peteg's blog

Chungking Express

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What fun: two separate stories about lovelorn cops running around Kowloon after kooky girls. The cinematography is impressionistic and this aesthetic lifts the whole thing above the twee. On the recommendation of Cath.

Now to read the book!

Michael Clayton

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A very sombre Clooney fixes everything, getting even Tilda Swinton to swoon as the ship goes down with classic New York visuals. Not bad but the plot is a bit over-egged and unoriginal. In the mould of The Insider and so forth.

Bridesmaids

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I dunno. Clearly I'm not in the target demographic. Wiig (the strongest part of the weak Paul) is at her best when she does something unexpected, especially when she has her knowing conversations with her cop and her best mate. The story ambles along quite OK until it takes the necessary jag upward to an American ending. I couldn't really get into Rose Byrne's non-character. We didn't even get to meet the groom! — and what about all those side stories, like the bridesmaids' kiss on the plane?

Dana Stevens dug it. It is certainly not crap.

Out of Sight

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More Soderbergh completism. I agree with him that J. Lo is pretty good here, as is Don Cheadle, although Clooney doesn't quite commit to playing it straight or playing it Coen. The movie is ruined slightly by some shit dialogue at a critical juncture or two; the spliced up bar scene is really good up to the point where Clooney opens his trap. In brief, the story is mediocre but there are enough other things to keep you on the hook. Pulp Fiction editing helps on that front.

Samuel L. is too cool for this movie.

Lê Minh Khuê: The Stars, The Earth, The River

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A collection of short stories, some of which I'd read before in other anthologies. The translations by Bắc Hoài Trân and Dana Sachs are excellent. All of the stories sparkle, and she doesn't indulge too much in the war / enemy / corruption / communism stodginess endemic in this genre.

It seems that the good work of the Curbstone Press has come to an end, by the looks of their parked domain. What an ignominious way to go. It's good that the ANU Menzies Library has such a great stash of this sort of thing.

The Limey

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Stephen Soderbergh directs, Terence Stamp acts. That would be Melissa George in the photos. Cut up editing. Sometimes pretty good. Not entirely sure what the point of it is. Peter Fonda is less greasy than the situation demands. General ineptitude from the nominal bad dudes. Rated highly by the Soderberg completist.

/noise/beach/2011-2012 | Link

Early-afternoon snorkel at Little Bay. I picked the day to go: a forecast 27 degrees was actually 31. The bay was flat with quite a few more people there than I expected. As usual, I saw a few fish but not too many, and the water was mostly OK in a spring suit and gloves, until I got past the rocks where it got noticeably colder.

Natural Born Killers

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Yeah. I first saw this back in 1998 on VHS, at college with Pete R.. None of Oliver Stone's other movies get anywhere near the pitch of this one.

/noise/beach/2011-2012 | Link

Early-afternoon snorkel at Gordons Bay. The water was pretty cold, but sort-of a little bit OK in a wifebeater, spring suit and gloves. I didn't see much despite the water being pretty clear, apart from what I think was a large school of immature gropers quite close to the scuba ramp. The surf was a lot larger than it has been, which makes getting in a bit easier as I have less discretion about when my body parts get frozen.

Agora

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This swords-and-sandals mini-epic is beautifully shot and sometimes effective, with Rachel Weisz doing the heavy lifting. The plot is pretty scatty, as exemplified by a massive non sequitur in the middle where she gets hitched to her womanising student that she had previously handed her monthly cycle to. This compromise makes her later uncompromise difficult to comprehend. Also her verbalising "what if we look at the world as it really is" flies in the face of Hypatia's platonism; maybe they could have given the lines to an offsider named Empiricles or something. I did like the way they introduced her slave to Christianity, as it was abundantly clear what the attraction was. Conversely it is a bit surprising that he doesn't have a crisis of faith at some point, especially towards the end.

Rio Bravo

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A Howard Hawks western starring John Wayne. Unlike Hawks's earlier efforts, this one is much less screwy and a lot slower. There is still some sharp reparte, and while he doesn't patronise his audience, it's difficult to see what the point of it all is as the formula is followed slavishly. Angie Dickinson flirts outrageously with the Duke and deserved to be more than a domestic goddess.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

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An overlong Hitchcock. Doris Day is fine on the acting front but her character is flimsy, especially when histrionic; she's at her best playing the wife, duelling with Jimmy Stewart, and so much less interesting when impetuous or motherly. There are some good camera angles in the Albert Hall but much of it has Doris more-or-less helpless, rubbing her brain cells together. It is not particularly edifying.

The Cars That Ate Paris

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The cars that ate Paris has always connoted the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe to me, and I guess I expected this to pay some kind of tribute to Goddard. Heh, I couldn't be more wrong.

Like the Barry McKenzie movies, this is a celebration of bogan culture as perceived by the new wave Australian Film Development Corporation (now AFC) elite muppets. Taxpayers in 1974 would have been right to think that socialism is coming, and that it is mediocre and something to be feared; under socialism man acts abominably and the scripts are quite terrible. Thematically we have an Irish stew of lobotomies, experimenting doctors, isolation, Napoleonic tendencies, a tanking economy (a return to bartering), cars, bogans, bogan youths, bogan youths driving cars, and so forth. It is one of those movies where the cast and crew had the most fun.

Sofala itself is quite pretty, and the best shots are of the town from up high. It strikes me now that I don't think I've seen a Peter Weir film I liked.

Dead Man's Shoes

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Another Shane Meadows effort, from 2004. This is not as polished as This is England, and quite a lot more brutal. The acting is solid, not so sure about the story.

Catch-22

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This being the 50th anniversary of Joseph Heller's iconic novel, I figured I should watch Mike Nichols's adaptation of it. I feel sure I saw a contemporary Catch-22-ish thing years ago, but the movie archive is oblivious. This one is complete spaghetti (just like the book) and sags under the weight of unconvincing dialogue; what is funny to read sounds trite when spoken, or maybe it's just that Heller can show with words what the movie cannot. Also I don't think Yossarian looks like Alan Arkin, and Martin Sheen seems almost childish here, such a long way from his trip up the river.

The Shining

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Ah yes, Kubrick's horror film. Jack Nicholson is at the peak of his game here and at times the psychopathic Jack Torrance appears to come too easily. Shelley Duvall is excellent as his foil. The cinematography is brilliantly Hitchcockian. Rated #49 in IMDB's top-250.

/noise/beach/2011-2012 | Link

Early afternoon snorkel at Gordons Bay. I can attest that the water off Sydney's coastline is colder than off Sweden's presently, whatever the Manly Hydraulics Lab says, though it was sort-of comfortable in a wife-beater, spring suit and gloves. There are loads of fish there presently, some in quite shallow waters, and the visibility is quite fine.

John Balaban: Coming Down Again

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1974, northern Thailand, the golden triangle: a friend of Lacey's and the man's girlfriend and her Lao girlfriend are incarcerated by Thai border guards after carrying a minor amount of something-or-other across a border. Lacey, professor, poet, American, organises some bandits to liberate them. Balaban writes as well as I hoped but not really about what I expected; he implies there is some truth underpinning this fiction, but it is difficult to know what, and if this is more than just a ripping yarn written ten years after the event. The ultimate deus ex machina, featuring an NVA detachment and the words of Hồ Chí Minh, is a bit tough to swallow.

Dogs in Space

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I remembered this from years ago as some kind of vehicle for Michael Hutchence at the height of his fame, circa 1987. I'm not at all sure it tries to do much more than glamorise Melbourne 1978, and it would be difficult to claim that it succeeds even at that; for instance, the heroin-ending is absolutely feeble. In any case it does mark some point on the downward trajectory of Australian movies through the 1980s. I did like the abiding fascination with space exploration, and the reentry of Skylab, though as I remember it broke up somewhere in Western Australia, i.e. out past Moonee Ponds.

Reds

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Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and just briefly, Gene Hackman. Beatty directed and wrote this paean to the American journalist Jack (John) Reed, present at the birth of Red Russia, and garnered an Oscar for his efforts. Keaton got a nomination for being more-or-less a clothes horse for radical chic.

I'm not at all sure what this movie is trying to say about America and the Russian Revolution, and perhaps it is stuck in the late-70s when 1989 looked like it would never come. The ending is quite egocentric: what happened to Louise after Jack dies? Does she try to go back to the U.S. (where she would presumably be arrested) or remain in Soviet Russia? Somewhere in that 200 minutes Beatty could have told us.

The Brothers Bloom

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I watched this in the early afternoon, jetlagged and mostly out of it. This movie deserves even less consciousness, despite the efforts of Rachel Weisz. What I liked about Brick is totally missing in Rian Johnson's writing/directing here.