peteg's blog

Frankenweenie

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Tim Burton is up to his old tricks in this animated dog-loving tale. The aesthetic is Corpse Bride for the most part, with a dash of Mars Attacks!.

This is England '88

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Definitely into the land of diminishing returns, though I couldn't help racing through all three episodes, if only to see if Shane Meadows could make anything out of the cataclysmic finality of This is England '86. For much of this he did not, though once again the production is top-notch and I can't fault the sets or actors. I'd hope he comes out with something fresh next time around.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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A heavily abbreviated version of the BBC telemovie. All the actors are solid but the plot is so dense that I blinked and missed some cues. Good to see Oldman doing what Alec Guiness did, and Stephen Graham as a non-psycho.

The Pawnbroker

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1964. Sidney Lumet directs. Rod Steiger in the lead. Heavy.

Un Cuento Chino (Chinese Take-Away)

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Albert suggested this one to me ages ago, which I think he saw at the most-recent Sydney Film Festival. Ricardo Darín (El secreto de sus ojos) does a decent job in the lead as some kind of morose golden-hearted introvert. Generally nice though it starts to drag when the plot needs to progress.

Sydney (or Hard Eight)

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Paul Thomas Anderson's first feature, I think. The cast is small (John C Reilly, Philip Baker Hall as Sydney, Samuel L Jackson, Philip Seymour Hoffman) and made me wonder why Gwyneth Paltrow (here a confused cocktail waitress / prostitute) wasn't in Magnolia. The story shuffles between various places of desperation: the gambling dens of Nevada, the seedy motel, the gangsta car. Sydney is not that awesome a character to study but the whole thing is well constructed.

Charles Yu: Sorry Please Thank You

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The flaws of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe could not dissuade me from giving Charles Yu another opportunity to disappoint. Suffice it to say that he succeeds wildly. Douglas Wolk at the New York Times pretty much nails it; I have nothing to add.

Premium Rush

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Stephanie Zacharek gestured at this lightweight Gordon-Levitt vehicle in her review of The Master. Something for the cycleheads. I guess he thought he may as well put Batman buff-up to further use.

Mean Streets

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Early Scorcese. Impressionistic, dark, gritty, and not particularly engaging. Weak plot, railroaded to some kind of violent resolution that is signposted from the start. Hackneyed characters. de Niro does his usual over-the-top schtick, Keitel is a Mr Fixit with no form for fixing anything. At least I now know that I don't know what a mook is.

/noise/beach/2012-2013 | Link

Late afternoon super-lazy paddle at Little Bay. I got there to find that there was heaps of parking, and almost noone on the beach; soon enough I discovered what everyone knew about the bluebottles blown in on a strong easterly. I got in anyway, and was alert (and swimming slowly enough) to dodge the five or so I met in the water. The ride there and back was cruisy; somehow today I am full of confidence and not choking on the corners so much.

In the evening I popped into the CBD to grab a hot chocolate at the Max Brenner's in the Westfield at the Pitt Street Mall. Finding that one to be closed I headed up to the one past Wynyard. The feted motorcycle parking was in much shorter supply than I expected, and I was also surprised that so many of the shops were closed by 9pm.

The Master

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Instead of riding down to Cronulla for a snorkel, I decided to head to the dear old Verona to see this new flick by Paul Thomas Anderson at the oddly-timed 1:30pm session. The City of Sydney motorcycle parking map led me to believe I'd have no trouble finding something close by; as it was I squeezed into the spot on Napier St, near Rosebud Lane, which was already packed to capacity with three bikes, at least two of which had been there long enough for their throttles to be covered in spiders' webs. The CB250 just fitted into the skerrick of space left at the end, in the (useless to my eye) no standing area between the motorcycle parking and some kerbing protecting a tree.

Once there I figured I might as well rejoin the Palace Cinemas movie club, which was a vote in favour of being around for a while now, I guess. The Verona hasn't changed much since the big renovation, though the coffee was worse than I remembered. There were loads of oldies.

The Master is a difficult movie to get into, perhaps because it develops characters at the expense of storylines. I would say it is closer to There Will Be Blood than Magnolia if I could remember much of the former. Philip Seymour Hoffman's pseudo-Scientology is laid out in such a high-handed and sweeping way that it begs for instant dismissal. Joaquin Phoenix's curled lip recalled to me his time as a Caesar inflicting so much damage on bunny-lover Rusty Crowe. Amy Adams is prim and proper as the true-believing wife. For some reason the final exile-in-England act reminded me of Kubrick.

Stephanie Zacharek wonders whether it adds up to much. Dana Stevens talked it up twice (first, second). Anthony Lane worships it after summarising the salient bits.

/noise/beach/2012-2013 | Link

Mid-morning paddle at Gordons Bay. The CB250 is a bit stuttery when cold, so the trip there and back wasn't so comfortable. I just headed out towards the middle of the bay from the beach. Afterwards I grabbed some lunch with Ilan at On The Verge Café at Maroubra Junction, and won two of our three games of backgammon. I still have a lot to learn.

Sad Song of Yellow Skin

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Someone on the VSG mailing list suggested that this film from 1970 had some great footage of the Sài Gòn of the day. It somewhat complements Balaban's Remembering Heaven's Face, including a recording of Ông Đạo Dừa (the coconut monk) and his followers performing their pan-religious ceremonies. John Steinbeck IV gets a lot of time to sound like some kind of hard-arsed hippy, labelling voodoo and suchlike the "psychic sciences".

There are probably more gems to be dug out of the Canadian National Film Board website.

Janet Frame: To the Is-Land, An Angel at My Table, The Envoy From Mirror City

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I vaguely recall that someone ages ago mentioned An Angel at my Table to me, probably referring to the movie. I bought this set-of-three Paladin editions from the dear old second-hand bookshop dealer in Gordon that mrak told me he'd known since childhood, probably sometime around 2008. Since then they've stared at me from the shelves of an overstuffed IKEA bookcase, and as this is the year to let things go quietly into the night, I finally screwed up my nerve about a month ago and dove in.

Janet Frame was a Kiwi author with that checkered kind of fame that makes me wonder if her fiction was much chop. These books form an autobiography of sorts, where she focuses on her childhood in the first two, skipping lightly over the decade or so (her 20s pretty much) she spent in mental institutions in New Zealand, and finally finds some sort of liberation and romance in Europe in the last. I didn't read the poetry (hers or snippets of other people's) too closely. Her time on Ibiza seems magical.

These have left me with no particular desire to read anything more by her, though her magical realism might have something to it, and she implies that her One flew over the cuckoo's nest experiences were documented in one or more of her novels.

/noise/beach/2012-2013 | Link

Long shadows in the late afternoon at Gordons Bay.

Once again I rode the CB250 to work with the hope of getting to the beach by 6pm. After dropping my stuff at home I headed over to the Clovelly carpark and went for a snorkel off the scuba ramp on the northern side of Gordons Bay. The water is getting more comfortable, and visibility was quite good. I saw loads of large fish and the groper, but still no squid.

Last night I went for a cruise up around Woollahra and down to the CBD. A (possibly-probably strung out) girl jumped on the back of my bike at the Taylor Square lights, but was kind enough to hop off when asked. "You're going to get smoked" she told me as some sportsbike pulled up next to me. The taxis on Elizabeth Street are super-pushy. I'm now cornering like I'm born to it (when my nerve doesn't fail me).

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

I ducked down to NICTA on the CB250 to rescue my laptop, figuring I could head off from there to Little Bay and get some fuel at the Shell on the corner of Maroubra and Bunnerong Roads on the way. However the passing rain showers, contrary to the BOM prediction, stymied the beach part of that plan (and presumably dampened my washing). It remains warm enough that there is no water on the road of any import; and the bike handled about the same as in the dry.

Around 7:45pm I scooted down to the Clovelly carpark for a paddle off the scuba ramp at Gordons Bay. The water near the ramp was cold, but as always it was quite pleasant another ten metres out. I didn't last long as the light faded more quickly than I expected.

Bushwalk: Mt Kuringai to Berowra

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I rode down to Maroubra to Ilan and Nitzan's new flat on Friday night, met Pete R. there, and we jointly headed back to Asquith with the ambition of going for a bushwalk today.

After a slow start it was decided that Beth would take the kids down to Homebush to meet a friend now living in New Zealand. Pete and I got a bus up to Mt Kuringai (due to trackwork), and got a little lost on our way down the western side of the town; as it turns out I'd been there before (more or less), in addition to the eastern side a few months ago.

It was a beautiful day for it, a little humid but not too hot. The valley was quite misty. The walk wasn't too arduous, though it was supposed to be more than 9km. Afterwards we each had four beers at the banal Berowra Village Tavern. The trip back to Randwick was hellish: a bus to Gordon, a train to Wynyard, a bus to Randwick; about two hours I'd say.

A motorcycle rack from Beaconsfield Motorcycle Supermarket.

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

My free all-day come-whenever parking spot on Barker Street, about 50m from NICTA.

I went back to Beaconsfield Motorcycle Supermarket this morning to get a rack fitted to the CB250. Phil, the proprietor, had ordered me in a Ventura (short) sports rack, which with fitting set me back $320. It should be good for perhaps 50kg if I put the load on the pillion seat, but I can imagine the steering will really go to mush at that point, not to mention that I'd want to be certain about anchoring the load; I'm still figuring out how to do that just for my snorkeling gear.

I'm going a bit faster now, about 60kph-ish down Alison Road and keeping up with the cars. Cornering at speed is taking less courage.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

/noise/movies | Link

All the reviews of Killing Them Softly observe that it was an adaptation of a George V. Higgins novel and point to this as prior art. Robert Mitchum leads in a bleak tale of a small-scale Boston underworld. I liked it, though it didn't seem to go anywhere in particular.

Thomas Hardy: Life's Little Ironies

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Having enjoying Jude the Obscure I figured I would try to read this collection of short stories on the iPod Touch, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. Suffice it to say that it's taken me most of the year to get through this lot, and for this reason I don't remember it with much fidelity. I tend to think that Hardy is better at the longer form than the short, for though his prose remains fine here the plots and characters are so much weaker.

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

I've been riding the CB250 to work most days. Today I took it over to Beaconsfield Motorcycle Supermarket on Botany Road for a service, the second of its life. I think this boiled down an oil change, some sort of tune-up and a tweaking of the idle revs down to about 1,200 (from around 2,500 to 3,000). The owner of the shop nattered on with me for perhaps 40 minutes, until well past his closing time. It cost $158.

The ride over and back to NICTA was less painful than taking the buses; two 370s in the morning failed to show up and the traffic in the afternoon was horrendous. After work I took it for a burn down to La Perouse via Matraville, back via Maroubra and Coogee beaches. The port looks fantastic at night.

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

The oil tankers at Kurnell, with Port Botany in the background.

Unwisely I decided to ride out to Kurnell, partly because I hadn't been there for ages, and also because I figured I could go for a walk or a snorkel. Suffice it to say that by the time I'd gotten there I wasn't too keen to do more than have a coffee and ride back. It was about 70km round.

Taren Point Road wasn't so much fun as the wind got a bit gusty when I got to the bridge. Captain Cook Drive was pleasant, apart from the cars that overtook other cars (!) sitting behind me (doing 60-70kph in an 80kph zone) across double white lines. (On the way back I got out of the way by moving into the cycle lane.) I'm glad I learnt to ride in Saigon, for otherwise being undertaken by a previously-patient white Commodore coming out of a roundabout — he crossed over into the cycle lane to do so — might have been a real brown trousers moment. (Conversely there are few hills in Saigon, so I tend to start packing it whenever the terrain rises or falls, especially on the corners.) The Princes Highway was surprisingly calm.

/travels/Motorcycle | Link

I rode mid-afternoon down to the UNSW Library to drop off some books, and on to Long Bay (Malabar) for a swim off the beach for the first time ever. There was no surf at all. It was bearable and then comfortable in trunks and a singlet. Around Maroubra Junction on the way back I copped some pointlessly aggressive behaviour from some cars that sat right on my tail.