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THROUGH TV shows such as Fast Forward, Big Girls Blouse and Kath and Kim, Magda Szubanski has long been loved and admired as one of Australia’s funniest woman.
But according to Szubanski herself — and many of her comedian mates — she is just a “pale version” of her mother, Margaret, who died last year at the age of 92.
Szubanski says her mother, who emigrated to Australia with her Polish father at the age of 24, was one of the funniest women on the planet who gave her daughter not only her sense of humour, but also a penchant for doing a Scottish accent that’s so chumpy you could carve it.
“My great regret is that she never met Maggie Smith,” says Szubanski. “I had a night out on the town with (Maggie) once and we bonded over the Scottish accent. I said ‘your Scottish accent is so good, you must have Scottish blood’ and she said ‘yes, my mother’. And we started comparing notes on the things that Scottish mothers said.
“If I ever did a film I would get her to play my mum — there was that dry and hilarious humour. If you were to ask any of my famous comedy friends who know my mum, they would agree with me. And right to her death, still with the humour — it was extraordinary.”
That ear for an accent has made Szubanski the “go-to person” for all things Scottish, and her Celtic characters from the ridiculous, hard-drinking Wee Mary McGregor in Fast Forward right through to The Butcher, in the new Aussie comedy The BBQ have been in part a tribute to her mother. Szubanski also maintains “it’s hard to be unfunny in a Scottish accent” and over the years has gleefully mined her mother’s rich array of incomprehensible Scottish phrases such as “haud yer wheesht, ye wee bizzum” (translation “be quiet you little brat”).
“It’s a great character — really eccentric,” says Szubanski of The Butcher, a rough-hewn meat specialist who helps Shane Jacobson’s character exact revenge over Manu Feildel’s smarmy Frenchman in a cooking competition.
“And frankly, any chance I get to trot out my Scots accent, I am more than happy. I feel very at home in it. A lot of my most fun characters, I seem to end up with red wigs and if it’s not a red wig it’s a Scots accent. And this time it’s both. It’s playing to my strengths. And there are really not a lot of feature film comedy scripts out there — it’s not something we are terribly dedicated to in this country. So it was that, and that Shane was involved and it was just a fun film and a fun role.”
Although she’s best known for her TV roles, Szubanski has also appeared in a steady stream of films since making her feature debut as Esme Hoggett in the 1995 smash hit comedy, Babe. Most recently she had a small role in Ben Elton’s Three Summers and jumped at the chance to be in The BBQ, lamenting the scarcity of Australian comedy films.
“There are very few things that come to me — they are just not happening,” she says. “I don’t know why — I think funding for things has gotten very tight — and I think we have squandered a lot of the skills that we had that were built up through those years of variety television and then sketch comedy. Because there is a particular way of shooting and editing and pacing comedy and I think we don’t treasure talent and skill here in the way they do in the US. We sort of piss it up against the wall at times. And it’s such a shame because we have so many talented people here and that’s why there is the drain that goes to the US because there are just not the opportunities here.”
Next up on Szubanski’s dance card is her role as the host of the SBS coverage of next month’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. As strident advocate of LGBTQI rights since coming out on Valentine’s Day six years ago, and a prominent proponent of the Yes vote in the recent marriage equality plebiscite, Szubanski is expecting this year’s 40th anniversary event to be particularly special.
“Oh God yes,” she says with a laugh. “Imagine if it had been a no. It would have been like a wake.”
She says that two of her closest gay friends have already been married and hopes that the coming event will help bring together even those who voted No in the divisive campaign.
“We come in peace, the LGBTQI people, we are not coming with a wrecking ball, we want to add what we can bring to what has sometimes become quite a meaningless contract,” she says. “And because we have had to fight so hard for it, boy it means a lot to us. So coming up to Mardi Gras — it’s huge.”
The BBQ opens on Thursday. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, March 4, SBS, 8.30pm.
THE 27-year-old actress recently told Entertainment Tonight, she wasn’t shy about baring her bod while shooting the forthcoming thriller, in which she portrays a Russian spy.
“Everybody made me feel so comfortable that I probably at a certain point started making everybody else uncomfortable,” Lawrence explained. “Because I’d be like, ‘I don’t want the robe. I’m hot. I’m eating.’ Everybody’s like, ‘She needs to cover up.’”
Though filming intimate scenes made Lawrence anxious in the past, the decision to take on future risqué roles will no longer weigh heavily on her heart.
“I don’t have the same fear and insecurity in that one specific area that I used to,” she said. “So you know I’m always gonna take on roles for the same reason, you know, the character speaks to me and the director and the story. But I’m no longer gonna let that be a factor in my decision-making.”
This story was originally published by Page Six and has been republished with permission.
I COULD draw Dakota Johnson’s breasts in my sleep.
I’m not a particularly skilled artist, and this is not an activity I would choose to engage in, but after viewing each of the three films in the Fifty Shades franchise (and only once each) I feel infinitely aware of what her torso looks like while topless — which she is, frequently, in the films. So why haven’t I seen Jamie Dornan’s d**k?
Let’s bring it back to Johnson, first. This actor should be commended for her role as Anastasia Steele (and by the third instalment, Fifty Shades Freed, Mrs Grey). Sure, in Fifty Shades Of Grey she was probably just as timid when it came to disrobing as the innocent character she was playing. But wow did she get on board for Fifty Shades Darker, the best of the trilogy with arguably the hottest sex scenes. And now here we are with Fifty Shades Freed in theatres, featuring a scene where Ana is willingly and excitedly removing her bikini top at a European topless beach. She’s a married woman now. She’s feeling confident and indulging in all that her honeymoon experience has to provide. You go, girl!
Oh, and it’s not just the beach. It’s in bed, in the Red Room, on a kitchen table, and while she doesn’t quite get topless in that car scene, let’s please discuss that one sometime soon. This is a couple that has a lot of sex, in even more places than one would expect. Shout out to them for exploring and loving and using each other’s bodies for extreme levels of pleasure. It’s (mostly) healthy, wonderful and just plain hot to watch.
But while Johnson fully earned her kudos for not only exposing her top half and her behind, but for also expertly showing off the work that her professional waxer has accomplished, Dornan’s bits have stayed relatively hidden.
So, what’s the infamous Christian Grey’s deal? Where’s that Dornan dong? For a character that lives to bang, why haven’t I so much as glimpsed his balls? I’m not talking full, gratuitous, lingering full-frontal scene here, either.
Jason Segel shook his junk in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Ben Affleck gave us the sneakiest of peeks at his peen in Gone Girl. We deserved to see Mr Grey somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, at the very least.
There are plenty of opportunities in the third film to get this done on screen, even technically. It doesn’t need to be flopping around before he’s about to do the deed, per se, when it would also presumably be covered by a “c**k sock” for the actors’ safety. But when he’s comfortably walking around his home, he can lose the jeans for a quick shot. And really, there’s a shower scene where she’s hugging him from behind and the camera stops at his pubic mound, literally a hair’s length before seeing the goods. Come on. Perfect opportunity for a little flash!
Now, to add insult to injury, it turns out there IS actual full-frontal footage that just, whoops, didn’t seem to make it into the film. As director James Foley told ET, “There were actually scenes that we shot where it was [full-frontal nudity]. [Dornan and I] never talked about [having him show more]. But in the final cut, I’m being totally honest, it just didn’t come off … Full frontal would have been a kind of deliberate cut, to see that for no reason. There’s plenty of dailies where he’s on, but it just didn’t make the final cut,” he said. “For dramatic reasons.”
Dornan also commented at the third film’s premiere. “I feel like if it serves a story to see more, then I am all for it. If I don’t think it adds anything or I don’t deem it to be necessary to move the story along, then I don’t think you need to see that part of me, or that part of Dakota [Johnson]. It just becomes sort of gratuitous if we don’t need it.”
OK, pal, but here’s the thing: WE DO NEED IT. And I’m not just saying I need a random d**k pic — I can just allow strangers to send me those via AirDrop on the subway. So many females have encountered d**ks they had absolutely no desire to see, yet this popular movie franchise couldn’t provide us with one we actually were interested in getting a look at?
We needed to see that junk in the name of feminism — perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s the simple idea that women and men are equals. We’d need a whole film of nakedness from Dornan to remotely catch up to what Johnson’s showed off so far, so all I’m suggesting here is a clear shot of what he’s working with. It would simply serve as a nod of good faith on behalf of the filmmakers, a remote attempt at evening the nudity score between the two actors, for the predominantly female audiences.
I’m by no means obsessed with looking at penises, and Dornan’s in particular. But it felt like a cop-out to put so much of Johnson on display and simply chalk Dornan’s lack of full frontal scenes up to “meh, it didn’t work”. Take my word on this: you could’ve made it work. Put in a goddamn post-credits three-second scene. That works! Sure, the married actor probably doesn’t want his privates all over the web, but hi, welcome to the internet. When you need a shoulder to lean on, call your co-star who is beyond familiar with what that might feel like at this point in her career.
A quick peep at Christian’s penis would’ve been a loving wink to the audience, a form of: “Hey ladies, you made it through three of these highly entertaining yet thoroughly ridiculous films — here’s a little something just for you.”
The films never felt particularly exploitative of Johnson’s nudity: it fit the story. A d**k shot would not have been shocking, out of line, or in any way misplaced here. It wasn’t necessarily expected but it could’ve been fully warranted. It’s a noticeable disappointment, but adding those “plenty of dailies” in to the DVD extras sure would be a start to making it up to all the loyal, curious, paying fans. No one likes a tease.
Rating: five stars (5 out of 5)
Director: Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts.
Before her life can start movie, she must stop and grow
Let the record show we are currently embedded in the richest vein of quality movies on offer for well over a decade.
Since Boxing Day, the overall calibre of titles gracing our cinemas has been resoundingly high. It is not going to last. So please, make the most of it while you can.
While you’re at it, make sure you get along to Lady Bird, one of the most graceful, funny, alert and alive coming-of-age pictures you will ever have the good fortune to see.
Goes without saying this is already a lock for one of the best movies of 2018.
“I wish I could live through something,” says 17-year-old Christine McPherson (played by the incomparable Saoirse Ronan) on the eve of commencing her final year of high school.
Make no mistake, her wish will be granted by film’s end. And you will be living through it right along with “Lady Bird”, the name by which Christine prefers to be called by everyone she meets.
(Those inverted commas are deliberate by the way. That’s exactly how Christine “Lady Bird” Johnson writes it down. You know, just like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.)
Yes, Lady Bird is a real character alright. However, being a distinct one-of-a-kind isn’t doing her any favours in her dreary, home town of Sacramento.
This bastion of Californian conformity feels like a conspiratorial practical joke against Lady Bird, and her ambition to be accepted into a fancy college on the other side of the country.
There is the ferociously fractious relationship Lady Bird shares with her perpetually exhausted and dissatisfied mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf).
One or the other may not last the year ahead. In their very first scene together, a blissful listening session to an audiobook suddenly escalates into a bitter argument, which ends with Lady Bird leaving via the nearest door.
At this point, I should mention Lady Bird and Marion have this disagreement while in a car travelling just beneath the speed limit.
Later in the movie, Lady Bird finds herself drifting further into that cavernous unmarked territory between the cool and the uncool at her rigorously Catholic high school.
There will be a so-right-it-just-has-to-go-wrong romance with one boy (Lucas Hedges), and a polar-opposite dalliance with another (Timothée Chalamet, star of the sublime Call Me By Your Name).
I could go on and on about the love of clever conversation this film sincerely promotes, its rare ability to pull a moment of palpable poignancy out of thin air, the magnificent performances of Ronan and Metcalf, and the miraculous writing and direction of Greta Gerwig.
But I won’t. For you’ll find yourself doing that anyway once Lady Bird has taken flight before you.
EIGHTEEN movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and you’re pretty familiar with the ground rules.
You should expect a two hours-plus runtime with four or five high-octane action sequences, smartarse quips and cheeky banter, speeches about heroism and sacrifice and a villain bent on some sort of ill-defined world-conquering quest.
What you don’t expect is a thoughtful story steeped in political parallels and the historical baggage of racial discrimination and suffering. That’s what makes Black Panther so unique among a teeming movie universe of extraordinary beings.
Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, the wunderkind filmmaker behind Creed and Fruitvale Station, Black Panther will go down as more than another instalment in the MCU.
That this movie, with this cast who look like they do, speaking the way they do, is breaking all kinds of early ticket sales records is significant, and a triumph. Like Wonder Woman before it, its success is another refutation in the narrative that big budget blockbusters need to feature primarily white male protagonists to be financially viable.
The character of Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War two years ago to wide acclaim and the action here picks up a week after the events in that movie which saw T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka, killed by a bombing.
T’Challa hails from the fictional West African nation of Wakanda, a country that appears to be a third-world state to everyone else but is secretly the most technologically advanced civilisation on Earth thanks to its natural stores of vibranium.
T’Challa’s teen sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) is kind of like his Q, outfitting him with gadgets and tech that makes Tony Stark/Iron Man look like Billy Madison. In fact, all the female characters, including super spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) and the Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), are so compelling to watch, whether they’re throwing spears or throwing shade.
Wakanda has hidden its development from the world, afraid of tainting what makes it special and much of Black Panther is dedicated to this debate over isolationism or global engagement. It’s a timely plot point with American political rhetoric trumping protectionism and an inward-looking mentality.
Black Panther’s daring to be more than its genre conventions is a credit to it.
During the transition of power to T’Challa, Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) an assassin with a connection to Wakanda turns up with dangerous though appealing ideas, threatening a war that will spill well beyond its borders.
While Killmonger’s thirst for violent revolution is alarming, his experiences growing up in America as a black person inform him and his motivations. He’s more complex than your average comic book villain, even if the way he’s sometimes written doesn’t always gel.
Wakanda is vividly rendered by Coogler and his production designer Hannah Beachler, and lensed by his cinematographer Rachel Morrison. Coogler had worked with both women previously on Fruitvale Station and it’s a collaboration that clearly works.
The Wakanda you see on screen glimmers, an effortless blend of colourful African aesthetics and hi-tech utopia, and owes more than a touch to legendary comic artist Jack Kirby. Every character that inhabits this world, which vary from the plains of the border tribes to the snowy gorges of the mountain clan, undeniably belongs to it. That Coogler is able to evoke such a strong sense of place is a testament to the combined talents of the team.
There are missteps along the way — the pacing is inconsistent with long sequences that stretch on needlessly and the dialogue sometimes veers towards clunky.
Black Panther can’t hope to represent the experience of all black people around the world — it’s not an all-encompassing pan-African representation of it or its diaspora. But it makes bold declarations about representation on film and how blockbusters can literally look. What we see reflected back at us matters, and it matters to kids who pay for a ticket to watch superheroes battle it out on screen.
While Australians with sub-Saharan African heritage is small compared to other backgrounds, Black Panther is a reminder for all that the monopoly is ending.
Also, it’s still a fun, fresh superhero movie with some really kinetic action sequences.
Black Panther is in cinemas from Thursday, February 15.
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