The Howling III sees Jebra (Imogen Annesley); a young shape shifter running away from her village in the Australian outback, as well as her abusive step-father. Arriving in Sydney, she becomes the lead in a trashy horror franchise, directed by a Hitchcock lookalike who works actors into the ground. Falling in love with a member of the production crew, Jebra must hide her lycanthrope secret from him, not knowing that Daddy Dearest has sent her sisters out to get her back.
Director Phillipe Mora (Mad Dog Morgan) wrote and directed The Marsupials as a retort to an unhappy production on his previous film The Howling II, which concluded with extra nudity being inserted without his consent. Watching the film, it’s pretty easy to see the stabs and kicks he’s aiming at that production, falling, as they do, with all the subtlety of an elephant parachuting.
It’s very much a patchy affair that, with its psychic werewolf ballerinas and birthing scenes, makes next to no sense. Admittedly, the same thing could be said for the original Howling, but at least it had some capable talent on board as well as a modicum of a budget. This second sequel’s problems can be summarised when it blows its load on a transformation sequence that happens in a film within the film, and not actually to our protagonists.
Whilst it may seem petty to criticise a horror comedy for being silly, the fact is that with barely a titter to be had or a scare to be seen, the silliness is all The Marsupials has left. It’s like watching your grandma dance around in her pants – No one is laughing and there’s a deep concern for all involved.
This article was originally a college essay for my Freelance Journalism course. My thanks to Margaret Pomeranz who was extremely helpful.
Refused classification in 2003, Ken Park is still no closer to being released in Australia. John Noonan talks to Margaret Pomeranz about her part in the attempts to help the public see the film.
A teenager arrives at a busy skate park. He pulls two items out of his backpack; a video camera and a loaded gun. With the video camera set up, he takes a look around and produces a massive grin, which he maintains even as he puts the gun against his temple and pulls the trigger. As openings go, Ken Park (Larry Clark, 2002) is pretty confrontational, but that harrowing scene is not even the most controversial aspect of the film.
Made in 2002, Larry Clark’s Ken Park centres on the lives of four teenagers; each suffering a hand-to-mouth existence filled with abuse and disenfranchisement. With frank and graphic depictions of realistic sex – including an act of auto-asphyxiation – the film was met with polarising reviews.
Margaret Pomeranz, presenter of movie review program At the Movies, has a history with Ken Park. Having organised an illegal screening a few weeks after it was refused classification. I asked Margaret about the first time she saw Ken Park.
‘I first saw Ken Park at the Venice Film Festival in 2002. I said to Larry Clark then, that I thought he might have problems getting a classification for the film in Australia. He scoffed at that idea, said Australian audiences were some of his biggest supporters.’
One of the main reasons given for the film’s classification refusal was cited as being down to the scenes involving unsimulated sex. In the Board’s opinion, these scenes are graphic, depict the characters as minors, involve sexualised violence, as well as one scene of implicit sexual abuse and, in some instances, were ‘unnecessarily long in duration.’ It was judged too strong for an R and, due to the depiction of minors and masochistic sex, it could not receive an X either. The film was in limbo.
The film was originally lined-up to play at the 2003 Sydney Film Festival. Whilst a film shown at a festival can often bypass classification for public viewing, a stipulation under the Commonwealth Classification Act says that, films have to be classified before they can be sold, hired or shown publicly. Ken Park’s distributor, unbeknownst to the Festival, had applied for the film’s sale and distribution. As such, the film went under closer scrutiny.
‘The timing was horrendous,’ Margaret said, ‘If they’d held back until after the festival, not nearly as much fuss would have been made.’
However, that was not to be the case. Ken Park was refused classification on 21 May 2003 and the Sydney Film Festival found itself with a hole in its schedule.
‘The festival organised a Q&A session with Larry Clark, no vision, just audio.’ Margaret said. ‘Julie Rigg (movie specialist and previous host of Movietime) and I discussed the issues of the film and the cause celebre of its banning with him. He was not happy.’
Straight after the session, Margaret, Julie and documentary filmmaker, Martha Ansara discussed Ken Park and formulated a plan to organise an illegal screening to give people the opportunity to see the movie. As well as Margaret and well-known Australian journalist David Marr, around 500 people attended the screening, who had learnt about the event through the wonders of ‘word of mouth.
Also making an appearance were Balmain’s boys in blue.
‘It was pretty impressive, the support we got from film lovers,’ said Margaret. ‘There was a certain hesitation about actually going through with it because of the police presence, but we felt we should at least show it.’
After addressing the audience, the play button was pressed and, before the opening credits could even finish, the authorities immediately put the kibosh on it.
‘It was bit of an impasse, the crowd was getting agitated. And so I said, damn it! And pressed play again.’
The police then cut off the power which successfully stopped the screening but of course they were unable to remove the illegal DVD from the player because there was no power! With the screening officially over, names and addresses were taken and David Marr let off a bit of steam.
‘This is ultimately how it’s done,’ he said. ‘By a team of police, in a public hall. Full of adults who wish to see a film that is freely screened in many countries around the world.’
In a live debate on ABC following the event, Maureen Shelly, then of the Classification Review Board, admitted that Ken Park, ‘had substantial artistic merit’ but reiterated that it was still the right decision to refuse it classification. This comment still concerns Margaret today.
‘I don’t understand the granting of ‘artistic merit’ status and then refuse classification. However there were conservative forces at work in Australia then.’
It’s been 10 years since that screening and Ken Park is still yet to receive a classification in Australia. In that time, films like Shortbus (Jordan Cameron Mitchell, 2006), which depicts real sex acts, and the previously banned Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975) can both be bought at your local JB HiFi. Conversely, I Want Your Love (Travis Mathews, 2010) was banned from being shown at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, for its explicit nature.
‘These days I think censorship is irrelevant in its current form,’ Margaret says. ‘What I think the role of the Board is to give adequate and detailed advice on content so (people) can make up their own minds.’
Margaret doesn’t believe she’s alone in this view, either. Indeed, there certainly does appear to be a rising tide of protest towards censorship in Australia. The power of social media means people are free to express their thoughts about classification decisions quickly. Earlier this year, the videogame Saints Row 4 was turned down twice for classification and had to be edited for an eventual. This is despite newly introduced R rating put in place to supposedly stop these kind of issues.
‘The “Nanny State” is anathema to me and to a lot of people,’ says Margaret. ‘Whenever I have campaigned on censorship issues the overwhelming response has been support from the general population who want to be treated like adults.’
Winding up our conversation, I asked Margaret what her thoughts about Ken Park are like today and whether she stills stands by the decisions she made ten years ago.
‘I haven’t seen Ken Park in a while, but I am still convinced that there is an honesty in the film about the alienation of children. I was very moved by the movie when I first saw it. I hope I still would be. You’ve made me want to go back and revisit.’
About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.
If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.
Over the last couple of days the new laws have been proposed in Australia and if they come to pass, cigarette companies will have to promote their cigarettes in olive green boxes with some form of reminder of the horrific damage those little things can do.
“We want to make sure that the glamour that might have been attached to smoking in the past is dead and gone,” the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, said a couple of days ago. “Cigarette packs will now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking. The new packs have been designed to have the lowest appeal to smokers and to make clear the terrible effects that smoking can have on your health.”
In a way, they look like the front cover to a series of Stephen King novels.
So, anyway, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable public media battle that happened round about the time the UK began preparations for the smoking ban in all pubs and restaurants. What I’m talking about is the two factions of anti and pro setting up their camps, waiting patiently for dawn and then beginning their assault of hyperbole and conjecture against each other. And it is so very very boring.
‘We are smokers!’ cry the pro-league, ‘Everyone is entitled to live free and smoke hard. It is our right to smoke. To take away that right blah blah cough weeze figures and facts.’
‘We’re non-smokers!’ shout the anti-league, ‘Everyone is entitled to live free and live hard. We want smoking banned. Blah blah let’s go jogging blah!’
Both parties managing to cancel out each others arguments by saying that the very people they oppose have the right to do whatever they want to do.
And then you have the other party, the third one that no one really listens to…
‘Well, they should save the money and just ban it out right. That would help the problem.’
Well, yeah, like prohibition. That worked well.
Is there fundamentally wrong with shaming people into not doing something? Maybe. It could be argued that people should be allowed to make their own choices, catch their own diseases etc, but then you open the gates for the nanny state protesters and then we have to run for cover. That’s four parties filling up every internet forum and newspaper letter page until mid-2012.
So how we can end all this fighting. Just ban alcohol. Watch how quickly smokers and non smokers join forces then. Oh yes, we can argue till the cows come home about smoking, but to take away our right to drink?! Well, that’s just insane!
The thing is, that nothing is going to change until, and I swear I’m not trolling, smoking is banned outright. People will still smoke, people will still not smoke and the two parties will continue to resent each other. Because, and let’s be honest about this, black tar heroin has been around for a while and that was in plain packaging way before cigarettes. Hell, it even has the disability of being banned! It’s kind of like a narcotic cash cow, like cigarettes.
Like many people, I’ve made the stomach churning, buttock clenching decision to pack up my belongings into a burlap sack and emigrate to Australia. Statistically, 60 people a day move here. From my own experience, another statistic is that at least 20 people a day will ask you ‘Why are you bothering?’. For some people, the decision to start a new life with my partner of 5 years is the equivalent of shitting on the Queen. During her Christmas speech. Whilst blowing raspberries to the tune of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols. I’ve found I’ve had to be selective about how I explain why I’m going. Mention the weather and I’m told it’s too hot in ‘bloody Australia’. Mention the potential to live a better way of life, I’ve inadvertently brought down the entire infrastructure of Great Britain and it’s glorious empire.
That said, it was during the second of the two long haul flights that I started to side with the pompous arses.
It’s been about 4 years since my last long haul flight and I think I sweetened the memories over the years. Oh it was lovely. Quantas economy seats are very spacious. You dine off gold trays. You get rude massages off the stewardesses. The very fact I thought these things suggests to me that there is something fundamentally wrong with my cognitive processes and I should seek immediate attention with a bonce specialist.
This year, within two hours of the first flight to Australia, my brain sent signals to all interested parties in my body that there was no way on God’s feted Earth I would be sleeping despite it being an overnight flight. As such, I entrusted my very being with the in-flight entertainment system.
As with all in-flight systems, most of my enjoyment comes out of trying to spot all the instances of editing that come with watching films on a plane. Back in the day, we would all sit on a plane, with orange headphones attached to ears like cybrmen headsets and watch the same episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em as everyone else. Nowadays, you can watch what you want when you went within certain predetermined rules. What these rules are, I’ve yet to work out. For example, during the recent summer blockbuster The A-Team, I was allowed to see guns fired, people punched, but no actual explosions. Swearing was cut down to comedic dubbing.
‘Sir this is chicken STUFF.’
‘You think this is chicken STUFF. When I’m done they’ll think this chicken STUFF is chicken salad.’
Meanwhile, watching my 12th episode of the Simpsons in a row, I was treated to a scene of Bart Simpson, dressed as Johnny Rotton, dispelling everything as being ‘Bollocks’. Okay, yes, they were using bollocks in that way Americans tend to do when they want to use what they think is typical British slang – Alright, you wanker, this here is bollocks now slag off! – however, the irony that I got more swearing in 22 minutes than a whole action movie was not lost on me.
At first it was amusing, then annoying and then like everyone else I became a drone to the system. Clutching the remote in sweaty palms, I mumbled the mantra as everyone else on the plane; ‘Ooh, that’s only just come out. FIVE episodes of Friends?! Oh Ambassador, truly you are spoiling us’. I watched Shrek 4 for Christ’s sake.
Done with the goggle box embedded into the chair in front of me, I begin to spy on my fellow passengers. The passenger I took the most interest in was the lady two rows in front who was watching the remake of the Karate Kid. Why did this take my interest? Because she was ALWAYS watching the remake of the Karate Kid. I must have looked over every half hour or so to see Will Smith’s precocious little brat waxing on and off. So, suggesting that it’s about 2 hours long and the first part of the flight was 7 hours long… She’d already seen it 3 and a half times! Does anyone need that much Jackie Chan in their life? Evidently so.
Anyway, the point of the matter is that all my brain farts about how amazing it is to travel in economy made me realise I had been thinking absolute toss about flying and, as such, I began to resent Australia for being so far away. Stupid dumb red country. Ridiculous distance away. No frigging water or Government to speak of (which was true whilst I was in the air). Wail. Knash teeth.
And yet if I hadn’t done the flight, I wouldn’t be here now and, despite the fact I’m presently homeless, living in a room at the back of my mother-in-law’s house, I wouldn’t change this for a thing. So, suck it non-believers.