Opinion

Ruben Guthrie’s Sobering Message for Australians

Ruben Guthrie kicks off with a bang – a glamourous awards after-party at a sprawling waterfront Sydney home, with an open bar and shimmering pool.

Ad man Ruben Guthrie (Patrick Brammal) living it up at the opening of the flick

Ad man Ruben Guthrie (Patrick Brammal) living it up at the opening of the flick

Ad man Ruben (played by Patrick Brammal) feels on top of the world. He’s ticking all the boxes – rich, successful, with a Czech supermodel as his fiancee (Abbey Lee). He feels so good in fact, that he jumps off his balcony, aiming for his pool and misses… well kind of misses.

With his arm in a sling, he’s given an ultimatum by his fiancee Zoya: go one year without drinking and get another chance. Which is when we start to see beneath Ruben’s – and Australian society’s – shiny veneer.

 

Ruben Guthrie holds up a mirror to Australian audiences and the result is not always a comfortable one. Australians typically love their booze, whether it’s a glass of white with lunch, a champagne toast, a beer with mates or a night on the sauce. Binge-drinking seems to not only be encouraged in Australian culture, but celebrated.

However, the reaction to those who choose not to drink is both surprising and quite baffling.

After initially supporting Ruben’s little dalliance with sobriety, his friends, boss, and even parents do a swift about-turn, repeatedly asking him to have a drink with them.

Ruben's dad has a hard time connecting with his son when wine isn't involved

Ruben’s dad has a hard time connecting with his son when wine isn’t involved

It’s shocking, but what’s most shocking, is how common that scenario is for Australians.

Writer/director Brendan Cowell (right) based Ruben Guthrie recently on his own experiences giving up alcohol

Writer/director Brendan Cowell (right) based Ruben Guthrie recently on his own experiences giving up alcohol

It’s loosely based on writer/director Brendan Cowell’s own experience giving up alcohol for a year, which led to him losing friends and his social life taking a hit. Cowell even developed tips for anyone who doesn’t want to be pestered about drinking (one: to ask for a soda water with ice and a lime, so people assume it’s a vodka soda and leave you alone).

“How brave of you to stop drinking in this alcoholic country,” Zoya says in the film.

Indeed.

Drinking is ingrained into our culture

Drinking plays a big part in Australian culture

A close friend of mine gave up drinking and what she noticed most, was how uncomfortable is made others feel. Friends would pester her, saying, “when are you going to start drinking again? It was so much fun when you drank.” It’s as if being around sober people, 1) makes others feel guilty about wanting a drink and 2) makes them realise how much they need a drink to have fun. So they push their own insecurities outward.

A small comfort is that these attitudes might either be changing, or young people are comfortable enough not to let peer pressure get to them. A new study has shown the proportion of teens abstaining from alcohol altogether has more than doubled, from 28 per cent in 2001 to 57.3 per cent in 2013.

However, for Australians over 40, drinking is still problematic, and heavy drinking is still stable among young adults, according to the study by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

The message hits home in Ruben Guthrie, but it’s not without its problems. Ruben Guthrie was originally a successful stage play by Cowell and I tend to wonder how much this is his message getting lost in the transition from stage to screen.

I firstly did not warm to the amount of blatant product placement. Yes, it helped the film actually get financed and plays into the story of Ruben being in advertising, but ultimately the question has to be, at what cost? Where is the line drawn? It’s an important question, as product placement is likely to play a more and more prominent role in getting an expensive medium like film off the ground. Secondly, I found the characters themselves difficult to empathise with. In particular, I had issue with the depiction of women. Everyone from Ruben’s mother (played by Robyn Nevin), to his fiancee (Abbey Lee) to his girlfriend (Harriet Dyer), are either nasty, selfish, crazy or a little bit of each at different points in the movie.

Abbey Lee, Patrick Brammal and Robyn Nevin star in Ruben Guthrie

Abbey Lee, Patrick Brammal and Robyn Nevin star in Ruben Guthrie

But despite this, Ruben Guthrie is important because it carries a lot of food for thought. It has sparked a conversation about Australia’s drinking culture, which is always a good thing. The more Aussies who watch this film, the better, so people can ponder their own relationship with alcohol and how they might treat a friend who gives it up.

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Ruben Guthrie should be applauded for sparking a conversation about Australia’s drinking culture

 

 

Why you need to watch Inside Out

Let me put it out there straight away – I am an Amy Poehler fan.

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So there’s already a certain amount of bias from me before I even went to see the new Disney/Pixar animated flick Inside Out.

The emotions of 11-year-old Riley in Inside Out

The emotions of 11-year-old Riley in Inside Out

As expected, this sweet flick about the five emotions (Joy, Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Anger) inside an 11-year-old girl’s head, made me sob, guffaw, sob and reminisce about my own childhood. And sob. Did I mention that? This is a real doozy with switching on the waterworks. Which is also expected, considering it’s co-directed by Pete Doctor, who wrote and co-directed that other beautiful tearjerker Up.

But it’s also not just an intelligent, thought-provoking children’s movie. Inside Out is much more than that.

It’s a movie every child and adult should watch as an important lesson in mental health.

In Inside Out, Poehler voices the blue-haired, pixie-looking emotion Joy. No surprises there, considering the ever-optimistic attitude of many of Poehler’s characters, including Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation.

The always-positive Leslie Knope

The always-positive Leslie Knope

 

But Inside Out teaches us it’s not healthy to just have one emotion dominating all the time, as Poehler pointed out in this interview with The Guardian:

Joy and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith)

Joy and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith)

“I feel no one can be Joy all the time (and) I think the film reminds us that we have all the feelings and emotions running through our head,” she said.

“Joy has a really great arc in the film. She goes from thinking, she’s very single minded and thinking that happiness is the number one pursuit, to realising she needs to work with Sadness to get anywhere and she herself gets sad for the first time.”

Happiness seems to be the sole goal of our modern society, but to be constantly happy is not realistic.  It makes it hard when social media demands we only ever present a shiny, positive image to others. But I’m always curious about what’s on the left and right of that frame – where the truth and realism lie.  Our experiences don’t ever have to be defined as one singular feeling. When we’re on a rollercoaster, we can be scared and excited. Sometimes we can be so mad or exasperated at someone, but then they make you laugh. And sometimes we’re sad – and we’re allowed to be.

tumblr_mux65qd1dE1r5c2fso1_250Sure this is all a bit deep for a children’s movie, but it’s still a message that seeps through in a fun, incredibly imaginative way in Inside Out. And it’s an important one, particularly for children today, who I believe are facing so many more challenges than I did at their age.

Children today face many challenges

Children today face many challenges

I didn’t have to worry about Facebook, or Instagram. I could go home and switch off. But in a world that is always buzzing, always online, always demanding interaction, I think education on mental health is necessary to ensure people lead balanced lives.

So Inside Out may not be the greatest animated movie I’ve ever seen, but I think it’s one of the most important.

Just remember to take tissues.

Inside Out gets two thumbs up

Inside Out gets two thumbs up

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road worth the wait

Thirty years since the last Mad Max film roared onto screens, George Miller has returned with Fury Road – a two-hour edge-of-your-seat rampage whose heroine gives Ripley a run for her money and proves that three decades was well worth the wait.

Furiosa (right) is comparable to Ripley from Alien

Furiosa (right) is comparable to Ripley from Alien

I’ll admit when I entered this screening, numb and teeth chattering from waiting in the blistering cold for more than an hour, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to watch a film.

But this BLEW. ME. AWAY.

Visceral and unrelenting in its thrills and ferocity, this takes action movies to a whole new level. There simply isn’t anything quite like this out there. At 70 years old, director and co-writer George Miller has challenged the genre with energy, zest and originality.

It stars Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a one-armed road warrior tasked with taking a powerful tanker (dubbed War Rig) for a fuel run by the horrific warlord who rules over this post-apocalyptic wasteland. But instead of doing as she’s bid, she takes the War Rig off-road. Turns out, Furiosa is smuggling a group of young wives – the warlord’s breeders – out of their captivity to free them from exploitation. Her plan obviously doesn’t sit too well with this guy…

Warlord Immortan Joe, who's played by Hugh Keays-Byrne aka Toecutter in the original Mad Max

Warlord Immortan Joe, who’s played by Hugh Keays-Byrne aka Toecutter in the original Mad Max

Hence the road chase.

But ‘road chase’ isn’t an adequate explanation for what follows – a dangerous journey through dust storms, sand dunes, craggy valleys and mind-blowing landscapes, where the warlord’s brainwashed men swing atop poles on moving vehicles, carrying off daredevil stunts – many of which are real, not CGI.

George Miller had to settle for Namibia over Australia’s Broken Hill when an unseasonal amount of rain came through and turned the dusty Outback into a lush space of green. However, the gorgeous landscapes he has managed to put on screen with Namibia, make it all worthwhile (also the film still has a lot of Aussies in the cast and crew, so a big thumbs up for that).

The War Rig is chased by baddie Immortan Joe into a sandstorm

The War Rig is chased by baddie Immortan Joe into a sandstorm

Of course you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Tom Hardy as the titular character yet? Well, for one, it’s very much Theron’s film. Hardy takes over the reins from Mel Gibson as Max, but he’s just a stoic survivor who’s dragged along for the ride, really. So much so, that it angered a Men’s Rights Movement, who dubbed it feminist propaganda because it (gasp) has Furiosa barking orders at Mad Max.

Furiosa takes aim...

Furiosa takes aim…

Actually, Furiosa does better than that. She uses Max’s shoulder as a platform to steady a sniper rifle so she can take a shot when he fails at it. With her bionic arm. Yep, she’s that badass.

 

 

Mad-Max-Fury-Road-PicturesHardy is still a powerful presence. Anyone who’s seen him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises knows it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t talk a huge amount, or that he has a metal muzzle over his face for the first half hour.

This is a film with a powerful feminist message – hell, painted on the wall in the breeder’s chambers are the words “We Are Not Things”. It’s stance only makes it more relevant, more unique and more exciting. And with the screenplay to a sequel, Mad Max: The Wasteland, already penned it looks like this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Miller’s crazy, madcap version of a dystopian future. Fury Road took 15 years to get to the big screen, after originally being down to film in 2001, so let’s just keep out fingers crossed that this one doesn’t take quite as long.

 

 

 

Why Netflix Will Change Everything

It’s happened. Netflix has finally launched Down Under, to much fanfare and scrutinisation.

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It’s the beginning of a new era in Australian home entertainment, as people around the nation bump up their download limits, and prep their couch cushions and eyeballs for the onslaught of top-notch television and movies.

It’s now been a week since the streaming service hit our various tablet, computer and television screens, and as an early adopter, I can already feel the change it’s had.

People like myself who used to hire movies frequently have lately been struggling, as one by one, all the local video shops have begun shutting up shop. Lately, iTunes and GooglePlay were the only options, but if you’re paying $5.99 for every new release and $3.99 for any weekly, it can quickly add up. There’s no 5 weeklies for $10 deals anymore.

watchnowBut with Netflix, and other streaming services such as Nine and Fairfax Media’s Stan and Seven and Foxtel’s Presto, basically for the price of what it used to cost to hire a single new release, you can now get an entire library of movies and TV shows. To put it into perspective, I bought the first nine episodes of Orange is the New Black Season (OITNB) 2, with each priced at $2.99, which in itself is already more than I am now paying to have both seasons, as well as the wealth of other content. But also frustratingly, despite the fact the entire season of OITNB was available in the US, I then had to wait week by week, until SBS had broadcast the show, to be able to watch another new episode.

Aussies won't be fighting to see shows at the same time as the US now

Aussies won’t be fighting to see shows at the same time as the US now

Thankfully, the arrival of Netflix heralds a new era when Australian’s aren’t forced to wait months longer than US audiences to gain access to series.

Sure, a lot of people have been whining about the disparity between the selection on Australian Netflix, which carries only 1,116 titles compared to the US version with 8,499. But there’s promises the Aussie figure will grow and really, do you think Netflix was going to lay all the cards on the table at the launch? They obviously have a game plan, to convince all the people down the track who don’t have the service to sign up.

I found it interesting and a bit naive of some financial experts to say Netflix and other streaming services are a waste of money – that there’s not enough original content and Australian users will max out their data limits.

HouseofCardsThe Australian consumer is not an idiot. Anyone that is thinking of signing up to a streaming service is surely going to look around and see which ones offer the shows or movies they like. Presto has Louie, Wentworth, Sons of Anarchy and Modern Family, while Stan boasts shows such as Transparent, Community and Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. The beauty of streaming services is that you can switch between them every couple of months if you don’t need a lock-in contract. Certain services also offer deals with internet service providers and Stan, Foxtel Play and Netflix are giving you the option of a free trial to see if it suits you.

And frankly, what are our other options? If I want to see House of Cards Season 3 and don’t want to download it, what cheaper alternative is there.

While I doubt this will completely curb Australians’ seemingly insatiable appetite for downloading, I do think it will quench some of that thirst, because with streaming services, comes choice. We have a mass of content to choose from now and we can get it at the same time as the US, for a similar price.

That’s right, Australians might finally fork out some of their cash for content, isn’t of heading to their favourite bit-torrent website.

Will streaming services have an impact on piracy in Australia?

Will streaming services have an impact on piracy in Australia?

Where an issue will arise is when it comes to Game of Thrones, which will screen on Foxtel – and not on their streaming service. Most Australians don’t want to pay $25 a month to see a single show – even if Foxtel is trying to ease that harsh truth by promoting all the other stuff you get with a subscription. The problem is that consumers may not want 12 different channels. They want a single show and they want to watch it when they want, for a reasonable price. I believe that is where Foxtel is going to lose customers. If Foxtel were offering it on a streaming service, I would feel differently. For me, it means making the effort of going to the home of a friend or family member who have Foxtel, but I can guarantee others will not.