peteg's blog - noise

Seymour Centre: The Nether by Catnip Productions.

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7:30pm, Reginald Theatre seats E16/17, a freebie from somewhere. Somewhat packed with most coming right on the starting time, like a movie, and similarly the ladies behind me decided the two-thirds mark was a great time to unpack snacks from noisy wrappers. As it was a preview, I'll refrain from commenting on the production beyond observing that the acting and set are well conceived and totally fine.

The play itself (by Jennifer Haley) is fair game though. It aspires to transfuse Mamet's revelatory power-struggle seesaw Oleanna with the absolute and timeless transgressiveness of Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita (but not its poetics), all while holding things at the remove of virtual unreality, of realms where consequence is neutered. (That this play has a plot shows that the author doesn't take that claim too seriously; but surely we can call the internet the internet in 2017.) The use of big button-pushing topics struggled to find the line of audience discomfort however, and precluded the big theatrical moves (nudity, language, circus, ...) that may have helped. Often it felt like an undergraduate philosophy seminar, or perhaps an ethics debate at Facebook: a bit too abstract and privileged.

The angle seems to be that technology will further democratize repugnant transactions, just as cheap airfares have democratized planetary destruction, and that the libertarians are going to need better arguments than those presented here if they are to avoid corporate vengeance. Kobek presented a far more nuanced present-day version of this in i hate the internet, which I'd summarise as: there's an apocalypse going on, and it's still going on. See Ben Brantley at the New York Times for more; he too considers this at most a play for the moment.

Briefly: where the theatre once mythologized, now it struggles to neologize.

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Even hotter than yesterday (30s ish). Headed over to Gordons Bay after a laksa and roti at the Grosvenor food court, around 2pm. Loads of kids, once again flat and high tide, beautiful in. The traffic was horrible heading back.

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Lunch at Tum's Thai and afterwards the first paddle of the season at Gordons Bay. I got in around 1pm on a pseudo-tropical warm day (thin high clouds, no direct sun, almost hot). The tide was as high as I've seen it there, lapping the tinny racks, but flat. The water felt about the same as in June: initially cold but pleasant once in. There were loads of kids on the rocks, including some who were razzing their dog into barking excitement. A few got in.

Old Boy (Spike Lee, 2013)

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Over several nights. A strong cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley. A completely unnecessary remake of the Park Chan-Wook original.


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A recommendation from Mum and Glenn Kenny. Over several nights. The cats of Istanbul. Beautiful cinematography, some genuine empathy and amusing stories.


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With Dave, $15 each for an EPIC 2K DIGITAL REMASTER screening at The Ritz, 8:30pm. A De Palma / Pacino / Oliver Stone masterwork. This is not a true classic of its genre, as the poster contends; it is the genre. Dinner at Pinocchio's beforehand.

Rose George: Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything.

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Kindle. A blancmange of journalist Rose George's experiences aboard the container ship Maersk Kendal and some shallow research. One novelty she presents is that hostage negotiations use actors, though the obvious connections with Team America elude her. She touches on so many rich topics but never seems to get anywhere near their cores; for instance, shipping containers lost at sea are a source of toxicity but have also seeded marine ecosystems. A mild bit of googling suggests there's a lot to be fascinated about right there, but George mostly just serves up brief, pat impressions about octopus sapience, and that's a topic treated at book length by others. Then there is the story by which the world got so thoroughly containerised; somehow the joint action problem was solved, and one has to wonder how, but George isn't going to tell you.

Dwight Garner sold it to me.

Guild Theatre: The Rose Tattoo by Tennesse Williams.

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A bit spur-of-the-moment after a day at Centennial Park and UNSW, which was having its open day. 8pm, $25, seat B10, closing night down in Rockdale. I tried booking on their website and got an email asking me to call them back, or to simply show up at 7:30pm or later. Finding a coffee was a little tricky; a lady with a cute little European-style food joint sorted me out on the far side of the Rockdale train station.

This was a community theatre thing. The lead actress (in the role of Serafina Delle Rose) was solid and even better when she had someone else to act with, such as the bloke playing Alvaro Mangiacavallo. I found the audience a bit rude, often talking during the action. Not the best raw material, being somewhat dated and pointless, but somewhat fun nevertheless.

David Kary.


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8:30pm session at the dear old Verona, $16.00, theatre 4, which I don't think I've been in before. The lass allocated me D6 but the room is small and narrow enough that you could comfortably sit in the front row (C6 it was for me, and the other person in the cinema sat on the end of the same row). The ride over was quick but middling; asinine traffic, a bit cold and spitting rain. The shorts were uniformly crap.

This is a romanticised portrait of a Canadian lady who became famous for her paintings, living in a tough life in the margins of nowheresville Nova Scotia. It's a bit hard to place it in time; the middle segment is centred around 1955, with Nixon in the Senate and not yet the Whitehouse. There's not much plot but some character development; the central motif is the turning of the seasons. The producers were reaching for Mr Turner, and their main failing is that while the visual composition is great and often pretty, the photography lacks vibrancy. I was mostly there for Sally Hawkins, who previously put in some excellent work with Mike Leigh in Happy Go Lucky. Ethan Hawke was also fine, looking more like Nick Nolte by the year.

Manohla Dargis.

The Farthest

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A PBS documentary gestured at by Ars. It's about the Voyager probes, which launched about a month after I was born. I remember some of the media hoopla of the 1980s as it passed the gas giants and the excitement about cosmology of those days. This has some great footage but also too much synthetic CGI and eyes in negative space. More about the engineering please, the science, and far less gold disc; for a story about machines it's too human-centric.

Jarett Kobek: The Future Won't Be Long.

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Kindle, pre-ordered from Amazon, $US13.99. This is Kobek's longest outing yet, and the least imaginative, being the backstory of the comics artist Adeline and her best friend Baby we met in i hate the internet. It's long on the glory days of the clubs of New York, dropping names and nostalgia freely. Elegy or eulogy? The literary and cultural criticism here lacks the conviction of his previous outings.

City of Tiny Lights

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For Riz Ahmed, who it seems is essential to any terrorism-related flick out of England. The flashback revelatory structure is too much like Wind River's; I guess this is how you tell a story in 2017. The parallel historical story of their youthful selves is not very plausible or innovative, and the ending is a bit too tidy. It adds up to something less than an extended episode of The Bill. The Wong Kar Wai cinematography does not help.

Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows.

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Kindle, from Standard Ebooks. I was looking for an easy read, and vaguely remembered a movie based on it from my childhood. Well, the vocabulary here is extensive and perhaps now a bit obsolete. Certainly the class consciousness is, as is the blithe presentation of socialising animals eating other animals; perhaps Grahame separated the industrial from the native or wild animals in his mind. The story is pure triumphalist English essentialism. I much prefer Oscar Wilde's stories for children.

Wind River

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A freebie from NIDA, with Dave, 9:10pm, Palace Cinemas Norton Street theatre 1, maybe ten people total. We had a flat white each there.

Overall it's good. The short implied there'd be more stereotyped conflict between Jeremy Renner's gone-native local hunting bloke and Elizabeth Olsen's FBI agent. (Writer/directory Taylor Sheridan trotted out Emily Blunt in a similar FBI ingenue role in Sicario.) It's a simple moral fable really: Native Americans suffer much predation and maybe all the justice on offer is (righteously Dirty Harry) vigilantism. Leaving aside my doubts about the logic of all that, things fit together well, especially the scenes shot outside. The major failing is Renner's (two?) explanatory monologues, which don't sit so well with his being otherwise a man of few words.

Glenn Kenny.

Michael Chabon: Moonglow.

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Kindle. This made a big splash sometime last year. I enjoyed it for the most part, though it is lengthy and some sections drag. I cynically wonder if Chabon didn't target this book with excess precision at the market segment with the time and money to read: a piece of greatest-generation hagiography with a side serve of ungrateful boomer-ish children/parents from an adoring grandchild. Some mental illness (much slighter than Ken Kesey's) and decreased vigor, respectfully and sometimes crassly treated through violent action and language. There's more Wernher von Braun in here than I expected, and perhaps I should have been reading Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow instead.

A. O. Scott.

A Ghost Story

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$16.00, at the dear old Verona, theatre 1, 6.45pm; at a bit of a loose end, I ended up plumping for this over Dunkirk, largely because of Casey Affleck, and somewhat Rooney Mara. Loads of people there at that time; some even came to see this! I'd resisted reading any reviews; the theatre was about a quarter full and at least four people quit it in the first half hour, so I expect that most of us didn't know what we were getting.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens. I can't add much.

Thelma & Louise

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Some kind of Ridley Scott completism; Brad Pitt so young, Susan Sarandon already past her prime, Geena Davis playing a hedonistic airhead ten years younger than she was, Harvey Keitel struggling with an accent. It's a one-way roadtrip.

Griffin Theatre: Rice by Michele Lee.

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7pm, a freebie from bAKEHOUSE theatre company. Dinner was a bento at a Japanese place on Darlinghurst Road. A preview, I think, and packed.

I went in with no expectations but had heard of its sold-out season in Brisbane. The setup is two women bouncing off each other, shifting amongst a small set of characters with different concerns and stakes. There's a lot of swearing that was probably supposed to be somehow authentic and arresting, and too much histrionics in the mode of Home and Away. I found it all a bit cliched, but did appreciate the efforts of the two actors (Kristy Best, Hsiao-Ling Tang) to inflate the stagnant material. It's a long way from The Ham Funeral in almost all theatrical dimensions.

Ben Neutze. Jason Blake.

Michael Knight: Eveningland.

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Kindle. I picked this one up on the strength of the first few paragraphs of Rick Bass's review in the New York Times; I see now that he proceeds to meander through the rushes, looking for things to stuff his writing with. I found this collection of shorts a bit wan; perhaps you had to be there, and not just be there, but be rich enough to really be there.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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Edgar Wright completism. Meh.