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Movie Review: “Sweet Country,” Directed by Warwick Thornton. 113 minutes

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My movie buddy and I are suckers for anything Australian. I think it’s the way they subsidize their movies that gives them such an intelligent edge. This one is more of a character study and an exposition than a story, even though there’s more than enough action.

The movie claims to be based on actual events in 1929. An indigenous man kills an Anglo, then goes on the run. Moviegoers may have seen wyly outlaws evade posses and madmen dying in salt deserts before, but seldom told with this much plain grit.

The indigenous characters are largely inarticulate and given to local idioms. The film has to use subtitles for some of their dialogue. There is a lot of symbolism that is open to interpretation, but one theme is clear throughout: racism. Like any story revolving around racism then as now, those dancing around the theme included the decent, the indecent, and the willfully ignorant.

The chase through the outback gives the filmmakers and the moviewatchers wonderful opportunities for vista viewing. The old John Ford westerns have absolutely nothing on this Australian cowboy movie.

But it’s the characters that matter. Moviewatchers get a solid inside look at these realistic settlers and their near-slave employees. Degradation and inspiration are there in handfuls. Warwick Thornton and his Australian team have made us a gratifying movie that is to be taken seriously and thoroughly enjoyed. The price of a ticket seems hardly enough to repay them.

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on KNON radio 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time on Saturdays. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site,

Movie Review: “The Dressmaker,” Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse, 2 hours

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Since I saw her in “The Reader,” maybe even before that, I have been going around saying that Kate Winslet is our best living movie star. Some people might say it’s Judy Davis, but we wouldn’t have to argue about “The Dressmaker” since both talented actresses, playing mother and daughter, are in almost every scene.

The movie is more enjoyable if we think of it as a fable rather than a true-to-life drama. A wronged woman returns to her backward and tiny hometown to clear up any misunderstandings and settle all scores.

Texas Women Need Fairness or Maybe Revenge!

We’ve seen the idea several times before. What makes it doubly pertinent to me now is that I live in Texas, where new records for maternal deaths are being set and where battered children can’t even get a visit from state authorities. Like the rest of the nation, we also suffer from the wage disparity that Economic Policy Institute is covering so thoroughly today. Did I mention, too, that the state politicians are in court to tighten restrictions on women’s reproductive rights? Oh yeah, the Governor of Texas is planning even more state-sponsored misogyny in the next legislature!

Then there’s the woman-basher planning to become President of the United States. If it isn’t time for women to get some fairness, maybe it actually is time for them to savor some revenge! At least, we can enjoy a movie about it, can’t we? It’s surely time for that!

The Story and the Problem

In the faraway outback Down Under, an overdressed fashion designer returns to her hick town where she has been considered to be a murderess since the age of 10. Her mother, the town crackpot, is just as happy to accuse her as the rest of the eccentrics there. That’s the beginning and it’s very promising. The ending is fine, too. Kind of spectacular.

It’s the middle of the movie where the problems lie. It was the same with the recent civil rights film about Nat Turner’s rebellion, “Birth of a Nation.” Great beginning, fine ending, saggy middle. I like to think the problem is with the movie money-men, not with the artists involved. They just can’t make a film without attaching a romantic love story in it somewhere, even if it has nothing to do with anything else. In both movies, the sex and groping slathered on to the middle of the story is a distraction.

I liked “The Dressmaker.” The real critics in Dallas gave it a “D.” But Kate Winslet never made a “D” in her movie career. Go see it. When you get to the middle part and the virile characters start making goo-go0 eyes at each other, that’s a good time to go get your popcorn.

–Gene Lantz

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