Apologies for the long wait between entries. My schedule is very harried of late and I’m juggling more responsibilities than usual. I’ve shared some of the details behind this on my Twitter feed, but this isn’t the right place for getting into off-topic personal stuff, apart from a sincere regret that I haven’t had nearly as much time for Hugonuts as I’d like. I do update my Twitter feed much more regularly, as that’s where the vast majority of my readers are these days. I still prefer the complexity of the blog, though, so I’ll keep doing it as long as I have the time and enthusiasm. I don’t know how many people still read me here (either the WordPress or LJ version) but this is where my heart remains, and I wish I had more time to devote to it.
The Dressmaker Trailer Debuts
Our first look at what might be Hugo’s last screen performance for awhile (though I hope not– it’s just the last one chewduled for now), as Sgt Farrat in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker, made its internet debut July 12 and was enthusiastically received. Here’s Universal’s high-def version of the trailer. To my mind it gives away too much (in the tradition of 99% of film trailers these days) but to be fair, a lot of these details were divulged during the film’s production, and it’s based on a popular novel that’s several years old. Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook and Hugo all have some great moments. I have a feeling Davis will steal most of her scenes. I’ll follow with possibly the only set of screencaps not featuring Shirtless Liam Hemsworth. 😉 This looks like Hugo’s most lighthearted role in eons, so I’m looking forward to it.
Universal Pictures Australia/YouTube
All screencaps mine, from the fim’s trailer
The trailer has been re-posted on pretty much every entertainment site online with a rote recitation of the official synopsis; you can read more interesting variations (with some other info about the film) at News.com.au, Jezebel, The Wimmera Advertiser, Inside Film, and The Wimmera Mail-Times (including a lot of behind-the-scenes pics).
Some Initial Thoughts On Strangerland
I’ve also been depressed over the handling of Strangerland’s US release and the largely-juvenile response to it here. The film has had a mixed reception everywhere, but at least most Australian reviews were thoughtful and lacking in the spoil-spouting snark that has marred most American reviews. I had wanted to see the film properly, ie in a cinema, but Alchemy essentially dumped the release straight to VOD with only a handful of cinems showings, none remotely convenient for my location or schedule. (I have RTed any info I can find on theaters showing the film in the US, as well as international festival screenings.) Also, as previously noted, the American critics have relentlessly spoiled many plot points that the Aussie and Sundance critics were polite enough to leave alone. So I caved in and watched the film on a family member’s large HDTV, which was also an interesting experience. (I still find HDTV more closely resembles video than film, even films shown using digital projection, which makes the experience bizarrely intimate and is distracting… yes, I’m a late-adopter on this issue, mostly for budgetary reasons. And because the vast majority of films and TV aren’t really worthy of such high-end technology. Strangerland most certainly IS and though one should still see it in a cinema if at all possible, it works well on high-quality HDTV as well.)
Anyhow, I’m still mulling the film over and will probably hold off on a lengthy review until the DVD/Blu-Ray is out next month, which will give more people chance to see the film before I say too much. But I’ll take the unusual step of imploring my readers to avoid the bulk of the US reviews, as most give away the entire plot and divulge what are nuanced character interaction is the smarmiest, most insulting manner I’ve seen for one of Hugo’s independent films. Particularly avoid casual blogs, podcasts and sites that are genre bound: Strangerland is NOT a horror film or conventional thriller. The filmmakers have in essence given away that the fact that the film, its ending and its “meaning” will not be spoon-fed to viewers. If you can’t handle open-ended narratives or are expecting the usual series of flashbacks near the end of the film that will neatly explain everything, and tell you how you should feel about it– stay away. This is not your kind of movie. The characters are all compromised or “difficult” in their own way, though I was able to see the humanity in all of them. I was fully expecting the film to be well-acted and beautifully shot but narratively flawed after all the reviews: I didn’t have that experience at all. It’s at least as good a film as Mystery Road, is compelling from start to finish and features career-defining work from Kidman, Fiennes and Weaving and some excellent supporting work from Meyne Wyatt, Lisa Flanagan and the actors playing the kids (Maddison Brown and Nicholas Hamilton). I did NOT find the film “slow”, confusing, disjointed or implausible. The mystical angle has been overemphasized by some critics (the film has only superficial similarities to Picnic at Hanging Rock, and is nothing like Walkabout) but viewers are certainly allowed that interpretation if it makes the most sense to them.
I actually found the film much more linear and naturalistic than I expected to. While not every aspect of the mystery is neatly resolved, you’re given enough information to make a sound guess as to what really happened. (To my mind it was one of two things, both prosaic and sad, no Rainbow Serpents involved. And the specifics of the case make me lean heavily toward one probable outcome.) In fact, I found Mystery Road’s plot mechanics slightly more ambiguous, though it ends in a gunfight which makes a lot of the who-did-what-to-whom-and-why less important. (Also, American audiences just love gunfights.) 😉 I also found the characters completely plausible given the circumstances they’re facing. The stultifying small town atmosphere is perfectly captured; in fact I was reminded of many American small towns I spent time in growing up, though none existed in quite as picturesque a landscape. Critics have gotten hung up on some plot points I won’t go into (they constitute spoilers to my mind) but I found some dead-ends the investigation took to be obvious red herrings with no bearing on what actually happened, which petered out as they would in real life. I didn’t feel as if the screenwriters were setting up shoes to drop, so to speak, then letting them hang. (I DID have this issue with Beautiful Kate, a film which has also been compared to Strangerland; it does have thematic similarities but lacks the forward momentum and rich characterization I found in Strangerland.)
I will include a sampling of quotes from the handful of decent and well-written reviews the film has received since my last review roundup, but I will warn that most of the full reviews include spoilers, so try to see the film before reading them. And– I can’t emphasize this enough– AVOID reviews on horror sites and Hollywood-fawning genre sites.
I do enthusiastically recommend the film. Yes, my fandom makes me biased, but I’ve run into enough controversy for slamming or avoiding Hugo’s subpar efforts (and ill-advised forays into Transformers and the Marvel-verse) that I do think I’m still objective. I’m not going to try and convince anyone that They Key Man or The Tender Hook are good movies either, though Hugo is entertaining in both. Strangerland was much better than I expected it to be, and it deserved better treatment than it’s gotten. I’ll probably see the film a second time before posting a formal review (which would probably reveal more of the plot), so fans of any of these actors should check it out. If Strangerland has flaws, they would be a lack of time spent on some of the supporting characters (though they’re well-acted and intriguing in what screentime they do have) and the whole mystical subtheme, which seems more haphazardly tossed together than the rest of the story, though one understands why Nicole Kidman’s character would seek solace or guidance from any source under the circumstances.
Anyhow, see the film. If only to give the snarky entertainment media a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. 😉 And yes, Hugo fans are in for more than they bargained for, but that should NOT be the reason you see the film. In fact, one reason I’ll have to see it again would be that I was too addled to completely follow the scenes after Hugo’s entrance, which might be his most… er… memorable in a long and distinguished career. 😉 Nicole Kidman is also completely fearless in this regard, but none of these actors did this movie to provide us with fan service. Yes, Hugo still makes me feel like a hormonal 12-year old, but you need a higher mental age to fully appreciate a film like this. 😉
Strangerland is already out on DVD in Australia; the US DVD/Blu-Ray comes out 18 August. The Australian edition features cast interviews and behind the scenes featurettes; though details on the US version are sparse, one 5 minute featurette called The Story (which features Hugo, Nicole Kidman, Kim Farrant and Joseph Fiennes), which is on the Australian home release, has been featured as a freebie promo on some Cable On Demand outlets, so one has to assume the US DVD will feature some of the same material. I could be wrong (Alchemy has really let me down in their handling of the US release) but I would assume they just use the same featurettes already available.
Hugo Attends Nordoff Robbins Art of Music Live Fundraising Event in Sydney
Longtime fans will remember that Hugo has long been associated with the Nordoff Robbins charity, which raises funds to provide music therapy for special-needs kids. He’s attended their annual art exhibition/concert-auction several years and was on hand again this year. (No word on whether he bought any art, but in years past he has.) So far the Art of Music Facebook page hasn’t posted any official event photos, but they usually share a gallery here. (You can see some pics of Hugo at last year’s event while you wait.) 😉 But there are several great new press and fan photos of Hugo at the July 16 evening which I’ll embed below, with new additions to follow when they appear. So far I haven’t found any news articles on the auction either, but I’ll continue to be on the lookout. Also in attendance were Simon Baker, who helped emcee, Hugo’s longtime friend Judy Morris and many others. You can read more about Art of Music and their charitable goals at their website and Facebook page. All photos below include their original Facebook/Twitter/Instagram captions from the original poster where applicable. Thanks to everyone who shared their pics.
Both above images: Hugo Weaving arrives at the Art of Music Live event (red carpet) 16 July 2015. Photos: Mark Sullivan/WireImage
“Wonderful night Art of Music Live. Gr8 artists, performers & cause, Nordoff Robbins music therapy, @NoroArtofMusic” Dean Ormston, via Twitter
(L to R: Jenny Morris, Simon Baker, Hugo Weaving)
“omg #hugoweaving #sydneyoperahouse #theartofmusic #ngaiire” Ngaiire via Instagram
“Jenny Morris, Simon Baker and Hugo Weaving.” Sam Trattles via Facebook
“Me and #hugoweaving at #aomlive last night . #fangirling” Billie McCarthy via Twitter/Instagram