Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Year 9, Day 116 - 4/26/17 - Movie #2,610

BEFORE: I was all set to watch "Chappie" next, with Dev Patel carrying over from "Lion", but then I realized that if I changed the order of the Hugh Jackman chain just a bit, I could get TWO actors to link - both Nicole Kidman and David Wenham now carry over.  And two is better than one.

It turns out this isn't just the week of (mostly) one-word titles.  I just realize Cate Blanchett is Australian, so between her, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, I've just about given over this whole week to the Aussies.  This is the fifth film in a row with at least one Australian actor, and there are at least four more on the way.

THE PLOT: An English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch in northern Australia reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to drive 2,000 head of cattle over an unforgiving landscape.

AFTER: I didn't know what to make of this film at first - the acting at the start is so ridiculous, so over-the-top, with Nicole Kidman acting like this stuck-up heiress who's absolutely SHOCKED at how rude people are in Australia, and how dusty everything seems to be.  Then Jackman comes along acting like a stereotypical meathead brawler and it seems like everyone's going to be a cartoony character of sorts.  Plus even though the scenery looks great, it looks a little TOO good, if you know what I mean, as if it couldn't possibly be real, which it probably isn't.  I didn't pay much attention to who directed the film, but at the end when Baz Luhrmann's name came up, I thought, "Yeah, that makes a lot of sense."  You could watch "Moulin Rouge!", this film, and "The Great Gatsby" in a row as a trilogy (but, why would you?) and probably see a lot of similar stuff.  I'm just surprised that more people here didn't spontaneously break into pop songs that were written 50 years later.

There's definitely a sense of an adventure here, but everything's just so silly and exaggerated, it was hard for me to feel invested.  Perhaps it did capture the spirit of 1939 Australia - I'll never know for sure - but layered under so many special effects and so much art direction that it was hard to notice it.  Then when they succeeded in getting the cattle to the destination port, in my opinion, that's where the movie should have ended.  Congratulations, you won, you did it, now we can all go home - but no, the film persists for another extra hour beyond that, for a total running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes.  I did stay awake for the whole film, but fell asleep immediately after.

I did learn two things, the first was about the Japanese bombing of Darwin, Australia - which took place shortly after Pearl Harbor, but I'd never heard of it before.  It makes sense that Japan would attack there to prevent the UK and its Allies from using Australia as a base.  But you'd never hear about this in an American history class, which might be a shame.  And the other thing I learned was that even though we may have racial problems in America, they're minor compared to what's gone on in Australia over the years.  It seems that mixed-race children had absolutely no social status, and the film shows them being rounded up to be sent to special schools to "breed the black out of them".  And  here they were placed on an island out in the harbor, so if the Japanese planes came, that would be the first place bombed.  Nice going, racist Aussies.

The whole sequence in the early part of the film with Nullah hiding in the water tower, I just didn't understand.  I mean, I get that he and his mother had to hide from the police, and maybe the water tower was a good place to hide and maybe it wasn't, but I didn't understand why it was a bad thing that the police used some of the water, or why they had to keep moving around inside the tower, thus making noise, and then what happened next, just completely illogical.

The tie-in's to "The Wizard of Oz" were also brought up again and again, I just didn't see the point.  Sure, it's an OK film, and it was timely to refer to it in a film set in 1939, but was this just to make the connection between "Oz" meaning "Australia".  Geez, we get it already, there's no reason to hammer this home so many times.

It's a Western, it's a war movie, it's a romance - does this film really know what it wants to be in the end?  In a way, it's like my jury duty - I wonder what the point was, since it feels like just a waste of time that I'll never get back.

Also starring Hugh Jackman (last seen in "X-Men: Apocalypse"), Bryan Brown (last seen in "Along Came Polly"), Jack Thompson (last seen in "Ruby Cairo"), David Gulpilil, Brandon Walters, Ben Mendelsohn (last seen in "Rogue One"), David Ngoombujarra, Essie Davis, Bruce Spence, Barry Otto (last seen in "The Great Gatsby"), Ursula Yovich, Yuen Wah, Sandy Gore, Jacek Koman, Tony Barry.

RATING: 4 out of 10 similarly repetitive mentions of "going walkabout"

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