Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hump Day Hottie, Baz Luhrmann

thanks to Kat and EO for the iTunes tip

Seems one of my favorite auteurs and yours, Baz Luhrmann, is still pushing envelopes. To get you salivating for his next motion picture Australia -- as if you needed any more encouragement --Baz has already unveiled both an intro and the first episode to a new vodcast available on iTunes that's also doubling as a filmmaking challenge for young movie dreamer hopefuls. Neat.

Before we get to the goodies, let's look at the goods:

It isn't said enough so here it is... Baz is a silver fox.

Directors are usually admired for some blend of creativity, nerve, intelligence, envelope pushing, audience rapport, storytelling clarity, style and the ability to conduct a nerve-wrackingly immense blend of instruments (design, cinematography, performances, sound, editing rhythms, etcetera) into one stirring orchestra. You can praise Baz Luhrmann for all of that, certainly. All three of his movies Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and his masterpiece Moulin Rouge! (see plentiful earlier posts) are rewatchable keepers. But he's also easy on the eyes. Which you can't say often enough about behind-the-scenes types. Not for lack of suitable candidates perhaps but for their elusiveness. If they're not on the screen itself most people ignore them. Not the true film fanatics, like you and I though. So let's let Baz be our first auteurial Hump Day Hottie. The intro episode gives you just a small peak at the grandeur ahead and several good hard looks at 45 years-young slim, metrosexual and talkative Baz. Bonus points: Aussie accents = adorable. Every time.

Australia runs the very modern risk of being one of those well publicized movies that you feel like you've seen in its entirety by the time it opens. But in this case, I'll take it. Just this shot alone of Baz directing Nicole Kidman is enough to leave me a mess of longing. Moulin Rouge! (sigh) seven years is a long time to wait for this reunion.

The first real episode of the vodcast (they're going to be pleasantly short -- always wrapping up while you're still totally into it) is all about the stills photographer. It's really worth seeing. This is an aspect of film set chaos that I had personally never even considered before. The name of their primary stills photographer here is James Fisher.

Baz explains why he hired James:
James has one of the favorite qualities I seek out in those people I collaborate with and that is that creativity is an adventure
James is also easy on the eyes and ginger like Nicole. Not that that had anything to do with his hiring. I'm just observing... You see I'm going a little crazy for this movie already. In every which way. help me. From the looks of things Baz hasn't given up his theatrical bent --he's just taken it in a Lean-er direction. There even appears to be a rugged man dance sequence! In this episode you'll see a lot of James agility as a photographer but the manly action is primarily coming from Hugh Jackman who looks like he'll be doing a lot of running, fighting, riding and sweeping (...of Kidman off her feet)

Filmmaking challenges will come with five particular episodes in this "on set" series (no clue as to when the others will happen but there's a new episode tri-weekly) are open to high school and college students only. You can go here for more info. Here's the first challenge which is due on May 5th. The prizes for winners are scrumptious, in particular the grand prize: a trip for two to Australia and Baz himself picks you up and you travel with him when you get there.

We've all picked friends up from an airport before but considering this man is also in charge of everything to do with an enormous multi-million dollar spectacle he sure does like to multi-task, doesn't he?

Here's some fine still photography from the set.

Mmmmmm. Australia! It's prettier than Baz. Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and the Northwest Kimberly region of Australia combined already made this orgasmically beautiful (in theory) before one frame was shot. Now that all of the frames have been shot --it's in post now --will this motion picture be the most beautiful anything of 2008. We shall see.

Meanwhile, if you're in high school or college (which you have to be to enter this contest, grrrr) are you going to pick up a camera and try to become a part of Australia and then go to Australia? They have a movie star manufacturing plant there, don'cha know --Blanchett, Kidman, Crowe, Jackman, Watt, Ledger, etcetera... It's my goal in life to discover its secret location someday. I promise to do lots of stealth still photography once I do.

previously on "Hump Day Hotties": Dennis Quaid, Drew Barrymore, Matthew Barney, Natalie Wood, James Marsden, Anne Hathaway, Rodrigo Santoro and more...


Glenn Dunks said...

I went through this podcast earlier this evening and got stills, which I was/am going to post on my own blog.

They are gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. Is this, if nothing else, our cinematography Oscar winner right there? Hmmm.

Although I'm still thinking I'm right about only predicting Catherine Martin for an art direction nomination. There doesn't exactly seem to be a lot of costume chances going on, that's for sure.

And, btw, so true about Baz. He and fellow Aussie director Greg McLean are totally yummy silver foxes.


I am nervous about the cinematography Oscar-wise actually. The DP is Mandy Walker and she has zero profile with the Academy's cinematography branch and you know how stingy those branches can be with newcomers sometimes.

i'm aware that she's respected in Australia ... i'm just saying. That first nomination with AMPAS can be tricky.

Glenn Dunks said...

Oh, and I had been wondering how the aboriginal aspect was going to play into the story considering David Gulpilil, Jamie Gulpilil and David Ngoombujarra had been cast. I was worried that it was going to be some silly "white people discover the natives" scene that had no relevence whatsoever, but that third image from the top totally gives it away.

Still, absolutely gorgeous.

Glenn Dunks said...

Mandy Walker is responsible for one of my absolute favourite works of cinematography, on the psychological thriller The Well. Stunning work on that.

Anonymous said...

Australia will broke the curse of epic-romantic films in the last Oscars? MAybe, maybe not... Because after Shakespeare in love only three love stories films were nominated: Moulin Rouge!, Brokeback Mountain and Atonement, and the last one was the only epic-romantic story, but that film was almost out of the nomination... Only when we saw the film we know the answer

Anonymous said...

I'm the only straight male I know who loves Baz's (or is it Mr. Luhrmann's?) work. It's always a nice change of pace to come to this one, because most I go to use him as a whipping boy.

I love Luhrmann's visuals, his controversial frantic editing and most of all his campy sincerity. I actually believe he believes what he says in these movies, which is more I can say than almost any romance that has come out in the past ten years.

Sorry if I used this oppurtunity to rant, I simply can't express how much I like...nay, love his movies in public without getting looked at funny.

Anonymous said...

It's always a nice change of pace to come to this BLOG, because most BLOGS I go to use him as a whipping boy.

sorry about that

Unknown said...

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According to one of the Aboriginal extras, there is an entire storyline dedicated to the Aboriginal actors. This lady was someone removed from her family as a child and she said the storyline affected her a lot, they had to keep giving her time to pull herself together. She was interviewed when the Oz government gave the apology.

Anonymous said...

I want so badly for this to be good.

The thing is, Baz has it in him to pull this together and knock everyone's teeth out with towering greatness.

this is what makes me antsy. As evidenced by English Patient or Cold Mountain, these sprawling epic romances are touch and go. There needs to be touches of restraint and reserve to keep it from getting bombastic...
Steady, Baz, steady..

Michael B. said...

I'm gonna try to sign up...I'll somehow post my picture if I do...

Anonymous said...

So beautiful! My favourite still shot has got to be the silhouette of Nic and Hugh leaning against the tree. And I loved the extensive display of Nic and Hugh embracing / kissing in the vodcasts *sigh*. L'Amore forever. I was thrilled that there was so much on show in the vodcasts. Sure I worry about over-exposure and premature hype, but at the moment I just want to absorb all that's on offer.

Anonymous said...

Hi there - great blog! These podcasts and images are absolutely stunning, and Baz is indeed a silver fox!

I am the webmaster of a Baz fansite called Baz the Great, and I have added a link to your blog in my latest news update so fellow fans can take a look :)

Anonymous said...

Great pictures you really captured the essence of each scene you captured.


Vanessa, thank you. You might also want to see my Moulin Rouge! recap/retro (only half done but still HUGE. One of these days...)

par3182 said...

it's high time mandy walker got some oscar buzz - her work on lantana, love serenade, life and the well is stunning

she's nowhere near as acclaimed as she deserves to be

Anonymous said...

Stunning, amusing and informative - whilst whipping up excitement for the film and providing PR for the country itself. (The Australian Tourism Board has every right to be optimistic.) There's clearly method to Baz's madness - and his dead-pan intro ("they'll see the bluescreen!") was funny stuff. I'm in love with the man and giddy-excited about the film all over again.

This of course will be a tricky mix - romance, epic and war saga. (Think Atonement - but with humor in the mix this time as well as drama and tragedy.) If anyone can pull it off it's PROBABLY Baz, with his thorough knowledge and love of cinematic history. He lacks the arch, distant, ironic "postmodern" quality that's so in fashion these days (although MR is as postmodern a musical as it gets) But as Anon 6:51 said, "steady, Baz, steady." (MR was not really a blockbuster hit until it went to DVD).

The studio is smart to move the release to Nov. 14 (it was originally Dec I think); perhaps they saw what happened with Atonement vis a vis the Oscars and took note?


Anonymous said...

Lets be honest and fair, what makes his films so striking is their art direction. Catherine martin is a visionary and Baz is the kind of brilliant operater to have made sure that she is his wife. Sorry? Am I being too cynical - maybe he is brilliant with actors....then why has dicaprio, kidman, danes, ewen etc all produced far superior work elsewhere? dON,T GET ME WRONG i ADMIRE HIS NOUS BUT i WONDER WHY MARTIN NEVER GETS TO WORK ON OTHER FILMS. aND i WONDER WHY MARIIAGES OF CONVIENCE SHOULD STILL BE NECCESSARY

Anonymous said...

"Marriage of convenience?" Isn't that a tad harsh? Then what are their two children, "offspring of convenience?"

I think that Baz and Catherine compliment each other perfectly, or seem to. Baz struck me in the MR periiod as being a bit ADHD (just a bit), someone with an eye for detail but who bounces around the room a bit from this to that without a steadying influence (although becoming a father and aging may have settled him a bit. He knows a lot about films, about history and culture, and his knowledge is wide, but any conversations with him would likewise bounce around from subject to subject. CM struck me as the "steadying influence" as well as his match as an artist, someone whose knowledge runs deep (you could have a sustained conversation with her) and is able to manifest into physical form his visions (with the help of a very talent and unsung team, of course.)

I rather envy the fact that they can sustain both a marriage and a working/artistic partnership because not many couple can manage one, much less both. In my opinion that's to be applauded.


james fisher said...

Hi There Nat, great site, thanks for your (!) kind words
why not link directly to my site? -australia was my first experience as a stills photographer on set, and what an adventure it was....
keep the fire burning

james fisher said...