peteg's blog

Belvoir Downstairs: A Distressing Scenario.

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I've been pretty impressed by Version 1.0, especially by the first one I saw, The Wages of Spin back in 2005 at the dear old Performance Space on Cleveland Street. I invited Barb and Jake along to this on the cheap Tuesday, now $12 minimum, and was a bit surprised that it was only half-full. Barb (perhaps wisely) decided to stay home and unwind.

There were two parts: Everything I Know About the Global Financial Crisis in One Hour by Post, and The Market Is Not Functioning Properly by Version 1.0.

The first hour was a free association / self-indulgent / sometimes funny absurdist blah blah featuring three women. Their topic: the GFC and how to tie it to the excesses of the 1980s, the entertainment industry, and whatever else they could come up with in less than a month of preparation. To an extent this satire of ignorance and unhinged conspiracy theories suffers from Douglas Adams's complaint.

The second was Version 1.0's take. This time around it fell a bit flat, probably because George W. Bush looks and sounds quite sane on the topic of the GFC, at least relative to the kinds of crap the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and the "just say no" Republicans are coming out with these days, let alone what Obama is doing. With this bland pair and the blander K.Rudd on TVs, getting the odd snippet out, spliced with interviews with three everybodies and nobodies, the burden fell on the two women actually present in meatspace to carry the gig. Their domestics where amusing, I guess.

Afterwards we headed to the Shakespeare. It was packed out so we headed upstairs, a surprisingly novelty to us both. It's just like Melbourne.

Other reviews: Jason Blake at the SMH and some snark from Crikey.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

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A George Clooney segue from The American. I liked the use of vintage colour filming. Rockwell is solid but doesn't do it for me. Trashy all round. Good to see Urbaniak in a bit part.

Clooney overcooks this one, which feels like it has the trainer wheels on, a dry run for the far superior Good Night, and Good Luck, which also ruminates on the golden years of the idiot box.

Army of Darkness

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The Bruce Campbell classic. I remember seeing this back in 1996. It is somewhat timeless.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Late afternoon snorkel at Cape Banks. After last time I figured I'd play it safe and wear the spring suit, which was wise as it wasn't any warmer. Visibility was pretty good but there wasn't a lot to see along the shoreline. Loads of people were out spearfishing, collecting abalone, doing whatever.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

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Yeah, a Seymour Hoffman turkey that wanted to be Memento. It falls far short. Roughly a Tomei segue from The Wrestler with the expectation of good things from the rest of the cast. It is drearily predictable, somewhat along the lines of The Man Who Wasn't There.

The Joseph Tawadros Quartet, The Great Hall, Sydney Uni.

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Tawadros was giving a freebie concert so I headed along with Jon. I last saw him around 2005 or so, when he was a student at UNSW; this time he was closing out a conference on Ameen Rihani.

We stayed for the first half then headed back to Newtown for a drink. There's lots of new small slinky bars on King Street now (maybe there always was) so I guess the new booze laws must be working.

Angel Heart

/noise/movies | Link

One trope invariant in American cinema is that people go to New Orleans and weird stuff happens. (I can readily cite Tightrope from earlier in the same decade, and George W. Bush from this one.) This was a Mickey Rourke segue, one of his classic 80s efforts, guest-starring a Robert de Niro in full Robert de Niro mode. Even the devil could not do a better Robert de Niro than Robert de Niro.

So yeah, some voodoo, some weirdness... I don't know what to make of it. We're supposed to be concerned or interested about some kind of missing guy, but as the bodies pile up we wish there'd been a bit more characterisation of the bit parts.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

After-work paddle at Gordons Bay, from the scuba ramp. I must remember not to drive along Doncaster Avenue as the roadworks there are interminable. Strangely the water is coldest just at the shore, and gets warmer as one gets out into the bay proper.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

After-work snorkel at Little Bay. The water was a bit too cold for just a singlet, and the waves large enough that visibility was a bit poor. Very happy to be back in the water though, given how little fine weather there's been this season.

The American

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At The Ritz with Rob, the 9:10pm session, with maybe ten other people. Someone must have told Corbijn to stop making moving photographs ala Control as the opening scene has some pointlessly shaky handheld camerawork. Fortunately Dogme 2010 this is not.

Overall it was OK but not as good as his previous effort, largely because the source material was not as strong, or perhaps Corbijn is more passionate about rock stars than quiet men. I would have liked to have seen more of the urban life in the Italian villages, and for all of the characters to be more fully developed. Clara is the prostitute with a heart of gold who decides she wants to exchange it for US dollars... seemingly unaware of what a losing proposiiton that is now. Clooney's early finger work assembling the rifle leads us to think he is more klutz than craftsman, despite the protestations to his mechanical dexterity (yes, yes, with Clara too).

It ambles OK but just doesn't add up to anything much.

Review by Dana Stevens. A. O. Scott.

The Man Who Wasn't There

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Black and white neo-noir. Coen brothers — does their reach ever exceed their grasp more than it does here? Very melancholic and the point was unclear to me. Not a Billy Bob fan.


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I saw this with Mark at the long-defunct Dendy cinema on George St, the one that used to live inside the Metro, back in 1997 or so. I have seen the sequels since and they are shit (so don't spoil this one by going any further). The underlying design concept, viz a grid of identical sets, would make for a good stage production if there was money enough for serious electromechanical technology.

mrak complained that I write more about movies I hate than those I like. I disagree, I tend to write about the bits that disappoint, having a lifelong hypothesis that the good bits speak for themselves (and speak better than wordy recreations). To step out of character, I'd say this flick is just about perfect for what it is, i.e. shoestring scifi/horror, and the stereotyping of the characters is totally inline with that. Noone's acting skills are taxed here and that's just fine too.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

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I was keen to see this small British indie flick after it was deemed worthy by Margaret and David. It reminded me a bit of Alexandra's Project (ugly to watch) with a Cube-ish ending (the savant wandering into the light). It is too predictable. Gemma Arterton is gutsy in her role which is not at all the same as good.


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Not as good as I hoped. Perhaps they tried too hard to avoid the Jake the Muss quagmire. The opening five minutes are the best in the whole movie.

The Wrestler

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Happy to see it again.

Robert Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land

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I read this for the first time in 1996, my first year at uni, and as such it was like running into an old (American) friend after too many years and maybe too many drugs. The edition I had then was an ancient paperback, bought for a dollar or two at the UNSW book sale. This time it was the uncut version from 1991, a flabby 650-ish page doorstop published soon after the author died.

Well, it is an airport novel. The plot is just a skeleton on which to hang the authorial opinions, which are mouthed by Jubal "all-father" Harshaw, the other characters acting as foils and provocateurs for some fairly stock libertarian / anarchist propaganda, doubtlessly shocking at the time, typical of Heinlein. These monologues really start to drag by the second half of the book. Some of the window dressing is similar to what John Brunner does, the news flashes, the titillation, but my gut feeling is that Brunner's worlds are a bit more complete and take a broader view of things.

Would it make a good movie? Maybe, but I doubt the religious stuff would translate too well, and there's too much talking and not enough doing. Perhaps Heinlein was disappointed that it is not the foundation stone of a church as well known as Scientology...

The Bonfire of the Vanities

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Terrible. I can see why there hasn't been another Tom Wolfe movie made since: DePalma tries to milk it but there just isn't much to milk. Griffith is annoying, and the speech by Freeman at the end is totally lame. Hanks is not yet the "great actor" he becomes in the mid-90s.

I read the book ages ago, and while it is far superior it is still not that great; it is difficult to see it as more than mere class envy from Wolfe. Taking the WASP Masters of the Universe down like this is feeble, not ironic.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Late afternoon snorkel at Cape Banks. There were loads of golfers out, and the water was too cold to be pleasant in just a singlet. I saw a few fish, including some yellow-striped juveniles who followed me around.

/noise/beach/2010-2011 | Link

Five o'clock snorkel from the scuba ramp at Gordons Bay. Quite a few people around on this, the second of the first two consecutive days of fine weather in a long time. I got in in a singlet, and the water alternated between cold and quite warm as I swam out. Loads of fish, but no sign of the mature blue groper(s). Apparently tomorrow will be the same.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

/noise/movies | Link

Yeah, it's about as empty and fun as I remember. At particular points the plot makes no sense, and we never do find out what Victor's deal with Stryker is.

Eyes Wide Shut

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I remember being keen to see this back in 1999 or so, the first (and only) Kubrick to be released in my adult lifetime. Watching it more than ten years later I still think there is a lot less going on here than some make out; the erstwhile Cruises are rubbish, and the titillation has no follow-through, no menace, little tension, and a conclusion perilously close to "it was a dream". Some of the cinematography is good, and he did nail the ritual scenes in the middle.

Wall Street

/noise/movies | Link

Better that the sequel, and I am now firmly convinced that Stone should have looked at the GFC from the bottom (personified here by Martin Sheen) and not the top.

Charles Yu: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

/noise/books | Link

I bought this from Abebooks; the world economy is so weird right now that it's cheaper to buy a book from an American seller via the site, in pounds: this cost me a total of $AU20 for a first US edition in perfect condition from a shop in New York, whereas the UNSW Bookshop wants $AU26. I'm a little surprised they didn't throw in a flight to London as that might be cheaper than the postage.

Anyway, I got this book on the strength of this glowing review in the New York Times. That writer is spot-on in linking Yu with Douglas Adams, especially through TAMMY, a clear evolution of Marvin for a jaded audience. I enjoyed his rendering of time travel as an internal experience, how it works via particular gramatical structures, especially the present indefinite. However this is an asymmetric view of time, for it does not treat the foreknowledge one might gain from returning from the future.

It's well written, sometimes amusing, but a tad disappointing as it doesn't add up to much more than a rumination on father-son relationships. The discussion of his parents' experiences as migrants is too cursory.

The Town

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I splurged my Palace Cinemas membership freebie at the 9:05pm screening at the dear old Verona. I've grown to like the refurbishment, especially now that the Academy Twin is history. The attraction was Ben Affleck's direction, having recently seen Gone Baby Gone.

Well, yeah. I'm less convinced about Affleck as an actor than as a director; perhaps he should have cast his brother again. This is essentially a heist movie, trying to evoke a sense of community, milking the product-of-where-you-came-from meme. It is solid but not as good as Gone Baby Gone; the extra fireworks rob it of much moral complexity, and it is tad too predictably macho. Casting Postlethwaite invites a losing comparison against The Usual Suspects.

Again the female characters are underwritten; one could imagine Claire (Rebecca Hall) being a bit ballsier rather than caving (to Doug, to the FBI, etc.), and what happened to Irish omerta with Krista?

The contrasting Fairfax reviews by Byrnes and Schembri must say something about how Sydneysiders and Melbournites view themselves. Dana Stevens is a bit more scathing.

The Maladies (with The Exiles and Border Thieves)

/noise/music | Link

It's been a long time since I've seen The Maladies, possibly two and a half years. In that time they've released an album and gained some kind of broader notoriety. mrak was silently absent, and any attempt to shoulder his number-one fanboi duties were stymied by the mediocre acoustics at Spectrum, which is really just a dungeon with a bar; the Hopetoun Hotel it is not. The band was as tight as ever and rolled out a couple of noisy unreleased songs. The support bands suffered from both poor acoustics and terrible engineering.

I'm glad Jon told me about it, and it was good to see Albert and Sandy getting into it.

The Boxer

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Jim Sheridan always does a solid job with what he's got, and I guess he felt he had to make a movie about the Troubles, but the script for this one is a plodder. Daniel Day-Lewis and Emily Watson play lovebirds separated by fourteen years of incarceration due to his juvenile entanglement with the IRA. Blair is on the radio advocating what became the Good Friday accords, and the IRA personage is nervous that he cannot satisfy his partisans. That was something worth exploring more deeply.

Unfortunately the whole thing does not deliver on the promise of its writers, director, stars or topic. Brian Cox (here Mr IRA) is Edward Norton's father in 25th Hour, and the climax is a creakily familiar taking out of the trash.

Punch Drunk Love

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Adam Sandler, Emily Watson... Magnolia this is not.

Killer's Kiss

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One of Kubrick's first. The acting is a bit clunky. He learnt a lot about Hitchcock in making this. Not bad but not in the same league as its immediate successors.