Saturday, 22 February 2014

An American Film Abroad

It occurred to me the other day that the 'Star Trek 2009' reboot was a huge success, and its success was due in no small part to its Australian cast members. A point that is only relevant because it seems that more and more often I am finding that I am commenting that I really enjoyed a film or performance, only to find out that the Actor, Director, and or writers were actually Australian. A factor I find odd because anyone that knows me knows that I despise the Australian film industry. The paradox is then why is it when Australian talent works on films outside of Australia in collaboration with international talent that the work is almost never short of amazing? It is no small secret that some of the best talent in Hollywood were born and raised in Australia. That is not to say that the Australian gene pool is any more or less talented than their American counterparts. It may be relevant that Australians learn to act from a variety of sources and influences. Australians, like in many aspects of life, are exposed to American and British influences in addition to the ever growing melting pot of Australia. Americans for the most part are stuck in their own ways unable to see outside the border of their country.
I was raised on American film and television which is probably why I have a proclivity towards American entertainment. In fact it took years outside of America to understand British entertainment, and I now have a deep appreciation for English Film and Television. I have now lived in Australia for over 15 years, and I still hate Australian original programming as much as I did on the day I arrived. I reiterate this cannot be because of a lack of Australian talent which we know is out there in abundance. It is a question which has baffled me for years. The lack of talent in original programming is insidious and infests almost all areas of their entertainment. The worst and least talented area is ironically the film industry. With the rare exception, Australian film is nothing short of terrible. An occasional nugget of entertainment may slip out and on that odd occasion the Australian public praise it like it’s the best thing to hit Hollywood since Casablanca. In reality, by and large these few Australian films that are remotely entertaining have no international appeal and often only a very limited domestic appeal. Australian television is not much better. The majority of Australian television is reality based and is adapted from American shows of the same name. Australia also makes its share of one hour dramas, which are the worst kind of soap operas but oddly have found a hardcore audience both domestically and internationally. Due to the immense talent mentioned previously, sometimes good shows do break out. So much so that they are even remade in America often to the show’s detriment as it cannot translate to an American audience. This is, however, the exception rather than the rule.
I make room for the reason for all for this simply that I am a film snob. I like what I was raised on. There can be no denying the amazing talent and contributions of Australians in the American film industry and there is no one with an open mind that would not think that the American industry is better for these contributions. The only reason I can think of for my loathing of the Australian industry is how I was raised. My colleagues were raised watching all the same movies and television that I was. They grew up on the same cartoons the same comics, and the same children's entertainment. They saw the same horror movies and the same comedies. The difference is that they also saw and were exposed to entertainment both home grown and from abroad that Americans could not get access to growing up. This is just one example of how an American's exposure to the world differs so greatly from an Australian’s. Put simply, Australians are aware that there is a world outside of Australia and many Americans are not.
Does this American arrogance create the dominance we can observe in so many areas of the world, not the least of which is the Entertainment industry? Maybe! I would certainly be biased on this topic and I am probably not the correct person to answer the question. Surely ignorance can’t lead to great art, and I do think the result of the largest part of the American entertainment industry is great art. I know there are many people that would disagree. And while popularity may not be the test of art I would suggest that everyone has heard of Citizen Cane and a far fewer have heard of Red Dog.
The bigger issue (for this blog) and advantage to the world at large is the blurring of the lines. It is becoming increasingly difficult to determine what is an American, English, or Australian film. So much amazing film and television is currently the collaboration of people from multiple backgrounds who identify with many homes; so many production companies that are owned in majority by different countries and directors, writers, and producers from many different backgrounds, that arguments can be had about whether something even is an Australian or American film let alone who was responsible for making it great.
In the end it is all just a thought. I am more than content with the quality of entertainment I get to see as an American abroad. I will leave the question for people smarter than I as to why Australians add so much to American films while leaving the filmed industry back home so wanton with no international appeal.
 If however the American industry is better than the Australian, if that is indeed the consensus then Occam's razor suggests that simply all the talent in Australia flocks to the place with the largest industry which is indeed the simplest  and most obvious answer. 

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