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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Winter’s Discontent

Every now and then a play comes along that leaves you feeling like you’ve just witnessed something important, but you’re not sure what. Winter’s Discontent is one of them. It is coherent, intelligent, demanding of its audience and at times funny, but I still feel like I missed something. Like there was something substantial, important, that the writer was trying to communicate, and I’m a bit of a goose for missing it…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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Jazz Garters

Well, I’ve finally done it. More than twelve years after moving to Canberra, I have finally been to one of Rep’s winter variety shows. I recall that it was originally recommended to me in 1998 as an undergraduate beginning a Theatre Studies major at the ANU, as an excellent example of the music hall tradition, so there’s something bittersweet in having finally attended in the same week that the ANU’s Theatre Studies major met its demise.

The cast certainly delivers. After a slightly flat first half, which could be put down to opening night, the second was quite magical. Ian Croker’s rendition of Minnie the Moocher got the audience engaged, and Christine Forbes followed this with a beautifully theatrical The Girl from 14G, about which she bragged that she was overjoyed to be able to wear her pyjamas on stage!

I felt my personal cringe factor rise when we were informed that the finale was to be a rendition of Peter Allen‘s perfectly horrid canticle I Still Call Australia Home, but it dissipated completely with the cast’s magnificent send-up of the song’s overwrought history.

A variety show stands or falls on the energy of its cast, and this cast certainly works hard for their applause. After a flat start, the energy flowed and made Jazz Garters a fun and entertaining show, well worth a night out.

 
 

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Harry Brown

Harry Brown begins with one of the most guesome scenes of urban violence imaginable. The purpose of this scene, almost unrelated to the rest of the film, is perhaps to numb us a little for what is to follow. The violence of Harry Brown is, perhaps, of the same calibre as Quentin Tarantino‘s films, but Daniel Barber’s use of violence is otherwise entirely incomparable. It is targeted, purposeful and meaningful to the same extent that Tarantino’s is aimless and vague.

Michael Caine is at his best in this film. In case you were wondering, no, he’s not funny; he strikes with absolute perfection that degree of pathos that could so easily turn into melodrama, without even a hint of going too far. He is supported by an impeccable script and visionary cinematography.

I have long been a devotee of those films that can take the most grotesque aspects of the human condition and appeal, even in that context, to our capacity for hope. Trainspotting was one of the first I encountered, and remains one of the best examples of the transcendental in film. Harry Brown certainly stands well beside it.

And in case you read my previous post about seeing Robin Hoodat Perth’s Picadilly cinema, you may be interested to know that Leederville’s art deco Luna cinema was the perfect venue for a film of this calibre!

 
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Posted by on Monday, 7 June 2010 in British Film, Film, Marv Films, UK Film Council

 

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Robin Hood

Robin Hood is a bit of a marathon, and if you have a comfortable seat and a few hours to spare, it’s a vaguely worthwhile pastime. Unlike other renditions of the myth, this film draws its impetus from political machinations, and lets go of the story’s usual plebian roots. Surprisingly, this is actually a good decision, as it provides not only a novel context for the story, but also broader relevance.

Russell Crowe plays his typical alpha male with a softer side, only this time with a funny accent. This novelty is complemented by extremely modern dialogue; making the film in many ways a counterpoint to films of Shakespeare’s plays that place sixteenth century dialogue in a modern setting. This is the opposite; playing twenty-first century dialogue in a twelfth century setting, with the added irony of a post-colonial actor playing the Old Country’s chief hero. My strange little mind would like to have heard Crowe’s cultivated Australian accent placed into the context to see what other meanings could be derived, but of course that wouldn’t do so well at the box office, would it?

And the box office is what this film is made for. It is formulaic, rudimentary and appeals to the same values as every other film about underdogs made in the last couple of decades. It does absolutely nothing to distinguish itself from that genre, and sits somewhere in the middle of Ridley Scott‘s very palatable aesthetic.

Of more note than this film is the venue I saw it in. Perth’s Picadilly Cinema is a quaint venue, reminiscent of Canberra’s Electric Shadows. That’s all well and good, but this film needs chairs with a higher back and a clearer view of the screen. I came out with a sore neck and tired knees. Every city, especially Australia’s western mecca deserves a Dendy or a Limelight.

A good film, but a bit meh.

 

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