Saturday, 31 May 2014


In Australia winter officially begins on 1 June so today is the last day of autumn. This year Sydney has experienced its warmest May on record with maximum temperatures higher than 20ºc (68ºf) on 28 of the 31 days.

Today's maximum was 20.7ºc but looking out of a window of the Verona Cinema it looked as though the day was colder.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Sunshine on Leith

Two soldiers from a Scottish regiment return from a traumatic tour of duty in Afghanistan to their hometown Edinburgh to seek love, the comfort of family and some normality of life.

In this case normality includes regular bursts of song and dance with all and sundry who are in the vicinity. Find yourself in a pub; burst into song. Find yourself in a museum; burst into song. Find yourself wandering down the main street; burst into song. When they find themselves in a hospital I thought...please don't...please don't...but sure enough they burst into song.

This is no 21st Century cutting edge musical. I was reminded of the Cliff Richard musicals of the 1950/60s when everyone sang and danced their lives through a sugary plot with a sprinkle of unpleasantness for colour. Some songs from that era have survived as a nostalgic memory - 'Summer Holiday', for one - but I doubt any of the songs from 'Sunshine on Leith' will be hummed by the senior citizens of the 2050s. Sure the tunes are catchy but they also are instantly forgettable falling into two categories, slow ballads or bouncy ballads. The lyrics of most of the songs are juvenile rhymes. The final scene extravaganza provides the one nod to contemporary culture with an enjoyable flash dance sequence.

The images of Edinburgh are a delight and there is sufficient subtext for this tale to have been made into a passable drama but it is questionable that this is material for a musical. The cast struggle bravely but when that stalwart of dark drama Peter Mullan turned his Lee Marvin like gravelly voice to song I knew the battle was lost.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Young Tycoons

(Sydney Morning Herald)

The current production from Darlinghurst Theatre Company is 'The Young Tycoons' about two young men who replace their retiring millionaire fathers at the head of their respective media empires.

Although the creators of the play state that it is not the story of the Packer and Murdoch families the similarities with their histories and characters clearly suggest the two Australian dynasties are the satirical inspiration.

The play is a revival but has been well updated with a number of references to contemporary events.

It is a well acted play and quite incisive although the 'Packer' character's naiveté is somewhat exaggerated.

Plenty of quiet chuckles in Act 1 and some laugh out loud moments in Act 2.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Scenes from the festival

Some snaps from the Sydney Writers Festival 2014.

Waiting for a session to commence
Moderator Tom Tilley introducing 'Back Story'
Awaiting 'Exceptional Television'
Richard Glover broadcasting for ABC 702 Local Radio
Audience assembling for Malcolm Fraser/Bob Carr conversation
Queuing for the next session
Movement between venues and sessions

Friday, 23 May 2014

Light up the night

The Vivid Sydney Festival has opened for 2014 with the theme 'lights, music, ideas'. The eighteen days long Festival has grown in popularity each year and huge crowds were present within its first hour this evening. We had a walk through on our way back from attending sessions of the Sydney Writers Festival 2014. More about the SWF later but here are some photos from this year's Vivid Sydney.

Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art 
Customs House
Customs House
Martin Place

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Making the move

Last night I had my first session in a 'Key Moves' exercise program. I am notoriously slack at pursuing exercise and have never attempted this type of therapy previously. Rolling about and stretching myself on mats is not the easiest for me with my lack of flexibility and the extra weight I carry around my belly. I'm also at a disadvantage in this program only joining it at session 4 of 10 in total as a replacement for someone else.

I have to admit I felt quite good after the hour's work and I did sleep pretty well. A pity I missed out on earlier sessions about correct breathing technique. Hopefully I'll see out the remainder of the course.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


A scientist's subconscious (Johnny Depp) is converted into an artificial intelligence following his death. This artificial intelligence creates a new regeneration centre but is this a force for good or evil and is the artificial intelligence really the deceased scientist or a villainous impostor?

'Transcendence' is an intriguing futuristic science fiction piece. It is very slickly constructed with some fine special effects and despite holes in the plot that you could drive a horse and cart through - or something more technological savvy - and some vaguely religious undertones this is an above average example of the technology versus environment genre.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed (Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados)

'Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed' is currently being screened around Australia as part of the 2014 Spanish Film Festival. It was recommended to me by Marcellous.

In 1966 a lonely, balding Latin/English high school teacher in Spain approaching his middle age (Eduardo Antuna) is an enthusiast of The Beatles. He uses their song lyrics to teach his young students English. When The Beatles withdraw from public performances John Lennon comes to Spain to broaden his career interests by acting in a film. The teacher then embarks on a cross country drive with the aim of meeting Lennon and along the way he gathers two hitchhikers, (Celia Bermejo) a young pregnant woman fleeing an institution for unmarried mothers and 16 years old (Francesc Colomer) who has runaway from home after an argument with his father. This is a road movie with a coming of age theme.

Viewing the film in its early stages through my 21st Century eyes I had imaginings of paedophiles, rapists, child molesters and serial murderers with this odd threesome alone in a sparse environment. Apart from some moments of 1960s style corporal punishment which shocks nowadays my concerns otherwise were unfounded.

This is a charming and gently amusing trip. The movie title comes from a line in The Beatles' 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Men in love

Andrew is cruising through Europe with his long term partner and this week he wrote how he couldn't bring himself to join the fun on the dance floor because of a silent sense of disapproval of displays of same sex relationships amongst fellow cruisers.

Gays of our generation, and I am a few years older than Andrew, know this feeling well.

Andrew's timing was exquisite, his post falling as it did between two public displays of man to man affection.

The first was ESPN televising Michael Sam's reaction at the moment he was notified that he been drafted into the National Football League. The interest in this event was that Sam is the first out gay man to be drafted to play in USA's most popular sporting competition.

Sam's reaction was first publicised on Twitter as a still shot from the video in which he was kissing and embracing his partner. As the photograph of a single moment in time that picture suggested a very passionate, almost sexual, moment. Seeing that moment in context the video reveals an emotional Sam sharing his joy - and probably relief - with presumably family, friends and his loved one in just the same manner as we view heterosexuals doing without any disapproval.

Whist the majority of published comments about Sam and his partner celebrating his selection have been supportive there were still a number of high profile highly negative reactions. The fact that people feel any need to comment at all about the situation indicates that GLBT individuals still have a long way to go for complete acceptance.

Fast forward a week or so to the Europa Cup Final (soccer) between Sevilla (Spain) and Benfica (Portugal) a match played in Italy and viewed by hundreds of millions around the world. Here adult men, presumably heterosexual, hugged, danced with excitement and even kissed each with joy.

Did anyone complain? Did anyone see the end of human civilisation through such public displays? Were Christianity, family values and the like threatened? Not that I am aware. But they were straight men and, of course, European. Enough said.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The bounce of the ball

Within twenty-four hours the football gods summon

Rugby League's

Reg Gasnier

and Australian Football's

Tom Hafey

Two of the truly great figures of their respective codes.

Full time called for them both. Well played.

Sunday, 11 May 2014


Jon Favreau is the writer, director and leading actor as the divorced father and 'Chef' who quits his job following a negative review and then has to reinvent himself as a food truck chef.

'Chef' is an amiable film with a delightful latin soundtrack and plenty of mouth watering images of food preparation and tasting. It's a film for 2014 with its plentiful references to social media and the Twitterati set. The second half is a little aimless and the eventual resolution too cute yet overall 'Chef' is a satisfyingly harmless entertainment.

The acting is generally good with some big name cameos, including Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson, injecting oomph into the proceedings. Robert Downey Jr makes a lasting impression in his single scene. Youngster Emjay Anthony is a star in the making as Favreau's son.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Dinner at the DOG

Two meals for the price of one night at...

... the Duke of Gloucester Hotel

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Bad Neighbours

A couple with a young baby are playing at being grown up as demonstrated by their excitement at the prospect of a gay couple with a baby of their own moving into the neighbouring house. The prospect only reinforces their new found sense of adulthood. Their delusions are cruelly exposed when instead of the gay couple a fraternity house moves in next door. This inevitably means noise and raucous behaviour, a future that appals them.

Anyone who has seen Seth Rogen playing the lead in comedy previously will have some idea of what to expect. Rogen does not do subtle humour. Aged 32 in real life Rogen behaves like a pubescent teenager at times. Why Rose Byrne would play the role of his wife is a mystery but at least she does not hide her Australian-ness and indeed some humour is drawn from the fact. Similarly Zac Efron has a thankless task in a muddled role with no apparent redeeming factor.

'Bad Neighbours' is ninety-six minutes of juvenile jokes. No opportunity is missed for fart jokes, genital jokes and the like. The target audience must surely be mid teens and some dopey ones at that. Actually there are several clever moments, perhaps the best being an unexpected joke line to do with car airbags but these 'gems' are lost amongst so much dross.

The best thing about the film are the twins who share the role of Rogen and Byrnes' baby. Combined they represent the cutest movie baby I've seen in a long time. The rest is mostly lamentable.