Thursday, 13 December 2007

The Emperor - GG

The Emperor and the Assassin (SBS Wed midnight) is an earlier (1998) Chinese epic in the spirit of Hero or House of the Golden Flower. Directed by Kaige Chen whose other key credit is Farewell My Concubine, not only mines the great and rich history of tribal China, but perhaps “tells the world that China should not be ignored, and indeed feared. The narrative is gripping, the performances large and the action scenes filled with more extras than can be imagined.”

And with that rather meagre offering in this week’s bottle green newspaper, now is a good time to walk away from 2007. Many thanks for your readership, I hope you have found the posts interesting. I have covered as many weekly GG spots as time and quality has allowed; added a goodly number of movie reviews (of sorts); some personal reflections; blow by blow accounts of the hapless Eastern Rovers; and a few gags as well. I will ponder the off season for a new gimmick and speak to you all in the new year. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

3rd Annual GG Awards - Winners

Thank you one and all for your nominations for the 2007 GG Awards.

The nominations for the 2007 GG TV Award are :

* American Dad

* Chasers War on Everything

* Extras, series 2

* Family Guy

* Futurama

* The Mighty Boosh

* Sad Love Story – a Korean mini-series, “I howled all the way through it”

* Sopranos – final season "The last couple of seasons were patchier, than those that preceded, but there was quality still. The final season this year reminded us in the closing that this has been one of the best dramas ever produced for the small screen."

* Sopranos – final season (yes, it was nominated twice, must have been good! – Ed.)



The nominations for the 2007 GG Movie Award :

# The Sea Inside (Spanish drama), honorable mention : Black Sheep, NZ horror comedy

# Hot Fuzz, British comedy, from makers of Shaun of the Dead

# Blood Diamond, “it will challenge your thinking about the diamond trade”

# The Lives of Others, German, winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Film

Independently witnessed, said monkeys (one’s children will do anything for their father’s attention) pulled one nomination from a bag-like-barrel for the winners for the 2007 GG Awards. And the winners are …

2007 GG TV Award : Futurama

2007 GG Movie Award : The Sea Inside

Ghost Dog - Jarmusch

You will need to have gained some semblance of my thematic response to the Jarmusch films I watched in succession last year, for this post to make the most sense.
I recently watched Jarmusch’s 1999 film, Ghost Dog : The Way of the Samurai and was intrigued at how it fitted into the Jarmusch canon … and how it differed.
Only with the benefit of some hindsight do I wonder if most (or all) of Jarmusch’s films are meditations on death, or life. Certainly Ghost Dog, and its predecessor, Dead Man, most obviously are.
Ghost Dog is Forest Whitaker as a hit man who follows the code of the samurai, that is, one who meditates on death, daily, amongst a great many other things we learn from extracts of his book, Hagakure : The Way of the Samurai. He is at heart a peaceful and thoughtful soul whose code of behaviour is one of respect toward his master and humility toward others.
Certainly the film fits Jarmusch’s broad pattern of a man on a journey, in this case, dispensing death with an array of high tech gadgets and pistols, as he steps inevitably toward his own death.
His French speaking, ice-cream selling Haitian friend, Raymond (Isaac De Bankole), is the “comic relief” that is very reminiscent of Roberto Benigni’s Italian babbling taxi driver in Night On Earth. It is Jarmusch’s own preference (and sense of humour?) to use the same actors and music in many of his films creating a sometimes surreal overlap that makes you wonder if he doesn’t see all his films as just one big one. De Bankole was the Parisian taxi driver in Night on Earth.
RZA (in Coffee & Cigarettes) supplies the music in Ghost Dog; Gary Farmer has a walk-on, walk-off role in Ghost Dog which reprises his character, Indian guide Nobody, from Dead Man (never mind the different city, different era … that’s just detail) in which he utters his famous line, “Stupid white man;” along with the stylistic closing and opening of chapters via a black out, in this case with the next extract from Hagakure as an interlude.
Ghost Dog is by far the most “mainstream” of Jarmusch’s films. It is almost a revenge/action type film and the meditative silences are not as long (and drawn out) as some of his other films. Personally, I still rate Dead Man as my favourite of his however this would easily come in second.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

3rd Annual GG Awards - Reminder

Nomination entries for the 3rd Annual GG Awards close tomorrow (Friday 7/12) so if you have not contributed, now is your chance to do so !


We require nominations for :

2007 GG Movie Award

2007 GG TV Award

Please email them directly to myself, here

Thankyou to those faithful readers who have done so already. {Formal Neil, we are waiting for you!}

Winners will be posted next week along with the final GG for 2007.

American Psycho - GG

A modern take on the Western condition or a gratuitous hack and slash film ? American Psycho (10 Sat midnight) stars Christian Bale as the mentally flawed, physically perfect Patrick Bateman, driven to destroy those around him. Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name, the “Wall Street excesses of the 1980s were just the beginning and the legion of wealthy young traders were interchangeable designer drones, with anti-hero Bateman distinguished only by his capacity for brutal depravity.”

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Pledge - GG

Bad Santa (9 Sat 1030P) is the kind of irreverent and inappropriate send up of Christmas movies that should make it very funny indeed. Billy Bob Thornton plays the main man. This is preceded by Elf (9 Sat 830P) which is more of a child’s movie although the gangling and vacuous Will Ferrell makes the most of his oversized, fish-out-of-water, elf.
Sean Penn’s latest film in the cinemas, Into The Wild, is generating a lot of critical interest, and, not knowing much about his directorial style, will watch The Pledge (9 Sun 1030P) with interest. I expect there will be ‘intensity,’ something for which Penn himself is famous, and this may or may not be good thing !
Breaking News (SBS Mon 11P), is from my favourite Hong Kong action director, Johnny To (Election). This one has the police tracking down a gang of thieves, meanwhile dealing with its public credibility. Expect an above average action film from the HK-triad genre.
Don’t forget the AFI Awards (9 Thu 930P) and for those desperate for every nuance, the Euro 2008 Final Draw (sans England) is being telecast (SBS Sun 1040P).

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

3rd Annual GG Awards

Its Award season again and your chance to nominate entries to the 3rd Annual GG Awards !!

Please send via email (click here), your nominations in the following catergories :

2007 GG Movie Award

2007 GG TV Award

Simply put, anything that you have seen this year (whether a movie or a TV show) can be nominated. Nominations close next Friday 7th December whereupon a monkey will pick the winner out of a barrel.


disclaimer:no monkey or barrel will be hurt in the making of this statement.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Top 12 - 3,2,1

My Top 12 movies of the 2000s builds to an exciting climax.

#3 Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) Dir Q Tarantino (US)
Known for his rapid fire dialogue in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, writer/director Quentin Tarantino demonstrated his flair for style in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Originally conceived as one movie, the Weinsteins felt that for length reasons, it be split into two parts (and no doubt the lure of double box office takings). Ostensibly a revenge tale by the Bride (Uma Thurman) to kill Bill (David Carradine), her former lover and mentor, it was a vehicle for Tarantino to lovingly embellish the best of the Hong Kong martial arts films he enjoyed as a youth. While Vol. 2 is more traditional in its structure, including the Bride’s back story, it is in Vol. 1 that Tarantino can cut loose with his wild sword fights, excessive blood spurting from severed limbs, an energised soundtrack, including a live performance by The 5, 6, 7, 8’s and dynamic change ups in presentation, from colour to black & white, anime and silhouettes. Kill Bill Vol. 1 is an exercise in exhilarating style.

#2 Lord of the Rings – Return of the King (2003) Dir P Jackson (NZ/US)
It would seem that the best battle sequence in movie history was to last only one year. When Return of the King was released, one year after its prequel, The Two Towers, the best battle sequence was passed by the best battle sequence ever! The attack by the foul fiends of Mordor on the city of Gondor is compelling for its ability to reveal the large picture without losing sight of the individual stories we have invested so much time in. The heart of the film is Frodo and Sam who stagger up the steep incline of Mt Doom to destroy the One Ring in its fiery pits. It is their total devotion to each other, and indeed the selfless goodness of the allies in their fight to “save the world” that make this so much more than just a dumb, special effects laden action movie. And after travelling this epic journey over three films and 10 hours, the ending which runs for over 20 minutes, gives us sufficient time to say goodbye as our timeless heroes take the boat to the Grey Havens.

#1 Lord of the Rings – Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Dir P Jackson (NZ/US)
This is a road movie of sorts where our heroes commence a journey unawares of what lies ahead and what toll it will take. They meet fantastic beasts and pass through unimagined lands. The Fellowship is a collection of nine including humans, a wizard, an elf, a dwarf and hobbits. Their mission is to take the One Ring to Mordor and destroy it. Unlike the subsequent two films that necessarily take on a darker tone, the Fellowship is full of wonder, mystery and innocence. The friends are bound together by their mission with each dark turn of events binding their dependence and loyalty tighter.

MOvember - end of month

So, the MO had to go. Allergies mid-month put paid to a hairy lip as one less thing to aggravate and worry about. Never mind. We at least made it half way and upset the GLW (Good Lady Wife) immensely.
You are welcome to make a donation toward the issue of men's health, if you wish

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Ghost Dog and Galaxy - GG

Its almost too hard to go past Wombling Free (ABC 430A Wed night/Thu morning), the 1977 “live action” feature of the Wombles of Wimbledon (“...Common are we”) who “pick up the things that we find.” Too many nostalgia memories I’m afraid. I don’t pretend for a minute it would be any good !
Lame-o comedy Christmas with the Kranks (9 Mon 830P) seems to be the most recent offering to make it to free-to-air TV (could explain why its on a Monday night), with Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen. Slightly less lame-o, but still pretty lame, and not as good as its predecessor (Get Shorty), Be Cool (9 Fri 830P) with John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Vince Vaughan. I won’t be rushing.
One of the very few Jarmusch films not on the Teev last year was Ghost Dog : The Way of the Samurai (SBS Wed 1030P), starring Forest Whitaker. Will watch to round out my education. Expect a thoughtful movie that follows the journey of its characters. Don’t expect it to be about you, the viewer ! Jarmusch has been getting better the longer he is in the business. My personal fave of his is Dead Man (1995) and Ghost Dog followed in 1999.
The other highlight of the week is the A-League Club Challenge (10 Tue 830P) between Sydney FC and uber-celebrity David Beckham (oh, and his new football team, LA Galaxy) at Telstra Stadium in Sydney. Is the Becks playing SR ? No doubt he will be on Rove on Sunday, if he his in Australia.

Top 12 : 6, 5, 4

#6 Amelie (2001) Dir J-P Jeunet (France)
Released at the Toronto film festival, days before 9/11, this super-saturated, whimsical French romantic comedy took audiences away from the fear and drama of the real world and made it an international hit. Audrey Tatou stars as Amelie and her elfin looks gives her character the slightly mischievous and naïve traits needed to pull off the role. Unlucky in love, Amelie tries to play Cupid to those around her, and in the process finds the man of her dreams, a photo booth repair man. As with other Jean-Pierre Jeunet films (Delicatessan, City of Lost Children), he delights in the off beat and eccentric while delivering warm and funny stories.

#5 Shrek (2001) Dir A Adamson (US)
The giant green ogre, voiced by Mike Myers, is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the early computer animated features. As with the early Disney’s (Snow White, Pinocchio) this “new” medium was full of imagination and verve and the colour and humour promised something that a “real life” drama can’t deliver. Pixar are unlucky not to be included here as their golden run of Toy Story, Monster’s Inc. and Finding Nemo all presented through the mid 90s raised the bar on what to expect from “children’s” entertainment. But it was Dreamworks’ Shrek that married the elements of animated absurdity, “mum & dad jokes,” well rounded characterisations and a credible storyline, the best. Suffice to say they haven’t got close with Shrek II or III. The production values are first rate and Eddie Murphy (as the Donkey) and Cameron Diaz (as the Princess) give great supporting performances.
Japanese great, Hayao Miyazaki, likewise should mentioned for his artistry in continuing to produce hand drawn, animated features, the pinnacle of which was Spirited Away in 2001.

#4 Lost in Translation (2003) Dir S Coppola (US)
So what does Bill Murray’s Bob Harris whisper to Scarlet Johansson’s Charlotte ? If you think it matters then you have probably missed the point of the whole movie. So what is the point ? Bob is a fading film star, promoting whiskey in Tokyo for a vast sum of money, further isolating himself from his wife, back home in the US, and forgetting his son’s birthday. Charlotte has been married two years, has finished University and doesn’t know what to do with the rest of her life. Her husband is a celebrity photographer and is off on assignment in Japan. The setting of Japan is a convenient means to demonstrate their isolation. Neither character speaks or understands Japanese and so all of the other ‘noise’ in the picture is incomprehensible to us and them. Of course both characters would be equally lost were the film set in New York or Sydney, but those settings would have distracted us from the core of the movie. Bob and Charlotte strike up an unlikely friendship during their stay at the Tokyo Sheraton and this leads to the sharing of their lives where they feel that life is passing them by. Despite some of the more obvious set-ups for Murray to perform his “comedy,” such as the TV show appearance or the “Rat Pack” photo shoot, it is when Murray sings Roxy Music’s “More Than This” at a karaoke bar, does he deliver an awkward moment of self realisation.
Johansson plays her character with the right mix of maturity and playfulness. Writer and director Sophia Coppola won the equivalent of the Oscar’s encouragement award for Best Original Screenplay as the two characters contemplate the changes that lie ahead in their lives.
Bob’s whisper at the end of the film allows viewers to apply their own closure while the characters themselves step tentatively forward to address the next phase in their lives.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Florence Broadhurst - GG

Red Eye (7 Sun 830P) might be okay for a Hollywood thriller, directed by Wes Craven. Stars Cillian Murphy who seems to play his fair share of psychopaths (Jackson Rippner anyone?), and pretty well too. He has Rachel McAdams in his sights and by all accounts the last third has good tension but the first two-thirds are ordinary.
Over on SBS, Unfolding Florence : The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst (Sun 9P) is Gillian Armstrong’s biographical documentary on a larger than life character. The feature is a mix of animation, reconstruction and interview to explore the truth of “an enigmatic eccentric”. Through the 1920’s Broadhurst was a singer and dress maker and engaged in “creative self-description” to talk and act her way up through Sydney’s social circles to finally become a much sought after wallpaper designer later in life. Her mysterious and violent death in 1977 remains a mystery. A preview article from today’s GG here.
And in what seems a rare event these days, an Australian soccer game on SBS. An Olympic qualifier between Australia and Iraq (SBS Sat 1015P) from Gosford - good to know we're not getting it live. Olympic matchs are mostly U23 so will not be the full gamut of Socceroos.

MOvember - mid month


Well, not as impressive as some of my workmates with European heritage, and in truth, am struggling against my fellow Anglo compadres. However, I am what I am.
Despite MOvember being all about having a good old fashioned laugh at ourselves, money is also being raised for men's health : prostate cancer research etc.
You can donate on-line via our work team's link. (Don't be alarmed. I haven't had an identity crisis and changed my name. Michelle Sostaric is team captain!)

Top 12 : 9,8,7

A continuing countdown list of my top 12 favourites from the 2000s.

#9 Lady Vengeance (2005) Dir Park Chan-wook (Korea)
Originally reviewed post film festival in 2006, Chan-wook is one of a small band of Korean director’s keen to push the boundaries of mainstream Korean cinema by presenting stories and images that contrast in every way to the conservative, “soapy” staple that is the Korean mainstream. Lady Vengeance is Chan-wook’s third piece in his revenge trilogy that explores the personal impact of taking the law into one’s own hands. The story follows Lee Geum-ja on her release from prison after 13 years for the murder of a child she did not commit. Her hunt for the man responsible employs former prison-mates in the search and finally engages the parents of all of his victims. While not for the fainthearted, it parallels the conflict between contrition, retribution and redemption.

#8 Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers (2002) Dir P Jackson (NZ/US)
The second of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Zealand director Peter Jackson, employs his home country as a backdrop to the land of Middle Earth in a way that has changed the way that country is known forever. The Fellowship (established in the first movie) fractures during Two Towers and it is a testament to Jackson and his editors that they so effectively keep tabs on three disparate groups of characters and their three separate story lines.
By employing a dizzying array of computer special effects, model minatures and life size recreations of some sets, the climax to this film, the battle at Helm’s Deep, is like something that has never been seen in film before. Not content to have a hundred or a thousand or even ten thousand Orc soldiers, he creates a monster army of a hundred thousand or more, beating their breasts and charging the stone bastion of Rohan.

#7 Mulholland Dr. (2001) Dir D Lynch (US)
One of the most amusing ‘extras’ on the DVD is watching the Cannes film critics interview director David Lynch about this new release which had just been screened, and having absolutely no idea what the film was about and with Lynch giving absolutely nothing away.
If it is so incomprehensible, what makes it so good ? Part dream, part reality, part hallucination, part flashback, it is vital to know which part of the movie belongs in which “reality.” This is the first clue to unlocking the story. I won’t deny that an internet search was the lion’s share to understanding.
Naomi Watts plays Betty, a naïve country girl who comes to Los Angeles hoping for fame on the big screen. Her ambitions slowly fail and she finds herself drug addicted and making ends meet as a call girl. In her breakthrough role, Watts is a revelation as the fresh faced girl creating her own ‘Wizard of Oz’ storyline in her head while her waking reality becomes more and more desperate.

Fitness update

Weigh-in week this week saw some improvement in muscle definition and weight gain and a little build up of fat (now that wasn't planned!). The weights lifted from 10 weeks ago have been increased by about 50% (so, if I was exercising a muscle group with 20kg, am now doing so with 30kg, 3x10 reps)
Aerobically have kept on target by achieveing 45 minute aerobic runs (abt 7.5km) plus those I-can't-believe-how-knackered-I-am-at-the-end Tan runs. Will now lift the intensity of these sessions by including anaerobic running to simulate some game requirements (variable pace running including 'bursting').

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Testimony

I was invited by our church youth group to share my testimony with them last Friday night. A testimony is a personal story of how you became a Christian and why it is important to you. Here is what I shared.

What are the life changing experiences of your life ?

Between the ages of 15 and 25, an awful lot can happen. These are all a part of my life and all of them could be considered life changing.
At 16 I discovered that I was really good at mathematics and I finished at the top of my class that year.
At 20 I met the girl of my dreams and three months before my 25th birthday, I married her.
At 21 I completed a University degree and got my first job working for an insurance company.
I bought my first car, a Datsun Bluebird station wagon.
These are all significant things that happened to me in the 10 years between 15 and 25.
The most life changing decision I made during this ten years however was not the most obvious on the outside. It is highly likely that nobody would have noticed very much, at least for a while. Certainly it wasn’t something that was embraced as a wonderful thing by my family.
When I was in high school I enjoyed going along to summer camps run by Scripture Union. I went to a number out at Coolamatong in Bairnsdale, on the farm. Apart from all the activities I enjoyed, there were a lot of discussions about who Jesus was, what he did, and why it was important to us. While I had been touched by the Spirit at these camps, I had never carried it on once I had come home again. In truth, I didn’t really want to know God, I certainly didn’t want to go to church and I resented the perception that becoming a Christian meant giving up on all the fun stuff in life.
Before I was 16, I was due to go on one of these camps, and said to myself, “If anything ‘spiritual’ happens, if I make a promise to Jesus, then I will make sure I carry it through.” Now you don’t make a statement like that without God taking you up on it.
On the first night, I was talking to a leader, and I became a Christian. I said to God, I’m sorry for ignoring you, please forgive me, I want to follow you.
This simple little prayer, to myself, at a camp, in the middle of the night, believe it or not, is the single most important life changing event of my life.
God doesn’t leave us standing still. I read my bible almost every night when I was at high school after that. I had Daily Bread bible reading notes which helped keep me on track, and exposed me to a wide selection of what the bible had to say.
It bothered me however that Christians were supposed to be different to non-Christians and as far as I could tell, I wasn’t that different to my school mates.
At 19, after VCE, I had a year off from study and travelled to England, to work at a children's outdoor camp for 6 months. There was a small group of leaders who drove to a nearby church each week. They were very charismatic gatherings with people yabbering in different tongues, the minister would prowl out the front, looking for new converts and so on. It was a different experience to the Anglican one I had up until then but it was fun too. One day, the pastor was doing his thing, and I had this overwhelming sense that I had to go out the front and fall on my knees. Now, we’re all a bit reluctant to be the first one and have everyone look at us. But I knew if I didn’t go to the front NOW, then God would drop me to my knees where I was. So out the front I went. The pastor, thrilled to pieces, came over and prayed something at the top of his voice for all to hear and went on exhorting and calling and so forth. One of my friends came down next to me and prayed quietly beside me and that was a lot more meaningful. What had happened however was an outporing of God’s Spirit. God connected in a very powerful way that changed me once and for all. From then on, within the core of me, I wanted to learn more about Jesus and be changed by Him. I am the Christian I am today because of that moment.
As a Christian I believe that one day, after I die, I will live with Jesus forever, in a world that is perfect. No hunger, no wars, none of the things that make living in this world so hard to bear. Becoming a Christian is the most important decision I made and the most important one facing you.

Friday, 9 November 2007

MOvember - Day2


"Getting started : two days into the month"
A half dozen idiots at work are MOvembering and I have joined their number. Yes we can be sponsored to raise funds for men's health. Will post a link with the next photo update.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Sin City / JSA - GG

Sin City (Fri 7 1130P) is Robert Rodriguez’ film adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic strip of the same name. All the acting was done in front of green screens and filled in by Rodriguez’ computers later on. The comic strips have been lovingly realised and the actors playing in them (Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen) closely matching their 2D counterparts. Sin City tells three of Miller’s stories which is set amongst a pulpy, film noir world of seedy underbellies and impossibly slender babes. It’s a comic strip after all. But beware, it has provoked wildly different reactions. Roger Ebert scored it 4/4 while our very own Adrian Martin 0/5. How can two very astute movie commentators react so differently? Certainly the heavy use of CGI in place of actual sets, extras, environment etc might be a turnoff. On the other hand, a good story with interesting characters makes for engaging storytelling. Compare this with another 100% CGI film, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and that looked fake and was boring, so computers are not the answer to everything.
If you’ve just visited the border between North and South Korea (just in case you have) then you will get a bit extra out of Joint Security Area (SBS Mon 12midnight), Park Chan-wook’s (Lady Vengeance) first feature. An interesting insight into the geography that divides the split country, it also provides an insight into the attitudes that separates the two Korea’s via an improbable friendship between opposing border guards.

Top 12 : 12, 11, 10

A top 12 of my personal favourites for the films made in the 2000s. Please add your own to the ones I forgot and vehemently disagree with any of my choices.

#12 21 Grams (2003) Dir A Inarritu (Mexico)
While it is true that anyone of half a dozen movies could have been squeezed into the number 12 spot, I have chosen 21 Grams for its brilliant performances (Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro) and powerful story. The film is not told in a linear fashion with the fragmented cuts of beginning and end deliberately disorientating that build with dread. It is a story of loss and grief and attempts at redemption from the very talented Mexican duo Inarritu (director) and Arriaga (writer) who have also produced Amores Perros and Babel.

9 Nov : I have just seen The Sea Inside (2004) after the compilation of my top 12, by another of the South-of-the-border-Spanish-speaking alumni, Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes, The Others). This would be a very worthy place-getter and for the sake of argument, will put it in here as equal twelfth.
It is based on the true story of Spaniard, Ramon Sampredo, a quadriplegic for 28 years, who wants to end his life because he believes his life is one without dignity. Javier Bardem plays Ramon and it is astonishing how much charm and charisma and humour he can extract when all he is allowed to do is move his head; his body is completely limp. Ramon is not bitter and has a small and dedicated band of friends who fight his legal battles and visit him. He is lovingly cared for by his sister in law as he shares her home with his brother, nephew and elderly father. Like all good movies, it is the loving relationships that give a story strength and depth and while the subject matter is difficult or confronting, this remains a positive and stirring film.

#11 The Passion of the Christ (2004) Dir M Gibson (US)
While I really liked Gibson’s Apocalypto from 2006, I respond to The Passion more. Firstly it is a brutal and up close account of Roman ‘justice’, the political machinations and trial of an innocent man, and a faithful retelling of a well known and revered story by Christians. Jim Cavaziel plays the Christ from his arrest in the quiet of the Garden of Gethsemane to his death by crucifixion. The film’s power is a credit to Gibson who connects real world faith with celluloid image and provides context and meaning as to what Jesus had to experience to fulfil his father’s purpose, that is, to reconcile mankind with Himself. You can read what I wrote last year.

#10 Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Dir Wes Anderson (US)
Wes Anderson has made a career of off-beat comedies starting with Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums but none ever quite worked for me until this one. Steve Zissou has Bill Murray front and centre as the hapless, middle aged, undersea explorer wondering what happened to his life, mourning the loss of his friend, Esteban, to a man eating shark and confronted by a young man, Ned (Owen Wilson) who may or may not be his son. The film works because the relationships amongst the characters are genuine and played straight while the laughs are almost always deadpan or occurring behind the main action. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent, each adding their own idiosyncrasy : Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Cate Blanchett, Bud Cort and another half a dozen that you have never heard of that gives the film its magic.

Not the Official, offical Tan

An improvised Tan running track was measured out to the nearest 10 metres in the Outtrim valley and surrounding hillside over the weekend, in lieu of actually running around the Tan itself. A time of 16:45 was recorded which was acceptable. One more official Tan run left, next week, to set all new world records.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Downfall - GG

Downfall (SBS Sun 930P) is a German film that focuses on Hitler in his last days, holed up in his bunker as the might of the Russian army draw near. Bruno Ganz gives an extraordinary performance and this film was nominated in the foreign language category at the 2004 Oscars. Not surprisingly this film has attracted a lot of attention because of its subject matter and is noteworthy if for no other reason than because it is one of very, very few German films to deal with the second world war. GG comments, “that this film is one of countless films that that are constantly revealing a new Germany, one embracing tolerance, cultural diversity and calm.”
The Incredible Shrinking Man (2 Sat 2P) is everything you want a movie to be : premise, script, acting. A lot of modern day ‘special effect’ movies give you that and nothing else. This sci fi classic from 1957 does it all right with the hokey 50s special effects thrown in for free.
And, the one you have all been waiting for (even those who do not realise it yet), Shaun of the Dead (10 Sun 1030P), following the ARIAs. Made by the same jokers who put together last year’s Hot Fuzz (Rise Tall : “Best film of the year”) it is a perfectly credible zombie movie that makes the most of its comedic potential.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Seasons change

Pre-season
The pressing of the ‘stop’ button on the stopwatch. A small pump of the fist. Two minutes lying absolutely, physically spent on the grass, under an Elm next to the running track. A time of 16:35 recorded.

My preparation leading up to last Wednesday’s assault on The Tan was about as good as I could have hoped. Short runs on Saturday and Monday, a long one on Sunday with other gym sessions spaced inbetween. Wednesday came and the temperature was pleasant without being overbearing. No breeze to speak of. I spent some time warming up and stretching. I was almost afraid to start. I knew what was going to be asked of my body to record my best time. I also knew that to miss out on a sub-17 minute time (again) was going to leave a bitter disappointment longer lasting than the physical pain of running it.

The first 1 km was about equal with previous weeks, about 4:20. Brisk but not flat out. The run up Anderson Street was also quite strong and judging by my relative placing to others, about the right pace. I passed my first marker a little over and the second marker (12:30) about right. The difference this time was I knew I was running stronger, felt fitter and had a lot to give at the end. At the 3km marker I lifted my intensity to come home. Legs pumping, gut screaming and the same thought at the same corner: "a taxi would be so much easier."

This was my best time by 26 seconds. I was proud of the achievement but without resting on my laurels, the next target is 16:29 (my boss’ best time). He has been on holidays this last two weeks. Hopefully he has drunk beer and eaten chocolates. Somehow I suspect he will come back fitter and faster than ever. Oh well. I’ll be trying.

GG
This week’s GG recommendation is Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … and Spring (SBS Wed 1030P). A part of SBS’ South Korean festival, this was an art house hit in 2003/04 by director Kim Ki-duk who is also responsible for Time and 3-Iron.

Set in a small Buddhist temple, in the middle of a river, a young monk follows the seasons of his life (hence the allegorical nature of the title). This film is beautfilly shot and is very contemplative in parts. The themes are very accessible even if some of the plot points are a little obvious : from innocence to knowledge to repentance to wisdom.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Motorcycling Batman - GG

While I love the Lord of the Rings movies, Return of the King (7 Fri 830P) cannot be GG movie of the week as 1) it is four hours filled with advertisements, and 2) it is not the extended edition (which is four hours on its own without the ads). You will need to have had a passing interest LOTR I & II to get the most out of this one.
Batman Begins (9 Sat 930P) has Christian Bale bring a new intensity to the role that Michael Keaton never quite managed to fill and devolved into farce with Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Despite the obligatory “everything blows up in the end” ending, Katie Holmes and the somewhat dubious Liam Neeson character, it is hard and vigourous enough to be worthwhile.
Alternatively The Motorcycle Diaries (SBS Sat 1015P) tracks two friends as they criss-cross South America on a motorcycle. Gael Garcia Bernal rarely turns in a bad performance and is appealing as a young Che Guevara.
And I hope you’ve been taking note of SBS’ South Korean film festival on Wednesday nights. A Good Lawyer’s Wife (SBS Wed 1030P) presents a well acted and racy story of one family where everyone leads an errant lifestyle but the story, under the surface, is serious and nuanced.

Dumb Fifth Graders

Pre-season running
A change in running tactic meant a slower crawl up the Anderson Street hill in last week’s circuit of The Tan that meant, with 1km to go, I was 40 seconds behind my previous time. Not having burnt all of the fuel however meant that after burners could be engaged and I finished strongly, making up 37 of the 40 seconds. This of course still meant that I was slower than last time (with a time of 17:04) and still some way (it would seem) to breaking the “magical” 17:00 barrier. My boss still ran a 16:30 ish sort of time which seems harder to crack every week I try. “Onwards and upwards !” Next week we’ll employ a new tactic, hopefully one that is FASTER.

Love/Hate
What I really hate is people who walk slowly, perambulate in front of me and add insult to injury by premeditating my walk-around by drifting from their pre-aligned path into mine. A situation where a laser guided rocket would be a great add-on to completely remove them from ever walking this earth again. By contrast, one thing that I love is breakfast, and in particular, a warm bowl of porridge (call me Goldilocks if you must), sweetened with brown sugar.

Rant
Have you seen this latest insult to low brow entertainment, masquerading as “family viewing”, ‘Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?’ ? We all accept that a quiz show is what it is and rewards general knowledge. Sale of the Last Century did that better than most for years. People enjoy it. Millionaire plays to the same kind of crowd and at least the questions get harder the longer one contestant plays. We also acknowledge the, ‘it has nothing to do with a quiz show’, versions that are game shows that ask dumb-ass questions to pass the time. The questions asked on the ‘5th Grader’ show are genuinely questions that primary aged kids might be expected to know or answer in a classroom. Now I passed grade 5 some years ago. And grade 6. And grade 7. And so on. {didn’t do so well in some other years but that is not the point – I AM SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER}. It seems that the questions asked are not especially difficult, one just has to take care how one answers. Think it through again. There’s no trick. Not like the trick questions we used to ask each other in grade 5, example, “an electric train … how much smoke, etc.” Take an example of a question I heard on Nova this week : which STAR is the closest to planet earth. Hughesy, not thinking, thought PLANET and said, “Mars”. WRONG. The Sun of course is the closest star to planet earth. See, it sounds tricky but its not really. The silly adults that appear on the show really deserve their public humiliation of being stupider than a 5th grader because they don’t know the answers ! “The largest dinosaur was called a T___ Rex.” I mean, Come On ! Get this dross off !

Friday, 28 September 2007

Brownlow blues

There is nothing inherently wrong with a time of 17.01 around The Tan running track, a distance of 3.85 km. In fact, by all accounts, its quite a good time. And its not the fact that I ran exactly the same time two fortnight’s in a row, both times I knew I couldn’t have run any faster to lessen the time. However the ridiculously competitive spirit within me wants to make every attempt a PB and (more significantly) beat my boss who is also running the Tan regularly and is now 30 seconds ahead of me. So, I’m disappointed with that time and will be looking to beat it next attempt. Not sure if I will by 5 seconds or 50 but I will !

There was plenty wrong with the Brownlow presentation on Monday night. As you know, I am a bit of a sucker for Award shows, Oscar’s night and Brownlow night feature prominently in my annual viewing calendar. The anguish on the faces of those who really want to win (such as Scott West last year) and the round by round highlight packages form a great recap to kick start Grand Final week. But the Funniest Home Videos-like commentary framing the highlights was the first on a long list of what to hate about that coverage this year. Bruce really needs a good smack in the head for his incessant blabbering about “did you knows” and “what abouts”. We really haven’t missed him while the footy was at channel 9. Even Eddie must have been kicked after his first year calling games because he has toned down his oh-so-interesting stat talk. The player interviews were as vacuous as ever; Bruce’s “interview” with Bartel the second it was apparent he had won was cringe-worthy and gratuitous as he would be on stage in just a couple of minutes more (“We just wanted to say, well done Jimmy. Congratulations from all of us. Well done”); and Ricky Olarenshaw managed to sideline whatever female viewership was left by 11pm with his take on partner’s use of their man’s credit cards. It seems that Demetriou was given instructions to read out the votes at double pace however that seemed redudant when ch.7 filled in the “extra” time with an unfunny cross to Stephen Curry (of the Toyota grand final highlight ads) and interviews with retiring players Hird, Kouta, Riccuto and Archer via a video tape and then have them on stage to ask them the same questions in person. And finally, the red carpet show preceding the medal count was as disappointing as ever with very few dresses actually being shown. It can’t be that hard to show what every woman in town wants to watch ? Show the frocks! Show the frocks. Don’t show Garry Lyon, Sam Newman or any of the other has-been meatheads in a not-so-witty piece to camera.

And in a new segment, I would like to name some things that I hate. Celebrating this time of year, I hate the Royal Melbourne Show. The rotten, over-tired, crashing from too much sugar darlings crowd on to my train at going home time, take up all the seats, carry way too many show bags/balloons/giant stuffed animals and talk way too loudly when all I want to do is get home quickly and quietly.
I do love the Grand Final parade however. It is my one day a year when I can be a starry eyed groupie in the crowd, cheer on the footballing heroes as they drive by in the backs of the sponsor’s four wheel drives and sing along to the club songs played out by the marching bands.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Kingdom of Kenny - GG

Did Channel 10, or one of its affiliates, have a hand in the funding of Kenny (10 Wed 830P), the 2006 Aussie comedy ? For it to hit free to air TV so soon after release (usually 3 years) would suggest so. Kenny, the man behind the name, played by Shane Jacobson (and directed by his brother Ronald) is the latest in a long line of naïve, knock-about, basically lovable Aussie blokes just doing their job. His line of work is in Port-a-loos which dot the landscape at every public event and function.
What makes Kenny fun to watch is that it gets good mileage out of its poo jokes in the first half hour and then settles down to present a character comedy as Kenny deals with his estranged wife, cantankerous father, indifferent employees and all the while trying to relate to his near teenage son in a respectful and responsible way.
I have also found that I regard the otherwise unremarkable Port-a-loo out in the real world in a whole new way after seeing this film!
Also on first run is 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven (7 Sun 830P). From director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator) it stars Orlando Bloom as the shattered young man, Balian, who rides off to fight the barbarians in the Crusades; it co-stars Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons. At the time of its release, the reviews wanted to be positive but just couldn’t quite. The action scenes are good, performances okay and the story line manages to blend enough fiction into the fact to render the fact meaningless ! GG seems surprised that “Bloom can only hold the camera for a few seconds before his internalised grief gives way to blankness.” For those of us who have followed his career since Fellowship of the Ring, there is no surprise. He can’t act !

Thursday, 6 September 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum

Matt Damon’s latest Bourne outing, this one ‘The Ultimatum’, followed the same formula as the first two. Fast paced action and a relentless, likeable hero up against a nasty, double-crossing institution.
The hand-held camera used throughout creates shaky images which no doubt were designed to convey urgency but instead creates sea-sickness. This vertiginous approach was not helped I admit by sitting in the front row of the packed out cinema with good friends Vijay and Rise Tall. At least we avoided the pre-show advertisements which postpone the actual start time by some 20 minutes.
Sore necks, dizzying headaches and spinning eyes detracted somewhat from the spectacle. My personal feeling is that incomprehensible scenes, where a cut lasts less then 2 seconds and the camera has a fit of the shakes, probably means that the action is poorly choreographed and is being papered over. Certainly we can never tell because it is just a blur of movement before the next image is thrust upon us.
The story line has our man Matt, whom I have dubbed Mr Walker – the Ghost Who Walks, because you just can’t kill him, once more on the road searching for his identity with the US authorities trying to trick him to “come in” where presumably they can shoot him in the Cuban. But he knows they can’t be trusted and has more tricks up his sleeve than Rambo ever had.
Damon has bulked up significantly since his first outing as Bourne five years ago and with his thicker neck and shoulders, especially from the bottom of the screen looking up, made me constantly question whether I had walked into a James Packer fan zone.
We missed Franka Potente in this outing. Her companionship of Bourne helped to make him more human; brought the best out of him, as many a good woman has done before.
Still, action is as action does and it works on that level. Just don’t sit near the front!

A Bit Of A Run

Pre-season training is underway and a second run around the Tan yesterday yielded a time of 17.01, an improvement of nearly 90 seconds from two weeks ago.
If you are interested in a social kick of the footy this weekend then the first of four ABOAK (A Bit Of A Kick) ‘kick off’ on Sunday at 2pm, Ford Park, Heidelberg. Lift the aerobic, hang out with mates and kick the footy ! What more could you want ?

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Anchorman - GG

The TV shows imported from the US are all finishing their series, the movies that are on and worth watching we have all seen before and then we are taunted with the multi-channel option on Fox Sports (see p17 – Rabelwatch, you need to see this and turn green in the process) where up to four English Premier League games are played live simultaenously where you can “stuff yourself silly at the Premier League smorgasbord.”
I have no doubt that Anchorman : The Legend of Ron Burgundy (7 Sun 830P) is a B-grade comedy, it does star Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate, but it was a blockbuster B-grade comedy and so there may well be some laughs to be had.
The lesser known Scorsese film from 1999, Bringing out the Dead (7 Sun midnight) might be interesting although it does star Nic Cage and Patricia Arquette. The film follows Frank, “a paramedic whose journeys take him into the abyss of human misery.” Ebert says, “Scorsese is never on autopilot, never panders, never sells out, always goes for broke; to watch his films is to see a man risking his talent, not simply exercising it. He makes movies as well as they can be made, and I agree with an observation on the Harry Knowles Web site: You can enjoy a Scorsese film with the sound off, or with the sound on and the picture off.”

Friday, 17 August 2007

The Invasion

A(nother) remake of The Body Snatchers, titled The Invasion, has just been released in the US and stars my Nic (and some others like Daniel Craig … James who ?). Here is the most piercing comment of a review I just read:
Fans of Nicole Kidman's acting will be disappointed. Despite a lot of screen time, she doesn't do much. She's mainly on hand to look good while playing the damsel-in-distress turned mother-protector. The role is physical but not challenging.

Oh dear.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Black Sheep and Closing - MIFF

Black Sheep was the last of my MIFF screenings for this year. A New Zealand comedy/horror aided by Peter Jackson’s/Lord of the Rings’ Weta workshop (animatronics, special effects, models) is a long way from the mountains peaks and fast flowing rivers of Middle Earth. Set on a rural New Zealand sheep farm, this film takes off when sheep-phobic Henry returns to the family home to collect a settlement cheque for his half of the property, left to him and his “evil”, agri-science brother Angus. Angus has been performing experiments on sheep and when a genetically mutated sheep foetus, designated for the destruction pit, is robbed by an environmentalist protestor and his girlfriend, is duly liberated, and eviscerates said protestor, the story line is ‘on’ in earnest. The assistance of Weta cannot be underestimated in the making of this picture. Appropriately gory zombie sheep and their human victims keep fans of this genre (that would be the blood-splatter flick genre) enjoying the jokes and the set-ups and not sidetracked through laughing at poor effects. This is very similar in tone and style to Jackson’s Braindead (a mentioned early influence on debut director Jonathon King). What might otherwise be considered scary or gruesome is clearly not – they’re sheep for heaven’s sake. People eating sheep, sure, but still silly, lovable, mostly stupid sheep. An absolute must see when it makes its commercial release.

The Festival as a whole was very enjoyable. I was (understandably) exhausted after my long weekend (8 screenings across the three nights) and was glad to be commuting from Hawthorn during that weekend, somewhat closer to the city. Teeth and Black Sheep were enjoyable, perverse comedies. The Australian dramas were thin on the ground in the program and I supplemented my local diet with two documentaries, In the Company of Actors (with Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving) and Bob Ellis’ Run, Rabbit, Run on SA Premier Mike Rann’s re-election of 2006. Both docos were competent and even interesting but they weren’t dramas which I prefer. I will try not to overload my schedule with docos next year. The Ballad of Narayama was excellent and the free lecture on the work of Imamura I attended prior to it was worthwhile. My favourite screening of the Festival however was another Japanese drama, Hana. The story line was ostensibly about a young samurai on a mission to avenge his father’s death. The supporting cast may have been a little wide with the necessary resolutions to each of their storylines pushing the finish time out as a result. However the ‘real’ story was about a young man finding his true calling in life (as a teacher, not a fighter) and becoming a true role model as a father and husband. Perhaps in a comment on Japanese culture, this film, filled with samurai, does not have one sword fight and no blood is spilt. A wonderfully mature drama.
Many sessions were sold out but the theatres can easily accommodate the number. Often I arrived at start time, joined the very end of the queue and enjoyed the feature from the back of the cinema. My wait time was minimised and my seating almost always excellent. Only the second row at ACMI (Fed Square) was the least comfortable experience. The electronic scanning of tickets is efficient and deals with the long queues quickly. The hardest part of the Festival is finding the spare time in my regular life to see the films I want to see. This year I was able to take breaks from my work during the day, watch one film, and then come back to finish the day – all with my employer’s consent mind you, and that worked very well. Watching screenings back to back was likewise an efficient use of my time but exceptionally tiring beyond two films.
Roll on 2008 !

A Very Long Engagement - GG

For some reason I can’t quite fathom (there does not appear to be any cross-over promotional opportunity) Amelie (SBS Sat 930P) is followed by A Very Long Engagement (SBS Sun 930P), both directed by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet and starring Audrey Tatou. Perhaps we can put it down to lazy programming.
A Very Long Engagement is set during WW1 where a young woman refuses to believe that her fiance has died on the Western front. His back story and her quest to find out what happened to him lead us on a merry dance with eccentric characters, red herrings and unconventional story arcs. None of this should really surprise fans of Jeunet however (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children). The palette of this film remains strong in its “period” colours of blue and green. Equally vivid is the overwhelming brightness of primary colours in Amelie. A Very Long Engagement is a mix between a mystery, a romance and a war movie with some images confronting in this context. A competantly made story with entertaining characters make this worth watching.
Not all care for Jeunet’s style however as I have discovered in recent times. After extolling the wonders and virtues of Amelie as one of my favourite romantic comedies of all time, a couple of workmates have struggled to get to the end and complained of being bored. Really ! Quelle horreur. Clearly they have no taste.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Eastern Rovers - final match report

Eastern Rovers final game against Footscray was a demonstration of a committed team fighting to the last to remain competitive and ‘steal’ a win. To that end, the score at 3/4 time saw a tight game with the Rovers trailing 7 goals to 5. Footscray asserted themselves more readily in the last quarter to run out winners by 6 goals.
The more fancied Footscray (2nd on ladder) were not expecting the pressure the Rovers applied which, in addition to the wet and muddy conditions, hindered their running game. The conditions rewarded the team prepared to kick long and make the most of limited opportunities. Not capitalising on their thrusts forward ultimately cost the Rovers an unlikely victory.
TV Tasty Knows played his first match for the year and took ‘mark of the day’ in the opening 5 minutes. Naturally your humble correspondant, watching from the sidelines with the zoom lens camera, did not capture the moment on film. Plenty of other moments did make it on film however. Can you spot TTK in the accompanying picture ?

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Incredible - GG

Probably the best offering for the week is The Incredibles (7 Sun 630P), another quality Pixar feature. This one about a superhero family living normal lives in suburbia until the inevitable rise and rise of uber-baddie Syndrome forces them out of retirement. Each family member has their own talent and they must all work together to save the world from destruction. Directed by Brad Bird (The Iron Giant), this is a little more dialogue driven and "mature" in its approach than your average animated feature. However, those with childers will already have seen this and own it on DVD so I don't expect anyone will watch it now !
Snatch (10 Sun 1040P) is Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with a bigger budget, basically a heist movie where all the characters are London thugs, gangsters, thieves or hitmen. The pace is cracking, the language foul and sadly Guy Ritchie hasn't come close since.
I'm also intrigued by Arahan (Mon SBS midnight), a South Korean tribute to Hong Kong action films : "a shrewd hybrid of the updated kung-fu wire action extravaganza and a modern superhero comic adaptation, a mutation of Steve Chau's Shaolin Soccer by way of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man".

Eastern Rovers - final round

Eastern Rovers play their final game against second placed Footscray this Sunday afternoon at their Heathmont home. Goodridge has been named as "first emergency", largely because of poor health on his part and less on his relative football merit. At this stage, unlikely to play. TV Tasty Knows however will be making his debut and has been named in the forward pocket. Good luck young man - kick a bag full.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

MIFF musings

Teeth
Dawn is only subliminally aware of the dangerous potential that resides within her body. An outspoken member of her school chastity group, Dawn has a sexual awakening like any number of teenage students with devastating consequences … for the male of the species. A living example of the vagina dentata myth, that is, a vulva with teeth, it will take a willing hero to conquer her and thus “slay the dragon.” Meanwhile however this modern day Gorgon or Medusa can wreak their revenge on the worst examples of male behaviour. And while some of the scenes are potentially confronting: the date rape boyfriend, the leering older man, the gynecologist who abuses his trust; all get their comeuppance when one appendage (or multiple digits) fall victim to this empowered woman. Played for laughs, this campy, American teen comedy is performed well by the apple-pie Jess Weixler (in the Reese Witherspoon mould). It was enjoyed by a full house of about 1,000 mostly younger film lovers at RMIT Capitol Theatre.

September
Likewise playing to a full house at the Capitol was the Australian premiere of Peter Carstair’s debut feature film, September, the first recipient of feature funding from John Polston’s Tropfest (an annual short film competition).
Ed (white) and Paddy (black) have grown up together on a remote West Australian wheat farm and been best mates. Set in 1967, Ed goes off to school each day while Paddy works on the farm helping his dad and the boss, Ed’s dad. The boys hear a travelling boxing troupe is coming to their town next month (in September) and so they rig up their own ring out in the paddocks. Also, a new family move onto the next property with a similarly aged daughter, Leena, with whom Ed becomes smitten. At that time in Australian history, the Government passed legislation that allowed the black man to earn the same wage as a white man. For many black families, this meant continued racism as the prevailing view was that if you were to pay a black man the same as a white man, then you would employ a white man instead. For Ed’s dad, he does not want to do the wrong thing, but does not want to do the right thing either. To pay two full time wages where previously he was paying none was something that his farm could not support (in balance however Paddy’s family had their rent waived and their food bought for them). Like it or lump it is his solution and this only builds resentment.
Ed and Paddy’s sparring takes on more personal physicality as these divisions unfold. This is mirrored in their friendship when both boys, at Ed’s insistence, go to pay a night visit to Leena. When they are discovered by Leena’s father, Paddy takes the beating as Ed escapes and runs home.
The film is primarily about friendship and the two boys reconcile amicably in a simple but touching way. Paddy tries his luck with the travelling boxing troupe and Ed stays on to help his father run the farm. I thought however that it failed to round out their fathers’ story and we are left hanging as to how the bigger picture of race relations played out.
Both boys (Xavier Samuel and Clarence Ryan) do a superb job in this otherwise quiet, focussed drama.

Dog Bite Dog
Hong Kong triad action movies are a dime a dozen and this one plays true to type. Pang is a Cambodian orphan, raised as a pit fighter and is little more than a fierce dog on two legs. His language is abrupt and manner non-existent. He is sent to murder a judge, which he does with no emotion and then the chase kicks in with zealous cop chasing the fearless Pang. The features of the genre are all played out here : the flashbacks; the one cop fighting against the rules and regulations; the ruthless baddie who can take on all comers. After about 90 minutes, Pang escapes with the girl in a motorised junk and that would have been 90 minutes well spent. Unfortunately the movie kicks on for another 20 minutes or so and this spells DANGER for the audience.
The montage of Pang and the girl falling in love is awkward, while “acting” replaces the hitherto vigorous action which is poor, to say the least. The titters in the audience turn to guffaws when “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine” starts to play over the top of Pang holding aloft his newborn son. And all the other characters ? They’re all dead of course.

The Phantom of the Opera
This 1925 cinematic classic of the silent era was shown at Melbourne’s grand Regent Theatre with a live accompaniment by David Johnston on the resident Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. And what an experience it was. The thunderous energy of the bass notes resounding from the organ reverberated through the Theatre and warned us of the evil lurking beneath the Paris Opera House.
The Phantom, played by Lon Chaney, is only seen shadow for the first third of the film. Brilliantly lit back shots show his spectral outline haunt walls in the pits of the Opera House while the ballerina’s on stage are the very contrast above. When we finally meet The Phantom he is wearing a mask that makes him seem almost normal and human. It is his love of Christine which makes him want to bring out the good within himself but it is her love of Raoul that may force him to return to his evil past.
When Christine unmasks The Phantom deep in his lair, we are met with a violent burst from the organ and we, the audience, regard his skeletal visage react in horror, before he turns and faces his love. She in turn recoils in revulsion and this sets him on his murderous rampage through the House. The mob however is never far away and they pursue our anti-hero into the Seine and to his death.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Ballad of Narayama - MIFF

The Ballad of Narayama (1983) is a view into Japanese village life “about 100 years ago” that is stark in its barbarity and accessible because of the human story it tells. It is also director Shohei Imamura’s vision of Japan, at contrast with how Japan sees itself.
Japanese people traditionally see themselves as refined, sophisticated, subtle people. Imamura redefines his society (in this film and in others) as brutal places, strongly aligned to nature with many characters identified with animals. The village itself, a snake; the thieves, a silver fox that sneaks into the hen house; and the wild and exuberant thrustings of the village folk, with writhing snakes, humping frogs and nesting birds.
The film itself commences in the dead of winter, follows the life cycle of a year to the following winter as it mirrors the life cycle of the village.
Village life does not conform to Western standards with regards to the value of a life. It is all the more shocking to us because it does not. I imagine it is just as shocking to a Japanese audience too. Unwanted sons are callously thrown into the rice paddy. Unwanted daughters sold into prostitution via the wandering salt seller. Those who break the village laws are dealt with harshly : thieves of other’s food are buried alive. Life and death is just a step from each other that to be indifferent to the numbers around your table leads to your own destruction.
The main character in the story is Orin, a sixty-nine year old grandmother who knows her time is nearly up. Her health remains robust but she is determined that her son, Tatsuhei, honor his commitment as dutiful, faithful and loving son by carrying her up the mountain, to Narayama, to die on her 70th birthday.
The women in Imamura’s films are capable and robust women played by stocky, plump actresses (not the usual movie star type) that are both sexy (“juicy” – Imamura) and maternal. Orin fully intends to go out at a time of her choosing and in a manner that is pleasing to her.
The arduous journey of son carrying mother on his back up impossible slopes over an incredible difference hints at the love and respect of one for the other. Speaking is forbidden on the mountain and the last quarter of the film is virtually dialogue free. When they arrive on Narayama, they are met by an enclave of bones and skulls. The audience gasps as a crow worms its way out from under a ribcage.
The mother sets out her mat and waits her end. She waves her son off, impatient for him to be gone. He cannot move. He hugs his mother until she has had enough. It is not out of cruelty of indifference. It is the way things are. Better to go now than to wait another year or two or three and either die in the village (and not be buried on the mountain) or not be able to face death square in the face. As the son walks down the mountain, it starts to snow. Tatsuhei runs back to his mother to see if she is cold. She is not and waves him away again. The Spirit of Narayama has settled on Orin and is a great blessing to her.

My emotional highlight of this film was this scene, not just because of its moving theme, but because the whole auditorium, of 500+ people, were still. For at least 10 minutes they were spellbound and captured by what they were witnessing on screen. No-one was moving, or rustling, or coughing. Still. A very humbling experience to be in the midst of so many people hardly aware of the world around them as they watched the son’s grief and mother’s honor.

Aviator - GG

The Aviator (9 Fri 830P) is the last of the long line of Scorsese pictures that never won him an Oscar (his next, The Departed, did) although our Cate did win Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn. In keeping with Scorsese's recent pics with grand scale and ambition (say, like Kundun or Gangs of New York, unlike The Departed's less epic scale), tells part of the story of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, "who comes to Hollywood to make movies in 1927 and eventually confronts a vindictive Senate inquiry. Leo DiCaprio is too handsome for Hughes, but he delivers the obsessive desire that Scorsese turns into his subject's defining force."

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Time - MIFF

How much of what you look like determines who you really are? In Kim Ki-duk’s Time, Seh-hee has been dating Ji-woo for two years and she is worried that he is losing interest. “Do you get tired of the way I look?” she asked. A loaded question if ever there was and one that Ji-woo fails to answer satisfactorily.
And then she’s gone. For six months. Plastic surgery is an “everyday” procedure in this vision of modern-day Korea with a six month recovery time. The doctor cautions Seh-hee that he cannot make her more beautiful, she is beautiful enough. But no, she just wants to look different. Unrecognisable.
She “comes back” as See-hee (a subtle enough name change I didn’t pick at first, I thought they were the same name) and does indeed look different. It is a credit to both actresses that we accept without question they are the “same” person. They behave similarly despite looking differently. See-hee (the “new” girl) tries to woo Ji-woo (pardon the pun) however runs into difficulty when she realises that he is desperately lonely eschewing other women to pine his lost love (Seh-hee). Mind you, without ever revealing how exactly, Seh-hee/See-hee has been observing Ji-woo from a distance (stalking is the legal term) and warning off any would be suitors.
When See-hee appears wearing a Seh-hee face mask the mood is a mix of ridiculous and creepy. The truth comes crashing down on Ji-woo as he feels used and betrayed.
My take is that a person with poor self esteem (such as the one potrayed by Seh-hee) projects their self-loathing on to others and cannot or will not see themselves as others do. Ji-woo may have felt that his relationship with Seh-hee was getting stale but how she looked was not his issue. Her bitter and aggressive outbursts early in the film as Seh-hee are repeated later as See-hee. It is here perhaps that she realises it’s what’s inside that counts.
So, how does this resolve ? In a fit of pique, Ji-woo goes off to the plastic surgeon to change his looks. See-hee thinks that he might be doing this for her and their relationship and impatiently waits for him to reappear after six months. She accosts every man who is approximately the same size to find the man she loves but he doesn’t appear again.
Devastated, she troops back into the plastic surgeon again and comes out unrecognisable. Ji-woo won’t know what she looks like even if he does come looking.
In a slightly strange twist to the ending, time seems to have looped back in on itself like a mobius strip. While the ending does not influence the beginning as such, perhaps it is the director’s way of saying that the issues surrounding our identity and dramas we face in life do not just go away. They are just as present at the end as at the start. As old Uncle Remus used to say to Brer Rabbit, “you can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far.”

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Eastern Rovers Round 8 - match report

Eastern Rovers fought bravely against Werribee Tigers in their round 8 home clash on Sunday but lacked the finishing skills of their opponents, going down 12 goals to 6. The endeavour for the Rovers was close to their best for the year, continuing to run and challenge right up to the end of the game. Two last quarter goals and a couple of missed opportunities was their most productive part of the game. A 5 minute lapse at the end of the second quarter saw their opponents pile on 3 easy goals and virtually take the game away from the Rovers.
Goodridge played a little over a half a game again from the half-back flank and kept his opponent quiet. It mattered little however with too many Tigers loose able to run forward, choose the best option and kick running goals.
There are only two weeks of training left and one game to go against second ranked side, Footscray.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Eve and Marilyn - MIFF

My first MIFF screening was a short, 1987 doco titled Eve and Marilyn. Perhaps in retrospect I would have liked to have chosen a more recently made film, but I was bewitched by the prospect of Marilyn Monroe (and I can assure you I’m not the first). I listened intrigued by the first hand account of (74 year old) documentary photographer Eve Arnold tell of her time spent with Monroe as Arnold’s images of Monroe were slowly zeroed in on. Sometimes small and dumpy, other times tall and graceful – Monroe had the ability to transform herself in front of a camera. In her earlier years, where studio photography was the only way to gain a profile which lead to movie roles, Monroe played a role in front of the camera – one that we are all intimately familiar with – the playful, curvaceous and sexy movie star. Arnold reflects that it was only when she actually became a movie star that reality and fantasy collided and she couldn’t cope. But it was her trust in Arnold, and Arnold’s respect of her, that meant they had a “close” working bond. Arnold spent 2 months on the set of The Misfits recording the behind the scenes action with her camera at the request of Monroe who had had quite enough of being the centre of a publicity storm wherever she went. And it is these collection of images that tell a more intimate portrait of Monroe than just the sassy publicity shots. While sometimes fragile and sometimes naïve, Monroe was an otherwise savvy, image conscious presenter of herself and used the photographers to her advantage. They in turn used her to sell her image to the world.

Monsieur Ibrahim - GG

The main problem with The Terminal (7 Wed 830P) is that its not that interesting. Tom Hanks plays another slightly strange guy with a funny accent, this time stranded in JFK Airport, for months on end. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the slightly reluctant love interest and Stanley Tucci the overzealous bureaucrat. Perhaps the greatest crime about this so-so drama is that it is Spielberg at his worst with way too many schmaltzy set-ups served with an extra dousing of saccharine. The ending will make you retch. But perhaps you already suspected that.
Much better to turn over to SBS to watch a 2003 French drama, Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran (Wed 10P) which stars Omar Sharif as a Muslim, Parisian shopkeeper. RT gives this one 84% (the other one a mere 61%).

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Eastern Rovers Round 8 - preview

In what has become a recurring theme at the selection table this season, Goodridge has been named on the bench for Sunday’s round 8 match against 4th ranked Werribee. In all likelihood this will lead to half a game in the back line.
In truth the motivation has begun to wane as the winter moves on and the aerobic fitness is nowhere near the levels attained earlier in the year. Two more weeks and one game to go then I can get fat over August.
September 1 is my start for pre-season however which is not that far away …

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Wednesday nights - GG

Rather than continuously bemoaning the lack of quality fare on regular TV or, what quality there is, is on channel repeat for repeatieth time, one must applaud channel 7 I suppose for having a “new” movie night on what used to be Sunday (and then Friday and then Tuesday and then Thursday) but is now on Wednesday. This way they at least show movies as recently made as they are allowed to (that would be 3 years) and that is commendable in and of itself. This week was National Treasure {shudder} and next week, Ladder 49 (Wed 7 830P) which can only mean we must be one week closer to a “good” blockbuster, clearing the decks with the dross first.
Ladder 49 is an “action-adventure” about a team of fireman heroes (thank-you post-9/11 America) who are ‘called’ to their duty and display courage and family values and so on and so forth. I’m sure its okay, RT does only give it 41% but I am still too scarred by Backdraft all these years later to ever see a film about firefighters again (or "fighter-fighters" as my 5 year old son used to call them which is all very endearing coming out of a 5 year old’s mouth).
I have not seen it, but Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke (9 Mon midday) is likely to hold the middle ground with respect to theme and quality between The Piano and In The Cut which were made either side. “All stories are of women in danger, powerless to stop the forces at work around them.” Stars Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel.
You may also be tempted by Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (ABC Wed 1245A).

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

MIFF 2007 - an Introduction

Melbourne International Film Festival kicks off next week, I have my series pass and I'm excited !
I am attending a number of different screenings and these have been "locked" in. If you and anyone else you know would like to come along to any or all of these times then you would be most welcome to join me. I would welcome the company.
The films being screened at MIFF this year are placed in many categories and it is of course impossible to get a taste for all of them. The Australian and Asian sections seem a little more limited this year with a greater input of European films and new categories such as "horror" , "Forbidden Pleasures", "Israeli" and "African". The documentaries section seems to be somewhat expanded also.

In my selections I have eschewed the European sector and have ended up with
3 Aussie films; 3 Asian films; 2 docos; 1 horror; 1 US; 1 collection of fiction shorts; and 2 "classic" screenings. A varied menu and no mistake.

If you would like to come along then you would be more than welcome. I suggest you book online as the evening sessions in particular are very popular.

My program then :

During the day
Thursday 26/7, 3pm, Eve & Marilyn plus Behind the Veil, documentaries on photographer Eve Arnold, one with Marilyn Monroe as her subject and the other a "rare glimpse into the world of the harem"
Thursday 2/8, 1230pm, The Ballad of Narayama, "classic", 1983 Japanese drama on the cycle of life and death by auteur director Shohei Imamura
Tuesday 7/8, 3pm, a collection of fiction shorts, 8 short (from 5min to 15min) fiction films from around the world

During the week
Tuesday 31/7, 9pm, Time, South Korean, much anticipated by me, by director Kim Ki-duk who most recently released 'Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring' and '3 Iron'. He has another film at this festival, 'Breath' which time will not allow me to see. I note that this film has just been released in America and scored a 3.5/4 review on release.

The Long Weekend
Friday 3/8, 7pm, Teeth, US "occasional teen comedy, sometimes horror, laced with sex"
Friday 3/8, 9pm, September, Australian, "Ed and Paddy have been fast friends for as long as they can remember but Ed is white and Paddy is Aboriginal. The winds of social change are blowing their way, threatening to fracture what was a rock solid friendship"
Friday 3/8, 11pm, Dog Bite Dog, "Hong Kong action film of the year…distinguishes itself even by Hong Kong standards with its uncompromising toughness"
Saturday 4/8, 11am, Prater, documentary, "Vienna's Prater is the oldest amusement park in the world - the beguiling images in this film provide a giddy ride through the carnival and Vienna's history"
Saturday 4/8, 1pm, The Phantom of the Opera, Classic, this should be highlight of the festival : 1925 silent classic starring Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin, at the Regent Theatre with live musical accompaniment of "one of the world's finest Wurlitzer theatre organs"
Sunday 5/8, 1pm, In the Company of Actors, Australian, "Two of the world's finest actors, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, prepare to perform the Sydney Theatre Company's version of Hedda Gabler in New York."
Sunday 5/8, 3pm, Hana, Japanese, director Hirokazu Kore-eda, a period film about a "gentle samurai on a mission to take revenge on his father's death"
Sunday 5/8, 5pm, Run Rabbit Run, Australian, written directed by Bob Ellis (journalist, writer, speechwriter) portrait of SA premier Mike Rann "as he negotiates the maelstrom of his re-election campaign.

And One More
Saturday 11/8, 7pm, Black Sheep, NZ horror about mutating sheep that eat people. Sounds hilarious. Something that Peter Jackson might have come up with.

Eastern Rovers Round 7 - match report

A heartbreaking two point loss to the Rovers on Sunday. In an otherwise scrappy, unimpressive affair against bottom-placed Box Hill Demons, the Rovers lead for most of the second half but their poor kicking ultimately cost them the game. With mere seconds to go, a BH forward marked the ball within range, the siren blew and then slotted the goal that gave them the win. The Rovers 4.12.36 was ultimately not enough to the Demons 6.2.38.
At least half of the Rover’s missed chances were from set shots within range. Mind you, as one wag put it the next day, if our forwards had kicked 3 more points between them then that would have been sufficient.
Two more games left this season (both at home) against third and fourth on the ladder.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

MIFF Program Guide tomorrow

Melbourne Internation Film Festival program free in The Age tomorrow. My season ticket arrived in the post this week. The Festival starts July 25. Can hardly wait !

GG Famine

Once again the weekly GG meal is famine and so you may as well eat junk food to avoid starvation than rely on a king’s feast which may never happen. So watch Austin Powers, or Die Hard 2, or Gone in 60 Seconds, or National Treasure. While you’re at it, in the TV stakes you may as well watch Lost : Greatest Hits followed by Lost : The Answers. In truth, the third Harry Potter movie (Prisoner of Azkaban) (Sat 9 730P), directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men) is the best of the four (although early reports of the latest instalment suggests that #5 might be better yet) with Cuaron moving away from the “children’s film” emphasis of Columbus’ earlier efforts by putting a bit of URST into the teenage protagonists.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Formal dresses down Pixar

Thinking of attending the Pixar exhibition at ACMI these school hols ? Think again says long time GG supporter and first time contributor, Formal. ed GGBlog
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No doubt your children are as fond of the crazy, colourful, ever-so-lovable Pixar characters as is my little one. And with good reason - Pixar has re-invented animation as we know it.
So you may be considering the Pixar exhibition at ACMI at Federation Square. With all that creativity harnessed with amazing animation technology it would have to be a sure-fire hit with the kiddies wouldn't it? Woody, Buzz, Nemo, Lighting McQueen. IT couldn't possibly be dull or boring, could it?
Well, they achieved the impossible. It is dull and boring. Nothing but drawings and models and no explanation on how the animation is produced. And whilst ostensibly marketed at children it really doesn't cater for them at all. And all at a hefty entrance fee.
I think they lost sight of their target audience. Adults aren't really into Pixar the way children are and are probably only going thinking the kids will love it. But there is precious little there to interest children- nothing more interactive than a table with paper and crayons. Just blank paper, not even colour-ins.
Only arty nerds would get anything out of it but they are probably to highbrow to watch Pixar, preferring Greenaway, Almodovar and De Heer to satisfy their eclectic tastes.
So, I suggest you save yourself $50-$60 and stay home and watch the DVDs instead.

Eastern Rovers Round 7 Preview

Clearly ranting about something has no actual health side effects ! As blogged and ranted last week, I'm still ill and have spent more time at home than at work these last two weeks. I'm now on antibiotics as I'm pretty sure the cough has gone bacterial but I'm still far from 100%.
That means that training has been OFF the agenda and my legs feel as though they will atrophy from the inaction. This also means that I am unavailable for Sunday's round 7 clash with bottom of the table Box Hill.
Eastern are 4th off the bottom having beaten the other two teams below it and so a win is hoped for. Certainly we would expect to encounter a team who is a similar standard to us however one should take nothing for granted. We have played far from well in the past few games and turning victory into a loss is not beyond us.
My hope is to be well enough to stand on the sidelines and cheer the boys on.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

In the Company of the Thornberries - GG

The weekly GG’s cup certainly does not runneth over. It is hard to get excited about most films to be screened. In the Company of Men (Wed 9 12midnight) stars “charismatic” Aaron Eckhart and written and directed by Neil La Bute (Nurse Betty and 2006’s The Wicker Man). Eckhart is “smiling, square-jawed and venomous” in this film “about misogyny as an aphrodisiac and the emotional brutality of which men are capable – toward women and each other. This film remains a coiled, bloody revelation.”
The only other movie that I genuinely like is The Wild Thornberrys Movie (10 Sun 1P). The Thornberry family unit is strong and caring, the children are a real mix of independence and dependance, and while there is some character comedy (little brother Donnie, aka the child whirlwind and older sister Debbie, the disconsolate teenager) at no stage do the characters devolve into caricature. The star of the show however is Eliza who has a pet monkey Darwin and can talk to animals. Yes, its animated and yes its primarily for children, but the whimsy and strong family ties make me a fan of the TV series which this film apes suitably.
For those who did not make the effort to see Hitchcock’s Sabotage last year when it was screened and then castigated me fiercely for their missed opportunity (you know who you are), they have another opportunity (ABC Tue 2A). WARNING, my review contains spoilers !

Being Ill - Rant

There is nothing to spoil your week more than by being ill ! Despite having a head cold last weekend, that was not going to stop me from playing on Sunday. Unfortunately the cold triggered a mild asthma attack (alright, alright, I’m sure playing football didn’t help) which up until today has still not cleared. On top of this I have scored a more severe virus that has flu-like symptoms : continually feeling cold, headaches, high temperature, phlegmy cough that I don’t think has turned into an infection yet so that would be good if it didn’t.
I had Monday off from work but went Tuesday and Wednesday. The hardest part, with the asthma, was getting there and back again. The walk to the train station (from the car) and the walk to the office (from the train station) was slow and laborious. With a restricted airflow (which essentially is what asthma is), exacerbated by the frigid air, insufficient oxygen into the lungs prevents normal movement.
So here I am off work again today in a bid to recover more ably. The effects of the virus ebb and flow depending on my strenuousness and the time of day. My one outside activity today, you will be relieved to hear, was to purchase my copy of the Green Guide (what else, it’s Thursday!).
The pressure of not turning up to work, even when I know that I am genuinely unfit for the workplace, is still high. I have a lot of work waiting for me (it’s June year end) and I know that clients will start asking for this, that and the other.
But, to wile away the hours, I have rented from my local Video Ezy, Inarritu’s Babel (Blanchett, Pitt, Bernal) which I desperately wanted but failed to see in the cinema over summer, and Reitman’s subversive comedy, Thank you for Smoking starring Aaron Eckhart.

Eastern Rovers Round 6 Match Report

Last Sunday’s Round 6 match between Eastern Rovers and top side Glen Orden was always going to be a difficult assignment given the Rovers recent run of form. The end result demonstrates clearly who was the superior team (13 goals to 2) however as I like to point out, they didn’t thrash us as much as Frankston two weeks ago but I bet they don’t care : Glen Orden are on top of the ladder with 6 wins and 0 losses.
Yours truly played a little over a half, starting on the bench and moving to Half Back a little before half-time. A half-dozen kicks and handballs meant that I was kept in the game. In the last quarter I picked up their key forward who would have continued his merry dance had his teammates kicked the ball long and deep. They didn’t and I looked like the premier backman with my opponent only touching the ball once.
A couple of photos taken by a very rugged-up spectator, Rise Tall etc who even now is enjoying the warmth of the Gold Coast.


Indisputable proof that I got at least one kick and one handpass !

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Yolngu Boy - GG

In a barren week, Yolngu Boy (SBS Sun 1030P) might be the pick. Three Aboriginal boys trek across the desert in a journey that touches on their mateship and ties to their heritage.

Eastern Rovers Round 6 selection

This Sunday’s clash against top of the table Glen Orden will be somewhat equalised by the wet, cold, sloppy, muddy, mucky and did I mention cold conditions this Sunday. Playing at home has never seemed so attractive … NOT. Still, about 25 braved the conditions at training last night which just shows how many desperate men there are out there in real-life land who also happen to be scared of the coach. Goodridge named on the bench.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Birth - movie

{Spoilers Ahead}
Birth tells the story of a woman, Anna (Nicole Kidman) who loses her beloved husband, Sean, to a heartattack while jogging in Central Park. Ten years later, a boy turns up at Anna’s appartment and says simply, “It’s me, Sean.”
If you view this story as a supernatural mystery akin to The Sixth Sense (“I can see dead people”) or The Exorcist then you will be sorely disappointed. While the mystery of husband Sean’s rebirth as young Sean is a bit creepy and the build up first rate, how the film concludes ultimately is dissatisfying. Young Sean eventually “loses” his psychic alter ego and disappears back into the schoolyard as a regular 10 year old.
While this is how the film was marketed, this is not the story ! The story is all about Anna while the rest of the cast orbit her grief.
Still mourning her husband from 10 years prior, Anna knows intellectually that it is time to move on. Her family tell her it is time to move on. She finally accepts the advances of Joseph (Danny Huston) and agrees to marry him; the opening act is of their engagement party. Emotionally and spiritually, Anna cannot or will not move on from her first husband. In fact, the first time we see Anna she is paying her respects at Sean’s grave. When young Sean first appears, we can see she is troubled and unsure. She wants to believe that her beloved Sean has come back to her (“I wanted him to be Sean”). The rest of the family are less convinced, assuming young Sean to be a hoax or a nasty coincidence.
After young Sean collapses in a hallway we watch Anna’s face in the next scene, during the prelude of a concert. The camera focuses nowhere else. Slowly, surely her resolve falters. What we are watching is a woman who has not come to terms with her grief.
Young Sean however is not the Sean. He is a mystic projection of Anna’s memory of her husband. What she knows about Sean, he knows about Sean. What she doesn’t know about Sean however “breaks the spell.” The event, precipitated by Ann Heche, is like a pebble that breaks the surface of a still pond. The images reflected on the glassy surface shatter and fragment.
Intellectualism reasserts itself briefly to a happy wedding in the beach house gardens in Spring. Being an optimistic, ‘glass half full’ kind of guy, I assumed that they walked off arm in arm to live happily ever after but the evidence doesn’t point to that. Instead of a sunny May (equivalent November) day for their wedding the weather is bleak and cool. Anna can’t smile for the camera and Joseph finds her down on the beach, alone and crying as the waves break around her feet. The evidence is that of a woman who has finally succumbed to a complete mental breakdown, who can’t see a way over her grief.
The colour palette is blue-hued with the warmer red and yellows desaturated. Many visual images stick in the mind, of winter in the Park and the lush apartment in Manhattan. Credit here to cinematographer Harry Savides. The cast ably support Kidman : Cameron Bright as the young Sean, Danny Huston as Anna’s fiancé and Lauren Bacall and Alison Elliott as Anna’s family. And the classical music scoring the film is sumptuous also.