Wednesday, August 30, 2006
My plus one for the evening was Mike, being the film-buff that he is. I figured I owed it to him after taking him to a very low-rent premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring several years ago: apart from a couple of AFL players and a soapie-star or two there was no-one of interest in attendance, and no sense of glamour to the event. That's because the official Australian premiere was being held simultaneously in Sydney, I later discovered. It was such a let-down; especially because I had a hopeless crush on him at the time and was trying to impress him! These days of course the crush is a thing of the past and we're good mates, but I still felt I owed him a proper premiere...
Which brings me back to last night. The renovations to the Westgarth are superb. They've retained the Art Deco feel of the cinema, but successfully divided it into three seperate theatres, by means of partitioning the balcony. The seats were extremely comfortable, unlike the former Westgarth seats, and the sound system was superb - a far cry from the last time I attended the venue earlier this year.
And yes, there was a red carpet, a veritable fountain of free booze and nibbles, and a few celebs to poke sticks at. As Mike observed, TV and movie people are inevitably shorter in real life than you possibly expect them to be.
Which brings us to The Book of Revelation. God it was bad. It failed dramatically, erotically, on so many levels simultaneously. It's the story of Daniel (Tom Long) a contemporary dancer who is kidnapped and repeatedly raped by a trio of mysterious women over 12 days. After his release, he turns his back on his career and his girlfriend and tries to track down the women responsible, although the only clues he has to their identity are a strand of hair, a birthmark and a tattoo.
The film's feel was distant and artificial, as typified by Paul Heath's over-produced sets that looked like ads from Home Beautiful rather than the dwellings of real people. This vibe extended to the film's characters, who were stilted and distant; unbelieveable and unengaging. No-one reacted to Daniel's subsequent re-appearance and apparent trauma post-kidnapping with anything resembling reality, which further added to the film's implausible air.
While it lifted slightly in its final act, primarily due to the charismatic appearance of Deborah Mailman, overall The Book of Revelation is an 'erotically-charged thriller' that has neither thrills nor frisson. Tom Long lacked the physicality required of a dancer, again rendering certain key scenes unbelievable, and save for one or two briefs moments, and the deft cinematography of Tristan Milani, I found nothing in this film to engage, move or haunt me. It's a shame, because while I think it's flawed, I do like Ana's debut feature Head On, and I adore her dark 1994 featurette Only the Brave.
Next week I'm dragging Mike off to the premiere of Geoffrey Wright's Macbeth - I just hope it's better than The Book of Revelation, which I heartily recommend you avoid.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Positive images. Positive representation of gays and lesbians in the media.
The reason I first got involved with the MQFF was because at the time I was hanging out on Melbourne's punk scene and publishing my own queercore zine The Burning Times, and I was rapidly getting pissed off with the festival's lack of diversity in the film it showed. There was a thriving scene of gay punks, lesbians goths, etc around the world, but no sign of it on screen. I wanted to change that.
The final straw for me was a decision by the then-director of the festival to ban the film Frisk (based on a novel by Denis Cooper about a guy who may or may not be a gay serial killer) on the basis that is didn't represent 'positive images of the gay and lesbian community.'
I can understand such an attitude, but I can't condone it. Yes, queers have been misrepresented constantly on the silver screen, as Vitto Russo explored so eloquently in The Celluloid Closet, and which I discussed here, in an article about Brokeback Mountain earlier this year. But in this day and age, surely we can be allowed to present more realistic explorations of gay and lesbian life?
I got my own back, though - after I became a festival programmer, not only did I program Frisk, I also programmed Hard, a hard-hitting albeit badly acted film about a gay serial killer toying with a closeted cop. Plus I got to screen several films, often documentaries, exploring queercore and other GLBT subcultures, but that's a whole other blog entry...
Now don't get me wrong, I haven't been forbidden to write articles for MCV that show the queer community in a bad light, but having just finished a piece about a transgendered killer in NSW whose parole has been repealed, the whole issue has bubbled back to the top of my memory.
Because, let's face it, there have been some pretty murderous queers from time to time:
- John Wayne Gacy - not only the subject of a beautiful song by Sufjan Stephens, but a cold-blooded killer of young men who dressed up in a clown suit (pictured, right).
- William Bonin, the 'Freeway Killer', described as 'the poster boy for capital punishment' by Californian Governor Pete Wilson (himself the subject of a Dead Kennedys song).
- The quietly-spoken, necrophilliac, cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer (the subject of a bad B-grade film), pictured right, who confessed to killing 16 young men and boys in the US city of Milwaukee.
- Over in the UK there was Colin Ireland, who claimed to be straight, but if you ask me, anyone who sets out to become a serial killer by specifically targetting gay men has got more than a few screws loose, one of which was probably related to his sexuiality...
- And of course, there's Dennis Nilsen, who killed his victims because he couldn't stand men leaving him, and who, amongst other things, inspired a work called Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men by UK dance company DV8 Physical Theatre...
And apologies to anyone who's been told via Bloglines that I've uploaded this post numerous time - I've been editing some spelling mistakes and trying to get the placement of the pictures right...
Saturday, August 26, 2006
To say I was delighted would be as much of an understatement as to suggest that the surface temperature of the sun is a touch warm.
Good on ya, Christos!
After watching a documentary about the Krays, which I'd picked up second hand from Smack-Converters, I trammed into the city to the tail end of a planning day for Voiceworks magazine, a fantastic resource and publication for writers under 25. Given that I worked there for five years, the editors (outgoing and incoming) apparently thought that my words of wisdom might be valuable in planning the next 12 months of the magazine's future: I hope they were right!
Next it was on to Madame Brussels, for the relaxed yet decadent 'hen's afternoon' for LadyCracker, who I first met while I was still a member of the programming committee for the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. She's getting married! Not very queer but still very cool. ;-)
Champagne, poets, bloggers (including Elaine, Sublime-ation and MelbourneGirl) queer film festival friends; a delightful convergance of worlds. Lovely. Oh yes, and the obligatory penis-straws, penis-lollies and other cock accoutremonts which are to be found at every hen's night in the world, apparently.
Thence to a tram, to Northcote Town Hall (via Walker Street, to collect an old friend Hugh, who I've known since 1987) for the opening night, piss-take of opening nights, which was the launch of the Darebin Music Feast.
Poets, comedians, musicians, Fringe folk, and more friends, as well as a very clever send-up of all the standard, banal elements of a standard opening ceremony - complete with a (cardboard) flying tram, a choir, a Northcote anthem, and a sumersaulting mayor! Hurrah!
Next, onto another tram (sadly without wings), full of drunk La Trobe students and also bearing a gallerist/curator, as I headed back into the city to Spleen, for the going-away party for another ex-Express Media/Voiceworks person, Lisa. She's off to Paris for a year - not that I'm jealous...
It was here that things went a little sour - perhaps because I was over-tired and hadn't eaten since lunch, but one of Lisa's guests was just a bit too Sydney for my tastes: she came across as supercilious, snobbish and elitist. That's harsh of me I know, but fuck she got on my nerves.
Here for the The Age Melbourne Writers' Festival, she struck me as really patronising towards people who weren't 'real' writers by her media-whore (i.e. writing for everything from the SMH to Dolly - and sorry if I have standards...) definition, as exposed in a discussion I had with her about the National Young Writers' Festival. Apparently most of the people who attend the festival 'aren't real writers'. Perhaps because they write for creative reasons, rather than to pay the rent by churning out banal bullshit?
Anyway, it was a sour note to (almost) finish the night. I have one more party to go to, at midnight, for Ray from Control HQ who's about to head off to London. Hopefully I'll be in a better mood by the time I get to his party!
1. Three things that scare me:
The fact that Australians keep electing John Howard as Prime Minister
George Bush and his warmongers
Huntsman spiders (although I'm much less arachnophobic than I used to be)
2. Three people that make me laugh.
Sean M. Whelan
3...Three things I hate the most
4...Three things I don't understand
How computers work
How to pick up in bars
5...Three things I'm doing right now
Wriggling my toes
Looking out the window
Wondering what my friend Lisa and I will have for lunch
6...Three things I want to do before I die
Fall in love again
Have my novel published
Visit Tierra del Fuego
7... Three things I can do
8... Three ways to describe my personality
(According to the Johari system: you can read about my good traits here, and my bad traits here, should you be so inclined)
9... Three things I can't do
Play a musical instrument
Speak a foreign language
10...Three things I think you should listen to
3RRR - and yes, we webcast!
11...Three things you should never listen to
The insecure voice at the back of your mind
12...Three things I'd like to learn
Another language other than drunken gibberish, in which I'm quite fluent
Maybe bass guitar
Possibly how to drive, although I've got this far without that particular ability...
13...Three favourite foods
14...Three beverages I drink regularly
15...Three shows I watched as a kid
The Banana Splits
16...Three people I'm tagging (to do this meme)
Dave the Scot
Anyway, as I write she's just finishing off the huge pile of dishes that's been sitting on the kitchen bench for the last few weeks. I did mean to get around to doing those myself at some stage, probably in fits and starts admittedly, so can I just say that I highly recommend having your mother visit if she's going to start cleaning things all the time? Certainly saves me having to clean the place to a presentable standard before she arrives, that's for sure. Thanks mum. xx
Took her out to lunch yesterday (excellent Malaysian at this superb little place in a laneway off Bourke Street) then last night to the opening of the latest Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces exhibition, and to see United 93.
We both came out of the film with white faces, knotted stomachs and red eyes. My god but its an amazing, harrowing film. If you haven't heard about it already, it's the story of the fourth plane that was hijacked on September 11, 2001; the plane that didn't hit its target.
Through a careful and collaborative process, which includes the use of real-life transcripts and painstaking interviews with the friends and families of those who died aboard the plane, writer-director Paul Greengrass has constructed a deeply moving and detailed picture of the final hours of the plane and its passengers.
Instead of Hollywood bombast and 'God bless America' hyperbole, he's given us a film in which the terrorists are presented as humans, not monsters; in which ordinary people are stirred to do extraordinary things without recourse to cinematic cliches; a film that manages to be deeply moving in spite, or perhaps because of, the absence of slow motion, overwhelming music, etc.
It's engrossing but also deeply disturbing, watching a film whose dreadful outcome you already know. The first time the camera focuses on characters waiting at the airport I had this dreadful frisson: You're all going to die.
United 93 is in general release. It's one of the few must-see films to have been released this year.
Other things I've done this week have included:
- Seeing Ross Mueller's superb, minimal play Construction of the Human Heart at The Malthouse; an intense exploration of grief and love, and a clever use of the dramatic staple of a play-within-a-play.
- Seeing another stripped back theatrical production at The Carlton Courthouse: Dolly Stainer of Kew Cottages by Janet Brown. I was afraid that this production might be trite, but instead it was a simple yet deeply moving study of one woman's life as lived in an institution, where she was placed at five years of age.
- Meeting one of my blog readers for coffee; and catching up with a slightly harried Mike over a glass of wine (don't let the bastards get you down, mate!).
- Running into the always lovely Ms Fits at a new, work-in-progress performance by The Town Bikes called Milk (which was difficult to see properly, unfortunately, due to the venue it was staged in, but which showed real potential as a more complex work by the performance duo; although I think its narrative threads need to be drawn out more clearly before it truly works).
- And going to see the truly shithouse DaVinci Machines down at the sterile Docklands. I still don't know what was worse; the pathetic exhibition that failed to showcase the genius of Leonardo Da Vinci in any tangible way; or the lifeless new suburb it was housed in...
All things considered it's been a rather splendid week. How was yours?
Thursday, August 24, 2006
On today's program, I spoke with:
- Damien Hodgkinson, the General Manager of Melbourne Fringe, who filled us in about changes that are afoot at the festival, which will now be known as The Age 2006 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Look for a souvenir poster promoting the festival in The Age on Thursday 7th September. This year's festival runs from 27 September - 15 October.
- Roderick Poole, the Manager of Northcote Town Hall, which this year is the hub of the Darebin Music Feast. The Feast kicks off this Saturday night, August 26th, and runs climaxes with the now-legendary High Vibes on Sunday 24th September.
- Artist Julie Millowick, whose exhibition Traces of Memory runs from 25th August - 10th November at the Monash Gallery of Art. That's a sample of her work pictured above.
- David Whitely, Artistic Director of Red Stitch Actors Theatre, and director Denis Moore, who came in to discuss the latest Red Stitch production: Richard Bean's epic comedy Harvest, which opens this Friday August 25th and runs til Saturday September 23rd.
- Cerise Howard from Senses of Cinema (recently voted the number one film journal by UK newspaper The Times) who joined us for her fortnightly screen culture segment.
Earthcore is looking for budding installations artists, street performers and other keen bodies to weave their magic at the Global Carnival, 24 - 26 November 2006 in
Melbourne International Arts Festival and The Ringtone Society seek original Australian-composed ringtones
Help liberate the world of digitally-dull ringtones: Get mobilised!
The Melbourne International Arts Festival and Dutch collective The Ringtone Society are calling for original ringtone compositions; from amateur, emerging and professional Australian composers and music makers. The Ringtone Society is an international platform that exists to free the world of digitally-dull, aurally repetitive, copy-cat mobile phone ringtones and reclaim the space for innovative global art and sound.
The on-line Ringtone Society creates ringtones from original compositions. The Melbourne International Arts Festival and The Ringtone Society need your creative input to build a catalogue from Australian composers as part of a larger, worldwide, online library. From jazz to heavy metal; country to classical, ringtone submissions can be from any musical genre. Not limited to music, ringtones could incorporate poetry or spoken word, Fido howling at the moon, slumber-induced snores or neighbourhood sounds! Your composition could be chosen by someone, somewhere in the world as their personal mobile phone ringtone!
The Ringtone Society will be launched at the 2006 Melbourne International Arts Festival in October at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Festival-goers can attend a series of ringtone ‘concerts’ and experience live recordings of original ringtones by Australian and Festival guest composers. Between now and October 12, The Ringtone Society will grow as the novel creations of Australian musicians are added to the ringtone catalogue. At last, Australian composers have the opportunity to have their ringtone creations available for worldwide access and downloading via The Ringtone Society website www.ringtonesociety.com
Help create a more enjoyable tram ride home, stop corporate noise pollution and win back your public audio space - get involved in The Ringtone Society!
- Deadline for ringtone submissions: 5pm, Monday 11 September, 2006
- Ringtones can be up to 30 secs maximum. All musical genres accepted
- Compositions must be original and created specifically for this purpose (ie not a sample from a previously recorded original song/piece of music)
- Compositions will be created into ringtones by The Ringtone Society, then downloadable by the general public for a small price (of which the composer receives royalties via APRA)
- First & surname, contact phone number including area code, email address, suburb and state
- 20 word biographical information about composer/s and an image to accompany the ringtone on the website (300 dpi. Landscape or horizontal)
- 20 word description of ringtone, including genre of music/sound, to be included on the website
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
In it, I was drinking at Richmond's gay bar, DT's, where I met the (allegedly closeted) St Kilda footballer Aaron Hamill. As he was alone, I invited him to drink with myself and my friends, which resulted in me selling him a spare ticket to the Merdith Music Festival. I recall that he came and camped out with us, but after that it's all a blur.
I wonder what it all means? For starters, I don't fancy him, or barack for the Saints...
Suggestions, interpretations and comments below, please!
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
So far on this particular Tuesday I have:
- worked at MCV;
- written an article that made my editor laugh out loud while reading it, which given it was a gentle dig at Jake from from Channel 9's low-rating 'Dancing on Ice' is a good thing;
- been to see an excellent play at the Malthouse;
- eaten some equally excellent fish and chips;
- drunk three glasses of absinthe;
- been enraged by leaders of the so-called ex-gay movement;
- read blogs;
- started re-reading Cocaine Blues, the first Phryne Fisher novel by annoyingly-prolific author Kerry Greenwood;
- listened to the new Magnolia Electric Co. cd;
- and poured myself another glass of absinthe.
Tomorrow I intend to see more theatre, some burlesque (including a certain Ms Fits' housemate) and possibly another film. I will also be meeting one of my latest blog readers, and catching up with an ex-date who has become a good friend.
Life, despite being a sexually transmitted terminal disease, is quite, as they say, grand.
And to prove it, instead of witty banter of my own, I've just cut-n-pasted the details of the media release I've just received straight into this blog post. I'M SO A-THRILL THAT I CAN'T EVEN TYPE STRAIGHT!
And now, without further ado:
THE SWEET SIXTEENTH MEREDITH MUSIC FESTIVAL When: Friday 8th, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December 2006
Where: The Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith, Victoria, Australia
Hello again. Blah blah blah blah blah, who's playing? Here's fifteen acts that are. There's still another fifteen acts to come. We'll let you know which acts are playing which day of the festival before tickets go on sale.
Tickets go on sale at 10am on Tuesday September 12th. They will be on sale from www.snowgum.com.au, Polyester, Greville, Missing Link. All details are at www.mmf.com.au
One stage fits all. Here's how it's looking thus far. Get thee to a browsery.
DATAROCK, Bergen, Norway.
Fredrik Saroea and Ketil Mosnes, others, Computer Camp Love, Princess, etc.
ROSE TATTOO, Australia.
Can't Be Beaten.
MIDLAKE, Denton, Texas.
Stone cutters made them stone. Never been here before.
THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Ebbot Lundberg (mystic), others, guitars etc. Surround Sister, take care of me. Psychedelic rock. Never been here before.
CITY OF BALLARAT MUNICIPAL BRASS BAND, Ballarat, Australia
The City of Ballarat Municipal Brass Band follows the traditional English brass band format, which is distinct from other types of band combinations such as military, concert, or symphonic. To maintain the unique distinctive sound that only a brass band can produce, woodwind,
reed and stringed instruments are not used. Difficult marches such as Scindian, The Arabian, The Cossack etc. were some of the marches the band played. During the first half of the 1950's, the band was considered to be the level of any marching band in Australia. Huge crowds would assemble at their prestigious performances.
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, Vancouver, Canada.
Carl Newman, his niece. Neko Case, her knees. Others. Spanish techno. Never been here before.
Read a review here
THE DRONES, Perth / Melbourne / parts unknown.
Shark Fin Blues and other soups. Won the Gold Logie. Last seen at Meredith in 2002. Again, time and place collide.
GIRL TALK, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Gregg. Notorious semi-naked live show. Current hip hop hits, soft rock radio standards, party classics, grunge masterpieces, R&B singles, glossy club-shakers, and rock anthems are all layered and pieced meticulously together into one non-stop celebration of pop and excess.
Late late late Saturday nite. We'll roster on extra staff at Lost and Found. Never been here before.
COMBO LA REVELACION , Peru, Carrum Downs.
Jorge, Moises, about 15 others. Brazillian dancers, batacada. 10 year residency, a year off. Coke changed their formula once. By overwhelming popular demand.
AUGIE MARCH , Shepparton/Melbourne.
Read reviews here, here and here.
TAPES N TAPES, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Cowbell, Insistor, the Loon.
THE PRESETS, Sydney, Australia.
Kimberley Isaac Moyes, Julian Hamilton. moody, crisp electronic future pop.
CONCERTINO TRIO , Moscow Conservatorium.
Three Russian masters.
Igor Oskolkov, Alex Begelfor, Vitaly Barishnikov. Gypsy/Balkan/folk. Virtuosos. Violin, Cello, Piano. Yuri Mougerman, Professor of Balalaika. Dasha Moloksher- Oskolkov (Igor's grand-daughter).
MY DISCO , Melbourne, Australia.
Ben W. Andrews (guitar), Liam J. Andrews (bass), Rohan S. Rebeiro (Drums). Meredith Opening Ceremony 2003.
THE BAMBOOS, Melbourne, Australia.
Funk, deep funk, super heavy funk. Lance, Ben, Danny, Yuri, Anton, Ross, others.
BAND OF HORSES , Seattle, Washington.
Sublime-Pop. Every year there's an album this office falls HARD for. This band is something very very special. The Funeral, Great Salt Lakes, the whole album really.
THE SWEET SIXTEENTH MEREDITH MUSIC FESTIVAL December 8, 9 and 10, The Supernatural Amphitheatre, Meredith, Victoria.
TICKETS ON SALE 10AM TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 12th
Tickets will be from (don't bother till Sept 12th) : www.snowgum.com.au, Polyester, Greville, Missing Link. All details are at www.mmf.com.au
What am I on about, you ask?
Decibel magazine in the US has just posted a long article about being gay and into heavy metal. It quotes everyone from Judas Priest's Rob Halford (pictured left, who came out in 1998) to Faith No More's keyboard player, Roddy Bottum.
It's a good read, although it doesn't necessarily have anything new to say. Go check it out.
Monday, August 21, 2006
On Sunday night, after a quietly debauched weekend of art, absinthe and more, I settled down in front of the TV for the debut feature from US writer-director Tennyson Bardwell, entitled Dorian Blues. This low-budget gay indie flick is yet another coming out and coming of age film, which despite a surfeit of cliches manages to coast home on a significant degree of charm, ably assisted by the charisma of its two male leads, a witty script, and a good sense of comic timing.
Michael McMillian is Dorian Lagatos, the titular character whose self-realisation the film follows. He's a wimpy gay nerd, over-fond of the word fabulous, with an aggressive, over-bearing father (Steve Fletcher) and a passive, emotionally distant mother (Mo Quigley). One of the only positives in Dorian's life is his effortlessly successful, football hero younger brother, Nicky (the charismatic Lea Coco, almost an equal lead rather than a supporting character).
Dorian Blues: Coco (far left) and Millian.
The film traces Dorian's slow coming out, and includes the token crush on his therapist; a cute & quaint scene with a prostitute who his brother sets him up with in an attempt to turn him straight; and the trauma of life as a newly gay man in the big city. The latter sequences include a flippant approach to a near-rape which raised my hackles a little, but that's a personal issue that will not resonate so strongly with everyone (a young man I am deeply fond of was raped following his first nervous visits to a gay bar, but I'll say no more of that here).
Despite unsure direction, overall Dorian Blues is a cute but forgettable addition to the ranks of queer cinema. It's certainly no Brokeback Mountain; hell, it's not even a Beautiful Thing, but if you're looking for something short, sweet and non-traumatic to while away an evening, this film might work for you.
Tonight, after a day at MCV and then a Fringe board meeting, I sat down with a glass or two of wine, and an Irish zombie movie.
It must be a trend - not the wine, Irish zombies I mean. At last year's MIFF I watched a D-grade Irish zombie flick called Dead Meat which used a mutation of mad cow disease as the basis for its plague.
Boy Eats Girl wasn't much better, unfortunately, although it was still entertaining enough for me to watch the whole film from start to end, which given that it's only about 80 minutes long isn't that much of a chore.
Written by Derek Landy and directed by Stephen Bradley, Boy Eats Girl focuses on the fraught love life of Nathan (David Leon), who has fallen in love with his friend Jessica (Samantha Mumba) but lacks the courage to ask her out. Thanks to his friends friends Henry (the puckish Laurence Kinlan) and Diggs (Tadhg Murphy) he attempts a rendevoux, but when it all goes wrong he drunkenly attempts suicide, which his mother, a thinly-drawn Grace (played by the directors wife, Deirdre O’Kane) accidentally assists.
Striken by guilt, Grace uses a book of voodoo rituals she's just happened to find in the crypt of the local church to bring her son back to life. Only problem is, the spell goes wrong, and Nathan is now a zombie, with an almost-uncontrollable appetite for human flesh. After one love-bite too many, a plague of flesh-eating zombies is soon running amok, and predictable mayhem ensues.
It's often been said that bad horror turns into comedy, and vice versa. This film proves that adage. While it never tries hard to scare, Boy Eats Girl does so very much want to be a blackly humoured comedy. Sadly, Shaun of the Dead it aint. Despite one or two strong performances, and some great special effects (especially in an especially messy scene involving what I think is a combine harvester and a snarling herd of zombies) Boy Eats Girl just doesn't work on most levels. That said, as far as B-grade, if not actually D-grade films go, it's not an entirely unsatisfactory waste of time.
And my favourite line from the film?
"You're supposed to make friends at school, not eat them!"
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences along with these instructions.
5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
Seeing as I'm sitting at my desk in the study, there are four bookcases around me, and, as it happens, a small pile of paperbacks on my desk itself. The topmost book is...
The Stealer of Souls, by Michael Moorcock (Granada, UK, 1981).
"In the shadows of the awful trees, figures moved with shambling caution. The misshapen men of Org began to creep inwards towards the sleepers. Then Elric opened his eyes, aroused by instinct, stared at Zarozinia's sleeping face beside him, moved his eyes without turning his head and saw the danger. He rolled over, grasped Stormbringer and tugged the runeblade from its sheath."
Riveting stuff, eh? Bet you can't wait to know what happens next!
And for my next trick I tag:
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Slept in until 10.30am, having had a relatively quiet night last night. Said quiet night, unfortunately, meant I missed a mate's impromptu South Yarra housewarming as I already had a prior engagement: a collaborative gig by poet Sean Whelan and band The Mime Set.
Like too many of the gigs associated with the Overload Poetry Festival, it was a bit of a debacle. Festival organisers hadn't checked Dante's sound restrictions, and had slotted the band in on a Friday night without considering the potential clash between the venue's dinner patrons and a hybridised rock-poetry performance.
I arrived to discover that the band were not playing. They, apparently, had only found out the previous day, when one band member arrived to check out the PA, that they would not be playing. To say they were not impressed would be an understatement. Sean battled on regardless, performing a stripped-back reading for the small crowd. Thereafter I went home, and actually had an early night for a change, which was much needed.
After lazing around reading the paper this morning, the afternoon consisted of art, light exercise, absinthe and old friends.
Stilgherrian, who I became friends with in my early 20's when I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, had let me know he was going to be in town and asked if I'd like to catch up. My answer was a definite yes, as it had been over 10 years since we'd last seen each other. But first I had an exhibition to see.
I want to break free was a solo exhibition by Melbourne artist Lily Hibberd at Richmond's Karen Woodbury Gallery. Yesterday was the exhibition's final day, so I made a concerted effort to see the show before it closed, and I'm glad I did.
A series of large-scale works painted on linen (one of which is shown left) explored the fears and tensions of domestic life, while a set of smaller paintings played with the emotional states associated with the main works. "Every time I think of you I cry," one of these smaller paintings tells us. "You might as well take everything," reads another. "I want to break free (Security Screen)" hinted at the secret fears kept hidden behind a comfortable suburban facade, evoking loss and hope as well as a sense of claustrophobia or agrophobia. Other works depicted individuals struggling with their everyday surroundings, or even dead in banal circumstances.
I struggled with the urge to buy one of the smaller works, having finally paid off my credit card recently, but eventually decided against such extravagence. Good exhibition, though.
I walked most of the way home, and soon after jumped on a tram and headed into town to meet up with Stil and his partner. We caught up over a beer, and - still talking - made our way first to the National Gallery in St Kilda Road, where we checked out a small but intimate photographic exhibition, American Beauty: Photographs of the American Social Landscape 1930's - 1970's. Some superb work, including this 1969 photograph by Lee Friedlander entitled Mt Rushmore.
Afterwards I took the boys to the Gin Palace, where we lounged about and I drank Pernod absinthe. It was all rather lovely, and it was definitely a pleasure to catch up with Stilgherrian again after so many years.
Later that night I was picked up by an oldmate Darren, and we drove out to Box Hill for dinner, drinks and a session of our friend Mark Morrison's new Dungeons and Dragons campaign set in Reformation-era England, in which the newly restored monarchy of Charles II is threatened by demonic forces. Much wine was consumed, much fun was had, and I eventually crawled into bed at about 3am, rather the worse for wear.
A splendid day, however!
Saturday, August 19, 2006
I can appreciate the fact that many of the young men who fought in Vietnam were traumatised by the experience, and were reviled when they came home to a country that had become radicalised in opposition to a war of American interests; especially in the case of conscripts.
That said, conscripted men could have done what Simon Townsend did and become conscientious objectors; and regardless of whether the soldiers concerned wanted to fight in Vietnam or not, the point remains that they did so as part of the military apparatus of the state, in a proxy war that the Australian government of the day was fighting at the behest of the anti-Communist USA.
On one level, Australia's involvement in Vietnam was very much about the domino theory of politics, and the ruling government's paranoia of the day that held that, as one country fell to communism, those around it would soon follow.
Opposition to conscription, the belief that US intervention in the country was immoral and guided by its own political interests, the rising death toll, and several other factors including military atrocities, fuelled a growing public opposition to Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. The huge moritorium marches around Australia from 1970 onwards were one example of the public's opposition to the conflict.
And now, is it just me, or do others also feel that Howard's on-going culture wars have resulted in a situation where it feels like the anti-Vietnam War protests of the late 1960's and early 70's never happened?
It's especially ironic given the Vietnam-like possibilities in Iraq and other sites around the world, don't you think?
And on a closing note, does anyone know what little Johnny Howard was doing in the 1960's? I bet he somehow managed to avoid serving in Vietnam...
Friday, August 18, 2006
Our lead character is Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mysterious Skin, pictured above), who recalls Chandler's description of a private detective in such a hard-boiled world.
"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid... He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."
Brendan isn't quite that heroic, but he certainly fits the mold of a noir hero: he's a brooding loner whose love for Emily (Emilie de Ravin), his missing ex-girlfriend propells him into an underworld of vice and violence, ruled over by The Pin (Lukas Haas).
This memorable take on a crime boss is one of the film's best flourishes, and while not all characters are so sharply drawn, even the most perfunctory help advance the convoluted plot , involving murder, and a missing brick of heroin.
The stylishly observed elements of noir that Johnson has wrought into his screenplay work cleverly to the film's advantage, as typied by a scene involving one of the only two adults allowed to intrude into this highschool-as-battlefield scenario, the vice principal. He's a harried figure who spars with Brendan the way a chief of police would with a rebellious but admired detective, in a scene shot from noir's familiar low angles to emphasise the tension inherent in their exchange.
While the film's style sometimes wins out over its substance, by and large Brick is a highly entertaining conceit directed with aplomb, and showcasing another charismatic performance by Gordon-Leavitt.
Three and a half stars out of five.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
What is it with getting naked and other such homoerotic shenannigans with your mates?
Can anyone explain it?
Maybe its a sublimated expression of conflicted same-sex desire?
Or maybe its just some deeply ingrained sense of male humour that I just don't get?
Any suggestions that this post is actually an excuse to fetishise, ogle or objectify heterosexual men will be strongly denied.
Well, ok, perhaps not that strongly.
Maybe a bit.
Gosh, what about that bastard of a Prime Minister, hey?
(Thanks to Dan in Ok City, from whom I stole the pics.)
Next week we return to our scheduled programming - although precisely what that will be, I'm unsure of just yet!
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
HAIR DRESSER/MAKE-UP ARTIST – "NEIGHBOURS" - NUNAWADING
A position is currently available for a fully qualified hairdresser/make-up artist on "Neighbours", this will be a 4 day per week position.
Cutting, styling and maintaining hair for continuity with a large sustaining cast
Application of make-up
Maintaining continuity of established looks
Fully qualified hairdresser
Have a good understanding of cutting, blow waving and roller work
Ability to use air brushing techniques for make-up application
Be able to work long hours - early starts and late finishes are involved
Both studio and location work is required
Have a creative flair and an eye for detail
Be able to work quickly and efficiently under pressure
Have good communication skills
A knowledge of drama - understanding continuity is vital
Be able to work as part of a team
Ability to work quickly and under pressure
Basic make-up and hair dressing kit
Car licence and own vehicle
Salary and contract details to be discussed at interview stage.
WRITTEN APPLICATIONS ONLY will be accepted and should be forwarded to:
Pauline Walker - Production Manager - at "Neighbours" Production Office by: Fax: (03) 9887 9903 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications will close on Tuesday 22nd August, 2006 at 12 noon - NO LATE APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
As evidence, your honour, I present the following:
1. My hayfever has made a comeback.
2. The magnolia trees in Gertrude Street are in bloom.
3. I got laid yesterday.
It wasn't the best sex I've ever had, it's true, but it was certainly welcome after a rather barren winter.
At this point, my inner censor points out, if you don't want to read about my sex life, you should click here and be taken to a much more wholesome place.
All done? Good.
Now that we've got rid of the wowsers, I'll just mention, before we get underway, that you're not going to get a blow-by-blow description of anything - I'll save that for the next time I write a piece of erotica - but you will get some frank and honest discussion, alright?
I left the offices of MCV in Richmond at about 5.15pm on Monday and started walking into the city. I was heading for the Kino Cinema, for a media screening of Breakfast on Pluto, the new film from director Neil Jordan starring Cillian Murphy, but I didn't make it, for a very good reason.
As I traversed the verdant expanse of the Fitzroy Gardens, my eye was caught by a tall young lad in jeans and a tracksuit top walking towards me. He would have been about, oh, 19 or so. I eyed him off as he drew closer, and I noticed that he seemed to be checking me out as well.
(Public cruising has never been one of my strong points, although it is something I've had a small degree of success with in the past. I've picked up in clubs, sure, but also once or twice on the street, and on one memorable occasion on a Northcote-bound tram.)
We walked past each other giving one another the eye. Seen up close, this guy was just my type; what some men would refer to by using the class-based moniker rough trade. Me, I'd just call him a bit of a bloke.
I've always had a thing for masculine men, which admittedly in the past, before I had completely come to terms with the idea of being queer, tended to express itself in unhealthy infatuations with straight men. That said, not all those men were completely straight. Some might have been bisexual but been uncomfortable with the label. These days, thanks to the internet, they might be able to express the complexity of their sexuality with terms like 'bicurious', 'hetero-flexible' or even 'being on the down-low'.
Regardless of what they called themselves, I got well past first base with more than a few of those so-called straight men, although they'd usually claim to have been 'so drunk I don't remember what happened' the next day. Bullshit!
Anyway, back to what happened last night.
We walked past each other. We made eye contact. We kept walking. I slowed my pace and glanced over my shoulder back towards him. He did the same.
I slowed my pace even further, stopped, and leaned against a tree. He walked slowly back towards me.
"Got a light?" he asked.
"Nope, sorry, not a smoker."
"Oh," he muttered.
"Sorry," I said.
"Do you want a blowjob?"
I love a man who's so frank and open.
"Yes," I replied.
"You'll blow me too, right?" he asked hesitantly.
I assured him that I would. Off we went.
Now, if it had been night-time, and warm, I may have considered getting off with him then and there in the park, as long as we could find a nice, dark, secluded space to do it in. And don't look at me like that; I know you straight people have sex outdoors all the time, I've stumbled across you doing it often enough.
We went back to my place, and spent a very pleasent half hour or so fooling round.
Taking a complete stranger back to your house for sex is always risky, but it's also part of the attraction with anonymous sex I suppose; the thrill of danger, perhaps. Certainly it adds a little spice. Either way, this guy seemed nice, albeit nervous, but I put that down to the fact that he said that this was his first time with a guy. Yeah right, like I haven't heard that one before. Then again, given the clumsy eagerness with which he was shortly to go down on me, he might have been telling the truth...
I was slightly more wary of him once we back at my flat, when a spraypaint can fell out of his jacket pocket as he was undressing, but he said he was a tagger, not a chromer. Besides, he had a fantastic body: that lean definition that gives a bloke perfect 'fuck me' muscles (those v-shaped grooves that run from a guy's hips down towards his crotch). Plus he had a lovely treasure trail, which always turns me on.
The sex was awkward but passionate, as the first time with a new partner often is.
Halfway through things he told me he wanted me to fuck him. I declined, on the basis that if this really was his first time, unless he was completely relaxed and comfortable, it could be a little painful. Besides which, I didn't have any lube. With spring here, I really must re-stock.
Afterwards, once we'd cleaned up, he gave me his number, and told me to call him in a couple of hours, as he'd be back in the area by then and up for a repeat performance.
Either deliberately or unintentionally, he'd given me the wrong number.
When I arrived, bang on 12.30, there were about 300 people already milling around, many of them wearing red (as suggested on the rally poster). 'Not a bad turn out for a Sunday' I thought to myself.
By the time the speeches began at 12.45, the crowd had grown to almost 1,000, while by the time we marched down Bourke Street there were 2,000 people present.
Highlights included a speech by Baptist priest, on behalf of a coalition of Christian ministers who support same-sex relationships; the mass committment ceremony on the steps of Parliament (the love shining from the eyes of the 55 couples present was beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes as I watched); and the number of straight people present - friends and family members who were present to show their love and support for their queer comrades and relations.
And of course, it being an election year, the politicians and political candidates were out in force, including Greens, Democrats and the two major parties.
Smaller crowds attended similar rallies held simultaneously around the country, including
Thanks to Alistair Popple for the photos; I so have to get my own digital camera!
That said, let me quickly recap on the remaining films I saw at the festival:
Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig
(Dir. Katherine Linton, USA, 2006)
MIFF said: "One record producer... The creators of the cult film and stage classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch... and some of the most influential indie rockers... They all come together to record a benefit album for a controversial high school in New York City supporting lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning students.
Through a dramatic and vibrant combination of verité documentation, student video diaries and rare in-studio scenes of artists recording tracks, this film offers a powerful look at the intersection of youth, gender and rock."
I say: Great film! The performance by The Polyphonic Spree was superb, and brought tears of joy to my eyes; Rufus Wainwright was yearning and tender; and Yoko Ono was simply out there (and didn't the audience love her!). The way the film followed a range of gay, lesbian and transgendered students through their lives meshed perfectly with the unfolding saga of recording the benefit album, and succinctly illustrated what the Hetrick-Martin Institute is all about, and why the school it runs is so desperately needed. Seeing this film also made me want to go out and see Hedwig and the Angry Inch again too...
Em 4 Jay
(Dir. Alkinos Tsilimidos, Australia, 2006)
MIFF said: "Melbourne iconoclast, Alkinos Tsilimidos, teams up again with renowned playwright Daniel Keene (Tom White MIFF 2004) to create this unflinchingly confronting, romantic tragedy.
Together, young local actors Laura Gordon and Nick Barkla are revelatory as the doomed lovers of the tale, Emma and Jay, who descend into a criminal rampage to support their heroin habits. In keeping with Tsilimidos’ social realist leanings and disinterest in safe, middle-class stories, Em 4 Jay isn’t afraid to bury its audience in the characters’ unsympathetic (and pathetic) world… and it keeps you in a stranglehold until the very last frame."
I say: Sorry Alkinos, I've really enjoyed your earlier films such as Tom White and Silent Partner but you lost me with this one. Despite superb performances (from actors who were 100 x more convincing than Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish in Candy) this was, in the end, yet another addition to the tried, true and tired 'doomed junkie' drama. Apart from a poignant scene between Emma and her despairing older sister, and an hilarious attempted robbery when the ill-fated pair don pig masks, there was nothing new or engaging about this film for me. Others, of course, will disagree...
A Weekend in the Country: A History of the Meredith Music Festival
(Dir. Robert McCafferty, Australia, 2006)
MIFF said: "Drawing on a range of archival footage filmed by festival organisers and punters, A Weekend in the Country shows the growth of the festival over the past 15 years. In addition to cataloguing some of the more memorable moments during the festival’s history (including some obligatory footage of the Meredith Gift, the nude foot race that takes place on the final day of the festival), the documentary features electrifying concert footage and interviews from such Australian mainstays as the Augie March, Dirty Three, You Am I, Powdermonkeys, the Fireballs and Spiderbait.
I say: Loved this film, which was McCafferty's directorial debut. Despite some over-long performances, and dodgy sound and camerawork from the festival's early days (which were appropriate, in that they gave a real sense of the ad-hoc nature of the event) this doco perfectly captured the feel and fun of Meredith, complete with the Meredith Gift. I can't wait for the next festival!
(Dir. Neil Marshall, UK, 2005)
MIFF said: "Pitched by its director as “Deliverance goes underground”, The Descent is the much-anticipated second feature from Neil Marshall who was attributed with sparking a resurgence in British horror with his exciting debut Dog Soldiers. It takes us on a chilling and thrilling spelunking adventure with a team of adrenaline-seeking women. Upon being trapped deep within an otherworldly cave, they face not only their own fears but a colony of flesh-eating sub-humans."
I say: I loved Dog Soldiers, and I really enjoyed Marshall's new film as well. He has an excellent ear for dialogue and characterisation, and manages group dynamics well. Superb sound and editing, coupled with strong performances and cinematography, meant that this film was already gripping and suspenceful long before the characters first encountered the carnivorous trogdolytes that are responsible for the gory deaths of most of them. Yes, it occasionally veered off into the predictable and the over-the-top, but I walked out of this film electrified and grinning wildly, so it definitely worked for me.
(Dir. Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland, USA, 2006))
MIFF said: "Young Latinos in Los Angeles struggle with life as outsiders when they find themselves at loggerheads with traditional family and Catholic values in this sensitive portrayal of Latino life in the USA.
Endearing and unpretentious, Quinceañera is an affecting depiction of life in West Coast Mexican immigrant communities, where the forces of gentrification are encroaching on their neighbourhoods. Winner of both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival."
I say: This is exactly the sort of bland crowd-pleaser that gives the Sundance Film Festival an increasingly bad name. Set in the predominantly Latino district of Echo Park in LA, the film is just left of centre enough to be considered 'edgy', in that its main character is a pregnant 14 year old girl. Magdelena (Emily Rios) goes to live with her hunky, rough-trade gay cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia) and saintly old uncle Tomas (Chalo Gonzalez) after her preacher father kicks her out of home.
Characterisations were thin, although the majority of the actors did a lot with a little, and it was clear the gay film-makers (who also made the lacklustre porn drama The Fluffer) are much more interested in their wet-dream fantasy, Carlos, rather than Magdelena, whose coming-of-age 15th birthday ceremony is the quinceañera of the title. Attempts to establish the setting as one of the 'characters' of the movie were forced, and the film-makers' guilt at being part of the gentrification process documented in the film was was readily apparent, at least to me. Although occasionally sweet, Quinceañera was also slight and unsatisfying.
This Film is Not Yet Rated
(Dir. Kirby Dick, USA, 2006)
MIFF said: "In the USA, a shadowy, anonymous group controls what the population may or may not view. It isn’t the CIA or the Masons; it’s the Motion Picture Association of America.
Responsible for rating all films shown in the USA, the MPAA has never divulged its rating guidelines, refuses to disclose the identity of its board members and is essentially unaccountable for its decisions.
An insightful and comical investigation into an organisation accustomed to operating beyond the bounds of accountability."
I say: Instead of hard-hitting and interogative, this film opted for the quirky and humorous approach to documentary-making, and as a consequence failed to entertain. Despite engaging interviews with film-makers such as John Waters, Kevin Smith and Darren Aronofsky, the film spent too long with a lesbian private detective hired to discover the identity of the MPAA, and not enough looking at the means and consequences of their 'rating' (read censorship) of films. Too, its revelation that independent films were treated drastically differently to studio releases was delivered in an almost throw-away style. This doco could have been revelatory, but was instead relegated to light entertainment as a consequence of the director's stylistic approach.
I didn't bother trying to get a ticket for the closing night film, Paul Goldman's latest Australian feature Suburban Mayhem, as I'd already heard a number of bad reviews, and was less than impressed by the scenes from it that were shown at the MIFF media launch a couple of months ago.
Instead, I was lucky enough to grab a ticket for the film that squeezed almost unheralded into the 'To Be Confirmed' slot at The Forum on Sunday night; a film I'd been longing to see as soon as I heard about it....
(Dir. Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 2006)
Critics say: "The power of motherhood and the blessing of good friends run as themes through Pedro Almodovar's entertaining fantasy Volver, even though the central topics are abuse and death." - The Hollywood Reporter
"This is Almodovar's most sophisticated film to date: a joyous, touching, funny and thrilling account of the up-and-downs of family life." - Tiscali UK
"Peopled with superbly drawn, attractive characters smoothly integrated into a well-turned, low-tricks plotline, Volver may rep Almodovar's most conventional piece to date, but it is also his most reflective, a subdued, sometimes intense and often comic homecoming that celebrates the pueblo and people that shaped his imagination." - Variety
I say: Viva Almodovar! My favourite European director's new film won the Best Actress award for its ensemble female cast at Cannes this year, and it was easy to see why. Penelope Cruz, the delightful Carmen Maura (back with Almodovar for the first time since 1988's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) and many others are all in superb form, while the film itself is a superb balance of Almodovar's earlier, outrageous satires coupled with the warm observations of his more recent dramas. A flawless drama about love and death from a director at the peak of his powers. Although not opening until November, this film is not to be missed!
Afterwards, myself and some friends headed off to the closing night party, enjoyed several drinks (although the champagne ran out just after we arrived, unfortunately) and I slid happily into bed at about 2am.
So, that was MIFF for me this year: 19 sessions in total (including two walk-outs, which I haven't written up here, because quite frankly I couldn't be bothered) over 17 days of the festival, and bringing the total number of films I've seen at the cinema so far this year to a measly 55. Quite slack, really, when you think about!