Sunday, February 12, 2012

Underrated Showcase Sundays - Strictly Ballroom


Ah, weekly features. I figured that the blog needs some more of those (with a bit of luck, you shall see the return of a weekly feature that y'all loved sometime soon). This weekly feature, the Underrated Showcase Sundays, is pretty straight-forward: every Sunday I'll shed some light on a film which I think doesn't get enough love. The showcase will be largely unstructured (well, compared to my other reviews) and will often just be random thoughts. It doesn't matter if I've seen it before or not. For example, I'm starting with Strictly Ballroom, which I first watched three years ago and has had it's place in my DVD collection for two of those years. Let's get into it, shall we?

(NOTE: If this doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, bear with me. World War 3 is going on in my head right now and I feel like if anyone touches it, it might fall to pieces. It's probably not doing me a lot of good to be staring at a computer screen, but I'm determined to do this.)


Back when I was 13, I had a huge Baz Luhrmann phase. I'm not sure how it started - if my memory serves me correctly, it may have been the million watches of Romeo + Juliet I went through, because back then, I'd never seen anything like it. But between the stylish modernism of Shakespeare's romance, the lavish and spectacular musical Moulin Rouge! and the slightly disappointing and over-ambitious Australia, people tend to forget Luhrmann's first effort, Strictly Ballroom. In saying that, back in it's day (in which I was not alive to see), the film was a huge hit in Australia and it even scored a Golden Globe nomination for Best Comedy, losing out to Mrs. Doubtfire. Yet, while Luhrmann has had bigger fish to fry in Hollywood - including his up-coming 3D adaptation of The Great Gatsby - his smaller roots are not to be ignored.



What I love about Strictly Ballroom, aside from the fact that it is one of the few Australian movies I actually really like, is that it plays with stereotypes. From the beginning, which is shot mockumentary style, you can see stereotype after stereotype: the over-bearing, crazily ambitious mother (Pat Thomson); the also crazily ambitious, but pampered princess dance-partner Liz Holt (Gia Carides); the quiet, misunderstood and neglected husband/father (Barry Otto); the 'Ugly Duckling' restricted to beginners dance classes Fran (Tara Morice) and finally the pretty-boy with all the talent who wants to break free of the rules Scott (Paul Mecurio). Some of them break out of their stereotypes, but the large majority of them don't...which is why Strictly Ballroom is so fun to watch. There's a great deal of familiarity about it, with clich├ęs happening all over the place. But that is okay, because they are done in such a way that it almost feels like a fresh piece of movie-making. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that the large majority of those Disney Channel movies, a la High School Musical are trying to be like Strictly Ballroom but are dismally failing because, well, they're Disney Channel movies.


Watching this film today, the age is starting to show; that's something that I always find when I'm watching 90s films, because their Technicolour seems to show the cracks more than any other decade, for some reason. However, Luhrmann's style remains timeless, especially compared to his other films. I've always loved him as a director because he tends to exaggerate moments of drama or comedy...but he only exaggerates if they need to be exaggerated. He isn't afraid to use colour or whirlwind camera movements; with his debut he instantly has his signature style, whereas most directors take a few movies to really get into it. I actually can't wait to see what he does with The Great Gatsby, despite the fact that it is in 3D.

As a closing point, the performances are quite good. Usually it is quite hard for me to warm to Australian actors using their native accents, because, like us Kiwis, their inflection is terrible and it is tremendously hard to act convincingly with them. Battling with the stereotypes/cliches and their poor inflection, everyone does a great job, particularly the late Pat Thomson as the mother and Tara Morice coming out of her shell and becoming a beautiful dancer. Props should also go out to Paul Mecurio, who I only remember as a judge on the NZ version of Dancing with the Stars. Who knew that he could act? Even if he is far better at dancing...

What I got:

9 comments:

  1. Paul Mercurio hosted a bloody cooking programme here for ages recently! It was really weird....
    I adore Strictly Ballroom though! 'Australia' doesn't deserve to stand next to his original films!

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    1. I had heard that! My gosh...he deserves so much more. And no, Australia definitely doesn't deserve to stand next to his original films!

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  2. Also, Bill Hunter for the win!

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  3. I haven't heard of this movie before, but it sounds interesting! I love Romeo+Juliet, it is one of my favorite movies, so anything Baz Luhrman does gets my attention! Nice post!

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    1. Definitely give it a go, if you loved Romeo + Juliet! Luhrmann is great!

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  4. This is my 2nd favorite film by Baz Luhrmann. I just love the dancing and craziness of that film. Bill Hunter is one of those actors I love to watch. I do miss him. I also loved Barry Otto as the father who just wants to do his silly steps.

    The final dance with Paul Mercucio and Tara Morice. Definitely amazing. It's the kind of dancing that is missed these days in these awful celebrity dancing shows.

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    1. The final dance with Paul Mercucio and Tara Morice. Definitely amazing. It's the kind of dancing that is missed these days in these awful celebrity dancing shows.

      ^that is exactly what I thought.

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  5. The Sunday showcase performances meet the desire level of assignment writing service information for the people, this show the quality work from the artiest and the performer. The work leads for the accurate name forming for the same people.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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