peteg's blog - noise

The Last of the Mohicans

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Second (or third?) time around: last seen in 2009. Daniel Day-Lewis with his shirt off, Madeleine Stowe tries to heave a bodice. Not at all as I remembered it; I thought the grey hair got his heart ripped out in the fort. Oh well. Clearly a forerunner (running dog?) of Dancing With Wolves, and they sure don't make these epics any more. The climax is a bit meh; the plot is essentially that you can't trust a white man (to make a good movie), though the natives and the scenery sometimes add up to something watchable. Michael Mann's best was yet to come (Heat), but I should perhaps watch Manhunter before passing that judgement. I did like his Thief.

Gangs of New York

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Pretty sure I saw this before, but I can't remember when. Scorcese's dry run for The Departed (better known as Infernal Affairs)? Leonardo, a mole, a kingpin, a love interest, a violent corruption. I was here for Daniel Day-Lewis, so recently retired from acting, only to realise that the cast was vast: John C Reilly, DiCaprio, Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Graham (from This is England), Eddie Marsan. The editing was nowhere close to his masterful Casino, and somehow it didn't add up to much of anything. The Academy awarded the booby prize of ten nominations and no statues.

Japanese Story

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Someone recommended this one to me a while back. It is, unfortunately, crap. Toni Collette is too good for this stuff. The first two-thirds is cliche-ridden drivel; there's never any tension or possibility that they won't, despite the lack of chemistry between the stars. The cinematography is OK but Australia looks better almost everywhere else; even in real life! Some people reviewing this at IMDB call it racist, but I tend to think it's more laziness, a feeble portrayal of the now-fading mining boom through the eyes of the last people in Perth who are culturally ignorant, and retain some connection to the war. The money may have been better spent on recording oral history at the RSLs; you know, a complement to the roughly-contemporary Crackerjack. (Ah yes, the beer at authentic 1972 prices.) Colette's ockerisms make it look like she's not even trying.

Nocturnal Animals

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The most inessential movie I've seen in a long time. It's not fun, it's not insightful, it's not pretty. The best part is Michael Shannon, who's solid but hasn't got a lot to work with. Amy Adams is completely frosty, and entirely lacking an internal life. I don't see how this could ever have seemed to be more than it is, a slight horrible thing.

NIDA Student Productions: Eurydike + Orpheus.

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Booked with The Caucasian Chalk Circle, same deal: $56.00 for two, 2017-05-27, booking fee $5.95 covered both. 7:30pm start, the Parade Theatre, but a little late. Again Pinnocchio's for dinner, and this time a coffee from the UNSW gym, where the kids sure can scream, and their mothers have sharp elbows. I would've respected them more if they'd rucked me to get at the lollies.

Somewhat like All our Tragic, Jane Montgomery Griffiths munged some Greek classics into an hour and a bit of circus set in the underworld. For mine there were too many words, and drawing a connection with mathematics is almost always a too flimsy gambit. (For instance: the Kepler conjecture is no longer a conjecture, and packing spheres isn't easily or effectively connected to packing Hades with the dead. Let's quietly ignore clangers like "the equation for love.") Why they don't ask a maths student for help I don't know. The sets were impressive.

NIDA Student Productions: The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

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I booked this very early, back on 2017-05-27: $56.00 for two people and a $5.95 booking fee for this and the next night's one. 8pm start, but not particularly timely: and the students carried out a tendentious pseudo-debate about asylum seekers before getting the action underway. I had dinner at Pinnocchio's beforehand, and tried to hack in the UNSW Library, and more effectively, at NIDA. The dear old cafe there is gone, but I did score a drip coffee from a nice bloke at the bar.

I have a soft spot for Brecht from vague recollections of a NUTS production of In the Jungle of Cities back in the late 1990s. This one was firstly about the struggles of a woman taken to be an unwed mother, and secondly the Solomonic "chalk circle" that resolves the question of the maternity of the bloke in a (kangaroo) courtroom, but really is about the law being an ass. The acting was great, and the props and effects fantastic: they skillfully evoked rain, wind, lightning in a dirt-floored tent outside, in NIDA's Atrium. (I half expected the mechatronic dragons from the Chopin to put in a showing.) I'd say the first act dragged a little as it was almost uniformly hopeless, whereas the second was comedic; the lead actor (whose name I didn't get) could probably have made Shylock amusing.

Miranda Otto apparently starred in a production of this back in 1989. There's a photo near the box office.

Joshua C. Cohen: Leverage.

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I picked this up thinking it was by Joshua Cohen; the bloke with the middle initial C writes young adult fiction, so this was a surprise. Briefly: football jocks are the establishment and wildly abuse their power, culminating in some sexual deviancy and other extreme behaviour. It's all violent, law of the jungle stuff, and the weedy gymnasts get creamed until they don't. Unfortunately things get squared by tediously normativity, the power of strong women to civilize any man, I-blame-the-parents, an adult's take on justice that I don't remember encountering in my youth; really I wanted the ex-special ops teacher to unload some manners on one of the jocks, or maybe for one of the subculture geeks to go postal (in a non-violent way). Presumably this kind of thing cannot happen every generation, or in every school, for otherwise they would be proscribed organizations. Well written for what it is, but what is it?

Days of Heaven (1978)

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Closer to Terrence Malick's more recent efforts, like To The Wonder; here there is twirling, and fields of wheat, but there is no twirling in the fields of wheat. The cinematography is again fantastic. The plot is abridged Shakespeare. Richard Gere is young, and perhaps surprised by not going to make movies of the calibre that Martin Sheen did; but Gere carries a hot temper far less plausibly, and so much less dangerously. I guess he could still earn an Oscar nom as Slick Willy in a Hillary restrospective. Sam Shepard, about whom I feel at best neutral (from his play writing and The Right Stuff), is strangely passive until he isn't, and then he really isn't. Why could he not find a worthy and sturdy beauty at the local B&S? Morricone practices his harbingers-of-doom scoring that he fully realised two decades later in Lolita. Brooke Adams, anchoring the love triangle, is mostly characterless and simply goes for the guy with the biggest stash every time she gets to choose. I think it was B Movies for her from here on out.

Adam Johnson: Parasites Like Us.

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Johnson's first novel. I enjoyed it about as much as The Orphan Master's Son. Like Will Self's classic The Quantity Theory of Insanity, we get a story of the weird from the vantage of some bent academicians, or alternatively, a prescription for a new way to teach anthropology. It's apocalyptic, survivalist, a little random like Sean of the Dead, and the Dusk to Dawn pivot around the 70% mark leads us into American War territory, albeit in a from-hell's-heart-I-stab-at-thee sorta way. The prison ("Club Fed") comes in for some Ken Kesey-like scrutiny. The book-within-a-book (here The Depletionists) evoked Paul Beatty's The Sellout. (Johnson seems to be complaining that the boomers — or does he mean all adult Americans? — haven't left future generations with much, but somehow felt the need to observe this via the Clovis.)

Is this novel an echo of Rousseau, entirely man in his natural state? It is a bit funny but.

Gary Krist.

Badlands (1973)

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Terrence Malick's debut was a proforma for the many Bonnie and Clydes that followed. There's even something of Natural Born Killers here; perhaps Oliver Stone was remaking the movies that made Martin Sheen a star. As always there was some great cinematography. I wasn't so convinced by Sissy Spacek, and I needed to be for the thing to be more than a piece of fluff. Sheen is so young and gets compared with James Dean. His character is the opposite of Jim Caviezel's in The Thin Red Line; just as lost, but with nothing on the inside. The plot is a bit crap, the characters just cardboard.

Vivek Shanbhag: Ghachar Ghochar translated by Srinath Perur.

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A brief quotidian novella originally written in Kannada, centred on Bangalore, an idle first-person's account of sudden wealth and what it does to family dynamics. The whole thing might be a metaphor for modern India for all I know. Some enjoyable bits, some uninventive, and it just stops. Short but.

I didn't read Parul Sehgal's review until afterwards, and it is in the sweeping universal referential mode that should have made me wary.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

Beautiful day for the most part; some blue skies in the morning before the storm clouds blew through (without rain), supposedly 20 degrees in the water and out, leaving the wind aside. The ride over to and back from Gordons Bay was pleasant. I stopped off at Fatima's takeaway on Cleveland for a felafel roll, and all I'm going to say is that you don't get much for your $8. I took my mask but expected the water to be to cold to spend much time with my head in it; my loss.

The Necks at Sydney Opera House, Drama Theatre.

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$59.00 + $8.50 web transaction fee = $67.50, booked 2017-04-01. Part of the Vivid Festival, where they attach unimaginative strip lighting to the Bridge and shine suggestive abstractions on the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Yeah. There's a lot more neon in the shop windows on the streets of Sydney than in the recent past, which makes me wonder why the public should fund such creative poverty. They also fence off great swathes of pedestrian walkways; Sydneysiders no longer need to get on peak hour trains or cheap flights to Asia to feel like cattle.

Anyway, they promised to email me a ticket, and didn't, so the box office guy gave me one and implied I could calm down a bit. The pre-show email said it'd start at 7:30pm sharp, which it didn't, and some people were let in about 10 minutes in, so if you ever see the video that's me standing up three rows from the front to let them past.

Unlike last time I struggled to get into it. For much of the second set I couldn't pick out the bass; I was sitting too close to the front left speaker, I guess, too close to the drums. It may also be that the acoustics of the Drama Theatre are not as good as elsewhere in this building.

Benjamin Woods's review gives some idea.

Siren Theatre Co: The Ham Funeral at Griffin Theatre.

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7pm, $20, bought at few minutes past midday; it seems strange to sell rush tickets online. The ride over was pretty quick, and I got a park on top of the tunnel on Kings Cross Road. There's a chill in the air now that seems more serious than the cold snap of a few weeks ago. It was my first time there since Summertime in the Garden of Eden, a more modern piece of subversion.

This is Patrick White's first play from the 1940s, and while no one is going to be shocked by it now, it still has some bite. I sat in the front row, which I wouldn't recommend: the odd-shaped stage is not very suitable for this kind of closely staged work, and at least some of the time I was looking at an actor's back while the action continued behind them. The cast was fine, especially Eliza Logan in the lead as Mrs Lusty. There's some trashcan action at the start of the second act that reminded me of Beckett's later Endgame. Things held together pretty well up to the last movement, where the poet (Sebastian Robinson) is chased by Mrs Lusty around the table, and things got a bit limp. Jenny Wu played ethereal fluff like it was Shakespeare; perhaps there's a Hamlet out there in need of her skills.

Ben Neutze. Jason Blake. Cassie Tongue. I saw the New Theatre production of it back in 2013, as did Kevin Jackson.

Headed up to Café Hernandez afterwards, for a drink with Dave, back from Melbourne earlier in the evening.

Jaroslav Kalfaƙ: The Spaceman of Bohemia.

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Kindle. A personal view of Czech history refracted through dreams of traversing the cosmos. The first half is stronger than the second, and the outro when it comes is limp, something like enduring without forgiving or forgetting. The plot pivots somewhat on the Velvet Revolution, and the time-honoured question of whether the son can outrun the sins of the father. I wish he'd captured his grandmother's personality as well as he does his grandfather's; similarly his father is even more sharply drawn, whereas his mother is totally MIA. The village life is probably gone for all time, the backyard raising of pigs and rabbits and all that. Some of it evokes Kundera's philosophical whimsy.

Jennifer Senior nails it in her first paragraph. It seems I was more prepared to indulge the arch commentary on "humanry." Hari Kunzru.

Three Kings

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A stray reference from somewhere reminded me that I hadn't seen this in an age. Early Clooney and Wahlberg, with neither quite out of their previous zones. Ice Cube sort-of anchors the thing, and the humour is of a late 90s America that has Bush War I well in the rear view mirror. The comedic parts work the best, but it is somewhat depressing to reflect on now.

Freaks and Pink Flamingos

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$10, 8:30pm notional start. A somewhat strange double feature put on by the Chauvel as part of their Cine-vault series. Perhaps a total of 20 people in the crowd, most of whom wanted to sit right near me despite the sparseness, and me moving. The ride over was fast, just ten minutes against the twenty minute par for the Google car driving grandma, but also quite horrible.

Well! David S told me a long while back that he was a fan of Freaks (1932), so it was always on my mind to see it. The bloke fired up the old 35mm projector and snapped the "brittle" print after a minute or so, during the framing text. A quick splice got us about another five minutes before the next snap, and he then decided to put Pink Flamingos (1972) on (I think in DVD format) while he did some deeper surgery. Yeah, I probably would've walked out on the latter if they'd stuck to the advertised program.

Anyway, Freaks was worth it, I guess. The acting is generally pretty good, though I was expecting more trapeze (and sundry circus). The plot is pure Shakespeare.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

Leftover Arthur's pizza for lunch on the Coogee headland. About as tasteless as it was for dinner last night. Soak in Gordons Bay, which was quite peaceful. Beaut day, but it is getting colder out.

/noise/beach/2016-2017 | Link

Sushi for lunch at Royal Randwick. Got a new Randwick City Library card. Short soak at Gordons Bay. Two women turned up with a dog, which wouldn't get properly in the water and instead barked incessantly from the rocks. Ah, the serenity! Got a new front tyre for the still-nameless CB400 from Beaconsfield Motorcycle Supermarket ($240) at about 10,300km on the clock.

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Vale, Alain Colmerauer.