David and Margaret reunite to talk the best (and worst) Aussie movies of 2016
David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz travelled to the Gold Coast late last year to pick up a special award from the Australian International Movie Convention, recognising their contribution to the Australian film industry. Before picking up their gongs, the pair spoke to IF about life after 'At The Movies', the recent Aussie films they’ve liked (and those they haven’t) and the 'Wake in Fright' remake.
What are you doing on the Gold Coast?
D: We’re here because we’re getting an award. Which is sort of nice. I always remember at the Berlin Film Festival many years ago – maybe I should say this tonight – where they gave a lifetime achievement award to Billy Wilder. Wilder came on stage and said: ‘the problem is that a lifetime achievement award is like hemorrhoids – every old asshole gets one in the end’.
M: I don’t think you should tell that joke, it’s not that funny.
D: I thought it was very funny.
M: (laughs) We’re not getting a lifetime achievement award.
D: No I know.
Are the distributors coming up to you all the time, begging you to come back?
D: And members of the public.
M: The fact is that distributors, exhibitors really miss a program like At The Movies and The Movie Show, and I mind that the ABC did not continue a similar format. Because by the end of it the reach was 700,000 a week. That’s an extraordinary reach for a cinema-specific program.
D: It’s the small distributors and small exhibitors [who are affected]. I live in the Blue Mountains, and the guy who runs Mount Vic Flicks says they used to rely so much on what we said. Now he emails me and says: ‘Have you seen these things coming up? We don’t know whether to put them on or not’.
Is it nice not being obligated to have an opinion about every movie these days?
M: No. I mind that we’re not there to go to bat for…
D: Oh come on, Margaret. You can’t be there forever.
M: For some reason David thought we were going to be laughed off the screen.
D: Of course. If we stayed there until we were 84 or something, and I’m getting near that…
M: Oh don’t.
You’re both still reviewing [Pomeranz with Graeme Blundell on Foxtel and Stratton in The Australian]. Can you be more selective about what you cover?
D: In my case definitely.
M: We don’t have to see everything. Getting towards the end of the year I used to really mind seeing crap films, because you’re tired.
D: For me it was the middle of the year when all those awful American summer releases came out. It really got to the stage where I couldn’t bear having to sit through some of that stuff.
Shaky-cam’s a little less prevalent now than it was a few years ago.
D: Well you still get it occasionally. There are still some incompetent filmmakers around.
Have you seen Hacksaw Ridge?
D: Yes. I was surprised how good Hacksaw Ridge was.
M: I’ve seen it. It’s just this predilection for violence that [turns me off]. That extended battle sequence at the end… I mean, come on. It reminded me of the drawing and quartering at the end of Braveheart which I thought was… please.
D: He likes his ultraviolence, there’s no doubt.
M: I really didn’t like The Passion of the Christ.
D: No, I didn’t like that either.
What Aussie movies have you liked recently?
D: If you do count Fury Road [as Australian], that is obviously pretty considerable. Apart from that, I would say The Daughter to me was the best Australian film of last year. You didn’t like it.
D: I thought The Daughter was superb. It’s the best Australian film of the last couple of years I think. Pawno is very good. I loved Hounds of Love, which [Australian critic] Mr. Rooney reviewed in Venice. It’s a very tough film but very good I think.
It’s hard to imagine Stephen Curry as a serial killer, sight-unseen.
D: Stephen Curry is remarkable. In fact all the performances are very good. Looking for Grace I thought was a bit disappointing.
M: There’s something about her [Sue Brooks’] films which just get to me. I don’t know what it is.
D: You liked that film she made in Queensland?
M: No, that was the one I didn’t like. But I loved Road to Nhil.
D: I love Road to Nhil! Road to Nhil is fantastic. That’s her best film.
M: That static shot on Roxburgh and Terry Norris in Looking for Grace, though…
D: That’s a lovely shot.
M: Where they’re talking about infidelity. It’s so beautiful and nuanced and almost comical in parts. I just think she’s got a different sensibility to everybody else working in this industry.
D: There’s no doubt about that.
I really liked that first scene on the bus, with Odessa Young.
D: Yes. Those two girls are wonderful.
M: She’s a talent, that girl. I loved the little textural things in it, like the truck driver talking to his wife on the phone about the spider.
D: It didn’t quite come off, for me. It’s not as perfect a film as The Daughter, for example.
Were you relieved to not have to argue about Down Under?
D: I would have been happy to argue about Down Under.
M: Me too. Because I think David needs arguing with.
M: I must see it, because there are other people who said they think it’s really fantastic.
Abe Forsythe is a really talented filmmaker I think.
D: Have you seen Ned?
D: Well, before you say he’s a really talented filmmaker, see Ned.
I thought it was really stylish.
D: I think Down Under is probably the biggest disappointment for me of the last year. In that it should have been so good and it just missed. I wasn’t offended by it, it just wasn’t funny. That was the crucial thing.
M: Harry found it hilarious.
D: I know and we’ve had this conversation before; comedy is really hard and not everybody has the same sense of humour. You and I don’t agree on comedy very often.
M: No. I must see it.
What do you think about Wake in Fright being remade for TV?
D: Look I’m not a fan of remakes, to be honest.
Kriv Stenders is a brave man to tackle that.
Have you seen Red Dog: True Blue?
I thought it was bad.
D: It’s awful. I was terribly disappointed. I enjoyed Red Dog. But I thought Red Dog: True Blue was very poor.
Who are the contemporary filmmakers whose new films you really anticipate?
M: Andrew Dominik. I think he’s an incredible filmmaker. I’m dying to see the Nick Cave doc [One More Time With Feeling].
D: His use of 3D is remarkable. Really remarkable. I saw it in Venice.
M: Don’t mention Venice.
M: Him calling the shots on At the Movies finishing was the end of my going to Venice. But he still goes.
D: At my own expense I might add.
M: Frequent flyers, very cheap accommodation that the festival picks up anyway. Oh my god you’ve got to spend money on meals (laughs).
D: I have to spend some money on the airfare. You can go next year, you’ll be in Europe.
M: I don’t want to go without accreditation.
D: You’ll get accreditation, don’t be silly.
Is Dominik your favourite as well, David?
D: I’d love to see what Simon Stone does next, I must say. I hope he makes some more films.
M: You long for that aberrant talent that comes up with something completely fresh and wonderful. Something you’ve never seen before that’s revelatory.
For more David and Margaret jousting – 'David Stratton: A Cinematic Life' comes to cinemas March 9 via Transmission.