peteg's blog

/noise/beach/2019-2020 | Link

I headed down to Coogee in the early evening of what was an incredibly hot and bushfire-polluted day: apocalyptic skies and very poor air quality. After reading some book on the headland I went for a very lazy paddle at the northern end of the beach: still cold in, and absolutely flat despite the gusty strong winds. Quite a few people on the sand, not many in the water. Afterwards I dried out for a bit closer to Gordons Bay but got moved along by a change that came through around 7pm: the much cooler southerly picked up and cleared the beach. The Smage tells me that the temperature dropped 12C in 15 minutes (starting somewhere close to 35C).

Elliot Ackerman: Dark at the Crossing.

/noise/books | Link

I enjoyed Ackerman's latest (Waiting for Eden) and so started trawling his back catalogue. This one is a bit of a tease: it's 2016-ish and somewhat ex-Iraqi, somewhat new-American Haris wants to cross from Turkey into Syria to join the Syrian Free Army in their struggle against Bashar al Assad. His timing turns out to be a bit wrong, he's a bit too trusting, and so his inchoate concerns are replaced by those of others. The woman most responsible is aptly summarised as Audrey al-Hepburn. Some of the description of that part of the world is great. The plot is not very satisfactory, which goes to show that Ackerman is improving.

Lawrence Osborne.

The Irishman

/noise/movies | Link

A spur-of-the-moment with Dave. 4pm session at The Ritz, $10 each. We sat maybe five rows from the front as it was already a bit packed when we got there.

It's long (3.5 hours!), and for mine, mostly the same-old Scorsese. The first half or two-thirds had enough going on to keep me fairly engaged but I struggled when things zoomed down to Frank (Robert de Niro) alone with his old Catholic man concerns. The cast is huge: I thought that was Stephen Graham! — but was wrong to think Marisa Tomei was back for another go-round with Joe Pesci, the pick of the leading actors. He dials it back masterfully. In contrast Pacino as Hoffa couldn't do more than pretend to a 1980s Pacino performance.

For all that it did make me want to eat pizza. Jack's was closed (I thought he only took Mondays off) so we ended up at a place down at the beach that doesn't take their vegetarian options seriously.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens. Coverage of stepson-of-not-that-Irishman-Chuckie-O'Brien Jack Goldsmith's recent book: excerpt at the New York Review of Books, Chris Nashawaty.

Barking Dogs Never Bite

/noise/movies | Link

More Bong Joon-ho completism: can there ever be enough? Apparently this was his first feature. Office-working Bae Doo-na sure looked young in 2000. Her close friendship with a shopkeeper brings some gentle comedy. Kim Roe-ha is a convincing homeless man. I felt that leading man Lee Sung-Jae's reaction to the barking dog(s) was a bit premature, and his coupling with Kim Ho-jung is similarly unjustified — she's a frosty bitch for most of it. There's some signature co-incidentals and the cinematography is ace. I wonder if dog eating is still in fashion. Over two sittings, trying to make it last.

/noise/beach/2019-2020 | Link

A carbon copy of yesterday: I wandered down to Coogee for a late-ish lunch and this time I brought my sandwich. Still cold in. Even more people about. The strong southerly (? - but not northerly) had the sand and everything else flying about; the Englishpeople were struggling to get their Frisbee to go where they wanted at the north end of the bathtub. Apparently this burst of hot weather is at an end.

Brian Toohey: Secret: The Making of Australia's Security State.

/noise/books | Link

Grim reading. It feels like an assembly of Toohey's reporting for the National Times and other now (substantially) defunct media outlets. Deborah Snow made it sound like a pile of scuttlebutt, and there is some of that alongside some China apologetics and attempts to sketch a rational policy for the defence of Australia. His most thought provoking contention is that Australia would be in a better place now if it had been forced to build its own relations in Asia after World War II. Unfortunately this and others like it are not very actionable.

The spooky stuff is mostly a waste of time, he reckons, though his assessment is very incomplete. He's harsh on Gillard’s foreign policy; I recall that her government approved the permanent stationing of US Military personnel in Australia, which was something that even John Howard had avoided. On nuclear war and Việt Nam he is too brief and may as well have deferred to Daniel Ellsberg's lifework. I learnt a bit about Exmouth and the fabulous-looking North West Cape during Toohey's lecturing on Pine Gap and U.S. submarine command-and-control. I wonder what to read into our lack of sovereignty.

Reviews are legion. The few I glanced at use this book as a vehicle for banging on about their own preoccupations.

Boom

/noise/movies | Link

Over several sittings. Another Tennessee Williams misfire. Angel of Death Richard Burton and everyrichwoman Elizabeth Taylor play out the Liz and Dick show in 1968 somewhere near Italy. It's bad and entirely boring; somewhere I was lead to hope for something in the vicinity of The Night of the Iguana.

Vincent Canby spills more words on the production history of the related plays than the movie. Roger Ebert made me think it might be so bad it's good (like his own scriptwriting efforts) but it simply isn't.

/noise/beach/2019-2020 | Link

Wandered down to Coogee in the early afternoon with the intention of eating a sandwich that I'd left on the bench at home (oops). Fortunately the banana yielded sufficient energy for me to get in at the north end of the beach for a brief and lazy paddle. The water remains a bit cold, clean and flat. Loads of people were baking on the sand on this hot day (31C) but not so many in.

Suddenly, Last Summer

/noise/movies | Link

A strange little psycho thriller. Tennessee Williams misfired with the script, and it was beyond the strong cast to make good: Elizabeth Taylor does her best but Katharine Hepburn is the more convincing. About 90 minutes of talky setup collapses into an empty climax that I took to be a vacuous warning about the perils of the gay lifestyle. Lobotomiser Montgomery Clift never seems to blink.

Bosley Crowther at the time. IMDB suggests he must have written something more scathing somewhere else.

The Professionals

/noise/movies | Link

Second time around, somewhat by accident, over several sittings. Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Claudia Cardinale, Jack Palance. A Mexican revolution. It makes little sense.

Bosley Crowther in 1966.

Terminator: Dark Fate

/noise/movies | Link

Well! Arnie is back and Dendy has $10 tickets to their mostly-empty lounge in Newtown, so I headed to their 1:30pm screening on this day-after-opening. The girl at the counter suggested the front row was too close, but I'd say seat B3 was too far, and the people up the back probably should have watched it on their 8K screens at home. The US-style chairs have leg supports but don't recline. Apparently there's a menu but I didn't get asked before, after or during.

This movie was conceived in weariness: all of the tropes are stale. The draw was mainly that James Cameron just may have been able to inflate the script, but instead we merely got some fem-heavy politicking and too much senseless chatter. The politics are threadbare: we begin in Mexico City but of course Texas is where you go when you need security. Arnie has a Latina wife and Latino son, for unconvincing reasons, and these are rapidly and hygienically disposed of when the plot demands. Linda Hamilton gave me Hillary Clinton vibes, perhaps because her F-bombs were all that elevated this to MA15+ from whatever T2 was rated back in the day. I grant that Mackenzie Davis is a far better actress than Emilia Clarke but not even Meryl Streep could have made those dank dark airplane scenes work. There is nothing particularly clever or inventive at any point, and the ending is surprisingly lame. Arnie's old-man Terminator is milking-it poignant in a Hugh Jackman sorta way (again!), and it is absurd that he can take it to the latest and greatest. Natalia Reyes as the latest pivotal historical figure and Gabriel Luna do what they can.

IMDB had already panned this thing before its Australian release. I was surprised it doesn't seem to be on the big screens at e.g. The Ritz. A. O. Scott. Jake Wilson. Dana Stevens.

NIDA: Goldilocks by Michael Gow.

/noise/theatre | Link

A $10 cheapie from UNSW Creative Practice Lab, with Dave after we spent the afternoon packing most of my junk into the troopy. In the Playhouse, three rows from the front; we had tickets for the second row but it was already occupied by friends and fans. Not too many people.

I had some hopes for this as Michael Gow is an apparently-famous playwright, though I hadn't heard of him. The story is essentially a compilation of cliched tropes that amount to no more than what the blurb suggested: the Drake equation, Fermi's response, a female alien who defeats Gow's conceit that there might be dark "moral" matter keeping intelligent species apart. And so forth. It had a few good performances — specifically the alien girl and the computer hacker — but I can't find the actors' names. The use of mixed media is getting a bit stale.

Afterwards we went to Chat Thai on Campbell for supper and then Café Hernandez for tea.

/noise/beach/2019-2020 | Link

I've been resisting going to the beach these past few weeks as I know that if I do I won't get moving until next winter. Well, today I broke down and attempted to combine some light and brief exercise with some rumination at Gordons Bay in the late afternoon. I rode down there as usual, just as the day was cooling off after being quite warm at midday. Loads of smoke haze from the big bushfires up north. The water was warm-ish in, totally flat, and the tide was as far out as I've ever seen it. I got in off the southern rocks, scampering past a rather large and colourful crab while a much smaller one made way for me. Two dogs, one one on the beach, the other a bit along the south rocks. The locals seem friendly just now. Read some book on the headland in a vague attempt to dry off.

The Razor's Edge (1984)

/noise/movies | Link

An almost scene-by-scene remake of the 1946 original and in all ways worse. Over many sittings. This was apparently Bill Murray's dramatic debut but he is only convincing when horsing around. Unfortunately the supporting cast is generally worse. Catherine Hicks out horribles Gene Tierney in the role of the jilting and the jilted. Theresa Russell fares better in Anne Baxter's. It may be that Denholm Elliott outdid Clifton Webb. James Keach is bland. Saeed Jaffrey played Billy Fish in the incomparable The Man Who Would Be King. The editing cuts directly to salient scenes with no sense of time flowing. There's no point to it at all. Lifeless.

Janet Maslin at the time, and Roger Ebert.

Cactus

/noise/movies | Link

This one was on the pile for an age and I forget why; perhaps a Shane Jacobson jag from Kenny before he did IGA ads? One ocker bloke kidnaps another ocker bloke and they go for a long drive out into the dead heart of 'straya in 2008; cliches ensue. Bryan Brown, Travis McMahon, David Lyons. Jasmine Yuen Carrucan wrote and directed; IMDB suggests she's a second bean camera lady and this was her final cinematic effort.

The Lineup

/noise/movies | Link

Back in 1958 the San Francisco Police Department collaborated with Don Siegel in making this anti-drug-trafficking propaganda piece. Everything is black and white! Notionally Eli Wallach is a Floridian fixer inexplicably flown in with his mentor/handler Robert Keith to collect the heroin muled by unsuspecting innocents who cruise from Hong Kong. Things go predictably ary. We're promised a finale at the hands of the mob but it seems SFPD likes to think it can take care of its own, though Warner Anderson's wooden inspector is a long way from Dirty Harry. It's all a bit meh.

Baby Doll

/noise/movies | Link

A black-and-white Tennessee Williams from 1956, prompted by its presence on the Ensemble stage presently. Directed by Elia Kazan. Stars a very young Eli Wallach (again cast as a Sicilian) and Karl Malden. Pivot Carroll Baker blows hot and cold and every which way. The characters and conceit don't add up to as much as his other works. The plot is a bit like The Club: a larger-scale Syndicate opens a cotton gin in Tiger Tail County, Mississippi and puts the profits of the local old-boy influence networks under intense strain.

Bosley Crowther was unimpressed at the time: "Three of its four main people are morons or close to being same, and its fourth is a scheming opportunist who takes advantage of the others' lack of brains."

Birds of Passage

/noise/movies | Link

A spur-of-the-moment burn of a free ticket at the Verona. 6:20pm session, Cinema 1: I was allocated a second row seat that proved way too close for a movie with subtitles and so moved to the third. Maybe a total of eight people. Palace Cinemas should make it free to book online, at least for members.

I got suckered by the glowing reviews (A. O. Scott, Paul Byrnes). In reality it's a Godfather mashup, or more accurately a tale of a Colombian Godmother (Carmiña Martínez) whose power animals are birds. The morality is entirely banal (don't grow and sell drugs ok) and the loads of local colour and tradition are hard to care about when the plot is so cliched. Disappointingly the girl on the poster (Natalia Reyes playing daughter Zaida) is characterless. Some of the cinematography is great but with the droughts in my ancestral lands I spent most of it wondering what they do for water in the middle of that dust bowl.

Afterwards I had dinner with Dave at Chat Thai on Campbell in Thaitown. It's worth waiting for the 10pm supper menu.

The Razor's Edge (1946)

/noise/movies | Link

A Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb jag from Laura. Based on a W. Somerset Maugham novel. The whole thing is pretty dire; somehow second banana Anne Baxter won an Oscar for dipsomania. Tierney is atrocious as a money-grubbing socialite who can't get over Tyrone Power. Webb does his best to inflate aristocratic America. Set substantially in France after World War I (Paris and the Riviera) with an excruciating interlude in India and a prelude in Chicago. Long, mostly tedious, over many sittings.

Bosley Crowther.

Chan Koonchung: The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. Something somewhere reminded me that the author of The Fat Years had a new-ish book out, but not that it wouldn't be worth reading. Briefly: an unqualified Tibetan residing in Lhasa decides he's driven and serviced his Chinese boss sufficiently to justify driving and servicing her daughter in Beijing. Along the way some dognappers (food) are busted and some out-of-town petitioners have their heads busted. It's a bum dream: the first half is mostly porn, and the second tries to throw some Tibetan folk wisdom against the subterranean walls of 2016 Beijing where nothing much sticks, not even blood. All of the characters are sketchy, especially the women.

Rupert Winchester at the Mekong Review. John W. W. Zeiser.