peteg's blog

The Killing

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Classic Stanley Kubrick. Sterling Hayden is Johnny Clay, on his way to being Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper, and later Captain McCluskey. Coleen Gray adds some Howard Hawks sass: a lady out of time.

Eka Kurniawan: Man Tiger.

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Kindle. I balked at Kurniawan's much longer Beauty Is a Wound, which is by all accounts more of a ramble than this one. Even so this would have been improved by being twenty percent or more shorter. Some sections are very repetitive, which may be the fault of the translator. The excessive detail tends to wash out the character and plot development. The poverty of West Java is not so exotic now that flights are so cheap.

Throwing Shade Theatre Co.: The Caretaker by Harold Pinter at The Actors Pulse.

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Cheap Tuesday: $25 + $0.30 booking fee, booked 2017-11-27. I was a bit skeptical about whether this production would be worth seeing after going to the previous Throwing Shade Theatre Co. effort Down An Alley Filled With Cats, but, you know, this was Pinter's first big success and Jason Blake was effusive. I'm glad I went.

All three actors are brilliant, especially Nicholas Papademetriou as the homeless aspiring caretaker Davies/Jenkins, who is never short of a timely facial tick to kick things along. Andrew Langcake is incredibly passive, and yet earnt the biggest laugh when he calls time on the old man's residency. Similarly Alex Bryant-Smith is a classic English bruiser, mercurial and genuinely dangerous; never more so than when he sketches his plans for renovation. The set is overstuffed with junk and effective even from the worst seat in the house (where I was: front row, far right, on the wrong side of the draughty window). Courtney Powell's direction was perfect for the tiny space.

As Blake observed, this play is roughly 60 years old, canonically Pinteresque and very contemporary. Racism, real estate aspirations, brotherly disconnects, security, division without conquest are served up without a blink. The geographic references are pure London and perhaps I missed its subtext. It reminded me a lot of the performances I saw at A Red Orchid Theatre; in general, and not just their playful and (re-)inventive Celebration. Perhaps only American companies can serve up Pinter with the disrespect and levity he deserves.

The Dark Knight Rises

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I'd forgotten great swathes of this. Cotilard's character makes even less sense on this second time around. Hathaway steals every scene she's in. #64 in the IMDB top-250.

The Dark Knight

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Far superior to the first one. #4 on the IMDB top-250, up four places since I last saw this in 2012. I haven't seen Aaron Eckhart in anything since Sully. I'm pretty sure that Bale drives his Lamborghini down Lake, along which I used to ride my bicycle.

Batman Begins

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It's amazing what they don't do with CGI. Chicago stars while Bale attempts to turn the comic book into something more. Still #117 in the IMDB top-250.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Early-evening paddle at Gordons Bay. It was a bit cool getting in (though not as bad as at Little Bay yesterday) but pleasant after that. Many people were sitting on the north side in the sun; a couple of girls where staging a photoshoot on the southern rocks, where I got in; I would have thought the light was too poor. Afterwards I dried out while reading my book on the northern headland of Coogee.

Destiny Turns on the Radio (1995)

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I saw this an age ago, probably on VHS. It is proof that while Tarantino can talk himself into almost anything, he cannot act. Elements of it uncreatively reflect the supernatural themes of the day (cf Twin Peaks, The X-Files and so forth).

Roger Ebert: one lousy star.

Kanishk Tharoor: Swimmer among the Stars.

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There was no point to honesty in a time of cold truths.

Kindle. A collection of shorts. Tharoor has a very dry, precise and inventive mode of description that is somehow unsatisfying, often robbing his stories of soul. For instance the first story (from which the collection drew its title) has no plot, and is purely syntactic, while the second is presented as a countdown to the razing of a city by marauders, but ends up trying to be about something else. I did like the elephant at sea, which demonstrates great empathy. The tales around Iskander are sometimes good; the motif of the man tree was also used by Deepak Unnikrishnan. Letters Home continues with Odysseus after he returns to Penelope; it is nowhere close to what Malouf achieved.

Meron Hadero.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Had a nice ride down from the Sydney CBD to Little Bay, and got in around 4pm. The water was quite a bit colder than the last time I went swimming, and similarly the sea breeze was a bit chilly while I finished my book on the grass near the chapel. Some large storm clouds to the south and west, and reports of hail and thunder and so forth from places far away.


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The 9pm session at the dear old Chauvel. I had dinner at Pinocchio Sushi; traffic was ridiculous between the Park Hyatt and the Eastern Distributor tunnel, but Anzac Parade was empty. They'd shut their coffee machine down by the time I got there, so I went to Mickey's and got a takeaway. Four people and me in the theatre.

This was something of a farewell for Harry Dean Stanton and plays like an indulgent episode of the Twin Peaks reboot; David Lynch is here, maudlin about the desert and his missing tortoise, while Stanton finds solace with minority ladies (not so very different to the role Mexico played in movies like Born on the Fourth of July) and picks fights with middle aged men. There are war stories with another WWII vet in a diner, and something is made of the smoking bans in bars. This is almost exactly the kind of movie Clint Eastwood would not make.

Jeannette Catsoulis was more tolerant of this tosh than I was.

Yellow Submarine

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I thought I saw this at the Valhalla in Glebe in 2002 or so, but maybe I didn't. The art and animation remains somewhat entertaining, but as I get older I'm starting to wonder if The Beatles were all that.

The Beguiled

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Sofia Coppola's latest. It is entirely meh. I had some hopes that she'd learnt from the Koreans; Kidman was quite good in this sort of role in Stoker, though there she had a far better male (played by Matthew Goode) to rub up against than Colin Farrell, who is essentially a cliched volatile lettuce. Here the photography is dank, the females all a-quiver, the plot entirely predictable, the twist so coldly plausible you wonder why they bothered, and if there was time enough for a proper shock. Kirsten Dunst would be better off re-hitching her star to von Trier. Elle Fanning is no more than a haughty stereotype that I'm sure she's played before. I wonder if the original (a Clint Eastwood vehicle) is much chop; the IMDB rating is higher at least.

J. Hoberman. Dana Stevens.

Mumon: The Land of Stealth

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With Dariusz, Amy and a friend of hers, 7.15pm, opening night of the Japanese Film Festival — with speeches that pushed the start time back by 30 minutes or more. Beforehand I wasn't hungry so I just sat on an Asahi as Dariusz ate sushi at the sushi train next to the remaining George St cinema.

This is something of a reinvention of the ninja genre, in roughly the same way that Guy Richie relaunched (and relaunched) the English lad flick a few decades back. The tropes are in short supply and the parallels with modern grasping, materialistic society could have been left implicit. I didn't understand the final "river" fight scene; it didn't strike me that anyone had any honour left. The indomitable prefecture reminded me of the Gauls in dear old Asterix. It's finely made and fun, but I don't think it's enough to claw back the cinematic high ground long occupied by Korea.

Logan Lucky

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Soderbergh's resumption after retiring from this kind of thing a few years back. I guess it was the money, for this is a tepid warm over of his standard heist formula. Like Baby Driver, there are some clever bits, but most of those smarts went into the marketing. It's somehow absorbing though. I enjoyed Adam Driver's droll performance, and Channing Tatum was robust. Daniel Craig phoned it in. Riley Keough (grandsprog of Elvis) never had to go up against Katie Holmes in the trashy stakes. The outro with Hilary Swank was excruciatingly predictable.

A. O. Scott. Dana Stevens.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Lunch at Tum's Thai, then a soak off the beach at Gordons Bay. Unlike last time it was clear but I didn't bring my mask. Not too many people, some in the water. It was significantly warmer than the last time I got in. Afterwards I rode back to Beaconsfield Motorcycle Supermarket to get the CB400 serviced, and walked home from there.

Charif Majdalani: Moving the Palace (originally Caravansérail; translated by Edward Gauvin).

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Kindle. Brief, well written. Something of Conrad's Heart of Darkness transplated a bit further north (to the Sudan), and sure enough, an encounter with T.E. Lawrence and Prince Faisal during the First World War. (Majdalani gives a nod to Lawrence for the raw material on which he leans for a description of their meeting.) Instead of finding all our colonial maniacs at the end of a river, Samuel Ayyad has to continue up the Nile past Cairo, through the Suez and up the Hijaz, lugging his slightly-used ex-Tripoli palace all the way. The British are presented as dotty, as likely to indulge an Oriental fantasy as do some hard-edged soldiering. Early on it seems we're going to be told of how Samuel cuts his deals in the Sudan (beyond distributing a vast stash of British gold), but we never are. The romantic outro seemed undercooked; I really wanted to hear about the reassembly of those thousands of pieces. I wonder if this isn't somewhere in the thousand-and-one nights. The references do pile up, and I lost track of which tribes remained in the caravan and which had gone home.

Suzanna Joinson pointed out the obvious source materials and found more humour in it than I did; to me it was elegant and melancholic. Joe Geha observes an echo of Odysseus's voyage (albeit with a flawless hero).

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Mild day. Detouring via Watsons Bay, I got in at Gordons Bay around 5pm with the intention of having a snorkel. I think the recent massive surf churned up so much stuff (loads of seaweed on the beach; some detritus in the water; very poor visibility) that it was completely futile. Pleasant in though, and somewhat pleasant out eating my dinner in the dying light on the northern headland of Coogee.

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After some prevarication I decided to get a haircut for the first time in about five weeks. After that I had a grilled flathead at Paris Seafood, with the usual excess of salad and chips, and headed to Little Bay for the first snorkel in an age. As usual I only saw the usual small suspects, and a couple of larger wrasse; there were loads of small translucent jellyfish. I finished my book on the sand, and tried having a coffee at Cafe 2036. The traffic coming back was rough.

Carmen Maria Machado: Her Body and Other Parties.

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Kindle. Parul Sehgal sold it to me: as she says, these are unruly fairy stories of a feminist, disreputable, occasionally shameless kind. The writing is fine and sometimes fun; othertimes it feels like B-grade horror. The central Especially Heinous seemed like a riff not just on Law & Order but also the fluid identities, incarnated magic, misogyny and untidy storylines of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. I found The Resident a less effective or telling piece of semi-autobiographical writing-about-writing than Nam Le's Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice. I took Inventory to be trying to tell desperate people's biographies through short-term commitment-free sexual encounters, which is too narrow a window to satisfy.

Emily May. Blair: indeed, full of sex and yet unsexy.

The Running Man

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Vintage B-Movie Arnie, somewhen inbetween Conan and Terminator 2. Apparently based on a Stephen King novel, but really a threadbare variation on Terminator and relentlessly mediocre. The kill-'em-all-dead game show hasn't come to pass in 2017 (yet) but too many movies have milked the premise in the interim. Maria Conchita Alonso vamps things up, and is often thrown around in a most un-PC way by various males. Jesse Ventura is bigger than Arnie (?). Dweezil Zappa tries to make out like Che. I saw this ages ago and remembered it for Arnie's one-liner about the loudness of his shirt.

Boogie Nights

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Last seen an age ago.

The Old 505 Theatre: Plastic by Mark Rogers.

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A last-minute freebie from somewhere, 8pm, preview, first time at The Old 505 Theatre. This was closer to student theatre than the NIDA things I've been to. Structurally the raw material is quite similar to Birdland: we're mostly waiting for a man to receive his comeuppance, leavened with ladies. I was pretty toasted, even after a coffee from the cafe next to the Dendy, and didn't get into it much. The audience packed out the place and was often quite indulgent.