The Land of Oz

There's no place like it.

Run... do not walk... to go see AUSTRALIA!


VE said...

I was wondering if anyone had seen this yet. It had the makings to be very good or terrible. I think I'd rather just go to Australia though.

T said...

I've been to Australia and I LOVE it there. I didn't want to sit on my butt for 3 hours unless it was good. Glad to know its worth it!

cathouse teri said...

Well no shit, VE ~ who wouldn't? ;)

T: I've never been to Australia. but I will say that the nearly three hours on my butt was painless and well worth it! Besides, you gotta see that kid! He will charm your heart right out of your body!

wanderling said...

There's no place like it.

Awww I coulda told you that! ;)

I'm going to some special screening tonight. I'd rather see Australia but this one's called "I've loved you so long" with Kristen Scott Thomas in it. I'll let you know how it is.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks, Teri - I was just WAITING for this review!

Haley-O said...

Wow, I would LOVE to go to Australia.... But, I'd settle for this film for now. Thanks for the reco! :)

Eebie said...

Amazing photography! And yeah, I'm like the rest, I need to go...

Rocker_MoM said...

I dont know..I dont like those big epic movies..

but High Jackman may be able to sell me a ticket.

Jormengrund said...

I've been to the country, so I really don't feel an overwhelming need to see the movie.

Sorry, just my personal opinion here..

cathouse teri said...

Wanderling: When you see the movie, you'll know why I said that! ;)

Oh ~ and you had better go visit the advice blog, since you started it! :)

Jen: Always welcome!

Haley-O: Definitely, I would rather go there!

Eebs: We should make it a big group trip! ;)

FFM: Well if ya like Hugh, then you will LOVE this movie!

Jormengrund: I should think that having been to the country would make you want to see the movie even more. After all, you didn't see the country during THIS time period, I'm pretty sure. Nor during THIS story. It's about the story, not the country. :)

wanderling said...

I just want to see it because Baz's wife, Catherine Martin (the one who wore the Amex credit card dress to the Oscars a few years back) was the production designer, and her eye for detail for all things costume/design/props is (just my IMO) so good that it's easy not to notice how good it is.

PS I do visit the advice column, just I don't have any questions atm. I've had several ephiphanies this week, they just keep on coming and I'm feeling more and more like I'm in a Monty Python movie. Great.

wanderling said...

oops, btw, the movie I saw last night was fantastic but very emotionally wrenching. I'm thinking Kristen Scott might need an Oscar for her performance. Warning, it's got sub-titles, but they hardly need them seeing as there are no language barriers when it comes to emotions.

Jormengrund said...

True Teri. The Australia I saw wasn't from that time period, it didn't have Nichole or Hugh, and it wasn't all fuzzy and pretty.

However, it did have some very good times, some great scenery, and a couple of really hot love scenes that you couldn't see in the "regular" movies, so again I ask you..


Oh, and you might want to see that Johnny Virgil is bashing on Keanu over at 15 minute lunch, too!

cathouse teri said...

Wanderling: Baz is the best. And apparently, so is his wife! :)

Jormengrund: I'm not getting the thinking on this. I've been to California. In fact, I raised my children there. I've had a great deal of my own love stories take place there. So am I never to be interested in someone else's story, from another view and perhaps another time, that occurred in California? You're losing me on this logic.

I'll check out the Keanu bashing.

yellojkt said...

Yours is the first good review I've seen of it. Most say it is waaaay too long. And it didn't do too well at the box office despite a commercial every five minutes all week.

dadshouse said...

I'm not a Nicole Kidmann fan... still see it?

wanderling said...

Every person I know whose seen it has said it's hilarious, really campy and cheesy, but hey, Baz does musicals - that's his schtick.

I just want to see the clothes, furniture, decor, Hugh Jackman's steroid buffed body etc etc

Mad Hatter said...

I have never been there, would love to visit.

soccer mom in denial said...

Hello there ~

I am an insanely huge Baz fan and this one, well, I didn't like it.

Don't hate me, please!!

Jormengrund said...


Whoa! Back up a second!

Who ever claimed that I was using logic here?

Diesel said...

Can you just name a movie after a continent like that? It doesn't seem fair.

Anyway, the best Australia movie of all time is Quigley Down Under, and you're not going to change my mind.

Anonymous said...

OMG the first picture is gorgeous!

wanderling said...

the heat makes you wish you didn't have to wear clothes. When someone accidentally knocks their drink all over your dress* and you're glad because it cooled you get the idea

*not sure if that happened in the movie or not

wanderling said...

double post faux pas but whatever, I just had to say this. I saw Australia tonight and it far exceeded all my expectations. Baz is a bona fide artiste. Well worth $16 for ticket and $30 for parking. I think it's getting an unfair caning by critics, must be sour grapes methinks.

Jeff said...

You mean I shouldn't wait for it to come out on DVD and watch it on my 13" TV 10 feet away in my bedroom?

Anonymous said...

I can't WAIT to see it

wanderling said...

no Jeff, you shouldn't. You should see it at an IMAX theatre.

cathouse teri said...

Yello: I didn't think it seemed long at all.

David: Well, I don't think it's necessary to be a Kidman fan in order to see a movie with her in it. To marry her, yes... you would need to be her fan. :)

Mad Hatter: Let's plan a MAD trip there!

SMID: Well you must have been distracted by something, that's all I can say. I've not idea what wouldn't be likable about this movie. Please to elaborate? And I could never hate you! :)

Jormengrund: You boys always confuse us girls. So often we are accused of not using logic in our arguments, and then when you don't use any, you just say, "Who said anything about logic?" Sheesh! :)

cathouse teri said...

Diesel: I know! How very presumptuous to name a movie after a whole continent! And you won't get any argument from me, babe, regarding QUIGLEY. It's my veri veri favorite Aussie movie, to be sure!

Ruby: I know, I LOVE it!

Jeff: Ditto what Wanderling said. And she LIVES there! So... be sure to make an effort to see this one at the theater.

Supermom: Let us know what you think when you do!

cathouse teri said...

Ms. Wanderling: I am so glad you saw it! And to have you give such high praise after all the bad press it seems to be receiving around you!!! I was concerned that all the Aussies would hate it!

I would like people to give a little more insight as to why they didn't like it. I found it to be utterly charming and delectable! And not because of Hugh's yumminess, either! To be honest, when you already have Some-Kind-of-Wonderful in bed next to you every night, it's hard to turn your head! ;)

wanderling said...

I agree that you don't have to be a Kidman fan to see it, because I most definitely was not one before I saw this movie. She seems to excel in roles where she "mothers"..I admit, The Others was pretty good and she's just as good in Aust as she was in that movie. And what can I say about Hugh? Ooh La La, I wasn't a Jackman fan previously either, but most definitely am now! I think I might see it again!

cathouse teri said...

Well, I saw it twice already!

wanderling said...

lols was it better second time around? btw have you read this? I think the truth is somewhere in between Bolt's analysis and Baz's story.,21985,24742897-5000117,00.html

wanderling said...

..k good one blogger.

Here's the full article.

Andrew Bolt

December 03, 2008 12:00am

BAZ Luhrmann's first big mistake was to get so full of himself that he called his movie Australia.

Worse, he then added titles to the beginning and end of his $180 million spectacular to tell viewers his take on our history was historically accurate.

And so a movie that is a huge grab-bag of cliches - a collation of gaudy images pecked from deserted movie sets by an insatiable bowerbird - isn't just bad storytelling.

It's also an exercise in bad faith - a movie allegedly about Australia, defining Australia, that's shot by a man who actually doesn't understand the country, and doesn't like it, either.

And that lazy contempt is precisely what American critics, for instance, have picked up on. What's more, fooled by Luhrmann into thinking they really are seeing Australia as we are, they've assumed as true that we're as heart-rotten as he shows.

Hear it from the New York Observer: "Wow, who knew Australia was so racist?"

Or from Cleveland's Plain Dealer: "Luhrmann . . . examines the rampant racism of his then-segregated country . . ."

Or from Variety: "(T)o a significant extent, the film is also a mea culpa, in a vast popular-entertainment format, for the cruel racial policies once imposed by the Australian government . . ."

Or from Entertainment Weekly: "Australia incorporates real history into its fiction. For decades, mixed-race children were forcibly taken from their families and trained in church- and government-sanctioned schools to become servants in white households . . ."

If Luhrmann had simply stuck to making the camp songless musical fantasy that parts of this film clearly are - a kind of Priscilla-Queen-Of-The-Desert-Goes-Droving mock epic - he might have given us the next great Australian film we've prayed for.

But discipline is precisely what he lacks most. He's filmed instead parts of several movies -- united stylistically only by his manic urge to grab the shiniest cliches and polish them to a cheap brilliance.

(Warning: plot spoilers follow.)

Australia starts with a story of a cliched young English aristocrat, played by Nicole Kidman, who flies to the Northern Territory on the eve of World War II to rescue the cattle station left by her dead husband.

She finds she can save her Faraway Downs only if she droves her herd to Darwin with a ragtag bunch of helpers to break an evil cattle king's monopoly on supplying meat to the army.

It's a nice, if familiar, premise which offers lots of scope for comic turns by Hugh Jackman as the cliched rough-nut Drover who falls for the English rose; Jack Thompson as the cliched educated drunk who smashes his last bottle of booze to come good; Bryan Brown as the cliched villain complete with six-gun; Yuen Wah as the cliched jabbering Chinese cook driving the chuck wagon; and David Ngoombujarra as the cliched black Tonto to Jackman's Lone Ranger.

And, naturally, all the Aborigines are nice, and some are even magic.

Indeed, nothing at all is too cliched for Luhrmann - whether it's the old cattle-stampede-towards-a-cliff, or the embarrassingly awkward death scene poor Thompson must perform of the trampled alkie, a hero at last, blood trickling from his mouth as he tries to stammer his last, broken words.

Some cliches are too shiny for Luhrmann to use once, so Jackman emerges not just from swirls of dust, but from swirls of smoke and mist, too. The cliche of the English stuffed blouse is just as irresistible, so Kidman not only says "shoo" to cows she's trying to herd, but "my condolences" to a grieving Aboriginal boy. We even see dusty drovers spilling out of their Darwin pub to dance for joy at seeing rain. As drovers do.

Ahem, Baz. I grew up in Darwin, which is in fact a tropical city. If we'd danced every time it rained in the wet season, we'd never sit down.

All this could yet have been pulled together into a highly stylised comedy-drama, not just exploiting cliches but positively romping in them.

But there's a big snag: when the heroes' great drove to Darwin finally ends amid cheering crowds and blaring orchestra, the film is still not even half-way through its nearly three hours. And it's around this point that Luhrmann and his three co-writers must have looked at each other and said, "Oops, what do we do next?"

Good question - and for the next hour and a half, it's clear they never really agreed on an answer.

DRAMA or comedy? Do we kill off Drover? Do we have him making happy families with his English love? Should we leave in the bit where Kidman's character is reported dead, for reasons we've forgotten? Or shall we just make it up as we go along?

Which they did. The soundtrack is one giveaway of this confusion, veering wildly from Bach to Rolf Harris and his wobble board; from sturdy stockman singing Waltzing Matilda (as they also do) to sobbing violins suddenly announcing it's crying time.

Indeed, it's reported that Luhrmann even changed the ending in the editing suite at the last minute, which surprises me. I wouldn't have thought it possible he had one even worse.

But one thing Luhrmann did decide was to pack away that Priscilla-style camp that had made some of the first half bearable and to switch to serious -- or as serious as he could without putting a fold in Kidman's forehead.

The film now becomes not just a drama somehow involving the 1942 bombing of Darwin by Japan, but a roar against the racism it had only mumbled against before.

But, typically, the racism Luhrmann attacks is a racism of cliches, and is illustrated with yet more cliches, each more fact-free than the last.

So Drover complains, for instance, that he lost his first wife to TB because hospitals didn't treat Aborigines -- when in fact Darwin hospital did treat them, even if three small nurse-run private bush hospitals had not. Missions also treated Aborigines, and one pregnant nurse, a Mrs Taylor, even died of illness while working with tribes in Groote Eylandt in 1934.

But Luhrmann shows no such sympathetic officials. Instead, almost every white character from the NT administrator's wife down, other than our two heroes, is portrayed as a racist.

A recurring injustice Luhrmann keeps harping on is that "boongs" were banned from pubs. In one of Jackman's most emotional scenes, Drover finally forces a bartender to give his Aboriginal friend a drink - his biggest victory against racism.

Nowhere is it acknowledged - as anyone can read in the reports then of the Northern Territory administrator - that serving Aborigines was forbidden because the booze and opium were devastating a people only just learning to deal with white society and Asian traders.

Luhrmann, in particular, should know this ban was driven not by racism but deep concern for Aboriginal welfare.

After all, Australia stars the great Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, whose career and marriage have almost been ruined by his own drinking. And alcohol is now once again banned in many Aboriginal communities in the NT, and not because we're racist.

These two great flaws of Australia - the cliched images and Luhrmann's cliched history - combine to produce what is undoubtedly the movie's most malevolent scene.

M OST of the second half of Australia centres on Nullah, a part-Aboriginal boy that Kidman's character "adopts" but who is stolen from her by corrupt police acting under a "stolen generations" law that a mission official smugly explains is used to breed out Aborigines.

(So why steal Nullah from a white parent? It's one more bit of the plot that makes no sense, like having soldiers pulling out of bombed Darwin, a city they must actually defend.)

And here's that scene: as Nullah, played by the magnetic and beautiful Brandon Walters, is marched down Darwin's docks with other "stolen" boys to be shipped to the Garden Point home on Melville Island, a sneering white boy holding a kangaroo (yes!) abuses him: "Creamy, didn't your mother want you?"

A racist white kid holding a kangaroo in a film called Australia -- could there be anything more us?

To add to the white crime against Nullah, the Japanese army is sweeping towards Australia and he and the other "stolen" boys are being sent to an island that one character notes "will be the first place the Japs hit".

White women and children are being evacuated from Darwin in the background, but here the Aboriginal boys are being sent to their deaths.

To grind in his point, Luhrmann has the Japanese bombing not just the children's home at Melville Island (which they didn't) but invading it.

Our shame is complete. This is the racist Australia that reviewers overseas -- and even here -- have accepted as not just a movie, but the shameful truth of our past.

But now note a few historical truths that Luhrmann overwrites to tell his story of white infamy.

First, a Federal Court test case found no evidence children in the NT were ever stolen just because they were black, and no one has yet identified 10 anywhere who were stolen because they were Aboriginal and not because they needed help.

Indeed, Colin Macleod, a NT patrol officer and later Victorian magistrate, wrote in his memoirs that the children sent to Garden Point were half-castes who'd often been rejected by full-bloods, and needed protection from "real danger and abject misery".

For instance, he wrote, "Brother Pye of the Catholic mission at Garden Point once saw a six-year-old part-coloured boy speared by a full-blooded Aboriginal, almost as a joke, just because the boy was a 'yella-fella' . . .

"Half-caste kids would now and again turn up at missions with spear marks and signs of horrific beatings.

"Babies were occasionally abandoned and young children left to fend for themselves."

Father John Leary, who also served at Garden Point, said in 2000 of the children he'd helped: "Some few of them, I believe, were 'stolen', most were there for some good reason, some sent by parents or parent for education . . ."

It's this "white" education, incidentally, that Luhrmann shows Nullah wisely rejecting, returning instead with Gulpilil to his tribe. How did he ever learn English?

Thank heavens Brandon Walters, who plays him, didn't do the same, or Luhrmann wouldn't have his star.

But what of Luhrmann's story that Aboriginal children were knowingly sent into danger at Melville Island?

Luhrmann needed only to ask some of the Aborigines at the Darwin premiere of his own film to learn that children were not sent to the island as the Japanese drew near, but sent from it.

HE could have asked, for instance, Ilene Neville, who told AAP she was seven when she was evacuated from Garden Point and brought to Darwin, where she witnessed the bombing.

Magdalen McNamara, an Our Lady of the Sacred Heart nun famous in the NT, recalls picking up 30 Garden Point girls on the day after the bombing of Darwin who'd already been evacuated to Pine Creek, far to the south.

She brought them to South Australia, where they spent the war, while other Aboriginal children from the Top End were sent to safety as far away as Sydney, where they went to local state schools.

This is the real history of Australia - there's racism, yes, but more commonly there are people struggling, however imperfectly, to do their best, some bringing care and protection to Aborigines at great personal sacrifice.

That's the real Australia, and how sad that Luhrmann has sold the world his Australia instead - a ghastly cliche of the demons we never were.

cathouse teri said...

He sure said a lot! :)

The thing is, if people are seeing this movie to get a grip on the exhaustive history of Australia then they are just plain stupid! Movies are meant to be an artistic expression of... well... pretty much one person's idea of things! The truth is often in there somewhere.

In short, I think he said far too much to be effectively saying anything.

wanderling said...

He does sound like a whinging windbag that's for sure. Some people just can't appreciate art for art's sake.

Mrs4444 said...

Terrri! Have you been lurking lately? So sorry to have missed you; I'm poking around in here to decide what to get you. Don't worry; it will be something good!

That first pic is stunning and reminds me of the California wedding in September. So beautiful...