Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Win Win

Paul Giamatti is a small town lawyer struggling financially who seizes an opportunity to capture income through guardianship of a client who has dementia. The arrangement faces exposure when a hitherto unknown  grandson of the client enters the scene.

Giamatti has made a specialty of portraying these 'sad sack' type characters and he does so with an understated charisma that generally makes him surprisingly likable even when he is behaving badly.

Win Win is a beautifully acted film with a lovely blend of comedy and drama. The characters are all so natural that you could almost be a fly on the wall observing real life.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Flying down to Palmo

Our days at 'Palmo' are coming to an end. As I blogged a few weeks ago, Hn has purchased a townhouse in Cammeray which she will move into late September. She has sold her home at Palm Beach and has a big farewell get together there next week but today she entertained those of us who supported her at the Cammeray auction with a barbecue lunch.

It was all very casual. Steak, chicken skewers, sausages and a range of salads on the back deck sneaking glances at the action on Pittwater in between gossip which mainly centred on the good old days. Well we are getting on in years, you know.

The sea plane service which operates between the Rose Bay base on Sydney Harbour and Pittwater was quite active with perhaps half a dozen take offs and landings whilst we munched. I captured a few snaps of one of the take offs.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Building speed for take off
Gaining altitude and heading south for Rose Bay
Flying over the Saturday sail races
Hn thinks the flight time is about 30 minutes. I live near Rose Bay so my car journey is comparable but naturally far less direct than the flight path. On average my drive between home and Palm Beach takes about 55/60 minutes.

Sailing on Pittwater

Friday, 26 August 2011

Friends with Benefits

Look at that poster and the name of the film and does any adult imagine that Friends with Benefits is anything other than a 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy regains girl' scenario? The same scenario that has formed the plot of countless films whether they be dramas or romantic comedies? If you have been raised in a jungle isolated from what passes as modern 'civilisation' then this plot may come as a surprise but I doubt that applies to anyone reading this blog.

Incomprehensibly (to me) a reviewer in Sydney's leading newspaper describes this film as fresh and inverting all the cliches. Inverting? Really? All I can say is those cliches must have been inverted so far they have ended up back in place.

I won't provide my usual brief synopsis, as the poster and title tell you all you need to know before you even set foot in a cinema.

What you will find if you spend the $15 plus (full price) or in my case $8 (seniors' price) on viewing this film at a cinema is that it is very 2011. It takes in many of the hip (if that is the current word) trends a la mode.

Let's tick some of them off;

Flashmobs (twice)
Hip hop songs and dances (multiple)
Swearing on a iPad bible (advertising opportunity)
Parent with Alzheimers (very in, I think)
Characters who blog (wow I must be hip too!)

In addition for those who like that sort of thing - are you pointing at me!? - you also get multiple full on views of Justin Timberlake's bare arse; which I have to admit is not without it's charms. And by way of adult sophistication(?) throw in a scene where Timberlake demonstrates how difficult it is for a male to urinate with a raging erection. Yes, really!

To top of it off, Woody Harrelson has a supporting role as a gay sports editor, which is either a piece of brilliant casting against type or a monumental example of miscasting. I'm sure it was meant to be the former but in my view the way Harrelson performs it comes across very much as the latter. Although come to think of it, I have to concede on this point at least, the cliche was inverted.

On the plus side, the film has a very glossy and modern look.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


This post is brought to you by Yani who generously donated the double pass which Cs and I used to see Beginners.

Ewan McGregor is mourning the passing of his father Christopher Plummer who had outed himself as gay at the age of 75 and spent his final years, including those when he is dying from cancer, living his life to the full with a positive outlook. By contrast, McGregor remains mournful and negative and unable to establish relationships even when he meets and falls in love with Melanie Laurent who returns his love but appears just as impeded in developing a relationship as is he.

The film relates the present and the past quite seamlessly and it contains a fair bit of humour amongst a great deal of sadness. This is not a film for action or plot. This film is all about relationships.

This won't be to everyone's taste but I liked it.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


James Tobin
After seeing Senna earlier today My and I had a late lunch at the Laneway Cafe in Cammeray. I ordered a delicious Spanish Baked Egg meal which went down very well on a cool afternoon but even more delicious to the eye was the cute young waiter who attended to us. I didn't have my camera with me so the best I can do to give you an indication of his looks is this image of television personality James Tobin; but with darker hair and paler skin.


I enjoy watching a wide range of sport especially when it involves the best competitors in their field but I have never had any interest in motor racing or boxing. Ironically then, it is these two sports that have generated documentaries that I have really enjoyed. The boxing documentary is When We Were Kings about the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali; a film that completed changed my opinion about Ali.

And now there is Senna about the Brazilian Formula 1 champion Ayrton Senna. The documentary is comprised completely of archival footage and I was amazed how much footage there is of Senna away from the race track. It is a fascinating story of an intelligent, fearless, perhaps foolhardy, young man and his rivalry with the French world champion, Alain Prost. It is also an eye opening introduction to the politics of a sport about which I know very little.

The fuzzy images are a bit hard on the eyes at times but otherwise this is an excellent documentary.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A tragic loss

(ABC News)

Condolences to the families and colleagues of  Paul Lockyer, John Bean and Gary Ticehurst whose lives have been cruelly taken prematurely in yesterday's helicopter crash.

The ABC News site records it's tribute to the three men.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mary Poppins

The stage musical adapted from the books of P L Travers and the 1964 Disney film.

A nanny, with seemingly magical powers, takes on the care of two unruly children in Victorian London and for good measure provides an education for their uptight father and their unappreciated mother.

This sugar sweet theatrical offering probably won't appeal to those who would rather compete in ten marathons back to back than spend three hours attending a musical but the chief attractions of this production for musical lovers would be it's visual delights, the uniformly strong performances from the entire ensemble and the technically advanced, albeit vulnerable, staging.

Visually the production is vivid and varied; almost psychedelic in it's richness.

The ensemble is excellent throughout with highlights including a beautifully choreographed Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in Act 1 and the Chimney Sweeps dance in Act 2 during which Matt Lee tap dances across the stage, then up the entire height of a side wall and finally for added degree of difficulty upside down from the ceiling.

However, it is the technical staging which is both a strength and weakness. Much of the set comprises a house that opens and closes like a giant storybook. The changes occur beautifully when they work but the evidence is that the set is prone to regular breakdowns. Cs attended a performance two weeks ago when the set became stuck resulting in a twenty minute delay and then a short time later complete abandonment of the performance when the set again stuck less than forty minutes into the show. I accompanied Cs to tonight's performance and all was going well for an hour when once again the set failed. Luckily this time, the delay was less than ten minutes and the when the show resumed it continued without noticeable incident through to completion.

A fine show for musical lovers; just keep your fingers crossed that the set doesn't fail.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

All together now.......

Fellow blogger Marcellous has posted about his important role as official school pianist and even come up with the words of his old school song. I'm impressed. I was never official anything at school nor do I recall my extraordinarily expensive boys only private school having it's own song. If there was one, then it must be buried deep in my subconscious.

We did, though, have a school war cry that was shouted at opportune moments by those of us on the sidelines of the sporting fields. We were required to attend on Saturday afternoons, dressed in full school uniform, to support those talented enough to play in the 'A' teams especially in winter during the short rugby season.

Earlier in the day poor sods like myself had played (or perhaps more accurately had destroyed) a rugby game in the depths of the 'F', 'G' and even lower grades. In fact I used to play in the lowest grade of them all, the 'Gentlemans' grade; a euphemism for those boys so handicapped, or worse still gay, that no letter of the alphabet could adequately describe the inferiority of our play. No sideline war cries for us.

For some reason, the words of the war cry remain etched in my memory. So here goes....

"Alligator mincemeat
Crocodile pie
Are we in it?
We say, yes
We are the boys of the SGS


(last word stretched out)  Grammar"

No, I don't know what the first two lines mean either.

And who said I didn't learn anything at school?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Putting off the Ritz

Yesterday we went to see the 12 noon session of Rise of the Planet of the Apes at the Randwick Ritz.

It was soon obvious that the cinema was having projection difficulties. The screen twice went dark prior to the main feature commencing and a fairly large audience sat patiently waiting for the screening to commence. Disappointingly no staff member came into the auditorium to apologise for the delay nor to reassure us that the problem was being addressed nor, crucially, to advise that when the main featured did commence it would be at a point after the movie's actual beginning. Following two long delays the main feature appeared with the story clearly well underway.

We watched for a minute or so assuming that the film would revert to the beginning but as it dawned on us this would not be happening we made our way back to the box office and asked for a refund. Several other patrons did the same but interestingly the rest apparently were happy to view what was offered.

I made a point of registering my dissatisfaction to the Manager. I was surprised when he commented that we had missed only about a minute of the movie. From what we had seen I'm sure it was more than a minute that we missed but this wasn't the point. The Manager's 'what's the problem' attitude was akin to suggesting that it was OK to sell us, without warning, the newspaper minus the first six pages because the print was blurred. I don't think so.

I am a great supporter of the Ritz, especially in preference to the nearby megaplexes where this type of cavalier customer service seems commonplace and was disappointed that the Ritz didn't show greater respect for it's customers.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

41st City to Surf

Today was the 41st running of Sydney's City to Surf. It says something for Sydney's winters that this race is often run in warm to hot weather and today's event was only the second on which it rained. The course is 14km (8.7 miles) starting from the edge of the Central Business District and ending at Bondi Beach.

This year, the race limit of 85,000 competitors entered the event. I wandered down to the bottom of my street an hour after the starting pistol had been fired and fifteen minutes after the first of the elite runners had reached the finish line and watched the non-elite competitors pass by.

(Click photos to enlarge)

In the pack
Onlookers offer support in all sorts of ways.

A fellow photographer whose equipment is bigger than mine
An hour after this photo another huge pack of competitors was passing this point

Saturday, 13 August 2011


small portions
                     slow service
                                        high prices

Friday, 12 August 2011


You know those Chinese historical (hysterical?) dramas where people fly through the air and engage in all sorts of almost supernatural action in which one apparently overpowered individual overcomes impossible odds to escape hopeless situations?

Well Hanna might as well be one of those films except that it doesn't involve China.

In this western (ie not oriental) equivalent Eric Bana is teaching Saoirse Ronan survival skills in the frozen wastelands of the Arctic Circle. All this endeavour is aimed at combating 'she' who it turns out is a red headed, severe, Southern Belle, Cate Blanchett in her guise as a CIA Agent.

Implausibility piled upon further implausibility leads to the three of them confronting each other in faraway Berlin via Morocco with the denouement (irony upon irony) played out in a Grimms fairy tale theme park. How fitting!

It is best not to think too deeply about the plot. For example, Ronan has been raised entirely in the wastelands and has never seen electricity, so when she finds herself confronted with a boiling jug, ceiling fans, television and other electrical items she dissolves into a panicked attempt to silence their activity with a remote control. Now lets forget for a moment that Ronan suddenly knows that a remote control has to be pointed at an object but what follows is more implausible. Minutes later she is using a computer and searching Google, no less, for research.

So, be warned; Hanna is not reality but fantasy and as the latter it provides occasionally gruesome fun.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Blood Wedding

Staged by the Sydney Theatre Company.

An English language adaptation of Frederico Garcia Lorca's play Blood Wedding. Two families touched by tragedy borne of a history of feuds are about to enjoined through marriage. The groom's widowed mother who bears her losses like a painful ongoing skin condition is suspicious of what her son is heading towards whilst the bride's widowed father appears keen to offload a daughter for overall economic gain.

Act 1 takes us from engagement to wedding day on a simple stage uncluttered by any features of substance. Act 2 takes over when the wedding day comes unstuck almost as another play altogether with the stage and costuming transformed into something akin to Guillermo del Toro's film Pan's Labyrinth.

None of the performers, not even the Flamenco guitarist who accompanies the players on stage, appears to be of Spanish heritage so the style and quality of the performance - music, dance, demeanour and all, is impressive.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Love Crime (Crime D'Amour)

Love Crime is a sort of All About Eve for the business set without the biting screenplay but with a twist of Carrie for revenge.

The still gorgeous looking Kristin Scott Thomas is a business powerhouse on the rise in a multinational corporation but she is riding her success on the brains of up and comers like Ludivine Sagnier whose ideas she appropriates as her own.

On the face of it Sagnier seems a little submissive and accepting of the domination Scott Thomas exerts over her but looks can be deceptive.

This is a stylish little crime story presented glamorously as the French are wont to do.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Red Dog

A dog coated in red dust generated from the mining of iron ore searches for it's owner in the remote area of North Western Australia known as the Pilbara. It attaches itself to members of the mining community and one way or another features in significant moments in their lives and understandably comes to be a loved member of the mining family.

Apparently Red Dog is based on actual events which were hitherto unknown to me and certainly the film's narrative unfolds in the style of stories passed down through the generations which no doubt have been embellished in the retelling.

The film has received lavish praise from some quarters. Sadly I don't share that opinion. I concede that there is quite a bit of humour in the film but I thought that a lot of that humour was predictable. The performances are honest and capable and possibly very realistic in their setting but I didn't think that anyone was outstanding. The images of this dusty, remote region were occasionally interesting but rarely as arresting as I sometimes seen in photographs.

For mine (and for Cs with whom I saw it) Red Dog is a moderate film but others, including Jn and Jh who attended the same session, thought the film to be 'the best ever'.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Beautiful Lies

Audrey Tatou runs a hairdressing salon. Her odd jobs man, who is infatuated with her, writes her a love letter anonymously and she has no idea who it is from. Irritated that her mother is failing to get over separation from her father, Audrey makes a spur of the moment decision to forward the anonymous letter to her mother as though from an unknown admirer.

What follows is a predictable, rather light, comedy of mistaken identity and romance. Set in a sunny waterside part of France Beautiful Lies is an inoffensive bit of froth; a sort of skim milk Latte.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


Last week I attended an auction. I'd seen auctions in the movies and on television and as a child accompanied my father to a used car auction but this was the first property auction I had attended live and the first time I felt some emotional involvement in proceedings.

My friend Hn was bidding on a townhouse. A very nice townhouse. Two stories, three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, two large outdoor terrace areas, two car lock up garage and completely renovated. A very nice property indeed. Actually Hn didn't do the bidding. Our friend Ty was registered to bid on her behalf as he, amongst our group, was the only one with experience. Apart from myself, Ae, Je and Be were along for support.

The auction was held on the upper terrace in brilliant sunshine. An auctioneer set himself up with advertising banner for background, a printed and vocal spiel about the relevant law and a well practised line in realtor platitudes.

No one seemed ready to be the first to bid. The auctioneer spruiked the virtues of the property for what seemed like half an hour without a bid being made. In reality it was probably only five minutes before a couple in the corner was the first to blink. Quietly without me even noticing they made the first move and the auctioneer announced that he had...

...one million dollars.

I gulped. I knew the expected sale price had been advertised as above that figure but for some reason the reality of one million dollars being the opening bid shocked me. Slowly the bidding continued, each bidder upping the previous by ten thousand dollars. At each bid the auctioneer made a long drawn out show of concluding the auction and when eventually it appeared he was about to slam his gavel 'sold' another bid intervened.

Ty remained mute. No bid offered. He was displaying nerves of steel but I was becoming unaccountably nervous.

On and on the bidding rose. Just as it seemed the gavel was about to fall for the umpteenth time, Ty bid. Today, a week later I have forgotten what his entry level bid was. I think my own nerves had put me in a catatonic state at that point but suddenly I was alert and, oh so, nervous for Hn.

By now the bidding had passed 1.2 million and the realtor was doing the rounds whispering to the various bidders that the vendor would accept 1.3 million but no one was biting. No one was making that leap and each bidder continued to increase the bids at a more moderate rate.

Three times now, Ty had the highest bid in for Hn and the gavel was falling when another couple raised the bid again. Just these two bidders of the original fifteen registered participants left in the contest. Then Ty jumped twenty five thousand, the largest leap so far.

Would that be it? The auctioneer was into his 'going...going...' phase stretching it out ridiculously, seemingly for fifteen minutes when finally, agonisingly, almost unbelievably and blessedly he slammed the gavel...'SOLD!

Hn had purchased the town house for 1.275 million dollars.

At the time it felt like the auction had lasted hours but in reality it was all over in less than twenty minutes.

An item about the auction appeared in the property section of the local daily during the week from which we learned the vendor's reserve was 1.25 million.

A win/win sale, I guess.

Friday, 5 August 2011

To boldly go......

I wish I understood the Universe.

Can the Universe be infinite and yet be constantly expanding at the same time? Doesn't one cancel out the other? If it is expanding, what currently is in the space that the Universe is expanding into? And, if the Universe is finite wouldn't it have an edge; if so what would be on the other side?

That's all, just a thought.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Random or targeted?

(Daily Telegraph)
This bomb scare occurred directly across the harbour from my home yesterday afternoon and last night. Bright police lights at the scene at midnight were strong enough to cast shadows on my walls, oh I'd say, two kilometres distance as the proverbial crow flies.

What little is known about the situation at this point is curious. The linked Sydney Morning Herald report mentions that the 'wealthy family' is at a loss as to why their daughter was targeted. My uninformed view is that the description 'wealthy' might have played a part.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger 3D

In 1943 a weedy Steve Rogers (Chris Evans' head and shoulders squeezed and attached to someone else's body in a piece of computerised abracadabra) is trying desperately to enlist in the war effort. It is a futile gesture given that, weedy body aside, Rogers possesses a cornucopia of medical afflictions guaranteed to fast track any candidate to immediate rejection.

Enter German refugee scientist Stanley Tucci who conveniently has invented a serum to turn weed into Hollywood Adonis and he has his eye on Evans as just the man suitable for conversion. A few pyrotechnics and voila Evans is converted into all bulging muscle. Sadly although his weedy persona trouser pants are now too short, the rest of the pants have stretched with Evans' body robbing keen eyed gay viewers of the sight of potentially the most interesting bulge of them all.

The new enhanced serum-injected Evans is now perfectly poised to battle with a Nazi arch villain, Australia's own Hugo Weaving, who has his own interests in nabbing the serum. Tommy Lee Jones provides a droll presence as the Colonel won over by the bulked up Evans.

As comic-cum-movies go Captain America: The First Avenger 3D is a superior example of the genre in part because of the humour which is often quite clever. The sequence where Evans is turned into a morale inspiring war time icon features all singing and dancing scenes that recall similar moments in MGM 1940s musicals; a reference that will go over the heads of the mostly young audiences this film targets.

No doubt there will be sequels although what form they may take is left hanging by a strange and extraordinarily abrupt ending.