Previously… On The Outland Institute

February 18, 2009


Canny visitors to the site may have noticed we’ve been celebrating Christmas for quite some time now. Seven weeks, in fact. There’s been no updates for nearly two months, and let’s place blame squarely where it belongs – the global financial crisis.

You can’t have missed the ubiquity of the financial crisis. It’s the excuse du jour. And it works for everything – laying off a thousand employees? Financial crisis. Late to work? Financial crisis. Your daughter noticed her budgie changed colour almost as if the old one died and you were too gutless to tell her so you went to a pet shop and bought a replacement but you got it wrong because you never paid attention to anything involving your family because you are a terrible, terrible father? Financial crisis. It’s such a good excuse that if the police find you in a back alley hunched over the body of a dead prostitute with a bloody dagger still in your hand, you need only mention it’s been a disappointing morning for the Nasdaq and they’d let you off with a caution. Probably.

So apologies from all of us here at The Outland Institute. Weather conditions. Financial crisis. Oh, at that zombie outbreak that kept us all barricaded in the gift shop for five weeks, living off nothing but Twiglets and Wong Kar-Wai slippers, but I don’t think that made the news.

One thing you may have seen on the news is that the state of Victoria recently held a needlessly-accurate live recreation of 1961’s The Day The Earth Caught Fire, and misery and death are around every corner. You can give money to the relief effort – and by “can” I mean “really, really should” – at

Fires decimated towns around the state on February 7th – Channel 9 has taken to calling it “Black Saturday”, because why just tell the news when you can shriek it? It was an event so momentous it even has its own page on wikipedia, putting it up there with Haircut 100 and the Nazi UFO program. It was also the weekend the Evil Doctor Chris and I were spending in the Victorian Goldfields, so while we didn’t exactly fiddle while Rome burned, we did spend a lot of time indoors watching DVDs of The West Wing. Which is probably the same thing, metaphorically speaking. Any way you look at it, we were having a better day than most.


As we marvelled at the superb acting, intricate plotting and chess-like maneuvering of characters, motivations and events, we found ourselves wondering why the Americans can make shows like The West Wing, while we’re lucky to get Packed To The Rafters. The answer is fairly straightforward, of course – what Americans do is important, while we’re thrilled if someone in Ecuador recognises Olivia Newton-John.

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Baby Jesus Day!

December 24, 2008

From everyone at The Outland Institute, have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, and a Kwanzaa Kwanzaa Kwanzaa.

May all your Wong Kar-Wai Slippers come true.



Great TV Moustaches – Part 1

November 20, 2008

mustache1It’s that time of year again. The decorations are up, the shops are busy, children are on their best behaviour. Yes, it’s Movember.

Everyone’s counting off the sleeps until the Great Moustache appears. On the last night of Movember the Great Moustache creeps into every house and leaves facial hair for all the good girls and boys… while bad children get nothing but a lump of coal, an Xbox and a copy of Fallout 3.

Meanwhile, well-built office workers in tight-business shirts are all growing Swedish porn-stars (also known as “the droop” or “the Pancho Villa”). As a bonus, it raises money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and Beyond Blue. Really, there is no downside to this. You can read about donating at the Movember website.


So while attending one of those celebrity Coburg parties the other day, someone said “you know, The Outland Institute should write about moustaches on television“.

It seemed a good idea. So we followed the usual procedure when preparing a column for the Institute. We sent a telex to Dr Alberto Longenin, the foremost expert in this field; we sent Debbie from the gift shop down into the catacombs to retrieve the appropriate books on the subject; we contracted seventeen work-experience children to go through The Institute’s cabinets of index cards; and we mentioned it on our facebook status.

So without further ado, here is part one of our surprisingly long celebration of TV’s greatest moustaches.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anne-Marie Shows Us Her Fringe

September 8, 2008

Another day in Melbourne, another major arts festival. The 2008 Melbourne Fringe Festival was launched last Wednesday – Anne-Marie Peard attended, so you don’t have to. 

The memories of MIFF and the Yalumba Man are fading.  We’ve had a couple of weeks to sit back on the couch in our Wong Kar-Wai slippers, snack on our Dalek bread and catch up with Australian Idol and that thing where fit people ran around a lot and tried not to think about other events that happened in Tiananmen Square.

Some of us prodded out brains into action with a visit to the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, but the thought of another arty-type marathon was too much for me right now. Until – under the festival tree – the Melbourne Fringe program appeared…

Read the rest of this entry »

The George A. Romero Title Game… Of The Dead

July 29, 2008

As part of our ongoing tribute to horrormeister George A. Romero, here’s a game for you to play at home.

Choose any film title and try adding “Of The Dead” to see if you can turn it into an appealing zombie flick. Not every combination works, but some are box office gold.

I tried going through the top 50 of IMDB’s Top 250 and was taken with these, any of which I would happily fork over my money for:

The Godfather Of The Dead
12 Angry Men Of The Dead
Rear Window Of The Dead
Memento Of The Dead
Taxi Driver Of The Dead
To Kill A Mockingbird Of The Dead
It’s A Wonderful Life Of The Dead

That last one’s my favourite – it sounds heart-warming. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his face chewed off by re-animated corpses.” Stars Jimmy Stewart.

Feel free to leave more titles in the comments below.

Finally, the statisticians at WordPress show me the Institute’s attendances went through the roof yesterday, so hello to all our new visitors! Tracey in the Outland Institute Gift Shop was totally exhausted by the end of the day, and needed a nice Kingston and a sit-down. (Also, we’re totally out of Wong Kar-Wai slippers, so please don’t ask.)

John’s MIFF blog – House Of Blurbs

July 25, 2008

One of the thrills of the Melbourne International Film Festival is Program Day. You wake up so early, just as the sun is starting to peek into the window. On tippy-toe you creep down the stairs, clad in your pyjamas and Wong Kar-Wai slippers, to find that special package under the Festival Tree. You undo the ribbon, gently unwrap the layers of gaily-coloured tissue paper, and finally – there it is. The Festival Program. Now the circling can begin…

Film, fringe and comedy festivals all follow much the same template when it comes to their programs. Only a single photo and a short blurb help you to decide what’s Hot, and what’s Book Of Revelation. For MIFF there’s roughly 150 words in a standard description. A generic blurb looks something like this:


“Fulsome but uselessly vague praise!’ – International Newspaper

Character X, a (vending machine repairman/factory worker/university lecturer) in (Taipei/Seattle/Bucharest) is drawn into a web of despair in this new film from Director Y. Like (an unwieldy and confusing metaphorical reference, possibly involving World War I or Iraq), FILM TITLE is a (harrowing/hauntingly beautiful) insight into (the pain of a middle-class couple in crisis/child prostitution/zombies). An exceptional work, FILM TITLE further explores the themes of Director Y‘s FILM YOU DIDN’T SEE (MIFF 2005).

D/S Director Y S Grace Park, Julianne Moore L Esperanto w/English subtitles 35m/2007/193 mins

And honestly, that’s often enough to give you an idea whether you want to see it or not. You may just need to know the director, the subject matter or the genre to make your mind up. But sometimes it’s too vague, especially if the film is extremely complex or falls between categories. Sometimes the descriptions themselves cause confusion, leading the audience to believe the film is something that it’s not (the blurb for 2006’s Flanders led many to expect a World War I drama, rather than the modern-day piece it actually was).

As with most things in life, the internet has changed things for the better. Oh internet, is there anything you can’t do?

Read the rest of this entry »