Tuesday, March 28, 2006

RIP Pro Hart

Tribute for Pro Hart

Jane Scott, Director of the Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) and curator of the travelling exhibition, Pro Hart: Retrospective, pays tribute to one of Australia's most popular contemporary artists, Pro Hart who died today aged 77.

"We are deeply saddened to hear the news that Pro Hart has passed away at his Broken Hill home this morning after battling motor neurone disease.

"Self-taught and unashamedly Australian, Pro Hart produced some of the Nation's most recognisable images. His love affair with colour, paint and its application endeared him to audiences around the world.

"Pro's uncompromising and often unorthodox political views mirrored his non-conformism in his art practice and his approach to the art world. At a time when so many reputations are the result of spin, Pro Hart was an artist of genuine conviction and character.

"For Pro, painting was like inventing. He experimented with media and invented different techniques of applying paint. He used any tool or method to achieve the desired outcome for his work. Working mostly in oils and acrylics, he drew upon techniques of layering, chiaroscuro, glazing, scumb scratching and alla prima. He painted on many surfaces including aeroplanes; hot-air balloons; boomerangs; computers; cricket bats; airships; footballs; motorcycles; overalls; singer Peter Allen's piano; pipe organs; refrigerators; steam shovels; and on the front covers of Gideon Bibles. He also painted several cars and was a sculptor working with welded steel, bronze and ceramics.

"His subjects were uniquely Australian with eccentricities often being recorded in his narratives. Pro's paintings were informed by his accumulated life experiences, from his childhood living in the bush, to working and living in the mining town of Broken Hill. Much of his figurative work flourished with human activity and was the result of Pro's keen observation of the minutia of everyday life in the outback town of Broken Hill. Subjects included country race meetings, picnics, weddings and street scenes. The art of Pro Hart was also informed by deep religious beliefs and non-conformist political views.

"Pro's fondness for inventing different techniques of applying paint was perhaps best demonstrated through his performance pieces or 'happenings' in which he used canons and shanghais to fire paint at canvasses. The most famous of these 'art expressions' was the TV commercial for Dupont Stainmaster Carpet in which Pro created a large image of a dragonfly by throwing, squashing and firing food on a carpet floor. Regardless of its form, Pro Hart's art was created through a deep desire to communicate visually with as many people as possible," Ms Scott said.

After two years on the road and 11 venues across Australia, the MGA touring exhibition, Pro Hart: Retrospective, is yet to stop at four venues in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. This unique exhibition showcases Hart's prolific career and features 60 paintings, etchings and sculptures. The work is drawn from Pro Hart's private collection and has been curated by Jane Scott, Director of the MGA.

Remaining tour dates for Pro Hart: Retrospective, a Monash Gallery of Art touring exhibition:
  • 22 April - 4 June 2006: GOLD COAST CITY ART GALLERY, Tel: 07 55816520
  • 17 June - 28 July 2006: ROCKHAMPTON REGIONAL GALLERY, Tel: 07 49368248
  • 25 August - 24 September 2006: WANGARATTA EXHIBITIONS GALLERY, Tel: 03 5722 0865
  • 13 October - 26 November 2006: RIDDOCH ART GALLERY SOUTH AUSTRALIA, Tel: 08 8723 9566

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Thank fuck that's over with...

The Commonwealth Games closed tonight. Hurrah!

Farewell traffic jams, insanely crowded streets and trams, and endless droning helicopters overhead.

Admittedly, the sense of excitement in the CBD was rather cool, and I enjoyed the opportunity to play impromtu tour guide whenever I noticed lost travellers looking confused and consulting maps... I just can't stop myself from helping people. My mum would be proud, I'm sure.

I walked down to the Fitzroy Gardens to watch the fireworks tonight- a pretty good view, although the countless panicked fruit bats wheeling overhead were (I suspect) an unplanned addition to the show... but I couldn't help thinking, even as I grinned like a delighted child at the beauty of the colours exploding and sparkling across the sky, about just how much money was being spent before my eyes.

$50 million on the combined opening and closing ceremonies apparently, for a second-rate international sporting carnival that's unfairly balanced in favour of the handful of competing countries who are rich enough to be able to afford an elite athletes training program.

This when small to medium youth arts organisations are lucky to get $80,000 a year in government funding despite the long term cutural creativity they generate for the wider community, instead of for a handful of people who know how to run/swim faster or throw/kick something further than the next person.

This when our health, housing, education and public transport sectors are crying out for better government support.

Bread and circuses. Fuck that for a joke.

PS: Before any of my mates ask, no, my cynicism is not connected to a lack of brief but passionate flings with dark and handsome international visitors while the Com Games were on. I didn't even try, to be honest. I'm finding meaningless sex rather boring at the moment.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Gay Bushrangers

Over at Reasons You Will Hate Me, Ms Fits has raised the perenial question of whether or not Ned Kelly (pictured left, the day before his execution) was a wooly woofter. Oddly enough, I wrote an article for the national fag-mag DNA on just such a topic a couple of years ago, as a tie-in with the lamentable 2003 film Ned Kelly. Here's a slightly abridged version of it for the salacious history-buffs among you:


As early as 1879 stories were circulating that at least one member of the Kelly Gang had a fondness for lady's clothing. In December the previous year the gang had held up Euroa's National Bank; before the raid Ned and the boys had burnt their old clothes, and disguised themselves as toffs. Among the ashes of their old clothes was found what was thought to be the remains of a lady's bonnet.

As Steve Hart (below, right) was the youngest, most slender member of the gang, police decided he must have been dressed as a woman, perhaps to reconoiter the bank, or - ah hah! - because he was a cross-dressing pervert.

According to Kelly expert Ian Jones, "the whole transvestism thing is codswallop...a complete misreading of the facts. The hat was a man's hat with a fly-veil on it."

By the 1960's the rumours had spread, and some were to claim that all four members of the Kelly Gang were cross-dressing transvestites.

Now, Ned Kelly was a strapping 1.8 metre tall man with a four inch reddish beard - hardly the sort of bloke who'd make a convincing drag queen. This didn't stop author Peter Carey adopting the rumours of cross-dressing for his 2000 best seller True History of the Kelly Gang, although he allocated the penchant for frocks to Ned's youngest brother Dan, and a third gang member , Steve Hart (and also Ned's dad, Red Kelly, who was not a member of the Gang).

The other key member of the Kelly Gang was the opium-smoking poet Joe Byrne, whose best friend - later to be shot and killed by the Gang just before the siege at Glenrowan, after he betrayed them to the police - was Aaron Sherritt.

Historian Manning-Clarke hinted of a relationship between the two - "a David and Jonathan friendship" (a Biblical reference to a friendship 'surpassing the love of women') - in Volume IV of his A History of Australia. Later, in 1980, John Moloney more bluntly claimed in his I Am Ned Kelly that the relationship between Joe and Aaron was a romantic one: "Aaron loved Joe with a love unbound and Joe had been taken from him," Moloney said, suggesting that the reason Aaron betrayed the Gang, and was consequently killed by them, was because Ned had stolen his lover away.

This theory gains weight in light of Aaron Sherritt's angry words to Joe Byrne's mother after she abused him for betraying the Gang: "I'll kill him [Joe] and before he's cold I'll fuck him."

Ian Jones sees no evidence of a homosexual relationship between Byrne and Sherritt. "You look at these two fellers and they are both very actively heterosexual," he says.

Any gay man who's had sex with a straight man can testify that being sexually active with women doesn't rule out same-sex activity. But let's assume that Ian Jones is right and Joe Byrne (left) was as straight as they come. What about the rest of the gang?

In 1966, in a Sydney Morning Herald article, linguist Sidney J Bakerwas quoted as saying about the Kelly Gang, "I have little doubt that they were a group of homosexuals."

His evidence? Ned's fondness for perfume; the gang's periodic donning of women's clothing (see above); a singular and well-documented example of man-on-man action instigated by a member of the gang (which we'll come to in a moment); and the deaths of the youngest Gang members, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart in one another's arms at the Siege of Glenrowan.

This article prompted considerable outrage, from such notables as author and artist Norman Lindsay. "All men of that era," Lindsay wrote the following year in The Bulletin, "irrespective of class, used perfume... In fact it was an almost male perogative."

This was indeed, an era when men carried cologne-scented handkerchiefs to ward off the stink of open drains. Sidney J. Baker's lack of understanding of men's fashion of the era, given that he was writing 80 years after the Gang's deaths, is understandable: his knowledge of their well-documented deaths, less so.

While the notion is romantic, I'm sad to say that Dan and Steve did not die in one another's arms. Eye-witness accounts, including Catholic priest Dean Michael Gibney, who tried to rescue the boys' bodies from the burning inn, clearly confirms that they died apart from one another.

However, one of Baker's facts is backed up by other sources. At the siege, Dan Kelly did ask another man to dance with him despite the fact that there were women present. This man was the same person who would betray the Gang to the police, leading to their deaths: the schoolteacher Tom Curnow.

In a later testimony at the inquest into the so-called Kelly Outbreak, Curnow says that young Dan (who was only 19 at the time he died) came out of the inn and asked him to dance with him. "I said I could not dance with the boots I had on," Curnow replied, whereupon Ned came out onto the veranda and said "Com on, never mind your boots." Curnow then danced with Dan Kelly.

If Dan Kelly (right) is our most likely suspect as the gay member of the Gang, on the basis that he specifically asked a man to dance with him despite the fact that Mrs Ann Jones, the innkeeper, and her daughter were present, we should also consider that Ned was probably no stranger to man-on-man action, having been jailed several times since he was a youth. Situational homsexuality, as any man who has spent time in jail or in the armed forces will testify, is by no means uncommon.

Shortly after Sidney Baker's allegations were made in the Sydney Morning Herald, historian Ian Jones remembers "talking to an old feller up in Kelly Country, Jack Plant I think... I said 'Look, what do you think about these stories about Ned being homosexual?' Poor old Jack thought about it for a moment and said, 'Listen, if Ned Kelly had been a poofter he would have been a bloody good one!'"

"Poor Sidney," Jones continues. "He had a bug about Ned Kelly. I would say that Sidney was homophobic, and that by applying these allegations to the Kelly Gang he thought he had placed them beyond the pale. He thought it would destroy their reputation. It was a stupid thing to do because it wasn't true. Even if it was true, it wouldn't have changed anything. Ned Kelly would have been what he was and would have done what he did."

While we may never know for certain whether or not members of the Kelly Gang comforted one another during those cold nights alone in the bush, there is one Australian bushranger that we can conclusively claim was what we would now call a homosexual.

Captain Moonlite, born Andrew Scott, turned to bushranging in 1869, but not successfully. He was caught and sentanced to 10 years in Melbourne's Pentridge Prison in 1872, where he met James Nesbit, who was aged 19 at the time of his release (compared to Scott's age of 37), and who was something of a career criminal. The two became close in jail, and lived together in Melbourne for several months following their release in 1879.

Thereafter the pair left Melbourne, embarking on a brief crime spree in the vicinity of Wagga Wagga, which led to them being besieged by the police. A gun battle took place, and James Nesbit was shot. According to some sources it happened while he was attempting to act as a decoy so that Moonlite could escape.

As Nesbit lay dying Captain Moonlite carried him back into the cover of a farmhouse, and "wept over him like a child...and kissed him passionately."

Throughout the following trial for the murder of a policeman killed in the siege, Moonlite wore a ring made of Nesbit's hair. His letters from Darlinghurst Gaol, written during the trial during the final weeks of his life, were never sent, and were later discovered by historian Garry Wotherspoon. They speak volumes of Moonlite's love for his dead companion.

"We were one in heart and soul, he died in my arms and I long to join him, where there shall be no more parting," Moonlite wrote in a letter to one friend. In another he said, "he died in my arms, his death has broken my heart." An in another letter, "when I think of my dearest Jim, I am nearly driven mad."
Captain Moonlite (right), aka Andrew Scott, was executed on January 20th 1880. His dying wish was to be buried beside his beloved James Nesbit, the man with whom he was "united by every tie which could bind human friendship, we were one in hopes, in heart and soul and this unity lasted until he died in my arms." This wish was not granted by the authorities of the day.

Joe Byrne, Steve Hart and Dan Kely died in the flaming ruins of the Glenrowan Inn on June 28th that same year of 1880. Ned Kelly was hung at the old Melbourne Gaol and died at four-and-a-half minutes past 10am on 11th of November, 1880.

Following his death, Ned's head was removed for study and medical students descended upon his still-warm corpse in a swarm, taking away every part of his body that they could as grisly souvenirs. The mutilated, headless body was buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the jail the following day.

Unlike the story of the Kelly Gang, there is a happy ending to the sad story of Captain Moonlite. Andrew Scott's coffin was exhumed from its grave at Sydney's Rookwood Cemetary in January, 1995. After having been transported in a horse-drawn cart to Gundagai Cemetery, the body of Captain Moonlite was reinterred, and now rests beside that of James Nesbit for all eternity.

The Sydney Morning Herald, August 4th 1966.
'The Question of Ned Kelly's Perfume,' Norman Lindsay, The Bulletin, March 18, 1967.
Ned Kelly: A Short Life, Ian Jones, Lothian Books 1995.
True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey, UQP 2000.
Camping by a Billabong, Robert French, Blackwattle Press 1993.
'Moonlight and... Romance: The Implications of the death-cell letters of Captain Moonlite and some of their implications,' Garry Wotherspoon, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 78, 1992.

This article first appeared in DNA #40 May 2003.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Next Wave Festival - so far, so fucking good!

Tuesday 14th March was the official opening night of the 2006 Next Wave Festival, with the theme of 'Empire Games' (the title by which the Commonwealth Games was previously known). It was held at Shed 14 at the Docklands, the site of a tremendous group exhibition called The Containers Village, which represents the work of 43 artists' collectives from around the contemporary Commonwealth.

Each group's work is displayed in a shipping container, which are placed around the cavernous space of Shed 14. Some are on the ground, others suspended above the ground by a series of scaffolds, walkways, ramps and bridges that connect them all. This is a fantastic exhibition, almost overwhelming in its scale, and highly recommended. You'll probably want to go back several times for a repeat visit. The opening night party was also fantastic, with a throng of artists and freeloaders in attendance, speeches kept to a minimum, and a warm and excited atmosphere.


Friday night I attended the opening of three shows, and also checked out a tremendous installation in Hosier Lane.

New Ruins is a site-specific group installation in the old City Watchhouse in Russell Street, next door to the old Magistrates' Court (where I was tried, years ago, for possessing a proscribed weapon, to whit, a studded leather belt) and the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Ned Kelly was murdered by the state.

Featuring some stunning work, it's the result of a residency program by a group of young Glaswegian artists, whose installations are featured alongside the work of their Melbourne peers. Among the artists whose work I especially enjoyed are the ambitious TAB installation piece by Melbourne's Jensen Tjhung, a fragile yet violent sculpture by Glasgow's Jonathan Scott, a haunting and moving piece incorporating dripping water and black plastic by Melbourne's Christopher Hill, and pretty much everything else in the show with very few exceptions! Congratulations to Tai Snaith for her work in co-curating the show - it's fucking stunning, and a real festival highlight.

Friday night's opening was so over-crowded that I went to see it again on Saturday night, taking my mate Glen along with me after we'd caught up over dinner. For someone who's not been exposed to a contemporary art exhibition before, he certainly seemed to enjoy the show!

New Ruins is open between the hours of 8pm - 10pm until 1st April.


Clean is a superb installation and soundscape in the city's street-art gallery Hosier Lane, between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane parallel to Swanston Street. It's a subtle yet overt commentary on the hype around the Com.Games and the tactics used by the City of Melbourne and other games organisers to wallpaper over the ugy reality of city life. Motion sensors set off a series of speakers are you move along the lane, immersing you in the realities of life on the streets, in the form of conversations with the homeless, the sounds of the city, and much more. There's also a literal homage to the process by which this reality has been hidden away in the form of wallpaper plastered over the nearby alley walls - examine it in detail...

Clean is showing until April 2nd and is another must-see event. Kudos to Nicolas Low, its creator. Go here for the Clean website.


Deceased Estate is a walking tour that celebrates the life of a (fictional) Victorian scoundrel. The tour itself starts from tonight, but FRiday I had a quick taste of what's in store from the hosts of the show in the form of a slideshow. It looks great - imagine having a fop and Steve Irwin taking you on a chaotic history walk and you'll have some idea of what you're in for! I can't wait to go on the tour, which promises to bring to life the opium dens, back-street slums and other lowlights of early Melbourne.

Deceased Estates - 20-25 March, 2pm - 3.30pm.


Finally I briefly looked at Bedroom Games, an installation by artist Rafaella Pandolfini, in the National Trust Gallery at Tamsa Terrace in East Melbourne. As it was opening night, I didn't get much of a chance to look at the work before the room became too crowded, but I will go back! The piece uses photography, sculpture and video installation to explore ten different personal empires - the bedrooms of 10 people.


What else have I been up to?

Let's see, there was the live call of the vastly disappointing and anticlimactic opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on 3RRR (although I did like the flying tram that kicked things off - sadly though, it was all downhill from there)...

Yesterday, Sunday, I headed up to Bendigo for the day wearing my Fringe board hat, for the opening of a re-staging of Human Momentum, previously presented as part of rhe 2005 Melbourne Fringe Festival at Federation Square. I haven't been to Bendigo in years, and as I didn't get much of a chance to look around, I think I'm going to have to go up for a weekend, or at the very least a proper day trip, some time quite soon.

German Film Festival also coming soon...


Friday 21 - Sunday 30 April

Australian Centre for The Moving Image, Federation Square

Tickets: ACMI Cinema box office / online www.acmi.net.au/tickets or phone 8663 2833

Opening Night tickets $ 40 // Single Session Pass: Full $15 Concession $12 // 6 Session Pass: Full $75 Concession $60

The Goethe-Institut's annual Festival of German Films, which tours nationally in April, this year showcases an eclectic range of films where the trials and tribulations of women are all brought into sharp focus. Stories of pioneers, heroines and regular women have captured the imagination of German filmmakers, and this year's offerings include:

2006 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Sophie Scholl, The Final Days tells the true story of the only female member of peaceful resistance group The White Rose, an organisation dedicated to the downfall of the Third Reich. Screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer will be a festival guest.

Against all Odds tells the true story of Margarethe Steiff who overcame her lifelong battle with physical disabilities and created the Steiff Teddy Bear. The Steiff company is now the world's leading and most well known soft toy company. The much adored German actress Heike Makatsch plays the indomitable Steiff. Heike will be a festival guest and will attend the screenings of her other films Almost Heaven and No Songs of Love.

Other female focused highlights include the beautifully shot The White Masai, based on the true story of a successful Swiss businesswoman who gave up everything to marry and live with an illiterate Masai warrior in Kenya's bush land, and The Fisherman and his Wife - Why Women Never Get Enough by filmmaker Doris Doerrie, a stylish film set in Japan and Germany that explores the complexities of love.

Fresh from the 2006 Berlin Film Festival come three award winning films The Red Cockatoo, a story of unrequited love, Free Will, the tale of a potentially dangerous love affair, and Requiem, centering around Germany's last recorded case of exorcism in the 1970s.

The festival's popular short film program Leaps in Time will this year feature nine shorts, and is delighted to announce that Till Nowak, considered to be one of the leading lights in the world of new media, will be a festival guest and present his multi-award winning film Delivery (www.delivery.framebox.de).

The festival is delighted to announce a special Anzac Day screening of the family film Wild Chicks, based on the well-known German children's book, at 2pm on Tuesday 25 April.

A panel discussion, one of the festival highlights, will take place on Monday 24 April at 8.30pm, with film critics, actors and producers discussing the topic Female Vision - Strong Women, reflecting on this year's astonishing number of films made by female directors or featuring female themes.

The Melbourne Goethe-Institut director Renate Elsaesser attended the 2006 Berlin Film Festival and worked with the film committee to create this year's powerful festival program.

Renate said, "The German film industry is rich in new ideas and productions and the diversity of this year's program clearly shows German filmmakers expanding their horizons to deliver a variety of stories that examine everything from contemporary life issues through to ghosts stories."

Spanish Film Festival coming in May

Goya Award and San Sebastian International Film Festival winners feature in the 9th Spanish Film Festival in Australia

Sydney: Wed 3 May to Sun 14 May Palace Academy Twin & Norton Street Cinemas
Melbourne: Wed 10 May to Sun 21 May Cinema Como
Brisbane: Wed 17 to Sun 21 May Palace Centro

The 2006 Spanish Film Festival is back with the most challenging, confronting and funny films out of Spain in the last year, featuring many of the award winners from the recent Goya Awards and Spain’s premiere international film event, the San Sebastian International Film Festival. Now in its 9th year the Spanish Film Festival tours Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane at Palace Cinemas throughout May.

Festival director Natalia Ortiz said “Spain’s film industry is thriving, producing some of the most challenging and fascinating films in the world right now. The films are a reflection of society as it is now in Spain, and have enormous breath of maturity in their subject matter.”

“From documentaries which explore the impact of ETA on Spanish and Basque society and the fear of talking in a democratic free country, to the impact of television on the development of the film industry. From short films made by people with disabilities to award winning short animation. Features cover topics including Spanish society’s acceptance of gay marriage, transgender communities, immigration, prostitution, love and friendship.”

“I am honoured to present to Australian audiences these award-winning films and such a varied look at contemporary Spain,” Ms Ortiz said.

Highlights of the 2006 Festival include:

Winner of this year’s GOYA BEST ACTRESS award, Candela Peña stars in PRINCESAS by acclaimed director Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s (Mondays In The Sun, Barrio). Princesas is a deeply moving and at times surprising story about the friendship between two women working as prostitutes in Madrid.

In GOYA BEST DOCUMENTARY winner FILMAKERS VS TYCOONS (Cineastas contra magnates) director Carlos Benpar interviewed filmmakers including Woody Allen, Sydney Pollack, Manuel De Sica, Milos Forman, Luis García Berlanga and presents archival footage of Federico Fellini, John Huston and Burt Lancaster. Those interviewed argue strongly that electronic colouring, panning-scanning and commercial breaks in television undermines the moral rights of filmmakers.

2005 San Sebastian Special jury Prize winner, Tristán Bauer’s ILUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO (Enlightened by Fire) was finished with funding from the San Sebastian Film Festival after making a clean sweep in 2004’s Films in Progress section, and won the Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Festival. Starring Gastón Pauls (Nine Queens) this is the first fictional film to address the hell that Argentinean soldiers endured during the Falklands War.

The GOYA BEST ANIMATION SHORT, TADEO JONES is a lovable and fearless adventurer who parodies the antics of Indiana Jones. Twelve months in the making, this short animation has won over 50 awards from film festivals all over the world. TADEO JONES screens in a program with other award winning short films from Spain.

Manuel Martín Cuenca’s follow up to last year’s festival favourite La flaqueza del bolchevique (The Weakness of the Bolshevik) is MALAS TEMPORADAS (Hard Time) – a film about second chances and hope with a stunning cast including Javier Cámara, Leonor Watling and Nathalie Poza. Music by Leonor Watling’s band, Marlango.

In 20 CENTÍMETROS Mónica Cervera plays a narcoleptic, half-transitioned transsexual who works as prostitute to save money for the operation to complete her transition – and get rid of the pesky 20 centimetres! As she plunges into narcolepsy she is transported into magical musical sequences. But a touching and comic conflict emerges when she is presented with someone who loves her just as she is.


I know that at least one person who regularly reads my blog will find this interesting, so I thought I'd cut and paste the media release I received the other day onto this site. Mike, heard any good goss about any of these films? 20 CENTÍMETROS sounds like a Spanish Hedwig and the Angry Inch, while ILUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO simply sounds like a good film...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sigur Ros interview

This morning I had the great pleasure of interviewing Georg (pronounced Ge-or-ch, with a hard 'G' as in 'glen' and a hard 'ch' as in 'loch') Holm, the bassist with and a founding members of Iceland's Sigur Rós (pronounced 'Si-er Rose', and meaning 'Victory Rose'), who are touring Australia next month. We only had 15 minutes to talk, but from my point of view the interview went very well, and covered such diverse topics as songwriting, Hopelandish, the perils of touring, and catching trout with your teeth. I'll put it to air on Thursday 6th April, the week before the band play The Palais in St Kilda.

It's Still All About Meeeee!!!

And here's part two (of which the previous post is part one). Now you get to decide what my best traits are: could it be that I'm unaware of what people really like about me? Oooooh, the anticipation is killing me!

Choose my positive personality traits here: http://kevan.org/johari?name=burntime

I look forward to the results. Check my last post to help me identify my unknown negative social traits - who knows, this could send me shrieking to therapy, or skipping happily down the street! *grins*

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's all about me!

Just found this neat thingy on the web that helps you - yes, you - map out a picture of how you see my personaility traits, and which in theory, helps me identity previously unknown flaws (as if I'm not already neurotic enough?).

Go here: http://kevan.org/nohari?name=RichardWatts

Then follow the instructions. Please.

Monday, March 13, 2006

MQFF Day 10

Sunday 13th March

The final official day of the festival, although due to popular demand three films will have encore screenings on Monday evening.

I kicked things off with a 2.15pm screening of Pursuit of Equality, a deeply moving film about the city of San Francisco's brief legalisation of same-sex marriage before the state cracked down on the situation. I'm not into the idea of gay marriage at all, as I don't see the need to ape heterosexual traditions, but this film certainly succeeded in demonstrating to me why other queers want the right to marry. There are some truly inspiring and agonising moments in this film, which moved me to tears on numerous occasions. The fly-on-the-wall scenes inside city hall as the mayor and his staff battle legal opposition to gay marriage is fascinating, while the many individuals whose lives are irrevocably changed add a human dimension to the political and religious battle that was sparked by the first same-sex wedding, between elderly lesbian couple Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. A great film, and a stirring call to arms.

Next was the BBC telemovie When I'm 64, whose gentle story about the burgeoning romance between two 65 year-old men ensured that my tears kept coming. I'm a hopeless romantic, and this film, with its deftly sketched characters and superb cast, pushed all the right buttons without feeling manipulative.

The closing night film was Happy Endings, and I'm sad to say it ended my 2006 queer film festival on a low note. This was a classic example of a straight film that just happened to feature a handful of queer characters; its sensibility wasn't queer at all. In addition, all the characters were ciphers rather than well-rounded individuals, and they were all absolutely unlikeable, with the exception of the cute but bland young drummer Otis, played by Jason Ritter.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Ritter and Tom Arnold in a tense moment in Happy Endings.

A complex web of interlocked stories gradually unfolds as the film progresses, in classic Altman style, but lacking Altman's flair and complexity, and the majority of situations were so contrived as to be utterly banal. Various titles flashed onto the screen to advance the story or convey additional plot/character details, which I imagine was supposed to be clever, but which to me just felt trite and lazy - and which also dragged you out of the experience of watching the film. Overall the film seemed to lack focus, meandered towards an awkward series of endings; my viewing pleasure was further diminished by the fact that the projectionist was doing a shit job, which meant the film was often slightly but annoyingly out of focus.

Thereafter we all trooped around the corner to the nighclub/bar F4 for the closing night party. Unfortunately no-one semed to have told the bouncers that we were coming, as they turned away anyone who didn't fit their rigid dress code - myself included, as I was wearing shorts. What a fucking debacle!

There were angry scenes a-plenty, with rightfully pissed off festival patrons who'd paid for their closing night film and party only to be denied access to the party itself, milling around in the street. By the time the festival's co-convenor had successfully and angrily argued for people to be let in regardless, a lot of punters had left in disgust, and I rather imagine that the atmosphere inside the club was pretty leaden (I didn't even bother going in, as I decided not to favour such a fucked venue with my patronage, and went to Witness Protection Program Social Club then Control HQ instead).

I look forward to hearing all the fallout from this particular closing night fuck-up in the coming week!

All in all, an unfortunate end to what has otherwise been a bloody good festival. I'm off to see at least one more film this evening, and will update this blog again as soon as I get a chance. I'm actually rather pleased the festival is over, as I haven't done anything else this week - as fun as its been, I look forward to doing some housework, catching up on e-mails, and turning my attention to various other matters, such as finding a new job!!!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

MQFF Day Nine

Saturday 11th March

Today got off to a great start with a 12pm screening of the US doco Gay Republicans, a fascinating and illuminating exploration of the world of gay and lesbian conservatives. You can watch the trailer here and learn more about the film here - plus watch a couple of key scenes.

The film focuses on the gay Republican group Log Cabin, during the lead-up to the 2004 US Presidential Election, when they were forced to chose whether or not to endorse George W Bush as candidate due to his divisive comments over gay marriage. As one particularly reactionary subject of the film says, "Are we Republicans who happen to be gay, or gays who happen to be Republican?"

It documents a time when this question became the central issue for Log Cabin members, with dramatic - often hillarious - results. It's so nice to laugh at, rather than with people, sometimes...
Instead of overtly manipulating the footage that he took, director Wash Westmoreland allows the subjects to speak for themselves - sometimes to hang themselves, at other times to present themselves as sane and rational, albeit conservative human beings. The only thing that could have made this film better was a forum afterwards with gay and lesbian members of the Australian Liberal Party, so that we could see if they are as concerned about their party's drift to the far right as the Log Cabin people are...

This doco screened with
Positively Naked, another short doco about a Spencer Tunick photo-shoot for the 10th anniversaty of the HIV+ person's magazine Poz, which was personal, insightful and moving, and which for me brought back great memories of freezing my arse of as I took part in Tunick's installation for Melbourne Fringe back in 2001 (read about someone else's experience of the photo-shoot here).

Next up for the day, at 2pm, was the documentary Do I Look Fat?, which addressed the important issue of gay male body image, but seemed much more focussed on the issue of eating disorders amongst gay men - to my mind a related, but seperate topic. I would have preferred to see the film tackle issues around capitalism, consumuption and body image: 'Unhappy with the body you have? Buy a new one!' That's just me, though. I also felt the film tried to cram too much into the space of 58 minutes, which meant it tended to skate across some issues rather than explore them in depth. Given that the director, Travis Mathews, shaped the film in response to the issues his interview subjects raised, rather than around a set vision or set of goals, these flaws that I've raised are partially unavoidable...adressing them would have required a very different film-making process.

I skipped the 4pm session so that I could take a break, and returned to the festival for the 6pm screening of the Australian Shorts package, and the announcement of the City of Melbourne Emerging Film-Makers Award, a $2000 cash prize. The average standard of films this year was considerably poorer than in recent years, I felt, with several under-developed or simplistic films included in the program - I shudder to think how bad the films were that were excluded from competition! They were also almost universally dark - perhaps a response to the times we live in, when our community has been under attack from the religious right and the political left and right re the marriage act etc. The winner was The Bridge, a film dealing with issues around immigration and citizenship, a timely film in light of the Howard government's appalling record on asylum seekers, but also an underdeveloped film, I felt.

After the screening drinks with the film-makers and sponsors were held downstairs, and I socialised happily, before heading out for dinner - where I ended up teaching a group of German tourists in town for the ComGames how to eat their Vietnamese soup properly...

After a few drinks with friends in the festival club, the last session for the day was Cocktales, another collection of boys' short films, which were of a much better standard than either the OzShorts or Short and Burly.

Highlights included:
  • The Mexican film David, directed by Roberto Fiesco, a simple, beautiful exploration of the wordless nature of desire.
  • Adam Salky's US drama Dare, staring Michael Cassidy and Adam Fleming (below) a fresh take on the coming out film, which effectively communicates that fraught moment when you first put your desire on the line...
  • Spaceboy, a simple, silly and sweet film by UK director Keith Dando, in which a horny teenager encounters a NASA astronaut whose spaceship has crashed in the woods...
  • And finally, the magnificent, luminously visual Boy by New Zealand filmmaker Welby Ings, which employed an arresting mix of still footage, animation and live action to explore the poisonous atmosphere of a small country town.

MQFF Day Eight

Friday 10th March

Wednesday was my day off from the festival, with nothing showing that I wanted to see, and Thursday I missed the only film I'd planned to catch (US indie drama Hard Pill) as I overslept after taking a late afternoon nap...an impotant part of my Thursday routine these days, seeing as I'm usually up at 6.30am to put my radio show together, while DJ'ing each Thursday night means that its usually at least 4am Friday before I get to bed...

So anyway, that brings us to Friday, and the eighth day of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. At 2pm I turned up to see
Hilde's Reise (Hilde's Journey), a Swiss film by director Christof Vorster, who actually e-mailed me earlier in the week, having stumbled across my blog while looking for any press about his film that might have been generated locally. In his e-mail he said he hoped I would like his film. I'm sorry to say I did not. I was tired and hungover after DJ'ing the night before; consequently the film's subtle pace and dispassionate approach to its plot failed to engage me; and while performances were strong, the characters the actors played felt underdeveloped. On the other hand, Kim Linekan at Eye Weekly in the USA loved the film, describing it as "Beautifully shot and thoughtfully rendered...reminds us the price is rarely too high for those we love. A touching tale about friendship, personal integrity and death." Each to their own I guess!

At 6pm I attended Short and Burly, a package of boys' shorts from around the world. While the shorts packages at the MQFF are usually strong, this selection of films was uniformly disappointing. There were plenty of lowlights, such as:
  • Casey Moulton's prison-break satire Donnie and Clyde, which would have actually been funny had it been edited down from 17 minutes to 5;
  • the British film No Ordinary Joe, in which a gay teenager is advised by the ghost of playwright Joe Orton who's gone strangely posh - this was yet another gay short in search of a good ending and a strong narrative.
  • Daniel Falcone's Night Swimming, which I really wanted to like - young punks driving to New York to see The Lunachicks are forced to spend the night together when their car breaks down, and consequently but not suprisingly their friendship crosses the line - but it also failed to find a strong narrative, and showed us nothing we haven't seen before.
There were only two films I liked in this package:
  • The short and touching animation John and Michael, about two intellectually handicapped men who fall in love, was beautifully and simply rendered and an important reminder that the differently abled aren't really much different from you and I.
  • The strange, silly but fun The Sadness of Johnson Joe Jangles, a gay western written and directed by Jeffrey St Jules, which featured its own skewed but consistent internal logic, exploding towns, and a pregnant man who gives birth to a donkey...
Overall though, a disappointing collection of films.

At 8pm I caught the German/Austrian co-production Fremde Haut ('Unveiled'), the third feature by German director Angelina Maccarone. While I'd placed this film on my maybe list, the high praise by friends Sasha and Lucy made me determined to see it, and I'm delighted that I did.

A complex portrait of life in the modern world of refugees and global migration, this film tells the story of Fariba Tabrizi (an extraordinary performance by Jasmin Tabatabai), an Iranian lesbian who has fled her home due to persecution, and who starts anew in Germany, where she is forced to masquerade as a man in order to avoid deportation. Here she begins to fall in love with a local woman, Anna (Anneke Kim Sarnau) whose cautious reciprocation of her feelings causes both joy and fear for Fariba, who risks blowing her cover by telling Anna the truth. Despite occasionally glossing over key plot points for the sake of speeding the narrative along, I found this film engaging, its characters memorable, and its bleached pallate and artful cinematography visually compelling.

My night ended on a low note, with the short French featurette Comme un Frere ('Like a Brother') a bland coming-of-age melodrama directed by Bernard Alapetite & Cyril Legann. This was was paired with a turgid Australian featurette, the melodramatic, badly acted What Grown Ups Know, directed by Jonathan Wald. I suffered through the entire 31 minutes of the latter, only to walk out of the cinema 15 minutes into the former, utterly bored.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

MQFF Day Five

Tues March 7

Tonight was headfuck night at the film festival. I was a bit tired after a day spent at RRR working on grant applications and ideas for new applications, so I chilled at home for a bit before heading in to catch the 8pm screening of the Spanish film Inconscientes ('Unconcious'), directed by Joaquín Oristrell. I'm so glad I did! Although not a gay film, it's very, very queer - it has a deliciously deranged sensibility, and a plot that runs cheerfully amok through the early years of the modernism and the 20th Century.

Set in Barcelona in 1913, it concerns the efforts of the headstrong and pregnant Alma Pardo to discover the whereabouts of her missing husband Dr Leon Pardo, a student of Freud. She is aided in her quest by her brother-in law, the stolid and unadventurous Salvador (the most exciting thing about him are his muttonchop whiskers, or so it seems at first), who is married to her neurotic sister. As the story unfolds, we encounter whore-loving kings, underground porn movies, a flourishing cross-dressing queer subculture, incestuous affairs and other taboos, melodrama, and much, much more.

The set design beautifully evokes the world of art nouveau and the period in which the film is set; the cinematography and lighting are sharp and assured; and the script and acting superb. This clever, witty and stylish film could only come from Spain, and is highly recommended.

Thereafter, despite being extremely tired, I stayed to watch the surreal gay samurai road movie Mayonaka no Yaji-san Kita-san (‘Yaji And Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims’) from Japan. Talk about insane! This feature from first-time director Kudo Kankuro is an absurd, anachronistic, dizzying, if overlong fever dream that takes the plot of the classic Japanese road novel of 1802, Tokkaidochu Hizakurige and gives it a radical queer twist.

In the novel, the womanising Yaji and Kita flee their debts in Edo and travel to the Ise Shrine via the famed Tokkaido road. In the film, they become gay lovers, and Kita is a junkie whose hallucinatory withdrawals are beautifully incorporated into the movie. We also meet singing school girls in love with a Mafia boss, a magic-yam-juice dispensing King Arthur, demons and ghosts, drag queens, and much, much more.

Despite the film’s hilarity and moments of sublime beauty, its final act – partially set in the afterlife – manages to be surprisingly poignant and touching. While half the references in the film went over my head, and despite the fact that I could have cheerfully edited its running time back by at least 20 minutes, I definitely enjoyed it. The extract from a review I previously ran on this blog was highly apt: two hours of jaw-dropping fun indeed!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A word from the dead but dreaming

"Achieving success is far easier than most humans believe. For example, why did we, the priests of the Elder Gods of this galaxy, succeed where the avatars of the Ancient Old Ones from beyond the stars failed? The answer is absurdly simple: Vast armies of horrifying monsters."

- An extract from
Great Cthulhu's self-help grimoire,
Seven Easy Steps To a Better Eternity of Inconceivable Pain and Torment

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscars, The Age & other things

Jake G shares my pain.

It's been a rather crappy day.

For starters, I opened The Age this morning to discover a feature article about the film Transamerica. My own piece on the film has been filed with the paper's arts editor for three weeks now, so today's article by Steve Dow dashes any chances my article might finally see print. *sigh* And it's not just cos I need the money from freelancing at the moment - I also have a terse publicist breathing down my neck...

Then this afternoon I realised that I have to write up two articles for MCV tonight, which means I have to cancel the role-playing session I'd hoped to have; our first for the year.

Figuring that I could at least squeeze in a 6pm session at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival before I started work I went to see Third Man Out, an alleged gay thriller/detective story which was far from thrilling. In fact it was the crappiest picture I've seen at the festival so far.

Then I go to buy dinner and realise that I only have $15 dollars to last me until I get paid on Thursday night, and no food in the house. I am so fucking sick of living hand to mouth and always being broke.

Then finally, I discover that Brokeback Mountain failed to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards today. I shouldn't be surprised I guess (and hey, it won Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Score and Best Director, which is damn good going - and thank you Ang Lee for your touching speech), especially given the Academy's shite history for giving the Best Picture prize to crowd-pleasing films instead of good films. Such as:

1941: How Green Was My Valley instead of Citizen Kane or The Maltese Falcon
1951: An American in Paris instead of A Streetcar Named Desire
1964: My Fair Lady instead of Dr Strangelove
1976: Rocky instead of Taxi Driver or All The President's Men
1994: Forest Gump instead of Pulp Fiction

Nonetheless I still found the film's loss depressing - especially because a second-rate ensemble piece like Crash was the actuall winner. Best film my arse!

New novella competition

one of Australia's premier literary journals, is running a novella competition; ­ its first since it started publication in 1940, providing a rare opportunity for a neglected form.

Entries to the inaugural Meanjin & Readings Novella Competition are open until June 30. All writers in Australia and overseas, new and established, are invited to submit. Manuscripts are to be between 12,000 and 20,000 words on any aspect of the theme 'love and desire', and must be a work of unpublished fiction. The names of the authors will not be disclosed to the judges. The winner, to be advised by mail during December 2006, will receive a prize of $1500. The prize will be announced in January 2007 at a celebratory event at Readings, Carlton. The winning novella will be considered for publication in Meanjin.

Editor of Meanjin Ian Britain, one of the three judges for the competition (with novelist and Meanjin Fiction Editor Carmel Bird and Readings bookstore director Mark Rubbo) observes that "There are plenty of short story or poetry competitions but no novella competition for Australian writers. The novella as a form is quite popular with writers because of its length. However, publishers can sometimes neglect it as it's too long for a short story and too short for a novel."

Britain explains he has chosen the theme 'love and desire' in order to provide a focus for writers that will correspond to an issue of the magazine in 2007 that will be devoted to that theme. "We are calling for competitors to interpret 'love and desire' in the broadest sense, so that this could refer to animals or places or objects as well as people."

Carmel Bird welcomes the opportunity to be involved in the novella competition: "As fiction editor I especially love discovering new writers and working with them in order to publish their work. I expect many writers of all backgrounds and locations will enter. Experienced writers may have already written an unpublished novella or they may take this opportunity as stimulus to write one. I also expect emerging writers will see this as a possible way to showcase their work."

Mark Rubbo of Readings says he is thrilled to be involved in the competition: "It will provide a unique prize in literature. Readings is especially pleased to be part of such a wonderful initiative and I¹m especially excited to be a judge of the competition. Readings looks forward to announcing the winner at a special event next January."

Meanjin was founded in Brisbane by Clem Christesen in 1940. The magazine moved to Melbourne in 1945 at the invitation of the University of Melbourne. Each issue regularly contains fiction and poetry by leading contemporary authors and exciting new writers. Contributors to Meanjin down the decades include Patrick White, Arthur Miller, Anaïs Nin, Ezra Pound, Jean-Paul Sartre, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Dylan Thomas, Judith Wright, Frank Moorhouse, David Malouf, Les Murray, Peter Porter, Alex Miller, Helen Garner, Nikki Gemmell, Jessica Anderson and J.M. Coetzee.

Meanjin currently receives funding from the University of Melbourne, the Literature Board of the Australia Council and Arts Victoria as well as receiving vital support through subscriptions and other sales.

Entries for the Meanjin/Readings Novella Competition 2006 are open until June 30. An entry fee of $20 will be charged for each submission. For submission details go to www.meanjin.unimelb.edu.au or telephone Meanjin on 03 8344 9995.

MQFF Day Three

Sunday 6th March

My first session for the day was Queeries Two, a wide-ranging selection of youth shorts, including a couple by local film-makers. Highlights included:
  • Boy's Grammar, one of the latest films by ex-Melbournian Dean Francis (whose work has evolved magnificently over the last few years, especially compared to some of his earlier projects, which I actually helped reject from the festival - it's great to see how far his skills have evolved) a harrowing and powerful film staring Matt Levet (above) as Gareth, about an episode of bullying at a private school that turns into rape.
  • Brian and Lazzio, a simple but touching short doco about two young men who tells us how they met on a bus and fell in love.
  • It was also fun to see Tristan Hamilton's Daddy's Boy, which starred a cast of Q + A regulars - it was odd but enjoyable seeing people I usually DJ for entertaining me in a film instead!
After an abortive trip to RRR to catch up on some work that was rendered pointless due to technical dramas with the station's e-mail, I headed back into the festival and DJ'd for another two and a half hours in the festival club, following on from the esteemed and lovely David Chisholm, a contemporary composer who's only recently started DJ'ing. Go to his website to listen to some of his compositions.

Next film for the day was Loggerheads, an independent US drama directed by Tim Kirkman. Its three seperate storylines are set over three consecutive years, and slowly begin to merge together to weave a story of love, loss and possibilities. In 1999, handsome HIV positive drifter Mark (Kip Pardue) arrives at North Carolina's Kure Beach to help save endangered loggerhead turtles; here he meets George (Michael Kelly), a local hotelier, and a slow-burning chemistry ignites between them. Elsewhere, in 2000, a straightlaced pastor's wife named Elizabeth (Tess Harper) grieves for her son, who ran away from home at 17 after she and her husband rejected him for being gay; while in 2001, middle-aged Grace (Bonnie Hunt) begins a search for the baby she was forced to give out for adoption when she was just a girl.

Grace (Bonnie Hunt) - her pain and loss are tangible

The film has a deep compassion for its characters, especially Elizabeth, who is torn between her loyalty to her preacher husband and her religious convictions, and her need to love her son; and Grace's desperate need to fill the void in her life by finding the son she never knew. Similarly, the tender scene beneath the pier where George reaches out to Mark and offers him the love his parents could not is simply drawn but emotionally rich - it's when I started crying. Considered, contemplative and deeply moving, the film's structure intrigued me, it's characters engaged me, and its conclusion devestated me; indeed I'm almost in tears again now remembering its final scenes. While the deliberate pacing and subtle unfolding of its narrative may frustrate some people, I loved it. Loggerheads is definitely my favourite of the festival so far. You can learn more about it for yourself by visiting the film's official website; it also has another MQFF screening this Wednesday night at 10pm if you'd like to see it for yourself.

Afterwards I decided to skip the gay thriller Open Cam - I wanted to savour the emotions Loggerheads had stirred in me, and came home instead...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

MQFF Day Two

Saturday 4th March

Starting a little later than planned, my first film of the day was Iki Genc Kiz (Two Girls) directed byKutlug Ataman (responsible for 1998's resonant Lola + Bilidikid). This Turkish production focused on the intense relationship between two teenage girls in contemporary Istanbul. Gritty cinematography (all close ups and hand held scenes) highly-strung characters and a clash between traditional and contemporary mores added up to a strong package that deserved a larger audience.

Next was the US drama Hate Crime, about the senseless murder of a gay man by a religious bigot. It started out well, with strong performances and a steady directorial hand that successfuly evoked the appropriate emotional responses for its various scenes, but about halfway through, the film took a sudden turn towards melodrama and by its conclusion, had thrown any sense of realism out the window in favour of an over-the-top revenge story that didn't so much strain credibility as completely break it. This film would have worked much better as a straight-forward murder/police procedural/courtroom drama.

I finished the day with the British Dogme film Gypo, an excellent film about the burgeoning relationship between the unhappyily married Helen, and the much younger Tasha, one of her daughter's friends, a Romany Czech refugee. The film tells its story from three overlapping perspectives, with scenes and characters shown in a different light appropriate to the various characters' points of view. Not the best Dogme film I've seen, but nonetheless a good example of this style of cinema's studied cinematic minimalism.

(After the session finished I DJ'd in the festival club for three hours, headed home for a shower, and then swung by The Barleycorn Hotel in Collingwood, to check out a monthly queer club called Dirty Minx and its resident band The Minority. My mate Sean, who I ran into on the way there (and also some of the Meredith posse) assures me that their first set was much better. It would want to be, because their second set was crap!)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

MQFF Day One

My first film of the festival proper was the Spanish comedy Reinas ('Queens'), a film about five gay couples (one of whom is played by latin hunk Daniel Hendler, seen left at a press conference in Berlin) who are about to be married as part of the country's first legal gay en-masse wedding ceremony. While their pre-nuptial dramas are part of the story, the film's real focus is on their mothers. Four of Spain's favourite actresses, the fabulous Carmen Maura, Marisa Paredes, Mercedes Sampietro and Verónica Forqué, together with Argentinian Betiana Blum play their mums, an almost Almodovarian collection of actresses, judges, nymphomanics and hoteliers. It is they who are the 'queens' of the title. The film's bright, colourful opening credits quickly establish the tone of the movie to come. Strong performances, a quick-witted script and attractive cinematography ensure that it entertains despite trying to tie up all its threads too quickly.

My next session was the girls' shorts package Boob Tube. I look at shorts sessions as being like a fiction anthology - I never expect to like everything. There was nothing I diskliked in the session this time, which is always good! Highlights included Dani and Alice, a concise, well-crafted film about domestic violence; the academic yet poetic A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, the soundtrack to Who's the Top and the will-we-or-wont-we-have-a-baby comedy/drama Hvem Du End Er (Come On Baby).

Finally I watched the gay slasher pic HellBent, despite having already previewed it on DVD, as I wanted to watch it with an audience. People cringed, gasped, laughed, jumped in their seats, and groaned in that grossed-out but entertained way. Thoroughly entertaining, although the print quality of the film was poor.

I've already missed my first planned session for today, as I had a couple of things to do at home, but I'm heading back into town shortly for my second full day of films. A slight change of plans tonight though; I'm skipping my last two films for the night in order to DJ in the festival club!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Scheduling my queer film festival...

Fucking Different (Thurs 9th March)

To help various on-line friends coordinate, and in case any of my anonymous stalkers want to know where to find me at a given time, here's a rough guide to what I'll be seeing at the 16th Melbourne Queer Film Festival over the coming 10 days. It's an ambitious list, and certainly I won't end up seeing all of these films, but I'm gonna give it my best shot.

And if you don't know what you want to see yet, in a fit of rampant generosity I've posted links to homepages, critical reviews (as opposed to the uniformly glowing festival program notes) etc for all of the films where possible, to help you make up your own mind about whether you would be interested in watching them or not.

If you've never been to the festival before, all sessions are held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at Federation Square. You can buy your tickets at the box office or at www.melbournequeerfilm.com.au - note that sessions will sell out, so if you're buying at the box office, check the website for ticket availability or turn up early.

If you're still confused as to what to see, or you're a first time festival-goer, I'd recommend starting with a shorts program (the OzShorts competition, Short & Girly, or Cocktales are usually a good place to start, although word is the quality of the OzShorts is a bit weak this year); then grab a doco or two, and then finally a couple of features - perhaps something safe, but also something that might challenge and suprise you...

See you at the movies!

FRI 3rd March

Queens - 6.15pm
Boob Tube - 8pm
HellBent - 10.15pm (I've already seen this one and its a stylish, sexy splatter flick, though I thought it could have done with more gore...)

SAT 4th March
Queeries 1 - 12pm (this is the queer youth program, but there's an Oz doco in it I'd like to see)
Two Girls - 2.15pm (enhances the director's rep as a sympathetic observer of the disaffected)
Hate Crime - 4pm
Gypo - 6.15 ("one of the best british films in years..." - The Scotsman)
Unveiled - 8.15
Three Dancing Slaves - 10.15pm

SUN 5th March
Queeries 2 - 12pm
100% Human - 2pm ("a crowd-pleaser" - Variety)
Short & Girly - 4.15pm
A Love To Hide - 6pm (I previewed this for MCV - it's magnifique... "an elegant, deeply felt story" says Washing DC's MetroWeekly)
Loggerheads - 8.30pm ("its mood of quiet sadness is deepened by the calm even-handed performances." - The New York Times)
Open Cam - 10.30pm (The world needs more gay thrillers!)

Mon 6th March
Third Man Out - 6.15pm ("The Third Man meets Beautiful Thing" - IMDb user comment)
Sevigne - 8pm
Gay Sex in the 70's - 10.15pm ("a lively, empashioned, well-structured documentary" - The Onion AV Club)

Tues 7th March
3 Needles - 6.15pm
Unconcious - 8pm ("delightful Spanish comedy of manners..." - European Film Review)
Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims - 10.15pm ("two solid hours of jaw-dropping fun" - Filmbrain)

Wed 8th March

I'm having a night off...

Thur 9th March
Hard Pill - 6pm ("has an intuitive grasp, much like Miranda July's You and Me and Everyone We Know, of how people in Los Angeles actually live" - Variety)
Fucking Different - 8pm ("15 x Queer Crossover" - why, oh why is this a Thursday night so that I can't actually see it? It sounds great, and a couple of the festival programmers have raved about it to me!)

Fri 10th March
Hilde's Journey - 2pm ("A touching tale about friendship, personal integrity and death." - Eye Weekly)
Short & Burly - 6pm (Boy's short films package - always worth a look)
A Year Without Love - 8pm ("epic, erotic, daunting and inspiring" - MQFF program)

Sat 11th March
Gay Republicans - 12pm ("communicates respect for how a person's convictions can be simultaneously contradictory and firm." - Eye Weekly)
Do I Look Fat? - 2.15pm (film followed by panel discussion about gay male body image)
Like A Brother - 4pm ("a short, sharp and scary glimpse at a gay right of passage" - MQFF program)
Oz Shorts - 6pm (the best in local queer film-making - winner announced at this session)
Adam & Steve - 8.15pm ("delivers plenty of well-timed slapstick, a brace of oddball zanies and a couple of show-stopper musical numbers." - Variety)
Cocktales - 10.15pm (More boys shorts)

Sun 12th March
Pursuit of Equality - 2.15pm (Queer marriage doco followed by hopefully fiery panel discussion - me, I don't want to get married: why should we ape heterosexual traditions?)
When I'm 64 - 4.15pm ("intimate yet crowd-pleasing character drama" - Variety. Another film I've already previewed, and highly recommended!)
Take A Deep Breath - 6pm
Happy Endings - 8.30pm (Closing night film at RMIT Capitol Theatre, followed by the closing night party at F4)

Then I collapse into a small quivering heap and don't go near a cinema for several weeks...

Opening night - 16th Melbourne Queer Film Festival

Roy (Jay Collins) and Billy (Andrew Patterson)
in 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous

Some observations about last's night's opening of the 16th annual Melbourne Queer Film Festival - driven by Volkswagen:

The Astor is the perfect place for a glamorous party with slightly fewer people than were present last night; it was a bit too crowded to be comfortable.

The head of publicity for new naming rights sponsor Volkswagen was a lousy public speaker.

Until the current festival board and administration change, the festival is not going to change their model for their opening nights. As it is the emphasis is on the party, not the film, so consequently second-rate films continue to be screened on opening night because they suit the ambience the festival are aiming for. When I was a member of the MQFF programming committee I argued that this was a mistake, and I still believe it to be the case. People who attend the opening night and little else (and many of the media/sponsors/schmoozers do just that) walk away with a bad impression of the festival because they watch a B-grade film. The festival should start with a stronger film, to remind people that this is a screen culture event, not just another bloody excuse for poofters and dykes to party.

Last night's film was one of the weakest opening night movies in several years, at least in my opinion. A quick poll of friends in the audience found that it polarised people: some found it engaging and endearing, others said it was awkward, awful and boring. Each to their own, I guess.


Based on the novel of the same name by Graeme Aitken, and directed by Stewart Main, 50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS is a coming-of-age story set in rural New Zealand in 1979.

Its protagonist is Billy (Andrew Patterson), an overweight and overly-imaginative 12 year old boy main whose passion in life is watching science fiction adventures and reinacting them with his tomboy cousin Lou (Harriet Beatie).

Lou loves rugby; Billy hates the game, a fact which confirms his status as an object of derision among the other local kids. The arrival of the even more awkward Roy (a gangly Jay Collins) at their small regional school changes the pecking order, and provides even Billy with someone that he can bully and belittle. Despite the tension between them, the two boys also embark on early sexual explorations together down by the creek, although neither of them know what a 'poofter' is, and accept the taunts of their peers to that effect in pained innocence.

Complicating matters is another new arrival, Jamie (the charismatic Michael Dorman, pictured above with Andrew Patterson), a handsome young farmhand working for Billy's father, whose presence becomes the catalyst for tensions that disrupt the shared lives of these three almost-teens.

While 50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS does have merit in its honest exploration of the sexual awakening of a young gay boy on the verge of adolesence, and is occasionally warm and affecting, its narrative is episodic, and its dramatic structure is often contrived. Too, the plodding, unimaginative direction fails to imbue the story with any real tension, although several scenes, especially those shot at night, looked superb, with evocative lighting and composition.

Had its running time been cut back to 45 minutes to an hour, this would have been a stronger film. As it was, its 90 minute duration definitely outstays its welcome. The fact that the right-hand side of the screen was out of focus for the first half of proceedings was a further distraction.