Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Bit Of Wrong Sided Business: Baz Luhrmann's Australia

Mama say, I Galapa. I magic-man. I wizard-man

In a bout of impulse buying that I am so well known for I bought 3 films from my local Blockbuster's "3 for $20 bin": The Apatow, pot smoking comedy Pineapple Express, Academy award winning Milk, and, you may have guessed it, the "comedy, romance, drama, adventure spectacle" Australia. This is a movie I had somewhat forgotten about seeing as during the months leading up to its release I heard nothing from my peers but remarks of distaste, hostility, and all around lack of faith but as the months went by and it had come and gone in theatres I couldn't help but wonder what I was missing out on. I have a penchant for films about the 1940's and stylization and I knew that this film was both so I saw no reason that I shouldn't enjoy it. Plus, $6 for a movie isn't a bad price at all, but I digress. I headed home, popped it into the DVD player and began a three hour journey of cinematic discovery.

I do have to start by saying that this movie is nothing short of gorgeous. Bravo cinematographer Mandy Walker, bravo. Shot entirely on location, the unforgiving Australian wilderness really makes for a great unforgiving Australian wilderness. On top of the beautiful locales the movie has chosen to be stylized (like no other) the moment it starts. From the beginning you realize that Australia is going to be told in a way and style that is very reminiscent of a fairy tale or story book. I got the same feeling the way the story was told in Australia as I got from Tarsem's The Fall which is most definitely a good feeling. Where as the use of green screen (or possibly blue screen, I wasn't able to tell) was sometimes very obvious I found it no way detrimental to the story or the film as a whole, it only complemented the fairy tale aspect I spoke of earlier. In a movie like this I sometimes think that this may be a better technical choice than using special effects that take themselves to seriously, but maybe that's just me.

Lady Sarah Ashley: Nullah, I wanted to extend my condolences...
Nullah: Go away.

Storywise, and here's to you Eric, the tale told my young Nullah (or "Creamy" as they call him) is very predictable. Actually, let me rephrase that. The general outline of the story is very predictable. Woman is tossed into a world she doesn't know, woman meets rugged wilderness man who disgusts her but is in charge of her, woman and man disagree on lots, woman and man accidentally kiss, woman and man fall into unspoken love, woman gets angry and they seperate, woman and man miss each other dearly and everybody realizes it, woman and man get back together surrounded by small children and corpses. I know, it sounds awful, and by itself it would most definitely would be but Luhrmann builds enough side stories and action packed scenes into this main story that not once was I bugged by the overly cliched guiding tale. So, the premise is that Lady Sarah Ashley (played by Nicole Kidman) is a British aristocrat chases her husband to Australia where he owns the 2nd largest cattle ring on the continent. She believes he is chasing aboriginal tail and she is not amused. She docks in the city of Darwin and is met by Drover (played by Hugh Jackman) who is a ruff and tumble he-man who finishes fist fighting the entire populace of Darwin as Lady Ashley arrives. He is to take her to Faraway Downs, her husband's cattle lands. They don't get along. She arrives to find that he has been murdered by, they believe at this point, King George, a crazy magic man who sings to fish and materializes out of dust storms. Turns out it was his right hand man who dunnit, he wants the cattle lands for himself. This is also where Nullah is introduced, the half black, half white "Creamy" who is outcast from society for being so gosh darned adorable.

Let's get them no good cheeky bull in the big bloody metal ship

Turns out he belongs to Mr. Murders but he's not having him so he clings to Lady Ashley. So pretty much, Ashley inherits Faraway Downs and with the help of a ragtag team of ethnic stereotypes and Drover they move 1500 head of cattle across an unforgiven wasteland and through some fire all the way to town. One guy is trampled but they DO get to town so it's all good. Yay! Done, right? Nope. This is ending place #1. After all of this is done Drover and Ashley are an item, doing the wrong sided business and the fox dance all night long. The two stay in town for a while and Ashley offers Drover the position of Manager of Cattle. He sort of accepts and there is much partying and racism. Everybody is happy, the end. Nope. Ending place #2. Mr. Murders isn't having all this success so he kills off his emplyer so he can inherit Australia's leading cattle ring. He also informs the local police that Ashley and Drover have a "Creamy" living with them which is too adorable for the general public so his dog is shot and he is taken from them one day while running naked and painted through the forest. Well, Drover doesn't care and he leaves Ashley, wandering into the bushes. Ashley decides to go to Darwin to try and find Nullah. She arrives to find he is being taken to Missionary Island, an island filled with orphans. She is promised by Mr. Murders that if she sells him her cattle and land he can get her "Creamy" back. She agrees. It takes a few weeks for all this business to wrap up and on the day she is to collect him both Missionary Island and Darwin are bombed by the Japs.


Well, It seems that Ashley dies but it turns out she doesn't but Drover doesn't know that when he arrives the same day that city is bombed. He does know that Nullah was on Missionary island though and him, along with Ivan the bartender and a kind hearted abadiginal, travel to the island to save the orphans. Well, they do, and everybody is reunited in the end an Mr. Murders is murdered by King George who creates a makeshift bow and arrow out of a water tower and a rusty iron rod. The end? No? Yes. It's over.

I realize that this may seem absurd or awful or both but that's just the way I write. Take my word for it, It's a fun, action packed, well written (when you get past the cliches) movie. If you have your doubts, go see it, it's only, what, 2 hours and 46 minutes. What better do you have to do? That's what I thought.

Alex is going to hate me for this but like I wrote earlier on, Australia reminded me very much of The Fall. Both were very artificial but only in the best ways possible. They were both very stylistically similar as well. Australia may not have had crazy stairs or face mounds but, if you watch it I would hope you understand what I'm getting at. Before I ramble on to much more I think I'll end it here. For anybody who's in the mood for an action packed, stylistically charged movie about explosions and Australia, and have three hours to spare, I highly recommend this film to you. If you are Eric, I say stay away.

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