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Jim Schembri’s Cheat Sheet – March 4

Article image for Jim Schembri’s Cheat Sheet – March 4




Veteran character actor George Kennedy, who won a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in 1967’s Cool Hand Luke, has died, age 91. He was also known for his roles in four Airport films and for his comic work in the Naked Gun series. One of his funniest performances was in the 1981 Albert Brooks film Modern Romance in which, playing himself, he relates an anecdote about getting his make-up done for a major sci-fi movie before looking for the set and realising that he’s at the wrong studio.



Those who thought C3PO brought a gay tinge to the Star Wars universe need to think again. Director JJ Abrams – enjoying a $2 billion-plus gross from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, thank you very much – says he’s more than welcoming of gay characters in future Star Wars films. As quoted by the Daily Beast he said: ‘I would love it. To me, the fun of Star Wars is the glory of possibility. So it seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.’

And why not? One scenario we’d like to see in a more gay-friendly Star Wars film would be a heated stand-off between two warring leaders who, during tense intergalactic negotiations on which the lives of billions of people depend, look at each other, feel a deep connection, then call for a 10-minute break while they both go grab a latte.

Gerard Butler in Alex Proyas

Gerard Butler in Alex Proyas’ ‘Gods of Egypt’.


Director Alex Proyas has swung back at all the critics who slammed his film Gods of Egypt, which has not performed well at the box office. In a 500-word block of bile poured out on Facebook, Proyas used the ‘pack mentality’ to account for the wholesale dissing of his epic movie, suggesting most critics were merely repeating what other critics had said.

‘None of them are brave enough to say ‘well, I like it’ if it goes against consensus. Therefore they are less than worthless. Now that anyone can post their opinion about anything from a movie to a pair of shoes to a hamburger, what value do they have – nothing. Roger Ebert wasn’t bad. He was a true film lover at least, a failed film-maker, which gave him a great deal of insight. His passion for film was contagious and he shared this with his fans. He loved films and his contribution to cinema as a result was positive. Now we have a pack of diseased vultures pecking at the bones of a dying carcass. Trying to peck to the rhythm of the consensus. I applaud any film-goer who values their own opinion enough to not base it on what the pack-mentality say is good or bad.’

It’s an age-old tactic – Proyas is appealing to the public to ignore the critics and judge the film on its own merits. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing for a talented director to do – but he didn’t need to.

At no other time in history has the disconnect between critical opinion and public taste been so pronounced. The huge success of films from Michael Bay and Adam Sandler prove that. And they’re just two examples.

As a film critic who has been publicly flayed more times than any other for doing precisely what Proyas says he admires – to express an opinion contrary to the majority view – it need be said that if your humble reviewer thought Gods of Egypt was a good film the review would have reflected that, regardless of what others thought.

Indeed, 3AW’s first-response review of Gods of Egypt went to air almost immediately after the film’s Melbourne premiere on Nightline, Wednesday 24 February, the night before release. We called it a turkey, and a turkey it has proven to be.

Still, Proyas, for all his flailing and scatter-shot anger, makes some valid points.

The internet has seen the proliferation of amateurs and hobbyists who claim to be film critics without understanding the principles of journalism or the artform they are covering.

Consequently, the ‘herd’ mentality of which Proyas speaks has some grounding in the truth; it is easier and safer for an untrained and/or untalented writer to jump on a bandwagon than it is to articulate a minority view.

The lack of professional experience also accounts for why so much of what passes for film criticism is so badly written, and why so much of it is shrill and vitriolic.

Being nasty about a film everybody already dislikes requires little balance, reflection or measure, and the unchecked, unproofed nature of the net promotes language that is far more coarse and extreme than is needed. Thus the internet-bred critical chorus often acts as a profane amplifier to a prevailing view.

Proyas is right to identify and resent this brand of film reviewer. He is also entitled to. As a filmmaker he has more talent in the nail of his little finger than most online film reviewers will ever have as writers.

Yet Proyas might have sold himself short by referring to his just-released movie as a ‘dying carcass’. It is a bad movie and it might well have had a slow start at the box office, but who knows? It might be huge when it hits China, or the home market.



Amy Winehouse’s father, Mitch, didn’t expect the documentary Amy by Asif Kapadia to win an Oscar, but just because it did hasn’t tempered his hatred for it. Via Twitter he exclaimed: ‘I am not changing my stance just because film won Oscar. It’s a negative, spiteful and misleading portrayal of Amy. We will fix this.’ And how? By making his own rival doco, of course. This, we look forward to.



Industry critic and former head of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal vows to improve thing for women in Hollywood with her new production company. Speaking to the Sunday Times, she declared: ‘The lack of female directors is a travesty. For a woman to make a movie in Hollywood, you have to go through so much rejection. There is this mountain to climb with the whole system geared for women to fail in films.’

She added: ‘In music, female singers dominate. They also do extremely well in the books world, as writers of novels in particular. TV drama is more character-led, but it is also an industry more open to women than the movies is. Hiring women has long been the problem in Hollywood, because it is the men who have mostly done it.’



The super-hero lark Deadpool remained at #1 for a third week, taking another $5.5 million on 420 screens for a total of $34.7m, a neat footnote to the $620m it had already taken globally so far. The Coen Bros comedy Hail, Caesar! (#3) debuted with $1.7m on 260, the critically disliked epic Gods of Egypt (#4) took a respectable $1.18m on 198 while Michael Bay’s true-life war film 13 Hours (#6) took $816,616 on 166 screens. (An uncomfortable amount of 6s there, surely.) Meanwhile, the Jane Austen/George A Romero crowd didn’t exactly flock to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (#13), which managed an anemic $251,989 on 119 screens.