Movie Review – Nitram

Nitram (2022)
Written by Shaun Grant
Directed by Justin Kunzel

There is no horror that man can imagine worse than what he does to his own kind. It can feel like this moment in history is the worst it’s ever been, but that’s simply because we think things most powerfully as we experience them. Memory has been proven to be one of the most fail-ridden human functions, and imagination is always based on present anxieties. We still have such a limited understanding of the human mind, and people with severe mental disabilities can be frightening because we lack that comprehension. When someone does something genuinely horrible or commits an atrocity, we want to reduce things down to concepts of “good” and “evil,” but if we are honest violent individual acts are rarely able to be defined in such terms. There is a justified fear of looking into the eyes of someone who could apparently kill dozens without cracking, but only through understanding can we ever hope to prevent these things from repeating themselves.

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Movie Review – The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
Written by David Williamson, Peter Weir, and C.J. Koch
Directed by Peter Weir

In a complete coincidence, I am currently reading The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World by Vincent Bevins. I’m just about four chapters in but am already learning a lot about Indonesia and the part the CIA played in completely destabilizing that country. However, I was completely unaware that this film is specifically about the coup attempt in that country in the mid-1960s. This immediately raised my radar, wanting to see how the picture treats its communist characters. Will they be nuanced, developed participants in the story or faceless monsters like orcs in Lord of the Rings. Is this a movie influenced by anti-communist Western propaganda or an honest telling of what was happening in Indonesia?

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Movie Review – Gallipoli (1981)

Gallipoli (1981)
Written by David Williamson & Peter Weir
Directed by Peter Weir

Set around a decade after Picnic at Hanging Rock, Peter Weir’s Gallipoli continues his interest in looking at the so-called “wonder of civilized society.” He does it this time by making a war film that spends a large chunk of its time looking at the characters on their way to the war. His purpose is to examine ideas closely related to white Australian culture that might not be immediately familiar to people outside of the continent. One of these is the idea of ANZAC, the belief that Australians and their cousins in New Zealand possess unique traits that set them apart from their ancestral lands. In many ways, this is the myth of American exceptionalism Down Under. Weir also knows that you cannot talk about war in this era without addressing male friendship and how profound that love can be and how easily it is abused.

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Movie Review – The Last Wave

The Last Wave (1977)
Written by Peter Weir, Tony Morphett, and Petru Popescu
Directed by Peter Weir

Australia has been a land profoundly defined by its colonialist nature. The divide between the descendants of European settlers and the indigenous people is the story at the continent’s core. The Last Wave attempts to examine how even “well-meaning” Australians are simply never going to fully understand the complexity of Aborigine society, and that is simply how it is. This is related to the cultural roots of the settlers in punitive, authoritarian religious movements while the Aborigines live under a much more esoteric system of beliefs. But, more importantly, the film is about how Aborigine spirituality prepares its people far better for the chaotic shifts of the universe than the dogmatic Christian religions.

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Movie Review – Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Written by Cliff Green
Directed by Peter Weir

The Australian New Wave was an explosion of cinema from the Land Down Under that lasted from 1970 through 1990. Many of the filmmakers involved branched into cinema outside their home country like George Miller (Mad Max) or Phillip Noyce (Rabbit Proof-Fence). Peter Weir is arguably the most successful of these directors, having had a very lucrative career in Hollywood through the 1980s. However, the gap between Weir’s projects grew as the years went on. His last film was The Way Back, released in 2010. I plan to look at his film catalog to figure out his familiar themes and techniques as a means to fully appreciate his work. 

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Movie Review – Jindabyne

Jindabyne (2006)
Written by Raymond Carver and Beatrix Christian
Directed by Ray Lawrence

In 2006, sixteen Australian films were released worldwide, one of the largest international surges of movies from that country. Lawrence’s picture is a quiet one, very mature in its storytelling. He’s clearly comfortable telling stories in his own way, letting moments breathe. It’s quite different from the more commercial style editing of Bliss. Obviously, Lawrence was closer to his beginnings in advertising then, so he told stories in that mode. With 21 years between Bliss and Jindabyne, he’d changed as an artist aesthetically, but this picture finds Lawrence still exploring the conflict of personalities in intimate relationships.

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Movie Review – Lantana

Lantana (2001)
Written by Andrew Bovell
Directed by Ray Lawrence

Ray Lawrence took sixteen years off between his first and second films. His career seems to coincide with the two peaks in international interest in Australian cinema in the last forty years. In the 1980s, there was a sudden spike of interest in the United States around Australian media. Directors like Peter Weir and actors like Mel Gibson became hot commodities. Crocodile Dundee was a pretty massive phenomenon in the States. Even bizarre comedies like Young Einstein starring the comedic actor Yahoo Serious had their moment in the spotlight. Lawrence’s Bliss came out in 1985 and never really swept up Americans, but it was definitely given a high stature in Australia. Jump to 2001, as a new wave of Australian films begins capturing the attention of audiences, and Lawrence gives us the highest-grossing movie in Australian history, Lantana.

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Movie Review – Bliss (1985)

Bliss (1985)
Written by Ray Lawrence & Peter Carey
Directed by Ray Lawrence

In twenty-one years, Australian filmmaker Ray Lawrence made three movies with a sixteen-year gap between his first two. His first film, Bliss, caused hundreds to walk out of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and won the 1985 Australian Academy Award. Lawrence was born in London in 1948 and moved to Australia when he was 11. After he graduated from high school, Lawrence attended and subsequently dropped out of university. This lead to his work in advertising in Sydney and then a move back to London producing commercials. When he finally returned to Australia, Lawrence started his own production company that became one of the top producers of commercials in the continent. It was during his time in advertising that Lawrence met author Peter Carey and they became quick friends. This led to a screenwriting partnership that led to two full-length screenplays. Eventually, they decided to adapt Carey’s award-winning novel Bliss for the big screen.

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Movie Review – The Nightingale

The Nightingale (2018)
Written & Directed by Jennifer Kent

There are moments so harrowing and emotional that occur in The Nightingale that I felt like I might break down in tears. This is a rarity for me to find in a film, having watched so many and become aware of so many tropes and plot formulas. This isn’t to say that the inciting premise of The Nightingale will seem novel to other viewers, it isn’t. This is a revenge film centered around a female protagonist, the type of story told many times before and one that is particularly popular in our time. This isn’t a film about the catharsis of revenge; the final shot makes it clear that our main character is not redeemed in any manner. Instead, this is a story about the seemingly innate drive to seek bloody justice and the tremendous toll that takes on a human being.

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Movie Review – Son of a Gun

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Son of a Gun (2014)
Written & Directed by Julius Avery

son of a gun

JR is sent to prison for a minor crime and crosses paths with notorious armed robber Brendan Lynch. Lynch helps JR out with a group other prisoners giving the young man a hard time. When JR is finally released, he is hooked up with Sam, a Russian crime boss who Brendan works for. He also meets Tasha, one of the women working at Sam’s strip club and one whom he sees as his personal property. Of course, JR falls for her which will lead to deeper problems. Brendan eventually gets out of prison, and Sam is ready with a heist at a gold mine. Events do not play out as planned and cliches cascade on top of each other.

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