peteg's blog

A Ghost Story

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$16.00, at the dear old Verona, theatre 1, 6.45pm; at a bit of a loose end, I ended up plumping for this over Dunkirk, largely because of Casey Affleck, and somewhat Rooney Mara. Loads of people there at that time; some even came to see this! I'd resisted reading any reviews; the theatre was about a quarter full and at least four people quit it in the first half hour, so I expect that most of us didn't know what we were getting.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens. I can't add much.

Thelma & Louise

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Some kind of Ridley Scott completism; Brad Pitt so young, Susan Sarandon already past her prime, Geena Davis playing a hedonistic airhead ten years younger than she was, Harvey Keitel struggling with an accent. It's a one-way roadtrip.

Griffin Theatre: Rice by Michele Lee.

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7pm, a freebie from bAKEHOUSE theatre company. Dinner was a bento at a Japanese place on Darlinghurst Road. A preview, I think, and packed.

I went in with no expectations but had heard of its sold-out season in Brisbane. The setup is two women bouncing off each other, shifting amongst a small set of characters with different concerns and stakes. There's a lot of swearing that was probably supposed to be somehow authentic and arresting, and too much histrionics in the mode of Home and Away. I found it all a bit cliched, but did appreciate the efforts of the two actors (Kristy Best, Hsiao-Ling Tang) to inflate the stagnant material. It's a long way from The Ham Funeral in almost all theatrical dimensions.

Ben Neutze. Jason Blake.

Michael Knight: Eveningland.

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Kindle. I picked this one up on the strength of the first few paragraphs of Rick Bass's review in the New York Times; I see now that he proceeds to meander through the rushes, looking for things to stuff his writing with. I found this collection of shorts a bit wan; perhaps you had to be there, and not just be there, but be rich enough to really be there.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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Edgar Wright completism. Meh.

Glebe to Tattersalls Campground and back.

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The excellent Find a camp suggested a few spots just south of Forster that might be reachable by motorcycle from Sydney in a few hours of not-too-fast riding. I set out from Glebe in the late (warm and very fine) morning, and promptly got lost around Artamon, trying to get onto the Pacific Highway. No problem, but that road is shockingly slow even at such non-peak times. I mucked around to get to the BP at Hornsby; sure enough there's another one on the western side of the road at Asquith. After that it was a pleasant ride up near Brooklyn, across the old bridge, to the Anaconda near Gosford (some occy straps to reinforce the bicycle inner tubes holding my pack to the rack), and lunch at Lisarow. The busker there was playing 1980s Australian classics to retirees; the pie, sausage roll and flat white were serviceable but not likely to attract Roberts Bakery partisans.

The most challenging of the muddy spots, on the way in.

Given the short days, I decided to head fairly directly to Tattersalls campground, on the Karuah River, via the BP in the town of Karuah soas to allay any fears of running out of fuel on the way back out. Hobarts Forest Road is a dirt track, easily passable, but Tattersalls Road is nowhere as well drained; with a lot of care I got past three large muddy sections — one entirely covering the road, necessitating some minor off-road bush bashing. The city slicks don't provide much traction in these settings. Both the nameless CB400 and I were both well splattered by the time I got to the end of it. The website did warn me the track was unlikely to be passable with a 2WD but I didn't expect it to be so bad.

I had the campground to myself. There's a heavily-eroded boat launch (another further along looks more usable), a toilet (that I didn't further investigate), some picnic furniture, fireplaces everywhere. Most sites are bare clay, some boggy; clearly the place is more for car camping than what I had in mind. I ate my dinner down at the river, but decided to set up the tent on higher ground. I hit the Thermarest soon after sundown, avoiding the swarms of silent but seemingly non-deadly mosquitoes, and spent the evening snoozing, listening to Roy Harper and chewing a bit more of Michael Knight's Eveningland.

Morning after.

Next morning I had a very light breakfast while a family of pelicans lazily swam past, packed up and aimed to grab a proper breakfast in Raymond Terrace. I made it past the first two boggy bits on Tattersalls Road but not the last, largely due to cockiness and misreading the path I'd took on the way in. Stuck in the middle of the road! After wrestling the bike for a while I gave up and called the police, who were of limited use; the initial message out of Raymond Terrace was that they'd take a while to come and help me, so I should try a towing company, but soon enough this became an insistence that I figure it out myself. The first towing company couldn't make it that day at all, and the other wanted $400 for coming from Newcastle. I was ultimately saved by a thong-wearing Kiwi and his English mate who insisted on hoisting the bike out of the mud for me, seeing as I was blocking their route to a day's fishing with the Kiwi's Dad.

After that, totally covered in mud, I hightailed it to Raymond Terrace for some tucker. The cafe people turned their noses up at my appearance, though the local librarian was a lot less snooty. I took the motorway in moderate traffic back to the BP at Pymble, and hence to Glebe, mostly at 100kph as the wind drag got too much past that for sustainable comfort.

Keigo Higashino: The Devotion of Suspect X.

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Kindle. A recommendation from Tigôn, who read it in tiếng Việt. It's a solid and enjoyable murder mystery, airport-novel style, a page turner, but inverted: we always know who did it. Perhaps this is a common trick in this genre I rarely visit. Misato seems a lot more perceptive than Yusako, and I thought she'd come to the fore later on, but she never really moves into sharp focus. Quite a few movies were made from it.

Baby Driver

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9pm session, Palace Cinemas Norton St, with Dave, $32 + $2.60 booking fee for the two of us, booked around 1pm; the cinema was packed, so hats off to the marketing agents on this opening weekend. Before we worked a bit deeper into the dumpling menu at Allfine Chinese Cuisine House (35A Ross St in Forest Lodge), which was awesome, and a flat white each at the cinema.

This is a mashup of heist and car movies with a touch of Twin Peaks and a side of Tarantino. The references are for the most part obvious. Edgar Wright didn't name-check Pulp's Disco 2000 or Julie Brown's eternal Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun, so I can tell he didn't listen to JJJ in the 1990s. Lily James looks a lot like a young Mädchen Amick, or wants to be; there is not much pie in that diner. Spacey is pure cliched Spacey, a self-parody by the end. It's not great. The music didn't do it for me. The plot was was meh. It's not very funny, and nothing particularly memorable happens. I liked the use of sign language juxtaposed with all the noise, but that ultimately went nowhere.

Manohla Dargis got into it.

Sameblod (Sami Blood)

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A freebie from the UNSW Creative Practice Lab that I cashed at the dear old Verona on the 6:30pm screening of this, on Cath's suggestion after winnowing the current Scandi movie festival down to three possibilities.

The story is the reminiscence of the girlhood of an aged, deracinated Sámi (Lapp?) lady who wanted more from life than herding reindeer. There are some uncomfortable scenes portraying the racial determinism of the 1930s, and social exclusion and exploitation. In many ways it is formulaic and plays to type (Moodysson extracted more shock from his more familiar territory) but is somewhat rescued by some good cinematography and the strength of Lene Cecilia Sparrok's performance in the lead. I wondered who fathered her son and what she did between the then and now scenes.

The Promise

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I don't really know what to make of this. The topic — the Armenian genocide — is a worthy and touchy one and has already received at least one decent cinematic treatment (Ararat). This one is designed to pull on American heart strings and its poor IMDB rating suggests it won't get much of a chance to. Oscar Isaac valliantly tries to make something of it, and this is the most characterless role Christian Bale has ever had. Charlotte Le Bon is a well-intentioned sex object. Jean Reno, James Cromwell. The cinematography is shonky; the inside sets are jarringly poor. The plot is a mashup of perhaps A Quiet American, Doctor Zhivago, and I'm guessing as I still haven't seen it, Titanic. The morality is black and white: America before it needed to be made great again, with Turks who speak Turkish, Germans who speak German, and Armenians who of course speek God's English, until they became Godfather-esque emigres to Massachusetts and give toasts in Armenian to the survival of their nation. Apparently it is based on a true story.

Jeannette Catsoulis.

Free Fire

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For Sharlto Copley. Totally vacuous; I got a giggle out of him telling the Irish to "learn something from the English" about manners, early on, before things entirely settled into damaging but mostly non-lethal gunplay. See kids, you too can survive being shot! For an hour or so at least. I don't know how what could have sold the script for this to the cast (also Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, all better elsewhere). Reservoir Dogs? Cube?

Catherine Lacey: Nobody is ever missing.

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Kindle. On Kate's recommendation, and perhaps the review in the New York Times of her newer The Answers. The plot and setting are entirely ancillary to the main game of rattling around in Lacey's head, and enjoying her massively run-on sentences cut with fine observations. The title of the book is the self-realised slight revelation that it is now impossible to fully slip the chains of one's life; and of course the slightness of it is worked over at length. (There is far more than that however.) Lacey is most effective when she finds precisely the right few words to evoke a feeling, and less so when she merely asserts her emotional state, but most of the enjoyment came from her need to immediately rework each sentiment, striving to juice everything, struggling to own her responses and be original in a world that constructs new methods of stifling mental activity daily.

Dwight Garner.

Lady Macbeth

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A freebie from Griffin Theatre that I cashed at Dendy Opera Quays, 8:40pm. There was one other person in the theatre and the advertisements were the same as ever. The service was again lackluster; a singular pensioner felt the need to spend ten minutes buying a ticket and some junk food, chatting to the young service professional behind the counter while his colleagues chatted to each other far away from the service area. All I needed, and all I got, was a door number. The ride over and back was pleasant enough though, despite the cooler weather.

This was another interpretation of the venerable Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, perhaps by way of Wuthering Heights (the moors). The plot is almost pure Shakespeare, unsurprisingly: there is no justice, boredom motivates, filial duties are impossible or debased. Florence Pugh is in every scene and ably anchors the thing; Naomi Ackie and Cosmo Jarvis are excellent support. The cinematography is gorgeous, once past some jittery handheld camerawork. The episodic and quiet nature powerfully evokes the isolation and objectification of the leading lady, and her intemperate responses.

Peter Bradshaw. Sandra Hall. Jake Wilson. Manohla Dargis.

Jack Rabbit Theatre: Front at The Depot Theatre.

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5pm, a freebie via the Kings Cross Theatre newsletter, with Lev, who was in Sydney for the school holidays. This was a bunch of young kids in solid Have a Cigar territory (hey, I never realised that was Roy Harper out front on that song). It's episodic, with some now-cliched temporal mixing. The performances were good, and the set effective, but the raw source material cleaved too close to the unsurprising. We were clearly there to make up the numbers of what was essentially a friends and family crowd. The lead bloke had a three-by-three muppet portait shirt on and it took me a while to realise that I couldn't name any beyond the first row.

Misery

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Wow, what a find. James Caan in a supporting role in 1990, still with the power to untether Sonny Corleone on demand, but mostly genial. Kathy Bates stars, is awesome, and deservedly got an Oscar. Written by Stephen King, It's a bit of The Shining, Twin Peaks, Fargo, Sleuth and many other things. IMDB's summary doesn't do it justice; it's hilarious and a bit scary. I see now that director Rob Reiner has great form.

The Sheriff, apropos his deputy/wife: "You see, it's just that kind of sarcasm that's givin' our marriage real spice."