Sunday, March 14, 2010


Some films are plain old bad. I couldn’t understand where Blessed was coming from but once again I felt myself being in the silly position, as a middle class person living in a putatively working class area, being patronised by middle class people who think they’re portraying some kind of working class life (or perhaps former working class people who think what working class people did and said 20 years ago when they last checked in can still stand because they're angry, right). It bugged me significantly that Miranda Otto’s character was supposedly living in Westmeadows in a house that looks like nothing I had ever seen in Westmeadows (or Broadmeadows for that matter, but Westmeadows is comparatively bourgie and perhaps someone should have checked that) and that it is implied that her daughter’s friend after escaping from a police car outside this Westmeadows house then runs home to West Footscray. I am not sure but I am guessing that’s about 15 km (no, I checked on google map and it's a bit over 18). Miranda Otto’s character is a gambling tart who – a la the mum in Mallboy who gets together wiv her mates and sharpie dances to Suzi Quatro of an evening – dances to The Angels by herself, classic Alberts period natcherly. I found the Frances O’Connor character the worst but I also found the guff about the character played by Debra Lee Furness (a fine, fine actor) wanting her partner/husband William McGuinness to ‘touch me, you never touch me’ somewhat blah particularly when contrasted with FO’C’s son telling her two of her boyfriends had sex with her preteen daughter thus: ‘they touched her mum you let her touch them’. Ugh. All this prattish coyness. As for the young gay man who was the brother of Miranda Otto’s daughter’s best friend, the less said the better. We watched this film along with two others. They were Surrogates, with Bruce Willis and get this Radha Mitchell (everything comes back to Love and Other Catastrophes doesn’t it, really) and the other film was… a teenage school comedy called Just Peck. Why these? I was trying to get a kind of well-rounded selection of the quality with the crapity. Unfortunately they all ended up being fairly crapity, with Blessed the biggest waste cuz it had the best people in it and the best writers and best director. Surrogates had a lot of potential, and just didn’t make it on any level really with a few little exceptions such as the clever way the robots looked just a little fake but only just a very little. It’s about a time about 12 years into the future I think when almost anyone who can does their daily life through a robot which they control while lying in a dark room relaxing. So, it’s a kind of virtual reality in reverse. The stupid bit is that this whole thing goes pear shaped when someone – whoever, who cares, not I – finds a way to kill the users of these ‘surrogates’ by blasting the surrogate with a kind of ray gun that fries their minds somehow. The premise of the whole film is of course ridiculous, but this threat is also ridiculous. Although ridiculous I do feel that almost anything else done with the premise could have resulted in something a little superior. There are little resistance states within the cities (I think this film is set in Boston) where luddites refuse to use surrogates, for whatever reason. We get a tiny sense of these people’s lives and they play catch, and farm the streets or whatever – groovy, that's the limit of this director's conception of an alternative lifestyle. They are led by a big black man called The Prophet. Bruce Willis is a middle aged white man called… can’t remember. Radha Mitchell is only ever seen as a surrogate, controlled firstly by the woman she’s supposed to be controlled by, and then by others. Dragorama. Well, I asked for it. Just Peck has one very important saving grace, which is that while it is about a boy (13 or something?) with strong feelings for a girl about 16 or thereabouts, it doesn’t descend into anything grossout particularly, beyond the suggestion that he has diorrhea, for some unexplained reason, on the first day of high school. Thinking about it I do get the sense there was perhaps some editing after the fact (you know, love to see the director’s cut) because for instance there’s the diorrhea scene which luckily goes nowhere and there’s a scene where Peck first meets the girl, whose name I forget and his friend suggests that as payment for her giving him a ride in her mini moke, he (Peck) will show her his enormous penis. He says he will do this and then it’s the next scene and presumably he did not do it, because this was not something actually she would have wanted him to do (it’s not that kind of film, whatever kind of film it is) but he’s getting a rid in the mini moke and there’s nothing more said about the schlong viewing. I didn’t want the film to go in that direction so it’s cool, it was just either lazy scripting or weird editing. The Peck character was well played and some of the adults were good too. Marcia Cross did what she always does now, a prim anal bitch.

The next night two films were borrowed for pleasure. One was The Hangover. Why? Because we had borrowed a burnt version of this film and felt terribly guilty and just had to rent it and get the filmmakers and investors legitimate recompense. No, actually the burnt version stuck half way through so I felt left in limbo just not knowing. Heather Graham seems to put her hand up for every kooky bit part; does she have kids or something and just wants to do a few days’ work here or there? There were some faintly funny lines in the film but the character of Leslie Chow basically spoils the whole kaboodle with a Chinese gangster-esque figure combining magically every Chinese stereotype in one. Which still seems like a stereotype. Yeah, I could live without that film. And then Charlie and Boots.

Charlie and Boots. All the way through, I had the weirdest déjà vu feeling about this film, that it was like a travelogue from the 1960s, with some 21st century True Emotions plastered inappropriately on top. In fact, the script really could have been an old travelogue, except there was a little-son-dead storyline which wouldn’t have fitted the 1960s (Surrogates has a little-son-dead storyline too, fyi). Otherwise everything from the dramatically utterly awkward first ten minutes which has Charlie and his son Boots on the road from Warrnambool to Cape York instantly to the unhumorous interactions with weird locals along the way is just like a 50 minute short produced by the Queensland Tourism Council in 1974 only less amusing particularly as Paul Hogan looks kind of scary with hair like Bruce Willis’ surrogate in Surrogates, but a face a bit like an old, old man. Just a bit. Why Anne Phelan thinks he’s hot and he doesn’t think she’s hot (this is in the film, not real life) is beyond me. There is a bit of awkward stuff about a 16 year old country singer who for no reason that makes sense because the country music festival isn’t on, hitches a ride to Tamworth and then sings a song somewhere in Tamworth and that’s it. And she was going with a boyfriend who she ditches because ‘he wanted me to do things I didn’t want to do’. At least it wasn’t ‘they touched her, mum, you let them touch her’ or for that matter, ‘touch me you never touch me any more’. The scene where the men destroy the boyfriend’s vehicle is the funniest scene in the film.

So films are no good these days, when it comes down to it. Today I went for a long walk with Millie and Charlie between Strathmore and home, probably about 6 km with all the twists and turns. Millie got in the water at Gowanbrae and couldn’t get out, though I showed her a way. I listened to a bunch of podcasts – In Our Time (on Queen Boudica, aka Bodicea, did you know she possibly didn’t even exist!?), Movie Show and This American Life about stories from the recession. All recommended. Charlie was chased by a greyhound so she took it out on the next dog who came along, which was the size of a big rat. And we saw some really fat tadpoles.

It was a warm day.


Anonymous said...

Fat tadpoles at Gowanbrae: that's my childhood. Except, except...there was no Gowanbrae then, just paddocks, a Caterpillar factory and a trestle railway bridge.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and yeah, I wanted to see Blessed because, as you say, good director, good actors, good writers. But the geographical faux pas you point out ruins it for me already. How would you do that Westmeadows to West Footscray thingo, even if it's 18 kms as the crow flies? Through Airport West, down Bulla Road toward Moonee Ponds junction, then along that weirdo tram route that goes from Moonee Ponds to Footscray, I suppose. But what were they thinking?

David said...

Well in fairness to the filmmakers it's not 18 km as the crow flies but walking. Seem more realistic now?