peteg's blog

White Hunter Black Heart

/noise/movies | Link

A jag from The African Queen. In 1990 Clint Eastwood tried to become John Houston as he chased his white whale (elephant) in the Congo while filming his Kate/Bogey classic. Clint set a few people straight on the need to fight for what's right, and not be ugly racist bitches; what he lost in fisticuffs he mostly won in verbal sparring. I was a bit surprised that Timothy Spall took on the minor role of the japing pilot. Jeff Fahey looked about the same as he did when working for ex-Ms Eastwood, as did George Dzundza. Some of it is funny, most is farcical. Apparently some was filmed onsite-ish in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Roger Ebert. Janet Maslin.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

A beaut day to be back in Sydney: warm in the sun, coolish when the clouds came over. Walked down and ate my sushi for lunch on the Coogee headland, and read some book. Quite a few people about, not many in the water; I got in around 3pm. The beach was epically flat, a bit cooler than I remembered, and seemed clean. Afterwards I dried out by reading some more book.

Watchmen

/noise/movies | Link

Apparently fourth time around. Roger Ebert. A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.

Us

/noise/movies | Link

With Dave at the Odeon 5, 8:30pm, $17.50 each. Stuck for choice: I hadn't seen Jordan Peele's previous Get Out and everything else screening seemed worse. It's a horror movie. The kids were the best, particularly Shahadi Wright Joseph who has some great comic timing. Lupita Nyong'o worked hard. I didn't really get into it, but was sufficiently engaged to be unimpressed by the switcheroo when it arrived.

Manohla Dargis reckons it's heavy on the symbolism. Dana Stevens.

Graham Greene: The Heart of the Matter.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. At a loose end for something to read, I picked this one up on the strength of Greene and it being on some list of 100 great English-language novels of the twentieth century. As always it's cinematic, just waiting to be shot. Somewhere on the coast of Africa, policeman Scobie is a similar character to George Smiley: a certain kind of wise Englishman who's hoping to go to a quiet grave having found his situation and making peace with an unsatisfied wife. The booze certainly helps. There are shades of A Quiet American: some intrigue, probity, corruption, cluelessness. But really, like The Power and the Glory, it centres on how Catholic theology ties ones hands: Greene has it that one must save one's own soul even at the potential cost of others'. Perhaps this was Greene-the-convert himself working it out in public.

Orwell nailed it in his review for The New Yorker: "Scobie is incredible because the two halves of him do not fit together. If he were capable of getting into the kind of mess that is described, he would have got into it years earlier." (etc)

Topsy-Turvy

/noise/movies | Link

A Mike Leigh effort from 1999, and one of the last of his features for me to see. Many of his usual cast (Jim Broadbent, Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, also Trainspotters Kevin McKidd and Shirley Henderson) participate in this portrayal of what may have been a pivotal point in the creative partnership of Gilbert and Sullivan. It's not at all my thing but there are loads of fine details to enjoy and the performances are uniformly excellent.

Grindhouse: Deathproof and Planet Terror

/noise/movies | Link

Second time around with these ultra-trashy Tarantino/Rodriguez exploitation flicks: it's just like From Dusk Till Dawn but more so. This time around I noticed Michael Biehn (Kyle Reese from The Terminator).

Notorious

/noise/movies | Link

A black and white Hitcock from 1946. Second time around apparently, but I don't remember a thing. Daughter Ingrid Bergman is supposedly everyone's but she's only got eyes for party crashing Cary Grant, who plays the straight G-man until he can't. In between she gets hitched to Claude Rains in a plot to bust open a uranium-fueled Nazi plot in Brazil. It could have been 50-100% longer and I would still have been there.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Mid-morning paddle at a mostly-deserted Coogee as the storm clouds rolled in. Pleasant with the occasional large shore dump.

Jasper Fforde: Early Riser.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. A pointer from Charles Yu. Drug-assisted hibernation, dreams and their manipulation, corporate corruption, zombies! — all in a snowy landscape that felt very familiar: wintry wastes like something Adam Johnson wrote or maybe just Game of Thrones, mixing in Total Recall and Ishiguro's spare parts, with Atwood-esque breeding units and random psychologising, building worlds via information dumps ala John Brunner. I often felt cheated by the narrator, wondering just how much was a dream and how much a cliché. There is lots of wordplay (the names of the Pool breeding stock), endless reversals (skinny shaming, a new ice age, a declining human population) and far too many secondary characters: soon enough I lost track of who knew what and who killed whom as it didn’t seem to matter. The ethical conundrums are dubious. I don't understand why anyone would feel obliged to preserve the English aristocracy. It's supposed to be fun, like a Douglas Adams, but it doesn't quite get there.

Fans and critics alike at Goodreads.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Beaut clear day with no rain. Went for a mid afternoon paddle at Coogee after updating vast piles of software on my machine at UNSW. Seemed clean. Quite a few people but nowhere packed. I stepped on a large dead spiny fish (?) getting out; fortunately my foot seems OK. Afterwards read some more book and dried out on the headland while a bloke played guitar further down the slope facing the beach. I wonder how many more of these days we have.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Grim and cloudy, but with the window of opportunity closing I headed up to Manly to have lunch with Pawel and Sylwia (a pokè bowl at Momo), and attempt a snorkel at Shelly Beach. We got in off some stairs halfway from South Steyne where there's some conveniently smooth rocks and shallow sand. Good visibility, somewhat clean-ish. Almost immediately I spotted a big blue groper. There were loads of small fry and grown up yellow-fin fellers, ludderick. Pawel encountered a wobbegong on the way back. While we had a warm-up coffee across the road from South Steyne, fog seemed to roll in. (The morning rain had been light but it got more serious in the late afternoon. The ride over and back was more relaxed than previously. Somehow the traffic was placid.)

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

A very lazy mid-afternoon paddle at Coogee after lunch with Amos and Johannes at UNSW. The clouds were coming over when I got in, which cooled what had been a warm to hot and stuffy day. Not many people down there, but some substantial roadworks on Coogee Bay Road did an equally good job of keeping the serenity in check.

He Died with a Felafel in His Hand

/noise/movies | Link

More Brisvegas completism. Apparently third time around. The soundtrack is 2001-nostalgia for the early to mid 1990s. It'd be a total bust if it wasn't for Noah Taylor's occasional outbursts. Director Richard Lowenstein has some form for this kind of thing: the canonical Dogs in Space and Autoluminescent: Rowland S. Howard which I still have to dig up. Here Howard covers Iggy Pop's The Passenger, and I finally got around to listening to Moby's Play, which I bought on CD in late 1999.

Praise

/noise/movies | Link

Third time around, I think — last seen about a decade ago. I'm still amazed by Sacha Horler's efforts here, and there's even more to Peter Fenton's passivity now than then. I'd forgotten that Joel Edgerton plays the mate. The rating at IMDB is low with few votes, which goes to show exactly how many people want to re-slum early-90s Brisvegas. I expect all the old boarding houses are gone.

Elvis Mitchell at the New York Times. David Edelstein. Both loved it.

This was Andrew McGahan completism; he wrote the screenplay and I'm too lazy to re-read the novel. I rank his output roughly as follows:

  1. Last Drinks
  2. Praise (the movie anyway)
  3. 1988
  4. The White Earth
  5. Underground
  6. Wonders of a Godless World

McGahan is far more comfortable in the past than the future (four are either personal- or Queensland-historic, one was futurism when written, the last is inspecifically present-day). Characters he lacks personal experience of are typically tendentious stereotypes. Four and five show that he could get worked up about politics (at the pub at least) but did not think of himself as an agenda-setter. The first three show his non-judgemental attitude towards libidinous hedonism; he probably took all he could get. The last two warn against writing about what you don't know, or in McGahan's case, haven't lived.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Early-afternoon paddle at Little Bay, straight after lunch. Not many people there on a beautifully warm late-summer day. Seemed very clean. On the way back I encounted an accident of some sort on Anzac Parade at Maroubra Junction (ambulance and police attending). After shopping there I got stuck in some heavy, irritating and dumb school traffic: so many distracted drivers.

Andrew McGahan: The White Earth.

/noise/books | Link

On dead tree from the Maroubra branch of the Randwick City Library after I had no luck extracting it from the depths of the Waverley Library. McGahan's Franklin Miles winner from 1995, and the last of his adult novels for me to read.

It's 1992 on the Darling Downs and the dynastic pastoralists on the savanna (prairie?) are sweating Keating's response to the recent High Court decision (Mabo) that Australia was not, in fact, unoccupied back in 1788. One great-uncle ('great' being a relational distinction without a difference) tries to promote respect for Lockean property rights by evaluating his nine-year-old great-nephew's inheritance-worthiness after said nephew's incompetent farmer father is killed by fire. Somewhat like the current regime, he hotly rejects all aspersions that he is racist, and yet the mob he rallies to his property climaxes in cartoonish Klan action. There are inheritances based directly on Great Expectations, variants on Murray Bail's connection-with-land ruminations of Eucalyptus, a politician not so far from those in Last Drinks, and even a bunyip and a Voss-like explorer and hallucinatory sequence. Afterwards it all goes up in flames and how with a massive confluence of fire, drought-breaking rain, the Senate's vote on Keating's Mabo legislation, generational death (the old man has a heart attack! the mother dies while fetching the proof of inheritance!) and the rest. The symbolism is heavy: the childless daughter adopts the rootless boy. In brief, it is every inch the Great Australian Novel, or may have been if McGahan had held his nerve with the magic realism.

The two-track structure is as well-executed as it is well-worn. The cliffhangers get a bit irritating when the payoffs are such small potatoes: his characters play entirely to type, contrary to Patrick White's vituperative observations. The minor characters drink epically but that's not the focus here. Again McGahan is repetitive in the small: he says it, he says he said it, he reads it to us, and only then does the hand wringing begin.

James Ley.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Laksa King for lunch with the Digital Asset crowd, then coffee, then a late afternoon paddle at an almost-deserted Coogee. I'm making the most of this fine-ish weather: cloudy, mid-20s. Pretty flat with some detritus. Read some book on the headland after. It's getting cold out of the sun.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

With the rain finally abating for a bit I made it to Coogee for a lazy paddle in the late afternoon. The strong onshore wind flattened things right out. Warm in, seemed clean-ish. Quite a few people about. Afterwards I dried out on the headland while reading some book and eating my leftover sandwich. It's getting cold out of the sun.

The Caine Mutiny

/noise/movies | Link

Queeg! In brief battle-scar(r)ed US Navy captain Bogart is found wanting in a large storm and deposed by his underlings. The latter half is lawyer José Ferrer having some fun, including a Nicholson-esque "you can't handle the truth" conclusion. Like the previous thing I saw him in (Whirlpool) there is much amateur diagnosis of mental disorders. Fred MacMurray is solid as the Judas, a proxy for the book's author. Subplot lead Robert Francis is a bit wooden. The peppy music gets annoying fast. It's a bit overegged and undercooked; the IMDB trivia suggests there was a larger movie trying to get out, and it is likely that would have been superior.

Watching this I realised Bogey would have been perfect playing Nixon.