Sunday, 30 October 2011

Midnight in Paris


Owen Wilson, channeling a younger Woody Allen, is in Paris with his fiancee. Wilson writes for the movies but his aspiration is to produce a great novel and inspiration comes in a most unlikely form when he wanders through the Parisian streets at midnight.

Midnight in Paris is Woody Allen's biggest success in years; perhaps his biggest ever. A great deal of the charm of the movie comes from the visual feast that is the city of Paris. Day or night, sunshine or rain, it is a glorious city. In the 1920s Paris was a haven for some of the twentieth century's greatest artists, writers, composers and performers and their appearance in the movie, whether by sight or sound and fleeting as it may be, makes for some magic moments.

This is not Allen's funniest movie ever by any means but there are some delicious cameo moments. Adrien Brody steals his scene as a kooky Salvador Dali and Kathy Bates shines as a no-nonsense Gertrude Stein. I was also taken with Corey Stoll as the man's man Ernest Hemingway.

All this, Paris and the songs of Cole Porter to boot. I loved it.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Friday, 28 October 2011

Drive


Ryan Gosling plays the unnamed driver who performs in stunt movies by day and is a get away driver for hire at night. When he is drawn to a young neighbour whose husband is in prison he finds himself trapped in a set up from which there appears no escape.

Although Drive is set in Los Angeles and has a mostly American cast the film is quite European in style, no doubt reflecting it's Danish director.

I'm very impressed with Gosling. He is a versatile actor and certainly is sticking to safe choices in his roles.

I enjoyed Drive but I had to avert my eyes a few times from some extremely violent moments in the second half.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Bloodland


(Sydney Theatre Company)

Staged in association with the Bangarra Dance Theatre this play is performed mostly in the Yolngu language and in Pidgin English.

Runu is in love with Gapu but she is already promised to Billy. Her clan has become separated from his as a feud develops between these two communities in the Arnhem Land region of the Northern Territory.  There are multiple sources of tension including negotiations over the terms of an arrangement with a mining company, the intrusion of modern technology on the younger community members, the influence of hallucinogenic substances and divergence in attitudes between the university educated members and the traditional clan members.

Given that I have no knowledge of the Indigenous language I needed to refer to the program to elicit the information about the three way relationship but the various sources of tension were mostly evident from the staging and the rather beautiful design of the play.

A very different and at times beautiful offering from the STC which in the past has been focused on traditional Western theatre.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot


(NIDA; National Institute of Dramatic Art)

As distinct from Port which was staged by the graduating (Year 3) students, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is staged by the Year 2 students. Judas is on trial in Purgatory over his involvement in the death of Jesus and a host of 'witnesses' (contemporary and otherwise) are called to provide testimony.

I was a bit ambivalent about seeing this play assuming that something rather dour and ponderous would be offered but was pleasantly surprised to experience an entertaining evening at the theatre. The play is very humorous and irreverent and yet has it's serious side. The ensemble acting is very impressive and the staging interesting.

The guest Director, Mel Shapiro, is to be congratulated on the quality of the production.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Contagion


A new and mysterious infectious disease is spreading widely and an all star cast is variously suffering from or working ethically and otherwise to identify and resolve it's effects. For most of it's length Contagion is a superior disaster movie unfolding in the style of a documentary and rollicking along at breakneck speed.

So persuasive is the film that you can't help thinking that you should never touch anything or anyone ever again lest you also succumb to the disease. The film is packed with impressive sounding medical mumbo jumbo all adding to the overall feel of authenticity.

It is probably inevitable that the resolution is speedily superficial by comparison with the detailed build-up but the final scenes of explanation achieve a satisfactory completion.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Whoop..whoop..whoop


My apartment building is equipped with smoke and fire detectors as required by law. They make the most horrendous racket when activated. First there is a beep, quiet briefly then increasingly loud followed by a seemingly endless series of deafening 'whoops'.

Thankfully the alarms have never gone off in response to an actual fire. At least, they haven't to my knowledge. Unfortunately though they have gone off frequently as false alarms. Too often. And at inconvenient times too. On one occasion I was in the shower when the 'whoops' started. I greeted a fireman who responded to the alarm wearing nothing but a towel around my nether regions, my body dripping wet. The fireman studied me carefully from head to toe and back again before emitting a 'mmmmm', doctor-style, and then turned on his heels. Only later did it occur to me that his close scrutiny might have been anything other than professional. Oh, the missed opportunities in my life!

So deafening are the alarms that I always assumed I awoke immediately they sounded during the night. It took a rare overnight guest recently to demonstrate that isn't necessarily the case. This poor soul tried to rouse me for several minutes, even shaking me in bed without success. Apparently there were at least several minutes of 'whooping' before I responded.

The latest false alarm was this morning. When I woke to the 'whoops' my bedside clock indicated 4.35am. The fire brigade is three blocks away and even at that time on a Sunday morning it took until 4.50am for two units to arrive, check that no fire was evident and turn off the alarms. I just lay under the bed covers trying to minimise the effect of the alarms. Then at 4.55am they started again! Five minutes later they fell silent.

It costs the Body Corporate something like $600 every time the brigade responds to a false alarm.

Mind you, if the responding personnel looked anything like my sample photo above I'd be tempted to set them off myself. Only kidding!!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Port


(NIDA, National Institute of Dramatic Art)

It's the time of year when NIDA's graduating class stages a series of productions to showcase their talents to the public, friends and associates and most importantly to potential employers in the industry. Cs and I are seeing a couple of those performances and tonight we attended Port.

This is a one act play focusing on a young woman named Rachel between 1988 to around 2000 during which she progresses from school student to unhappily married woman. Most, if not all of the play, is set in the town of Stockport in Cheshire, England. Hence, I assume, the play's title. Stockport is part of Greater Manchester and I presume is dominated by that city. The play contains several references to that city's footballing colossus, Manchester United.

It is a rather dull play to be quite honest, mostly talking heads and all that talk is mainly about relationships and is less than enthralling. There is almost no action and the majority of scenes are completely static. It is heavy going if you ask me. An intimate piece like this requires an intimate setting. Staged at NIDA's Parade Playhouse, the venue is not large but nonetheless proves to be too big for this work especially the way it has been designed. Incredibly, the modestly sized performance space has been made to appear gigantic with it's long scenes between two or three mostly motionless characters sometimes placed high on a balcony on the back wall. Even with Cs and I sitting in the second row, these performers appeared minute and distant. Other scenes are placed at the extreme sides of the performance space. I suppose this design was intended to compensate for the lack of movement but it just didn't work for the play.

The Director's notes refer to the work as a 'poetic play'. One definition for 'poetry' I found is' the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative or elevated thoughts'. This play does not meet that definition in my opinion.

The performers did a reasonable job. It is a pity that the work and staging let them down.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

This blog is open to invited readers only

I've been blogging for nearly four years now and in that period have diligently followed many dozens of other blogs that I have found interesting for a variety of reasons. In that time, a handful or so of those blogs have suddenly gone under computerised 'lock and key'; denied to me for evermore.

I can understand someone deciding to close down their blog and notify that decision in a blog post. I can even understand someone losing interest in blogging who stops blogging without notice, although this is disappointing and a bit worrying when you are not certain whether the author is OK.

What I haven't yet become used to is the blog that overnight is restricted without prior notification or explanation. This has happened in a number of blogs I frequented. I have no reason to believe that in any of those instances the restriction has been directed specifically at me and yet for some reason I feel hurt when I have been locked out.

The blog that I have followed the longest and which sparked my own decision to start blogging has just gone private. No notice. No explanation. No invitation for me to access it.

I'm probably being unduly sensitive and a bit soft for feeling slighted but why is it that some bloggers suddenly and without notice 'privatise' their blogs? Isn't the point of blogging to publish in the public domain where readers, casual or regular, will visit whether by design or accident?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Art and About

The annual Spring outdoors Art and About festival is on in Sydney at the moment. I enjoy walking through Hyde Park to see the photographs enlarged and displayed on banners. This was the scene there yesterday morning before the Sunday crowds appeared.


I rather liked the following photograph but am not sure just what those in the picture are actually up to. There is an ominous sweat soaked torso lurking in the background.


The Food Festival is also underway with the night Noodle Market lighting up the weekday evenings in the park.

The night Noodle Market was blissfully asleep this sunny Sunday morning resting before swinging into action again tonight.


Red lanterns adorn the perimeter and provide a context for the cuisine available.


There were plenty of photographers in the park. Ooops, one of them stepped into my picture.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

No Way To Treat A Lady


(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

No Way To Treat A Lady is stage musical version of the 1968 movie. It is not the most obvious subject matter to convert to the musical form.

A serial strangler, who leaves lipstick imprints on the foreheads of his female victims, develops a telephone relationship with the policeman who is searching for the murderer. The strangler is haunted by the memory of his deceased actress mother whilst the policeman, unmarried and hurtling towards middle age, himself has parental problems of the stereotypical New York Jewish mother type.

Staged here as a four hander with one actress playing all the murder victims, the deceased actress and the Jewish mother, the musical is surprisingly tuneful and entertaining. The two male performers do very nice turns with their characters. The fourth performer plays the policeman's girlfriend. All four sing well and seem to be having a good time on stage.

We had our own brush with a potential murder mystery at last night's preview performance when water leaking from a ceiling air conditioner onto electrical cabling laid out on the stage floor immediately in front of where Cs and I were seated lead to a loss of power and an interruption of about fifteen minutes during the second act. The auditorium was cleared and after some remedial work by theatre staff we returned for the resumption of the play in which all the remaining murders thankfully were confined to the stage.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Curry Shores

I'm into a heavy period of theatre-going in the current fortnight. Having seen Loot on Tuesday I saw Jersey Boys for the second time last night, mostly as a favour to accompany Fs who is visiting from Canberra for her cousin's wedding this weekend. Not that seeing the musical again was a chore. I enjoyed seeing it the first time around last January and it was as enjoyable this time.

I have another musical play tonight (No Way To Treat A Lady), two NIDA student plays next week and the next Sydney Theatre Company subscription play the following Tuesday.

Phew! Somewhere in all that I will no doubt find time to see one or more of the six, count them, six new movies all commencing in Sydney next Thursday.

Anyway back to last night. Fs as usual did her research and came up with a new (for us) restaurant to try. She was recommended the Mamak in downtown Goulburn Street on the edge of Chinatown.


Fs' enquiries revealed that the tables could not be reserved and that it was a case of first in, best dressed at the 6pm opening so we arranged to meet there at that time. That advice, at least in respect of opening time, was clearly incorrect. I was first to arrive at 5.55pm to find the restaurant packed and a footpath queue in place for the next available tables.

I joined the queue, about eighth in line and text Fs to inform her.


Fs arrived a few minutes later and we were admitted at about 6.10pm jumping ahead of several groups of more than two persons for whom tables were not yet available.

This is not a restaurant for a leisurely, intimate meal but it suited our need for a pre-theatre meal perfectly. The place is alive with youthful customer atmosphere (and naturally noise). It has a small but interesting menu. We chose to share a Chicken Satay starter and then two curries; one lamb and the other vegetable. All three dishes were delicious and both the curries were of substantial size. The service was speedy and the prices moderate.

It clearly is a popular restaurant with a good word of mouth reputation. I noticed that the restaurant remains open to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays so would also be a good option for post-cinema/theatre meals.

Friday, 14 October 2011

What's Your Number?


SPOILER ALERT: At a guess 90% of romantic comedies are about people searching for their perfect mate all the while not recognising that the person right in front of them is 'the one'. So, is 'What's Your Number?' in that 90%? Only one guess allowed.

This one is set in Boston with Anna Faris tracking down her previous lovers looking for her perfect match all because of a statistic she read about in a magazine. Faris enlists a neighbour, Chris Evans, in her search. Join the dots, readers.

The director misses no opportunity to display Evans in his naked glory for no apparent relevance to the story other than to take advantage of that actor's obvious attributes. However, whereas European filmmakers would go all the way, this Hollywood concoction, despite containing some very specific sexual references, stops short of revealing Evans' crown jewels which remain artfully concealed through all manner of artifice by towels, banisters and guitars.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Loot


(Sydney Theatre Company)

Joe Orton's play 'Loot' first performed at Cambridge, England in 1965 was a failure. Re-staged about a year later the play was a hit and has been revived periodically since. A film version with Richard Attenborough and Lee Remick was released in 1972.

At the outset, the play scandalised audiences. It portrayed police corruption, a concept that was met with disbelief in those more innocent times, and hints of bisexuality. The presence of a corpse on stage shocked audiences.

Nowadays a play about two men hiding the proceeds of a bank robbery in a coffin to keep a nosy policeman at bay whilst a scheming nurse tries to defraud the grieving widower seems pretty tame.

This production is fun it it's way especially during the second act which unfolds in the style of a farce. It's all a bit dated now though and I doubt that anyone in today's audience was shocked.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

'We're after the same rainbow's end...'*

('Moon River' by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's')


'Breakfast at Tiffany's'; released fifty years ago this month and as wonderful as ever.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Footloose


A newcomer to a small Southern USA town challenges the local law banning public dancing by minors; a law introduced three years earlier after the tragic death of five teenagers in a car accident following their attendance at a dance.

Footloose is a remake of the 1984 film of the same name. I didn't see the original film but I gather the remake is fairly faithful to it's predecessor but updated to the present day. Nevertheless it seems there are changes. I believe in the original the small town was in Utah and the newcomer was from Chicago whereas in the remake the newcomer is from Boston and the small town is in Georgia.

I don't know what significance these changes reveal if any but the notion of a town banning public dancing in this day and age seems a little ridiculous...well, in Western countries anyway.

The film is a bit too noisy for me and when the characters do engage in dancing, as distinct from violently shaking their bodies, the manic editing prevents the viewer from enjoying much of the actual dance movement. The leading male is attractive to look at in a 'pretty' way which somewhat detracts from the intended image of rebellious teen whilst his leading lady, a preacher's daughter, is a little rough around the edges.

Will appeal to some...but mostly not to me.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Who's up for a bit of hygiene?

A friend told me yesterday about an Internet site for digitalised copies of Australian newspapers which sounded interesting. Given my love for the cinema I thought I would check out what movies were screening on the day that I was born in 1949.

At this point I digress to record that I have memories from my childhood of the Savoy Cinema. It was an unusual cinema screening what we nowadays would call Art House movies although I don't recall the term being in use in those days. The Savoy tended to screen French and Italian movies in their original languages with English sub-titles. I recall that the cinema had curtains with the Eiffel Tower emblazoned across them. The Tower would part in half as the curtain parted for screenings.

I investigated the Internet site and tracked down the Sydney Morning Herald for the day of my birth.

'The Three Musketeers' was screening at the St James. 'The Life of Riley' was showing at the State. The Regent was screening 'Johnny Belinda' and although it was late June the Lyric was still screening 'Easter Parade'. There were plenty of other screenings which I won't bother listing here but then there was the Savoy. What was the Savoy showing? Well, here is the advertisement in it's full wording....


SAVOY - "SECRETS OF LIFE" - NOW!
EXTRA SESSIONS FOR MEN DAILY AT 11 15 AM
NOW SHOWING A Sex Hygiene Film for segregated audiences Sessions
Daily for Women and Girls 14 and over at 2.15 pm and 6 pm Sessions Daily
for Men and Boys 14 and over at 11.15 am and 8.30 pm On Stage at all
Sessions ELLIOTT FORBES noted Hygiene Commentator from the U S A on
The Secrets of Sensible Sex. Reservations for all Sessions up to 6 days in
advance at the Theatre (BW1333)

What more can I say?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

10,000 Beers


(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

A Rugby Union team from Adelaide is on it's end of season tour; spending a long weekend in Sydney. They've set themselves the target of downing 10,000 cans of beer.

The author is a Rugby Union journalist, Alex Broun, so the play certainly carries authenticity in it's writing and also in it's acting as the cast of four realistically portray and relate the footballers' experiences on and off the field. The author also seems to have an intimate knowledge of many of the city's bars and lounges.

A well acted piece.

(Warning: contains nudity)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Cats scare Magpies away

This day last week I was in Melbourne. It was Grand Final day. A wet and cold day with dark clouds overhead. Two local teams, the Collingwood Magpies and the Geelong Cats were playing in the Australian Football League's championship match as it might be called elsewhere.

At 3.29pm with the match approaching half time I look out my hotel window and I can see the Melbourne Cricket Ground with it's light towers illuminating the ground. Just a couple of hundred people short of 100,000 are inside the stadium viewing the spectacle.

Not a single car, train, tram or pedestrian is visible outside the ground. Presumably those not present at the stadium are viewing the match on live television elsewhere indoors.


Fast forward to 5.19pm. After three quarters of titanic, even, struggle the Geelong Cats have started to assert their superiority and look to be headed for victory. Spectators, presumably Collingwood Magpies supporters, are beginning to stream from the ground across the rail bridge and trains are moving again.


Now it is 6.04pm and the Geelong Cats have prevailed. The match is over and the victory celebrations are underway inside the stadium. The trams are running and the crowd is dispersing, many of them across the railway line and on to Federation Square where two hours later the victorious team will be presented to it's adoring blue and white scarf bedecked fans.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love


Steve Carell is stunned when Julianne Moore asks for a divorce. Drowning his sorrows at a bar Carell encounters ladies man Ryan Gosling who decides to mentor him in the game of Crazy, Stupid, Love.

They are not the only ones grappling with the mysteries of relationships. The film is a jig saw of seething, heaving connections.

This is a superior romantic comedy, humorous throughout, reaching it's climax with a neat twist that came as a genuine surprise to me.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Love Never Dies


(Regent Theatre, Melbourne)

Sitting in the foyer alongside a group of women sipping on their $22 a glass champagnes one turned to me and unsolicited offered the information that 'those who have seen Phantom of the Opera do not like Love Never Dies whilst those who have not seen it, do'.

This was not exactly what I wanted to hear as we were about to walk into the auditorium but those words were to come back to me as the performance progressed.

Speaking of Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber is quoted as saying "I don't regard this as a sequel – it's a stand-alone piece". I suppose that is a matter of perspective. It is true that the show tells a complete story that can be viewed quite apart from Phantom of the Opera. But Love Never Dies contains references linking back to Phantom of the Opera and features some of it's main characters; the Phantom, Christine, Raoul, Madame Giry and Meg Giry. It also repeats some key musical motifs. Perhaps most significantly the bare bones of both stories, in my opinion, are effectively the same. The Phantom, besotted by Christine wants her to perform his work and he is in a tussle for her affections with Raoul.

Love Never Dies is set about ten years after the events of Phantom of the Opera but the action has been transported to a sort of circus of oddities in Coney Island, New York. This makes for some very colourful scenes and some impressive staging although rarely with the same sense of magical effects that characterised Phantom of the Opera.

The characters seem to have had personality transplants. The Phantom does not possess the same menace, Raoul has lost some of his debonair charm and the Girys have suddenly transformed into schemers.

The earlier words of my anonymous co-patron came back to me. Had I not seen Phantom of the Opera I would have thought Love Never Dies is a splendid, colourful show but comparisons are inevitable and I had to wonder why bother?

This is not to belittle the performances which are uniformly powerful with excellent singing and the staging which is also impressive but mostly 'un-magical'.

The production transfers from Melbourne to Sydney next January.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Clybourne Park


(Melbourne Theatre Company)

Generally two act stage comedies lose steam in the second act. If they are at all funny then the first act is usually the funnier act as though the author's good idea is running out of steam the longer the play proceeds.

Bruce Norris' play Clybourne Park bucks the trend with a very strong second act that is funnier than the first act which is not without solid humour of it's own.

The two acts are set inside the same house.

In Act 1 it is the 1950s post the Korean War and a couple has sold the house and is in the process of moving out when neighbours learn that the new buyers are an African-American couple. This raises tensions involving territory, race and culture.

Act 2 fast forwards 50 years and the same house, now with it's own African American history, has been purchased by an upwardly mobile young white couple whose renovation plans for the house trigger parallel issues of territory, race and culture in the neighbourhood.

A very funny play delivering some serious messages which was well received at the performance I attended.

I recommend it.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Home sweet home

As enjoyable as my short visit to Melbourne was it is good to return home even if it is to an apartment covered in dust from the windows installation undertaken last week. And then there are the little bits of broken glass and debris that wasn't noticeable before I went away but that now seem to have formed a new crackling carpet.

It was pretty cool in Melbourne this morning, just 6 centigrade, but by the time I got to the airport it was clear the city was going to enjoy a sunny mild day that would have been easily the best weather of my five days visit if only I had been staying. Isn't that always the way with holiday trips?

My flight was scheduled to depart at 12 noon but was delayed by half an hour so that an engineer could secure the pilot's seat. Apparently it was unstable. I haven't heard that explanation for a flight delay before. When finally we got away we were informed the weather in Sydney was showery but if so there was no evidence of that when we flew in. It was sunny if cool when I arrived. The taxi driver confirmed that it had been raining earlier.

So now I'm home. First chore to get my laundry underway, then to get some food, milk etc and then sleep, blissful sleep, before returning to work tomorrow.

Just for the record a photo from my stay in Melbourne of morning balloon flights over the city. Andrew occasionally posts photos he takes of these joy flights from his high rise so I was somewhat chuffed to observe the same sight from my hotel window on Sunday morning.

Three balloons on the rise
A balloon passes over the 91 storeys tall Eureka Tower

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Kew the tram and the roulette wheel...

When we met for lunch yesterday Andrew suggested I take the tram to Kew for a nice long trip through Melbourne, a journey that includes the beach side suburb of St Kilda which I had plans to see again. Well, when Andrew speaks trams I listen. No one could know more than he about Melbourne's tram system.

This morning I took the recommended tram and was not disappointed. From my pick up stop in the City it was about an hour's trip to the terminus and I believe I passed Andrew's high rise on the way. I didn't pick which building is his but certainly I glimpsed the view that features in his blog's header.

It initially was my intention to do the return journey on the same tram and stop off at St Kilda on the way but I changed my mind when I saw that the Kew terminus for that tram was also a stop for other lines travelling back to the city by other routes. I took the first of those other trams to arrive and enjoyed this shorter journey which I observed passed through Richmond, the venue originally intended by Adaptive Radiation for our lunch last Friday.

Once back in the city, I took to walking and crossed the river to see the Crown Casino complex and it's Southbank surrounds. I didn't set foot inside the casino itself having already seen others around Australia and overseas. I'm sure Andrew will let me know if I missed something special there but Southbank was lively on a sunny and cool Sunday and was sufficient to interest me. Oh and never one to miss a cinema opportunity I did pop in to see a movie whilst at the Crown complex.

Then it was back to my hotel for a quiet night interrupted only by a Pizza meal at a nearby city cafe.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Rain, trams, blogger meet, football, phantoms

A mostly rainy day in Melbourne today although the weather fortuitously eased during the Australian Football League's Grand Final match played at Melbourne's Cricket Ground close by to my hotel. I think each one of the 99,537 attendance passed my hotel at some stage during the day virtually every one of whom wore Blue and White or Black and White scarves. The Blue and White team prevailed in the match itself.

I spent the morning circling the city centre by tram partly to avoid returning to the rain but also because I was enjoying this easy sightseeing method.

Then, by arrangement, I met blogger friend Andrew and his partner R for lunch. It was good to finally meet them in person and I hope we will meet again in future.

I returned to my hotel to watch the football on television taking occasional peeks out the window to see the passage to and from the ground of those attending it live.

A short rest followed and then it was off to a nearby theatre to see 'Love Never Dies' about which I will blog later.