Monthly Archives: December 2008

Shark Attack 28/12/08

A Monstrously Large White Pointer
I haven’t heard of a shark attack for a while, so I have yet to post a shark attack post. One of the things I’ve been tracking in the news is shark attacks and other  wild-life-encounters-one-would-regret articles. Today’s attack news comes from Perth, West Australia.

Brian Guest, 51, was in the ocean south of Perth, Western Australia, when locals reported “something pretty violent” out in the water.
His 24-year-old son raised the alarm as rescuers began a search for Mr Guest, described as an experienced swimmer and diver who knew the area well.
Australia has had one other fatal shark attack in 2008, off the eastern coast.
Surfer Peter Edmonds, 16, was taken by a shark off the coast of New South Wales at Ballina in April.

Witnesses and officials admitted that the latest incident, which happened near Rockingham, to the south of Perth, bore the hallmarks of a shark attack.
Mr Guest and his son were reportedly snorkelling for crabs in familiar waters when they were attacked.
“There was lots of talk among witnesses at the incident location about seeing fins in the water but we can’t yet say whether there was definitely a shark out there, though in all probability that’s what it is,” Mark Valentine, a local police inspector, told the Australian Associated Press.
“Something very traumatic and pretty violent has happened there and we are treating it as a probable shark attack,” he added.
Other witnesses reported that a shark had been spotted in the area during the search.
A family friend said Mr Guest’s son had been swimming close to his father at the time of the attack although he did not see it happen. He quickly ran ashore to raise the alarm.
He said the family was assuming the worst.

I did blog the Edmonds attack in April on my old blog. One of the things that is becoming apparent to me as I keep track of the shark attacks is that if we are in their habitat more and more, and their food is diminishing due to over fishing, it seems inevitable that we are seeing more shark attacks off our coasts.

One of the prevailing wisdoms of Australian beaches has been that shark attacks are rare, but for years I’ve thought this wisdom was apocryphal and under-researched. If you keep Google News open as I have in the last few years, there are at least 3-5 shark fatalities in a year off the coast of Australia.

Naturally, surfers and divers are most at risk, but both sports have seen a rise in participation rates so it stands as reasonable to expect these kinds of numbers.

Indeed, Shark spottings and sightings are up.

BEACHGOERS are being warned to be alert for sharks because of a surge in sightings at popular swimming beaches this summer.

So far this month, Surf Life Saving South Australia’s aerial patrol has spotted sharks 39 times along the state’s coastline – the same number for the entire summer of 2007-08 and more than 2005-06.

In the past week there have been 10 separate shark sightings off metropolitan beaches, including five yesterday.

Swimmers were evacuated from Grange beach yesterday after a 3m bronze whaler was sighted 20m offshore about 12.30pm.

The four other sightings were another at Grange, two at Henley Beach and one at Port Willunga.

There was also a shark sighting at Sydney’s Bondi Beach yesterday which saw around 1000 bathers evacuated from the water.

Bondi lifeguard Anthony Carroll was surfing before going on duty when he spotted the shark snacking on fish.

“I saw the dorsal fins and the side fins,” he said. “It looked like a jet-ski coming through a wave.”

He said the shark was almost black, had a thick girth and was between 2m and 2.5m.

Surf Life Saving SA state manager Shane Daw said the increased numbers could partly be attributed to more fish in Gulf St Vincent.

“We have noticed this year that there are more fish moving through the gulf and obviously that’s an attraction and therefore we’re asking for people to be conscious and aware that we are still getting a number of sightings,” he said.

“We ask them where possible to swim at patrolled beaches so that if there are sightings they can be alerted as soon as possible.

Andrew Fox, who is the son of shark attack victim Rodney Fox, said increased sightings could lead to greater risk of attacks.

Similar warnings of increased sightings before the 2004-05 summer were tragically followed weeks later by the death of Nick Peterson, 18, about 400m offshore from West Beach, SA.

Whatever the reason, the sharks are swimming closer to bathers, surfers and divers. There was even a sighting on Boxing Day at Bondi Beach.

Mr Carroll said he saw the shark about 50m from where they were paddling, in the middle of the bay off Bondi.

“I saw the dorsal fins and the side fins,” he said. “It looked like a jet-ski coming through a wave.”

He said the shark was almost black, had a thick girth and was between 2m and 2.5m.

The shark alarm sounded about 10.40am and bathers were kept from the water for almost 30 minutes as lifeguards, surf lifesavers and helicopters combed the area for further signs. But the shark was not seen again, a lifeguard said.

I’m placing the over-under for shark attack fatalities in Australian waters at 4 this summer.

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Double Your Phil Hughes

Why Settle For One?

To me, an ardent Yankee fan, the name ‘Phil Hughes’ spells promise. Ever since the Yankees started drafting more high-ceiling talent since 2004, Phil Hughes has been that promise that more home-grown Yankees were on the way. He’s shown stretches of that brilliance at the MLB level, but his story is largely yet to be writ. It’s going to be interesting and exciting watching Phil Hughes come into his own, hopefully as an Ace-calibre pitcher for the Yankees.


He’s even got a blog!

Of course, living in Australia, my sports fandom also extends to Cricket, and this summer I’ve become aware of another Phil Hughes that is knocking on the elite level of Cricket.

PHIL HUGHES didn’t really need a coach. After school each day from age 14 to 17 he’d just drag his father, Greg, down to the oval at Macksville and have him feed the ball machine. Phil knew which shots he needed to work on. Then he’d have Greg wait while he did his fitness program. Alone. Almost every day.

“If we’d had a big weekend away he might miss the Monday, and maybe some Fridays he’d have off,” Greg Hughes says. “But apart from that it was a daily ritual. It must have worked: he’s scored 53 hundreds so far.”

Phil had reason to work hard. Despite his tender years, he knew he had a rare talent. At 12, playing in a 50-over primary schools carnival final, he hit 159 not out, commanding attention similarly to earlier child prodigies Adam Gilchrist, Dean Jones and Michael Slater.

“That’s the innings that started off all the talk about him,” Greg says. “When Cricket NSW say they knew him from when he was 12, well, that’s where that started. It was probably also about when I first realised he could play.”

After that game Phil met Merv Hughes. Greg has a photo of the moment and marvels at the coincidence of his son meeting one of the men who now can control if or when he plays for Australia.

The thought of playing for Australia was first realistically conveyed to Hughes by Neil D’Costa, his coach since arriving in Sydney. D’Costa, who mentored Michael Clarke to stardom, planted the idea in Hughes’s mind that “in a few years Matthew Hayden is going to retire and you should make that position yours”. The pair have forged a solid link and mapped out a plan for Hughes’s career.

“We looked at how he would attack his rise in cricket with a mental and technical approach,” D’Costa says. “It’s working for him – look at how many people said he would fail in his second year. But I don’t see any second-year blues.”

I started seeing his name in the last few weeks as my Google News kept spitting out this other Phil Hughes to the New York Yankee Phil Hughes. It’s a common name and I might have just ignored it; but even when I know it’s pure coincidence I want to ask what’s in a name? To top it all off The latter Phil Hughes it seems is a New South Welshman. Well damnit, I’d better be rooting for him too, especially if he starts opening for Australia. It’s not as if he’s a South African or a Kiwi or Pom! 🙂

So that’s my present for this Christmas. I get a second young Phil Hughes to root for in the coming years. I’m warning you all that if things get a litle confusing, well, you read about it here first.

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Yankee Hotstove

Oh Look, They Might Have Signed Tex!

In a wild spending spree, the Yankees are reported to have landed Mark Teixeira.

The Yankees have reached an agreement with Mark Teixeira, a free-agent first baseman, on a long-term contract, according to a person in baseball familiar with the matter. The move would represent the third major off-season move by the team and deal a blow to the Boston Red Sox, who had made signing Teixeira the main objective of their off-season.

Late last week Red Sox executives traveled to Texas to meet with Teixeira, 28, and his agent, Scott Boras, and were clearly hoping to emerge from that meeting with a deal. Instead it ended with Boston’s owner, John Henry, stating that the Red Sox were no longer in the bidding, although that was widely interpreted as a negotiating ploy.

As has happened with other standoffs between the Red Sox and the agent, most notably with Johnny Damon, Boras then turned to the Yankees, who until the last 24 hours had not aggressively pursued Teixeira.

In Teixeira, the Yankees get a powerful switch-hitter who is also a standout fielder. He will join Alex Rodriguez to give the team a strong 3-4 presence in the lineup for years to come.

That’s just wild. Adding Teixeira into the Yankee lineup looks like this according to the RLYW.

The first and obvious move that a lot of us have been harping on is signing Mark Teixeira.  If the Yankees did that (which they won’t) and moved Swisher to CF, here’s how that would look.

A 36 run offensive upgrade, although replacing Melky in CF nullifies the defensive upgrade Teixeira adds.  Still, it’s around a 3-4 win upgrade overall and probably makes them the AL East favorite.

So the Yankees on paper at least are back to being a 98win team.


Now this, I like.

Before we go any further, let us state the obvious truth that the Red Sox are not going to collapse. They have a good team with good management and good farm system, and they have the money to compete for any free agent in the business. The Yankees entered this season far more desperate than the Red Sox did, which is why New York now has spent in excess of $420 million on Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

Still, exactly what happened here? Did the Sox get used or did they just completely whiff? In the coming hours and days, Sox officials (who thus far have generally declined to discuss any all things Teixeira) will put out their spin on how they got their pockets picked by the Yankees. None of it will be worth a darn. Baseball is a results-oriented business, and the Red Sox seemingly had all of the necessary elements to make this work.

Instead, they got burned.

Hard to say. Tex is a very, very good player on both sides of the ball without being truly exceptional with the bat. I can see why some teams might balk at handing out a dirty big contract to him. Just off the top of my head, his numbers remind me of Todd Helton numbers, but not quite. A quick Fangraphs comparison of the wOBA gives us this graph. He was sort of Helton-like in the first 3 years and last year, but in his 26-27y.o. seasons, he dipped where Helton peaked.

Helton’s been in decline since his 31y.o season because of back problems, which doesn’t bode well for a 8year contract. Baseball Reference threw up 2 interesting names worth comparing, and they were Carlos Delgado and Willie McCovey.

Delgado has higher peaks and lower troughs through his 28y.o. season. McCovey is closer in alignment, down to the dip at Age 26. McCovery of course stayed reasonably productive until his Age 37 season. Delgado had a slight recovery in his general delcine in his Age 36 season, but in most part he’s been a very productive hitter between 28 and 36.

This contract might not be such a bad deal for the Yankees, with the usual caveats for long term deals applying.

One wonders what they’re going to do with Swisher, Nady, Damon, Matsui, Gardner, Melky Cabrera going in to 3 outfield spots and DH too. It also rules out A-Rod or Jeter changing positions to 1B down the track. It’s going to be very interesting what happens with Jeter when his contract expires in 2010.

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Laws Of Australian Cinematics

David Dale’s View

David Dale regales us with his three laws of Cinematics:

The First Law of Cinematics: To predict the success of a big budget movie in Australia, multiply its first week’s takings by three. The nation’s favourite flick this year, The Dark Knight, made $15.9 million in its first week, and ended up with a total of $45.6 million (putting it close to the all-time chart-toppers Titanic with $58m, Shrek 2 with $50m and Return of the King with $49m). TDK sold more than 4 million tickets because it lived up to its hype, just like Kung Fu Panda, which earned $8.3 million in the first week and went on to total $26 million, or Wall-E (from $5.8m to $17.8m).
There were exceptions to the first law this year. Mamma Mia! went from $8.1m to an amazing $31.5m and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull went from $12.3m to a mere $29.5m. They are covered by …
The Second Law of Cinematics: To tell if a movie will stay hot, examine the dropoff in its second week’s takings. If it falls by more than a third, word of mouth must be bad (and the ultimate total, as with Indy, will be less than three times the first week). If it falls by less than a third, w.o.m. will propel it to glorious heights (as with Mamma Mia!). It’s ominous news for the teen vampire flick Twilight that its second weekend box office was down 54 per cent on its first weekend.
Now here’s a spooky detail: the takings of Australia fell by 33 per cent from week 1 to week 2, and by 32 per cent from week 2 to week 3.

There is thus no way to tell if it will top the $29 million earned by Baz Luhrmann’s last epic, Moulin Rouge. We might seek a clue in …

The Third Law of Cinematics: Australian films never make more than $3 million (Happy Feet and Australia don’t count because they are international movies). To put it another way, there are only 300,000 cinemagoers in this country who regard the term “Australian-made” as an incentive.
The most awarded local flick this year was The Black Balloon. It made $2.1 million. The most awarded local flick last year was Romulus My Father, which made $2.6 million. Some people theorise that Australian movies fail because they lack budgets. There may be another issue. Could it be that they fail because they lack story?

Need we say more?

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Bail Out Money Turns Into Bonuses

What A Nice Way To Be Rewarded For Failure

A couple of months ago as the bank bail out went ahead, Naomi Klein piped up and said she thought it was a travesty as the bailout money went to pay the bonuses for the executives for these failing banks. She wasn’t wrong about it as it turns out.

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $US1.6 billion ($2.34 billion) in salaries, bonuses and other benefits last year, an AP analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

The total amount given to nearly 600 executives would cover bailout costs for many of the 116 banks that have so far accepted tax dollars to boost their bottom lines.

Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and a longstanding critic of executive largesse, said the bonuses tallied by the AP review amount to a bribe “to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place.

“Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can,” said Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. “We’re told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!”

The AP compiled total compensation based on annual reports that the banks file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 116 banks have so far received $US188 billion ($275.42 billion) in taxpayer help.

Among the findings:

-The average paid to each of the banks’ top executives was $US2.6 million ($3.8 million) in salary, bonuses and benefits.
-Lloyd Blankfein, president and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, took home nearly $US54 million ($79 million) in compensation last year. The company’s top five executives received a total of $US242 million ($355 million).

This year, Goldman will forgo cash and stock bonuses for its seven top-paid executives. They will work for their base salaries of $US600,000 ($880,000), the company said. Facing increasing concern by its shareholders on executive payments, the company described its pay plan last spring as essential to retain and motivate executives “whose efforts and judgments are vital to our continued success, by setting their compensation at appropriate and competitive levels”. Goldman spokesman Ed Canaday declined to comment beyond that written report.

The New York-based company on December 16 reported its first quarterly loss since it went public in 1999. It received $US10 billion ($14.65 billion) in taxpayer money on October 28.

-Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corporation, took a $US1-million ($1.46 million) hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $US17 million ($25 million) in stock options. The McLean, Virginia-based company received $US3.56 billion ($5.2 billion) in bailout money on November 14.

-John A Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $US83 million ($122 million) in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, took the reins of the company in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $US7.8 billion ($11.4 billion). Since he began work late in the year, he earned $US57,692 ($84,500) in salary, a $US15-million ($22 million) signing bonus and $US68 million ($100 million) in stock options.

Like Goldman, Merrill got $US10 billion ($14.7 billion) from taxpayers on October 28.

The AP review comes amid sharp questions about the banks’ commitment to the goals of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a law designed to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets. Last month, the Bush administration changed the program’s goals, instructing the Treasury Department to pump tax dollars directly into banks to prevent wholesale economic collapse.

The program set restrictions on some executive compensation for participating banks, but did not limit salaries and bonuses unless they had the effect of encouraging excessive risk to the institution. Banks were barred from giving golden parachutes to departing executives and deducting some executive pay for tax purposes.

I’m tempted to quote the whole damn article but I will refrain.

I went to see Walk-offHBP play baseball and I ran into a guy who now works for JP Morgan in Sydney. Naturally I asked him how he was finding the GFC, and he told me that JP Morgan was relatively fine so far. He said that he wasn’t senior enough in the chain to be targeted for cuts, and he wasn’t junior to be cut out of hand. In short, he was being paid about what the bank could afford for the work he does – which he jokingly said was nothing too serious.

“But some of these senior guys getting $5m a year? Who the hell is worth that in any market? Seriously, they should be paying me that. Now. Like, as in, He’s going to work hard, pay him as much as we got. This old fart who’s over it and isn’t hungry? Fuck him off quick.”

Then he stepped out to bat and drew a walk on 5 pitches. It was pretty cool. Our old club philosophy was OBP, walks and waiting for 3-run homers, which did happen as I watched. That’s another story. 🙂

Back to the point, which is: some of these dufuses who had their shareholders duped are running off with tax-payers money for their friggin’ bonuses. Get that. You’ve run your company into the ground through idiotic management, asked for government money by the truckload and instead of using it fix the company, you pay yourself a bonus! A BONUS! For what?

One never ceases to be amazed.

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The Wages Of Fame

At Least It’s Not Famous For Being Famous

Pleiades forwarded this little article about how Nicol Kidman is going to spend this festive season in the US because she’s been devastaed by the bad reviews for ‘Australia’.

A close friend said the Oscar winner was upset at not celebrating daughter Sunday Rose’s first birthday in Sydney.

“She’s been so upset by all of it,” the friend said. “It really has devastated her.”

Although Kidman has received some positive reviews for her role as Lady Sarah Ashley in the Baz Luhrmann epic – including from respected ABC critic Margaret Pomeranz – much of the media attention, at home and abroad, has been negative.

“People seem to to be really going for her; I don’t quite get it,” Kidman’s friend said.

“Many of Australia’s own critics gave her strong praise in the role – why are we ignoring what our own critics are saying? It seems very unfair – and it is very distressing for Nicole.”

Even longtime allies of Kidman have been on the attack. Deborah Thomas, editorial director of Australian Women’s Weekly, ridiculed her on Channel Nine’s Today show last week for saying she had only used sunscreen to keep her face looking youthful. Thomas urged Kidman to be more open about any cosmetic procedures she might have had.

Then, it’s the usual claim that she’s a tall poppy. It probably is the tall Poppy syndrome but I sort of think she called it on herself.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit because I don’t think I know many people who keep can keep a straight face when you tell them “Nicole Kidman is a great actress”. It’s really interesting because in Sydney where I live at least, there’s a feeling that people can see right through her acting to see her. People who are otherwise positive, nice, normal people scowl their faces and tell me how awful she is and then unleash an anecdote about just how awful she is in real life.

What to make of it? I have a few anecdotes. She was this girl who would get on the school bus last and declare to the entire bus she was going to be famous star; she was the woman who slept with producer Terry Hayes to get a plum role, then dumped him for a bigger fish; She is absolutely mean and condescending to shop attendants and receptionists (I’ve heard this from about 5-6 people who have served her); she sacked her Australian agent June Cann from the airport by phone as she left for her first big USA film ‘Days of Thunder’; Her contribution to a Tsunami relief telethon was a poster of herself form ‘Moulin Rouge!’ with her autograph which was then auctioned and then raised a paltry 3-digit figure- and this was from Australia’s richest woman; and that’s just some of the more memorable accusations against her person.

All this vitriol in the people in her hometown has got to be invidia -envy of the worst kind. I mean, I get it. She’s a dreadful human being to people she doesn’t know, she’s a hopeless narcissist to people who meet her casually, and yet people who work with her tell you she’s quite a nice in person, really. Well, that sounds like a typical movie star.

So when people see her on the screen in Sydney, there’s this groan of recognition. She is like a mirror that reflects everybody’s own narcissism and desire to be more beautiful through cosmetic surgery and the greedy, greedy desire to be rich AND famous and be lauded for it. Just how the hell did she do it? It must have been through evil, underhanded means, a pact with the devil – or scientology and Tom Cruise –  whatever it took. The bitch! Thus people walk out of the cinema riven with self-loathing. It’s particularly bad on the North Shore where she grew up, exactly because she represents what can only be described as: ‘There but for the Acts of the Devil go I’.

That’s got to be envy. Is it fair? No. is it understandable? Entirely. All the same, Kidman really hasn’t done enough to make her hometown forget the slights. One of the rules of success is that you don’t get to “go home to Kansas”. Because there are people waiting with knives of envy back in Kansas for Dorothy-Judy Garland. It’s sort of surprising that somebody who was smart enough to marry Tom Cruise without a pre-nup can’t figure out why her hometown thinks she’s awful.

Me? I don’t like her at all because I too see the preening  North Shore girl in everything she does, so it doesn’t matter what she seems to be doing as an actor, her being and presence mitigates against me actually seeing the performance as anything but crafted and forced. She’s always seemed like she was playing “Nicole Kidman the actress doing her acting thing”predicated  in just about everything I’ve seen. Her much lauded work in ‘To Die For’ worked because we could accept that this character was totally in line with who I thought I saw. i.e. it worked because it was the closest thing to what we saw of her.

She’s played interpreters and foreigners, a scientist, and a brain surgeon (at 23!) and none of them seemed to reflect on my own experiences of being an interpreter, a foreigner or even a medical student. In that sense her career has been an exercise in demolishing credibility rather than building it.  She’s played sirens who are dispyronic and housewives with little charm. What do you make of an unconvincing actress who seems to make a cold charmlessness her trade mark signature thing?

The fact that she would want her hometown to love her, accept her and  embrace her is actually a little pathetic.

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Baz Mounts Defense of ‘Australia’

Because Evidently It’s Not Speaking For Itself

Baz Luhrmann is sounding like he’s not enjoying the roasting. Here’s a Reuters article on the director’s perspective on his own film.

“A lot of reviewers like ‘Australia.’ And we’re making people cry; I know because they write to us,” he told the Hollywood Reporter during an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel. “But there are those that don’t get it. A lot of the film scientists don’t get it. And it’s not just that that they don’t get it, but they hate it and they hate me, and they think I’m the black hole of cinema. They say, ‘He shouldn’t have made it, and he should die.'”

I think the people are crying because it’s more like an onion than a proper tear-jerker. But we’ll let that pass.

Asked why he thought the reactions were so passionate, he replied: “I know what it’s about.”

The movie’s detractors, he said, were used to movies that were neatly defined.

“This is not (simply) a romantic comedy for 40-year-old women or action movies for 17-year-old boys, and that’s not OK with some people. It’s not OK for people to come eat at the same table of cinema. But you look at movies like ‘Gone With the Wind’ and Old Hollywood classics, and they don’t fit in any box.

“Corny Hollywood movies from the ’40s freak out (the film scientists),” he added.

It’s a real drag that Baz Luhrmann went out and made a very big movie without a target audience, armed with the faith that a retread of a Hollywood movie from the 1940s would transcend the need for defining a genre, all the while he post-Modernistically pilfered cues from the said 1940s film.

While I’m no film scientist, I am at least a student of my craft. When I saw shorts on the Kidman/Letterman interview, I noticed he crossed the line not once but twice in a span of 30seconds. I’m sorry but if you can’t get your basics down like that, while working with a professional crew, then should you be entrusted with a $197million budget?

It’s not that he’s made a very broad, general film with a mixed genre – those things have places in the world, but they tend to have smaller audiences  because it takes a lot more effort from the audience to understand how the genres are getting mixed. It is the fact that Luhrmann can’t tell a story without throwing his camera around and trying to invent a new angle to shoot a 2-hander scene. Dare I say it, he’s actually not properly schooled in how to direct a scene for camera.

This results in his films being nebulous, unfocused and largely confusing. He is the opposite of David Mamet’s tenets where you should simply stick to the story as tightly as you can.

Years ago when he suddenly burst on to the world with ‘Strictly Ballroom’, I was a student at AFTRS. The ‘Strictly Ballroom’ promotional tour rolled into the school cinema and got its screen to much adulation from the  teaching staff. I was struck by several things:

– How poorly directed Strictly Ballroom actually was.

– How the teachers and admin staff embraced it anyway because the story was good enough and simple enough.

– How the AFTRS staff embraced the film, even though Luhrman was from NIDA and not the AFTRS. The guy had nothing to do with AFTRS.

Now, the third thing was possibly the weirdest thing, because it relates back to the first. One of the things that film school inevitably does to you is give you a grounding in the basic needs of directing for camera. If it didn’t/doesn’t, you should burn it down and start again. Certainly, in my time, as wobbly as it was, that culture lived and breathed at AFTRS.

So here was a film that failed to meet the kind of technical standards that second year novices were meeting, getting critical acclaim. Worse still, the AFTRS educators were willing to turn a blind eye to all these faults for which they would have roasted their own students and praise the film to the sky. It was a surreal moment. Yes, I’m talking about you, John O’Hara, Paul Thompson, Helen Carmichael, Marion Ord, Brian Hannant! – Just in case you’re googling your own names.

But it got me thinking: If NIDA could produce successful film makers who didn’t know anything about the technical things the AFTRS was imparting to its own students, and the AFTRS’s job was just to produce the crew who would work on these films, What EXACTLY WAS THE POINT OF HAVING A DIRECTING DEPARTMENT? What was the point of even having AFTRS?  It seemed incredibly self-defeating for AFTRS’s teaching body to embrace the success of the film in spite of all its abundantly clear faults. The sort of faults with which it would roast its own students

Understand this: All the students knew (and understood) that it was a deeply flawed film, and yet we all shrugged and furtively caught each other’s disbelieving glances as the AFTRS teachers lauded its success. It was one of those. “WHAT THE FUCK?!!!!” moments that make you re-assess everything about what you are doing. What exactly was the point of proper film technique?

What exactly is the point of any technique to do anything? Why bother learning a single-handed backhand? Why bother learning correct finger – position for scales? Why learn how to cast and reel properly? Why learn technique in anything, when the novice world just doesn’t notice? Or was it just a case of double standards?

I don’t have an answer to this double standard. I have no answer as to how these things happen. But let’s face it, there’s Baz Luhrmann making his dirty big Hollywood Blockbuster, partly on Australian tax Payers’ money – still, clearly ignorant of the basic basics of film making. And the joke is on me (and others), because there is nobody from my year at AFTRS that has directed a Hollywood film. What, exactly, was the point of having AFTRS, if this was going to be the outcome?

Those people should have been quaking in their shoes when Baz Luhrmann emerged, instead of lauding its success; because his very career poses serious questions about Filmmaking in Australia. In my book, the one that I got from AFTRS, it’s questionable that Baz Luhrmann should have been allowed to make that film; no, he shouln’t have to die except in the box office; and I’m not being mean-spirited when I say that.

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