't seen the orginal Clerks but I know them well from Kevin Smith's other stuff). The plot is simple, believable and meaningful, and the dialogue is funny and real. I was really, really enjoying the film, until that sequence I mentioned just went way too far.

Basically, Dante is leaving the fastfood store where he, Randall, Elias and Becky work. He's moving to Florida to marry Emma. The film covers the journey of him realising he really loves Becky and wants her and a simple life rather than rich Emma and the rich life in Florida. All of which works really well. The awful part comes when Randall throws Dante a goodbye party and hires "Kinky Kelly and the Sexy Stud" - an act involving a person and a mule. It was SO. WRONG. They could have easily cut it shorter; there were plenty of opportunities for it to end sooner; even just talking script and screentime, it was way too much time to devote to a pretty minor event in terms of the character's story. Dante ends up kissing Becky as Emma walks in, shocked by the scene. That could have happened much sooner in the scene and been just as shocking for Emma without having to waste so much time on something appalling.

Anyway, once that sequence has crawled back to the dark hole from which it came, the film ends well and restores itself a little bit of dignity.

I finally understand why Kevin Smith has received so much negativity and so many complaints about Clerks 2. The sad thing is that he's being forced to defend something that not only ruins an otherwise entertaining and skillful film, but was totally unnecessary to plot, character, or atmosphere. What was he thinking?

*mind continues to boggle*

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Marie Antoinette

After my go-see yesterday I found my way (I always get seriously disoriented in the city and go the wrong way down George St. Happens every time!) to the cinema just as the trailers were starting before Marie Antoinette.

For the first half, I was quite disappointed. It moved very slowly, and felt as if they were trying a bit to hard to set up the atmosphere and environment rather than getting on with telling the story. It sure was a beautiful enviroment, though! After a while I started to become more involved in the story and in Marie Antoinette's difficulties and extravagances, and by the end I was quite emotional and had decided I liked it.

I wasn't expecting to be sympathetic towards the young queen, but I found myself feeling somewhat sorry for her even when she was frittering away the poor peoples' money on diamonds and dresses, or throwing fantastic parties for her lover at the country retreat. The film did (eventually) capture the idea of a young girl thrust into a crazy world... and I was torn between sympathy for her having to deal with the bizarre Court routine, and frustration with her for not realising how the life she was leading was hurting people. I think that's because when you learn about the French Revolution, it's mostly from the point of view of the starving, over-taxed commoners. So while you're seeing the Royal family eating ridiculous amounts of rich food and playing with expensive fabrics and jewels, in the back of your mind is constant thoughts of those commoners, struggling to get some bread on the table.

Kirsten Dunst was fairly impressive. It would have been a difficult role, playing a young woman so far removed from any modern women. I think she captured the essence of a girl brought up in a place of stifling tradition and duty, well prepared for life in court, but with the same desires and need for escape as any teenage girl.

I really liked Jason Schwartzmann as Louis XVI. The character was a little odd; a nervous and eccentric young man. Schwartzmann played him with conviction and made me really like him.

I was pretty annoyed at all the American accents. I realise that any accent would have been equally silly, since technically they should have been speaking French anyway - but they could have at least worked with a more standard mid-Atlantic accent. The American accents made the scenes where they were talking about sending aid to the Americans seem a little odd.

As the mum, the most emotional parts of the film for me were seeing the children. I cried for Marie Antoinette when her tiny baby girl was taken away with not so much as a "please", to be fed by the nurse, even though she'd wanted to feed her herself. I wanted to scream "no! Don't let them take her! You CAN feed her!" And again when we saw little Marie Therese as a 3-yr-old, dressed in a gorgeous but awfully restrictive formal dress and saying things like "I am pleased that you find me so". When Marie Antoinette gave birth to a son, the whole court was present and then the baby was carried, screaming in his basket, in a cheering procession. These kinds of portrayals of children - just pawns and decorations in a big political game - break my heart. The third child broke my heart completely. I won't spoil the moment for you but the sequence involving the third child was done beautifully; the story told in such a succinct but powerful way. And finally, when the mobs were surrounding the palace, those poor children were so scared and so brave.

I was pleased that the film ended with the King and Queen leaving Versaille with the children; and not with the ending of their lives. That would have been too much, I think - and everyone knows what happens anyway, so best to leave that to our imaginations I guess. I feel compelled now to learn more about Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette... though I'm scared to find out what happened to their children...

So yes, I've decided I like it. Although, if I hire or buy the DVD, I will probably skip through a few sequences in the first half to avoid the dull moments. I'm also very keen to see the "making of", assuming they have one. It really is quite a fascinating topic.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

A little ant at the bottom of the anthill...

Yep, that's me.

I went to Mullinar's today for my go-see, and it went well, but it mainly served to remind me how very small I am and how far I have to go. The 20 or so girls in the waiting room waiting to be tested for a TVC; the receptionist fielding dozens of calls about productions and talent and castings; the movie posters all over the walls; the stacks of paperwork with hundreds of peoples' names on them - all of them hopeful actors, just like me, hoping to climb a bit higher on that ant-hill. I've spent half the afternoon wracking my brain to think of ways to get myself noticed.... Work Hard is the only logical answer I can think of. :-) But of course!

The consultant I met with was lovely, very friendly and welcoming. He reminded me a lot of Ethan Hawke. He seemed really interested in hearing all about me, and I found myself wishing I'd thought of a few "talking points" so that I wouldn't have come out with quite so many "um"s. He was happy with me doing two monologues (I chose one Australian and one American), and said that they were great (but he probably says that to everyone!). I had to pose for a few repeat photos because there were technical issues with the video camera's still-photo function.

I also wished I'd written down a list of questions to ask because when he asked if I had any, I only thought of one pretty insignificant one. On the way home I kept thinking of other things I wanted to know. Isn't that always the way?

My girls also got a mention; I talked about them briefly and the consultant wanted to know their ages. Apparently they sometimes need mothers with their own children for things, so they like to know who has kids and how old they are. That sounds like fun!

The main thing he had to say to me was recommending I get an agent. He said they don't mind if you do or not, but it's more likely that you'll get noticed if you do. I told him yep, I'd love to have an agent and all I can do is keep sending them my info and hope someone takes notice.

Anyway, I left feeling good about myself. I think I left him with a good impression, but whether or not he remembers me next time something comes up remains to be seen. I think the first thing on my to-do list now is to get new headshots done and do the rounds of the agents again; see if I can't get me some representation.

After that, I took myself to the movies and saw Marie Antoinette. I shall write about that in another post.

Meanwhile, I just caught some of Australian Princess on TV. Oh. My. Goodness. Seriously, what the heck kind of television is that? Who watches these things? I'm off to clear my brain of the strange princessy madness by reading a good book...

Monday, 15 January 2007

(not) Good Reasons to Stop Acting

I just came across this article called 5 Good Reasons to Stop Acting by Bob Fraser. I really really like it. Fraser's basic philosophy seems to be "if you want to act, act. If you really want it you will get there".

I think that in some part of my head I already knew everything he talks about (that you don't have to be good-looking, that you don't have to live in the right place, that it doesn't matter what Other People think, etc, to succeed at acting) but it's good to be reminded, by such a passionate writer who seems to really care about the people he's talking to.

Thanks, Bob.

a step and a decision

I received a reply from one of the casting companies I emailed - a consultant from Mullinar's who wants me to come in for a go-see this Wednesday. Yay! A go-see isn't a huge thing (it just means meeting with one or two casting consultants, performing a monologue for camera; introducing yourself to them, basically, so they have you on file), but it is definitely a good positive step, and I'm excited!

Mullinar's is, I think, the biggest casting company in Australia and they cast a lot of both film and television. Impressing them would be a very good thing. I attended a go-see there when I was 14 but that was a long time ago and I was with a less-than-competent agent who wouldn't have recognised a suitable role if it jumped up and bit her (other people had problems with said agent too, so it's not just me being bitter, I assure you). These days I'm more capable of assertiveness and hopefully, even without an agent, I can do better to put myself forward for more roles.

In other news, I've decided not to do any more unpaid extra work, because the last few times have been pretty frustrating and unhelpful experiences. I'll still do unpaid roles if it's something that seems worthwhile and is meaty enough to be put on a showreel, but I think 7 or 8 months of volunteering to be a space-filler for sometimes-interesting, sometimes-weird-and-frustrating student and amatuer directors is enough.

However there's still one "featured extra" part coming up; another short film that was originally scheduled for December. It's on 25th Jan now and I'm playing a school teacher. I think I even get to speak, and the producer on this one seems lovely and organised, so perhaps it will be a better experience.

Anyway; less time on the computer, Sumara, and more time rehearsing a monologue...

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

The Man Who Cried

Slowly making my way through my "must-see" list. However I am dependent on the stock at my local video place - which tends towards the Hollywood blockbuster over anything smaller or more arty. *sigh*

Anyway, this week I've rented The Man Who Cried. I think I need to watch it again to fully absorb it, but I did mostly love it the first time. "mostly", because some sequences feel a bit like something is missing - as if some moments have had to be cut during editing for time, leaving out some peripheral information.

I was really impressed with Christina Ricci. I'd never noticed how beautiful she is. Those big eyes are very emotive and transparent, and the character was very truthful.

Cate Blanchett played her flirty, advantage-taking character to perfection.

Cesar wasn't, I don't think, one of Johnny Depp's best roles. I felt for him and desperately wanted he and Suzie to make it, but I wasn't nearly as affected by him as I usually am by Johnny's acting. Perhaps this was because of the aforementioned "missing moments" - I really felt that I wanted and needed to know more of Cesar and his family in order to really care for him in more than a shallow way.

I recall Johnny saying in an interview that he finds love scenes very uncomfortable, and especially mentioning this film because of how young Christina was (she would have been only 19 or 20 and Johnny 37 or so). So I was impressed to see a more realistic love scene than we usually see in films. It was a very truthful moment between Suzie and Cesar.
You know how so many films portray sex as a beautiful, simple, ecstatic thing? Well, in The Man Who Cried we see it in more of a real way; sometimes dull, sometimes uncomfortable and painful, sometimes quite a big event emotionally.

The film was quite evocative of war and the issues surrounding it. I really hated John Turturro's character, Dante, but he played him well. His was a story that made me remember with a shock that there really are people that narrow-minded, prejudiced and selfish in the world. Films do that to me sometimes; films that cover stories of appalling human behaviour, and everytime it shocks me to remember that people really can be truly horrible.

Anyway I shall watch it again, enjoy the carefree gypsy scenes and ignore the stifling Italians and Germans.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Peter Jackson

I've recently finished reading Peter Jackson; A Film-maker's Journey by Brian Sibley.

It was a great read, with stacks of all the weird little details I love about Peter's background, and lots of comments from Peter about all of his films and colleagues and aquaintances and work and struggles and.... heaps of stuff.

I must admit, the only films of his that I've seen are the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so the part of the book about those was the most interesting to me. However the telling of the preceeding 40 or so years was really interesting too, he sounds like a very exciting person to be around and work with.

Jackson's seemingly endless capacity for hard work and determination is pretty inspiring. He made his first feature-length film - Bad Taste - with a bunch of mates on weekends over about 4 years, and it became quite a cult hit. I'd never heard of it, but that's not saying much; I'm not exactly a splatter-flick connoisseur. Years of huge visions, ridiculously hard work, long hours, and a few "secret shoots" (sshhh don't tell the NZ Film Commission!) led to Heavenly Creatures and then LOTR and King Kong. Heavenly Creatures is now definitely on my "must-see" list.

The thing that most inspired me was the fact that once, at age 9, Peter decided he wanted to make films, he never once swayed from that goal or took any side-tracks. And that little kid who was astounded by the 1933 King Kong is still the same person today - just with a few more resources available to him. Like I said; determination.

Oh and the other cool thing - he made all his films in New Zealand, mostly in and near his home town of Wellington. The fact that Peter was so successful and made such beautiful films without ever having to pack himself off to Hollywood is fabulous. Yay for Peter Jackson.

(Oh and Peter, what's your next film? I'd be more than happy to pop over to NZ for a few months' filming. ;-) )

I just remembered; The Lovely Bones will be his next film. I wonder where he'll shoot it, seeing as it's set in Pennsylvania.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Happy Feet; wonderful but odd

We took the girlies to see Happy Feet last week. I'd heard many reports that it's brilliant and beautiful, and some that it was weird and too adult. So I was expecting it to be good fun with maybe a weird moment or two.

For at least the first half I was thinking "this is wonderful!" I was getting emotional and caught up and anxious, the way great movies always make me feel. I loved the whole concept; creatures so emotive and emotionally free that they each have their own "heart song" with which they attract and find their soul mate. The characters are beautiful and endearing (except the nasty ones of course!) and I felt swept away in their story. I wasn't even bothered by Robin Williams, of whom I usually think ooh clever! Robin Williams playing Robin Williams!

There was a sequence where the characters are swept up in joy and fun and they're swimming their hearts out and feeling adventurous and all that good stuff, and I was thinking "this is the best film I've watched since Dead Man's Chest" (I know, very odd thing to think at that moment, but there you are.)

And then, the weirdness began. The story suddenly changed dramatically and there was a whole new world (that of humans) jarringly introduced, followed by a new, remarkably implausible, journey which, of course, leads to the salvation of penguinkind and a lesson for all viewers about the dangers of global warming and pollution.

A few minutes after the sudden change of dynamic I was literally sitting in my cinema seat with an odd, confused look stuck to my face (and we were in the front row so my odd, confused look was facing the screen almost vertically - an attractive thought, I know) and thinking "what the?"

"What the?" didn't leave my thoughts. The film ended on a What the?. A very nice cosy feeling-happy what the?, but a what the? nonetheless.

Still worth watching though. Like I said the characters and concept are beautiful and more than make up for the odd-ness.

Oh, and one's 4-year-old attempting a tap-dance in the foyer after the movie always add to the good experience too... she's so cute... *silly mothery grin*

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

I am so not a light-comedy kinda person

A wee bit of acting today in a ridiculous little tropfest film...

I got a call late last night asking if I was available today to be a featured extra in a scene. It was described as "a parody of an Alcoholic's Anonymous meeting and the director specifically said "so dress how you think an alcoholic would look".

I did so, and turned up at the studio looking every bit the alcoholic-suburban-housewife-in-denial.

Which would have been fabulous if in fact the scene was anything to do with AA.

Instead of an "Incontinents Anonymous" meeting, to which the participants had to wear adult nappies poking out the top of their pants/skirts. Every one of the extras were told the same speil about looking "like an alcoholic" and then we turn up and are asked to put on our nappy!

We all went along with it as cheerfully as we could manage, trying really hard to see the funny side and trusting the director and lead actress when they said that in context it was going to be really funny and not so ridiculous. The bloke beside me and I consoled each other with the hope that no one we knew would ever see the film. It's a shame they felt the need to trick people about what the scene was to get the extras they needed.

And I'm sure it will be a great, funny film and I wish them luck. It's just not my cup of tea.

One perk of the day was that the lead actress is Rebel Wilson. She's a great girl and it was nice to meet and chat with her. She's most recognisable from Fat Pizza and The Wedge (TV shows)She'll be seen in a cameo role in the upcoming Ghostrider with Nicolas Cage, and I have to admit I hung on her every word as she told about acting with Nic Cage and Eva Mendes.

Apparently Rebel was told not to speak to Mr Cage until he first spoke to her - even while they were on set and acting together she was not allowed to speak to him. Eh, that kind of behaviour from big stars really irks me - I can understand huge celebrities not wanting to speak to every fan in the street, but your fellow actors? That's just rude. If you're busy or tired, how hard is to simply smile politely and excuse yourself, rather than making all sorts of rules about who may speak to you and when. Blech. I was really disappointed by that because I've admired Cage for a long time and now I won't be able to watch him without grumpily thinking "prima donna!"

Anyway Rebel's a lovely girl and I enjoyed meeting her. The other actors were great too. And I suppose it's always worthwhile to have a few hours more experience around a film set.