Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Music - Chris Isaak - The Best Of Tour 2006

Last thursday was lucky to FINALLY catch the great Chris Isaak playing at the Capitol Theatre. Last time he toured here I was out of Sydney, and the two times before that he sold out too fast. But this time I snagged a seat, exactly in the middle of the very last row.
Chris was as smooth and charming as you'd imagine him to be.
He was quite dressed up - a hot pink suit to start with, then a many-mirrored one to finish (I'd never previously imagined Chris as a mirrorball, but the suit suited him). The colourful duds went well with a night of songs that were more emotional and romantic than we'd get from most modern singers. A mix of Nashville, and lazy Californian beaches. Some of his female fans definitely approved. One ran onstage in the middle of a song (a dozen others were asked up towards the end of the night), and I noticed a couple of women in the audience who jumped out of their seats to scream and dance about at the slightest provocation.
He sang most of his well known songs - Blue Hotel; Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing; Somebody's Crying; Please Let Me Down Easy; Speak of the Devil.
There were some old rockin' numbers - Blue Moon; Don't Be Cruel; and Only The Lonely (hearing him live for the first time I realised how much he owes to Roy Orbinson).
He sang Return To Me while walking all over the auditorium, including visiting us plebs up the back, and there were two songs from other guys in the band (one with an Aussie influence - I definitely heard the lyrics 'yeast extract').
One song of his I wish he hadn't left out was Dancin'.
And even though he'd have a right to be a bit bored with it by now, he sang Wicked Game with all the moody passion it deserves - my favourite musical moment of the night.
But the huge highlight for this little fan was to discover that after the show he was available for autographs in the foyer. I was probably the 500th person in the line, but he obviously has plenty of stamina for this kind of thing (by the looks of him he's a very healthy fellow). I got a smile and a handshake, and he signed a photo for me. For the guy before me he added a halo above his head. I got devil horns.
He also said something to me, but I wouldn't be able to tell you what - I only remember how much cooler his voice was than mine! Smooth as.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Advice on Chopsticks and When to Bring Your Own

I've grown accustomed to visiting the flash sushi train downstairs for lunch 2 or 3 times a week now. I didn't like using their disposable chopsticks, as it's needlessly wasteful.
Today I brought along my own pair for the first time (a handsome pair in a box which I bought when I lived in Japan). When I whipped them out there was giggly surprise from some of the staff. I think it's usually only nerds and fussy old people who carry their own. Younger/Cooler folks are expected to walk around with only small electronic devices and a wallet full of cash in their pockets.
One young woman working there said her parents bought her a pair last year, as there were stories in the news describing some of the nasty chemicals used in making the disposable kind. But she's too embarrassed to take them anywhere, so they sit unused at home, making her feel guilty.
All up, it was a good move. I got fussed over, with a pat on the shoulder from the owner, and another person there rushed to get me a bowl of my favourite Korean salad before I'd even asked.
So my advice re chopsticks is, fear not embarrassment, take your own.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

A week & a half ago saw iOTA playing Hedwig (with his Angry Inch) at the Newtown RSL. We sat directly behind Tim Friedman (of The Whitlams) and his date. iOTA's performance (a bit Frankenfurter a bit 70's David Bowie) was very strong - an hour and a half of rockin' songs and monologues. Would be nice to see it get extended or even bumped up to a better theatre.
Favourite songs - The Origin Of Love and Wig in a Box.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Matthew's Survey Results

A week ago I used questionpro.com to survey my friends, getting results from 18 people (or maybe it should be 15 or 16, since I think some people accidentally did it twice!).
* Most respondents were in Australia, though there was one response each from folks living in Canada, Italy, and the USA.
* There were 5 votes for me to dye my hair chocolatey brown; 2 votes for black & dark blue; and 2 for black & dark green. Other single votes came in for pink (eek!); blond with red tips (very 80's); silver (how distinguished); flourescent pink; orange; metallic purple (I like it); and pitch black.
* The most popular Australian actor was Cate Blanchett, voted for by 9 people! My friends have such good taste! There were 7 votes for Toni Colette; 4 for Geoffrey Rush; 3 for Nicole Kidman; 2 each for Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, and Hugo Weaving; and 1 vote each for Eric Bana, Ben Mendelson, and Grant Dodwell(!!!). NOBODY voted for Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. Poor Russell - nobody loves him AND he sings like shit :-(
* It appears that people would be equally horrified to learn that their daughter was engaged to either Tom Cruise or Michael Jackson, which makes sense. 3 people also didn't like the idea of their little baby getting engaged to Anna Nicole Smith, and 2 people didn't want to hear that it's Charlie Sheen. However, nobody was much concerned about George Michael or Mr Magoo. Go Mr Magoo!
* Out of seven obscenely wealthy people, only Paul McCartney managed to get only positive responses. It's nice to know that if he lost all his $ in a fire (a really really big one) he'd be welcome in pretty much anyone's home.
The other six folks, ranging from nice and ending as 'certified bastard' were - Oprah Winfrey (fairly nice), Bill Gates, The Queen of England, Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch and finally Donald Trump (correctly picked by almost everyone as a 'prick').
* What my friends have done with their lives - Riden a horse (14 people); Been to a drive-in movie (12); Spent over $200 on an item of clothing (9); Bought something off e-bay (9); Voted for someone on a reality tv show (8); Walked out on a movie (7); Shoplifted something (6); Eaten snails (4).
* As well as thinking Paul McCartney's sweet, my friends seem to love the Beatles music too - 12 people have owned a Beatles album; 9 had an ABBA or U2 album; 8 - Madonna, REM, Bob Marley, and Billy Joel (oh really!); 7 - Meatloaf, Nirvana, David Bowie, and Boney M (wow, 7 Boney M albums - I'm impressed); 5 - Queen; 4 - Pink Floyd; and 1 - The Clash.
* 64.29% of people ARE in favour of changing the national anthem from the bloody boring Advance Australia Bloody Fair to the Aeroplane Jelly song! This must be the best survey result ever!
* The following 6 items of behaviour were rated from nastiest (after Mass Murder) to nicest (after Being Kind to Puppies) in this order - Strong body odour; Nost-picking; Loud agressive swearing; Talking on a mobile phone during a movie; Shoplifting; Loud slurping of hot tea.
Which is a bit of a bugger - I was hoping everyone would agree with me that loud tea-slurping was an unbearable habit. Maybe more people would be on my side if they heard the tea-slurping that goes on in my work tea room. Horrific! Argh!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

2006 Sydney Film Festival - The Films

Made it to around 20 films this year at the Sydney Film Fest. Would have loved to see the Australian opening night film Ten Canoes but the $45 ticket price turned me off.
I'll just comment on the better films - with maybe one or two exceptions.
I didn't walk out on any films this year - though I did have to wake a patron who snored through one of the more tiresome documentaries!
The first four films especially get my full support.
* Little Miss Sunshine. Won the audience award for most popular feature during the festival. Indie-comedy. Lots of fun. A family celebrating the joy of losing in a culture obsessed with winning. Toni Colette is mother to a family of quirky loser types who go on a road trip to get their daughter to a horrid 'Little Miss Sunshine' beauty contest that she's always dreamed of winning. Has a hilarious feel-good ending. Total winner.
* United 93. Intensely realistic retelling of the fate of the 4th plane hi-jacked on 9/11, which eventually went down in a field. Cade came along to this one with me and he left the cinema quite traumatised. Terrifying at times, but made with impressive integrity. The terrorists are recognisable human beings, and the passengers' attempts to do something about their situation come across as heroic and perfectly believable. It left me with admiration verging on awe for everyone involved in making it.
* An Inconvenient Truth. Won the audience award for Best Documentary. Al Gore discusses why we should all be concerned - or more like totally wetting our pants - about global warming. Americans probably won't like being lectured to by one of their liberal politicians, but they should listen, because he's great at getting all the basic issues across. Australians need to see this too as we're far too lazy about what we're doing to this world's future - we were against the Kyoto protocols, have been slow to invest in renewable energy, and have a government bizarrely insisting on increasing the birth rate (there are 6 BILLION of us already!). Nobody should NOT see this film.
* Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story. Startling documentary regarding North Korea's old habit of kidnapping civilians off Japanese beaches and taking them back to Korea to teach them about Japanese language and culture. Sounds like a paranoid fantasy at first but it's all true, and it appears likely that some of the abductees are still being held captive. I'd heard the basics of this story before. The great thing about this documentary is that it spends a lot of time with the families of the abductees, so we can see what it is really like to be a victim to world politics. It's shocking to see these otherwise ordinary people continuing to suffer such a perverse fate.
* C.R.A.Z.Y. Canadian comedy/drama. The main character is a gay teenager, but really it's about his whole family - a family with 5 sons. I never had any brothers, but this family felt very real to me. There are a number of great little scenes revolving around what music means to them. Charles Aznavor & Patsy Cline for Dad. David Bowie & the Rolling Stones for the son. Ground Control to Major Tom...
* God on my Side. Andrew Denton made this documentary for ABC tv, spending a number of days talking to folks at a convention for religious broadcasters in the USA. It's funny & scary, but frustrating because he's there as an observer and therefore only gently challenges what they have to say. Almost everyone is white, and everyone supports George Bush Jnr simply because he professes to be humble before god (Denton was on stage after the film was shown and said that EVERY person they spoke to there supported crazy old George).
* Friends With Money. American comedy/drama involving 4 female californian friends - 3 of them wealthy, 1 doing it tough (Jennifer Aniston) and having to resort to being a cleaner (oh the horror!). Interesting & amusing movie, well-acted even by Jen, but then it just ends. Possibly one of the most useless endings ever (though at least it makes more sense than the ending of Mulholland Drive!).
* The Sun. Unbelievably slow russian art-house film on Emperor Hirohito's experiences at the end of WWII. For the first half hour all I noticed was how slow it was, but then it started to become mesmerising. Everything is dark, foreheads are sweaty, mouths twitch (Hirohito did this in real life), and odd sounds creak. Definitely better to see this in a cinema, where you can ease into the moodiness of it. Some great little scenes - my favourite being the emperor's dream of a Japanese city in flames as bombs are dropped from flying american catfish.
* Perhaps Love. Okay, this is one film I didn't like. A chinese musical made by people who obviously watched Moulin Rouge too many times without taking enough notes. The songs are HORRIBLE! Well, to be more exact, a couple of the songs range from okay to iffy, but the others are plain painful. The musical numbers are badly directed too , which doesn't help. Things aren't so bad when they stop singing. The story is about two actors in the middle of filming a musical, which is a very unoriginal plot but actually quite good WHEN THEY DON'T SING. The two stars are great to look at (the male lead is the adorable Takeshi Kaneshiro - the pretty-boy lead from The House of Flying Daggers).
* The Pervert's Guide to the Cinema. Slavoj Zizek is an 'acclaimed philosopher and psychologist' who likes to talk on and on about the 'fantasy' and 'reality' of famous scenes from famous films. This was sometimes enlightening and fun, but more often just pretentious waffling. This is the film where I had to prod a guy near me who fell asleep and started loudly snoring in the middle of it. That guy knew knew what he was doing.
* Girl Shy (1924 silent) The audience laughed and laughed at this silent Harold Lloyd comedy, featuring an absolutely smashing chase scene. This was a good reminder that silent films were never meant to be silent - an audience's 'oohs' and 'aahs' and laughter, as well as a final cheer at the end, being part of the experience.
* L'Armee Des Ombres (aka Army of Shadows; 1969) Based on the real experiences of people involved in the French Resistance during WWII. Damn good, with strange and memorable scenes that make you wonder what you'd be capable of doing in similar circumstances. This film should be better known than it is.

Monday, May 22, 2006

St John vs Tom Hanks

The Da Vinci Code movie is out, and tourists are flocking to Milan to see Da Vinci's The Last Supper. According to one of Dan Brown's puzzles, the face of one of the apostles looks like that of a woman, and people want to see this for themselves so they can go 'ah, it's true, Leonardo must have known something! How tricksy!'. What's particularly stupid about this is that nobody stops to point out that Leonardo loved painting androgynous-looking characters, so the fact that the guy in The Last Supper looks a bit girly is no earth-shattering discovery. To prove my point, have a look at the picture I've attached. It's Leonardo's 'St John The Baptist'. Just looking at John's face, tell me he doesn't look like a total chick!

Monday, May 15, 2006


There's a column by Paul Sheehan in today's Sydney Morning Herald about the recent fuss over the two Tasmanian miners recently freed from their underground cage.
He wonders at the way the media has labelled them heroes, when they have their lives due to the good work of their rescuers. And that it's strange for the whole thing to be treated as a feel-good story when one guy was killed (though he's mostly forgotten in the news stories). It'd be nice to think some of the media $$$ might go to that miner's family.
The writer pointed out something else annoying - recently three guys were lost out in the seas of the Torres Strait for 22 days. They were out there so long in their 5-metre boat that the search party was called off. They were there for quite a few more days than those two guys were trapped in the mine, but they managed to survive, making use of seawater, raw squid and shellfish (and they did it on their own, unlike the miners). But their story hasn't gotten onto the Footy Show or anywhere else - they were three outback Aborigines.
I've been trying to think that it's nice to see Australians caring about a story like this, since it's about two people being rescued rather than the usual gloom and doom new stories. And we probably shouldn't be too hard on the media, as they could hardly be expected to leave the story alone - 'boy trapped in well' stories are like 'attractive young woman on trial for taking drugs into Thailand' stories - short term events full of human drama that can be dragged out over a number of weeks, with a guaranteed exciting ending (both death and salvation sell papers).
But I don't like how obvious the media and politicians have been in picking and choosing who they're going to promote to us as being 'heroes', great 'Australians' (as if two Chinese miners would have eaten each other in the same situation), and great examples of 'mateship' (that term starts to sound more fascist and racist every time I hear Johnny H use it).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Art - 2006 Archibald Prize

Found a number of pictures to enjoy at the Archibald Prize exhibition at the NSW Art Gallery today.
* Loved the winner - The Paul Juraszek monolith by Marcus Wills. Dozens of Paul Juraszeks climbing about the stone face, with some of his sculptures dotted here and there. Unlike most modern portraits, I can imagine it still being interesting to look at in 20 or more years' time.
As usual I didn't think much of the messy pictures which lacked any kind of craftmanship. For $25,000 (the Archibald prize booty), I think a bit of effort should be required.
* Michael Zavros painted himself presumably at a time of artistic frustration - Michael lays down to listen to the latest Kate Bush on his iPod. Good picture, and good title 'Michael Zavros can't paint'.
* Great-looking dogs in Peter Smeeth's Clover Moore picture. Catherine Abel's 'Portrait of Julia Leigh' had a nifty retro sheen. And Peter Churcher managed something unsettling in 'Bruce, Linde and me on the road to Guadelupe', featuring a party of modern young Spaniards butchering stags and boars at a hunting party. The people looked a little like they'd come out of an illustrated children's book. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or if it's the artist's usual style. The style was a bit mild and shabby and didn't seem to suit the scene of bloodshed very well, but in a way it helped add to the overall oddness.
* As usual there were three other competitive exhibitions on show. A lovely photo-real cow portrait (and there's never enough of them!) by Peter Hickey (but with a bad bad title - 'Who me?'); nice pair of shops by William Breen 'Alphabet City'; and a lovely Vermeer-inspired photo of Lisa Tomasetti's daughter 'Vanilla and Misfortune'.
* I've attached 3 pictures to this story. The winning Marcus Wills picture; Michael Zavros' self-portrait (with iPod), and Vanila Netto's very swish prize-winning photographic portrait.
* After leaving, I sms'd a friend who knows Michael Zavros, mentioning that I liked his picture. I got a text back saying that he was in town and was going to the exhibition in the afternoon. I wish I had've been there at the same time he was - would have been interesting to see a painter checking out his own self-portrait.
*** Oh, one last thing. The gallery has finally removed the large piece of modern 'art' that used to resemble huge gobs of phlegm suspended from the ceiling in a collection of old stockings. It was remarkably awful and pointless, and I used to love having a chuckle over it. Now it's gone. I thought I'd be happy about it - but I kind of missed it.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Music - Bic Runga - 'Birds' album launch

Bic Runga gave a beautiful 'australian album launch' concert at the State Theatre last night.
'Birds' is her 3rd cd (my favourite would be her 2nd - Beautiful Collision).

Recently I've been getting news of various deaths and births from my friends. The theme continued last night. First off I finished reading the Italian classic The Leopard (which I highly recommend), with it's moving ending of the dying years of a great Italian family. And during the concert's intermission I found a message on my mobile phone unexpectedly telling me the sex of a much loved friend's baby (unyet born). There on stage, Bic christened 'Birds'.

She started with some old songs, including Sway, Something Good and She Left On A Monday, and a stunning version of I Will Wait For You (but in the original French) from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I hope she records this one day. Unfortunately the backing band couldn't really do justice to that song, but her singing of it was emotional and really just perfection.
Bic appeared in canary yellow on a darkened stage for the second half, in which she sung all the songs from the new album. Neil Finn was part of her backing band, singing and playing the piano. Bic and Neil go well together. Their songs and their personal styles have a similar crumpled loveliness to them.
During a 2-song encore, she and Neil Finn stayed on stage together to sing (a beautiful song who's name I can't remember - was it That's Alright??). Again, perfect.
Bic's clear voice is so intimate and personal at times that it feels like she should be singing in a smokey club, but no club I know of deserves such a great singer. From now on, Bic should only appear in smokey clubs in movies. In movies, life is allowed to be better than real life. And like all the best singers, Bic is better than real life.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Film - Oscar 2006 - wherein matthew tells you everything you needed to know - and whinges a lot

This week was Oscar time again.
The Oscars were a fine affair this year - all until the final 5 freakin' minutes. But I'll leave that bit till last. (actually, if you're a Crash fan you might not want to read the end - I was not a happy chappy)
* During the red carpet arrivals, Richard Wilkinsssssss wasn't too hard to take this year. Of course we had the sound turned off, which always helps when Dickie is around.
* Nobody looked very interesting. The women's clothes were classy but dull, even by oscar standards. There were exceptions - Salma Hayek look impressively sizzly.
* Lots of Aussies were packed in there. Nicole, Russell, Naomi & Eric were all presenters. Nobody makes talented, thin, blonde & pale-white actresses, and tough & unshaven actors like little Australia.
* Keira Knightley needs to do something to make herself look less like another well-known actress. At first I was confused - why was Winona Ryder sitting next to Jack Nicholson? Don't tell me Jack is dating Winona!!!!! Those freaky kids! But no, it was just Keira.
* Dolly Parton sang a song from Transamerica. Her lips and chest seem to be even bigger than before (if that's possible), but who wouldn't enjoy having a granny who looked like that? People at oscar ceremonies have such polite smiles, yet during Dolly's five minutes the audience appeared to be having genuine fun.
* For the Best Soundtrack award, they got Itzak Perlman to play selections from each film. Each year now they either drag him or Yo-Yo Ma out to play tedious music that nobody can whinge about without seeming low-class.
* Someone had the awful idea of playing music during the acceptance speeches. I have no idea what this was meant to do. It was very distracting, and added an unnecessary sentimentality to everything. Do we really need syrupy orchestral music when someone is thanking their agent?
* March of the Penguins won Best Documentary, which was a depressing result. The film is basically a kids movie, as the french producers intentionally left out any details of the penguins' lives which didn't fit the 'family values' theme which they hoped would make it more loveable than your usual animal doco. Documentarians are always selective. They sometimes choose material to present a full picture, sometimes simply to make a point. But when the facts are tailored to suit the fantasies of the audience, it's not much of a 'documentary'.
* An Oscar went to Australian cinematography Dion Beebe. In his speech he said "Mum, I know you're up there somewhere", which was reported in the press as being a moving reference to his dear departed mother. But it turned out that Dulcie, his perfectly healthy mother, was watching the whole thing, sitting 'up there somewhere' in the upper tiers of the auditorium.
* George Clooney won his supporting actor award early on, and made a speech about how much he enjoyed being part of a progressive industry. He's been able to work on some politically-minded films lately, and many of the films nominated for oscars this year had political or social issue themes. Hollywood has been unusually keen this year to release 'issue' films. But he spoke too soon (ie. he didn't know what would happen in the last 5 minutes).
* Reese Witherspoon and Philip Seymour Hoffman gave good simple speeches. Both were emotional without going over the top. Reese's might have been part performance, but Philip's was entirely genuine. When he held his hand up to shade his eyes, his hand was shaking terribly. He looked like he could do with a hug and then maybe a good sit down.
* Ang Lee became the first asian to win Best Director! Hardly any oscars have gone to asian people in the past. I can think of James Wong Howe (the cinematographer), and an honorary one for Akira Kurosawa, but no others. And Ang Lee is both talented and loveable, so it was a pleasure to see.
* The awards kept going to different films. Part of me would have liked the three nominated actors from Brokeback Mountain to have won. They would have looked so great together with their little trophies. But the people they lost out to were great actors too, so all was good. (I don't think I've mentioned yet that Jakey Gyllenhaal looked cute in his tux, even when stumbling over the awful lines he was forced to utter when introducing a dull montage of 'big screen' movie moments).
During the build up to the awards all the signs suggested Brokeback had to win (it won best pictures awards from the BAFTAs, the Venice Film Festival, the New York Film Critics Awards, the Golden Globes, and a dozen others). It won 3 out of the 4 'guild' awards in the USA (the writer's, director's and producer's guild awards - it only lost the actor's guild award). It was almost universally praised by reviewers (in Australia Margaret Pomeranz & David Stratton both gave it 5 stars). Out of the 5 films nominated for Best Picture Oscars, it had done best at the box-office, despite it's difficult theme. Approx 54% of the 19451 people who have given the film a rating on imdb.com have given the film a 10 out of 10. It was beautifully crafted, dealt with complex issues with great thoughtfulness, and had a strong emotional power. The film's website has a multitude of very personal stories from people who have found part of their own lives reflected in the film. And when an american film does well with critics and the general public, then that's oscar gold. Still, nothing's ever guaranteed. I tried VERY hard not to get complacent, and to remind myself that the other 4 films weren't bad either, and that there are perfectly sensible people out there who happen to disagree with me and think Brokeback isn't as great as it's reputation makes it out to be. But once it won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director I finally relaxed. My god, they were going to give Best Picture to a film about two gay cowboys in love. Who would have thought! I'll never be so happy about a Best Picture winner again!
Obviously Jack Nicholson thought the same as I, because when he opened the envelope there was a shocked sudden pause followed by a slow intake of breath, before announcing that it was 'Crash', with raised eyebrows and a fake 'happy hands' gesture (he admitted afterwards for voting for Brokeback). Of course the Crash people fell over themselves with glee and surprise. They would have felt ecstatic (and though I haven't seen Crash I've been told by numerous people that it's a good film), but I hardly heard what they said I was in such disbelief. But I did hear the second producer thank both her 'wife' and her 'husband' before the orchestra (presumably led by a Brokeback fan) struck up and cut her off so the credits could roll.

That's the end, unless you want to hear me complaining about Brokeback Mountain losing. In which case read on a little longer.... I have never been so disappointed by an oscar ceremony in my life. Why would they NOT choose one of the most obvious Best Picture choices ever? The academy is usually very conservative and gives awards to the obvious choices, as happened this year when they gave EVERY other award to the predicted winner.
There was a recent campaign in Hollywood against the film (Tony Curtis said he wasn't even going to watch it) as well as a small group of influential people promoting Crash (Oprah Winfrey and the film reviewer Roger Ebert). Some of them just didn't like the subject matter. There's actually no rule saying that the voters have to watch all the films. Did Mickey Rooney, Charlton Heston and Mel Gibson actually watch it? AND keep watching past the tent scene? And even if they liked the film, the academy knows that giving their Best Picture award to a film which takes a stand on any particular issue is too risky. They don't want to encourage the ever-threatened boycotts from certain sections of the american public. Annie Proulx has written of seeing protesters against the film even as she was making her way to the award ceremony.
They've often given awards to films with gay characters, but those films usually look at the gay characters as individuals without spending a lot of time exploring their relationships. Gay people are fine. Gay love is icky.
The Best Picture award has to go to something safe. It's okay if it's got a bit of sex or violence, or deals with touchy issues, it just can't take sides. Schindler's List was perfect (who's going to object to a film which says the Nazis were horrible), and the basic message of Crash also suited fine (racism is bad, and we're all capable of it, but redemption is possible). The Oscar has often gone to films which could fit into a little subgroup called 'Racism Sux - Why Can't We Just All Get Along?' (West Side Story, In The Heat of the Night, Gandhi, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances With Wolves, Schindler's List). Oscar has a history of bias towards films dealing with issues of various forms of prejudice, but some forms of prejudice are more equal than others. The subject of homophobia is not loved by Oscar (feminism was never Oscar's favourite issue either). No serious commentators in america currently claim racism is okay, but it's perfectly acceptable for the straight community to keep the decision of whether gays should be allowed to marry to itself.
And even if only 5% of voters were swayed by concerns about the controversy, rather than just judging the individual quality of the films, then that probably would have been enough to turn the result against Brokeback. So raspberries to them.
Another problem for Brokeback is that it was never going to be publicly supported by any big name gay members of Hollywood. For some of them, supporting the film would threaten the secrecy surrounding their carefully hidden sexuality, and for others they'd fear getting blasted for pushing a 'gay agenda' on the poor defenceless american public. Gore Vidal is the only openly gay member of the Academy I know of who has gone on record saying something nice about the film. I doubt this would happen with a break-through film dealing with say Hispanic characters - I'm sure the better known Hispanic actors in Hollywood would be there for a film like that. And if gay people aren't there to remind people in Hollywood that homophobia is still an issue, then it's easier for them to see Brokeback as a sob-story over a problem that has been banished to the history books.
On the plus side, Brokeback Mountain can now have the reputation of being one of those films that was too good for the Oscars. I guess I'll just have to suppress my anger (unless I bump into Tony Bleedin' Curtis).
Good night! :-)

PS. Some websites have encouraged folks to write to the Academy to express their displeasure
Or fans can write to Jake and Heath thanking them for a job well done.

Taking a positive route are the folks who have collected money from Brokeback fans to run an ad in Variety thanking the makers of the film.

PPS. And look! Roger Ebert's website says they have received lots of responses regarding Brokeback Mountain and the Oscars, and that they didn't previously understand how important the film was to some people or why. Apparently the film made it too easy for people to relate to the gay relationship, so poor Roger didn't stop to think how amazing it was that ordinary movie-goers WERE relating to a gay relationship in the first place!

And here's Gore Vidal on Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Crash

Friday, February 17, 2006

Kerry Packer Dis-Memorial

The eight folks arrested for protesting outside the Kerry Packer memorial should be very proud of themselves. Such good work. Nobody in the Australian media would risk their careers by saying publicly that they didn't approve of our taxes being used to send off the country's wealthiest man and proudest tax avoider, but the protesters at least got the issue into the news. And why did the police feel the need to arrest them? They behaved themselves and weren't actually guilty of anything except their unwillingness not to move on. I wouldn't have thought that the silencing of a group of people non-aggressively making their opinions known would be a good look for the farewell of a king of australian media.
I only saw snippets of the event, but my goodness what a freak show it must have been. The poor audience had to listen to drivel from Alan Jones, and then a poem delivered by Russell Crowe (ick!). Such a godawful song selection - Sinatra's My Way, Kenny Rogers' The Gambler, Waltzing Matilda, and a bizarre sing-a-long to C'mon Aussie C'mon. Only a family with either a sense of humour (which the Packers aren't famous for) or a whole load of ego could pick those songs. And in fact he was right to think of himself so biggishly, since even in death the most powerful people in Australia were desperate to kiss the collective Packer-family arse.
And why was Tom Cruise there? Simply his friendship for James Packer? Or was the deciding factor his position as the world's brightest-smiling Scientologist and James Packer's new position as the world's wealthiest (and I presume most powerful) one?
Will James' religion have any impact on how he handles dad's businesses? Presumably the Australian media will now be more wary of how they report on any Scientology-related stories that do crop up.
I have no idea whether Kerry's $10million mistress turned up. Was she invited?
I wouldn't have minded this so much if it had've been a private affair, but that our taxes paid for it is an insult to all of us. And the constant going's on about his Australianess truly irk. Kerry was not the kind of Australian I could ever be proud of. Nup.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Books & Film - Thank you Annie Proulx

I read Annie Proulx's short story Brokeback Mountain yesterday.
I got teary at the end - this is highly unusual. Sad endings in books generally just make me sad. They don't normally make me cry.
There are lots of sad gay novels & short stories written by gay folks (generic plot 1 guy gets AIDS; generic plot 2 guy gets gay-bashed; generic plot 3 guy is disowned by his uptight family; generic plot 4 guy can't accept his sexuality and throws away what would have been the love of his life etc etc). I've read them all! So it was quite surprising to read a story which (though still sad and with a basic plot which isn't anything new) was both as moving and emotionally believable as this one. And it wasn't even written by a gay guy. Go Annie!
Read the comments to this post for discussion on whether the film is HOT or simply luke warm (but not until after you've seen the picture).

Why Brokeback Mountain isn't a great first date movie.

I made this picture up to put on flickr.
That's Guy Madison and Robert Mitchum in the original photo.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Film - 2005 Movie Wrap-Up

Here's my End Of 2005 Movie Wrap-Up.
Movie of the Year
KING KONG. This seemed to divide audiences who were new to the story, but for long-time fans of the previous movies, the new Kong was a beautiful tribute to the 1933 original, and dumped all over the silly 70's version.
Escapist movies that were fun and worthy
Wallace & Gromit; Harry Potter 4; War of the Worlds;
with lesser nods to Madagascar; Corpse Bride; Revenge of the Sith; and Batman Begins
Big Budget Theme of the Year
Dark endings, and the deflation of human egotism.
Tom Cruise was powerless against an alien invasion. Hayden Christensen got burnt to a crisp and turned into Lord Vader. We killed Kong.
Biggest piece of crap
I walked out of a piece of french garbage at the Sydney Film Festival, but nothing came close to being as stunningly stupid and funny as Alexander.
Best Non-Hollywood films
The docos Inside Deep Throat (pornography, censorship & the mob); The Parrots of Telegraph Hill (simple and sweet story of one guy and a couple of parrots); Enron: Smartest Guys In The Room (big business and extreme greed).
Me, You and Everyone We Know (quirky/funny little drama with great dialogue and characters)
The House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou's martial arts spectacle)
Mysterious Skin (two teenagers not coping with the lasting effects of childhood molestation)
Pride & Prejudice (beautiful adaptation of the novel)
Best opportunity for a good cry
King Kong (I saw the film alone and got to a cry in private, but then I saw it again with Cade who had to borrow a tissue)
Song of the Year
The crazy little dolphin song in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Here's a sample:
"Despite those nets of tuna fleets
We thought that most of you were sweet
Especially tiny tots and your
pregnant women".
Best use of nudity
Gael Garcia Marquez in Bad Education (less nudity than the documentary Inside Deep Throat, but saucy all the way)
Most inappropriate use of nudity
Alexander was full of guys giving each other the eye (lots of lusting, lots of yearning), but the one sex scene involved Colin Farrell getting it on with a woman who hardly featured in the rest of the film. Weird.
Worst performances (or miscasting if you're being kind)
Colin Farrell, hilarious as a bisexual (more in thought than in deed) greek warrior (make that a very wimpy and non-greek looking warrior) with blonde curls, little white skirt and Irish accent (Alexander)
Val Kilmer, over-acting AND bad make-up (Alexander)
Jessica Alba, showing all the personality of a Stepford Wife (Fantastic Four)
Memorable performances
Andy Serkis (digitally transformed into King Kong)
Naomi Watts, who managed to give a great Fay Wray scream as well as create a believable relationship with the big ape (King Kong)
Cate Blanchett (As Kate Hepburn in The Aviator)
Monica Bellucci and Tilda Swinton as queens of the beautiful and evil kind (The Brothers Grimm and Narnia)
Johnny Depp (very odd in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Jake Gyllenhaal (actually, I haven't seen him in anything this year, but he's lovely)
Worst dialogue
"Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!" (Revenge of the Sith)