Oct 06

Disco Boy – book review

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I recently finished reading Disco Boy by Dominic Knight, of The Chaser fame. I bought it a while ago for $1 from a stall at Redwater Markets in Redfern. Looks like it was a review copy.
I’m not a great book reviewer, so I’ll just list some points about it below:
1. I really enjoyed it
2. Name checks lots of Sydney locations we know and love.
3. Name checks lots of awesome pop songs esp from the 80s and 90s.
4. It’s chick-lit for dudes.
5. I actually quoted the character Paul as MobyDisc DJ in real-life while DJing at Rob’s 40th.
6. It feels like it was written by someone I know – it’s so Sydney!
7. It has a happy ending 😉


Disco Boy cover

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Jul 09

Measure for Measure

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I kindly received another freebie from one of my Aunts to see Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare at the Belvoir Theatre. Before the show, I had dinner at Al Aseel (the Surry Hills one) with Uncle Ron, Uncle Rob and Aunt Rosie. Yes, yes – 4 x Rs!

I didn’t know much about this particular production, so was in for a big surprise. The stage design was great, it consisted of a hotel room with bed, bathroom, tv and bar fridge that rotated 360 degrees. The actors were all amazing speaking in classic Shakespearean language, with occasional modern day lines. At first it was a bit hard to understand what they were saying, but a little bit of high school Shakespeare came back to me. The blurb said Theatre for the open-minded, which it certainly was. One scene was really violent, gory and vile! The characters went to the toilet a lot on stage! The most intriguing part of the production was the use of video cameras that projected the action onto screens next to the stage. The camera operators were the actors, out of character, but on stage. There was also a camera inside the bathroom mirror and one pointing directly down from above as well. Sometimes, I didn’t know where to look, it’s a small theatre so you could see all the action on stage quite clearly, not like you were at a concert and really far away, so you look at the screens. Anyway, it was a really great production, the story was intense and so was the acting. Although it was a bit disturbing, I really enjoyed it (and it wasn’t as intense as Women of Troy)

This is a permissive, decaying city with a dysfunctional government, and the Duke has mysteriously gone on leave. In his place he’s appointed a man whose “urine is congealed ice” – the austere moralist Angelo. His first act of law is to apply the death penalty for fornication: Claudio is the first to be condemned. But when Isabella arrives to beg for her brother’s life, her pleas threaten to bring Angelo and the state to their knees.

Measure for Measure is Shakespeare’s great dark comedy about desire and power. His world is familiar: sex is a commodity, government is subject to the leader’s moral whimsy, extreme liberality goes head to head with emergency powers to constrain and punish. And lurking in the shadows of this play is the idea that real wisdom comes from unleashed chaos.

Benedict Andrews was last at Belvoir St in 2007 with his brilliant production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. He’s returned to tackle a play he’s probably born to direct: Shakespeare’s magnificent and explicit meditation on anarchy and authority.

Theatre for the open-minded.

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Jun 20

Sex and the City 2 was good, but I can understand why it has got some bad reviews. As a big fan of SATC, it was enjoyable but probably not as good as the first movie which I just watched a week ago. I would like to give an honourable mention to Dave who tagged along with me to watch SATC2 at the Entertainment Quarter – he was the only straight guy in the cinema! I’ve also inflicted SATC seasons 4, 5 and 6 on him over the last couple of months as well. Note to self: get back into fashion!!! Now that I’ve got that over with, I can catch up on all those Quickflix DVDs on my list.

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Jun 16

SFF2010: I am love

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I forgot to review the drama, “I am love” which we saw in the opulent State Theatre with Dave’s cuz and his gf. Before the film we had a tasty Uighur dinner on Dixon St.
I quite enjoyed I am love. It was introduced by the Italian director Luca Guadagnino. I especially liked the music, art direction, the beautiful food shots, architecture and fashion. There’s also a fair bit of shagging in the countryside! Tilda Swinton is an awesome actress who plays a Russian who marries into a wealthy Milanese family, I’ve always like her work (except The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).

Director Luca Guadagnino and actress Tilda Swinton rush headlong into the crumbling empire that is classical melodrama, flaunt their shared awareness of Luchino Visconti’s visual splendour and Douglas Sirk’s bristling plotlines and create this magnificent contemporary ode to impossible love.

The Recchis are Milanese royalty. Wealthy and cultivated, their successful furniture business supports a luxurious lifestyle that is both rarified and uncontested. However cracks begin to appear in the walls of the magnificent family edifice at the birthday party of the grand-patriarch, a catalyst event for an unfolding series of startling transgressions.

Swinton is magnificent in the central role as the wife, mother and outsider (in this cloistered world her Russian heritage prevents her from truly belonging) whose carefully maintained order is undone by the unexpected wakening of desire.

The Sydney Film Festival is over for another year. Now I can finally go and see my long awaited Sex and the City 2. Yes, yes the reviews say it’s shit, but as a huge SATC fan I’m sure I’ll like it anyways.

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Jun 14

SFF2010: Teenage Paparazzo

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Teenage Paparazzo was my final Sydney Film Festival pick for 2010.
I chose this one because I like celebrities and photography, so thought it might be interesting. It was really well done, the precocious teenager Austin and Adrian Grenier become accomplices and antagonists in the hunt for celebrity. I didn’t get into Entourage (even though lots of people say it’s awesome), so I didn’t know much about Adrian other than he was Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada (another great fashion/celebrity film). I enjoyed seeing a celebrity turn paprazzo and Austin’s “grown up” redemption a the end.
Here’s the blurb:

Director Adrian Grenier is best known as Vincent Chase from the TV series Entourage. In this fascinating documentary he describes what it’s like to be the focus of the paparazzo’s lens and then turns the camera on the photographers themselves – in particular thirteen-year-old snapper Austin. The teenager spends his nights chasing photo-ops and getting tips from his paparazzo mates on who’s hot and who’s where. Austin’s colleagues are at first suspicious, but his palpable interest in their work and precocious talent serve to ultimately win them over.

Grenier sets up his own paparazzo moment with Paris Hilton as well as interviews with colleagues Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and Eva Longoria Parker. Grenier’s second feature as director is a well-crafted, entertaining production that investigates the phenomenon of celebrity obsession with considerable intelligence and humour.

Australian Premiere

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Jun 12

SFF2010 Genius Within: the inner life of Glenn Gould

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The next film I saw was a doco on Canadian born pianist Glenn Gould called Genius Within: the inner life of Glenn Gould.
This was part of the sounds on screen stream and all the other music docos weren’t really grabbing me. I wasn’t familiar with him or his work but it turned out to be a fascinating and detailed doco. The archival footage of Glenn Gould starting from the 1950s was impressive. Obviously he was celebrated and accomplished enough to have so many recordings and film foootage of him. I quite liked the old footage of Toronto because it’s somewhere I’ve been 3 times.

In the end he becomes more nutty and a recluse but when he was in his twenties, he was quite hot! There are photos of him looking like a cross between Jeff Buckley and Heath Ledger (with a touch of Sean Penn). I’ll have a hunt around and see if I can Here is a link of some pics of him when he was young.
Unfortunately, I had to do a runner to get to the Dendy Opera Quays in time for the next movie, so missed about 5-10 minutes of the end.
Glen Gould - young & hot

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Jun 08

SFF2010 New Beijing: Reinventing a City

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I love it when I bump into old friends at the festival (hello Jodeska, thanks for saving the seat for us).

Another nice thing about attending the film festival is that often the directors or producers introduce their films and participate in Q & A sessions.

This session turned out to be 3 for the price of one, as some of them were entries in a competition.

First up was Suburbia

Based on true events, an unsettling tale from the urban sprawl starring Don Hany as a man trying to make sense of what he’s heard and seen.

Let’s just say, this was not what I was expecting, this short film made me really tense and disturbed by the end of it. It took a while for people to respond with clapping at the end, not sure if it was because the audience didn’t like it or they were all too freaked out.

Next up was The Adjustable Cosmos

A fantastical adventure played out in a jewelled cosmos housed inside a great crystal sphere.

This was an animation, it was quite cute and whimsical with a little bit of unpolitically correct humour and major religious overtones (please remember, I am not a professional film reviewer, I just make this stuff up)

Finally, New Beijing: Reinventing a City

‘Better take a photo now as it will be no more!’ comments a local man, as activist Zhang Jinqi snaps his traditional home in one of Beijing’s narrow lane-ways (hutongs). Zhang Jinqi’s photography project Memories of China documents the remaining heritage districts of the old city, which are soon to be demolished. Swinging from old to new, the documentary switches to a panoramic view of the biggest construction boom in history and charts the modern face of Beijing and its newly iconic buildings such as Watercube, Birds Nest Stadium and the National Theatre. Wallace-Crabbe’s film is a fascinating record of a period of extraordinary change in one of the oldest cities on earth.

I appreciated the need to document old Beijing before the almost complete modernisation of this city. I felt that this doco was a bit disjointed and not explained well enough, it really “swung” a bit much. They kept talking about he hutongs being destroyed but never really explained what a hutong was in the documentary. I still think it was an important piece of work, but felt that if they had a chance to start filming a few years earlier, it would have helped.

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Jun 07

SFF2010 Eye (and Mind)

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Award-winning indigenous photographer, Bindi Cole, travels from her Melbourne home to the far north of Australia. She’s been invited by drag performer Foxxy Empire, the alter ego of Tiwi Islander Jason De Santis to document the transgender Sistergirls of his community. She plans to create 12 photographic portraits – positive, celebratory images – and soon realises she must also enlist the help of ‘the mother of all Sistergirls’ Crystal Love.

As Bindi struggles with the logistics of the shoot and being an outsider in a remote community, she listens to stories of the girls’ lives, of family acceptance and rejection, of loneliness and the bond of sisterhood.

World Premiere

I don’t think this is one of the better docos from this year’s festival. Dave thought that it was a mockumentary, and not as serious it was intended to be. It was also unnerving because a guy behind me kept laughing at what I considered inappropriate moments. Was he laughing at the indigenous drag queen or was he laughing at what she was saying?? I found the stories of some of the Sistergirls very moving and I really appreciate what they have suffered through and fought against, as well as the struggles they will continue to have. I’d say this doco was allright. (Though I think I’ve been generous and voted/very good or excellent on all my film festival voting slips)

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An exploration of the nature of identity: from an early age, award-winning writer Tom Cho thought he was different and knew he didn’t match his mother’s expectations of a good daughter.

I read the book Look Who’s Morphing, I borrowed it from the library, I didn’t pay for it. I didn’t really like the book or the doco. Sure I could relate in some ways, being an asian teenager in Australia in the 80s (but not the part about wanting to be a boy) and questions about identity. Unfortunately I didn’t really feel it. Mind gave me some insight into Tom Cho’s background, but I still didn’t enjoy the “fantasy” stories.

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Jun 06

SFF2010 Bill Cunningham: New York

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I chose the doco Bill Cunningham New York because it featured three of my favourite things: photography, fashion and New York City.
Here’s the blurb from Sydney Film Festival website:

Veteran New York Times photojournalist Bill Cunningham has been called ‘The hardest working reporter in New York’ by his own paper. Still peddling the streets at 81, Cunningham’s eye for detail hasn’t diminished with age and his columns ‘On the Street’ and ‘Evening Hours’ which capture New York street style and society events, remain in demand.

He’s a notoriously picky snapper, skipping over Catherine Deneuve because ‘she isn’t wearing anything interesting;’ Vogue editor Anna Wintour remarks that it’s worrying when he doesn’t raise his camera. Cunningham, however, is never knowingly unkind – he’s seeking style and beauty not exposure. His personal life is frugal; he lives in a cramped apartment in Carnegie Hall, eats at delis and dresses in a devoutly practical French workman’s jacket. Cunningham’s wholesale commitment to his work clearly gives him great joy and energy, and makes for an inspiring documentary.

The packed out crowd on Sunday really enjoyed this, there were lots of humorous moments. Bill Cunningham New York was a wonderful portrait of a fantastic photographer and humble man. Yes, he still shoots film (so old school)!! I loved his interactions with his “mac operator” at the NY Times, they were quite funny, driving each other nuts to make his newspaper layout every week. Oh and it name checked Andy Warhol (of course).

Thanks to Josie and Mark for saving seats for us while tucked into a pre-festival quickie lunch at Din Tai Fung with the O’Kwoks 🙂

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Jun 06

SFF2010 Jean-Michel Basquiat – The Radiant Child

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I’ve always liked Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work and this doco filled in all the gaps about his life that I didn’t know or missed from the film Basquiat. This is the 2nd film from this year’s festival that has named checked my all time favourite artist, Andy Warhol.
Unfortunately this screening was marred by a major technical difficulty, namely, there was no sound! The crowd slowly gathered that something was missing about a few minutes in and started calling out their complaints, when the titles said that Mike D et al did the music everyone was pretty miffed. We didn’t want to see any more of the film until the sound was fixed. About half an hour after the scheduled start time, The Radiant Child finally got started (with sound), it would have been a shame to miss out on the great 80s tracks such as Planet Rock and Obsession by Animotion etc. I particularly enjoyed the part where his former girlfriend talks about having a fight with Madonna because she is having an affair with JMB. Anyway another very interesting and comprehensive doco on a great artist.

Here’s the blurb:

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life story, directed by his close friend Tamra Davis, features an expansive mid-80s interview with the young artist and places his life and career firmly in the context of New York in the 80s. Starting with his graffiti days, the film follows Basquiat’s meteoric rise to multi-millionaire status, his drug taking and nightclubbing, his creative process, the death of his mentor, Warhol, and his own untimely end.

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