Australia (or, Hugh Jackman’s Crotch)

February 16, 2009 at 10:26 pm (Movies and TV)

Have you ever gone to a drive-thru restaurant, only to get home and see they’ve made a massive mistake in your favor?  You don’t discover it until you get home, and by that time, it’s too late to do anything about. It’s cool, you think to yourself, while feeling a tad guilty about it. This is exactly my sentiment after watching Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, having only paid 99 cents for admission. Baz, if you’re somehow out there reading this, e-mail me your address and I’ll send you the other five bucks.

Australia was meant as a love letter to a native country with a checkered history, an epic in the grand tradition of Gone With the Wind. It is successful at that on a purely visceral level, though it is not without issues. That said, I feel bad about the beating this picture took from critics.  Sure, at times it’s dramatically overwrought. Sure, the glorification of the Aborigine feels as forced as Black History Month. Sure, it’s WAY too long and is more like two separate movies instead of one. But I gotta say, Australia has style, and class, and old-fashioned movie-making you don’t often see anymore. I was truly surprised it didn’t earn a cinematography nomination to go with its costume nomination, even if those 2 cows going over the cliff were done in CGI.

Because we have a friend up for an Oscar in costumes this year (Danny Glicker for Milk), a word about those costumes. Danny, the coolest brother-of-a-husband’s-college-friend I’ve ever sort of met on FaceBook, has nothing to fear from Australia because, let’s face it, Catherine Martin forgot to put the back on the Aborigine’s costume. How fair is it to let the old native guy’s ass hang out, but cover up Hugh Jackman’s? Isn’t that a felony?  At least she gave Hugh some brown corduroys so tight his crotch was distracting, and much as I approve of that, I’m not sure it deserves an Oscar.

There is just so much movie to write about here, it’s hard to narrow down. Nicole Kidman goes from very entertaining in the beginning, to strong in the middle, to overemotional at the end…but in a film of this scale, it’s forgiveable. With Jackman, they were clearly aiming for Australia’s answer to Rhett Butler. They came up with the sexiest hybrid of Crocodile Dundee and the Horse Whisperer I’ve ever seen, even if he loses most of his appeal the second you clean him up. Faramir from Lord of the Rings is not a very intimidating bad guy, and I wish I  hadn’t heard that Russell Crowe pulled out of that role as he’d have been better. The wide-eyed Brandon Walters makes his native boy believable, and I wish him much success in the future. I was amused to see Cocktail’s Bryan Brown dusted off for this one. Bryan Brown is the guy formerly juggling bottles with Tom Cruise who we saw and said, “Look, it’s Michael Caine,” until we realized it wasn’t. Why we haven’t seen more of this guy in the interim, I can’t say, but he is thoroughly likable, even as a complete bastard.

Having been to Australia myself and learning something of its history while there, I can’t help but feel they chose the wrong time period for this movie. The island continent was colonized as a penal colony for criminals, who had to carve out a life for themselves despite unforgiving terrain and isolation…and that’s in addition to their conquer and subjugation of the natives. That would have been the more fascinating story.  Anyway…this was a lot more movie than I’d expect to pay 99 cents for, in terms of length and quality. Baz…good on ya, mate.


1 Comment

  1. Heather said,

    Interesting. I’m mostly hearing the negative on this one too. You’ve at least given enough arguments in favor of for me to consider higher on the “to see” list. Jackman’s crotch shots don’t hurt.

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