Cracker by Damian Christie


In Which Damian Grouches about the Oscars

While Wellington often feels a bit small – suffocatingly, claustrophobia-inducing, Deep Vein Thrombosis-causingly small – that smallness does have its benefits. And I’m not talking about the fact you can walk everywhere, or that all the blue jeans and white striped-shirt wankers on a Friday night are neatly confined to an avoidable 200 square metres on Courtenay Place.

No, the benefits of it being so small, and yet housing almost all of New Zealand’s Oscar winners, is that everyone knows someone who knows someone who’s won an Oscar.

Whoop-de-fuck, you might quite rightly exclaim. But you see, once a year, these people (the one’s that know someone who’s won an Oscar), become very valuable. Because once a year, these people have access to all the Oscar-nominated movie screeners. On DVD. For free.

Which is how I come to share my opinions with you on some of those films. Likewise, for free.


8 Nominations: Supporting Actor (Eddie Murphy); Supporting Actress (Jennifer Hudson); Art Direction; Costume Design; Original Song x3!; Sound Mixing.

Avoid. Avoid like the plague. Avoid as though it were rabid dog with an Ebola-carrying monkey riding on its back, nursing a plague-infested rat.

In case, like me, you were unaware, Dreamgirls is a musical. I don’t mean a movie with a large amount of music in it, such as The Commitments, or I don’t know, Rock Star. No, I mean one of those things where two characters are arguing, and suddenly one of them starts voicing their concerns in the form of a melody. Appalling.

(Apparently Dreamgirls was a successful Broadway musical between 1981 and 1985. I make no apologies for not knowing this before watching the film.)

And don’t get me wrong. I’m not gay or anything (NTTIAWWT), but I’ve enjoyed - and memorised all the lyrics to - a few musicals in my time. Grease. The Sound of Music. Labyrinth. All good films. But while the music the Dreamgirls perform on stage is an acceptable Supremish Motown-lite, as soon as they burst into a proper musical number it’s like the treacle-covered bastard child of Walt Disney and Celine Dion. So. Wrong.

It happens by stealth too. No musical numbers for the first half hour or so, but by the end there's barely a spoken word to be found.

Also, and you may note some inconsistency here with my criticisms of The Queen (coming soon), but Dreamgirls is supposed to be fiction. Yet clearly it’s based around the Supremes. But when other bands turn up, such as the Band of Five Black Guys with Afros who are Presumably All Brothers and the lead singer is about eight years old etc… why not just call them the Jackson Five? To call them the Campbell Connection is just kinda insulting to the audience, no? Either call them what they are, or don’t use an “I can’t believe it’s not the Jackson 5” group in the first place.

Beyonce might have a fine voice and booty to match, and Eddie Murphy sings surprisingly well, but that American Idol woman, she puts the screech back into screechy. I can’t believe this shitty movie got 8 Oscar nominations. Did I say ‘avoid’ already?

Children of Men

3 nominations: Cinematography, film editing, adapted screenplay.

You couldn’t get further from Dreamgirls than Children of Men. Children of Men is set in a futuristic but still very-familiar Britain. And Future-Britain is bleak. So bleak that if you lived there, you’d welcome a rabid dog with an Ebola-carrying monkey riding on its back nursing a plague-infested rat, simply for the light relief such a sight would bring.

(WARNING: I guess we have at least one spoiler ahead, but it’s not really a spoiler in that it’s revealed in the first few minutes of the movie. I won’t reveal the main ‘surprise’.)

In Future Britain, on Future Earth in fact, everyone is infertile. The youngest person in the world, an 18 year old with celebrity status, has just been killed. The world has gone to shit. Did I mention it’s bleak? The lack of children has understandably dampened the world’s party somewhat. (Although I dare say it makes flying and going out for dinner a lot more pleasant.)

While the Government is rounding up the ‘fugees and acting fairly abysmally, the various terrorist organisations are causing just as much harm by zealously doing what they think is right for mankind, and damn anyone who gets in the way.

The plot isn’t super-original and will be familiar – possibly even predictable – to anyone who’s seen/read the Handmaid’s Tale and 1984. But what really works for me about Children of Men is the fact that it paints such a convincing picture of what the future is like – it doesn’t assume too much in the way of technological advancement. It’s 2027, but people still eat food. The guns shoot bullets, not laser beams. The cars have a few flash features but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing not available in a late model BMW.

The cinematography is great, at times beautifully composed, at times frantic and gritty. I don’t know where they found the sets, acres of partially demolished slums and run-down housing estates… oh that’s right, England.

So yes, it’s bleak, but not unrelentingly so. Clive Owen (grrrrrrowl say the girls) is a man on a mission, and in doing so he restores hope back to humankind. It might not be the movie to watch on a Sunday evening after a big weekend depleting your serotonin levels (when Adam Sandler’s more your man), but it’s definitely worth a watch any other time.

COMING SOON: Why I hated THE QUEEN and found redemption in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

Dare to disagree? Discuss…

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