GOING TO THE MOVIES 2011 - a temporarily abandoned page.

I still go - last week (I'm talking April 2016 here) it was the somewhat dark  The Jungle Book, and the week before that it was Zootopia, and of the two animations, I preferred the latter, but both had good stories and good (if not enough) songs, with The Jungle Book's Baloo the Bear (voiced by Bill Murray) singing The Necessities of  Lif
e as he and Mowgli the wolfboy, floated (vaguely erotically) down a rushing river,  while at the end of the very funny Zootopia, Shakira came up with a sensational all encompassing song the title of which escapes me for the moment.


MOVIE GOING 2013



I'm busy. Reviews are mostly missing or reduced to sound bites and  *s.

November

 My time lately has been taken up with Cross Projections (18 Sydney photographers showing their work at Tusculum House King Cross 28-30th November. My six minute segment with commentary, is based on Oz Magazine's Conspiracy and Obscenity Trial in London  way back in  1971. Not my photography at all, but images drawn from  the Felix Dennis and Richard Neville Archives. Music provided by John Lennon (God Save Oz) and the Rolling Stones (excerpting a couple of tracks from Sticky Fingers, their classic sex and drug album...)

Hunger Games **1/2 After the rave reviews from people like Sandra Hall (Sydney Morning Herald) and Ed Gibbs (Sun Herald) who both should know better, I went along. An hour-long set up for the unlikely plot which even Hall admitted was a bit boring - I sat amidst an audience of teenagers who tended to look at their mobiles and rustle their snack (hunger) packs during this first hour. Once the Games themselves began it was good enough. Spectacular action stuff with lots of great if slightly hysterical emoting from Katniss (star Jennifer Lawrence), with the suave and ghastly dictator (Donald Sutherland) of this dystopian future world, turning the Games into an obstacle course for Katniss and her cohorts - a tsunami, a poison fog,  a posse of ferocious baboons, an electrical storm - as well as them having to avoid being killed by the rival gladiators and their cohorts. But does not she have to kill her own team in order to survive herself ? No wonder they had to take an hour  trying to convince of the viability of the storyline.   It all seemed a bit mad, but maybe 'teen drama' (the movie's classification) is always a bit mad. I liked the soundtrack, particularly the final song over the endless credits which I used (as usual) as a decompression chamber before re-entering the 'real world' outside in George Street.  Pass the snak pak.

October
 
The Counselor *** (My review has been refused by Net Registry. Do I really have to call Manila ?
Gravity****
See it in 3D or even IMAX. Ignore the Speilbergian moments. Be up there in space with Clooney & Bullock. Be inspired by the ending if you don't find it too ridiculous.


The Stranger by the Lake ****
Well received at Cannes earlier this year. Love and death, sexual desire and consequences beside  a French countryside lake which is a gay cruising ground. No soundtrack but for the wind which is used brilliantly, ominously.

Renoir ****
Lush and last days of the painter, on the Cote d'Azur in the house of August,  father of famed film maker Jean Renoir who as a wounded soldier returned from WW1 falls in love with his father's last muse and model, a sumptuous beauty wth a tangle of red hair, milk white limbs and buttocks that his dad cant take his eyes off.


September

Lone Ranger
**** Much maligned by the critics, but lots of fun.

Stoker
**** Very spooky, very tense, an art movie close to horror genre, great story inspired, it is said by Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode as Uncle Charlie and Jackie Weaver finesse it out, directed by South Korea's Park Chan-wook. Rivetting.

Elysium **1/2
Great disappointment after District 9 from  same director. Too much money, too much high tech biffo, done better in say Iron Man or Transformers. Great opportunity lost.

Way Way Back
**** The plight of contemporary America's have nots as opposed to the
the privileged haves. Never has America, land of the free, home of the brave, been less equal and where freedom comes at terrible cost. Polish up on your bravery.There is more sadness than fun in this movie set at a lower middle/working class beach resort in Massachusetts.

August
Frances Ha. *** Noah Baumbach again. With flashily smiling Grega Gerwig as Frances. I'm giving it 3 stars despite most critics giving it 4. It's good but insubstantial. Lovely but fluffy.  Disappointing after his The Squid and the Whale. In black and white.

In the House **** Francois Ozon does it again. Another literary masterpiece after his The Swimming Pool.

Continental 
A doco about the famous New York bathhouse. Disappointing.  Barry Manilow and Bette Midler who got their start performing at the bathhouse, obviously did not give permission for  their performances to be shown. We did see snippets of Lena Horne and Labelle. A bit of a vanity project from creator and owner Steve Ostrow who has lived in Sydney since the early nineties, started up MAG (Mature Aged Gays) The golden days of Continental promiscuity were in the sexual freedom zone of the late sixties, early seventies. "Brigadoon' said Michael Musto  one of the amusing commentators. Edmund White was also interesting, and so too Holly Woodlawn one of Andy Warhol's superstars, in outrageous form, slow talking, maybe drugged and looking a  bit like Lauren Bacall if she had been a drag queen. 
Too long at 90 minutes.


July

Audience **** with Helen Mirren as QE11 and British actors playing many of the prime ministers (from Churchill to Cameron)  who have served during the reign of Queen Elizabeth11. Peter Morgan's play filmed in a London  theatre and broadcast world wide by the National Trust. Rivetting stuff.

Before Midnight
*** with Julie Delhy and
Ethan Hawke. I had seen the first of the relationship trilogy so knew what I was in for. Gary Simes whose choice of movie it was, did not. A lot of talk yes, but mostly nicely calibrated. The dinner party with three couples (plus one) not just two, was exhilaratin
g. Set in Greece this time. ** from Gary.
Only God Forgives. *** 
Director: Winding Refn.
Not many critics did.
Although Sydney Film Festival goers voted it best film. Ryan Gosling walks thru it, it's red lit dark and dangerous and the relentless revenge theme is poorly plotted. We rarely get out of the back streets of Bangkok.  Fortunately it's short. I could not even watch the torture scenes but there was no way I could escape the screaming. And there is lots of  screaming. That expressionless holy avenger with his samurai sword and his hideous box of tricks was no hero. And then there's his singing in a sleazy nightclub after each time he's slowly done  someone in. Very black  poetry indeed.  A terrific bone crushing soundtrack however. No screams.  Kristin Scott -Thomas plays a monstrous mother.  Boy, does she get hers!


I have been busy turning myself into a paparazzo lately and 'reviews' amount to little more than ***
My only movie so far this month is Francois Ozon's In the House, which I highly recommend. ****  It has a literary theme, and is very clever, even more so than Ozon's brilliant The Swimming Pool, also concerning a writer, played by Charlotte Rampling. Both movies play with with what is real and what is fiction. I went with several members of the Sydney Bookmen club and we all liked it.  Go see what happens in the house.
It's scary fun.
(In a parallel plot, what happens to Kristin Scott-Thomas in her contemporary art gallery is also fun.)
June
I saw three  documentaries at the Sydney Film Festival
William Yang's My Generation **** (Patrick White, Jennie Kee, Linda Jackson  Kate Fitzpatrick Nell Campbell et al)
Behind the Chandelier *** Directed by the unsentimental Steven Soderberg.  Michael Douglas only got the nasty side of Liberace, not the oily but sweet charm. It's Matt Damon's movie; brilliant as the somewhat tragic  Scott who gave himself to the possessive embrace of  the showbiz pianist for 15 years and then got unceremoniously dumped. All  that plastic surgery to make him look more like Liberace only to be replaced by a younger man. Not enough of the Liberace chandeliers and general stage extravaganza. .
Divine*** which was good as far as it went which was not far,  a warm tribute movie, best of the man, the bulk, the fabulous gowns,  the most outrageous John Waters movie moments, the eating of the steaming dog shit for example from  Pink Flamingoes which never fails to shock.

Mud ****
Thoroughly absorbing, an old fashioned thriller
set in Huckleberry Finn territory in and around the Mississippi as it flows through Arkansas. Two fourteen year old boys form an attachment with  Mud (Matthew McConaghy) a fugitive who is hiding out in an old boat on an island in the river. His girlfriend (Reece Witherspoon) is holed up in a cheap motel on the river bank. The boys (both are practical but one is a sceptic, the other a fool for love)  have an outboard motor boat, and dirt bikes, and act as go-between the two. But there is a posse out to get Mud who killed a man making love to Mud's girlfriend. The gang is led by the murdered guy's father who wants revenge.  Lots of charm and tension in trailer trash territory.

Happiness Never Comes Alone**
Lots of prat falls but never quite reaches classic  farce. It's an aimiable French rom-com


The Great Gatsby ****

Of Baz Luhrman's Cecil B de Mille movies, this is the best one.  He  pulled it off. He had to and he has.



May

The Company You Keep****

 Robert Redford looking really old but travelling light across the length and breadth of the US in two (convoluted) shakes of a lamb's tale as they say. as the Weathermen are smoked out of their  badger holes all these decades later. Absorbing stuff.


Tabu ****

Charming and original if ultimately a little slight. Don't expect melodrama, it's too classy for that. Black and white, moving between NOW in Lisbon, and THEN  - a paradisical setting in the fifties in Mozambique.  Colonial life on a tea plantation on the  slopes of Mt Tabu. An illicit love story. I was reminded somewhat of those days often filmed and written about in Happy (and not so happy)Valley in the 'British' Kenyan Highlands. No dialogue between the protagonists but a gravelly, beautifully worded voiceover.  Plenty of Mozambique versions of 50's American pop music. Frame by frame it is beautiful to watch and always a surprise. Directed by Miguel Gomes.

Spring Breakers ***
Sort of nasty hetero low  camp from  Harmony Korine, trying too hard to be debauched and decadent. Despite that he has Hayes coded himself into disappointment for viewers. Big tits and waggling female bums is about it in terms of sexual daring and provocation. American teenagers behaving badly, particularly the gang of girls at the bosomy centre of it all who rob a fast food joint to get the money to go on their Florida beach high school summer break  Best thing in it by far is James Franco as a smart talking self promoting sleazy gangster, who bails the girl gang and finds them almost too much to chew despite his unexpected tenderness towards them.

Drift **  

Sam Worthington as a hippie drifter, dope smuggler, surfer dude is the best thing in it. Some great surfing sequences.  Not so much a plot with an imagined story as a history of the beginning of surfing commercialisation.  A predictable progress with the two brothers at the centre of it, decidedly dull.

A Place Beyond the Pines ****

Together for the first time Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper.  Criticised for its 'soft' ending, but I liked the 'romance' of the ending. I was angry with David Dendy at New Yorker who gave away a crucial early plot point.  Poor form. I hope they castigated him. After Sydney film critic Julie 'no spoiler alert' Rigg years ago told who died at the end of The Thin Blue Line, (the Terence Malick film) I never listened to her reviews again.

The Hunt ***
Innocent protagonist irritating in his inability to reasonably defend himself,  thus precipitating hideous events. Director lets audience see what really happened but he stands on his moral high horse and doesn't tell the local backwoods  townfolk, whose imagination and prejudices are allowed to run riot. Back to the Salem witchhunts. Clever ending.

NO ****
Packed houses at Newtown  Dendy. Have tried to get in twice but full house both times. I finally made it in and liked it. Hard core triumph of democracy fans clapped at the end. Ironic that the same advertising company ran both the YES and the NO campaigns






March/April

Rust and Bone ****

Performance ****

Trance ****


(I took March off from the movies really to concentrate on my three performances (Talk with Image Projection and Masked Dance) of An Artist's Journey Home at Roger Foley-Fogg's 60s/70s multimedia extravaganza Tales from the Fogg - My Life and Loves.

Images to follow...






February

Lincoln ****

Silver Linings Playbook ***

On  my list: Paranorman, Flight, Wreck it Ralph and Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger all of which I am sure i will enjoy. I have read all the reviews.


Janu
ary

Les Miserables *** A noisy disappointment really. But I liked the performances of both Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.  After reading all the reviews of The Hobbit and seeing receipts drop by 50% after word of mouth in the second week, it is clearly a bore and I am not going to bother. Although years ago, I was charmed by the book in a way the Lord of the Rings did not.

Liberal Arts ***  An original take on the romcom

Life of Pi ***** Delightful in every way. The power of the imagination versus reality.  I just wonder a little what more could have been achieved if it had not been ordained as a 'family' movie.

Paris Manhattan *** Charming. Recommended

The Perks of being a Wallflower *** Equally charming. I liked the strong 'gay' theme.
 


December 2012


Skyfall****

The best of the Daniel Craig triptych, by far. Brilliantly controlled action genre fun, giving it some sense of actual reality, not just the usual CGI mayhem. It  sets the bar for the any future Bond oeuvre quite a bit higher. Craig looking distinctly craggy, but perfect for the tone of the movie. It managed what I call a true movie experience, immersive. I was glad Judy Dench gets her come uppance . She has had it coming for years as far as I am concerned.  If you want to see how Daniel Craig got the James Bond job, take a look at Layer Cake, one of the best ever heist movies, with him photographed like a superstar throughout, before he really was one.

Looper **** Science fiction not my favourite genre but this is a good one. I have liked Joseph Gordon-Levitt ever since his turn as a gay hustler  in  Mysterious Skin, and in this one, robotically made up to look like a plausible young Bruce Willis, still manages to charm. To tell what he does to one of the conundrums of time travel would be to give the game away.

Dead Europe *** Grim little family drama extracted from a much bigger and more wide ranging book by Christos Tsolkias. Some powerful scenes in all its European  locations (Greece, Paris and Budapest) but it's less than the sum of its parts. Beautifully shot. Glum turn from  actor who plays cntral figure, Isaac, who, overwhelmed by his hair and beard, has a bad time all the time and fails to arouse much sympathy for his succession of plights. Anti-semitism is a key theme as Isaac trawls through some of the down and out depths of the new Europe and finds out why his father didd not want him to go there. Some nice male on male kisses and a three way which thrills, albeit briefly.


November (short reviews to be posted shortly. I am still only halfway back from the heat, dust and Bollywood- like TV situation comedy/dramas of India. Indians just love emotive facial close-ups)

Seven Psychopaths ****  Total fun. Ever since Tigerland I have been in love with Colin Farrell.

Argo**  No tension, no Oscars. Knowing it all ended happily I found it dull to follow the details of how it all went down. Why is everyone throwing all those four stars around ? Ben Afflecks earlier  directorial efforts were all far better. His acting in this one was all monotone. Well barbered beard though.

The Master ****  Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell like a time bomb waiting to explode. Scary. Sexy. Hoffman brilliant. Oscars.

The Intouchables*** Gallic buddy movie, engaging but lots of overkill. In the overcrowded buddy movie genre, I'm waiting for the first gay one.  The Master had buddy movie elements and the main relationship could be called homoerotic up to a point, but the protagonists were certainly not presented as gay.

The Giants*** Dumb teenage boys misadventures in beautiful backwoods France. Jud Apatow had nothing to do with it.


October

On the Road *** Walter Sallis movie of the Jack Kerouac novel which was published by Viking in 1957 was a marathon, (137 minutes) and  a classy production but also a bit dull. Only worked up a sweat and real excitement in a couple of scenes. Marijuana, benzedrine and bebop was the ecstatic mixture of the day back in the late forties early fifties.  The arrival of psychedelics was still some years away.
The movie is not a bore, (unlike the book, sorry to say that about a book of which I have only read chunks and could never finish) but certainly a bit repetitive. A string of well done vignettes both druggy and sexy which did not add up to a completely satisfying movie. Kingo thought it remained too close to the book, (For both of us it had been a seminal thing and influenced the course of our younger days) perhaps too reverential. Jack Kerouac/Sal Paradise, as played by Sam Riley, did not come across as a particularly interesting or attractive character. Rarely said anything of significance. Scribbled down bon mots coming from others. Life is the only gift that God does not give a second time for example, read out by Dean Moriarty, (Neal Cassady in real life)   Sal Paradise a little homophobic in fact, uncomfortable with the three ways that Dean Moriarty drew him into. He was always at a distance observing his companions, always taking notes, which left it to have Kingo say thank goodness for Garrett Hedlund, the actor who brought life to the character of Sal's buddy, Dean Moriarty and actress Kristen Stewart who brought life to the character of his girlfriend, Marylou. Even tho Kingo liked Hedland, he not only found the movie a bit dull like I did, but beyond that to boring.
Well, a slight disappointment. Like the book itself really, although I loved (and made use of) the idea of stream of consciousness writing  and the roll of continuous paper. It became part of my beatnik attitude in the fifties. Led me to William Burroughs and The Naked Lunch. I have always read avidly about Neal Cassady and followed his later 60s career as the acid crazed driver of Ken Kesey's technicolour psychedelic bus, Further, with the Merry Pranksters, made famous by Tom Wolfe.  Viggo Mortensen as Old Bull Lee ie William Burroughs was a delight and one of the highlights of the movie.  Alan Ginsberg ie Carlo Marx, hopelessly in  love with Dean Moriarty who had sex with him but was, as with others, men and women, emotionally irresponsible. Broke a lot of hearts with his big heart and bigger dick.  Paul Byrnes notes that Cassady was much more at home with homosexual sex than as revealed in  the movie. He suggests it was played down for the sake of funding.
Kerouac died of  internal bleeding at age 47 in 1969. Cirrhosis of the liver after a lifetime of heavy drinking. Cassady died young also, in 1978, aged 42, of exposure, drugged out by a railroad track in  Mexico.  Renal failure also perhaps said Caroline Cassady in her memoir. A sad part well played by Kirsten Dunst in the movie.

Lore  *** Directed by Australian Kate Shortland (a German Australian co-production, subtitles. She now lives in Germany) who had a hit with Somersault which I remember liking but now can't recall anything more about it. Protagonist falls in love with a gay man and has to come to terms with it (?)  but I did not care for this one. An artfully shot  movie about an unpleasant period in our history  – the aftermath of WW2 and what happened to German citizens/soldiers at the hands of the victorious forces Russian, American and British. The Germans did not want to fall into the hands of the more brutal Russians.
Lore's parents (who have worked for the Nazi SS) decide to abandon their five children when they realise they will be caught, put in jail or executed. The mother gives Lore money, jewellery and tells Lore to travel to the countryside near Hamburg where they will be safe with their grandmother. The five set out. The youngest child is a ten month old baby. There are two boys twins aged about 6, a sister of about 10 and Lore who is perhaps 14 or so. Emerging into adulthood. The children seem to have lead protected middle class lives and and know little about survival. Lore does not know how to make good use of the money and jewellery that her mother has given her for the journey.
On  the road  they encounter a variety of difficult situations – abandoned farmhouses, refugee shelters, dead bodies, suicided men, no food, all the horrors of war, a series of uncouth country Germans. For her there seems always the fear of rape including from a strange silent young man, Tom,  who attaches himself to the younger children who find him kind  and wonder why Lore does not. At a checkpoint he says that he is the brother of the children and produces his papers which indicate he is a Jew escaped from Buchenwald. So thereafter they are seen as Jewish refugees but after being their saviour, Tom is despised by Lore who hates him for being Jewish, (having being brought up in Nazi household to see Jews as the  lowest of the low) and as it turns out, despises herself for being sexually attracted to him.
Some weak plot points,  and minimal dialogue for us to grab on. The fact that there is none at all between Lore and Tom, creates unnecessarily awkward situations which would have been easily resolved if Tom had just sat Lore down and talked to her as an older more experienced man.  Well, I am talking about a different kind of movie here, one that Shortland is not interested in. Tom does nothing to help Lore and her confusions about her feelings for him.  Hard to understand the scene where she approaches him  grabs his hand,  guides it up her skirt to touch her vagina. And the later scene where she unbuttons in front of the uncouth eel fisherman who says he has no time to ferry them across a river, vital to their journey to grandma and safety. This enables a complicit Tom to come up behind and kill him with a rock. Later,  when they have reached the British zone and are safe, Tom says he has to leave now, she clings to him desperately, pleads, even offering herself. This is when she still believes that he is a Jew. It was painful to watch this sexual confusion and the way she behaved around Tom. Kate Shortland certainly keeps any suggestion of romance out of the mix. She did not want to be remaking The Blue Lagoon. Is that the  feminist in her ? Or just the wish for romance in me ? Wish for a less confronting movie ? Or wish for a better movie when it is one dealing with such confronting subject matter ?
Arty cinematography, almost surreal at times, jerky handheld camera.  Unsparing, close up and long held grisly shots of the dead and the ghastly, along the way.
It is not until after they do reach grandma, that Lore comes to terms with the fact that she has been brainwashed about the Jews.She then rejects all that the Germany of Hitler has believed.  She even rejects her grandma for her preceived germanic sternness.. She goes to her room and smashes all the pretty figurines which represent her German childhood under the Nazis.
By this time Tom has disappeared from the story because the mysterious loss of the identity  papers,  confirming his Jewishness, has resulted in him being arrested at a checkpoint – he is seen as a German – perhaps a deserter - on the run and no doubt taken off to prison or worse. He had been using the children as a cover (saying he was their brother, allowing the checkpoints to believe they were all Jews, favoured under the post-Hitler days.) So a case of mutual need. Without Tom's strength, kindness and practicality, the children may not have survived at all.  
At grandma's farmhouse, Jurgen, one of the twins, hands her Tom's identity papers which he had stolen from him – in order to stop Tom from leaving them. Lore slowly goes thru these, sees that the photo is not of Tom (why did  none of the earlier checkpoints see that ?) and realises she has been vile to a man who did nothing but help them As mentioned earlier, she had also loathed herself for falling in love with a Jew.…
Yes,  a difficult movie to like. Maybe I just didn't want to be put through it all. Is my age showing here?  Bring on the comedies and a room for me in the Hotel Marigold ?
Lore has been wholeheartedly praised by people like Margaret Pomerantz (but not David Stratton), but I suspect that is mostly for bravery in tackling difficult and worthy subject matter and for the fact that Shortland is a serious female Australian film maker and needs to be encouraged.
 
 


Arbitrage ****
Director: Nicholas Jerecki. Starring Richard Gere, as Robert Miller, a corrupt investment banker or hedge fund manager, a handsome  man with very small eyes, a wonderful mop of silvery gray hair, playing the the sort of role that Jeremy Irons played in the perhaps more hard hitting Margin Call. The top dog who loves the life  that power and money have brought him, who does not have all the brains but has all the street smarts and the intuition to be where he is. A beautifully constructed movie with terrific use of music, it was a pleasure to sit through and a somewhat predictable ending though you were never sure that that would be the way it would end. Gere utterly unscrupulous when the chips are down but charms us enough to have the audience satisfied with the ending provided. He was hung and drawn but he was not quartered. Everyone else – his daughter, his wife, his protégé, even Mayfield the man who bought his less that viable company beause he knew how to play the system and keep up the fraud and get away with it, just like Robert Miller had done - got what they wanted from him and he was the one who had to settle for less, but he was able to hang on to his prestige as a patriarch and a benefactor par excellence and not have his reputation blackened at least in public. He was not going to jail in disgrace (despite what he had done) like Bernie Maydoff. A softness to the movie despite some strong individual confrontational scenes between say Gere and Susan Sarandon who plays his wife. I really liked the young black felon Jimmy Grant (Nathan Parker) whom he called in for a favour when he needed to cover up the accident which killed his girlfriend. Touch of Teddy Kennedy and Chappaquiddick here. Jimmy stood by him even under extreme pressure coming from detective Michael Bryer (a brilliant Tim Roth) who knew Jimmy had driven Miller back from the accident, had no hard evidence to prove it and so fabricated some. Grant almost the real hero of the movie. "OK I'll take your money and do something good with it." ****


September

Holy Motors **** great night shots of various highways around Paris, of the Seine bridges and sights all obviously shot before dawn, before citizens were up and about.
Director: Leos Carax former French movie wunderkind apparently, starring a chameleonic character called Mr Oscar a rich business man (also described as "a vaudevillian gun for hire"who hires a white stretch limousine driven by one Celine, (glamourous older woman) and uses it as a change room, emerging throughout his day and night as nine different characters, each with a different pre-prepared Assignment, all played by Denis Laurant, a regular apparently, with Carax. By midnight, both he and Celine (and the limousine) are exhausted and everyone goes to bed. It has been mayhem and eventually murder kidnapping (of Eva Mendes) and suicide all day and night long in one form or another. It has been a long day at 116 minutes and I was in danger of nodding off in the early stages, but I survived and clambered into full attention even before I was entirely captivated.  What was real and what was not ? Yes, a while to become absorbed, but absorbed I did become as the assignments got more dangerous and bloody. By the time Kylie Minogue sang her ode to the tragedy of living your life all over again in the same way, I was thinking this is some kind of masterpiece. "An  uber-surrealistic outing," said one critic."profound serving of the absuird," said another. "An uncanny ode to David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis" said another, the latter being another currently showing movie with a man moving through his day in a white stretch limo, this  time not Paris but New York, based on  a book by Don De Lillo, more conversational said someone and pretentious (s aid Ian who had seen it).
Strange coincidences abound at the moment. I have seen two films this month which both feature, not white stretch limos, but effeminate men as their central and nost positive character – Bernie (homosexual effeminate) in Bernie, and  Marty Huggins (heterosexual effeminate) in The Candidate.
"A while since I saw a movie which one could only call an art movie," I said to Ian as we emerged from the Dendy.
I mentioned to a girl at the popcorn/ticket counter that the new door to the new Cinema One needed to be padded. With patrons either arriving late or leaving early (bored no doubt), it closed each time with a loud and wooden crash.




I am definitely falling behind with my movie going. I have been instead going to Gallery Openings and turning myself once more into some kind of paparazzo.  Bill Henson at Roslyn Oxley for example, Christopher Hodges Works on Paper at Utopia, anything at Ray Hughes Gallery, Monica Epstein's Fire Sale at the Micha Nussinov Gallery in Redfern,  The Life of Gandhi and his current relevance at UTS, Sixties Explosion way out at Macquarie University, opened by John  Kaldor,  Sydney Life blow-ups in Hyde Park, part of the ongoing Art and About Festival, Martin  Brown Gallery with Peter Cooley's ceramic Black Swans (with Cygnet),  Adam Hill and Hugh Ramage out at South Hill Gallery at Goulburn, I could go on ...

A recent disappointment was Madagascar, the third episode in the franchise. The first one had something to say and moments of sheer anarchy wit and fun, originality, but this one was in your face with its 3D brilliance and not much else. Its visual invention never let up, no modulation, making it hard to top itself with any sort of climax more exciting than what had gone before. Tried too hard, tiresome. The four main characters have also become a little tired in a plot that was more a process than decent story telling. No danger, no tension, no villain, no pathos, just all that technical brilliance. I slunk out.  Maybe Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 have set the bar too high for me. **


On the other hand, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Monsieur Lazar experienced either by myself or with different companions, were both**** and highly recommended.


Moonrise Kingdom **** It's from Wes Anderson and not everyone's cup of tea (Kingo was thoroughly bored) but I found it magical, enchanting...(to be continued)

The Sapphires *** (clunky but enjoyable enough despite heavy handed aboriginal politics and general sentimental approach. If it had not been for the charming and funny Chris O'Dowd (saviour of Bridesmaids) I might well have ....


August

19th August
Bernie ****
Director: Richard Linklater
I have actually seen two movies within a week that feature in a positive manner,
and amusing manner, 'effeminate' or 'effete'  or 'prissy' men:
Bernie  featurimg Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) and
The Candidate featuring Marty Huggins  (Zach Galifanakis)  See my notes on that movie below.

 Laid up for a few days after an operation on my left knee for removal of a bursa (perhaps better known as fluid on the knee or  'housemaid's knee,' not that I have been  scrubbing floors, or on my knees for anything else lately, certainly not praying) by Sunday I found myself suffering from cabin fever and with my leg improving, I  negotiated (with some difficulty) the many stairs at Redfern station (no lifts as of yet, despite promises over the years) and caught a train to Circular Quay. The movie was showing 4 55 at the Dendy. A slow limp through the usual crowds at the Quay, got me to a prime seat seconds before the movie began. A lift at the Dendy to both the cinemas and the rest rooms made it easy once I was inside.
Jack Black is brilliant in the title role and why the movie works so well. The many wonderful characters playing themselves from the real life town of Carthage also help. As does Black's singing throughout, and his dancing to '76 Trombones' in the town's version of The Music Man. Fun. Based on a true story (we see the real Bernie and Mrs. Nugent at the end) Linklater does the whole movie  like a documentary and the idea works well. Black's performance is finely nuanced, something Black is not noted for. Well, the role as a precisely mannered man does not call for much noise. I have always liked Black, despite his usual blustery manner in such movies as Shallow Hall (my favourite) and School of Rock.
We don't really find out what motivates Bernie in either his good deeds or his bad. No judgments made. Much is glossed over for the sake of the overall effect. It seems that the whole eastern Texas town of Carthage loves Bernie whether he killed Marjorie Nugent (Shirley McLaine playing the meanest, most hated woman in town, and playing the role pretty well. McLaine can overact but not here) or not – except for  Dale Buck, the local DA played (as a bit of a priss himself. A closet gay even?) by Matthew McConaghy  who in desperation, has the matter moved to another town in order to get a fair trial, he knowing that no jury  in Carthage will ever find Bernie  guilty. The town has always appreciated Bernie for his community work, his wide ranging capabilities, his kind heart, his theatrical talents, his work as assistant funeral director and cosmetic skills on the bodies of the town's departed, and loves him even more when he gets control of Marjorie's millions and starts supporting local institutions and families with her money.  
The lights came on full the second the credits began to roll. I have complained about this small but irritating matter before, both at Dendy and other cinemas. In the case of Bernie it was particularly unfortunate because the credits were accompanied by fresh and relevant scenes from the locals who were in the movie. We had to look at these entertaining scenes in a faded manner because of the unnecessarily strong light. Noone left the cinema as the credits began to roll because the audience had enjoyed every frame of the almost too short movie (99 minutes) and were happy to see some more. It was a well attended session.
Phony reasons given to me previously when I have mentioned lights coming on full for the credits.    
(1) To enable cleaners to come in and get the cinema ready for next session.
(2) Safety for patrons leaving:  to this excuse, I quickly point out that the lights are low when ads/previews are playing and patrons are still coming in. Why no safety concerns at the beginning of a session, yet safety concerns at the end of a session ?
The young manager listened to my complaint and apologised. He said it was not Dendy policy to have the lights come on full during the credits. 'low' is  their policy. He will speak with the projectionist who is the one who handles the switches. I was glad not to get some specious response.

The  Candidate ***
Will Ferrell vehicle. In a few words -  consistently funny, satirical, silly and eventually, rather sweet. Worth more than a laugh or two at the expense of the American political system and dysfunctional family life in North Carolina . Don't expect a serious critique of  American politics along the lines of  like Robert Redford's brilliant 1972
The Candidate. This is a light hearted Will Ferrell farce with something of a gooey ending.

 

Beauty ****
Director: Oliver Hermanus.

The title in Afrikaan is Skoonheid, which can also mean  cleanlness or purity which adds another dimension to the story.  Not many patrons. I talked Gary into taking a seat slightly closer than he prefers. At our last outing, (Dendy Newtown Not Suitable for Children) I allowed him to choose the seating so I felt entitled. Cinema 1 is large and we were not in any sense close. The seats small and short on the thigh.
I was prepared for a slow paced movie. Gary was not and afterwards complained about the length of each scene. The movie was really rather like a short story told slowly so as to make it feature length. The thing I did not like (apart from the brutality) was the darkness of the print. Or was it a dim bulb at the Chauvel ? Or the intention of the director, a dark screen for a dark story. The title,  Beauty, it soon became obvious, was deeply ironic. Ugliness would have been more appropriate. The movie could not have been liked bySouth Africa's Africaaners. Presented as homophobic and racist. And in the case of Francois, (Deon Lotz) the  main protagonist,  unhappy, closeted and violent. Unable to have the young man, Christian, that he lusts after, he takes him by force. Rapes him. The brutal scene that Louise walked out of.

The movie is about desire, obsession, frustrated lust.
 
The homosexual milieu is shown in two main scenes –early, Francois drives to a country farmhouse where he meets a group of rough hairy, middle aged men who proceed to undress and have sex with each other. They talk disparagingly of 'faggots' and violently eject one of their fellows for having brought along a younger black man to the sex event. Graphic scenes visible thru the darkness, of Francois firstly getting a blow job and then fucking the man who sucked him off.  'My goodness," I whisper to Gary, my comment on the graphic nature of the filming. The deliberate ugliness of it.
Throughout the movie, there are many long held slow scenes of Francois looking impassively (but obviously voyeuristically) at Christian from afar. Watching him kiss and hug his boyfriend. (Shot in brighter light, did Christian perhaps represent the real beauty ?) Spying on him also from afar at Clifton Beach, (a known gay hangout, in Capetown, although Christian is there with Anika, Francois's somewhat wayward second daughter)  He disrupts that scene by angrily reporting to the police the 'stealing' of Francois car by Anika who had borrowed it without permission. He watches as the police ring Anika on her mobile as she lies on the beach and then has to leave the beach in order to explain the situation.
Second major gay scene is when a very troubled Francois forces himself to go to a gay bar. Loud and violent music (chosen to be so, reflecting the state of mind of Francois) plays continuously and he angrily rejects all attempts to pick him up. He gets drunker and drunker, more and more unhappy, goes outside to vomit, and somehow Christian appears and rescues him, drives him back to his hotel. And it is  there that the rape occurs. Christian had gone to the hotel room hoping that his father's rich friend would finally come good with money to enable him to start up his own business.
The movie proceeds a little longer. Francois is seen cleaning out his pool, something he had promised his wife to do early in the movie. (The scenes with him and his wife in bed  together, are sad. The wife nags, she clearly would like intimacy, he clearly would not.)  He draws a large amount of money out from the bank places it in an envelope and goes to a restaurant where Christian is dining, with his boyfriend.
Stony faced (as usual) with the money envelope lying on the table in front of him, he again watches the affection between the two.  We see this scene only from the point of view of Francois. They eventually notice him and it seems from the gestural language that their conversation changes to a discussion of Francois at whom they occasionally glance. There seems to be amusement. Francois takes the envelope off the table and puts it out of sight on a chair. We are left to speculate whether he has decided to give Christian the money or not. The final scene is of Francois driving down down down a spiral into an underground parking garage. The searing music that has accompanaied many scenes throughout the movie, plays. It seems to indicate that the future for Francois is bleak. Does Francois suffer guilt for his rape of the son of one of his best friends ? Hence the money as  apology ? Or does the pushing of the money out of sight indicate a change of mind about helping Christian. Will his lust and violence focus on some other young man. Some other object of beauty. Whom he then defiles.
It was hard to feel much sympathy for Francois, but Lotz performance was magisterial and I found the movie quite rivetting. Gary did not seem to be able to get over his impatience. "I agree with you," I said, "but the slowness was part of the style of the movie. It's bleak power. I could understand why it has  been a success at film festivals. At Cannes it won the 'Queer Palm." A familiarity about the scenario. The agony of men who marry as the right thing to do in their sociey and then find no happiness in the arrangement.. Their true sexuality lying elsewhere. If they indulge, it is in secret, if they love, they cannot express it except in perverted form. In  this case, rape. This is one of the themes of my book, Aberrations of Ray Grable.

Another (the fourth in a row)  of those once typical Sydney winter days (we have had very few of them this cold winter) with blue skies and warm sun) made me feel that I had to get out of the house and into the weather. A movie. I google Event in George Street on the internet (Event has a useless whole page now in the Herald which gives no details at all) and find I can see Prometheus or Snow White and the Huntsman at either 3 30 or 3 50. Time runs away and it has to be the latter. With the long queue at the ticket office I was at first inclined to ask why etc when I bought my ticket, but by the time I got to the seller (an older man and clearly a sympathetic guy) I thought I would not bother him, just get my ticket as quickly as possible. Just as well I did, I deadheated with the title and the first scene and introductory voice over.  My assigned seat was occupied, but the aisle seat behind (D instead of E) was perfect.

July

Snow White and the Huntsman  ***  

Director:  Rupert Sanders

In a word or two, grim and brutal with far too much darkness and too many crunching close-up CGI battle scenes. Thank god for the slight touch of levity and wit with the appearance of the Seven Dwarfs all of them very Grimm Brothers indeed. They are played  by well know English character actors and are CGI reduced in height to make them suitably dwarfish if rather monstrous.  Even they were a little scary and certainly grim. Generally the movie was dark and cold, angry and desperate. Charlise Theron was vile as  Ravenna, the wicked stepmother Queen, and occasionally over acted. That enraged screeching? More control please, Charlise. Keep with the icy and the looks that kill. The Queen in  Disney's Snow White was somehow more scary because of that. Then again I have not seen the 1937 classic  Snow White for decades so …The blood sucking (for medicinal and youth enhancing purposes only) Queen's badly treated white haired brother is sometimes more interesting, slightly more nuanced. That hint of treachery and disloyalty towards his sister could have been developed and would have added to the level of suspense which is not high. Visual shocks yes, but suspense, not much.
Kristen Stewart's Snow White is pained and putupon, but appealing enough, although we see too much of her two front teeth – they are quite pretty and perhaps needed to stop her naturally petulant look, but it did seem as though she had a cold and needed to keep her mouth open for breathing purposes. Sshe is a 'muscular'  Snow White in the current mood for strong feminist roles in fantasy adventure  and animation. Brave is Pixar's current example.  I will go see it after seeing this one, for comparison. Paul Byrnes certainly liked Brave and  gave it ****. Sandra Hall (also of Sydney Morning Herald) gave this one only *** and a begrudging *** I felt.
The question of two suitors and which of the two will wind up with a Joan of Arkish Snow White is underdeveloped but still interesting. Who will get the girl  - the Irish voiced and articulate Huntsman (an Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, good in the role,  has some of the best lines) or the almost too beautiful Prince (who doesn't have any good lines at all)?  The screenplay is heavily weighted in favour of the Huntsman, (he is part of the title after all) with the Prince getting little screen time and then when he does appear, looks too much like the ruffian extras who are pursuing Snow White for the Queen.(Who shot that arrow ? Oh it's the Prince.)  The issue is not resolved and we have to assume that it will be (could there possibly be a sequel? Please no!) the Huntsman. After all it was his kiss that aroused her from her coma, not the kiss of the Prince.  The Prince and the Huntsman are well differentiated – the Prince is pretty and royal – of the blood as they say, her childhood companion, while the Huntsman is older, a rough and shaggy commoner. The evil Charlise chooses to inhabit the Prince rather than the Huntsman when she makes her foray with her CGI ravens into the forest to capture Snow White herself after her brother has failed. It is the fake Prince that Snow White kisses  and who then offers her the traditional poisoned apple to eat which sends her into her death/coma.

Throughout my movie going late afternoon experience, there was the strong and wonderful smell of frankincense coming from probably a young woman seated a few seats to my right.  I never really worked out if that was so, but it was lovely.  
I don’t see many fantasy adventure movies, but I did see two of the The Lord of the Rings and the series has a lot to answer for the high drama style of the director's approach in this movie. Full marks for visual beauty and effects  and heavily orchestrated music. Snow White's escape from the Queen's grand and gloomy castle on a white horse was stunning although the poor creature soon comes to a bad end in a bog of  black mud. Lots of that in the Dark Forest.
Avatar also has a lot to answer for when we finally get out of the Dark Forest ( in which Snow White and the huntsman are entangled far too long,) and into some sunlight. There is a magical and happy time, all too brief, when the threat of the Queen is temporarily in abeyance, but it isn't breathtaking in the way that Avatar managed. Pans Labyrinth did it better too and with a much better story of course. I enjoyed this idyllic sequences stuffed as sit was with twittering bluebirds, rabbits and butterflies etc, which lead into the elaborate setpieces with silvery elves and the gloriously antlered white Stag, but even he didn't quite get there for me. Did he have to be so overly huge ?  It all ends far too soon and too abruptly and we are back into the crashing clashing crunching brutality of the chase and the armoured battles. The Stag also made me think of that antlered sculpture in last year's Sculpture by the Sea.  Had that guy seen advance prints of this film ?

Not Suitable for Children ***
Sweet insubstantial Australian movie, a rom-com. Worth a look.



July

Magic Mike***
I enjoyed it although the dance routines went on a bit before darker more violent elements made their appearance. Went with Kingo and we were the only men watching this movie about male strippers in Tampa, Florida. A full house of women young and old having a noisy good time watching. Much more than just a chick flick but it was a rom com. Channing Tatum carried Steven Soderberg's movie with amusing help from Matthew McConaghy as Dallas the sleazy owner of the strip club. Homoerotic overtones.

Snow White and the Huntsman ***
Certainly not Walt Disney, more like Lord of the Rings, battle heavy and dark. But Charlise Theron over acted and was less scary than the Disney wicked queen. The seven dwarves were the only fun.

 Elena ****
 
a family drama and provides a dystopic look at Vladimir RasPutin's Russia,

Ted ***
the movie  goes a bit long but is mostly fun with gags at everyone's expense including Jewish and gay (and just about everybody else for that matter) . The CGI created foul mouthed teddy bear really works as a character. Of the peripheral characters I really liked Giovanni Ribisi's psychotic and decadent Donny who kidnaps Ted for his own fat slob of a 'son'. Genuinely sinister. I wanted  more. Ted is yet another templated rom/com in the Jud Apatow mode, but the central concept is so strong it manages a little originality. Director and script writer Seth MacFarlane (of Family Guy) could have taken a few more risks so ultimately, despite the fart jokes, the shit on the carpet, the non-PC, and the brutal fight scene with Mark Wahlberg, its still stuck in the family viewing mode. And why in these new American rom/coms do they all go to bed and have sex with their clothes on ?

The Next Waltz ****
Set in Toronto, a Canadian movie from Sarah Polley.  it's a feminist movie so look out. Well,  you never know which way it is going to fall with Michelle Williams loyal or disloyal to her husband who loves her to distraction and has not noticed she is bored to distraction, which comes in the form of a sexy neighbour who proceeds to attempt to seduce her. Will she stick or will she stray. Williams evokes her dilemma beautifully.





June 2012

The Way, directed and part written by Emilio Esteves son of Martin Sheen who plays Tom, (a golf playing  opthalmologist from Santa Barbara in California) bereaved father of 40 year old son Daniel who began the spiritual pilgrimage from the Pyranees via Pamplona, west to Santiago de Compostela near the Atlantic in northern Spain  (Basque country we are reminded of in this very politically correct production) but was killed in the course of a storm (we are never told exactly what happened) on his very  first day. A sad Sheen (whose wife is long dead) arrives to pick up the body and bring it back to the States for burial, but after talking with a liberal RC priest, decides on cremation and to do the pilgrimage in honour of his son, with whom he was not on the best of terms. He is dealing with guilt) scattering his ashes at various places along the way. Eventually in the Atlantic.
It was no poster movie for the famous thousand year old Christian trek. Unsentimental, not particularly religious, not particularly scenic, it followed the path of a grim and grumpy Sheen with three other pilgrims (all with their reasons for being on the walk and all with their various problems, none of them spiritual, ie to stop smoking, (Deborah Kara Unger)  to lose weight, (Yoncks a  Dutch actor) end a writers block (Irishman James Nesbitt) ) encountered along the way and how each of them came to some point of salvation for themselves by the end of the journey. None of the five took any videos or photographs, none even carried a camera, the Irish writer was permitted to take notes. No one in fact of the four or any other many pilgrims are seen recording the Camino de Santiago in any way. Some jolly scenes at various stopover points to eat, drink wine and sleep, but on the whole  the often mountainous passage west seemed pretty tough, with all of them with staves to help them along the easy looking wide paths, and moving at a fast and monotonous no stopping to smell the roses pace.  Why the punishing pace ? A lot of talk, not much drama (Tom loses his backplack twice, once in  a river, once to a gypsy thief, gets it  back both times) A worthy movie and well made, but also a little dull and predictable. ***
Walsh Bay was a minor extension of the Vivid  Festival. (best ever this year, apart from  the hit and miss Opera House)The rain held off mostly and LED seems impervious to wet weather and the reflections on wet streets and broadwalks added to the beauty of the night. Federation Park (recommended by Jane and Tomas) up the stairs from Argyle Cut was inaccessible. I had a drink on the way back in a noisy pub at the ed of George Street, couples and groups , live music and French Open on the telly (Li Na winning in  three sets) with me the only alone person it seemed in the entire pub.


May 2012

As May comes to an end, I walked to the revamped Newtown Dendy for A Woman in Black, given **** by Paul Byrnes even tho it was in the haunted house  genre I ma afraid although a well made product of that genre with a glum and grieving former Harry Potter in the lead role, there was not enough plot and it never looked like rising above the genre. A long advertisement for belief in life after death and how our departed loved ones are always there in some  ghostly form trying to connect with us and scaring the bejesus out of us in the process. Not that there were any genuinely scary moments in this sumptuously set haunted house movie.  All about exchanging a grieving life by reuniting with previously deceased loved ones, mainly wives and chldren. ie by getting killed or dying oneself. Ho hum. Very atmospheric (particularly when we got out of house which got very boring and repetitive very quickly)and a great performance from Ciaran Hinds (Persuasion) as  kindly and bereaved but coping with it sensibly, neighbour in the benighted English village where it was set in Edwardian times. A couple of chuckling elderly woman to my right who noisily expressed chirpy alarm at every cheap 'surprise' thrill in the haunted house. From a short story which has also been a long running play in London and now a padded movie. The woman in black some kind of serial killer conduit to the eternal life. I am not sure about Paul Byrnes. He gave **** to Silent Souls, which  tho more original than this one, did not earn its stars.
Ran into Garry Wotherspoon and Chris Cornforth in the cold foyer while I was waiting for Kingo. They had just seen Tim  Burton's Dark Shadows yet another with Johnny Depp and were disappointed.  Movie never got anywhere. Chris thrust a sheaf of 2 for 1 invites to new Dendy and tried to haul me towards the ticket office to get an extra free  ticket for Peter but I declined.  Pete has not turned up and I already have my ticket and now it is late and I  have to go in, he may be in there already (he was)

Jan and Stephen with Peter and I in the freezing Dendy. I complained to the desk as we emerged.
"Look at the big overcoat I'm wearing. I was dressed for the cold night and I still froze inside your cinema. It was just as cold inside as outside, even colder. Have you opened before you got your heating together? They grinned. Yes, we have. Sorry about that  Everyone is complaining.
There are other teething problems there. When you buy your tickets the only signs you see are signs for drinks and popcorn. The cinema times and programmes are yards away closer to the street entrance. "By the time I queue and  get to your counter to buy a ticket I have forgotten the programme" That vast open space onto the street - . why does it look so different ? where has that cosy atmosphere gone ? It is wider and more open to the street than before ? Iss it the more intense lighting ? Will the reopening of the café beside it change things for the better ?
Kingo complaining and with Jan and Stephen also at odds with the movie and cold, they went off home and Kingo wanted to go home also. I said I was hungry and cold so after a half-hearted  attempt to find somewhere Kingo did what he really wanted to do and drove me home without looking further for somewhere to eat.


A walk up to Dendy Newtown which has been revamped and is now open to the street with a spacious foyer but once past  the Candy Bar which also seems to operate as a secondary function, as a ticket selling counter, there are narrow corridors to the cinemas which were poorly indicated, very small signs easy to miss.The Russian film  Silent Souls was a slow 76 minutes and seemed entirely about a sequence of tacky death rituals  belonging to a forgotten/lost and perhaps imagined (by a second rate poet/screenwriter)  tribe in Siberia. Vodka assumed a lot of important in  the ritual, from washing the long hair of the deceased spouse in it, to fuelling the final funeral pyre.The low wattage bulb of the projector suited the gloom of the film and its predominent deadly, down at the heel mood. Only the twittering of the buntings in  a cage relieved the various situations. The two birds were ultimately the only survivors. I felt a bit conned by the whole thing. The movie had an air of fakery rather than reality about it. The music saved it to some extent. And the brevity. I heard one of the elderly audience say she had fallen asleep. Two others coughed ferequently throughout. The old and the ill were there, the elderly ladies behind me, ex-patriate Russians, kept chatting well into the first scenes of the movie.  The landscapes were austere, flat, monochromatic and  cold looking, old highways, narrow byways, grey lakes and rivers, ice and  snow . **1/2





April 2012

Wish You Were Here.
Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith
On the last day of the month, viewed in the beautiful slightly chilly as always, art deco surrounds of Cinema 3 (the Lounge Cinema) at Cremorne Odeon.
Several minutes of overly loud rap music on the sound track to begin with did not help. In short, an unpleasant 93 minutes of Australian domestic drama that never engaged me (or Kingo), about  a man who mysteriously disappears when four Sydneysiders go on a holiday in Cambodia, (as photographed, no different to a Kuta Beach holiday in Bali) with an irritating choppy structure (rapidly and endlessly going back and forth in time and place) and flawed characters we never get to know properly and remain unsympathetic as a result. The structure devised to get over the fact that there is not much of a story, and that the drug related story itself is over familiar.  The one thing that made it interesting was the climax (itself flawed in terms of believability) which reveals why the main character, well played by Joel Edgerton, behaved in the tedious way he did. He's guilt ridden and terrified. As well he might be. The trouble you get yourself and your family into if you lie your head off and don't have the courage to face an unpalatable truth. By the time we get to know what motivates him, the movie is over. Too late and too short, the reveal, and we were out of there sorting out why we hated the movie over a cup of soup in a Thai restaurant in Miller Street.  **1/2.  6/10 said the Sun Herald's Craig Miller.

The Pirates Band of Misfits - brilliant and beautiful animation from Aardman. Imaginative and  intelligent fun at the expense of Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria, the Pirate Captain voiced by Hugh Grant. ****

The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Diverting and decadent fantasy in a dystopian future until the actual games begin,  then it gets tedious and turns into a sappy Spielbergian love story.  Adapted from the cult novels by Suzanne Collins. Those who loved the recent Vampire series have moved on to this. ***

Le Havre ****
My friend Kingo and I zoom up to Cremorne Odeon and see the Aki Kaurismaki film Le Havre – shown in  Cinema 1 a small art deco jewel…soft lighting while we sat thru the advertisements (not too loud) and previews. Opera Dendy should take a lesson and raise their standards. An audience of mostly elderly women with a few elderly men like Peter and I. It is quite hard to talk of myself and Peter as elderly. But I am in my mid-seventies and he in his late sixties. We are both in that newly named group the WELLDERLY. It's always a balancing act from now on in of course.
A brilliant movie, what is called an art movie I suppose, a pleasure to watch throughout, and it even managed a happy ending. Every frame so beautiful:  the harbour, the interiors, the streetscapes, the stillness, the simplicity, the clever use of colour,  particularly red, the parade of eccentric characters who are part of the local scene – the local bar, the local bakery, the local fruit shop. All play their part. Contemporary but for we big international city urban tragics, way back in time. Snatches of music of various sorts and a full length song from  Little Bob and his Band - and was he little! I was reminded, by the presence of the secretly sympathetic Inspector of Police, of the secretly sympathetic investigator in The Lives of Others.
Le Havre a fable really, Romanticism in the telling of a story of French working class provincial life when it encounters refugees stuck in a coastal port. Refugees trying to get across the channel to England. A poor and elderly shoe shine man with a sick wife  takes an African boy under his wing,  keeps him hidden from the authorities searching for him. He slowly manoeuvers, against all odds, to get him on a boat to England. He has family in London. Poverty presented with style, almost with chic. A feel good story with a palpable but gentle current of tension, in which  none of the four principal characters cracked a smile.


Salmon Fishing in  the Yemen ***

4pm - after a day of dithering (as usual) with alterations to The Aberrations of Ray Grable (what a bugger of a book, it is) I made it into the city to see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a movie directed by Lasse Hallstrom, given **** by Sandra Hall in the day's paper. A kind review in response to its sweet feel good nature but the movie grew more and more improbable as it went along. Many far fetched twists and turns to bring us to the inevitable happy ending. Ewan McGregor lovely as Alfred, the stitched up government departmental scientist in a loveless marriage who falls for Harriett (Emily Blunt). She is an agent for an enlightened  Yemeni sheik who loves salmon fishing, has a home in the scottish Highlands and now wants to introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen. A British comedy adventure romance, many amusing,(and satirical I suppose), digs at governmental politics and bureaucracy, with Patricia Maxwell, (Kristin Scott Thomas, brillliantly potty mouthed with a sharp eye for every chance at good publicity for her boss) as the Prime Minister's Media Chief, promoting the salmon fishing project as a way for the government to have a good news story about the Middle East to make up for all the bad news coming out of Afghanistan and other places. It all gets very complicated and preposterous, even silly, but good enough fun. Even tho I parted company with it well before the end. Seated one seat away from me wa ayoungish man small stature with long dark hair who glanced at me as I sat down in an aisle seat.  I returned a lesser glance and forgot about him.I ws uncomfortable in my seat which was below a very bright and hig side light. I sheltered my eyes from its glare as the ads and the previews went by, seemingly endlessly. Fiftenn minutes in actuality. I noted that the young man glanced over at me a couple of times bujtdid not look at him again. I groaned a couple of times – at the cancer  danger warning for example – and heaved a loud sigh of relief when th harsh light went off and the movie began.
The second the credits began to roll, the harsh light went up again. I  was focussed on the credits despite the distraction of the light, wanting to see the name of the actor who played Bernard, Alfred's immediate senior in the Fisheries and Agriculture Deopartment (a most amusing character) andswas onlyu vaguely aware that the younglonghaired man had stood up to leave. He stopped at my legs, which were notreally obstructing passage thru, and waited there. I did notlook up butmoved my legs back a bit more and gave an affirmative grunt. He moved by into the aisle but then stopped agin by the arm of my seat watched  the screen for five seconds them  moved off down the aisle. I determine to write a letter to Dendy Manager pointing out faults in presentation of movies in Cinema 1.
It was only then that I began to think that the young man wanted to talk to me. Perhaps knew me a little but not enough to just say Hi Jim or something, perhaps he recognized me as the old Oz man whose exhibition  at Tin Sheds he had happened to see and like, perhaps he was lonely, like I was, also alone in the cinema …the fact that I did not sense all this earlier was an indication as to how withdrawn I have become at the moment. Workingon the book, unable to telephone anyone, keeping myself alone, no attempt to get myself out of this introverted state even tho I am vaguely unhappy in this unsocial state. If I had been in an outgoing state I would have said something to him when he stopped at my legs. Some comment on the movie, probably 'far fetched but fun enough  - just" as I have done  many times before. I am quite adept at making passing comments to strangers who have shared an experience at the movies.

I left the movie before the credits were over (unusual for me) to perhaps catch up with the young man in the foyer.  He was not to be seen. In the mens ? I did not want to go there in any kind of pursuit, and that was about it. I wonder to what extent I was deluded by my state of mind as to the young man's state of mind.
I had an older man's fantasy induced by unhappiness and subconscious longing for  companionship ?



 TheMost Exotic Marigold Hotel
'Change of plans,' said Gary looking agitated after we had come out of Dendy Opera Quays where we had seen Marigold Hotel movie. Normally we go to dinner after a movie. What Gary likes to do, preferably Thai but it being the Quay and no Thai restaurants around there, he had agreed to a pub bistro or Italian in the Rocks. Wagamama opposite Sydney Museum definitely NOT !
Gary had forgotten his house key – the neighbours who had his spare were away overseas and this meant he had to knock on the door of his next  door neighbour, go thru their house to the backyard, climb over the fence (not easy) and then ease himself thru his kitchen window. He wanted to get home at once (it was now 8 18 pm) before they went to bed.  He knew he could do it. The situation had happened before.
I was rather glad something had happened. Maybe he was too, there not being any Thai for the evening. When I got home I rang him to make sure he was OK, and he was. Had not fallen getting in etc. Now he was about to go out to his favourite Thai, restaurant, Atom, in King Street, as too upset about what had happened to bother with cooking.
The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel  Director John  Madden (Shakespeare in Love)
Jaipur Gary enjoyed the movie, laughing loudly at the most banal and weak of the early jokes. I did not laugh much,  although some episodes were quite sweet. It was occasionally funny, fish out of water joke funny, although the jokes faded away as we became aware of the more serious problems being faced by this selection of senior English citizens unused to India or seemingly any kind of foreign travel at all. It was set in  Jaipur where Gary has built his house for Raju. So he had that interest to begin with, and he has travelled extensively with Raju all over India. Next month they are meeting in Chennai then going to Bangalore, then the  length of Kerala north of Cochin, to Goa where they are going to look at houses to buy for Raju whose house paid for by Gary in outskirts of Jaipur has been taken over by Raju's adopted extended family. Selling it is the only way to rid himself of them: a move to Goa will mean he can be free spirit as a gay man.
I did not particularly like it. Small emotional pay offs from time to time – for example – Graham, (Tom Wilkinson) a gay judge, who eventually meets with the Indian man he had an affair with but had not seen for 40 years, and Graham's death shortly thereafter; also the trajectory of wheelchair bound accountant Muriel (Maggie Smith) was the most satisfactory and the most surprising. She starts up as a nasty racist and ends up as assistant manager of the hotel. Sonny, the manager (Dev Patel) was interesting and entertaining if overly optimistic character whose philosophy was summed up in phrase Everything will be all right in the end and if it is not all right, then it is not the end.". Douglas (Bill Nighy – brilliant in  his sorrows and efforts to be helpful) and Jean (Penelope Wilson) are an unhappilyy married couple and probably the saddest of the bunch. Good resolution I suppose for those two – he hooks up with Evelyn (Judi Dench ), and his ghastly wife realising how ghastly she is and how unhappy the marriage has been  for both of them, goes back to England alone.

Mostly it just didn't quite work for me, often cringeworthy,  too many characters for the cast to be anything much beyond caricature. Prizes for most irritating or uninteresting or not sufficiently worked out? Definitely Norman (Ronald Pickup) old bearded womaniser/would-be Lothario for example. Followed closely by Madge (Celia Imre)  a 'maniser', gold digging hard drinking Mum now looking for a good time.

'Parson's egg' movie, affecting in parts, if never fullly engaging.  – a determinedly feel good film with dollops of 'grit' so as to avoid too much sentimentality but it all ends in feel-good, whatever the miseries, awkwardness, sadness of the different trajectories. The colourful streets were full of Indian bustle, the sounds of the city, honking cars, speeding motor scooters, the occasional elephant, a few goats, the street music et al – we did not see the gilded touristic centre of the famous Rajastan town at all, just mostly the lanes and markets around the old elegant decaying hotel, a former palace in the 'outskirts' of Jaipur. There was a trip to white painted Udaipur for the Hindu burial of Graham. ***  Did I get off on the wrong foot  and not recover ?  At my advanced age, not ready for a comedy about the trials and tribulations of elderly retirees ?

Caught between the devil and …
The Deep Blue Sea directed by Terence Davies, a movie from a play by Terence Rattigan, set in London in the fifties. After about twenty minutes I wanted it to end  immediately. It starts off with an attempted suicide by gas and pills, and goes downhill from there. There is another close call when she stands like Anna Karenina tempted to fall in front of an approaching train.The cinematography is beautiful, but all low light, gloomy interiors, street scenes at night, badly lit pub.  Hester, (Rachel Weiss) a young woman who leaves her much older husband, (Sir William, a highly respected dignified  man, a High Court Judge played by Simon Russell Beale), for Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) a cheery returned WW2  RAF airman, moves into a  boarding house in London with him. He can't even pay the rent; when he leaves her  he suggest she can sell his golf clubs to pay what is owed to the landlady. Sir William loves her, is kind and considerate and after the initial shock of her infidelity, always willing to take her back, but she refuses. One of the best scenes is tea with Hester, the judge and his mother who has little time for her.  The Rattigan dialogue particularly brilliant here.
An obsessive relationship begins and it soon (about 10 months) becomes too burdensome for Freddie. She loves him too much, lusts after him too much, in her quest for  happiness and fulfilment. She has a temper and does not suffer fools gladly. She treats him as a lightweight fool but still demands and expects love from him, love of a kind he cannot return. I had more sympathy for him than her. There is a suggestion that he is feckless, but it is he - although he has a temper too -  who carefully and calmly articulates the impossibility of the situation the two of them find themselves in, and leaves, adjudging quite rightly that it is the best for both of them. Her endless demands sexual and otherwise, make it all very difficult for him.

He has obtained a job in South America as a pilot.  Even tho (as she reminds him) he has lost his flying nerve in WW2. But it is a plausible way of getting away from her.  It is incredibly difficult for her to accept this. She even thinks that it is possible to go with him to Rio and he has to be very firm about this. He concedes against his better judgment to stay the last night with her. She promises not to talk or touch him. We see him asleep with her running her hands up and down his back and his buttocks. He tries to tip toe out in the morning but she wakes and there is a final confrontation. She abases herself by cleaning his shoes. There is another scene of entwined bodies, shot very close but in the way the movie is constructed with many flashbacks, it is hard to know when in the months of their affair, that erotic coupling took place. Probably at the beginning as a way of showing that at one point the lust and sexual attraction for both of them was very strong.  Before reality about their incompatible natures strikes them. Or at least him.
There are two pub episodes when she ventures into his world and we have everyone in the pub singing along to traditional songs, or pop songs of the day. Lovely to listen to but unreal as presented…rehearsed and everyone in tune.  He clearly loves these singalongs. She puts up with them, just wants to drag him away from his best mate, to one on one intimacy and bed. Nostalgia on the part of the director for this period  ?
Jo Stafford's You Belong To Me a famous fifties tune is used with much significance. Searing violin music accompanies much of the drama. A Samuel Barber violin concerto.  Sandra Hall  in Sydney Morning Herald found it all 'lyrical, poetic and achingly sad'. Craig Matheiseon in  Sun Herald found the suffering luminous, the  movie "wrenchingly powerful and timeless." The sadness was too much for me. Glad it was only 99 minutes. Kingo took his often depressed older sister, Caroline. Not a good move.


The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel ***

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen***


A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg, a director of somewhat classy horror movies, directed this. German Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Water for Elephants, Carnage) was going to play Freud before the role went to Viggo Mortensen who made a better job of Freud (the lesser role) than Michael Fassbender did of Jung. The word 'square' came to mind for the character of Jung as portrayed.  After roles in Jane Eyre, (my favourite in terms of romance and  looking beautiful), and Shame, I found Fassbender a disappointment. He hardly ever changed expression, (glad tho when he took off the obviously useless glasses), always immaculately barbered (as was Freud) and dressed; the one time he showed any emotion was a shock and it seemed out of character (wooden nerdy stitched-up character that is, was Jung really in any way like that ?) when he suddenly collapsed  in front of Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) and pressed his face into her voluminous skirts, professing his love, she seemed as surprised as the audience must have been. Knightley was good although she never seemed to be enjoying herself whether sane or crazy. Spielrein became a famous psychoanalist, but came to an unhappy end – Jewish (like Freud, unlike Jung) she was captured by the Nazis and shot with her two children. Freud was not rich, had to keep seeing clients and writing, whereas Jung let Freud know – as they became disaffected - that he had a rich supportive wife. She bought him a yacht for cruising on Lake Constance on which they lived luxuriously, and also  bought him a first class stateroom on the ship to America with Freud who had to make do with a cabin shared with his male secretary.
So,  not boring but a bit dull, with great phrases floating by from time to time -  Christopher Hampton's screenplay - but not enough to enthrall. Beautifully shot, Swiss lake and chateau, various Viennese interiors. In marriage three is company two none
theme. The discreet mistress adds perfume to the valuable discipline of marriage said Jung.  Or something like that. Suggestion that Freud was not having sex at all and this explaiend his obsessin with it. Jung had a nice line - Sometimes one has to do the unforgiveable to survive. We never see the man that Jung became after he separated from Freud.  We get a tight focus on the triangular relationship between Freud, Jung and Spielrein.  We see quite a lot of Fassbender whipping Keira Knightley into a sexual frenzy (on the bum).  For psychological purposes only of course. Great music, which also accompanied the credits which were lessened in impact – like the music - by the distraction  of the lights (unnecessarily bright)  going up immediately, by the young cleaners coming thru, and people arriving for the next session even tho it was fifteen minutes away. Management seems to discourage anyone sitting thru the credits.  It was distracting sitting thru the previews and ads, the same overly bright half lights in Cinema 1. There was a man reading a book on a brightly lit IPad during the ads. 
*** no more

As expected, it had rained while I watched the 99 minute movie. I unfurled my umbrella.

The Cove 8 30 on ABC – slaughter of dolphins in remote Japanese fishing village. I watched it all with interest but nodded off just before the actual climactic slaughter. I did not mind. Much preceded about dolphins, their intelligence and their health in Acquatic Parks (not good, stressed and ulcerated despite appearing to be having a good time) and the way they relate to humans. Dolphins' sonar hearing system their main communication instrument, much more sophisticated than our hearing system,  and the Japanese used noise -  loud constant banging - to disorient and frighten as they herd them towards the fatal cove. I woke to see the bright red waters of the cove in question after the mass killing and that was enough. There was plenty of ugly out of time fishing habits revealed, many angry fishermen from the village hating to be filmed and questioned about their 'tradition" and general political chicanery along the way to get the message across.  Powerful movie, if dogmatic and one sided. The massacre will go on every September inTaji (?) but some success achieved by the activists who made the movie - no more dolphin meat in schools (because of high mercury content) and  50% more humane killing methods (instant death) among other advances.


March 2012





Headhunters *** Definitely a great RIDE as was Margin Call **** (for different reasons, the latter being a brilliant ensemble piece about the horrors of the overly loose and crooked  financial system, captialism at its worst and Headhunters just a lot of fun and a lot of spilled blood) but with neither film arousing much sympathy for the characters, particularly Margin Call, what a bunch of callous conscience free bastards, even Kevin Spacey whose dog died. in the end, it was ultimately money and survival  for all of them in Margin Call with Jeremy Irons as the head banker(based on the Lehmann Brothers head honcho) heading the race to the bottom. As for Headhunters, it was very clever plotting, proceeds at a breakneck pace in case you wonder what is going on and it is a terrific thriller, an escalating chase and after a while you are gasping at what you are watching. A big difference between this movie from Norway and the other thrillers I have seen recently eg The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise whether Scandinavian original or even better Ameriocan remake by David Fincher, is  that Headhunters has a wicked sense of humour.  Along with the audience at the Newtown Dendy I was frequently laughing aloud. Black comedy and often brutal but you really wanted the hero to survive after what he had gone through. There is even a sweetness about the ending.

Coriolanus.  
Director: Ralph Fiennes. Screen writer/adaptor: John Logan

I can't wait, particularly after missing the special showing on Monday. Not a movie either Gary nor Peter would be interested in seeing. Gary might like the Shakespeare but not the brutality.  I dash down to Dendy at Circular Quay.  Also aware I could take photos of Queen Mary 11 berthed there. Not quite a dsah. The trains were not running in normal fashion (A drenching storm that morning while I was again obsessed at the machine in this sheltered flat) I found out later on SBS news ? SBS had a report on city flooding but did not give the time that the storm hit or precisely where in Sydney). Short of time, I jumped on a Platform 5 train and for once it was not City Circle but off to Hornsby. I had to get off at Central and being directed to 20 and 21 I waited there. A train on both platforms for City Circle in 2 minutes. Then 1 minute,then arriving, but no train arrived.  This continued for ten minutes and I realised  there was something really wrong and dashed downstairs asked what was the matter. Paltform 17 said an attendant brusquely. I ran up and found I had five minutes to wait. But a train did come in 5.  I was lucky. I arrived at Dendy at 2 50 for the 2 30 session and was told it had not yet started. I dead-headed with the lights going down. As a close up of a hefty steel knife being sharpeneed went on and on, the cinema was so dark I had to wait for a scene with some light. When I pushed open the door I hada glimpse of a pretty full session. I did not want to sit on top of anyone.
Fiennes playing Coriolanus, set in the Balkans, a contemporary setting. An extraordinary experience. Brutal story and it was like seeing a brand new Shakespearean tragedy, one up there with Hamlet and King Lear. I did not know the story nor had I read the play. Marvellous phrases and  words flowing throughout, (Coriolanus has no more mercy than a male tiger has milk, notes Menenius his main supporter as he prepares to kill himself by cutting his wrists) was reduced to tears a couple of times. Coriolanus fearsome to look at, shaven head, often bloodied, an impossible character, a tragedy not just of pride but of stubborness and hopelessly lofty unrealistic ideals, noble and incorruptible but not a democratic man, (loathes the populace with their stinking breath and tells them so, governance is not for them but for the priviledged and high born like him)  a would-be tyrant, Coriolanus...I don’t think I have seen a movie quite like it. Stripped down and considerably reworked as an action film, it retains Shakespearian dialogue, delivered by Fiennes and  Gerard Butler as Aufidius, his Volcsian nemesis, with a slight Irish brogue. Voluminia, (Vanessa Redgrave) Coriolanus's formidable mother is a powerful force behind him. She appeals to his humanity and he responds for the sake of saving the city, signs a peace accord, but at the expense of his own life. I did not quite believe Voluminia could wield such influence on him. Her connection with the upper echelons of power in Rome at the time, were not made clear.There are homoerotic elements in the relationship between Aufidius and Caius Martius (Coriolanus) Their initial struggle for example in Coriola,  their final fatal embrace, and in the night scene when Coriolanus is welcomed into the Aufidius camp which is presented like a leather dungeon bar. Coriolanus has been banished (by the Senate) and, resenting his exile and vowing revenge, he infamously betrays Rome by 'sleeping with the enemy'. ****
The credits came up, and immediately,up came the lights – full on rather than half. The audience was left looking at the credits – which were accompanied by searing music and a song –in at unkindly glare.  Some people left, as usual but many stayed, rivetted bywhat we had seen. I was in tears and felt angry at the lights. It is not usual at Dendy.
I noticed that a young woman came in almost immediately and started looking for glasses and discarded wrappings, cleaning up and she was still there when the creditsended. I went up to her and asked "Are you  the manager ?"
Yes.
Why did you put the lights on full when the credits began to roll ?  Why not half ?
It's Dendy policy. People are leaving, it’s a safety issue.
I feel like asking for a refund. I have paid money for an entire movie, as far as I am concerned the credits are part of the movie. This was a powerful film I was very affected by it as I am sure many of the audience were. The credits are like a decompression chamber enabling us  to prepare for reality outside the cinema.
I'm sorry but it is policy. It's a safety…
(I disagree with her on that. I go to Opera Quays often and it does not happen. In the case of Coriolanus it was particularly unfortunate because of the emotions the film  had aroused. I needed some quiet time to recover) I had  the feeling she was in a hurry to get us out, as even as we were speaking, peoplewere entering for whaever was on next in Cinema1 – Coriolanus obviously started late, which benefited me)
If it's a safety issue why  don't you stop people entering when the ads and previews are on when the half lights are on, if half lights when people are leaving is a safety issue ?
She had no answer. I repeated my question and she agreed.
Have you any authority with the management here
Yes,  there is a house meeting tomorrow and I will bring it up. You can also make a written complaint.
I gave her my name and handed her my card, saying I was a journalist and film blogger.


I rush off to see Carnage, the new Roman Polanski. It has been given **** by all but I should have known better -- knowing it was an adaptation from a play and was a 'brisk' 80 minutes. Thank God for that. . All talk and no action sort of stuff.. An advance showing of Coriolanus on at Dendy Opera Quays at 6 30 was the alternative. . I should have held off until them  because Carnage was in deed an 80 minute filmed play and the four protagonists never stopped taking. Idea: The thin veneer of NewYork middle class civilisation ripped apart in the course of the 80 minutes. All actors were brilliant in the roles, but it grew tiresome. I was reminded of The Exterminating Angel, the Luis Bunuel film  where the guests find themselves unable to leave.  Christolf Waltz with a perfect American accent. The plaudits shared equally, among the four  and the balance of power shifted dramatically many times, but I think I enjoyed Waltz as Alan Cowan, the upscale corporate lawyer the most. Followed by bluecollar business man, John C Reilly. Jody Foster as the latter's wife, Penelope, the politically correct liberal art lovb=er was most extreme and hysterical. Kate Winslet as Nancy an investment banker the only one who vomited. But I was glad when it was over.  The Separation (see above) had similarities also – endless dialogue and confrontation between a limited number of protagonists. All for the sake of drama. Works better on stage than on film. Too much talking. And they never left. The boys settled their differences on the field where they began. The Slap had a similar premiss.  Maybe Cris Tolkias got his idea from this play.  The only scene I thought did not work was the hysterical laughter by the two women after Jody Foster drops Waltz's cell phone in the flower vase. A little dated ? I laughed a few times but it was more excruciating than funny or farcical.  But farce amd excruciation are not that far apart sometimes.

Cristos Tolkias got his idea from this play ?  The only scene I thought did not work was the hysterical laughter by the two women after Penelope drops Waltz's cell phone in the flower vase. A little dated, the women's laughter ata cell phone misfortune ? I laughed a few times but it was more excruciating than funny or farcical.  But farce amd excruciation are not that far apart sometimes.


The Separation
was harrowing, intense and ultimately a relief it was all over. A lot of  talking and shouting, a somehow theatrical experience, like a melodramatic play, endless confrontations, the artificially constructed story twisting and turning, sympathies going this way and that as the two sides struggle for advantage with the truth of the matter hard to come by. I felt little for the protagonists as the end game approached. Pitiable. Sad that the drama should have existed at all.  Class warfare, religious warfare. Filmaker telling us something about conditions in Iran. Keeps us in ignorance of facts to enable to drama to unfold slowly. Eg  what happens when the grandfather, hopped  up on an excess of oxygen  - his tank supply manipulated by the little daughter of the helper - escapes the house and has to be rescued in the busy traffic laden street.
The Oscar ? A political decision ? Is the movie being shown in Iran ? Was it made in Iran ?  Those congested street scenes in Tehran ? Iranian politics, Iranian legal system (does not come out of it too badly) Muslim religion, (no mullahs were seen although one was consulted by telephone, as to whether the Koran would allow the female helper – desperate for any kind of work - could wash the grandfather) consulted, no minarets seen, no calls to prayer heard) class (middle class versus working class, the former with a sceptical attitude towards the Koran, and towards the dress code for women, (a fashion statement and minimal) the working class devoutly believing in Islam. To them, swearing on the Koran to tell the truth still meaningful…
Difficult to understand why the Alzheimer affected grandfather,  in such an advanced state of decay and helplessness, was not in a nursing home. Irrational for the middle class son, not without resources and holding down a good job in a bank, to keep him at home, a stubborn irrationality which created the drama. Out of such character faults doth come drama. See King Lear. Why didn't the extended family who appear from time to time, intervene ? How could he allow his marriage to disintegrate for the sake of an old man who did not even know that the man looking after him was his son ?  So a weak premise but having said that, it was rivetting stuff  from, the beginning with the 11 year old daughter's unswerving intent to bring the parents together again providing a key plot point, with her playing her cards well right to the open ending whereby she keeps  the mother and father in impatient limbo outside the adjudicator's office while she takes a long long while to tell him which parent she wants to live with. If she eventually tells  the adjudicator she wants to live with them both, he will order them back together. And the parents will probably do so.  The working class family are left to stew in their own 'honourable' but hamstringing Koranic juice, justa s bad off as they were at the beginningofthe movie.  ****

24th February
MarthaMarcyMayMarlene

I work away at my screen as usual, decide to take in a movie, playing only at the Chauvel, a 50 minute walk away across Redfern then thru parkland to Moore Park Road, thence up Oatley Road to the cinema -  – the movie Kingo walked out of – MarthaMarcyMayMarlene, billed as a 'thriller' although it is hardly that, well no cheap thrills at least but quite a deal of suspense as I watched and waited for things to be slowly revealed.  Director Sean Durkin does not spell much out and constantly moves without warning between present and past, giving itan interest it might not hae had otherwise. Less is more at least in tems of engaging our attnetion. We watch hoping we will eventually comprehend what is going on. And we do.The commune in Connecticut where Martha (Elizabeth Olson in a rivetting performance) has been - unknown to her worried family (only Lucy, a sister is left of that) - living under the influence of one Patrick (not presented as particularly charismatic) a 'guru' – ultimately it turns out he is a Manson-like figure who gets his group to prey upon lonely young women, creates for them the family of which they are bereft for some reason. Martha after being raped (presented as anal rape) settles down somewhat to the ritual of this 'rape' and even introduces new girls to what goes on at the commune, but eventually as group sex, home invasion, murder and the idea of death as the ultimate act of love, are revealed, runs away to her sister's place. Unfortunately for Lucy and her husband, she is by now, irreparably damaged by what has happened to her. She is delusional and paranoid as we see in brief flashback what happened to her. Martha unable to separate her past from her present, becoming even dangerous with a divided personality, hence the three different names for her in the title.
An inconclusive ending but it seems that the commune has found out where she is staying and is coming to get her back, this happens even as Lucy is driving her to a psychiatric center for treatment,  having become frightened of her sister's 'madness' and unable to cope with her, realising how fucked-up she is. Is the time frame really just two weeks with the sister and brother-in-law ?


I find I am in a somewhat strange state as the movie ends. As we depart (with one man explaining to his friends his idea of what was going on) I ask a question about the ending, and encounter others in a strange state who don’t want to communicate at all. "Up to your imagination" one woman blurts out as she sidles by me. Another man wont engage my eyes. ***




February

My Week with Marilyn ****

My tear ducts worked overtime. A truly magical movie. Michelle Williams will give the Iron Lady (Meryl Streep) a run for her money for Best Actress at the Oscars. Comments to follow sometime soon. Maybe. Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier behaving badly on set, very badly, is rivetting and hilarious, Kenneth may well also get an Oscar for Best Supporting. 


Shame ***

Directed by Steve McQueen

Why called Shame ?  He did seem a bit ashamed of his pornography collection, threw it all out in the trash eventually.  Did he clean up his hard drive after his boss David mentioned it as being full of the worst of porn, after his boss had fucked Sissy, Brendan's sister. In Brendan's flat. Assuaging some guilt in this way because the boss was a married man with children ?  Or shame at the way Brendan treated his sister, driving her to yet another act of self harm. We see at the end  the scars up her arm of previous attempts to cut her veins. Perhaps McQueen sees the two, the obsessions with sex and  the bad treatment as one and the same, one feeding off the other.Brendan (Michael Fassbender)  hates his sister moving in with him because it interferes with his own freedom to be sexually active whenever, wherever in the apartment. Selfishness on his part as a successful man with a prestigious internet company, he feels no need to make concessions.  Does not care when she makes cries for help because she knows she is close to killing herself yet again. He has been there before. Does that make him even more selfish, all the way to callous as well ?
No back story for either Sissy (Carey Mulligan)  or Brendan. Abused as children ? Incest  between the two of them ?  Nothing is revealed. Nor is Brendan's big dick much revealed  despite the reviews and the rating from the censors. We see him naked walking from  his bedroom to the bathroom several times but always against the light and we get only glimpses of it. You just manage to see that it is long. And so it goes for the entire movie. McQueen anxious for his movie to be art and not mistaken for porn? He undercooks the nakedness and the sex. Nothing is pleasant or arousing to watch.  
Beautifully shot, brilliantly acted by both Fassbender and Mulligan., She sings very slowly,  and brilliantly, New York New York in an upscale club. The whole song and it  eventually it becomes very moving in its desperation and sadness.  We can see why Brendan rolls out a small tear by the end. Some powerful scenes between the two siblings - eg. the time she slips into his bed and he tells her to "Get out of my room. Fuck Off!" The dialogue between the two of them on the sofa also is strong.  The manic scenes in the street late at night after he has quarrelled with Sissy when he goes on a sex and drinking bender. Gets beaten up, follows a man into a gay sex venue and has himself sucked off and perhaps more. Grainy and dark and done in flash back. The main emotion is perhaps anger. Suppressed anger. The long jog thru the night to get rid of his anger. Then the breakdown when he feels to have not been more sympathetic to his sister's plight.  He knew inevitably it was coming and did not care. Self pity at his inability to empathise ? So I admired but did not warm to the movie. Was that deliberate intention on  the part of McQueen ?  Paul Byrnes called it an alienating movie about alienation. About sexual addiction. He does not use the word obsession. Addiction.  Why did he not call it that ? Sexual Addiction ?  For me it seems that the shame of the title  is shame not about his sexual  addiction so much as about how he has treated his sister.
The whole movie is pretty grim. Does it  get any where ? I had seen Fassbender in Hunger the previous night on SBS2  doing much the same thing in  a way, being grim and not having a good time. Starving himself to death in that one and in this one fucking himself to oblivion. Until Sissy's violent action brings about some sort of catharsis. On the subway we have a repeat scene of the first scene – eyeing a woman on  the train with a steady ravenous gaze. She responds and goes to the central pole. Close-up of her hand waiting for his to close on hers, as before, but this time he resists. THE END I wasn't bored but nor was I particularly moved by his plight. Joyless, no fun at all. Is McQueen a puritan
?


 My Australia day entertainment turns out to be:

J. Edgar ****
I left the screaming and grunting lady semi-finalists in the tennis open, for an Australia Day afternoon outing to Circular Quay, which was impossibly crowded with happy holiday makers. The Dendy to see J. Edgar. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Screenplay by gay activist Dustin Lance Black who also wrote Milk. I was lucky to get a seat even tho arriving 15 minutes early. Another near masterpiece with Leonardo di Caprio brilliant as Hoover. By the end, like Meryl Streep with Thatcher, he completely inhabits the role, becoming the ageing Hoover even more than Streep becomes the ageing Thatcher. It is a rivetting127 minutes. The Iron Lady created sympathy for Margaret Thatcher by showing us the former Prime Minister ravaged and demented and flashbacking into her life. Here the a similar device is used – Hoover as an old man dictating his unreliable memoirs to a series of handsome young Bureau male employees. A bio-pic, but by giving a central place to the nature of the Tolson/Hoover relationship, it rises above the prosaic and creates sympathy for, and understanding of, a monstrous man. We come to know this man more than he perhaps knew himself. We see the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from early days in random and sometimes awkward flashback. Clyde Tolson, (Armie Hammer, brilliant also in the role) his lifetime companion, presented as a charming gay man, interested in clothes and interior décor.  As in Brokeback Mountain, the relationship between the two men is presented as a tragic story, tightly controlled so as to achieve maximum poignancy. Hoover all career and control and homophobic inability to accept his sexuality, with Tolson entirely devoted to Hoover.  Tolson can say "I love you", to his partner, but the most Hoover can respond, even late in life, is a desperate "I need you," when the two men fight and Tolson threatens to leave. At the very end, under his breath just before dying, Hoover breathes, I love you I love you.  Several powerfully affecting scenes between him and Tolson some of which made me cry. Hoover presented as a mama's boy (Judy Dench as a slightly too old mum, who tells him, "I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil one." ) Unsparing scenes of the two men in old age, directed by Eastwood who is probably himself feeling his age (he is in his eighties) and knows what it is all about. Apart from the Tolson/Hoover affair which gave the movie its psychological and emotional arc, J Edgar is a fine trawl thru 20th century American history from the self-aggrandising POV of Hoover who felt himself to be an embodiment of all that was good in America. More than one scene of him drinking in applause given to others as though it was for him.
Time constraints no doubt had the movie omitting Hoover's influence in the McCarthy anti-communist hearings. He was always looking for reds under the bed from the start. Hoover always felt unsafe (his sexuality) and so created the bureau to keep America SAFE. Justifying all his excesses. Those files he kept on everyone but himself. Nixon tried to get hold of them when "that fucking cocksucker" Hoover died but his loyal secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Woods) shredded them first. Eastwood did not omit his anti-black racism and appalling treatment of Martin Luther King.  There were very few blacks in the Bureau.  Hoover made sure of that.
Amazing that Hoover received news of the shooting of President Kennedy before even Bobby Kennedy did. Was it the Mafia who rang Hoover? Hoover immediately called Bobby on his private line, then hung up on him. It has become clearer over the years that the Mafia, in cahoots with Lee Harvey Oswald, was behind the shooting. Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General at the time, was taking steps to get rid of the Mafia.

I was much affected by the depiction of the closeted relationshnip between  Tolson and Hoover, and walked slowly thru the Botanic Gardens to compose myself. Reflecting on how homophobia and me being gay has partly directed  the course of my entire life. Took photographs with my IPhone of flowers birds and bats.


The Descendants ****
Director: Alexander Payne  (of Election, Sideways, About Schmidt.)
 nominated for 5 Golden Globes. Why not more than 5 asked a couple of film reviewers. It  certainly was a good movie, a flawless movie, although Jan Allen thought the two daughters were too good at the end, after being so outre at the beginning.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ***
Director: David Fincher
After lunch I suggested the new George Clooney, talked about as one of the best movies of the year, headed for Oscar glory. Michael drove to Erskineville, found a free and safe parking place, we then walked up to the Dendy. I had made a mistake, Descendants was on at 4pm  at Opera Quays, not Newtown, but we were in time for the David Fincher but for the first 5 minutes. Michael was reluctant about the missed five minutes but conceded. He would have preferred the new Sherlock Holmes at 4 10. Looking back it might have been a better bet. I was influenced by the glowing review of the Fincher in the New Yorker.
but I had the same response to it as I had to the Swedish version. Yet another serial killer movie about a man who tracks down a certain type of women, tortures and mutilates. Some tough rape and torture scenes which had Michael biting a finger nail, down to the quick. He hates horror movies. That probably rules out The Skin I Live In for him, despite the elegance of the presentation of the story. And with violence, this one went as far as Michael likes to take it. Kingo would probably have hated it. Fincher's version probably better than the Swedish one. Much made of the music score, very prominent but fine. Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara both good.




The Skin I Live In ****
the elegant and most entertaining Pedro Almodovar horror/revenge melodrama, with Javier Bardem. A shocker. The ultimate sexual identity story. He takes it all the way. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown and he is not talking about kingship.

The Iron  Lady****
Margaret Thatcher's political career gets the rush treatment in a way, with 50% of the movie taken up with her post political life. Meryl Street brilliant throughout, but particularly as the doddery old Thatcher, impinged upon by age, the onset of dementia. One of the best movies ever about Alzheimers.

The Adventures of Tin Tin **
Director: Stephen Spielberg without his signature crass sentimentality. What a relief.  But it will be there in spades in Warhorse
Kingo had no interest in motion capture or in fact any of the new animation. So I went to Tin Tin by myself. It was not Speilbergain, ie saccharine doses of mush. Lots of that in Warhorse, I hear. Much as I like horse movies, and I don't mind being reduced to tears by genuine emotion, but Spielbergian? I may be dragged kicking and screaming …
Tin Tin was exhilarating for most of its journey but gradually ran out of puff, ending  with a terrible wimpish ending heralding a sequel. Speilberg did not want the ending to be the accumulation of great riches?  Not politically correct,  in an era of American poverty and dissarray? Please! The rest of was pure fantasy, why not the pursuit of money angle too ? After all that was what propelled the story – the prize of sunken treasure - fabulous jewels and gold ingots.
Good music, gorgeous to look at always, the motion capture was OK, but with 3D darkening the screen and only some of the scenes enhanced by spacial distancing, depth, I found myself pushing the glasses up on my forehead and enjoying more the brilliant colours. The focus was not that different. When it was clear that a big setpiece was about to explode, I placed  the glasses back over my eyes and got the full effect, albeit darkened. Dendy did not charge extra for the 3D that particular session. Good idea.
Daniel Craig was unrecognizable as the villain unfortuately, both in voice and in appearance. Andy Serkin as The Captain of the good ship Unicorn, a drunk, was mostly an irritating bore. The drunk jokes were not bad. Generally the humour was heavy handed – the inebriated Captain and the two thick as a brick Interpol investigators were there for light relief but were made tedious by the heavy hand. The pickpocket character was also overblown. That final scene with him verged on the excruciating. Tin Tin, the young reporter hero, was bland and never particularly interesting. Outacted by his dog, Snowy (who had the intuition and did all the clever things), and his only characteristic, intrepidity, lost in the stunning motion capture set pieces. His expression never changed. Sandra Hall said the film was muddled, and yes, it certainly became so by the end.
The cinema was cold as usual and I was glad of a  sweater. I kept it on as I walked home until I had recovered from the chill.  Everything seemed in slow motion after the well-engineered roller coaster pace of the movie.

End of the year movie going - impossible to see Arthur Christmas with it being on seemingly only in the early morning and early afternoon. Why ?  I am awaiting the Boxing Day arrival of The Skin I Live In and The Iron Lady. I did see Moneyball, rivetting about a most unlikely subject, the schemes, dreams and shenanigans behind baseball, a classic Hollywood movie; who said they did not make 'em like that anymore. **** Brad Pitt in another stellar performance. He did another  really good job in the Terrence Malick metaphysical absorber, The Tree of Life. ****

I guess my favourite movie of the year was The Guard, the Irish black comedy. Profane and joyful said Paul Byrnes. My favourite star was definitely Ryan Gosling for Crazy Stupid Love, Driver, and Ides of March. Am I in love with Ryan Gosling ?


29th November

I ring GarySimes

Want to go to the movies tonight
Well, yes
The Ides of March
Oh I don’t want to see it. I've seen the trailer. I feel I've seen the whole thing.
You don twant to see it ? It's a great movie, won all sorts of awards, Venice ...
No
Ryan Gosling ?
Jim  you know I don’t remember the names of these actors
Not even George Clooney ?
No.
I gave up.
He went on to say he walked out of Burning Man after half an hour ..He went with Damien Parer TV/film producer who also walked out, precipiting Gary's.
You could not have known what the movie was about after half an hour. That was just the freewheeling exhiliarating intro.
I hated it.That stupid guy
He was a chef in a trendy Bondi Beach restaurant. His wife died of cancer. He was burning (ie angry)  because his beautiful much loved wife died of cancer. It's a movie about dealing with grief.
I was in  a strange state. Unsettled. I really wasn't into a movie of any sort. It was the wrong movie…

I go see IDES OF MARCH (Director: George Clooney) by myself down at the Quay Dendy. Advertised at 6 45.
Again an apology from Dendy about a twenty minute delay in showing the movie. Like at The Debt a couple of weeks ago. What is the problem ? Noone left. All happily waited  - and waited for an eagerly anticipated movie. It justified the wait.  A little pat perhaps; from  a play which probably explains it. Movie was all good but could have been a bit better? It slowly gathered power. Tight editing. Great score. Paul, the Democratic campaign manager (Seymour Hoffman), the Republican campaign manager, (Paul Giamatti) and Ida, the hard nosed Times reporter (Marisa Tomei)  all undoubtedly great in their roles. George Clooney as Democratic candidate for President, Governor Mike Morris, had less to do in the central but not main role. Main role of Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) as Mike Morris's press agent (?) was played well, but …the Cassius, the betrayer, the Judas. Nasty but was he nasty enough?  Meyers initial idealism comes up hard against realities, against hard nosed ambition, his own and those of his political idol the idealistic left leaning candidate  Candidate Morris has all the good moves on climate change, gay marriage, abortion, renewable energy etc. but in the Ohio polls is trailing his Republican opponent.  Situation  desperate.
Meyers makes an initial mistake and in recovering, makes some unpleasant decisions both personal and political which made it hard to retain any sort of sympathy for him. I left the movie rather depressed at the nature of the hard nosed wheeling dealing of politics, at the weaknesses of the best of us when the chips are down and everything (decisions in cause of career at the expense of loyalty/integrity, for example) is at stake.  A salutory morality tale. ****


earlier in November

 Burning Man at the Dendy tomorrow ? I could not go, having committed myself to a dinner with Chris Cornforth  and Garry Wotherspooon  so on spur of moment – competitiveness ? – or perhaps realisation that with a busy weekend coming up again, there would be  no time to go to any movies at all.  I double checked that it was not the Domadgree
documentary from Palm Island (The Tall Man) and on spur of moment decided to go see it, 4pm Newtown  Dendy. Fortuitous  timing Not a movie on my list particularly although the phrase "Exhilarating first half" in Spectrum note was encouraging. I knew nothing at all about it beyond that except that it was an Australian movie. With ***1/2
Rain again – had to change my boots and sox – and arrived at Dendy right on 4.
Director Jonanthon Teplitzky.The first half was indeed exhilarating and a little scary, the speed of it all,  both the road  rage scenes and the kitchen rage scenes – this was Tom, in just about every scene, English actor, Matthew Goode, brilliant in the role as well as being very sexy, an angry man, his anger representing by flashes of flames breaking out frequently in his immediate surroundings, not to mention at his job as chef in an uparket Bondi Beach restaurant, also the horrific and bloodily rendered car accident and then moving back and forth in time we find out why he is so angry and realise what the movie is really all about  as the sombre second half unfolds. His beloved and beautiful wife (Bohana Novakovic) in her mid-thirties, is dying of breast cancer. Confronting, frank scenes abound. They have a son of 8 years, Oscar, brilliantly, played (Jack Heanly) who is both precocious and innocent. A very contemporary movie – swearing, the frequent use of the word fucking all the time, the frank and frequent sex scenes, very Sydney perhaps. Beautiful less frantic, more serene scenes at Wattamolla. I admired the direction, the music, the editing throughout but it was not until the final death scene, the last hoarse breaths, that some tears flowed, as with Tom sitting close by her (she curled under a blanket in an armchair), watch life drain out of her eyes, her head fall to one side. I had not seen such a scene in a movie before.
Tom recovers from the horrific accident – humourous hospital scene – decides to not sell the house where he had lived with her. In the garden,  he has one last spasm of grief, comes to terms with her loss in so doing, he and Oscar get going again – Oscar plays the trumpet badly at school concert, tells dirty jokes told him by Tom – the man with five penises  with underpants that 'fit him like a glove"  "Give Dad the chance to use the word 'penis' (Tom throughout shown as a man who loves sex and for making good use of his penis throughout including his efforts to reproduce the joy of sex with his wife by hiring hookers dressed up as lookalikes of his dead wife. These are , unsuccessful and are yet another cause of his burning man character. I sat thru the credits – the brilliant score continuing, with John Lennon's late song coming in - We all shine on, on and on and on…The credits is a time I often use as a decompression chamber after a deeply affecting movie.
I felt grim and strange after the Burning Man, unable to stop crying a few times at the  thought of it as I headed home – the rain still coming down.
I rang Gary to decline his offer of movie – I said I had already seen it - not saying actually when - A good movie, Exhilarating first half, intense second half. And that is all I said. "Do you know what it is all about ? No
He is going with TV and movie producer the porky Damien Parer (?) who would certainly know what it is all about. Might know Jonathon Teplitzsky (English director) who was not only director, but joint script writer and producer. A labour of love I would say, a tribute arising out of grief for a beloved wife lost too young to 'fucking cancer'…


The Debt  (an English  remake from an Israeli movie)
Director: John  Madden
Cabin fever hits as usual in  late afternoon after hours on Photoshop and the screen and I go to see We Have to Talk About Kevin at Dendy Quays. Wonderful to be out in the hot sunshine, Radiance of the Seas or something, a truly enormous apartment block of a cruise ship dominating the Quay, but I have made a mistake and only late afternoon movie on is The Debt but I have been wanting to see that for days so in I go after a side trip with a cup of good coffee from Guerlain chocolate shop next door. I sit on a perfect bench in the sun but with a cool breeze in Botanic Gardens…
movie is 20 minutes late and apologies are made by management, (I manage to read a few more pages of Lacuna) but once it starts (no ads, and thank you) all is forgiven for it is a rivetting, tough, violent espionage thriller, a fiction but feels real, three Mossad agents in the 60s tracking down the monstrous Doctor of Berkenwald, known to be living in East Berlin…two time frames (at least – 60s thru to 90s), Jessica Chastain as the young Rachel (Helen Mirren), Sam Worthington (much beefier than in Avatar) as the young David (Chiaran Hinds), Marton Csokas as the young (Stefan) Tom Wilkinson. It's a movie about compromised morality I suppose and how each of the three deal with it over the years. It's quite a long time before we realise just what IS the debt that is being paid. A serious lie that, in the minds of the three ultimately has to be dealt with – it is different for all three – in some way. Different in how the lie has affected their lives. The feeling that the truth must come out is dominant ...we ultimately get the truth and it is a satisfying movie without being devastating, like say Incendie, or Biutiful with Javier Badem, or the Danish one that got best foreign film. Tina Kaufman with whom I spoke that morning, said it was good but ultimately she was hohum about it. Complex construction, some confusion with the young and old time frames and the different looking actors for the role

Melbourne Cup
- the international raiders.Duneden won by a nosehair. A dead heat in all but in the name of photo-technology.. Too much photo super-technology. The second horse Red Cadeaux deserved better than the total ignoral that placed horses always get as compared to the winner. A muddle of a race to watch. The horses pretty much bunched the whole way.  An extraordinary sight as they all approached the winning post. Like a mob of brumbies out on the plains. A few mares with foals at heel would have not gone amiss. Usually in the Cup, the horses are all strung out near the rail. A flying fleet of horses. Beautiful.

Contagion
An empty feeling after the Cup for some reason. I had to get out. A third night at home , repeating the previous
two reflecting perhaps  a growing habit. ( 630 SBS NEWS, up to an hour spent cooking, steady drinking of red wine, the slow sink into my armchair and whatever was on telly with a Facebook resurgence around 11pm and not getting to bed - after doing emails and maybe website as well - until after 1am.) And I needed exercise. I would  walk to George Street and see Contagion. Not a movie  that either movie mates Gary nor Peter would want to see.  Or me either but something in me had to see it. A duty ? Put myself thru it for educational purposes?
Steven Soderberg the director. Was it he who did terrific Traffic about cocaine and Mexican gangsters ?
A serious audience  - no popcorn and total silence once the movie had started  -  in Cinema 9. $8 with my Seniors Club pass. An OK movie but for me it never built up much steam despite the horror of the storyline. And the clever editing. This was no cheap action thriller although there were elements. I never felt that 25 million people had died in the pandemic. Little sense of any passage of time apart from that. That was information given rather than shown. Focus on small scale horrors representing the big. And effective. But not emotionally engaging even tho there nothing Spielbergian about the family crisis than envelopes Matt Damon who loses his errant wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and stepson.
There is a happy ending. Happy enough with the origin of the pandemic found and  a vaccine developed. Shenanigans to do with that of course. The profit motive. At the end, (what a relief!) the school prom night with Matt's daughter and her boyfriend dancing amid lights was touching. (Kate Winslett, the heroine from Titanic) was left to die offscreen. Angry 'irresponsible' blogger Jude Law left discredited but unbowed.  Short sharp scenes, quick cuts, no lingering just malingering on the part of many in struggles for advamntage in desperate situations..
Lawrence Fishburn and Matt Damon were the two who held it all together..
Afterwards the first thing I wanted to do was wash my hands. There was no soap in the bathroom and no air in the hand dryer so I walked back into the foyer with wet hands, vulnerable, dirty and contagious, not wanting to touch anyone, bump into anyone, feeling sort of bad.  Outside in the crowded  city it felt like another town, an Asian one, a town I did not want to be in, the pavement crowded with Chinese. The last scenes of the movie were a flash back to Day 1 which we had not seen, having been introduced to the movie initially on Day 2 to Gwyneth Paltrow on her way home to the mid-west and feeling sick. Day1 was bats flitting above a pig pen, followed by the pigs eating the bat shit, followed by the pigs being slaughtered and winding up in  a Chinese restaurant kitchen where the chef was cutting up a pig carcase. Gwyneth Paltrow wants to meet the chef. He doesn’t wash his bloody hands, just wipes them on his apron before shaking hands with Gwyneth. The virus is on its way.
I was cold also. The cinema had been cold. As usual in the summer time. The management always think they are doing their patrons a favour by cooling the cinema in the summer months. Forgetting that patrons are dressed for warm weather, not air-conditioned winter. A walk home would be good exercise (not enough of it in the last few days) for clearing  my head of the upsetting, even depressing movie. Thanks Mr Soderberg. But on spur of moment I diverged into Chinatown, found my way (a car coming fast down the wrong side of the road almost got me – I was crossing against the red light, but that car was in the wrong also and it tooted me as it flashed by. What was that all about ? Trying to scare me, a disliked white man in  Chinatown ?  Perhaps my paranoia level was elevated after the movie.) foundmy way to Emperor's Garden, an old haunt, and graudally returned to normality. The Tsing Tao beer never better tasting. Old fashioned waiters barking away

Friday 4 - almost Guy Fawkes Day. Appropriate for .
Anonymous
with Gary and his film/TV producer friend, Damien. Directed on big scale by Roland Emmerich, better known for Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow – global disaster movies. I found it enormous fun as did Gary. Damien thought it was an outrage, a ridiculous travesty of history.  He could not accept the preposterous premise or all the liberties taken with history whether theatrical or political. The twisted (to fit the premise) politics rather confusing and unlikely, but the muck and mire of Elizabethan London made up for that. The Libertine with Johnny Depp did much the same for Restoration London a  few decades later. Much use made of playwright Ben Johnson to pull off the hoax. All rivetting and done with brilliantly used CGI. Panoramas of London as it might have looked like back then. David Dale in the New Yorker, a critic with no sense of fun or humour was, like Damien,  outraged at the travesty ot it all, a farrago. Much better of course, to just go with it and enjoy. Amazing that it had not been done before. And  there was much to enjoy, even the slight clunk of the dialogue, and the expositional dropping of famous names for wxample. I was completely engaged and my eyes welled with tears at many of the scenes. Why is there so little back story to Shakespeare? No drafts, no scribbled ms. No bits and pieces. All lost in a terrible fire at the Globe as this movie suggests with only the plays themselves surviving, thanks to Johnson's heroic efforts. This movie filled us in on a possible Shakespeare backstory.  Emmerich (and screenwriter John Orloff) gave us Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford writing the plays at the desk in his stately country home, gives us actors in key scenes as they might have been performed at the time, gives us Shakespeare himself as a villainous Cockney actor and wastrel who was scarcely literate, a young promiscuous Elizabeth giving birth to numerous bastard heirs, also Vanessa Redgrave as a wonderfully doddery old Elizabeth, a camp and almost foppish theatre loving James 1. I could go on…




October 2011

The Hunter
An urge to get out of the house on this (sunny – I sat in the sun on the balcony for ten minutes with my shirt off - but cool) public holiday – I need a walk to make up for the one I missed. The same movie comes to mind so I set off with forty minutes to do it, across Redfern to Moore Park and  thence to the Verona for The Hunter with Willem Dafoe and Frances O'Connor.
From a novel by Julia Leigh who also wrote and directed  the recent movie Sleeping Beauty. She obviously likes spooky stuff  with superficial melodrama..
Directed efficiently by David Nettheim. A graduate of Australian Film Television and Radio School..
The film seemed in the end to be a bit of a schoolgirl fantasy. I was disturbed by the ending, but really the whole thing was a bit too silly to remain disturbed. Well made, and acted (by a grim and stoic Dafoe and by Frances O'Connor in a small role as the mother of the two children) but if you had read the book and knew the ending, it would have been rather slow and tedious. A good look at wild and remote Tasmanian scenery and its wallabies, wombats and Tasmanian devils, spotted cats as well, some of whom come to bad ends in Mr Dafoe's steel traps as he searches for the last surviving Tasmanian Tiger on behalf of a bio-tech corporation who believes its DNA has shown that a substance in the creature has the ability to cure cancer or a type of common cancer. There are other companies racing to find the creature also for the same reason. (I might have got this basic premise wrong, but it is something like this. A race against time. So it's like survivalist Bear Grills in Tasmania for much of the movie; sketched in sub-plot about trouble with the loggers who think he is a greenie because he is renting a room in a greenie household. Frances O'Connor's husband, a greenie has disappeared over a year ago in the wilderness that Dafoe is searching for the thylacine. It works as a slow moving bio-tech thriller with a nice low level of tension. All that beautiful wilderness to take a long look at is a pleasure. And we got it in all kinds of weather including snow.Several episodes of violence to keep you awake. But the ending is shocking if it wasn't so silly. So it is awful rather. I went away hating having seen that ending. Maybe it just made me sad. Maybe the ending  was designed to expunge feelings of guilt for what our forebears did in Tasmania. A retextualising of what what done so long ago and doing it again? Or no point crying over spilt milk,  lets get on it with it sort of ending. There was a good original soundtrack plus operatic arias on vinyl, a burst from St Matthew Passion, a Bruce Springsteen song.
** and a half



Late September 2011

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams in late afternoon session at Opera Quays. Can't wait any longer I have the feeling too that Gary is not that interested in it. The film  was ultimately profound.  I cried. Why tears rolled down my cheeks is hard to define. It happened at the end when we were taken back into the cave for a final look, when the scientists had departed and the camera men were free to film with fewer restrictions. And these were the best shots. Much had seen before particularly of the wall of wild horses, but closer this time, more detail. With the Venus for example,  (the only depiction of humans as opposed to beasts) we see the back of the limestone protrusion with the bull wrapped around the lower part of the Venus, seemingly having intercourse with her …very Minotaur, very Picasso. So fluid, such beautiful lines and shadings displayed in all of the black charcoal drawings, which often make use of the undulations and shapes of the cavern walls to enhance the movement of the beasts …rhinoceri, mammoth, lions, antelopes, bison, as well as the horses. Did I see aurochs as well  aurochs (ancient cattle)
****for Werner Hertzog's brilliant doco of our artistic ancestors from 30,000 years ago, the Chauvet caverns being 12,000 years before the paintings of Lascaux.  Mindboggling in their sophistication.


 Submarine at Dendy Newtown with Kingo who is late but slides into a seat beside me just as the movie begins. Perfect timing I whisper. But he missed out on trailers for Anonymous and Crazy Stupid Love (with Ryan Gosling in a slick - rather than sensitive nerd - role for the first time. "I'm in love with Ryan Gosling," I say to Peter afterwards Oh me too, he responds)
Submarine a delightful little movie, both charming and affecting, with many strong scenes, subtly funny as well as being quite melancholic. Set in set in a wintry industrial town in Wales. School bullying of Oliver Tate, a talented troubled teenager wise beyond his years, with a big head and a big imagination, who wishes that a 16mm camera crew followed him around recording everything he does. His main concerns are
(1)finding a first girlfriend, Jordana (Yasmin Paige) who is an outsider like him with an ascerbic tongue, who provides a unsentimental foil to him and his wild imaginings; and
(2)saving his parents marriage which he believes to be falling apart. The observation of his parents is quite hilarious, partly for its inaccuracy and wrong conclusions being drawn, partly because his parents are such a strange couple in the first place. Lloyd, his father,  is a marine biologist, very dry and absentminded, (played amusingly by Noah Taylor) who is subject to lengthy and deep depressions (submarine title may refer to this) Jill, (Sally Hawkins) his pretty but bored (and neurotic, in Oliver's eyes) mother who is having a flirtation with a former school days crush Graeme, (Paddy Considine) who has moved in next door and is hilarious in himself also, being a fraudulent New Age 'mystic'.  Jordana's family is having trouble also, with her mother looking at a deadly cancer, with her father distraught. Jordana invites Oliver to a pre-Xmas dinner because Mum might not make it to actual Xmas, and this provides one of the most affecting in the movie.
The director's (Richard Ayoade) touch is very gentle and he gets away with making use of a lot of potentialy heavy and melodramatic material. Great music and editing.
97 minutes of pure pleasure, a movie to savour and even get again on DVD and to look out for on SBS or ABC2
**** says Sandra Hall in the SMH and I agree.

Eye of the Storm  (from the Patrick White novel which I have not read, nor have I read any Patrick White novel. Started a lot of them but have never finished.  Have been told to at least read The Twyborn Affair)
Gary loved the movie from start to finish,  but I pretty much hated it all the way through although it picked up for me in  the last third. I disliked the characters, and never was able to rise above that. Pretty pathetic on my part for I guess there was quite a lot to enjoy if only I had given the movie my full attention - the sumptuous sets and locations, the storm itself on the tropical island, but …
I was unmoved by the hapless and neurotic Judy Davis as an overly twitchy Dorothy (why didn't Schepsi rein her in) I would have preferred to see more of her in her own locale, back in Europe with her confidence back and fewer twitches. Geoffrey Rush was more bearable but still a pretty obnoxious character with only one of two saving graces. As an acting role, he was better suited  in The Kings Speech. Charlotte Rampling came and went, sort of held it together, one of the movie's saving graces.
I found it tedious and painful to sit through, although the two hours plus went by quickly enough so maybe I was not entirely bored. Just got off on the wrong foot, became disaffected and refused unconsciously, to see anything good in the movie. I figeted, muttering under my breath at poor dialogue and embarrassingly weak scenes. Disaffection means one does not focus on the screen properly. I don’t know why I did not like the German housekeeper who sang old German cabaret songs and danced for the matriarch. Normally I would love that kind of stuff from days of decadent Berlin, but perhaps it was again, the overacting of the housekeeper, competing with Judy Davis in that ? Or was Scepisi always trying to show how neurotic all the characters were around Mrs. Hunter, because of the matriarch's essentially destructive character?  Cutting everyone down to size, as was her wont, expressing disappointment with all efforts around her whether it be her children or her servants. Hard to please. Mean. Whatever. A knighthood not enough for her to appreciate the career of her only son?  Marriage to a rich French aristocrat not enough for her to admire her only daughter's passage thru life ?
It also seemed to be dated. The dialogue sometimes pretentious and wafty, grand windy statements about life and love. Clunky sometimes.  When for example Mrs Hunter says to her nurse you might leave that morphine around for me to deal with,  the nurse responds with, "Oh no that would not be ethical." Well, yes, but would she really say that ? Surely any nurse would say nothing and just take it  away or give a little tut tut at the moment. Shake her head in sorrow more than anger or something ? Something blackly humourous ?  Furthermore, at the use of the word 'ethical', surely Mrs. Hunter, always great with a riposte, would have come out with something withering. A missed opportunity there. Too much respect for the White dialogue in the book ? A vulture movie ? Everyone around the dying women trying their hardest to please her so they would be remembered in the will. Ulterior motives all around from everyone except perhaps her solicitor, (John Gaden in good form) who turns out to be loyal and ethical in the end. One of the few likeable characters.
Gary gave it ****
Me?  **
David and Margaret seemed to be tying themselves into knots trying to find good things about it and justifying each of them lauding an unsatisfying movie with****
Is everyone intimidated into lots of stars by Patrick White ?


Crazy, Stupid, Love

I am in the city after lunch at charming Woolwich Hotel with producer Richard Brennan (he tried mightily to get my movie Billarooby off the ground – now renamed From  a Death to a View and still not off the ground) and Tina Kaufman (long time Sydney Film Festival honcho). Tina transferred to yet another bus in Darling Street which took her across town and home to Dulwich Hill, and I am alone. 3 30 and I walk to Event to check on times for Crazy, Stupid, Love and lo and behold a session is beginning at 3 30. I am in love with Ryan Gosling. I can't wait to have a look at him in this supposedly tough love rom com. David and Margaret each gave it **** despite the fact that it loses the plot somewhat at the end. By that they meant a happy ending.  
A cold cavernous and mainly empty Cinema 4. Always OK, Crazy,Stupid, Love, but it took a while for me to become fully absorbed. I was unfamiliar with any of the songs on the somewhat loud sound track. The screenplay juggled four different but intimately connected affairs –
(1) Steve Carel very depressed and drinking hard in singles bars, trying to get back his wife, Julianne Moore (who looks a little old for the role) but who asks him to move out because she   
(2) has fallen in love with Kevin Bacon and wants a divorce,
(3) Ryan Gosling a slick, sharp dressing ladies man, a master of the quick pick-up line, who finds he has fallen unexpectedly hard for looking for love lawyer, Emily Stone, who gives him a runaround he is not used to. He takes pity on Carel and gives him a sartorial makeover and a lesson or two in pick-up lines.  
(4) Steve Carel's short and plump, shaggy haired 13 year old son Robbie, who falls in love with his tall, lissom and beautiful 17 year old baby sitter who is at the same time hopelessly in love with Carel. A bitter sweetly realised mismatch.
Several strong and unexpected scenes a third of the way in, jolted me into emotional connection and from that point on I was hooked into what was a romantic drama rather than romantic comedy, which kept twisting and turning until the rather wacky (first) ending, which contains a Dickensian surprise that gives the story a further ten minute burst. It all ends in an overfamiliar and only slightly shaded happy ending. Pity about that.  Gosling a sexy delight throughout. A couple of near naked scenes  -  one in bed with a drunk Emma Stone and one with a drunk Steve Carel – the two men naked in a sauna, with Carel's head obscuring Goslings genitals but nothing else, revealing Gosling's beautiful body and lightly coloured and trimmed pubes. Some funny dialogue at gay expense there (Steve's head falls into Gosling's groin) but appropriate enough beween two heavily hetero characters, otherwise surrounded by gorgeous women as they are. Very hetero indeed the movie.
A lovely role for Gosling. Come call this movie a romdram but for Gosling is light stuff, different to  those heavier, wounded man roles he was becoming identified with. Half Nelson, Lars and the Girl, Blue Valentine for example. I have not seen The Notebook with Rachel McAdams with whom he had a two year relationship. Now he lives with his 11 year old dog George in New  York  (or so says Wikipedia.)





Early September 2011

I determine to see Red Dog which Kingo gave reluctant approval to when he  saw it with Jan shortly after it opened. I intend to walk down to George Street Event Cinemas, but am a little late getting out of the house and take a train.

A queue when I get there at 4 25 for the  4 40 showing …Multiplexes have restored the long slow queue by cutting down the number of staff selling tickets. All for profit and to hell with annoyance and inconvenience for patrons. Means a lot of their patrons miss seeing many of the ads.  What do the advertisers think of the queues ?
While waiting, I notice the popcorn signs above the ticket sellers.  . . $8 50 for a small bucket of popcorn flavoured with corn syrup. Something as simple and basic as popcorn costs almost $10 !!!  Once the high base price established, not much difference between Small, Medium and Large, but the flavoured large is over $11. I never buy it and I find the artificial smell is obnoxious. Kingo will not sit anywhere near someone eating it.
It took me a while to warm to the movie. To get emotionally engaged. The scenery around Dampier not as spectacular as I expected it to be. The roughhouse rednecky male environment, all those blokey Anzac accents, all that beer drinking was hard to love, and a bit cringeworthy for me, but Noah Taylor as the sad eyed publican was good. The male jokery all seemed a tad heavy handed. I was glad when the jokes at the expense of the homesick Italian from Abruzzi came to an end. The dog (Red Dog) not a particularly good looking or affectionate creature. The permanently open mouth and lolling tongue were OK but he was not much of a tail wagger. His unlovely kelpie khaki colour was enhanced by red dye to match the dusty red landscape.  But more expressive than Inspector Rex, SBS's dull Alsatian. The movie makers, determined to not have any wimpish sentimentality in evidence about the men's and town's doglove, made Red Dog an obnoxious smelly farter. When not working  the mine machinery, the men all seemed to wear skimpy shorts and thongs. Dampier well above the Tropic of Capricorn, so pretty much always hot, I guess.
The film had a double trajectory – before and after the death of Red Dog's first and only master, John,the American busdriver. Before the death (in a road accident),  the dog is well pictured as a traveller, but after the death the dog spends the rest of the movie grieving, his grieving taking the form of a restless wanderlust ostensibly looking for John. Going as far south as Perth and as far north as Darwin. Even hitchking on light planes as well as the big trucks. The sadness of the dog made the movie more emotionally engaging and by the end when Red Dog dies (at the age of 10 from strichinine poisoning – a bait – ) I was a wreck, tears unstoppably flowing down and even after I left the movie, swollen eyed, I kept getting aftersurges of emotion and having to deal, while I shopped at Town Hall Woolworths, with the rise of tears. Yes, unabashedly sentimental ultimately. The movie a tear jerker, a weepie in the tradition of Lassie Come Home.
The fact that there was not that much material to work with was compensated for by a clever construction, beginning with the pub where the men all drank, with a vet trying to save Red Dog in a back room. From there thye film takes the shape of a series of flashbacks dealing with Red Dog's exploits – how he saved a depressed miner from drowning, how he brought John the American together with his girlfriend, how he outsmarted the trailer park owner and Red Cat the trailer park cat…and so on. Rousing music throughout, the hearty male chorus of Living on the Land at the end is a joyous scene. Great ensemble work throughout really.
There were similar 'town dogs' in the Californian alternative town I lived in for many years, Bolinas. A town where 'dogs ran free' unlike the rest of Marin County where strict laws about dog ownership prevailed. People regularly drove to Bolinas and secretly dumped unwanted dogs there. The good ones got adopted, the bad ones ? Don't ask. Town Dogs owned by no one in particular but regularly fed by someone or other. Bolinas had a large population of 'street people' for many years and such dogs fitted into their downtoen lifestyle quite easily. Some dogs found a 'master' like Red Dog did. One was a  travelling dog like Red Dog. Hitchhiking to Point Reyes Station and Stinson Beach, but not that much beyond I don’t think. Gret sorrow when one day after some years, he disappeared. Dognapped it was widely believed.
*** for the tears and the dynamic statue of the dog now in Dampier.

29August
DealingWith Destiny
Linda Gumbert of South Hill Gallery Goulburn where I had spent the night after a Sunday THINK TANK on the future plans for the Gallery, drove our party back to Sydney and invited me to a premiere of Dealing with Destiny (Director: Colm O'Murcho) an Australian movie at Fox Studios arranged for her by David Rowe who works with Martin Sharp on his catalogue but has long history as a music and events promoter. Helped Martin with Tiny Tim promotion. Music and Tours. Event Management. Connections with a distribution company called Blue Pie who had found a distributor for the film which had a misleading title, Destiny being a beautiful young girl.An undeveloped romance. David Rowe did not turn up. Perhaps he already knew the movie was a turkey.
Couple of hundred people jammed into roped off area in Hoyts foyer. Lots of canapes. Lots of wine. I drank two glasses of white. Miss World was there somewhere. Spoke mostly with Linda and Angelique Francis, a Tongan singer, a lovely friendly bouncy character who has worked as a cleaner for Martin Sharp who calls her Molly apparently. A large lady with big hair and big everything. Embonpoint. The premiere a benefit for Variety Magazine. I bought a $20 raffle ticket for a fifties vintage car, one used in the movie.  Linda bought three tickets for $50 and would say to every subsequent ticket seller, "don’t sell any more, I already have the winning ticket." Which is beside the point when selling tickets to make money. Always a straight face Linda when she jokes
A sophomoric movie about sophomore students set at Sydney Uni and Sydney College of Arts at Roselle. A good humoured good hearted movie but juvenile. I can't believe it has got a distribution deal. Not a very big one I would think. 86 minutes only but length stil not justified. Attempt at farce ? Uni pranks, one group of friends against another with prank paybacks to follow. But heavy handed, loud, and embarrsssing. At the weakness of the plot rather than boredom. It went by pretty quickly. Insubstantial. Badly delivered clunky dialogue. The camera too close and up the noses of the actors destroying them of any beauty they might have had. Particularly the guys. How did it get so far ? Someone had money? Director O'Murcho was fortyish, shaven headed, aimiable. I was introduced to him briefly by another young director Probir G Dutt. Of Rok Starr Films. Probir from both Melbourne "the creative capital" and Stirling, South Australia.  Big leap for him as an Indian, to Forties outback NSW. I told him about Billarooby (now called From a Death to a View)and under the influence of the wine said I would send him a copy to look at.  "A young producer would give his eye teeth to be given such a well written screenplay developed with help of NSW Film and Television Office etc." Had a producer (Richard Brennan), had a director (Ken Cameron) both now retired, but could not raise the money …common sad story of the film world. Big budget insisted on by Brennan…Could it be done cheaply, CGI in the studio asked Probir ?Well I always thought it could be done with a small budget but I was at odds with Brennan on that. The Breakout needs a few extras … I'm not against it being  done as a TV feature or mini-series (which seem to be coming back) –miniseries was how it started off its life. Michael Lawrenc was writing the treatment for Channel 9 when Alan Bond went belly up and all the Bond projects being developed were canned. .

We exchanged cards but after seeing the movie made by his friend I am wary. although Probir did say, before we went in, that the script was not good. Undeveloped.

I later went with Angelique Francis to the Bavarian Beer House with her husband David (tall and thin, small featuers) who teaches autistic children (difficult job and just maintenance rarely any improvement but also writes novellas and intersted in learning a screen writing program to turn them into movies …he had lived in Germany for some years and knew all about German beers. I ordered a beer recommended by him and it was delicious. A lot of it but it cost $11.50. Frances had a dessert and he had a mixed sausage and saurkraut combo which cost him $28 for not exactly a piled up plate. They both lived way out in Western Sydney. Waratah something (?)
I spoke with several others connected with Blue Pie and told them what I thought but was diplomatic. Nice being among friendly young people.

I set off to walk home across the breadth of Redfern, but saw a line of taxis and took a taxi. Talked about the inadequacies of the movie with the Indian driver. As I got out I said "Thanks. The taxi was more interesting than the movie." He laughed. $13.

31st August
The Guard
Directed by John Michael McDonald, starring Brendan Gleeson and a lean Don Cheadle; a brilliant movie, one of the best of the year so far. Perhaps not quite as good as In Bruges, but wonderful throughout. A funny and deadly drug running thriller set in Ireland with a great set of villains. ****
Malodourous old biddie beside me in a crowded cinema …
The man she was with ate something that smelled like Mars Bars, both of them ate other sweets continuously, she also drank wine, and had bad oral hygeine…
 I think she did not want anyone to sit by her and when thru unfortunate circumstances I was landed with the only empty seat in the row (a party of four came in from the side aisle as I was negotiating my way from the main aisle past these two. Yes,we need the remaining four, which included the seat I had intended to sit in, so she said do you want me to remove my bag – a bulky heavy bag …Well…I stood there looking down facing her and she took that as a yes.   She tried to lift it with on hand, could not, "Will you hold my glass of wine ?" I did so and she used both hands to move it between her legs. I sat down in the now full cinema.. No more seats except up very close and even row I was now trapped in was almost too close.
All in  all, a pity. I had trouble concentrating for about half the movie until its humour and power overwhelmed and they too settled down, all their jubes eaten, the smell of Mars bars over, the waft of her dentures only when she laughed. Don’t go to movies on Saturday night. You seem to run into more popcorn, more eating and rattling of  plastic containers, bigger  crowds...


Early August
I arrange with Kingo to go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes which Sandra Hall has given ****. Dendy Newtown so will give Kingo a chance to see Gary Simes' big terrace house with its extensive collection of African, South Pacific and New Guinea artefacts, mostly erotic, afterwards.
I was a tad disappointed in the movie, Kingo hated it. A very cliché ridden plot and not really enough of it. I could not get emotionally involved with it at all. Are you expected to in an action movie ? The two villains were badly overstated (money greedy pharmaceutical company president and the cruel attendant in the apes' compound) the brain function enhancement/Alzheimer's cure scenario promising if simplistic at the beginning soon deteriorated. All that dumbing down said Kingo was typical of new Hollywood and he found it took forever for the apes to escape. And he did not even enjoy the performance of Andy Serkis, as Caesar, the newly intelligent ape (Serkis  was the Golum in the Peter Jackson trilogy the name of which for heavens sake, temporarily eludes me, ah Lord of the Rings of course, another senior moment) nor did he enjoy the elaborate and quite astounding animatronics, CGI  and  'motion capture' (whatever that is, I just read the term in Andrew Urban's 8/10 review in the Sun Herald – I would give it about 6/10 or maybe 7 for the brilliance of those massed ape movement scenes and then  the climax on the fog laden Golden Gate Bridge- Generally he hates modern popular American movies, articularly action and sci fi and this one was a bit of  both. It was all rather nasty too, the restless if passive apes in steel cage quarters and the barren zoolike compound with its fake central tree  and nothing much else. The scenes of the massed apes moving about their compound were amazing and even more so after the escape into San Francisco. The most emotive moment was when Caesar, the hero ape shouted out NO! The first word of dialogue from an ape.
The climax on the beautiful . Bridge was extraordinary stuff, not quite up to the climax of Schwartznegger's True Lies for example, but pretty good. Again the massed apes were a sight to behold. But nothing impressed Kingo who was squirming in his seat by this  time. He won't allow himself to admire or like the new CGI. It's just special effects, he will say.
He was right about the tedious plot. Apart from  the words spoke by Caesar on two occasions, and the attempt by the makers to show in Spielbergian fashion that Caesar understood human-like compassion, and would accept criticism (from idealistic scientist and supporter and 'father' of Caesar, Will Rodman (James Franco).
I felt removed from it all, was somewhat bored, and not emotionally engaged or thrilled. The apes were mostly unpleasant creatures, angry and humourless. Caesar's aroused temper and ferocity may well have been justified by his ill-treatment by humans, but there was every sign that he would be exhibiting  exactly the same sort of behaviour himself when he became King of the Apes – thanks to the genetic engineering that created him in the womb.
*** for the climactic scenes.



Cars2

July 11 it is

My only break during the week past was a quick trip down to George Street to see Cars2 – brilliant to look at, endless visual and verbal jokes but everything going by so fast difficult to take them all in. The opening squence, a James Bond type sea rescue and chase - Michael Caine brilliantly voicing the James Bond car  - was probably better than anything that followed despite the incredible look of the movie.  Yes, great visual and verbal jokery, but it all went by too quickly to fully enjoy. I must be getting old. Beautifully realised sets of London, Monaco and what was the third setting? Paris ?  A buddy film - Owen Wilson, soft and sweet, almost female as the racing car, male bonding with his sidekick, the rough 'village idiot' towtruck, voiced by (?) whom I did not find as endearing as I was supposed to, a little tiresome after a while. Accent reminded me of the great Slim Pickens of say, One Eyed Jacks. These new digitised cartoons always seem to follow a similar basic story line in the same way the new RomComs all follow a pattern. Of recent cartoon features, I think I preferred Rango, the parodic Western themed one with Johnny Depp voicing the unattractive to look at chameleon hero, clever, although it had similar problems. Raining Meatballs with the young inventor and America's addiction to junk food has been the most outrageoulsy imaginative of the second string ones, well behind the Toy Story series (the benchmark).  UP had its anarchic moments and WALL-E was perfectly paced and without the incessant dialogue. Tangled was beautiful to look at but had no edge at all, aimed at 6 year old girls. Snow White or Pinocchio it was not.

The Tree of Life
My big Oz Revisited project almost completed, I decide on an early July Saturday afternoon, to go to a mid-afternoon session at Dendy of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life. Alone. Late afternoon sessions alone suit me.
A large number of retired/elderly people waiting for Cinema 2 to clear of the previous fullish session. Christians ? They come out looking very sober. As no doubt I did when I came out. Certainly affected by what I had watched over an absorbing 136  minutes or so. It certainly has lots of traditional American Christian attitudes. Devout parents. Sermon about life as a vale of tears. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Boy's voice over whispery and sibilant and I often could not catch what was said. And he was saying plenty intended to be of significance.
Generally I found the movie, set in small town Texas in the Fifties, beautiful but chilly and not a little scary for the intimacy of its look into family life, before I found it either enlightening or uplifting. Malick has a dispassionate eye, the opposite of the sentimental family sludge that  Steven Spielberg always serves up. So, a cool and slowly revealed close look at the difficulties between Mr.O'Reilly (Brad Pitt) and Ms O'Reilly (Jessica Chastaine) as to how bring up their kids. Pitt is good as the loving (as he sees himself) but harsh father, and so is Chastaine as the kind but beleagured wife.  Husband represents survivalist NATURE and wife represents civilised GRACE.  The three boys all come to fear the father. The oldest boy is tempted to kill him. They have a wonderful time with their mother when Dad goes on a long worldwide (failed) business trip.
I found the pre-cambrian, mesozoic era, and cretaceous period stuff spectacular but rather banal and nodded off only to be woken up almost immediately by, not Big Bang/God Almighty, but a volcanic eruption not that long after. The man behind me was startled too and his leg crashed into the back of my seat. Spectacular stuff indeed,(accompanied by stirring European  music) but mostly seen it all before on TV and elsewhere.
Another first thought: surely the casting of Sean Penn (looking a bit post-Jurassic), as the brother who dies in some war at 19, but playing the part of the man he might have become if he had survived,  is a mistake. So physically unlike Jack, the boy we had gotten to know so well and with a face and hairdo so familiar as Sean Penn's – unhappy and stressed in a steel and glass post modern city.  But he's needed for impact in the extraordinary closing mass scenes. Jack turns into a scary teenager full of anger with a delight in violence and bullying his younger brothers, in response to the martinet who is their father. Pitt was sympathetic always even after he was shown to be brutal towards his wife. 'You undermine everything I do with the boys!" he says getting her in a headlock. He eventually comes to realise that his harsh attitude towards his boys was due to his own failures. He did not want them to end up like him, out of a job and broke, his musical and invention ambitions all coming to grief..
Classical music often romantic, used throughout to dramatic effect. Bach, Tchaikovsky, Brahms… An amazing movie really, ambitious, ( a word often used a touch in derogatory fashion)  always beautiful cinematography and brilliant editing. Never revealing too much or lingering too long on a scene. What's that word elliptical ? A small slice of life/coming of age movie about Malick's father and mother, his childhood, which is blown up into something else, (the aforementioned ambition) by the addition of lots of bells and whistles to do with the eternal metaphysics of creation.The best component of this long section is the one with the recreated dinosaurs living on the same stretch of river that the boys play in. Don't trees and vegetation evolve also ? The Dawn of the World sequences are an attempt to answer the unanswerable; the why we are here. Scientists are giving us the answer of HOW we evolved, God an imaginary creation of our own brain now taking a back seat, the Darwinian Origin of Species, but the WHY is as distant as ever. Do we need to be concerned about the WHY ?  An extraordinary accident?  Tree of Life is a  movie about life as we know it, and life as we don’t know it. Are there countless different forms of LIFE in other galaxies ?  Life forms we would not even recognize as life ? Or all grotesque variations on ours as we often see in Science Fiction movies?  The Origin of Species applies universe wide?



OLDER STUFF
(July 11 -Harper Collins have just e-mailed asking for more time)

I have spent the last three months (March April, May) writing, excuse me, re-writing my magnum opus The Aberrations of Ray Grable (and everyone else for that matter) and have finally sent it off to Harper Collins, my previous publisher (of Billarooby or From a Death to a View)  who have agreed to read it. Whether they will  find it viable for their list in to-days difficult publishing world is another matter.

I had a few movie experiences while rewriting in March, April and May - Limitless, (for the idea and for most of the ride, but not so much the ending)  Barney's Version, (for Minnie Driver's 2nd wife)  In a Better World, (searing, brilliant, but it could do without the happy ending)  but not more than half an hour of either Never Let Me Go or Sucker Punch unless you want to get really depressed
. The same could be said for Biutiful with Javier Bardem but I sat it out. A brilliant movie really, set in the back street refugee ganglands of Barcelona and how poor old Javier deals with some horrific situations while at the same time dealing with his own terminal cancer. I was glad when it was over.
Another harrowing and violent but much more entertaining movie was Incendies set in war torn Lebanon but with an intriguing set up and a plot that keeps surprising to the very end. ****




June 
Bridesmaids  **** comments to follow this year next year sometime perhaps never but go see

Super8 *  Forget it unless heaven forbid you are a hard core sucker for Spielberg. Comments to follow.


Get Low
(ie vernacular for being buried)
Produced by a grandson of Darryl Zanuck, directed by one Aaron Schneider. Not quite enough story and a long time telling it. Backwoods Tennessee in the early thirties. Good performances from Bill Murray, as Frank Quinn the devious and somewhat strapped for cash funeral director, Lukas Black as Buddy Robinson the assistant, with time on  his hands as no one was dying in the town, Sissy Spacek who did not have quite enough to do as Mattie an old flame of Felix Bush. And Robert Duvall as Felix Bush, the old codger with a guilty secret, who has been living as a hermit for forty years because of something he did, those many years ago, and who decides he wants a funeral at which he will actually attend, a funeral party in  fact, at which he will ask everyone what they think of him. Tell in public all those rumours flying about him over the years.
Sweet enough tale, a few jokes at first, but then as we move ever so slowly thru many machinations to the big day, no jokes at all. The drama grips ever so slightly.
The funeral is huge because Felix decides to raffle of his property – prime 300 acres of it covered in virgin forest, tickets $5 each. Money rolls in.
Carefully constructed movie. Not revealing too much too soon.  Pity that there was not much to reveal. And no flash backs, no show just polished telling. Tour de force confession eventually from Duvall.
No roistering at the party. A picturesque scene in a glade near Felix's house in  the woods. No dancing although there was a bluegrass band on a platform and a microphone. No eating although a suggestion that with the tents in the background and smoke from camp fires, there might be food preparation.
Duvall changes his mind about asking everyone what they thought of him. Noone wanted to give public vent to the tales for h fear that the irascible old man would take revenge on them. So he decides to have a pastor tell them what his problem has been for 40 years of his life.
The pastor friend of Bush begins to tell the tale and Felix summons up the courage and takes over.
He had an affair with a married women. The husband finds out, and beats up his wife.  Felix turns up at that moment, surprises the husband with a blood stained hammer in his hand. He knocks him down, races upstairs to find that the woman he loves is indeed seriously injured. Downstairs the husband revives, then either deliberately or accidentally, sets fire to the house. Felix is engulfed in flames, as is the wounded wife. He remembers no more except that he is flying. The husband has thrown him out of the window.
The house burns down incinerating the bodies of both husband and wife.
Duvall tells noone of his affair with the wife (who is the sister of Mattie, (Sissy Spacek) who was in love with Felix Bush way back then and had no idea that Bush was a two timer, having an illicit affair with her married sister.
Bush does not tell anyone of his role in the drama and retreats to the woods and his lonely guilt ridden hermit life. Rumours of his complicity in  the deaths have circulated over the years. Mattie comes to know of the affair and has never really forgiven him.
So now as he is old and ill, close to death he feels he has to come clean and thinks up the funeral as a way of coming clean. And making his peace with God.
We see little of the funeral party, but someone,  a gawky young man who had a single scene earlier in the movie, is the winner of the raffle and comes forward joyfully to claim his prize. For the life of me I cannot remember which scene it was.   ***


Of Gods and Men – 
would my response to this French movie have been different if I had not had that glass of shiraz just beforehand ?
Cinema 1 at the Verona was almost full – to my surprise.  Gary and I squeezed into the last two seats at the back. They were at the far side, but Gary was happy as he refuses to ever go closer. An indifference to the men's plight developed early on and remained throughout. "Silly old men," I said dyspepticly afterwards, a remark I regretted when I found that three other friends we spoke to  in the foyer, all Roman Catholic educated,  had found it very moving.
I would have liked more scenes of social interaction with the villagers. Life at the Trappist Monastery in  the Algerian mountains moved at a leisurely pace and the focus was almost entirely on the rituals, the chanting and prayers of the elderly monks.
Beautifully shot, but the promise of 'spiritual thriller'  and 'mounting tension" from reviewers was an  empty one. Early threats were easily dealt with even when the monks flatly turned down demands for medical help by the guerrillas – or terrorists as they are now called. Limited supplies of medications meant that only the local villagers could be helped.
Suspicion by the military authorities that the monks were sympathetic to the guerrillas – they treated a wounded guerrilla as part of their general duty of care towards humanity – meant that they were not protected as well as  they might have been.  There was also the factor that they were a holdover from years of French occupation. Another reason for lack of sympathy. Not to mention that they were Christians in a Muslim country.
Most of the monks were very old, at the end of their life, and unwilling to leave despite the clear and present danger, as their entire life and support system was at the monastery.  Holiness and belief trumped all pragmatism.
There was one scene close to the climax that I found thrilling - the drinking of the wine ritual all done to the sound of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, which one of the monks played on a record player. A certain risibility was attached but I suppressed my laughter. Close ups of each of the monks faces around the refectory table, some looking quite pleased and vaguely happy – I would not use the word radiant - as they listened and sipped the red wine. First time that any of them had looked happy at all. An obvious set up for what was to follow and I almost expected the guerrillas to burst into the happy scene itself. They did so later that same night. I was moved by what followed – the unceremonious and forced departure of the monks as hostages. The movie came to an end very quickly with a slow and difficult march through the snow and then a fade and disappearance into white. An announcement that all the monks had been murdered  and that one of the two monks who hid under their beds  is still alive.
The Mujaheddein did not know how many monks were there ? Did not take a head count? Not important to them, I guess, the actual number. They knew they had enough for bargain purposes. I assume Algerian Government did not answer the guerrillas demand for the release of captured guerrillas in return for release of the monks. **1/2

HANGOVER11
I had the good fortune to have NOT seen Hangover and so enjoyed Hangover 11 thoroughly. Critics  put it down for one reason only - that it was a repeat scene for scene of the first movie except that it was set in Bangkok instead of La Vegas. I always take far too much notice of critics so i guess i wont be bothering with Hangover. ***

I accidentally swiped comments on several months worth of movies.  Nothing is essential.

January 2nd - it's taken me a while to get over the midnight Bridge fireworks - brilliant as usual, but have they  reached some kind of use by date ? Many of my friends did not even bother this year. The champagne and the gin and  tonics did me in by 2 in the morning.
 Now I'm off  to Newtown Dendy to see Sophia Coppola's Somewhere, not over the rainbow apparently, but in Hollywood at the Chateau Marmont.  It's hot - finally summer is here after a cool and capricious spring with cloud and  rain (and still flooding rains in Queensland with major towns like Rockhampton and Emerald under water) - but I intend to  get some exercise by doing the 20 or so minute walk over there from here. I thought Blue Valentine would be too sad for Kingo, but this one should be fine. I hope it is more substantial than To Catch A Thief, A Hitchcockian caper with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly which was screened last night on ABC2. I had not seen it since it came out in the late fifties. (I've been around for a while) Despite the fabulous scenery, I was bored back then and was again now although Grace Kelly is incandescent and has the better of the great repartee with Cary who was  overly suntanned and  overly preserved. Grace driving that roadster at high speed around the cliffs of the Cote d'Azur was unnerving considering what eventually happened to her. 

GOING TO THE MOVIES - 2010



Not reviews, my remarks  tend to be something less or something else. How I got to a movie or got home afterwards sometimes takes over. Whom I went with (if anyone) and why. Occasionally I  come up with a random (very) movie cartoon, usually a collage.Readers will also be subjected to slabs of my daily journal which may or may not include a movie.

Avatar, Up in the Sky, Lovely Bones (Ugh!) The Fantastic Mr Fox, (not so fantastic) Bright Star, (not so bright) but I did cry and Ben Wishaw was worth the price of admission. More than I can say for Abbie Cornish. I think it was a combination of the constricting clothes and the severity of the hair do. Ouch!  Did her natural beauty no favours. Blame ultra feminist director Jane Campion for that perhaps

My last movies for 2010 were:

Blue Valentine with Michelle Williams who even outdid Ryan Gosling. Brilliant performancesand a brilliant movie. Sad though and intimate with the limerantic beginnings of the relationship all melded in with the end of it five years later. ****

The King's Speech with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. ****



October 2010

The Town  ***
Director: Ben Affleck

Kingo liked the movie more than I did. Nowhere near as affecting as Affleck's earlier Gone Baby Gone. Too much stylish gangster fun at the expense of characterisation development for me. I found it hard to get emotionally involved  until towards the end.  It had a good look to it, lots of panache, but the overly elaborately set up heists (three major ones) provided good surface drama but were increasingly unrealistic and far fetched. After the second one I could no longer find the movie anything but a ripe gangster fantasy, beyond belief. The love affair between Claire, the incredibly naive and temporarily kidnapped bank manager (Rebecca Hall) – large eyes, lush big featured looks particularly in contrast with the small eyed mean and lean, albeit handsome, look adopted by Affleck  as Doug MacRay the increasingly reluctant heistmeister, the one with a heart unlike his childhood and crime buddy, Jem (Jeremy Renner) who has no heart at all. I certainly liked watching Affleck who is a more beautiful version of his brother Casey. Touches of the raspy voice of Casey and the same minimalist acting style The lean and mean look was mesmerising really. Jon Hamm (from Mad Men) as Adam Frawley, the FBI agent after the  Boston Irish gang was terrific but after the first heist when the gang was identified, surely the FBI in association with the Boston police would have kept the gang under 24/7 surveillance and not permit the second one. This goes spectacularly wrong with a long  brilliantly shot car chase in which dozens of cars and police cars get trashed in the side streets of old Boston's Charlestown. Automatic weapons blazing constantly. Why do they spend all  that money on such ineffective  weaponry ?  For the noise? Absurd that the FBI can't arrest the gang for lack of evidence when their invovement is so blazingly obvious.
When the chase is over Jon Hamm in his office receives a call informing him of the heist and subsequent mad chase. This is where I parted company with the movie. In a mobile phone world he surely he would have been notified of the fracas long  before this. Whatever.  I loved the goofy open mouthed nun masks. The personal stakes escalate after this and  the movie becomes more complex and interesting; we learn some of the family history behind Doug  with it becoming clear that Peter Postlethwaite the flower seller is the brains behind the heists, (we never see any of the planning) and that Doug in conflict with the gang because he has fallen in love with Clair the bank manager and wants out, wants to run away with her and start a new life. The third heist even more elaborate with  fresh disguises  (ambulance officers, police officers). It goes hopelessly wrong again, involving much automatic and seemingly useless gun fire and car carnage. We do eventually get some attrition. The FBI always gets its man, says Jon Hamm but I liked the man on the run with hope, crime pays ending …

Home in time for John Howard on QandA – same old John Howard and hard to listen to him  or watch him. Heartless man. Dodged all questions. Tickets on himself throughout. No humility of any kind.Also the shoes thrown at him by a man furious at Howard's non-answer to his well-phrased if detailed question about culpability over Iraq. Howard just cackled  at the man's anger  and did not answer whether he would respond to a request to front up at the international court in The Hague to charges involving human rights and civilian deaths in Iraq, and to the fact that invading Iraq increased rather than decreased the threat of international terrorism, that the neglect of the conflict in Afghanistan against the Taliban because of the second front in Iraq…etc He's still not saying sorry nor is he apologising for the lies with regard to Tampa.  Howard seemed to partly excuse the Iraq conflict because the Americans needed to go in as it was unfinished business …please.










September 2010

WALL STREET  - MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
***
At Opera Quays Dendy, Kingo comes out waving his arms. "Wall St. It's full up. All those business types rushing out of their corporate offices to see it."
Kingo buys a paper and we find as expected, that Wall Street  is on at Event in George Street. 6 45. We have time to get there. "Or we could see Easy A," I suggested. "It's up there with Heathers and Mean Girls  in some critics eyes."

We quickly run into what it is like at Event at prime time.
A long slow moving queue. 6 45 is V-Max so my cheap Seniors does not work. Kingo decides on Wall Street rather than EasyA.  Bad decision, as least as far as Kingo goes.  I fork  over $15.00  for V-Max.  Did I misread?  The seller was nice but she did not reveal that if we waited 15 minutes we could have had the movie at a regular $9.50 session.  
The ticket seller was older than the usual She warned us that the entire central section was full but some good side seats were available - back or in front? We take Row Q and the seats are good.
Unfortunately the previews go on for over twenty minutes, concluding with an unprecedented and unbelievably tedious 5 minute 'history lesson' advertisement for Johnny Walker. Particularly after we had already been pounded with over ten minutes of other ads. (Surely a Johnny Walker  advertising misjudgment ?  I for one won't, in protest, be buying any Johnny Walker for a long time)  I found myself yelling out "Enough!" more than once.
Worse was to come. One seat away from me, there was a short dumpy woman bright orange hair who was restless and talkative. With a deep phlegmmy cough. She never stopped moving. As the movie started she snuggled deep into her boyfriend. Coughed.
In fact, she drank frequently from a huge container of soft drink, ate continuously from not one but from a choice of bags of candy and potato chips, coughed regularly. Ten minutes into the movie and badly distracted by her, I decided to move. I checked the row behind and saw empty seats right behind Kingo who was on the aisle. I moved, whispering my reason to Peter as I went by him. As I moved back I saw that the woman had noticed my relocation.

I was no longer distracted by her eating and drinking. As the movie gradually absorbed me, her coughing did not bother me either. Even tho I could still hear it.  It bothered Peter who twenty minutes later came up and joined me.
The woman was ill and should not have inflicted herself on a public. At one point she went to the toilet and took a while before she returned. In fact a lot of people went to the toilet during the movie. All that soft drink they were guzzling or had  they been drinking beer before they went to the movies ? It was Thursday night after all, the big shopping night in Sydney.
And the movie ? Well I don't understand MONEY and all the manipulations that go with its accumulation, and there was a lot of money talk, mostly about the Wall Street crash so that made it hard for me to grasp or care about the nature of the shenanigans going on between the protagonists – out of  8 years jail Gordon Gecko  (Michael Douglas),  suave Brenton James (Josh Brolin) and bright eyed and bushy-tailed Jake Moore (Shia LaBoeuf). His girlfriend, who was the deeply disaffected daughter of Gordon Gecko was, like LeBoeuf, appealing.
    It was a familiar story really, with Brolin the loser in the villainy stakes with both he and Gecko into back stabbings and paybacks; Gecko even double crossing his daughter until he finds out that she is pregnant and that he will be the grandfather of a boy. The Gecko dynasty will live again and Gordon Gecko turns to typical Hollywood mush. As does Oliver Stone's movie. Yes, ultimately a soft-centred affair and as someone said on Radio National it was primarily a romantic drama with a lot of big business/Wall Street superstructure all around it. Wall Street itself came off easy. We all knew what happened anyway in terms of Lehmann Brothers etc. the history of the financial crash.
However, I loved the pace of the movie and the way that New York was photographed, with the camera frequently floating amid the upper levels of the skyscrapers; the corporate offices and Gecko's rented apartment had enormous picture windows looking out on the multifarious man-made pinnacles. At street level, I liked the hustle and bustle as well as feeling that I was glad not  to have to put up with all that pressure and haste and hoping that Sydney would not get any more like that than it is now. The loud accompanying rock music (David Byrne etc), the fast moving camera, the clever use of double screens and CGI from time to time, I also appreciated. I didn't like all the product placement (Heineken and Johnny Walker for example) In the end, disappointing, an overblown piece of fluff. Instead of the wide V-Max screen and wide seats, the huge auditorium with its young and restless audience, I think we would both have enjoyed it more at the Dendy on a small screen with a more civilised audience eating and drinking a little less from huge buckets of liquid and popcorn. Kingo in fact bounced to his feet and said he had been  bored shitless by the whole thing. "What a turkey!"He dashed out the second the credits came up. I waited as usual for the music listings which always come last. The decompression chamber, readying myself for the outside reality.  Not that I needed the  decompression chamber for this one, which (unlike say, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, to quote a recent example) did not suck me in enough to warrant one.
 Josh Brolin the best  of the stars. Of the bit players, I liked the actor (Frank – Dracula - Llangella  ?) who played Julie (a very old but wise old corporate bird) and Sarah Miles as an ancient floozie. The camp manner of the Japanese wheeler  dealer who reneged on a green fusion deal with Shia LaBoeuf, was fun. LaBoeuf himself was easy on the  eyes, but seemed a little too young to be such a smart Wall Street operator .

We walked thru Chinatown looking for somewhere to eat eventually settled for the traditional  Emperors Garden where I had a beer to go with the sliced beef and bitter melon (another bad choice for Peter who found the melon too bitter) but the steamed vegetables pleased him.





Me and Orson Welles *****  Charm and more. Go see.

The Ghost Writer ****  Good Polanski. Not quite the power of Chinatown, but up  there. Ewan MacGregor is the star. Pierce Brosnan is adequate as the Tony Blair/Halliburton figure. He is a key but minor player in comparison to MacGregor.. An elegant absorbing thriller.

Peepli Live **** 

Despicable Me ***

PEEPLI  LI VE

I send off to Richard Neville (for the Oz Archive which he has sold to National Library in Canberra) what I have done and by 4pm  set off walking to see Peepli Live, the Indian movie showing only at Hoyts Broadway. Gary Simes, lexicographer and India lover, had rung and we agreed on 4 30 pm. It never seems to have a 6pm showing.
I walk quickly. 25 minutes if not a little less.
The ticket counter at Hoyts Broadway is now the Candy Counter with no electronic board indicating what movies are playing. One has to turn away from the Candy Counter to read the movie selection which is in fact, up on the opposite wall.  Inconvenience for patrons, looks like desperation for Hoyts. Hoyts needs candy sales to rocket? The movies themselves are not paying the bills ? Not even with twenty minutes of ads ? The pre-entertainment slog?
Peepli Live, as Paul Byrnes had intimated in his review, was terrific. It produced for me a  roller coaster of emotions, joyous, shocked, horrified, saddened. I was choked up for long periods, tears rolling down my cheeks, my eyes in fact, rarely dry. The breadth and power of the satire escalated throughout. Occasionally the pace would slow and in would burst Indian tribal music, with villagers singing songs of woe and protest.
The range of accents throughout was extraordinary – the higher the caste, the better educated,  the more like BBC English and less accented the voices. That Indian lilt.
Detailed depictions of the difficulty as well as the simplicity of rural life The poverty, the gradual move to the  city of millions of farmers. Many who stay in their rural hells commit suicide which is the main theme of the movie really. For years the Government has compensated the families of farmers who have committed suicide, with 100,000 rupees per family  - which in fact has come to raise the percentage of suicides. The farmers, miserable and overworked and in debt over their heads with the banks about to foreclose, kill themselves in order to save the farms, the wives  and children.
The two brothers at the centre of the drama live with one of the brother's angry, nagging, overworked wife, and their vicious, disabled and ungrateful mother, whose medications take any spare cash they have. The children are pests. Yes, it's a toss-up as to whether death is the better option. They decide that the father of the children would commit suicide. When this becomes  news, (the first suicide in this particular village) locally and then state wide where an election is being hotly contested, the satire of how things work in India takes off. The entire movie is in your face stuff, and the director and camera men pack a lot of Indian life into every frame   -  the faces, the clothes, the villages, the animals, the rituals, the street life, the home life, the ablutions, the shitting problem (70% of Indians shit out in the open. With no sewerage system, they have little option. I guess their attitude towards shitting in public fields has, perforce, and unlike places like Australia with good sanitation habits,  little shame attached to it. But in other respects it is less healthy.  The fecal bacteria seeps eventually into the food chain. No one who visits India eats salads, any kind of uncooked food, or drinks the water. Unless they want to get diarrhoea and worse.
Roll on the Commonwealth Games in Delhi but I hear millions even billions of rupees supposedly targeted for rural development is being switched to pay for the corruption surrounding the Games resulting in shocking overrun of the budget. And  the Government wonders why the peasants are joining the Maoist guerrillas. Do they really want another Sendero Luminso (Peru) on their doorstep ?

I won't tell what happens in this boisterous and fun movie but it pulls off a terrific surprise ending against the odds. An ending in line with one of the other telling themes of the movie. Yes, satire on corrupt politicians of every stripe, the venality at every level, landlords, banks, competing greedy TV and other media outlets. "Honest Injuns" these were not.  

Despicable Me  
- animation from a different studio. For kids but also adult. Well, sort of.  But going to the movie  was what was interesting. a break from my console. Getting rid of cabin fever. A walk from Redfern to Event in George Street.
I forgot  the correct name of the movie I wanted to see, the Drew Barrymore  RomCom  (Going the Distance). I was a bit late. I noticed " …Distance  4 45" .. on the indicator board and asked for Long Distance Love of the thin faced youth assigned to me. "There's no such movie."
I just saw it on the indicator board.  Distance 4 45.
No.
He was clearly impatient with me. I looked around. No one else was waiting. Maybe just a snippy type.
I looked back at the board. Waited for the name of the movie (or part thereof) to appear again. But there are far more movies showing than the indicator board can show at once and it did not come up. (Why doesn't Event Cinemas attend to that flaw ?) My eyes are bad, could I have been mistaken ? But I had checked in the paper before walking down from home.Weakly I gave in.  I had also seen  Kids All Right come up - 5 10.  I asked for that and he punched out a ticket. Then said, You know it not until  6 10.
My eyes again.
Oh, what else is on ? My second choice when I checked the George St movies before leaving had been  Despicable Me. 5 05.
After some haggling about the location of my seat (Event has the irritating policy of insisting on numbered seats) but with him assuring he had given me the primo location for a 3D  movie, (OK I trust you," I said giving him my first smile)  in I went. (after waiting several minutes for  the indicator board to come up with Going The Distance. It did. Damn! I hope that snippy – and slow witted - kid saw me checking)
I made a right turn at top of the entry stairs instead of a left as I should have and could not find the seat number P11. I realised where it was and looked over. But the 'primo seat for 3D' was already occupied by a young guy who was one of a group of friends. (It happens all the time with the numbered seat system) and I gave up. My P20 seat was fine and not with a noisy popcorn eating crowd around me. But with one thing and another, I was not in a good mood by the time the movie began – the fifteen or more minutes of pre-movie ads and previews were partly responsible for that.
Generally I like good animation. Sort of sci-fi. And this was in well judged 3D. I like Steve Carell who voiced  the Dr. Gru, the so-called 'supervillain' (who has of course, a heart of  gold by the end). Russell Brand whom I also liked, voiced his right hand man, Dr. Nefario his house scientist, but I did not recognize the voice. Not an interesting character really. None of  the main characters  excited much affection or excitement. That was one of the problems with the movie. Characters not incisively enough drawn. Close but no cigar.
But it was a sweet movie, enough sight gags to keep me interested, if not fully engaged. (Dr. Gru's squadrons of yellow and black 'minions'  (they looked like Eveready batteries) who do his every bidding were fun tho. Generally the animation quite imaginative/inventive and different somewhat in appearance. Comes from a fresh stable of people (Pierre Coffin and Chris Benaud directed it) . More in line with the look of It's Raining Meatballs or whatever that one was called, but again, not quite as good. An OK plot, but nowhere as good as Toy Story 3, still my bench mark, along with the other Toy Storys.
Competing villains - a real one, Vector, and the heart of gold one, Dr. Gru, who reminded me a little of  English comedian, the Black Adder guy, whatever his name is. The slightly boring Rowan Atkinson. Trouble with animation these days it lacks cruelty. Tougher villains needed, someone you can hiss at, who scares as well as making one laugh. Toy Story111's 'Fascist Bear' almost got there. More Itchy and Scratchy humour, more Roadrunner and Tom and Jerry humour. More Snow White (the evil Queen) and Pinocchio (The Island of Bad Boys) even. The good old cartoon days.  Get the kids more prepared for what life is really going to be like for them



5th August 2010

Inception ****  An action movie with a lot of shoot-outs, but go see.  You'll be tripped out.  Use the period of the credits at the end with the great music,  as a decompression chamber. You'll need it to adjust to everyday reality.

Me and Orson Welles - truncated by a faulty print less than an hour in. I was enjoying it  up to a point. The actor playing Orson Welles was much lower key than I was expecting. Perhaps he came to a fuller flower in the  rest of the movie which I will view with the Free Pass that the Chauvel handed out to a full house of extremely disappointed movie goers. It was an afternoon session on a Sunday and I was seated amid a bourgeois sea of cultured gentility, wrinkles and walking sticks, of grey or long balded heads with absolutely noone under 70 and many well over 80 who bravely ascended the stairs to Chauvel's Cinema 2. To make up for an almost too well mannered  Orson, we had an almost overly vivacious Claire Danes; never have American teeth flashed so seductively and so often. Having said that by the time the print came to a spluttering end I was enjoying the movie immensely and was one of the extremely disappointed. I will make use of the Free Pass at the earliest opportunity. It really was a terrible print, with low sound quality, even at the best of times. Not what you want with a movie full of wit and intelligent screen writing.

Greenberg ***  A rivetting slog rather than a bore it could easily have been. The reputedly sunny ending which was said to make it all worth while sitting through, was less than sunny. It seemed to be more of the same. A less grey shade of grey. Just another tic in Roger Greenberg's neurotic personality. Don't go if you are feeling at all neurotic or depressed. It is as Sandra Hall said, 'fastidiously authentic." Yes, a real slice of life. Ben Stiller with his extravagantly handsome features was perhaps the wrong casting. A good but unknown actor with a new less voluptuous, more nerdy face, would have filled the role better. even tho Ben was very good.  But then again Noah Baumbach is having a hard time selling the movie even with Ben Stiller.


14 July 2010

Mother and Child
I deliver the ms of Escape from Leisure Beach to Tracey who puts it on Richard Walsh's desk. With time on my hands and an hour to spare I have coffee in an executive coffee place, read their Herald, look through the plate glass at other glassy skyscrapers glittering in the late sun and then find I still have 40 minutes before the Dendy Quays showing. I have a late lunch, chicken noodle soup in an old fashioned Rocks Café, reading Kindness  by Adam Phillips which is becoming a seminal book for me. I keep dipping in every time I take a train and I feel I should sit down and  have a good long dose of it at one sitting. Kindness and sexual desire in competition with each other….
A movie is part of my release after almost three  months of continuous work on Escape from Leisure Beach which could itself be a movie one day i n the hands of someone like Pedro Almodovar. I laugh at the thought.  The rewriting of the book has been to  the detriment of work on Tin Sheds exhibition which is now coming up much too fast even tho it is not until February 2011. I still have doubts about the wisdom of having a show at all.
I get to the movie right on time. 4pm and no advertising program.  I am the only man in an audience of about 20 middle aged women.  
Mother and Child is as Sandra Hall intimated  in the Sydney Morning Herald  review, a bit deadly. But brilliantly done. Gloomy, yes, some more sunshine should have been let in early on, but I was pretty much hooked  the whole (long) time, two hours or more. Superb acting from Annette Bening (Karen)  and Naomi Watts (Elizabeth) her adopted out daughter) who both, because of their broken lives, are pretty awful human beings,  and from the third women, Lucy (Kerry Washington) who wants to have children but is infertile and decides to adopt. These three women are the centre of the movie, rapid cutting between  the three stories, no lingering for long, their parallel stories all coalescing eventually to provide a satisfying ending, not quite  the one I expected,  but one that avoids too much American sludge and sentimentality. It is  really a movie about the perils of adoption, that adoption should be a last resort, as should termination of pregnancies. God and Christian values get a hearing. Shows  the value of birth mothers keeping in touch, through the adoption agency, with the fortunes of the child they have adopted out in case they regret the decision in later life. For their own well being as well as those of the child. What we see in this movie are the sad repercussions arising from a initial decision by a mother who decides that her 14 year old daughter would be better off if she had her child adopted out. An extreme case of what can go wrong. I guess that makes for good drama. This is drama that plays it low key and  therefore avoids what it really is, melodrama.
The director (and writer) Rodrigo Garcia  is a son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his producer was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who was responsible for Babel, Amores Perros , 21 Grams and The Burning Plain, all of which had similar closely observed disparate and personal stories which get linked at the end.
The men, played by Samuel Johnson, Jimmy Smits, David Morse and David Ramsay (Lucy's husband who leaves her because  he wants his own kid, not an adopted one) are all subsidiary, used (and abused) by the women but they create stability and support for  the women  in emotional turmoil.
I think there was only one moment when I became fully moved – when Karen learns  that Lucy, who has adopted the baby of Elizabeth, wants to meet her.
She becomes a happy grannie by the end, the happiness  tempered of course by the  fact that Elizabeth died in childbirth. And died before communication established.
A weepie, but I did not weep. It was not exactly an old fashioned 'Hollywood' weepie. I admired.




I have been busy with my upcoming LAMPOON, an Historical Art Trajectory at Tin Sheds Gallery over in City Road
(part of the Faculty of Architecture at Sydney Uni) even tho it is not until February 2011. I am also showing archival prints (and a few framed originals) of some of my old Bolinas Hearsay News Covers (1976-1993) at the Bolinas Museum History Room in California, June-October next  year.It was going to be this year but cancelled. Bolinas time.

July
I am looking forward to catching the new French movie, Hedgehog.  Sad about the closing of the Academy. What's the big deal said the representative  for the landlord, the Greek Orthodox Church, it's just a movie house. Ouch. Get him to the Greeks.

June - The Secret of their Eyes **** Toy Story3 ***** Mademoiselle Chambon***1/2

Lucy Joy rings – feeling bored, directionless, not writing, going to a lot of movies, last night with Margaret Fink to The Secret of Their Eyes which she loved and which Margaret has some trouble with understanding (like I did, having dozed slightly with my glass of wine in the first few and crucial minutes  in terms of plot)  and  she wanted to see another movie, with the only one  available at right time being Mademoiselle Chambon although our preferred movie was City Island and then Mother and Child which did not start until Thursday.

5 45. I reluctantly agreed. I will work thru the day. I said.  (Feeling overwhelmed by the coming Tin Sheds (Sandy Edwards is coming on Wednesday for a meeting)  the writing for Ian MacNeill, the Winter Solstice piece I want to do for TAP   …)

I liked the movie more than she did.
Directed by Stephane Brise, set in Marseilles,
Mademoiselle Chambon is like a short story turned into a film. It worked at the time but on second thoughts a bit contrived and even unbelievable. Particularly that Jean, the construction worker, ostensibly a happily married husband and father, his beautiful wife newly pregnant again, would actually seriously think that he would leave his marriage and go with his young son's schoolteacher. With his overnight bag he actually gets as far as the underground passageway below the train platform where she is waiting for him, before he changes his mind. She is left waiting above until the last second before she realises this and boards  the train. Is that not a bit like Brief Encounter, the Noel Coward film ?   
Lucienne  saw through it much more quickly and was never fully engaged which meant she found it slow. And it was slow but I thought the slowness was part of its charm.
Some very powerful emotional moments, Mademoiselle playing  her violin at the birthday party for Jean's dad, playing with the saddest face, on the verge of tears. Watching her husband while Chambon is playing the wife realises that the unacknowledged "something the matter with Jean" is that he has fallen in love with Mademoiselle.
I wondered if Veronique Chambon had a habit of having a quick affair in each town she landed before moving on to another town and another teaching job. She a very good  teacher and  the headmistress did not want her to go, offering her a better job at the  school and so on, which she  turned down, knowing that the affair with her married man was doomed to failure.
But then again at the end after they had had sex on the night before she left for good, and she was waiting on the platform, she really seemed to believe that he was leaving his wife for her. Yes, the more one thinks about it the greater the whole  things seems a very contrived construct. But for me who does not think too much when I am engaged emotionally, it worked.

Friday – determination to see a movie – Get Him to the Greek was always my first choice in the right place (Event) at the right price ($8 courtesy of my joining the Event Seniors Club)  - I put my Winter Solstice into Allied Graphics to get a quick blow-up backing and lamination for a TAP Gallery Exhibition (still TAP after all these years and despite the Tin Sheds which I hope does not turn into a disaster, hope that I don’t collapse under the strain or destroyed by my own vainglory) next Wednesday

Initial mindset ?- determination to enjoy the movie. The latest in the Jud Apatow series this one directed by the director who did Forgetting Sarah Marshall which I think was underrated. The performance of  Russell Brand was hilarious and outrageous and he is the star of the current one as Aldous Snow a debauched washed up rock star who has not made a  record for 10 years. That's because he went straight and settled down with his girlfriend, (Rose Bryne) ) .We get video excerpts from the last hit, African Child, which was reviled all over the world as the ultimate piece of trash, but loved by his hard core fan base who are still loyal even after 10 year absence. Thence comes the idea for the movie. For the 10th anniversary of his last concert, arrange another one, revive his career. But that means he has to start refuelling in the way he used to   - drink, drugs and sex, that is.  Or have I got this wrong? Had his relationship with his girlfriend  tanked and he was already drinking away his sorrows ? Whatever. The head of his record company (Sean Combs, rather good) sends Aaron Green  (Jonah Hill, also good) on a mission – get Aldous to the Greek (a famous concert venue in Los Angeles) for his anniversary concert. The movie is  the story of if and how he does this against all the odds.
He has to find Aldous in London, get him to New York to appear on the To-Day Show and then to  Los Angeles.
I found it pretty much hilarious in a near empty theatre at  a 4 40 showing. It's nearly always  better to see a comedy with a crowd. But I laughed along, and the few others could also be heard laughing or chuckling at the outrage of it all.
I like the outrage, the louche, the down and dirty aesthetic, the deliberate intent to push it  to the limit of vulgarity, to shock. I had to think of my novel Escape from Leisure Beach which is full of all of the above, (climaxing at the carnival with the vulture exorcism, the crocodile sacrifice and the maypole, not the mention the dual ending involving all concerned) but somehow like a period piece compared to this utterly up to the minute piece of fast moving fabulousness. I would like to think of Beach as timeless rather than dated. It has been called dated but that was before I re-massaged it into a memoir with frequent references to the present day and looking back to a distant period as an old man.
In Get Him To The Greek, all five leads or six if you count Colm Meaney who plays Aldous's father, a  small time musician in Las Vegas are brilliant in their roles.
By the end I was entirely lost to the movie – it wasn't just extraordinary and funny it was somewhat scary in its emotional intensity. Not just because of Aldous's spectacular trajectory but also for that of Aaron. David Denby wrote a most favourable critique of the movie in the New Yorker – a successful combination of the barbaric and  the tender. Yes, like Leisure Beach. At least what I strive for.
In the lift going up to my apartment I was joined  by two rough house young men carrying  takeaway food.
I said hi and then immediately said "I have just seen the most extraordinary movie. It's a Jud Apatow movie, a new one and it's absolutely hilarious."
"Oh yeah Jud Apatow I know those movies." said the bigger of the two. He grinned."They're great."
That was about it, but it was a nice encounter.  The second floor for the three of us. They were greeted by the Asian woman who cooks the food the smell of which often fills the corridor..

Toy Story3  I had to see it immediately. Certainly I was not going to wait until Kingo got back from his Wilcannia/Menindee Lakes jaunt with Elizabeth Cummings and 14 middle aged ladies who were going to be  treated to a painting experience, with Luke Sciberras driving a mini-bus and doing all the cooking.
The ticket seller tried to talk me into the VMax 3D version. I declined. Not just the expense. Not only did I have my Seniors pass with me  (available only for the regular sessions) but I had another reason. "The Vmax 3D makes the screen darker. I prefer the colours to be properly bright." She did not seem to register that. "$8 please."

3D or not 3D, this Toy Story  is  the best of the three perhaps. I agree with Paul Byrnes about that. Even a masterpiece. Perhaps it could be considered for Best Movie Category instead of just Best Animation at next year's Oscars. I was much moved at the end, cried a lot, choked rather than blubbed, that terrible word, at the sentiments beautifully rendered without falling into sentimentality, thrilled by the many chase sequences before the ending, amused throughout at the trials and tribulations of the  toys as the terribly serious Woody tries to keep it all together for them. Buz Lightyear a good  foil for this seriousness, providing lots of laughs, for example, as a Spanish lothario when the evil Lotsa Huggin' Bear changes his settings. A brilliant and appropriate ending devised for Lotsa - the sort of thing that can happen to old  toys even tho they are still loved. Perfect deadpan comedy throughout, and amazing detail which makes the movie something to see over and over again.
Why did I cry  - the Herald in a piece said  that men all over the US are crying their eyes out at the ending – the themes of loss, looking for a home and  finally finding one after an arduous journey,  being unloved and finding love in an unexpected place. Whatever. I was a mess at the end. A happy mess. The audience was teenagers and some mothers and little children. One or two older gentlemen like me. Everyone was enthralled I think. A rivetted silence but for bursts of laughter throughout.  Mr Potato Head as a limp tortilla was hilarious. So too Mrs. Potato Head and her missing eye. The introductory scene in the old wild west was a gem. The most extraordinary episode I suppose was the reaction of the toys when they realised they were inevitably headed for incineration. Like passengers in a doomed airliner, they drew closer to each other, embraced and made their peace with the world  as their final moments approached.  To the brink of being too much to bear… my eyes fill with tears even as I write this …



May

HOT TUB  TIME MACHINE ***Apatow influenced.Raucous come-stained hilarity.Fitful fun
THE  BURNING PLAIN **** (grand melodrama; terrible digitised print however)
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN**** I liked the comic within the dysfunctionality. Geena Davis fun.
DATE NIGHT *** Not as good as A Fish Called Wanda.My benchmark for this sort of film.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND *** Liked madness of March Hare and Red Queen

 





April 2010

THE LAST STATION
 I noticed immediately that it was going to be a cold session at the Verona. Why is  this ? Not all  the time  now  but this was a chilly night with a chilly internal breeze as well that was easily felt. I soon brought out my pullover but why have it so cool. It is usually a wrong thinking summer phenomenon but this is April and autumn, and not a hot day at all.
The Last Station is a movie for us oldies with a harrowing death bed scene, just to let us know what we are shorty to be in for, no wonder we came up with the idea of HEAVEN, as some sort of consolation  prize, directed by Michael Hoffman with Christopher Plummer not bad  as Tolstoy in the difficult last year of his life. Like Lear, suggested Evan Williams in The Weekend Australian, persuaded to give his fortune away to the new age slightly 'loony' Tolstoyans  (a blend of pacifism, vegetarianism, celibacy, Christian Quakerism) instead of to his wife the Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren) of many years and mother of his many (13) children, whom he mostly treated badly (again like Lear) She puts up a huge fight for herself and the children as the rightful heirs of his fortune against the Tolstoyans, creating such rancour that Tolstoy can't take any more of it and leaves for  the south on a spectacular smoke choofing dragon-like train. They don't make trains like that any more.Tolstoy born a privileged aristocrat like Sofya but as he aged he became a moralist, a mystic and a philosopher beyond his career as a novelist. A critic of the Tsarist government, even an anarchist. And a heretic in the eyes of  the Russian Orthodox church.
A beautifully shot movie and solid acting  although I thought Helen Mirren hit a few bum notes for some reason. The laughing sequence for example. Some rivetting  tantrums, (smashing the dinner plates) but movie tantrums for our entertainment rather than what was really the fundamental problem between her and Tolstoy. He had moved on and she had not. He came to despise her, notes Evan Williams. She never stopped loving him but it was all about her. Do you love me she kept saying. And very reluctantly he would always say that he did.  Lucienne (my movie companion for the evening) was more charitable, noting that women at that time even aristocratic women had nothing but their position as wife and mother going for them, whereas the men -  like Tolstoy had a career and a life outside the marriage.
James McAvoy was subtly brilliant even able to sneeze constantly without too much distraction from his appeal. Busy in the role of Valentin, a sort of double agent as well as having a hot and heavy love affair with a free-loving Tolstoyan farm girl from the nearby commune, who loves the sex (particularly the fact she was deflowering a virgin) but resists a long term relationship. Valentin a spy (for the Tolstoyans under the conniving even villainous  Chertkov, well played by Paul Giamatti)  and secretary to Tolstoy who was very much under the spell of Chertkov, the man responsible for carrying out all Tolstoy's philosophic ideas. I  think the Tolstoyans all fell apart after Tolstoy's death with the Countess triumphing in the end and gaining copyright to all of Tolstoy's works for the family.  
The aspen trees in the forests, the lake, the trains, the horses and carriages, all were beautiful to watch. The movie the dialogue of which in particular did not entirely escape the dead weight of the biopic, of history, mostly restricted by the feeling that truth has to be kept to even if not cinematic. The  footage of the real Tolstoy and Sofya in black and white at the end brought tears gushing. The death bed scene - with Sofya finally forcing her way into the Station at the death against every effort by Chertkov to keep her out, was also moving.  Generally though I was admiring of craft throughout more than the movie fully engaging me emotionally. The chilly Verona cinema did not help. Nor did, by the way the Mills and Boon music soundtrack, particularly early on.

She's Out of My League
I was early for the movie after a nice long walk along Clarence Street from SH Ervin to Event past the Town Hall. Took a few photos with Panasonic hip camera of reflections of glass skyscrapers in the shine and glass of parked cars. Sort of interesting. Glass of wine in foyer bar while waiting for movie, read more  of Such Times, (Christopher Coe) took out my notebook made notes and apparently left my note book there. It was missing when I got home.  Strange. I always  take special care to make sure it is back in my bag. Valuable day to day notes and of no interest to anyone else.
The movie (directed by Jim Field Smith) a romantic comedy with some pretty tough and perceptive dialogue about relationships and dating, along with the sometimes cringeworthy slapstick (the ejaculation sequence , the pubic shaving sequence,  the crassly funny family swimming pool sequence) was not bad; charming and heart warming as Sandra Hall noted in her review last Thursday. Sun Herald's Louise Keller  gave it a 7/10, saying nice things also. I have liked all the Jud Apatow movies and his influence was all over this one. And pretty laugh-out-loud funny in several of the scenes. I liked the under achiever, settling for less in life, low self-esteem theme. Here I am in my early seventies, still plagued from time to time by low self esteem. A constant in my life. Comes and goes. Poor nerdy, clumsy plain looking Kirk Kettner, (Jay Baruchel of the trembling lower lip) has a low paid job, helping run security at Pittsburgh airport and can't believe that gorgeous Molly (a 'hard  10/10") (Alice Eve, (an English Reese Witherspoon (in Legally Blonde) lookalike) has fallen for him. She has money, runs her own business, likes  him  just as he is, but he cant understand that and therein lies the comedy.  With a little lite tragedy along the way. The course of true love does not always run smooth of course. Yes, 7 out of 10. But too American for Kingo ?  The reason I went alone.  Loud rock music clubs, ten pin bowling and ice hockey are the interests of the protagonists. My favourite sequences ? (a)The restaurant where Kirk turns up for his first date with Molly in the same red jackets as worn by the waiters.  (b) The ending which owed something of its hilarity (said David Stratton) to Around the World in 80 Ways, an underrated – written and directed by the late Steven Maclean - Australian movie. The ending could have gone on much longer in the way say, that the climactic airport sequence in A Fish Called Wanda did.

Sunday nite Telly ? Why not
I settled for a French doco, Louis XIV and recreation of the building of Versailles. Sumptuous. The rise and fall of the Sun  King. After him the deluge.  Did he say that ?  He certainly set the scene for it.  By the  time Versailles was more or less finished – it drained  the economy almost as much as did Louis's clothes – his reign had peaked. He was not in good health but there was a long long good bye. Until 1720 ? He certainly said, L'Etat, c'est Moi  II am the State)  One of the last of the absolute monarchs. Those clothes, those wigs, those shoes !  A young and very elegant Louis, an improvement on the famous Ridaud painting which has always been my impression of  him. Versailles. Louis in later like engaged in various wars, could not afford to keep Versailles as it was at its peak and it went into a decline, as he did. The nobles all moved back to the estates, his old ministers departed or die d (like Colbert and Le Notre (who designed the gardens). I did visit it back in the sixties, but did not have time to get there in my visit last year. I believe it has  been restored to its fully glory for the tourist traffic and the continuing  glory of France. I did love the Hall of Mirrors. With only a day there  the size of the structures and the gardens was intimidating. Did not even consider it really, as I did not really consider the Louvre either. Visiting the pyramid more than once but not realising that the architecture beneath in the underground foyer even more remarkable. An I. M. Pei masterpiece. Oh well. The long  queues were also intimidating and so much else to see. I had given two of my precious days over to Francis Reeves who, it turned out, was making valedictory visits to old friends. Interesting enough and a look at a Paris I would not have experienced otherwise. Zooming around in his Prius. Auroson (the first child born in the New Age Tamil Nadu town of Auroville - City of the Dawn - on the outskirts of Pondicherry)  was there and we had afternoon tea in Deux Magots.

Monday  5th April
I rang Event Cinemas – a young sympathetic listener eventually was reached. She took my number and would make enquiries as to whether anything had been handed in.
I did not wait for the phone to ring, went im person to the bar, the most likely place I had left it.
"How big is it? asked the bar girl
I shaped A4 with my hands.
What does it look like
It has a scene of people on a beach on the cover.
She looked down in front of her "Here it is. It was here when I got in, I was wondering what it was."
Oh I gasped as I  too looked down. Two feet away. She handed it to me.
"Wonderful. What a relief. It's my memory in this."
She gave a little laugh.
Thanks a million I said answering her laugh with a big grin.
I skipped off and she gave a final smile.






11th March 2010

Kingo had rung in the early morning (before I bent my glasses frames) and we had arranged to go with Jan (he always is nervous about  bringing her along, mixing up his friends; the gay and the straight;  this time he said she was coming because she had been trying to see Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart ever since it had come out some weeks ago)  8 30 at Dendy Quays. The movie seems to have been bumped from the prime  6 30 slots all over  town. Wagamama beforehand at 7 30 for dinner ? He agreed with alacrity.
The reason for the easy mixing was in fact that it was Jan's birthday and he was treating.
Jan had received that day a hand painted card from Johnny Allen her former husband, and another (a paper cut) from Jina, her daughter (with an Indian man) who is currently happily staying with Johnny in Auroville (that's the New Age City of the Dawn near Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu)
I took several photographs, none of them particularly good – one of Jan holding up the watercolour painting to her face I have managed to fix up to some extent in Photoshop. I was sitting too close for the flash.
They ate little – an appetiser miso soup each and shared a small green salad which  they ate up in a trice. ("We had a late lunch," said Kingo) I had a beef salad which was substantial, the grilled beef delicious. I offered it around. No  takers. Also a glass of shiraz. Peter and Jan finished off with huge smoothies.
We strolled via Macquarie Street and down the internal circular stairs to Dendy and were in plenty of time.
Not swamped with patrons? I inquired of the young ticket seller. He looked blank."I mean Jeff Bridges won the Oscar last night, best actor." He smiled. "That's  right. No, just the usual for this movie."
Bridges played the part brilliantly. Certainly an Oscar winning performance even if it was his turn. Nice not to have to wait for a Lifetime Achievement Oscar which it would have eventually been if not this.
Maggie Gyllenhall efficient but too girlish for the part ? More believable if she had been a more mature woman with a son ? But youthful glamour needed to sell the movie ? She is Jake's sister after all. Acts with her cute upturned round nostrils.
Colin Farrell was the relief to the tedium of the character of Bad Blake with his vomiting (twice) and slovenly drunken ways. Tedious somewhat after a while because the arc of the movie was so predictable even simplistic. It was soon apparent that this was going to be nothing but a well made conservative American feel good movie, the Academy awarding it with similar thinking to giving Best Actress award to Sandra Bullock in American Feel Good Movie, (AFGM) The Blind Side, and giving the Best Picture Oscar to AFGM The Hurt Locker instead of Avatar the latter not being the least bit complimentary to America's fighting forces or its corporations. Avatar made people feel good for all sorts of other reasons – pro environment, pro indigenous populations, anti-war, spiritual in a good sense  …
The Academy decisions ? I was reminded of Brokeback Mountain, clearly the best movie of its year, being bypassed for Crash. Brokeback's subject matter, a tragic homosexual love affair and was tragic because of American conservative values.
Crazy Heart had good country and western songs, good singing from both Bridges and particularly Colin Farrell who was given a lovely role to play. Great expansive Arizona and Texas scenery, terrible motel life on the road.      
Did Crazy Heart win an Oscar for best song ?  If not what did ?  I Google – yes it did. The Weary Kind, written by Ryan Bingham and Booker T. Burnett.




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Before Crazy Heart, we ate at Wagamama. Jan holds up her watercolour - a birthday gift from Johnny Allen her husband who lives in Auroville, near Pondicherry, India; Auroville the New Age City of the Dawn, an enterprising city of trees and beautiful buildings lost in those millions of trees, the planting of which began in the seventies, transforming a desert plateau by the sea into a fertile forest. Jan and Johnny were among the founders of the city  which spirals out from the Matrimandir, The Temple of the Mother.







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After Crazy Heart we walked to Wynyard Station. A van advertising Wicked was
parked in Pitt Street. So much happened before Dorothy ...












25th February 2010  - a quick look back at the past week

Kingo rings. The Foot Locker? Are you sure I query, knowing well Kingo's attitudes towards new American movies however good.
Yes so it's 5 45 at Verona. We meet at 5 for ticket purchase (warned that the doors open at 5 30 and that there will be a queue) coffee at Berkelouws. It is spitting rain. Full house just about or absolutely by the time it  started.
As promised by the New Yorker, it was pretty tense throughout but not impossibly so. I mentally prepared myself by creating a distance, self protection. But there were no cheap thrills just for the sake of it.. This was director Kathryn Bigelow after all with a reputation for classy action movies. It was brilliantly done, the set up situations genuine and taut. The two main characters, William James (Jeremy Renner) the likeably gung ho and utterly fearless bomb disposal expert (a record number of successful bomb defusals, well over 800) and J.T. Sanborn (Antony Mackie) the handsome black guy who initially hates him to the point of beating him up and at once point is tempted to blow him away when he has the remote control chance (out in the desert in the film's best extended (one of several) sequence one in which Ralph Fiennes gets neatly killed by a distant marksman)
The case for war as hell is well made; war as madness. I don’t know that the movie deserves Best Picture at the Oscars. Well made familiarity really and relatively little emotional content. The tussle between Sanborn and James is well done and as tough as all get out, no soft stuff here, but ultimately does not amount to much. James is the character we are fascinated by, and his supreme cockiness somehow (after a while) made me realise he is NOT going to get his come-uppance as might happen in a more cliché ridden movie, one going for cheaper thrills. Sanborn by the end of the tour of duty, is maudlin – confesses to James that he is lonely and has no one to care for him outside the army life, if he gets blown up no one is going to care, wishes he had a son like James; Don’t think about it, I don't. Just do your job is the only advice given to Sanborn by James. But we see James back in the States utterly bored with suburban life and with his wife and even his kid. Last shot of the movie is James back on the job, addicted to the DRUG OF WAR, in Baghdad striding/waddling towards yet another defusing, yet another adrenalin 'high.' In his bulky high collared protection suit, looking ludicrous really, the suit making him look a bit like an old fashioned deep sea diver. A suit that did not protect Guy Pearce from getting blown away in the very first extended bomb diffusion scene. I did not recognize Pearce, but Peter did.

So in the space of a week I have seen three of the heavyweights up for Best  Picture or Best Foreign Film – Precious, A Prophet and now The Hurt Locker. I have to say that Jaques Audiard's A Prophet worked the best of the three for me – an epic quality, the fact that the movie made you root for Malik (Tahar Ramin) man who becomes in his prison 'education'  a multiple murderer and whose ambition/redemption is merely to be a better criminal, a movie that places one completely within a violent criminal world, both inside and outside a prison. Precious was mushy at its centre despite its subject matter and the final confessions of Mo'Nique, the brutal mother, and The Hurt Locker was over familiar. All three were pretty tough to sit through and by the end of each, I was glad when they were over. But in none of them did I emerge emotionally shattered. I shed no tears in any of them. I like to be reduced to a few tears. Give the Oscar to Avatar for it being a superb piece of entertainment and for the feeling that you had experienced something new and incredibly beautiful on the Planet Pandora – despite the clunky ole shoot em up plot that it wound up as in the final third. Pure filmic fun. But maybe the Academy will get cold feet – like they did with Brokeback Mountain.  The obvious best picture that year by far but the homosexual love affair did it in for their better judgment.  Not to mention that shoo-in Heath Ledger should have gotten Best Actor. Crash was a good little movie but…
This year, the fact that the right wing is up in arms about left wing bias and anti George Bush attitudes in Avatar might make them go for something like Up in The Air or The Hurt Locker the latter justifying them for it being seriously anti-war. Is it a year for nerve wracking Serious Stuff rather than first rate box office Hollywood entertainment ?  Is the year for first ever Best Director going to a woman ?  Maybe that would let the Academy off the hook, burnish its reputation if they give it to Avatar for Best Movie, thus avoiding another Crash-like fiasco. If it's a Women's Year, then Precious comes into consideration as it is definitely a Women's Movie with just about an all female cast. Is it George Clooney's year for Best Actor or Jeff Bridges year – for Crazy Heart, which is next on my hit list.
Rain pouring down as we exited. Neither of us had umbrellas or hats. We braved the rain. Wettish we found Big Rig, Kingo's preferred venue, closed. Back to Rose Shamrock and Thistle which turned out to be good choice. A smiling grandma served us and the excellent bangers and mash plus broccoli and carrots and glass of wine cost $20 each. The pub was boisterous, but our table was fortunately beyond most of the noise.
Kingo dropped me at top of William outside 24 hour newsagent, for the easy train ride home. I dash into newsagent and buy The Guardian plus pick up Star Observer and SX from the floor. Still raining at Redfern but not bucketing.
Late night (11pm) on ABC, The Harder They Fall, Humphrey Bogart's last movie, all about corruption and fight fixing in the boxing industry, typical hard boiled dialogue which Humphrey delivers well. With Rod Steiger. By midnight I have seen enough of it and hit the sack.


9th February 2010

The Road
– I knew it was no No Country for Old Men, the other recent Cormac McCarthy adaptation, but was determined to see it despite David Denby's complete put down in the New Yorker. (…the grimly punitive monotony of  the leafless, colourless humourless production may fool some people into thinking this is art) Both Paul Byrnes and Tom Ryan (in SMH and Sun Herald respectively) gave it ***1/2.
Directed by Australian, John Hillcoat who did The Proposition, and again with music by Nick Cave, it was grim and uninteresting, occasionally ghastly, until towards the very end when the Father (Viggo Mortensen whom I usually like but taking this one much too far) becomes increasingly irrational, falls ill and dies. The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is left to fend for himself. He is quickly approached by The Veteran (Guy Pearce) who offers to look after him. He agrees with reluctance ("Are you one of the Good Guys?) and then the Veteran's family appears – a kindly wife, two well fed children and a tail wagging dog. Heaven !
I cried. The privations the Father put the Boy through were unnecessary in a way. Yes post apocalyptic landscape (terrible weather, no sun, no warmth) but there were plenty of people managing better than the Father. He was like an old ragged homeless person with a dog as companion. I have seen many of those men and always feel sorry for the faithful dog. It was only towards the end that I realised that the problem is the Father as much as the wrecked cannibalistic all around. Paranoid (beyond reasonable fear and taking sensible care of survival) and obsessive, overly protective of the boy, keeping the boy to himself even when opportunities arise. Hugging him kissing him, holding a gun to his head if it seems that danger approaches. The Father keeps two bullets in his gun always, shows the Boy how to shove the barrel into his mouth and how to pull the trigger. First bullet for the boy, second for himself, rather than be caught by the cannibals or be sexually abused by roving pedophiles. There is in fact, a obsessive quality to the attachment of the father, loving of course, but needy. The boy is very beautiful, 12 years old but acts like a naïve 6 year old.  Only slowly - after one problematic decision after another by the Father – did I fully understand that the Father is no hero rather a sorrowful unhappy man not coping, using the boy as a crutch. The boy eventually realises this too? I am not sure. He starts to object – the departure for no good reason from their secure storm shelter stacked with food; the refusal to allow the boy to follow another boy his age, and a dog; the dreadful stripping and humiliation of the harmless black man; the unnecessary confrontation and killing early on of a man simply taking a piss; the ludicrous swim through heavy surf to the wreck of a large ship, leaving the boy completely unprotected.
The Father refused to let the Boy believe in the other boy and the dog, insisting that they were just delusions, but at the end, the Veteran, aware perhaps of the derangement of the Father, has been following the two of them, keeping an eye on them, an eye out for their safety. The dog and  the other boy were real.
So ultimately the movie grabbed my interest - because of the Father as anti-hero, as dysfunctional hero, as a man perhaps unable to recover from the suicide of the Wife (Charlise Theron), seen in some painful flashbacks – I would have liked a little more lingering on that sunny happy times flashback to better days but it was oh so brief.
Isabel Allende on Denton's Elders. I liked her. And he was better than usual. Let her   do all the talking  thank God and how she could talk. Forthright, sexy, formidable, emotional, a cougar. That rather unnattractive current word


I arrange with Kingo (he rings midday)to see Precious, a movie by one Lee Daniels at Opera Quays Dendy. 7pm. Ultimately not the greatest movie. I was surprised how little affected I was. Only rarely did my emotions get fully engaged. It was certainly strong stuff but cleverly turned at crucial moments into a commercial entertainment.  The woman playing Clareece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibi) was huge and black and 'gorilla' like, but very like able, a bundle of energy, effortlessly carrying her enormous bulk. How did she get A Grades in her  regular school if she was illiterate as it turned out she was, when transferred to a special school because she was pregnant with a second child, (at the age of 16 with both the children being fathered, thru rape, by her own father, who was HIV positive and transferred the condition to her) ? I liked the role of the wrathful, violent and  enslaving mother (Mo' Nique) who was jealous of the sex that her daughter had with her husband.  The latter was seen only briefly (in the act of rape) and the entire movie was filled with women. Not that there's anything wrong with  that, as Seinfeld might say. In fact, rather bemused, I asked Kingo afterwards, what on earth were two old gay men doing watching this woman's movie?
Kingo was a bit bored I think, I noticed him restless and squirming early on, and afterwards he said it was almost too much for him, the subject matter, particularly after he and Jan had gone thru some similar heavy stuff in Spring Awakening at The Wharf Theatre the previous evening. He had not liked Spring Awakening at all. Its degeneration into drugs (heroin) and violence. A musical, English,  with mediocre songs.
What else ? Likeable as she was, Precious was a little one-note in her performance. More interesting was Blu Rain, school teacher at the special school, and Mariah Carey unrecognizable and non-glitter as a dour social worker at the welfare office both of whom show special interest in Precious. Lucky girl to get this unlikely attention.
I had a little trouble understanding the Harlem accents, but found the movie easy enough to take despite its harrowing and brutal story line – the sexual abuse, the rapes, the angry indolent mistreating mother, who was prone, in loose moments to hurl anything, even her beloved TV at Precious,  the absent father who started molesting Precious at the age of 3 with the mother (in the same bed) not interfering, just upset that her husband was showing more interest in his daughter sexually than he was showing her…
Easy to take because of Precious's obvious appeal behind the weight problems, the kid problems, the illiteracy problems. She was light on her feet, good with her fists, lots of street smarts. And although she changed her outfits quite a lot, it was pretty much a one note performance. By the end, the vile mother, the tough but kindly even saintly lesbian teacher, and the caring welfare officer provided more interest than Precious. Even the other girls in the special school. Did Precious ever crack a smile ? Precious was fun when she got off her butt a couple of times and whacked another pupil.
Movie not done like some late night Hot Docs on SBS; the tough story line being leavened by scenes of Precious's fantasies of being a rock star, performing on stage, being the centre of attention of an adoring crowd.  I seem to remember big smiles in those sequences.
The movie got quite sentimental towards the end. There was a suggestion of an affair beginning with the male nurse who attended her when the second child was born. The final scene is Precious with both kids in tow walking defiantly away from the welfare office, (where her self-pitying mother has just shocked Mariah Carey into a disbelieving and horrified silence with her revelations about Precious's home life), down the stairs and into the crowded Harlem streets, full of  determination to lead a new and free life.
Afterwards we ate steak sandwiches on the terrace at the Customs House Café/Restaurant/Bar on western side of the plaza; each a glass of red wine, the waitress getting the closed kitchen to do just one more order. Kingo tipped her generously. The bar had in years gone by commissioned him to do two large harbour paintings. They were displayed for some years but wound up in Hong Kong when the owner sold the business.














Good bye to the movies of 2009 and good bye to the old decade. Called the NOUGHTIES by some, a meaningless title. It was a decade which began ended (near enough) with acts of terrorism; it was the decade of George W. Bush's misnamed War on Terror; the decade the internet and 'digital' came of age and in that sense a decade as innovative as the seminal sixties

CABARET  at New Theatre, Newtown.
6th December, the 5pm Sunday show. An easy forty five minute walk from Redfern through the wonders of the Technology Park and then the charm of the backstreets of Erskineville.
Not exactly a movie, leave that to Lisa Minelli, but a well worth seeing production of the original Broadway musical with many different songs as well as the familiar ones like Come to the Cabaret,Money Makes the World God Round and the scary The Future Belongs to Me. Music John Kander, lyrics Fred Ebb, songs with a Brechtian touch. Directed by Louise Fischer. See my Photo Journal for a few remarks. I had an up-close and personal time from Row 2, el cheapo seats,  and had dinner afterwards with Barry French (who starred, in a meticulous perforamcne, as Herr Schultz) at a packed nearby pub which had live music and great food. Recent changes in the law mean that live music is making a come back ?


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Curtain Call -
taken with my little hip holster camera without a flash.























3rd December
The Informant
Director: Steven Soderberg
Worth a look, based on a true story (but liberties have been taken So there! it states at the beginning) Amusing if confusing with ultimately, little affect.  Corporate price fixing, and other big business misdeeds, a high minded top executive Mark Whitacre, (brilliantly played by a plump Matt Damon, taking a leaf out of Russell Crowe's recent performances as a fattie) who becomes a whistleblower but who is morally bankrupt himself, secretly raking in millions for himself, sort of innocently, lying to himself, actually believing that with the rest of the directors exposed as corrupt he will become CEO; lying throughout in fact, to everyone including an increasingly frustrated FBI who get him to wear a wire and  tape record everything. The FBI eventually get their men, but the main man they get is Whitacre himself who goes to a white collar jail for a few years. The millions he squirrelled away. Are they returned ? I did not really care. Clever light hearted froth with some Dixiland jazz to keep things bubbling along. Kingo preferred Soderberg's Bubble. So many good Soderberg movies. I preferred Traffic, Terence Stamp in The Limey. The Good German was all style and no substance.  I did not bother with Che. Out of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez from a novel by Elmore Leonard  was literally out of sight ! It might have been fun to have George Clooney play Che.



2nd December 09

eMobyDick

















When Cassandra Pybus (the renownedTasmanian historian, ) asked me to a showing of The Hunt for Moby-Dick at the Maritime Museum and to meet the director Adam Low, a man who knew 'Richard' back in  the sixties Oz days, I assumed she meant Richard Neville but it turned out she meant  Richard Adams, the Oz/INK graphic designer. Not only that, Adam Low had been working with Philip Hoare, an old friend and collaborator, on the making of a documentary based upon his forthcoming book, Leviathan, or The Whale. Phillip Hoare is out here to promote the doco and to help Adam, but also to promote the paperback of his book which won  the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. A small slender man in his early fifties, with a ready laugh, it turns out he has written biographies of Noel Coward,  Oscar Wilde and of all people, Stephen Tennant, the brightest of the bright young things on whom Evelyn Waugh based his character Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.
I asked him if he knew the interviewer and travel writer/novelist, Duncan Fallowell whom I had met in London, and said he is " a character" (Duncan's most recent and most amusing book (much to the chagrin of the NZedders) is about New Zealand, Going As Far As I Can) I think Adam Low turned the Coward book into a doco also, for BBC Arena in England. Arena also sponsored The Hunt for Moby-Dick.
"Serious Pleasures (1990) is one  of my favourite books," (the one on Stephen Tennant), I enthused when Hoare reminded me that he had written it. "Oh I should have remembered your name." The painter Philip Juster gave it to me to read shortly before he died, a well thumbed copy. " I read it so much it began to fall apart." I continued to gush. Also apologising for mixing up the Tennants.  "Maybe you were thinking of Colin Tennant," said Philip Hoare kindly. "The one who was a friend of Princess Margaret."  The one who bought Mustique.  Stephen's nephew ? Colin is still alive, as Lord Glenconnor, living somewhere in the Grenadines, running a bar and restaurant. Felix Dennis had a video of a Channel 4 interview with him late in life. Hilariously imperious and exercising rudeness as a divine given right.
I also met Mark and Maria, radical doco makers who had just gotten back from a documentary  festival in Japan where they showed  their  The Man Who Hated Calisthenics. A Japanese dissident.  Also have made a doco on Wuthering Heights – from the point of view that those huge houses on the Yorkshire moors, like many of the great English country houses, were built out of slave and sugar trade profits.
Cassandra Pybus who monitored the talk session afterwards (with Adam, Phillip, and Martin Rosenbaum,who shot the movie and also produced) is helping promote  the whale doco because she is also working on a whale doco based on how the Tasmanian aborigines (and other Pacific peoples) related to whales.
The Hunt for Moby-Dick was good, serious stuff, quite extravagant in its scope, but not pretentious; the lifelong love of whales by Hoare, stimulated ultimately by being invited to Cape Cod by John Waters the filmmaker (Hairspray, Pink Flamingoes etc) and sent on a whale watching expedition which resulted in a close encounter with a breaching humpback; the despair of Herman Melville and the rejection of the book when published. Much darker than his previous works (The Encantadas, Typhee,  Bartleby etc.) on  account of becoming enamoured with and influenced by the bleak Nathanial Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter). Melville spent the last thirty years of his life working as a public servant, and wrote nothing more. Not until the 1920s after the posthumous publication of Melville's Billy Budd, was it recognized as a work of genius with much to say about our modern predicaments. Like Wuthering Heights published in the same year (1851) it was a first book of its kind. Chapter by chapter quotes from the book are used to accompany the movie's depictions of the Melville take on the black side of human nature, the egocentricities, the struggles for power, the destructive and obsessive forces within man.  Along with the whales and the oceans in which  they reign, we glimpse atomic mushroom clouds, Hiroshima, WW1 trenches, Mao, Stalin, Hitler and other usual suspects.  Comparison between the current competition for oil with the competition last century for whale oil as an extremely valuable and sought after lighting  (for candles and lamps) and lubricating (best ever) fluid. We see ourselves as killers of whales who have now  become watchers of whales (with some unfortunate exceptions like Japan and Norway) Much old bloody footage of  harpooning and flensing. We see a lot of the sperm whale, (with a head full of oil) a whale with a set of bottom teeth which it uses as a grab for things like squid, including the giant squid, its main food. We see plenty of Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab in John Huston's Moby Dick film. Philip Hoare at the end of the doco, swims with a female sperm whale who audially checks him out with sonar clicks Click click click ! "A sound picture being created in the whale of me. I felt it in my own head. I had lost control of my bodily functions by this time." Terror.
"Like having a granite cliff swimming towards me. Whales can't see at first because their eyes are at back of head.  As it passed me, it looked me right in the eye, and then, probably not finding me of any interest, it turned on its side and dove perpendicularly into the black blue."



1st December 09

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
With a memory of ABC's David and Margaret each giving ***1/2 to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I took in an afternoon session down at the George Street Event Complex. 3D and expensive, but clever use of  the 3D, and the movie was one of the best of the new animated films.
(As with Monster House a clever animation from the same house which I also saw on an afternoon last year, I was a little late, because in mid-afternoon there are very few ads )
Not up there with benchmark new animation like Toy Story 1 and 2, and the very sophisticated Up and Wall-E, but one of the very good ones. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, is wildly inventive and witty, both verbally and visually, with touches of the disaster movie like 2012, and a great take on America's obsession with junk food and obesity. Better than Monster House which I also liked (and tried to get Kingo to see) and probably the most imaginative  I have seen for years. Up only achieved this level of utter madness and happy delirium in its final moments, this one does it consistently throughout.  A bigger imaginative leap in fact. Based on a 30 page classic children's book so off to a good start, whereas Up and Wall-E and most of the others are starting off from scratch. Appealing nerd hero (Flint the boy inventor) and nerd heroine,(Sam, the super bright weather forecaster) provide a sweet and tentative love interest. Minimal Speilbergian sappiness here. Other characters charmingly sketched in each providing lots of laughs and chuckles. The father, the policeman, the ever expanding mayor, the monkey, Baby Brent… An anarchic  fast food fantasy, computer generated meals to order falling from the sky, a fantasy that all goes pear shaped when a computer glitch occurs and the movie turns into a world wide climate change fatso alert feature.  Food falling from the heavens. Heard that before ? Manna, the Old  Testament anecdote, food that saved the wandering Israelites from starvation. I seem to remember something about it from childhood.  What was that all about really? I was sceptical even way back when about that particular miracle. About all the miracles.




 Monday/Tuesday 23 and 24 November

I am not a CATASTROPHIST but after listening to Richard Neville's account of 2012 at the Art Gallery of NSW wine beer and sandwiches wake for murdered curator extraordinaire, Nick Waterlow, I think I will take a look at it.  Something I can walk down to from my Redfern 'eyrie'    at Event, the renamed George Street multiplex.

2012
Director: Roland Emmerich.
It's global warming, but not because we humans are fucking things up. It's solar flare
activity heating up the earth's core. A phenomenon that happens to coincide with Mayan prophecies about the end of time. And predictions by Nostradamus.
The cinema at 5 15 is crowded but still cold. Glad I had the foresight to bring a jacket. One reason why everyone rushes out of the cinema the second the credits roll may be that they are frozen after sitting for well over two hours, dressed for summer, in temperatures that belong to winter. Maybe the half-baked Event multiplex management like it that way as it means their cleaning staff can rush in and clear up all the mess, and for a movie like this, they can cram in an extra session.(And there was a lot of mess, all that stinky popcorn, and more if you were unlucky enough to have to use the toilets afterwards. A disgrace) There must have been half a dozen young cleaners banging  around me as I sat there checking just who was playing whom in the movie. But the music accompanying the credits was dire Celine Dion sort of generic stuff,  I knew the technical credits would be going on forever; I didn’t really need the credits as a decompression chamber to adjust to the outside world because the movie for all its theme and its bigness and extraordinary special effects, had surprisingly little affect. So, unsually for me, I left.
2012 remained pretty much in the field of 'entertainment for the masses'. Billions die as the earth does "a correction"  with the Himalayas now at the bottom of the sea and the Drakensbergs in South Africa the new roof of the world. The few privileged survivors are not bemoaning the destruction of 99.9% of the world as we know it, they are just happy to have survived and too bad about the rest of humanity, we're starting again, and that's that. We see no details of the death of anyone, virtually no blood or injuries on view. Far too much family values guff, too many dull and gagging Speilbergian moments of sentimentality that fail to tug the heart strings. Back to the graphic setpieces please. In a sense we have seen it all before, and from the same director, (Independence Day, and The Day After Tomorrow) but I have to admit 2012 is bigger absolutely, (hey it's the whole world this time) and better. There's acting talent and snappy dialogue this time. Oliver Pratt as a selfish senator has lots of good lines and  Chewital Eifors  (?) – please, that name -  as the leading climate change scientist is most appealing both in his looks and his ethical stance. John  Cusack, in an increasingly man at the end of  his tether role,  did OK too, (pity Emmerich did not find a role for his much funnier sister, Joan. Ever see her with Kevin Klein in InOut?) eventually saving one of the Arks. Yes, it's a modern day Noah's Ark story.
Some good jokes and at times, (mostly early on), Buster Keaton slapstick moments as John Cusack and his family always remain one second in front of disaster in a variety of vehicles. The hair's breadth escape from Los Angles as it all collapses around them is thrilling and also hilarious; just as much fun is the escape from Yellowstone, (and the Apocalypse Now ravings of  "bring it on" prophet, Woody Harrelson) but after that …
I thought Emmerich might have lingered longer on the destruction of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, the collapse of the dome of St Peters and the desperate misguided multitudes in the Square.
The hideous big business Russian oligarch (with his chubby and spoiled twin boys and his cargo plane filled with Bentleys,) is lots of fun also. I was almost sorry to see him go.
The black US president sympathetically played by Danny Glover, (nowhere near as svelte and young as Obama), does the right thing mingling with his subjects in their abysmal deaths as Washington succumbs, rather than be seated, courtesy of China, in one of the high tech Arks up on the slopes of Mt Everest. With many world leaders escaping the tsunamis and making it to the Himalayas, I noted that the Queen and her batch of corgis survived. Quite a few other dogs made it. Amusing shots of elephants and giraffes being helicoptered to safer ground.  Wherever that might be.
So I was alternatively thrilled (but not to the core) and bored (but not stiff) by the movie. Sometimes I was laughing out loud (not alone) at the ridiculousness/hilarity of it all.
I google Emmerich and find that he is a climate change activist and openly gay. He is also German and Jewish.  So he has a lot going for him. Earlier in his Hollywood  casreer,  he made Stargate (Kurt Russell ?) and Godzilla both panned but popular successes. He is planning Anonymous, a movie making the case that Edward de Vere  the 11th  Earl of Oxford is the real author of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. De Vere has hot competition from Sir Henry Neville, according to a recent (2005) thoroughly researched and imaginative book by lecturer Brenda James and William Rubinstein a British academic. Neville, a prominent politician had good reasons for remaining anonymous. A distant relative of Shakespeare born and died in the same years as the Bard, his distinguished life paralleled the subjects of the plays.

Tuesday November 24
Kingo wanted to see A Serious Man, the Cohen Brothers latest effort. I knew what we were in for but Kingo did not. I was determined to see it anyway so said nothing.
"In their black, bleak, belitting mode and except for a few moments, it's hell to sit through." So wrote David Denby in the New Yorker. As a work of film craftmanship   its fascinating but in every other respect  "it's insufferable"
I agree with all that and I was glad to get out by the end but it was very interesting and yes, even fascinating, in its detailed observation of suburban Jewish life in rural Minnesota 1967, beautifully shot ((Roger Deakins) and the screenplay was as clever as all get out. If hero Larry Gopnik had been a shade less pathetic, the dead pan blackness of the humour might have worked for me. As it was I chuckled quite a bit throughout. And so did the audience. It was the Book of Job idea – My God My God why hast thou forsaken me, why am I, a good and devout Jewish man (who takes life seriously) being subjected to endless misfortune. The piling up of petty job, family, money and health problems does reach a nice pitch by the end – a  tornado about to destroy the university, an urgent call from his doctor about the results of an x-ray…CUT ! Thanks for that.
The movie is not exactly a satire on Jewish religious rituals and societal restrictions, but it does manage to make them look faintly ridiculous. "Belittling" that word used in the New Yorker. The Cohen themselves of course, have long since moved on from that stultifying religion dominated suburban life, Jewish division. This is 1967 and Jefferson Airplane is a running joke throughout the movie, but in rural Minnesota the Summer of Love has yet to make any inroads.  Bob Dylan (a rural Minnesotan) had also long ago moved on.


Wednesday 11 November
My mother's birthday. Also Armistice Day. The horrors of WW1 remembered. Obama's brilliant eulogy at Fort Hood for the 13 slain soldiers.
Kingo calls to arrange a movie. The Many Lives of Pippa Lee at 4 40. I readily agree. Not the grim little Aussie movie but the grim little American movie. It has been at top of my list for a while. A reality check movie.
"Martin  all over the front page of the Herald," notes Kingo. Martin tagged as a friend of Waterlow. Serial litigant Martin Sharp, I comment. Half in love with easeful death himself…
After withholding 'celebrity' names all day, the current line from the police is that they have fears for the life of Anthony, the mentally disturbed killer son.  The Telegraph by mistake publishes a picture of Luke, the other son. That could pay them dearly. No sign of Anthony so far . Does he have a safe house ? Taken a long train trip?  Or has already killed himself ? Maybe feels sufficiently justified in his resentments to not feel remorse enough to kill himself.So, alive somewhere, if perhaps not kicking.
Reading about Nick Waterlow's death  in Herald this morning I had a little cry. I did not know Chloe. Nick always had time for me along with everyone else. Cut wide. He curated recently a show of Martin's most glittering works, curated at around the same time Larrikins in London and tried hard to get it going at a venue in London. A man of many enthusiasms and interests, not to mention his  day job, director of the Ivan Dougherty Gallery at COFA/University of NSW. Larrikins in London brought me into closer contact with him than that of frequent  meetings at gallery openings. Socially he was always out there. I went to an after party at his Woollahra home after the Larrikins opening. He also curated recently an exhibition on the theme of schizophrenia. Did Anthony come along? Recognize his affinities ?  How bad was the disconnect ? Back to the movie. No research just off the top of my head. As usual. I am so lazy about research. Hate it.  There's Google now so I have no excuse really.

The Many Lives of Pippa Lee
Directed by Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur Miller.  Like her Dad, she knows a bit about human nature and is able to reveal her knowledge. And not backward in letting it all hang out. Brilliant movie, in its insights and therefore power. Great editing as we go back and forth from  past and present. No extraneous scenes. I liked the music which concluded with a tough Lucinda Williams. Why is it only showing at Dendy Quays ? Kingo wondered. Robyn Penn Warren superb as always, in main role of Pippa. Keanu Reeves good in a lesser role. Played as a one note but it worked. He looked a so much older and working class loser, that I was struggling to recognize who the actor was.  Kingo had to tell me. And Julianne Moore ? Who was she playing. Nor did I recognize Winona Ryder who turned out to be the wrist slashing love interest for Alan Arkin towards the end, the infidelity giving Pippa the freedom to get out of her happy supportive marriage to a much older man but  now in a nursing home. Her little affair with convenience store clerk Reeves does not seem to amount to much but it is enough of a conduit after the marriage collapses (thru no real fault of her own), although Alan Arkin as the husband had a few things to say about that. He saw her as a vulture, subtly encouraging his death, unable to see him as other than an old man. "Well, you are an old man."
"Let's fast forward to the divorce," says Pippa.
The movie sad and funny in turn. Real life, all those neuroses on display, not not neuroses, just life. All three of us liked it. "I have been thru every single one of the experiences she went thru," said Jan.
"Even the scene with the gun? What about that happy ending?"
She did not reply but Kingo replied for her; gave a name of someone who at least threatened with a gun.  And her albatross daughter, Jina, is leaving for India next week  with James her off again on again boyfriend who has never been to Aurovilel before. Along with Jonas's kids, Piper and Cooper, the two grandchildren. That's some sort of happy ending isn't it ?


 
Monday November 2nd


Gary rang wanting to go to Chauvel for the Beethoven documentary and I readily agreed to go even though meant as usual, drinking a lot of wine afterwards at a Thai/Asian restaurant somewhere. The restaurant became the best of the ones on the Oxford Street strip below Taylor Square, the Thainesia which has been there very successfully for years (David Flint was and maybe still is, an habitue, even hosting the Edwardiana there one year). I reminded myself later that there are few quite nice ones in Bourke Street just to the south of Taylor Square.
I was almost late. A gallop from Kings Cross Station through back streets to get there at the ticket counter right on 6 20. No sign of Gary who had said he would be there for a drink at 6. I bought a glass of red and took a seat in the back row, where Gary likes to sit. He did not turn up. Seats at both sides of the back row became filled and soon I ceased to wonder what had happened to him. (his cross town 352 bus from Newtown delayed in traffic. He missed about 5 minutes of the movie)

In Search of Beethoven
Director: Phil Grabsky. Evan williams in The Australian says not as good as his In Search of Mozart. ie we learn nothing new about Beethoven. Well I did. That 4th piano concerto.
Almost two hours long, Beethoven from Birth in Bonn to Death in Vienna. Born into a musical family, a child prodigy, a brilliant pianist who in his early days composed for himself, bravura pieces that only he could play. Became early one of the three Viennese greats, along with Hadyn and Mozart. Never went back to Germany. He never met Mozart but did meet and become a friend of the much older Hadyn who mentored and helped him. Early driving force for Beethoven was to be as good as both these two, prove it and then be better. Which became the case. There was a line in the movie, very unfair to Mozart really, "Mozart composed for Saturday, Beethoven composed for eternity."
I was never bored by the movie, although I was drifting off early on only to be brought back to attention  by the thunder of the Kreutzer Sonata and from that point on I was entirely absorbed. An intense experience, I cried at several points. Beethoven always composing against the odds. His general health poor always and then the gradual loss of his hearing. Although it was not until very late that he actually was entirely deaf. All those ear trumpets. A man full of heart for humanity, his brain unlike his body, incredibly disciplined and it never failed him. I made a note afterwards to get to know that 4th Piano Concerto which I didm't know at all, also the late quartets (composed after the 9th Symphony when he was entirely deaf) and even the Missa Solemnis (Beethoven regarded it as his finest achievement) despite my prejudice against liturgical music. Particularly when dominated by female soprano choruses.
A bit of everything. A notable absence was the Emperor Concerto.  At Beethoven's great four hour concert in the winter of 1808, there was  the 6th Symphony (Pastoral) to kick things off, then him playing his 4th Piano Concerto (the last time he played in public) . After intermission there was the 5th Symphony. Gary said there was  much more. Grabsky just noted that the audience became chilled and a little bored at the excess.
Inventive, original, changed the face of music. Made use of Mozart and Haydn quite openly in  his early music, then surpassed them. Always successful as a revered composer in Vienna, but less successful in his love life, continually falling in love with beautiful women, composing sonatas for them but otherwise failing to impress. His health a constant problem. Always a heavy drinker. A lover of tavern life, a sociable man,  but forced to gradually withdraw from society on account of his deafness.  This latter a terrible blow to his ego particularly as he was a composer. The greatest thing he had to overcome. The overcoming added to the greatness, the depth and breath of his music.
Handsome man, short in stature, grew to be intimidating in his later life. Careless of his personal hygeine apparently. Lived in his creative imagination and the getting of it down in concrete form. Lucky us. Finale of film was a performance of 9th Symphony's Ode to Joy. What was that utterly splendid venue, its red and gold stage packed with players and singers ? 9th a symphony full of tragedy and splendour as well as ultimately, joy, or the longing for joy as one of the many commentators put it. One of them said it was a masterpiece but a flawed one. Too many competing emotions. I had to disagree.

"I'm a master at crossing roads," said Gary after suddenly veering across Oxford timing it perfectly as the traffic bore down on him. "I get good practice on King Street." 
I had noticed this disregard for traffic lights before.
A perfect table for two in a crowded Thainesia. The tables are small and crammed together but somehow each table is a sheltered oasis within the venue. Is it the lighting  ? The level of noise ? The décor ? The young Thai waiters? What makes it so comfortable and intimate ? The food was Thai at its very best although the entrée of shucked oyster was a mere morsel, the oyster no more  than a tiny bead.
Afterwards at The Bookstore, Gary bought a DVD Spanish porn film "20 centimetres", which translates to "8 inches".   I paid $25 for Yukio Mishima's Forbidden Colours which is the set book for next Sunday's Bookmen meeting. I have never read Mishima…or really wanted to. The hara-kiri public ending confirmed any previously held dislike ? The nationalistic, fascistic mind set also








































Daily Journal (October 25th)

I watch the new BBC Wuthering Heights and am quickly confused by the complexity of the plot. After first watching, when Cathy, the mother of daughter Cathy (whom old Heathcliff meets on the moors, gives her a ride on his horse) is dead, with Heathcliff ripping open the coffin, the film goes back in time to when the mother and Heathcliff were both young and in love even though Cathy marries Edgar the neighbour  for the sake of  wealth  and respectability. I have forgotten the book and the story I am afraid, even the Laurence Olivier/Merle Oberson  movie (directed by William Wyler and forever the benchmark I understand)  but did we really know then that Cathy was the one who died when we all expected that it would be Heathcliff ?) .…
I tuned in late which did not help and my attention also wandered (I was cooking dinner) and that did not help either; nor did drinking more than a half bottle of red wine...
Unable to focus on downloading photos and work, I sat through Compass, featuring the jolly and ghastly Anglican Nigerian Bishop Peter Akinola who takes the Bible literally. At least when it comes to homosexuality and Leviticus. He says speciously he has nothing against homosexuals just that God says they are unnatural and so there is no place for them in the Anglican church ("End of story") but he also strongly supported new severe legal penalties for homosexuals and for people who support homosexuals in Nigeria. Carries people like Peter Jensen here along with him into the schism with the much more liberal Archbishop of Canterbury who is also more sensible but only up to a point – he still believes in an external God, for Heaven's Sake.  Poor man.
The schism is all to do with money and power said one bishop commentator…
 
Monday October 26

Rain. Clearing. Kingo rings and I arrange to go with him and Jan to An Education at Newtown Dendy at 5pm. His boat still giving (flat battery again and more) him trouble and maybe the man who wants to buy it  from him to secure  the mooring that the boat has, will change his mind.
Have I any thing original or new to say about An Education ? I don't think so but I am writing it down (in a hurry, impatient, late at night anyway. I will revise in the morning, maybe)

A brisk walk to Newtown  in weather cool and close to rain. They were there before me, at a table in the foyer, with half of a glass of red in front of Jan. Kingo wearing one of her Auroville made beanies. 
Different when Kingo is with Jan and me together? Can I put my finger on it ? Not at the moment.  The movie ? Directed by one Lone Sherfig.  That's a woman. Scripted by Nick Hornby, from a short story. For a while I was quite thrilled by it. Carey Mulligan as Jenny the schoolgirl was always good. The parents and particularly Alfred Molina as the father (just his shape and his set of teeth made him fascinating to watch, the mother was a tad under written) were naïve and funny in their depths of 1961 suburbia in south London. The ease at which they were conned into allowing their daughter to be seduced by David (Peter Sarsgaard) the middle aged (40) roue arose out of the rather sad limitations of the life they led. Typical of the period. Before the breakout, before the days of swinging London, of the summer of love and all that. Before the Beatles even.  I felt the rush of excitement and freedom and introduction to a new life that Jenny felt. So exciting was this new adult life, that she was able to ignore the sleaze and criminality that came with it.
After a while it became apparent to me that the movie was a little movie, skating on the daringness of its theme. As the time spent on the detail of life at the stultifying girls school, dull restrictive life at home in Twickenham, the trip to Oxford, the trip to Paris and the deceptions involved in getting the parents to agree to these, mounted up, oit became clear that the meat of the movie was just this. I noticed Kingo looking at his watch. My own interest began to leach away. Of course it was never going to Wuthering Heights, but it was clear also  that there was not going to be any further adventure or melodrama.
David's proposal seemed hard to believe, her acceptance of it even more so. And the parent's acceptance of it even more unbelievable. Facile. The protagonists began to turn into cliché figures, the story trite. Dad caught by his own reasoning?  No need of an Oxford education after all if she marries a rich man who will look after her.
The climax of the movie comes suddenly. With Jenny discovering that David is married with his wife actually living around the corner. Exposed, as a fraud he fails to face the music and drives off in his swank seducer's car. We never see him again. Dad apologises for having been conned and allowing her to be conned.  Jenny had  resigned from her school preparatory to her marriage and the principal (Emma Thompson) won't have her back. She gets a private tutor (one of her teachers) and obtains entry to Oxford anyway. Happy ending.
A most unsatisfactory ending. Is that all?  I asked Jan ? Is That All There Is?(to life)  is a great song by Peggy Lee and seems apppropriate to mention it here.  Scene by scene I was captured but ultimately An Education added up to little more  than a telefeature. Jan had the same feeling. Peter too, even more disappointed. Carey Muligan's performacne as Jenny was the only thing that held it together at all after a while. Sarsgaard a bit of a one note.  It might have worked better if he had been better looking and not such a nerd. Maybe that was the idea of the writer, Nick Hornby. The banality of it all. Seducers and crooks don’t all have twirled moustaches and Svengali eyes. "Based on a  true story" Somehow that reduced it rather than enchanced.
David is in fact a thief and a con man not just in love but in business.
I could be easily conned too I think and am cautious in life. Timid? Knowing my gullibility?
For example perhaps: I did not realise what David and his business partner were up to when they stopped on way back from Oxford. Telling Jenny to stay back, they  entered a house which had a FOR SALE sign on it. This permitted them to enter the house? No real estate agents in '61 ? After 'inspecting' for possible purchase they leave, but leave with a valuable framed print which was hanging on a wall.  I did not  realise the need for a quick getaway. Just a straight out pilfering which the owner might find out at once, come steaming out and manage to get the licence plate number. Petty theft. This not so petty  theft not not enough for Jenny to dump David right then and there.  Interesting. 
The other scam demonstrated was more long term - moving a black family into a flat in a certain area which would then reduce the value of real estate in that street and enable them to later buy a  cheap house in that street.
More naivety on my part -  when David  rummages in the boot of his car for a wedding ring, I did not realise all that stuff in the boot was stolen booty and that there might well have been a ring in there.
Stories move along by not revealing too much. (I think a fault in my book is too much revelation too early. In my latest version, I have held stuff back) David's proposal to Jenny seemed pretty unbelievable. It was a spur of the moment proposal, provoked by David's partner flirting with Jenny on the dance floor in one of the night clubs they frequented. Revealing of David's deep insecurity and of a man with many character flaws, even close to serious madness for it will certainly means he will be exposed in some way down the line and the affair will be over. Which is perhaps is what he wants really. He has taken Jenny's virginity, had his fun.  It is his fun outside the marriage which itself is probably quite enough responsibility for a morally weak man like him to handle.
The absurd proposal is David's way of saying good bye. Does not actually have the guts to do it, to take responsibility for saying goodbye, lets circumstance do it for him. Maybe he left the letters (addressed to Mr and Mrs. David ) in the glove box deliberately so that Jenny will see them? He knows for example that she goes in there for cigarettes every time she gets into the car.
 Yes, David  is married and with a child. The wife lives just around the  corner from Jenny. Jenny goes around to the address to see what the wife looks like. The wife knows immediately what has happened. Long suffering wife. Not another one she says. Not in the family way I hope? No. Thank god for that. It has happened before.  She is well  aware that her husband is a serial seducer of young women.
Lies make for good stories.
My favourite scene came early on – who was the foxy singer in the first night club  they go to? And what was that song ?
Why did Emma Thompson's two scenes fall so flat ?
An Education like any movie that does not deliver on early promise, proved a poor set up for an early dinner.  I was not even really hungry having had a 3pm lunch.  And now it was not even 7.
I suggested Grub and Tucker (with a touch of pretension, Gary Simes prefers to call it G&T) but Kingo not interested, and seeing Citrus (a restaurant he knew, having been there with me a couple of times) he said he was freezing (it was cold and raining) he dove in and that was  that.
Monday night not a good restaurant night often.
Awkward seats in a front corner with both of us having to look sideways at Jan (in the corner) . So I rearranged the seating so that we could be seated in normal fashion on three sides of the table. And I no longer had to look at the forlorn and somewhat strange paunchy man alone on the other side of the restaurant who was staring at us .
But I have to look at him now, said Jan. "But I will look at him with love."
Kingo suddenly exclaimed "Oh, he coughed and did not cover his hand."
"The germs wont reach this far,"I said.
Kingo's contribution to the matter of the strange man. To assuage Jan or me or what?
No wine which was good really. I am drinking too much. But a frappe instead ? Better as a dessert, but not as an accompaniment to the meal. In my case, prawn risotto which came with fetta cheese. Jan had a pumpkin risotto, Kingo had a seafood salad, probably the  best choice) Noisy frappe machine and the drinks icy cold. Peter warned me to drink too fast - he had given himself a headache. His brain had become iced up.
It will pass quickly I said.
A mood created by the movie ? Always low when a movie fails  to ignite.
Conversation ? Friends difficulties as we all age etc. I did not talk about my trip to the mountains - for Jenny Kee's exhibitio at Blackheart, Heart of the Waratah. She now calls herself a Waratah Woman.  Nice show actually, big crowd. 

Talk of local rowdy and tearaway, Terry Stanton's misadventure when at the wake of his girlfriend, he gets drunk, riles his son who punches him. He is down,  knocked out, goes into a coma from which he still has not recovered.
Chris Carbin has lung cancer.
Martin Sharp is getting together a class action against Cranbrook, gathering enough boys who have been sexually abused to do so. Martin becoming addicted to litigation?  Christopher Pearl another abused Cranbrook pupil has been approached and they are talking. Is a single  teacher involved ? Must be a long time ago. Jan ran into Pearl that afternoon and said he looked like a criminal type somehow, the way he was dressed. A low life.
Infamous pedophile, Philip Bell is deceased unfortunately, I joked. He was a Cranbrook boy. Can't get a girl get a Cranbrook boy, the old saying.
You mean he was abused at Cranbrook and that turned him into a pedophile ?

Kingo got the bill. We thanked him. I was certainly surprised.  "Nothing, I had a windfall."
KI ngo and Jan went to the truck. I to the station seeing it was cold and windy and rain had started to fall – instead of that brisk walk home via Georgina Street, Wilson Street, Abercrombie, Lawson. 
But there was Fish, a record store. In I went. The Bob Dylan Xmas Album Christmas in my Heart  (a title reminiscent of Felix's latest book of poems Homeless in my Heart)   Sold out, not in stock. I politely declined their offer to order it in. "I can get it anywhere." Not what the very sweet well informed and chatty clerks wanted to hear I suppose. But they did have Series 2 of Bob's Radio Show so after a brief  listen and a look at the fabulous selection of old rhythm and blues, folk, country and western songs, I bought that. Pity that there was none of Bob's commentary.
A few doors down King Street there was Hum another record store another chatty young assistant. At 72, everyone is now young. He had downloaded $300 worth of Dylan oeuvre listened to it all and had found nothing earth shattering, preferred David Bowie, but…
Not only did I buy the Xmas album in the delux edition – included Hallmark type  Xmas cards and envelopes. The album sales go to American food program for the homeless -  but also Modern Times, which I once had but lost somehow. Cheap at $12. But all in all I spent nearly $70. A little touch of momentary monetary madness. Retail therapy? Well, with Peter shouting dinner for me, I saved $25.
Home I poured a glass of red, watched Four Corners, fascinating program on cops with trigger fingers; instructions when shooting to aim for the chest, police without tasers, with no nets and no  training to deal with mentally disturbed people. Three main examples of incompetence: first the Levi killing on Bondi Beach with the policeman (now a personal trainer at the beach) who fired the fatal four shots still insisting he felt no guilt and had no selection but to kill. Absurd in face of evidence, lots of it, to the contrary. A man in denial for sake of his own sanity/self respect ?
Two more cases of beloved young men having mental problems followed, (one at Armidale, one in Queensland) more recent, both still under investigation with reports from police being prepared for upcoming coronial enquiries. Police behaviour seems atrocious in both instances. Unnecessary killings by poorly trained panicky police. Perhaps young men with little dicks overly eager to make use of their revolvers

I play the Xmas Bob. On first listening, pretty atrocious.
The selections from the Theme Time Radio Hour Series 2 terrific.  Yes, rhythm and bluesy and sort of obscure and unexpected. A little country and western, lots of black, a Billy Holiday (Gloomy Sunday) and an Edith Piaf…
Modern Times rolls along, all growly, easy listening and a prelude to the even better Together in Life, the fourth in Bob' s late life quartet. Forget the Xmas album. "The first Bob Dylan album I am not going to buy," said a friend.  Well, there have been penty i have not bothered to buy. That middle period when he was pretentious, unoriginal and trying to hard to be of significance...Empire Burlesque for exampple, Even street Legal. Of the Christian period, Saved was aawful.  Shot of Love also.  Although did not that one have Senor ? One of my favourites. And did not Empire Burlesque have Series of Dreams ?



Monday October 12 2009

Mao's Last Dancer (Director: Bruce Beresford)


Gary Simes the lexicographer rings. Movie ? I am reluctant really but succumb as usual. Mao's Last Dancer  or Van Dieman's Land? both showing in Gary's territory at Newtown Dendy. I have been putting off seeing either of them for various reasons. Comments that have sunk in from reviews I have read. I read so many reviews I rarely have virginal movie experiences. A line about lack of clarity in the cannibal scenes, (an axe raised, cut to scene of eating meat which we know is human but looks like generic flesh; the murders are not actually shown. Good, but …) and Beresford's movie being apparently a by the rules bio-pic. No more than well made, but dance sequences raise the level of interest…both are movies based on real events both directed byAustralians  but in my current mood, it is not hard to choose heart-warming, tear-welling fluff in rural Shandong and Houston, over primal grimness and gore in the unforgiving south western Tasmanian rain forests.

I test out my right leg with a brisk 15 minute walk to Gary's in Georgina Street,  where he shows me the plan for the house which Raju is building in a new suburb of Jaipur. Brick, stucco, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large covered verandah, a walled front and back yard, flat roof the house will make Raju a man of property and enable him to obtain  a passport and maybe emigrate to Australia as Gary's partner.
At the Dendy there is the longest queue I have ever encountered there. For Che Part 1 (the good part) I wonder, with Dendy Newtown havingexclusive showing rights? For Moon which is a popular science fiction hit, or Mao's Last Dancer? Will we get in ?
The queue is not for Dancer which is sparsely attended. It took me a while to warm to the movie. Generally efficiently executed, but only in a cookie cutter way. Handsomely shot particularly the rural village scenes, but the dialogue a tad too basic and banal. So too the music which came in on cue each time a little too predictably to raise the emotional stakes. Dancer (Chi Cao) playing Li Cunxin's  introduction to high rise Houston and American bourgeois life style does the wide eyed wonder to death, ditto with his language difficulties, but time and again the film is saved by the ballet sequences, whether at the ballet bar  in rehearsal, or in performance itself. But I enjoy both the rigid Chinese political style in praise of the peoples' revolution and the romantic lyrical Western style a la Barishnikov which is what Cunxin settles for when he defects. The defection scenes are well done, raise the stakes and I am emotionally engaged by the movie from that point on. But …I know my eyes are not what they were and Gary insists in sitting in the back rows, but surely some of Cunxin's ballet sequences are digitally enhanced, subtly (mostly) but enhanced in the manner of kung fu action movies. I have not read any review which actually mentions this. Chi Cao is a brilliant dancer, so why is it thought necessary to ramp him up from time to time?
Gary enjoyed the movie more than me. Not much point disagreeing with Gary. He always sticks to his own opinions.
Afterwards I ask at the counter the reason for the length of the queue?  For Che Part 1?  No. Some was for Moon but mostly for a special private showing of Woody Allen's Whatever Works which gets a general release on Thursday.

I managed to talk Gary into NOT going to another Thai or Vietnamese restaurant for once, and we settled for Grub and Tucker, which sounds amusingly bad (like Betty's Soup Kitchen sounds bad) but Gary knew that the food was good. He prefers to think of the restaurant as G & T. Basically Italian Fusion and Gary was able to order a Duck Salad which is something he regularly orders in his Asian eating venues.
Our waiter is young, tall and dark with hair all shaven but for a hint of mohawk. Of indeterminate origin and I could not resist asking him. Argentinian, Afro-Indian is the answer.
The offspring of a marriage in Argentina between black slave and indigenous native American I wonder.
On leaving I asked his name.
Nesh.
That sounds like Indian Indian. Thank you.
Yes.
Gary pushed a little further.
Not South African Indian? I mean Coloured?
Yes.
Do you know the term morfie ?
He laughed. Yes.
Outside I asked Gary "What was that all about ?"
"Morfie is derogatory slang for queer in South Africa.  Like poufter here. Like Trolley Dolly on aircraft." 
(I  am only guessing at the actual spelling which may be moffie. For years Gary has been working on a dictionary of gay slang thru the ages.)
Gary drinks his entire bottle of white wine at dinner.
I keep myself to half a bottle of red and take the rest home rather than let Gary drink that too. As he well can. With only the slightest encouragement.



Friday October 9 2009

Night of the Other Side of the Moon

Gust of wind, rain, coldness,  the usual capriciousness of spring, as I walk across to Tin Sheds Gallery (in the Wentworth Building) on the way to Newtown Dendy to see Moon with Sam Rockwell  as the unhappy astronaut in charge of Lunar Industries mining operation on the dark side of the moon, set in the near future. Helium 3 is the substance which provides the Earth with 70% of its energy needs. Clean energy at that. His only companion, a conversational robot, Gerty, voiced by Kenvin Spacey.

At Tin Sheds I speak with secretary Anita Lever and then with director Jan Fieldsend who confirms that my  restrospective is  scheduled for February 2011. Not that far off she says, all curly haired (from the rain) and looking youthful and slimmer since the last time I saw her. She looks like she is enjoying the job at the new and splendid Tin Sheds. She asks about Robert Lake. She has him in mind to find someone to share the space with me. I have him in mind too.
The two women artists exhibiting, have difficult names for me to remember – photographer Nathalie Hartog-Gautier's A Botanical Journey (wide landscape photos with gouache markings, cartological and calligraphic) and in the second smaller space, not really that small,  (the one I will have) Sublimation, Transformation and the Hybrid, by NZedder Cassandra Hard Lawrie, who moulds nude torsos of well-breasted female friends, covers the result with small resinated plywood squares, adds insertions of animal bones, and perhaps other found objects. All a bit occultish. Long essays in their catalogues full of academic art speak. Do I have to come up with something like that ?
Meredith Bergman is scheduled to open the joint exhibition (the two complement each other well)  but I have to leave early to meet Kingo at Moon. At the drinks table however I happen to run into Meredith and remind her that she bought my Hitler as a Dead Gay Artist a few years ago. "Of course I remember, Jim. It's up on the wall and everyone loves it."   We would have continued a conversation but her mobile rang and she moved away to answer it. I waited around but the conversation went on, and after scoffing down a couple of pieces of sourdough and hummus, and the last of my red wine, I reluctantly departed. Both shows worth a longer look.
I left just in time what with the head wind and rain battering me all the way up City Road and then along King Street. I note Kingo looking at his watch and about to go into the cinema as I arrive. I had had that glass of red at the Tin Sheds but ordered another one for the movie. Am I getting to be a bit of a drunk? Too much red for my own good ? My liver has not yet told me anything so i seem to keep drinking. Addicted to shiraz.
After the movie (see below if you are getting impatient) we settled in an Italian restaurant right by the cinema, ordered and once more I had the urge for shiraz."You'll be half an hour," says Kingo,  (presciently as it turned out) after the waitress has told me where the nearest bottle shop is. Outside it is still raining, the street was bumper to bumper, the light at which I wait refuses to change to green so I negotiate through the streaming traffic. Slow moving but still dangerous. I always have the mad, speeding, no lighted cyclist in mind.
I make it back unharmed of course, (15 minutes) deadheating with my seafood  languini. Kingo has tomato soup, having had a late lunch at a restaurant owned by Dale Jennings (Mambo founder in earlier days) down on Parramatta Road on the corner of Missenden. Kingo recommens for some future time. Jennings was there and the restaurant crowded. Kingo's soup is coldish and he sends it back for reheating.
Moon? Directed by Zowie Bowie, David and Angie Bowie the parents, he is now under the name Duncan Jones. Sensible name change. There is scarcely a seat vacant when we get inside. Third row from the front it has to be, but OK. Kingo finds the movie over hyped, a 'dog' and is bored throughout. I maintain interest although emotional engagement is never really achieved. Ultimately I find there are too many things I do not ucnerstand. Plot failures or my lack of ability to follow? All about clones and the cruelties of cloning in that the real astronaut, Sam Bell, has long since been replaced by clones and the clones are unaware that they are clones.  Each clone believes he is Sam Bell with a three years contract after which he will return to earth to be once more with his wife and baby daughter. In reality it seems  that  none of  them ever returned, merely being placed in a space capsule/coffin, drugged and eliminated. To be replaced by another clone, (spare clones are stored in a secret basement, brought to life when needed) all this being supervised by Gerty, a sophisticated mobile computer.  The almost human Gerty owes much to Hal from the Kubrick movie.  By some accident which I do not understand, two clones are present at the same time and most of the movie deals with how the two Sam Rockwellss (with different personalities for some reason, but thanks for that) deal with each other and how, together, they find out that they are clones. With the help of Gerty. Why on earth Gerty gives the game away seems inexplicable. And why does the surviving clone really go back to Earth? And how ? Is that a space ship which lands for him ?All these questions I have, all that I do not fully understand. Nevertheless, I enjoyed  the movie experience. Enjoyed Rockwell's performance(s).  Glad that Gerty gives him a haircut and relieves him of his bushy beard less than five minutes in.
Kingo drives me home in the rain and I completely forget that I had intended to go to hear the slinky Edwina Blush at Tony Bilson's Bar One at Circular Quay. Damn.


Thursday  October 1 2009

    A very hot day (over 30) but the weather is forecasted to disintegrate in terms of warmth and dryness tomorrow and the following days. Showers, welcome, as so is rain, but not when I have planned to go camping in the Capertee Valley for the long weekend. Too bad. The temperatures will be low also. 20 degrees. But then again, Capertee is in a rain shadow and is always different in climate to the coast and to the Blue Mountains.  Usually dryer and warmer.

Movies ? Tuesday, cheap movie day, I had recommended Seraphine to Kingo  as a good film for him to see with his two sisters, Fairlie and Caroline. My recommendation came from a reading of various reviews. It had to be a good movie for painters like the Kingstons to see; for anyone in fact,  with an interest in the creative process. I could not go that day as it was the opening of the final exhibition  at Legge Gallery down the road before its amalgamation with Watters Gallery in East Sydney.
On Wednesday I rang Kingo to check whether it had pleased them as I was intending to go that afternoon. It had, very much so – even tho Caroline fell down the steps leading to the Candy Bar (and ticket office) and cut her arm. Management patched it up staunched the bleeding and she was able to attend the movie anyway with no pain. My plan to file my forms on the way at St Vincents (for my proposed operation on my right shoulder to reattach torn tendon, rotator cuff whatever, thus putting myself on the 6 months waiting list) came to nought for lack of time (and I forgot the forms anyway ) getting to the Academy just in time.
Seraphine  - (Director: Martin Provost; lead role, Yolande Moreau who won a Cesar for best actress. The movie won seven Cesars including Best Film 2008)
Serephine turns out to be a bio (a genre I am not particularly fond of, mostly because it is usually so clunkily done) that operates like a fiction movie. Good move. We are told only at the very end that she is known now as Seraphine de Senlis (the town in north eastern France, near a Chantilly, not that far north east of Paris, where she lived most of her life). I was with the movie from the first frame really. So beautifully shot, ravishing summertime landscapes. Old provincial houses set in lovely gardens and fields, picturesque village of Senlis (I presume) and finally the bulky, decidedly unbeautiful figure of Seraphine Louis herself, looking every picture of what she was in her day job - a scrubber and cleaner, a washerwoman , a servant for the middle class people who owned the fine houses. Producing essential services for low wages and little thanks. She showed herself  as efficient and hard working but somehow graceless with some underlying resentment at being treated like a lowly albeit valuable servant. The movie takes its time to tell us why. She is an artist, a painter, painting every night on the instructions of God's angels. She works hard but has virtually no money with which to buy materials and so we see first of all how she does in fact obtain the materials she needs to paint every night;  night (by candlelight) being the only time she has to herself after an exhausting day. For example, Seraphine sneaks wax from votive candles on church altar, blood from (I forget how she filches it, back room at a butcher's ?) juices from various wild plants …to find for herself a unique palette of colours which astonishes Wilhelm Uhde German art critic who fortuitously discovers her and is a fan and buyer even from his first viewing of her early, rather simple finger painted works.
One tough lady, in touch with the spirits of the trees and flowers and nature generally. Often barefoot. Swimming naked. Her 'career' would have been very different if WW1 had not intervened and forced the critic and collector to return to Germany lest he be rounded up and shot. Uhde  also was one of the first people to buy Henri Rousseau and to recognize his talent. 
Seraphine Louis never reaches the heights of international acclaim that Rousseau has -  the fine line between madness and genius that she trod and which sayVan Gogh also trod, came down on the madness side. Van Gogh came down on the genius side, reaching out beyond his madness to universality. She never strays from her patterns of leaves flowers and trees, never did portraits indicating insight into character, or even landscapes; beautiful and unique as these pattern like paintings are, the darkness in her soul is always there. A savagery, an obsessiveness, no lightness, hard to love,  and for that she remains what Uhde called a Modern Primitive, albeit a brilliant one, rather than an artist of the first rank. Perhaps I am being unfair here; perhaps I should do a little research. I think she is in major public collections in France and was included in a group show of naive artists at MOMA in New York.. She painted all her life dying in  1947. There has to be a lot of pieces somewhere. Would she be regarded as a practitioner of Outsider Art, art produced by interns with some talent in madhouses or institutions?  Or has she  transcended that ?She was certainly talented, obsessively so.  Directed by those angels, she always felt she had to do it  for God. Insisted on so doing. Her reason for living. Her anchor. Her therapy.
When Uhde rediscovered her after the war in, (1927), he gave her a stipend and encouraged her to stop scrubbing rich peoples' floors and to paint full  time instead.  She bought materials, canvases, etc. expanded, worked large, and when the prospect of an exhibition in Paris loomed, delusions of grandeur overwhelmed her. Uhde, whom she assumed had fallen in love with her, as she had with him (or at least his largesse) in the middle of the Depression, (with fewer clients to buy art) could not afford her extravagances and tried to rein her in; asked her to be patient, continue painting but …she cracked. She already had really. Planning marriage with someone (Uhde or Christ ?)  she had a glorious hand-stitched white silk and taffeta gown made for herself in a bridal salon and sent the bill to Uhde. She also inspected a grand chateau and expected him to buy it for her.
The movie has a lovely ending, but in reality her ending was sad, alone and impoverished in a mental institution. Buried in an unmarked grave.
I was emotionally moved several times and gasped at the sight of some of her great later paintings. Perhaps I was particularly moved by the fact that I am something of a man who abandoned his career (as a lawyer) at the age of 24  to be a painter, (abandoned) then a writer (with little success – one novel published, Billarooby, another finished but unpublished, still being worked on after 10 years in vain hope) and a photographer, again with moderate success. My insistence on being an artist, the struggle with lack of funds and so on has a small parallel with Seraphine's life.  Makes for those tears. Probably self pitying. But they don't last long. My episode of mental instability (to say the least) in the mid-seventies which resulted in my living in Bolinas for almost 20 years also added poignancy. Those hot  tears coursing down my cheeks from time to time in the dark. I was one of five people in the cinema that afternoon. Bolinas was a therapeutic period for me, a healing place with manyy others in similar situation to me in the little alternative town. A period which enabled me to develop as an artist – collage, the photography and then photo-montage.

Kingo suggests another movie- he wants to go once more to The Big Rig and has arranged to meet Richard Gueney there after our movie which will be The September Issue. Ireally am ready to stay home and finish the Dorsington portfolio, but succumb to his invitation.
I got the time wrong,  (3 45 instead of 4 45)  am I losing the plot? but being an hour early enabled me to see Fairlie Kingston's exhibition at Australia Works on Paper in Glenmore Road (ceramic models of seaside homes/shacks from the fifties, finely detailed, were my favourites in an expansive show of glistening tiles and her signature lighthouses) with incredible finesse and detailing) then spend an unexpectedly  rivetting half hour in Unicorn pub on Oxford Street with a glass of chardonnay, reading  the VietNam section of Witi Ihimmaera's Maori book, The Uncle's Story,  set for this months Bookmen.  Grisly stuff, the close up horrors of war unsparingly conveyed, with only brief intimations of the love to come between Sam and the dashing American Hooper which is the only reason I am reading the book in the first place.
The September Issue? Fascinating enough. Full on with only a few longeurs midway when I had to fight a tendency to fall asleep. I liked Anna Wintour's wiglike hair, her bruised lips, the absence of too much moisturiser, her ever so finely crinkled neck 
(the camera lingered-she's in her sixties somewhere) I came to like her and the clothes she wore with such panache (chic but comfortable) more than I did Grace Coddington, Vogue's unglamorous creative director always in black and flat heels and that huge head of  frizzy red hair, who ultimately, on the September Issue, despite Anna, got her own way except for the Sienna Miller cover with poor Sienna so made over after the ultra expensive shoot in Rome, that she was scarcely recognisable. The cover shot chosen for the approval of Wintour was too 'teethy" for Wintour; Sienna's fillings were visible as well, so both her radiant smile (perhaps her best feature) and her fillings were removed. The eventual photo on the cover seemed to be a composite of best bits. But Coddington did lose out on her favourite double spread of Jean Paul Gaultier did she not ? I thought it was fabulous like  she did, but "Too busy," said Wintour (and there's plenty of Gaultier anyway) who prided herself on being able to make quick decisions, however  discomforting her decision was to the various creators of what she was deciding upon - photographers, designers, models whatever …
The September Issue similar to Valentino The Last Emperor in that the main interest in both movies was the creative and symbiotic relationship between the head honchos. Vogue more varied in terms of the fantastic clothes we got to view in that Valentino seemed to design ONLY floor length gowns and nothing else.

After the movie it was dinner with Richard Gurney (works at SBS) at, a newish US styled restaurant, with booths and a juke box, The Big Rig
The wine, after the hot day, was also hot.
"Where are you keeping your wine?" I asked the waiter, my tone aimiable, not accusatory or angry or upset. "It's way above room temperature."
The waiter kept his cool. Grinned. "Sorry about that, it's the hot day."
The wine is fine, I hastened to say,  but dear me …it was an amusing exchange. When my second glass came, (after the meal) the temperature was fine. I  think they had done something.  Put the bottles of red on ice for a bit ?
I regretted having the same dish as I had before,(the Big Rig Special Chili Hot Dog) but would not have liked  either of the things like Richard Gurney or Kingo ordered – fajitas for Richard, a bowl of chili for Kingo altho he gave me a taste  and it was really good chili …I think I ate enough Mexican to last me a lifetime when I was living in California.

Was the three person dinner a success ?
Sort of. Kingo again had the best seat in the booth with a view to the gamey street life outside; He did not seem to like me getting in between him and Richard in the repartee, and he started his amusing put downs habit. He and Richard Neville must take lessons from each other. Perhaps I was too talky at first, feeling witty and full of fun, but I shut up for a while and starting with a more measured approach a few minutes later, managed to keep myself in balance with the other two. Managed to listen, not to overly interrupt etc.
Richard Gurney likes to talk freely though, and is like me in that respect - and is very quick. And being only in his late  thirties, more au courant with the 'scene.'
Kingo engaging as usual but can be something of a blunt instrument. They spoke of Keiran and German boyfriends a lot. I had little interest but it was all amusing enough. Movies came to the fore, (Richard had seen Blessed and did not recommend.  Blesssed with good acting, but yet another angst ridden little Aussie movie, grim family dysfunctionality ). Also to the fore came discussion of James Waites and his website, particularly his acute and preceptive criticism of the current production (Sydney Theatre Company) of Tennessee William's Streetcar Named Desire. Dull and misdirected. Celebrity directors don't necessarily add anything. Check Philip Seymour Hoffman. I should email James…I'm going to cut this all short
Kingo had two glasses of red but drank a lot of water, then an ice cream on  the way to his truck and we drove without incident to Kings Cross where I got out and took the train home.

19th September 2009

Valentino, The Last Emperor at the Verona.
Lucienne and I arrived right on 6 30 and  there was a queue. Mostly gay men I soon realised, mostly couples. We were lucky in fact to get a seat at all. Row second from the front. But OK.
The doco was entertaining enough. Ultra high fashion and the lives of the super rich. The utterly wonderful hand stitched gowns, (no ankles or legs to be revealed, ever!) the extraordinary looking stony faced models. Famous faces past and present, always flashing by, a few of whom I could recognize. Anna Wintour with the wiglike hair and oversized glasses. Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Jackie Kennedy, Sophia Loren. Mastroianni, Anita Eckberg in the Treviri fountain…
Praise from a pony-tailed Karl Lagerfeld, dressed in a bizarre white clerical type high collar with tie outside it. Lucienne noted that the famous Valentino red gown worn by Julia Roberts when she accepted a best actress Oscar for Erin Brockavich was not featured for some reason.
Valentino difficult, crapulent sometimes, egotistical, vain. That heavy shock of hair. Real? Certainly dyed. Or fake tanned, like his skin. Giancarlo Giametti his lover and partner for a lifetime, much more articulate and appealing. Better looking too altough both were very handsome as young men. The same age. Giancarlo weathering the storm a little better than Valentino. Both now in late seventies. Ravaged skin, both with too much fake tan but Valentino far too much. Together they were a single genius, without each other the iconic status of the Valentino brand would not have existed. Valentino admits he could do only one thing, build beautiful gowns for women who wanted to be dressed for beauty. When asked early in his career the eternal question, "What do women want?" he replied, "Women want to be beautiful." Giancarlo said "All  told I have had spent no more than two months apart from him in our entire lives together." Extreme patience was required to live with Valentino. Giancarlo modest compared to the vain Valentino. When asked how it was to have lived his life propping up another man, he said "it has brought me supreme happinesss." A life of fame and glamour, extravagance and indulgence always in the pursuit of beauty. Mansions, palaces, yachts, great events.
The movie concluded with a three day celebration in Rome (including fireworks and models floating to the sounds of Puccini at the Coliseum) for the 45th anniversary of the firm, now corporatised and no longer owned by Valentino or Giancarlo. The last of its kind. A valedictory party with Valentino denying he was retiring, but in fact did so a few months later. The end of an era. Karl Lagerfeld, walking arm in arm with Valentino at the final soiree in Rome said that compared to Valentino, "the rest of us are making rags."
No longer possible to survive in the way that Valentino did in the past.  All those handstitching seamstresses. These days the money in the fashion industry comes from ready to wear, from fragrances and accessories not from sales on the cat walk.
It took Valentino months to come to terms with the revelatory nature of the movie. Giancarlo eventually persuaded him to agree to let it be presented. Its wild success at Cannes certainly helped.Not much insight really into the character of either man.
We came to know little more about them than we did about the five ever present pampered pugs.

I noted that some said that Fashion TV would be covering the great final event.  I wondered in passing whether that would be Adam Lisowski's Fashion TV.
I look him up on the internet and there he was being interviewed as Michel Adam, on U-Tube – older of course, fleshy (always was) a heavy roll around his neck, big bags under his eyes, looking decidedly unhealthy, bemused, giggling, diffident manner, pushing words out as  though he did not want to be talking at all. Partly his great intellect; his noticeable feeling that he is more intelligent than the rest of the world, dictates his slight impatience with everyone he talks to. Maybe. Heavy black rimmed glasses. Just the same as he was many years ago in Amsterdam (Viennese Sex Puppets in the Vondelpark and Paradiso where I first met him at a distressed period of my life, looking for direction,  post Oz in  1973. The 'villain' in my novel, Escape from Leisure Beach, is inspired partly by Adam and the period in Ghana when he was practising a form of radical therapy on several people, including hiss then girlfriend and me. I needed some sort of help and his interest in me as a patient probably saved me from spending time in a mental institution.
Wikipedia reveals the less savoury side of Adam, which is perhaps the side that I knew although it took a different form back them. Then he was a politicised yippie, friend of Jerry Rubin and associated with Bill Levy and Germaine Greer's Suck Magazine in Amsterdam. Had already served a year in jail in Austria for being a disgrace to the Austrian state -  for having been arrested for smuggling hashish  in England.
Wikipedia again:
A fearless enterprising venture capitalist (garment and textile) he fled Thailand in early nineties owing millions and the ambassador to Austria in Bangkok called him "a black sheep of the industry"  - poor employee treatment, unpaid wages, and allegations of child labour led to angry demonstrations outside the Austrian Embassy during which an effigy of Michel Adam was burnt by disgruntled employees.
Began Fashion TV in mid nineties in Paris where he had a night club which hosted after-parties for models who had been on the cat-walk at fashion shows. These he videoed and with the fashion companies getting getting interested for publicity purposes, he turned this into Fashion TV which is now world wide, 24/7.
2000 he was sentenced  to 2 years in prison by the Tribunal Correctionel of Paris for sexual assault on a 21 year old model he brought from Berlin, guaranteeing her a wonderful career in France. Adam having left France before the verdict, Interpol launched a search for his arrest. He had fled to Israel.
In Tel-Aviv 2003 another small scandal – a young model accused Adam and anotehr man of sexually assaulting her in the Fashion Bar bathroom – kissing her on the neck and  touching her underwear.
Always a libertine I guess. My time in Bangkok interviewing him in 1989 certainly revealed that. The visit to Pegasus, where he selected a dozen girls for a party at his Bangkok penthouse, the call girl supposedly thrown overboard at Pattaya for having feet that were too big… 



5th September 2009
Lunch with my sister Janet Grace at Chifley Square. Soft tortillas, nice. Coffee. Attentive waiter. Aboriginal blood. We lingered, not having seen each other for some time. I have been settling into my new abode, she is preparing mentally for the ordeal of a hip replacement but I always kept The Soloist, the movie I wanted to see,  in mind.  4 10 at Greater Union which gave me more  than 20 minutes at that grungier other end of town to have a glass of red wine beforehand at the Sydney Bar in Liverpool Street.  A seat with good light for reading more of M  J  Hyland's Carry me Down  on the street with its vibrant life right in front of me. "Why aren't you drinking beer?  asked one man  passing without stopping.
I have never really liked the Hyland – the disturbed boy, the dysfunctional working class parents in small town Ireland, the day to day tedium of their lives, the jam sandwiches, the telly, the fried eggs and chops, the chips – but brilliant and rivetting. I have been reading it in short gasps on the train mostly (have gotten carried on to the next station twice) and finally am getting to the end. I hope she lets her readers off lightly but I fear the worst. It's more disturbing than fun. I fear for the mother even more  than for the boy.
The Soloist a Joe Walsh directed movie is based on a true story, with Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Ayers a Julliard cellist who became a homeless person after a schizophrenic mental breakdown and Robert Downey Jnr as Steve Lopez an LA Times journalist whose life has reached something of a dead end, who does a story on him because of the Juilliard connection/hook for readers; after  at first merely exploiting him for a good story, (paper is losing readers and needs hot stories, an air of desperation in the newspaper industry is touched upon) and wants to make a difference in the man's life, get him off the streets and into a proper living space so he can practice his violin and cello properly. Not easy. Both Lopez and Nathaniel are loners and it is hard for them to achieve any intimacy. It took me a while to like the movie, feeling it struck all sorts of wrong notes early on, (the bicycle accident, the dried coyote piss, both meant I suppose to indicate unhappiness in Lopez's  life) but once the crowded street scenes outside the homeless shelter began – extraordinary, vibrant, danger lurking always, madness and sadness of life at the bottom, of everyone getting on with their situation, or not - talk about colourful to say the least  – and pretty much stayed, I warmed and eventually was fully engaged emotionally and shed a few tears.  Cathartic tears I suppose I am enjoying myself at a deep level when they gush out like that. Produced by recognition too, realising how close I went way back when (1973 it began) to a similar mental breakdown. Tears both sad for the human condition and joyful for the transformative nature of the story. It transforms Steve Lopez's life as much as it does, or even more than it does that of Ayers. Catherine Keener had a thankless role as a fellow editor and ex-wife.
 
I also fell in love with Robert Downey for the first time. Was it just the beard or something more like the fabulous acting and the creation of a sympathetic character.. Jamie Foxx not so loveable nor meant to be; a difficult man, a difficult role but I guess he gets it right. A tour de force. I did not see Ray for which he won an Oscar. I will see it. He was good as the scared  taxi driver  in Collateral with Tom Cruise. A terrific Michael Mann  movie.
I enjoyed Ayer's frequent changes of outfits. As great a dresser as he was a cellist. Nothing was made of the outfits. Not a line. On the soundtrack, lots of Beethoven. The movie was unsentimental and was not exactly obvious in the way it ended. Quite lovely really, nothing fake or Speilbergy. The homosexual touch added flavour for me. The dance at the very end was a satisfactory way to go. Both men had changed, Acceptance of each other. Both needed a friend.
Me ? I needed the credits with the Beethoven playing over them  to compose myself, wipe away my tears; the credits experienced and valuable as decompression chamber. Everyone else left immediately as usual. Why do people do that ? Missing the wonderful Beethoven accompaniment. I was left with the two young cleaners who had come in the second the credits started. This was a multiplex in George Street after all, but seeing me still there they stopped and waited until I had gone. (Cinema 5, probably their smallest venue)

Sunday 30th August
I notice Rudo y Cursi is on mid afternoon at the Chauvel. I took train to the Cross and walked from there (back streets) arriving right on time. A glass of wine.
An amusing quite lovely, tough talking little movie written and directed by brother of the other Cuaron the one who did Pans Labyrinth one of my favourite movies, and who also did one of the better Harry Potter movies, I think. Anyway, a name. Mexican. Set in Mexico city and nearby. Gael Garcia Bernal to look at as well. He was Cursi, the singing accordeon player, music his first love but which he is not very good at. Beware passion for something when there is no talent says the movie's smart philosophical voice over.
The movie is about  the lure of riches I suppose. About the fickle nature of fame. I loved the down and dirty dialogue. Asshole, asswipe, cocksucker, faggot and colourful others so numerous I have forgotten them. Well, it was country folks, working class and football protagonists …and Mexican. I wonder who did the subtitles. Everything beautifully observed, particularly the working life in the banana plantation and the family life in the small town before their fortuitous rise to fame and  fortune. Luck. A football talent scout, an  amusing played role, got a flat tyre outside the town and Cursi, bicycling home from the plantation helped him. He stayed to watch the local football match and …
A swift move to Mexico City and the big time. The hazing scenes in the footballers' showers were hilarious as well as sexy. No penises on show (not quite but almost, plenty of buttocks). Cursi on his knees looking aghast at three naked teammates present their dicks to be sucked, was the most hilarious of all.
A feel good movie but not in the standard way of Hollywood or even the way of movies like The Full Monty. Gritty, a bitter sweet, more philosophical ending.  The wonderful game of football outplayed by the wonderful game of life. To a certain sorrow. Not seeing it as 'losing out'. Acceptance of what life ultimately offers. One's destiny. Getting on with it nevertheless.

Nest day Gary Simes, the lexicographer  rings – he suggests Taking Woodstock at Verona and somewhat reluctantly I agree. It means drinking and afterwards dinner at a Thai or Vietnamese restaurant.  He seems inflexible about these matters. With Kingo my usual movie companion busy with his exhibition coming up soon, I am going to the movie alone or with Gary lately.
The Ang Lee movie drifts a bit but it certainly has its moments and I find that my emotional buttons are pressed continually, tears gushing down my cheeks many  times. Recognition that Woodstock and those huge events like that which I attended meant a lot to me at the time. I still have a love of big crowds. I kept thinking of Isle of Wight and the Grateful Dead midday to sunset at Hollywood under Lyme (went there with Ian Stockes and Jane Eyre; members of the Dead handed out Purple Haze  to anyone back stage who wanted it) and the Bath Festival (more a grass and cocaine occasion) but the ones in a way that mostly echoed Woodstock for me were the Rainbow Festivals later in  the Western United States. I went to three of them – the Gila Wilderness in southern New Mexico, (the best because it was dry) and then one in Oregon – eventually rained out, and one in eastern Washington state in the Rockies north of Spokane, totally rained out. We had no sooner arrived than it began pouring and did not stop so we left the next morning –the rain still pouring down, along with thousands of other benighted campers or would be campers. Fortunately we were in the fabled Francis Reeves Hacienda de Valdez converted bus and took a complement of soaked people away with us. And on the way back stopped at several wonderful places including Coyote Hot Springs in a national park in Oregon. Once we were away from the Rockies, the weather was hot and sublime…where was I  - Oh yes, Taking Woodstock, the movie. Brilliantly done with the standouts being Liev Schreiber as a sweet tough cross dresser in a pink dress, packing a Saturday night special in his garter, a Korean war veteran who was hired as security for the headquarters for the Festival. Movie built around Elliot Tiber who helped his parents run their trailer trashy, rundown, charming in backwoodsy way, Monaco Motel near the Max Yasgur farm which became the eventual site of the festival. Elliot (beautifully played by one Demetri Martin) happened to have a permit for a festival which actually would have only been a chamber music  'festival'  on the motel lawn. Elliot always had grandiose ideas which never eventuated as imagined. Perfect for the hippie but savvy organisers of the Woodstock Festival who land in a helicopter see their chance and seize it. From that moment the movie takes off and we get a wonderful feel for the festival without ever getting anywhere near the stage or the  main action. The main action is where you happen to be.
Imelda Stanton as Elliot's mom, over acted the Jewish humour stuff and Ang Lee, eager to make a comedy after a string of tragedies,  made a mistake I think by not reining her in a bit. Is she well known for overacting. But the movie had a ton of charm throughout. Ang makes good use of split screens, just as the famous documentary of the event does. The acid trip in the Kombi van was one of the most realistic and convincing acid trips I have seen on the screen.   The final scenes where the three who took the LSD step outside afterwards from their super enclosed environment and view  the distant festival stage and the undulating crowd at midnight, could have gone on forever it was so beautiful.

Gary and I closed the Saigon Bay afterwards  at 11 15. Gary got through one and one third  bottles of white wine. I drank the other two thirds.  Gary can put away a lot of wine.  The first time I dined with him - in a Viet Namese restaurant in Newtown - he put away two bottles of white wine, then drank the remaining half of my red. We closed the restaurant.
Talk at the Saigon Bay was animated throughout. Books, movies, etymology, sexual experience, circumcision, cultural practice, his Indian boyfriend in Rajastan, whatever …he took a taxi home dropping me off at my new abode at Regent Place; whatever the apartment block is called. Regent Views.


Earlier  days...

26th May

I was determined to be OUT for the evening. Kingo was rung but could not make it so I went alone.   My landlord,  I remembered only later, was going to be out for the evening at a restaurant in Leichhardt with his sister as part of the Italian Cultural festival going on, but even so …Dendy Quays beckoned
VIVID Festival was opening at the Quay also – the Opera House lit up with special effects from Brian Eno,  and so on …and finally I had geared myself to see Samson and Delilah which Peter I knew, would have no interest in.
I wandered about. There was a vaguely festive air as people sat and waited for the illuminations to start. Already there was the vase of flowers, lovely really, filaments of LED which it would be nice to have there by the MCA as a permanent thing and behind it a wall nearby, there was a brick wall tuned into a  vertical rainbow striped wall with a performer on a unicycle in  silhouette I n front o it. And a few blue LED rings around the big fig tree there which seemed to be powered by a group of people on tethered bicycles. The harder they pedalled the more the light rings were activated …of very minor interest. At 6 the MCA started changing colours.  OK if close.
Clever effects and to be so close was the way to enjoy them. The strongest was a red and orange scheme making good use of the structure of the building.   It changed every minute or so. And then the Opera House came to life. Well, a single image projected on the sails – a very pretty abstract pattern in pink black and green with a touch of yellow. But the whole time I walked from one side of the Quay to the other it did not change. I bought my ticket for Samson and Delilah at 6 15 and continued to the base of the opera house and even then it did not change…nor was it particularly VIVID. I have seen a lot of projections on the opera house sails and although these were goodish ones, the LED intensity still did not get fully beyond the usual watery colouration effect. Certainly not Gone With the Wind technicolour richness.
And certainly not the very pale projection showing after I left the showing of Samson and Delilah. Roger Foley say they were not even custom fitted to the sails of the Opera House.
And the movie ?  Directed by Warwick Thornton, a first time feature director who won the prize for best first time director at Cannes Film Festival. It's about a couple of teenage aboriginal dead beats but it's not a dead beat movie by any means. Slowish but very much alive.
The movie begins in one of the outer aboriginal stations near Alice Springs. A dreary life of daily monotony which the film details at length. Familiar to me from my visits with Roger Foley to Warmun , near Turkey Creek in the Kimberley.  The public phone that no one answers, the little verandah band that always plays the same stuff, the petrol that is always there for Samson to sniff. Delilah's consolation is her friendship with her painter grandmother. A white agent gives her canvas and paint to do her pictures, the dots for which Delilah helps with. When she dies unexpectedly. the elder aboriginal women accuse her of neglecting her and causing her death (clearly unjustified as we have seen her carefully and tenderly looking after her grandmother, wheeling her to the clinic etc.) and after getting beaten up by the village elders Delilah who has steadily rejected Samson's overtures up to this point, is ready to leave with him for Alice Springs. He is also in trouble having just busted up the band's instruments out of sheer frustration at not being allowed to play with them. He commandeers the community car and the  two of them drive off.
The film is a fable, not a documentary, and in reality it is hard to imagine that these two could be reduced to such dire circumstances in Alice Springs with all the help there for aborigines and the huge aboriginal population all around. For the sake of the story the two were kept in tight focus with their only companion a half crazed white hobo sharing his tinned food with them and complaining about their lack of conversation.  He was an interesting character and one of the brighter spots in the movie. I was sorry when he left, having found solace in the bosom of the church. Well just when I thought things could not get any worse under the bridge in the Todd River in Alice Springs, once he had gone, things got worse.  An even lower of degradation manifested itself. Delilah gets abducted by a couple of white rowdies, comes back bashed and raped, with Samson so addicted to his sniffing he scarcely notices; unable to care for her or express sympathy. Abused, despairing and humiliated she joins him in petrol sniffing and in her debased state, gets hit by a passing car. This time Samson does not notice at all or seemingly care that she is no longer around.
Just when you assume that Delilah is dead and Samson is about to sniff himself beyond brain damage to premature death  - I was ready for this double death ending -  she reappears with a broken leg and crutches and Samson's brother arrives to take them home. Bye bye to the hobo life in the dry river bed. Big relief.  But the couple are still unforgiven for their crimes back in the outstation and the brother finds an isolated shack far far away (not quite Faraway Downs) where Samson and Delilah begin a new life. No petrol sniffing. By this time Samson is brain damaged and in a wheel chair with Delilah acting as nurse.  Delilah kills and eviscerates a kangaroo and there is a suggestion they are going back to a traditional aboriginal life away from both Alice Springs and the outstation.
The movie was long and slow, not boring but ultimately without any particular affect. Certainly sad in its depiction of the broken aboriginal life.. The film is beautifully shot and when we get away from the desperate life at the bottom under the bridge and the outstation, makes good use of the natural landscape and the gorgeous gorges. Shrieking black cockatoos at one point, but otherwise magpies caroling in the background the only bird sounds. I loved the soundtrack of mostly country and western music.
Hungry after all that tinned noodles or spaghetti in the movie, I wound up at the bar (attached to a restaurant in the Customs House) and had a glass of wine and a chicken dish (delicious with peanut sauce and lots of fresh lime juice and bok choy)  I sat under  the pillars on the patio of the Customs House with a red gas light scarcely giving any light. Alone in dim but splendid isolation watching the life of the Square in front of me; people interacting with the beautiful sculpture in the centre – an arrangement of vertical pink white and blue light boxes, part of the Vivid Festival.  There were a couple more inside the Customs House itself. A revamped version of the miniature city on the floor and another with illuminated floating white cards/cups (?) and a grand piano. Another installation high above.
It was an incredibly warm evening. My jacket was unnecessary, even my sweater. I  could have taken off.  But didn't; maybe I could have caught swine flu.

I took a look at Tony Bilson's wine bar One further along in the Goldsmith building, and was pleased to see that it was crowded with diners. At 9 30. Eddie and Lily (Tony's teenage kids as waiters) rushing about.

Wednesday 27
Again I am down at Circular Quay after a busy day doing whatever – my journal, printing out for Deirdre and Pat, trying to get the whole book of birthday prints together for them before I leave for London on 8th June. That's just ten days away..
Kingo had rung, wanting to see My Year Without Sex, Sarah Watts new movie with Sasha Horler (as Natalie) and Matt Day(as Ross her husband) , she one of more brilliant actors around, he one of the more ordinary. But Peter likes him and that decided it. Also the fact that it was a special showing (no advertising or previews beforehand as it turned out) with Watts, Horler, Day and the producer all to be there in person, Julie Rigg presiding. I am afraid I find Julie a little cloying in her manner and I have never really forgiven her for giving out the ending of The Thin Red Line before I had seen it. A reviewer should never give out who lives and who dies at the end of a movie. Anyway it was a good if dimly lit and badly miked session after the movie with Julie in a jolly mood and completely unaware that her mike was not working. Perhaps she had had a glass of wine or three.  The question I wanted to ask I did not dare. Did the title of the movie somewhat restrict what we saw ? I mean, if Natalie (Sasha Horler) was forbidden for a year to have orgasmic sex after her aneurism and subsequent operation, why was there never sex of any kind at all ? Could not the sexual frustration Natalie and Ross obviously felt for that year could easily have been assuaged by any number of sexual techniques, non orgasmic for her but orgasmic for him. They did not even show any physical affection, not even a kiss, let alone her giving him an affectionate blow job…I'll stop right here.
It was a funny movie, witty, sharply edited, keen unsentimental social observations about the joys and tribulations of suburban (very) family life. Too affectionate to be called satire. A woman's picture perhaps ? Matt Day well cast as the kind, well meaning but dullard husband to Sasha Horler's live wire. The laughs got fewer as the movie progressed into slightly more serious territory, (depression, to believe or not in God, succumbing to evangelism) Watts never went for the jugular and the boyant tone continued until the year without sex ended it's month by month snapshotting with the inevitable orgasmic coupling. Phew.
Peter dashed off after the live discussion to catch the 9pm ferry. Forgetting his plastic bag full of cheap DVDs one of which was Bad Education (one of Almodovar's best efforts) . I picked it up as I left and would have run along to the ferry to try catch him but I met him rushing back in at the entrance looking harrassed.
He would have walked right past me. Peter!
I handed it to him "I'm getting old," he said and dashed off again.
I noted as I reached the Quay that the ferry went at 9. It was only 8 50.
He is in a strange mood these days. Envy of Gary Shead at the moment. Kevin Connor also. "Why couldn't I have done that?"  (Commenting on Connor's current picture of the harbour which has a tiny opera house in top right) I wonder what is really going on. A show in November and has still not started anything. A creative crisis of some sort I think.  His paintings of the Zoo Animals did not do well at the Sotheby's auction on Monday either. Gary Shead's did. Also money somehow. Health ?

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
This is my fourth HOLOCAUST movie in so many months, beginning with The Reader, (good) followed by Good, (not so good) then Defiance (good but not great) and now this one. I feel somehow  there have been even more but perhaps that is just a feeling of being a bit partied out. They have all even pretty OK movies, even Good, in which I felt sorry for Viggo Mortensen, desperately trying to make his character sympathetic and over acting as a result. As far as I was concerned, he did not succeed, the character remaining despicable.  Perhaps he should have gotten on that train to Paris himself instead of continuing to accept every perk the Nazis threw at him…

"Are you sure you want to see another Holocaust movie, Peter? You hated Good  and you walked out of Defiance because it was too violent. Or was that Let the Right One In?"

Let go, lets go, it'll be ok this one."
Peter determined to get out of the house for the evening ? Any movie would do sort of desperation ?

"What a turkey!"
"Oh, you were not restless, I thought you must be enjoying it. I quite liked it."
Bit slow and over stated in the middle section, I conceded. The beating by the young classic Aryan blond beautyNazi lieutenant, for example, of the elderly Jewish manservant (a former doctor) who accidentally spilled the wine and who was clearly ill at the time. Always best to concede when you go together to a movie and one likes it and the other doesn't. But was that a piece of overheated savagery or typical of behaviour towards Jews at the time?
"Terrible acting, ridiculous story, completely silly and improbable," Peter insisted.
"Well, I agree somewhat with all that but I went along with it. I was captivated. It's taken from a Young Adults book. Even a children's book. Someone called Peter Boyer I  think. You have to watch it with that sort of perspective. See it as a Grimms Fairy Tale perhaps. A primer enabling you to easily comprehend the horrors of what the Nazis did. A bit simplistic I suppose for us sophisticated adults, but for the young and still not fully informed mind…." I trailed off
The characters like the mother and the 8 year old boy incredibly naive. But the acting was good all round, surely. The wide eyed boy (Bruno) particularly effective even if his naivety was sometimes irritatingly unbelievable.   ("The Jewish boy was better," put in Peter but I thought he too was very naïve. What do 8 year olds know? Is it  the fault of over-protective parents ? Maybe it is us as audience who is not being told in order to create more story more  tension.) The father as played by David Thewlis, (from Naked a really good actor and used to playing unsympathetic roles. Certainly not a handsome leading actor type, no George Clooney) was yet another compromised Nazi doing his job, obeying orders and taking the line from Hitler that the extermination of the Jews was ethical, good for Germany and crucial for making Germany a great nation …
I won't give away the truly not to  be believed ending, shocking nevertheless. Two out of five tears. Naivety taken to the nth degree.
Peter wanted to catch the 9pm ferry back to Lavender Bay so we ate quickly at Rossinis. A quiet Monday night and cool. We hadn't eaten there for years.
"Food always looks like it has been sitting around all day."
"How about all week," said Peter. We laughed. He ate all his Caesar Salad, and I ate all my pasta. The house red shiraz was OK. Just. Served in their usual dinky glasses. Peter caught the ferry by a whisker and I waited a quick 10 minutes for a train to Redfern. A wait goes quickly of course if one has a good book to read. Christopher Isherwood's Down There on A Visit, finally gets good with the major and final section, Paul, which is set in Los Angeles in 1940, when Isherwood was learning how to write screenplays.


Friday May 1 2009
DEFIANCE
  Holocaust movie number three
Free at last  from my 'certain to fail' application for a retrospective exhibition at Tin Sheds Gallery, I visit ACP for Head On (I did not make the cut. Even technically on the dodgy side  but I  think I made bad choices as usual anyway – Michelle the naked with suspenders drag queen just too outrageous, I ruined Helen Eager by cropping out the most interesting things about the portrait ( her bright sea of paintings), and Roger Foley in Beijing had a too obvious tweak with Photoshop) and take a good look at the portraits many of which are outstanding but why keep calling it 'alternative' ?  My favourite for the Peoples Choice Award ?  A gawky young boy standing by a gum tree, having just emerged from an outback river, a drop of water hanging from an ear lobe. A most immediate and vital picture.  A woman with the surname, Pickles, took the photo.  180 also rans on a small screen. Those up on the wall are unanimous choice of four judges.  Chosen without knowing the names of the photographers. Arbitrary of course. Lottery of course.  99,9% of names were unknown to me although Sally McInerney was there in the also rans. Steve Siewart also.

Then down the hill (via another look at Reservoir Park following Ian's criticisms. I still like it and took even more pictures to what end I don't know. One just takes pictures as part of the pleasure) to Greater Union and
DEFIANCE  with Daniel Craig (as Tuvia, the 'good brother' and Liv Schrieber  as Zus the 'bad'  brother. The former is the more humane and wants to develop the camps in the forest providing clinic school and bakery for example;  "To survive is the best revenge." Zus wants more the traditional eye for an eye revenge, even joining up with a ruthless Jew hating Russian guerrilla group to more enable him to do this. Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot dancing fame, now grown up, plays a younger brother who supports Tuvia rather than Zus. A luminous performance and a distinctive look to him.

The movie ? Good but not great. But I was an emotional wreck by the time it ended so I have to give Edward Zwick, the director credit for that. It stirred me up. What flawed creatures we are. How difficult it can be to deal with what it is to be human. As the credits went up I had to blow my nose, dry my eyes and suppress my heaving. The overly reverential music did not help. A young team cleaned up the cinema around me while I composed myself. I wasn't the only one still in their seats and  suffering a similar emotionality. After a few minutes in the decompression chamber provided by the credits, I walked out calmly thru the arriving crowds without anyone of course noticing an older man's tears. Just over two hours. Overly platitudinous and earnest dialogue at times, particularly in the camp, but the Speilbergian moments did not last long with rescue coming each  time with some piece of brutality or horror -  the shooting by Tuvia of his obviously loved white horse in order to save the camp from starving; the realistic attack by an alsatian dog with the dog really wanting the sack of food the girl was carrying and not her. But she struggles to save the bag so the dog turns his attention to her; fortunately she has earlier been given a pistol by Tuvia, so the dog is killed and collapses on top of her. For all the ferocious teeth display by the  dog she returns to the camp completely unscathed; the sudden shooting (in the back) by Tuvia of a rebellious Jew who tries to take over the camp when Tuvia is sick. Short shrift as Tuvia reasserts his authority. A humane leader but has to make tough decisions for the greater good.
Defiance has no humour or fantasy. Pans Labyrinth it is not. But still, powerful stuff albeit unleavened. A biblical touch towards the end as the snow melts, spring arrives and Jews are discovered and bombed and have flee the forest. Out in the open they have to traverse a swamp in waist deep freezing water. The camera pulls back to reveal the line of refugees winding away into the distance. Exodus.
I thought also of what has happened to the Jews since. Many have become Israelis and within Israel many of them have become self-righteous Zionists who persecute the Palestinians in ways not unlike the persecution of the Jews before Hitler really got serious. The Jews had their Holocaust, but the Palestinians have their Catastrophe. Is the current spate of Holocaust themed movies a last gasp as those who were actually in the camps grow old and pass away. Memory fades away into mere history.


Easter Monday 13TH APRIL  – I had to go into the city for my prostate medication. After a four day weekend out in the country at Hill End I found at 3pm on a showery humid afternoon that the city was crowded with shoppers. I had not had anything to eat since breakfast and found it hard to find anywhere open. Even the McDonalds seemed to be closed. And I was in a hurry  getting to the Dendy at the Quay.  Food turned up in the form of a kransky sausage (not bad) from a café at Jet Cat jetty. Glass of red wine  and a careful descent (I'm a bit night blind) to a seat near the front in a fullish and dark cinema to see an early session of  

MARY AND MAX
Created over five years by Adam Elliot in the Wallace & Grommit style
A sad bitter sweet little fable not for children I suppose, plenty of verbal and  visual wit; I would have cut about  ten minutes from the running time, and the stop-start animated plasticine figures became monotonous after a while, not only in their grotesque facial and bodily configurations but also in the colouration which strayed only a little from the brown black white scheme. The touches of red (Mum's lipstick, Max's pompon, etc) were ocasional relief.  But I laughed out loud quite a bit at the witticisms, the scatological  touches, the vulgarity, the homilies, the aphorisms , the pratfalls…
A nice (and typical) final remark – we can't choose our relatives but thank God we can choose our friends or something like that. The voices were terrific  really  - Barry Humphries as  the voice over, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Max in particular.

GOOD
Tuesday 14th and yet another movie - that's two in a row. Good was Peter's suggestion.
"Why do you want to see yet another Holocaust movie ? It hasn't even got good reviews.  What about The Boat That Rocked instead?"   ( I wanted to have a look at it for Bill Nighey and for the fact that it was a Working Title movie, the same production house that is producing Hippie Hippie Shake and set in the same sixties period.) 
Oh, that director made Love Actually which was so shallow. Let's see something which has a real story about something serious."
"OK. Viggo Mortensen is a plus."
(I had missed him in Appaloosa an old style western with Ed Harris which hardly got a release. It was on at Burwood at 11 am one time I noticed and that was about it. As good as Saddle the Wind ?  I wondered, the fifties technicolour classic I saw at Peter's monthly movie night not that long ago.) 
Good was on at the Paris and I walked across the breadth of Redfern in the early evening air. No one around at Hoyts Entertaiment Centre even tho this was Tuesday, bargain day. An abandoned feeling at 6pm. Restaurants, cheap or expensive with no one in them, (the same when we came out at 9) pubs with no one drinking, a formerly prominent one permanently closed, shops with no one buying. Perhaps it was too soon after the Easter break.
The movie was no more populated.  Let me think back. 8 people at the most. 15 minutes of ads and previews. Even at the Paris.
"That's it ?"  I asked myself loudly in great surprise as the movie came to an abrupt end.  Later I checked the running time - 92 minutes.
"Let's get out of here, what a turkey," said Peter.
I stayed in my seat and said, 'something clunky about it." The credits went by very quickly but I managed to note it was adapted from a play written by someone called  C.P. Taylor. Name rang a bell. When I wondered.
Mortensen gave a  well studied performance but he seemed also to be overacting; a desperate attempt perhaps to make his dislikeable and somewhat hard to believe character likeable? Was he a good man but a weak one, a timid one ? His timidity allowed him to be seduced by just about everyone, starting with the pushy student/Ayrian beauty/Nazi pin-up to the Nazi party from whom he accepted academic career promotions, and all the perks on offer, like an expensive apartment in return for writing papers on things like approval of Hitler's euthanasia program. Did he become as SS officer?  What was that fancy uniform all about ?  The cap with the skull insignia, the badges, the boots etc ? Gestapo? I should do some research here. Viggo's face grew more and more tortured but goodness had little to do with it. More like badness. Yes, timidity. Endless timidity.
Nothing seemed to work. Like the glasses Professor Halder kept taking off and putting back on. To remind us he was an academic ? After that first lecture scene, we never saw him a class room again. Fake Hollywood glasses so designed as to not interfere with the good looks of the actor wearing them. Hence they were off as much as on, the more for us to enjoy  the beauty of  Viggo.
The movie was clunky but it kept me interested. Peter had less patience. When the unnerving close ups of Professor Halder's mother trying to kill herself came, (the Professor was in favour of euthanasia but he would not let his mother kill herself despite her extremely pitiable condition) Peter leaned over and whispered, "Sorry."
"No, no, it's incredible."
I was still captive to the movie at that point. Scene by scene I found it engaging and well staged even tho as it went on everything started to seem stagey. Not a compliment in a movie. Someone called John Wrathall wrote the screenplay. Someone called Vincente Amorim directed. Flashy and inventive cinematography that I quite liked.
I also liked the looks of the SS officer who befriended him, the one who could not produce a child for the party and Germany, the one who inconveniently appeared when Professor Halder had finally summoned up enough courage to buy a ticket to Paris for Maurice his Jewish psychiatrist and friend.  One of the more unbelievable scenes. As was the fact that Maurice had not long ago fled the scene. Did I miss a line or two stating why he had delayed his departure until it was too late and he had to rely on his rejected academic Gestapo friend to get him a ticket?
The movie was still playing as tho it had a long way to run when it abruptly ended. Halder had driven (in his SS uniform) to a concentration camp in Silesia where he had managed to locate Maurice. There was perhaps five minutes (at most) of screen time while he fruitlessly searches for Maurice.  In those minutes of wandering around the camp he witnesses just about every type of degradation and atrocity that a concentration camp might have to offer. His face is  twisted in agony at the sights. He turns a corner and suddenly there is the camp orchestra – a group of Jewish prisoners in their striped clothes playing Beethoven.  As they play, the camera turns to the final horror, swarms of children being herded towards the gas chambers or something. The playing of the orchestra soars and the screen suddenly goes black. The word GOOD comes up. The End. 
Yes, Professor John Halder the academic is an unattractive guilt stricken character who found that doing good did not come easily. He even accepted praise and a handshake from Goebbels. Perhaps the movie would better have been called BAD.
One more Nazi movie to go  - The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Although I'm sorry now I missed Valkyrie.


 



April 7th
Kingo rang. Back from his Brett Whitely trip to Mudgee and beyond ie Hill End to see Luke Sciberras and Gavin Wilson and eager to see the Swedish Vamire movie. Why on earth I wondered , knowing his taste in movies being a bit vanilla, I   recommended Summer Hours but OK. 4 15 at Academy. I caught the train to Kings Cross and walked. Huge beige beehive basketware seating with cushions outside Morgans in Victoria Street. They must be desperate.
Kngo leaned over some ten minutes in and whispered, "What have we got ourselves into here?"  Many bloodletting scenes later he said "You don't want to go?" "No, you know I  always sit it out whatever." (There had to be some reason for those four stars from  David and Margaret)  "I'll wait for you outside."  Shortly he came back in and said, "There's 50 minutes to go, I'm going home."
Twilight my previous (and first) vampire movie was fun, no parent would mind their children going to see it, it being all about teenage chastity, but this one would horrify them. What the two 12 year old children (the girl is the vampire. "I'm 12, but I've been 12 for a long time.") get up to and the way it ends particularly has to be every parent's nightmare. This is one  tough movie. Everything bad that can happen, happens. I admired it  - the cinematography, the claustrophobic ambience, the ghastly twists and turns in the plotting, and the subtle set up for why the vampire girl is attracted to the boy in the first place, but I did not warm to it. The fact that it takes place in snowbound, wintertime Stockholm does not help. Clunky (but crucial as it turns out) sub-plot involving school bullying but this is GradeA Vampire Movie. I had no idea that cats could tell a vampire the minute one enters  the room. Go kitties! That scene was to die for.  Literarly as it turned out for the poor guy's girl friend. Pity Kingo missed it. It was the only hilarious scene. Enough. I'll get hold of the real title of the movie next time. 


April 5th
I had no intention of seeing SUMMER HOURS, yesterday but it happened to be about to start at the Verona as I was on my way home from a trip to the ACP in Paddington. Ticket and a glass of house shiraz and I deadheated with the beginning of the movie. Third row unfortunately for the place was full. Word must have got around. Not the greatest place for a sub-titled movie but I soon got accustomed to it. A engaging pleasure throughout. I kept thinking that someone was going to drop one of those precious objets'art (I thought it might be Juliette Binoche for she didn't care much for all that old stuff  however valuable) or that the beautiful country house near Paris would be burned down or even that the nihilistic guys from Funny Games would make an appearance but it is not that kind of movie. Noone even raises their voice. It is a well mannered middle class French family movie about what can happen when grandma dies and her estate and art collection has to be divided between three siblings. Idyllic at first it is all terribly civilised. And real. The teenage generational ending was a jolt of energy and a much needed surprise.






April 2nd


Aliens and Monsters

I landed in my comfortable but coldly air-conditioned (I had a jacket) expensive 3D seat in a near empty Greater Union George Street cinema just in time. I might have missed a few seconds but Legally Blonde Reese Witherspoon - voicing Susan/Ginormica (by far the best thing in it as the movie rolled and prattled relentlessly along) -  had not yet been hit, minutes before her wedding, by a meteor and transformed into a giant radioactive Monster and thrown in jail for life with all the other Monsters - shades of The Incredibles whose talents were also no longer appreciated and were confined to a secret powerless suburban environment so I  did not go back and get a refund. I put on my 3D glasses and went along for the ride. And quite a ride it was. When I regained George Street afterwards I was quite stoned and  enjoying an enhanced reality just like the old days, somehow,  as tho still wearing my 3D glasses. But of course the glasses were well put away in my shirt pocket.
In the cinema, I was absorbed, the 3D effect was wonderful with not too much gratuitous special effecting stuff, which no doubt the kids like. The playing with space and time and dimension was engaging, the dialogue, that prattle, better than usual and very clearly articulated. The story line was familiar and family friendly, too much so - more Tom and Jerry moments please , more Itchy and Scratchy -  with Susan realising, as she successfuly adapts to her Monster persona, that  the boy friend she was about to marry, is a jerk and interested only in his brilliant career. It is quite touching that Susan, as Ginormica, thinks that the fact she is now the size of the Empire State Building is no impediment to their love.
The destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge was the most distinctive of the sequences. Later many of them were over elaborate and confusing, with the plot getting a little lost and repetitive. And are Dreamworks running out of Monsters ? The stars of this animation were a Scientist who accidentally turned himself into a kind of indestructible Cockroach, A Fish/Crocodile (whose superpowers were ill-defined  but who had a nice line in pratfalls and self deprecation), a hairy Caterpiller even larger than Ginormica, who eventually turned into a butterfly the size of a cargo plane, and a translucent and funny blue Blob who was able to eat and absorb absolutely anything.
By the end, Susan discovers her inner-monster and settles for being Ginormica with a full time job saving the world from its various disasters.  In the climax of course, the Monsters outsmart the evil Alien from Outer Space and so it is a movie with the message  - BE YOURSELF, DO GOOD, and if you do good, being a MONSTER is OK. Back to eccentricity and John Stuart Mill On Liberty.
Despite the brilliance of 3D, and of the new animation movies generally, my benchmark is still Toy Story1 with Toy Story2 close behind. Well told narrative excitement and suspense. A Bug's Life too had old fashioned charm well married with the new techniques. M and A had nice moments of anarchy, magic and beauty but not enough of them.  Nor enough character development to make the monsters truly endearing. Although Susan and Reese go close.
The final scenes of  destruction and carnage are overly complicated for my old eyes and sustained only by the brilliance of the unfaltering 3D effect. Extraordinary and as I said the 3D experienced from Row J central, flushed me out into the wide world in a state of psycilocybically STONED. Bring on the sixties.
I ate again at Charlie Chans with a Boag beer and slowly returned to normality. Charlie Chans not quite the same as the first time (after Knowing) but again that great feeling I was in New China rather than funky old Sydney Chinatown. All  those hip young 'Chinks' around me with their mobile phones, their ipods and iphones and Australian accents. Bring it on.






Not KNOWING what is to come, bear with me.

Friday March 27

A hot night but a cooler day with some rain forecast. I  wear jeans instead of shorts for my appointments with first, (12 20) the dentist and then the doctor (3 45) and then my 6pm meeting to see a movie at 6 30. How do I fill in the gaps if there be gaps ? I have a slight cold (this comes from David Travis's slight cold over the Bawley Point Southern Cross Outdoors Group bushwalking weekend in the Murramurrang National Park. Have I got that spelling right? Maybe not)

The procedure at TWT took almost three hours. A Chinese woman called Ashley did the job, assisted by the cheery voiced English girl for half the time then a husky voiced Asian woman well hidden behind face mask (by this time I was wearing a plastic shield over my eyes instead of my glasses and everything was a brownish blur). No pain of any sort. The anaesthetic was very strong and I was half asleep for most of the time. Making for a very relaxed event somehow. Ashley wore a pair of little red binoculars throughout. I mostly kept my eyes closed but it was startling every time I did open them to see these alien orbs looking down at me. Procedure all very delicate and I felt I was in expert hands.   What I wound up with was a $1000 plastic tooth, somewhat short (for safety sake) and flat, attached to the root of the old broken tooth by a plastic post inserted after root canal work to either kill the nerve in that tooth or move it to one side to insert the post. Afterwards the boss came by to warn me that my new tooth would not last forever, it was 'temporary' and that I had to be careful not to bite down hard on that plastic tooth as it could break.  In future reality I was looking at an implant and a bridge as the neighbouring two front crowns (forty years old) were not going to last that much longer.  Nor am I.   Hey, I'm 72. Well, soon will be.

I wonder if what had been done was the option she had been angling for me to accept all along – by suggesting two unnattractive other options – the expensive trip to the local periodontist and an implant at cost of $5000 not to mention a wait of several days at least, or a cheap three part plastic bridge and cantilever created by ripping out my two lovely old central crowns that have that have served me so well for the most productive  decades of my life. She probably knew I would reject both options and be happy settling for the $1000 plastic job which she could do herself immediately and which I would otherwise would have been unhappy with (about the cost). She knew my vanity would kick in. A missing front tooth can ruin one's social and sexual day.

The anaesthetic effect lasted for hours. Even when I met my academic Californian friend Greg at 6 pm to go to Knowing, (Alex Proyas's new science fiction movie with Nicholas Cage, and Rose Byrne, all made in Melbourne subsituting for Boston,) that side of my mouth was still numb And I could feel the effects of the anaesthetic in other ways. A schooner of beer helped when we ate afterwards in 'Charlie Chan's' , a new high ceilinged pub in George Street, near Haymarket, running thru to Sussex Street with various dimly lit bars even an alleyway open to the misting rain, and finally a more brightly lit restaurant area. Greg said it felt like Hong Kong rather than our little old funky Chinatown.  Bartenders busy mixing cocktails rather than pulling beer and the place, at 9 pm or so, was full and friendly with many well oiled young Chinese women seated in front of those colourful cocktails, sometimes amid a cluster of empty ones. A certain decadent drunken atmosphere which I rather liked. I had an extremely chillied barbecued pork 'salad' with the salad consisting of vertically cut stalks of Chinese broccoli, covered in ovals of ice to make the fiery pork palatable. Rather exciting really. Where was I ? Oh yes  - Knowing never really escaped its genre. Too much silliness in the plot. Those shadowy spooky aliens. A heavy emphasis on 'family values'  - father/son, mother/daughter relationships to enable the screen writers to sell their grim apocalyptic tale in the multi-plexes.  To tell a tale at all. I would have preferred something other than a Speilbergian solution to their plot problems.
Movie started off well with its scientific lecture on determinism or randomism, but this being America, religion gets a big look in by the end. The Christian preacher father of Cage accepts his fate as God's will. Yes, the Apocalypse rears its ugly head, the ultimate ending with the world is destroyed as predicted in the Bible (the fire next time) with humanity having to start all over again. Resurrection in the form of the rescue of the two little children, one male, one female, and their transport by the ultimately sympathetic aliens (big surprise, well hidden) to another galaxy where in a beautiful landscape it is the God promised Rapture or at least the Garden of Eden all over again. Fundamentalist Christians and those guys in the street with their signs THE END IS NIGH will be flocking to this movie.
Evan Williams thought (Review, The Australian) this was another environmentally themed movie to warn us about global warming but the sun surges which destroy the earth are not caused by global warning. It is a case of shit happening and there is nothing our scientists or WE THE PEOPLE with our Earth Hours and emission reductions, can do about it.
Three very spectacular (if affectless) computer generated set pieces of mass destruction (a Plane Crash, a Train Wreck and then finally an Earth Wreck) and I rather liked the 'soft' ending on the beautiful other planet. I felt I had been there myself on one of my acid or psilocybin trips, and I had been brought up enough of a Bible reading Christian to appreciate the Garden of Eden allusions. That silvery silhouetted old oak, a tree of knowledge, the two innocent children as Adam and Eve Revisited. There had been plenty of shock and awe and cheap alien thrills in the woods, contrived for our entertainment throughout the movie, but this was the only time I felt moved. I confess to a small tear or two.
Sandra Hall said that that Knowing is a mishmash of every other science fiction movie ever made, but I have never been a science fiction fan so I appreciated it as an OK movie of the genre.


14th March  - a Saturday night out at Newtown Dendy to catch W  (Dubya)



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W?
Director: Oliver Stone
Well, the movie is cleverly constructed by an old hand at the genre (JFK, Nixon, (both OK), The Doors  (very good) and Alexander the Great (shockingly bad except for the crucial battle  - filmed from above - against Darius and the final elephant battle in India) with nice movement back and forth in time between the irresponsible young Bush and  the feckless older President. Continuing dream metaphor of the baseball catch (by Bush) and throw-in which wins/saves the game. In final shot of the movie Bush is again there waiting for the crucial ball – but this time the ball does not arrive. The failed Presidency.
Why on earth did Stone make it at this time? The flaws of the Bush Years still vivid in the memory. Did we need reminding so soon  ? Early history less known and more more interesting for me. When Stone was dealing with the actual Presidency he focussed on the Bush decision to go to war with Iraq, the manufactured reasons and the aftermath including the arrogant idiocy of Mission Accomplished. plus his inability to answer at a late Press Conference as to any mistakes he had made during his time in office. Nothing about 9/11 and his initial deer in the headlights response, (maybe I was asleep at that point, Kingo was certainly snoring), nothing about the Katrina disaster, nor any emphasis on his verbal inadequacies and general ignorance, so to that extent Stone was kind. 
The real fascination, just this side of disinterest, was the almost uncanny performance of Josh Brolin as good ole boy Bush, there is just about every single frame; he carried the movie. There was precious little else.
The whole gang of them presented several times in the situation room at the White House just this side of clowns.
It  was a selective little bio pic really of Bush the Character, with his good looks, that superficial social manner and charm that saw him thru his drunken early directionless days, to those when he used his family wealth and 'Poppy's' influence to get into many failed or inadequate ventures including governorship of Texas from which he was plucked by the right wing neo-cons to be their front man. Cheney suitably played as evil, Thandie Newton dreadful or perhaps merely inadequate as Condoleeza who must have been most upset at the way she was portrayed. And the paucity of lines she was given. The high pitched whiney tone. Colin Powell suitably beleagured. Toby Jones (Truman Capote in the second Capote film) looked  appropriate as Karl Rove. Not many lines.
The movie about nothing but Bush really. The small time man in the big time job. But why bother in the first place? An emphasis on the pernicious relationship between dislikeable, uncharismatic Bush the Elder (James Cromwell not bad despite total disparity in looks) and his likeable weak son with whom he was never satisfied, even when he became President; a failure confirmed by the Elder's attitude to his son over the shameful and criminal US aftermath of the Iraq incursion. Stone projected strongly the It was made clear that if Bush had not wanted to please his father and complete what the older wiser Bush had failed to do (enter Baghdad and destroy Saddam)  the manufactured war would not have taken place. Ghastly.

Our movie occasion not helped by fact that Kingo and I polished off a bottle of shiraz and a plentiful dinner at a traditional Italian restaurant (Pasticci opposite Newtown's New Theatre way down towards St Peters) just before the late showing.  We rarely (never) go to a late showing. And a young woman in the seat next but one to me ate a full dinner enclosed in various noisy packagings. One course of which was an Indian curry which stank. She also drank from three diffferent types of drinks. She did not let up until a good third of the way into the movie. Was she aware of my stares of disbelief at her from time to time ? When she left she took away all her packaging but her boyfriend left all his on his seat.


6th March, a Friday

THE COMBINATION

David Field the director (Chopper)
 
After editing and printing out new versions of several old photos from Nimbin of Richard Neville and friends (including Colette, Louise, David Elfick, Stephen Little and others) Louise (exquisitely dressed, looking incredibly young and beautiful; is this competition with Sienna Miller playing her in forthcoming Hippie Hippie Shake?)  Louise and I had coffee and I had to rush afterwards to get to The Combination for a 5pm session at the Verona, not helped by gridlock at Redfern station with a single queue at the ticket office with all the automatic machines down. They opened up a second window after a few minutes as the queue had snaked out into the street.  It was a tedious ten minutes before I reached a window.

The movie  ? A long and uncertain gestation period apparently for Field, screen play written by George Basha who plays John the lumpy but very appealing good brother (retired from crime and a period in jail, now a low paid janitor (but has a car) for an aboriginal boxing gym with ambitions for a career as a boxer) whose main preoccupation is keeping his little brother Charlie from a life of crime out there somewhere in the Lebanese (in this case Maronite Christian Lebanese) heartlands in the Western Suburbs. The interracial love affair, the gang warfare, the boxing scenes, the school scenes, all had an authentic gritty feel, yes, an authentic milieu created for us, out there at Auburn or wherever, good acting from the leads, Basha as George, Clare Bowen as the blonde haired and pretty Anglo girlfriend, Syd) a tough slice of life movie that had me hooked for two thirds of the way in at which point it suddenly turned from serious observations about race and identity into the psychotic. My gasp of disbelief when this happened was echoed by others in the cinema. Killings and over the top Chicago gangsterish behaviour borrowed from another genre, that made no real sense to me. I guess the director/screenwriter thought we had had enough of minor and repetitive Leb/Anglo gangfights between students with some absolutely hideous haircuts (shaven sided mullets come mohawks, for the Lebanese, please!). Even the sudden emotional fight between Syd and John came out of nowhere and seemed a fake set up. There had not been the slightest suggestion of conflict between them before that. There should have been. In fact that that was the misstep that turned me off the movie, followed immediately as it was by the overly amped and unbelievable killing in the disco. Yes, psycho killing. The ridiculous and unjustified murder of Charlie the younger brother, more unbelievable psychotic behaviour, did set up an effective and more real vengeful final scene, but …

Kingo's mobile rang at one point and he left to answer it, and did not come back. He said that he saw the rest of the movie from the back, being too embarrassed by the mobile call to return.  He said he was completely emotionally engaged by the movie and we had to agree to disagree.  "Let's go to Cleveland Street. eat Lebanese in honour of the movie."
I was a bit reluctant but went along with him to Abduls, long time favourite Lebanese restaurant for people who like traditional Leb food. I went there once with Peter Butler. A long time close friend whom I never see any more. We ordered too much food. Everything listed on the menu divided into small medium & large. I had a small cabbage salad (huge and good, I ate it all, $8), a small broad bean with garlic and lemon dish (huge and unpleasant, salty and just a brown mush when I was expecting fresh green broad beans and couldn’t finish, $10) and a small kebab (plenty and good $12)  and spent $30.
Kingo spent $40 (not counting dessert of two Turkish Delights for the road, pretty good, appropriately glutinous, strongly smelling of rosewater and fresh) and took all his felafel balls (but one) home in a doggy bag. To share with Zane perhaps.
Crowded restaurant, attentive and friendly service, aimiable ambience very different to the  tension bubbling away in the movie. Half way thru the meal Kingo realised he had lost the envelope with $50 in it he had intended to give me to give Keiran on the Mardi Float on Saturday evening. I remember seeing a white square on his knee in the cinema. He believed that it was still on his knee when he rose quickly to deal with the mobile call. And forgetting, had allowed it to fall off.
I encouraged him to call the cinema (not possible, he found, just a recorded message) and then to go back. A good chance it was still on the floor where must have fallen. Our seats were very close and slightly to the side, not seats likely to have been filled.
We drove back and parked illegally with me in the lighted ute with the side lights flashing and he rushing to the Verona to find out the situation. Not handed in he said as he came running back , but the current session in that cinema  would end in forty minutes and he could then go in and see if it was on the floor. I opted to not wait with him and took the train home (my leg had begun to hurt after walk earlier from Town Hall to Verona. A bit too much for it. And just when I thought I was cured. But muscle pain it seemed rather than  the sciatic nerve) after a bus down Oxford to Museum) – long wait at Museum for a train only to Central – a shaven headed middle aged Lebanese man at Museum asked me how to get to Redfern and I said I would take the train (only one listed on Platform 2 apart from two to Airport Line) to Central and change there. He did as I did (he seemed a little spaced and lost) and with a 17 minute wait at that Central platform, I suggested we hurry to another platform, to catch the  train we had seen going the other way (via Circular Quay) at Museum. We rushed, weaving our way thru the crowd descending the steps from that train which had just pulled in. Fortunately it was delayed in parting and we managed to catch it.  "Here we are" I said, one station later as we pulled into Redfern. He had to rouse himself as tho he did not realise. It had been the same at Central (and at Museum when we first got on) where he did not seem to realise he had to change.  I waited for him at the top of the stairs to make sure he was OK.
"Are you OK now?"
Yes, thanks.
I went one way he another. Was he suffering from memory loss ?

A message from Peter, home, unsurprisingly, before me. He found the money. Just where it had fallen. I rang him at once and congratulated him.



March 1 2009 – Sunday


An e-mail from theatre critic James Waites - 'Bashed up on train  on Friday night. Feeling very sore. Call me."

I sent an e-mail immediately "You of all people.  Parramatta late night?  Not the line of beauty. I will ring."

I rang and got a detailed account of how it happened. Two black eyes, bruised or broken ribs, low down on back, broken nose, a lot of blood, a night in St Vincents. Two Pacific Island youths who first seized his dark glasses. He was not seated in the main part of the carriage where there were other passengers late at night after theatre at Riverside, (yes, Parramatta) but alone in the smaller area with long seats facing each other. Passengers offered no assistance although he called out as it was happening.  At first he pleaded with them to return the glasses – of no use to them as they were prescription. In vain. He was down on the floor being kicked and punched when his mobile rang. It was recent boyfriend calling from Brisbane. I'm being bashed right now on the train. Boyfriend horrified.  One of the islanders who had left came back,  seized the phone, his wallet, and  this time really whaled into him  viciously, more than before. James felt really scared at this second assault.
The train stopped at Auburn, the doors remained locked. Someone had called the police or the railway authorities and they were waiting for the attackers.  Before the arrests a third young islander came up to James bleeding on the floor and gave him back his glasses. "This is the best I could do." James had not seen him before, and he had taken no part in the bashing. The three of them were arrested and forty minutes later an ambulance arrived to take James to St Vincents. Released the following morning.  He found that the police had got back his wallet and his money. Also depositions from witnesses on the train as to what had happened.
(Was it the trendy Armani prescription dark glasses that aroused envy and anger in the youths in the first place ? James an obviously gay middle aged man and alone ?)

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Delivery to TAP of my two pieces for OUTLOUD, early enough for me to then go to Academy to get a seat for Gilbert and George doco. I delivered, rushed off, found that hardly anyone was booked into With Gilbert and George (unlike the doco on the other duo Christopher and Don), had lunch (a grilled chicken salad at the café next door, quite delicious, I praised the strongly flavoured olive oil) and in time for the movie, returned to foyer and encountered Bhupen Thakker the Indian/Kenyan 'cultural stimulator'with one Damien whom I had met before several times but could not place. MAG many years ago even GSN ?

The Harbour Party ? The Wine Festival in Hyde Park ? The beautiful day?   -  reasons the presenter  suggested for the empty house.
An extraordinary and rivetting doco. From early childhood days, their meeting at University or was it Slade Art School. From early childhood to  their early Living Sculptures  - themselves as the artwork -  then all the way to their latest exhibitions at Venice Biennale, Beijing, Naples, the Tate Modern (largest exhibition ever there on a single floor) and the reluctance of the British Council to embrace them as representing England in Moscow. (Their first huge and successful overseas venture)  Their political and technical progression extraordinary. Photographs of themselves and of their immediate Spitalfields environment,  every detail of their bodies  including their shit and urine as well as  the garbage and  dirt of Spitalfields. Photographing all this (including their full frontal naked selves and also their anuses) as their basic material, much transmuted often amusingly as well as in an original manner that no one else had done, and printing the results on huge black bordered polyvinyl squares, no expense spared, they seem to have lots of money, and so many, that they could easily cover entire walls of large galleries and museums.
Their object is to present beauty and so their shit photomontages had to look beautiful like everything else. Not the easiest thing to make beautiful. Always interested in applause, in exciting the senses of their audiences. Political social sexual themes almost always. Slogans or at least a word indicating the theme of the huge works  are included in the art work. Their homosexuality. AIDS in the late eighties was a show of great success. No women ever it seems. Photographs of young naked local men used earlier were photographed later in states of dying. Interests sociological and scientific, especially lately thru a microscope seeing and then photographing microbes creating patterns in a drop of water, a drop of urine, a drop of their blood then enlarging all these accompanied by photos of themselves asusual. Heads. Their naked bodies. Garish colours always, shiny surface of the polyvinyl, amazing really. A vibrant meaningful beauty created against all odds. I admired their bravery; totally against any kind of censorship of artists' work as has happened here with Bill Henson.  Ridiculous a ban on photographing children they said. Movie did not go into the questions of t internet porn and child exploitation. Gilbert and George are not sexual monsters in private (presumably) but there are a lot of monsters around children.
They still present themselves as two formally even ritualistically behaved men, never kissing or hugging for example, but their lives must be incredibly entwined in the most intimate fashion by their use of their shit and urine and blood etc. Nothing about their sexuality with each other, no images of them fucking in their works. Or anyone  else fucking for that matter. Maybe I am wrong there.
This doco was not a critical assessment of Gilbert and George.  A presentation of their art life, not really anything more.

Bhupen enthusiastic like me. The writer, Bill McNeill, whom we met afterwards not so much. Nice to see Bill. So skeletal white skinned and small. He asked about my leg. Had heard from somewhere that I was having trouble.  I said yes, I was having trouble but it was a little better and I was dealing with it as best as I was able. "I am out and about again. Walking. As you see."
He went off, Bhupen went off and I returned to TAP to sign my form for  the Mardi Gras exhibition, paid my fee ;  two pieces but small I argued, could I just pay for one ? Lesley Dimmick was not pleased but nodded.

I walked down Oxford Street, painful to some extent  (my right leg of course is the problem  and has been since November), caught a bus going by, took it to Bathurst Street, saw the Wine Festival still in full swing so walked over and took a few photos. Crowded, gentle live music, not heavy rock, then walked to Greater Union to see The Combination (appropriate after James Waite's bashing) only to find it had been pulled by management because of bashing inside one Union Theatre and a riot outside another. Instead I saw Last Chance Harvey which was an unexpected delight. So charming in its avoidance of sentimentality. A danger in movies like this. I don’t particularly like either Dustin Hoffman (except in Tootsie his masterpiece) or Emma Thompson (England's answer to Meryl Streep said someone) but both were quite wonderful, working with Joel Hopkins intelligently and wittily written screenplay (he also directed). Lovely shots of London Embankment, St Pauls, South Bank and so on.  Two lonely people, middle aged romance, not much too it really  I felt when it was all over (wait for the credits for a nice denouement to the subplot) but perhaps a better movie for me to see in my currently weakened state, (the sciatica)  than the well reviewed  but extremely violent  The Combination from which I would perhaps have emerged distraught rather than smiling as I did from this one. But I will see The Combination when it is rescheduled.



 eLaDolceGuevara


DivineIntervention2 


2008 BACKWARDS

11th December
MAN ON WIRE
Director: James Marsh
I had been putting off seeing it because of Phillipe Petit's appearance on Andrew Denton. I found him egocentric and  almost obnoxious at  times but Peter was keen. Martin Sharp had refused to leave Wirian so it was just the two of us  as usual.  Well, in the doco Petit is certainly egocentric but the manic energy is captivating and it is a  terrific film full of tensions.  Clever and lucky scheming. Petit made his luck. Single mindedness will do that. A certain poignancy watching something taking place at the World Trade Centre in the days when it was functioning. Indeed, just after it had opened. The fact that the roofs were still not finished and some floors not yet occupied helped Petit's engineeers in their work. We see a lot of the towers. Filmed like a thriller with atmospheric music by Michael Niman ( I think) black and white vintage footage plus colour plus recreated scenes in colour. Hard to tell sometimes what was real and what was not. As it was in the Jonestown doco I saw the other night, late on SBS.  What was the unresolved rift between Petit and his wire and rope man, who was in tears, after the World Trade walk ?    Yes, obviously a difficult man to work with. Does Petit every acknowledge any inspiration  from Blondin (who walked the tightrope above Niagara Falls, also a man who lived life on the edge) We had boutique pizzas afterwards at Arthurs (Mickeys closed after a fire) so boutique that tho delicious they scarcely touched the sides. we obviously should have ordered the family size.

 
5th December
FOUR HOLIDAYS
Director: Seth Gordon
I was determined to go to a movie (getting out of the house mid or late  afternoon to save myself from entrapment in front of the console) and I considered various venues and movies (Broadway, incorporating a swim at University Pool) Entertainment Centre's Paris cinema for Traitor perhaps but the heat and the prospect of that boring walk across Redfern decided me against it, plus my leg of course although I was experimenting with, for the first time since the root nerve injection, with taking no drugs of any sort, no Tramadol, not even any Panadol and it seemed to be OK and painfree not to do so. I was in fact feeling released, cured, the nightmare over), Verona and  Academy, but Greater Union was easiest and the timing was right enabling me to bank my Telstra cheque and also to buy a black ink cartridge at Officeworks before heading for Greater Union . I walked rapidly from Wynyard to Bathurst Street along Clarence with free movement in my leg, walking fast, as I usually do,  with only a feeling of heaviness and a feeling of numbness in the leg (and the knee) to keep me aware of my disability. I made the movie just a minute late  (twenty minutes of ads and previews had delayed  the start of course) and it  did not matter beyond the fact that I hate missing ANY second of a movie let alone a minute. A short movie too, at 84 minutes. What happened there ?
An anti-Xmas movie, with all the jokes and hilarity at the expense of  the dysfunctional American family but ultimately it is a movie about the value of family and, if you like, the value of its dysfunctionality. Also a movie about what has happened to family in free-wheeling no holds barred America, where everything is up for grabs, nothing hidden anymore; the current meaning of 'extended' family and how much further can it be taken and still be family. Everyone it in is either not married or married again or divorced or lesbian or sexmad or senile or - you name it….
The four holidays turn out to be a Xmas Day spent with four different parts of the families of (Kate) Reese Witherspoon and Brad (Vince Vaughan) who all live close by in San Francisco's Bay Area.
A clever  screenplay which reminded me at times (of all things) of The Ice Storm, which of course was a  tragedy and Four Holidays plays as comedy, but the insights into relationships are equally incisive. It's a tough comedy, like Bad Santa with never quite endearing characters, and without sentiment (except for a touch of it towards the end which I could see coming but hoped it would not, but does not betray us with ick like Bad Santa did) and the resolution is family friendly but OK as it swings back in its final moments, towards cynicism. Family and blood are different with different sets of difficulties and responsibilities but if one faces those difficulties and responsibilities rather than avoiding them, it broadens one's perspective and helps maturation process. The members of one's immediate and extended families and  the people those family members marry or cohabit with can be people who would never be friends  and would forever remain strangers because of difference in jobs and  temperament etc. but because they are family, one puts up with  them gets to know them in a way and learns something. Waffling on here. Blood is thicker  than water.
I did laugh a lot. Hilarious set pieces with the best one coming first perhaps with Brad's nasty father, Howard, played by Robert Duvall and with Brad's violent prone, uncouth brothers who are both into extreme sports. Once this espisode hits, we know what we are in for and why the movie has been rated so highly. (Except by Rob Lowing in Sun Herald who seemed to regret that it was not a feel good Xmas movie for the whole family). Great cast, Mary Steenburgen, Duval, Sissy Spacek, Jon Voight (looking dreadfully cosmeticised face lifted skin stretched etc to Michael Jackson and Faye Dunaway Farrah Fawcett extremes)  and of course Reese Witherspoon almost unrecognizable at first with a different hairdo and a strained and somewhat unhappy manner, not the perky ambitious teenager of Election or the pert and sunny presence in Legally Blonde. Perfect for the part. Reece and Vince a terrible mismatch physically. Tiny compared to bulky and motor mouthed Vince Vaughan. But I saw the casting as part of the movie's overall cleverness.
Yes, I enjoyed it.  Particularly the more scarifying moments, and there were plenty of them. And I hadn't read a single review for once. Took a chance. Rob Lowing I read afterwards.


28thNovember

QUANTUM OF SOLACE
Director: Mark Foster
 I attend the 3 25 session at Greater Union. The accessibility of the venue has me going there quite a lot, particularly with my leg. Getting used to being slightly disabled. The weakness in the knee worries me more than the horrible ache   which is partly controlled maintained by the use of Panadol and Tramadol slow release.The seat assigned to me is a side aisle seat and I am amid a clutch of young Asian women, all chattering excitedly. And eating. The cinema is not full. After pondering, worrying about my leg giving way, (really I should not be worrying about that by this time – more my usual embarrassment about doing something slightly out of the ordinary) I summon my nerv, rise and make my way without incident down to a much better  seat in an unoccupied row in the centre block of seats.

Almost a perfect movie. Brilliantly designed. A nice level of tension sustained throughout. Breathtaking action sequences. Fantastication that is well grounded in reality. Well balanced. Daniel Craig, terse and brutal. He is a superhero of course and we know that nothing is going to kill him no matter what extreme of adventure he is put through (the old propeller plane sequence over the Atacama Desert for example) but we care about him nevertheless. He is so cool. What are those slightly pursed lips all about ? Anthony Lane in New Yorker said this Bond movie the most expensive arthouse movie  ever made. The cutting between  the performance of Tosca and the killing action extraordinary.  
Perfect in that it achieves exactly what it sets out to achieve. No sentimentality. A suitably vile villain. A darkly glamorous replacement for Vesper Lynde of Casino Royale. And in the end, do we find out that Vesper betrayed Bond after all, and that his quest for revenge on her killer, was really not justified?
Judy Dench as M plays a bit of a one note role. Something a bit soft and sluglike about her. Powdery. Everyone else is hard boiled and you want her to be hard boiled too,  but eventually it is interesting to see her as a mother figure. She cares for him and claims him, supports him ("He's my agent") when MI5  or whatever decommissions him for being a loose cannon who has come to love killing for the sake of killing.
Yes, a perfect little movie.Unlike Australia, an imperfect big movie. A movie  in which Baz tries for a lot and pulls off a lot but one full of flaws, full of things he did not manage to pull off. His grasp not as strong as his reach. Is that the right way to re-write that phrase – ambition outstripping ability ? I felt a little sorry for Baz and his creaky vehicle.  All that effort.  Quantum of Solace makes it all look so easy.

26th November 2008
AUSTRALIA (or STRAYA, as someone suggested)
Director: Baz Luhrmann.
I saw Australia with Kingo at the Circular Quay Dendy,  the 3 10 session. Almost full. Albie, we found, as we sat in row 4 centre, was alone behind us in row 5. "Where's Louise?" I asked. "She did not want to come for some reason. I only see her once a week."
We talked afterwards. Albie was a staunch fan of the movie. Peter sort of hated it. I was somewhere in between. A potboiler certainly. The stolen generation theme worked well; I cried a couple of times. Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley was actually well cast and quite good even if in several scenes, her emotionality was over emphasised – both with Jackman, and with Nullah (Brandon Walters) the half-caste kid (half castes were known as creamies back  then apparently) whom she wanted to adopt and whom the authorities wanted to put into a Christian environment to stamp out all traces of aboriginality. Give them a future as servitors to white people. Hugh Jackman as The Drover looked OK but was just dull. Making him an archetype added nothing. Neither he nor Kidman have enough steam or handsomeness to make the romance particularly exciting. Jackman just did not sparkle. A heroic role but despite the heroics, just ordinary. The aboriginal boy, almost epicene in his wild wide eyed beauty, was terrific. So I have to say was David Gulpilil even tho he just stood there most of the time on one leg and emoted. We have seen him do that all his acting life really. But probably the crowning glory of his career. Good use of him made in the ending with  the LadyAshley/Drover romance put to one side in favour of the grandfather (Gulpilil) taking the boy away for his long initiation  into aboriginal tribal manhood;  Lady Ashley finally understanding that this was the best for the boy. Yes, I cried a bit at the aboriginal stuff from time to time. Nothing else though. Landscape absolutely beautiful (as well as bleak) with the cattle stampede in the Bungle Bungles the highlight. Superb aerial shots.  
Small problems with continuity, also with plot, and just what was at stake. Hokey plotting. Scenery and photography terrific throughout; a lot of smart but overworked dialogue, or maybe dialogue the wrong word as would repartee be the wrong word; just smart lines coming from time to time from various characters. Smart lines disconnected from plot or character saying them.
Pity about the dividing up of the villainy. Bryan Brown as Carney the rival cattle baron and David Wenham as his evil head man  split between  them the role of villain. Having two villains was ridiculous and a major plot failing. It broke the film in two in a way. Had to kick start it again after Wenham engineered the killing of his boss by a crocodile. Please. Neither was a rounded character, Bryan Brown all bonhomie and rough charm and Wenham one-note wicked as the killer manager for Carney. Comes to the worst of ends in melodramatic fashion. Should have been Wenham throughout.
Old fashioned melodrama gone for in a big way. Tension suffers at the expense of predictability and general confusion.  I don’t know I would recommend the movie to anyone. But definitely what I call a movie-movie, and all of us felt afterwards that we  really had been put through something and it wasn't boredom. The two and a half hours went by quickly. I got caught up, released, caught up, released many times throughout the film's bumpy ride.  I would recommend it as an EVENT and something to see for that reason alone. Of other recent Australian movies the only one with similar pretensions to epic and grandeur was The Proposition which I would see again before I saw this one again.  Much more tightly constructed and more tense, the brutality more genuine. Better story really.
As for Australia's aboriginal theme, perhaps aspects of it dealt with earlier in The Tracker and the other Rolf de Heer movie Ten Canoes, set in Arnhem Land so in Australia there was a bit of over familiarity. The voice over by Nullah  worked, as did the stolen generation theme even if it was hammered home a little obviously and too politically correctly.

Some longeurs and flat spots. Swipes at the Christian missionaries seemed old hat and cliched; been there done that so many times.  Faraway Station never really looked like a real working cattle station somehow, just a movie set built out in the desert. But some fabulous set pieces, my favourite being the stampede set in the Bungle Bungles (which looked magnificent) and the cattle being rounded up just before they plunge over a cliff. Genuinely thrilling and magical. Ending with a great death scene – close up on a bloody and blistered Jack Thompson trampled in the stampede. Could have had Knocking on Heaven's  Door there from  Billy  the Kid. 
Kidman and Jackman worked hard on the chemistry, but ultimately, only a very small tick  there. Neither of them the least sexy. More surprising was the effectiveness of the song Over the Rainbow, the way it was used, a running theme and incorporating clips from the original Judy Garland movie as seen by a crowd of aborigines in an open air cinema in Darwin; not very Australian to have resorted to that. But what would have replaced it ? Waltzing Matilda ? An original song ?  Very  post-modern, very camp and I could have used more of it. The mystic powers of Nullah were well used also.    
Why with all that money and time, could Baz Luhrman not have gotten a better script together. I don't know. A cringe factor for Australians who know their history, and how Luhrman blithely diverged from it for the sake of his story (the landing of the Japanese on Mission island the most notorious example) but for Americans who know not the flaws, it might just work a treat. Trashy, Mills & Boonish, corny, heavy handed, it might just wash all over them in a grand escapist wave. The right sort of movie for a recession? Gone With the Wind is it not.  I dont think  they are going to rename GWTW, America just yet. Nor Dr Zhivago, Russia just yet.

29th October 08
Cabin Fever after working on Journal and a couple of entries for Australian Portrait Prize. I determine to go to a movie – The Duchess, yet another period piece ? No, instead, HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE with Simon Pegg whom I found  funny in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I read that the movie had echoes of The Devil Wears Prada. Directed by Robert Weide from a book by Toby Young who worked at Vanity Fair for a few months before getting  the sack.
I misread the time (the ads for movies are printed in miniscule typeface, my eyes are bad and once again I misread the time of the afternoon session. At least Greater Union is once more printing their sessions in the Herald) so I slid into my seat just as Londoner, Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) arrives in New York to take up his job as a hitman to add spice to Sharps (based on Vanity Fair) having been headhunted in an unguarded moment of nostalgia for the good old subversive days by editor in chief, Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges, terrific and suave in the role, as he was as the villain in Robert Downey's Iron Man). Based on Graydon Carter of VF I suppose.
The movie is lots of fun as Pegg climbs up the social and career ladder, but as satire on VF and celebrity obsessed NY people it soon surrenders its edge and betrays its title, for a feel good romantic comedy involving Kirsten Dnst who also works at Sharps but would  rather be a novelist. A know-it-all innocent among a nest of vipers, Pegg is too aimiable and nice behind the prat falls, and romance soon replaces the amusingly obnoxious chutzpah.  There are several laugh out loud comic set pieces, the best ones concerning starlet of the moment Sophie Mais (Megan Fox, brilliantly playing an airhead) whose beloved chihuahua comes to an unfortunate end. Echoes of A Fish Called Wanda. Gillian Anderson as Elinor, Sophie's publicist is nicely venemous, and so is Danny Huston as Sidney's immediate boss whom he manages to get sacked, but gradually, despite the mayhem at the climax at the Apollo Awards where Sophie get an Apollo for her role as Mother Theresa, it all gets a bit unlikely and soft centred, albeit nice nice nice. Lots of sugar and not enough spice. Is that why it's at the multiplexes and not the art house venues ?  *** nevertheless.

26th October 08

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED.
Director: Julian Jarrold. Adapted by Andrew Davies and Jeremy Brock.
I found it to be quite an emotional experience, and a concentrated one. Compressed into 133 minutes. Full of lovely scenes and vistas which were quickly whisked away to be replaced by others equally gorgeous. Castle Howard is just breathtaking. Movie made me want to get a copy of the book and read it again - for all the liberties taken and to see why Peter Craven in The Australian Review was so incensed with the adaptation. Anthony Blanche (well played) got short shrift. So did Kurt the boy friend in Tangier. Ben Wishaw made a much better and more believable Sebastian than Anthony Andrews. More delicate, more effete and flowerlike, a bruised and broken creature, mother-maimed.
The wrap-up: with both parents dead and Bridey, the first born son killed in the Blitz, would that not mean Sebastian, who has become a sort of holy sinner/dogs body in a monastery in Tunis, be the new Lord Marchmain ? Or can the line pass to a first born daughter? As usual I find that Sebastian  comes out of the whole tragedy the best. Happy in his situation. Few responsibilities, his family sends him an allowance…
The film made much more than the book did of the Catholicism of the family. Unless when I read the book I tended to ignore that side of it. But crucial to the theme of this film. And there is particular emphasis on the destructive power of Lady Marchmain. As played by Emma Thompson, she is steely and self righteous and has God's permission to rule her family with a rod of religious iron. Unwavering in her belief in a God that directed her life, and that this life was not important – it is the AFTERLIFE that matters. (Almost too unbelievable that line. Talk about hard nosed) We have to live righteous lives, forgive the sinners but make sure that they confess their sins.
To balance all this, Charles Ryder's atheism is also emphasised. In one best scenes Charles (Matthew Goode) stands up to her over his giving Sebastian money to go get drunk. She accuses him of cruelty and betrayal of her and the Flytes; she throws him out of Brideshead.
A shift in emphasis too for Charles – I don’t remember him as being typified by say both Julia (Hayley Atwell) and Sebastian as being needy , greedy, wanting more than just Sebastian and then Julia but also the house and access to the life of the Flytes and the social privileges that comes with it. He does not come over as a very appealing character in the movie. Dull. Is he truly in love with Julia or does he see her,  treat her as a trophy wife in the same way as Rex Mottram, the brash and rich Canadian, to whom she is married off. To restore the family fortunes (mortgaged to the hilt) although Lady Marchmain never admits this. Just a good Catholic marriage.  Julia, also damaged by her mother, remains an opaque character and when the chips are down, she can't bear living in sin with Charles, and reverts to her Catholicism. Her mother's influence holds sway long after her death. Only Sebastian escaped.
I loved the scenes on the thirties ocean liner, but was half expecting to see an iceberg loom. 
Shaven headed Sebastian had a nice last line. Charles, sent by Lady Marchmain to bring him back is told he is never going back to Brideshead. He tells Charles that he is happy in Tangier with someone to look after rather than being looked after all his life. By his smothering mother. "I ran away as far as I could and I don’t look back."
Lovely scenes in Venice with Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon in the Laurence Olivier role) . I don’t remember Julia going to Venice in the book, but in the movie it becomes a device to keep her continuously in the movie. Venice is no longer a continuation of Charles and Sebastian's love idyll. Sebastian realises early that he has been supplanted in Charles' love by Julia. He is crushed; becomes sad and bitter and hits the bottle.  Pity really. I was enjoying their perfect summer. Have always hated that remark from the otherwise sensible mistress, Cara, about homosexuality being only a phase. It seemed to have been so with Waugh himself. But then again  he may have shoehorned himself into heterosexuality and the life of a married country squire to the detriment of his real self thus sending him over the years into an unhappy and bitter free fall.
But I am getting caught like Peter Craven got caught. Comparing the book with the new movie, comparing the line by line TV series with the new movie.
 Pretty good movie. Lush, beautiful, fast moving. Atonement probably more affecting for me, particularly that heartbreaking ending with Vanessa Redgrave. I cried small tears at several points along the Brideshead downward trajectory but nothing like the devastation and the tears that Atonement brought me. Injustice makes for better drama than a conflict between atheists and Christians. And in Brideshead, the class conflict as a spur to tragedy is muted in favour of rigid Catholicism. As practised by Lady Marchmain.
I also remembered the impact of the book on me as a teenager and how David Flint and I identified with Charles and Sebastian. Silly really, for neither of us really could say who was who. Was David the Sebastian figure or was I ? Will I send an E-missive to David ? I am sure he will rush to see it as soon as possible. As I did. And will he see it with his carbon copy and life partner, Brian Rawlings ? It is a sad movie. Failed love, failed lives at least in terms of happiness. The framing by the war with Brideshead being taken over for the billeting of troops is done very briefly but  Hooper gets his lines in.
And Charles Ryder as a painter ? Like Tim Storrier queried Peter ? Superficial, commercially successful, played his society cards well, knew all the right people, married the right woman for his career,  but…    
 It is a sad movie. Failed love, failed lives at least in terms of happiness. The brief framing by the war with Brideshead being taken over for the billeting of troops. Hooper gets his lines in.

21st October 08

BURN BABY BURN directed and written by the Coen Brothers.
Their new  black comedy at Newtown Dendy. I walked over from Redfern via Erskineville and enjoyed it, as I did the glass of red wine I drank to ease myself into it. (As one can do at the Dendys and the Chauvel)
    I found it well put together, but as Greg said it was such a "little movie" (unlike the much better Fargo which one had to take much more seriously, with big violence and bigger themes) that it was hard to get involved with it. John Malkovich probably the most fun as bad tempered Osborne Cox, an out of control medium level CIA operative who gets fired for being a drunk and immediately goes downhill fast.
    Cox's ice cold wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton) is secretly planning a divorce and collecting evidence against Cox even while she is fucking juicy and charming Lothario, Harry, (George Clooney) a most improbable lover for her. Harry does not know it but like Osborne Cox, he is about to be dumped by his wife who is also secretly collecting divorce evidence. Harry dumps Katie and moves on to Frances McDormand who together with Brad Pitt her co-worker at Hardbodies gym, is blackmailing Osborne Cox so they can get lots of money for McDormand's expensive plastic surgery. Yes, it's complicated. (Katie stole the backup copy of Osborne's tell all memoir of life as a CIA operative and left it at the gym. It's actually worthless to anyone. Osborne wont play ball so they try to sell it to the Russians who won't play ball either. As I said, it's nothing but complications and backstabbing in well heeled Langley,Virginia where all the Washington bureaucrats apparently live. 
    I  chuckled now and then and so did Greg but the movie has the feeling of being over before it has begun.  Brad Pitt's bubble headed physical training instructor at Hardbodies is fun. Hey, everyone was fun, the violence when it comes is fun but the movie does not add up to enough. A farce, I suppose is the best way to describe it.  Along the lines of say Bon Voyage, the French farce about collaboration with the Nazis with Gerard Depardieu and Isabel Adjani a couple of years ago. A better and funnier movie.
    Even the Thai meal I had afterwards was more satisfying.
    I was home by 8 30 with Ian still finishing dinner and slowly thawing out from whichever snow drift he has been trapped in since Saturday evening.   ***


14th October 08

I make sure I see
TOWELHEAD at Circular Quay Dendy at 4.
Director: Alan Ball, the man who wrote American Beauty, one of the better movies of the last few years.
This one is once more set in middle class suburban America, Texas and is a movie "not for everyone' as David Stratton warned in the weekend Herald. Why did he say that ? Not exactly a pleasant experience, I was glad it was over and nothing more, like a murder, could happen. American Beauty moved into melodrama, but this one does not. Jasira, the beautiful 13 year old sexually awakened girl (brilliantly played by Sunday Bishil, (Oscar material ?) an18 year old actress) is at the centre of a small clutch of pretty distasteful characters, led by Jazira's protective (mostly in all the wrong ways) Christian Lebanese father Rifat, (Peter Macdissi, brillliant in the unsympathetic role, Oscar material ?) who are all neighbours in a McMansion filled cul de sac close in suburban Houston.  Rifat works for Nasa, has a girl friend and often leaves Jasira alone in the house at night rather than have his girlfriend in the house – to protect the sensibilities of  Jasira whom he otherwise keeps on an impossibly tight disapproving leash. No boyfriends, for example, certainly not black ones.  Chief among these neighbours is Travis (Aaron Eckhard, brilliant in the role – Oscar material ?)  a US reservist who wants to get to Iraq (the first Gulf War) so he can get away from his nasty wife whom he dislikes intensely. Not very fond of his bratty and bigoted little boy either. He prefers sexy shyly flirtatious Jasira and gets carried away, aided by the girl herself , but he goes too far and is  irresponsible.
Total tragedy is averted by heavily pregnant Melina (Toni Colette) , another neighbour who is suspicious and worried early and  steps in aggressively, knowing the girl gets no motherly advice. Offers her home as a refuge if things go seriously with her father. Her husband, whom we don’t even see until it really gets critical proves a tower of strength. He, like his wife, is a new age educated liberal values person and the only wonder is what the two of them are doing living in this conservative community, in this cul de sac seething with racial dislike, puritanical attitudes  and half hidden sexual desires.
Rivetting movie, an ordeal to some extent as well as an entertainment,filled with tension. Just where this was going to go and how far? Anyway the climax is semi-comic which was a relief. The straight laced Lebanese father explodes but does not pull out a gun and shoot anyone. Jasira does not kill herself. Dad accepts defeat  - Jasira had fled from him to Melina's house after her father had savagely beaten her in the car and actually spat on her because she had spoken of condoms she had found in Travis's satchel. There is a moving moment at the very end when Dad actually 'forgives' Jasira and gives her a hug and a kiss on the forehead, before leaving her, apparently for good. For the first time one has a shred of sympathy for him although before the kiss he tries a little blackmail to get Jasira back - Melina may have photos of the bruises on Jasira that he inflicted, but he has the condom that Tom, Jasira's black school boy friend used when he fucked her in Melina's house – unknown to Melina and her husband.  The dangers of being a liberal free minded adult couple. Someone pointed out that apart from these two the other adults in the movie are infantile.

I was much affected by the movie. Did the glass of red wine have anything to do with my emotional, somewhat stunned  state ? The harsh dissection of suburban American values; the depiction harsh or accurate ?  Devastating really.  Human nature. Our faults, our difficulties. What we are capable of. How thin the veneer of civilised behaviour. That is what upset me. Powerful movie.
I cried on the train.





October 9 2008
Determined to not get stuck in front of the screen and to get OUT into the beautiful spring weather, I walk via Bourke Street Bakery (coffee on the run with a chocolate tart, what an indulgence) to get to the Verona for BODY OF LIES scheduled to start at 4 25. The fact that the walk was a workout was great, (my feet held up, just with the remnants of the blisters still there), but my rush was needless for even tho I arrived at 4 32, there were still 15 more minutes of ads and previews before the movie started. Verona has turned into Greater Union.
BODY OF LIES, directed by Ridley Scott stars Leonardo di Caprio and Russell Crowe and is yet another Iraq inspired thriller along the lines of Syriana, Rendition, Stop-Loss, Valley of Elah, all of them critical of America's involvements in the Middle East. It trundles along nicely with lots of desert scenery, surveillance shots from high above, violence and tensions of a sort, and moral dilemmas, but only coalesces in the final quarter. Crowe is fat and brilliantly vile as Ed  Hoffman, a top Intelligence  operative who is running the big picture show on his mobile from his house in Washington DC and mostly at odds with Roger Ferris (Di Caprio) his top CIA field operative on the ground in Iraq and Jordan and Dubai. Hoffman has no feelings, Ferris has some, and therein lies much of the conflict. They try to outwit each other and Ali Saleem, the suave Osama bin Laden type figure who is their Villain No. 1 but they are all in the end, outwitted by Hani, the head of Jordanian Intelligence (played by Mark Strong) who saves Ferris (in a Perils of Pauline moment) from a fate worse than the sudden death he and Crowe have brought to many others in the course of their schemes, and not only that, Hani captures the ultimate prize – the Osama Bin Laden wannabe (as another critic described him).
It's an entertaining enough thriller and certainly well wrought and spectacular to look at with medieval flavoured street scenes to die for (so to speak, many do) which were shot in Rabat in Morocco, but Syriana was better. And so too were Stop Loss and Valley of Elah although those latter two were more concerned with the after effects of the war on the soldiers who took part. As another critic said it is all good but could be better with only one or two scenes rising above the average - Hoffman talking tactics on his mobile, while he shows his little boy how to pee in the toilet, and perhaps the torture scene. But then again, having spent a lot of time in Morocco, I loved the crowded street scenes vividly teeming with life. Pity about the death.
Adapted by William Monahan from a recent novel by David Ignatius and uses a pre-WW11 quote from a W.H.Auden couplet to set the thinking behind the movie.  Basically, evil done begets evil. The Middle East morass is the result of evil act 9/11 which was begat by evil acts done by America in the world before that etc. and now someone has to rise above to break the tit for tat cycle. Over to you Barack Obama.



I have a conversation with a ticket seller at Greater Union. (What is going on here, celebration of the return of my voice after an attack of laryngitis ? Maybe.)
I show her my Seniors pass.
Sir, it's bargain day. Everything is $9.
Oh good. (Seniors is usually $11.50) I hand her $10.
Oh,  3 30 session is on GMax. That's another $1.50.
OK. It's mid-afternoon. Do I still have to have a numbered seat ?
Yes. Where do you want to sit.
Aisle seat, not too far back, not too close.
OK.
I rush off. Then find the seat is in Q. Quite a long way back and the aisle seat is a side aisle seat.
The cinema is a large one and virtually empty. Maybe 6 people scattered about.
How on earth does she come to give me such a distant side seat when the cinema is her oyster?
I sit much closer in an empty row, centre.  Perfect seat.

TROPIC THUNDER  (Seen September 2nd. Greater Union George St)
Director: Ben Stiller. Writers: Stiller, Justin Theroux and Joel Cohen.
I have to admit, this comedy action movie is a piece of work. And the biggest piece of work is Tom Cruise. I think his career as a matinee idol might be over. He could give Heath Ledger as The Joker (fabulous as he was) a few lessons in being villainous. He is utterly repulsive and vile as Les Grossman, the boss of the studio backing Tropic Thunder. Wearing a fat suit, a bald mask, he had only a couple of scenes but steals the show each time and takes over the finale with a vulgar and funny  'booty' dance set against some of the key scenes in the movie, mostly explosions. My other favourite scene stealer was the baby face teenage drug lord of the gang whose heroin processing plant our lost heroes stumble upon in the jungle.
Early on there are a few dead spots and I did not really want myself to be totally sucked in but – I was.
Robert Downey Jnr. was brilliant as Kirk Lazarus, the Australian black American although hard to decipher his black street smarts accent; I didn't mind Ben Stiller as Tug Speedman, whom some have taken a set against (Rob Lowing for example in Sun Herald); Jack Black's heroin addicted character, Jeff Portnoy, was a bit of a one note; his natural overdrive was excessive at times but sometimes it worked in his favour and generally the film, loud and deliberately tasteless about just about everything including war itself, hideously wounded amputee vets, fat people, the intellectually challenged, (major plot point depends on Tug Speedman's previous role as a retard in Simple Jack), egotistical actors, studio bosses, movie directors, etc. moves quickly and explosively to its conclusion, becoming more and more like a real VietNam war movie, like Apocalypse Now or Platoon. Plenty of tension even tho it is all spoof.  When talking to Ian about it later I used the word "ferocious" to describe Stiller's approach to the movie's satirical themes. Ferocity is not a word used much in terms of comedy.  David Stratton enjoyed it even though he found it "overblown." And slightly heavy handed in the American way one has to accept. Just about everything did get blown up including the director of the movie.  Yes, pretty funny and once it got fully into its no holds bar stride, pretty rivetting. I laughed at the water boarding torture scene. And much else outrageous stuff. Maybe its not going to be that long before a comedy is made about the horrors of Iraq; Abu Ghraib , Guantanamo and so on after all. Jarheads, Valley of Elah, Rendition, Stop-Loss could all have used a little laughter.

It was well after 5 30 when it was all over. I set off for Town Hall Station. Steaming along, still much affected by the Tropic Thunder Rambo like excitements, a Chinese kid approaching me and holding up his hand cried Hey gimme a five. My hand was in my pocket searching for change, and he was past quickly. Hey! I managed to cry out boisterously and came back a rejoining Hey!
A few minutes later I found a ticket machine. I began to feed a $5 bill thru the slot and a hustler sidled up beside me and said Any change ?
I don't have any. My voice was loud and deep (after my laryngitis)
OK OK there's no need to yell at me. Fuck you!
Hey, don't go away. I'll have change in a second.
The ticket fell into the slot, the change tumbled after it.
He had moved away a bit but was waiting and I moved towards him. Sorry he said. (for the swearing ?)
In my palm was $2 50. "I need that," I said pocketing the $2. "Here" And handed him the 50cents.
I could have been more generous but that was how it went down.
I was still in my Rambo mode.

BABY MAMA (4pm session Greater Union George Street 1st September 2008)
Director: Michael McCullers who wrote the screenplay as well (also wrote Austin Powers movies, not necessarily a good recommendation)
I liked it immediately. After sliding into a seat a few seconds after it began.  My chest cold behaved itself although I had to restrict the sound of my laughter (a lot of it) as it had a horrible wheezy creak. Once I had to cough,  only once and  brief, but it was horrible.  Only four of five others in Cinema 6 which is hidden away and boutique in size. I didn't feel I would be giving my cold to anyone. Comfortable and the right temperature.
Steve Martin suave/slimey and distinguished with a pony tail and very amusing as a ridiculous but not too ridiculous (well judged performance) new age guru entrepreneur president of an organic food company with Kate (Tina Fey) as Vice President.  Kate can't have children, (because of her T shaped uterus she has only one in a million chance of conceiving and has been trying for years ) at 37 her biological clock is running and she is getting desperate. She doesn’t even have a boyfriend any more. He has left her and quickly produced three children with his new wife. She decides on surrogacy and goes to the best ($100,000 fee) surrogacy agency in Philadelphia run by one Chaffee Bignall (SigourneyWeaver also most amusing in another slimey/suave role) who has no problem popping out children herself. She teams Kate up with Angie (Amy Poehler) who is a country hick, trailer trash, drop-out with a drop-out husband who live in squalor in a dead end part of town. The husband (Dax Shephard) is hilariously low life, broke and keen that his 'common law' wife gets the big check for being a surrogate mother. Angie soon fights with Dax and moves into Kate's luxurious apartment. Thus begins a brawling and bonding relationship. Amy Poehler provides most of the laughs. All is not as it seems. Greg Kinnear, a former lawyer, dropped out and now running a Juice Bar, provides the love interest for Kate.
Lots of laughs. A light hearted sweet natured movie. A happy ending. With a touch of American goo. But OK and nothing the least bit Spielbergian. Some have called the plot predictable but me who hardly ever predicts the end of a movie, and doesn't like to guess ahead, found it full of surprises all the way to the end.


HUMORESQUE (1947, directed by Jean Negulesco for Warner Brothers)  30th August 2008
An evening at Kingo's movie theatre at Lavender Bay.
A Joan Crawford vehicle. Movie also stars Oscar Levant as himself, and John Garfield (in life changed his name from Garfinkel) as Paul Boray, very handsome as a classical violist,. Looking more like a pugilist, he was a bit hard to believe in the role. His minimalist unemotional Gary Cooper type style did not really suit  – whether he was romancing Joan Crawford or romancing his violin, he showed no emotion but he should have perhaps. This was the source of the tragedy – he was in love with his career as a violinist and could not love his intended (Helen Wright, high society maven as played by Joan Crawford) in the same way. There  was a line somewhere in the movie, a movie full of smartish dialogue, "Never fall in love with an artist." Emotionally voracious Helen Wright bored in a marriage to a wealthy very urbane tolerant man – tolerant of her drinking and affairs with younger men, wasa woman who  needed total emotional commitment and when finally she became a  free woman, with the husband consenting to a divorce, she could not handle the freedom. She already knew that  Paul Boray was married to his career and could never give her what she wanted, but when the love was available to her, with Boray ready to marry her, she killed herself.  Just as well, if he HAD married her it would probably have ruined his career. She would have eaten him up with her needs.
More generous to think that Joan walked into the sea because she realised this and was not thinking of herself when she walked away, but of him and his career. She sacrificed herself for him.
Perfect role for Joan Crawford as monster. I found the film a little predictable, far to much second rate verbal sparring led by Oscar Levant playing himself and his piano and quite often giving himself a terrific line, as Clifford Odets did for Crawford from time to time.

Crawford herself ? Monumental (Mt Rushmore) face lipstick cheekbones eyebrows, and beautiful of course in her ugly way, but her hair was a shocker. Bozo the Clown probably took his inspiration from it. Fashion can be very cruel as opposed to true style. Joan's monstrous ego showed itself to perfection in the scene where she goes to a rehearsal of a Carmen fantasia scored by Waxman for violin. She sits at the back and sends a note via an usher in the middle of the rehearsal saying  Darling I have absolutely wonderful news. We must talk. In a break in the rehearsal the usher hands the note to Paul Boray who reads it, pockets it and says to the conductor, "We have to do it again from…"
As the orchestra and the violin starts up again she becomes distraught and runs from the rehearsal auditorium. Did she really expect John Garfield to put everything down immediately to deal with her ? Neurotic, ridiculous behaviour from a supposedly mature woman who had for years been a patron of the arts and spent a fortune encouraging young musicians like Boray. And who had said more than once that she realised that he was only capabale of loving his work rather than anotehr human being. His protestations (and acts) of love meant nothing therefore to her.
Very next scene is her at her beach house drinking by the bucketful and ringing Paul to say that she cannot make it to the concert, she is loving the beach house so much and needs to be quiet and relaxed. "Will be waiting up for you, darling, when you come down after the concert."
He listens to her loving words but is mystified as she never misses a concert. 

It was a late night. Conversation and drinking but apparently it is Ken, the provider of these rare old prints who likes it late. He is a 'midnight' person and if rushed will become disaffected (says Keith Howes in a letter to Peter) and he must be kept on side if the film nights continue. Peter in the meantime, is seriously considering going digital which will cut out Ken altogether. Assuring good prints. And although there were good things in the preamble shorts which preceded (we did not get started until 8 30 and it would not have gotten started even then if I had not told Ken to start. My timing was right because people sat down at once which still left Ken with a few minutes before he got going.
("Have not seen you for a while," said Ken when I said it was almost 8 30 and people were anxious to start, "Where have you been."
"Waiting," I said, at which he gave a nervous laugh and disappeared into the projection room.)

Preamble shorts ?

Best Donald Duck ever, said Ken. "Everyone's in it, Goofy, Mickey and Minnie, Daisy…"
Yes, they were all there but only fleetingly and yes, it was an early Disney and charming but certainly not the greatest. Ken stood at the back and laughed uproariously at key scenes to make the rest of us laugh but no one did. A couple of clever animations towards the end with the naughty chipmunks captured and used to power Donald's bicycle – turning the wheels into treadmills with the chipmunks running hard like mice. Daisy furious – Daisy was a great sight with a golden hair-do and looking very trashy – she rejected Donald's gift because he was cruel to the chipmunks.
The Dan Dailey musical excerpts were better with Dailey singing Ain't Misbehavin and threatening to tap dance throughout and too bad he did not; and favourite of all, the chorus of long gowned very old ladies on stage singing Silver Threads Among the Gold. Then  they advanced into the audience to dance as well. I was sitting next to Tom Wddell and wondered how he felt about the jolly old ladies so soon after his wife's death.

We could have done without all the other dross like old newsreels and old ads.

I disagreed with Keith Howes at the end when he gave his usual views on whatever movie had been shown. Lots of detail. Googled no doubt. But maybe that is just me. I am not a film buff and not even an historian as far as movies go. Keith is both and dismissive of less educated opinions that his, I think. He said Crawford gave a picture of a liberated and sophisticated woman, a free spirit acting against the strictures of her time. Keith does not like to be disagreed with but I called out from the back (supported by Greg, friend of Ken, and who works as a  lighting technician) that once she got free of her stultifying marriage and was a woman free to do what she wanted, to marry the man she loved, she committed suicide. She was a neurotic and possessive alcoholic wreck who made a ridiculous decisison. . What sort of role model was that for women ?    Great for we watchers of the free fall. It was only when I realised that it was she she was going to self destruct and not the violinist, that I became excited by the movie. And appreciated it it as the legendary camp classic that it is.


SCORCHED  (24th August 08)
Directed by Neil Armfield,  Written by Wadji Mouawad. THE BELVOIR
A glass of red wine beforehand. $33 each for concession tickets promised by Roger Foley with whom I went along with Julie McGregor. The seats were good in Row E but none of us liked the play. Julie (seated separately) particularly critical. A full house. But after about ten minutes in I began to dislike it. Lots of screeching from the featured brother and sister twins who are catapulted into the past because of the provisions of their estranged mother's will. She demands from the grave that the twins begin a search for a lost brother and a lost father and when they find them, deliver a sealed letter to each.
Palestine, although the country is never specified. A story of horror – massacres, killings, incest (it turns out the brother is also the father of the twins, a fact that is unknown to the mother apparently, otherwise one letter would have done and the only interesting plot device mould have been nullified) and with attempts at heavy symbolism and mythic quality, it all became cheaply melodramatic rather than seriously tragic. More interesting in fact, the second half,  but I was not moved emotionally by all the emotionality displayed in the production. The role of the notary friend of the mother seemed misconceived, or was it the fault of the actor who played the role (Brian Lipson) ? – He seemed to be in a different play with his Woody Allen type dialogue, Jewish New York jokery plus a few spoonerisms, obviously meant to provide a touch of lightness to the grim story. For me it didn’t work. Merely irritating and unnecessary.
Roger found the lighting effective – it was – and so was the sound, effective in making me sure I was awake from time to time in the first half. I had started looking around at the audience to check whether the audience was bored and fidgetting also  Plenty of hearty applause at the  end.

Why has SCORCHED garnered good reviews ? Sympathy for all things Palestinian ? What did Jason Blake in the Sun Herald say ?
I found it all overbaked, overacted. Gillian Jones as the mother, got lost in the screeching and the excessive emotionality. The device of the letters that the son and daughter had to deliver was risibly Victorian or Dickensian or something. The father/brother turns out to be a dreadlocked torturer and sociopathic killer/rapper, toting a guitar as well as an AK47, on trial for crimes against humanity.  Please. And what was the symbolism of the sand the cast had to walk through, dig through, sweep up, all about ? I guess it did add to the pure theatricality of the experience, as opposed to the cinematic.  I don’t go to the theatre very much – as opposed to the movies - and often run into this sort of stuff. Blackbird at Xmas time for example, which did not work for me either. Didn't believe a line of it. Although I did like The Wharf St Revue, Waiting for Garneau once the opening Samuel Beckett parody was done with. A crippled Robert Hughes,walking with two sticks and wearing a floppy velvet hat as Goya, was my favourite image of the night.


LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR (August 19th)
Not a movie but an opera, with Andrew unwell and passing his ticket on to me.
Instant train at Redfern, a dawdle to the Opera House, pausing to check out the gift shop and arriving at top of the stairs by the bar at 7 03 with Maurice already waiting there with a glass of red in his hand. I bought a glass of champagne ($10 – extra dry? I was asked) and we chatted noticing David Malouf nearby.
Row K and we happened to be seated next to John McDonald art critic and his Chinese partner. The first third (two intermissions) was revealed in foggy gloom (Rembrandt, said McDonald.. He was enjoying it all as much as we were) of columns and stairs, interior of a Scottish Highlands castle. It wasn't until the signing of the marriage papers in Act 11 that the stage lit up and we could see the wonderful costumes. A foppish Arturo, (Kanen Breen) Lucia's suitor was fun.
Poor Lucia,  hardly  done by everyone, including her would be lover Edgardo (Eric Cutler), and used solely as a pawn in the inheritance and property game. No wonder she went mad. The Act 111 Mad Scene was terrific and as far I am was concerned could have gone on forever. The soprano, Emma Matthews as Lucia was good but no Joan Sutherland. Cruel thing to say but she did screech a little on the top notes. And without Suterrland's physical heft.  I actually saw Joan do the role way back in London, in the sixties. That's how old I am.
Leslie Walford and Colin Davies came up to us at first intermission and I introduced them to Maurice. Leslie has a hearing aid which works and he can hear but still monologues in a sort of boffo manner. Entertainingly enough and he and Maurice talked about Paris while Colin and I talked about their upcoming cruise – flying to Rome for the ship and then to the Levant, side trip down the Nile, thru Red Sea to Yemen and Oman then to Goa and finally winding up in Singapore to fly home. Before that he is  travelling alone to Bangkok. He said that he will be 60 shortly. I was a bit surprised, he always seems perpetually forty.   I wondered if the idea of a cruise with lots of much older folks was really what the adventurous Colin wanted to be doing. Lesley is well up into his eighties now but full of energy.  Lesley's booming opening conversation lines were: for me "You look like a German philosopher." "One of the better ones I hope, I responded, trying to think of Nietzche, Hegel and others as he moved on to Maurice with whom he fired off,"And I think you must be a professor. Mathematics ?"  "French, but I retired last year."
Inside, I noted that Maurice is a hearty hand clapper, leading the audience and being the last to finish. So loud I felt he must be bruising his palms. he more enthusiastic European manner, said Ian later. He likes to
encourage that out here.
The four principals curtain called several times; Richard Bonynge the conductor (I had been wondering who the elderly white haired conductor was) took one bow in front of the curtain,  but why did not the entire cast get a curtain call ? The choruses throughout were particularly effective and made much use of.
"Lucia a nice change from the Olympics," I comment to Maurice



PERSEPOLIS (Sunday August 17)
I look in on one or two second hand bric and furniture stores in lower King Street on way to Dendy where I intend to see When Did you Last See your Father at 3 50. I find I misread the time (2 50) which is happening quite a bit lately with my eyesight not getting any better. So I book into Persepolis my second choice, for 4 30. In meantime I buy David Rakoff's Don’t Get Too comfortable, an essayist/humourist along the lines of David Sedaris and like Sedaris, a New York sort of person, Jewish and gay. Sedaris now lives in France and is no longer very funny while Rakoff is originally from Toronto and from first few pages of  reading is wackier than Sedaris ever was but not so outrageously funny as he used to be in say Barrel Fever with each of his books since then progressively less funny but still engaging.
I read the Rakoff first pages in an Italian coffee shop nearby. Pleased to find coffee good at $2 50. A purchase of 'white anchovies' for $10. A long delicatessen counter and a woman behind it followed me right the length of it until I stopped.
Are you stalking me? I asked before she could say "Can I help you." It seems to be common practice  these days in shops.  Instructions from above ? American practice ? Trapping customers? Very irritating. Very off putting. Like "Is that all?" (terrible) or "Anything else ?" not quite so terrible
What are white anchovies?
They're very popular. People love them and always come back for more.
I held up a jar of regular ones, "Like these but white ?
Yes
I'll give them a try.
Very misleading. Ian at home knew the difference.
They are in vinegar. Taste like herring.
Not the wonderful salt encrusted anchovies at all? A different product?
Yes.
If ever I go back to that delicatessen I will take it up with that gabby pushy woman.
Misrepresentation.
As for Persepolis  - an animated cartoon feature, political, poetic, mostly in black and white with ravishing excursions into washed out colour from time to time. All from POV of single character, first of all as a little girl during reign of Shah in Iran, then of her as a teenager in Vienna where her middle class family sends her to escape the regime of the Ayatollahs (not mentioned by name) and then after dismal failure to adjust in Vienna, back in Teheran with more of the trouble from the Revolutionary Moral Police that a liberated young woman gets into if she wants to live a western lifestyle Iran. Once more her parents ship her off this time to Paris. THE SUDDEN END. I don't think anyone watching minded. It was about time at 93 minutes.
Lovely to look at always, always interesting; it was a bit repetitive and  predictable.


THE DARK KNIGHT
Director: his name escapes me for the moment

Kingo and I arrange to see The Dark Knight (for the sake of Heath)  - at the Verona. I would have preferred G-Max big screen at George Street Union, or even IMAX but concede in view of Peter's loathing of Great Union.. I hope we can get in. There will be a rush to see Heath's performance.  I cried a little this morning reading about the premiere in New York attended by his parents and brother. What are these tears all about, the sadness ? Because of Brokeback ? Probably.

I leave home early so as to experience more of World Youth "Day"   I  run into it quickly, in the form of a large group of Spanish Christians crossing Regetn Street on way to station all chanting Hallelulah  all dressed in the now familiar red and orange (at least the back packs) and waving banners flags promoting  their country of origin …Town Hall station crowded with them, so oo  the streets, Park Street McDonalds packed, Park Street Starbucks, packed. That area of Hyde park, jammed. Music everywhere,  All a round Archibald Fountain of course. I took lots of pictures. The colour. Loved that. Everyone young except perhaps the group leaders, the organisers. Merchandising Tent. Cappucino Stalls.
I slowly maqde my way along to Oxford Street. By the Wart Memorial a group of young laughing girls rushed me, in  a pretence intimidation. I stopped, raised a left palm to them instinctively. They moved on, and I turned slightly laughing also "You Christians are really scarey." A chance to say that but in a context which would not alienate them. It is the overall philosophy and the systemic faults, the false and fanciful origins of it all that is scarey. The self serving moralistic attitudes, the homophobia, the attitudes towards women and sexuality generally. The celibacy of their clergy. Perverse and inhumane. These kids have taken it to heart. Bought the product without reading the fine print of what is inspiring them. Not realising they have been hijacked by a very dubious clever and corporate organisation. Yes, they do a lot of good, but also do a lot of harm.
When on earth are they ever going to get rid of the ridiculous idea of heaven and hell and of an external God up in the sky ? And that Jesus is the Son of God. He said many great things (if the New Testament is to be believed) but he was also a deluded young man in many respects.

I got to Verona well before 6. A glass of wine now possible upstairs to where the ticket office has been moved. The bar up there now quite a buzzy place. Peter arrived at 6 and I followed my red wine with coffee. He is not drinking at all once more after Jan's reprimand and his behaviour at his weekend movie.

As for The Dark Knight – our seats were marginally too close – theatre packed and expectant -  it was far too long and the plotting too Byzantine for comprehension, too many villainous types, Batman too bland and glum in his Bruce Wayne persona (should have let his hair down more, enjoyed his playboy persona), Maggie Gyllenhal miscast as the love interest, needed someone more appealing  more conventionally beautiful more glamorous as a woman that both Batman and Harvey were pivotal to the plot, in loyal with. Charlise Theron where were you ?  I feared (felt a little distressed in fact and had to remind myself it was just a movie) for her early on when The Joker pushed her out of the window on the fiftieth floor or something, but after surviving that she sank like a stone until inevitably she got creamed in spectacular fashion. It went on and on with one spectacular stunt after another until by the end with the two ferries, one crowded with crooks and the other crowded with hapless commuters, both wired by the joker to detonate each other, thus posing an agonising dilemma to the two groups (the civilians democratically voted to blow up the villains to save themselves, one of the the villains took charge of the detonator, but in neither case did either ferry blow the other up. Humanistic thoughts prevailed. At midnight The Joker was ready to blow them both up himself if one of the ferries did not manage to blow up the othert, but his detonator – for the first  time -  failed to work. He just laughed  and threw it away. Some remark about Chinese workmanship ?  I did not care much one way or the other by this time. I had been beaten into submission by the movie. Not quite boredom. But it was yet another action movie, within the genre even tho there was an orientation towards serious crime drama along the lines of Heat and The Departed (Mann and Scorcese). It was still a comic strip of impossibilities and fantasy but grim. More Grim Grimm fairy tale with lots of cl ver philosophical quips appealing I suppose to the male young. If a hero survives long enough he becomes a villain.  Veru appropriate in the case of Harvey the DA who becomes thanks to the Joker, Harvey Two Face and meets a hideous fate.
As for Heath Ledger (about to become a ledgerndary figure along the lines of James Dean ? Yet another American  tragedy ?) I have left the best for last, although Aaron Eckhart was pretty good also as Harvey Two Face in his late appearance. Heath had to compete with some stunning action sequences like the snatching of the Chinese mastermind hiding out in Hong Kong, but in terms of characterisations he was in a class by himself. The beautifully used and accented voice, the gestures, the makeup, the intensity, the wit, the drag – as a bowlegged short skirted nurse who torments Harvey as he lies burned in hospital…The Joker is a nihilist, rather than an anarchist (who are usually politically motivated ?) enjoying himself in the brilliance of his devices aimed at  utterly destroying civilised society, and outwitting those like Batman who try to save it. He relishes the competition with Batman, even his defeats at Batman's hand. What happened at the end ? He seemed to be left dangling upside down at the end of a rope still talking. He undermines Batman psychologically, by his demand that Batman reveal his true self or he will continue to destroy society. Or something like that. As I said, the plot is byzantine. And by the time of the ferries at the end, repetitive. We had been here before with the choice between saving one or  the other of Gyllenhal or Eckhart. Batman chose Eckhart.
Enough.
Kingo hated it, was bored – and distressed.

MARRIED LIFE
Director: Ira Sachs
A gathering storm another reason not to persist with the Art Gallery and I walked quickly back thru the Gardens to the Opera House and reach the shelter of the colonnade just in time to avoid the downpour. 4pm. I ordered coffee and watched the storm over the harbour bridge and the city. Took pictures. Fun.
Married Life was not starting until 4 30. Peter and Rick might well be late. I know that he had texted Rick to come to Albie Thom's party, in his apartment in the Toaster, right above the Dendy. A farewell to the apartment from which he is moving after six months rental, to a much better on in the Renzo Piano building further up in Macquarie Street. Strange that I was not invited. Peter reported when he arrived outside the Dendy at 4 20, that it was a dreadful party that did not get going at all. (I found out later that Gillian Armstrong was there – a neighbour of Albie's when he lived with Linda in Balmoral) A gathering storm another reason not to persist with the Art Gallery and I walked quickly back thru the Gardens to the Opera House and reach the shelter of the colonnade just in time to avoid the downpour. 4pm. I ordered coffee and watched the storm over the harbour bridge and the city. Took pictures. Fun.
Married Life was not starting until 4 30. Peter and Rick might well be late. I know that he had texted Rick to come to Albie Thom's party, in his apartment in the Toaster, right above the Dendy. A farewell to the apartment from which he is moving after six months rental, to a much better on in the Renzo Piano building further up in Macquarie Street. Strange that I was not invited. Peter reported when he arrived outside the Dendy at 4 20, that it was a dreadful party that did not get going at all. (I found out later that Gillian Armstrong was there – a neighbour of Albie's when he lived with Linda in Balmoral)

The movie ? A finely polished bauble ultimately. A movie that flirted with film noir of the forties and grim themes, but really was a family friendly film with just a touch of noir for tension. David Wenham brilliant in a small but pivotal role. David Stratton gave some of the plot away in his review in The Weekend Australian, spoiling for sure, one of the best surprises in the movie, and I am glad I did not remember having read his review which I checked out only later. Delightful bonbon full of twists and turns, it never being certain which way  the chips would fall. All the way to the very end. We each liked it, but perhaps not a full meal. I suspected always that Patricia Clarkson was going to survive and that the loser would be Chris Cooper - those hideous glasses and his generally boring demeanour/character/appearance. Too dull to win out in any way. He attracted no sympathy for his murderous plans.  Good role for Pierce Brosnan, the smooth talking casanovan best friend. I loved the Kim Novak like blonde (Rachel McAdams) who sets the ball rolling by falling in love with Harry, the Chris Cooper character…

THE BANK JOB
Director: Roger Donaldson (who also did No Way Out and Thirteen Days, not to mention The Bounty, all great movies)
This time unwillingly, once more, George Street Greater Union multiplex.  I stood in a queue for the usual ten minutes at least, meaning that I reached Cinema 3 just as the theatre went dark and the movie started…good timing I suppose, missing the ads and the previews, but close.  The theatre almost empty, making yet again, nonsense of this numbered seat idea. Like the nonsense of not advertising in the daily papers. Which nonsense Greater Union have now stopped. They will stop the numbered seats idea too.  Those absurd slow moving queues at 4 in the afternoon. The ticket girl did not even ask where I wanted to be seated. T1. She knew it was a lot of nonsense. T1 of course, way further back than I liked. I took my favourite seat mid-centre. An almost empty venue. Word of what a brilliant movie it is has not yet filtered thru to the cinemaplex going public.
Yes, an incredible movie. So much going for it.The intensity reached such a pitch that I totally forgot I was sitting in a cinema watching something. Of recent heist movies, up there with Layer Cake, Sexy Beast, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Rush (?) the later one with Brad Pitt as an incomprehensible Irish boxer, but this one has even more going for it, more layers of deceit and intrigue and not only that but based on a true story, involving a corrupt police force, Michael X (racketeer and gangster behind the cloak of a politically motivated black power activist) and other ruling class  personages and their wicked S and M secret lives. It reached up to the highest echelons of government and finally to Princess Margaret and what she got up on Mustique. Some of the robbers have never been caught. Over 4 million pounds was stolen, more than in the Great Train Robbery, but the government put a clamp on dissemination of the news of the robbery in the press because they or MI5 instigated the robbery – in order to get the Princess Margaret pictures back before the News of the World got hold of them.
Great cinema. 9 out of 10 and now why did David Stratton only give it three and a half  stars? Margaret gave it 4. And it seemed to be to be an almost perfect movie. Began with a T-Rex song Get It On, on the soundtrack.

I knew nothing about the robbery of course, but I did know some of the personages, namely Michael X and Hakim Jamal and Gale Benson whom Michael X and Hakim Jamal murdered in Trinidad and for which murder and a related one Michael X was hanged. Geoff Robertson human rights lawyer, tried in vain to save him. From the gallows. All  the way to the Privy Council. Gale was the daughter of a Tory member of parliament who may or may not have been implicated as well in some of the raunchy compromising photos. Oz published an article by Hakim Jamal, a handsome and charismatic African-American, a  politically motivated man, maybe also a crook in the way Michael X was, and the article appeared in, of all issues, the notorious School Kids issue. I felt Hakim knew I was sexually aroused by him (my period of being attracted only to black men) and in his apartment, we got stoned (as one naturally did back then) and it seemed he and Gale wanted a three way with me. All very sexy and scary at the time. Fortunately my fear of getting mixed up with them at the time and the fact that suddenly we were under pressure and arrest ourselves meant that I did not pursue the acquaintance even tho Hakim and Gail both rang me once or twice before the trial. Hakim Jamal went back to America and was murdered himself in Philadelphia some years later.

THE SAVAGES
Director: I really should remember
Dendy Newtown – Gary Simes finds the people dreary and does not get much beyond that. "Well maybe," I respond, "but the process that they both go thru is not dreary at all." I found it pretty absorbing. A brother and sister, who really do not have their own lives together, and who do not particularly like each other, find that they now have to look after  their father – whom they have not seen for 20 years. He has dementia and has no one else to turn to (his partner of twenty years has unexpectedly karked it) except to his two children -  Wendy (Laura Linney) and Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman)  - who have to get it together with results which are a reality wake up call for the and for everyone watching the movie. Ouch. But enough humour to leaven the package that is an end of life story for the father, brilliantly played, and a change of life story for the brother and sister. They are better people for the decisions they make during the difficult period they experience as their father declines and dies.
The father lived in Sun City near Phoenix, a desert town of old retired middle class people, tanned and doing what they can to hold back the years. Dance classes, bingo, golf, dancercise, yoga, ginkgo biloba, medications in abundance, whatever …lots of cactus in front of the rows of perfect painted and manicured suburban houses. But it belonged to his partner, this house, her children put it up for sale  and he has to leave, so Jon and Wendy move him to a nursing home in freezing Buffalo where Jon is a lecturer in drama at some small university. Dad does not have long to go so Wendy waits it out on the sofa of Jon's apartment. Wendy finds the nursing home appalling and tries to get Dad into an upmarket one, but the upmarket one wont accept him as he is too far gone. And as Jon points out, Dad is happy with the one he is in. He does not care any more. "Just pull the plug," he screams at them. "Bury me!!"  "The upscale nursing is just so that you will feel better, not Dad." Jon points out tgo Wendy. To her fury.

On my list but with no one to go with at the moment. Peter away in the snow, Lucienne working hard with Maxine, Ian out of the question, Gary difficult, prefers to eat and drink and look at his erotic art collection…
Up the Yangse, StopLoss, When Did You Last See Your Father, Pineapple Express…

OFF TO THE MOVIES ONCE MORE
The afternoon in my studio is sunny and warm these winter days but when the sun gets low it is impossible to see my screen so time to go out, this time to Dendy Newtown – a walk to make up for missing the walk into the headwind on the coast from Clovelly to Little Bay   - 

THE VISITOR
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Reviews unseen although I had a vague memory of a mention sometime ago in New Yorker. A fast walk via Erskineville, such a village compared to King Street, the endless Newtown strip. I arrived hot inside my new jacket. A glass of red wine and an almost empty cinema. A lovely movie really but by the end such a quiet movie I felt it needed to have worked up a better head of steam. Not so much a tragedy as an annoyance and inconvenince. Bored with his life, academic WalterVale (Richard Jenkins) remains throughout the movie as dour and phlegmatic. Only emotional outburst is anger at the detention centre when he arrives to find that his charismatic Syrian drummer friend has been deported. Contrived scene too, in a movie desperate to provide some drama, as the lawyer would surely have informed him of this before hand, and there would have been no need to go all the way to queens to the detention centre at all. The ending was effective – Walter on a subway platform drumming angrily and loudly, in sorrow at his new life with the Syrian and the Syrian's mother, being truncated. He deported, she going back to be with the deported son. With no money worries though, surely Walter could travel to Syria and renew his new friendships. There is nothing in his life as an academic anymore. He had been teaching the same subject, the same class for twenty years. His wife had died, he had not made use of his roomy New York Chelsea apartment for ten years.
The lively early scenes reminded me of my Oz days when I was also tempted try yetanaother aspect of those tumultuous times – joining the Rainbow Gypsies (Jamian and Ricardo and Poppy etc) whom I had met in Morocco. Me loosening up in the way that Walter loosened up by becoming a drummer in Central Park and going to nightclubs to listen to the Syrian. Yes, the Gypsies in London (I published a couple of pieces by them in Oz) and later in California. Bolinas itself became became of part of that ineraseable change of life for me.
Still, a lovely quiet independent movie, beautifully constructed and edited, with intimate scenes of day to day life in Manhattan. Makes a point of how America has changed post September 11. Greater security, paranoia particularly about people of middle eastern experience eg Syrians. Both the drummer and his girlfriend (shefrom Senegal) were illegals.
Home later, upstairs, I find the New Yorker with The Visitor review in it. "The movie is scrupulous, intelligent and faintly tedious – a little crude drama would not have hurt."




Earlier stuff, for what it's worth.

PAN'S LABYRINTH
Director: Guillermo del Toro

What can I say ? An absolutely brilliant movie. I did not laugh but I certainly cried, was certainly thrilled  - not to mention unnerved by the brutality shown without compromise. I said to Ian that it was a movie to see alone. "I was certainly glad there was no one sitting near me." I had to work hard to control myself at one point, to prevent myself breaking out into a paroxsysm of sobs.
The point where the 'arrival of the cavalry in the nick of time," was used, it worked because del Toro had not employed it up to that point. What genuine relief . If Mercedes had died as well as the doctor and the stutterer and the rabbitters and the mother and the heroine – all the good guys - it would have been too much.
In the last third, when cruel reality threatens to overwhelm the magical side of the story, I desperately wanted the fairies and the satyr to come back. But the heroine had disobeyed her instructions, eaten of forbidden fruit (a couple of grapes from the banquet) and had not been forgiven. She is denied thereafter, their help. I loved the transformation of the phasmids, real creatures, into the fairies. I loved the final message of the movie as we watched a flower bloom on a stem, that amidst all the cruelty of the human world, the real world, we can still see the beauty of the other world, if we observe nature closely.
As with Breaking and Entering, I liked the way the plotting was carefully worked out..
They don’t make movies like this is America any more. Maybe The Last of the Mohicans qualifies. Politically, perhaps something like Blood Diamond. Maybe Apocalypto if I can bring myself to see it. But the combination of magicality, emotional depth and genuine political wartime reality (set in a remote area of Fascist Spain  in 1944 – Franco forces against freedom fighters who admit they are fighting for a lost cause, but worth it just to make it more difficult for the Fascists) makes it hard  to imagine that any one can approach this del Toro achievement. The full cinematic experience. Intense, sumptuous, original, thrilling in both the underworld and the overworld. One of the great movies. Surely it is nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar and surely it has to win. The Captain's loathsome character brilliantly portrayed by
Best animated sequences: The toad vomiting up itself. The mandrake root under the bed, squirming like a new born baby. Horrifying when it was thrown on the fire.


STRANGER THAN FICTION
Director:
I enjoyed but a lesser film than say Being John Malkovich and Adaptation desspite the terrific idea that it starts off with – a middle aged accountant findshimself the subject ofa femald voice in his head who is working on howto kill him off in thebvook she is writing.. To her he is a fictional character, but he of coruse, (Will Ferrell) is a real person who does not want to die. Fortunately for him she is struggling with a writer's block and she cannot work out how to make him satisfactorily die.  So he has time to locate the author and convince her not to kill him. To help him find her he hires a literary consultant, played amusingly by Dustin Hoffman. It is all nicely worked out but with not sufficient edge or imagination or bravura, rapidly turning  into a boy meets girl (Maggie Gyllenhaal) romance. I have never liked Emma Thompson who plays the distraught writer. She always seems so self conscious.

TANGO MASCULINO (theatre)
Director" Barry French
I sort of enjoyed the play, a small scaled gay play set in a bordello in Buenos Aires at the turn of the century (1900). and concerns the relationship between Rosende (Shane C. Rodrigo, a superbly muscled torso) ) the tough capo and the enforcer at the bordello, and Jorge (Paulo Benevides) a stripling, country boy, who arrives in the city looking for a new life, but is shy of his feelings and of the fact that he wants the tough guy to fuck him and thus be called a maricon (a faggot). OK in that macho society to fuck, but not to be fucked. That means you are a woman and not even a real one.
Excellent sets by one Tom Bannerman with whom I talked in the foyer afterwards, going straight up to him after being told who he was, having been looking at the man throughout the evening and liking his looks – large hooked nose, well trimmed grey beard …(I will have to ask Barry if he is gay…probably not)
Plenty of Latino music, cabaret songs from La Canta (Ray Chong Nee) in a very deep voice, songs to link the action and time together, providing commentary on what is going on. Also interesting to look at, the tango dancing well choreographed by Paul Cordeiro who alternates as the Rosendo character.. The two men tango together and compete for power over the other as they dance and eventually turn from dance to sex. They have a volatile relationship, in turn brutal and tender. All the men seem to carry knives and will fight at the drop of a hat, quarrels of a minor nature settled by a knife fight and perhaps a death. Such a fight occurred in the first half, Rosendo gets Jorge, help him dispose of the body in the river as proof of his love. More than washing his hair and feet etc which Jorge finds demeaning.
    Jorge has trouble with his feelings throughout, more than Rosende who is confidently macho. Eventually to prove his manhood, Jorge has sex with Julia who is Rosende's girlfriend, and a whore at the brothel. When Rosende finds out, the two men tango, kiss, go up to Rosende's  room, have sex, come back and fight with knives and Rosende is wounded. But not mortally. Disgraced, having been cuckolded and then beaten in a fight, he flees. The strong man brought down. The final tender/violent scenes at the finale I found very touching and a tear or two trickled down. Generally the play was a melodrama, (Barry says he played that down a bit) no brilliant lines really. The play works because of the sets and the genuine feel to the ambience partly created by the fact that the actors were mostly south american and perforce, speaking English with Latino accents. The dancing of course was a plus. The attractiveness of the two leads.
Two blue doors on the left hand side were used for entrances and exits. The actors unfortunately politely closing them every time they went in or out whatever the emotions of their exits and entrances, and the emotions were often considerable. An irritating fault. I told Barry about this at intermission and noted that they did not politely close the doors all the time in the second half. I told Tom Bannerman also and he agreed that better use could be made of his great doors. Tom noted in return to my comments, that the actors should not (in Buenos Aires in 1900 ) be stubbing their cigarettes out in the bottom of paper cups. A fling to the floor, perhaps a stubbing out under a tangoing foot.

NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Director: Richard Eyre
I enjoyed it thoroughly. Soft ending tho, both Lucienne and I thought Barbara (Judi Dench) was let off the hook for all her duplicities and manipulations. Was she forgiven by the author (Zoe Heller)on accunt of her suffering unbearable lonliness and thus reduced to this sort of behaviour out of total desperation ?  She was old, she had lost her loving companion, an old moggie, and had a restraining order out against her for assaulting her former lover. The girlfriend before (Sheba, a sort of bohemian, one time fun loving hippie type, now rich from an inheritance and living in a mansion) Cate Blanchett, superficial, accomodating, hapless, beautiful to a fault, going with every breeze that blew, Sheba, good mother to her two children – one a slightly troubled teenage girl, the other a clownish Downs Syndrome boy, but a bad wife to her much older  husband (Bill Nighy)…she knows she is a will of the wist, drifts along, has heard her own mother call her "without substance" and so (but also out of boredom with her marriage) takes a job teaching art at a local secondary modern school where everyone falls in love with her in some way, including Judi Dench, a bitter lonely long time history teacher close to retirement age,  whom all the staff dislikes for her superior ways and acid tongue. Also smitten is handsome Irish 15 year old Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson) who has a great mume and dad but tells of beatings form Dad and neglect from Mum to engage Sheba's sympathy. He can also draw and so she starts giving him special attention feeling it is her missiona s a t eacherto rescue these young students from their working class lives …he notices her vulnerability and makes a move. Soon she is in love with him and is persuaded withough much difficulty into having an affair with him Meanwhile Judi Dench is doing her own seduction of Sheba who is too new at the school to know what a moster she is and when Barbara does a few little helpful things like breaking up a fight in Shebas classroom plus hints on how to discipline boys, she gets herself invited to lunch at the mansion and she too in then seducced and goes all out for a loving affair, feeling this will be the love of her life and the end of her lonliness. Sheba will move in with her and they will share the rest oftheir lives together.
    The set up. Then the plot thickens. Barbara accidentaly comes upon Sheba and Steven fucking after hours at the school, and sees her opportunity. She is duty bound to report the illegal affair but instead uses her knowledge as emotional leverage over Sheba who responds with utter gratefulness, promising she will end the affair the minute the school year ends. Which is close.
From this point on, nothing goes according to Barbara's plan. I was constantly surprised by the twists and turns.
Rather too tight editing in some places. I would have preferred a couple of explanatory scenes here and there. Too short at 92 minutes.
Would have been better if Dench not quite so old ? There would have seemed more possibility of there being some sort of relationship ?
Barbara contemplates suicide as her life falls apart, but she soldiers on and is last seen on a park bench overlooking London picking up another young thing, Debbie (?) from  Shameless, no doubt embarking on another brutal possessive affair which will end in tragedy once more.
Sheba does time (two years) and goes back to her boring marriage. THE END.
The parts add up to more than the whole.
I found Steven, the Irish boy, sexy and lovely to look at. Paul Byrnes called him sweet but crafty.

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
Director:
Why was it less interesting than it should have been. Packed with fabulous music, exotic scenes, village life, the hilly landscape but the hero was no hero, a rat in effect, dislikable, a bad hairdo, a bad attitude, feckless, and I did not care what happened to him. Down the drain he went, all the way to his unlikely rescue and escape, in the context of the Entebbe Hijacking and at the expense of the life of the other doctor. Naïve certainy, cocky, arrogant, shown best with the attitude towards  the worldly wise British High Commissioner whom Nicolas treated with almost unbelievable contempt, partly because he was English and he had a cliché Scottish attitude towards the bloody English …Amin of course was also dislikable. A bufoon but paranoid and deadly. Turn on the charm, was Nicolas's last advice to him, which was typical of Nicolas. Play the fool, make em laugh and to hell with the truth, which of course all the journalists already knew about. The scenes of Amin's parties, the decadence, the 'good life' at the elite top, which Nicolas was seduced by (even to the extent of sleeping with one of Amin's wives, the end result of which was her getting tortured, mutilated and killed) were frequent to begin with, great music (version of Freedom's just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose, and an African chorus of By Yon Bonny Banks for the pleasure of Amin, dressed in a kilt)…
I thought of course a lot about my own book with its Amin like figure, Ulysses Oratorio, who appears at the end, with the whole book building towards his climactic appearance …he is  really a side show and played more for laughs than horror but horror there certainly is…

LITTLE CHILDREN
Director: Tom Field (he did In the Bedroom, another creepy suburban drama)
Dysfunctionality in the affluient  US burbs.. One critic said it was anotherAmerican Beauty.There was no one really likeable in the characters, nothing likeable in the milieu. Louise (she wanted to go to a daytime session as she was going to some Rosie Nice (latter has started up a website for people going into hospital – what to prepare for, what to take etc -  event in  the early evening) found it slow and too long but I did not mind the pacing. It was a slow burn as Field gathered in all the various elements of his story. Serious Desperate Housewives stuff in a way, very serious, with no scenes wasted. Who would have thought that the scenes with Brad, the feckless mildly bored, unambitious serenely suburbanly handsome husband - with the overly busy wife (Jennifer Connolly) – admiring the skateboarding boys at the beginning of the movie was more than a passing scene setting incident, that in fact it provided a vital clue to character, and to a crucial final scene…that sentence got a little complicated.
There was an intrusive voice over. Completely unnecessary only reiterating what was clearly given us by the plot and the acting of the characters.
Kate Winslet's Susan was played dumpy and plain, concealing her ravishing good looks for the sake of the character. Trapped in a tired marriage, with her husband (a re-brander, and very successful businessnan, living with her in a huge mansion-like suburban house in a leafy suburb somewhere in Massachusetts) scarcely there, either at work or up in his study masturbating to a website called Dirty Kitty or something
I only realised the meaning of the title, Little Children, when it was all over. Everyone in it is immature, still playing out their childhood. And paying the price.
Susan has a small child – with whom she is short tempered – and takes her every day to the park where she meets Brad who is house husband with a child the same age, and slowly, there, and at the local swimming pool, she forms a relationship with him, finally it becomes fully sexual with the two of them eventually deciding to elope together, leaving their otherwise occupied spouses and their tired marriages..
Dysfunctional suburbia. Other crucial elements of the plot ?
(1) Involves Ronnie (well played by Jackie Earle Haley) a sex offender out of gaol, released back into the community where his mum looks after him. Marvellous, slightly unbelievable scene when Ronnie takes a swim at the local swimming pool which clears out when the mothers and their children realise who it is swimming amongst them. Ronnie's mother is always urging him to be a good boy. but he has just come out of jail and clear, eventually, that it was not for the first time. He is sympathetic, but he really IS a bad boy – not a murderer, but certainly a threatener – (he gets his kicks from masturbating to orgasm in front of others)
(2) involves Larry who becomes obsessed with getting rid of Ronnie from the community even tho as it turns out, he was dismissed from the police force for shooting a little boy dead in a mall. Unjustified. He panicked.
I enjoyed the gathering tension around the characters, the increasing depth of the emotions involved, the spookiness, the creepiness of the hidden desires and behaviour behind the serene suburban conformist façade (Peyton Place began it all).
It all ends in some kind of tragedy, but I did not feel emotional about it, not much sympathy for the characters except perhaps for Kate Winslet's Susan who is badly let down at the end. Hmm like Olivia de Havilland's Heiress, let down by Montgomery Clift when it comes to the crunch. Did Matt allow himself to be distracted by  the skateboarding when he should have been meeting Susan, because deep down, he really did not want to elope with Susan? It had been a whim, the original decision and now, with second thoughts …
Anyway, a good movie.
Both Louise and I talked about it a lot afterwards and were quite unsettled when we had a cup of coffee afterwards at a Gloria Jeans type café at Entertainment Quarter.

MARCH 07

MAN OF THE YEAR
Director: Barry Levinson
Robin Williams funny enough, good dirty jokes in fact throughout, Laura Linney brilliant as usual in a key role. Jeff Goldblum malevolent, Christopher Walken brilliant as Tom Dobbs campaign manager, fast moving, a nice tension sustained throughout, and the whole thing plausible enough with echoes of the way that George W. Bush gained the presidency illegally or at least by clever sleight of hand, making use of the Bush Governor in Florida and the Republican control of the Supreme Court. Plus those troublesome hanging chads and the computerised voting system.  It is not what I thought it was going to be although I was warned that it turned into a thriller half way through. A good little thriller really, but the movie is short and goes by at almost too rapid a clip. Doesn't really sock it to anyone except corporate greed and dishonesty if that is what is needed to keep up profits. It is a movie where integrity wins out. As Sandra Hall lamented, it lacks a hard core instead of the soft one that it has. I liked the intelligent design joke – The human body? Putting a waste disposal plant right next to a recreation area ? Intelligent ?


THE GOOD GERMAN
Director: Steven Soderberg
I enjoyed it more than Lucienne who was irritated by all the coincidences. I liked the graincy black and white on small screen, in emulation of the period and of the movies made at that time like Casablanca and The Third Man. But it needed a better plot. Or there was too much plot (and therefore the coincidences) to make it all fit ? Hard to tell. Cate Blanchett too cold to re-kindle the old pre-war romance between George Clooney. Has no emotional weight for us. I would have extended that scene where they finally kiss and embrace into some of the night they actually spend together. Not a fucking scene but a warm affectionate one.
Good acting throughout, (Jack Thompson, as a hearty but venal Senator, Beau Bridges as an implacable  military top  brass, extraordinary faces etc but the real surprise was Tobey Magiire terrific as a ferocious black marketeer operating as a driver for Clooney. Too bad he gets shot in the first twenty minutes. Plot revolves around Lena (Blanchett) trying to get (Emile) her husband out of Berlin to safety. Emile is wanted by both Russians and the Americans -  because of his association with one Bettman, a rocket scientist that the Americans and Russians both want for his ability to develop atomic weaponry. But he is a compromsied figure for he ran also, one of the worst concentration camps in Germany and responsible for gassing of thousands of Jews. Emile is the good German, and is trying to get out of Berlin to tell the world about Bettman, whose secretary he was and who has all the secrets about Bettman in a file that he hands over to Lena. The Americans want Emile dead, so do the Russians because they want the fact that Bettman is a monster kept a secret so they can with impunity, employ him after the war is over. I think that is the story. Lena fails – Emile gets killed in the escape, she is shot but survives. It turns out that she will look to her own survival more than anything else in the world. She is a Jew and she survived by sleeping with the enemy (Emile belonged to SS) and by turning over 8 Jews for extermination. Off she goes to freedom in aCasablanca like ending, with Clooney left behind sort of thinking, what a monster, just as well I did not fall in lover with her all over again.
Unsatisfactory really. Yes too many coincidences and not enough at stake somehow, not enough warmth between the two protagonists, all style and not enough substance. Do we care ? No.  But it was never boring. I enjoyed the cheesy B-movie soundtrack, the black and the white, the bombed out locations. I would have liked more night club and bar scenes. The were cut too short for the same of inclusion of endless shots of staircases and  doors and clandestine meetings in gloomy mansions with debris and rubble outside. Very little suspense or tension.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS
Director:
The movie was as good as touted to be. Emotionally powerfully. Not a roller coaster like Pans Labyrinth, but by the end (the very end) packing a powerful punch which had me choked up just like in Labyrinth. Paroxysms of sobs which I had to work hard to contain me being in a public cinema and a crowded one at that. Yet another 'good German' theme, this one streets ahead of Soderberg's The Good German which did not really work at all on an emotional level. Blanchett too cold, Clooney too bland, the 'good' german not in it long enough for one to empathise with him. The love affair between Clooney and Blanchett not allowed to blossom because she was such a compromised figure ?  
But I fell in love with the 'good' German in The Lives of Others. The Stasi interrogator and spy who finds compassion and lets his victim off the hook with disastrous unexpected consequences for him and tragic ones for his victim.
I wish I could cry said Peter who was also affected by the movie. "You liked it because it was about goodness, he observed. Yes, I had to say.
In Pans Labyrinth the paroxsysms came a little earlier, when Mercedes was rescued at the very last second after it had appeared that like all the other republicans, she would be captured and tortured.
A perfectly paced movie; I was surprised when I read that it was 2 and a half hours long. Never obscure, beautifully shot, wonderfully acted from everyone. Unusually for me I twigged that the interrogator had removed the incriminating typewriter minutes before it was revealed. Pity he could not have let the actress who had broken down in the interrogation, know this. She assumed it would be discovered and that she had decided to kill herself rather than bear the burden of guilt. Her situation was pretty impossible anyway.

THE HOST
Director:
The monster – a lolloping fish lizard  - was terrific but the movie never really got beyond B Grade. The Korean family who tried to save their teenage sister/daughter were so unprepossessing we found it hard to sympathise with them and their plight. Cultural differences. Working class poor. The family ran a little fast food kiosk on the banks of the polluted river where the mutated monster fish/lizard lived. Gritty poor urban scenery, the concrete urban dystopia of Asia. Poor, mentally compromised hero unwittingly becomes the host for the virus which the mutated created is supposed to be spreading. The forces of police, medical and army arraigned against the working and non working homelesss poor who take matters into their own hands in the face of official obstructionism, overkill, exploitation, dishonesty. Ultimate villains are American scientists who polluted the river in the first place. SARS like terror exploited as a means of controlling unruly lawless populace. Great use of  urban locations – the river's bridges, its under and over passes, the city's sewers etc.

THE ILLUSIONIST
Director:
Edward Norton is beginning to remind me of Montgomery Clift. The movie makes you take it seriously probably because of the measure of the performances from Norton as the illusionist Eisenheim, and Jessica Biels (?) as Sophie, his love. Rufus Sewell is also good as the villain with early hints of his villainy planted before it actually becomes apparent. Good lesson for me and my character The Great Liberator. But ultimately the movie has no weight at all, and somehow that was a wonderful feeling to leave the movie with. The Incredible Lightness of Being. It was all an illusion, the whole thing, particularly the awful things that happened. The murder of Sophie for example, the disappearance of Eisenman and so on. The gravity of Norton set it up I think. I loved the way he acted with his teeth, a misshapen thing that charmed happened when he smiled or held his mouth open. The meticulousness of the production. The romantic music (or ominous when appropriate). An elaborate fairytale ultimately. The Prestige, another period piece about rival magicians each bent on destroying the other, was also carefully and brilliantly produced, but nowhere near as attractive as this one. The characters in the much more complex The Prestige were all dislikable. As far as The Illusionist went I did not warm to the Chief Inspector who has almost as much screen time as Norton Which actor was that ? Too bland and emotionless. Did he act at all ? The stillness worked for Norton but not for him.



APRIL

HOT FUZZ
Director:
I enjoy the movie more than Peter. He says he gets disturbed by some violence, often when it is spoof violence as this movie changes into half way through. For the first half, it operates very like a classic Ealing British comedy, with the best of British character actors like Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy performing brilliantly, indeed the entire cast is brilliant throughout in this regard, but then the first gruesome "accident" happens. The Sanford villagers like to call this murder an accident - there hasn't been a murder in the village for over  100 years and they are not about to start having murders now, just when they are in line for the best village in England award. The 'accidents' continue to pile up each one more gruesome than the next.
Hero is Sergeant Nicholas Angel, (Simon Pegg) who also co-wrote and was also responsible for Shaun of  the Dead, a spoof of zombie movie genre, seconded from London  where he is so efficient he is making all the other London bobbies look bad. Sent to a country village to get rid of him. Seemingly trying to find lawbreakers in a peaceful village where there seem to be none, Angel sees all these 'accidents' as murder, and starts proper investigations. It turns out there is a developer in a nearby industrial town who is trying to open a huge supermarket in Sandford, the quaint old village,  and the local supermarket owner is spearheading a drive to stop the take over which the villagers fear will destroy forever life as they know it. For once the villains are not the developers but those who are at risk of being developed. The small minded old fashioned villagers. The hilarity is replaced by violence when  the Sergeant decides to take on the forces of darkness which have taken over the village. The spoof is of westerns like The Magnificent Seven and other more spaghetti like westerns, or High Noon where a vigilante figure rides into town and cleans up the baddies single handledly. Even in this phase of the movie there are still wonderful sight gags, like the running ones involving the escaped swan, and the land mine which will not explode. The buddy movie is also in there, with the relationship  between Angel and his dim sidekick quite sweet, particularly when they get drunk together and watch violent DVDs.
Never less than interesting, and I had seen enough spaghetti westerns to appreciate the spoofiness, but I found the first half and the set up almost deliriously funny, with diminishing returns as the violence increased. The movie in this latter half certainly fifteen minutes too long and very very noisy. It's given me a headache I said to Peter partly true partly to emphasise with his not liking it very much.  The headache may have had to do with the half bottle of wine. I had my final slug of it at the commencement of the movie. I hope I did not have wine breath. On the whole, better not to drink before a movie. In the Hot Fuzz case, it may have helped to enhance my enjoyment, perhaps it partly accounted for the deliriously amused response I had to the first forty minutes of the movie.

THE SINGER
Director:
I enjoyed it but the movie never really gets out of a low gear. I never relaxed so busy keeping my cold from being obvious, determined NOT to cough or sniff or breathe over Lucienne …lugubrious sosmetimes charming French love songs of an earlier era sung to an ageing crowd of Clerment Ferrand folks havein a good  time  on Saturday night, listening, eating, dancing to Gerard playing the part of an ageing lounge singer with dyed hair, but not raddled, very together really if not that happy, picking up the mature ladies he wants. Inot his life comes a beautifulyoungwoman who gets drunk but rejedcdts his advances after tht first one nightstand when she flees in the morningbefore he walkes up. She is grieving for loss of her husband, and she is bringing up a small child who is looked after by a surrogate mother to whom the child relates to rather than to his mother. She is sad. So isDepartdiue andthey eventually form an unluikely relationship…


PRICELESS
Director:
Audrey Tatou in one gorgeous creation after another but somehow managed to look terrific at the beginning and to look less glamorous and a bit worn out by the end. Unintentional Was it a difficult shoot. On the other hand, the hero, started off nerdy and ended up looking fabulous. Intentional.  Interesting for its glamrous and beautiful locasles – Biarritz and then Monaco,  the lush expensive life at the big hotels there, everyone prostituting themselves, the young and the beautiful being bought with bling by old millionaires who still have libido or just want young things on their arm to prove they can afford them with the money they have earned in their capitalistic lifeimes.  Tatou and the man are both hustlers in this game. Tatou an old hand teaches the man the tricks of the trade. The film played with a hard edge but eventually settled for fluff and a happy ending. Too bad.  Perhaps the hotels would not have given such access if they knew they were going to be insulted and exposed  more than they actually were. It was fascinating the life that was revealed anyway. $30,000 watch ?


MAY
(upon return from China)

SPIDER MAN
Director: Sam Raimi.
Disappointing, family values, preaching to teenagers about choice and good and evil, and how everyone has to understand that both reside in all of us and one has to choose good over evil. Doppelgangers and Jung.)



THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP
Director: Gondry)
Very disappointing, despite a terrific performance from Gael Garcia Bernal, who threw himself into it, with all the charm he could muster, and a good one also from Charlotte Gainsbourg. Directed by one Gondry who directed The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and before that Adaptation, both with the help of Charlie Kaufman on the screenplays, who was not in on the writing of this one. Much missed for the film lacked dimension and was essentially frivolous. Interesting and perceptive stuff on the difficulties a relationship can run into despite love on both sides, as the movie entered its climactic scenes, but not enough to entirely rescue it. Too much misguided confusing and ugly (not meant to be) fantasy and dream sequences. I loved the toy horse playing the piano as it galloped across the keys. Went with Lucienne whose opinion was much like mine, and Margaret Fink who hated it. She had wanted to see NOISE the new Australian thriller and Lucienne talked her out of it.

HALF NELSON
Director:
A total surprise for me. I had somehow assumed that it was yet another idealistic teacher in a rough neighbourhood school story, the  teacher inspires the kids andthere is some sort of happy ending with the kids no longer fighting and dying or on drugs and winning something or other, like the current Hilary Swank vehicle which is supposed to be very good. But no, it was Dan, the teacher who was the problem, not the kids. Ryan Gosling the Canadian actor was  nominated for the Best Actor at the Oscars and I would have given it to him rather than to the show piece role that got it for Forest Whittaker (Idi Amin) – such a beautiful young man to look at, just for starters and with his beard and lovely lips he reminded me just a bit of Ian (with a different set of toruble, asI said to Ian this morning , to have him almost flush with pleasure at the comparison and the side remark) and what a series of tics and gestures he came up with as his troubles mounted. A tough little movie, not depressing at all and uncompromising. No happy ending in any large sense. Just the hope that having taken a shower and changed his clothes  he might be fit to go back to work as a school teacher the next day. Free basing his core drug problem. Unfulfilment in his life at the bottom of it all. The school kids like his free and easy teaching style, as we as audience do too, but it just saves him from total wreckage rather than anything more as as the film progresses he gets more and more disoriented and unhappy. Makes mistakes – taking on Frank who wants to have the thirteen year old favourite pupil who is in love with Dan in her little girlish way, non sexual, and getting laughed at by Frank who is a drug dealer because Frank knows that Dan is a free baser. Who is Dan to make judgments on Frank ?  He also has a boring relationship with anaother teacher and his early girlfriend also has had enough of him and is marrying someone else…he almost rapes the teacher, and gets punched in the mouth for his early morning unannounced arrival at her apartment. His parents are no help – hippies who have become yuppies, overweight and heavy drinkers…and so on. Acutely observed mores of this racially integrated small town…lovely movie. Tight editing. Just when you think that this is an impossible scene to ever resolve, CUT! .Great music. Even the rap.  I  would not mind seeing it again.

ZODIAC
Director: David Fincher
Long and complicated but slowly very engrossing.  Eventually as San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhal) gets totally obsessed over the years and the other two (detective Mark Ruffalo and the alcoholic Chronicle journalist (Robert Downey) drop out, and Gyllenhal homes in on the chief suspect, excitement and tension grows.  In the first half hour of course there are two grisley incidents superbly filmed and filled with tension, particularly the killings by Lake Berryessa. How did we know, asked Peter Kingston, that he wore that mask and costume that day ? Neither of those two survived. The only survivors noted in the movie were (a) the man in the first killing, who positively (80% sure) identified, years later, Lee as the killer that night. The survivor was a broken man by that time, destroyed by the savagery of the attempt to kill him, riddled with bullets etc. DNA (compromised) did not positively connect Lee to the killing.
(b) the mother on the highway with her baby, stopped by Zodiac who allegedly repairs for her a loose wheel. Very polite. But a mile further on her wheel falls off. He loosed it rather than corrected it. He appears again apologises, gives her a ride 'to the nearest  service station' but goes passed it and she begins to panic, her baby in her arms begins to cry. He suddenly turns ugly. 'I'm going to throw that baby out the window and then I'm going to kill you." We don’t see then what happens. Next scene is the woman screaming and injured on the highway with a big rig stopped by her. Hysterical about her baby. Did the Zodiak throw the baby out and did she then leap from the speeding car to get her baby back? They try to calm her down and then she hears the baby cry below the embankment, she rushes to it and reappears with it in her arms. Cut. Terrifying sequence.
Gyllenhal accumulated a great deal of circumstantial evidence implicating Lee. Lee died of a massive heart attack before he could be arrested. As played he was an extremely creepy character, taunting in the way the zodiac letters were taunting. He wore a zodiak watch also at his first interview. The other creepy scarey suspect was the man who ran the little cinema where Lee first watched The Most Dangerous Animal.  157 minutes long but good. All those phone calls. All that heavy breathing down the line. Late sixties, seventies, before computers and mobiles. Even faxes in short supply.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

Director: Amy Ward

Movie packed a punch. Pretty rivetting and pretty appalling, the behaviour of Father Oliver who was primarily a sexual a predator who used his priestly role and communication skills to give him access to trusting simple people whom he seduced in great numbers over a long period of time; young girls (one as young as five when he started fucking her) young boys and even the parents of these children. Mothers in particular who fell in love with him and his charming ways and who perhaps were not enjoying good sexual relations with their husbands any more. The movie based around him in Ireland where he now lives freely after serving seven years in jail in California. Supported by the church still with an annuity. Movie lets Oliver hang himself and puts the boot more into the bishops and cardinals who covered up the abuse and rather than sacking him, just serially moved him to another parish nearby. Short of priests. Fresh meat for Father Ollie.
The boot particularly directed at Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles discese who scarcely had an answer (except cant  recall) to the accusations by the interwiewers in the movie and was rescued only by his lawyer who finger could be seen wagging from the side, No you cant ask that question, it's private and confidential. Not that the Cardinal sitting there silent, was able to give an answer anyway.
Commentators used the word 'disassociated' for Oliver, a man who was unable to realise or understand the effect that his predations had on his victims. Pedophilia is rife of course and certainly a centuries old culture of it in the Roman Catholic church ever since the Pope introduced the celibacy rule in the Middle Ages – the church decided that they wanted the estates of priests. If they had no wife and no children any assets would come to the church.
Ollie a monster, but I cannot get over feeling that in many pedophile cases no real harm is done ?  Philip Bell was similar to Ollie. Had no concept of himself as less than a perfect and model citizen. We hear about cases where harm IS done, (and DONT hear about cases where harm is done, for whatever reason) and we have three major examples of this in this movie. But have others just got on with their life, repaired the damage – if any damage – and forgotten about it ? There are good pedophiles and bad ones ?  Is my attitude as insouciant as Ollie's ? Yes, Father Ollie a pretty bad one. In the interviews with him he appeared pretty guilt free and genial with a final wink and always a twinkle in his eye, writing letters of apology to all his victims and suggesting they come to Ireland have had a get together with him,  a hug and no hard feelings sort of stuff.  The victims the movie dealt with were not having a bar of it.
Preisdent George W. Bush we learned, pardoned Pope Ratzinger for his part in the cover up in America. Bishop Law of Boston managed to survive the scandal in his diocese, resigned but given a job in the Vatican, having a role to play in the funeral of Pope John Paul 11 Vatican refused to see the two women victims who came to see the Pope. Their letters were unanswered. St Peters in Rome has never looked more sinister. Is Cardinal Mahoney getting away scot free ? I assume the Catholic Church is keeping a low profile over the appearance of  this movie. Church apparently at first tried to blame it on homosexsual priests and got rid of them or as many as they could find. But of coruse most molestaytions ar not by homosexuals but by heterosexuals and it did not get to the heart of the problem which is endemic and has a lot to do with the celibacy rule.

HOLDING THE MAN
Playhouse Theatre, Opera House
Director:
from the novel by Tium Conigrave.
Wednesday 1pm matinee. Row R was the closest I could get. A full house. . Breaking the routine (or formula as Ian might call it) and it was delightful to be out in the crystal sunshine, the first real winter day. I wore my grey herring bone tweed jacket which dwould have been unthinkable a  few days ago. The big change of course is the first of the cold nights.

That unfortunate sneering face (to what extent does it indicate he is a sneerer ?) Mark Matherson at intermission  with an ungainly plump man in very baggy shorts who knew both Conigrave and John. He said in reality, Tim was very tall and John very short. In their late thirties when they died. Mark's housemate, Adam,  plump (and with a barrel of a torso that is firm as a drum  - as I noted at the GSN dinner last weekend) was also there. So too were Joseph vdv and Rogo …I chatted with them on the walk back from the Opera House along the front until Kingo from behind, reminded me that we were going to the Library to see Secret Sydney and World Press Photo Exhibition.
Oh said Joe I thought you were alone
He's very popular said Kingo of me and I introduced them all before going off up Macquarie Street.

Row R was a little further back than I would ha vd liked to have been. ("I heard weeping from as far back as Row R" Star Observer critic) Some of the amusing dialogue in the first half with the funny suburban voices was a bit hard to hear. I envied Mark and Adam down there in Row C centre. It was not first time Mark had seen it – he eventually and obliquely let on.
A love story with a tragic ending. I guess one does not see too many of them on the big Sydney stage. It was told with humour and tenderness and wit. A light touch with imaginative use made - of puppets, of a drag queen playing the mother of one of the boys (John), of actors playing multiple roles. I liked the spigot for the wine that mum drank, set in the back wall. Got a laugh each time she poured a drink. On the whole .Brian Thompson's sets were tacky but made good use of. Sheets shrouded the various bits and pieces at the back and use made ofthese when the hospital sequences came up or the boys were 'in bed' together – no real bed except the hospital death bed late in the second act.
Yes, sweet, funny, tender, poignant, unflinching or candid in the way it discussed say, anal sex. Eventually  it was extremely sad.I was glad I had a handkerchief. About love rather than death and how the men coped with its approach. Brilliant and moving touch at the end, substituting a life size death puppet for John and having him stand back there on the stage at the death bed scene. Hot salty tears and a lot of mucus (that suggestion of a head cold that I have) poured down my cheeks over my lips and over my beard and I let them. I took out my hanky only when the applause began and the lights came on.
Full house on a Wednesday….this one will run and run. Has it been made ito a movie already? Why did I think it was a New Zealander who had written it rather than a Melburnian ?   Ah there is a New Zealand author who had a successful gay book with a lovely funny gayish title …now what is its name ? And it has been made into a not very successful movie, shown at Queen Screen last year or the year before .so in faact I don’t think that I have read Holding the Man.

INFAMOUS
(Director: (and screen writer) Douglas McGrath)
A gloomier picture than Capote, sadder, not with the same box office appeal, emphasising the nature of the relationship between murderer Perry Smith (Daniel Craig – long before he became James Bond) and Capote (Toby Jones) more much more than the more perhaps crowd pleasing earlier feature with Philip Hoffman also doing a great Capote impersonation but looking less like the actual guy than Toby Jones. Capote's agony and his shallowness both conveyed much more intensely in this second film. Jones a little cras in his portrayal. Perhaps Capote in real life was a little more elegant more charming? Just a little more class ? Greg Castillo said one reason Capote did not write a great deal after In Cold Blood was not just that he sold his soul and lost a love for In Cold Blood, but that he got into heroin. He did write La Cote Basque and he did write Mojave, both substantial and good pieces neither however as good as The Muses are Heard, which I think is his best book.
And he did organize his famous event, the Black and White Ball. With some of the fortune he made from In Cold Blood, no doubt. I had no idea he had to wait five years for publication while the appeals were heard. He and the publishers wanted the deaths so that book would have the right ending. What did Capote do during that interval ? Have I read the definitive bio or not ? I thought I had. I remember little of it if I did.  Infamous indicates that he seduced Perry Smith with all the guile he could muster in the course of obtaining the information he wanted from Smith who was a lost soul an easy target in a way, unrecognized as  a would be artist from the trailer trash side of american life and utterly vulnerable there on Death Row. After Daniel Craig slammed him into a corner of the cell and then advanced on him (casting an eye back lest a guard might be watching) using words of rape, did I see Capote surreptitiously loosening his belt, to give easier access if that was what was going to finally happen ?  Or was I imagining it ? Cut! Certainly he later got a real open mouth kiss. Again Cut!
Capote turned down an offer of a blow job from the other murderer, but did he accept a Perry offer ? Wasthat satisfied and triumphant smirk later in his hotel for a blow job he gave Perry or for the fact that Perry Smith fucked him ? Fast and loose with the facts here, as I think capote was, more discreetly, in In Cold Blood. How much could have gone on in that little cell with other prisoners adjoining and the guards lurking. Very little. And how many times did he actually sit in the cell with that prisoner. Why was the prisoner not taken out to a special room for the interviewing.  Yes lots and lots of poetic licence. In reality, if he did all the interviewing over time in the cell did Capote pee in the cell ? And was Perry Smith really gay as this film seems to indicate. Hickock or whatever the other guy 's name was (ignored in the other film as well as in this one) during the course of the murders seemed to think so, called him a faggot more than once for being kind and having a modicum  of compassion, and his gay taunts drove Perry to kills the two men to show he was not a pussy.
Did he have any last words ? asked one Capote's society swans.
He said he loved me. In the film Perry gave a kiss on the cheek as he passed by.
The local DA said Perry said nothing at all.
Pretty brutal hanging scene.
Was it really in such an open place and on such a rainy morning ?
Capote himself, in  the movie, said nothing in response to both men's thanks and farewells. It seemed  there was no one from their families there to see them off. (or offed, if you like)

Breach
 Director: Billy Ray
I dashed down to see it at George Street   3 55, tickets on sale at the Candy Bar, ghastly, slow moving queue, after all the good reports I have had of it, not to mention the starry ads. Robert Lake and Peter Kingston both, recommended it. And yes, it was good. Very good. The third I have seen really, of a trilogy of absorbing films about spying, espionage and crime investigation. Best of all was The Lives of Others, from Germany, (got the Oscar for best foreign film) then Zodiac, about tracking down the Bay Area serial killer in San Francisco over a period of many years, and now Breach, the story of America's most successful spy/traitor, now serving life in solitary, a mole at the very top of the FBI, who was actually passing on essential information to the Soviets for decades, and in charge of finding the mole. The story of how they eventually caught him red handed. Making that final drop, shortly before he was to retire – mandatory at 57. Zodiac was little long but apart from that. Acting in all three exceptional. Chris Cooper as the spy and devout Catholic family man, Robert Hansson, who said the reason why he did id was irrelevant, but it seems that he did it because he could – smarter than anyone else at the FBI and it was a game that he loved to win. Laura Linney also good as always as a top operative in the agency. Why did you decide to leave the Agency ? Was it my apartment with the old TV dinners lying around and not even a cat ?
The Lives of Others the most tension filled and also provided the most emotional ending, more fictional, and we did not know the outcome. The very last frame the most elling of all. I choked up. A movie about goodness. The other two, had to deal with the fact that in Breach we knew he got caught, so it was just the HOW, while in Zodiac, we knew that we were not going to nail the killer, so it was also just the struggle to nail him. But then again, it was pretty satisfactory, the conclusion , and I was happy to accept  the fact that the man a lot of circumstantial evidence pointed to, never charged, died of a heart attack, was the killer. A movie about obsessions – those of the police and journalist trying to track the Zodiac down. Breach ? It was about duplicity. The sorrow of compromising integrity for the sake of a greater good? Ie the nation.  The loss of innocence ?

THE WITNESSES  (Film  Festival) Les Temoins
Row U. A longway back but OK.
Director:  Andre Techine,
A French film set in 1984, the time of AIDS and the virus at its most diabolical and mysterious.
A middle class melodrama really, the sort of thing that might be a mini series or even a longer one like Queer as Folk, but compressed into less than two hours with lightning fast cutting. There cannot have been a scne lasting longer than thirty seconds. I often wanted scenes to go on longer but there was no lingering, no matter how romantic or sexual. So much information about the lives of each character packed into the running time. The emotional variety less  than the characterisations of what all the five main characters actually did besides  being involved with each other in some way.
Manu the Eros (18 years old) of the movie who arrives in Paris to live with his sister.
She is a budding opera singer in  rehearsal for a small role in Romeo and Juliet. They are both poor and live in a room in a cheap hotel which is really a brothel. They are fond of each other and there is no problem at all with Manu being openly gay. She just wishes he would not run around naked in front of her.
Manu is picked up at a beat near the Eiffel Tower by Adrien, a prestigious doctor, a plump balding and physically unnattractive openly gay man in his sixties who takes him home and begins a relationship with him, one which does not involve sex. Manu continues to live with his sister, but enjoys the doctor's company and his lifestyle.
The doctor introduces him to his friend, Sarah, a rich writer, a woman who writes successful childrens' books. She lives with Mehdi, a lieutenant in the vice squad. He is a handsome Algerian. They have a new baby but she is incapable of looking after it so Mehdi, looks after it when he can and also does the cooking for the household.  The baby is often farmed off to a nearby creche. She likes to do nothing much except write all the time and have sex with Mehdi.
Adrien, the doctor, wants to keep Manu happy so persuades the writer and her boyfriend to take the two of them to their seaside holiday house.
Idyllic scenes follow. (The movie is divided into three parts – Summer, Winter and Second Summer).

Mehdi goes off for a swim while his writer girlfriend  dozes in the sun  on the terrace with the doctor. Manu follows Mehdi into the water and we realise for first time that he is very attracted to the Algerian. Manu himself is half Algerian and has long lost his father, a politician who was assassinated in the troubles in Algeria.
Manu gets into difficulties and is rescued by Mehdi who gives him mouth to mouth resuscitation.
Later Manu comes around to where he works to thank him once again for saving his life. Mehdi offers to take Manu for a ride – in his light aircraft. In the aircraft Manu puts his hand on the thigh of Mehdi who bridles, swears at him.
On the way back to the city however Mehdi drives to a secluded spot and lies down in the sun on his back, his hands behind his head. Manu lies down beside him and apologises for putting his hand on Mehdi's thigh.
I was piloting the plane, he replies. Here it is different.
At that Manu strokes and begins to make love to Mehdi. As Manu's hand slips below Mehdi's belt, he gets up and they go into the bushes where they rip of their clothes and make love. It turns out that when was rescuing Manu in the water, Mehdi found it extremely erotic, something he had never had with another man before.
Mehdi finds that Manu and his sister are living in the brothel and warns them to  move from there as the police are going to raid the hotel shortly as what goes on there is illegal. Manu has made friends with some of the girls and says he likes the ambience there and so does his sister and they wont be leaving.
Manu gets work at a summer camp in the country nearby and moves there. Mehdi finds time to go there and have sex with him every day. He is passionate and obsessed with Manu.  He does not tell his girlfriend, with whom he has an open relationship. She has had affairs and she knows that he sleeps with other women.  And so the idyllic summer ends. With Mehdi lying on his stomach in Manu's trailer at the camp and allowing Manu for the first time to fuck him.
Winter. Manu tells Adrien of his affair and the doctor unexpectedly hits the roof, feels betrayed. Even
Winter. Manu tells Adrien of his affair and the doctor unexpectedly hits the roof, feels betrayed. Even tho the relationship was not sexual it was emotional as far as Adrien was concerned. He tells Sarah that her boyfriend is having an affair wit hManu and she hits to roof too even tho their relationship was an open one. But this is the first time Mehdi has had one with another man.  She cant write she is so upset and throws her current ms into the garbage can.
Manu finds that he has some lesions on his body and asks Adrien what they are. Adrien knows at once what it is or will turn into. AIDS.  All is forgiven but he cannot forgive Mehdi. He tells Mehdi the boy is sick. The two men have very angry words but Mehdi wants to have a blood test and have the doctor do it.
The test turns out to be negative, but Manu gets sicker. Mehdi manages to see him while he is still working at the camp, even tho Manu does not want him to see him in his desperate condition. But Mehdi is kind and caring , takes away Manu's filthy clothes to wash and tries to help him. Before he can see him again, the doctor moves Manu into his house to care for him. There after the doctor refuses to let Mehdi see Manu. Jealousy with the excuse that Manu says he does not want to see him. Mehdi is distraught.  His wife moves out to her mother's so she can start writing again without Mehdi being around.
Manu dies. Adrien and the sister drigve the coffin out to the mountains where the mother lives. Lfor final burial.  The sister has to rush off to go to a rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet.  The doctor gives Susan a diary that Manu has been recording of his life before he dies. She starts to turn it into an adult  novel.  The doctor hears the sister, as the nursemaid, sing an aria at the opening night. A success but with Manu dead she decides to leave Paris and go to Munich to live where there are more parts for a voice like hers.
Part Three.
Adrien picks up another handsome boy at the beat. Moves him into his house. Introduces him to Susan who has finished a first draft of her book (it is the story of Mehdi and Manu and her responses etc.) is back with Mehdi who is furious about the book. He feels it is a breach of his privacy, but he and Susan resume their relationship.
Final scenes.
Another trip to the seaside house. Adrien and his new boyfriend.  Susan and Mehdi. You get the feeling that it is going ot like La Ronde.. What happened last summer will happen again thissummer. Mehdi will fall in love with Adrien's new boyfriend etc. There is a heartless feeling about the movie, perhaps just the pace of it which does not allow one to  really get to know anyone fully. The wooden acting of the Algerian lieutenant. He is not that likeable, certainly when we see him leading the brutal rad on the girls in the brothel. Nor is the doctor a sympathetic character eve tho he he is very caring of Manu. Nor is Susan who comes over a selfish writer – unable and unwilling to care for her baby…but I found the movie pretty fascinating anyway. I doubt it will get a general release. Very french, whatever that means. Race and sexual orientation not an issue in the movie.  The protagonists are emotional over Manu and how he affects their lives but no discriminatory feelings about being gay. There are middle class sophisticated people.

Why do I find the story so fascinating ? The cramming of such much detail into it ? The melodramatic plot ? Handled without melodrama. ?   The brisk cutting of scenes ?The director always one step ahead of us all the time? The fact that it was a gay movie, certainly. But something more.

Not sure whether Peter enjoyed it as much as me.

THE WALKER  (at Film festival – producer was there)
Director: Paul Schrader
A fascinating disappointment. Woody Harrelson giving a bravura performance as an openly gay and seemingly effete man who escorts elderly political wives to the opera to concerts etc, to events that their husbands have no time nor inclination to go to in Washington DC. Carter Page111 the son of a revered Democrat also plays canasta once a week with some of these society wives –Lauren Bacall, Kirsten Scott Thomas, Lily Tomalin…Bacall such a big girl beside Thomas and Tomalin. Big features. And one does not often see a figure like her playing a featured role in a major movie, but there she is in her eighties playing WHO ? She is and looks as tho she is in her eighties. A politican also in his eighties ? Lily Tomalin plays the wive of the ultimate villain in the movie, a Karl Rove type  figure called Delorean.
A high society scandal involving Lynn, the Kristin Scott Thomas figure whose secret boyfriend (she is married to a high profile senator played by Willem Dafoe whose name was not on the credits) tries to blackmail the Vice President over a matter which is not reveals. Delorean has him killed by a hitman.
Lynn who is driven around by Carter, has him stop at the door of the murdered man and discovers the body. She runs out of the house afterwards back to the car shaken and shocked. She tells Carter the news and he drives her home. He then goes back to the scene (he as a key ?) and views the death scene. Grusome. Outside, the rings the police to report a murder. We had met the man earlier at the opera where he apologises to Carter for something and had arranged to meeet Carter to discuss a business deal. A previous deal with this man had resusltedin Carter losing a lot of money but they have been friends (not close friends) for twenty years... He is with Lynn at the time, who is frosty towards the man.
Too much detail about the set up.
In  any case, Lynn  says she does not want to be implicated in the death (her affair with the man) and swears Carter as a friend, to silence about the fact that she discovered the body or was ever at the house. He agrees.
This leads to all sorts of complications, this lie and Carter becomes a suspect but never arrested.  It becomes known by the Rove figure that Carter – and his photographer boyfriend – are snooping and trying to work out who did the killing. The boyfriend is warned off and brutally bashed. This just increases Carter's interest.
But somehow the movie asa thriller does not come alive. The Harrelson performance is superb buttoo much time perhaps spent on his apartment, his outfits, his wigs, the society wives – only tow of them really are seriously involved in the plot – Bacall is there only for one liners and sage advice about howthings work in Washington – his 'weak' character as compared to his father who despised him for bbeing gay – ans when it soon becomes clear that he Carter is going to be a hero and a man of integrity who will solve the case somehow despsite the police who are corrupted by their tiesto political power, we know  that he is not going to be iced and the tension level drops. It becomes a little movie. The clever dialogue with the women around the canasta table feels like it has been worked on and polished for years…the killer is found (conveniently is killed in a hit an run accident while heis in fact out to kill Carter), Karl Rove is confronted and tells Carter to get lost, get a life, accept what Washington is (what it is is life under the Bush administration which comes in for oblique criticsm)  Carter's boyfriend gets an exjhibition in New York and Carter packs up his wish apartment and ast the end we see him saying farewell to the canasta ladies and handing to Kirsten Scott Thomas the incriminating photograph of her with the murdered man.  As if this would have been the only copy. And as if he would have been carrrying it with him all the time, and and as if the hit man would have had the little thing in his wallet.
Shrader needed to think bigger. And there had been many many better movies aobut insider Washington. Too little at stake. Lynn and her senator husband's reputation ? Please. This is murder which the wife clearly did not commit.  Not even a suggestion that she might have.  It was to do with other things in the life of the man se was having an affair with that had nothing to do with their affair.

This one made in the Isle of Man (tax breaks) and London – some swish hotel but not the Dorchester or the Ritz, - could not raise money in America, and so far has no distribution in Australia – surely the Chauvel would take it on (?) but I guress there is no money in that. Harrelson is the beet thing in it for his wigs and clothes and apartment and accent. Yet another bravura impersonation of a gay man after Philp Seymour Hoffman's Capote, and Toby Jones Infamous.
So to be enjoyed  for the small things,  over stuffed décor and furnishings, those wigs, the Carter accent and prosthetic  teeth, the Carter persona  - the campness disappears pretty soon – Lauren Bacall, a good performance  from Scott Thomas etc.
Greg's feelings about it were much the same as mine.

FAT CITY (1971 – Sydney Film Festival)
Director: John Huston.
A boxing movie, Norther California's Central Valley around Stockton and Fresno, poor black and white aspiring boxers who work part time in the fields, harvesting onions or tomatoes, picking walnuts while at night and weekends they go to the training gym and hope for the big time.  Billy Tully (Stacey  Keach) is a rough former quality boxer much respected, with many wins to his credit who has fallen on hard times, a wife, bad for him, who has now left him, is blamed for his descent into alcoholism …he discovers a teenage aspiring boxer played by a young Jeff Bridges and encourages him to enter the fight game. This leads him to also attempt a come back and this is the sytory that unfolds for us. Not fully resolved, the loser theme, the hard l,uck themes, the despair rather than the happiness of this rough life dominates to the end. A slice of life with no resoluti,on in the p.ot, happy ending sense. Life just oges on with its ups and downs. You win some, you lose some. Beautiful colour, ravishing cinematography, tight editing in this Steinbeckian tale of losers, life at the bottom of the working chain. Weathered faces, hard drinking faces and bodies, camera held on long conversations in bars and at training sessions, sometimes went on too long for me these conversations. Did. the new alcoholic woman (Susan Tyrrell) he meets in a bar do nothing moody and defensive and difficult de facto over act or was she a believable extreme type ? The jury is out. When Earl, her long suffering black boyfriend gets out of jail and kicks Billy out Earl says the secrtet of living with her is to  not to listen to anything she says, just to turn off. Was it he who said women fall in love with a man for who he is but that does not last, they only then continue to love what they can make of that man ?


MALE NOCHE  (Sydney Film Fetival)
Director: Gus van Sant
An early (1971) Gus van Sant student kind of movie, black and white, artful, swift  editing, heavy dark and light contrasts, street life in Portland Oregon in the rain and cold among the young Mexican male population, living on the streets or in flop houses, cheap hotels, the protagonist works in a Liquor Store and is obsessed with the young rootless and reckless Mexican teenagers, young men who have landed up  in the tolerant town. Johnny, handsome with long floppy black hair is his obsession and this theme runs thru the movie. Johnny is not interested at all but plays games which sometimes turn violent or cruel not to mention stupid.. No one seems too bright, the Mexicans quite juvenile in their actions and responses careless with their lives and those of others.. Macho and have  trouble with any form of homosexuality (protagonist is openly gay, and in voice over, details his thoughts about gay life and sex in Portland) even if paid for it.  Undercurrent of violence or its sthreat runs thru the entire movie –Roberto, Johnny's buddy (more amenable for a quick brutal fuck), flashes a hand gun early on and sure enough uses it later getting himself killed in the process. Not believable as filmed.
After endless stupidities, frustrations, exploitations and lack of love why does he bother after a while? As a slice of life I agreed with Tom that it was not quite real enough to be a slice. Too much artiness perhaps mitigated against it. John Huston did it better in Fat City. But that was a work of maturity. This was a first movie. The movie fascinating but  no fun at all, but obviously fun to make, if full colour outtakes over the credits at the end are any guide to this.
Male gay audience mostly, George St 2 full house. I saw Mike and Ian, Richard Wilkins…


TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD (Kings Theatre)
Director: Robert Mulligan
I eat (defrosted an old piece of salmon, plus a potato leek and parsnip coriander mash with broccoloi) ) and leave by 7 for To Kill a Mocking Bird – Peter keeps the fire going and I take a seat close to it. The heat does not extend into the rest of the room and those in the big overly comfy (uncomfortable ) armchairs slowly as freeze – a small attendance – Clarrie and girlfriend Arun, with friend Matt, Jina and James (who asks me detailed questions about Oz Magazine of which he knew nothing, but of which Jina must have said something. I have seen Jina more times in a week than I have sene for years. Perhaps becaue Jan her mother is in Bali wher she is setting up a new business, having finaqlly cut ties with Johnny who has taken up with another woman (not the first) and taken I think, to lots of marijuana again. Maybe his new herd of cows at his farm living cheek by jowl with the living quarters was a last straw also) I have to overcome resistance and boredom wit  the he questions, but I like James and he is quite sexy), Neil anopther Jina friend and former boyfriend, lots of those, Keith our presenter and that was about it except for a friendly arts administrator woman whose name escapes me. I drank more than two glasses of wine, Peter put the third reel on before the second revealaing that Tom Robinson was found guilty before the audience needed to know that, (very Vile Bodies,) and the movie turned out to be a bit dated, very leisurely, far too long setting up the Boo Radley parallel theme with the kids, but all nicely understated, avoiding melodrama in a potentially melodramatic sequence of events, minor key, eventually arriving at some powerful scenes and a fantastic finish even if the attack by the white redneck who caused all the trouble was a plot device and not believeable in the way that the trial and the railroading and killing of Tom was utterly believable for its time (early thirties). Harper Lee, said Keith Howes, was influenced by the Scottsborough Case. He also said she had far more than acknowledged in the writing of In Cold Blood, and Capote may in return have had more to do with To Kill A Mocking Bird than acknowledged. She is still alive and reclusive, having in Bird "said it all" Did I say all I have to say in billarooby ?)  The inability of the blacks to raise their voices against the whites even when the whites were clearly trailer trash liars. Even in the courtroom from their segregated upper balcony after the shocking guilty verdict against all the evidence, from the all white male jury. Gregory Peck terrific in the role, even if it was a tinge underwritten. Eloquent in his silences and grave manner. Boo Radley (early role for an unrecognizable  Robert Duvall) these days might be seen as a pedophile in his attraction to the children. Having him caress the forehead of wounded Jem, having him walk away in the final scene hand in hand with Scout, unsupervised would not happen now ?

THE DEAD GIRL
Director:
It was a sad movie  certainly. But good. In five sections centred on the theme of a murder. Number 9 in a serial killer' victims, all young women. Although we don’t know that at first. Information is revealeed slowly during ythe course of five different sections of the movie each one about a woman somehow involved with the dead girl
The Daughter.
Ada (Toni Colette) who finds the body out in a field, looks after her vile and  abusive mother (Piper Laurie) and after yet another fight leaves for good.  She goes out with a grocery store clerk (Giovanni Ribisi) who is fascianted by death and serial killers and with his strange manner, perhaps he is the killer. They have a bizasrre sexual exchange in the back of his car – h/e is impotent and she wants to be tied up and raped.
The Sister
Rose Byrne works in a mortuary and is the one who cleans up the body of the dead girl. She is permanently depressed and on drugs to deal with this condition after the disappearance of her sister fifteen years before. She is convinced the dead girl is her sister, but her mother is scornful and angry and says she will continue to search until she dies. Played by Rose Byrne, this girl also relieves her depression with a sexual encoutner, with the one nice young man in the entire movie. Te DNA comes in, the mother is contacted, and it is proven that the girl is not her sister. She slunps into even deeper depression and last scene in segment, she is calling for help from the kitchen floor.
The Wife
Lives in a trailer with her indifferent husband who seems to hate her and leave her alone in fron t of the telly nightafter night. That night she explodes and there are angry words with him going off to 'dirve around" which is what he says he always does. They run a storage facility. He does not come back that night. Next day two clients come to rent a space. She has to deal with the clients (strangely menacing men) and opens up a space only to find that it is being used by someone. She finds htem another and hten goes back  to the space. She opens up a container and then anotehr and another to find in each one women's underwwear and lingerie, often blood stained and torn. She realises that her husband is probably the serial killer, his driving around at night a search for more victims. He comes home that night and as he seats himself in front of the telly she holds her tongue but hints that she knows what he does when he goes on his divers at night. ("I know what you do at night!"
She serves him his dinner on a tray as usual. Later that night as he lies beside her in bed snoring, she gets up and goes to the police with all the evidence packed into plastic bags. Outside  the station  she waits and has second thoughts as she observes the police in action etc.
She goes back to the storage facility and burns all the evidence. She also burns her own clothes and eventaully stands naked in front of the fire.
The Mother
She is contacted by the police and comes to be interviewed. She did not realise that her daughter was a prostitute. Deeply upset. Goes to the motel room where she lived, shared with another prostitute. A young black woman, who was in a lesbian relationship with her daughter. Tough woman who eventually melts a little, taking mum to the Latin woman who looks after other abandoned with whom the police have placed the the little girl (Why did the little girl have to leave the other place where she was being looked after ?). "Buys" the daughter of the dead girl from the Latino and takes her back to Seattle. Offers to have the black girl come too. Pays the black girl for her help, black girl says no way is she going to leave for Seattle. Possibility is left open however by the kindly if shocked mother.
The Dead Girl
Brittany Murphy terrific in the key role. Tough, outrageous blonde, exploited by her construction worker boyfriend who loves his blowjobs, and who does his best with her with little gifts (necklace reading "I'm Taken" but ultimately finds her impossible. Refuses to drive her to town where her little 3 year old daughter is being looked after. Daughter's birthday and she has a big teddy bear as a present. Little kids should sometimes get what they want she says, unlike her parents who never did that. She borrows a motor bike from a friend but it breaks down and hitchhikes. Is picked up by the serial killer, who is in fact, the husband of The Wife.  Dead Girl is grateful for the lift and so happy when the serial killer says he will drive her to the town she wants to go to. "After I have made one stop." Film closes on her happy, grateful face.

Unhappy, exploited women. Poor working class women, on the whole. Powerful movie, economical, never dwelling too long on scenes, beautifully shot and acted by all concerned.  As Evan Williams in The Weekend Australian noted, enough material for a full movie in each of the five sections.

TRANSFORMERS
Director:Michael Bay's big film inspired by a type of toy which was popular in the fifties and sixties. The 143 minutes breezed by easily enough, I was never really bored, never really fully engaged, often admiring, sometimes exhilarated, enough wise cracks and digs at authority to keep me listening and certainly it was wonderful to watch always, not just the computer creatures, (quite extraordinary in themselves, the way they evolved in front of one's eyes so quickly and then turned into something else, usual a huge clanking human autobot type monster all sharp edges and blades, but early on  a blade and sharp edges mega scorpion (one of the megatrons) cut a swathe through ordnance and men in the Iraqi desert). And the way they moved and destroyed) but the US military hardware, like the huge transport helicopters moving troops across the desert with their twin rotors, one at the front one at the back was even more full of menace as were thre latest in US fighter planes, all contemptuously crushed  by the Megatrons. A bit of King Kong, a bit of Mad Max11, the Terminator, but with none of the tension of any of those, probably because it was a comedy nothing taken too seriously. A comedy so no one really is seen to die or get wounded although thousands would certainly have died in all the mayhem as depicted.

I was definitely the oldest person there. As time goes by it gets easier and easier to be the 'oldest person there"


Genevieve (at Kings Theatre)
As deadful as I remembered it.  Bickering, marital squabbling all meant to be funny ? Keoith Howes escucsed it as funny in the fifties when England still going thru a tough post war period. It never stopped.  The yelling at each other. Did they think they were in Whose Afraid of Virgiina  wolfe ? Joyce Grenfell in a short hilarious cameo. Kay Kendall OK but notquite enough to do.

 July 2007

Blades of Glory
Directors:  Josh  Gordon, Will Speck
 Movie, for me (not for Peter) was a hoot, an almost perfect little movie, with appropriate touches here and there of satire and farce and CGI.  Will Ferrell very funny as a fat, brash womanising camp tattooed bikie figure skater in a messy wig of long black hair. Jon Heder almost too embarrasingly girly and wet to be truly funny, but he calmed all that down as the movie progressed and Ferrell in contrast got more and more camp and almost sweet. The first major men's double skating sequence (they are both banned from mens single skating compeittion for life after brawling on the podium asthey receive their medals) was better and more hilarious than the climactic one, but bother were very funny and the audience along with me (but not Peter) were laughing out loud.  Who did Ferrell's skating for him or was it all CGI's in those amazing leaps and figures ? The villains – rival figure skating team – were based on the Tonya Harding Olympic skating scandal when she had thugs take a baseball bat to the knees of her main rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Can't believe I can remember those names.


BANDE A PARTE
 Jean Luc Goard (1964)
Anna Karina (Godard's wife at the time)

I enjoyed it, light wieght gangster comic stuff. Black and white which was not good fof the perceptivd subtitles, bleached out. I am afraid I found the absence of Keith Howes (our lecturer) a plus.

BLACK BOOK  (at Cremorne Orpheum)
Director: Paul Verhoeven
A disappointment.
I liked it said Jan
A turkey said Peter
Harrowing said Greg
A potboiler I said. The Perils of Pauline.
Greg agreed that it was a potboiler but even so it had worked for him.
I could not get emotionally engaged by it I said. Some well staged sex scenes, extreme violent sce nes,one too many of the SS bursting into a cell of Resistant fightrers nad mowing them down or exterminating a boatload of escaping Jews etc.  There was a mole in the Resistance, who was it ? The lawyer, the doctor, the soupy father of Tim, was it Ellie de Vries herself ? I did not much care. The Jews were killed becauae they were wealthy ones and loadedwith money and jewels in their  attempted escapes. It was not a drama but a melodrama. The dying of the pubic hair a good scene elegant ly done, in front of a mirror, and manyl other scenes toos but not enough to engage.  Too many scenes as though was trying to fit in every single atrocity committed by German, Dutch, Canadian during occupation that he could and putting his characters in the midst of all of them. Ellie as the super glamorous spy floated thru them all unscathed as tho nothing had happened to her at all and we know that in the movie she survived because it all takes place in flash back from her sitting on the edge of the Dead Sea in Israel reminiscing…Verhoeven did not rally want to make a tough movie. In real life the Ellie de Vries character was executed. Christopher Koch who played the 'good German' was the lover in the much much better film The Lives of Others. He looked familiar to me but it was Greg who pointed it out.

KNOCKED UP
Director: Judd Apatow
Young male rites of passage theme, what women are really ferocious about… As good as said to be. Tough and funny movie about relationships, twenty somethings embarking on marriage and babies, stoned young men, drinking buddies, feckless young men wedded to their all male 'frat type' groupings and sexist attitudes therein towards women, are forced thru a surprise pregnancy caused by Ben (Seth Rogen) to make a move towards adulthood and maturity, to commit, and having committed to endure all the difficulties that come with commitment. Not sentimental, accurate dialogue current down and dirty and clever and funny, smart as a whip. Great chacterisations.  No punches pulled. Entertaining side trip to Las Vegas. Do they have male lap dncers as well for gay customers ? What did Sandra Hall say ? Director screenwriter (he did well praised 40 year old Virgin which I did not see) knows difference between sentiment and  romantic love?

CLUBLAND
Director: Cherie Nowland (she did Than God for Lizzie which I loved)
Peter Kingston wanted to see it (Newtown Dendy) because he had seen Khan Chittenden in West and thought he was a real hunk. So that is what we saw. I foundthe movie well done, bit painful (like Knocked Up which was a much funnier and wittier and better movie) in its candid approach to the difficulties of relationship and sex and love, but I liked the milieu – the RSL's of Western Sydney and the McMansions out there, the cabaret atmosphere, all pretty well documented, well observed, and the RSL night I would have liked more of. Quick cutting saved some scenes just in time; occasionally in first half there was a sense of the movie  paddling. "Where is this going  " I asked myself looking at Peter who seemed absorbed and not fidgeting. "What a sweet movie," he said at the end. Chittenden as Tim was indeed terrific both in his acting and his soulful looks. Emma Booth too as his girfriend, Jill, was good, and I can see why she was chosen to play Germaine in Hippie Hippie Shake. Perhaps not tall enough, ( who would be) , but the longish facial features had  a resemblance. Brenda Blethyn was unrelenting ghastly and sometimes funny in her performance as the suffocating mother and I did not think she overacted. Perhaps a line or two of her dialogue could have been cut from time to time, certainly at the beginning.

LUCKY MILES,
Director:
Raw but interesting enough. Good marks for trying. Great scenery but sometimes at the expense of sense. Why did the refugees  ever head inland rather than sticking close to the coast ? Other than the film's requirement of not boring us with monotonous scenery ? The leading refugee, an Iraqi engineer operated in a rage the whole time and it got tiresome, more, irritating. A most unnattractive character. Why so ? There was no one in the movie who had been selected for their looks or even acting ability. The bartendening woman who called the police probabluy the wooden worst. Cinema verite, but continuity not good, and do men under survival stress act so stupidly and so unfriendly towards the other men in the same predicament. Surely there would be some attempt to get together to solve the joint problem instead of continual fighting and quarrels. That is the drama ? So they up the drama? Would they really hate each other so much ? Racist ? Dumb ? The length of the ordeal was only seven days so perhaps not long enough for ultimate horrors to ben encountered ? Starving and disorientated so this is humanity at its worst ? The screenplay ? It was judged best film at the Sydney Film Festival. Billed as a comedy. Why did I find it so unfunny and the jokes, when they came so weak. There was humour I suppose in nthe rangers letting their four wheel drive roll into the swimming hole. There was humour in the Iraqi engineer fixing up the old truck and driving it backwards along the bush tracks. Mabe a pakced audience at the Festival would have been  a better place to see the movie, rather than an empty cinema on a Tuesday afternoon at the Dendy.Fully clothed swimming in the gorge. Even the Australians swam in their clothes. Why ? Cultural mores might partly explain it for the Iraqi and the Cambodians, but even they would perhaps strip to their underwear. The film made a lot of their joy at finding water to play and swim in. As well as to drink. Did the Festival audience find it absurd or at least amusing that the group camped one evening on  a 45 degree slope ? Was that part of the comedy ?



SHUT UP AND SING
Director:
A doco about the Dixie Chicks.
At the Chauvel .
I arrive just in time after a rush walk from Kings Cross Station , a slight angina pain in my chest, sometingwihich has been occurring of late, particularly after eating.  Slight, not enough to make me stop walking or avoiding hills, although I am conscious that I am now thinking oh there's a hill on that street, avoid it, but i have not yet been doing any avoiding, and the hill when tackled has not been a problem, ie in going to Dank Street  to check on the first look at the prints, the test run. Peter Kingston's suggestion, the story of the Dixie Chicks remark that they were ashamed that George Bush came from Texas. How it affected their career and earnings, theeir being banned from their radio base, theredneck country music stations and how  they slowly realised that their stance had created for them an entirely new audience, the people who also objected to the Iraq war. It also matured them from fluffy country to women who started to write their own songs, with more emotional depth, women up there with Emmy Lou Harris and Lucinda Williams – and political awareness. It did not come easy.  Interesting but a lot of repetition in the hour and a half. Would have been better on telly and a little shorter.

FRACTURE
Director:
Enjoyable. Antony  Hopkins (being a bit like Hannibal Lecter at times  in his quiet controlled ferocity) and Ryan Gosling, very different from his great role in Half Nelson, with no beard this time, but mesmeric and I could not take my eyes off him as the arrogant Public Attorney who was outwitted by the aeronautical engineer Hopkins who murdered his unfaithful wife with his oh  so clever (and improbably when you come to think of it. How could he possibly have know that it would be the Lieutenant fucking his wife who would head the crimw squad who came to his house in response to the shooting ? Or that the presence of the Lieutenant would invalidate the confession ?Or rthat the Lieutenant would not notice that the gun was not the same even tho the same model etc.but fast pacing and a slightly low soundtrack prevented too much pondering as we went along)  Same writer who did Primal Fear with Richard Gere as the attorney defending Edward Norton who was equally mesmeric in his role and who outwitted Gere. Less handsome than Norton with a sweetly lipped but small mouth, arching eyebrows, not the best nose and nostrils, eyes ? Not sure about the eyes, and I could have done without the jelly bean chewing, but sexy. He sort of redeemed himself by the end but not a necessarily likeable character, the arrogance certainly, but prickly as well, and by the end the arrogance was only partly tempered.  Finale – he had turned down reistatement as Public Attorney, lost his high flying corporate job and high flying girlfriend  there, and was off to places unknown.


PIERROT LE FOU (Kings Theatre)
Director: Jean Luc Godard
Very little impact. Belmondo seemed to walk thru, Anna Karina ran away with it. It was her wasn't it ? The younger crowd (Clarrie's friends) seemd to like it. Well, Clarrie didn't and I agreed with him. A wank all these years later.

MR. BROOKS
Director.
I am determined to finally go to MR BROOKES after I see it is on at a convenient time at Broadway ….
I walk rapidly thru the University grounds and then Victoria Park (where stalls are being erected for a Green Day on Saturday) ; I found the movie rivetting and continually surprising, a modern Jekyll and Hyde story of a serial killer by night, a Man of the Year business man by day. Played very well by Kevin Costner with William Hurt as his evil alter ego.  As dark a popular movie as I have seen for a long time, and it holds its nerve right to the end.  Costner as the killer who wants to quit killing but is addicted, is sympathetic throughout somehow, and so is Demi Moore the chasing cop although she too is flawed as a human being. You admire Mr Brookes for his expertise and precision as he commits his meticulously planned and utterly gruesome murders. Beautifully shot and edited, (enabling me to suspend disbelief at the preposterousness of the story) it is perhaps overloaded with sub PLOT but all the various elements come together and then some in the end, perhaps at the expense of a more focussed analysis of the nature of good and evil. That could have become boring and this after all operates as a multiplex thriller. It reminded me a little of Zodiak, and also 7 the much more flashy and crowd pleasing and grisly (more scarey too) exercise with Brad Pitt and Kevin Spacey (all these Kevins lately, including Kevin for dinner last night and Kevin Rudd, the 'aspirational nationalist' – to mock Mr Howard's new term). This one seems to have sunk quite rapidly but will probably have a cult following because of its subversive qualities.  Or is it that I don’t see enough of these kinds of movies and I was overly impressed thru lack of familiarity ? Is it the subversity that attracts me ? I imediately had ideas for my nev eer to be published book – put back the murderous element in the character of Starry. And put it in early, in the period when Charlie dislikes Starry and submits to his therapies very unwillingly. Give him a  better reason to dislike. Not specificic but more than being outraged at the streaker side of his character …


THE HOMECOMING STORIES
Director: Tony Ayres
A melodrama really. I got interested in the ccharacter of the mother, well played by Joan Chen. Selfish, lacking in empathy, tried hard to be a dutiful mother but really manaagaged no more than duty. Seemd to have always lived off men, no education, relied on her beauty and therefore neuirotically concerned about her fading looksasd sheaged. A kept woman, a night club singer, but not good enough to translate that ability to a career when she moved from Shanghai to Melbouren. Demanding of men who supported her, not necessarily faithful; Not in control of her emotions and this resulted in man after man leaving her for someone else. Based on the lfie of hismother, Ayres dwells a bit too much on her emotional outbursts, gets repetitive. He skates over whether is mother actually became a call girl or a hostess, fiven her character aand her difficult even brutal upbringing (married off as a teenager to a older rich business man who kept her like a locked up slave) surprising that she would not have become so when she finally escaped. A midday event at Newtown Denmdy organised by William Yang, with lunch afterwards at a home nearby, a friend of Williams. Interesting for me in that I sat with Jim Waites, the theatre critic (former, now works independently and for the National Library collecting interviews with expatriate Australians, hence partly repsonsbible for his interest in me.We exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses)


SEPTEMBER 2007


THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
Director: Paul Greengrass
I rushed home to get ready for   THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM which Peter wanted to see. He needed to relax, he said, get his mind away from depression about his faltering relationship with his snow buddy. The movie was the last sort of movie he should have seen. He complained endlessly, the parking was a problem on a big Saturday night, the long twenty minutes of ads, the pre-show program (thank God there was only one preview after all that) the letter of complaints he had sent to the manager of the Orpheum…we sat too close – it was either that or a more distant side view in the huge art deco auditorium
I don’t think he is in good physical health either. That pain in his groin ? That unwillingness to attack any stairs. Saying over and again that he over did it on the slopes.
More of the same that I saw in the Bourne (the second one which I saw again recently on telly, also directed by Paul Greengrass who did United 93, the hijack movie) ) but bigger and noisier and faster and perhaps better. I liked the chase sequence in Tangier the best, possibly because I fleetingly saw parts of the town and of the medina and the view of the bay that I was familiar with from many years ago now.  Matt Damon an everyman, like Gary Cooper perhaps, terse, mostly silent, but empathetic. Joan Allen terrific as Landy, his sympathiser in the CIA. David Strathairn notquite so good, needed an additional touch of sinisterishness or something. Albert Finmney monumental as the ultimate Mr Big in the sheme of things in the Bourne Trilogy.  
I went with Kingo who wanted to see it, why I don’t know. He hates big American action movies.  Cremorne Orpheum, their biggest theatre which was filled exccpt for the sets at the very front.
Peter was bored by the repetition, one chase too many for him, but for me each one was different enough and I wasn’t expecing much more than what was delivered, and it delivered in terms of actions in spades. How on earth is it all done ?  The level of tension is not that high but does that matter ? Would the Julia Styles cahracter  survive ? The previous girl had been murdered and so there was the possiblity that this one would be also, but she survives. He of course survives.  Therein the clever ending.
Why so popular ? Touches a nerve. About surveillance and how authorities are able to keep more and more of use under its eye. Bourne calls the authorities to accountand exposes them, brings hem to justice. A very moral hero acting aagainst corruption at the very top. America and its spy system which will stoo at nothing, including assassinations if required, even against their own. Recognitiion that this is the world albeit hyperbolically presentedf, that we nw live in. The post 9/11 world run by America. .
Clever ending, leaving it open for yet another sequel. Ending reminiscent of Saturday Afternoon serials

ONCE
Director:
 lovely but far too nice. Decidely unsexy. Even tho grungy Dublin (looking lovely and small, presented as a well preserved old town in the nicest way) was the locale, buskers and street people, pubs and shared accomodations, populated with East Europeans as well as poor Irish, there was noone seen smoking or even drinking or in any way being what we think of as Irish. . The story of  two talented but impoverished folk rock musicians who get together and hire a studio for the weekend to cut a CDs worth of original songs felt somehow sanitised, and there was not quite enough to it, short running time, less than 90 minutes I would say, the music became repetitive, the lead man was just not attractive enough; was it the beard the hair or what. He reminded me a little of carpenter Winston Grant in Bolinas, another gay man that others in town wondered why we did not get together, both being single and looking for love, but I think we both found each other deeply unattractive, like I found The Busker, particularly when he got deeply into his songs. She was lovely and so were her Hungarian friends, her mother and her baby. The crowded streets of Dublin were used to advantage and the whole thing was fresh and original and well paced, in the way the music combined with the way it was shot. I wanted to like it more than I did, and they were many many lovely moments but …the band was The Frames, whom I saw and liked very much as the warm up band for Dylan.   The lead singer of The Frames wrote most of the songs ans starred as The Busker. Nice, but …



THE JAMMED
Director:
I walk to THE JAMMED at the Verona, the 3 30 session.Five other people in there as I sit down just as the movie comes up.
I took a long time to become engaged by the movie. Who is  that  sub-Cate Blanchett star?   Who a little unbelievably, becomes involved with the life of the three women forced into prostitution buy a Melbourne people trafficking gang ? A nasty little movie about a nasty trade.  The three women don’t feel free to run away because they are all illegal immigrants and in the world outside their brothel, they would be put into a detention camp and then deported which is the last thing that they want. Their captors are brutal and are prepared to use force (rape and torture) to keep the three girls in line. The owners of the brothel are high flyers in the Melbourne art world. A couple of awkward scenes deal with this.
A women's movie by a feminist film maker. The movie for me fell uneasily between documentary and thriller and it was a long time becfore there was any tension at all for me…the Russian girl making a panicky telephone call half way through was the first scene with any cinematic tension. Up to that point, it was exposition sordidity and brutality.
By the end, one of the girls (Crystal) is in Villawood detention centre, going out of her mind, another (Ruby) has committed suicide, and the third, the Russian, is feral, running wild in the streets with thousands of stolen dollars in her coat. Melbourne's gangland is no doubt after her.  The blonde Cate Blanchett look a like is bowing out, having failed on all three counts in her well meaning interventions and going to stay with her mum in the country for a while. Ruby's mother is distraught and going back to Hong Kong.
It was not made clear to me that it is Ruby's mother who has come looking for her and persuades 'Cate Blanchett' to help her. Up to that point the movie has focussed almost exclusively on Crystal. A flaw ? Or was I just not paying attention  ? The photo on the lost girl poster was of  Ruby ?  I guess so. I did not pay much attention. Ruby by the way was so unnattractive, why was she seen as a suitable 'girl' for the trafficers ?

RATATOUILLE
Director:
Terrific, clever, witty, funny, the rats particularly, and particularly en masse, but not as thrilling as Toy Story (my bench mark) or even as charming as A Bug's Life;  a slightly over familiar trajectory, seen before in Shrek, and Finding Nemo and what was  the name of that other at movie recently about a pet rat in a upper middle class home who gets  washed out of his social class and winds up with lower street rats The story of how he deals with this. Pretty good, but all done at a much more frantic pace. Ratatouile brilliant in its recreation of a restaurancrt kitchen andwith what goes on behindthe scenes at a high class French restaurant., Yes, brilliant pacing,.I think I really wanteed to like it more than I did becaue of Ian Gunn's interst in fine dining, cuyisine and cooking genrally. But in the end I could not talk himinto going. Even offering to pay for him.
I will definitely see it again.  As for him, he may very well have gotten contrary about it and not see it at all.  Just to spite me. In some kind of Ian way.

HAIRSPRAY
Director: Adam Shankman
I walked over to Entertainment Centre, a nice crepuscular walk thru the park to see HAIRSPRAY, meeting there Greg and Gary the academic Berkeley couple. It was thoroughly enjoyable. Exuberant throughout, fast moving, almost too exuberant I said as my first comment afterwards. John Travolta awkward when still and seated, but once on his feet, and dancing, he was a revelation. Although we knew he was a terrific dancer from Grease and  the other one, (Staying Alive?) and then Pulp Fiction.Twinkle toes. What was that better phrase for him I used at first ?  His Baltimore accent worked only sometimes and his dialogue seemed swallowed up by the stiffness of his fat padding. Or is  that chipmunk face he has developed over the years his natural face ? Dialogue throughout was a bit stilted, or creaky, and in me created a certain tension that everything was going to be all right. Holdover from the original movie ? I was always glad when dancing erupted, which was almost continually. Elijah Kelly, the lead black singer was a sensation. Loved his marcel waved shiny black hair. Hard to even notice the other black men when he was performing. Some of the sass and blue humour taken out from the original film, in which Divine starrred in the Travolta role. Did Divine dance at all in the original Watters movie ? Was there much music and dancing at all? Must have been some if the plot line was the same.
Did Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad in the musical, dance as well as John Travolta in the new movie ? I had no idea what it was about, not having seen the original movie. It was about racial integregation in Baltimore in the sixties. Plus about being nice to ousiders like fat people. Other fat suit and/or drag successes ? Eddie Murphy funny in The Mask, Eddie again in The Krumps (?)  Gwyneth Paltrow in the terrific Shallow Hal. Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire.

This is England,
Director. Shane Meadows
Working class skinheads in north of England (Grimsby) and racism (mostly against Pakis, but the ultimate violence is against a friendly Jamaican) in 1982, the Thatcher era with references to the Falklands War which seemd to provied a secondary and somehow gratuitous theme, all played for tension and maxiuum violence. The early jokey vandalistic stuff under gang leader Woody, rather elegant and kind hearted, Gothic a bit, an interest in clothes and style, was interrupted by the arrival of a racist thug let out of prison who took over most of Woody's crowd; a violent streak indeed, an uncontrollable temper, hideous,  frightening. I was reminded of Ben Kinglsey's thug in Sexy Beast, but that was a gangster thriller; it was somehow different watching a similar character  in a hyper realistic sitting and Lucienne could not stand it after half way thru, having seen where the film was heading. She left after an inflammatory racist speech from a National Front Front. Whispering she would see me after the movie, she spent the time in Berkelouws.
    The film fell at the final hurdle. We sat through the escalating violence and then got no pay off. The film wimped out, with Sean/Shaun, the central character the pre pubescent gang member being groomed by first Woody and then the tattooed thug, finally seeing the light after a night of an attack of uncontrolled rage on the sweet and thick Jamaican, perhaps killed, leaving the gang going to the seashore and bundling up his St George flag, throwing it into the  sea. Not convincing, unlikely, not satisfying after all we had been put thru. Having said that, it was all brilliantly done, great British ensemble acting from a plug ugly bunch of characters.

Superbad
Director:
which was very funny. Did American Pie start this genre? The real dirt on how teenagers think and behave? The way the sexes deal with sexual problems and activity. Relationships with each other and with the oppsotie sex, focussing more on a horny trio of boys who have not actually had sex with a girl. I laughed throughout. Only rarely did it flag.
    I queried the price for the 4 pm showing. 12.50 for pensioners, 11 50 for seniors. Me being both I said I was a senior. I asked the guy at the Candy Bar/Box Office why this was so. Ie more expensive for pensioners. He did not know.
Apatow who directed Knocked Up produced this one and his hand in both the jokery and the tender sequences obvious. Same script writers on both but this an earlier screenplay which they had worked on since they were about 12. Brilliant dialogue all ringing true. Very perceptive of teenage mores. Of older American drunken pub mores also. Criminal and drug taking mores. The police duo sequences played for farce. The three teenagers, underage for buying liquor, the protagonists – one fat, one nerdy, one cute, all inexperienced sexually - need to score liquor for an end of school party where they hope to get the girls drunk so they can get blow jobs from them. Whatever goes wrong goes wrong hysterically. It takes the boys a long time to get to the party, all sorts of Candide type adventures along the way. One boy is adopted by the 'rogue ' cops, and gets taken along for shoots outs and drunken brawls and a hold up. Not to mention turning on the sirens to get thru any red light intersection they came to.
    Teenage foul mouthed talk about vaginas and dicks (vag or vagina replacing cunt as a swearword worked very well) with more emphasis on dicks and getting blow jobs than anything else. The fat boy endlessly drew penises as a eight year old. Flash back to that. At the end of the riotous movie, the credits showed lots of funny dick and balls cartoons. This stopped the usual immediate exodus from the cinema at George Street in its tracks. Entirely teenage audience, except for me. Lots of laughter. Cutting edge stuff of what one could get away with.

    AWAY FROM HER
    Director:
    I surmise that Ian will be out this evening and I don’t want to be home alone so I ring Peter Kingston and he agrees that he and Jan will come and see the Julie Christie Canadian movie about Alzheimers, Away From Her  a review of which I read somewhere, I think in New Yorker, at Dendy Circular Quay. They had been intending to go see Once. I recommend, a lovely movie, a little movie, not quite enough of it, and the music tendsto be a little samey after a while.
    Peter had trouble with the theme - losing one's mind and the inexorable move towards care in an instituion, even if the institution costs a fortune and is for people with money. Delicately done, but with plain talking throughout…from a short story by Alice Munro directed by Sarah Polley (?) from The Bear Came over the Mountain. Jan cried throughout the first half, I had a little cry towards the end. Peter never cries unless some animal is being hurt.
Fiona, (Julie Christie) is more accepting of what is happening to her than Grant, her husband of 44 years, seemingly entirely devoted to her. She is the one who feels she should go into Belhaven rather than become dependent on him. Reluctantly he agrees. Hates the place. She is accepted and for a month they are not permitted to see each other inorder to let her acclimatise to her new situation. When he next sees her she seems to treat him politely like a strtanger and seems to have formed an attachment to one of the  inmates. A serious love affair. She devotes all her time to him. Wheelchair bound. Grant cannot avoid being jealous. The man is husband of Marion (Olympia Dukakis) with whom he becomes friends, perhaps with the object of Marion taking her huxband back from the institution and looking aftr him at home. This happens. Fiona deprived of his company, goes into rapid decline.  No short term memory but lone t erm is erratically intact. Affairs that Grant has had with his students  come to light.


OCTOBER 2007

DEATH AT A FUNERAL
Director: Frank Oz
who directed two of my favourite comedies – Bowfinger with Steve Martin and an hysterically funny Eddie Murphy in twin brother roles, and In Out, the coming-out comedy with Joan Cusack and Kevin Klein) which was as funny as touted to be. An almost perfectly realised farce with English character actors taking themselves seriously as one has to do with farce. Much mirth made of the bottle of valium pills which are really Grade A mescalin. Peter the Dwarf whom I did not care for in The Stationmaster, very likeable here as the would be blackmailer. A full house for the advance screening, a great way to see such a film, laughter is infectious. Dinner after at Batouta was a minor disaster – sounded good – beef with couscous salad but it came ice cold straight from the refrigerator and not a salad in the real sense just a mound of cold couscous and served with streaks of mayonaise …Lucienne could scarcely eat much of hers – except for the beef - and we should have sent it all back …
The friendly cook knew there knew was something wrong and caught my eye as we left and just asked. Too cold I said. Was it straight out of the refrigerator ? Yes.  And salad ? I was expecting a salad like you usually do with the grilled chicken – well balanced warm salad…and never served couscous with mayonaisse – just makes it sticky. The little grains should be well separated…
I was grinning, so was he and he said he welcomed the input…but disappointing. Usually OK even good there. The drag queen in full floor length drag, now seems to be manager, hostess greeting us warmly, not looking quite so trashy but trashy nevertheless …




THE BRAVE ONE]
Director: Neil Jordan
A 'vigilante' movie. $9 Tuesday and the cinema was fullish. I am not a fan of police procedural movies, big budget violent movies, but good ones are good ones, like say Colleteral (Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise)and this one directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Mona Lisa and other interesting movies) and I knew it was controversial in its morality.
Jodie Foster terrific as an articulate radio commentator on the delights of New York, becomes an articulate commentator on the perils and living in New York after she and her boyfriend are mugged in Central Park. Their love is laid on with a trowel prior to the mugging, to make Foster's change after the mugging more believable. The greatness of her loss. He is killed, she is badly injured and changed forever. Only their dog remains the same. As you will see. Jodie as Erica, the radio journalist, becomes inhabited by a 'stranger' as she feels it, and that stranger wants revenge. She becomes in fact a vigilante, obsessed with killing the men who killed her boyfriend. Along the way she kills several others, all lowlife types, as hideous as those who had attacked her.
Tracking her down in her killings (always in the role of righteous avenger – all those she kills are ghastly monsters abusing wives or children or sex workers etc) is Terrence Howard, brilliantly playing a sympathetic cop who gradually realises that  it can only be the radio commentator who can be the serial killer. By that time he has sort of fallen in love with her and she with him. Which sets everything up for the shock and surprise of the finale which Rob Lowing found 'clumsy' but I just found it morally suspect. Like Paul Byrnes in SMH did.  What could Jodie Foster have been thinking of ? am I morally ambivalent also, about this ?


Michael Clayton
Director: Tony Gilroy who also wrote it.
George Clooney as Clayton, and Tilda Swinton as chief legal officer for the corporation his law firm is representing in a huge class action auit. A terrific movie, an intelligent thriller, not easy to follow, a corporate evil in high places story I suppose, a genre tht is pretty common, but complex, keeps one thinking al lthe time asto how it is al lgoing to go, what is happening, beautifully contructed, with nothing too much given away as the plot unfolds. Michael Clayton a 'janitor' for an international law firm representing a client, a corporation with a high profile, squeaky clean impeccable environmental credentials etc fighting  a class action suit, the basis for which we do not learn until the last few minutes . Tilda Swinton heads up the corporation's legal team, who has hired the firm of lawyers for whom Clayton works. Actor Tom Wilkinson heads up the legal team which is racking up millions of dollars in fees, but as the case nears settlement or its next court  date =- it has been going on for years  - he suffers a mental breakdown. It turns out he has been interviewing secretly many of those who have joined the class action and realsises there is something in what they say. Wilkinson realises that their corporate client is corrupt and the class action justified. His moral dilemma has caused his breakdown. The firm needs the money he needs the money, cant let the firm down  etc. Clayton, a fixer, with debts of his own and a broken marriage – he has custody of a son whom he picks up each morning from his mother and her new husband – the boy clearly prefers old dad to step dad – and tries to interest his real dad in a book he is reading, mystical adventure, some sort of Joseph Cornell book for kids perhaps, the journey of the hero. He has also given a copy of this book to Clayton's friend, Wilkinson,  who had read it ,  marked passages and which has had an influence on his morality and the case. One of reasons for breakdown. Clayton is definitely not his own hero, being just a fixer upper for the company, never made a partner, and he is very good at this tough job but would prefer to be a partner. But his gambling addition and huge debts to unsavoury types holds this all back…
Movie begins when he is sent off to talk to another big client who has been involved in a hit and run accident – to give him preliminary advice on how to handle the fact that he has run away etc.  On way back in early hours of morning, upstate new York in winter time he notices on the back road a trio of horses looking down from the hill above  the road. He stops his car and takes a break to go up and say hullo to the horses. This lovely and mysterious encounter wit hthe horses is connected in some way to ideas in his sons book. While he is on the hill, the car behind him explodes. He starts back down the hill, the horses gallop off in fright – another explosion as he nears the car.
Cut.
4 days earlier . And the movie traces the events in Michael Clayton's  life which leads up to and explains the car bomb.
Tilda Swinton brilliantly nasty as the head legal officer of the corrupt corporation.

    RED ROAD
    Director:
    A grim little working class drama about the extremes of female emotions, set in grimy Glagow with everyone speaking in impenetrable working class Glaswegian accents. I missed five minutes and maybe that was crucial because I did not work out what was the woman's motivations until revealeds towards the end. She was a  female police surveillance officer manning a battery of video screens monitoring a troubled housing estate and its shopping centre nearby.
    It turned out the man whom she was focussed on tracking all the time, his activities, had killed her husband and her young daughter in an accident for which he was convicted of manslaughter and for which served time. Now he was out and she was tracking him to see if he was behaving himself as he drove. The accident was because he was out of control on crack. She is looking for drugs and crack connections in his new life. She does not want anyone else to suffer like she still does. She has been unable to get over the deaths and is really looking for revenge in some way for she feels that he has not been punished enough.  Good movie, but oh so sad and grim. Extraordinary cunnilingus scene in the movie. Very explicit for a regular movie. Everyone very rough and working class. Frequent use of fuck and cunt. She is lonely, has casual sex in trucks, decides what she wants to do as revenge on rough house plug ugly Clem whom she gets to know, meets him in cafes and pubs and finally gets invited to a party at his flat.  Later a rendezvous late nbight in the flat. She has sex with him, (that cunninlingus scene, he is surprisingly sweet and tender in bed.) then manufactures a rape.  She squeezes his come out of his discarded condom, smears it into her vagina, then in front of a mirror mutilates her face with a rock, then reports him to police. He is charged with rape but then she drops the charges after his extremely violent sociopathic flatmate breaks into her flat  and ass he throttles her, says he will kill her if she doesn’t stop this lie.
She decides to drop the charge, confronts him in the stret instead. He says he is sorry but what more can he do. These sorts of accidents happen all the  time in life.She is unforgiving and he walks away from her.
Finally she had a moment of redemption and release. One of the people she has observed every day on one of her video screens is a middle aged man with an very oldand ill bulldog. The dog can scarcely walk, is incontinment  etc.
Next day she is walking in the street and sees the man with a new dog, a feisty happy tail wagging tongue lolling border collie.
She has a relevation about renewal, new life and for the first time in the movie permits herself a smile. She walks  strongly down the street and the credits begin to roll.  You don’t get the feeling she is going to buy a dog but that it has triggered something wider, deeper.

THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS  (at Kings Theatre ) with  Michael York, very slow but beautiul locations in the sandy Baltic Sea  1901. The print was entirely magenta. Peter not apologising. He bought it from Ken for the homoerotic quality, the friendship between York and his Cambridge buddy who both stumble on a Kaier plot to invade England.  Not homoserotic enough however to make up for everything else. Also at Kings, the following week,


NOVEMBER 2007

 
A STAR IS BORN (at Kings Theatre) – the 1954 Judy Garland James Mason version directed by George Cukor which is fascinating but clunkily edited and with Garland emoting more than acting, too old for the part of ingenue etc. but mesmeric. Clunky but fascinating and a perfectly coloured technicolour print. No fade.  I have never been a fan of James Mason, that slack overly large mouth which lets the lower teeth be exposed …the slightly hammy voice

CONTROL
Director:  Andrew Corbijn
Black and white movie, a documentary that plays like a real feature movie although it keeps close to the actual facts. Samantha Morton terrific as Debbie, the faithful and loving but jilted Macclesfield wife with the baby - they married as 17 year old teenagers, much too soon as Curtis admitted sadly later. Sam Riley even more terrific as Ian Curtis although I could not warm to him physically for some reason. (too soft perhaps, too pretty, that retrousee nose); but when he went into action on  stage , those powerful jerky movements with his elbows that somehow echoed his epileptic fits (also shown) it was quite fearsome and somehow shocking to see. A talented performer who gives his totality like that not only in voice and emotion but movement as well  – like say, Elvis Presley – will always attract at least a cult following and will probably if he can keep it up, be called a genius. An original. I detected echoes of Jim Morrison in the songs and the rhythms. But Robert Lake could probably identify for me many other influences. Did Curtis have as much to do with those wonderful arrangements as he did with the songs ?  A tragic story. Hypersensitive. Overwhelmed by his responsibilities towards his wife and baby whom he no longer had any interest in but felt obliged to be caring towards, his responsibilities in relation to the love the Belgian journalist who fell in love with him on tour but was not match for the wife, the effort it was to continue pouring out his all every time he went on stage and being the one on whom the band depended, the upcoming tour of America and the edge of international stardom…he hanged himself the weekend before the band was due to leave for the States.
Brilliant movie, superbly photographed and edited, with nothing over emphasised – one wanted more of his singing and dancing, more of how he related to the other members of the band, more of every thing.


THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD
Director: Andrew Dominik (an Australian, known for Chopper)
Peter Kingston  – in a strange mood these days, compensating for something all the time, relentlessly upbeat to hide whatever it is - wanted to go to see a movie, I suggested Julie Taymore's Across the Universe, described it,  not enthusiastic, I suggested Jesse James, warned him of the length and me not wanting him to be bored, but he said yes, that is what he wanted to see.
Twenty long minutes of ads and previews seemed to take forever and I was vocal loudly in my disapproval knowing we had a two hours and forty minutes movie ahead of us. Thank God for the comfortable seats, but ears and eyes exhausted even before the movie starts. Paris operates as an art house but it is still tied to Hoyts and is just another part of the multiplex mind set.

And the movie ? I enjoyed it always, despite the slowness, despite some script wanderings in the middle, all compensated for by the beauty of the cinematography; words like elegaic came to mind, the sound track heavy on cello and the funereal. Well written, no clunky or too obvious dialogue. The movie reminded me in a way of Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man with its soundtrack by Neil Young, the movie a danse macabre, a meandering mostly mid winter dance with death, as Jesse James (well played by Brad itt) after his final train robbery went incognito and on the run with his family, becoming irrational and paranoid at the grand old age of 35, suspicious of old gang members and killing one of them and attempting to find and kill another, fearing disloyalty and betrayal for the sake of a pardon for themselves and getting the big reward on offer for his capture.  I got a bit confused as the movie travelled from one location to another, from Kansas City hideout to backwoods Missouri, to the home of the Fords, to the houses of family members of the James gang…Where am I, whose place is this etc. I kept wondering.
The movie had a nice tension because of Jesse James' erratic behaviour, his temper, his playfulness concealing anger and so on.One never knew when the next death was going to come and eventually of course the suspense of waiting for just how the treacherous, glassy eyed  Robert Ford was going to kill Jesse who seemed able to anticipate any moves against him.
The movie is surprising in these final scenes in that it seems to suggest that Jesse James was tired of his life and knowing  that Robert Ford was out to kill him, deliberately put himself  into a position – with his back turned – that would enable Robert Ford to plug him. The only problem then was that Robert was a coward and when actually presented with the opportunity could not do it, and then surprisingly again, the movie suggests that Charliehis older brother,(brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell, also as a creep but a jolly one) also in the room, and seeing that his brother could not do, pulls his gun and does it. So Robert Ford did not kill Jesse James, but the brother, knowing that Robert wanted to be famous for killing Jesse, let him take the credit. The two of them collected the huge reward and went on the road, recreating the death before audiences all over the States, over 800 performances. But Robert and Charlie had a hard  time of it also, as America in a strange twist, idolised Jesse James, the first great celebrity – his body on ice, displayed in Missouri and a circus man offerd $50,000 for the body to go on permanent tour – more people viewed the body than that of President Garfield, assassinated at the same time -  the actuality of James as a brutal serial killer, and Robert never escaped the feeling in Missouri that he was a coward for shooting James in the back. He was played as a total creep who  sold his soul for money, betrayed his boss etc. and became more and more despised. Eventually an old codger killed him dead in a bar with buckshot from a shot gun. Served a couple of years and then pardoned by the Governor of Missouri. Strange ethics. Like the idolisation of Ned Kelly here. A little bit of politics goes a long way. Kelly more of a politician than James, who still managed to parlay some of his southern civil , anti Yankee credentials, and he did a bit of taking from the rich and give to the poor as well. So had the status of rebel and he did have a certain elegance of style along with his cold blooded brutality and so captured the imagination. Like Kelly's helmet did. And his rebel Irishness. lots of beautiful interiors of early colonial living in harsh winter circumstances. Yes a slow dance of death. Satisfying ending, but generally the movie aroused no tears for anyone… unlike say Brokeback Mountain which reduced me to a sobbing wreck.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Director: Julie Taymore
We steamed up the hill to the Dendy and were only four minutes late for the movie ….it did not matter, the early stages were not interesting (although we may have missed the first scenes which may well have been in  working class Liverpool  - Beatles homeland) rather than suburban affluent America which is where the movie was when we got there) and it only gathered power gradually. Eventualy but it packed a huge punch for me – and for Greg – extraordinary interpretations, visually and musically of say, He's so Heavy, Hey Jude, I Am the Walrus (sung by Bono in two parts, first as a rock song, the other as a psychedelic song with a visit to Timothy Leary in the Ken Kesey psychedelic bus, made famous by Tom Wolfe, Dear Prudence, Revolution, Strawberry Fields Forever(perhaps the most extraordinary of all; bleeding strawberries representing the deaths of soldiers in Viet Nam),  and eventually, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds with everyone, well, me certainly,  wanting to know when it was going to be used, what with Lucy being Jude's love interest throughout the movie, as a climax along with the credits; nobody left while it was being sung during the preliminary credits). Yes, the movie moved pretty quickly into the revolutionary politics of the sixties, and even the in-fighting between the radical factions in the sixties, the SDS (Students for Democratic Society and their humourless hard core stuff) and those who had the feeling for the cultural revolution but where not prepared to go as far as the purely political Weathermen- for example - in their protests against the establishment. "I thought it was they who dropped the bombs, not us," says Lucy at one point of disillusionment with her political cadres, as she realises  that her heart is more with her boyfriend Jude, with his gentler artistic approach to the 'revolution'…I was moved to tears several times – Hey Jude, Strawberry Fields forever, also that scene where the Vietnam soldiers carry the Statue of Liberty thru the paddy fields in Viet Nam to the sound of Hhe's so Heavy or whatever. Was that from the White Album? The movie moved quickly from Paul McCartney songs to those of John Lennon. Apart from Hey Jude.

DEATH PROOF
Director (and cinematographer): Quentin  Tarantino

What can I say ? It was undoubted down and dirty low life FUN - but nothing more.  I left laughing and satisfied at the two hours, but there was no affect; no aspirations by Tarantino to create a great movie with some underlying serious theme like Kill Bill; a few bloody signature Tarantino shocks (the way that the bar blonde in Stuntman Bob's car met her demise; a severed leg flying thru the air after a horrific 'suicide bomber' crash) but mostly it was benign and funny – the low interludes of dialogue between two groups of women, (all good looking young sexy broads) either driving – this was very much a road movie – or in funky bars in Austin and backwoods Texas loaded  with heavy Hispanic influence and garish décor juke boxes with great dance music, and big drinks (margaritas in big glasses and rimmed with a ton of salt, enormous shots of Wild Turkey or Tequila Gold), lots of beer, cigarette smoking, marijuana smoking,  and dirty female talk about men and having sex and either getting fucked or avoiding fucks if they found the man propositioning them a wanker; the little finger dick size gesture for guys in big noisy cars (like Kurt Russell, amusingly playing Stunt Man Mike) little did they know what they are in for) , quick sex in the back of cars and so on. The first group of lush looking, hard living beauties fall foul of Stunt Man Mike, but the second group get the better of him in a terrific car chase sequence. Kurt is better as the snarling/charming serial killer of the first half rather than the beseiged and frightened man pursued by the vengeful harpies in the second. The souped  up cars that feature in the movie are a gas guzzling incredibly noisy delight. No police in sight, no seat belts, no speed limit signs, no stop lights (no doubt all personal dislikes of Tarantino – he appears briefly, (thank God) over acting  as one of the bar owners, too self conscious to be an actor that any one would want to watch.
So a genre movie, a tribute to a certain kind of cheap B movie (Grindhouse ?) but really it was brilliantly directed and photographed (Tarantino himself the cinematographer) with  A movie standards. Authentic dialogue, authentic scene setting, all hyperreal and supersaturated; scary in a way, all that drinking and smoking and the feeling that these sexy boozy bar scenes could erupt into hideous violence at any moment. That extended lap dance with the serial killer for example. Free wheeling female characters, all looking like cat walk models in revealing fuck me clothes, loose and louche, the men all wanting to fuck them, the men however, (not chosen for either their looks or their physiques in the way Tarantino clearly chose the women) all at a loss as to how to deal with them. What really did real llife stunt woman,New Zealander Zoe playing herself in a real stunt add ? A touch of the ridiculous really,  her presence on the second car, strapped by the wrists to the bonnet in a lesbian sex game played with Kim the driver.


TELL NO ONE is scripted from a novel and every nuance and every character of the novel seems to be have retained, making it two hours long and incredibly complicated.   I have learned not to be tortured by what I cannot understand or follow under these circumstances, sitting back and letting it all just wash over me with the hope that the director knows what he is doing and will lead me to a satisfactory conclusion eventually. Which is what happened here, although the denouement took a lot of explication, was clunky and a bit unlikely but the last scenes were beautiful and romantic, a payoff for all  the grief that the main protagonist had been put through; a bit like Harrison Ford's travails  in The Fugitive really, the innocent man pursued by over zealous police convinced  they have a middle class (he is a respected pediatrician whose wife has been murdered) murderer on their hands. Complicated by big money, mafioso connections, police corruption…great soundtrack. I seem to remember Otis Redding  and U2 being brilliantly used. I think Kingo is a bit bored. We ate as usual afterwards at the Noodle House.



Kingo rings – he loved Lady in a Cage and has emailed Tina Kaufman to see if she confirms his feeling that it had to be one of Edward Moss's favourites.

ANGEL
Director: Francois Ozon (all in English this  time)
I feel the need for a movie, there are suddenly many that I want to see. Francois Ozon's new one, Angel, is at the Dendy, so easy, I will see that at 4 40 and get there just in time after shaving but not showering.
I settle down in almost empty theatre with  a glass of red wine (Dendy permits it as does Chauvel)  and for twenty minutes I find it all quite delicious, a Barbara Cartland type story turned into Cartland  type movie, nice idea, an old fashioned melodrama, wonderful settings and colours, camp appeal I suppose, but soon the characterisations get stuck in a one track mode, are the movie remains just that, on the level of a Cartland romancer, a potboiler tragedy, with no distancing, no irony, just a straight take on an Elizabeth Taylor book which I suppose is a cut above a Barbara Cartland romancer, but even so…
Nothing to equal say the recent Far From Heaven the brilliantly imagined  remake by Tod Haynes (?) of a fifties Donald Sirk melodrama. Angel has no such edge. Not daring enough. All very predictable descent into cheap tragedy, grand tragedy on a tiny scale, and who cared about the poor woman at the centre of it all ? I didn't. Her  'unconditional" love for Esme, was never believable, and he was not developed enough to make him interesting; the artist unrecognized before his time. Fassbender the actor good looking but wooden. His portrait of her revealed at the grand launch of one of her trashy romanctic novels looked like a Lucien Freud version.
She peaked early (her novels went out of fashion as the country went to WW1 and she turned pacifist) and he peaked as an artist only posthumously -  after he hung himself. Greatest scene (ie with the most emotional impact for me) was towards  the end when Angel  turned into Wendy Whitely, clotes and all, and confronted Esme's long time mistress of whom she had had no suspiciion. Not enough to make it a great movie. On the whole, a good try by Ozon. A near miss.  More depth in the characterisations needed. More irony.  Sam Neil good as the sympathetic publisher, Charlotte Rampling very good as the wife of Sam Neill.  The lesbian who devotes her life to the brilliant self centred author heroine, is typified by her brother (the failed painter ahead of his time) as someone who finds her true self as the devoted shadow of someone famous.   Adapted from a bodice ripper but there was not enough bodice ripping  to make it a sexy movie. That massage scene between the two women for example should have been much extended.  Is Elizabeth Taylor the writer a step above someone like Barbara Cartland ? Yet another romance novelist for women? Oz does do clunkers of course. Eight Women was like an Agatha Christie country house murder mystery, tedious despite the prescne of every big time actress in France from Fanny Ardendt and Catherine Deneuve (famous for her role in Belle de Jour)  down.



DECEMBER 2007


RIFLEMIND  (theatre)
Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Written by Andrew Upton (Cate Blanchett's husband and with her future director of Sydney Theatre Company) with Maurice Blackman's spare ticket coming to me when Andrew could not go and Ian did not want to go. Ian offered it to me.
The piece has not garnered particularly good reviews and it was a long days journey into night, but better than I expected even tho it ended in a whimper rather than with a bang or any kind of satisfactory resolution. Suddenly over, the lights blacked out and suddenly on again the cast appeared and it was over. The surprised audience began clapping, Maurice very loudly, and the cast got two encores. Certainly no standing ovation. The acting good enough (except for whoever  the new rhythm guitarist was who did not have his American accent together), the direction good with as many as all seven cast members on stage at once and talking over and to and across each other and moving about easily in the kitchen living room of the single stage setting. The main thrust of the piece was about the decision of former super group Riflemind to reform fifteen years later and go on tour provided their studio rehearsals at John (Hugo Weaving) the lead singer's country mansion proved  they could do it, they had enough new material etc. The band had been languishing all this time with the lead singer a recovered alcoholic but bitter and cynical, with the help of Suzy, his sweet and suburban little wife who turns out to have troubles of her own which occupy the second half of the play. Whereas in the first half (two thirds really) she was used as just a fey creature for the band to make jokes about as she slowly made vegan sandwiches  for them and talked about her yoga lessons, as they sorted out their own problems with each other and with the commanding and charismatic John with whom they were all in one way or another, still in love with. Hugging and kissing and wrestling and sexual innuendo with him all on display.
The wife's  problems – she turns out to be completely bonkers – are partly to do with the stress she has experienced keeping John, her husband on the rails and during the course of which she herself goes off the rails (eg opening the fridge and thinking it is the toilet, sitting down in the vegetable crisper at the bottom to take a pee and then complaining (found there after sometime by her returning husband) that her bum is cold. It has obviously happened before as he calmly picks her up and empties the pee down the sink, washes out the container and puts it back) but after returning after disappearing for a few days, it is clear that she is back on drink and drugs. Last line of the play is from John the former punk  rock star who says I'm going on tour and making a lot of money. I'll send it back to you and you can send it all up your arm. Black out.

New phrase for me. When John talks to closetted band member about his being gay he says "I didn't mind when you turned to the brown side…"


TOY SYMPHONY (theatre)
Director: Neil Armfield

A big thumbs up, particularly for Richard Roxburg's performance.  Comments to follow. Brings it all together unlike Upton's failed attempt in Riflemind.


BEOWULF
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Another thumbs up, thanks to the 3D glasses and to the better than expected screenplay.



HUNTING AND GATHERING ( at a crowded advanced screening)
Director:

Not as good as expected. But, heart warming, a French bonbon, quite warm and lovely, engaging throughout – just.  Predictable, but down to earth enough (just) in its characterisation, dialogue  and plotline as to not be accused of romantic sentimentality. Audrey Tatou did her thing again. Ian might like it  - if he ever went to movies - for the many kitchen restaurant sequences. I could not even get him to go to Rataouille! Hero is a sous-chef. She works for a cleaning company. The back streets of Paris rather than the Champs Elysse but we do go to La Coupole briefly.



INTO THE WILD
Director (and adaptor for the screen) Sean Penn
I talked Gary out of staying home and watching DVDs – he presented me with lures like Shortbus, Latter Days (a gay Mormon story I had already seen at Kingo's) a famous Louis Malle film Murmur of the Heart (boy has sex with mother), Almodovar's All About My Mother and an Au Revoir Les Enfants (?) an early Truffaut (?) but I still preferred to get out of the gloom of that big house. I should have known that INTO THE WILD would not appeal to Gary. Such an all American movie which in its slightly boring one dimensional way, revealed a little of what is wrong with America, but it was not a slice of reality kind of movie, it romanticised everything and was very one dimensional. A young man, middle class, bright, who did what so many young people do after graduation – take a break from the grind of education and career, go travelling, see the world and so on, drop out, and then drop back in again, and he too would have dropped back in again after fulfilling his obsession with the wildness of the wildest (in his mind), empty of people Alaska, but his luck ran out – the river he had easily crossed to get to his summer camping spot in Alaska – actually an old abandoned bus fitted up for living with a bed and stove – had become a wide raging torrent. Realising what this meant he made a futile attempt to cross, almost got dfrowned along with all his equipment, and returned to the bus and proceeded to starve to death – missing company, alone and scared (for first time in his life, or so the movie would have it) with the last entry in his daily jottings "Happiness – only possible if there is someone to share it with or words to that effect…two weeks after he died moose hunters found his body. Lying in hissleeping bay on the mattress in the bus …piror to that we are shown in flash back his odyssey through parts of the American west = the scenery always gorgeous, the colourful types he shacks up with, colourful poor and lonely types – an old hipie coule whose dreams have faded, now traveling in acamper van, quarrelling between themselves, making the best of thir plight, the briefly glimpsed nudist colony, the canoe trip down the Colorado all the way to the Bay or Cortez, the camp in the Anza Borrego Desert where he meets his final friend before heading north – an old lonely man who makes leather belts and wansts to adopt him – but all these p[eople who llike him and try to help him want him t ostay, get over his obsession, are all rejected. He has no feeling for the pain he causes them by leaving. He does not show himself in the movie to be anything  at all dysfunctional, good looking,  charming, sociallly adept  - not however shown sleeping or haivng sex with anyo of them or masturbating, pictured as completely sexless, so was this a hidden side of the personality ? Sean Penn avoids this as he does showing him naked except for one distant shot of him lying on his back on a rubber raft in the river, very distant, but surely with McCandless cosntantly opening his arms to the sky and yelling truth ! freedom ! at last , surely he would have abandoned one of the last vestiges of civilisation, clothes – was it to get the right classification for the movie or because he was ashamed of the size of his dick or something ? impotent for some reason . The excuse not to have sex with the girl in the desert trailer park was that she was too young – when it came to the crunch and she demanded he make love to her -  was he really gay ?

The movie was too one dimensional to fully engage me - and certainly not Gary who must have looked at his watch half a dozen times during the 2 and ½  hour movie. He was groaning through the first fifteen minutes at how on earth  he was going to sit thru the w hole thing …it did gather interest slowly for me but never fully got to me. I certainly did not share any tears at his fate – very well done the final agonies of his life when he  realises he is going to die and has to give up the ghost.
He did not write HELP on the roof of the bus ? Were there no planes flying overhead at any stasge ? Why were there no mosquitoes ?  Isn't Alaska notorious for  mosquitoes in the summer ?
The side attractions along the way were just embroidery and when they had to carry the weight of a very thin story it just emphasised that they were just that – embroidery –, the caribou, the wolves, the moose (not so bad, the use of the moose because it was an integral part of the story – its shooting, its hacking to bits for the meat and his failure to preserve the meat for later use  - the final close encounter with a huge grizzly, the buzzards, all that, earlier, the freight train – the only time the bad side of his earlier journey was shown, when the train guard discovered him hitching a ride in  a box car and threw him off the train and beat him up unecesssarily, hippie scum sort of American redneck attitude, but the brutality esaggered probably to keep the audience awake, like the killing of the moose and earlier the rapids, impossibly difficult and he would have certainly drowned, but Penn knew he needed to exaggerate to keep his viewers because of weak plot line albeit truish …glossed and romantic as I mentioned above.  Well, a big time feature movie, not some art house feature.  Childish attitude thruout  - the burning of his money a symbolic gesture, but he later earned money, needed molney to buy a good gun to hunt in Alaska, good equipment, tent and sleeping bag and so forth, so the money thing rather hollow.  Accepted hospitality all along the way from people lonely and needing company and in return ultimately gave nothing except his presence while in their company and left them all regretting his going, with no regrets on his part. Magnificent Obession ? Not really. Just obsession.  Mindless Obsession. The flaw in his character ? If it was a flaw. The unhappy childhood ? The difficult relationship between mother and father – the father a problem, violent and career orientated and – nuclear physicist, much honoured – well depicted by William Hurt with scarcely a line, just a look here and there.
Yes, a long movie, teetering throughout on the edge of boring. I did enjoy seeing such lyric use made of the glories of the American West – the Grand Canyon, the deserts, the Alaskan snow when he arrived, the Alaskan summer and so on, but…


BEE MOVIE
Director: Jerry Seinfeld
Very inventive and funny for a while,but then runs out of bee jokes and turns into just another cartoon fantasy outside the logic of the early scenes which have a nice satirical touch and lots of witty lines. Not a movie for kids really, inferior in visual appeal to Toy Story and all the others. Barry B Benson (Voiced by Seinfeld) the bee hero is funny in the way he talks throughout but Jerry should have kept the movie  to a length more like his brilliant sit com. 60 minutes at most or come up with a better story. I think some reviewer said the last half was a series of tableaus barely connected by the thread of the thin plot. Disappointing, but I liked it anyway despite the dull patches. The Boeing landing at the very end and behaving like a bee exploring a flower was a return to the brilliance of the early scenes.


ATONEMENT
Director: Joe Wright (Co-Producer: Tim Bevan who is producing Hippie Hippie Shake)
I walked quickly up to the cinema complex and was just in time. Slight delay caused by fact that Union George St complex now has to give all patrons a seat number. Seems a little ridiculous. I may have missed a minute or two but knowing that first part of the story very well, it did not matter that much…
A big canvas movie, beautiful to look at throughout. Big romance. Grand tragedy with the greatest punch not being the initial lie but how it is wrapped up. I burst into tears at the revelation  - by the old and dying Brioni (Vanessa Redgrave in a wonderful cameo).  Not quite on the scale of The English Patient but big. One would have to call Dunkirk deconstruction (shown not as heroic but as an utter disaster)
Lyrical and beautiful all on a summers day, all that stuff at the great Tallis country house with 13 year old Brioni played brilliantly (a scary Saoirse Ronan) as it has to be, considering her behaviour is the trigger for the entire story. She atones, but what is that little blip at the very end when she as a nurse visiting Cecilia (too much of a fashion plate Keira Knightly) and Robbie (James McAvoy) at their little London flat says that the real rapist of Brioni's friend, was not a local working class lad, but in fact the friend of her brothers who owned the Amo chocolate company. What about his atonement ? What was HE doing when Robbie was going to jail because of Brioni's LIE ? What about HIS guilt. Now that five years later that man has married the thirteen year old he raped (Brioni's cousin) that girl annot as a wife, testify against her husband  even as  Brioni is now telling angry Robbie and Cecilia that she will go to the police and confess what she had done. Why did that couple stay silent ?  Did not care because Robbie was working class ?  And the whole tragedy was based ultimately on understated class differences ?

Yes, very hard to believe really that Robbie actually went to prison and that his protestations of innocence fell on deaf ears, even with the help of Cecilia.  Movie solved the problem by just not dealing with it. How did McKewan deal with it in the book ? Seems like a hosue of cards which comes crashing down the more you think of it. A potboiler.  The movie has to be enjoyed as a morality tale, not a realistic tale. I was moved, felt the tragedy, but also felt afterwards that I had been had.  A trick, a literary and cinematic trick. Superficial in that sense. The book too ? Albeit a literary, beautifuly written, tour de force.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Directors: Coen Brothers
The movie ? Quite a few people there in the dark. It was terrific for a long time. Perhaps it went on a beat too long. Perhaps Sheriff Bell's (Tommy Lee Jones) West Texas  rural accent was a bit hard to comprehend; he was given much to say of a weighty philosophical nature, (taken straight out of the Cormac McCarthy book - I checked that last speech about a dream in which his father goes ahead to a dark place, carrying fire in a horn for lighting and knew he could follow him safely because his father would light a fire and he would be there for him) and the movie needed that heft to take it out of and above the serial killer genre. Well, the story itself takes it out of that.  But by the end, Anton Chigurh (Javier Barden) the irrepressible unstoppable Terminator figure is left walking off down a suburban street with a borrowed shirt bandaging his broken arm with the bone sticking out. Not brought to justice.  He 'bought' a shirt from a stripling who had seen his car crash into another car – was the reason for the crash the fact that Bardem was not looking where he was going, looking instead at the two boys on their bicycles  - a hint here of pedophilia in this archetypal creature ? – or did the other car crash into him ? In either case he was not watching properly. Even this unstoppable creature with no real humanity towards others,  could be a victim of chance.  The movie switches instead to Sheriff Bell talking with his wife in his retirement and recounting the dream, I raised my hand to the screen and said "Enough" almost aloud and at that precise moment the screen went black. THE END. Inconclusive ending. Did Bardem kill the wife ?  We did not even hear the shot. But he did drive off in her car and had said that he promised to kill her to her husband who was more concerned with saving himself rather than her. But did he kill Llewellyn or was it the Mexicans who had hired Chigurh to get the money back ? That Mexican in the suit who took the mother's bag ? Chigurh did kill Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) a hit man hired by a Mr Big (Stephen Root) to kill Anton and get the money back. That killing was also off screen. Just. As the movie went along the in your face killings got more circumspect (is that the word ?). As the characters who got killed were more integral to the plot, we saw less of their demise. The body count very high, the weapon used to kill each time was bizarre – a cattle gun. The tension in the movie largely resulted from Chigurh – would he or would  he not kill the next unfortunate person he ran into. Gas station attendant, motel desk clerk, innocent police officer doing his job, passer by on the road stopping to help, woman poolside in El Paso…he was like an figure representing the ultimate evil in humanity.  Fate. A Grim Reaper.  Like Grendell in Beowolf perhaps. The dark side of human nature that we always have to deal with. Did he really kill for the money ? It seemed to be something other than that. He killed all those whose money it actually was. Had he got the money by the end or had the Mexicans got it when they killed Llewellyn. The film became less and less realistic as it went along, moving into allegory or myth, despite the attention to tiny detail.
Yes, a great movie but I would like to see it again to better comprehend the dialogue, particularly that of Tommy Lee Jones, who as I mentioned,  carried a lot of the weight of the movie. I enjoyed more perhaps Jones earlier movie (June 2006), The Three Burials of Miquelades Estrada. That too wilted slightly at the very end.

I did in fact seeeit a second time. Even better. Still some unresolved questions. But I made sure I listened to Sherrif Bell's recounting of  his dream and vague as it w as, I was moved by it this time instead of being slightly bored – as one msotly is at the recounting of another person's dreams.





 











    
 
 




 







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