The Cup (2011)

cup-poster

Director: Simon Wincer

Stars: Stephen Curry, Daniel MacPherson, Brendan Gleeson

First viewing, via DVD

Whether you see it as the race that stops the nation or the race that divides the nation (there’s valid argument for both), and whether it’s the gravitational centre of your day, a chance to go all Caligula, or simply background noise, there’s no shaking that the Melbourne Cup’s a big deal. For non-local readers: it’s a major horse racing event (along the lines of the Kentucky Derby or Royal Ascot) that’s been running in Australia for over 150 years. It’s such as big deal that it’s somewhat surprising the Cup hasn’t featured too prominently in local films, though the prohibitive cost of recreating the event is obviously a factor. Crime comedies Horseplay and The Hard Word (both 2002) spring to mind as recent films to feature the event, albeit in a supporting role. Simon Wincer’s 1983 film Phar Lap, about the titular champion race horse, is probably the best-known film to feature the event. It’s fitting, then, that Wincer takes directing reins of 2011’s The Cup.

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The Time Guardian (1987)

Time G

Director: Brian Hannant

Stars: Tom Burlinson, Nikki Coghill, Dean Stockwell, Carrie Fisher

First viewing, via DVD

Earlier this week I read that Ian McKellen cried a little while filming a scene on The Hobbit when forced to act alongside photos on a green screen stage rather than other actors, who were filmed separately and incorporated digitally in post-production. Reading that piece and reflecting on the past few months of money misspent at the multiplex seeing films best described as digital minestrone soups – X-Men: Apocalypse, Warcraft, Independence Day: Resurgence – made me unexpectedly receptive to the celluloid tactility of The Time Guardian. I don’t think it’s a great film by any means, but it’s unquestionably a film, with actors and sets and stunts and some grounding in rudimentary physics.

During the 1980s, tax incentives made financing Australian films more attractive to investors, resulting in some heavily Americanized, commercially overt hybrid offerings, like the Indiana Jones-esque Sky Pirates (dubbed by producer John Lamond “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Crap”) and The Return of Captain Invincible, a superhero musical comedy starring Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee. The Time Guardian, as Australia’s first moderately budgeted science-fiction action film, is cut from the same cloth. This shouldn’t be surprising; the film was produced by Antony Ginnane, long a champion of transatlantic-minded, culturally-unspecific genre fare (see Harlequin, Turkey Shoot etc) and funded in large part by Hemdale, the British company behind The Terminator (and clearly wanting more of that Terminator money). But to its credit the film, made at and near Hendon Studios in South Australia, acknowledges and incorporates its Australian origins.

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