G'day, mates! Last year, I did a live blog of Titanic– which was to be the start of a monthly series called Epically Epic in which I explored those sweeping films in which a 2 hour story just can't be contained! Well, yada yada yada, I'm actually starting it again! And tonight's film, in honor of Baz Luhrmann week here at the blog, is the Aussie director's 4th feature film starring a sheila named Nicole Kidman and handsome bloke by the name of Hugh Jackman. Tie your kangaroos down, sports, cause this is Australia.
After the success of Luhrmann's 3 previous films, known as The Red Curtain Trilogy, his next plan of action was to be what he referred to as his Epic Trilogy. Which, after the lack-luster box office of this film, kinda put an end to those plans. (Although, according to Wikipedia, it's the 2nd highest grossing Australian movie, ever! What's number one, you ask: Crocodile Dundee.) It was kinda cursed from the beginning. The trilogy was to start with an epic telling of real-life world-conquerer (and ancient-times homosexual) Alexander the Great. Baz had cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Alexander and Nicole Kidman was set to play his mother, Olympias. While working on the script and scouting locations, another Alexander the great film was already moving ahead. Oliver Stone released his own version, Alexander (creative title. That could be anyone) in 2004 with Colin Farrell in a really bad blonde-dye job. The film was a bomb and Baz decided not to move forward with his intended film. The other two films planned in The Epic Trilogy were a Russian set film and one set in his homeland of Australia. Guess which one got made! But, not without it's difficulties.
This will only be my second time watching the film after seeing it in the theater the day it came out in November of 2008. I did a double feature that evening because Milk had also come out on the same day–it was a long night at the movies. I'm curious to see it again. Last year when I did Titanic, I knew the film so well already. We'll see how this goes when I'm not as familiar with the film. But enough chit-chat–let's head Down Under...
- The film hasn't even started and there's a public service announcement:
Use caution because it may contain images and voices of deceased persons? I don't get it. Oh, thanks internets. Aboriginals are not allowed to say a dead person's name because it may disrupt their spirit. I had no idea...
- The logo for Baz's production company, Bazmark:
"A life lived in fear is a life half lived" comes from his film Strictly Ballroom. God, I am not even a minute into this yet, it's gonna be a looooong night...
- The beginning scroll tells about The Stolen Generation–mixed-race Aboriginals that were taken from their homes so they could be integrated into white society. The film is set in 1939 (the year that changed movies!) Baz toyed with the idea of having the film be about The First Fleet, the group of British ships that formed the first colony in New South Wales in 1787, but ultimately decided on the time between WWI and WWII.
- "Most important lesson of all: Tell'em story"
- Nicole! If this was a Broadway show, people would be applauding her entrance. I can't see Nicole in a stable and not think of Far and Away...
- Hugh! Russell Crowe was originally supposed to play the part of the Drover, but he wanted the studio to pay him a huge amount of money that they didn't think he was worth. Hugh was cheaper...and sexier.
- Fist fight! Maybe Russell Crowe would have been a better choice...
- "Welcome to Australia"
If this is what greets you on your arrival into the country, let me pack my bags!
- Oh, my god. Nicole is hilarious in this. She's so brittle and her voice is so sharp. And just look at what she wears in the outback:
Nothing says comfort like a beekeeper's hat and opera length leather gloves.
- Best part of the entire movie:
I love when an Epic suddenly turns into a gay porn...
- They just keep coming:
Seriously. I remember when this came out, I was talking about it with a married, straight guy who kept going on and on about how hot Jackman is in this movie. Agreed.
- "Poppycock. POPPY! Cock!" "You...You want to have it on with me." "You're an ANIMAL!" Nic is killing me in this. She should do more comedy. Is there anything she can't do! i love that Baz is able to show a different side of her.
- There's a surprising lack of quick-cuts and cartoony sounds when people move. Are we sure this is a Baz Luhrmann film?
- Nicole has so many costume changes. But now she's wearing <gasp> the same outfit. The Outback is a cruel place...
- The house they built in the film, Faraway Downs, was built from scratch. At one point, Australia was gonna mount a tourist campaign to come see where they filmed the movie. I wonder if the house is still there? I'm guessing the tourism didn't do quite as well as The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. I'd rather see where Nicole Kidman acted over some hobbit any day...
- Nullah, the aboriginal boy in the film, hides from the coppers in a water tank with his mother and she drowns. I do not remember that. And Hugh's character explains the aboriginals' beliefs on mourning that I looked up earlier. Who needs the internet when Hugh Jackman has the answers...
- Drover tells Lady Ashley she has to be Nullah's mother now but she replies that she isn't good with children. Which is a little ironic because Nicole found out she was pregnant during the filming.
- To cheer him up she tells him about The Wizard of Oz, but the film didn't come to Australia until 1940.
- I love her interpretation of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Hey, Nicole, what do you think of your performance of it:
Oh, you're being too harsh...
- This cattle stampede is so CGI looking. Not that I want real cattle to be doing their own stunts, but still. Also, would they really be so stupid to just run off a cliff if someone didn't stop them?
- The fat, drunk accountant got trampled! That's the third death in this film so far. They're dropping like flies.
- Wait, now they're in love with each other. But, they're both just so different! I guess she was right, he does want to have it on with her. Or have some "wrong side business" as it's called...
- Unnecessary backstory! Drover had an aboriginal wife that died. And Lady Ashley can't have children. Getting to know you...
- Um, they didn't really just put Nullah in Blackface, did they?!
- Nicole sat down and suddenly her lipstick changed...or maybe just the shape of her lips.
I love Nicole, but those are not the same lips she had in the 90s.
- As we discovered yesterday, it wouldn't be a Baz Luhrmann love scene without some water:
- I feel like the movie could end here and it would work, but there's still another hour!
- After a big emotional scene, Nicole calls after Hugh– "Drover". Hasn't she learned his real name by now?
- WWII, Japanese bombing aboriginal children, fires, planes–things are getting really serious. I kinda wish we were back to Nicole doing screwball comedy. Baz tends to have his films start off with whimsy and descend into drama.
- F-bomb! You only get one for a PG-13 rating.
- How did Lady Ashley enter the hospital room at the exact same time they realized it wasn't her that had died. "Excuse me, Lady Ashley? Could you just come and identify your body, if you don't mind?"
- I feel like a big part of Baz's films is the music. Other than "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (which is used a little too much), there's no other songs in this. Much of the success of R+J and Moulin Rouge! is as much about the soundtracks as it is the actual movies. I bet he's really glad he managed to work it back into Gatsby. Maybe that's why this one didn't do as well.
- All the Oz references, didn't Baz realize the 1939 movie he was trying to recreate was Gone With the Wind?
- The End! Apparently the original ending was so depressing that the studio made Baz go back and reshoot it. I wonder what happened. Did Nullah die? Does Lady Ashley die? Does Hugh make a vow to never take his shirt off again?!? NNNnnnOOOOooooo!!!!
Thanks for joining me on this journey. It was fun, but I think the last 45 minutes with all the WWII stuff is a bit unnecessary. Oh, well...