peteg's blog

Gettin' Square

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Second time around. Crime comedy in South East Queensland. The essence of Rake in some sense, and a pro forma Underbelly fiction in another. David Wenham is quite funny, but I don't know what Timothy Spall was thinking. The ending is weak.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Mid-afternoon light lunch at Paris Seafood after a big snooze-in, then a soak at the nearby Frenchman's Beach. First properly hot day in a while (circa 35 degrees) and it felt like it on the sand and asphalt. Back to Eastgardens for some groceries, and the experience was approximately as horrible as I remember.

A Dangerous Method

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A Cronenberg misfire from 2011. The draw was the leading men (Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen), and it sat on the shelf for an age due to my antipathy towards Freud and Keira Knightley. She's better than I expected; that opening scene is by far her worst. The story buried beneath the costume drama is not well-told; near as I could tell it was about the different visions of Jung (Fassbender) and Freud (Mortensen) for the future of psychoanalysis. This movie sides with Jung's mysticism while mostly treading lightly around Freud's flaky notions of science. Motivations are almost always lacking. Towards the end, with industrialized war on the Continent imminent, Mortensen is fed a line that suggests this is really a tale of Jews versus Aryan, or more schematically, iconoclasts versus establishment.

A. O. Scott was more sympathetic, as was Dana Stevens.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Late afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. Quite a few people were leaving as I turned up, and heaps remained. Pleasant once in. Cloudy with storms in the offing.

Naked

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Apparently I see this movie once a decade. Mike Leigh at the height of his powers. David Thewlis has never been better. There is something of Harold Pinter, for instance The Caretaker, in this; a continuation of a Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure perhaps. Jeremy is a Martin Amis upper-class grotesque.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Early-evening paddle at Gordons Bay. I left it a bit late on a not-too-warm day, but even so there were quite a few people still on the rocks and a dog on the beach. The tide was up and the water seemed quite clear. Still a tad cool getting in. Afterwards I dried out on the Coogee headland, and after failing to get some dinner at the North Indian Diner on Coogee Bay Road (temporarily closed for cleaning?) I got a pizza from Erciyes, overcooked and not too tasty.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Late afternoon soak at Little Bay. The beach was packed, the water less so. The city streets are relatively empty, and the traffic so much calmer than usual.

Brick

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If Rian Johnson isn't going to make another another movie in this style, I'll just have to re-watch the archetype a few more times. Last seen in 2011.

Sebastian Junger: Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

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Kindle. A suggestion from Dariusz. Junger ruminates on how alienating civilization is by contrasting it with life for the American Indians and during wartime. The first chapter is his best but ultimately he struggles to deepen his case, not least due to his reliance on evolutionary tropes. Once again I need to go read some Studs Terkel. His observations about how calamity recreates the condition of the tribe made me wonder if Kant got his idea for a universal history (implacable moral improvement) from such.

Matthew B. Crawford. Joanna Bourke. Both observe and criticise Junger's cherry picking.

The Devil's Advocate

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Last seen in 2008. Pacino as Pacino: "I'm a fan of man!"

Ben Blum: Ranger Games.

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Kindle. Blum has a PhD in CS out of UCB but decided after a stretch of microbio postdockery in Seattle to do an MFA in New York, and of course now he lives in Brooklyn etc. I picked this up on the strength of Jennifer Senior's review. The writing is OK, the structure is OK, but a substantial edit would have reduced it by a third and made it so much stronger. Like many modern books it contains just about everything the author dug up during an extensive research period, and there is much irrelevant colour (the author's private life; his grandmother's birthday party; the separations and divorces; the random fine-grained details). Ultimately it sits uncomfortably between memoir, journalism, amateur psychologizing, military history and family shenanigans; jack of none, master of none.

Most irritating about this book is that we are supposed to hold as fact that all-American good guy and newly-minted US Ranger Alex Blum was brainwashed into slavish obedience by the US military, and used by psychopath Specialist Sommer in the execution of a bank robbery in Tacoma, until we're not. My irritation was largely that Sommer is never shown to have a plausible motive for the robbery. The iterative deepening device is very trying. There's nothing new said about the extremity of the US Army training procedures (hazing rituals) or exaggerations by those subject to them, or the inability to be real with oneself — we've seen that all before in the movies cited in this book. The entire Dr Phil sequence is pointless. The legal maneuvering is, as Blum observed, basically a matter of money.

Until the End of the World (Director's Cut)

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A three-part four-and-a-half-hour-ish self indulgence due to Wim Wenders and Peter Carey, watched over four nights (it was hard to get started). Wenders's muse at the time Solveig Dommartin seems content to have her Frenchy libertine ways and smokey voice exploited in the name of art, though this piece struggles to find much of anything to say; and so soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall too.

The premise is like Song to Song's: that young-lady Claire needs to find herself, which seems to consist of finding the right people to hang out with. Australia is presented as the full cliche: opals from Coober Pedy, the post-apocalyptic remoteness (it's always been post-apocalyptic here, just ask the Aborigines), the Aboriginal mysticism, the Harbour Bridge, the Olgas, the exploitation. Filmmakers have learnt since Walkabout to clothe the young indigenous. (That movie and this, and so many others, are linked by David Gulpilil.) Sam Neill narrates from the novel he writes as things unfold; I was unpersuaded as I've never been sold on him having any kind of inner life. He limp-wristedly wrestles with William Hurt for Solveig's affected affections. There is no plot worth mentioning. The bleating about money is irritating as the lack of water and food in the Australian outback is of no concern to anyone.

Cherrypicking: it seems the visionary tech works best with Frenchwomen on either end. The harmonica and didgeridoo pairing evokes so much late 1980s / early 1990s Australian music. Paul Livingston (Flacco) has a small role as "a genius"; something Noah Taylor later owned more successfully. Culture is freely appropriated here, with only the dreamscope crossing the moral line of the romantic fantasist auteurs. The apocalypse and its implications (an out-of-control nuclear-powered Indian satellite?!? Shot down by the USA?) are entirely unimaginative. It's too much Mad Max without the predation and the cars.

As for the length: it was and is too too long for a feature movie, and too short for a telemovie or present-day TV series. It is entirely nowhere, and there's no real point to seeing it.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

I last visited the pool at Blackheath more than five years ago. Today I was riding the still-nameless CB400 back to Orange for Christmas and decided to stop off there after lunch at the Bakehouse in Leura. The water was surprisingly warm, possibly warmer than at Gordons Bay. There weren't too many people there, perhaps due to it no longer being free (as I recall) — I was hit up for $6.20 on the way in. Glad to make a donation, but I can't imagine paying that every day of the summer.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Late afternoon snorkel at Gordons Bay, off the northern scuba ramp, taking a pause on a day of much hacking. Visibility near the shore was not great but cleared up towards the centre of the bay. Almost immediately I encountered the big blue groper with his entourage, and again as I was getting out. I think he expects people to turn rocks over for him, like the ones at Clovelly I met years ago. I also saw a large female, several large wrasse, and got a shock from firstly a large stingray with a bobbed tail, making its way to open waters, and then by an even larger mottled one (with stinger) moving quite quickly in the same direction. Nearby a relatively tiny stingaree was trying to hide under a rock. Still no sign of squid. The crowd of people on the rocks dwindled by the time I got out. I almost finished my book on the headland south east of the Clovelly carpark.

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

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Kindle. I was woken up to this new book by Ellsberg by Adam Shatz's excellent piece in the London Review of Books, and while it's great to hear his voice again, it could have used a severe edit; Ellsberg is repetitious at every level. The salients are entirely contained in Shatz's article and this interview with Lucy Steigerwald. That superweapon policy was and is largely lunacy was confirmed in Ellsberg's mind by the concept of nuclear winter that was developed in the early 1980s. Ironically it depends on the very same climate models denied by those who need business to continue as usual.

In brief, Ellsberg presents a convincing case for what most people probably thought anyway: that mutually-assured destruction (MAD) is actually SAD (self-assured destruction), or more inclusively, omnicide. His wargaming at RAND and restlessly analytic mind somehow needed to know precisely why that was, I guess. Of course Doctor Strangelove was a documentary. I found his calls to action plausible, possibly actionable, and just maybe the American people might decide to allocate some of the trillion-dollar modernization project (thanks Obama) to more useful ends. I would have liked to hear his opinions on Snowden and Wikileaks, especially since Trump's victory in 2016.

Fred Kaplan, who also suggests that The Post is worth a watch, as does Manohla Dargis. Graham Allison. Thomas Powers.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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At The Ritz, Cinema 1, 4pm, $16.00, after lunch, coffee and much chat about concurrency with Peter H. and Rob vG. on a cloudy, hot and humid day. I'd forgotten that the main draw was that this is Rian Johnson's first feature in about five years. Unsurprisingly he does not serve up another Brick or Looper; but even allowing for the mouse this was far too stifled.

The cast is solid but ill-used. Laura Dern is a poor fit to the Star Wars universe; I can hardly square what she's supposed to be here with her salad days of Wild at Heart or the Twin Peaks reheat. Oscar Isaac is really starting to miss that cat. I enjoyed Benicio del Toro's performance the most, right up to where he waltzes off the Imperial (oops, First Order) ship, never to be seen again. The leads are generally in the classic Star Wars wooden mould. Mark Hamill is tasked with complexifying Luke Skywalker and leaves a gaping hole every time the movie cuts away from his story line. Snoke is boring; what a waste of Serkis.

As usual the Star Wars teleology and manifest destiny and bloodlines and stuff is tedious beyond belief. That Rey (the winsome but excessively-earnest Daisy Ridley) is really the sprog of nobodies will not survive the next installment. The rest was marketing, and meeting expectations; fun if you were born to it I guess. In many ways Johnson is a captive of formula in the same way Malick was with Song to Song: both can see the limits but neither has a chance of transcending them. I wish they'd tried a bit harder.

Manohla Dargis is right, Adam Driver does deliver a raw performance; at times it's almost real. Richard Brody is briefly down on it. The IMDB rating is low (7.8) and there is no danger of this making the top-250.

Song to Song

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Terrence Malick's release for 2017, though it was apparently filmed around 2012. Loads of stars (Gosling, Portman, Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Blanchett, Patti Smith, ...) turned up in Austin-ish with the result being a very indulgent and unfocussed piece of vacuity, much like 2016's Knight of Cups. I think it was supposed to track the development of Mara's character, but that didn't amount to much more than beautiful people twirling in high-end real estate, and all-access types horsing around on and back stage. We're a long way from the eternal musings of The Thin Red Line.

Manohla Dargis.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Early-evening paddle off the beach at Gordons Bay. The water was very clear and made me wish I'd brought my mask. Quite overcast after a very warm day that cooled off rapidly. Some people hanging around, few in the water.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Early-evening paddle at Gordons Bay, off the southern rocks. Overcast, threatening a storm, a tad windy. The water was clear and I regretted not bringing my mask. Afterwards dried off on the Coogee headland.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

I rode up to Rose Bay, or more specifically, Bellamy Beach. A sewerage overflow warning notice from four days ago suggested it wasn't a great place for a swim, as did the kids standing about 50m out in ankle-deep water. I walked around to Rose Bay Beach which is indeed dog friendly, but again not really a place to go for a dip. After buying a bathroom floor mat at Target, Bondi Junction, I went for a brief paddle in Gordons Bay, off the southern rocks. Not too many people about, perhaps due to the dark clouds and detritus near the beach. Later, on the northern headland of Coogee, I encountered some police (with bicycles) telling some backpackers not to drink there. Some time later a few more clued up foreigners headed onto the rocks east of the the saltbush that is just maybe cop proof. Yet later there were carols and fireworks.

Headhunter (2009; Danish)

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On Dave's recommendation. Corporate shenanigans. Things don't really hold water when they need to.

Toy Story 3

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Fun. #97 in the IMDB top-250.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Early-evening attempted paddle at Gordons Bay. Two cop cars were parked on Major St, some ambulances and other things at the Clovelly carpark, and soon after I got in two helicopters turned up. The Rescue Helicopter came quite close to the two other people in the water, and then me (near the beach), making me think we were supposed to get out for some unspecified reason. After doing so I encountered some police on the beach who told me they were searching for someone who had failed to return from a swim. I then tried to dry out on the Coogee headland.

Toy Story 2

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Second time around. Fallen out of the IMDB top-250 since 2010.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Paddle off the beach at Gordons Bay circa 6.30pm. Storm clouds, some lightning but little rain in the immediate vicinity. Afterwards I dried out a bit on the Coogee headland; some cops on Suzuki dirtbikes whizzed past. No idea what they were doing, and on their way back they didn't show any sign of what it may have been.

Toy Story

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Second time around. #94 in the IMDB top-250.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Carbon copy of yesterday: rode the yet-nameless CB400 to the Clovelly carpark, got in off the scuba ramp around 6.30pm. This time I did see a big blue groper (and maybe another; I didn't find any distinguishing marks on either encounter) and some large females. There seemed to be fewer large wrasse. Loads of people on the rocks, some even in the water. Sunny, warm but not hot. Dried off on the southern Clovelly headland.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Snorkel circa 6.15pm off the scuba ramp at Gordons Bay. The water was a bit cold close to the shoreline, but warmer out in the bay proper. Visibility was OK. I didn't see the blue groper or any cephalopods; on the other hand the various wrasse were the largest I've yet laid eyes on. Afterwards I dried off on the southern Clovelly headland and enjoyed the short ride back to Randwick.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Late evening dip at Gordons Bay. A few people hanging around. No one in the water when I got in, but one or two had a go soon after. Still a tad cool, not very clear. Dried out a bit on the Coogee headland by reading Daniel Ellsberg's latest book. Went to Flavour of North India for dinner.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2

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Over several nights. Last seen in 2011.

NIDA: Directors' and Designers' Productions 2017.

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Booked 2017-11-21, $32 + $5.95 Ticketek tax = $37.95 for three of the six on offer; I couldn't make the rest on the next night as I was going to Brisbane. I took the X94 express bus to Kingsford from the ASX, which skipped the first few stops in what I thought was "Kingsford"; nevertheless it seemed faster than taking an all-stops. Dinner at Pinocchio Sushi.

First up: UBU by Andrew McInnes, after Alfred Jarry, designed by Heather Middleton, in the NIDA Studio. Some kind of inventive clowny absurdism with some very effective physical comedy. The actors mutter in threatening and vaguely obscene ways, and a few scenes drag through needless repetition. Still quite short at 30 minutes. Totally packed. Quite fun.

The main draw was the second piece: De Profundis by Oscar Wilde, adapted and directed by Alanah Guiry, designed by Gabrielle Rowe, in the NIDA Space (which I hadn't been to before). Mostly dance with some of the poem recited over music that often drowned it out. I struggled to understand what they were getting at, apart from the final sequence where the Wildean central character gets stripped. Again it ran for a bare 30 minutes.

Finally: The Bacchae by Euripides, adapted and directed by Shannan Ely, designed by Clare Staunton. I had hoped for something flighty and powerful, like the Medeas I saw in Chicago. The whole thing got derailed by extended rants on the present-day sexual predation finger pointing; I remember the Greeks knowing that power corrupts everyone (just take a look at Medea for instance). The last movement had the young lady performers lined up at the front of the stage insisting that those in the audience who identified as male move to the rear of the stage and face backwards; we were allowed to hear but not see the conclusion.

The Prestige

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Third time around. #47 on the IMDB top-250. Something of a Bale and Nolan jag from Batman. I'm glad David Bowie did have another two albums in him after playing Tesla here.