It has been 25 years since the legendary overlords of the film critique set, Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton, first teamed up to talk about movies on SBS’s The Movie Show for our viewing pleasure. In 2005 a new incarnation of the show At the Movies was moved to the ABC, but Margaret and David stayed on thank god.
Their broadcast partnership has been one of Australia’s most enduring, not only because they’re insanely knowledgeable and hugely passionate about film, but also because they have an infectious chemistry that is a joy to watch – particularly their lighthearted ribbing. Margaret incredulously guffawing “Oh Daaaavid!” in response to him harshing her buzz about the latest chickflick, is seriously like music to my ears.
Last night Margaret and David commemorated their silver anniversary with a special event held as part of the Sydney Film Festival called “Films That Divide Us” for which the pair chatted onstage about the movies that were the most contentious and disputed between them over the years.
The movies that proved most contentious were Romper Stomper (Director: Geoffrey Wright, 1992); Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven, 1995), Dancer In The Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000), The Notebook (Nick Cassavetes, 2004), and Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007).
Here’s five things I learned from watching Margaret and David in conversation.
1. Being critical can really piss people off. David did not like the lauded Australian film Romper Stomper which, for those who haven’t seen it, is about an ultraviolent gang of neo-Nazi skinhead youths in Melbourne. David explained that he was “worried” by the film because he believed that, in a way, it seemed to tolerate racial violence and he feared the film could have dangerous consequences. As a result – and despite his admiration of many aspects of the film – he refused to rate the film on The Movie Show which meant it automatically got zero. (Margaret gave it five out of five stars).
Two years later David was on the judging panel at the Venice Film Festival where Romper Stomper‘s director Geoffrey Wright had his latest film in competition: Metal Skin. At a party Geoffrey Wright walked up to David and threw a glass of red wine over his new $3,000 Italian suit. It was because Wright was still angry about the zero.
2. David Stratton is a ladies man. David had bought the aforementioned $3,000 Italian suit for the Venice Film Festival because Uma Thurman was also on the judging panel. He is also partial to movies that feature breasts and lap dancing – hence his LOL defense of Showgirls as a “hilarious and very clever satire of America’s obsession with sex”.
3. Margaret and David make us smarter people. It’s amazing how knowledgeable these two are about film and cinema and when they discuss those topics what they say just resonates so strongly that it sticks. They encourage people to think critically and be critical and not passive toward art without patronising their audience or losing sight of the fact that going to the movies should be entertainment, first and foremost. Hence David’s delight over the real stunt work in Death Proof and Margaret’s embarrassing fondness for emotionally manipulative tearjerker The Notebook.
Margaret loves it:
4. Margaret and David have proper, nonsexual groupies. People (myself included) hooted with glee when Margaret would chide David for being an old pervert. We clucked knowingly when the issue of censorship was brought up. We gripped each other excitedly when they got into verbal altercations. We whistled and took photos on smart phones (see below).
5. Margaret’s aerodynamic hair is amazing.