Monday, 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012

The 9pm Family fireworks in Sydney are for those who don't expect to remain up until midnight, hence the family tag, and also represent a farewell to 2012 for those who are going all the way. Here are a couple of snaps of those fireworks from a few minutes ago.




1/4 dare devil

One hour to the family NYE fireworks at 9pm and four hours to the NYE 2013 fireworks. A dare devil flyer is doing his/her stuff over Sydney Harbour. Click on the photo for a better view of the tiny plane and the trail of smoke the dare devil is leaving behind.


Meanwhile Radiance of the Seas enjoys the last rays of 2012 sunshine whilst 'stranded' at anchor in the harbour.


Radiant Fortune

Twelve hours left for 2012 (in Sydney) and the cruise liner Radiance of the Seas should be en route to New Caledonia, indeed a few moments ago a website that tracks liners showed the vessel as being off the Australian coast headed for the French territory.

Actually Radiance of the Seas is on Sydney Harbour at this moment. It was scheduled to depart last night at 6pm but has been delayed because of 'bad weather'. Wherever that bad weather is, it is not in Sydney.

All of this is most fortunate for any passengers aboard as the vessel appears now to be remaining for tonight's New Year's Eve fireworks. The vessel has had to move from its berth at the Overseas Terminal where it would block the view for hundreds of thousands of spectators and instead has anchored on the harbour off Point Piper and just down from my home.

Heading up harbour from the terminal

Getting in position off Point Piper

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Parental Guidance


Grandparents Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are invited to babysit their three grandchildren exposing themselves to the generation gap, not to mention the technology gap, the political correctness gap etc, etc.

With these two performers you know pretty well what to expect and this one of their better recent outings.

Light and amusing Christmas time fare.

★★★1/2

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Les Miserables


More often than not musicals fail to transfer successfully from the stage to the screen. What the imagination accepts when viewed from afar in the magic of a theatrical setting can seem ridiculous when viewed at large and close up in the cinema. There are exceptions but they are few. Three that come to my mind are Chicago (2002), Grease (1978) and The Sound of Music (1965).

The 'original' stage production of Les Miserables has been running in London for 27 years. Even here in Australia with our small population the stage production has toured for many years and is to be revived again soon. It is a theatrical event that has many admirers.

Victor Hugo's novel set against revolutionary developments in 19th century France sprawls across several generations and countless characters. It is a marvellous tale and has itself been filmed multiple times. There are 70 versions spread across more than one hundred years listed on the Internet Movie Database alone.

Now we have 'Les Miserables' the film version of the stage musical.

Cast with actors who are required to sing as distinct from singers who have to act the film aims for a realistic interpretation of the tale. It is a tightrope task particularly in this style of musical which has minimal spoken dialogue; almost every word is sung.

The professional critics I have read are divided.

For the most part, I like the film. I think the images are terrific. I love the film's overall look. I love how the poverty and oppression of the time are represented. I love the faces and appearance of the many support performers.

Much has been made that the actors sang their roles 'live'; that is they were not made to lip-synch to pre-recorded singing. In the instances where this works, it works very well. The problem is it does not work well in every instance.

For the most part it is the male actors who struggle. Neither Hugh Jackman (surprisingly) as Jean Valjean nor Russell Crowe (less surprising) as Inspector Javert seems entirely comfortable singing their roles. They seem to have to sing in too high a register. Eddie Redmayne as Marius is another who seems to be singing 'too high' yet I really admired his performance. Redmayne is perhaps the most successful male in the film apart from Colm Wilkinson who created the Javert role on stage all those years ago and who is a knockout in the film in the cameo role of the Bishop.

The female actors fare better to my mind. There are some weak singing voices in the smaller roles but the main performers all succeed.

The stellar performance comes from Anne Hathaway. She is sensational in her limited screen time. I was so affected by her performance that when she reached her highlight moment and sang 'I Dreamed A Dream' I was in tears. I rarely cry in movies.

★★★1/2

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas present tango


Video CHICAGO - Cell Block Tango - catherine... by tanemsu

Last year on my Christmas Day visit to Brisbane the two married daughters of my local friends gave me Christmas presents. Their generous gesture was unexpected as they had never given me presents in previous years. I was embarrassed that I had not come armed with presents for them especially as I was in no position to conjure up something in exchange.

In preparation for this year's visit I mentioned last year's embarrassment to my Ballina friend (who was there last year and would be there again this year) and said that I would make sure I had presents for the daughters this time.

Unbeknown to me, my Ballina friend mentioned my embarrassment to the parents who passed this information on to their daughters but she must not have added that I would be bringing presents for them this year. As a consequence the daughters, in deference to my feelings, did not have presents for me this year and were in their turn embarrassed when I handed over presents to them.

We'll have to work on our dance steps.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Oooh lah lah

Mooloolaba is not exactly Paris, actually it is nothing like Paris, but it provides a pleasant day of casual leisure in the sun and, should you wish, the surf.

It should only be an hour's drive from my friend's home in the northern suburbs of Brisbane but it took us two hours of occasional road crawl to reach today. I doubt the travel delay was because my local Member of Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull, was also in the area addressing of all things the Woodford Music Festival about honesty in politics but rather the festival itself.

My evidence for that includes but is not confined to the men in a car alongside us who regularly flashed a sign with the words 'Show Us Your Tits' emblazoned on it to the female companions in our car. Class!

We had lunch at the Mooloolaba Surf Club packed with Sunday 'revellers'. I cannot recommend the basic fish and chips dish most us ordered but the Sunday roast one friend ate looked delicious. The club is well located on the surf beach. Der, I just realised how lame that reads.

Afterwards we joined a couple of friends at the camp site where they are staying for the week. Camping is not my scene, not that type of camp at least, but overall it was a splendid day. Here are some photos.

The Surf Club's dining room

The view from our table

Mooloolaba Beach, late afternoon

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing the day away

I've never visited Chermside shopping centre in Brisbane previously but have read references to it regularly in Eddie's blog. Ll and Mt arranged for us to meet there today. Mmmmm, Boxing Day is not the day to do it.

I couldn't find a parking spot and ended up parking illegally at a nearby community facility. The crowds were horrendously large. This photo does not do justice to just how crowded the place was today.


Ll and Mt picked up some 'bargains' and we shared a food court lunch before moving on to the tranquility of Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art where the current exhibition is the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. I have never been disappointed by a visit to GOMA and recommend it to anyone spending time in Brisbane.

The diversity of the works is exceptional. Here is just one of many that tickled my fancy.


Another perspective of APT7

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Sunday, 23 December 2012

the Coast

Well I made it safely to Brisbane, collected my rental car and completed the drive south to the Gold Coast to catch up with my various friends who live there.


The view from my accommodation for two nights, typical Gold Coast; sun, surf and skyscrapers.

Unfortunately I suffered an adverse effect from my flight similar to the vertigo I experienced for weeks after a flight in 2009 but not thankfully not quite as severe. It has certainly provided a downer to my two days on the coast but I managed to complete my three scheduled visits today. These took me from Harbour Town in the north through Maudsland in the hinterland and down to Tweed Heads on the New South Wales side of the border. A lot of driving in my little rental car completed without further damage to myself nor to the other drivers on the road around me.

There was a Carols on the Beach staged on that section of beach visible in my photograph this evening. From what little I could hear in my bedroom it was a very modern sounding Carols; not my style. It drew a big crowd.

Tomorrow I drive back north to Brisbane.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Beware

It matters not whether I travel alone or with others the odds are I will be taken aside by airport security for the bomb residue test. I don't know what it is but it must be something in my looks. I'm a sixty-three years old man. I reckon whatever days of terrorism I might have had in my CV are now well past. Only kidding, really, I am only kidding.

It has happened again this morning. The security guard waved his explanatory card in my face in the Qantas domestic terminal and wearily I answered with a degree of hyperbole 'I have done this a million times'. Obviously an exaggeration. He didn't laugh. He didn't smile.

He waved his wand about me and then waved me on. My fellow passengers are safe.

Oh well

We're all still here. The world didn't end in Sydney yesterday despite at least one tweet I read stating that the city had been destroyed.

I suppose I better make my flight to Brisbane today. After all, I have paid for it and I did make all those arrangements to meet up with friends.


For the first time I will be using my smart phone for navigation whilst driving in Queensland. If you should not hear from me again, blame technology.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Pitch Perfect


Here we go again. Yet another of these gross behaviour comedies. They must be raking in the money there are so many of these comedies being made.

'Pitch Perfect' is a sort of super 'Glee' for the big screen. This time the participants are in college (I assume) and the college has not one but three 'glee' type groups. One is an all male group fronted by what we in Australia might refer to as a 'Yobbo' who provide the main opposition for our film's heroes, a female group.

Unpleasant characters abound and the opening minutes set a tone with racial, religious, sexual and disability stereotyping.

Despite all this the musical set scenes are often quite appealing and the obvious romantic pairing has a degree of charm.

Australian Rebel Wilson is a highlight. In the film she speaks with her Australian accent and states that she is from Tasmania. I imagine many millions of overseas viewers scratching their heads at the mention of this 'exotic' location wondering where Tasmania is or if it is real.

I also enjoyed Anna Kendrick who is turning out to be a very versatile performer.

Overall I enjoyed Pitch Perfect despite its gross elements.

★★★

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Um....

......apparently today (20 December 2012) is our last full day on Earth. It all ends tomorrow. I wish I hadn't paid next year's car registration already.

Anyway, it's been nice knowing you.



All the best!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Beautiful One Day

(Belvoir St Theatre)

'Beautiful one day, perfect the next' is the marketing line for the state of Queensland that has entered the Australian lexicon. It provides the ironic title of Belvoir Street's production 'Beautiful One Day' which relates events leading up to and following the death in police custody on Palm Island of the Aborigine Mulrunji (known in his lifetime as Cameron Doomadgee).

More a performance than a play, this presentation is an informative exposition of the treatment of the Indigenous community, the discriminatory laws to which they were subject and issues of justice. The performance is all the more moving because several members of the cast, some of whom I guess are not professional performers, are related to actual individuals who featured in the events portrayed.

A number of those individuals are seen and heard in documentary footage displayed on screens surrounding the performance space.

An important record of modern Australian history.

★★★★

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Our next attraction



I do like Pedro Almodovar's films. This apparently is his next one and it looks as camp as they come.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Why?

(Reuters)

As I type this, news about the latest mass shooting in the USA at Sandy Hook Elementary School is still unfolding.

Early reports indicate that there are 27 dead including relative(s) of the shooter at what was referred to as a secondary scene. Twenty of the dead are children. The radio tells me that in the USA Elementary School is for children aged between 5 and 10.

Now, let me say - just for the sake of argument - that the shooter and his dead relative(s) had a falling out of some nature that led to their shootings. I can sort of understand that. Not condone it, but understand it.

What I don't understand is why someone would shoot at the school children. What is going on in the shooter's mind? How does it come to that?

Why would it happen? Why? Why? Why?

I just don't understand.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Psycho Beach Party


Some play/movie titles let you know pretty well what to expect.

With 'Psycho Beach Party' we were not expecting high art but we were hoping for a fun experience and happily that is what we got....in spades.

It's a case of Sandra Dee meets The Three Faces of Eve with a level of sexual ambiguity thrown in for good measure.

Young surfer boys strut about posing for the women folk who themselves pose and flirt as they attempt to attract the attentions of these largely empty headed Adonises.

Ash Flanders (a male) plays the lead character Chicklet (a female) with exquisite timing and humour as her multiple personalities emerge. The surfer and wannabe surfer types dance, stomp and generally cavort with Chicklet in this parody of 1960s California lifestyle coming of age practices.

★★★★

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Brrring, brrring..........

It's Mt on the phone from Ballina. Did I see that The Seekers are performing a concert in Sydney in May? Would I like to go? (The unspoken subtext is, if we go to the concert Mt will stay with me whilst she is in Sydney.)

Yes, I'm happy to go. Mt will book tickets.

Brrring, brrring an hour later........

It's Mt on the phone from Ballina again. She has just spoken to Ll in Brisbane. Ll would like to go to the concert too. Is that OK? (The unspoken subtext is, if Ll comes to the concert she will also stay with me whilst she is in Sydney.)

Ll's husband Fd will not be coming. (The unspoken subtext is I will only need to accommodate Mt and Ll.)

Brrring, brrring another hour later..........

It's Mt on the phone from Ballina yet again. Ll's birthday is only a week after the concert and she is turning 60. Fd has decided he will come after all. (The unspoken subtext is I will need to accommodate Mt, Ll and Fd.) That's fine I reply.

Oh, Mt adds, that means it will be an official birthday get together weekend now. We have two of these each year for this circle of friends. That means (very loudly spoken subtext) that Ll's sister Rs and her husband Gg will now also attend. (The very silent, unspoken, subtext now becomes that I will have to accommodate Mt, Ll, Fd, Rs and Gg.) No problems I respond, feeling slightly faint.

Anyone else out there who would like to join in?

These are The Seekers that we think we will see.....


These are The Seekers that we will see....


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Liberal Arts


In 'Liberal Arts' a 35 years old graduate and avid reader returns to his former college where he meets a 19 years old undergraduate. They begin a relationship via correspondence discussing books and music which develops into something stronger. There are several sub plots touching on youth mental health, ageing and lost opportunities.

After a slow start this film develops into a superior depiction of relationships. The screenplay is particularly strong and a cut above the usual dross which passes for witty repartee. I found Josh Radnor very appealing (in personality as well as looks) and the other cast members all perform strongly. What on paper could seem a potentially distasteful subject is handled sensitively and quite believably.

This is an unexpected delight.

★★★★

Monday, 10 December 2012

Love Story


In 1970 a film of a novella by this name was a brief world wide sensation. This 2011 incarnation of 'Love Story' is a story and 'a love' of a totally different nature.

New Zealander Florian Habicht enlists an actress to travel the New York subway holding a slice of cake on a plate. Filming her, Habicht is drawn to the actress and he approaches strangers on the street and in restaurants asking their suggestions for how a love affair between the two should develop. Mixed amongst this, Habicht's father skypes him to discuss the movie's plot. Habicht senior offers enthusiastic support.

It is an interesting premise to have a story unfold according to the suggestions of passers by but I didn't feel it worked all that well in this instance. Perhaps because the object of Habicht's desire, a paid actress, makes it clear she only sees this as a job and is not interested in a relationship with him.

Many of the passers by are interesting and the images of the localities where Habicht spends his time are also of interest.

Habicht is very tall and lean and he reminded me of Sacha Baron Cohen. A scene where the girlfriend eats her morning cereal and milk out of the hollow of Habicht's sunken chest is a contender for the most bizarre movie scene I have witnessed.

★★

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Eternity

If like me you grew up in Sydney in the 1950/60s you would have been familiar with the sight of 'Eternity' written in chalk in a neat and stylised hand on the footpaths of the city. This was the work of Arthur Stace, a former alcoholic who converted to Christianity.

Arthur Stace
According to the link, it is thought Stace chalked the word about 500,000 times. I can believe it.

Now the City of Sydney in conjunction with the Darlinghurst Theatre Company is converting a former Tabernacle into its new playhouse which will be named Eternity Playhouse in Stace's honour. An Open Day was held yesterday morning. Only the foyer, very much in embryo form, was available to the visitors although the shape of the seating area in the auditorium above was clearly visible.

The future foyer of the Playhouse

A quartet was on hand to sing Christmas carols a cappella. In a possible indication of the Theatre company's support base I judged a fair proportion of the visitors in attendance to be older gay males.

The facade of the former Burton Street Tabernacle

Friday, 7 December 2012

Celeste and Jesse Forever


Celeste and Jesse are best friends who live together and bill and coo in each other's company as though they are newlyweds. They are in fact married but they are moving to divorce. It's a case of can't live happily together married but can live happily together separated. Their lovey dovey friendship irritates their closest friends. It irritated me too.

When one of them enters into a new relationship the happily separated status begins to be strained.

I don't know that I bought the overall premise in 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' and more to the point I didn't care that much. Professional critics in this country are quite taken with the movie but the endless verbosity of some of the characters didn't do much for me.

The chuckles from others in the audience suggest I might be in the minority with this film.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Trouble in cruiseland?


According to the Sydney Ports Corporation website the cruise liner Oosterdam was to have departed Sydney last night but here it is this morning slowly entering dry dock in Garden Island. Have hundreds of holidaymakers had their holiday plans ruined?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Sessions


'The Sessions', I understand is taken from the memoirs of an actual childhood victim of polio. Confined as an adult to twenty-four care and desperately wanting to experience the intimacy of sexual as well as loving relations, he secures the services of a sexual surrogate. The experience profoundly affects them both.

This is an honest account of a sensitive issue tempered with humour mostly in the man's dealings with his Priest.

John Hawkes is disarmingly moving in his search for intimacy. Helen Hunt is the no nonsense surrogate.


★★★★


Monday, 3 December 2012

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower


My understanding of a 'wallflower' is someone who is a loner, shy and who is not a participant in social activities.

The three principal 'wallflowers' in 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' scarcely fit that profile. OK, the main character portrayed by Logan Lerman is a little shy but he and Emma Watson and Ezra Miller are a remarkably social threesome.

Whether it is at school football matches, or school dances, or house parties, there they are....participating, fully, visibly, attractively exchanging witty repartee and belonging in their own way.

Sure not everything is mellow in their lives. There are sexual identity issues and a hint of mental health issues in the past but for an hour or so it all seemed a case of attractive rich kids with first world problems to me. In that time I felt I was watching a stereotypical rights of passage tale.

And then there are the final twenty minutes. Patience is a virtue. I could have dismissed it all out of hand but in those concluding scenes issues that have been hinted at are explained and clarified and secrets until then concealed are now revealed. What seemed mostly innocuous takes on a dramatic and highly serious turn.

I feel the story is misnamed but taken as a whole the film packs a punch.

★★★★

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Skyfall


I think that seeing a James Bond film is a bit like eating at McDonalds. Once you've tried one you know what to expect from every other tasting. An all action introduction is followed by a familiar course of womanising, villain baiting and an eventual 'too cool to be true' escape from deathly situations.

'Skyfall' is the 23rd film in the series which is now celebrating fifty years. This time, our current Mr Bond, Daniel Craig repeats the formula with his peculiar mix of urbanity and mournfulness. He does it well and so does everyone else who contributes to this episode.

The introductory sequence in Turkey is especially impressive and fun and for those of us for whom 'too much Judi Dench is never enough' we get extra exposure of her as the under pressure 'M'.

One of the better, recent, Bond movies.

★★★★

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Sunset Boulevard


Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical interpretation of the Billy Wilder film 'Sunset Boulevard' is one of Lloyd Webber's lesser successes. The Wilder film is arguably one of Hollywood's classics with its vaguely eerie storyline of the forgotten silent screen star, stuck in her past, latching onto the younger screenwriter in need of money. The musical sticks fairly closely to the movie to the point of drawing on much of its memorable dialogue but fails on its own account with its repetitive, at times uninspiring score. There are several tunes to provide some highlight but not sufficient it seems for mass appeal.

The Australian professional premiere of the musical was in Melbourne in 1996 where it failed to live up to expectations and did not subsequently transfer to Sydney as would have been expected. I did see a full concert version staged in Sydney a few years back which thrilled the loyal followers but this staging by the Willoughby Theatre Company is the first ever in the state as a full production.

The WTC is a respected not for profit company which has a strong following for its annual season of musical productions. As far as I am aware they are largely if not entirely amateur performers and crew. Their production standards are ambitious and staging their productions in the relatively new surrounds of the impressive boutique Concourse Theatre, a community facility, lends a further air of professionalism to their output.

I thought they did a pretty good job with Sunset Boulevard. My companion, Cs, with a history of professional and semi professional theatre work of his own, was pretty critical of their efforts in the first act - unreasonably so in my view - but he did concede they finished on a high with the second act.

★★★


Friday, 23 November 2012

Signs of Life

(Sydney Theatre Company)

A new play by Tim Winton, 'Signs of Life' has a sibling Aboriginal couple encounter a recently widowed outback property owner.

All three are mourning the loss of a close relative, each in their own way, and in so doing they make discoveries about themselves and each other.

An interesting tale especially for those interested in the spiritual side of things. A little less shouting from Aaron Pedersen would have been nice but that aside all four performers, including Pedersen when he eventually quiets down, do well.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Peak hour on the harbour

Click to enlarge

Around 7pm and Voyager of the Seas (right) arrives in Sydney Harbour as Celebrity Millennium (left) departs. Out of frame to the right Pacific Jewel also heads out of the harbour city.

Voyager of the Seas

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Medea

(Belvoir Street Theatre)

'Medea' is a figure in Greek mythology. She married Jason (of 'Argonauts' fame) and bore him two sons. When Jason falls in love with another woman and announces he will take the sons to live with her and that he will send Medea back to her home town, Medea wreaks her revenge. She sends the lover a tainted garment which peels off all her skin killing her and her father who comes to her assistance. Expecting Jason to return to secure his own revenge, Medea kills her sons. A charming little tale.

Belvoir Street's interpretation of the tale is contemporary, set in the sons' bedroom where they have been locked whilst their parents argue unseen and unheard offstage. The only way we know about what is happening behind the scenes is from the brotherly banter between the boys as they play with their toys.

Their mother, Medea, makes several brief appearances mid play before returning for the final, emotional climax. The two sons played by Rory Potter (pictured) and Joseph Kelly are on stage the entire time. Aged, at my guess, about 9 and 13 respectively the two boys are exceptional. They are completely natural in their roles. Blazey Best performs superbly under the difficult circumstances of very limited stage time.

A very accessible interpretation of a classic tale.

★★★★

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Eclipse

As I type, a full solar eclipse is occurring several thousand kilometres north of me over Cairns in Far North Queensland.

Here are images being beamed on television in Sydney.



In twenty four minutes time, the eclipse (partial) will occur over Sydney with 68% of the sun covered by the moon's shadow. Unfortunately there is heavy cloud cover in Sydney at the moment so the event is unlikely to be visible to us.