Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Australiagasm

Opinions on Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) vary from moviegoer to moviegoer -- not everyone responds to super sized style and theatrics but to me the Australian filmmaker is a blessed rarity. He's a real live descendant of the old showman style of filmmaker or Hollywood producer. You can see the D.W. Griffith ambition. You can see the Selznick in him. If he were born before the movies he could have been a circus impresario and, quite obviously, he's Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) in Moulin Rouge!, frantically sweating, pumping up and exploiting his talent and whipping his audiences into a carefully orchestrated frenzy. Baz thinks big. But more importantly, he thinks big naturally. His films, agonizingly slow in coming for fans, never bear the marks of required No. of Setpieces that Hollywood blockbusters do (particularly the action films). There's no straining to pad the running time, no lazy idea-free setpieces make their way in.

Even within his earliest film Strictly Ballroom (1992), which is indisputably modest in budget and story, he's going for the rousing super-sized moment. Consider the "L'Amour" sign (making its first big screen appearance, consider the hair and makeup, consider the triumphant crowd-rocking finale. Consider Paul Mercutio's ass.

Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001), which completed his aesthetic non-narrative "red curtain" trilogy of movies, were yet bigger, pricier and more successful. With each film his budgets, imagination and even the fame of his leading actors seems to increase exponentially. I worry for him a little as a result. His new film, brazenly going by the moniker of Australia stars Nicole Kidman & Hugh Jackman, two of the most famous stars on earth. It'll either be a big success or be declared a folly. This is probably as big as it gets unless his next film is called The Milky Way with a cast entirely populated by $15-25 million dollar movie stars. Even the extras will have to be household names.

Deep breaths now...



I know people have been asking me my opinion on the new trailer but I'm mostly speechless. I can sum up my reaction in basically three words which contain many more feelings.




BOOM!

That last refers not to the World War II explosions that end the trailer nor to the mini explosive notes mixed into the score as the showy cuts happen. It's the sound of my own heartbeat, thunderous.

Am I laying it on thick enough?

It's just that so many epics seem so desperate only to win Oscars. With Baz you know that this (Australia) is just what's inside of him. It's showy but it'll probably be damn sincere. One can't accuse any of his films of being made with awards in mind... which is more than can be said for many epics and golden hopefuls that find their way into theaters in November and December each year. It was a happy accident that Moulin Rouge!, a mad experiment, got as far as it did. It only became associated with the awards circus after it developed a feverish devoted fan base.

My greatest fear is that the new film will be stiffly weighed down by Baz & Nicole's efforts to top themselves (better not to try and top Moulin Rouge! methinks) and my greatest hope for it is that it will be every bit as thrilling in its 120+ minutes as it is in this new tiny dosage.
*

24 comments:

Glendon said...

I've never been a fan of Luhrmann's films, but the use of The Only Moment Were Were Alone by Explosions In The Sky makes me that much closer to seeing it.

Clay Atlas said...

Trailer makes it seem cliché to the maxxx.

Anonymous said...

It looks too good to be true. This could be the next Pearl Harbour.

mrripley said...

or it may be weighed down by the size of kidmans lips.says someting when the leading man is more beautiful than the leading lady.

wgcareyjr said...

Is it just me or is Baz pretty darn handsome. The silver hair is working for me.

Where do I buy my ticket ?!

Sam said...

It really does look fantastic in the trailers. I've never seen Jackman look so handsome. It's either going to be a huge success or a colossal failure. No middle ground.

Rick said...

I thought the first trailer was pretty fabulous but this one is orders of magnitude more so. Hugh Jackman glistening in the light of the camp fire. SWOON!

Hayden said...

Here's hoping this is our generation's Gone With the Wind.

Sally Belle said...

I love Baz Luhrmann...I truly do...but I've seen this movie before. It was called Far and Away.

As to this generation's Gone With The Wind. I don't believe there will ever be such a thing. You couldn't even make Gone With The Wind now.

Unless you had graphic depictions of people blowing up in the war...Scarlett actually being raped, and Halle berry willing to play Prissy...topless.

Anonymous said...

Selfishly, part of me doesn't care what anyone else thinks of the movie. It'll be my suggestion for what to see with various groups of friends, so I can see it several times in theatres, before buying the first edition, Deluxe edition, anniversary edition, etc. when they come out.

Finally, Hugh Jackman in all his glory. Even getting to be Australian, the prototype Australian hero. And I think Nathaniel is on the mark with his assessment of Luhrman making the movie the way he likes it, and sees it. It will be fascinating to see Australian history through his eyes and these interpreters. CAN'T WAIT!

Anonymous said...

The second trailer was absolutely beautiful and hugely epic. Second Pearl Harbor? I think not. What I do think is that that's an insult to Baz Luhrmann. The man may be loved or hated, but he's not pathetic.

I, too, Nathaniel hope the whole will be as good as its parts. I trust Nic, Hugh, and Baz - I think they will deliver a masterpiece and this decade's Titanic, Gone with the Wind, Out of Africa, etc.

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone think Nic looks so bad -- seriously the botox comments are getting old and ridiculous. It seems, especially in the second trailer, that she's back to form working with her "career soulmate." =) And I can totally see Hugh snagging a nod if the mov ie lives up to its hype.

Nathaniel, how do you think her performance will be? And Hugh's?

Hayden said...

I dunno. I mean, Atonement had horrendous timing but if James McAvoy couldn't snag a nomination with his rising-star status, I'm doubting Jackman's chances. Especially when this year's Best Actor race looks so promising. I think it's just a bias against romantic leading men.

But, if Jude Law could get a nod playing opposite Kidman in a period epic, I wouldn't necessarily count Jackman out.

Anonymous said...

About Hugh's performance - from some comments I've read about people who saw the screening - before FX etc. were done - they say he has charm, emotion, charisma and a few even said he "blew them away". They also said Nicole was excellent but they were really surprised by Hugh and Brandon Walters who plays the Aborigine kid - some even suggested he could snag a supporting Oscar nom, that's how good the kid is. So it sounds like we're in for some great performances.

smrtmnky said...

i had an Australiagasm on sunday night when i saw it on ABC.
i'm really hoping Lawrence of Australia doesn't suck.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I'm hoping it's more showy than sincere. I've seen Luhrmann in interviews and any time he says something 'heartfelt', he dies a little for me. I don't think there's much substance there, but there's an overload of style. He should work to his strengths.

As for this trailer, I wish it were a musical with no dialogue - definitely not Luhrmann's strength.

Rick said...

The cinematography looks dazzling.. as far as the leads looks.. come on! Kidman is a fair actress.. she has made poor selections in her career since Oscar.. a great actress can even do a good job in a poor movie.. Kidman doesn't. Jackman is a fine actor...
When you see snippets of scenes,, how can you determine how Oscarworthy a performance is ?

Sally Belle said...

anonymous who brought up Nicole's face...
My problem with her face is her lips.
I have no idea if she has ever had botox or not, but it is for damn sure she has had something done to her lips.
I don't want it to be distracting...but it distracts me!
I have loved her long time too, and the last thing I want is for her to become "freaky". But, she's looking a little off...Tim Gunn and I are worried.

Mohammed said...

OK! That was Titanic + Pearl Harbor + Gone with the Wind mushed together in one trailer. I still have faith in Buz so I'm not giving up. There's something different about Nicole though.

mrripley said...

yyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhh the lips distract me and i loved her b4 20001!!! yes even in malice.

Glenn said...

Looks absolutely amazing. Just so amazing.

Anonymous said...

She wanted Jolie's lips

Anonymous said...

I really love this new trailer, this is Baz, I'm sure he will deliver something different, something that people will talk, somthink populary cultural...He's a genious, a great voice of actual cinema.
And Nathaniel, I read your blog constantly, I know yo has waited (like me) for this, for so looong, can't you give us more impressins, as how do yo see Nicole (I see her perfect in the trailer, speaking of acting skills an also beautiful, people can say anyting but she looks superb!) And in general, do you think this will be like R+J or Moulin Rouge!, films that were instant classics and films that people has been analysing since the year they come out because of their status of great, classic films?

murnau said...

I'm wondering if he will keep his editing style or go the more conventional long shots for an epic like this. I'm leaning towards the later, if only because I can't imagine an epic like this with his epileptic (though excellent) method of montage. But, hey, it's Luhrmann, he sure as hell has proven me wrong before.