Australians sound like drunk Brits. New Zealanders have an inferiority complex. I don’t know, I just made that up. But I needed a hook to IQG this week whereupon we travel to the other side of the globe to bring you a different kind of English language, a different kind of contemporary film. I should pitch this shizzle to the embassies. READ ON!
This week on I, Queue Genius: first, it’s kinda like Twin Peaks but Down Under, then, Maori-mania, and finally, Strictly Baz Luhrman.
Lantana (Australia, 2001). Set in a cool tropical Sidney suburban neighborhood of Balmain, Lantana is much like the best of American thriller/mysteries but with the delicious addition of exotic, lush backdrops and sing-songy accents. When the body of a dead psychiatrist is found, a very enticing twisting and untwisting of plot begins. Deliberately quiet and smooth (and did I mention cool), Lantana tells the story of five ostensibly linked couples whose worlds are completely turned upside down as secrets and relationships are revealed during the investigation. But like I said folks, this is a first-rate (and multi-award winning) mystery, not some staid drama. With hints of noir and biting dark dialogue, Lantana is bound to make any moviegoer an Aussie film fan.
IQG, there’s another cool film witha funny name by this Aussie director, isn’t there. Try, Jindabyne (Australia, 2006).
Whale Rider (New Zealand, 2003). This movie’s strength not only lies in the fact that it is a first-rate film about native New Zealand culture (like there are so many) but in that the story is so universal and the themes so adaptable to any culture. And, I must admit too that I might’ve shed a tear or two. But there isn’t cheese abounding in this film. It’s a solid drama about a young girl who is faced with the responsibility of a 1000 year-old Maori tradition and the community that is challenged to see her as their new leader, an unprecedented idea since she would be the first girl. Whale Rider is like a really solid National Geographic special, Animal Planet TV show, PBS documentary and Bravo film all in one. It delivers a bit of everything for everyone. But what’s so special about this award-winning drama is that all the parts deliver a beautifully-crafted whole.
IQG, is there another good drama movie about aboriginal tribes down under? Try, Rabbit-Proof Fence (Australia, 2002).
Strictly Ballroom (Australia, 1992). Before the noble yet weepy Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrman was best known for writing and directing the now-cult-comedy Strictly Ballroom. With his signature camera style, ridiculous but charming larger-than-life characters and saturated color, Luhrman creates a film that is so seriously entertaining. And as someone who actually gets hate-pangs when ballroom competitions are on TV, Strictly Ballroom is the best lampooning of the sport(?). Think of Luhrman’s classic as a Christopher Guest mockumentary (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show) for the ADD generation. Much like Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom moves fast, squeezes every emotion possible into a single scene, and might actually send you away humming. There’s something really satisfyingly 90’s about the film too!
IQG, Strictly Ballroom reminds me of another ridiculous Aussie comedy. Try, The Adventure of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Australia, 1994).
Next week on, I, Queue Genius: Three films with no Aussie accents. Gday mate!