Sunday, September 13, 2009

Donald McAlpine (thanks, Jack)

One evening....12 June to be exact, I added a huge amount of people to the list. Jack saw what I was doing, and decided to join in the fun. He searched online for famous Australian people. He gave me four names.

Donald McAlpine is the first name he gave me. I have no idea who this guy is. I guess I shall go find out.

Lord Wiki says McAlpine is a cinematographer. I wonder how Jack found him. What did he google?

Baby Donald was born in 1934. Lord Wiki doesn't provide me with a birthdate. That's okay though. As I wrote yesterday, I'm done for now with the numerology and astrology stuff. I mean I still LIKE that kind of stuff. I'm just done with it for this blog.

I'm going to look at timeline stuff instead.

Here's a website about 1934.

The average cost of a house at that time was $5,970. Since it was the Great Depression, I'm sure most people didn't have that much money.

The Bonnie and Clyde thing happened in 1934.

Oklahoma had a bad drought.

The Loch Ness monster was spotted for the first time.

Alcatraz opened.

Hitler announces that he's the boss of Germany.

Donald Duck made his first appearance.

Wow. It was quite the eventful year!

The website doesn't say much about Australia...except that Joseph Lyons was Prime Minister.

Baby Donald was born in Quandialla, New South Wales. I don't think I've heard of that. I need to see it on a map. It's about six hours west of Sydney. The closest town/city to it that I recognize is Cowra. That's about two hours east of Quandialla.

Lord Wiki says the town is footrot country. I had to look that up. What it means is that the animals there tend to have some kind of contagious disease on their foot. So in certain areas of the town, animals are not allowed to walk. Instead they have to fly. No, seriously. I'm not sure what they do.

Before McAlpine became a cinematographer, he was a physical education teacher. He worked in Parkes. This is the town that has the big satellite dish. As a teacher, he did some filming. He filmed students preparing for the Olympics.

Then he got into movies.

Lord Wiki lists the movies he has worked on. It's a huge list. I'll list the ones I've heard of.

The Barry McKenzie movies
My Brilliant Career
Breaker Morant
The Earthling (
I remember that movie! I didn't realize it was Australian. It's actually ABOUT Australia.)
Puberty Blues
Don't Cry It's Only Thunder
Moscow on the Hudson
Down and Out in Beverly Hills
(I love that movie!)
Patriot Games
The Man Without a Face
Mrs. Doubtfire
Clear and Present Danger
Nine Months
Romeo + Juliet
The Edge (
awesome Anthony Hopkins flick)
Moulin Rouge
The Time Machine
Anger Management
Peter Pan
The Chronicles of Narnia
X-Men Origins:Wolverine
That's an impressive list.

I'm going to look at IMDb now. His newest work is Main Street. This stars Orlando Bloom and Colin Firth. It's written by Horton Foote, the guy wrote the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird. He just died in March.

This page on IMDb lists the awards that McAlpine has won or been nominated for.

He received an Oscar nomination for Moulin Rouge. The Lord of the Rings guy is the one who won.

He won an award from the Australian Cinematographer's Society for Romeo+Juliet. They also gave him an award in 1981 for My Brilliant Career.

He won an AFI award for Moulin Rouge, Breaker Morant, and My Brilliant Career.

This film reference site has several paragraphs about McAlpine. They say that the beginning of his career coincided with the revival of Australian film. What's that called again? Something wave.....

Lord Wiki says it's Australian New Wave. It occurred in the 1970's and 1980's. Another name for it is Ozploitation Films. In the 1950's and 1960's, not much was going on in terms of Australia Film. Then Whitlam helped revive things.

I just read farther. Ozploitation is not another name for the new wave thing. Rather it's a type of movies within the wave. These are the fun low budget movies. Lord Wiki says there's been a revival recently of these movies. Cool! I've already seen one of those movies...Rogue. I watched it on the plane. Fun movie. I love that kind of stuff.

Okay. Back to the website about McApline......

They say he collaborated with big Aussie film people such as Gillian Armstrong and Bruce Beresford.

In the 1980's, he started doing more work with mainstream Hollywood films.

He's done three films with Christopher, not the explorer.

The first movie they did together was Mrs. Doubtfire. Then later they did Nine Months and Stepmom. I've seen all of those.

I'm looking at Columbus on IMDb right now. He did those three movies in a row. Then I guess he found himself a new cinematographer.

The writer of the little essay says.... McAlpine has rarely had the opportunity to show off the extent of his abilities in the 1990s. While his work on a succession of Hollywood comedies and dramas has always been slick and proficient, it is for his work in Australia that his career will be most favourably assessed.
Perhaps he should go back to doing Australian films. Well, the Wolverine thing is Australian.
This website has an interview with McAlpine regarding his work in Narnia. It's an interesting interview. McAlpine (who seems like a really awesome and nice guy) is asked whether he's more in favor of film or HD. He says HD because it's much more environmentally friendly. Film has chemicals, waste, etc.

I had to use film when I was in film school. It was awful.

I shall share my film school experiences....

I went to Loyola Marymount School of Film and Television. I went there for screenwriting. However, as part of the screenwriting program, you had to take a film class. In this, you had to make short films using an old fashioned movie camera...something like the type my dad used to use. I'm fairly sure it was Super 8.

This class was the hardest class I have ever taken in my life. It might have been a little bit easier if I actually knew how to drive back then. Let me tell in Los Angeles without driving ability is a bit of a pain. The thing is I had to go out and buy the film....then later go and actually get it developed. I don't remember what I did. I remember taking a cab one time. Maybe the other times I mailed it in?

That wasn't the worst part though. The editing was a pain. We didn't get to use fancy modern editing machines. We had to do things the old fashioned ways. I don't remember the exact details, but it included splicing and taping.

More modern equipment had already been invented back then...such as videotape. I'm not sure why we were forced to work with the old stuff. It seemed ridiculous to me. Plus, film is expensive!

I'm downloading their course descriptions right now. I want to see if they're still using Super 8 cameras. Well, they don't say what kind of cameras they use.

I'm sure there was a rhyme and reason for making me suffer with an old camera like that. I didn't stick around to understand what that was. I quit. I moved to NYC to be with my boyfriend.

Here's another interview with McAlpine.

His father was like P.L. Traver's father. He worked for a bank.

McAlpine said they moved around a lot within New South Wales. He went to high school in a town called Temora This is just an hour south of his birthplace. Lord Wiki says this is known as being the friendliest town in New South Wales. I wonder if that's true...or maybe people are just really fake friendly because they wanted to win that honor. I'm having vague bad memories of high school. I think there were awards like that. People would be voted most friendly, but I don't know.... Being "friendly" is quite different from being a good friend. The former is about giving many people a cheerful smile and hello. That's lovely, but not a huge meaningful accomplishment. Well, I guess it's better than being unfriendly. That's for sure.

McAlpine says he loved growing up in Australia. When he was ten or eleven, he'd go camping with his friends. He talks about freedom. I guess they went without their parents. That's so Stand By Me!

McAlpine says when he was young his dad got sick with Tuberculosis. He was sent to a sanitarium. McAlpine got to use his camera. When the processing got too expensive, he learned how to use his own darkroom.

Oh. I have a story about that too. When I was a small child, I saw Jaws. Actually, I think it might have been the sequel. Anyway, there's a scene where they develop a photo of the shark. You know there's all kinds of chemical and technical stuff going on. But all my young eyes saw was a white piece of paper being put into water. Then a shark appeared. I thought it was some kind of awesome magic. You can listen to the ocean inside a shell. If you wet a white piece of a paper, you get a photo of a shark.

In this parenting class I took in high school, we talked about all the funny perceptions that young children believing when you put your piggy bank savings in the professional bank, the bank is saving your exact coins for you.

McAlpine is asked if his experiences with still photography helped him with his cinematography. He replies, Every experience helps you. I like that. I think it's true for everyone, but especially artists. You need to experience stuff in order to draw, paint, write, film, act, etc.

After high school, McAlpine did farm work. He harvested wheat. The crops did well that year. He got enough money to take a boat tour to Europe.

When he returned to Australia, he went to school for education. He says that in those days the government would pay for your schooling in exchange for you teaching five years. I wish they did that in America! I had a discussion with my family about this a few weeks ago. We talked about how there are doctor shortages. It's ridiculous. Medical School is SO expensive. I think it should be free...paid for by the government, hospitals, private corporations, etc. Then in exchange, the doctor has to work for the hospital or organization that sponsored them.

I think it should be the same for teaching. It was very expensive to go to graduate school. Then these private schools got my student teaching services for free. On top of that....unlike doctors, teachers don't get a good salary.

I think if a job is in demand....if a country is desperate for a certain type of worker, those interested should get a free education. At the very least, they should get a low-priced education.

McAlpine says the first time he used a film camera was in the 1950's. He used 8 mm. I wonder if that's what we used at Loyola Marymount. Maybe it was that instead of Super 8?

McAlpine got really into all the film stuff. He eventually got a job with ABC.

He says the reason Whitlam started the whole film revival thing is he wanted the world to know that Australia was NOT just one big farm. He wanted to broaden our horizons. Yes! Now Americans understand that Australia is not just one big farm. We now understand that it's a big place where everyone rides around on their pet kangaroo.

McAlpine says it was The Earthing that got the attention of American film people. I think I liked that movie because of Ricky Schroeder. I think I had a crush on him back then.

Wow. Scenes from that movie are really traumatic and sad. I don't remember that stuff. I bet I was too busy loving Schroeder to notice all the sad bits.

McAlpine has nice things to say about working with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hugh Jackman. It seems he MIGHT have a subtle dig about Chris Columbus. He says, One of the challenges was working with (director) Chris Columbus to enhance the humor in great performances by Robin Williams and Sally Field. I guess he could mean that TOGETHER the two of them had a challenge. When I first read it, I took it as him saying it was challenging to get Columbus to enhance the humor.

Who knows.....

McAlpine talks about how moving the camera, working with light....all that just part of the job. A big part of the job is working with the other people.

I like this guy. He's asked why he likes working with film students. He replies, I enjoy it immensely. It is a two-way deal. I usually learn at least as much as I teach. So many times, students challenge my thinking about things that I haven’t thought about for years or maybe ever.

So far, Donald McAlpine is totally my type of human.
This website says that McAlpine will be working on a film version of The Smurfs. It's not going to be animated? Lord Wiki says it will be partly animated. Then some of it will be live-action.

I like the Smurfs. I wouldn't mind if they became all popular again. Maybe Jack will get into it. I like when he likes stuff from my own childhood. His huge obsession right now came from my own childhood--teen years, actually. Whenever he used to talk about video games, I'd tell him the only game I really liked was Mario Bros. Finally, we found the game and played it together. Now he's a HUGE Mario Bros. fan. In fact, his birthday party had a Mario Bros. theme.

Anyway, I think I'm going to end this here.

I know. I'm being lazy these days with posts. But I'm exhausted from the Mem Fox post, and the other several posts before that.


  1. I love the videos you make/edit! They are sooo awesome. And I love smurfs, I had also heard they were making a movie-- so I wonder if they are??? And non-animated? That sounds sketchy, would it be people dressed like smurfs-- I'd totally see that.

  2. Laura,

    Thanks about the video...very sweet of you to say : )

    You crack me up about the Smurfs.

  3. Oi There STOP being so hard on yourself - YOU ARE NOT LAZY - good grief girl you do so much research and post so much information - you are fabulous !!!!
    No more being hard on yourself OK? You're a sweetheart OK?
    HUGE HUGS. xo

  4. Redness,

    Thanks : )

    I do feel lazy sometimes though. Maybe I feel guilty because I put more effort into some posts than others. It's usually due to what's going on that day, how I'm feeling, and whether I'm interested in what I'm researching.

    I do tell myself not to be so hard on myself. But then I usually end up ignoring that advice!