Thursday, 20 January 2022

Streaming on YouTube - Barrie Pattison unearths Alan Ladd in the TV pilot BUSTED (Frank Tuttle, USA, 1954)


In the fifties, a few US radio programs made it onto Australian airways as TV arrived to forever diminish local radio drama here. I remember a religious broadcast series using Hollywood talent. There was Marlene Dietrich in a particularly excellent "Anna Karenina" and we got the series "Bold Venture" with Bogart and "Richard Diamond" with Dick Powell scripted by Blake Edwards.  While working on the 1957 The Enemy Below, Powell introduced Edwards to Curd Jürgens "This is my friend who's suing me for a million dollars" following a copyright dispute. These tended to show up the familiar local product, incidentally. 

 

Included with them, we heard Alan Ladd in "Box 13." 

 

Well, memories of the phenomenon can be stirred by watching the Busted pilot for a half hour TV detective series spun off the Alan Ladd program, where Ladd again plays author Dan Holiday who, like Richard Boone’s Paladin, advertises his services out of a Post Box, to get ideas for his stories from the cases. 

 


 

The buddy relationship between Ladd and a clean-shaven Lt. Frank Ferguson is very Peter Gunn & Jacoby.

 

Whit Bissell calls to take the star to lunch and slips him knock-out drops while he retrieves Tina Carver’s purse from under the table. Ladd passes out and wakes (clock face comes into focus - the piece’s most noir idea) in an all-white room in John Howard’s sanitarium where the couple have dumped him to substitute for her murdered husband, as part of the plot to get the husband’s fortune.

 

Frank Gerstle as the friendly and menacing tough guy attendant (best performance) is shot and Ladd breaks out trying to raise Ferguson from local phones, ending trapped at a suburban square dance. 

 

Production values are standard series TV with maybe a bit more effort for a pilot ep. The piece involves TV heavyweights producer Aaron Spelling (uncredited script) and  M*A*S*H’s Gene Reynolds as a gas pumper.  Direction and camera are in the hands of the Frank Tuttle/John F. Seitz team whom Ladd continued working with from his This Gun for Hire breakthrough. Now middle-aged, he uses his trademark winning grin and agile punch ups.

 

The piece is basic time filler with a certain oddity value. It was originally  produced as an episode of the General Electric Theatre anthology series hosted by Ronald Reagan.  The You Tube Copy is passable.CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT 

Monday, 17 January 2022

White Line Nightmare: The End of the World and MAD MAX II:THE ROAD WARRIOR (Part One) - John Baxter remembers the birth of Australia's most iconic film creation

 

Mel Gibson, Mad Max II: The Road Warrior

In August 1985 the 43rd World Science Fiction Convention took place in Melbourne. The organisers asked me to give a talk about some aspect of the literature that had nurtured me through an Australian adolescence. Since I happened to be working on a film with Brian Hannant, one of the writers of Mad Max II: The Road Warrior, I chose that film and its place in the history of science fiction cinema. Brian gave me access to drafts of the original screenplay, and I spoke to some of the people involved in making the film. 

            Convention attendees, seduced by such rival attractions as a fancy dress competition with near-nude competitors of at least half a dozen races (and sexes), were not enthralled, and I’d forgotten the talk until the text turned up in a recent random search. With the franchise showing no sign of flagging, and Miller planning yet another Max adventure – to be shot, perhaps, on Mars? – I felt the essay, for all its lacunae, might be worth an airing.  Notes in square brackets indicate recent second thoughts. (JB)

                                                                                                                        

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When Worlds Collide
                

To anyone growing up with the cinema of the nineteen-fifties, the end of the world was a weekly occurrence. With the Cold War being fought on the pages of every newspaper and nuclear annihilation apparently just over the horizon, few subjects attracted so much fascinated attention from the public. 


Not slow to recognise this interest, Hollywood, and in particular its more low-rent inhabitants, exploited it with all the meagre resources at their command. Some films, like Byron Haskin’s War of the Worlds  or Rudolph Maté’s When Worlds Collide, saw the threat as coming from alien invaders, either animate or inanimate. Significantly, however, both adapted works from forty or fifty years earlier. The freshest visions of our destruction came not from literature but the headlines.  


The end-of-the-world movie quickly assumed an almost ritual form, its elements dictated mostly, but not exclusively, by the cheapness of production. It generally dealt with a small group of people, isolated in a remote location after the death of almost everyone else. A desert was preferred, but an abandoned city would also serve. Of these few survivors, at least one was an attractive women, after whom one or more of the other survivors lusted. Plots hinged on whether those left should live by looting or make a stab at maintaining some kind of society. Many such films ended with the two most attractive people in the film heading off into an optimistic sunrise.


PR Image: Five

Among the most interesting of these films was Five (1951)directed by Arch Oboler, the only New York radio producer to offer any real competition to Orson Welles during his pre-movie days. Oboler put his five survivors in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house on the edge of the desert, which at least provided a striking background to the conventional struggle to survive. Ranald MacDougall’s The World, The Flesh and the Devil (1959) placed an improbable trio of survivors, Harry Belafonte, Mel Ferrer and Inger Stevens, in a deserted New York, and having them abandon old social, racial and sexual rules in the interests of survival. After a strikingly-shot sequence where the two men, fighting over Stevens, hunt one another among the skyscrapers, the three agree to live in amiable multi-racial group marriage – a sensational conclusion for 1959 but one which, because this was a low-budget movie, passed almost without comment.


"...scavengers roaming the desert or skirmishing among derelict
skyscrapers..." 
Harry Belafonte,
The World, the Flesh and the Devil


The year after MacDougall’s film, Stanley Kramer, the biggest kid on the block in those days when it came to social comment, weighed in with what is still the most memorable of all post-holocaust films, On the Beach, based on a book by Australian writer Nevil Shute about the last handful of survivors of nuclear war waiting for the fallout that will kill them all. Kramer chose to shoot it where Shute set his book, in Melbourne.. One of its stars, Ava Gardner, was supposed to have sneered, ‘You couldn’t imagine a better location for the end of the world,’ and while Melbourne film journalist Neil Jillett subsequently confessed he’d invented the gibe, it expressed the international cinema’s general view of Australia; that, in George Lucas’s description of Luke Skywalker’s home world of Tatooine in Star Wars IV , ‘If there is a bright centre to the universe, you’re on the planet that is farthest from it.’ 


Fred Astaire (r), explains to Anthony Perkins (l)
and Gregory Peck (c), where it all went wrong,
On the Beach


A century of domination by Britain and the United States had thoroughly cowed Australia’s film-makers, who subsisted on TV commercials and documentaries. The only hope of getting an Australian feature on foreign screens lay in imitation. If one could write a Hollywood-style script and attract an international star, the result might be sneaked into the US market. But that happened so seldom that the few successes had passed into mythology. Moreover, if any Australian, such as actress Anne Richards, actor Peter Finch or director John Farrow, showed talent, Hollywood quickly bought them up and hustled  them out to California. 


But the bacillus of film is a hardy organism, and even in the hostile environment of Australia, it continued to live, if not flourish. Fifteen years after On the Beach, the Australian government made some tentative steps towards investing in local production. During that time,  End of the World movies continued to thrive, though not to develop. The Planet of the Apes series, The Last Warrior, I Am Legend and Damnation Alley followed the model of Five and The World, the Flesh and the Devil, still showing survivors of global cataclysm as scavengers roaming the desert or skirmishing among derelict skyscrapers. 



All that would change, however, after 1979, and because of a film made in Australia. Though urban settings didn’t disappear,  after that film, Mad Max II:The Road Warrior, most post-holocaust films showed mankind abandoning cities altogether, reverting to tribal origins, dressing in leather and feathers, affecting tattoos and masks, and roaming a desert landscape which, far from being empty and hostile, teemed with bizarre characters, most of them bearing eccentric weaponry and travelling in retro-fitted cars and bikes (above).


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Next: THE MAN FROM CHINCHILLA - COMING SOON

Sunday, 16 January 2022

FILM CRITICS CIRCLE OF AUSTRALIA ANNUAL AWARDS - NOMINATIONS FOR THE BEST AUSTRALIAN FILMS OF 2021

 


 

 

 


 

 

January 17, 2022

  

FCCA ANNUAL AWARDS - NOMINATIONS FOR THE FILMS OF 2021

 

The Film Critics Circle of Australia is pleased to announce the nominations for the films of 2021, in the categories of Best Film, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Actress, Actor, Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor. Winners will be announced on January 31 via press release and posted at fcca.com.au

 

Nominations listed in Alphabetical Order



 

Best Film

 

High Ground

Producers: David Jowsey, Maggie Miles, Witiyana Marika, Greer Simpkin, Stephen Maxwell Johnson

 

Nitram

Producers: Nick Batzias, Virginia Whitwell, Justin Kurzel, Shaun Grant

 

The Dry

Producers: Bruna Papandrea, Jodi Matterson, Steve Hutensky, Rob Connolly, Eric Bana

 


Best Director

 

Robert Connolly, The Dry

Stephen Maxwell Johnson, High Ground

Justin Kurzel, Nitram

 


Best Screenplay

 

Chris Anastassiades, High Ground

Robert Connolly & Harry Cripps, The Dry

Shaun Grant, Nitram



 

Best Cinematography

 

Sam Chiplin, Penguin Bloom

Andrew Commis, High Ground

Stefan Duscio, The Dry

 

Best Actor

 

Eric Bana, The Dry

Caleb Landry Jones, Nitram

Jacob Junior Nayinggul, High Ground



 

Best Actress

 

Judy Davis, Nitram

Noni Hazlehurst, June Again

Naomi Watts, Penguin Bloom


Best Actress- Supporting Role

 

Essie Davis, Nitram

Claudia Karvan, June Again

Miranda Tapsell, The Dry

 


Best Actor Supporting Role

 

Anthony LaPaglia, Nitram

Sean Mununggurr, High Ground

Stephen Hunter, Ruby’s Choice

 


Any queries should be address to the Awards Manager Adrienne Mckibbins at filmcriticsaust@bigpond.com

 

 

 

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

"Hanif has described us as being like Lennon and McCartney…” Tom Ryan talks to Roger Michell and Hanif Kureishi about their collaboration on LE WEEK-END (recorded in 2013)

Roger Michell, Hanif Kureishi

Tom Rya
n writes: 
I don’t envy those who have to run the gauntlet of interviews on the PR circuit, even if it’s all part of the game where filmmakers have something to sell and journalists are supposed to be somehow helping them. That’s the PR view of it anyway. International film festivals are among the many places where the game is played, and it was in late September, 2013, at the annual San Sebastian Film Festival, that I found myself sitting down for 30 minute, face-to-face interaction with veteran director Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Hyde Park on the Hudson, The Duke) and noted playwright-novelist-screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (The Buddha of Suburbia, My Beautiful Laundrette, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid). 


They’d just finished work on Le Week-End (2013), their fourth and what turned out to be their final collaboration. The Cambridge-educated Michell, who died suddenly in September 2021 at the age of 65, would clearly (and quite reasonably) have preferred to be elsewhere, and wasn’t especially welcoming to this upstart interviewer from Down Under. The extremely amiable Kureishi on the other hand greeted me like an old friend, although we’d never met before. A twinkle in his eye and a laugh on the ready, he exuded mischief.


In Le Week-End (2013), a sixty-something married couple from Birmingham find themselves at a crossroads. Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsay Duncan) have taken the Eurostar to Paris to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. They’d originally gone there on their honeymoon and, it emerges, their return to the city of romance has been in the hope of rekindling theirs. 


The film was Kureishi and Michell’s third together about the sex lives of characters “of a certain age”. 


The first was The Mother (2003), in which a widow in her late 60s (Anne Reid) has an affair with a builder (Daniel Craig) who is also sexually involved with her daughter (Catherine Bradshaw). The second was Venus (2006), which revisits and revises the Lolita scenario with Peter O’Toole as the older man – elderly, in fact – and Jodie Whittaker as the teenager who catches his eye. The revision is essentially that O’Toole’s character is suffering from a debilitating prostate cancer. 

 ***********

Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, Le Week-end


Le Week-End is your third film together about people getting older and coming to crossroads in their lives. Is this by design, or has it just happened that way?

 

Hanif Kureishi: Older people are just more interesting. I’ve got teenagers and I like them, but I don’t find them that fascinating. Whereas a woman of 60 who falls in love with a younger man seems to me to be much more interesting, as in The Mother. Or the Peter O’Toole character in Venus


It’s partly because the sense of peril increases. As you get older, you start to think, “How much longer am I actually going to live?” Maybe I’ll live another 10 years; maybe five. Maybe I’ll have a heart attack tomorrow.

 

But that’s not a subject that you always pursue. It just happens that you’ve dealt with that subject together.

 

HK: Something I’ve constantly pursued is what goes on between people. What goes on and is it worth doing? 


Roger Michell: I don’t think this is a film about old people really. And old people are getting younger. They have a higher expectation about living on over the last decade than they did, say, 20 years ago. And one of the results of that expectation, for example in England, is that divorce rates are spiking amongst the over-60s. Because people are looking at each other over the dinner-table when the children have left home and thinking, “What the fuck! Am I going to spend the rest of my life with a person I don’t even know any more, or like any more?” Or it’s all gone. And people are enabled through income, or Viagra, or whatever, to go off and have fun in a different way. And they’re doing it.


So, in a way, this film is really about young people who are suddenly empowered to have a new life. A key line in the film is: “What remains of us after the kids have gone?”

 

And we’re always surprised when we look in the mirror and see our fathers looking back at us rather than the person we think we are.

 

RM: Rather than who we are. And science is making us behave more youthfully. 


HK: I did write a scene when he takes Viagra in the bathroom and then gets into bed and says to her, “You’ll be pleased to hear I’ve taken the Big V.” Then she falls asleep and he lies there all night with his boner. I’m very disappointed that Roger didn’t put that in the film. Do you remember that?


RM: I do remember that. Yes. That would have been a great piece of cinematic art…

 

You two are really unlikely collaborators. I can’t imagine Hanif writing Notting Hill, and I can’t imagine Roger directing Intimacy.


Mark Rylance, Kerry Fox in Intimacy (Patrice Chereau, 2001)

RM: Why not?

 

Well, I’m saying on the basis of what I know of your work – and I’ve pretty much seen all of your films – I get a sense that…

 

RM: He’d be brilliant writing Notting Hill…. [Hanif guffaws]

 

But it would be a very different kind of film…

 

Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts in Notting Hill, (Roger Michell, 1999)

RM: And I’d find it very easy to make Intimacy. That would be totally my world. Not the film, Intimacy, because that wasn’t really the book, Intimacy.

 

The Patrice Chéreau film… But, Hanif, you adapted your book, didn’t you?

 

HK: No, no…

 

Whoops. I apologize.

 

HK: If I’d written it, I’d have put one joke in it.

 

So how does your collaboration work?

 

HK: We meet, we argue, we bitch, we talk…


RM: When we’re doing something together, it’s important. We don’t meet just to gossip, though we love to gossip. We meet to try to progress this idea a little further this day, and then the next day and the next day…

 

I get the sense that Hanif would bring a harder edge to the table when you’re collaborating, and Roger would be gentler?

 

RM: You a very incisive person, aren’t you? You make very incisive, quick judgements.

 

They’re not quick judgments. They’re based on my observations of your work. And I’m testing them. I’m not saying that’s the case. I’m asking you the question. How do you respond to that? Do you think that that’s an outrage and I’ve got it all wrong?

 

HK: It might seem that he’s the softie and that I like to have lots of oral sex in what I write, but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.


RM: I don’t think you’ve ever had oral sex in a film…


HK: I’d like to have more than I’ve had so far… 


RM: I think that what you’ve asked, Tom, is partly true. In some ways, we are similar in our outlooks; in our sense of despondency, and in other ways, we’re dissimilar. In that I fight to try to see the sunlight and Hanif tries not to. [Hanif chuckles] And I think that both our similarities and our dissimilarities work in our favour as collaborators.


Hanif has described us as being like Lennon and McCartney, and in that relationship I’m the McCartney figure and he’s Lennon. Over the last 30 years, we’ve witnessed McCartney trying to pretend that he’s the dark, adventurous innovator… I mean, Hanif is the writer, I’m the enabler. And we need each other.

 

So, when Hanif came to you with the project, what were your thoughts? You immediately responded to it?


 

RM: We got on the train to Paris, did the trip together and tried to work out what the film was going to be all about. We ended up with an idea and a structure. It all happens in three days on the train and in Paris. We did in an early draft have scenes back home, but we quickly learned that they were wrong and that they should go. There’s a lovely formal elegance about a film when you know the beginning, the middle and the end.

 

I want to know about the genesis of the film. 

 

HK: It’s connected to our generation and it’s about being in a couple with someone or other. And then breaking up or not breaking up. The people that we’ve known since we started working in the theatre, since we were in our 20s, how many relationships did they have, how many divorces, how many new relationships have they started, what happened when they had kids? That’s what we were thinking about. So you just take this couple and you can see this whole generation, the boomers, who are in their 60s now. That’s the genesis really. All we needed was a simple story.

 

And for you, Roger, it was as you’ve already put it and as Hanif has said?

 

RM: It was our age group and our preoccupation.

 

We’ve talked about the story as if it’s a two-hander, but there’s a significant third character. At what point in the planning and the writing did Jeff Goldblum character enter the scene?

 

HK: Something had to happen. Somebody else had to walk through the door. If you were teaching writing, you’d say, “There’s this couple and the door has to open and somebody else has to walk in.” It just seemed like a natural progression of the story, but it seemed like we spent ages working out whether it should be two people, or one person.


RM: Originally he was French. 


HK: And at one point he was Indian.


RM: He was Indian, but we couldn’t find a voice for him.


HK: I felt we had enough Indians in the story.


RM: Then he became American, and the revelation was that he had remarried. That was the revelation. And that the son was there from New York at the weekend. So he’s the second party on a “weekend” in the film. That was a big help to make that discovery. 

 

In terms of the dramatic machinery, he seems almost like a deus ex machina figure who arrives and kind of provides the resolution to the film, who allows that whimsical ending to work.

 

HK: Yah.

 

Without him, I can’t imagine that.

 

HK: He had to come back.


RM: Yeah. But I think it’s slightly harsh to describe him as a deus ex machina

 

Yes. It’s more subtle than that.

 

RM: Because a deus ex machina has a different function. They came and solved the ending, whereas Jeff is simply a catalyst for them solving their own problem. And, in a way, resolving his, his self doubt.

 

Why these two actors? What did Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent bring to the film? 

 

RM: Obviously when you begin working on something like this, you start thinking about actors at the very early stages. You start putting faces into the album to see if they fit the evidence, if you see what I mean. Are they the photofit? Do they have all the required ingredients? And then you start to realize what the elements are. 


Early on, we realized that one element was that the woman was still sexy. You know, she’s hot. She’s 60 but she’s a hot 60. So that narrows the field quite a lot. Because there are lots of super-duper actors of that age who aren’t still sexually glowing. So that was a very important component.


And Jim brings this extraordinary quality of extraordinary ordinariness to the part. You believe he’s an Everyman and yet there’s something….

 

[To Kureishi] At yesterday’s press conference, you rather unkindly described Le Week-End as “a Woody Allen film with jokes”. [To Michell] How did you originally conceive the film.

 

RM: Not like that.


HK: When I say “a Woody Allen film”, it’s because it’s really based around the characters and the conversations.


RM: I would be very, very careful though about implying that Woody Allen films aren’t funny.

 

But when you read the script, how did you see it?

 

RM: Well, I didn’t read the script. The script arrived slowly over the years. It was a developmental process. How did you see the film?

 

From where I sit, I saw a British realist film where characters out of, perhaps, one of your other works, or Mike Leigh’s, are transplanted to Paris and placed in a different situation in a way that Mike Leigh characters never are.

 

HK: Yes, they’re usually on a sofa.


RM: And no-one says, “Do you want a cup o’ tea?” That’s how most Mike Leigh scenes start.

 

But you didn’t think of it in that way? Because they’re so English. They could have been the characters out of Another Year, almost.

 

RM: I think the film is much more structured than Another Year. I actually liked Another Year, but, as you know, Mike’s films are always written collaboratively with that whole group, and therefore they are less tidy than this film tries to be.

 

Thank you for your time. [But Hanif isn’t quite finished. He has a question to toss at me in the wake of the Australian election a couple of weeks earlier that brought the Liberal-National Coalition to government with Tony Abbott as its leader.]

 


HK: So you’ve got a new Prime Minister!? [He’s clearly looking to get a rise out of me.]

 

I’m not looking forward to what lies ahead.

 

HK: [Laughing] You’ve got a whole five years, dude.

 

Mmm. Hopefully not. We seem to have become a nation addicted to musical chairs and I can’t see our new PM staying too long in that game. 

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Editor's Note: This  interview  was recorded by Melbourne film critic Tom Ryan as the basis of a feature article for The Age when the film Le Week-enwas first released. Previous posts in this series can be found if you click on the names Ken Loach Pt 1 Ken Loach Pt2  Colin Firth (Part One) Colin Firth (Part Two) Lawrence Kasdan (Part One)Lawrence Kasdan (Part Two) Costa-Gavras Jonathan Demme (Part One)  Jonathan Demme (Part Two) Click on the names to read the earlier pieces

Saturday, 8 January 2022

A Livestream Discussion - Tony Rayns and Simon Ward in conversation on THE CINEMA OF IDEAS - January 18, 2022

Tony Rayns (and film-maker Mary Stephen)

Critic, commentator and programmer Tony Rayns and programmer, distributor, author and cinema proprietor Simon Ward have embarked upon a series of livestreamed discussions under the title The Cinema of Ideas. The first was held a short while ago and the second is planned for January 18. You can find out all the details of how to join in to this FREE discussion IF YOU CLICK HERE.

The link takes you through to  a short description of the discussion, how to book your place and another link to Part One of the conversation. (Donations towards costs accepted at Checkout.)