Sunday, 28 November 2010

At fourteen...

...I knew that I was gay but there ends any similarity at that age with this confident, precocious young man interviewed by Ellen DeGeneres.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Where there's smoke....

Looking west a few minutes ago I noticed what I thought to be smoke from a fire but I can't see any apparent source unless it is behind Ranelagh, the apartment tower, mid-pic.
At the same time looking east there are no clouds or smoke in the sky but the view is hazy probably caused from dust stirred by strong breezes which are also affecting the Saturday afternoon sail races.
(Click both photos to enlarge and for full effect)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Ocean glimpses

(Click to enlarge)
Gaerloch Street, Tamarama

A motorcyclist heads down the hill, walkers and joggers on the Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach coastal path, pleasure seekers and surfers gambol on and near the rocks, sun seekers on the sand at Bronte Beach in the distance and a glimpse of Waverley Cemetery on the far headland (left).

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Fair Game

When the United States was looking for retribution for the events of 11 September 2001 one of it's targets was Iraq and that country's alleged weapons of mass destruction. That was the rationale for an act of 'shock and awe' upon that country and a subsequent international involvement that continues to this day nearly a decade later with Australia a participant.
Those weapons were never discovered and it wasn't long before the truthfulness of the information that was relied upon for the international action was called into question. One of the earliest doubters was former US Ambassador Joe Wilson whose covert CIA operative wife, Valerie Plame, was illegally outed in a successful attempt to discredit their views and undermine opposition to the US Government's actions.

These real events are the subject of 'Fair Game' which focuses on Plame (Naomi Watts). Wilson is portrayed by Sean Penn.

The trailers for this film suggest it is a bit of a chase movie but they are quite misleading. This film is an intelligent and absorbing political thriller and a rather chilling representation of the use and abuse of power.

Watts and Penn are as reliable as ever at the head of a large and impressive cast which has no weaknesses. The final seque from Watts to the real Plame speaking at Congressional Hearings is a striking conclusion to an excellent film.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Uncle Vanya

The second last play in this year's Sydney Theatre Company's subscription series is Anton Chekov's 'Uncle Vanya'.

It is the first time I have seen this renowned play and I suppose it is a reflection of the philistine in me that watching it I wondered just what qualities it contains that has enabled it to endure internationally for 110 years. That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the play; I did, but it seems an unremarkable work to me. I read that the play is often presented very seriously with the comic elements suppressed. Listening closely to the dialogue last night I thought the play must come across as rather melodramatic when presented that way. I was glad that in this adaptation the humour in the piece was evident.

The selling point of this production is the casting. The ensemble contains a who's who of Australian acting royalty with Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, John Bell and Jacki Weaver all featuring. Understandably with a cast like that the acting is outstanding.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sunday, 21 November 2010

E-waste

The council has an E-waste drop off today for unwanted computers, mobile phones, electrical items, cords and the like. I'm surprised at the the number of old mobile phones and chargers I have squirelled away in various drawers.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

A cut out of the ordinary

When I buy meat I usually go to the butcher in my nearby shopping centre at Edgecliff. It is part of a chain of butchers where meat is on display in long counters with the customer on one side of the counter and the butchers on the other. All pretty typical.

A few minutes further afield from this local shopping centre is the more up market, hence pricier, shopping 'village' at Queen Street, Woollahra. I tend not to shop there apart from the take away food establishments. Until today I had never set foot inside the butchery there, the one that goes by the name Victor Churchill. Just the look of it sends tremors through my wallet.
This butchery does not stoop to displaying actual meat in it's window nor does it display any of the other goods for sale inside. The only things on display are various food awards the establishment has won.
Butchers work behind spotlessly clear full height glass walls cutting carcasses and creating sausages.
Further along, and still behind full height glass walls, carcasses and bundles of sausages hang by hooks and do a merry circuit of the work area.
Meanwhile customers wait to purchase meat and other goods artfully displayed in refrigerated cabinets.

All very pretty but I'll stick to buying my mince from Edgecliff.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Wild Target

A hitman is engaged to kill a female art swindler but the two end up teaming together with a young bystander to battle a motley group of hoodlums and standover merchants.
The befuddled assassins of 'Wild Target' are a very different kettle of fish from the dour and silent assassins of 'The American'.

The British seem to delight in murderous comedies and this reamke of a French original is their latest in the genre. Despite a high body count and plenty of improbable silliness I found this an enjoyable romp from start to finish.

I must have blinked at a crucuial moment and missed the explanation or maybe I'm naive but can anyone tell me why Emily Blunt asks each man how much he weighs before she seduces him?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

More Jacarandas

Near to my home...
Bathurst Street, Woollahra
Manning Road, Double Bay

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The American

George Clooney, a professional assassin evades an attempt on his life and in the seclusion of a mountainous Italian village he takes on a new contract.
'The American' is stronger on mood than it is on plot which moves slowly, with little given away. There are plenty of night scenes in narrow cobbled lanes and the dialogue is sparse.

I quite liked the mood and look of the film but others will find it dull.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

McKell Park

Yesterday we had a picnic at McKell Park to mark the birthdays of four of 'our group'. Actually most of this particular group, unlike myself, is of English origin and my connection with them is through fellow Aussie Ae who taught years ago with Jy when the latter came to Australia on a working holiday from Britain and, in a familiar story, stayed. It is with Ae and her sister Hn, both of whom I have known for forty years that I will be travelling to Europe next year and we three have long referred to that group as L'Anglais. Our birthday celebrations with members of L'Anglais are regularly held at the park.
L'Anglais plus a smattering of Aussies and Kiwis

It was a sunny afternoon with temperatures near 30c until threatening clouds rolled across the sky around 3pm when it noticeably cooled. The Park is on the harbour foreshore at Darling Point and provides spectacular views.
Looking west from the ferry pier at the Park

P&O's Pacific Jewel berthed at the Naval facility at Garden Island and the CBD skyline in the background.

Apartments on the foreshore at Darling Point and CBD skyline with Sydney Tower in the background.

The typical afternoon harbour breeze made the saturday afternoon sail races a spectacular sight.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Skyline

I am quite partial to trashy sci-fi horror films but 'Skyline' tested my tolerance and that of other moviegoers who wasted a gloriously sunny spring afternoon to see it. Only four of us lasted to the end credits. Others started their exodus from the cinema less than twenty minutes after the opening.

The unfortunate burghers of Los Angeles are disappearing in a literal airlift performed by an air borne swarm of slimy mechanical animal-like extra terrestrials festooned with Christmas lights. Just another day in Hollywood, folks.

Fighting off this lot from the penthouse of a high rise apartment block is a group of wannabe 'actors' unknown (to me) uttering excruciatingly awful dialogue. I suppose if you are attacked by meccano like octopuses, jelly fish, monkeys and the like you are not likely to burst into 'To be or not to be...'. Even less likely if you are blonde and bear an uncanny resemblance to the character Brooke Logan from television's 'The Bold and the Beautiful'. Where is Ridge Forrester when you need him?

Strangely, only kitchen cabinets provide any protection against these creatures which otherwise deal with all manner of armaments from simple guns to Stealth Bombers with ease. I suggest that Andrew, living in his high rise Melbourne ivory tower, invest in an island kitchen without delay.

I did wonder near the end whether the extra-terrestrials were the Universe's revenge for television soap opera. This explanation for the events in the film are as likely as any other given that the creators make little...well...no attempt to provide any meaning.

In a sign of supreme optimism on the part of the producers, the film ends with the hint of a sequel involving a new type of slimy mechanical Spiderman-like superhero.

Friday, 12 November 2010

True West

The Sydney Theatre Company's 2010 season continues it's North American flavour with Sam Shepard's 'True West'.
Two brothers, one a budding Hollywood screen writer and the other a drifter burglar with a persuasive manner, lock horns in their mother's home whilst she is absent in Alaska. Quite funny at times I found this an odd work. The set takes a destructive pounding as the play unfolds and aspects of the action didn't ring true to me. However Brendan Cowell and Wayne Blair are impressive in their roles as the brothers and they carried the night.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Daylight Saving

In Eastern Australia, apart from Queensland, we turned our clocks forward to Summer time a few weeks back but when it comes time to turn them back again next April I want this man to remind me.

Made in Dagenham

The British love making movies about their industrial tribulations; perhaps because they have so many of them. In any event they always seem to find an entertaining aspect to these upheavals as for example in 'Billy Elliot' which is already somewhat of a classic of the genre.

This time the subject is women in the Ford motor car factory taking strike action in 'Made in Dagenham'. They were 187 in a workforce, otherwise male, of 55,000 and these events took place in 1968. It is fascinating to relive the extraordinary discrimination of women in the workplace in those days. I started fulltime work in the Australian Public Service in the same year and the situation was no different here. Women in the service were paid less for performing exactly the same work and even stranger to recall these days they were required to resign when they married.

As films go this movie is a bit lightweight. It is pleasant enough without ever hitting any memorable heights but it is a useful record of injustice and I suppose a reminder jog that injustice needs to addressed wherever it exists.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Red

A group of former CIA operatives criss cross the United States in search of an assassin they believe is out to kill them one by one. The operatives are retired and regarded by the CIA as extremely dangerous hence the acronym 'Red'.

The scenario provides the opportunity for a host of veteran performers to milk the situation. Bruce Willis provides reliable leadership and John Malkovich does his looney turn with many of the best lines but for mine it is Helen Mirren who steals the show. What a talented performer she is and unlike Malkovich whose forte is overacting Mirren turns simple lines into classics with a twinkle in her eye or a deft curl of her lip. And who knew that Mirren was so accomplished with a phallic machine gun in hand?

What a surprise to see 93 years old Ernest Borgnine, who I assumed died years ago, still going strong and looking years younger than his age.

The film is a lot nonsense really but there are plenty of funny moments.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Remembering Dame Joan

Flags on the Harbour Bridge at half mast today with the official memorial gathering for Dame Joan Sutherland conducted in the adjacent Opera House this morning.

Out of the fog

A cruise vessel emerging out of the fog on Sydney Harbour on it's arrival last Sunday just after 6am. I was awoken by the sound of fog horns from 5.30am at which time the vessel was still completely obscured by the fog.
In the clear a few minutes later and headed for it's berth up Harbour.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Jacaranda

Sydney Eye and Sydney Emerald City have both posted their nominations for the best Jacaranda Tree in Sydney.

Here is a Jacaranda located around the corner from where I live that I think is pretty special.
Ocean Street at Edgecliff

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Social Network

Brilliant, abrasive, dismissive, impatient and a lot more besides makes Mark Zuckerberg a rather unpleasant fellow and when his girlfriend breaks up with him at the outset of 'The Social Network' the genius computer programmer sets on a course which leads him to expand his local dormitory social computer network into what eventually becomes the international sensation, Facebook.
Of course success has many parents, claimed or real, and within several years Zuckerberg is battling various law suits from competitors and erstwhile colleagues alike over ownership of the intellectual property. Jesse Eisenberg is sensational as Zuckerberg and Justin Timberlake is equally impressive as the confident  wheeler and dealer and ladies man who Zuckerberg idolises and yearns to emulate.

The screenplay is a cracker and packed with wit. My only reservation with the film is that Eisenberg's machine gun like delivery makes the dialogue difficult to follow at times especially in those moments when the soundtrack thumps ominously to the fore.

Ten minutes in and I was thinking that this film seems somewhat dull but I was soon won over.

A terrific experience.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Let Me In

We saw 'Let Me In' fittingly on Halloween.

In a snow bound Los Alamos, New Mexico, a twelve years old loner schoolboy, a victim of bullying, befriends a new neighbour herself aged twelve years 'more or less'.

I have not seen the Swedish original, 'Let The Right One In', but this adaptation is pretty good. Young Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee adds to his already considerable reputation as the schoolboy and the film maintains an impressive eerieness throughout.

I tend to avoid vampire movies but this is good value for your horror night.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Innocence

This man is a virgin according to the red tee shirt he was wearing. Or maybe he was promoting the nearby Virgin Music Store.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

It certainly stopped me...

I've had a Melbourne Cup Day to forget having been 'volunteered' to run three sweeps in our part of the hospital. Like so many Australians with no interest in horse racing whatsoever I do the 'Australian thing' and buy a few tickets in the Melbourne Cup sweeps and even make some totally uneducated bets at the TAB for the race 'that stops a nation'.

This was the first time I had run the sweeps rather than being a participant and I have new respect for those who perform this function year in and year out. I was astonished at how demanding and unreasonable some people are in what is essentially a bit of annual fun, albeit involving modest amounts of money. The majority are very cooperative but those few bastards are a pain in the neck.

To top off my day I had both second placegetter Maluckyday and third placegetter So You Think in the trifecta but not Americain, the 2010 winner.