peteg's blog - noise

Patrick White: The Solid Mandala.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. A portrait of a pair of twins who exhibit White's dualisms: numbers versus literature, empathy and haughty withdrawal, the white and the blue collar. Brute strength against fine motor control. Semi-rural Sarsaparilla (Castle Hill) against the city (Centennial Park). There's far more here on the inner life than Smee managed to even gesture at. One point of commonality was Arthur's incapacity to externalise his thoughts for a variety of reasons (inability to formulate them convincingly, unwillingless to persuade or influence, laziness, the ability to see the whole but not its parts, the inadequacy of the medium, so on). Told in technically seamless and virtuosic flashback. He's down on Goethe, like others. The most enjoyable parts to me where the very brief punchlines where White cashes in his extensive descriptions. Some are quite brutal.

The African Queen

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More John Huston. Second time around. Apparently Eastwood made a movie about Huston's desire to go big game hunting while making this.

Heat

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nth time around for large n. Michael Mann's masterpiece. Still #123 in the IMDB top-250.

The spy who came in from the cold

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Second time around. More Richard Burton.

Quarterly Essay #72, Sebastian Smee: Net Loss: The Inner Life in the Digital Age.

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On the not-yet-dead iPhone via Overdrive, loaned from the Randwick City Library after quite a wait. Not at all what I thought it would be: Smee seems ignorant of such not-so-recent critiques as Jarett Kobek's i hate the internet and Amartya Sen's capabilities model that aims to move past the blockages induced by overly rigid notions of identity. When will social media be deemed as dangerous to society as Class A drugs? The hand wringing concern comes in commodified form, oh the irony. He avoids following any thought too far. I guess I had hopes for a meditation on what is worth concentrating our shredded attention on these days; this diffuse essay isn't it.

I only briefly scanned the responses to Laura Tingle's previous Quarterly Essay. Both were busts, I feel.

Heaven Knows, Mr Allison

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A John Huston and Deborah Kerr jag from The Night of the Iguana. Robert Mitchum shares the lead. A U.S. marine and Irish nun find themselves stranded on a South Pacific Island and survive occupation by Japanese troops until the Americans arrive. It's all very proper and things go as expected with no offence given to the USMC or Catholic Church. Reading it another way it's a backhander: the skills of a marine will help you survive but may not get you the girl. There's some great cinematography. It obviously parallels Huston's The African Queen.

Crazy Heart

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Second time around. Prompted by A Star is Born. Hmm.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Excessive Marvel completism. This one got massively advertised on buses and bus stops in Sydney. Larry Fishburne! Why didn’t you say? Michelle Pfeiffer! Approximately as vacuous as the first one.

Manohla Dargis.

Ant-Man

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Marvel completism. Martin Donovan! Why didn't you say? Michael Douglas plays the same old tired note. Paul Rudd is pleasantly low key but I don't find him as funny as the movie needs me to. Evangeline Lilly is all face acting. If they'd made more of the fact most ants are female (the winged ones are typically males or queens) this may have been hailed as the first Marvel movie with a strong pro-female message. It's silly. I haven't seen lurv this strong since Interstellar.

A. O. Scott.

The Great Gatsby

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I read the book ages ago, and that put me off seeing the movie until now. For Carey Mulligan, but ultimately Joel Edgerton who was the only one fully committed to taking this show over the cliff. When are we going to see him in a Marvel movie? DiCaprio leads (like in Titanic? — which I still haven't seen). His "old sport" just doesn't work. Tobey Maguire is the bemused Nick Carraway. I didn't recognise Elizabeth Debicki, which shows how engaged I was. The politics seem dated beyond belief: Daisy has no agency. The music is banal. There are Australians everywhere. It's just another over-egged Baz Luhrmann thing.

A. O. Scott says it's not as bad as other people were saying at the time, but it is that shallow. He's right that shame has gone missing between then and now. Dana Stevens. And many others.

Captain Marvel

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With Dave. 3:30pm 3D session at the Odeon 5, $31-ish for us both. Maybe three other people. Released last Thursday. We had coffee/lunch beforehand at Bills Beans.

Low expectations and heavy politicisation made this seem more like a Star Wars episode to me. Dave was adamant that he was there for Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn. (The latter reverts to his native strine when reunited with his refugee family, a fine rebuke that doubtlessly eluded most American commentators.) An anti-aged Samuel L. Jackson took on something of Larry Fishburne's Clean from Apocalypse Now. Brie Larson might have done her best. Annette Bening tried to make it into something. Arnie decided this was beneath him: the True Lies poster/stand thingie gets blasted and only Jamie Lee Curtis survives. Of course it should've been one for Pulp Fiction.

Reviews are dutiful. Dana Stevens: Finally, Women Have Their Own Mediocre Marvel Movie. Anthony Lane. The dogfight through canyons is what put me most in mind of Star Wars. A. O. Scott. The cat was a bit much.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Headed down to Coogee with everyone else to read my book for a bit in the late-afternoon sun, then a paddle off the southern rocks at Gordons Bay. Still quite a few people out, it being Sunday and all, the unis back. Pleasant in, mostly flat, high-ish tide, far cleaner than I expected given the recent rain. Read some more book afterwards on the headland. Beautiful end to a steamy summery day.

The Straight Story

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A David Stratton marvellous movie (#86); this one is by far the highest rated on IMDB (8/10) so far. In two sittings. The draw was David Lynch. A few decades before the epic use of a mobility scooter to retrieve a boat from storage, Richard Farnsworth decided he needed to see his long-lost brother (Harry Dean Stanton) one last time. Being of weak hip and eye but stubbornly self-reliant he figures that the best way to get from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin is on his ancient ride-on lawnmower. Suffice it to say he really doesn't make it to Grotto. The daughter he lived with is played by Sissy Spacek. There's a bit too much all-American hokum about family, and a slightly off-kilter reminiscence about World War II, but otherwise this is a picture-postcard perfect love letter to the small towns, the corn and wheat fields of the Midwest from Lynch. Freddie Francis's cinematography is excellent. There's a whiff of Terrence Malick about it, and also Twin Peaks — notably Badalamenti's music and Big Ed Everett McGill.

Ebert got right into it. Janet Maslin was astonished that Lynch could mesmerise with G-rated material.

Following

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A David Stratton marvellous movie (#36). Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. I'd seen it before but didn't remember much. A fine twisty little noir.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Early-evening paddle at Gordons Bay off the southern rocks. Seemed clean. Flat, little wind, pleasant in. A few people about, many more on the northern side. Afterwards ate dinner on the Coogee headland. Warm day and evening.

The Killers (1946)

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A Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner jag from Seven Days in May: a black-and-white take on an Ernest Hemingway story made about 18 years previous. Briefly "Swede" Lancaster gets murdered in the opening scenes and the insurance investigation gets told entirely in flashback, somewhat like Stanley Kubrick's The Killing. Lancaster is far too talkative to be a Swede. There's some boxing, some prison time, some noir; Edmond O'Brien leads in a Bogey kinda role and seems to to enjoy himself. Gardner is very young, and carries the femme fatale with insufficient conviction: she's often subdued (even a bit lifeless) and doesn't look very calculating. The plot is not very plausible and very tidily resolved.

UNSW Centre for Ideas: Writing War: Kassem Eid & Mohammed Hanif.

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$10 booked 2019-02-23. The ticket included a drink so I got another 50 Lashes at IO Myers Studio. The sizeable audience sat in rows of chairs on the floor (they'd removed the risers). This pair of conversations was hosted by the Director of UNSW Centre for Ideas, Ann Mossop. Apparently they were both guests at the recent Adelaide Writers Week.

Briefly, Hanif wore a pink shirt, untucked, with sneakers and looked like he was in danger of sobriety. He owned to being born in 1965, that Pakistan has been at war throughout his life, and writing novels might be a bit childish but he's addicted to storytelling. Apparently writing Red Birds took most of the seven years since his previous novel. In his mind war is pure cynicism: some people make a lot of money from it, and careers are furthered. On a stage elsewhere he was told by a real Navy Seal that war was a lot like Call of Duty; absurdism rules the day. The present wars are very sanitised: little blood and few dead bodies, certainly no coffins, are shown on US TV. The classic Việt Nam movies were all focussed on an America traumatised by killing heaps of people: just stop it man. The current Pakistani government is a democracy but is censoring the press etc. like the military dictatorships.

In the brief Q/A session Eid suggests smoking a lot to get over trauma. Hanif's advice to his cadet journalists: don’t get fired, don’t get killed. There was also some discussion about citizenship.

Seven Days in May

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An Ava Gardner jag from The Night of the Iguana. She's very different here despite these movies coming out in the same year or thereabouts. Kirk Douglas is essentially the same as he was in Paths of Glory, speaking truth to power in black and white. Burt Lancaster plays the wayward general, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who thinks he can do a better job than President Fredric March, who in turn often sounds like GWB. It seems so old-fashioned for the man at the top to be combating conspiracies rather than promulgating them, though the big men of history is the same old timeless canard. The plot is earnest, much like Goodnight and Good Luck, and similarly virulently anti McCarthyist. Somehow this stuff always reminds me of Gil Scott Heron's B-Movie.

/noise/beach/2018-2019 | Link

Lunch and a lazy paddle at Yarra Bay. There are still signs up everywhere warning about the possibility of a cruise ship dock being built there. Beaut day for the most part. Some thunderclouds blew threw mid-afternoon. Read some book on the grass nearby. Quite a few people on the beach. Clean, flat with a light offshore breeze.

Impulse

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Yet another David Stratton Marvellous movie (#47). Over two sittings. Ex Ms Eastwood Sondra Locke directed; loads of details about her situation on her IMDB bio. She passed recently.

This is yet another exploration of the seamy side of life in Los Angeles. Lead actress Theresa Russell is gorgeous in classic go-getter 80s style. She's bait for the vice squad. Lead bloke, Jeff Fahey (looking much like William Petersen in To Live and Die in L.A. but a step closer to Michael Keaton), works for the D.A. and finds himself in need of her skills and so much more. Things go as you'd expect. The sexual politics is a bit suck-it-up-princess; there's not much empowerment but lots of harassment, some of which is welcome but most not. There's the suggestion that everything can be bought, but the window for closing the transaction might be narrow.

Its rating at IMDB is really low, but it's not that bad. Roger Ebert. Caryn James. I'm starting to think that Stratton would be happy watching daytime T.V.