peteg's blog

Full Metal Jacket

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Sunday afternoon, 4:30pm at The Ritz Cinema 1, downstairs, $10, a 35mm print as part of their Stanley Kubrick revival. Perhaps at 5-10% capacity. Last seen about five years ago. Slipping down the IMDB top-250 (now #95). Also timely: R. Lee Ermey recently passed. They played the soundtrack while we were waiting, but not the famous outro pairing of the Mickey Mouse Club and the Rolling Stones's Paint it Black. The pre-show was hopelessly retro, with "coming attractions" being the shorts for Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Taxi Driver and The Shining.

This movie is entirely unforgettable, and mostly does not pay rewatching. It remains almost beyond belief that they could recreate wartime Huế and its Imperial City on a studio lot in England, and the old Beckton Gas Works on the edge of London.

Kubrick owes something, and also pays some homage, to Apocalypse Now, most notably with a passing shot of the iconic tropical sun. We also get a mouthy colonel (whose lines I confuse with Robert Duvall's) and a film maker on the edge of the action. I just discovered that Vivian Kubrick made a making-of documentary, echoing Hearts of Darkness.

Vincent Canby reviewed it for the New York Times.

Francine Prose: Bigfoot Dreams.

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Kindle. By far the worst thing I've read by her yet; perhaps Mister Monkey really was her high point. This novel is lost in the dangerous subways of 1980s Brooklyn and Manhattan. There are too many references that almost no one will get any more; I guess that will also be the fate of much of the current overly-familiar east coast literary output, in contrast to the timeless conjuring of the exotic by Salman Rushdie and Thomas Hardy. Excessive referentialism is no more than excess ego, and this feels too autobiographical, too dug from an odds-and-sods sock drawer. An awesome sentence every five or more pages can't save it.

Susan Allen Toth reviewed it for the New York Times back in 1986.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

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An Aardman Animations effort from 2012, a jag from Early Man. It's more misfires than misfits. Clearly someone has realised this and tried to overstuff humour into the details. (For instance, one of the ship's rules is that pigs are not to be used as cannon balls.) We get a not-very-respectful play on Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria, amongst other historical personages, which seems a bit weird. The plot is entirely cookie cutter; like a Pixar flick but totally soulless. The monkey is a poor substitute for a claymation Gromit. The voice cast is a vast collection of British actors.

Manohla Dargis.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Late afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay off the beach after a too-frustrating day. Some swell, a bit filthy, but very pleasant in. Thick clouds. It started raining after a bit, and of course I'd left my washing out.

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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The Ritz, $8 on this tight arse Tuesday before Anzac Day, 9:50pm, not many people, four rows from the front of Cinema 3. The lastest Wes Anderson stop-motion, and sure enough the technique was totally fab. Conversely the story is a bit weak, barely rising above a generic quest decorated with risibly shallow and cliched dichotomies. (The cats of Megasaki play the same role they did in The Godfather; was it beyond imagining that four-legs-good might find reasons for alliance?) The pack got a bit tedious, perhaps because Anderson is at his best with characters who are unapologetically dependably awesome (cf Fantastic Mr Fox, which I saw recently and didn't write up, and the fabulous The Grand Budapest Hotel; here we get Spots and eventually one or two others). I found it a bit disturbing to see the Japanese being lectured on democracy by a very young American exchange student (Greta Gerwig), and were those mushroom clouds? About the only 1980s Japanophilic trope he doesn't pull in was Godzilla, but that may have been sitting up the back of the community hall.

Dana Stevens. Indeed, and what a montage. Manohla Dargis. Anthony Lane.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Beaut day. Ate my lunch on the northern headland at Coogee (the leftover half of Mum's sandwich from yesterday). Had a bob just past the breakers with all the kids at the beach, somewhat near the northern flag. The sun and wind don't dry me out any more, but at least it wasn't too cold out.

The Interview

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Another Hugo Weaving jag. This one dates from around the middle of what seemed at the time (1998) to be an endless golden era of Australian cinema. Tony Martin took time off from Wildside to play a slightly different cop. After a promising first half or so, things fall apart a little too tendentiously to be bothered with. I wonder if there's much of that kind of Australia left now; many people in Melbourne would kill (heh) for as much living space as Hugo had in his doss house.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Mid-afternoon snorkel off the southern rocks of Gordons Bay. A change blew through a few days back and the temperatures have settled into the more autumnal low to mid 20s. Visibility was poor. It's quite nice in, but the onshore breeze was a bit nippy when out and wet. The tide was up. The beach was almost entirely deserted; some people were hanging around the scuba ramp across the bay. Read a bit more of Francine Prose's Bigfoot Dreams on the northern Coogee headland, but the clouds occluded any chance of a drying sun.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

The change had passed and the temperatures are briefly on the rise again; then the clouds blew over promising rain. I snuck in a paddle at an almost-deserted Little Bay after a very early oldskool laksa lunch at UNSW as the tradies finished their work on the flat. No waves to speak of. The the tide a bit out. Pleasant in. Had a nice circuitous ride up to the ASX afterwards.

Red Sparrow

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I can sort-of see why Jennifer Lawrence signed up for this: it was probably pitched as a sequel to both Black Swan and Hunger Games (the latter and this directed by Francis Lawrence); something certainly worth getting your kit off for, and don't sweat the accent. Really it's a paint-by-the-numbers Cold War 2.0 effort that goes exactly as you'd expect, inexorably, with a side of graphically awful torture porn. Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons are both squandered. I guess the short worked its magic on me.

Manohla Dargis somehow found it "preposterously entertaining". I reckon they should have done the whole thing as a montage.

Francine Prose: The Glorious Ones.

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Kindle. A very early (1974) dry run for her mature work Mister Monkey based on the classic and cliched Italian commedia dell'arte theatre form circa C17th. Some of the members of the itinerant troupe of actors were apparently historical personages, and certainly all are stereotypes (no! archetypes). Each gets a chapter to say their piece; at the time Prose had yet to master them all. It's fun for what it is. Kirkus Reviews has the salients but otherwise the internet has not gone ape over it.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

It's been a while since I've had lunch at Paris Seafood, and I was disappointed to find that they are closing up in June due to their lease not being renewed (sob). I tried the BBQ Prawns and was pleasantly surprised; so much so that I managed to finish my salad for perhaps the first time ever. I went for a brief paddle at Frenchman's Beach. It was the roughest I've ever seen it with a stiff on-shore wind; not a day to relax at the beach with sand flying everywhere. It remains quite hot.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

I left work a bit early to sneak in a late-afternoon paddle at Gordons Bay. The weather remains unbelievably hot for this late in the season. Today it was cleaner along the shoreline, and loads of people had the same idea as me. Three dogs on the sand.

The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions

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It's been a while, and once you start on the first one you've got to go all the way. The first remains a classic, and the second two remain classic cash-ins. A Hugo Weaving jag from The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.

Leslie Valiant: Probably Approximately Correct: Nature's Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World.

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Kindle. Valiant's theoretical basis for machine learning is far more real-world plausible than the logical accounts of the 1960s (the learning-in-the-limit model of Gold and Blum) and here he posits it as one of the missing links in Darwin's account of evolution amongst many other things. I took extensive notes as I went but lack the time to write them up; now I wonder where I can find the debate this book must have caused since its publication in 2013. It seems unlikely that his neologism ecorithms has stuck.

Edward Frenkel reviewed it for the New York Times. Marcus Feldman points out some of Valiant's blind spots. Ernest Davis is also skeptical: he observes the lack of a story about theoretical terms (which Davis calls "higher order constructs") and that PAC does not exhaust all forms of learning. It strikes me that ID3 neatly spans information-theoretic and computational readings of learning processes.

Early Man

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$10 at The Ritz, 4:30pm (second and final session on this opening day), four rows from the front of Theatre 4. Had a coffee at Isabella's Spot beforehand. About four people total in the audience. Amazon Prime Instant Video produced, and the BFI et al. I haven't been to the cinema in an age.

This is Aardman Animations's latest. I had (and still have) fond memories of their classic Wallace and Gromit efforts, and even their previous more broadly commercial stuff like Chicken Run. Their stop-motion technique is better than ever, with some amazing effects, but the story is a tired one of the genesis of football, which apparently happened after lunch somewhere near Manchester a long time ago. There are some funny bits and solid sight gags. The characters are forgettable.

A. O. Scott.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Had last night's pizza for lunch on the northern Coogee headland, and finished Leslie Valiant's book on PAC learning at long last. Afterwards I joined a cast of seeming thousands at Gordons Bay for a brief paddle off the beach. There was some kind of video shoot on the sand; the way the girl emoted it was clearly an envy-inducing commercial endeavour. Super hot day for this time of year, a bit cool, lots of detritus near the shore, clean further out.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Brief post-lunch swim at Little Bay. Overcast and not as hot as it has been, but still very pleasant in. The ride down was very placid, as was the ride back via the Maroubra Junction shops.

Team America

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Last seen about nine years ago. The Bush era strikes back? Things are almost the same, except that Kim Jong Il has passed.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Not really making the most of this amazing mid-Autumn weather, only making it to the beach every three or more days. Today was a carbon copy of the last several; warm to hot, some wind, clear, no chance of rain. Read a bit more of Leslie Valiant's book on PAC learning on the northern Coogee headland, starting around 4pm, then had a quick paddle at Gordons Bay off the beach, which was initially a bit filthy. Some guy was trying to fish off the southern rocks. Very pleasant in.

American Beauty

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I saw this a long time ago, probably around about when it came out, and forgot most of it. Rated #64 on the IMDB top-250. Spacey got an Oscar for it, but quite often he seems to slip into a robotic mode. The idea of blackmailing the company you work for must have been in the air in 1999. Annette Bening is good too. Otherwise I still don't feel there's a lot to see here.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

A late-afternoon snorkel off the scuba ramp at Gordons Bay. Visibility was quite good away from the shore. Large wrasse, heaps of garfish, some schools of huge ludderick, a single stingray, a large but not blue groper. A small group of scuba divers went in after me. Some people around. Beautiful day, clear, warm, bright.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Daylight savings is done, the days are getting short, so I hurried back from the city and got to Gordons Bay around 5pm for a brief paddle. The water near the beach was filthy. Some breakers. Some people more sensibly got in off the rocks. Beaut in once past the filth.

Kick Ass 2

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Pretty dire on a second viewing, being stuck uncomfortably between the pseudo reality of the first movie and the unreality of high school and coming-of-age. Perhaps director Jeff Wadlow didn't know how to make something of what he inherited.

Sydney Theatre Company: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht (translated by Tom Wright).

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Stalls B Reserve, seat N32 (the plate reads "Gretel Killeen, Zeke and Eppie"; just a little far) at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, $99 + $7.50 = $106.50, booked 2018-03-31. I eyed this one off for while, mostly due to the price, then figured that I might as well and that sufficient sapience was most likely on Easter Monday: any given work night can turn out any which way presently, which is why I haven't been to the theatre in an age. Just quietly the production seems to be funded by UBS.

I rode the still-nameless CB400 up from Eastgardens after some decent progress with Gianpaolo on some second-order logic. I knew parking wouldn't be a problem as I ride past the theatre most days on the way to work. The place was packed — somehow there was a stray empty seat next to me — and most patrons seemed to use mobility aids. People climbed good-humouredly over each other to reach their seats. The actors and cinematographers warmed up on stage with the curtain up. The percussive music was quite irritating but only lasted until the show started.

The main draw was Bertolt Brecht, who I somehow retain fond memories of despite Puntila / Matti, and a barrel chested Hugo Weaving in the lead. A bonus was Ursula Yovich, last seen by me in Diving for Pearls at the Griffin Theatre, where she was perfectly cast; this time not so much, as she is nowhere cold enough to convince as gangster muscle. Extensive use is made of a super high-resolution screen at the back of the stage, with cameras following the action like some vintage Version 1.0 show. I found it a bit excessive and often did not know where to direct my gaze, which is not the same thing as being unsettled.

The whole thing is a bit drawn out with a few unconvincing segments but when it worked it was sublime. The first scene, at a circular dinner table in Chinese restaurant, was quite effective despite only going how it needed to. Midway in Ui hilariously learns how to strut and orate from a director (brilliantly played toe-to-toe by Mitchell Butel), and great use is made of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar which I'll now have to go see. Also the off-stage shaving/dressing scene made very effective use of the space and cameras. Conversely the courtroom scenes don't work so well: at times they reach for Tarantino excesses of blood on the floor, and I kept hoping they'd make a total mess of things like in the production of Upton's The Jungle I saw or just about every Titus Andronicus ever, but they simply don't. We do get a rainy, somewhat brutal and very effective funeral scene however.

The piece itself is heavily referential, being about Hitler's rise, and of course Kip Williams has to add his own schtick: we get a snatch of Howard's winning "we will decide who comes to this country," a somewhat jarring You're the Voice excerpt, and the cameras recreated one of Agent Smith's more famous scenes. Overall there is a bit too much talking and not quite enough action.

After the famous "the bitch that bore him is in heat again" closeout, the actors cleaned up and returned for a Q&A with the audience, just like the good old Theatre Y days. Some of the questions were completely daft. Briefly: this thing is set in a filmic, imagined Chicago that Brecht never directly experienced, and hops genres like a kangaroo. Kip Williams is so young. The dialogue was affected but delivered in the style of realism; the space to get very arch was not taken, except by Hugo. Thematically it's about the manufacturing of power, which is shown throughout. It attempts to expose the artifice of the staged space. It involved loads of prep over several years. There was a concern that Trump makes the piece too obvious to perform at this time.

Afterwards I had a late dinner at Dae Jang Kun: a bimbimbab at a Korean BBQ on a tip from Dave. Chinatown was quite lively for a school night.

Cast: Mitchell Butel, Peter Carroll, Tony Cogin, Ivan Donato, Anita Hegh, Brent Hill, Colin Moody, Monica Sayers, Hugo Weaving, Charles Wu, Ursula Yovich. It has great reviews, e.g. at Audrey Journal and by Rozanna Lilley at the Daily Review.

L.A. Confidential

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It's been a while. Still #106 in the IMDB top-250.

/noise/beach/2017-2018 | Link

Had some lunch at Blue Pacific Grille in Cronulla (their grilled squid was good but not as good as I remembered; the bar did get set rather high in Hồ Chí Minh City) on the way to the Royal National Park. The traffic was rather placid in the early afternoon on this Easter Sunday, but that just went to show that everyone was already at Wattamolla. The road down to the beach was closed — "we close the road for 2-3 hours and then reopen it for 2-3 minutes" said the bloke manning the barrier — but my timing was good and I didn't have to wait long. The beach itself was not at all crowded despite the overflowing carparks. Very pleasant in, and quite a bit cleaner than the city beaches. I read a bit more Peter Handke on the sand. The ride there and back was quite pleasant. I just wish I knew how to get past the bottlenecks on the Grand Parade.