And The Winner Is… Gallipoli (1981)

April 21, 2009

A long time ago – in a galaxy far, far away –  David Ashton was watching all of the AFI Best Film winners in order… so you don’t have to. Today he visits a mythic time we call “1981”…

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1981 began on a Thursday and was to go on to feature over fifty further Thursdays spaced evenly throughout the year. It was the year that the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and a year that saw endless mugs and tea towels commemorationg the royal coupling of Charles and Diana, who I believe went on to live happily ever after. The pop charts were dominated by Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes, Soft Cell’s Tainted Love and the timeless Stars on 45.

Meanwhile the movieworld’s obsession with science fiction had shuffled slightly sideways to fantasy; Clash of the Titans, Dragonslayer, Excalibur and Time Bandits were all released in 1981, with only Outland (no, not that one) flying the flag for SF. Other significant films of this year were comedies Arthur and The Cannonball Run; Wolfgang Petterson’s claustrophobic submarine drama Das Boot; Sam Rami’s low-budget marvel The Evil Dead; a post-modern adaptation of John Fowles’ post-modern novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman; the morality play Mephisto; the sentimental On Golden Pond and the blockbuster team-up of Lucas and Spielberg for Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Also a surprising number of werewolf movies; The Howling, Wolfen and An American Werewolf in London all came out this year. The Cannes Film Festival awarded the Palme D’Or to the politically-charged Polish film Man of Iron; in the US the Academy was handing its top award to a period story about rival athletes accompanied by a synthesizer score, Chariots of Fire.

In Australia, Bruce Beresford was documenting Australian surfie life with Puberty Blues – a surprisingly rare Aussie film about beach culture – and Richard Franklin directed Roadgames, a sort of Rear Window-on-wheels starring American actors Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. Perhaps the most significant Australian film released this year though was Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Few films can be attributed with creating their own genre but MM2, with its mix of post-apocalyptic dystopia, punk fashion and gory car stunts has been endlessly copied, usually by inferior films.

The Australian Film Institute has little interest in such Ozploitative genre fare, of course, and had its eyes on a period story about rival athletes accompanied by a synthesizer scoreRead the rest of this entry »

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8 Out Of 10 Cats Agree…

April 17, 2009

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Advertising. Like the weather and syphilis, everyone talks about it yet no-one does anything. Was it Shakespeare who once said “Our gain is your loss/that’s the price you pay/I heard it in the House of Commons/everything’s for sale”? No. It was the Pet Shop Boys. But if you consider that they’ve had more top ten hits than Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Cervantes combined, they must be on to something.

According to Charlie Brooker’s excellent television series Screenwipe, modern advertising and marketing campaigns are analysed down to the most intricate detail. Ads have to work internationally, so no item is below scrutiny – the models can’t wear sneakers, as that connotes “gangster” in Russia, they can’t wear denim as that means they’re gay in Indonesia. Confectionery advertising involves the frighteningly obsessive idea of “the load” – that is, the specific way the model places the product in their mouth.

As an advertising insider on Screenwipe explains: “Different gum companies have different ways they like their gum “loaded”. They publish booklets for directors to study so the load is uniform across their ads. On any shoot there’ll be one poor sod from the client whose sole job is to ensure the load goes off according to company guidelines.”

So if people are putting so much thought into marketing, advertising and product design, why would Whiskas choose to sell their product with a kitten that wants to punch you in the face?

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Oh yes, this kitten could’ve been a contender. He’s like Jake LaMotta – if Jake LaMotta had spent less time throwing fights against Billy Fox in order to curry favour with the Mafia, and more time chasing string and napping. An imperfect analogy, yes, but an analogy all the same.

Read the rest of this entry »