Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Girls

We have a fascination with firsts. Having our first female prime minister has a sense of novelty about it, which would probably be equalled by a first Aboriginal prime minister. Both the reality and the possibility, however, are little more than symbols of a maturing atmosphere of equality; they offer nothing of real substance in themselves. The Girls, I think offers something of greater substance in its diverse vignettes around the theme of womanhood in a postmodern world.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.


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Some films are a chore to watch, but many of these reward the viewer’s effort with a character that lives on well after the film has finished. Greenberg is such a film. Its central character, who exists in a cloud of mental illness,  faces a banal life, overshadowed by his failures and their impact on those around him. Miserable, perhaps, but the character is not merely recognisable; he elicits an empathy that outlasts his film.

This character, Roger Greenberg, superbly portrayed by Ben Stiller (who I had previously thought a mediocre actor) finds himself resident in his brother’s California home while the family is away after a stint in a psych ward in New York. His condition is never identified, and this is critical; he could be any one of us. Likewise the film’s heroine, Florence Marr (played brilliantly by the little-known Greta Gerwig), presents another kind of mental instability, and elicits a similar empathy.

It takes a special kind of writer to come up with an engaging script around the theme of mental illness, but that is precisely what writer Noah Baumbach has managed to achieve in Greenberg. It’s one of those films that survives being slow thanks to strong characters portrayed honestly and without a silly gush of emotion.


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Dreams, Visions and Constipated Old Farts

Images of an ageing Ghandi flit through my mind occasionally. They’re a cliché for political activism, akin to the image of Martin Luther King Junior’s infamous proclamation, “I have a dream”. These are epic images, and Ghandi’s in particular speaks of a life well-lived, and spent on something worthwhile. For the rest of us, our dreams—whether they’re as big as Ghandi’s or not—have a very tenuous relationship with the realities of our lives, but paradoxically these same dreams are usually the driving force in what an individual manages to achieve.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.


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True Logic of the Future

Nothing pleases me more than to have my ideas of what constitutes good theatre challenged, and the talented and immensely clever cast and crew of True Logic of the Future have done just that. This is a creative and intricately constructed performance that presents many challenges for the reviewer, not least of which is the question of whether it should be reviewed at all…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.


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Gruen Nation

Wil Anderson is, in my humble opinion, Australia’s most serious comedian. He may not admit it, but just about everything he says has a point, and most of those points are both scathingly critical and bitingly relevant. The only comedian that comes close to him is Paul McDermott, but his humour is very gentle by comparison, and almost exclusively aimed at politicians. Interestingly, both have spent formative years in Canberra, but the announcement that Anderson will be refitting the magnificent concept comedy The Gruen Transfer especially for the election makes me think twice about simply labelling him a ‘comedian’. The Gruen concept, which allows Anderson to refrain from making too many comments that aren’t funny, while still getting to a more salient point.

In the ABC’s weekly newsletter, Gruen Nation is touted to dissect the advertising of the parties and “decode what’s going on for the audience and point out the many strategies political parties use to influence voters”. In his rather more forthright style, Anderson himself describes the show as the “national bullshit detector”.

Analysing election campaigns is mostly about detecting disingenuity and calling candidates to account for their policies in the hope that voters may make an informed decision. Unfortunately, the media, which was enshrined in both our country and the Americans’ as a balancing force in government, is not particularly good at this. Probably because they no longer have the time to undertake thorough investigation, their work is driven by media releases, which are innately untrustworthy. These days, dissecting how political parties construct a sales pitch in the context of an election is the best way to analyse their motivations and question their integrity. We may even find that this heightened scrutiny is a game-changer for federal elections.

And if not, it’s still bound to be a great series.

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Posted by on Tuesday, 6 July 2010 in Television, Zapruder


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