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.

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

Short docos - MIFF06

On Wednesday at MIFF I attended two screenings during the day and was glad to make them at all! While power-napping on trains is not an infrequent occurrence for yours truly, ordinarily it is on the way home from the city and I am so familiar with the number of stops that I have always been awake by the time the train approaches mine. I won’t deny that there have been some close shaves but I have never yet failed to get off at the right time. This time, heading into the city on a stopping all stations train (usually I catch one that runs express) I drifted off to a deeper than usual nap (okay, make that a sleep then) and awoke just as the train was leaving Flinders Street, on its way back out to Richmond. Not only had I missed getting off when the train stopped, it had docked for some time and was heading back the way I came. Oh well. I made it back into the city safely and was only 5 or so minutes late from the start. Thankfully the Forum Theatre is only a short distance from Flinders Street station.
Bye Bye Berlusconi! is an Italian faux-documentary (a mockumentary if you will) and a film-within-a-film. The documentary is about a group of actors who oppose (now former) Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi and make a film satirising the re-election attempt of their country’s leader. The terrorist cell in their film kidnap Berlusconi (played by actor Maurizio Antonini who really does look like Berlusconi and does a great job of being outraged) and then try him by popular opinion on the internet (he gets 90 years). A great line occurs after the terrorist playing defence counsel “dies” from choking on an apple, the judge tells Berlusconi that he can represent himself now, “it was good enough for Milosevic,” thereby equating the democratically elected prime minister with the Yugoslav fascist dictator.
This was an amusing tale that says as much about free speech as it does about the film-makers politics. There was obviously a high proportion of Italians in the audience who understood the subtlety of Berlusconi and Italian politics because they laughed a whole lot more than I did during the film, and not just because I missed the set-up of the first five minutes !

The second screening was the most fascinating : a collection of 8 documentary shorts ranging in time from 7 minutes up to 26 minutes. Two in particular were worthy of note. The first, Spitfire 944, told the tale of an American man who, upon his grandfather’s death, came across a treasure trove of WW2 16mm film footage shot by his grandfather while he served in the American air force as chief surgeon.
The filmmaker transferred the 16mm film to modern digital format with the most startling piece of footage in the collection, the crash landing of a Spitfire in an English paddock followed by a young pilot with a very sheepish and relieved look on his face. The documentarian tracked down this pilot by cross-referencing the plane number with military records and then asked the man, now 83 years old, if he would assist them in the documentary they were making. The old service-man gave them some background to some of their questions before they showed him the footage of the plane crash which up until that moment he did not realise that they had. He flew Spitfires over many German cities, including Berlin, with cameras fixed in place of guns as an early form of reconnaissance. One half of the screen showed him while the other half of the screen showed the footage he was watching. This man was suddenly transported back beyond 60 years. “There’s Jack. That’s Tom. This plane is a such-and-such.” He was then dumbstruck as he recognised his plane coming to land and watching it bounce off the turf with no landing gear down. As the documentary ended the old man was told that he could keep the DVD of this footage from another time and place so that he could show his kids. He said that they had heard the stories often enough but to actually be able to show it to them was more amazing than he could hope to believe. The power and emotion of the experience makes for potent cinema.
The other documentary, Veiled Ambition, was of a Melbourne, Muslim woman, Frida, a second generation Australian from Lebanese born parents, married to Sydney based builder, Albert. Frida is a driven, articulate young woman who wins some money in a radio contest and sets up her own shop in Sydney Road, Coburg with high ambitions of opening a chain of fashion shops around Australia. Her passion in particular is to provide fashionable dress options for Muslim women who, like her, wear the head scarf and maintain traditional Muslim customs. When her shop struggles after 6 months, she goes more mainstream, importing evening gowns from overseas and it is here that her business takes off. The appeal of this film is clearly the main character, Frida who is such a strong personality and credit must go to her husband Albert who, despite living in a different city and clearly wanting Frida to move up with him, still wants her to succeed on her own terms. The film more than touches on the racial and religious themes of Lebanese Muslims living in Australia with some perspectives from her mother and her parents in law too.
It does not matter whether the film type is documentary, fiction, animation, whatever. If the story is compelling and the characters real, then film has the power to relate, inspire and transform.