Thursday, 30 March 2006

Channel Repeat

It is now official. We can thank channel recovery (7) for repeating their flagship shows in other timeslots, later in the week for the benefit of those who 1) either missed last week's show or 2) need another incentive to become hooked. The repeating is especially true where there is a natural "entry point" into a franchise that has been running for sometime. Take the case of Lost. Last week's ep. saw the whole Lost story start again as they followed the survivors from the back of the plane who crashed elsewhere on the island (is the island the size of Australia ? How come nobody has been for a look-see?). Pretty important stuff if you are a fan of the show (as the Good Lady Wife is) and pretty important that it gets taped too if you are not around to watch it. Lucky for her husband that this ep. of Lost was repeated last night, that her husband noted that scheduled programming was being pushed back an hour and popped in a blank tape.
Her husband, for the record, had failed to tape the key episode because he was recording The Glenmoore Job, one of the short films SBS have been running. And also for the record, it was very well done. Simon Lyndon and Saskia Burmeister were excellent and the storyline tight. Having seen both writer/director Greg Williams' 2006 Tropfest entry and now this short film in the past month, I hope we see his talent in a longer format soon.
The last of the 'fresh Australian drama' short films is screening tonight on SBS at 830P.
This week we welcome back round 1 of the AFL (on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and the footy show (which debuted last night) was more of the same and no worse off with out Eddie. Sam and Trev's tribute to losing their buddy was vintage footy show comedy.
Working Dog (The Panel, D-Gen. et al.) are back with their reality-cum-theatre sports show, Thank God You're Here (10 Wed 730P) which will appeal to many however it conflicts with Mitcham Vets obligations and I'm not sure if I will get to it. Perhaps if the feedback is strong then I will pop in a tape.
Movies worth the effort don't tend to make it to the small screen too often however Scorsese/De Niro's Raging Bull (Sun 7 1230A) is well worthwhile (how it didn't win best picture remains a benchmark as to why the Academy are out of touch : Ordinary People is very, very good too but has hardly been whispered in the same reverent breath as the Scorsese trifecta of Taxi Driver/Raging Bull/Good Fellas). De Niro's portrayal of Jake La Motta, both as frightening pugilist and overweight has-been, makes the picture.
Competing with Raging Bull is the less revered Angel Heart (10 Sun 1130P) which GG describes thus : "it's a tumultuous cavalcade of violence, nudity, sex, Cajun mocumbo-jumbo and profanity," starring a "seedy" Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet's boobs.

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Cyclone Larry - a story

Rat in a Hat felt a moment of regret for his friends but knew the salvation of him and his family was at stake. Cyclone Larry had swept through the central Queensland coast wreaking destruction in its path. The small village where Rat, the Teddies and B1 and B2 all lived happily, had been rent asunder by the fierce winds and thrashing rain.
Rat had burrowed deep underground where he had long ago discovered an existing network of forgotton drains and tunnels. There, he and his family had waited out the storm raging above ground.
The Bananas had fared less well as their thatched hut amongst the plantations had been blown away early and with no protection from the elements, the yellow skinned friends had tried desperately to cling to neighbouring vegetation. The ferocity of the cyclone however destroyed hectare upon hectare of the delicate fruit and it was during a sustained period of high wind that the Bananas were tossed from their hiding place and lost their lives.
Morgan had suspected early in the evening that the Bananas house would not survive the storm and had set out to locate his friends and urge them to safety. Alone in their basement, Lulu and Amy had clung to each other while the cyclone raged. Initially they clung in fear and slowly as the long night progressed their fear gave way to desperation when Morgan did not return.
Stirring long withheld feelings, the frenzy from without manifested itself into passion within and neither Lulu nor Amy were even aware that the cyclone had passed as they lay content in each others arms when the first light of morning broke.
Meanwhile, from his hiding place, Rat in a Hat scouted for fresh food and water that would ensure his immediate survival.
The Hat family nibbled on freshly peeled banana that their father had secured, unaware of its true origin.

Thursday, 23 March 2006


What makes watching something like the Commonwealth Games on a station like Channel 9 so frustrating is that our reasons for being there are at polar opposites to theirs. We see the opportunity to show off our city, watch sports and disciplines we don’t usually get to see, and cheer on the best the rest of the world [commonwealth] has to offer.
The television station has three objectives too. These are :
1) Win the weekly (and nightly) ratings, so that
2) those companies that have paid for air time get maximum exposure and so that
3) channel 9 can entice you with their new shows coming up after the games so that those same companies can continue to get maximum exposure of their product/service/message
No wonder there has been countless inches of press space complaining about the parochialism of the coverage, the constant flicking between events (and lots of swimming) and the indifference/ignorance/jingoism of the commentators.
Just on Darrell Eastlake (broadcasting the weight lifting), he strikes me as the stereotyped north-of-the-border rugby league footballer. Entertaining at the footy club barbecue where funny story after funny story are called for but not so sure if I’d want to be share a house with him. He does get excited though doesn’t he ?

What's On

While the CommGames draw to a close on Sunday night, “An exhibition of pride, unity and goodwill, to bring the 2006 Commonwealth Games to a close, hosted by Ray Martin,” Saturday night delivers a bevy of boobs (not to mention the ubiquitous True Lies on channel repeat), Eyes Wide Shut (9 Sat 11P) and Volaverunt (SBS Sat 945P) : don’t know much about this one but it does star P.Cruz as one of Goya’s models so if there’s no accounting for taste …
Get the video tape in for the kiddies on channel 7 over the weekend : The Barbie Diaries, Pocahontas, Mulan, Ice Age and Dr Dolittle 2.
And finally The Wall (9 Sun 12midnight) the synopsis described thus :
“A touching trio of stories inspired by three mementos left at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The first is "The Pencil Holder", the story of a strict father who is deeply changed when his young son befriends a dying soldier. The second is "The Badge", about a young man (Glover) who enlists, just as his father and Grandfather did before him. His grandmother gives him the badge, a family heirloom, for good luck. The final story is "The Player", in which a cynical soldier rethinks his ways after being paired with a comrade who has volunteered for three straight tours of duty.”

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Apart from the Games, you could watch this ...

Frustrated writers begin blogs and frustated tv stars do cooking shows : The Hairy Bikers Cookbook (SBS Fri 8P) is yet another variation on a tired theme. What’s the gimmick this time ? Fat ? done that; Kooky ? done that; Ethnic ? done that; Hairy ? we’ve found our niche boys !
Saturday night offers the best film viewing this week even if the offerings are not new. Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit-Proof Fence (7 Sat 830P) is excellent but it was only on last year and the Noyce double-act, this one from 1989, Dead Calm (9 Sat 11P) is likewise excellent (and it stars who-know-who) but not exactly recent.
Sunday night offers Hitchcock’s Dial M For Murder (9 Sun 11P) starring Grace Kelly with the next best, Shyamalan’s (Sixth Sense) Signs (7 Sun 830P) an okay set-up spooky horror that doesn’t quite deliver.
Above average French thriller He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (SBS Wed 10P) stars Audrey Tatou and keep tuning into SBS’ Thursday night ‘Fresh Australian Drama’ : next week The Glenmore Job, directed by Greg Williams who also won the best short at this year’s Tropfest.

Games telecast rant

What a disgrace channel 9’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony last night turned out to be. That horrid logo, no longer an out-of-the-way watermark in the bottom corner of the screen such as ABC and SBS insist on persisting with, is more prominent than ever and a distraction to the proceedings on screen. The advertisement breaks (3 in total) when there was no break in the ceremony demonstrating a lack of respect and out-and-out rudeness to the athletes marching in to the stadium and the countries they represent. And finally those patronising, ill informed, ignorant out-of-towners, Ray Martin and Liz Hayes, “commentating” the ceremony to “our” games : “haven’t they done it well … don’t they always do it well in Melbourne.” Finally, after returning from an ad. break Ray said to viewers : “and we thought you might like to see the athletes you missed entering the stadium,” as channel 9 showed edited highlights for a minute while they played catch-up. Like we had a choice when you took us to an ad. break ! Like we wouldn’t want to see the ceremony in full ? You horrible, horrible people. While no great of fan of channel 7, they are looking like the very saint of all things good by comparison with their telecasts of previous Games.

Friday, 10 March 2006

How Cool Is That ?

British satellite broadcaster BSkyB has filmed the opening sequence to the Simpsons with real people. Watch it via the Age website here.

In Cold Blood

Last night I took myself to see Capote at Balwyn’s Palace Cinema*. Firstly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, as previously blogged, of whom I am a fan, was as good as any other Best Actor I have seen (that doesn’t mean he was the best ever only that he was good and that the others were good too). Not being familiar with Truman Capote, the person, it is hard to judge whether Hoffman ‘nailed’ the character he was playing but beyond the opening minutes when you first hear Capote’s voice and see his effete mannerisms, I fully believed the character and didn’t feel as though I was watching a caricature.
Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee (author of To Kill A Mocking Bird) was a good foil for Capote by seeing through his every motive and foible but still loving him as a friend, as good friends do.
Clifton Collins Jr as one of the two murderers on death row (as Perry Smith) plays an erudite, thoughtful and talented young man of whom you are not sure if he could be capable of such horrific crimes as he has been found guilty of. It is Capote’s idea to write a whole new style of novel, the “non-fiction novel” that contrasts the “safe, protected country the Clutters knew [the victims] and the rootless, amoral country inhabited by
their killers.” As Smith says during the film, “I thought Mr Cutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat”.
The story is Capote’s however and it is told from his point of view. Capote was narcissistic and self-absorbed who manipulated those around him to get what he wanted (“Sometimes when I think how good [my book] could be, I can hardly breathe”). His use and misuse of Perry Smith is a case in point. Capote paid for legal counsel for the killers to obtain for them a stay of execution so that he had more time to write about the case and talk to Smith about his side of the story. As the case dragged on however Capote became more and more despondent. He couldn’t finish his novel until their case was resolved. When he cut his funding to their lawyers their fate was sealed and they were executed by hanging.
Capote shed tears for these men whom he had gotten to know well. I was unsure whether he was shedding tears for them and their imminent death or whether he was shedding tears for himself. You could see his health decline over the stress and delay of being unable to finish his novel. In the end it was a mixture of both and his guilt that ultimately destroyed him : he did not finish another novel after In Cold Blood despite living for another 20 years. One quote that closes out the movie (from one of his unfinished later novels) says in essence that getting an answer to prayer (in this context, that the accused die so that he could finish his novel satisfactorily) can be as damning as unanswered prayers.
The movie is a character study and Hoffman inhabits this character always knowing where his limits are and how he can play off other people. It is not until quite late in the film where you relive the killings (both the murders {of which there are four} and the hangings {of which there are two}) and they are a shock to the system. Suddenly the screen changes momentarily from the drab greys and browns of 1960’s rural America to splashes of blood red and the sound effects blast at us, shaking us from our indecision.
We are fascinated by Truman Capote in this picture although we do not sympathise with him. There are no tears shed by us at his funeral although we continue to linger on his style and charm and wit.

*Palace Cinema

Each year the Palace Cinema chain send me a free movie ticket for Christmas which is very kind of them and one that I am happy to oblige. Given my current lifestyle and responsibilities however it is not that easy to find the time to get to a cinema made harder by navigating your way through their ticket restrictions (not on Saturday evenings, not on public holidays, not No Free List movies etc) before their use by date. Last night I was there for the 6:30P session of Capote and found out it was still a No Free List film. The only movie that was showing around that time for which I was permitted to use my pass was Brokeback Mountain at 7:00P. Notwithstanding that I would like to see that movie at some stage, I took up my free option with a ticket for Brokeback and then at 6:30P, as intended, walked into the Capote screening. The cinema was barely half-full and the doorways not patrolled by officious staff. Their own cost saving measures (by employing less staff) meant they could not enforce a restriction that is plainly ridiculous in the first place. Either place No Free List on a movie in its first week only (Capote has been out for three weeks already and it is not a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings type of blockbuster) or do not put infantile restrictions on what is supposed to be a goodwill gesture. And don't be dictated to !

Thursday, 9 March 2006

Here's a funny thing

I have deliberately not turned my critical eye toward the GG or its contributors too often this year however a couple of things this week caught my eye.

Letters to the editor express a range of (albeit predictable) outrage ranging from radio mis-programming on ClassicFM or 774 ABC, the late running of Lost/DesperateHousewives/TheAmazingRace/CommanderInChief or the poor choice of conetestants on DancingWithTheStars (Molly Meldrum drew the most ire). Constance E Little from Eagle Point however has written in regarding a show that does not attract much attention and about a time shift that most others would not bat an eyelid to :
Many listeners are disappointed that the ABC has moved the 'Songs Of Praise' program from 11am to 1130am on Sunday. The new time is too close to lunch. We all need spiritual refreshment as well as body nourishment. Please return to 11 o'clock.

And finally, the picture of the Vega FM breakfast crew (Shaun Micallef et al) is the same picture that has been used twice already by the photo ed. at GG and was taken in the weeks before Vega went to air, in the middle of last year ! What do they take us for ? Regular watchers of Songs of Praise ?

This Week

Once again, kind and faithful readers, you have a chance to be in “on the ground floor” of a modern cultural bud, just coming into blossom. SBS Independent (SBSI) are gaining a well deserved reputation for co-financing new film making talent and their latest success story was nominated for Best Short Animated Film at the Academy Awards on the weekend (it didn’t win) : The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (SBS Fri 8P). SBSI also helped finance Oscar winner Harvey Krumpet two years ago also.
Jasper Morello which did win the AFI Award for best sort animation last year is the creation of former Swinburne Film School student, Anthony Lucas. Lucas has described Jasper Morello as the “ultimate Captain Nemo” story and it runs for 26 minutes.

The key television event of the week however is of course the opening ceremony to the Commonwealth Games (9 Wed 830P). Irrespective as to what you think of the games, my expectation of the opening ceremony is that it will do Melbourne, Victoria and Australia proud. After the coming of age experience at Sydney six years ago, we needn’t fear any cultural cringe and on the contrary we can look forward to celebrating everything that is good about this city and this international sporting carnival.

A book I've been reading

I have just finished reading "The Loop" by Nicholas Evans (he of "The Horse Whisperer" fame). I would give it 3 / 5 stars, enjoyable without being a modern masterpiece. This quote concerns the end of an old hunter, one of the lesser characters in the book. It creates some of the best imagery I have read where it concerns someone dying

He had dealt with death all his days and thus had little fear of it. And when at last it came, there was no clamor or fanfare of pain, nor any vengeful recitation of his sins.
Instead , in his reverie, he saw a baby’s face, by the light of a candle, staring at him. Perhaps it was the baby down at the house, though it seemed somehow different. Perhaps it was the child he and Winnie had never had.
Then, suddenly, the wolfer knew it was his own young self. And in that moment, the shadow of his unknown mother leaned toward the candle flame and gently blew it out.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

Highlight (singular)

Barely recovering from the horror that is Daryl Somers on the front cover of this week's GG comes the body blow that there is not much on the tube to raise the blood pressure this week. Perhaps given my choice of moniker (aka Kermit) I should consider the double billing on channel 10 (Sun 12noon) of Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppets from Space (the worst in the Muppet oeuvre).
Monday night is Oscar night and starts at 8pm and goes all night. I'm not kidding. Allllll night. For some sicko reason I actually get a small thrill watching even though I haven't seen most of the films nominated and am not likely too. Perhaps its the thought that if I had watched them all then my life would be different. I guess if I had, I wouldn't need to live out someone else's dream on Oscar night. Anyhoo - enough about me.
While I'm loathe to make predictions about films I haven't seen, the general consensus seems to be that in the best picture category, Brokeback Mountain is losing steam and Crash has picked up in favouritism for the award.
I am a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, favourite for best actor for his portrayal of Truman Capote in In Cold Blood. Hoffman has played a wide range of roles and I am yet to find a "bad patch". He plays social misfit in PT Anderson's Boogie Nights, rich party boy in The Talented Mr Ripley and has a memorable supporting role in Punch Drunk Love, to name just three roles. This film is at the top of my "to see" list - a win at the Oscar's should ensure I have another week or two yet to catch it in wide release.
Reese Witherspoon is regarded as a hands-down favourite to win best actress for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk The Line.
If anything grabs my attention from the night then I might add a comment. If you're kicking for something to do Monday afternoon, check back to see if there is an update !

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Bangkok Hilton

The good lady wife (GLW) and I watched the 1989 Kennedy-Miller mini-series Bangkok Hilton on DVD over the weekend.
Let’s get the initial prejudice out of the way early. Yes, the reason I have a copy of the DVD at home is because it stars Nicole. There. Let’s move on.
Kennedy-Miller were responsible for a number of well made dramas during this period – all telling Australian stories that were well received by local audiences and more than their fair share starring Hugo Weaving. Think Bodyline, Dirtwater Dynasty, Cowra Breakout, The Dismissal. They were also responsible for some landmark Australian films : Mad Max, The Year My Voice Broke, Babe and Dead Calm (out the same year as Bangkok Hilton and also starring Nicole. Yes I do have a copy of it. Yes I do think it [the film] is very good and Yes I do think Nicole is very good in it. Please, let’s move on).
Bangkok Hilton tells the story of a young Australian woman, Kat, who travels to England in search of her father whom she has never met, doesn’t find him but does glean a faint hope that he might be in Bangkok. She meets a sauve international photographer who woos her and they travel back to Australia together via Goa, India, the Indian “gold coast.” Their flight is routed via Bangkok and Kat takes the opportunity to look for her father during the stop over. Once again her attempts are not successful and she lines up to re-board her flight to Australia. It is here that the real drama kicks in as Kat is arrested by the Thai police for possession of 2kg of heroin planted in her case by her photographer “boyfriend” who disappears onto the areoplane with nary a backwards glance. The cad ! Kat is left to face the police alone who are not interested in excuses.
She is held in a notorious Bangkok prison which other Western prisoners have dubbed the ‘Bangkok Hilton’. Kat is charged with drug trafficking and faces the death penalty unless her lawyer can get her acquitted.
Not surprisingly Kat is played by Nicole and her ‘missing’ father is played by Denholm Elliot – by far the standout actor in the whole piece. Hugo Weaving sports a very 80’s buffant hair-do as Kat’s lawyer.
The series is broken up into three 1½ hour episodes and what I found most appealing was that the story did not get bogged down at any stage. For example, when telling Kat’s backstory in the first episode, the decades were skipped matter of factly in order to communicate the emotional highlights effectively but racing us to the emotional impact of the Thai prison.
Naturally to effectively fill in four and a half hours of drama there must be more than one story line and it is the interweaving that makes this a dramatic highlight. While the main story stays with Kat’s quest to find her father and her subsequent incarceration, it is her father’s redemption that is just as powerful. A scene late in the movie is only a little bit cliched and communicates the point effectively as two characters find each other in the dark. One seeking freedom from a bricks and mortar prison while the other seeking escape from an emotional prison locked in the past.
With many of our current news “events” coming from South East Asia concerning Australians involved in one illegal drug activity or another, this mini-series has a modern resonance that adds to this fictional story.
While I’m not as much a “TV” person as I am a “movie” person, Bangkok Hilton is as gripping and appealing a drama as any modern day, ABC, Sunday night production and comes highly recommended. The GLW loved it too !