Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Need.... new.... brain

As much as I'm enjoying my latest incarnation as editor of Melbourne's queer newspaper MCV, I so want my old life back. I've gone from working two days a week to virtually full time, which means I'm now always tired, preoccupied, and never seem to have the time to do all the other things in my life, like attend board meetings, read emails, plan my radio show, and do my freaking* laundry. *sigh*

I got to sleep in this morning til 8.45am. Decadence!

Tonight I'm off to see the Pixies, although I'm definitely going to need to get home for a quick this evening before I can muster the energy.

That's how tired I am - I can't even muster the energy to be excited about hearing 'Debaser' or 'Monkey Gone to Heaven' played life. Waaaaaaahhhhhhh!

* Non-swearing for Bevis's sake, just 'cause.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Walking with Dinosaurs – The Live Experience had its Melbourne premiere on Friday night at the Vodafone arena, and proved a massive success. When narrator Bruce Spence introduced the first dinosaur, a collective gasp went up that echoed throughout the arena, and by the interval, the audiences’ hearts and minds were clearly won over.

A $12 million budget has helped designer Sonny Tilders wrought marvels, with 15 life-size dinosaurs brought to life through a sophisticated combination of puppetry and animatronics, convincingly re-creating everything from the illusion of rippling muscles beneath rugose hides to lashing tails and gleaming eyes.

This epic production is entertainment on a mammoth scale, and while the narrative occasionally bordered on annoying, being clearly written with children in mind, the dinosaurs themselves, coupled with a stunning lighting design, were more than enough to carry the show.

Unfortunately I had to leave at interval to go supervise a photoshoot for MCV, but it was still cool - I mean, there was a life-size Stegasaurus! Sadly I missed the T-Rex and the ptereosaur, but hey, you can't have everything...

Walking with Dinosaurs – The Live Experience runs until April 4.


Given the parched nature of most of the continent, and the long drought we’ve been suffering through, you would have thought that a free, outdoor festival in Melbourne at the moment was a safe bet, despite our notoriously fickle weather. How unfortunate, then, that the drought appeared to break at the start of the main weekend of the Festival of the 12th FINA World Championships last Friday.

People were thin on the ground as I walked through Federation Square and Birrarung Marr in search of entertainment that evening, and those that were present were soon scared off by the deluge that bucketed down shortly after 6.30pm. It’s indicative of how scarce rain has become, though, that the majority of people being drenched were laughing and smiling as they alternatively ran for cover or walked delightedly through the downpour.

The inclement weather meant that crowds were also low on Saturday, so that by the time French pyrotechnic outfit Groupe F performed their underwhelming Flame Players late in the evening (imagine smaller versions of Crown Casino’s fire-belching towers moored on the river, synchronised with a pleasantly discordant electric cello soundtrack, and you’ll have the perfect mental picture of the event), less than 150 people were gathered to see the show.

Thankfully, by Sunday, sunshine and blue skies meant that Melbournians and visitors alike gathered en masse, attracted by the combined forces of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and the free FINA program events, so much so that passage along the Yarra banks was seriously congested in places; a traffic-jam of prams and tourists.

Despite the disheartening weather in the early stages of the weekend, though, for those as aesthetically obsessed as myself, the festival offered many shining moments.

Circa, a circus trio, performed 31 Acts in 30 Minutes several times over the weekend: a delightfully frenzied series of events that left numerous small people and their adults in rapturous, wide-eyed wonder. Those like myself, for whom physical feats were a challenge even when young, were simultaneously awed by and jealous of the performers’ agility, flexibility and – to be blunt – raw physical appeal.

The always-entertaining Snuff Puppets (a company previously lambasted by arch-conservative Andrew Bolt and the Herald-Sun over a September 11 inspired performance which raised more than $4000 for Indonesian earthquake victims) were followed by mobs of nervous but delighted children everywhere they went during performances of Nyet-Nyet’s Picnic, featuring a magnificently menacing Bunyip and the generously-bosomed Nyet Nyet Women.

Queer singer-songwriter Lou Bennet, a Yorta Yorta-Dja Dja Wurrung woman originally from the Barmah region in Northern Victoria, dispelled misconceptions about indigenous music (“Too many people think it's all about didgeridoos and clapsticks, but it's much more than that,” Bennet told me last week) with her band The Sweet Cheeks, while elsewhere, the Hilltop Stage transported the crowd to New Caledonia, with a performance by Celenod.

Given that it was an arts festival programmed in conjunction with an international swimming competition, perhaps it was poetic justice that the Festival of the 12th FINA World Championships was sometimes waterlogged. However you look at it, once the weather encouraged rather than dissuaded visitors, the festival was a roaring success – or was that just the bellowing of the Snuff Puppet’s Bunyip?

Very Moving Images

Last Wednesday witnessed the official opening of the latest exhibition in the subterranean screen gallery at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Centre Pompidou Video Art 1965 – 2005.

Drawn from the Musée national d'art moderne Collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the exhibition traces the evolution of the video image in contemporary art, and presents the aesthetic realisations of artists who have utilised video as a creative medium. From early, small-scale works to more recent and ambitious pieces, it’s a remarkably intimate exhibition, featuring numerous small monitors, equipped with multiple sets of headphones, that facilitate an individual appreciation of the various works rather than being dominated by larger, more cinematic displays.

That said, more elaborate full and split screen works are also on display, including UK artist and film-maker Isaac Julien’s Baltimore (a homage to 1970s blacksploitation films such as Shaft and Cleopatra Jones, but also a subtle, surreal commentary on issues of race, class and history) and French artist Pierre Huyghe’s exploration of the twilight zone between fact and fiction, The Third Memory; a carefully observed fusion of Sidney Lumet’s 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon and the real-life events it was based upon.

Among the exhibition’s highlights are the studied meaninglessness of Samuel Beckett’s precisely ordered Quad I & II; Bruce Nauman’s Going Around the Corner Piece, a playful satire of the familiar ‘white cube’ exhibition space that simultaneously welcomes and excludes the viewer, and also a subtle commentary on surveillance culture; and Tony Oursler’s Switch, which inhabits unexpected corners imbuing the exhibition with a vivid sense of individual personality.

Centre Pompidou Video Art 1965 – 2005, a free exhibition, is open daily, 10am – 6pm until Sunday May 27.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Catching up on the MQFF

Oh dear. I've been so busy that instead of the regular, almost daily updates I'd planned to post on the festival, the whole thing has been and gone already, and I haven't even written about day three. Bad, bad blogger...

On Day Three of the festival, Sunday March 18, I was lucky enough to catch what would turn out to be my standout film, the remarkable French documentary Au-delà de la haine, or Beyond Hatred. Shot with stunning simplicity by director Oliver Mayreu, the film focuses on the aftermath of a brutal murder, and the impact of the crime upon the victim's family. In 2002, a young gay man, Francois Chenu, was viciouslly murdered by neo-nazi Skinheads. He was so badly beaten that his sister could only identify her brother's body by his hair extentions: his killers had literally beaten his face to a pulp.

The film's focus is on the aftermath of the crime, and the attempts by the Chenu's family to understand both the act, and the deprivations which shaped his killers' lives. With austere restraint, we journey with this remarkably compassionate and understanding family, as they hold out an olive branch to their sons' murderers in the hope that they can be rehabilitated, and regain the humanity which they lost in taking Francois' life.

The most remarkable scene is shot at the park where the murder took place. Accompanied by a subdued score,
Chenu's sister tells in voice-over how she went to identify her brother's body, often pausing to compose herself, and never once prompted by the film-maker. The camera, perfectly still, records daylight fading and the park slowly slipping into evening, as joggers pace utwittingly past the spot where Francois died. It's a heartbreaking scene, and a magnificent film which deservedly won Best Documentary at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival.

I've read at least one review of the film - by an American to whom both the French justice system and the family's reaction was incomprehensible - which called it detached. Hah. To quote last year's LOndon Film Festival: "
Director Olivier Meyrou chooses to tell the story largely through the words of those closest to François, and this is a well judged, reasoned approach given that the subject has such powerful emotional force as to require no further dramatisation or sensationalising."

Next I took a break, and prepared for the panel I was facilitating after a German doco about the ongoing gay and lesbian rights struggle, Rainbow's End, presented by the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights' Lobby. Enjoyably, there was a large crowd present for the film, most of whom stayed for the panel discussion and Q + A afterwards.

Monday night saw me leave work and head straight in for the Melbourne premiere of the gay teen surfie feature, Tan Lines. A raw, uneven but nonetheless delightful film by English director Ed Aldridge shot on Sydney's northern beaches, it told the story of Midget Hollows (the debut performance by Jack Baxter, left), a 16 year old grommet, who slowly finds himself falling for his best friend Dan's older brother, Cass (Daniel O'Leary), who has just returned to their town after an absence of several years.

Far from your standard coming-of-age and coming out story, the film's deadpan humour and innate grasp of the macho bravado of teenage boys, which typically hides their insecurities, was counterbalanced by a darker tone, what I've described elsewhere as an evocation of the Australian Gothic, something very rarely seen in our cinemas. Quite a few people I know who saw Tan Lines disliked it - often for the same elements that I loved, such as its anti-romantic ending, and timeless pace that reawoke old memories of long, lazy, empty holidays, when the weeks between school terms were long enough to be bored...

Mike, my flatmate, has described this as "an unpolished gem", a sentiment with which I completely agree, while says its "
see-what-sticks-to-the-wall approach needs to be replaced with a surer sense of vision. Lackluster performance does not equal teenage verisimilitude, nor does a shaky hand-held camera equal cinéma vérité..."

I wonder what extras are going to be on the DVD release...?

After Tan Lines I dropped in for the first film of the shorts collection Cocktails, which was yet another gay film about a groom and his best man from the USA, The Best Men, but was suprised to find myself in tears by the end of this concise, compassionate film about unrequited love and longing, directed by Tony Wei.

At its conclusion I nipped into the next cinema to catch British doco The Seven Secrets of Perfect Porn (dir. Max Barber, 2005), which felt more like a DVD extra than anything else, which was followed by Eye on the Guy: Alan B. Stone and the Age of Beefcake. Sadly, the late hour meant that I was unable to focus on this film as much as I would have liked, because it was a well-structed, compasionate and informative look at a past age, when public expressions of gay sexuality masqueraded as 'health and fitness' muscle mags for the discerning and nervous mail-order customer.

Thence home, to sleep, perchance to dream...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Calling all young writers and artists!

Voiceworks magazine is seeking submissions for issue #69, IDENTIKIT (deadline Monday 9 April 2007). This could include fiction, poetry, non-fiction, columns, comics, photography, portraiture, digital art / graphic design, illustrations.

IDENTIKIT theme blurb
Walk blindfolded into a house, fall dizzy from the smell of mothballs, know that you’re at Grandma’s again. Walk into a new city, forget your past, say good morning to yourself. Walk into a zoo, ask an orangutan for the sum total of its experiences of life in captivity, get hit by a banana. Identity, that elusive creature. Who are you? Frankenstein's monster was built from parts. Just like you got your mother’s eyes, and your father’s hairy toes. Even personality is a composite. Send us a postcard.

3000 (800–2400-word pieces preferred)
And although we are a themed publication, remember the Voiceworks motto:
  • themed work: good
  • good work: better
  • good themed work: BEST

Visual art: $50 for one page, $100 for two pages or more; poetry: $60; fiction, non-fiction and columns: $100.

Voiceworks receives funding to publish the work of under 25-year-olds.

Go to for further submission guidelines. We also consider visual work – comics, photography, portraiture.

Email Ryan Paine at with any questions, pitches or brilliant ideas.

My life has become a Smiths' song

"If you're so funny
then why are you on your own tonight?
and if you're so clever
why are you on your own tonight?
if you're so very entertaining
why are you on your own tonight?
and if you're so terribly good-looking
then why do you sleep alone tonight?
because tonight is just like any other night"

- The Smiths, 'I Know It's Over', The Queen Is Dead

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Governing vs Leadership

Reading this article about a recent speech by British PM Tony Blair, I am again struck by the difference between leadership and simply governing. Blair may not be the best politician in the world, but he is, at least, committed to certain ideals and principals, of which equality is one.

John Howard may possess many characteristics - rat cunning, for example, and the ability to divide and conquer the Australian population by promoting intolerance and suspicion - but one thing he definitely lacks is vision.

Howard lacks a vision of what Australian society could be. Instead, he has tried to drag us back to what Australia was.

Blair, to his credit, had a vision of a fairer, more equal Britain, and his strong support for queer rights and same-sex relationships is a key platform of such policies. We've lived so long under Howard that it's almost hard to remember when politicians had visions for the future, instead of black-and-white dreams of the White Australia Policy past...

If you allow discrimination to fester, that is a complete rejection of that modernising and civilising notion." - Tony Blair.

Bring the election on, I say. And thanks, Tony. (You can read his speech in full here.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

MQFF Day Two

I'm having a lazy festival this year, which I'm rather enjoying, aided by the fact that I've already watched preview discs of several of the films. My over-committed lifestyle has also ben a factor, but truth be known, I'm rather enjoying the relaxed course I've set so far.

The first film I saw today was one I was quite looking forward to: Eleven Men Out (aka Strákarnir Okkar), which combined several of my interests simultaneously: manlove, football and Iceland. The President of Queer Sports Alliance Melbourne introduced the session with an interminable speech about a worthy cause (a fund-raising program for the Melbourne 2008 Asia Pacific Outgames - because after all, sport is the new black in the queer community don't you know?) after which, finally, the movie got underway.

Opening with the hard-to-swallow premise of having Iceland's top football player, Ottar Thor (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) coming out in a fit of pique during a magazine interview - because his ego demanded that he grace the cover at all costs - the film failed to improve from there on in.

Plots and subplots struggled to find a workable balance: Ottar's relationship with his alcholic ex-wife and moody teenage son dominated, but lacked substance, while another plot thread involving the self-absorbed Ottar's relationship with his family (including his misogynistic arsehole of a brother, and a homophobic father who coaches Ottar's A-league team, but who kicks him off it once he comes out) lacked anything resembling resolution.

A third plot focussed on Ottar joining an amateur football team, soon known as Reykjavik Pride, once most of its straight members quit and are replaced by gay men. He swiftly develops a relationship with a fellow player, but a lack of sexual tension between the actors meant their scenes together felt stilted, while the story arc of their falling in and out of 'I really care about you' was fatally under-developed.

Eleven Men Out film suffers enormously from its uneven tone, as if director Robert I. Douglas was unsure if he was helming a comedy, a serious drama, a classic struggling-team-makes-good sports flick, or something else entirely. The drama was stilted, and key scenes were clumsily established and executed, or altogether absent.

While the central characters of Ottar, his former beauty queen wife and their son Maggi are relatively well developed, other character, especially the remaining 10 members of Reykjavik Pride, are not only criminally undeveloped, they're also boringly stereotypical.

I actually know a gay football player, as well as numerous other queer amateur athletes, and they're far from all being drag queens and fairies (a flaw also seen in another, albeit stronger gay football rom-com, the German film Männer wie wir, or Men and Balls as it's known internationally; released locally on DVD simply as Balls).

Cliched, predictable, borderline misogynistic and almost completely lacking the drama and unpredictablity of sport (as well almost any actual sporting scenes) this was a deeply underwhelming and disappointing film, and not at all recommended.

Thereafter, instead of plunging into another session straight away, I lingered in the festival club over wine, conversation and dinner, returning to the cinema for the faux-horror film Dead Boyz Don't Scream at 10.30pm.

Unlike last year's excellent HellBent (a clever take on the slasher genre that managed to be both satire and suspense-inducing homage simultaneously), director Marc Saltarelli's flesh-filled trash-fest Dead Boyz Don't Scream refused to take either itself or its genre seriously, to its disadvantage. One shouldn't set out to make a horror movie so bad it's hilarious, but this appears to be exactly what Saltarelli has done.

A trio of vain, vaccuous, muscle-bound and straight models are packed off for an 'artistic' photoshoot by their manager after a drunken party they're attending goes horribly wrong. Hoping that their distance from the city will assist in hushing up details of the rape and consequent death they were asociated with, the boys go along for the ride. Once up in the hills, accompanied by a photographer and her gay assistant, their manager and her lesbian lover (a park ranger), the photographer's personal assistant and rival models 'the Poodles' - self-obsessed and incestuous Nordic brothers - clothes are ditched and the photoshoot begins: followed by a series of gruesome murders (cue dramatic chords).

Any attempts to generate real chills or thrills were swiftly undone by the film's self-conciously camp approach to narrative and genre. Stilted acting, bad special effects, laboured dialogue and 'dead' characters who visibly blink would have made this film hilariously bad viewing if they'd been unintentional. Instead, its laboured attempt at deliberate schlock provoked derisive laughter, but little more.

Things not to do with your iPod no.267

Never have your iPod lying beside you as you masturbate/have sex. Cum-splattered iPods stop working. This is going to be fun to explain when I take it in for repairs...*blush*

Good People, Good Times

Just home from dinner with friends: Darren (who proudly announced he'd purchased his first-ever hip-hop CD - this from Mr Indie-Boy, a big step indeed), Glen, who I haven't caught up with since he went to Mardi Gras, and his new bf. All rather lovely.

Slept through the heat of the day after presenting SmartArts this morning, only to step outside this evening to discover it was still 33 degrees. Ick - where's autumn when you need it? The equinox was only yesterday, so I can't expect we'll immediately be plunged into crisp mornings and chilly nights, but dammit, we could at least have a hint of appropriate chill in the air.

The last few weeks have seen me too busy to blog properly, which always makes me feel guilty. I don't know why, it's not like I have to blog, although I do enjoy leaving an electronic trail of my life and experiences for future biographers, should my life ever warrant such interest (unlikely, I posit, but a boy can dream).

Have just had a quick whip-through some of my fellow bloggers recent posts, and am heartened to see that many of us share the same sense of optimism over Howard's recent poor form and the forthcoming but as yet undeclared federal election. No doubt the rodent will pull some trick or another to try and win another term, but at this stage, it would certainly appear that Rudd and Gillard (go Julia!) are set to make significant advances at the election, even if they don't actually win government. Bring it on!

I've fallen behind on my MQFF updates but promise to catch up in the next few days.

I still don't know what I'm putting on the cover of MCV next week, god help me, and I really should know at least two weeks in advance. This Editor malarky takes a bit of getting used to.

I've announced my decision to quit writing Beat magazine's Art of the City column as of four weeks' time as I really just don't have the time to be able to do it justice; ditto the two panels I sit on at the National Gallery of Victoria.

I doubt it will take me long to find something else to do with my time, though. I really must learn to say no!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MQFF Day One

After an excellent start on opening night, I kicked off the first day of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival with a bang: three sessions in a row.

First up was the Canadian feature Whole New Thing (dir. Amnon Buchbinder, 2005), an engaging drama about a homeschooled 13 year old, Emerson Thorsen (Aaron Webber, left) whose bickering parents send him off to secondary school for the first time in his life. Not surprisingly, he doesn't fit in, with his precocious intelligence ensuring he is bullied and beaten.
"Think of it as a right of passage", a teacher tells him helpfully, after he gets his first bloodied nose. After a second beating by the school bully, Emerson not surprisingly asks, "How much longer is this rite of passage going to take?"

More dramatically, the youth falls in love with his lonely gay English teacher, Don (Daniel McIvor), and is flumoxed when his initial overtures are not returned. At this point in the film, it very successfully unsettles, as I sat there wondering just how far the filmmaker would go with this story, and in what direction. Ed, meanwhile, who frequents beats in the hope that anonymous sex will fill the aching void in his heart, is pining over his last lover, with whom he parted on bad terms. Simultaneously, Emerson's hippy parents are having a crisis of their own...

While engaging and heartfelt, with strong performances all round, Whole New Thing is content to tell its story quietly, although there is much to like about its low-key dramatic approach. Neither flashy nor brilliant, it was a solid, engaging although subdued start to the festival proper.

Next up was one of the short film packages, Boob Tube, billed as the latest and greatest in award-winning short films from around the world. Got help lesbian film-makers if this poor showing is all they have to display. Among the weaker films in this package, Cosa Bella (dir. Fiona Mackenzie, USA, 2005) which suffered from a muddy narrative, established two of the major lesbian tropes of this year's MQFF: rule one, each film must ideally have a lesbian stalker character; and rule two, all female characters should be glamorous and poised, ideally looking like they just walked off the set of The L-Word.

The highlights of this mostly disappointing lot were the UK historical romantic comedy Private Life (dir. Abbe Robinson, 2006), about the cross-class relationship between a Manchester mill-owner's daughter and one of the staff; and the brief but vibrant Love Struck (dir. Susan Ali, USA, 2006), a comedy featuring a punk Cupid with a poor aim. Also of note was Disposable (dir. Robyn Patterson & Jo Gell, New Zealand, 2006), a film devised and shot in just 24 hours, using only disposable, single-use cameras. Great form, not so great content.

Last up for the night was another shorts package, Short & Burly, the contents of which, it won't surprise you to learn, were all about gay men. Highlights here included the imaginative French science fiction drama Oedipus N+1 (dir. Eric Rognard, 2004), which despite a low budget extrapolated marvellously from the contemporary ex-gay movement to tell a story about cloning and a mother's attempts to 'cure' her son's sexual orientation; a droll depiction of that person we all know, who delights in putting you down while professing to be your friend, in Underminer (Todd Downing, UK/USA, 2005); and the wonderfully camp yet poignant The Saddest Boy in the World (dir. Jamie Travis, Canada, 2006), in which poor Timothy Higgins (Benjamin B Smith, above) prepares to hang himself on his 9th birthday, in a film whose lurid design and bright soundtrack wickedly contrast with the the titular character's existential misery.

Coupled with a couple of after-work/between session drinks in the festival club, a very enjoyable evening overall.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

MQFF Opening Night

For the first time in several years, the opening night film at the 17th Melbourne Queer Film Festival was actually pretty good. As I've been known to remark, generally the opening night party is more memorable than the film itself. This year, though, instead of an insipid crowd-pleaser such as But I'm a Cheerleader, the festival went with a much stronger film, the 'other Capote biopic', Infamous.

Like Capote, which earned Phillip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar, Infamous focuses on the life of writer and bon vivant Truman Capote (a delightful performance by 'the voice of Dobby the House Elf', Toby Jones - not as note-perfect as Hoffman's somehow lifeless impersonation but more vibrant as a consequence) at the time he was researching and writing his landmark work of literary non-fiction, In Cold Blood. I found Capote over-rated - although its lensing was superlative - and while I can't rave about Infamous, I definitely enjoyed it.

The films differ in that Infamous focuses much more on Capote as a gay man, and fleshing out his internal life and his top shelf New York lifestyle. Most significantly, the film gives significant weight to the relationship betweeen Capote and the death-row murderer Perry Smith (a sombre performance by Daniel Craig; physically miscast - the real Perry Smith was short and stocky - but nonetheless impressive) - going so far as to suggest that the two were in love, which results in a passionate jail-cell kiss between the two.

Fiction? Almost probably.

Good film? Almost.

Like Capote, the film looses strength in its final act, but until that point, it balances the breezy comedy of Capote's social life with his 'swans', the society ladies (played by a delightful Sigourney Weaver and others) who dote upon him, with the sombre truth of the crime he is investigating remarkably well. The scene where the writer first visits the farmhouse where the murders he is writing about took place is especially memorable and poignant.

It's lively, well-acted (save for a cameo by Gwyneth fucking Paltrow in the opening scenes which I loathed - but then, I loathe her) and both moving and amusing. As Capote's childhood friend and author Nelle Harper Lee, Sandra Bullock is remarkably strong and consistent; the constant observer of her friends foibles, faults and charms. Numerous scenes shot against the backdrop of Manhattan, allow Capote's friends and rivals - including a devilishly cutting Michael Panes as Gore Vidal - to comment directly on the action, a technique which works surprisingly well, and which appears to be a direct homage to the book by George Plimpton on which director Douglas McGrath based the movie.

Shame I had to leave the opening night party early though - damn these Friday morning meetings!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Bravest Coward

The story of rodeo-rider, horse-wrangler and gay man Adam Sutton is much more than just a coming out story.

As told with the help of his mate, journalist Neil McMahon (who is himself also gay) it's a story about hope, love, loss and fear; about determination and desperation, and how far we we go to hide from the truth about ourselves.

Perhaps most importantly, it is a deeply moving story about the pivotal relationships between our parents and ourselves. That said, it is very much a gay man's story, which makes it a human story, and one that will hit home for all who read it.

And yes, before anyone asks, I think I've developed a bit of a crush on Sutton while reading it; helped immensely by having lunch with him, McMahon and their publicist after last week's show... *blush*

Originally a newspaper article written by McMahon about his mate, 'the real gay cowboy', which appeared on the eve of the 2006 Academy Awards, when Heath Ledger stood a chance to win best actor for his role in the 'gay cowboy movie' Brokeback Mountain; and then an episode of Australian Story that moved me - and countless others - to tears, Adam's story is now a book, Say It Out Loud, that was published by Random House two weeks ago.

His life is a litany of tragedy: the self-loathing spawned by his conflicted sexuality that drove a younger Adam to reject family and friends; and his guilt over the death of another young man in a drunken car accident which led him to consider suicide only days before being sentenced to a prison term. It is also a story of adventure: prawn fishing and horse-breaking, working on remote Aboriginal communities, driving across the country single-handed, and slowly but surely, coming out.

Throughout this nomadic period of his life, Sutton describes himself as "the bravest coward" - throwing himself headlong into life-threatening danger as a means of distracting himself and others from what he viewed as his secret shame: his desire to love and be loved by other men.

Last week, I skimmed through Sutton's memoir prior to having the delightful experience of having him and Neil McMahon on my radio program. Such was the impact of the book that now I'm re-reading it properly, slowly, from cover to cover: and again, it is moving me to tears.

Adam Sutton's zest for life, his larrikan charm and innocence, and his frankness and honesty, coupled with Neil McMahon's precise, powerful prose, ensure that this is a book that will touch many people. Not just because it tells the story of one young man's struggle to truly accept his sexuality in a world of rough and ready (and ready to lash out at the unfamiliar) masculinity, but because it will resonate with anyone who has ever pushed away the people who loved them the most, no matter what the reason.

After I finish my copy I'm lending it to my mum. I'm also going to buy copies to send to my old high school in the country, because I'm sure there are still kids there who, like me back in the 1980's, would have walked taller after reading it. I strongly urge you to do the same.

Say It Out Loud: Journey of a Real Cowboy, by Adam Sutton and Neil McMahon, published by Random House, pb, 285pp, $34.95.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Good German

I really, really wanted to like this new feature film from director Steven Soderbergh, partially because it stars the luminous Cate Blanchett, and more importantly because it strives to be an uber-faithful homage to my favourite film style, noir.

Set in a ravaged Berlin in 1945, before hostilities have ended with Japan but after Hitler's ignominious death, The Good German employs a balanced blend of archival footage and newly-shot scenes to tell a story about guilt, love and double-crossing. It stars George Clooney as journalist-turned-honorary-Captain Jake Geismer, nominally in Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference, where Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met for the last time as allies, to divide post-war Europe among themselves. Really, he is back in town to look for his lost love, Lena Brandt (an effortlessly world-weary Blanchett).

Disembarking at the airport with Congressman Breimer (an almost unrecognisable Jack Thompson) Jake is picked up by his driver, the unscrupulous, bullying Patrick Tully (a badly-cast Tobey Maguire, who acts like he is in another film altogether) a soldier turned black marketeer who proceeds to steal Jake's wallet as soon as he drops him at his hotel; only appropriate given that, as we soon learn, he has also stolen - or perhaps borrowed would be a beter word - Jake's missing girlfriend, Lena.

Soon enough Tully turns up dead. Who killed him - the Russians, the Americans, the other Americans, or are there other forces at play? What is the secret Lena is hiding? And really, does anybody care?

Sadly, at least with this cinematic adaptation of Joseph Kanon's novel, the answer is no. By striving so hard to re-create the look and feel of classic 1940's films, using everything from old-fashioned lenses and microphones to a heavy-handed pastiche of the period's lighting styles, Soderbergh has created a film that's almost as lifeless as Clooney's performance. Instead of being thrilling, The Good German is stilted. Characters are either thinly drawn (Clooney) or unbelievable (Maguire). The oh-so-ironic inclusion of sex, violence and swearing is jarring, while the knowing nods to everything from Polanski's neo-noir Chinatown to Casablanca detract from the unnecessarily complex plot at the heart of the film.

Too, despite taking the high moral ground on the issue of war crimes and guilt, The Good German fails to explore such issues in any depth.

Basically what I'm saying is ignore this film - watch Casablanca instead.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Was woken from slumber Saturday by a 9am phone message from an MCV contributor, dumping the two interviews they were supposed to conduct that afternoon back in my lap. Bugger. There are two direct outcomes from this event.

1. No Golden Plains for me this weekend, alas.

2. Spot the freelancer who won't be assigned any more work.

On the plus side, I had a lazy evening with the flat to myself, watching DVDs from Mike's collection: Shallow Grave (didn't really work for me) and Michael Mann's poised and polished Manhunter. Such icy precision, such striking cinematography, such a bad 1980s synth soundtrack. A taut, tense and extremely effective thriller, this forerunner to The Silence of the Lambs features Brian Cox's subtle take on the villainous Hannibal Lecter (above), and in the words of Slate magazine film critic David Edelstein, "sired CSI and...ushered in the age of empathy for the devil."

Damn enjoyable film. As was the bottle of red I worked through while I was watching it.

As an aside, why did no-one warn me of the dangers of drunken texting? Grog-blogging is bad enough, on my own blog or in other people's comments, but late night drunken texts? Tsk, tsk.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The horror, the horror!

To quote the grand master of American gothic fiction, H. P. Lovecraft, there are things that "cannot and should not be", and, "By their smell shall ye know them."

Lovecraft was talking about the Great Old Ones, and the dread Outer Gods, to whom Earth was a plaything and the human race less than insects.

Me, I'm talking about soul-shattering American remakes of classic films: in this instance, Neil La Bute's remake of the British classic The Wicker Man, which really is a stinker. The original is a subtle, understated masterpiece of manipulation, tension and revelation. The other is "hilariously bad" to quote critic James Berardinelli; "direly acted and defiantly non-scary," according to the BBC's Neil Smith; and "possibly the worst film of 2006" according to someone called Christopher Smith.

Just how and why this remake - starring a remarkably straight-faced Nic Cage (whose cocaine bill must have been vast to compel him to sign on to this train-wreck of a movie) in the role first played by Edward Woodward - ever got off the ground in the first place is unimaginable.

Regardless, it swiftly crashes to earth. Scoring a remarkably low 14% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is a film so bad it's not even enjoyably awful (unlike Catwoman, which is unintentionally hilarious - especially after a couple of drinks in the company of friends). Trust me - you really, really don't want to see this train-wreck of a film - not even on fast-forward, which was how I watched it tonight after the first 15 minutes...

18 Years

It was 18 years ago today that Darryl James Watts, my dad, died unexpectedly at the age of 47, from an aneurism. The night before, he called me to say he'd just applied for a job as a morgue attendent. Within 24 hours he was lying in one.

I turn 40 this year. It's hard to believe that I was only 21 when he died. It's harder still to believe that in a few more years I'll have outlived my old man. I still don't feel grown up, let alone almost equal to him in age.

He had a long black beard tinged with grey, a pot belly and a deep voice. At Teachers' College in the early 1960s, where he met my mum, he affected thick black-framed glasses because he thought they would help the working-class boy from Thornbury look more intellectual. Back then, driving across to St Kilda and learning to eat pasta and drink red wine was one of the most bohemian things you could do in Melbourne, according to my mum.

Her legs - dangling from the window of a train carriage on a group trip to Ayers Rock - were what first attracted him to her.

Oddly enough, I've never asked my mum what it was that first attracted her to dad. I think it's time to call her and find out.

I miss you, dad. I always will.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bra Boys

Call me shallow, but I am looking forward to seeing this new Australian documentary about Sydney's "notorious surf tribe" the Bra Boys, even though I suspect it's going to be a badly-directed vanity project...

Juding from this poster, and the cover-art for Teenager's debut album Thirteen, blokes showing a hint of pubes are the new black. I'm not complaining!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Things To Do In Melbourne

For some time now I've been considering the idea for a non-fiction book, for which I never seem to have the time to pitch to an appropriate publisher: a travellers' guide to what I consider the real Melbourne.

The original idea struck me while browsing through a bookshop in the London suburb of Bloomsbury in 2005. "Fuck," my brain said, in its traditionally crass and vernacular way, "why the hell do Melbourne guide books tell tourists to visit such pissweak 'attractions' as Captain Cook's Cottage when there are so many more interesting sites to be seen off the beaten track?"

Should I ever get around to writing or editing such a book, I'd suggest to tourists that they take a full-moon tour of the Melbourne General Cemetery for example, or drink in the front bar of the Espy watching the sun set over Port Phillip Bay. Others might suggest a visit to the Red Hill Market, or lunch on Victoria St, Richmond, followed by an afternoon at the Immigration Museum.

Thus, I throw this post open to you, dear reader. What do you think should be numbered among Melbourne's must-see attractions? When you have interstate or international friends visiting, where do you suggest they go?

Lurkers are especially welcome to contribute!

I'm a bad homosexual

You know, I totally forgot Sydney's gay and lesbian Mardi Gras was on this weekend until reading D.U.P. and R*yan's blogs a few minutes ago. What kind of gay man am I?

One who doesn't really give a stuff about Mardi Gras I guess. The shirtless muscle men and body fascists, the e-suffused dance party crowd, the music - none of it hold any interest for me whatsoever.

Instead, I've had a pleasent weekend doing very little, save for catching a screening of The Illusionist (so expository and staged that I walked out), having birthday drinks with Mr Monster and his friends, seeing Arthur Miller's All My Sons at the Arts Centre, and attending two parties, a gay leather-friend's soiree in Preston, and a cult-themed party in North Carlton thrown by Born Dancin'. I've also managed to squeeze in an exhibition opening, a couple of glasses of absinthe, and a trek to the laundrette along the way.

So how was your weekend?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Blessed indolence

After a rather madcap couple of weeks, I am delighted to report that I face a weekend of lolling around decadently.

The next two days should entail little save socialising with friends, attending a couple of parties, catching a play, doing my laundry, and possibly placing a man-trap on the street in order to snare myself an eligble bachelor.

Actually, now I consider it, the latter sounds far too demanding. Instead I shall limit myself to gazing out the window and loooking A) mysterious, B) handsome, and C) available but not desperate.

Concerns about work are henceforth relegated to my subconcious for the next 48 hours, where they are politely requested to manifest in colourful and unusual dreams rather than tediously literal dreams about deadlines, angry designers and co-workers in paroxysms of hysteria.

There may or may not be live rock and/or roll. The sin of Onan may be practised, if I can be bothered.

Right now, it's time to heat some more sake...

I wonder if the Japanese Bath House has many bookings tomorrow?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Calling all film fans

Check out this website, for the Melbourne-based Time Capsules, which screens cinematic gems to delight and confound your senses... The screening and location details are:

8:30 PM
Every Thursday
127 Campbell St

How to annoy a celebrity

  • Don't stick to the tried and true questions about their friendships with other celebrities.

  • Ask personal questions - fair game when they're here to talk about the autobiography in which they nominally lay their life bare.
  • Try and get behind the facade, to the real person.
Given that these three tactics clearly annoyed Rupert Everett last night at the Athenaeum, I can pretty much guarentee they'd work on - hmm, Madonna, for instance.

Despite assuring me before the gig that nothing was off limits, Rupert quickly grew defensive, even narky during last night's conversation when my questions focused on him personally, and what I saw as ommissions from his autobiography (i.e. the curious lack of real emotion that suffuses its pages) rather than asking the stock-standard questions that would have allowed him to present another witty bon-mot or glittering anecdote with a flourish.

It was, in short, the most difficult interview I've ever done to date, and made Barry Humphries look like a kitten in comparison. Despite the occasional awkward silence or snapped retort from Everett, however, it was also a successful interview I think, in that he revealed things about himself that no other interview had drawn out, according to his publicist after the show.

I confess that I was a little shell-shocked afterwards, however - it certainly wasn't the delightfully entertaining experience I'd anticipated. Judging from the size of the audience and the resulting book sales, though, I'd say it was a successful event.