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Notes from the back row

Aussies and Punishment

I have, over the years, received a bit of criticism for being hard on Australians in this column. I’ve even been accosted at the bar and accused of promoting “Hatred and Racism” — at least I think that was what she said, I’m not sure why any one would accuse me of promoting “Rice-jism.”

Of course, everyone knows “Australian” is not a race, it’s a nationality, and I’m notoriously hard on all nations (mainly the European ones but I’ll take shots at Mexicans, Yanks, Eastern Canadians, everyone really). However, since Baz Luhrman’s new epic Australia is now playing let’s hype up the land down under a bit.

First, their national anthem is pretty key and as the only human-populated country that’s also a continent (sorry Antarctica) Australia has produced some fine actors – Mel Gibson may lack social tact but watch Gallipoli, Mad Max and the first five minutes of Lethal Weapon and you’ll see a top-notch thespian. Heath Ledger was truly amazing and should get a posthumous Oscar nomination this year for his rendition of the Joker. It’s official, Aussie dudes can act.

But it’s the Australian actresses that really float my boat. Naomi Watts – can she be any hotter? Or more talented? She even made The Ring 2 watchable. Or what about Olivia Newton John? If you’re older than 28 you can’t deny she was an integral part of your adolescence– for girls it was probably her role in Grease , for dudes it was the gatefold album cover to “Physical.” And speaking of boats, Titanic is not the best boat movie ever, that honour goes to Dead Calm starring Aussie Nicole Kidman (she’s fallen off a bit since then but Nicole used to kill it). Cate Blanchett is probably the best actress in American cinema, she’s also Australian.

And like that cheesy transvestite song from Priscilla Queen of the Desert, I’ve saved the best for last – Isla Fisher, Borat’s wife. She was actually born in South Africa but was raised in Australia and has that perfect mix of humour, wit and beauty that may or may not be directly related to sun, surf and the availability of Tim Tams and Caramello Koalas. Regardless, if there were an Olympics for acting, the Aussie chicks would clean up every time.

So I guess I like Australia, the country, and not the Baz Luhrman movie, which is pretty boring and kind of reminds me of City Slickers .

Switching gears, the always-fantastic Whistler Film Fest hits most screens in town this weekend but on Sunday the Village 8 opens Punisher War Zone , a flick so bad-ass and ultraviolent that it makes up for the two lame-ass Punisher movies that preceded it. Maybe because this one’s directed by a woman, Lexi Alexander, who at age 19 was the world kickboxing champion. Lexi knows how to take, and dish out, all kinds of pain.

And this Punisher has more pain than ever before. Frank Castle’s family was mowed down by the mob and the torment drives him to commit balls-out, neck snapping, eyeball puncturing, shotgun-blast-to-the-face acts of total awesomeness. This is Punishment doled out in neon-glowing, four-colour, comic book glory. I wish I could take this movie back in time and give it to a 15-year old version of myself for Christmas. Then me and all my Aussie friends could make popcorn and geek out rewinding the part where the old lady’s head gets turned into a pulpy crater.

Oh wait, I don’t have any Aussie friends, they all moved back to Oz right when I was starting to really get into them. Perhaps that’s why I’m hard on the Australians — they’re so damn ephemeral.