peteg's blog

New World

/noise/movies | Link

From a review in the New York Times. One might be tempted to ask if we haven't seen all of this before: Infernal Affairs, The Godfather (right down to the execution of the police captain), and of course, that trademark Korean blood-spray (Stoker and its antecedents). This one does all that and adds some minor comedy; the be-suited minions are choreographed superbly, with makeup that tracks who came off worse in the last biff. Old Boy star Ji-hyo Song anchors the show. Jeong-min Hwang reminded me of Lou Diamond Phillips in The Big Hit: very lippy. Both he and the lead Jung-Jae Lee (with model-perfect looks and impassivity) are excellent, as is the cinematography. There are some absolutely beautiful shots. The plot is not worth overthinking.

/travels | Link

On my return trip from Brisbane I camped at the Cypress-pine campground, Boonoo Boonoo National Park at Kate's suggestion. (She also suggested I go via Stanthorpe and Thunderbolts Way, but I was insufficiently mindful to execute that.) I drove up to the waterfall first as I got there too late to do the river walk. The pools there are quite beautiful, and the water not too cold but a bit scummy. There were a couple of German couples and a brace of younguns were hanging around at the same time as me. I wandered about a kilometre up the river walk track and found some more pools; contrary to my expectations the track meanders a long way from the river. The camping grounds were packed, with only a few spare spots. Several blokes (10?) had ridden down from Toowoomba-ish on some very fine motorcycles including a couple of BMW boxers.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Setting off from Station Creek, I aimed for a paddle in the Clarence River at Grafton. The helpful bloke at the information centre warned me of some spiny fish in the reedy shallows; I went in off the boat launch at Corcoran Park (yep, next to the sewerage treatment works). The water was quite warm and the current not too bad near the shore; I didn't venture out far.

Pining for the salt water, I headed off to Evans Head for some lunch (fish and chips from a delightful Kiwi lass). A friendly girl at the beach directed me to the surf club where some other people were attempting to swim. I ended up standing around in the waist-high breakers, which were dumping another 10-20 metres out. I don't think that beach is much good for anything unless it's blowing a storm.

/travels | Link

Spent the night at Station Creek, Yaraygir National Park on Andrew T's suggestion. (I ambitiously bought a New South Wales National Park Annual Pass in the expectation of more camping this season.) Indeed the dawn chorus is something to listen to. I went down to the beach but got there far too late to swim, even if that is possible; it looked quite exposed and possibly rough.

The Falcon and the Snowman

/noise/movies | Link

For which David Bowie did This is not America. Sean Penn, Timothy Hutton (previously unknown to me), Lori Singer (the blandly perfect foil for Hutton). Young blokes doing stupid things: trafficking in drugs and government secrets. Based on a true story, I'm sure, with motivation coming partially from Whitlam's sacking in 1975, and the shenanigans in Chile.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

/noise/movies | Link

Guy Richie yet again. McAdams does not survive the first reel. Downey Jr pays homage to Ledger in drag and lipstick on the train? (outcamping Stephen Fry?) A geeky anachronistic Einstein in the lecture theatre? Jude Law is workman-like; his disinterest in Kelly Reilly was approximately mine. If I wasn't told how clever and moral everything is I would not have an idea. Haven't we seen all of this before? — V for Vendetta not being the least of it. These guys did not avert the fall of Western civilisation; they embodied it.

Ensemble Offspring: FINŠ€: Numero Uno and Roar

/noise/music | Link

I was going to ride Betts down to Campbelltown (specifically Campbelltown Road) with this gig as the excuse. The rain put paid to that, and I was giving Erina a lift anyway. As always they had some nice bits but it was difficult to get into the whole thing. I liked the gong as played by Bree van Reyk. They did some performance art-y bits in the middle - and I had to wonder if these came with the piece or were intended to spice up some fairly abstract sounds. The venue was the same as, very pleasant (and I do like the neon in the foyer). We had a drink and a light dinner at the cafe in between the sets.

Sherlock Holmes

/noise/movies | Link

Guy Richie, Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams (taking a walk from To the Wonder). Always something to see but can she act? Mark Strong was much better as the father in Kickass. Richie does the bare-knuckle fighting thing again, just like Snatch. Meh.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Early evening snorkel at Gordons Bay, off the scuba ramp. Not the best visibility ever, and not that warm out.

The Adventures of Tin Tin

/noise/movies | Link

Better than I expected. A bit too frenetic at times; I wanted to look at more than just what's in the foreground. The Siamese early on is gorgeous, and Snowy's interactions with the other animals are some of the highlights. The (motion-capture) animation is pretty good, and perhaps because I am familiar with the Tin Tin aesthetic, not particularly uncanny.

Dana Stevens at Slate.

Anaconda (produced by the Tamarama Rock Surfers, at the Bondi Pavilion)

/noise/theatre | Link

As the BOM predicted, the rain ceased in the early afternoon, so the ride up to Bondi after dinner was quite pleasant. The ride home via Dover Heights was even nicer.

This is a play by Sarah Doyle, who apparently has some form for writing these things. Today was a cheap Tuesday, so the price was $21 to sit in the front row just off centre. The set essentially evoked the triangles of LGBT iconography (though I have no idea what a blue triangle implies). The themes were heavy (sexual assaults by schoolboys on schoolboys) and the drama toys with notions of redemption, the bystander effect, the unfixable, the incorrigible. None of the characters develop much, despite the revelatory air; in particular Leeanna Walsman is (valiantly, ably) stuck playing a society housewife (also careerist lawyer?) who just wants her husband's opprobrium to go away. Does this scandal make my bum look fat? (Again, Walsman herself does a fine job.) New jailbird Walker is pure symbol. I guess this is the problem with such extreme situations: everyone and everything is so polarised that we're left asking equivalents of "what would Jesus do?", for various notions of Jesus.

To the Wonder

/noise/movies | Link

Terrence Malick's outing from last year. He has clearly hit a sweet spot with his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who more recently shot Gravity. In contrast to the chattering men and silent women of Lawrence of Arabia, here Ben Affleck utters hardly a word; his women, when given the chance, do string a sentiment together. Olga Kurylenko, last seen as a Bond chick in Quantum of Solace, seemingly has a half-life longer than Gemma Arterton's. Rachel McAdams is a fetching and completely implausible ranch heiress. As the whole thing is as impressionistic — and even more abstract — than usual, it ends up feeling quite pervy: watching people fall into and out of love without really learning much about them or the logic of their romance is weird. During all of this Javier Bardem does not seem to get much understanding from God. I quite liked the marriage scene, where prisoners are signing legal documents right alongside the celebrant.

David Denby reviewed it for the New Yorker, A. O. Scott for the New York Times and Dana Stevens at Slate.

Lawrence of Arabia

/noise/movies | Link

The David Lean masterpiece. It's being shown as part of the British Film Festival at the Palace Cinemas.

Ball of Fire

/noise/movies | Link

There's a Howard Hawks retrospective on somewhere and I thought this looked decent. It's cornball: Gary Cooper is overly arch as one of a group of profs assembling an encyclopedia circa 1941. Barbara Stanwyck sings, dances and changes her mind about being gangster Dana Andrews's moll too rapidly for plausibility. I didn't really get into it.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

I met up with Ben at Coogee with the intention of snorkelling at the south end of Coogee beach. We instead headed for the north end due to a "Caution: dangerous currents" sign near the life saving club. Saw lots of the usual suspects, and Ben identified his favourite smooth toadfish for me. There was also a big blue groper hanging around at the end of the rockpool. Beautiful morning for it, with the stormy weather holding off for the entire day.

Ghanchakkar

/noise/movies | Link

Suggested by a New York Times review. The opening scene is great; the wife gets many good lines. The cinematography is good but not particularly inventive. Somewhat flaccid through the middle. Tarantino-ish at times. A bit meh really.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Late-morning snorkel off the scuba ramp at Gordons Bay. The big blue groper was sitting in about two metres of water, and seemed to think my fins might be some kind of competition. Some huge wrasse and so forth but still no squid. Very pleasant in a wife beater. Not too many people.

The Look of Love

/noise/movies | Link

Winterbottom places Steve Coogan amongst a sea of breasts in this biopic of the king of SoHo, Paul Raymond, sometime Britain's richest man. It's all a bit cold and creepy, very transactional, and quite off the rails. I guess I live in hope of him doing another Jude or 24 Hour Party People.

Probably provoked by Dana Stevens's review.

Tim Winton: Eyrie.

/noise/books | Link

Being Winton's first new novel since Breath in 2008, I raced out to the Co-op Bookshop at the University of Technology, Sydney on Jones St, near Pete R.'s work (and the CS department) and blew $35 on a hardcover. I didn't bother to read any reviews as Winton is uncritically deified in Australia.

Going in cold, I really enjoyed the masterful dialogue and his portrayal of crumbling lives. Most of the characters are women, tough women, and a singular friendless man, a wonky gudgeon for the ensemble to orbit. We're in Fremantle and the disgust with aspirational boganism is ambient and strong. Christianity and faith get another outing, paired with a suitable amount of scepticism that suggests not so much disbelief as (respectful?) wonderment. Was the ending hurried? I certainly rushed through it in three sittings, chewing up 250 pages in the second. I'm left wondering where else he could have gone.

On the down side, the opening is a bit too self-consciously try hard as Winton has futilely exercised the thesaurus to no good effect; soon enough he finds his rhythm and things get a lot tighter, so I guess we can blame the editor.

None of Winton's stuff really sticks with me. I don't fault him for that, but can't help wondering why. The reviews I read after are uniformly fawning and shithouse; Winton already said what he meant, and better.

/noise/beach/2013-2014 | Link

Late-afternoon snorkel at Gordons Bay, off the southern rocks. Not the best visibility ever. A small stingray was doing the sand-flapping trick, and some fat wrasse sat in shallow water on the northern side. On the way back in I saw what may have been a small wobbegong — the tail was eel-like and it had a lot of small, short tentacles on its face.

Griffin Theatre: The Floating World

/noise/theatre | Link

I tried a couple of Mondays ago to get into this on the cheap ($15) but missed out due to the excellent reviews and a bunch of oldies who'd been camping out front since 5pm. This time I got there at 5:20pm (thanks Betts) and would probably still have got one if I'd shown up a bit later. I used the time before the show started to get a croissant and macchiato from the patisserie on Darlinghurst Road.

This is an old Australian play, and has dated somewhat like Summer of the 17th Doll. We're on the 1974 Women's Weekly Cherry Blossom Cruise to the erstwhile empire of Japan, and alongside a seedy master-of-fun we have a very war damaged returned soldier and his self-possessed wife, as well as a pan-Asian servant-class type and (in flashback? dreamland?) a fellow soldier. The acting is excellent, especially given the minimal sets. I enjoyed but did not fathom the Drinking Bird, and the accompanying Jinglish instructions were a bit of a clanger. Justin Stewart Cotta opened with a nice piece of physical expressiveness.

Dave tells me that Richard Flanagan canvasses a similar topic in his recent The Narrow Road to the Deep North. To me it was an antecedent of David Malouf's The Great World.

The Spooky Men's Chorale at the Camelot Lounge.

/noise/music | Link

Erina invited me along to see this men's choir which is certainly not a men's group. The best part for me was when they momentarily paused in their cleverness and sang a Gregorian chant straight; that was captivating. I enjoyed the rest in a Monty Python sort of way. We had their pizza for dinner, and the bar staff were very friendly. A pretty stock inner-west kind of crowd, I think. The venue is full of Camel (cigarettes) paraphernalia, upstairs from the Django bar which is full of other sorts of stuff. Teascapes was this kitsch back in the day.

Evelyn Waugh: Vile Bodies

/noise/books | Link

Two Waughs in a row is too much for me. This one is a society piece, a heavy-handed satire, and so very modern (scandalous) for 1930. The plot is clunky and unfocussed (stuff happens) and none of the characters is particularly interesting. Again an easy and quick read.

This is one of Bowie's top-100 books. Not sure I'll be trawling for more.

The Iceman

/noise/movies | Link

Dana Stevens's review made me take a Michael Shannon segue from Man of Steel. He is as entrancing as she says, but overall there's not a lot going on here beyond a stock underworld trash removal service. Good to see Winona again. Ray Liotta is stuck playing the same-old guy he always does.