Baz Luhrmann

Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! (2001)

  • Born:  1962
  • Rank:  57
  • Score:  564.05
  • Awards:  BAFTA / BFCA
  • Nominations:  DGA / 2 BAFTA’s / Golden Globe
  • Feature Films:  4
  • Best:  Moulin Rouge!
  • Worst:  Strictly Ballroom

Films (in rank order):

  1. Moulin Rouge! – 2001
  2. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet – 1996
  3. Australia – 2008
  4. Strictly Ballroom – 1993

Top 10 Director Finishes  (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1996 – 10th – Romeo + Juliet
  • 2001 – 2nd – Moulin Rouge!
  • 2008 – 10th – Australia

When Strictly Ballroom was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture in 1993, I had only barely heard of it.  When I finally got around to seeing it, years later, after I had seen Baz’s other films, I thought it was magnificent debut, a very good film with amazing direction and style.  And that’s the weakest link so far.  Baz followed that up with Romeo, the only film I have ever seen people walk out of (many people walked out that opening night in Hillsboro, OR), but I thought it was amazing and made me interested in a play I normally dislike.  Five years later, Baz topped everything with a picture of such unimaginable creativity and style that, unfortunately, loses all of its Nighthawk Awards because it was released the same year as Fellowship.  After toying around with his Alexander epic which never got made, he finally made Australia, an old-fashioned epic movie that is much better than it got credit for, anchored with a love for The Wizard of Oz.  I look forward to where Baz goes from here and hope it doesn’t take 8 more years.  And remember – Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen.

Moulin Rouge! – #2 film of 2001

I wanted to see it in the theater, but Veronica didn’t, so we didn’t go.  Then, it got nominated for a bunch of Golden Globes just as it came out on DVD.  So Veronica went to three different video stores to rent it and it was out everywhere, so she bought it and brought it home.  And we watched it, hoping it wasn’t a waste of money.  And within 5 minutes, I knew it was money well spent.

When I was in college I saw “Return to the Forbidden Planet” on stage in London and I suddenly knew that if I ever did get around to writing a musical, I didn’t need to be able to write music (which is good, because I can’t).  I just needed to find old songs that would work in the play.  Then Baz beat me to it, bringing an amazing mixture of classical and modern rock to life.

Romeo proved that Baz is an innovator — that he can do things on screen in a new and exciting way, bring adrenaline and energy to a centuries old story.  But Moulin, like Ballroom before it, and Australia after it, reminds us that Baz, at heart, is an old-fashioned movie maker.  And I use the word movie for a reason.  This is a big epic musical, with amazing costumes and art direction, fantastic choreography, big stars, using big words that are all in caps like LOVE and DEATH.  The kind of movies that Hollywood used to make and sometimes were great and sometimes weren’t, but belonged there up on the big screen where they could be experienced.  The cynics who don’t like Australia don’t understand that at heart, it is the same kind of movie as Moulin, except a Western instead of a Musical.

In part, Moulin works because of the stars.  Yes, there is great work by Jim Broadbent and Leguizamo is annoying, but in a perfectly suitable way, but this movie hinges on its stars.  It reminds me of what Roger Ebert would later say about Jude Law’s interaction with Natalie Portman in Cold Mountain – “It would be boy meets girl if boy hadn’t already met star.”  Kidman is that star, never more so than in this film, never more seductive, never more beautiful, and she earns her first Oscar nomination (she was better in The Others, but still worthy here).  And of course, McGregor, one of my favorite actors of all-time, is perfectly suited to be the young hero who falls in LOVE.

And of course there is the music (I’m listening to it as I write this).  There are the performances of the songs.  Will Elton John’s “Your Song” ever sound the same after this?  Could you have ever imagined classical mixed with Nirvana?  Can’t you just picture Ewan and Nicole and Jim dancing along, giving the pitch (“so exciting the audience will stop and cheer”).  And of course, how many songs that mention love can be combined into one brilliant song?  It’s a shame that the Academy rules kept any of the music from the film from being eligible (the Globes didn’t care – they nominated “Come What May”, which is a fantastic song).

In the end, Moulin wins none of my Nighthawk Awards.  Like certain other great films, it suffers from poor timing.  The Maltese Falcon comes in second place across the board to Citizen KanePaths of Glory comes in second to Bridge on the River Kwai.  And in the end, Moulin Rouge comes in second place for Picture, Director, Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design and Makeup to Fellowship of the Ring.  Of course, coming in second to Fellowship doesn’t prevent it from making it on my list of the 100 Greatest Films of All-Time.  It makes that list with ease.

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