Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Sydney Film Festival - Axis of Evil/The Saddest Music In The World

Saw a wonderfully kooky French-Canadian short film today, called Axis of Evil.

It would have been even nicer to see it last year, as it's lost a little topicality by now.

Two lovers at Niagra Falls sing a cheesy duet. The whole thing looks like those really bad little video clips they play along with the songs at karaoke bars.
The tune is one that was once sung by Pia Zadora and Jermaine Jackson. I think the title might be 'When The Rain Begins To Fall'. You might remember the tune vaguely if you heard it.
All the words are directly taken from George Bush's famous Axis of Evil speech.
They sing it by the falls.
They sing it on a rug in front of a romantic fireplace.
They sing it by their spa.
They sing it to each other.
They are in love.
And North Korea is a threat to us all.
Iran too.
They are so in love!
So beautiful....

And there's a great little quote, that I hope I have remembered correctly, from The Saddest Music In The World.

"We can't tell if he's in a coma, or just very very sad."

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Sydney Film Festival - Zabriskie Point

The most exciting movie I've seen so far, in the first half of the Sydney Film Festival, has been Zabriskie Point.
I've always wanted to see it, even though I'd read that it was supposed to be pretentious garbage. It lost a lot of money for MGM, and partially deflated the critical reputation of the director Michelangelo Antonioni.
But I loved it, and I'm hugely glad that I saw it properly on the big screen, where I could get the full impact of the sound (great use of early 70's songs) and the visuals.
It was easy to see in the first few minutes why the film was not a success in 1970. It's completely pretentious. The main two stars are rather bad actors, though I loved watching them (they look very pretty together, and nothing like the usual Hollywood stars - especially with the 70's hair). The dialogue is stilted and unnatural, trying too hard to be hip. And the political messages are far too heavily handled, it's almost insulting. It also has one of the most un-Hollywood endings I've ever seen from a Hollywood film. Downbeat is not the word. The ending is angry and negative and exhilarating and completely grabbed me.
I found myself loving the film. And it kept coming in and out of my mind for the rest of the day.
The 70's cinematography was beautiful to see. The first half of the film is set in the city, with advertisements everywhere - consumerism has taken over. And businessman Rod Taylor is getting ready to bring this 'civilisation' to the desert, by turning it into real estate.
Our drop-out leads get away from it all by going into the desert, and it's beautiful. The scenes in the desert are a bit slow, but they feel magical.
The sex scene in the desert, which turns into a kind of mass orgy fantasy of sexual freedom in the dust, looked great. Again, not the kind of thing to expect from MGM.
And then there's the killer ending.
It's an angry dream sequence, starting with Rod Taylor's desert dream house (and it was a great house - wouldn't mind it myself) repeatedly being blown up in slow motion. I was looking forward to seeing this, but wasn't prepared for how gobsmackingly gobsmacking it was. I liked that Rod both represented greedy consumerist america as well as old Hollywood (being the only old Hollywood star in the film) in this sequence. Go Rod! I think it was brave of him to take on this role.
And not only the house - a fridge, a clothing rack, shelves full of books - they're all beautifully blown to smithereens in slow-mo, with Pink Floyd getting louder on the soundtrack, till you're totally immersed in the apocalyptic vision. It was like nothing I've seen before in a film, which is something considering how often things get blown up in movies!
I'm sure this film would lose some of it's power on tv. The big screen was definitely the place for it.
Wow, man, I'm freakin' out (as they used to say)!

Monday, June 14, 2004

Big Brother - Merlin

Gosh, I love Big Brother

Until now, this year's Big Brother (number 4) has been relatively uninteresting.
The contestants seem nice people, but are mostly a bit dull.
I've complained to Cade about it being like going to a very boring suburban babeque. The boys hang around together drinking beer and kicking a ball around, leaving the girls to talk about girl stuff. Depressing.

But this week things got rockin'.

The sensation was meant to be Miriam.
Straight from her show 'There's Something About Miriam', the sexy mexican went into the house for a few days, to teach them how to salsa.
What the housemates weren't told was that she was born a man, and in fact still has a penis!
That went well. One housemate suspected the truth, and it was the talk of the house for a day before someone came out and asked Miriam about it. When she came out about it, the housemates seemed to really warm to her. I think most of them will be a bit sad when she goes.

But Miriam ended up being outstaged by Merlin, the housemate from Newtown.
He didn't fit in with the other people in the house, as he was too alternative for them, but he got along okay.
At one stage he told everyone how he came to Australia as a kid and lived here illegally for 7 years, before getting permission to stay.
Then, on eviction night he shocks everyone. When he gets to the stage he puts black tape over his mouth and holds up a little sign he made protesting about the government's treatment of refugees, and the way refugees have been stopped from taking their stories to the media or the public.
I felt sorry for Gretel, because the audience wanted Merlin to speak but he refused, so she had a bit of a difficult time for the first minute or so. But she's tough and told the audience off a bit.
Apart from feeling sorry for Gretel, I'm very pleased with Merlin.
He was extremely brave to do what he did (you could see him shaking), and the subject was personally important to him. It was quite a shocking image seeing this guy who has been cheerfully bumming around on tv for the last 5 weeks suddenly sitting there with tape over his mouth.
I think most people watching the show would find it all a bit confronting.
Big Brother is meant to be mindless entertainment after all.
But I think the cool thing about Big Brother is the mix of people that go in there, and it's great for a politically motivated young person to be included (though I admit I wouldn't be so happy if the person was a right-wing asshole).
And if it gets a few more people talking about the treatment of refugees by the government, then I think Merlin should be very proud of himself.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

David Sedaris

For the first time in my life I went to a Sydney Writer's Festival event, just over a week ago. Cade and Lynn came along, and we heard David Sedaris read 3 of his short stories. 2 new ones, and 1 oldie. I was very happy for him that he had a full house. I certainly hadn't expected so many people to turn up. And I was proud of little David. He was very funny and kept everyone laughing for 90 minutes. Good work. His stories were the kind where some people would laugh out loud, while others would giggle a little while frowning and muttering to themselves 'oh dear, the poor little mouse' (I should explain that they weren't likening David to a little mouse, but instead referring to a mouse in the story). Yes, poor mouse.
Twice in the same night women stepped into my conversation. It seemed strange for it to happen twice is such quick succession.
The first time was at the theatre. For some reason I felt the need to complain (not for the first time) about a particular french actress who too often starred in ponderous films where the directors took too many shots of her looking off dramatically into the distance, leading to total viewer boredom. A woman in the row before us turned around to tell me I was talking about Juliette Binoche, and indeed I was.
The second time was on the bus home. Gloria Jean has been kind enough to open a store on King St. I like her coffee, but King St is NOT for chain stores. No way buddy. During this discussion, another woman in a seat in front of us turned around to remind us that McDonald's got shoved out of King St, so the same thing may happen with Gloria.

It was amusing for both events to happen so close to each other.
As long as I don't take it that my conversation is so poor that strangers are feeling sorry for me and stepping in. Will people in the street soon be offering to help me cross the road? Or letting me have their seat at the front of the bus? Could be good!