Monthly Archives: May 2009

Based on a True Story

Until this evening the work of the low budget studio The Asylum had not made it onto my radar. According to a disconcertingly authoritative entry on Wikipedia – and it is precisely for things such as this that Wikipedia emerges as the most reliable source – the studio’s specialty is low-budget, direct-to-DVD movies that are extremely close in their conception and / or titles to major studio blockbusters. The business model seems to be to rely on legitimate crossover interest, or just plain confusion, for their profit. It was this outfit that made the rival War of the Worlds back in 2005, along with The Da Vinci Treasure, Pirates of Treasure Island, Transmorphers, Allen Quartermain and the Temple of Skulls, The Day the Earth Stopped, and The Terminators. It shows a certain nutty chutzpah that I have to respect, and they fit in with a long tradition of pseudo-shyster filmmakers such as (in their very different ways) Edward D. Wood or Roger Corman.

They were drawn to my attention by Ain’t It Cool’s posting of the trailer to their latest epic, the title of which I won’t give away. Let’s just say nobody will complain they weren’t warned.

Snakes on a Plane proved that even big studios aren’t above this kind of batshit marketing. Of course, Asylum went and made Snakes on a Train to exploit that, just reinforcing the symbiosis between these guys and the majors. And at least they’re getting films made: good filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and James Cameron came out of Roger Corman’s exploitation factory, so I don’t see why they couldn’t emerge from Asylum, too. And frankly, it would be nice if a big Hollywood blockbuster would feature some imagery as insane as the shark eating the Golden Gate Bridge, or the very last shot of this trailer.

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You There: Have You Ever Kissed a Girl?

As an addendum to my post yesterday encouraging people to nerd it up by watching a video documentary about Spock, and to once again mark the release of Star Trek, here’s the classic Saturday Night Live skit involving Wlliam Shatner lashing out at people nerding it up. (As so often is the case, the link is from Jaime J. Weinman).

It seems odd, looking at this now, to think that it actually offended people at the time. Not just because I’d hope nerds might have a better sense of humour than this, but also because of how snarky the nerds themselves have become. The internet, and the forum cut-and-thrust on sites like Ain’t It Cool, seems to have bred geeks into a more argumentative, sarcastic breed (a la The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy) than the sheltered losers in this sketch.

A key element of this is constantly professing to hate the things that they obsess over; the current Star Trek nerd is more likely to express contempt for Shatner than Shatner is for them.

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Round Up

You may have noticed the site spluttering back to life in the last couple of weeks, with reviews of Mary and Max and Star Trek following a period of some inactivity. The irony of this, as I’ve mentioned before, is that I’m actually doing more film writing than I have for ages: it’s just that it’s for a PhD, not this site.

I hope to have a detailed retrospective essay up in a about a week or so, but in the meantime, a quick round-up of various things…

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The Animationless Animator

Mary and Max (Adam Elliot, 2009)

We might divide artistic achievements into two categories. There are those works in which an artist creates a work that is perfectly tuned to their sensibility and their strengths; and there are those that see an artist break down the barriers to move beyond what we know they are capable of. We should be grateful both types exist. It is the latter kind that surprises us, and that most often push the boundaries of artistic expression. But we need the former kind too. It is films where an artist’s material and approach meld into a perfect union that we tend to see the most perfectly judged works. The animated feature Mary and Max is one of those films: director /screenwriter and designer Adam Elliot knows what his strengths are, and this self-awareness has delivered a pitch-perfect blend of melancholy and humour.

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Fixing the Planning & Environment Act

This is the submission I made to the review of the Planning & Environment Act in 2009. It responds to the Modernising Victoria’s Planning Act discussion paper, which can be found here.
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Senior Industry Figure Recalls Time in Local Government Fondly, Distantly

John Mendoza, partner in respected consultancy Mendoza Planning, launched a blistering attack on the performance and experience of local government planners at a seminar last month, while insisting he valued their contribution to the profession. “Most local government planners are obstructionist, reactionary, poorly educated, and unhelpful,” he said, “but I don’t wish to denigrate them.”

Despite his strong criticism of Council planners, Mendoza was at pains to outline the deep affinity he shared with them. “I am, at heart, a creature of local government,” he said, citing his time as assistant to the junior town clerk at the Hawthorn City Council from 1972 to 1974 as evidence of his commitment to the sector.

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Camberwell Residents Unveil Bold Vision of Status Quo

Camberwell residents have revealed their plans for the future of the Camberwell Junction precinct after the government ceded all planning powers over the area to a local residents’ group.

The dramatic development came as the government announced a range of fast-tracking measures in response to the Global Financial Crisis. “Now, more than ever, we need to be acting decisively to ensure certainty for jobs and investment,” said Planning Minister Justin Madden. “At such a time the last thing we need to be doing is wasting time with a political black hole like the Camberwell Junction.”

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