Tim Burton: The Exhibition

29 September 2010

Into the Weird and Wonderful Mind of Cinema’s Most Popular Outsider

Tim Burton at Tim Burton: The Exhibition

Tim Burton at Tim Burton: The Exhibition

There are three defining aspects about the entrance to Tim Burton: The Exhibition that express the core ideas about the world of filmmaker Tim Burton. Running from 24 June to 10 October 2010 at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), the Burton exhibition begins with you entering through a giant cartoonish monster mouth to go down into ACMI’s appropriately dark screen gallery. The big mouth is more comical than menacing, reflecting Burton’s love of both absurdity and horror. Violence in Burton’s films is often the punch line to a joke but always in a way that reflects the darkly humorous tone of classic fairy tales rather than any sort of post-modern ironic violence.

The next element you encounter as you walk into the Burton exhibition is a projection of a giant spiral with weird animated characters swimming through it. Not only is the animation something that could have come straight out of a cheesy-hypnosis scene from one of Burton’s beloved B-grade films of the 1950s and 60s, but it presents us with the idea that we are going into the vortex that is Burton’s subconscious and that is the subconscious of an adult man who still has a childlike view of the world.

Mars Attacks! artwork from Tim Burton: The Exhibition

Mars Attacks! artwork from Tim Burton: The Exhibition

Inside the actual exhibition you get a further indication of Burton’s dark and playful comedic style where several drawings indicate his lifelong obsession with the macabre and his morbid sense of humour. The clip playing from Mars Attacks! (1996) of the white dove of peace getting zapped by the aliens and the clip from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) where the animatronics attraction (which is clearly a parody of the famous Disney “It’s a Small World” ride) bursts into flames, are classic Burton. Both are wickedly funny scenes but both are also moments where something innocent goes horribly wrong. The Burton childlike view of the world is not all delights and adventure but something sinister too.

Another key element to the entry of the exhibition is the publicly displayed Batmobile from Burton’s Batman films. As one of the first things that visitors to the exhibition will see, the Batmobile reminds us that despite having pursued his very personal artistic vision throughout his career, Tim Burton is a bankable director and Hollywood success story. His films have broad appeal across mainstream audiences and the various subcultures that have adopted him. Burton’s playfulness, love of retro pop-culture, Gothic sensibilities and reoccurring themes of the outsider, problematic parental figures and concealed identity have resonated widely, making Burton one of the most popular and accessible of the auteur directors.

Screen EducationThis is an excerpt from an article printed in issue 59 (Spring 2010) of Screen Education. The full article contains a closer look at the entire exhibition and the reoccurring themes in Burton’s films.

Read Cinema Autopsy’s profile of director Tim Burton

© Thomas Caldwell, 2010

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Cinema Autopsy on the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Feature Film Nominees

29 October 2009
Damon Gameau as Greg Shackleton in Balibo

Damon Gameau as Greg Shackleton in Balibo

The nominations for the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards have come out and in a year that has been very strong for Australian cinema the nominations have nicely captured the diversity of Australian films that were eligible. This was the first year that I voted in the individual categories as a professional member of the Australian Film Institute and while the nominations don’t 100% reflect how I voted, I would have never expected them to and I’m overall pleased with the outcomes.

Among the feature film nominees I’m particularly happy to see Balibo, Samson and Delilah and Mary and Max – the three films that I regard as easily the best Australian films of 2009 – to be nominated for both the AFI Members’ Choice Award and the Samsung Mobile AFI Awards for Best Film. I’m less enthusiastic, but not surprised, about Beautiful Kate and particularly Mao’s Last Dancer also getting nominations in both these categories but I certainly don’t begrudge the fact that are included. Having said that, I would up upset if Mao’s Last Dancer won anything over the far superior films that it is up against.

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Trisha (Anastasia Baboussouras) and Katrina (Sophie Lowe) in Blessed

The interesting point of difference between the two best film categories is that Australia got the sixth nomination for the AFI Members’ Choice Award while Blessed received the sixth nomination for the Samsung Mobile AFI Awards for Best Film. Both films are flawed but nevertheless contain elements of considerable merit. They also curiously represent the growing divide between the different types of films that various commentators argue we should be making more of or less of depending on where these commentators stand on the whole art versus commerce debate.

There were a number of films not represented in the nominations that I would have liked to see included but in the majority of cases their absence is understandable. I only saw Newcastle recently and was completely bowled over but its energetic depiction of youth surf culture, however I am aware that I am somewhat on my own with just how highly I regard Newcastle. Lake Mungo, Van Diemen’s Land and $9.99 are other films that I wish had picked up at least a couple of nominations each but they are all niche films and their absence is hardly surprising.

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David Lurie (John Malkovich) and Lucy (Jessica Haines) in Disgrace

The real shock this year is the complete lack of nominations for Disgrace. While it is a film I had issues with (although I am increasingly realising that was exactly the point) I am still very surprised not to see it represented at all. It is an acclaimed film, technically very impressive, it contains strong performances and it is adapted from a well-renowned novel. So what went wrong? Perhaps it was too challenging and confronting. This is an unlikely explanation considering the number of nominations for other ‘challenging and confronting’ films such as Balibo, Samson and Delilah, Mary and Max, Blessed and Beautiful Kate. Maybe Disgrace wasn’t considered Australian enough (which is reasonable) and didn’t attract votes as a result (which is not so reasonable). Again, if that was the case then how do we explain the large number of nominations for Mao’s Last Dancer? I honestly have no brilliant explanation but the complete exclusion of Disgrace is the only significant sour note in the nominations this year.

Hopefully I’ll get the chance to discuss each category in more detail closer to the 2009 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards Ceremony on Saturday 12 December and I’ll also then mention the mostly brilliant feature length documentaries, short fiction films and animated shorts that have been nominated this year.

In the meantime, below is a personally ranked list of all the feature films that were eligible for nomination:

✭✭✭✭✭
Balibo
(Robert Connolly, 2009) 14 nominations

✭✭✭✭✩
Samson and Delilah (Warwick Thornton, 2009) 11 nominations

✭✭✭✭
Mary and Max (Adam Elliot, 2009) 4 nominations

✭✭✭✩
Disgrace (Steve Jacobs, 2008)
Newcastle (Dan Castle, 2008)
Lake Mungo (Joel Anderson, 2008) 
Van Diemen’s Land (Jonathan auf der Heide, 2009)
$9.99 (Tatia Rosenthal, 2008)
Cedar Boys (Serhat Caradee, 2009) 1 nomination
The View from Greenhaven (Kenn MacRae and Simon MacRae, 2008)

✭✭✭
Blessed (Ana Kokkinos, 2009) 4 nominations
My Year Without Sex (Sarah Watt, 2009) 2 nominations
The Combination (David Field, 2009)
Beautiful Kate (Rachel Ward, 2009) 10 nominations
Australia (Baz Luhrmann, 2008) 6 nominations
Dying Breed (Jody Dwyer, 2008)

✭✭✩
Last Ride (Glendyn Ivin, 2009) 2 nominations
Charlie & Boots (Dean Murphy, 2009)
Two Fists, One Heart (Shawn Seet, 2008)
Mao’s Last Dancer (Bruce Beresford, 2009) 9 nominations
Stone Bros. (Richard Frankland, 2009)

✭✭
Lucky Country
(Kriv Stenders, 2009) 1 nomination
Closed for Winter (James Bogle, 2009)

✭✩
Under a Red Moon (Leigh Sheehan, 2008)


Beautiful (Dean O’Flaherty, 2009)


Sweet Marshall (Eva Acharya, 2009)

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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Exhibition review: Setting the Scene

27 February 2009

Analysing Space and Place: ACMI’s Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia

Metropolis

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

Setting the Scene: Film Design from Metropolis to Australia is an exhibition by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, running until 19 April 2009 in ACMI’s underground screen gallery at Federation Square, Melbourne. Setting the Scene is about the work of the production design teams who create the worlds that films occupy. This exhibition is a useful way to consolidate the students’ awareness that everything they see in a film (the mise-en-scene) has been carefully planned and put there for a specific reason. Setting is a key element of film mise-en-scene and identifying the ways in which setting reflects the themes and drama of a film is instrumental in film analysis.  

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