peteg's blog

Douglas Rushkoff: Survival of the Richest. (2022)

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. On the strength of a promising excerpt in The Saturday Paper. That may've been the best bit: at book-length Rushkoff rambles, rants, riffs, self-aggrandises, self-contradicts and appears ignorant of history. There's not much about the promised billionaire survivalism and prepping, and the remainder is too generic. There are very few interesting or novel pointers; the only one I came away with to John Rutt (ex Santa Fe institute) and his Game B. These failures are especially vexing if you share any of his concerns. I think Rushkoff is mining the vein of similarly-unsatisfactory late-period Douglas Coupland.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

/noise/movies | Link

I've never been much of a fan of this movie but for reasons unknown (Steve Buscemi?) figured it was worth a revisit. Still #92 in the IMDB top-250.

Roger Ebert, two-and-a-half stars at the time: "Now that we know Quentin Tarantino can make a movie like Reservoir Dogs, it's time for him to move on and make a better one." I also felt it was more a talky stage play than cinema. Also Vincent Canby.

Heat (1995)

/noise/movies | Link

Having read the sequel-book I now had to rewatch the original. Still #123 in the IMDB top-250.

Roger Ebert: three-and-a-half stars, and often in contradiction, Janet Maslin.

Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner: Heat 2. (2022)

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. Read mostly in the Flinders Ranges between bouts of bushwalking. I haven't picked up an airplane novel or thriller in ages. These are Heat scenarios, set in Chicago and L.A., apparently developed since the movie. Despite implausible coincidences, secondary characters in need of more development and its length, it's quite effective; cinematographic — which goes without saying — and effectively dated, like a cold war thriller, by forcing you to consider what tech existed at the time. But Mann missed a trick: he should've made a video game like Grand Theft Auto. The ending suggests there just might be a Heat 3.

Adrian McKinty at the Smage. A lengthy interview of Mann by Jonah Weiner.

Trees Lounge (1996)

/noise/movies | Link

A pointer from Alan Rickman's diaries: "Steve Buscemi’s beautiful film. Complete rethink on the being-in-it-and-directing question, although it has such a central quietness you forget anybody is acting or directing something. V inspiring."

Roughly Buscemi seems to have called up his mates to perform in his (written, directed, starred in) production, with a result that reminded me at times of Hal Hartley's Long Island movies (without the music). There's addiction, drinking, arrested development, a downward spiral. So nothing we haven't seen before, but well constructed. Chloë Sevigny steals a few scenes. Imagine losing your lady to Anthony LaPaglia!

Roger Ebert: three-and-a-half stars at the time (based on direct experience I expect). Stephen Holden.

Heaven Knows What (2014)

/noise/movies | Link

Safdie brothers completism. What passes for romance amongst NYC junkies, and various kinds of codependency. Based on Arielle Holmes's experiences; she also leads. Caleb Landry Jones plays her somewhat disinterested love interest. The music is sometimes intriguing but otherwise there's not a lot to it.

Wikipedia has some details. Nicolas Rapold (and others) dug it. Godfrey Cheshire points out its strengths and flaws.

Mohsin Hamid: The Last White Man. (2022)

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. The premise is right there in the title, so I can't say I didn't know what I was getting. The plot, as it were, is that the great arc of life continues whatever metamorphoses occur, however tedious and shallow those might be. Mercifully short but it could've been shorter with less annoying waffle and repetition, if he walked back fewer assertions and just said what he meant in the first place. For mine it's the worst yet from Hamid, the second consecutive thumbs down from me. I do not know who he wrote this for.

Goodreads. Apparently it provoked thought in some readers, though these thoughts are generally unshared or unshareable. David Gates at the New York Times: flat-footed fabulism. And so on. The vibe is general bemusement.

The Quiet Girl (2022)

/noise/movies | Link

On the strength of Jason Di Rosso's interview with adaptor/director Colm Bairéad. From that it was pretty clear what this was going to be: a series of vignettes focused on a semi-abandoned girl and an older couple. The themes are of what is lost and found. In (Irish) Gaelic. Somehow I was reminded of Scandinavian realism ala Lukas Moodysson (Bara Parata Liten, specifically by the card game here and some brusque social interactions) and of course there's the wallpaper from Trainspotting. I very much enjoyed the acting and that there's never too much of anything. It's beautifully observed and shot. Claire Keegan provided the raw material. She's having a moment.

Harry Windsor. Peter Bradshaw.

Emily the Criminal (2022)

/noise/movies | Link

On the strength of a taut review by Jeannette Catsoulis — I (always) wish she'd write at more length. It's only the second time I've seen Aubrey Plaza onscreen; the first was Ned Rifle a long time ago. It's a sort of Breaking Bad for the millennial student-indebted gig workers, showing how they can learn from the migrants who have already given up on mainstream success in present-day USA. Plaza's great as she finds her true vocation, as is Theo Rossi. Written and directed by John Patton Ford. It put me in mind a bit of Uncut Gems.

Benjamin Lee. K. Austin Collins. Most other reviews struck me as overly harsh. Perhaps Plaza is having a moment.

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

/noise/movies | Link

At the Ilparpa Swamp on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I'm not the biggest fan of George Miller's movies so I took some persuading. That came in the form of Jason Di Rosso's reverential interview, where Miller sounded like a thoughtful and sharp bloke. There's also the pull of the two stars, Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. Well, as it turns out I prefer her in more fantastical/artificial/stylised roles (e.g. The Grand Budapest Hotel) and I'm still waiting for something worthwhile from him. (Likely he's always decent but has yet to find a worthy feature-film vehicle.) Shot by John Seale. The last movement, set back in the real world of London, is a riff on matching.

I read Dana Stevens's deconstruction before I saw it, inuring me to some but not all of the dodginess. Manohla Dargis points to more fatal flaws; Luke Goodsell found a few others. Lurv! IMDB tells me that the three ladies prior to Tilda are not credited, which I found weird. Sandra Hall dug it, as did Glenn Kenny. And so on.

Big Trouble (1986)

/noise/movies | Link

The last directorial effort of John Cassavetes, and what a way to go out: it's a dog. Insurance salesman Alan Arkin (who somehow reports to the head of claims department Charles Durning) gets sucked into a transparent scam by the underclad Beverly D'Angelo and her husband Peter Falk. There's a terrorism kink for a climax that leads to happy endings all round. What's to know.

Vincent Canby at the time.

Decision to Leave (2022)

/noise/movies | Link

Park Chan-wook's latest. Tang Wei (Lust, Caution) leads. Go Kyung-Pyo has some gravitas but is often eclipsed in a way that Tony Leung could never be; he's too wan.

The subtitles I had were crap, but afterwards I had to wonder if mangled dialogue was more feature than bug. Roughly this police procedural gestures at Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood for Love) and another Leung classic (Infernal Affairs), or is this a clothes-on Basic Instinct? Chinese-lady-in-Korea Weng appears to develop a taste for murdering her Korean husbands. Some of the cuts between scenes make things hard to follow. None of the cinematography reaches his previous standards. I wasn't enthralled.

Ben Kenigsberg at Cannes: Vertigo! Brian Tallerico.

Homelandings: This is Water (2020-2021)

/noise/movies | Link

I met Otis in February 2021 at the swimming pool in Wilcannia where he was acting as a lifesaver in between social events. He told me that he and his doco-making partner, both ex-Melbourne, had used their boosted JobSeeker to record some of what was happening on the Darling-Baaka river at the time. The two things of note here are the fish relocations of 2020 after the mass fish kills of previous years, and the protest about the general state of things.

Nope (2022)

/noise/movies | Link

Jordan Peele's latest. (I've seen Us but not Get Out.) Watched near Berry Springs on a very hot evening. I didn't understand a thing, a fact brought home to me time and again as the cast engaged in incomprehensible programmed action. There's no humour here. Daniel Kaluuya leads and has his moments, as does Steven Yeun from Minari. Michael Wincott was familiar from many things. The CGI is often lame.

Sandra Hall: two-and-a-half impatient stars. A. O. Scott dug it. Jason Di Rosso; he interviewed Brandon Perea on his Screen Show. Dana Stevens: I disagree that it "never feels long or belabored" — many scenes dragged. Later, Michael Wood.

Seconds (1966)

/noise/movies | Link

In two sittings as it failed to grip. Suggested by Dana Stevens's review of the Criterion release in 2013. I didn't find the depths she did: thematically it's body horror turned into identity horror where things go as they must, entirely riven with buyer's remorse. Raw material for David Lynch perhaps. Directed by John Frankenheimer. Rock Hudson in the lead. Wesley Addy, playing a factotum, was somehow familiar.

A. H. Weiler at the time. Roger Ebert appears to have given it a miss.

/hacking | Link

Vale Peter Eckersley. In the words of another great Victorian: the University of Melbourne's finest. Widely feted at Hacker News.

2001 (1968)

/noise/movies | Link

I revisited the Kubrick classic out east of Alice Springs.

Roger Ebert: four stars in 1968 and another four stars as a "great movie" in 1997. Renata Adler for the New York Times: "Even the problem posed when identical twin computers, previously infallible, disagree is the kind of sentence-that-says-of-itself-I-lie paradox ... belong[s] to another age." How little she knew.

The Velvet Underground (2021)

/noise/movies | Link

In three sittings as I found it a bit overwhelming — there's often a lot to take in. John Cale was the pick of the talking heads; I'm perhaps anomalous in not being overly interested in Andy Warhol, Lou Reed or the Factory. Many points are not elaborated: we learn little about the firing of Cale and Warhol, the Bowie connection, or their drug intake or health issues later in life. There are gestures late in the piece to suggest that Cale and Reed did work together after the firing. I enjoyed it and expect it'll be worth a rewatch. Directed by Todd Haynes (Mildred Pierce etc.).

Greil Marcus sold it to me with a lengthy review. A. O. Scott. Ben Kenigsberg at Cannes: Cale says the "60-cycle hum of the refrigerator" is the sound of Western civilisation. I wonder what he would've made of Australia's 50Hz.

Gloria (1980)

/noise/movies | Link

And yet more Cassavetes/Rowlands completism. I kept a close eye on it for the first 40 minutes or so and then only half. The time did pass quickly throughout but nothing really stuck; all I saw was tough mob moll Rowlands moving through lowlife NYC and thereabouts, dragging child John Adames, with a revolver, endless cigarettes and an intent I could not grasp. She got an Oscar nom for this. Apparently there's some humour.

Roger Ebert: three stars in 1998. "Fun and engaging but slight." Vincent Canby.

Tempest (1982)

/noise/movies | Link

More Cassavetes/Rowlands completism. Co-writer/director Paul Mazursky was notionally somewhat inspired by or recycled Shakespeare's play. (The other writer was Leon Capetanos.) In brief high-flying architect Cassavetes has a midlife crisis in NYC, leaving retired Broadway actress/wife Rowlands to his ominous casino-developer boss Vittorio Gassman so he can revisit his roots in Greece and ultimately a Greek island, taking their teenage daughter Molly Ringwald with him. By fantastical coincidence the eternally braless Susan Sarandon is walking her dog in some town there and finds him irresistible. As he's the centre of everyone's universe the others track him down, and the mandatory big sea storm leads to vacuous rapprochement. Billed as comedy but mostly snoozefest, it took me two sittings to get through. It was probably fun to make.

Vincent Canby at the time.