Monday, 4 December 2006

2nd Annual GG Awards

2nd Annaul GG Awards (take that AFI Awards !)

GG TV Award 2006; and the nominations are :
Oz (SBS)
World Cup football (SBS) {a close second to Blokesworld, with special mention of 'Steph' aka Stephanie Brantz}
Naomi Robson (7) {because of Wa Wa, Beaconsfield, 1 lizard on shoulder, getting the sack!}
Arrested Development (7) {other worthys, Scrubs, Sharpe's Challenge, long awaited Sopranos}
World Cup football (SBS)

And the Winner, SBS Football (SBS)

GG Movie Award 2006; and the nominations are :
Capote {with honourable mention to King Kong}
10 Canoes
The Constant Gardener
anything that featured 'Penny' {and anything that did not feature Nicole} {that is just petty and spiteful, ed.}

And the Winner, 10 Canoes

Congratulations to our winners. Many thanks to our faithful subscribers who drank the beer, nominated their favourites and had the good grace to go home again at the end.
And a raspberry to Lacho who did none of the above until much, much later (but he did go home eventually).
This will (likely) be the last post for Twenty Oh Six and I look forward to running between the wickets for you next year. GGBlog

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Weekly GG

Movie highlights of the week,
one old : Tora! Tora! Tora! (Sun 7 220P), one of the best American (and Japanese) war movies about the bombing of Pearl Harbour; and,
one new : Road to Perdition (Sun 7 830P) with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, directed by Sam “American Beauty” Mendes (RT 83%).

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

GG Editorial - Year in Review

On the eve of the second annual GG Awards, a few words from your Chairman, Mr GGBlog himself.
This year’s big GG news story was the move from e-newsletters to this online blog.
Once online, the rants continued for a time but eventually ran out of steam and you just can’t make a hot, piping cup of invective without steam ! Weekly GG highlights have continued as have the topical and localised football posts for Rabelwatch.
Your host has added a number of more detailed movie reviews throughout the year. While not true “reviews” as you might find elsewhere, they have quite deliberately been expressions of personal reactions to the film experience. There was also a comprehensive report back from MIFF in August and September.
Guest spots have been most welcome and they assisted in filling out the “TV” aspect, an area that I fall well short since I focus more on the movies. It is with a great deal of thanks to TV Tasty Knows and Metal Theater for their contributions over the year. Thanks also to the usually reticent Rabelwatch for his personal contribution earlier in the year. In this era of inclusiveness however it was a personal disappointment that long time subscribers Formal Neil and Uncle J could not be enticed to contribute a post too.
Nonetheless, all of your ongoing support and regular readership of this modern form of thought sharing is most appreciated. Feedback too, as always, is welcome.
And so, with the “real” AFI Awards next week, we at GG land can look forward to upstaging their regional shin-dig by hosting our 2ND ANNUAL GG AWARDS first. Who will win the coveted ‘GG TV AWARD 2006’ and ‘GG MOVIE AWARD 2006’ ? That, my dear friends, is entirely up to you. Come prepared to nominate a winner for both awards and we will draw this year’s winners quite literally out of a hat ! Nominations and winners will be posted online next week. Note to self : bring a hat.
Humbly yours, Editor in Chief, GGBlog

Metal Theater Monday Madness

"I should have learned to play the guitar. I should have learned to play them drums. Man, we would have had some fun." Mark Knopfler
Mr Metal Theater offers his views once again and he is most very welcome. - ed. GGBlog
It seems like Monday nights is the only reason for watching TV. First off we have SBS News at 630P. Not exciting, not interesting, not remotely funny, but at least you can find out what's going on in the world. Put up with this for half an hour (and resist the temptation to flick across to see Naomi in her last 10 minutes of fame) and you'll then be able to reward yourself with Futurama.

For some bizarre reason our network programming executives in all their glory decided to re-run (for about the fourth time) the first episode of Futurama last night. Either an exercise in pedantry or just a "suck on this" message to the viewers, it really doesn't matter because it's all still pretty funny.

Viewers of the Simpsons often don't like or appreciate Futurama as much. It took me a while to get into the idea, but thanks to my old housemate James, I fully appreciate it for what it is. The humour is a lot sillier than the Simpsons and often a lot better - and the plots are a zillion times more interesting and better thought out (yes, it's a real number, look it up). This makes the show a lot more well-rounded than later series of the Simpsons. Catch it while you can.

Newsflash - according to Cityseach, Channel Ten (in all their wisdom) have decided to go back to the Simpsons at 7P. Just what we need, another bunch of Simpsons re-runs! “You guys, you so clever.” Next thing we'll be seeing Seinfeld again. (Well not for the moment thanks to Michael Richard's comments at a recent stand-up gig.)

Now it's time for TV enjoyment of the week : Mythbusters. This show has been around for quite a while and is surprisingly the Discovery Channel's most successful show. The two hosts, Adam and Jamie, mesh together quite badly, having completely different personalities. That's fun to watch - but so is the show.

Because it's been going for so long they've quickly run out of myths to bust. But these guys know how extend the life of a TV show well; they've started investigating anything. Movie myths, physics myths, even dumb stories written in by viewers. They've now had to recruit a second "team" of presenters to help pad out the show. While these guys obviously know their stuff (Grant seems capable of building anything) - they seem to lack any personality. Kari fell into the role by default (she helped out the guys beforehand) and is ok, but Grant seems to be lacking any kind of presentation skills. Tory is about the same. Jamie and Adam have a unique skill in being able to make any myth tested be fascinating viewing - the other guys seem to suck the life out it. But that's a small point really. The show is still great.

Moving onto 830P you can enjoy some great rude humour from South Park. It never really lost it's edge and is still pretty funny. Last week was the 'Michael Jackson' episode - and while the writers couldn't have picked an easier target they deliberately played with viewers expectations and made a very funny episode. Worth a revisit if you used to enjoy the show.

And then following up from the rear is "Drawn Together". In what seems like a great premise (cartoon characters from different periods living together a-la big brother) - the show is a disappointment. Trying to "out crude" American Dad and Family Guy is a recipe that's never going to work - and this one falls flat on its face. While treating a taboo subject lightly can sometimes be a source of amusement (if done well and with care) - these guys take it to extremes. It doesn't quite work and is often painful watching. Don't bother.

And if you're feeling a bit night-owlish, you can stay up and watch Drew Carey's "Whose Line Is It Anyway?". Apart from the grammatically incorrect title there's not a lot wrong with this show. The improvisational standards are extremely high and often leave me thinking that perhaps Carey has slipped the actors a bit of advance warning over what some of the situations might be. But mostly the show seems completely un-scripted and childishly fun. Recommended.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Talk To Her - GG

Sorry, no real GG post this week either. Time is a little too tight. Spain's Pedro Almodovar's Talk To Her (Sat SBS 950P) is pick of the week.

TV Tasty Knows loves Richie

TV Tasty Knows has been scouring the halls and back rooms of TV land in the hope that there something more for transmission than the famine-like of offerings we have been getting. Alas, there is nothing much to report.
Of current interest, TV Tasty Knows recommends only the Sopranos and West Wing, and that is about it. The rest is just packing material akin to what one might get upon opening a cheap Taiwanese toaster, or the interesting but bizarre plastic hook things that keep socks together that you'll get from Aunty May this Christmas. See? Already you are more interested in the analogy than any TV programs.

TV Tasty Knows Pick of the Summer
One bright beacon does shine, and that dear GG blogees, is CRICKET. TV Tasty Knows will be watching (and listening) to the cricket all summer, tuning in to watch in accordance with the adage:
"Ashes to Ashes,
It's a must, a must."

The Poms need to be given a cricket lesson my friends, and following that, be ground into the dust and returned home, stripped of laurels too easily bestowed last year, by a country starved of sporting success. 5 tests, of 5 days each equals 25 days of slow cooking English oompa-pa goonery on a spit. Just the way we like it.

Finally, TV Tasty Knows wishes that all you TV punters enjoy yourselves at the Turf Bar.
(They have Kronenbourg 1664 and Hoegaarden on tap - TV Tasty Knows !)

Thursday, 16 November 2006

2AGGA - 2

By now all regular subscribers will have received their personalised invitations to the 2nd Annual Green Guide Awards. Please contact the moderator for further details if you need to. The date for the Awards ceremony is Friday 1st December 2006 from 5:30P.

Members of Thursday = Green Guide Day are asked to bring nominations to the Awards night for both the GG TV Award and the GG Movie Award.

Members are also aware of the compulsory nature for attendance at this emerald event.

Void - GG

Touching the Void (Sun 7 830P) is more than just the state of TV's summer programming schedule. In a week when there are a collection of fine movies, all of them have been screened (at least) once before. They are worth a look if you haven't seen them before : The Dish, Being John Malkovich, Harry Potter 1, Chicken Run, Ruthless People, Billy Elliot, Phone Booth.
Touching the Void (a first run on TV) is a real life dramatisation of two mountain climbers and best mates climbing the Siula Grande in Peru, being the first to make the summit and then, on descent, run into tragedy. One of them breaks his leg in a fall, ultimately is left on the cliff face to die while the other descends alone. The one left there manages to descend by himself also, amazingly, and this is the story of how he gets down. What should not be a surprise is how their friendship was affected.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Troy - GG

Troy (Fri 9 830P) much maligned by critics, historians and Greek literature experts alike, is an adaptation of Homer’s siege and battle of the said city by the Greeks, led by Agamemnon (Brian Cox). The political outrage was ignited by the love affair between Paris and Helen (Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger) and Helen’s subsequent defection / kidnapping by Paris. Despite what the girls say about his eye-candy value, Orlando Bloom can’t act.
The Greeks are confident because they have Achilles (Brad Pitt), the Michael Voss of the Greek army (if you will), part God, part man and the best fighter in the known universe. Ensuring that it is not all one sided, Troy is the home to Hector, Paris’ older brother, played by Eric Bana. Bana is as serious and gruff as he ever was as the gun toting, desert rat in Black Hawk Down.
So, why should you watch ? Brad Pitt of course : with his tanned muscles, blonde hair and “love me because I’m this good” swagger. The rest is fun, period-epic, action-set type stuff.
From a story telling point of view, I wonder if it would have added a layer of richness by including the gods in this version ? Homer’s tale of the battles between humans is only half the story. Each parry and thrust is mirrored and often as not a result of, the gods squabbling with one other and favouring their humans as pawns in a chess game. Troy manages to erase any reference to a god and the story becomes a little ‘same old’ as a result.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Kandahar and Nine Queens - GG

While Nicolas Cage gets a thorough working over on Friday night (why ?, why ?, why ?) as do inane comedies and action movies on all others, Tuesday on SBS offers a rare double that set them apart for the week.
Kandahar (1P) is directed by Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf and was made pre-9/11. Set in Afghanistan under Taliban rule (although mostly filmed in neighbouring Iran for obvious reasons) it documents the travel of an Afghani-born Canadian, Nafas, returning to her country of birth as she tries to reach her sister who has written and said that she will kill herself at the next solar eclipse.
Naturally the film does not reflect well on the Taliban and would not perhaps have been so interesting or relevant to Western audiences save for what occurred post 9/11. Told in the first person by Nafas who discreetly tape records her thoughts and conversations in English, she desperately travels across the arid landscape with anyone who will show her the way to the city of Kandahar. Firstly, wearing the full burqua covering, with a trader and his wives, later by a boy who claims he can step around the trouble spots.
The film conjures some beautiful yet surreal images, the most commented on being the artificial limbs parachuted down to an aid agency (nothing more than a tent in the desert) and one legged men hopping madly in a wild foot race to catch one of the prizes.
Beautiful but haunting.
The other, quite different in almost every way, Nine Queens (11P) is one of the best ‘con’ movies I have seen. This original is Argentinian and it was remade in America recently as Criminal, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and John C Reilly but naturally isn’t quite as good. If you enjoyed the Hustle TV shows on ABC then you will enjoy this even more. The story is about two con men getting hold of a sheet of rare stamps (the Nine Queens) and then extorting a collector for their exchange. Cleverly written, you do not realise who is playing whom until the very last scene. Good fun.

Thursday, 26 October 2006


Book Friday 1 December 2006 in your diaries NOW !


More details to follow.

Cold Mountain - GG

One of the main reasons to watch Cold Mountain (Fri 7 830P) is the cinematography of Aussie John Seale who has teamed up with writer/director Anthony Minghella before on The English Patient and The Talented Mr Ripley. Set during the Civil War in south east America, Cold Mountain has some confronting battle scenes that are populated by rural men and boys who weren’t professional fighters but ordinary farmers, husbands and sons. Both Seale and Minghella wanted to portray the men of the period as being of the earth and a number of scenes show an almost seamless blending of bodies to ground. Take for example an early scene where men lie dying and the blood seeps from their bodies, turning slowly from red to brown as it mixes in the mud. And later, a pile of corpses, apparently heaped at random, but if you take a second look, actually stacked in a complex criss-cross pattern.
Filmed in Romania, as a proxy for the wilds of Virginia or North Carolina, the scenery in and of itself is quite beautiful and then we have the film’s centre piece, Nicole Kidman, who, if truth be told, looks out of place. Set in the middle of the war, without the men to run the farms let alone produce sufficient food, there is our Nic., all rosy cheeks and glorious radiance, wearing the latest in Country Road fashion. About two-thirds of the way through, Nicole, flanked by the girls, walks up a hill like a Vision Splendid with light snow falling like tiny angels. She looks too good is the problem.
The story is a fairly straightforward one. Inman, played by Jude Law, goes off to war, is injured and then flees on foot, back to Cold Mountain and Ada, played by Nicole.
What motivates a man to cross the Appalachians on foot during winter, desert the army, be tracked by bounty hunters, face indignities, all the while nearly starving to death, to find one woman, whom he only spoke to once, over three years before ? I read one review that suggested that Ada must have been this ethereal figure, this Vision Splendid, in Inman’s imagination for him to do the things that he did.
Its unlikely. But that’s the set-up of the story. Things become so dour and depressive during the first hour (too many blues and greys) as both Inman and Ada mope around missing the other desperately, that it is a welcome breath of fresh air when Renee Zellweger steps onto the stage and dominates every scene she is in. She injects the story with energy and warmth and was no surprise to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Throw in a local baddie played by Ray Winstone who does ‘evil’ as well as anyone, a girls own brigade at home led by Renee and Kathy Baker, and a superb supporting cast, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Aileen Atkins, and you have enough to enjoy in this two and a half hour epic.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Around the World in a Week - GG

The Bourne Supremacy (Sun 10 830P) is a follow-up to last week’s Bourne Identity and unlike most sequels, does not disappoint. While at risk of dragging out the Cold-war paranoia, “who am I and why do they want to kill me ?” this film mostly sides on one action set-up after another as the one man fighting machine goes about his business better than everyone else. Matt Damon is successful in this role I think because he looks like Joe Everyman and does not draw attention to himself in the way that a James Bond or a Samuel L Jackson might. A show-off would kill the role. This film takes you from India to Europe, Washington to New York. Don’t try and scrutinize the plot line too closesly and you will enjoy this above average adventure.

Otherwise if you want an alternate “around the world in a week” cinema experience from your TV then check these out :

Jafar Panahi’s Crimson Gold (Mon SBS 1A) (Iran). Panahi was profiled at this year’s MIFF and all his films address issues that are pertinent to his homeland : intolerance toward women, freedom of movement and thought etc. Ironically and somewhat sadly, his films for the most part are forbidden to be shown in his homeland. Crimson Gold was made in 2003.

Michael Haneke’s Time of the Wolf (Wed SBS 10P) (France) starring Isabelle Huppert, may not work quite as well as The Piano Teacher or last year’s Hidden, it does however continue the director’s theme for fractured lives in a world that the protagonists don’t quite fit. This film is set in post-apocalyptic, rural France with the sole purpose of surviving the ensuing mayhem. Depressing ? Almost certainly. Compelling ? Most likely.

Sung-su Kim’s Musa (Thu SBS 1030P) (S Korea), the Korean action blockbuster of 2001 : a swords and horses historic epic set in 14th Century China. Of the names you do know, Zhang Ziyi is the Ming princess captured by the exiled Korean envoys who are seeking the return of their honour and good relations between the two countries. It has some of the brutality that marks a lot of modern Korean films with very realistic and impressive battle scenes. Beautifully shot with a matching score from a Japanese composer, Shiro Sagisu, this will be well worth watching.

Thursday, 12 October 2006

Bring Me A Bucket - Rant

What is with Countdown to the Most Inspiring Movie of All Time (Sun 7 830P) followed by an actual screening of One of the Most Inspiring Films of All Time (Sun 7 1120P) ? The Countdown too “includes commentary from many of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors and filmmakers, including …” wait for it, “Jessica Alba.” Jessica Alba ? Plucked from obscurity for her round breasts and blonde hair in Sin City, I would hardly put her quite alongside other Countdown alumni like Steven Spielberg, Jane Fonda or Ben Kingsley.
What lazy programming channel 7 (and 9) are feeding us these days. They have their brand new “20 to 1” equivalent nostalgia show, Good as Gold, commencing before the Countdown counts down (with the promise by the show’s executive producer that “we’re using moments that we haven’t seen for a while that we’d like to see again but with each show we’ve tried to find stuff that hasn’t been rehashed over and over again.” Oh goody.) Small production costs, no sets, one host and lots of air time filled up with pap from straight out of the archives.
And as to the Countdown ? I hate to break it to you (and if you really do want to watch then look away now) but this is a cut & paste from the CBS television event in June (at least it was this years). The AFI (American Film Institute) have been pumping out the best 100 whatever each year for 10 years and all we see is the same 100 films placed in slightly different orders (best comedies, best quotes, best ever yadda yadda) and the latest, the Most Inspiring. It’s A Wonderful Life topped the list, closely followed by To Kill A Mockingbird and Schindler’s List. Talk about nostalgic crap. There have been no movies worth getting more excited about since 1946 ? What are we, stoopid ? Thank God for 9/11 it seems. We can justify the “safe at home,” “happy memories in the past” homilies now that international terrorism is a reality in our lives. Most folks under the age of 40 aren’t going to put up with this crock and they will continue to laugh at their elderly relatives in exactly the same way that the generation before were brushed off as being out of touch. I suppose it is a surety that we will reach that intransigence in years to come too but hopefully not too soon. John Howard can’t be PM forever, can he ?

The Monsoon Identity - GG

Monsoon Wedding (Sat SBS 950P) has been on before but it is of such quality that you really must give it a go. Directed by talented Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!, Vanity Fair) it follows one family preparing for the arranged marriage of their daughter. Unlike a typical Bollywood feature where the focus is on soapy-style plot lines, lots of jazzy music and impossibly good looking 20 somethings, Monsoon Wedding has a drama at the heart of it that threatens to derail the whole family. The film also gently pokes fun at itself regarding large families, unreliable tradesmen and an Indian culture that is obsessed by weddings.
Also, Mildred Pierce (Sat 9 1P) starring Joan Crawford and The Bourne Identity (Sun 10 9P) starring Matt Damon and Franka Potente. Incidentally I read the Robert Ludlum novel upon which this is based a month or two back and apart from the set up (a former assassin rescued from the Mediterranean with two bullets in his back and his memory gone), has nothing else in common. Oh sure there is the girl, the bad guys and the chase, but in my opinion the film just did it better. This film is unusual when compared to others of its ilk in that instead of our intrepid hero out to save the world (a la James Bond) he is just trying to save himself and work out who he is and where he has come from. The film then almost paradoxically becomes an action film with the focus of a character drama.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Jim Jarmusch

In response to the Jarmusch films shown on SBS recently, here are some observations and reflections on the American film maker. The films watched while compiling these thoughts : Permanent Vacation, Stranger than Paradise, Down By Law, Mystery Train, Night on Earth, Dead Man, Coffee and Cigarettes and Broken Flowers.

Its all about the journey. The quest to know yourself, discover your dreams, find your place in this world. Depending on how readily you buy into Jarmusch’s study of people and how he presents it on screen, depends on how willing you are to sit through his observations. When it works, it is captivating. You are in a heightened state of suspense waiting for the inevitable. When it doesn’t, it’s a long road.
Johnny Depp, as William Blake in Dead Man, is wrongly accused and takes to the hills. He has a bullet in his chest, near his heart that cannot be removed by his Indian “guide” and its slowly killing him. The further they travel, the more Blake becomes the outlaw gunman he was accused of being and the body count mounts up.
Broken Flowers, Jarmusch’s most recent production, has Bill Murray (as Don) searching for a son he never knew he had amongst his ex-girlfriends. It is hard to believe that Don was ever a lothario he clearly was judging by his almost catatonic disconnection. Did he ever find his son ? That’s not really the point of course. Remember, its all about the journey; what did Don learn from his journey ? William Blake found peace by the end of Dead Man. Don finds some new possibilities in an old world.
Tom Waits in Down By Law (also wrongly accused and convicted) escapes prison, begins his journey with two unlikely companions and walks with purpose toward an unknown future. He leaves behind a desperate, drug addled and demotivated life.
Mystery Train by contrast is three stories where each of the parties are inbetween; that is, they rest overnight at a run down hotel from the journey they have been on and the one they are about to take. A Japanese tourist couple are visiting Memphis on holiday; one woman is returning to Italy with a coffin by plane; one woman is running away from her husband; three men are on the run after getting very drunk and shooting a bottle shop owner.
Stranger Than Paradise is sort of about a trip of two New York Hungarian immigrants who take a holiday to Cleveland, collect their cousin and take off for Florida. These are people however who do not really travel anywhere. Not even red hot pokers it seems would shake them from their torpor unless it is a trip to the race track.
Night On Earth is five unconnected stories of taxi drivers in five cities and their passengers. They are all of course perpetually moving but it begs the question whether they are going anywhere.
In Permanent Vacation, Allie runs not only from home, but from life too. Sort of like a tourist on a permanent vacation. As he nears his departure from New York, he meets a French boy, about his age, running away from home in Paris, searching for a new life in New York, just as Allie hopes to do in Paris. Although as Brer Rabbit said in Song of the South, “you can’t run away from trouble, there ain’t no place that far.”

I am reminded of Gandalf’s quote in the Lord of the Rings, “A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.” And so it is with a Jarmusch film. It unfolds at its own pace. Neither hurrying nor dragging its feet. Characters are given time to unfold on screen. There are no quick cuts or fast edits. Frequently they cross from the very right of screen and walk out of shot on the very left. Jarmusch stays with his main characters for long times. The camera will follow them as though by observing them we might come to know them and understand what they are thinking.
In Permanent Vacation, Jarmusch’s first film, all the signature shots are there : the long takes, the run down city. But when you are left with a character you don’t have much empathy for and one who doesn’t do very much, you are left with aching boredom (thankfully the running time was relatively short at only 70 minutes).
I note too the dilapitated buildings that frame each shot (except for Dead Man which is set in the Rockies). All buildings are in a state of disrepair, filthy beds you would not trust to sleep in, crumbling wrecks in the worst spots of New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles or Paris and often as not, tagged with graffiti. Does this refer to the run down state of our protagonists or is it just simply "more interesting" scenery than pristine and forgettable apartment blocks ?

Actors cross between different films making the whole collection pieces of the same puzzle. Tom Waits plays a failed radio DJ in one (Down By Law) and is heard on a radio as one of the many audio links during another (Mystery Train) or for providing the original soundtrack in Night On Earth. Screaming Jay Hawkins gives a wonderful turn as hotel manager in one (Mystery Train) and we listen to him sing “I’ve got a spell on you” on a tape deck in another (Stranger Than Paradise). Neil Young, the subject of Year of the Horse, provides the soundtrack to Dead Man and Roberto Benigni appears in front of the camera in both Down By Law and Night On Earth.

I enjoyed Jarmusch’s later films more than his earlier ones. That is always a pleasing sign because it suggests that the filmmaker is becoming better at driving his narrative, able to select higher profile and more adept actors to fill his screen and has established a vision of what he wants to accomplish.
My favourite was Dead Man (with Depp) but in that the cinematography by Robby Műller elevated the story to something elegiac with the (very conscious decision) to make the film look like a series of Ansell Adams pictures, a famous US pioneer photographer whose pictures of the American outback had an art-like quality and a conservationists message.
Broken Flowers is at number 2 because Bill Murray is so great and the supporting cast of all those women are fantastic : Julie Delpy, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.

A more recent update on Ghost Dog : The Way of the Samurai, continues these themes.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

The Last Samurai, McDonalds & Starsky & Hutch - GG

How does an American, during Civil War times, become the hero in a Japanese samurai movie ? My question wasn’t really answered either after I watched The Last Samurai (Fri 9 830P) a year ago. Suffice to say that it is a competently choreographed action pic. that more or less succeeds at what it sets out to do; there is a sense of honour, the apologetic retrospection on colonialism is set up as the baddy and Tom Cruise survives.
Two years ago Morgan Spurlock made headlines with the latest doco. on the evils of McDonalds in Super Size Me (Sun 10 9P). By eating nothing but McDonalds food three times a day for one month he seriously compromised his health and captured all the effects in this film. McDonalds, never ones to miss capitalising on any publicity good or bad, have since introduced their “healthy options” menu items and McDonalds Australia were very quickly out, at the time, campaigning how they were different to their American parents by not offering super sizes to each of their product lines – I guess what plans they had to introduce that concept to Australian consumers has been shelved for a little while.
And if you were ever a fan of Starsky and Hutch in the 70s, then you will enjoy the modern remake with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the titular roles (Sun 7 830P). For mine, Snoop Dogg as their ‘too cool for school’ underground informant, Huggy Bear, steals every scene he is in and the cameos of the original S&H at the end a good laugh for the fans. This 2004 movie is followed by the 1975 Starsky & Hutch – The Original Movie (Sun 7 1030P) which is no doubt an extension of their 1 hour TV show.

Rabelwatch - Paraguay and Bahrain

With Australia now regarded as world class thanks to qualification to this year’s World Cup in Germany, Socceroos fans can expect to see a high calibre of competition play against their team both in Australia and elsewhere. Australia host Paraguay (Sat SBS 730P) in Brisbane in, what is quaintly termed, an “International Friendly.” Paraguay, a land locked South American country, also qualified for this year’s WC by dint of the fact that they won all of their home games in Asuncion, at altitude. They struggled away from home however despite a dour defence. The Socceroos will relish this chance to play at home in front of their home fans again and should win.
This friendly is ahead of their last Asian Cup qualifier against Bahrain in Sydney next Wednesday (SBS 730P). Aussie skipper Craig Moore missed the team’s plane trip to Brisbane (from Sydney) yesterday ahead of the Paraguay game and has been dropped for one match as a result under the FFA’s code of conduct. It is said that “Moore spent Tuesday night at Star City casino after an afternoon at Kembla Grange races.” Now why do you think he might have missed the plane north ?

Friday, 29 September 2006

100 Posts - Hooray !!

This is the 100th post to this blog site !

Hooray indeed.

In keeping with the commercial channels "best of" celebrations of the past 50 years of television (or 50 quality minutes of broadcasting in the past 50 years of television) here is a "100th post retrospective" for you to laugh, and cry, and smile, and remember. Take it away Bert ...

Let's go way back, to the timid post number 1.

Movie Reviews (in the post below)

TV Tasty Knows' first post
TTK loves the Daddos

RabelWatch has his ego stroked
Aussies Out
MrRabelWatch responds

MetalTheater throws his guitar into the ring

And the Rants
(the late) Ross Warneke
Channel 9 and the Commonwealth Games
Channel 9 and the Commonwealth Games II
Nicole is getting married
And so is Mr Metal Theater
Give SBS more money
50 years too long

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Colonel Sharpe - TV Tasty Knows

Much like the British soldiers shown serving in India, last Sunday’s airing of "Sharpe's Challenge" (Part 1) took TV Tasty Knows by surprise.
As a period drama, Sharpe's Challenge (a later one in the Sharpe series) has all the ingredients that make this rollicking adventure great fun : there is a hero we can barrack for, a steady plot, lots of action, tension filled moments, evil scheming, historical context, class actors who can fill the scope of the story telling (making some acting allowances for the striking female support cast), a striking female support cast, and importantly, following the characters through the ripping adventure.
Sharpe's Challenge was shot on location in India which adds greatly to the impact and lush viewing : stunning scenery, indoor backdrops, local people, local props, amazing architecture, etc. Just the thing that should be scheduled for a Sunday night. Bravo Colonel Sharpe, and all speed to you sir.

TV Tasty Knows Pick Of The Week
Won't be to everyone's taste, but Bro Town (Mon SBS 830P) is out of the box watching.

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Kill Bill - GG

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Wed 7 930P) is the most recent Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs) which was (controversially) shot as one movie and then spliced in two and released six months apart. I say controversially because some believed that it was a cynical money making ploy to generate twice the revenues for a single film. Tarantino claimed that he could not chop the movie any shorter (than the two parts currently are) and was forced to make an artistic choice (by making two films). The criticisms continued once the two films were released with some critics claiming that the stories did not naturally fall into two parts etc etc. Overwhelmingly too, most, it seemed, preferred Vol. 2 which is a lot more conventional in how it unfolds than part 1, which I will get too shortly. I for one however simply revelled in Vol. 1 and endorse it again here.
Kill Bill tells the story of The Bride (Uma Thurman), a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, headed by the eponymous Bill (David Carradine) is “killed” on her wedding day by her now estranged Squad, along with all members of her bridal party, guests and clergy. Despite being bruised and bloodied, she is in a deep coma from which she does not wake for four years. When she does finally, she vows a bloody and ruthless revenge. She makes a list, with Bill last on the list, and Vol. 1 proceeds to tell the revenge of numbers 1 and 2 on the list : Lucy Liu, now leader of the Japanese underworld, and Vivica A Fox, a regular suburban mum.
Tarantino has made no secret of his love of old style Hong Kong gangster films and this homage moves from the cheesy music and off-centre title card at the films opening to the high powered kung-fu throughout. The violence in this film is bloody but deliberately over the top and must be viewed as comedy when copious amounts of blood spurt wildly from shoulder joints as any number of faceless baddies have their limbs severed by a samurai sword.
What sets this movie apart though is how it looks and how it sounds. The music is energetic and wild when it is called for and quiet and reflective to contrast. There is no doubt that music adds to the style of the film and its story telling. Listen to it loud is my suggestion. [I recall being alone in the house one night and at 3am watching Vol. 1 at full volume. It was awesome].
The look of the film too is beautiful with its bright and vibrant colours – think The Bride’s yellow track suit and the Pussy Wagon’s garish colours. My favourite scene however is virtually the last with the showdown between The Bride and Liu. The solitude of the Japanese garden, the snow gently falling, the trickle of the stream and the dropping of the bamboo water feature. This also assists in telling the story as The Bride and Liu meet each other as enemies and in their fight, learn respect for each other that neither had.
The other visual tricks that Tarantino dishes up for us is a sequence in anime, possibly to “tone down” the subject matter to get past the censors – I’ll let you decide if you think it is appropriate material for a mainstream film; the extended fight sequence with the Crazy 88 is broken up with viewing the fight in colour, black and white, in blue shadow; inter-titles to announce the new chapter; and so it goes on, all the while giving the film a sense of direction and manic energy.
Sonny Chiba gives a delightful cameo as a tea house proprietor.
Downsides include the fact that the fight scene with the Crazy 88 (don’t ask, just accept) goes on a little too long (I mean how many hewed limbs and athletic twists can you take, really?) and it is a pity in some ways that splitting the film in two meant a “cliffhanger” ending which compelled you to wait for Vol. 2 : a revelation that takes some of the suspense out of the sequel.
Overwhelmingly though I think it works and in my mind, a worthy successor to the very great potential that Tarantino showed in Reservoir Dogs.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

City of God - GG

There is only one real choice for movie watchers on this week’s TV :
City of God (Wed SBS 10P), Fernando Meirelles’ look into the heart of the Rio de Janeiro-ean slums. Children are as adults : “I smoke and snort, shoot and rob – I’m a man,” says one 10 year old, shortly before he his shot dead. It is a tough and ruthless place where drugs and crime are the only options. Divided into gangs, the stronger survive and move into each other’s territory. While it starts as a “what hope is there?” type of film set in the 60’s, it evolves into an even more fascinating battle between wills and weapons in the 80’s. Highly recommended.
You may also care for The Adventures of Robin Hood (Sat 9 1P – assuming it is actually shown that is), shot in bright and glorious Technicolour starring the cheeky, suave Errol Flynn and the dastardly Basil Rathbone.
Sadly, due notice is given that it is probable that no entry will be posted next week as your humble correspondent uses up the balance of his annual leave and escapes town with the fam. for a few days. Naturally all efforts will be made to post some items of interest if possible.
Now, LA Law – the Movie (Mon 7 midday) anyone ?

50 Years of Cringe - Rant

What is it with all the 50 years – Best Of shows? Channels 7 and 9 have been working the hardest to pump out these high profile, easy to manufacture shows, some on a weekly basis for most of this year and apart from being “easy,” “mindless” TV, who actually makes a point of sitting down to watch them ? Obviously a lot do and no doubt a strong part of their appeal is watching highlights of old shows that haven’t been aired for a long time. Mind you, given the number of Graham Kennedy/Bert Newton tribute type remixes of the past two or three years, there can’t be much of their highlight reels that haven’t been shown at least once.
What I thought summed up the history of Australian TV’s poor self-image over 50 years the most is Channel 7’s Star City Casino black tie do on Sunday night which includes Americans Will Ferrell and John C Reilly (along with the vomit inducing Kochie and Mel) as guest presenters of the 50 most whatever moments on (channel 7's) TV over 50 whatever years. I thought we got over that inferiority complex at the Sydney Olympics if not before ? What happened to their point of difference with channel 9 who regularly submit to personality and not to content on their Logie shows with American guest presenters ?
Why do I hate (commercial) TV ? The same reason I hate political spin out of Canberra. Dumbing down what is put to otherwise intelligent folks because that’s what some closed minded, conservative event organiser thinks would suit the main interest. Like all good democracies I have the right to not watch and turn off my TV. I intend to exercise that right !

Its Summer, Its Daddo, Its TV Tasty, And I'm In Love

In an exciting initiative, TV Tasty Knows visited the Daddo brothers as part of an in-depth follow-up interview for loyal GGblog-ees.
TV Tasty Knows can report that the boys are living together in the big family house, though as the lads have got married they have separate rooms these days. This is a good thing as the usual fights, horsing around, playing up, unbridled hilarity and squabbles were very much still in evidence, and on more than one occasion Mrs Daddo (Snr) had to separate the boys using the time honoured ear-holding technique (with the wooden spoon also threatened at one point).
After 3 hours of hanging out with the Daddos, TV Tasty Knows was sore from Chinese burns, one of Andrew's model planes was broken, everyone was still giggling from Cameron being sprung stealing choc-bits from the cupboard and no-one wanted to hear Lachie's pimple dramas.
The most interesting fact of the visit (aside from the old Dexter compatibility printouts the Daddos had run on many of their past girlfriends) was the fact that a TV studio had been set up in a converted bedroom, which included an amazing collection of location back drops. Apparently TV producers from the various channels often found it easier to just go to the Daddos house some weeks to film segments.
Thankfully the visit ended in good spirits with a game of backyard cricket - though Andrew insisted he did not snick a caught behind and though it was his cricket bat, a lot of ill feeling remained. Last seen though, Lachie and Andrew were ganging up on Cameron who had been hogging the X-box.
TV Tasty Knows had a great time with the Daddos, and suffice to say, so do viewers.
(GGBlog Note: TV Tasty has been invited back to the Daddos for a Monopoly and Squatter weekend.)

TV Tasty Knows Pick Of The Week
You are being told now right now you little punk-rap-$#%er, "The Sopranos" is back (Wed 9 1040P)
(Who wants out of the Mob? TV Tasty Knows....)

A Pretty Coterie of Coquettes and a Gaggle of Goodlooking Gigolos

God bless the cynic. All true of course.
Grey's Anatomy, like the majority of recent American dramas, features a pretty cast who do minimal acting, conveying character instead through hairstyles and fashion - they pout, they pose, they strut, they give good close-up.
The older players or "character actors" are usually relegated to the role of crusty mentors who, like CSI's Gil Grissom (William Petersen), drift in and out of the narrative spouting Zen-master cliches. Even the fabulous Mandy Patinkin is reduced to this sage-like buffoonery on Criminal Minds, leaving the exciting stuff to glamorous co-stars such as Thomas Gibson - or is that Patrick Dempsey again? They all look alike.

Thursday, 7 September 2006

Two TV Things

There is a lot of press space being given to Ricky Gervais and his latest comedy creation, Extras (Wed ABC 9P), at the moment. This is justified given the quality of the show in its own right and relative to most of the other stuff. One of the better articles was written by Peter Craven in The Age this week.
A “special” At The Movies (Tue ABC 10P) with Margaret (“I just loved it”) interviewing two of Australia’s finest directors of photography, Don McAlpine (The Chronicles of Narnia, Moulin Rouge) and Dion Beebe (Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago).

Ronin, far from heaven - GG

Far From Heaven (Fri 7 845P) is set in 1957 with Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid as the definitive modern Connecticut-American couple. The backdrops, the costumes, the manners, the expectations are true to the 1950s down to the minutest detail. At no time does the film or the film makers belie the fact that this film was made some 45 years later, in 2002. This allows us to fall into step with a 1950s mindset to address the issues of homosexuality and racism from new eyes. This attention to detail to recreate the mood as well as the look of a 1950s film is one of the film’s highlights.
To quote from Roger Ebert’s review : “Director Todd Haynes says he had three specific inspirations: Douglas Sirk's "All That Heaven Allows" (1955), which starred Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson in the story of a middle-aged widow and her handsome young gardener; Sirk's "Imitation of Life" (1959), with Lana Turner as a rich woman whose maid's daughter (Susan Kohner) passed for white, and Max Ophuls' "The Reckless Moment" (1949), about blackmail. In Sirk's films you often have the feeling that part of the plot is in code; that one kind of forbidden love stands for another.”
The forbidden love in this film is the gay love of the “perfect” business man and father, Dennis Quaid and the interracial attraction between Julianne Moore and their black gardener, Dennis Haysbert. For a film that has so much going for it, it is not surprising that an enormous number of reviewers liked this film a lot. GG’s Scott Murray has this to say though : “the film will be stunning for many and overly precious for others.” I’m sad to say that I fall into the latter category and found the film’s pacing to be to slow.
Ronin (Fri 7 noon) is an action film that has more going for it than just one set piece after another. Directed superbly by John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate), the car chases through the winding streets of Paris are fantastic. The heart of the film however belongs to the mateship and mutual respect between Jean Reno (the master of the heart of gold with a gruff exterior) and Robert De Niro. Both hold to the honour code of the ronin, a Japanese expression referring to the code of behaviour of samurai warriors who have no master to serve.
Above average comedies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Fri 9 830P) and Analyze This (Fri 9 1030P).
Some Like It Hot (Sat 9 130P) is back in the program so good luck !
I have not been engaged to watch any of the 9/11 tributes / films / documentaries up until now. I’m not sure if its the prospect of documented misery that’s too close to home or whether I’m wary of “celebrating” an event that has no answers and will only end up as a flag waving exercise for America and its government. Having said that, the French documentary that was released 1 year after the event, 11’9”01 – September 11 (Mon SBS 1040P) is a compilation of 11 reflections from 11 acclaimed filmmakers (including Alejandro Inarritu, Ken Loach, Samira Makhmalbaf, Mira Nair) and I feel compelled to visit it this time around. Perhaps enough time has passed for me that I can view it a little more dispassionately ?
Being a fan of Korean drama, I will be tuning into If You Were Me (Tue SBS 1040P) which is a collection of short films from different Korean directors, including my favourite, Park Chan-wook.

Thursday, 31 August 2006

GG blah

Do not, do not, do not tune into either Beaches, Pay It Forward or Under the Tuscan Sun. Awful, awful, awful. I cannot believe that summer (and its wretched programming) is here so soon. For all of that, Intolerable Cruelty (Sun 10 845P, or later, will Australian Idol go on forever ? … yes, I expect so) is a Coen Brothers’ comedy that has their quirky and zany signature with fun turns from Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney – a GG fave. For agreeable, light-hearted knock-about comedies then you could also tune into Big Trouble (or more accurately video tape it) (Thu 7 midday) which stars Tim Allen and Rene Russo. As with most comedies of this type the set up is wholly unbelievable but its funny enough. Stranger Than Paradise (Thu SBS 1030P) is this week’s Jarmusch project.
Are we there yet ? So uninspiring its hardly worth building up the energy to rant about it.

For the very keen, Rabelwatch this week is in the wee hours of Thursday morning (330A kick-off no less) with the return match of the Socceroos v Kuwait. With Lebanon, formerly in Australia’s group, withdrawing from the competition, Australia has only two more qualifying games in the build up to the Asian Cup Final. With 2 wins from 2 already recorded, the Aussies have secured their spot.

Tasty Daddo

TV Tasty Knows sources have the breaking news that the upcoming 50 years of TV celebrations are currently being scheduled at Channels 7 and 9.
Channel Eddie is doing mostly clip show stuff, while Stokesy is out to mix it up a little, with events such as "Dancing with the Stars" judges actually dancing, A Country Practice reunion special, and the three Daddo brothers appearing together for a stage show. Will Ferrell is also being brought out to host an event.
This is not made up (TV Tasty Knows) and is perhaps an interesting comment on the 50 years of TV itself.
The only bright spot in the above is clearly the Daddo brothers. These boys have grown on TV Tasty Knows in recent years. Sure they were too much at the start with their oh-so-wholesome approach and dimples to die for, as they paraded across a vast array of TV shows like clones spewing out of a bad Batman prop.
And it WAS a bit much.
But as the Daddos have spread their wings, gigs have been harder to come by and the boys have got on with their lot, they have found some very nifty niches in TV Land (Zoot Review aside). In a landscape of plastic people, the Daddos are really shining now as likeable, down to earth, I'm-not-taking-myself-too-seriously-coz-my-brothers-will-take-the-piss-out-me-if-I-don't-first, personable hosts and presenters (and also in fact, evil suave henchmen as "Big Mommas House 2" has proved - TV Tasty Knows too much.....)
TV Tasty Knows will be raising a big frothy glass to the talented Daddo's in the next installment.

TV Tasty Knows Pick Of The Week
Well choices are getting thinner folks. Boston Legal (Mon 7 1030P) has peaked, but give it a go.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Channel Nine Programming Rant

Being described as “mild mannered” most of the time, not unlike Clark Kent, I was mightily annoyed when both Maltese Falcon (two Saturday’s ago) and Some Like It Hot (last Saturday) were not broadcast as advertised by channel 9 and replaced with repeats of Torvill and Dean’s Dancing on Ice (at least we were spared channel 7 hyperbole, “encore screenings”). I’m often mistaken for Superman, I expect it’s the square jaw and rock-hard pecs, and had I the super-power to fly, I would have picked up something heavy and dropped it on channel 9’s director of programming. A last minute programming change on a Saturday ? I don’t think so. Panting viewers, desperate for a repeat have called the station in a panic and threatened GG-as-Superman like retribution if they do not show T&D ? I don’t think so again. So why oh why do they make promises they have no intention of keeping? Certainly they might make a change between the time that the Green Guide is published and the actual screening date. On these two occasions, the daily paper still had the original programming scheduled. Channel 9 have raised the ire of many Green Guide letters to the editor for a whole host of programming sins (unexplained and unexpected removal of favourite shows from the schedule, switching time slots, repeating old series instead of showing new ones, broadcasting episodes out of order). They can add my dissatisfaction to the list and a plague be upon them !

Punch-drunk GG

Adam Sandler has made a lot of money out of playing in puerile comedies where his body-of-a-man, mind-of-a-boy personas have the gross-out slapstick on high and his socially inept but basically nice guy underneath. In Punch-Drunk Love (Sat 9 930P), Sandler plays Barry Egan, essentially the same character as in other movies but with the comedy on ‘mute.’ What we are left is a slightly uneasy portrait of a man who has is socially awkward, has uncontrollable outbursts of anger and has a harmonium (accordion piano) dumped outside his down-town warehouse. I have seen this film a few times now and I’m still not exactly sure what the harmonium means. The tentative, discordant tones early on gradually swell to provide the main theme, a reprisal of Olive Oyl’s ‘He Needs Me.’ The audible shocks are meant to give us a fright too. They put us slightly on edge, just like our main character.
PDL is brought to us by Paul Thomas Anderson whose previous works, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, focus on disparate characters who come to each other’s aid in expected and unexpected ways. Emily Watson plays Lena, a friend of one of Barry’s sisters (of whom he has 7, no wonder he experiences outbursts of anger). She is attracted to Barry and they begin a relationship which evolves over the course of the film. Through Lena, Barry finds love and a means though which he can begin to ‘understand’ life. “I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine.”
As with Wes Anderson pictures, a lot of PT Anderson’s jokes (no relation by the way, although I do note that I share the same birthday as him, same year too, maybe we’re related ?) are in the background. By casting the incomparable Luis Guzman as his warehouse foreman, there are no shortage of mini-calamities that occur all around the edges but no-one draws attention to them. It is said that the collection of puddings acquired and stored in the warehouse talk to each other too but I haven’t picked that up yet.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Anderson regular, has a great cameo as a mattress salesman and his showdown with Barry toward the end provides some of the memorable highlights of the film’s dialogue.
To say that it is an unconventional love story would be to cite the obvious. While its not for everybody I can’t help but recommend it. 4 stars from me.
Moulin Rouge (Fri 7 12midday) is a Baz Luhrmann/Catherine Martin Spectacular, Spectacular : one providing the direction and music, the other the costumes and dance. A love story quite different from PDL : MR is over the top, beautiful, tragic, funny and serious. Nicole and Ewan McGregor lead a fine cast and add to their accomplishment by doing all their own singing. Casting credits include Richard Roxburgh, Jim Broadbent and John Leguizamo and support from well known Australians, Garry McDonald, David Wenham, Christine Anu and Kylie Minogue.
Next Thursday, the Jarmusch debut film from 1980 screens, Permanent Vacation (SBS 1030P). I am one-quarter through the Jarmusch films screened (there have been four, this is one is five) and I will provide some sort of report at the end of it. Expect words like “independent film-maker” to be used a lot.

Thursday, 17 August 2006

GG - Marilyn is Hot

Some Like it Hot (Sat 9 130P), ranked number 1 by the American Film Institute as the funniest movie of all time is directed by Billy Wilder at his best and stars Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and of course Marilyn herself. While the cross-dressing-man-for-laughs is a little tired these days, to see it portrayed freshly with the talent of Monroe et al plus some of Wilder's best gags make it a must see. With Wilder punchlines and gags thrown out one after the other, it was Wilder himself who asked why he would pause to admire a great riff when the real fun was in topping it.
Internal Affairs (Sat SBS 10P) is a Hong Kong police thriller with a copper undercover as a triad gang member and a gangster passing as a cop who, of course, realise the place of the other and hunt each other down (RT 95%). Described by Rolling Stone critic, Peter Travers thus :
It's a tribute to co-directors Andrew Lau and Alan Mak that almost nothing about Infernal Affairs follows the rules. Asian superstars Leung and Lau give bruising, brilliant performances that transcend genre. The film prowls the night with a lit-by-neon intensity that recalls Michael Mann's Collateral but illuminates a very special circle of hell reserved for those guilty of betrayal. The filmmakers rub our noses in violence yet cut deepest in moments of agonizing quiet, including a climactic rooftop scene between Yan and Ming. This is a movie that gets its hooks into you early, and no chance is it letting go.

2004 documentary Acadamy Award winner, Born into Brothels (Sun SBS 930P) is worth a look if you’re after something a little different. Children born in the red-light district of Kolkata, India have their lives transformed when they are introduced to photography and with it a hint of a better life away from the poverty that threatens to overwhelm them.
Continue to enjoy Thursday nights on SBS with Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong movies. Next Thursday, City Hunter (1030P) although none actually on tonight because of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Championships. Get this, on the SBS television guide, the opening match of this championship, Russia v Brazil is being broadcast live at 1A. The Australia v New Zealand match, broadcast two hours prior at 11P, is listed as being shown in delay. Now how does that work ?

TV Tasty Knows Desperation

Are the TV channels getting desperate? It's a rhetorical question.
As Yasmin is now embedded as an industry joke, there are some new, sparkly offerings to tempt viewers being floated this week. TV Tasty Knows will now take the roll call:
Celebrity Survivor - hosted by Dicko with C-list celebrities. TV Tasty Knows thinks there will be little new apart from the fresh silicone top-ups and the odd spat.
David Tench Tonight - Denton crafted and has potential.
Great Comedy Classics with R.Gilbert presenting Brit classics. Not a bad match up when you consider the cheesy (and sometimes painful) but lovable pairing of content and host.
Cracker - back as a telemovie and solid as always.
Real Stories - Featuring a "Hey Dad! - The Movie" segment which could be worth a spoonful from the bain-marie of TV land.
Two-Twisted - Bryan Brown pulls in some stars for some Aussie drama.
The Force - Will rate a bit. This doesn't necessarily mean it will be good, but here's hoping.

TV Tasty Knows Pick Of The Week
Extras, Extras Extras! (Wed ABC 9P)

Last nights episode was comprised of beautifully crafted and excruciatingly awkward moments, some very clever observational humour, intruigingly layered characters, and a biting send up of film making.
It contains hybrid elements drawing from the "head in your hands" comedy pain of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the beautifully edited and subtle body language and pauses from Arrested Development, and a healthy strain of the verbal virtuoso from The Office.

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Vengeance and Redemption – MIFF06

The weekend was spent at our parish conference at St Mark’s in Forest Hill. The conference topic was about discipleship and based on stories of King David in the Old Testament and what a flawed character he was.
Here was a man who was committed to his God, could write some of the most poetic and heartfelt psalms of worship and repentance and yet commit some of the most reviled, selfish acts for which human beings are infamous.
One of David’s key stories was his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. While his men were away at war, he fell in lust with the curvaceous Bathsheba and knocked her up. Furthermore Bathsheba was married to one of the king’s exclusive guard and David, upon learning of her pregnancy, had this woman’s husband killed during battle.
Bathsheba then shacked up with David, became his wife and the child was born. The key verse however : “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” The Lord convicted David of his wrong doing, David repented, “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted … and spent the nights lying on the ground,” but the child died, as a consequence of David’s sin.
Juxta-pose this experience in the morning with the final MIFF screening that afternoon : Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Park Chan-wook’s third ‘revenge’ film started with Geum-ja, now 32, released from prison after 13 years, incarcerated for kidnapping and murdering a 5 year old child. In prison she became a model prisoner, converting to the Christian faith and serving other prisoners by caring for the elderly, feeding the sick and so forth.
Upon her release she is met by the pastor and a collection of sisterly parishioners to welcome her release. She is offered a block of tofu to eat (as it is coloured white) as a symbol of her transformation to a life that is pure, forgiven and free from the evils of her past. She looks the pastor in the eye, tips the tofu onto the ground and tells him to get out of her way. This is funny and tragic in equal measure. She has been plotting her revenge for 13 years and is now ready to put her plan into action.
The ‘good works’ she accomplished in prison created goodwill obligations in her fellow inmates (for example, in one she disposes of the cell bully creatively to the gratitude of those who were most put upon) whose favours she calls on in the outside world.
Known as “Kind Geum-ja” by those in prison whom she helps, an epithet she despises, she tracks down the child’s killer, the man for whom she went unjustly to prison and was forced as a result to give up her own child for adoption.
The play off between redemption and revenge looms large in this film as Geum-ja plots a course where she knows she may never reach the one and fail in her attempt of the other. She tracks down her own daughter who in turn does not understand why her mother put her up for adoption and who believes that any mother that would do such a thing should go to prison for it.
In the words of a very well known Catholic prayer, “it is in forgiving that we are forgiven.” No wonder Geum-ja is racked with her own guilt. She is asked at one point if she intends to kill again. Very matter of factly she replies, “once more.” How can you be forgiven if your sole purpose is revenge ? Has she condemned her soul as a result ?
Consider David again. David and Bathsheba bore another son whom they named Solomon. It is not only the same Solomon who was renown for his wisdom, but it is the blood line that continued through to Joseph many hundred years later, father of Jesus, whom God had promised to his people would be the fulfilment of his promises of redemption.
David’s repentance after the death of his first son led to one of the great psalms : “create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” David’s serious and heartfelt repentance coupled with God’s willingness to forgive leads to the significant honouring of God’s contract with David through ultimately to the birth of Jesus. What does this say about a God so great and transcendent that his own purpose is accomplished and his own glory is revealed despite the flaws and failings of the people who serve him so imperfectly ?
Who then was Jesus and why is he important ? Jesus was more than just a Jewish prophet or desert renegade looking for his own collection of followers. Jesus was God’s son with the very specific task of reconciling mankind with God. Hitherto man had been permanently separated from God with the only means of becoming right with God via the very strict and impossible demands of the Jewish laws. The Christian message proclaims that acceptance of Jesus’ death as an exchange for your sinfulness (that is, your rejection of God) leads to reconciliation with God and eternal life.
And so, does Geum-ja find her redemption ? Geum-ja knows about absolution – that need to make right wrong things that have happened. Guem-ja styles herself as an avenging angel but has not redeemed herself in the process. Is she God that she can make judgements about death and life ? (I know and understand that justice in the context of a movie is a step removed from real life which is just how we like it).
As the snow falls, Geum-ja’s daughter try to catch snow flakes in her mouth as it falls. With her tongue out, is she receiving the sacrament of Jesus (the breaking of bread in a Holy Communion service) as it falls from heaven ? Geum-ja minus her vengeanful-coloured, red eye shadow, clothed in her white dress, plunges her head, face first into a white chocolate cake where it stays until the credits role. Symbolism ? You bet. Perhaps she has found peace at last.

Monday, 14 August 2006

MIFF coming to a close

MIFF2006 is over and I enjoyed my experience. After two weeks I fitted in 12 screenings which in truth was about all I could have fitted in given all other commitments I have to make. That is not say that given time there weren’t another dozen films I would have liked to have viewed. The retrospective on the Iranian director would have been interesting and the Danish section would likewise have been confronting.
[sorry, can't upload any pictures at the moment - check back for more Dilbert/Vijay comic strips at another time]
I was glad to have the company of Vijay for 3 of the screenings, the last of which was The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Cannes winner and typical of Irish stories, no happy ending (but a well made period piece nonetheless).

The three Australian movies that I saw were all excellent and should enjoy a cinematic release. The Book of Revelation was the most confronting and has been written on at length already.
The Last Train to Freo was a low budget affair by first time director Jeremy Sims (yes, him of the bad adult soapies of the early 90s). The action takes place in real time as the last suburban train of the night travels from Midlands in Perth down to Fremantle with the action never leaving the confines of the carriage. Very similar in concept to Breakfast Club where a group of strangers find themselves lumped together and make discoveries about themselves and each other they hadn’t expected. While the script became a little contrived this did not ultimately detract from the powerful acting of the unknown cast of 5. Steve Le Marquand, known only as The Large Thug, is at times menancing and charming and around whom the whole drama hangs.
Like Minds is directed by Australian Gregory Read but is set in an English boarding school. It stars well known Australians Toni Collette as a child criminal psychologist and Richard Roxburgh as the lead detective, both sporting horrendous English accents. The real star is 24 year old Englishman Eddie Redmayne, the subject of our Australian duo in an ongoing investigation.
The director’s premise is twofold : where do sociopaths start from and what happens when you place two of them together to work off each other. What transpires is a number of deaths (no kidding, right ?), plenty of mythology about the Knights Templar to keep The Da Vinci Code honest and some gruesome discoveries. It is very much in the same vein as David Fincher’s Se7en or Primal Fear. Very well made and should enjoy a strong cinematic release. Highly recommended.

Friday, 11 August 2006

Metal Theater does Comedy

Dear Faithful Readers, due to TV Tasty Knows extensive (paid) work commitments we have a very special treat for you this week in lieu of his regular report. Metal Theater himself has provided his own review of the current crop of comedies on our TV screens and we thank him for that. – editor GGBlog
American Comedies
There's been a bit of hype about Julia Louis-Dreyfus new show "The new adventures of old Christine". Unfortunately it's terrible. All I need to give you is two words : "Laugh Track". Ergh, I feel so dirty. Avoid this rubbish like the plague.
While we're on the topic of Seinfeld, Larry David's show "Curb Your Enthusiasm" features the old Seinfeld jokes, performed by Larry doing his best Woody Allen impersonation ... without a laugh track. The script is (at best) uninspired with the same old jokes that we've seen and heard hundreds of times before. It's sort of like Seinfeld but without any of the funny bits or good comedy acting. Avoid.
In the same vein, Charlie Sheen shows how low he can stoop in "Two and a half men", playing a hideously unsympathetic sexist character making jokes which are all followed by a laugh track. I'd love to see these shows performed in front of a live audience - they would die a terrible death.
The American version of "The Office" is still quite good. Not anywhere near as squirmingly bad as the UK version, but still worth a laugh or three.
Futurama (7P 10), quickly replaced "Yasmine's getting married". Futurama never had the same following as the Simpsons (which would be very difficult), but it's still quite good. Watch a couple of episodes before writing it off.

Australian Comedies
Flying across the globe from America to Australia, we have our own cultural icons Kath & Kim, who are still going strong and are still pretty funny. If you can put up with the accents and the antics, Glenn Robbins and Peter Rowsthorn are always funny.
"Chasers War on Everything" is almost starting to get a little bit tired, but these guys are pretty inventive and often come up with new ideas. Not a bad show.
On the downside, "Comedy Inc" is being aimed at 14 year old boys. Avoid unless you're in that demographic.

UK Comedies
The English don't do much very well, but what they are world leaders at is comedy. The old classic "Men Behaving Badly" (ABC 130P) is worth setting the VCR for.
"Absolute Power" is Steven Fry's new comedy, which is not bad, but I've found it to be slightly too light, and to contain too many references to current events in the UK. Not to mention people. This left me in the dark when it came to a lot of the jokes. Still, not a bad show, but it didn't really travel across the Atlantic very well.
Which leaves us with our finale, "Extras", by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I happened to glimpse a few "advanced screenings" of this series and I can assure you that it is gut-wrenchingly funny. I would even go as far as saying funnier than "The Office". I know that's a big call, but I'll stick by it for the moment. Do not miss this show.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Rabelwatch - Asian Cup qualifier

Australia’s first match post-World Cup and minus Guus is their second Asian Cup qualifier live from Sydney : Australia versus Kuwait (Wed SBS 7P). No internationals playing however as the northern season has just commenced but full of plucky A-Leaguers.

I See Dead People - scared yet ?

In the Sixth Sense, we were told by young Cole that he “sees dead people.” And my question to you is, do you get scared ? Because depending on your answer will depend ultimately as to whether you should watch The Others (Fri 7 noon). My Good Lady Wife does not get scared watching ghost movies. Her pulse does not even quicken by a moment. I on the other hand am scared stupid by such things and own a copy of both Sixth Sense and The Others so that I can be scared witless any time I like. The Others is directed by Chilean Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes, which was remade and destroyed as Vanilla Sky (Sun 7 11P)) who creates a claustrophobic atmosphere by the Jersey mists and the darkened rooms of this large, mostly empty, manor house. It stars my Nic in one of her A-grade roles and no, you may not leave comments giving me your opinion of her talent. I’m not interested. I love her. End of story. The Good Lady Wife by the way is horrified by those type of scary movies where limbs are severed and fangs are bared. I happen to think they’re a huge laugh !
Speaking as we were about Sixth Sense, direct M Night Shyamalan backed up SS with Unbreakable (Sat 7 930P), a superhero movie of sorts. While less of a ghost story than SS (even though this is ground that Shyamalan is most fond) and still involving a twist at the end that explains some of the build up (a conceit which Shyamalan is also fond) this was under-rated upon its release and continues Bruce Willis’ stellar run as the unassuming every-man, capable of great things and the dynamic Samuel L Jackson.
Humphrey Bogart plays his definitive Sam Spade role in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon (Sat 9 130P), based on a Dashiell Hammett novel. One of the great film noir’s which is made up of a seedy underworld, dizzy dames, convoluted plots and a hard drinking, hard smoking private dick.
Dead Man (Wed SBS 10P) stars Johhny Depp and because of this is sure to attract a larger than usual crowd for a Jarmusch film. It tells the story of a young man’s spiritual and physical journey from accountant in 19th Century America to the wild west where he transforms into a hunted outlaw.

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Three Times - MIFF06

A new candidate for ‘worst festival experience’. Coupled with a theatre that was over heated made the TWO HOURS TWENTY MINUTES seem much, much, much longer. What makes the disappointment worse is that before MIFF commenced this year, this was second on my list of films I really wanted to see.
Reviewed fairly accurately and with a simmilar experience to mine, I have requoted US reviewer James Berardinelli instead of coming up with the same words myself (the capitalisation and bolding are mine to emphasise my point) :
Three Times comes from the mind of Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien. Comprised of a trio of 45-minute shorts starring the same male and female leads (Shu Qi, Chang Chien), the mini-films look at romance in three different time periods: 1911, 1966, and 2005. The first segment, which transpires in 1966, has the leads meet in a pool hall then correspond by mail once he joins the army. When he's home on leave, he tracks her down so they can spend time together. The 1911 episode is a drama between a master and his favorite concubine. He has promised her freedom, but she is so important to him that he cannot bear to let her go. Finally, in 2005, the female character is an epileptic singer involved with another woman as well as the man. Eventually, she turns her back on the lesbian, but there is a price to pay. (It's important to note that although the same actors are used in each time period, the characters they play are not related.)
Three Times features minimal dialogue. It is mostly about mood and images, and it moves at a glacial pace. Hou is in no hurry to speed things along. He frequently holds shots, lingering for longer than a conventional director might. A SIDE ORDER OF A CAFFEINATED BEVERAGE IS RECOMMENDED. The middle segment is an homage to the silent era. Although in color, this part is designed like a pre-talkie movie, complete with intertitles. I don't claim to have enjoyed Three Times in a traditional sense. I appreciated its artistry and admired its intentions, but I found the characters to be unpleasantly cold, and the filmmaker's style to be distancing. This is the kind of film that would have benefited from the forging of an emotional bond between the audience and the protagonists.

Monday, 7 August 2006

Tideland and Election 2 - MIFF06

Where do you start with something like Terry Gilliam’s latest, Tideland ? Gilliam’s CV includes Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and last year’s The Brothers Grimm. Gilliam is clearly fascinated by the interplay between fantasy and reality with plenty of gruesome and grotesque imagery in between.
If you are a fan of Gilliam then you will want to see Tideland for yourself and will not be swayed by anything I say but I don’t recommend this film.
Tideland tells the story of Jeliza-Rose, a precocious 11 year old played by Jodelle Ferland (who has the unwitting honour of actually being 11 when she plays an 11 year old instead of the usual Hollywood conceit of playing older actors in younger roles). In truth, Ferland does an amazing job as she holds her performance as the central character for the whole two hours. She is either on screen or we hear her voice the whole time.
Alice in Wonderland is directly referenced a couple of times and often we are transported between reality (which is often grim and unpleasant) and Jeliza-Rose’s fantasy. She plays with four dismembered Barbie doll heads who each have distinct voices and personalities in Jeliza-Rose’s mind.
Both Jeliza-Rose’s parents die of drug overdoses early on in the film and she is left in the run-down family home in the middle of acres of a barren rural property, surrounded by overgrown, head-high grass on her own. Jeliza-Rose displays maturity beyond her years (she helps her father by preparing his heroin shots for him) and great naivety. Part of the terror of this film is that you are never sure if she is going to be blown up, shot, molested or just waste away from neglect and shock.
Her nearest neighbours are a strange woman dressed all in black (is she a ghost, Miss Haversham or something else entirely?) and this woman’s simpleton brother, played with great effect by Brendan Fletcher.
When all events around Jeliza-Rose are viewed through her skewed, fantasy perspective, “real-life” form part of her games and inner-narrative which only heightened my discomfort.
Tideland is a disturbing film to be sure and the apocalyptic ending helps explain some of it but unless I just don’t “get it,” not all of it.

Good friend Vijay (no, not the world’s most desperate Venture Capitalist but a joke’s a joke) joined me in the Johnnie To sequel, Election 2 on Sunday night. Having watched Election (singular) Friday night courtesy of a courier service best not mentioned here as part of my research for this event, let’s just say that there are still no legal copies available in this country.
The election at the heart of both stories is that of the orderly transition every two years of a new chairman to head Hong Kong’s largest Triad. Similar in scope to the Mafia, the Triad’s services include protection fees and money laundering. Vijay and I had a small laugh to ourselves when the bundles of dollar bills covered in blood were in desperate need of laundering.
Neither films were the martial arts extravaganzas I was expecting such as an Ong Bak. Election was far more political in the manoeuvring between the key candidates and their backers with only two brief flurry’s of violence. Election 2 is far more visceral and brutal where the man with the greatest desire to win the chairmanship was the man prepared to do whatever it took to get there.
To sets a great tone in both films and the performances are refined and circumspect but still fit and strong in their roles as uber-cool, powerful gang leaders. Highly recommended if want an action flick (happy to lend a copy as either not available at Video Ezy !).

Thursday, 3 August 2006

Jackie Chan in Project A Part II

Japanese Story (Fri 7 845P) is an Australian landscape movie starring Toni Collette. The film builds good momentum but doesn’t quite finish with quite the impact that I’m sure the filmmakers were hoping for.
“Play it again Sam” and so they have : Casablanca (Sat 9 130P). “Last night we said a great many things. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. Little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
Proof of Life (Sat 9 930P) is okay as far as action plots go where hostage-release expert (Russell Crowe) comes to the aid of damsel in distress (Meg Ryan) after her husband (David Morse) is kidnapped by South American guerillas. Not one of Rusty’s better roles frankly and the spark between him and Ryan hardly lights the heart of your cockles.
I saw the first half of Jarmusch’s Night On Earth (Wed SBS 10P) at La Trobe Uni. many years ago and didn’t see the second half because it bored me stupid. Hardly a ringing endorsement is it ? Conversations between five taxi drivers and their rides across five cities in one night. Following through on my commitment to this Jarmusch experiment I will saddle up and report back in due course.
Movie of the week is without doubt Jackie Chan’s Project A Part II (Thu SBS 1030P). Part I was on two weeks ago and this was full of Chan’s cheek, physical humour and acrobatics. From one review source : “Part II follows the dictum [with respect to Part I] of being ‘the same, only bigger,’ and it is here that one finds Chan at the peak of his powers as a filmmaker, a choreographer, and a martial artist, when he was still young, fast and agile.”

Thursday MIFF docos

Thursday’s MIFF program included My Country, My Country, a documentary that followed Sunni doctor, Dr Riyadh in the build up to the 2005 Iraqi elections. Dr Riyadh runs for a place in the new government and the film shows him to be a compassionate, clear headed and even tempered man. We see him in his practice doing GP type stuff : sore throats, stiff necks, issuing prescriptions and on one occasion giving money to a woman so that she can feed her family as her husband had run off to fight with guerillas and provided no income. We see the doctor down at Abu Ghraib prison speaking with men and boys from beyond the razor wire, taking down their particulars before making an appointment to speak to the American military on their behalf.
With Fallujah sequestered at the time of the election and bombs falling all around the city, many Sunni’s do not vote on election day and Dr Riyadh scores a paltry 21,000 votes (compared with the millions of votes recorded elsewhere). He does not go to vote himself, disappointed and disgusted with the turn of events in his country.
A small highlight of the film is his wife and teenage daughters who do go to vote and come back brandishing their inked fingers with cheeky remarks like, “You have to pay others to vote for you but we voted for you for free !” There is a sense that Iraqis are proud of having been able to vote in a fair election but the number killed in the ongoing violence is over 100,000 with no likelihood of it stopping soon.
The Nine Lives of Korean Cinema was a French documentary that covered the renaissance of Korean film, both North and South since the Japanese tried to wipe out Korean culture during their occupation between 1905 to 1945. While both Koreas are fairly conservative countries with censors influencing very heavily what could and could not be shown, South Korea has relaxed its rules in the last 10 to 15 years and this has produced a current crop of filmmakers whose work I enjoy, for example, Kim Ki-duk (3-Iron, Spring, Summer, Autumn , Winter, … and Spring) and Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance : next week at MIFF).
Referring as I was to Kim Ki-duk, Margaret and David reviewed this week 3-Iron which is gaining a cinematic release in Australia. I saw this film at MIFF 12 months ago and would not have hesitated in awarding it 5 stars. It is a wonderfully tender love story, some bursts of violence and very little dialogue (and absolutely none from the main actor).

TV Tasty Knows Morning TV

Is there just too much attention being paid to it? If "yes", why are you reading this? TV Tasty Knows says "yes" too, but is writing to enhance your knowledge - it's a community service essentially (and NOT part of a community based order either).
If the Kochy/Mel Vs Rowe/Stefanovic 58 round ratings fight hadn't already started grabbing more than their fair share of press, then the Beaconsfield mine disaster certainly put the spotlight well and truly on the competition between these two morning animals. Ridiculous updates about their tom-foolery seemed to count for news while the nation waited for the workers extraction.
TV Tasty Knows scratches his head (with a TV antenna) at the supposed appeal of any of the hosts. Popularity surely comes down to which is more bearable in this case, and let's face it, Jessica "the laughing kookaburra" Rowe is way too much to face at any time of the day.
And then there came the "when should we bone her" scandal, followed by the announcement that had already occurred in a manner of speaking, and Jess was pregnant (best wishes), AND now she has fallen down some stairs, which also made the news (and TV Tasty Knows wishes a full recovery).
Meanwhile Karl will lucky if that is all that happens to him through the Dancing on Ice (or "Falling Like Flies") debacle. If you find it hard to believe that people care this much, just remember the nature of recent events, the personal pain, the “Eddie said”/”she said”/”they said”, the magazine covers, the goodie/baddie debate, etc. and then think about the generous proportion of the market segment most likely to be watching daytime TV. Welcome to soap opera city.
As for Kerri-Anne Vs Reyne/Watkins later in the day, you gotta love the snarly anti-host performance of Mr.Reyne. At least it bears more resemblance to how TV Tasty Knows wakes up........

TV Tasty Knows Pick of the Week:

Broken News (Mon SBS 830P); a 6-part British send up of news presenting, specialising in scripting that zings with verbal gymnastics and solid comic timing. For those with quirky taste and although not for everyone, you will get a return on your half hour investment.