peteg's blog

Our Nixon

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I got suckered into watching this CNN-screened production by a writeup in the New York Times. It's a bit drecky: billed as home videos of Nixon's time in the Whitehouse, it is mostly just warmed-over scandalsheet stuff. There is too much stock footage from the TV networks. I did enjoy the coverage of Nixon's trip to China, and the bewilderment of his entourage at a propandistic Chinese opera celebrating the peasants overthrowing a landlord.

Man of Steel

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Vacuous entertainment for the empty-headed, as I was this evening. Snyder is a gifted visual artist but suffers from the paucity of his material; I hope one day he can find something else to portray than ultraviolence, and 9/11 exaggerations. How can anyone care when two practically indestructible superdudes face off?

American Gangster

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Despite his Oscars Denzel Washington's movies are not highly rated on IMDB; this tops the list. Coarsely put, Ridley Scott remakes The Godfather and Once Upon a Time in America at similar length to the latter. Russell Crowe reprises his role as tough (indigestible) moral fibre from L.A. Confidential, The Insider, etc. I quite enjoyed it, unoriginal though it seemed; shades of Zodiac too. Apparently Roberts's disintegrating marriage and custody battle exaggerates Serpico and has no basis in reality.

Advise and Consent

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Something of a 12 Angry Men, but in the U.S. senate. The opening is a whirlwind that does not bode well for the rest, though as things slow it supplants urgency with quiet reflection. I don't rate all the twists, nor the impetuosity of the players, but it is a fine outing for Gene Tierney (as a sophisticated society hostess), Henry Fonda (the President's man for Secretary of State), Charles Laughton (a lion of the Senate) and many others. A late Otto Preminger.

Training Day

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On Dave's recommendation. Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke. Hawke strikes me as an interpolant of Tom Cruise and Christian Bale. The story falls apart at some point and is a bit predictable all the way along; perhaps they should have aimed for a twist at the climax. Good work from the actors however.

... and that about wraps it up for Lode Runner.

/noise/games | Link

Loderunner level 151, err, 1.

I've been fascinated by this game since I was a kid. At some point I bought a copy of the IBM PC version on a blue 3.5" disk that I still have. I'm sure I played it more on the Apple ][ back in the day however, and I never saw an official disk for that platform. Apparently there is an iOS version of this classic now. This time around I played all 150 levels in an excellent Apple ][ emulator: Open Emulator, which features all the monitor distortion you tried to forget, and the friendly sound the Disk ][ Drive makes while chewing your floppies. I chipped them €10.

Don't take the men figure there literally; I saved and reloaded frequently.

I always meant to check out Choplifter and so forth, but I fear I'll need a joystick to play them comfortably.

Evelyn Waugh: Black Mischief

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A recent review in the New York Times pointed to this, and David Bowie apparently has Waugh's Vile Bodies on his book list. I extracted both from the UNSW Library. As with the last Waugh I read, this is heavy-handed satire of (pre-)colonial Africa and the venalities/incompetencies/etc. of the foreigners and locals. I didn't find him that funny this time around, perhaps because I could see where he was going too often. The concluding cannibal's feast, where the liberated diplomat's daughter is unknowingly consumed by her caddish boyfriend-of-the-previous-moment, prefigures Ishiguro's climax in When We Were Orphans. Mercifully a quick read.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Early-evening snorkel at Gordons Bay. I went a bit too early and got caught up in the traffic on the scuba ramp. Some large ludderick and the usual suspects, and a small stingaree, seemingly too immature to do the sand-flapping trick.

The Turning

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With The Ritz showing uniform dreck on this cheap Tuesday, I was tempted to give my Palace Cinemas membership a workout and go see this adaptation of Tim Winton's collection of shorts The Turning, which I read a long time back. Apparently he has a new book out now, but I have yet to check it out.

This presentation, like the book, is a bunch of shorts, but I couldn't connect any of the shorts in one with those in the other, perhaps revealing that while I enjoy Winton's work it doesn't stick with me; the form, however, does. I can't remember all of the movie either, as it was three hours with an intermission (from 8.15pm to about 11.40). I hadn't really noticed the fantastic classic neon sign out front of the Verona.

I felt the movie must have been strongly influenced by Winton's later Breath, with a fair bit of surfing. Western Australia looks like a foreign country, and sometimes there is overreach in the pathos. Often the stories are revelatory, and it is not clear that the presented axis is enough of a pivot to achieve the indicated effect. As always the movie adaptation involves some loss of inner space. Each comes with its own ambience, spanning over-talking, dialogue and silence. There are some particularly striking uses of suspense, such as the Aboriginal kids go to the beach with their elder men, who engrossed and dignified in their fishing allow the boys a little too much freedom. Another has a mature version (Callan Mulvey) of a kid entangled in other child's death returning to the scene.

The pick of the actors is probably Rose Byrne, who turned in a masterfully egoless performance opposite an ever-beautiful Miranda Otto. This was the lynchpin story, I guess - turning towards Christ, the domestic violence, the low expectations and possibilities of the trailer park. Throughout the portrayal of Christinianity is respectful. Roxburgh and Blanchett have fun as a married couple, though Niven is a bit too arch as his mother. I did not identify Mia Wasikowska. Hugo Weaving's dead man walking reminded me somehow of an earlier Australian cop movie that I can't recall the name of. Dan Wyllie turns in a solid effort too in the final (? - I think) one, revealing his deadly skeet shooting skills. I was captivated by the dance episode: a woman works her way through a series of seated blokes, lined up like they are practising the hats puzzle. The final bloke suspends her with a single arm; he holds the woman (the world?) in his palm. Susie Porter is a happy-go-lucky cleaning lady whose lawyer-in-training son learns from a teachable moment.

Bourbaki Ensemble: Barber's Adagio for Strings and so forth.

/noise/music | Link

David Angell, my first-year calculus tutor, took up conducting amateur orchestras some time in the late 1990s. I made it to a couple of his gigs years ago. At $30 for an adult, the crowd was small and appreciative, and St. Stephen's in Newtown has super acoustics for this kind of chamber music. Betts is super-happy after her tune-up, and I enjoyed the ride over despite some overly aggressive traffic (for a Sunday, anyway). I think one of the music profs was was playing cello; last time I saw him (or the bloke he most resembles) he was opposite some of his students: the Tawadros brothers and a bloke playing tabla, in the Clancy. The draw was Barber's Adagio for Strings, which I only recently realised was at the heart of Ennio Morricone's score for Lyne's Lolita. The second set featured some lovely harp.

Version 1.0: The Vehicle Failed to Stop

/noise/theatre | Link

Preview, $20 at the Carriageworks. There was a fairly large crowd of fello cheapskates. The topic — contractors operating beyond the reach of the law in Iraq, and the carving up of the country's economy — was similar to the first production I saw from these guys (The Wages of Spin at the dear old Performance Space on Cleveland). The performers were fine but I didn't really get into it. The room is cavernous and well-suited to this kind of work.

UNSW Justice Talks: Nicholas Cowderey

/noise/talks | Link

Cowderey was famous for taking it to the politicians while he was the Director of Public Prosecutions for NSW back in the 1990s and early 21st century. I read his book Getting Justice Wrong sometime back then. As a semi-retired visiting professor at UNSW, tonight he spoke on those old themes, and gave us his backstory: assisting the Commonwealth in prosecuting R&R drug violations by visiting American soldiers, and four years or more in Papua New Guinea as a prosecutor. Contrary to Fraser et al, this was not a mea culpa: he acted on his beliefs while he had power, though he often found the law and justice to be at odds. We heard of the husband who assisted his wife (suffering from advanced MS) commit suicide who later owned up to it all, forcing the police to charge him with murder. The result was a conviction for assisting suicide and a twelve-month good behaviour bond; some kind of justice in his eyes. He claimed the Greens have "an excellent policy" here. There was also the young Vietnamese bloke who gave a clean needle to a junkie who overdosed later that night, yielding a manslaughter conviction.

Broadly Cowderey explored the schism between justice and the law, and advocated for more discretion for judges etc. — which is cold comfort for those of us outside the legal arena who so easily see the costs and obfuscations and not so often the progress. I got the impression that he felt much of his work as DPP in prosecuting drug offenders was a waste of time, though he was careful to say that the other laws are already strong enough to handle organised crime, black markets and all that. I heard the same about the terrorism laws back in the day.

2 Guns

/noise/movies | Link

Cheap Tuesday at The Ritz. The 9:20pm session was not very full. Main cinema, upstairs, downstairs closed. Wahlberg has been in some decent stuff recently (The Fighter amongst others, and seemingly a string of TV shows). I never really got into Denzel Washington, but not for any particular reason. He's fine here. Unfortunately the best bits were in the trailer. This is something like Stone's Savages, but far more wooden; perhaps the rest of it ended up on the cutting room floor. Paula Patton gets all sexy but can't act, again reminding me of the Stone outing. It fails to make a fist out of the rich premise of messy interactions amongst the US intelligence services that Bush facilitated post-911.

Nelson Algren: The Neon Wilderness

/noise/books | Link

Ribbat cited this collection of short stories in his book on neon. It's post-war noir. I struggled to get too enthused but every so often he does get it together. Mostly tales of alcoholism, pugilism, prostitution and the odd white out. Chicago never sounded so cold and fiercely lit.

Algren appears to have vanished without a trace. I still have his most-famous novel The man with the golden arm (also the title of a Barry Adamson song) to come.

A Slow Rip @ The People's Republic

/noise/music | Link

A 6pm gig at the venue that looks like something out of A Clockwork Orange (no, no, not the korova bar). I liked the first set by A Slow Rip; a wall of noise slickly done. I skipped the second one due to running out of energy (again). The inbetween guys were interesting too.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Somehow I overlooked this Otto Preminger / Gene Tierney effort from 1950. A solid slab of B-grade noir: slab-of-beef with a side of concrete Dana Andrews is a vigilante cop chasing some cardboard villains. Unfortunately Tierney's character is vapid; otherwise things are just fine. Both were better in Laura. Some nice twists and turns that rush the conclusion.

Love Streams

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John Cassavetes directed and starred opposite his wife Gena Rowlands in a screwy take on a successful writer's life, and his sister's mental unwellness and unwinding marriage. I can't say I got into this overlong indulgence. I think I prefer his works where he remained behind the camera.

Alaska Projects: Musical Alaska #12 — Phillip Glass: Music in Fifths

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I headed back to the carpark in the Cross for another subterranean gig. Free booze and all that for their second birthday, and I missed out as I was on Betts. The Glass piece came over OK after I realised that the squealing children and barking dog (yes, someone brought their dog) improved it. I skipped the second set in response to an urgent need to hack, the like of which I haven't felt for years. My attempt to buy their free water with a $10 donation was met with a copy of the third issue of the World's Only zine.

Gravity

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Dave was mad-keen to see this at the IMAX at Darling Harbour, and it was my first visit to such. We got some dumplings from Sydney Noodle King beforehand, and a pricey coffee at the Belgian chocolatier on the way.

Clooney does his usual alpha-male good-old-boy schtick, and Bullock drifts towards cliched histrionics. It's a homage to heaps of earlier sci fi flicks: Barbarella (woman gets undressed in space), 2001 (the space child, umbilical cords), Marvin the Martian, probably Apollo 13 (unseen by me) and so forth. Of course it is visually very impressive and was probably worth the $31 tickets. I found the plot pedestrian, with a standard string of emergencies and near misses, and the emotional stuff quite manipulative. For all that it was very immersive.

Apparently this bloke also directed Children of Men, which I remember being a bit meh. I think Dana Stevens is about on the money: the opening sequence is awesome.