Flops! Flops And More Flops!

Every Week Is Despair Week In Australian Cinema!

I saw this article in a newspaper over the weekend and sort of pushed it aside. Today I got an email saying I ought to blog this thing. I guess the salient bit is here:

Screen Producers Association of Australia president Antony Ginnane warned Aussie flicks were putting off audiences and threatening the local trade’s future.

“The whole industry needs to look at itself. It won’t be sustainable … until it considers what audiences want to see,” the 38-year veteran of global film and TV said.

“We need to move away from films that are depressing and unpleasant, and give audiences something it is worth spending $17 on for a ticket – plus parking and a babysitter.

“Audiences want to see movies that take them out of themselves, that are magical and exciting … not ones that are dark, depressing and way too much like reality.”

Well, yeah, you’d think so. It’s the bizarre-ness of the president of SPAA saying we’ve got make more audience-friendly pictures that sums up the terrible, horrible, state the Australian Film Industry finds itself in, after years of abuse.

This week also saw Louis Nowra write an article in The Monthly where he looks at all 33 Australian films this year to get a sense of just where our cinema is at. Pleiades handed me a copy to read. Fortunately, there’s a preview here:

If anything began to trouble me about this year’s crop, it was whether any of these actors could open a film. Would Australians go to see a movie just to watch any of these performers? The answer is probably not. Sometimes, of course, they have been miscast. Matt Day in My Year Without Sex gives his familiar kicked-puppy-dog performance, which is fine for a character actor but can’t carry a film. Weaving’s performance in Last Ride is also one-note. Whereas Day seems to exit his scenes as confused as when he enters them, Weaving seems to begin each scene already knowing how it will end. The bearded Aden Young groans his way through Lucky Country like an Old Testament prophet who has inadvertently ended up in a cowboy movie. There are other examples of miscasting, but even when these actors are perfectly cast, as is Horler, they don’t have the pulling power of Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. It’s not that these are necessarily better actors than those gracing our screens – it’s because they have achieved fame in Hollywood.

We treat actors differently here. As the many films that have been released this year prove, our cinematographers have superb eyes for figures in a landscape. It’s almost impossible to forget the brooding dark beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness in Van Diemen’s Land, the sight of a boy in red wandering across a vast salt lake in Last Ride, or the majestic Flinders Ranges in Beautiful Kate, silently dominating the humans. There is no doubt that these cinematographers are in our great tradition of landscape artists, but when it comes to shooting the human face they are on less sure ground. So many of the films light actors badly and some directors, like Ana Kokkinos, bathe faces in a cruel, bright, natural light that accentuates wrinkles and skin blemishes. Those of our actors who have found fame in America owe much of it to a distinctive way of grooming actors.

Hollywood makes the human face a dreaming site for the audience. Beauty is enhanced, with imperfections hidden by sympathetic lighting. In Hollywood, actors drive the story; in Australia, actors are the vehicles for the story. If Hollywood treats actors like Rolls-Royces, here they are used like clapped-out Holdens – which is a pity, because audiences here, as everywhere, want to adore those beautiful, fascinating creatures on the screen.

He’s being kind, if only because he probably knows some actors who have done some recent work in Australian films lately. You know, 33 this year and 14 last year and 17 the year before that.

I’m not going to get up on my usual soap box about all this crap. The truth is, we should dismantle government funding bodies for Feature films and delusional bodies such as AFTRS, and start all over again. The world of film markets itself is about to come crumbling down as piracy keeps people at home watching their screens, and high ticket prices drive audiences away.

Screen Australia is not going to behave any differently to the FFC which dashed itself on the rocks of its own incompetence and failures – basically because it has the same people working for it – and the ATO will make sure to keep scaring investors of genuinely commercial projects. All this may be a storm in a teacup when the industry falls to bits in the wake of a NBN that allows rampant piracy. It’s not like anybody has a good answer, but Ginnane is right. We should at least try to make something that might amuse the audience

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Filed under Cinema, Film, Movies

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