Sunday, 23 April 2017

Denial


In 1996 historian David Irving, a noted Holocaust denier, sued Professor Deborah Lipstadt and her publishers claiming she had libelled him in her book, 'Denying the Holocaust'.

The film 'Denial' recounts the legal battle, how the defence case was formulated, the trial and the outcome.

A beautifully acted film with fascinating glimpses into the British justice system and its protagonists.

✮✮✮1/2

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Going in Style


Three retirees angered by the loss of their pensions and banking practices decide to rob a bank.

'Going in Style' is perhaps not the best lesson in crime doesn't pay; if indeed that lesson is even evident. This is a movie aimed at seniors who will relate to the characters' frustrations and behaviour whilst also recognising the absurdity of the situation.

Fun, but not innocent fun.

✮✮✮

Friday, 21 April 2017

What the f.....


My credit card provider has written to inform me - and no doubt many others - that my card will 'no longer be offered' from 5 August.

WTF!?!?

I use the card regularly and I have many direct debits linked to it. What a f#$%&ng nuisance.

Now, to clarify. I have two credit cards provided by the same bank. One card is of the variety whose name is like a travel document. The other card, the one 'no longer offered', is of the variety that one 'should never leave home without'. You know the one. It is the one that many retailers won't accept anyway and that most of those who do apply a higher surcharge to.

Having delivered that sucker punch I read on to find that the account fee for the remaining card will in future be (think of any number 165% higher than the previous one).

Disgraceful.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Table 19


The history of cinema is littered with references to the outlying table at a wedding reception reserved for what might be regarded as the Z-list of people invited by the bride and groom out of duty rather than preference.

Those people in 'Table 19' include the dumped first preference for Maid of Honour, a long forgotten nanny of the bride, a mysterious oddball relative of the groom's father, a jaded, warring couple who own a restaurant vaguely favoured by somebody or other and a mother-pecked awkward young man who just wants to lose his virginity and whose connection to the wedding party, if it was revealed, passed me by.

I had the occasional laugh but frankly most of these characters behaved irritatingly and/or were not endearing to any great extent.

Watching this film I became just as bored as the characters appear to be in the film's poster.

✮✮

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Beauty and the Beast


Disney's latest iteration of the story of 'Beauty and the Beast' draws on the corporation's massive technical and financial resources to achieve a lush and lavish product.

The film contains some dark moments that I would have thought could frighten some children but this did not seem to be the case at the session I attended when the many children present remained attentive and engaged throughout.

The fuss from some USA sources at what has been described as a three seconds long gay reference mystifies me. Only the most obtuse of adults would fail to notice quite a number of gay references littered across the film. Not one of these came across as offensive to me.

✮✮✮1/2

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Popular Mechanicals

(Sydney Theatre Company)
'The Popular Mechanicals' takes Shakespeare's rude mechanicals characters from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and portrays them rehearsing for their performance. What ensues is a type of Shakespearean 'Play That Goes Wrong'.

There is plenty of visual, verbal and slapstick comedy and even a fart joke or two. You don't have to be familiar with the Shakespeare play to enjoy this but those who are will enjoy the insider jokes all the more. Or maybe not?

I thought this was a lot of simple fun.

✮✮✮1/2

Monday, 17 April 2017

Dance Academy


Based on the Australian-German co-production children's television series of the same name, 'Dance Academy', moves on from where the small screen series finished off by basically retelling the earlier themes. Aspiring dancers vie with one another and against obstacles to chase their dreams.

Everyone is photogenic and everything looks glossy in this world. Struggling students enjoy harbourside residences in Sydney and when they move to New York their every movement has centred in and around Times Square.

A lot of fantasy really but at least the film contains the lesson that not all dreams are realised.

✮✮✮

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sunny Cairns

A little bit of exploration along the Esplanade in Cairns.

Muddy's Playground and Public Pool


Seafood dining
On the Esplanade looking north back at Cairns

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Day tripper

While I planned this trip as one of relaxation rather than action I thought that I should spend at least one day of my long weekend in Cairns engaged in tourist activity. Examining the tourist material I found that most of the activity around these parts is just that. Activity.

So many options seemed to revolve around diving whether it be from the sky or under the water. That is not me. In the end I selected activity that involved a fair amount of sitting. That is much more me.

I selected the option of a trip by train. I think Andrew would approve. The Kuranda Scenic Railway was constructed between 1882 and 1891 and runs from Cairns through World Heritage listed parkland to Kuranda, 328 metres above sea level.

Google Maps told me the equivalent journey by car would take 38 minutes but on the train, with two short stops plus a number of very slow passes by scenic highlights, the journey took two hours (each way). Two diesel powered locomotives, painted as Aboriginal murals, tugged fifteen carriages, some nearly one hundred years old according to the commentary.

This is the train I travelled on. Going to Kuranda I was in Carriage No 15, the last carriage. This was the train as it managed the tightest bend on the route.

The train as viewed from carriage 15
There were rain showers about.

The view from Barron Gorge National Park. Cairns is somewhere in the distance
Kuranda Railway Station in the lush heritage park
The return journey
Whilst in Kuranda I explored the township, had a burger lunch and spent an hour on a modest river cruise.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Customer Service

There is customer service...and then there is customer service. (The sequence of three videos is revealing and shocking.)

But back to me.

During my flight to Cairns yesterday I was sent a text message. My hotel was looking forward to 'having me'. At this point of the message I wasn't sure if I was a menu item but I read on. 'Do (I) drink coffee' the message asked, in which case they 'could organise a coffee machine for (my) room' if I liked. I don't much and I didn't. Still, it was a nice thought.

Three hours later and within an hour of having checked into the hotel I received a second text message. I was welcomed and thanked for staying at the hotel. 'Can we do anything for you at this point', the message asked. An hour into my stay I wasn't in need of anything which, I suppose, was a promising sign.

Fast forward to day two and almost to the minute of twenty-four hours since checkin I received a third text message. 'Just checking' it began breezily. 'How is (my) stay going so far' the message enquired. The message continued rather jollily 'feel free to reply back with a 1-10'. I wasn't intending to reply but in case of doubt the message added '10 being excellent'. Either way the message concluded 'Have a great day'.

It seems churlish to suggest irritation with these messages; three of them in twenty-seven hours. Will they continue at this rate until I succumb with a reply? I could be polite and just send a reply acknowledging my satisfaction but could that encourage a further stream of enquiring messages?

Pause.

Oh, the irony. At this moment, when I was about to 'top and tail' this item for posting, my internet connection stalled for around twenty minutes. Eventually it dawned on me that the hotel required me to re-apply for my complimentary WiFi access every twenty-four hours or so. I have now done so and can finalise this posting.

So, thank heavens my hotel is not run by United Airlines. If it were I might have found myself publicly dragged through the foyer following checkin 'gazumped' in favour of a freeloading customer with higher status than mine.

I should be glad for the service I have experienced so far, even with its wrinkles.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Cairns

I have flown to Cairns for the Easter weekend. Well, part of that weekend anyway. Departure from Sydney this morning where there was heavy cloud cover and a coolness (around 18º, I think). The plane took off to the south and continued in a southerly direction for quite sometime despite Cairns being to the north.

Eventually we made a 180º turn and headed north passing back over Sydney. The clouds parted briefly to reveal our flight path over the southern suburbs of Sydney.


North of Sydney to south of Cairns we flew in total sunshine for two and a half hours only to fly back into heavy cloud as we neared our destination. In a mirror image of our departure we flew right over Cairns from south to the north, turning 180º and making our approach and landing towards the south.

As we neared our landing and peeked beneath clouds we flew over what I guessed - in complete ignorance - might be Palm Cove. See photo below. My trusty smart phone however placed the photograph at Trinity Beach.


Having settled into my hotel I had a brief wander around town to get some bearings. I passed the following cafe which I simply have to record for posterity but more particularly for the information of James. Regular visitors to his blog will understand the reference.


My intention is to regard my stay in Cairns as a recreation weekend rather than an action weekend. I may have nothing further to report from here. But you never know.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Talk

(Sydney Theatre Company)

The play 'Talk' seems an ideal play for Sydney which appears to have the reputation as the shock jock talk radio capital of the nation.

A high rating talk radio announcer is facing arrest for revealing details not presented to the jury in a child molestation case. His resistance catches the attention of citizens whose feelings he cleverly manipulates as well as that of competing media organisations.

Local readers may well think this all sounds rather close to the bone of some extremely high profile situations in recent years involving an Australian media personality with pretensions to a Parliamentary career. If so, I couldn't possibly confirm that suggestion.

It is a rather ambitious work bringing together the invasive and subjective elements of 21st Century social media practices with recollections of a now distant past of professional ethical journalism. As a consequence I thought some of the references went over the heads of younger members of the audience. At the same time, some of the more modern references seemed stereotypical.

The staging is especially impressive with the stage split into sections. There are two levels. The bottom level represents an ageing public broadcaster news room on one side with a swishly furnished newspaper editorial suite on the other side. Above both these settings sits a modern high tech commercial radio studio. Lighting and sound design cleverly focus the audiences' attention on the flow of action. The staging arguably is the strongest aspect of the work.

✮✮1/2

Monday, 10 April 2017

Hysteria

(Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

The play  'Hysteria' imagines a meeting in London in 1938 between Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali at a time when a stranger has sought a consultation with Freud which raises memories of a case of his from the past.

This curious work for the most part seems to play out as psychological thriller/mystery but for reasons which possibly even a Freud couldn't explain it lurches mid Act 1 into a farce only to jump out as abruptly and inexplicably as it arose.

The acting is quite solid and the staging has some interesting moments.

✮✮✮

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Loving



The title 'Loving' is ironic as it is the family name of the interracial couple whose marriage and cohabitation led to the historic 1967 decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that the law of the State of Virginia forbidding marriage between people of different races was unconstitutional. As a consequence similar laws in other States of the Union were voided.

The telling of their story in this film was not what I expected. There were no fiery scenes of antagonism against the relationship and no grand courtroom scenes. Indeed, despite the subject, the film is peculiarly lacking in drama adopting the reticence and quiet strength and determination of its principle character.

In perhaps an intended irony the film is mostly a depiction of a loving couple whose love for each other was stronger than institutional opposition.

✮✮✮

Friday, 31 March 2017

Grab your coat and get your hat....

....leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street.*

I'm not going to bore you here with the seemingly endless saga of my friend's move from a house to an apartment. After literally years of 'will she do it' or 'won't she'; today 'she did it'. She moved from her house of thirty-five years to a very smart nearby apartment. We three friends were on hand to assist. In her mind I think we were moral support at a time of stress.



It was not a copybook move. Far from it. Cartons were packed but none was labelled. Which cartons contained her clothing and which contained the bed linen? Your guess is as good as mine. What was going and what was being discarded? We didn't know and nor it seemed, at times, did she.

The removalists filled their van and delivered the goods to the new address all by lunchtime today. Did they capture everything? Well, no. A microwave and a vacuum cleaner were left behind. Oh, and when we checked again, so were three large garden pots and at least three trays full of domestic cleaning material. And then there was the huge print of the harbour on the wall. How had that been missed?

But wait, there was more. Two cupboards full of pots and pans and saucers. And a step ladder; actually two of them. And what about that decorative container with the ashes of a dead pet? Yes, that was missed as well.

No. It wasn't a copybook move but its done now. Well, the delivery part is done. Now for the unpacking.

(* 'On The Sunny Side of the Street' by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Ghost in the Shell


Set some time in the future when robotics and humanity have become merged someone or something is threatening the ubiquitous technology Corporation of their time.

'Ghost in the Shell' has the look of a 'Blade Runner' with its dark laneways, dense populations and seedy futuristic images. There is plenty of action and a plot of sorts but really this is mostly an entertainment of image and action which is unsurprising given the work's origins in popular Japanese comics and cartooning.

I found it enjoyable at viewing but pretty forgettable soon after.

✮✮✮1/2

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Life



The International Space Mission is returning to Earth following an exploratory visit to Mars. Whilst en route Mission members test samples taken from the red plant and are thrilled when they revive an intriguing life form. Their joy soon turns to horror when this life form starts to grow and threaten them.

'Life' has visually pleasing aspects. The actors float about in zero gravity delivering their lines vertically, horizontally and even at times while upside down. The general mood of interstellar flight is well captured. But I did start to avert my eyes when the horror began to intrude. The climax comes as an unexplained surprise.

✮✮✮1/2

Saturday, 25 March 2017

'What's new?'

Now that is a question to strike minor terror in my heart. It is a common, seemingly inoffensive way to open a conversation. One of my friends will begin every telephone conversation with that question even if our previous conversation was only a day or two earlier. So why does my heart sink when I'm asked it?


I put my reaction down to my upbringing. Mine was a solitary upbringing. I was an only child. No siblings. My only two cousins arrived on this planet years after I did and so there was no childhood connection there. My parents, struggling to establish themselves financially, both worked full time in part to finance the very expensive private school in which they had placed me. They could not afford to repay the invitations that other parents made for me to spend time with their children. As a result those invitations, few in number anyway, dried up after a while.

Apart from school time, mostly spent regimented and disciplined in the classroom, I spent very little social time with anyone remotely similar in age to me. I never really learnt the skill of playful, casual chit chat.

So, nowadays when someone asks me, 'what's new?' I am in a dilemma. OK, if it happens that I have just purchased a new apartment or I have just returned from an overseas holiday or I have just been diagnosed with a terminal condition then I do have something new to report. But what about those long strings of weeks, week after week after week, when none of those things nor nothing remotely similar has occurred? What do I say then?

Perhaps I could model myself on another friend whose every telephone conversation includes a detailed run down of what he has done that day. He doesn't even require me to ask the question. In that event, my every (weekday) response to the question would be as follows. I got up and I shaved and showered and dressed. I ate two Weet-bix and some prunes for breakfast, drank orange juice and took my daily medication and then I drove to work etc, etc, etc.

In effect; everything old, is new again.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Camp Cove

My parents and I spent many a summer weekend on this inner harbour beach more than fifty years ago. The distant CBD skyline would have been vastly different in those years. Indeed it is vastly different from this photo nowadays too. This photograph was taken on 28 December 2009 whilst showing visitors the sights of Sydney.

Camp Cove

Monday, 20 March 2017

City under glass

Under the glass floor of Sydney's Old Customs House is a miniature model of central business district. An attraction for young and old.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Repulse Bay (Hong Kong)

A photograph of Repulse Bay Beach taken from my apartment in Hong Kong sometime between 1977 and 1980.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Rain

We can enjoy splendid weather in Sydney but each year we can be guaranteed one or two wet spells that run for days. When that happens you wonder wether the sun will ever shine again. We're in one of those wet spells at the moment. Four days of rain so far with occasional very brief sunny moments and more rain forecast for the next four or so.

It is pelting down at the moment.

Raindrops keep falling.....

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A night at the festival

Some moments from Briefs: The Second Coming which we attended at the Sydney Festival earlier in the year.








Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Calamity Jane

(One Eyed Productions in association with Neglected Musicals and Hayes Theatre Company)
In the mining town of Deadwood City the tomboyish 'Calamity Jane' promises to persuade a famous star to travel from Chicago to perform for the miners at the local saloon. What ensues is a calamity of mistaken identities (deliberate and accidental) leading to the inevitable happy ending for three couples.

This musical derives from the 1953 Warner Brothers film of the same name which starred Doris Day as Calamity Jane and Howard Keel as her nemesis Wild Bill Hickok.

This Hayes Theatre presentation is brilliantly directed and performed. Cleverly involving the audience effectively as saloon patrons the musical is staged with great verve, humour and surprising freshness. A terrific example of how to bring new life to an old clunker.

✮✮✮✮

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Bleeding Tree

(Sydney Theatre Company)

In Angus Cerini's 'The Bleeding Tree' a mother and her daughters have just killed the violent abusive patriarch of the family. The location is remote and isolated and what community they have as neighbours is small and knowing.

The impact of the murder on the three women and on their neighbours is poetically narrated by the cast of three. Beautifully performed and, despite some gruesome subject matter, humorous at times.

✮✮✮1/2

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Logan


I'm going to be out of step with many people on this one. Despite what some close friends have described as my eccentrically eclectic taste in movies I haven't seen any of the previous Wolverine films.

Faced with the option of seeing 'Logan' or 'Kong: Skull Island' - having already seen all the other screenings at our favourite multiplex - we elected to see the former. 'Logan' had received the better reviews.

Perhaps the third option - see neither - would have been the best choice.

Logan (Hugh Jackman) is ageing and in declining health. He encounters a young 'she-wolverine'(?) and takes her into his care as he battles to reunite her with fellow 'junior wolverines'(?). Well, that is sort of the plot anyway. Technically it is all skilfully portrayed. Too skilful for my liking. The slick editing and sound design had me averting my eyes from the frequent decapitations and body guttering fights.

It was at least an hour too long for me. I don't know which hour, take your pick.

My relief at the film's eventual conclusion was tempered by the banality and complete irrelevance of the lyrics of the song performed over the end titles.

A thrill for the devotees apparently but count me out.

✮✮

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Mark Colvin's Kidney


(Belvoir Street Theatre)

Based on actual events, 'Mark Colvin's Kidney' tells what happens when Intellectual Property Manager Mary-Ellen Field is an unwitting victim of the News of the World phone hacking affair in Britain. Interviewed about her experience by Australian journalist Mark Colvin, Mrs Field subsequently engages in pen pal friendship with an ailing Mr Colvin leading eventually to her surprising decision to become his kidney donor.

The play relies in part on actual interview and social media transcripts and recordings. Surprisingly humorous and uplifting at times, the play also records a scandalous aspect of media practice.

✮✮✮1/2

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Alone in Berlin


A couple in Berlin receive news that their son has been killed in action. Grieving over their loss and angered by the lies they believe that the Nazi regime is inflicting on an unaware nation they take action in their own small way to combat the regime's propaganda by anonymously placing postcards with critical commentary in public places. A policeman is tasked with tracking down the perpetrators.

'Alone in Berlin' is a fictional work although it memorialises a German couple who was executed by the Nazi regime for activity portrayed in the film. Whilst the bulk of the cast, apart from the two leads is either German or European in origin, the dialogue is almost entirely in English.

Well acted. A rather sad film.

✮✮1/2

Monday, 6 March 2017

Chimerica


The opening scene of 'Chimerica' is set in Beijing in June 1989. An American photographer is observing events from his hotel room when he sees a man, shopping bags in hand, standing in the way of Army tanks proceeding to Tiananmen Square in response to demonstrations which have been embarrassing to the Chinese regime. Photographs of this actual event by an unknown, brave man made headlines around the world the time.

From this opening scene, 'Chimerica' time hops back and forwards between 1989 and 2012 when in the United States President Obama is standing for re-election. In this later time frame the photographer is attempting to determine what happened to that lone demonstrator and to track him down.

A cast of twelve actors, most playing multiple characters, combine with an ensemble of twenty theatre students from NIDA to deliver a memorable night of theatre. The staging, at once both simple and yet complex in its choreography, provides brilliant visual impact.

✮✮✮✮