Sunday, 30 July 2006

The Book of Revelation - MIFF06

Director Ana Kokkinos must have a thing for strong male characters facing a crisis. The theme of 1998’s Head On is identity and lead actor Alex Dimitriades, a second generation Greek immigrant, struggles with his nationality, sexuality and life purpose.
In 2006’s The Book of Revelation, shown on Saturday night at MIFF, Tom Long (Sea Change, The Dish) copes with putting his life back together after being sexually abused.
The opening scene of The Book of Revelation is that of Tom Long’s character, Daniel, walking serenely, confidently and not a little arrogantly toward his warm up place in the dance hall, in the last practice before that night’s opening of their ballet, of which he and his girlfriend, are leads. Dance director, Isobel (Greta Scacchi) says of Daniel, “I chose you to be the lead.” We know by his look, by his movement, by his demeanor that he is the alpha male : at the peak of his art, sexuality and company. As a portent of things to come, Isobel tells Daniel at the end of that practice, “I want you to dance it with less ego.”
Daniel goes in search of cigarettes and in a back alley, in the middle of the day, is abducted by three hooded women. He is not seen or heard of again for 12 days. When he is thrown from the back of a van into a vacant block, far from the city, Kokkinos laces the premise with some gentle humour. What would be the first thing a typical man would do after being kidnapped for 12 days ? He buys a beer of course.
The fact that Daniel has been kidnapped, chained and sexually abused is not actually the point of the film even though it sets the stage, provides a lot of the action and will no doubt generate most of the discussion. The message of the film, as stated above, is how does someone deal with abuse ?
The fact that it is a man being abused by women is done only to highlight the message rather than it being a likely or possible scenario per se. It forces us to consider how we would react were it us or how we would relate to someone to whom it has happened. Is abuse, in any form, acceptable ? Is a man somehow complicit in the abuse if he has an erection ?
Daniel, post event, is unable and unwilling to enunciate what has happened. He tries to make a statement to the police but the blokey aspect of what happened makes it impossible to explain with appropriate gravity. He loses his confidence and sense of self and is unable to resume his dancing. He is told to “get over it” and is actually blamed for having run away and evading his responsibilities. He pursues women whom he thinks might have been perpetrators, trying to locate tattoos or birthmarks that will link these women with the ones behind the cloaks.
He meets a woman, Julie, on a train who is kind to him, played by Deborah Mailman. The fact that she is aboriginal is deliberate I think because it is clear that she could not possibly have been one of three captors who were indisputably white. I have always thought Mailman is a great actor but never, I confess, found her to be particularly beautiful. In this role at this time however she radiates for the short time she has on screen. She has such a vivacious face and joyous spirit that I am sure that when this is contrasted with the hidden faces of the selfish manipulators, she is as welcome to us as she is to Daniel.
While Daniel’s relationship with Julie reinvigorates him for a time even to the extent of inspiring him back into the dance studio, it can only buoy him for so long. Unless the trauma of his recent past is dealt with then it will gnaw at him always. While at a club with Julie he sees a woman that could be the leader of the trio of abusers. He attacks her in a bid to uncover her identity. She turns out not to have been one of the three. He is locked in a police room, a cop who has become a mate sits by his side and asks him to tell his story “from the beginning.” The last scene, in contrast to the first, is a man about to begin his life again. A man for whom a life changing event has occurred who is broken and ashamed. His clothes are torn and his hair matted with blood. We’ve been on quite a journey during this film.

Thursday, 27 July 2006

28 days later, the return of the king

28 Days Later (Fri 7 1115P) is a post-apocalyptic zombie horror where a mutant virus (from rogue laboratory monkeys, where else ?) is released and the whole of England is wiped out. Oh well. As in all zombie flicks, a very few are not infected and they either do or do not hold out against the flesh starved, mindless hordes. Cillian Murphy stars (currently in Cannes Palme D’Or winner The Wind that Shakes the Barley screening at MIFF). Shot in digital it gives the film a tactile and gritty effect that helps to set the tone. As much action as horror, there are some genuinely adrenaline pumping moments, for example when our survivors are changing a tire in a tunnel in record time as the mutants close in on them. But most of the horror is in way the “heroes” are forced to survive : take for example the way the two women are treated in the army camp. And to demonstrate the cynicism (and humor) that Green Guide reviewer Doug Anderson uses to introduce this movie : “Viewers concerned that this might be a sequel to the woeful Sandra Bullock film 28 Days can relax. She’s not in it – unless she plays the mystery virus at the centre of the story.”
Spy Kids (Sat 9 730P), Yes, I know it’s a kids movie but an enjoyable film is an enjoyable film, regardless of its intended audience (take Shrek for example). Directed with good humour, great gadgets and a cohesive story, adults Anotonio Banderas, Carla Gugino and Cheech Marin enjoy their roles immensely. The (eponymous) kids Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara are appropriately cute without being cloying and capable without stretching to incredulity, take on arch villains Alan Cumming and Teri Hatcher. The alternative to this is The Santa Clause 2 (Sat 7 630P) or The Sound of Music (Sat 7 840P). Catch Me If You Can (Sat 9 930P) follows Spy Kids and is a fun romp with Leo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
Clearly for mine, Lord of the Rings : The Return of the King (Sun 7 830P) is movie of the week however how such a modern day epic would hold up with advertisement breaks and no surround sound makes me glad I have the DVD alternative. Epic in scope, dramatic in action (the siege at the city of Gondor surpasses the siege at Helm’s Deep in LOTR 2 which was itself a new benchmark in drama and action) and emotional in its telling I can’t speak highly enough of Peter Jackson’s amazing work. I am a huge fan of this man (and his amazing team of script writers, artists, modelers etc) who last year brought us King Kong. Elijah Wood really is an astonishingly good actor, here as Frodo, the number 1 hobbit of the story and is ably supported by a fine array of international talent : John Rhys-Davies, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Christopher Lee, Miranda Otto, Ian MacKellin and even this doesn’t do the cast list justice. If you haven’t seen it then you should and if you have then you should watch it again. Yes it helps if you are a fan of the books but that is not a prerequisite to enjoying the movie. To get the full effect, both of the story and of Jackson’s accomplishment, you should start at the start and hire out the three movies : Fellowship of the Ring (still my favourite of the three, closely followed by ROTK), The Two Towers and finally Return of the King. The conclusion does take about half an hour to wrap up and this is absolutely key to elevating this film from “very good” to “excellent”.
Jarmusch’s film on SBS this week is Mystery Train (Wed 10P) starring a whole lot of people I don’t know and over on Aunty, Picnic At Hanging Rock (Wed 2 1230A) is Peter Weir’s ethereal tale of innocence lost, beautifully shot by Russell Boyd as are Gheorghe Zamfir’s Pan flutes played.
A Hong Kong Jackie Chan original on Thursday night, The Protector (Thu SBS 1030P) rounds out the week.

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Melbourne International Film Festival

This week, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) kicks off and my first screening is Saturday night : The Book of Revelation. It is one of the more prominent Australian premieres at this year’s festival, in much the same way that Look Both Ways was for MIFF last year.
If you’re thinking you might like to come along to a MIFF screening or two over the next couple of weeks then let me know. I have booked in a dozen or so sessions for myself, many of them at key times (eg, Friday or Saturday nights) and would welcome your company.
Next week will be difficult to post a regular GG entry as I am taking next Tuesday and Wednesday off from work to attend 4 MIFF screenings during the day and will be hard pressed to keep up with my paid responsibilities on the Thursday let alone to post additional comments here. Having said that I hope to post my MIFF reflections as I go so there should be something at any rate !
To access the MIFF site (to review the program and book tickets) you can click on the link on the border of this page.

Thursday, 20 July 2006


Friend, keen GG follower, fellow-blogger and Mr Metal Theater himself, Lachlan, is getting married on Saturday. All the best big guy ! It will be another nice day for a white wedding.

The Interview with Jim Jarmusch

My highlight for this week is one of Formal’s favourites, The Interview (Sun 10 midnight) where most of the action takes place in a police interview room. Eddie Fleming (Hugo Weaving) has been hauled in for questioning by coppers (Tony Martin and Aaron Jeffrey) who are as corrupt and as fierce as the man opposite them. Tony Martin (starring currently in Candy) memorably emphasises the worst traits of his character with a nasally, sneering accent he employs throughout. High on dialogue, claustrophobic in its exchange and compelling in its tension where you’re never sure who is playing whom. Directed by Craig Monahan who’s only other film credit is 2004’s Peaches which also starred Weaving alongside Jacqui McKenzie.
High Society (9 Sat 130P) 1956 musical classic starring Grace Kelly in her last film role (before becoming real life Princess of Monaco), Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Cole Porter’s music is a standout as is Louis Armstrong’s playing. “Kelly looks flawless in every scene.”
Wednesday night is the start of the Jim Jarmusch retrospective widely advertised by SBS during the World Cup. Down By Law (Wed SBS 10P) stars Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni. RT likes it, and famous US critic Roger Ebert describes it thus : “[It] is a movie about cheap whiskey and black coffee, all-night drunks and lost jobs, and the bad times you can have with good-time girls. It tells the story of a pimp, an unemployed disc jockey and a bewildered Italian tourist and how they escape from jail and wind up slogging through the Louisiana bayous looking for a decent place to have breakfast.”
I have only seen two Jarmusch films (last year’s Broken Flowers and his penultimate Coffee and Cigarettes) and so do not claim to know much about him or his films. They are hard work though. I expect that there will be jokes, but it won’t be a comedy; you might despair, but the characters haven’t quite given up hope; the storylines will be serious, but don’t expect a straightforward narrative. It is easy to summarise them as “original.” Even an eminently watchable film (like Broken Flowers) with a great cast (Bill Murray, Sharon Stone, Julie Delpy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton) did not make the film any easier to understand. There can be no mistake that a Jarmusch film is a Jarmusch film. Whatever that means.
So with an air of tolerance, an open and inquisitive mind I will watch the Jarmusch collective on SBS over the next month and try to form some meaning and cohesiveness. Join me in the journey and post your comments.
Other Jarmusch films to come on SBS : Mystery Train, Night on Earth and Dead Man.

TV Tasty Travels with Jennifer Hawkins

TV Tasty Knows
Well, it's now later so more about Travel show presenters.
There is definitely a change in the air. TV Tasty has received word that even Mr. Ernest Dingo squeezed into a pair of lolly bags to wallow in the blue water whilst showcasing a recent island resort segment. It appears they are spreading the togs around, if only perhaps to take the edge off the usual offerings from Mrs ex-Packer Jodie, advertising her wares (AND swimsuit design company). It certainly can't be the barrel torsos of the male hosts that are the attraction.
But let's look at the presenter as a species.
They are perky, desperate to identify with the viewer and share the experience, almost always gushing and over the top about the location (THE most amazing ever), often too sparse with real info, never critical of the freebie accommodation, rarely budget travelling in luxurious locations (this is saved for African safari "experiences") and they usually provide a quirky fact or two just to pretend they were there long enough to unearth heaps of other interesting facts. And they're usually young things too. And there's a vast array of chicks, which would include the frizzy red head from A Country Practice (who always leaves TV Tasty cold), but usually in the Catriona Rowntree mould, who frankly is getting very tiring with her patronising sing song voice, and understandably, we have all worked out her particular travel tastes.
Curiously however, Ernie Dingo hosted the Great Outdoors for years, and TV Tasty can't understand why. His cutesy, "I'm a bumbling big kid" schtick was beneath him and gave the viewers nothing, appearing to be aimed at entertaining 6 years olds. He is far better with his thoughts now as a segment presenter, showing us his own personal travel style, and appears to have dropped his mugging approach. Perhaps there has been a missed opportunity for Ernie to be a mould breaker as host.
Other mould breakers would include Ben Dark (when he started, though now emphasises goofy aussie thickhead), Laura Csortan (a more down to earth, sporty presenter and TV Tasty admires her back tat), Sorrell Wilby (who was easily the most experienced traveller with an authentic wide range experience, offering very different insights accordingly), and David Reyne (who doesn't get too carried away with locations, presented a verbal barrage of alliteration to keep himself amused, and had a slightly sneery style now being further developed on morning tv - but more of that later). And a relative new comer in Daddo #26, Cameron, who is actually someone you could have a laugh with on a holiday.
Just before signing off for this week, some travel TV magic occurred recently when Jen-red G Hawkins went swimming with the sharks off South Africa. Through the audio, TV Tasty heard a VERY authentic and blood curdling scream of terror, with some later footage and audio of a very unnerved presenter underwater in a cage while great white pointers (no jokes please) came open mouthed at the mesh. On surfacing, the range of emotions were not left on the editing room floor, and I think this story will have attracted a lot of admirers for the personality, as well as the derrière. A more authentic travel experience for the viewers was the winner.

TV Tasty Knows Top 3:
Mike and Mal Leyland - Doyens!
Cameron Daddo - you can just relate to him
David Reyne - gush free

TV Tasty Knows Pick of The Week
Top Gear (Mon SBS 730P)
Covers the wonderful work of motor cars. This series has got a little blokey (last week they had the new sports Land Rover trying to out run a British tank over rough terrain) but hopefully they will still do the quirky stuff from last year, like the race between the presenters to see what will get you from France to Belgium quicker - a Ferrari or public transport. (Answer available on request - TV Tasty Knows.)

TV Tasty Knows Special Comment
Very best wishes for Saturday Lachlan.
(Yes, TV Tasty Knows)

Thursday, 13 July 2006


We have a special treat for readers this week. Mr Rabelwatch himself gives his personal highlight and reflection on the World Cup, just concluded - ed. GGBlog
My personal highlight of the World Cup was Stephanie Brantz. She can read the sport report to me any night of the week.
With respect to the Socceroos, naturally I was absolutely devastated at their exit however I felt as though they progressed as far as they were going to progress. I do not believe that they were as unlucky as has been widely reported. We missed Mr Kewell terribly because he was the only one who could have unlocked the Italian defence. We never looked like knocking off ten men without him. With respect to the penalty seconds before the end of the match, the Italians did what anyone else in the competition would have done in that situation and taken a dive. That’s life.


Very occasionally one of the movie reviewers in the Green Guide will write with an insight and passion about their topic that does them credit. This week’s review by Craig Mathieson about Memento (Fri 7 1130P) is one such case. Instead of creating something in my own copy-cat words, I will quote extensively from his piece :

Compulsively intricate but also deeply affecting, Christopher Nolan’s Memento is a post-millennial movie that attempts to subvert a linear narrative as a way of reflecting the protagonist’s unease with their reality. Like the film’s central character, Leonard (Guy Pearce), Memento traffics in self-justifying denial. A former insurance investigator, Leonard’s short-term memory stopped functioning on the day his wife was murdered. He has to continually orient himself – introducing himself to people he has met, figuring out where he is, and even when he finds himself running down an alley, whether he’s chasing someone or they’re chasing him.
“You really need a system if you’re going to make it work,” notes Leonard, who gets by on bravado and a belief in incontrovertible facts : the most important of which – such as “Find him and kill him,” a reference to his wife’s executioner – are tattooed on his body. But systems can be corrupted and Leonard doesn’t know if acquaintances such as Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and Natalie (Carrie-Ann Moss) are helping him or channelling his desire for revenge to their own purpose.
The picture is run in reverse, each scene is followed by the one that chronologically preceded it, giving you the same information as Leonard has : ie, none. But the mechanics of the plot are merely the surface layer. For all his certainty, Leonard’s long-term memory may also be impaired, suggesting he’s willing to subconsciously deceive himself just as others deceive him.
Memento is, more than anything, a tragedy. It marks the point where Leonard accepts his fate, deciding that if he is nothing more than a weapon, a fire-and-forget mechanism, that he may as well choose his own targets.

Guy Pearce again

The Count of Monte Cristo (Fri 7 845P) precedes Memento and also stars Guy Pearce. Based on Alexandre Dumas’ wonderful story of wrongful imprisonment and revenge, this movie version is pure excrement. Save yourself the bother, head to the library, and spend the time reading the first few chapters. You will be hooked.
Legally Blonde (Sat 7 830P) is better than most films of this genre but that doesn’t make it good. Starring Reese Witherspoon (who in truth I really can’t help but like) as the ditzy blonde who’s really intelligent underneath.
Rush Hour (Sat 9 10P) is (another) buddy cop movie between Chris Rock and Jackie Chan. Has its charming moments with the action breezing along quite amicably.
While more at home at the Palace Cinema, Balwyn during a Wednesday matinee session, Calendar Girls (Sun 7 830P) received above average reviews when it was released and stars experienced British faithfuls, Helen Mirren, Julie Walters and Linda Bassett. Something you could happily watch with the good lady wife as date movie of the week.
Bowling for Columbine (Sun 7 1045P) is another of Michael Moore’s rages against the machine, this time taking aim at America’s constitutional right to bear arms and the violence that comes from it. Above average doco with more hits than misses.
And for those that saw Ten Canoes at the Nova with me a couple of weeks ago (or have it on their short list), director Rolf De Heer narrates a doco about the making of Ten Canoes (Thu SBS 830P). “It is a compelling narrative (and not the usual Hollywood blockbuster study in sycophancy) which manages to stand up on its own, rather than as a companion piece.” Ten Canoes was an engaging film, the first completely shot in an Aboriginal language and I’m sure this doco will only add to that experience. The film was co-written with the local people, starred only those from their community and was sensitive to their cultural requests : for example, casting was determined by who accorded with the proper kinship ties rather than looks or ability.

TV Tasty Travel

Tasty TV Knows
As you'll recall, TV Tasty Knows' recent examination of Quiz shows was interrupted by an important development in another tube genre, the Travel show.
It is to this that TV Tasty Knows returns this week (if you can't keep up, ride a bike).
Travel shows are perennial, formulaic, rarely experimental and well juiced with hyperbole. The highlight offerings are usually the specials, featuring the "best of" category destinations. The superb camera work is often underrated and taken for granted, as there is much talent in getting the right shot, capturing the sunset, composing artistically and visually communicating the destination flavour within the limited production timelines.
The hosts too are a key element of the destination experience (but more of that later).
Unfortunately the information is the weakest part of these shows. Not at all what it should be for a travel show, even for the more escapist ones. Usually the information is lost at the expense of an over-emphasis on the presenter of the story (but more of that later).
We also often get the "same old destinations" (we KNOW the Greek islands look spectacular, can we move on now?), with the usual array of perky presenters, each just a bit different but usually not too much different (but more of that later - don't you listen?). At least there is the fun of guessing the trip costs at the end though.
The main features are the pretty pictures in your lounge room through the cold winter nights and a thumbnail sketch to hold your curiosity.
And speaking of main features, based on the last four year trend (TV Tasty knows) and the promos, they don't call Getaway, "Get'em Out", for nothing : Cue underwater swimsuit shot, emerging from pool shot, getting a massage shot, relaxing in a singlet-top shot (but more of that later).
And lest we forget the ones that started it all, "Bill Peach's Australia", and more importantly, "The Leyland Brothers". What Mike and Mal could have done had they gone overseas is a simple joy to ponder. Readers suggestions on places they would like to see Mike and Mal reporting from would be welcome.

TV Tasty top 3 travel shows are:
Lonely Planet
And Coxy's Big Break?...................thanks for trying big man.

TV Tasty Knows Pick of the week
I say again for the slow learners: Planet Earth : From pole to pole (Sun 2 730P)

Monday, 10 July 2006

Tasty Quiz Shows (Part 2)

TV Tasty Knows
Before TV Tasty Knows was so rudely interrupted by the startling revelation of seeing a MALE presenter in a travel story involving swimming underwater, TV Tasty Knows was poised to deliver Quiz Shows Part 2.......
And TV Tasty Knows MEANS quiz shows.
We're not talking about games shows, such as the highly acclaimed Family Feud (Tony Barber and Rob Brough eras the standouts) which had so many classic elements that some phrases have entered the lexicon. Nor are we talking about "Who wants to be a Mill-yonair (honk-honk try again) - sure there are questions, but the whole drawn-out milk-it-till-the-cow-falls-over affair is more game show than quiz show. TV Tasty Knows says "Once they have movable spots in the studio lighting grid you can be sure it's a game show." We are talking QUIZ shows, and TV Tasty's Top Picks are:

Sale of the Century - the game for everyone. It takes an ad break to learn and a lifetime to master

Mastermind - pure unadulterated quizzing

Spick and Specks - for sheer innovation and clean fun, and real trivia (though Richard Stubbs had a similar crack 10 years ago)

We can discuss games shows another day......

TV Tasty Knows Pick Of The Week:

Planet Earth : From Pole to Pole (2 Sun 730P)
If you have never seen a great white shark take-out a seal on the fly (and I know you haven't) you will watch this series

Thursday, 6 July 2006

Capt'n Jack Sparrow arghhhh

Firstly, apologies for not corresponding with you via our usual electronic means, particular family events have prevented my attendance at that particular computer terminal. Any communications or comments to me will be updated on the morrow.
Sunday is the only day to create any cinematic interest on the TV screen in this otherwise barren week [the absolute highlight of the week if truth be told is the MIFF {Melbourne International Film Festival} program guide, free in tomorrow's Age. My ticket to the festival arrived in the mail this week.]
Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl (7 830P) is a fun enough romp and while it does get a bit boring towards the end, Johnny Depp’s performance as Capt’n Jack Sparrow is the main reason to watch. Orlando Bloom continues to raise questions about his talent to act and Keira Knightley has her moments. Sitting through countless advertisements of POTC 2 (released shortly) will be almost as painful as actually sitting through POTC 2 itself I expect.
Conan the Barbarian (7 1130P) stars the Governator in his earliest role. If you ever (ever) thought that Arnie could act then this should sort you out.
Kramer Vs Kramer (10 midday) on the one hand a schmaltzy fish out of water tele-drama and on the other a finely acted drama exploring the impact on a child as his parents separate and then fight for custody. This won Oscars for best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actor (Dustin Hoffman) and best actress in a supporting role (Meryl Streep).
As a Sunday exception, The Deep End (Tue 7 midday) has good reviews for the often excellent Tilda Swinton even though I have not seen this myself; RT has it listed at 82%.
In World Cup action, we’re down to the final weekend. And while I have suffered from World Cup fatigue and been grateful for the rest days of the past couple of weeks, the final two games are between teams that are well matched and should continue to produce excellent football. Sunday morning (5A) is the third place play-off between Germany and Portugal. Monday morning (4A) is the final between Italy and France. You would be game to pick a winner but enjoy !