Australia: the Fun Genocide!

Australia is a war movie. Not in the conventional sense, no Australia is going to war with you, the viewer.
Reported on 13th of December, 2008

You may in fact wonder why I would see Australia, by all accounts, now including my own, an overlong and pointless mess. Well, I have a rule. I have many, but this is a new one, to you anyway.


11 December 2008 @ The Agoura Hills 8

-$3.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


It’s more of a criterion: any ill-adviced story with an obscenely high budget and I’m there. If Mr. Kevin Costner is directing himself delivering mail in a post-apocalyptic Southwest, you know I’m there (an experience that comes replete with an inexplicably enthusiastic Mr. Will Patton, as Mr. Costner’s enemy, screaming “Ride, Postman, Ride!!!!’. Again, there’s my $7.50 right there).

Put Mr. Eddie Murphy (and Mr. Eddie Murphy!) in space as a detective on the moon. Sure! He’s fighting the mob? Sure, why not? Are they selling drugs? No? Rubbing out the competition? Not exactly…no it’s a movie about the moon mob’s attempt to monopolize singers in the nightclub business. That would have been my next guess. I am, and I was, there.

In a certain sense, the rule has served me well, since what most people call flops are rarely boring. Enter Australia, which I now realize is a war movie. Not in the conventional sense, though there are plenty of dull battle scenes in it. No Australia is going to war with you, the viewer.

The story goes something like this: bad white people came and stole the land. Good white people followed. They didn’t give the land back (that’s crazy talk), but they were slightly nicer to the brown people whose land got stolen.

Come visit!

Moviegoing is about taking chances, that moment when you enter, sit down, pray for a new THX trailer where that extremely irritating mascot will finally be riddled with machine gun bullets to a long agonizing death (it would be a great way to show of the stereophonic capabilities of the theater), and finally, the movie, where, whatever the critics have said, whatever the trailer has given away, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s rather exciting as the final promo plays and the screen goes black, and is almost always followed by that moment when I ask: “Wait. What am I seeing?”

I said Australia wasn’t a war movie, and that’s true. But it is a genocide movie, and that is always going to be a problem. Now I’m not here to discuss genocides, which are generally considered to be not very nice. And before we judge Australia (the country) remember that wherever you are, you’re living in a place where someone else used to live, someone who probably got kicked out by someone else. Americans, Spanish, British, Chinese, Romans and Carthaginians, the grass is always greener when someone else is mulching it.

And while we will no doubt continue stealing vast amounts of land in the name of, well, stealing vast amounts of land, could we at least have the good taste not to make films celebrating this fact? Australia, heavily subsidized by the Australian government as a boost to the tourist industry, shows off all its natural wonders and the like. But the story goes something like this: bad white people came and stole the land. Good white people followed. They didn’t give the land back (that’s crazy talk), but they were slightly nicer to the brown people whose land got stolen.

Come visit!

But I’ve seen movies about Hitler, Stalin, Genghis Khan, Nixon and Bush: could Nicole Kidman be so much more difficult? (And yes, much has been made of her plastic surgery [though not much has been made of our own need for her to be pretty] as well as rumors that her performance had to be CG enhanced. (It wasn’t. I was there). Once seated, the real war, with your attention span, begins. It’s a cattle drive movie, which is fairly dull, and not something that you would want to make a movie about in a year past 1957, but at least you know what’s going to happen. They’re going to go, with cattle, from one place to another. And they do. And at that point, you say, that wasn’t so bad. They went from one place to another. With cattle.

In battle, there exists a trick: when your enemies feels that he has won, he is at his most vulnerable. This is the perfect time to attack, as the optimistic troops will often instantly surrender (this is actually true, by the way). General Luhrmann understands this, and 100 minutes in, the cattle have been driven, the evil baron has been defeated, and Hugh and Nicole are free to make out. This is when Luhrmann attacks, adding on an entire new movie. Really two more, but you get the idea.

But, said I, “Luhrmann you magnificant bastard: I read your press kit!” No, I was in for the long haul, even if it meant another movie about another inherently undramatic subject: running away. For the record let me say that I’m not a big fan of war. I wrote an entire (and entirely unpublishable) book on the subject of how war could never, has never, and will never work. So if you want to run away in real life, please do. But don’t, please don’t make movies about it (you heard me, Atonement).

So we basically have characters that are living off the backs of a genocide, and when the Japanese attack (no doubt to start their own genocide), the characters run. Now I’m all for complex characters. You want to base an entire movie on coward, or a murderer, or both, just make it about that. Admit it. Don’t put them in another movie where we’re supposed to love them unconditionally.

We don’t.

So let’s call Australia a draw. Luhrmann will survive to make another movie (which I will no doubt see). And I survived, walking into the light, glad to be alive and anywhere but there. Yes, it was my own filmic masochism that made me see it, but I was fairly upset, so I chose to blame the Allmighty. I looked to the sky, and asked God, where’s my damned medal?

But all I got was this lousy ticket stub.


Profits!Bragging rights for the Ticket. Seriously, does anyone even remember this film?$2.00 Probably saved millions in Australian immigration visas$1.00 Total Profits$3.00  Losses! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Racism, whatever its moral qualities, is just fucking boring.$2.00 Real time cattle drive.$1.00 Why looka here. It’s still going on.$1.00 And yes, this is one of (the many thousands of) the reasons I hated Atonement. Does that count as a ‘profit’? Anyway, military losses, as it happens are not victories. When you treat them as such, it’s just sad.$2.00 Total Losses$6.00


Thoughts on Australia

  1. Uli de la Lama says:

    I bow to you, Sensei !!!!

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