peteg's blog

The Beguiled

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Sofia Coppola's latest. It is entirely meh. I had some hopes that she'd learnt from the Koreans; Kidman was quite good in this sort of role in Stoker, though there she had a far better male (played by Matthew Goode) to rub up against than Colin Farrell, who is essentially a cliched volatile lettuce. Here the photography is dank, the females all a-quiver, the plot entirely predictable, the twist so coldly plausible you wonder why they bothered, and if there was time enough for a proper shock. Kirsten Dunst would be better of re-hitching her star to von Trier. Elle Fanning is no more than a haughty stereotype that I'm sure she's played before. I wonder if the original (a Clint Eastwood vehicle) is much chop; the IMDB rating is higher at least.

J. Hoberman. Dana Stevens.

Mumon: The Land of Stealth

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With Dariusz, Amy and a friend of hers, 7.15pm, opening night of the Japanese Film Festival — with speeches that pushed the start time back by 30 minutes or more. Beforehand I wasn't hungry so I just sat on an Asahi as Dariusz ate sushi at the sushi train next to the remaining George St cinema.

This is something of a reinvention of the ninja genre, in roughly the same way that Guy Richie relaunched (and relaunched) the English lad flick a few decades back. The tropes are in short supply and the parallels with modern grasping, materialistic society could have been left implicit. I didn't understand the final "river" fight scene; it didn't strike me that anyone had any honour left. The indomitable prefecture reminded me of the Gauls in dear old Asterix. It's finely made and fun, but I don't think it's enough to claw back the cinematic high ground long occupied by Korea.

Logan Lucky

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Soderbergh's resumption after retiring from this kind of thing a few years back. I guess it was the money, for this is a tepid warm over of his standard heist formula. Like Baby Driver, there are some clever bits, but most of those smarts went into the marketing. It's somehow absorbing though. I enjoyed Adam Driver's droll performance, and Channing Tatum was robust. Daniel Craig phoned it in. Riley Keough (grandsprog of Elvis) never had to go up against Katie Holmes in the trashy stakes. The outro with Hilary Swank was excruciatingly predictable.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Lunch at Tum's Thai, then a soak off the beach at Gordons Bay. Unlike last time it was clear but I didn't bring my mask. Not too many people, some in the water. It was significantly warmer than the last time I got in. Afterwards I rode back to Beaconsfield Motorcycle Supermarket to get the CB400 serviced, and walked home from there.

Charif Majdalani: Moving the Palace (originally Caravansérail; translated by Edward Gauvin).

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Kindle. Brief, well written. Something of Conrad's Heart of Darkness transplated a bit further north (to the Sudan), and sure enough, an encounter with T.E. Lawrence and Prince Faisal during the First World War. (Majdalani gives a nod to Lawrence for the raw material on which he leans for a description of their meeting.) Instead of finding all our colonial maniacs at the end of a river, Samuel Ayyad has to continue up the Nile past Cairo, through the Suez and up the Hijaz, lugging his slightly-used ex-Tripoli palace all the way. The British are presented as dotty, as likely to indulge an Oriental fantasy as do some hard-edged soldiering. Early on it seems we're going to be told of how Samuel cuts his deals in the Sudan (beyond distributing a vast stash of British gold), but we never are. The romantic outro seemed undercooked; I really wanted to hear about the reassembly of those thousands of pieces. I wonder if this isn't somewhere in the thousand-and-one nights. The references do pile up, and I lost track of which tribes remained in the caravan and which had gone home.

Suzanna Joinson pointed out the obvious source materials and found more humour in it than I did; to me it was elegant and melancholic. Joe Geha observes an echo of Odysseus's voyage (albeit with a flawless hero).

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Mild day. Detouring via Watsons Bay, I got in at Gordons Bay around 5pm with the intention of having a snorkel. I think the recent massive surf churned up too much stuff (loads of seaweed on the beach; some detritus in the water; very poor visibility) that it was completely futile. Pleasant in though, and somewhat pleasant out eating my dinner in the dying light on the northern headland of Coogee.

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After some prevarication I decided to get a haircut for the first time in about five weeks. After that I had a grilled flathead at Paris Seafood, with the usual excess of salad and chips, and headed to Little Bay for the first snorkel in an age. As usual I only saw the usual small suspects, and a couple of larger wrasse; there were loads of small translucent jellyfish. I finished my book on the sand, and tried having a coffee at Cafe 2036. The traffic coming back was rough.

Carmen Maria Machado: Her Body and Other Parties.

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Kindle. Parul Sehgal sold it to me: as she says, these are unruly fairy stories of a feminist, disreputable, occasionally shameless kind. The writing is fine and sometimes fun; othertimes it feels like B-grade horror. The central Especially Heinous seemed like a riff not just on Law & Order but also the fluid identities, incarnated magic, misogyny and untidy storylines of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. I found The Resident a less effective or telling piece of semi-autobiographical writing-about-writing than Nam Le's Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice. I took Inventory to be trying to tell desperate people's biographies through short-term commitment-free sexual encounters, which is too narrow a window to satisfy.

Emily May. Blair: indeed, full of sex and yet unsexy.

The Running Man

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Vintage B-Movie Arnie, somewhen inbetween Conan and Terminator 2. Apparently based on a Stephen King novel, but really a threadbare variation on Terminator and relentlessly mediocre. The kill-'em-all-dead game show hasn't come to pass in 2017 (yet) but too many movies have milked the premise in the interim. Maria Conchita Alonso vamps things up, and is often thrown around in a most un-PC way by various males. Jesse Ventura is bigger than Arnie (?). Dweezil Zappa tries to make out like Che. I saw this ages ago and remembered it for Arnie's one-liner about the loudness of his shirt.

Boogie Nights

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Last seen an age ago.

The Old 505 Theatre: Plastic by Mark Rogers.

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A last-minute freebie from somewhere, 8pm, preview, first time at The Old 505 Theatre. This was closer to student theatre than the NIDA things I've been to. Structurally the raw material is quite similar to Birdland: we're mostly waiting for a man to receive his comeuppance, leavened with ladies. I was pretty toasted, even after a coffee from the cafe next to the Dendy, and didn't get into it much. The audience packed out the place and was often quite indulgent.