Saturday, 31 October 2015

Tramways distress

(Railway Square in 1920, Photo: Sydney Tramways Museum)

I thought of tram-lover Andrew when I heard the news this week that the Sydney Tramways Museum had yet again been hit by vandals and arsonists destroying eleven historic trams and buses. I hope the police can catch those responsible.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Before the concert

The audience begins to arrive for a performance in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Passport and visas


After a bit of a run around from a courier company my passport has been returned with visas for my forthcoming holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Just over a week to go before departure.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Alex & Eve


'Alex & Eve' is an Australian comedy about two thirty somethings from different cultures who meet and fall in love and who face resistance to the relationship from their respective families.

The film pursues a predictable arc and relies on cultural stereotypes to a large degree but comes across as mostly good natured humour. It was clearly enjoyed by a sizeable audience at the session I attended.

The two leads Richard Brancatisano and Andrea Demetriades are an appealing pair.

★★★1/2

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Burnt


A former prodigal chef (Bradley Cooper) makes a comeback after a period of recovery from substance and alcohol addiction with the objective of achieving a higher Michelin star rating than he held in his youth.

Packed with a talented cast 'Burnt' would appear to have the necessary ingredients for a fine film but it ends up laying a rather messy egg.

On the plus side are slick contemporary images, especially the numerous close ups of food whether raw, cooked or in preparation. What passes for current day fashion in London restaurants and food outlets provides an interest as well.

On the negative side of the menu is the half baked plot and character development which requires characters, superficially speaking to each other, to deliver narration to explain plot context. The characters are mostly cardboard cutouts.  Matthew Rhys is reduced to a melodramatic moustachioed villain; the only thing missing from his performance is an exaggerated twirl of his moustache. I feel for Emma Thompson who evidently offended the costume designer at some stage. Two of her outfits are extraordinary (and not in a positive way).

It is a pity. This looked to be a tempting treat but it only satisfies in parts; mostly visual.

★★1/2

Friday, 23 October 2015

Legend


The Kray twins, Reggie and Ronnie, were notorious violent gangsters in London in the 1960s who ran nightclubs frequented by the darlings of the social set and society.

In 'Legend' the identical twins are both portrayed by Tom Hardy in a star turn that is the most interesting and impressive aspect of the film. Hardy's performance differentiating between the personalities of the twins is superb.

Unfortunately the other aspects of the film are less impressive even occasionally feeling flat by comparison. It is not as if the remainder is without interest but the brilliance of Hardy's performance seems to leave everything else in a violent, if highly coloured, shadow.

★★★

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Back streets in Paddington

Napier Street

Selwyn Street

Little Napier Street

Little Selwyn Street

Mobile art

Organic Bread Bar, Bourke Street

Friday, 16 October 2015

Daylight robbery, Westfield Bondi Junction


As the notice says, my local shopping mall has introduced ticketless parking. The signage I've seen so far at the parking entry points don't set out any conditions for parking but there is signage once you enter the shopping precincts that sets out what to do when you have parked less and more than the two hours offered free. There is no mention in those notices about multiple entries on a day.

I used the system entering and departing the parking station without difficulty on Wednesday having parked at the centre for under an hour.

I visited the centre again yesterday making two entries. The first was from 8.15am to 9.30am and I entered and departed the centre without difficulty. I returned for further shopping at 1.35pm and made for my departure at 2.10pm. The barrier would not rise and to my shock the screen showed I owed $35 for parking.

A queue quickly developed behind me as I pressed the assistance button and impatient drivers pressed their horns in frustration. Eventually a disembodied male voice answered my call. Cutting to the point of the story he told me that customers are entitled to two hours free parking for the day and if a reentry is made on the same day the fee for the subsequent entry is calculated from the time of the first entry.

If this is true then it is daylight robbery. In two visits I spent less than two hours parked at the centre. Even if the rule is that a subsequent entry on one day attracts a fee the fact is I spent only 35 minutes parked on the second entry. I was being charged, apparently, for 5 hours and 55 minutes of parking when I had only been physically parked for a total of 1 hour and 50 minutes.

I argued the point with the disembodied voice and was allowed to depart without payment.

Checking online later I found this information on the centre's website;

HOW IT WORKS

1. There is no boom gate at entry, so you can drive straight into the carpark. On entry to the car park there will be a digital clock displaying your time of entry; remember the time you entered as you will not be issued with a ticket.

2a. If your visit is under 2 hours, proceed straight to the exit. The parking system will recognise your licence plate number and the boom gate will open automatically.

2b. If your visit is over 2 hours, head to one of the many pay stations, enter your licence plate number and pay the parking fee. Drive to the exit where the system will recognise your parking payment and the boom gate will open automatically.

If you exit the centre, there must be 2 hours between exit and re-entry in order to receive another ‘2 hours free parking’ period.

(The highlighting of the last sentence is mine.) So, the disembodied male voice was wrong and so was the system that calculated a fee for my second entry of the day. Westfield better sort out the teething problems and also get their staff speaking from the same page otherwise their customer numbers will drop and their traders will not be happy either.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Sicario


An idealistic FBI Field Agent (Emily Blunt) is seconded to a blended team of other agency workers to disrupt illegal activities across the USA border with Mexico with the objective of flushing out the whereabouts of a Mexican crime chief.

'Sicario' is a very powerful film which sets out the ethically questionable activities of intelligence and other agencies. It contains superb images highlighting the tough topography and climatic conditions. The film is enhanced by outstanding sound and production designs that lift every dramatic moment.

Blunt and co-stars Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are outstanding.

A stunning film.

★★★★1/2

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Intern


A retired widower (Robert De Niro) answers an advertisement for a Senior (aged) Intern at an up and coming Online Purchasing business and finds himself mentoring the youthful staff and Chief Executive (Anne Hathaway) not only in business lessons but life lessons as well.

I've read mainly lukewarm reviews of 'The Intern' and also seen comments on social media that it is a one joke film; the joke being senior citizens struggling with 21st Century technology. I think only someone pretty youthful with many years of their life and learning still ahead of them could make the latter narrow visioned comment.

We enjoyed the film and found a lot to like about it. I think De Niro played the cute card a bit too much but otherwise the film has a lot to recommend it.

★★★1/2

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Black Mass


'Black Mass' is based on real events and individuals. James 'Whitey' Bulger (Johnny Depp) is a Boston gangster who turned FBI informant in the 1970s at the urging of childhood neighbourhood friend John Connolly (Joel Egerton) ostensibly to take down an even bigger Mafia gangster.

A very heavily made up Depp and Edgerton - an Aussie who seems to be in every second USA film under release nowadays; good for him - head a talented cast who certainly deliver the acting goods. The film is very interesting visually. It may not be the most violent film I have seen but it comes close to having the most number of violent scenes I can recall. Unfortunately these scenes come along like peak hour trains, so frequent in number that the rhythm of the film is quite predictable. There are also many, many characters in the story and often I had little idea of who some of them were.

An uneven film with some very good elements but unsatisfying in other respects. It is a bit like 'The Godfather' minus the touchy feely family and meal time moments.

(POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: There are no heroes, no one to cheer for in this male-oriented film. Pretty well every character is unlikeable.)

★★★

Friday, 9 October 2015

Cut Snake


A released prisoner tracks down a former cell mate seeking to renew their relationship for criminal purposes only to find that he has turned a new leaf and is unwilling to participate.

The Australian film 'Cut Snake' is a low budget production full of menace and suppressed secrets. It is somewhat Hitchkock like in plot although it takes its violent scenes well beyond what the Master of Suspense would have put to screen.

★★★

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Martian


An international exploratory team on the planet Mars makes an emergency departure to evade a severe storm leaving behind one of its members (Matt Damon) who the team believes has been killed  in storm's lead up. However Damon has not been killed and as he recovers from injuries he sets about a survival strategy hoping it can keep him alive until the next team is due at the planet in a few years time.

'The Martian' is rather fanciful science fiction which requires more than just a minor level of suspension of belief and reality. But it is well filmed and photographed and makes for above average entertainment. The increasing importance of China to the USA's film industry (financially and otherwise) is evident - as we've seen in other recent movies - by that country being given prominence in the eventual resolution of the plot.

★★★1/2

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Death and the Maiden

(Sydney Theatre Company)

When Gerardo's (Steve Mouzakis) car breaks down, a passing stranger, Roberto (Eugene Gilfedder), gives him a lift home, Gerardo's wife, Paulina (Susie Porter), recognises the stranger's voice and she believes Roberto was the torturer who raped her years earlier when she was detained as political prisoner.

Paulina's revenge is the subject of 'Death and the Maiden', Ariel Dorfman's play based on events in Chile arising from the Pinochet regime.

A harrowing one act play well acted by the trio of performers.

★★★1/2

Monday, 5 October 2015

Sydney Buses and Transort for NSW...

...do you read my blog? I would think not but hopefully mentioning you in the title for this post might attract your attention.

The newly altered route for buses 324 and 325 has their City destination as Walsh Bay.


That's fine with me, especially for my travel to location for the Sydney Theatre Company.

Why then does the otherwise very helpful TripView App which I like and refer to regularly and which contains 'data provided by Transport for NSW' not mention Walsh Bay at all?

TripView App

After some research I found the App records the destination as Dawes Point. The realignment of bus services to accommodate the light construction will be difficult enough without this inconsistency thrown it.

Sydney Buses and/or Transport for NSW whichever you call yourself, please remedy this inconsistency. Thank you.

From Fools to Shakespeare

It is a wonder that the Rugby League football code still exists in Australia. Often seen as a sport of bash and barge its players and officials are rarely off the front pages for all manner of indecencies and petty criminality.

Last night the 2015 Grand Final was staged in Sydney. (Any USA readers for Grand Final substitute Super Bowl.) Yesterday morning ahead of the match news reports filtered through that one former champion player was dropped from the host broadcaster's commentary team after having allegedly verbally assaulted a woman with sexual innuendo at an airport before allegedly taking a nap on the floor in a drunken stupor. Almost every major Rugby League match seems to be preceded by a front page scandal.

Somehow, the sport survives and even thrives despite itself.

Last night's match has become an instant classic. The first half was an unusually open and thrilling affair. At half time social media reported it was the highest scoring first half for a Grand Final in over sixty years. Only two points separated the two sides, perennial champions the Broncos and perennial strugglers the Cowboys. The likely winner was still well disguised at the break.

The second half was chalk to the first half's cheese. The match turned into an arm wrestle with play repeatedly going from end to end and back again like a basketball match but without any scoring. Apart from two points from a penalty goal within minutes of the restart there was no further scoring in the half and with only ten seconds remaining it seemed the Broncos would hold on for yet another win.

Then came the final five seconds and the match assumed a level of drama befitting a Shakespearean drama. Literally as the time clock showed zero seconds left to play the Cowboys improbably, unbelievably and thrillingly somehow conjured this tying score;

(Getty Images, Cameron Spencer)
And then it was left to the Cowboy's own champion player to take centre stage after the full time siren and then into Golden Point extra time eventually to secure a stunning and memorable win.

(AAP: Dean Lewins)
From one champion player's shame to another champion player's destiny. From Fools to Shakespeare.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

One 'S' and one 'T' too many


Daylight saving time commenced overnight in those Australian states that participate.

I like it.

What I don't like is that rogue 'S' that sometimes accompanies it. My body cringes every time I hear certain television weather presenters (and others) refer to daylight savings. Please cease and desist this display of sibilance.

The one similar practice that irritates me even more is the rogue 'T' that emerges every year in June. The Championships at Wimbledon may well be enjoyed with strawberries and cream but never with 'T'. There is a place called Wimbledon. If there is also a place called Wimbleton then be assured it does not host a major tennis tournament.

Rant over.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Kick to kick and I'll be kicking myself

It has been an odd week. There is so much I should have done but set to one side instead. It seemed as though I had no time available to get things done, yet I had fewer commitments than usual. Where has the week and my time gone?

This is a long weekend in Sydney with a public holiday on Monday. Early summer conditions are forecast. I should try not to waste it but the temptations of indoor televised distraction are only too obvious. It is that weekend again.

This afternoon from Melbourne;

Australian Football League Grand Final

Tomorrow evening in Sydney;

National Rugby League Grand Final

Better switch off the MacBook, get off my arse and get going outdoors. Otherwise I'll be kicking myself.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Visit


It must be a frustration after being an overnight sensation with your first major creation only to find your every subsequent work is unfavourably compared with that initial success.

M Night Shyamalan arrived with a bang with his third feature 'The Sixth Sense'. His next film was eagerly awaited but failed to match the impact of its predecessor and each subsequent film seemed to continue the decline. They were interesting films, each in their own way, but all were overshadowed by the brilliance of that initial success.

And now we have 'The Visit'. Two teenage siblings spend a week with maternal grandparents they have never previously met. The week starts well enough but soon the grandparents begin to display behaviour unfamiliar to the teenagers. Initially reassured by their mother not to be concerned by the behaviour, typical of ageing people, the teenagers do become alarmed when the behaviour turns increasingly bizarre.

This is Shyamalan's best film since Sixth Sense. Although some moments, meant to shock audiences, are not always as well timed as they could have been, the main twist on which the plot rests is well disguised. The two Australian lead performers are excellent as the siblings.

★★★1/2

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Memories of visas past

(Living Large, Spending Small blog)

Next month I am off to Vietnam and Cambodia with a couple of friends.

This week it was time to apply for the relevant visas. First cab off the rank was a visa for Vietnam. The visa can be applied for online through the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Very 21st Century I thought as I started to complete the online application. Sadly the reality didn't match the theory. Try and try as I did I just could not get my application past the validation screen. I tried. Believe me, I tried. I tried many, many, many times.

Eventually I gave up trying the online route. The old fashioned method of application proved far easier. I obtained a hard copy of the application form, completed it and submitted it by hand. Luckily, the Consulate for Vietnam in Sydney is located in the office block next to my apartment building. Effectively, it is next door to me.

Bah, humbug, 21st Century!