Saturday, December 31, 2011

SHORT AND SWEET

Short and Sweet, Playhouse - Saturday 3 December

Short and Sweet was our final Inspirations for 2011. Basically it was 10 X 10 minute plays! What a fantastic night out. Mostly young performers, writers and directors with high energy and interesting subject matter. I like the two about young, nervy males trying to ask their more confidant co-workers out, they were funny and well acted. Another about what you thought was a nursing home, but ended up being a morgue used black humour and pathos enjoyably.

This is the second year for Short and Sweet, although my first viewing, I hope they do more next year. It is the perfect introduction to live theatre and engaging...if you didn't like something, it would not be long until something else came on stage...great premise. Although some were not as great as others, I thought they were all worth watching.

STEVIE NICKS

Stevie Nicks (with Dave Stewart), Newcastle Entertainment Centre - Wednesday 30 November

I adore Stevie, my father being a huge Fleetwood Mac fan, I grew up with their music and was fixated with her, from a very young age, 6 or so I suppose. When you love someone and their music so much, they become almost untouchable and seeing them live is almost impossible as they will never live up to the hype...it's easier to just listen to their music from the comfort of your home. This is how I feel about Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, I have never bothered to see them and also am not a fan of Newcastle Entertainment Centre (The Shed!). And let's face it, Stevie has shoved so much Coke up her nose, she should not be able to sing. So I am unsure what possessed me to go to this, but luckily I am beside myself with excitement about it...still...

Dave Stewart was the support act, he had collaborated with her and produced her new album, which I have and love. We arrived as he started, and he was good. Better than I thought, not a great singer, but he had that rock n roll presence which made up for his voice. He also had a cracking band and amazing back up singers. One divine sister gave us some stunning renditions of some Eurythmics' songs.

Then after a short break it began... her entrance was pure rock arrival! Lights shining, band playing, audience pulsating with anticipation. Stand Back was playing and she rose in the centre of the stage, backlit beautifully, and began to sing. At that moment I breathed a sigh of relief, not only did she sound good, she was pure entertainment in the best possible way.

The set was amazing, although she did tell us it would be. What I loved more than the music, was she liked to talk in between songs, and talk the right kind of talk. I have been to lots of concerts and some performers just don't get the banter right, in fact not many can do it at all. And that's ok, you are there for the music, however, when someone gets it right is adds a something altogether different to the show and pushes it into a whole other dimension...this is what Stevie Nicks did!

So, after Stand Back, she spoke, she was thrilled to be here and singing her songs, especially those on her new album. She explained it would not be a greatest hits tour, almost a warning, for those only wanting hits (eg not real fans...yeah I know, I get snobby about this kinda stuff!) I took this to mean she would do a lot from her new album and was happy with that, it's a great album. She then said she had mixed together a good set, that she was good at that making songs fit and mix...at first I thought it was a little cocky, but she was bloody right...it was a perfect set. There were a lot of songs I would have loved to hear, but I think she picked what works best for her and her voice at this time in her life...which by the way is 64!!!!! That also is fine by me, nothing worse than hearing a favourite butcher their own songs!

So the set list is as follows:

Stand back
Secret love
Dreams
Moonlight
Gold dust woman
Soldier's angel
Annabel Lee
For what its worth
Rhiannon
Landslide
Ghosts are gone
Leather and lace
Encore: Edge of 17
Love is

Basically a hit and then a new song and so on. She explained each song as if a mother releasing one of her children out to strangers, why she wrote it, what it meant to her and so on...touching, stunning, loving stories...a true performer. She is rather eccentric and witchy of course, and that is part of the charm.

She looked good and had 3 costume changes, the lighting was perfect and the set/back videos amazing. It all just worked so well. And then there was the band, and what a band, they were tight and fabulous! They had all performed with her for years. Her guitarist since she was 17!!! The back up singers the same two girls I used to admire on her record covers as a teen - wishing I was one of them. The 'newer' members had performed with her since the early 90s. To me this is a sign of a decent person, you just do not hang around with someone for that long if they are awful, especially in the music industry. She had this charm and honesty that struck a chord with me, and I imagine the audience. She loved what she was doing, she loved those doing it with her, loved those who helped her along the way, and loved us for coming to listen to her.

She said she thought she would never release another album, and that she would live out her existence doing the odd tour with Fleetwood Mac whenever Mick called her up and invited her. She also said felt she was irrelevant today in the music industry and would never write again, but she did and with the help of Dave Stewart - if you have not heard her new album and love her mid 80s solo stuff give it a listen it is excellent. I am so glad she did and that I went.

I know I am writing more about her and what she said than the music...I will get to that. But it was what struck me the most - her performance and that does not just include the singing. Not all musicians are great performers - well they might perform their music well, but something personal is often missing, some only let it out every so often. But Stevie had this duel role going - She sung and performed her music professionally and beautifully, as if she was at the top of her game, not a dud note, not a missed step...perfection AND she gave us her soul, she was humble...to do one or the other is great, but to combine the two seamlessly as she did was utter brilliance. And she meant every thing she said, every note she sung...I guessed this was not a one night thing either.

About 2 weeks after the show I caught an interview she did for Art Nation and she talked about performing and who she was influenced by. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin! She said Janis was the perfect performer, big attitude, sure of herself, really went for it on stage. Yet Jimi had no attitude, was totally humble and surrounded by humility. She tried to have a combination of the two, but it had to come from within her - that is exactly what I have been clumsily trying to explain!

Stevie sung more Fleetwood Mac songs than her solo stuff, and that is ok. She sung ballads perfectly and rocked out the big ones. She was at one with her band, and they took over from her for the 2 short periods she left the stage to change costumes. An amazing pianist and funky percussionist each took turns and they were entertaining as well. Landslide (possibly covered to death of late!) and Love is were simple, haunting and beautiful. Edge of 17 rocked, even though it is probably my least favourite song - again been done to death in recent years. She spoke about writing with Lindsay and I got the feeling she has never gotten over him, it sounded bittersweet. She also spoke with love about her 'sister' Christine, that made me smile - you want to know they are still friends after all this time.

My highlights were Gold Dust Woman and Leather and Lace. After a lengthy introduction, with amazing gold leaf styled dust falling on the screen at the back of her set, she arrived back on stage dressed in Red. Gold Dust Woman is a favourite and it was gobsmackingly good, gave me goosbumps. Later she talked about a duet she had not sung that much, cause she cannot drag Don Henley around with her, but her vocal coach had a great voice and he had been doing Don's part...I think I actually squealed (and I know I shed a tear), as she sung Leather and Lace - my vinyl copy had to be replaced I played it so much as a kid...yeah a bit sappy, but I dunno, there was something fabulous about hearing her sing it that night, many (many!!) years later.

We left on a high that night, a month later I still cannot believe how lucky I was...lucky to go and lucky that she was that good...although that would appear not to be luck at all...just lots of hard work and a good heart from an amazing woman.

I did take some pictures, we had great seats, but they are from my phone, so not so great...but still a reminder of this gorgeous Bella Donna.

Dave Stewart

Stevie in red - great backdrop

Gold Dust Woman

Stevie in white 
 

SPICKS AND SPECK-TACULAR

Spicks and Speck-tacular, Newcastle Entertainment Centre - Friday 25 November

This was my second Spicks and Speck-tacular and was far better than the first. I do love the show, but will admit I will always pick RockWiz over it, maybe because I do so much better on the questions there! I adore Adam, Allan and Myf - they make the show and feel like they are part of your family. The first time the show lacked the comedy and skills of the guests, and they pulled people out of the audience instead and it simply did not work. This time they did the same thing, but upped the ante by making the questions to retrieve audience members hard (I only got the Billie Holiday one!), this made for better audience participation, as they got genuine music lovers, not idiots!

They started with a mash up of Single Ladies (Myf), You're the Voice (Adam) and Top Hat (Allan), and it worked in a weird comedic way. I was more than impressed by Allan's tap dancing moves! Adam did a bit of a stand up bit, pulling some poor sod out the audience and got them to do a James Brown routine...the dude had no idea who James Brown was - what the hell was he doing there? They then moved into getting audience members for guests on stage, this worked well and was funny and clever. They used many of the segments from the show and a few extras. The backing band was tight and showed their excellence when they played songs in an unrecognisable style. I still cannot believe how long it took for The Ship Song to be realised, I got that one immediately (but that would have been my RockWiz training!).

We had a great time and felt sad when it all finished, an end of an era, but as they say it will live on due to repeats on ABC2. Many thanks to Mary and Peter for taking me as a belated birthday present, I had a ball!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

PICASSO

Picasso: masterpieces from The Musee National Picasso Paris, Art Gallery NSW
Thursday 24 November 2011

I cannot say I am a huge fan of Picasso's Art, however I adore the Weeping Woman in the NGV in Melbourne, and appreciate his body of work. I love the main period he worked in, and the movement in Paris in the 20s, and the other artists he surrounded himself with. One of my favourite perfumes is by his daughter Paloma, and there is something about his mystique (despite his misogynous ways!). And how could anyone how loves Art not go and see this exhibition, even if you do not normally see Art, I suggest you make the trip to the outstanding Art Gallery of NSW and see this!

The exhibition was set out into 10 rooms, each featuring a different period or style of work, and this is what impressed me the most. I knew he was prolific and knew he painted in many different styles, but until I saw them room after room after room, I had not realised how impressive his output really was. By the time I got halfway through, I was overwhelmed and had to sit down. I admit this is not the first time I have been moved by the enormity of art, it is hard to explain, but I do get a little overwrought...

I loved the simplicity of examples from his blue and rose periods, simple drawings, dusty tones and lots of pale hues of blue and pink (of course), then there were paintings that were obviously inspired by Gauguin and African Art, and included some wood carvings...very unexpected. Cubism and a lot of collages followed, but he was still in the early stages. I could see some impressionism within some of these paintings, possibly more post impressionism, that surprised me. Apparently he was influenced by Cezanne, and it was obvious when you look at examples from this section of his life. The next period (early 20s) produced classic style painting, and again I was surprised to see art that reflected Renoir. There were a lot of portraits during this period and also Oceanic style sculptures.

The main section was his surrealist paintings, still bearing Cubism within their form, but with bright colours, these paintings (and some sculptures in bronze) were where I became overwhelmed. I particularly loved his bronze sculptures and had no idea he had done such work, they were clean and beautiful and sexual and soft. The price of entry was worth it for this room alone! The next few rooms had paintings and some sculptures that seemed to combine all of his previous styles in one, with themes of love and war, the period covered the mid 30s until 1951. After that the final rooms were from later in life, reflective and mostly duller (in colour) versions of Cubism. My favourite pieces in this section were a set of Sculptures of "bathers" from The Mediterranean, made from found objects - I was very drawn to them.

I encourage everyone to go and see this amazing exhibit and am grateful for The Art Gallery of NSW for being able to let us look at such wonderful pieces of Art by an amazing Artist.


EDDIE IZZARD

Eddie Izzard: Stripped, State Theatre
Monday 21 November

I have always enjoyed Eddie Izzard on television and in film (he has a part in Shadow of Vampire by coincidence!), and knew a little of his standup, but this was my first proper experience of it and I was not disappointed. I also love The State Theatre as a venue, it's opulence and mix of gothic and deco (both my favourite styles of architecture) always leave me breathless. But back to Eddie...

The theme of the night was the History of Civilisation in just over 2 hours...well, Eddie's take on it. It was very clever and very funny, and I know I can do absolutely no justice by trying to describe it. However, he would go off on tangents, that at the time did not make sense, until he did full circle and tied it all up - always a sign of a great comedian. A few bits fell short, he knew it immediately and tried to make amends, which made it a bit more noticeable, he needn't have done that and it was only now and then, nothing to ruin proceedings. His lovely English articulation and pronunciation of some words left me very amused and his take on religion and God left me in tears from laughter. How he remember half of the things he said is beyond me, I was impressed.

NEWCASTLE SILENT FILM FESTIVAL

Newcastle Silent Film Festival, Tower Cinemas
Sunday 13 November

I love silent film and particularly love Chaplin, there was some Chaplin on the previous day with Keaton's The General (which I have seen on numerous occasions), but had plans, so Sunday had to do!

The first session of the day was dedicated to Harold Lloyd, I had seen clips over the years and read a little about this classic silent film star, but had never seen anything by him. There were 2 films on the session, the first being a short called Grandma's Boy. The premise was Lloyd wanting to woo the girl of his dreams, but is constantly thwarted by his nemesis. He is ready to give up when his Grandma gives him a magical charm that had belonged to his grandpa, and the charm gives Lloyd the courage to fight for and win his girl. Very simple and very sweet, but lovely to see.

The second film was longer and called Haunted Spooks, and was a comedy of errors about a group pretending to haunt a house that a young girl had inherited, with the hope of ousting the girl from the house. Some lovely slapstick moments, but lagged a little in parts. The production, direction and editing of both stand up after all this time, it was a genuine pleasure to view such brilliance.

The second session was the classic German film, Nosferatu, by FW Murnau. I have seen Nosferatu before, but never on the big screen. Nosfertu, whilst not the first vampire film, is the first based (albeit loosely) on Stoker's Dracula. It is a creepy, haunting film, that set the standard for all vampire films that came after, including the classic sleeping in the coffin scenes. There were moment of humour, possibly not intentional when originally filmed in 1922, but still made you smile. Max Schreck is particularly creepy in the lead role. This was indeed an honour to see. I read afterwards that Stoker's widow actually sued the production company that made this (their only film) and they went bankrupt because of it, and courts ordered every copy to be destroyed! Luckily, they had already been distributed overseas and copies were saved.

There was a film made in 2000 called Shadow of a Vampire that is worth checking out, John Malkovich stars as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Schreck. The movie is about the making of Nosferatu, and the fictional (or is it true!?!) premise is that Schreck is either an actual vampire or takes method acting to new heights and becomes one during the filming! Murnau becomes aware of this and encourages him as it adds additional gravitas to the film. Equally as creepy, with additional black humour, this is a great film and an interesting companion piece.

Finally, I must add that both sessions were wonderfully accompanied by Greg Smith, who kept up brilliantly with pace and plot. An additional creepiness was added to Nosferatu, by looking over to his spot on the left hand side of the stage and seeing his shadow loom large on the left wall as he accompanied the film!

AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER ENTERTAINMENT

Jersey Boys, Theatre Royal
3 August 2011

 
I took Mum to the matinee session of Jersey Boys on a Kings Bus Trip - been years since I did a bus trip, but being a rainy overcast day was glad we did.

Brought up on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I was eager to see the show I first heard about in The Sopranos...almost a decade earlier!

The show was well put together and the music outstanding. I thought the story was well done, but dragged in parts. Maybe the music was so good, those in between story bits didn't stand much of a chance. I was surprised to find out that Joe Pesci had been instrumental in the groups formation and was the producer of the original Broadway show.

But, really it was the music that made this great - all those songs you knew and some you had forgotten. Highlights included the trio of back to back hits, Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like a Man; the melancholy My Eyes Adored You and Dawn; the doubling of Stay and Let's Hang On; and the fabulous Bye Bye Baby (which I knew they recorded but loved the Bay City Rollers version as a kid!).

However my personal highlights were Who Loves You (which ends the show) and in my opinion, their masterpiece, Can't Take My Eyes Off You. The build up to the later was stunning and the highlight of the show, to think it was almost never released! Both were arranged perfectly with a fantastic brass section - gave you shivers down your spine and possibly a tear in your eye! And most importantly, Mum had a blast.


Rainbows End, Civic Theatre
4 August 2011

 
This was a brilliant play featuring Aboriginal actresses of three generations, all were outstanding. Christine Anu played the main character, living with her mother and daughter in a shanty in northern Victoria in the 1950s. The film dealt with serious issues such as literacy, housing, equality, racism and sexism, yet it was never heavy handed, you understood the situation without feeling forced. The story was infused with humour and humility, which gave greater resonance to the situation suffered by these strong, heroic women. The play was uplifting and a delight with a stand out performance by the grandmother.


Don Quixote, Civic Theatre
9 August 2011

 
This stunning production of Don Quixote was by The Dancers Company from The Australian Ballet. Immediately you knew this was going to be special, the dancing was simply the most impressive I have seen in a traditional ballet. The story and music were simple and haunting, they let the dancing take full centre and impress.

There was fluidity in the movement that brought a chill up my spine, I had great seats, close enough to the stage to see detail, but back enough to take in it's scope. There was a beautiful section, where the ballerinas in traditional tutus exquisitely adorned with pearls and other 'gems', and as they danced in precision, the pearls 'popped' with their movement, you could hear them softly pop, pop, pop... This was a thrilling highlight to the Inspirations subscription.


Grease, Civic Theatre
27 August 2011

 
As always The Metropolitan Players tackled their subject with great spirit and strong will. I found this production hit and miss. I was concerned about their choice of leads, Sandy never quite cut it and her voice was too strong for a part that required fragility and insecurity. Danny appeared weak, although he did look the part, but when he began to sing Summer Nights, he embodied the cheekiness and strength of Travolta, however he did not seem able to be consistent as the night continued, some songs were great, others weak.

The supporting case were great, with the exception of Kenickie, who gave a rather lackluster performance of Greased Lightning. The set was good and the back up great, but he was missing something, there was no spirit. In the bigger numbers I felt there needed to be a better utilisation of space, the stage seemed almost empty and whilst the set was great, again it seemed to lack something.

I sound highly critical, but I performed in this production at school, and whilst I am sure our production was nowhere near as good as this, I felt some of the things that stuck out could have been overcome. Filling the stage, some costumes, placement of dancing and chorus - these are all simple things a sharp eye should be able to resolve. Poor choices in leads and the bigger numbers lacking charisma are a shame, however smaller moments worked very well, Patti Simcox, the overachieving cheerleader was outstanding, as were Marty and Rizzo. We still had fun watching this old favourite.


Mozart and Brahms, City Hall
2 September 2011

 
I had never been to City Hall for an event, so I was excited to be in that beautiful old building. Sydney Symphony were superb, they began with Italian Serenade by Hugo Wolf. I had not heard of him, but he was a contemporary of Brahms, the short piece fitted in well and was a lovely start to the evening. The orchestra went into Serenade No. 2 in A, Op. 16 by Johannes Brahms. It was lovely to watch and even better to listen to, such a calming way to end the week. I closed my eyes and was transported into tranquility.

After a short intermission, we were introduced to pianist, Geoffrey Lancaster, who led Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K503. He played rather flamboyantly with over the top flourishes that suited the piece and amused me greatly. At the end of the first movement, no one clapped, and he turned and gestured to us to clap, he spoke and said it was ok to do so!!! This I had never encountered at any recital, and everyone laughed, he was hilarious! At the end of the second movement, we were not so slow to clap, and he turned and clapped us for clapping! He was on a roll now and we were in for a treat indeed. The orchestra, seemed amused, if not a little shocked. He was stupendous in his playing, the orchestra rose to his brilliance and a standing ovation went on until he finally left the stage.

When he returned, he practically ran out shaking an orange music book, like a little child who found the last cookie in the cookie jar! He said he felt like playing more, I cannot remember what the piece was, but it was a jaunty, cheeky piece and the orchestra sat and enjoyed his playing with the audience. He was loving every minute of it...the audience was a range of ages, but there were many children and all I could think was what a great introduction to classical music...for anyone really, but especially the children. I was transfixed and practically danced back to my car.






Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 and New York Tribute


"New York was his town. And it always would be..."

A favourite quote from one of my favourite movies, Manhattan. I had wanted to visit New York for a long time and finally in 2001 I made it happen.

I was newly single, taking a break from my study, and eager to head on an adventure. It seems so long ago, yet I remember it like yesterday.

It was a city I had grown to know through popular culture, television, song and film. An Affair to Remember, Ghostbusters, Midnight Cowboy, The Way We Were, King Kong, Moonstruck, Do the Right Thing, The Fisher King, When Harry Met Sally, Green Card, On the Town, Breakfast at Tiffany's. I remember loving Top Cat and That girl as a kid. And Seinfeld and Sex and the City as an adult. But mostly I knew New York from Woody Allen movies, I lurve his films, and Manhattan was a love letter to a city I just had to visit.

I still remember the sheer joy (and utter exhaustion after that long, long flight) of leaving JFK International Airport on that first balmy evening, being driven into the city with that famous Manhattan skyline lit up as I had only seen in the movies, the Chrysler Building shining like a beacon, welcoming me and I was overcome, weeping silently.

I was staying on West 50th Street, just down from Radio City Music Hall, the area blew my mind. It was late and I tried to sleep, but the buzz of the city soon soothed me. I operated on that buzz and sheer exhilaration for the next week - just me and the city, no tours, just a long list of things to do and see. I had spent time ensuring I knew where to go and what to see, and this let me wander around this wonderful city, rarely needing to consult a map. I had never felt at home anywhere like I did there. It was like I had come home.

Within days I was being asked directions by tourists, who assumed I actually lived there. Oh, how I wished! I explored all parts of the city, Central Park, Upper West and East sides, Broadway, Times Square at night, Riverside Park, Midtown, Greenwich Village, Financial districts and on and on. I spent more time in museums and galleries than I had in my entire life and my love of deco architecture was met at every turn, lobbies, buildings, diners...I felt like Cary Grant would pop out and take me out for a dance. I even ventured to Washington Heights, Harlem and used the subway.

I visited the Statue of Liberty, toured 30 Rock, and had my camera die on the top of the Empire State Building - being three of the more beautiful tall structures on the island. But of course, there was another tall structure, two in fact, The World Trade Centre. Not too much of a fan of heights, I was unsure I needed to visit them, but their entrance fee was part of a envelope of tickets I had purchased and it would be a waste of money not to use it! I was not keen on their architecture, too post modern, too steely, too sleek against the other warmer styles in the city.

I'll be honest - they scared me.

Yet, I lined up for some time and took the elevators to the 107th floor. My diary does say it was a long wait but worth it, this I remember. The view was spectacular, although some of it difficult with some areas thick with smog. I was not comfortable, and I remember thinking how on earth do the people that work in this building do it every day, especially so high. I supposed to myself that they got used to it.

I was home barely a fortnight when they came crashing to the ground.

That night is forever etched in my memory.

I was still on Annual Leave, and sitting at my dining table, placing photographs of my trip in my album, Channel 10 news on in the distance...background noise really.

I heard Sandra Sully mention New York, looked up and adjusted the volume, she was talking about a plane hitting the WTC. Now, a jaded New Yorker, I thought to myself, probably a helicopter or small plane made a wrong turn, awful, but you know - in a city like that with air traffic I had seen, it was bound to happen. The phone rang, it was my sister Amanda, we talked and watched, I told her my thoughts, and then paused with complete horror as we watched the second plane hit, my stomach turned and I knew this was going to be a long night.

I stayed on the phone with my sister a bit more, watching than talking, 'shit' seemed to be the word de jour. I finally hung up and not long after the phone rang again. My parents, holidaying in Qld, rang to see I was ok. I was nonchalant, "Yeah, I am home remember", I could hear the worry in their voices, they were like thank god you were home, a month earlier and it could have been you.

Shock, weird as it seemed, sunk in, I felt like I had been damaged, what had happened to my city. 

I spoke to friends, my sister again and we realised we had not heard from our other sister, I rang Karen and woke her, she had no idea what had happened, being asleep for ages, she was dazed, confused, and a little cranky at me for waking her. I just sat, with photos all round me, watching the television as the horror unraveled into the early hours of the morning. When I finally fell asleep I dreamt of snipers in the tree outside my window, it was an uneasy sleep.

I was meant to be heading to Sydney on a shopping trip with a friend the next day...that day. Surely we wouldn't go, I should have known better, this friend was a shopaholic, and nothing was stopping that. I was weary, upset, and unnerved travelling to Sydney, we got to that part of the trip where you start to see the high rises, the bridge and often a plane heading in or out of Kingsford Smith, the sight of a plane made me shudder. My friend, target at hand, was in stealth shopping mode, I was pure rattled. We shopped, but I was not taking anything in, I just wanted to sit down. We ended up at The Rocks forecourt for lunch, a plane flew over, the entire area of lunching Sydneysiders ducked and gasped - it truly was surreal.

I was pleased to return to the safety of my home and an answering machine full of messages, some from people unsure if I was even home from my trip, others just wanting to say hello and ask how I felt. It was a strange thing, I had not been there during the event, was not hurt, nor did I know anyone who was even connected, yet I felt injured by proxy, wounded by my memories. It's funny how knowledge of a place, so firmly and newly cemented in ones mind can alter your perception.

I took me weeks, months to sleep better, was never a great sleeper anyway. I talked about my trip, my experience, my city. I could visualise inside that building, the concourse shopping centre underneath, I had gotten lost, I came in one entrance, wandered about for a bit, and ended up snaking down a level or so and came out somewhere altogether different, I remember feeling short of breathe and feeling lost. More levels underneath were trains, imagine being under there on that day, I am hoping due to the time and shops not being open there would not have been as many people as the day I was there, however I knew there were many food outlets, and people would have been grabbing a coffee on their way into work....even today thinking about that, my heart almost stops. If you have seen the Nicolas Cage film, World Trade Center, there are scenes that show this area early on in the film.

I read all the stories, the near misses, the destiny, the death, destruction and horror of it all. There are no words to describe any of that pain. I believe there are still so many unanswered questions and I am not going to get political here, suffice to say I marched against sending troops to war. I support their personal efforts and realise they are doing their job, however I do not believe retaliation ever fixes any situation. Revenge is short lived, the pain returns.

I have no idea how Americans and those in New York must have been feeling, but going on how I felt, it must have been awful.

In that dazed week that followed, it was David Letterman (of all people! I do adore Dave, but this made me love him to pieces!!!) who pretty much summed it up.

Click below if you are interested...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As6fZtz5oC4

The following night he had Jewel on singing Hands, one of my favourite songs, not one of her best performances in hindsight, but the night it played I was in tears. It was a shaken performance at a terrible time. The fragility of it all, coming through via her voice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqdDeesH3HA&feature=related

Today I still feel sad that this happened - I have no other words except I am glad I visited the city prior to these events, albeit incredibly close to them.

And as always I hope to return to New York one day soon...

I will leave you with some photos of my trip and a final link to some amazing articles, gathered and indexed by The New York Magazine...




Imagine Mosaic in Central Park



Statue of Liberty



View of Manhattan and WTC from Liberty Island



Odd angle of WTC against old buildings from Battery Park



View from 107th floor of Municpal Building and surrounds



 View from one tower to another



Flatiron Building



Chryslar Building



New York Public Library




Williamsburg Bridge
One of the famous shots from Manhattan I was trying to recreate!
Imagine Diane Keaton and Woody Allen sitting on a parkbench


 
OK, here's the original


Ticket stub saved from visiting WTC





Friday, June 24, 2011

Untrained

Untrained was a comedy/drama/dance at the Playhouse in early June. Featuring 4 men, it was about 2 trained and extraordinary dancers training 2 ordinary blokes. The storyline was simple although some revelations about each character were found as the piece progressed. The dancing/moves were a delight with the 2 trained men really showing their flexibility and technique and the other pair trying their hardest to keep up - this created pathos and hilarity. I laughed so much I thought I would explode - we watched them mimic cats being electrified, hop hop, ballet and all sorts of genuine and nutty moves which became more complex as the piece continued. It is an odd thing to describe, avant garde I suppose, but fun nonetheless.

The Bar at Buena Vista

I saw The Buena Vista Social Club 3 times when it was released - yep, I really loved the movie. I don't know how many times I have seen it since, a lot, but not for a few years. I have all the CDs too, but never seen any of the touring shows - unsure why, but I was privileged to experience the latest incarnation on the first Wednesday in June.

I was not sure what to expect, but it exceeded my wildest imaginings. Kitty, Peter and I had fabulous seats close to the stage (but not too close!). It was an exuberant night with a quality mix of music, dancing, singing and stories. The band were tight, and the backbone to the evening, without which there would be nothing. There was a bar and I suspect most of the drinks real and ready - a lot of rum seemed to be gurgled back. Some participants sat at tables drinking and enjoying the rest of the entertainment on the stage with us in the seats. And then there were the cigars...I loathe smoking, anyone that knows me knows this, however I will admit a fetish for cigars! Whilst I have not enjoyed a cigar for many, many years I still recall that musty smell and being as close to the stage as we were, I soaked that divine smell up and was transported back to a time and place long forgotten...much like The Bar at Buena Vista itself.

Back to the singing - yes, it was marvelous. All of the original singers that starred in the movie has since passed, but the evening was not short on elderly talents. The eldest was 94 and when he shuffled out I felt a little concerned, but I should not have been, he had the richest timbre in his voice I have ever heard, he was in short amazing and even shaked it a little like Elvis! There was the 77 year old dancer - again amazing and many other singers and dancers - most ranged from young through I would imagine all decades - all had their own style and all were remarkable in talent and personality. There was an emcee that kept things rolling and he interpreted for some of the older singers and helped them tell their stories - bawdy, funny and touching stories of how music and the bar itself changed their lives. It was apparent without being told - the life in the more elderly singers and dancers showed us more than words ever would. There was a standout dancer, not as old as the singers, but I think in his 40s, and he was remarkable - he danced with such ferocity and style, it looked like he was gliding on stage - his partner was fantastic too, much younger, she looked exhausted, but he kept going and going!!

In all, this was one of those nights out that lift you out of your current state of mind (no matter how up or happy you might have been to start with) and take it to a whole other level - I floated out and wanted to dance and go to Cuba and be with these wonderful people, much like I felt all those years ago when I first saw the film. I will be back to see them when they next tour, and I suggest you do too! I defy anyone to attend The Bar at Buena Vista and not enjoy it.

Dave Graney at Maitland Art Gallery




The evening Graney was scheduled was wild - nasty winds and flogging rain, I almost did not go! But at the time I was about to leave it subsided enough for me to head out, I am pleased I did. This was another of the Look Who's Talking series from Maitland City Library. Dave Graney - a sublime lyricist and underground musician - was there to talk about his book, 1001 Australian Nights. I had purchased the book about a month earlier, and had only picked it up days earlier when I heard about the evening. I was only 1/3 of a way through it but was enjoying it thoroughly, I could have rush read it for the evening, but it is the kind of book you want to savour, take in the prose and think about what he is writing about - the last book I felt that way about was Patti Smith's Just Kids - he is in good company.

I arrived at the gallery with a few minutes to spare, time to grab a wine and find a spot. As I made my way to the bar, I spotted Dave with his partner, Clare Moore, chatting to someone in the small crowd that had gathered. I was impressed, a regular guy, interested in those around him (as I had garnered from what I had read of his book so far). He saw me and smiled, I was one of two people wearing a beret in the crowd! I was wearing my Emerald vintage Kangol (purchased from Shag, a favourite vintage store in Chapel Street, Prahran), the other person was Dave himself - in a cap-like beret, cream with red detail. Maybe he is just a friendly dude and he happened to catch my eye as I dashed for a wine, or maybe he liked my beret - I'll never know, but it was a cool moment.

I could have sat with some of the Maitland Librarians - but they were at table at the very front of the room ( a cafe within the Gallery). I much prefer the back to the right (I'm a creature of habit if nothing else!), so found a chair and sat down, Clare took the spare chair next to me. I felt a bit excited, but did not want to act uncool - that would be so un-Dave! She seemed excited and nervous for Dave, I found that heartwarming.

Dave read passages from his book - starting with the introduction which details him having a serious medical condition in Paris. It is a shocking start to the book and the program, however Dave reads it (much like I imagined when I had read it a few days earlier) with self-deprecating humour. I won't divulge any more - you should get the book and find out yourself! In between passages he added anecdotes and other asides, his humour was sharp and dry, and he was very Melbourne in his counter culture which I loved. I laughed a lot, as did Clare, sometimes the crowd did not laugh as much as we did, we shared conspiratorial glances. At times he seemed unsure of himself or even a little fragile in the sharing of these tales, this was unexpected but lovely to see. At times I could feel Clare sharing his fragility. These were real people, not superstars, sharing parts of their lives.

Dave told a funny story about another night in he had played in Maitland, as you can imagine he had some challenging people in the audience, including a football team, he tread carefully, which made it funnier. Clare was genuinely worried for him. The story went down well, they should not have been worried. After an hour he finished up and asked if anyone had any questions, at first there was an awkward silence around the room. But someone rattled off a question, realised Dave was kind (his persona can sometimes be seen as sneeringly, but he really did not come across that way at all) and the questions (some good, some not so good) flowed for another 30 minutes.

He then joined a local bookseller and people lined up to purchase books and CDs, and have him sign them, he seemed shy about all of this. Meanwhile I chatted to Clare, a stunningly beautiful woman, but a normal person. They drive from town to town themselves, lug their own equipment, organise where they stay etc etc. All very normal and very non rock'n'roll. We chatted about the Maitland Gaol, they had played a gig there a little while ago, and she seemed a little unstuck by that, I concurred. We also talked generally about this tour, where they were headed next, and the new addition of nights like these, which break up the music part of it, it was taking a toll a bit on Dave's voice. It was nice to chat to someone about the kind of thing I would normally love to chat to someone about after such an evening and have it be someone part of it - if you know what I mean! I took my book for Dave to sign (to Cathy, Best Wishes, Dave Graney), he seemed impressed I brought my own copy. We had minimal chitchat, and he posed shyly for a photo. I said goodbye to Clare and finally let my geeky fan-ness out by telling her I loved her theme tune (I really do!!) to Tony Martin's A Quiet Word With. She could have just said thanks, but she told me Tony liked to work with her, they both shared the same quirky sensibilities and he was very easy going to work with which she also liked. Brilliant!

As I left the gallery, it was still raining, but with thunder threatening much worse, I drove home happily, and the storm continued once I was safe inside. It was like something knew I needed to head out to partake in such a perfect evening - the kind that feeds my soul and puts a smile on my face.

Statespeare

I had the extreme pleasure of seeing this fantastic play one wet Saturday afternoon at the end of May. Statespeare starred four young actors from the Shake and Stir Theatre Company, I had not heard of them, but believe me, I will be keeping my eye out for them.

The play started with 2 actors in full bodysuits doing interpretive dance! Then a clich├ęd, odd drama teacher appears and addresses the audience as her class. She thanks the 'students' in the bodysuits for their interpretation of Justin Bieber (the wild years, or something like similar, I cannot recall!) She continues to address the class as the 2 'students' return dressed in school uniform - you immediately see they are class A geeks! The teacher then explains the subject matter for their next assignment: "Is Shakespeare still relevant?"

The geeks are very excited, but the excitement is short-lived when they realise they will partner up with 2 other students...2 students who are less than impressed with the assignment, school and everything else! They are D grade punks - the hair, tattoos, language and attitude. The interaction between the 4 is remarkable - funny, intense, touching and raw.

The play then takes you on their journey exploring various scenes (great scenes at that) from many, many plays from Shakespeare and in between they argue about what is or is not relevant. Most of the scenes are played out in Shakespeare's original language and done very well at that. Their discussions in between entertaining and engaging.

Statespeare is a wild ride - energetic, dramatic, hilarious and very well executed. The geeky girl channeled Tracey Flick from Election to perfection (possibly because she looked exactly like Witherspoon in that role!) and the un-geeky dude was the stand out performer - which showed how wonderful he really was as they were all brilliant. Add to that the great concept, witty script, Shakespeare's words and language, and stunning lighting and soundtrack - you can see why we left the Playhouse grinning ear to ear. Bravo!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Film Society 2010

As I get ready to begin Film Society 2011, I thought I would do some brief reviews on last years program. I did not attend all of the films.

The Great Dictator - I was on hols, so missed seeing this Chaplin classic on the big screen, very upset about this, however I have seen it many times - Chaplin at his best!
There will be blood - I had already seen this, it is a long movie with some very fine acting from Daniel Day Lewis, but one viewing was enough for me, so no repeat performances.
Heartland Reggae - Cult film about rastafarians and based around some live performances in Jamaica in the late 70s starring Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. It was fabulous, the music energetic, and seeing Bob at his peak was something to behold. The documentary itself was very raw and would have been edited far more slickly today, but it was the late 70s and that made it all the more an experience...also a LOT of large spliffs :)
The Combination - a Lebanese/Australian film, set in Western Sydney, about a young lebanese boy who falls in love with a white girl. Shocking in it's violence, yet touching in it's heart.
Gomorrah - I am still yet to see this Italian film which won the Grand Prix prize at Cannes.
Adventureland- laconic American indie set in an amusement park, starring Jesse Eisenberg.
Black Ice - I had already seen this the previous year at the travelling Film festival - an excellent thriller from Finland - set against the snow and ice (so very white) and amongst some amazing architecture, the male lead is an architect. The older female realises her husband is having an affair with a younger women and go to great lengths for revenge!
Quiet Chaos - missed this Italian film also.
The Class - also this French one.
$9.99 - this was an amazing animated Australian film that dealt with the meaning of life and why we are here. Dave, who lives with his dad, purchases a booklet proclaiming to answer those very questions for $9.99, spiritualism and humour ensue.
Air Guitar Nation - I have my own copy of this and still have not seen it, I imagine hilarious!
Noodle - missed this Israeli one
The September Issue - Stunning behind the scenes look at creating the September issue of Vogue. Anna Wintour is sharp and icy - everything shown by the Devil wears Prada and more! My favourite scenes were with Grace Coddington, a former model, the fashion editor and probably the only person who stands up to Anna. Formidable!
Katyn - missed this Polish film.
Tank Girl - saw this sci fi years ago, was ok, did not feel like a repeat viewing
The Leopard - OMG, this was overblown, long, and melodramatic, a 'classic' film based on a classic book, set in the 1860s and 3 hours long. It was set to the backdrop of a Sicilian War, I fell asleep in the middle ...oops!
I missed a huge chunk of films during August and much of September due to holidays and other commitments.
Moon - this was just stunning, the debut film from Duncan Jones - son of David Bowie. Sam (Sam Rockwell) is on the moon accompanied by a robot (voiced by Kevin Spacey), but after an incident begins to see differing versions of himself - what is happening? Simply, but beautifully shot, some great sci-fi twists. I love this film!!!
My year without sex - outstanding Australian film starring Sasha Horler (always brilliant) and Matt Day as her long suffering husband, highly recommend.
Wake in Fright - I had never seen this and was really disturbed by this. It is billed as a horror film, but not really in the true sense of horror. It really is hard to describe and if you have seen it you will know what I mean. A city man, who had been teaching in a small outback town, gets stranded in a larger - yet still small - outback town on his way back home to Sydney for his holidays. Gambling, drinking, gross behaviour including rape and kangaroo shooting amongst much more happen during his time stuck there. I felt physically sick during a lot of this film.
The Passenger - Stunning film from Antonioni starring Jack Nicholson in a mistaken identity, slow thriller. Slow in that the shots take their time and the pace is slowish despite Nicholson being on the run. Also starring Steven Berkoff and Maria Schneider (Last tango in Paris) as Nicholson's love interest. It does drag a little in parts, but is really worth it - Jack in the mid 70s was on a roll - amazing!
The book of revelation- missed this Australian thriller.
Calamity Jane- what a thrill to end the year, cheesy - sure, dated - you betcha, a little bit gay - yeah, but there's nothing wrong with that. Doris Day at her very best, cheerful, ballsy and boy, she just does not stop. Howard Keel - pretty damn good looking and a great voice of course - years before wooing Miss Ellie on Dallas! I just had a smile on my face the entire time and kind of bounced out the theatre afterwards, as I looked around everyone was much the same. They sure don't make 'em like that anymore.

And so, I look forward to my first film tomorrow evening in what looks like to be an outstanding program. And yes, the first film is by my second favourite director - Woody Allen - an absolute classic - Zelig!!!!!!!!

Rabbit

Rabbit was our first Inspirations event for 2011, on Saturday 12 March at The Playhouse. I loved Rabbit, it featured a group of 5 twenty somethings at a club celebrating one of their birthdays. The lead female, whose birthday it was, had her quiet doctor girlfriend, and her loud brassy girlfriend, and 2 ex-boyfriends, and their conversation over many wines dealt with the battle of the sexes, careers, love, life and death. In a set of fantastic asides, the lead female also talks with her father who is ill in hospital.

It was very funny, very modern, and very confronting in its subject matter. I thought the male actors, particularly Barry Shepherd as the Dad, were excellent and the lead female also great. Another great production from Stooged Theatre, it had us talking about all sorts of things afterwards, always a mark of a wonderful story.

Annie Leibovitz

I had the great pleasure of viewing Annie Leibovitz: a photographer's life 1990-2005 at the MCA in Sydney on Thursday 17 February.

I have previously seen an exhibit of her earlier, Rolling Stone, work at Newcastle Gallery many years ago and being a long time Vanity Fair reader, was very familiar with her Hollywood photos. There is something very immediate, yet long lasting about photography and her eye draws you in. She experiments with quirky and unusual - Whoopi in a milk bath, Demi pregnant, Lemmon and Curtis in drag.



A lot of the Vanity Fair shots were exhibited, side by side with her other work. These were more personal, mostly black and white shots. They were infinitely more interesting also. They were smaller sized than the larger than life Hollywood shots, it drew you in closer to these intimate images. The following is a joyous shot of her parents.



There were also very confronting subject matter - Sarajevo and the death of Susan Sontag, her partner. These were quite beautiful, haunting and very sad. There were some images I just could not bear to look at for too long, they made me very teary, in particular the photograph of Sontag in her coffin...it was too much. Accompanying this was some words from Leibovitz, which added to the impact. I much preferred the stunning shot of Sontag at Petra - now that is an eye for detail.





I also was surprised to see a huge section of very large (wall sized) landscapes of areas in America, like the Grand Canyon, and Venice - these were minimalist and at times so grainy, you had to step right back to adjust to what you were seeing. These were a surprise, as I had no knowledge of this part of her work - it was nice to see something new.

Finally, here are some other images I loved - the contrast of what she can do, the glaring black, white and red of The White Stripes to the country black and white of the Cash family. There is no doubt Leibovitz is a star. I think the exhibit has been extended until April - so if you get a chance so and see. It is a huge exhibit with many, many shots, I highly recommend.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

OSCARS 2011

Well it is that time of the year again, less than 24 hours to the Oscars. I have been busy leading up to this fabulous time of the year and whilst keeping an eye on the commentary that surrounds my favourite event of the year, I have not really had a chance to think about who I think will win. So, I have spent some time gathering some information this afternoon and have most of the categories locked in.

Leading Actor
This was easy - Colin Firth all the way - easily the best film of the year and easily the best performance. Watching the complete and utter fear in his eyes as "Bertie" was about to make his first 'speech' clinched it for me. An outstanding actor, with a back catalogue of varied and beloved performances, in an incredibly dramatic and personal film - if only all the other categories were this easy,
Supporting Actor
I have only seen snippets of The Fighter, but have read many, many reviews - the Oscar belongs to Christan Bale.
Leading Actress
Again, after seeing The Black Swan yesterday it confirmed for me what I had thought - Natalie Portman gets a golden boy. Her performance was stunning - physically and mentally she was the tortured ballerina - you could see it in every muscle, every protruding bone, every pained expression on her face - she embodied this role - this is what film is about.
Supporting Actress
By all I have read this should be a matching win to Melissa Leo - also The Fighter. However the supporting roles more often than not have an upset. Would I like to see Amy Adams or Jacki Weaver win - you betcha! Both are versatile actresses and deserving, and I will be proud as punch to be wrong in this category, but my money will remain with Leo.
Animated Feature
Seriously!?! No competition - Toy Story 3!!!
Art Direction
I am a bit stuck with this one and as I type undecided! I am stuck between Inception and The King's Speech. I will choose the later!
Cinematography
True Grit, Deakins is overdue and the sweeping 'western' landscape screams best cinematography.
Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland stands out for me here - in fact the costumes made the film!
Directing
This is the one I have truly no idea - you would think it would go with my Best Picture choice, but I have a feeling it will be split this year. This rarely happens, but can. You would think the direction would have to go with the film and I would normally agree. I happen to think the best directed film is Inception, but Christopher Nolan was not even nominated! My choice would actually be Darren Aronofsy for The Black Swan as it was very clever, but I do not think he will win. I have a sneaking suspicion David Fincher will win for The Social Network, I can see why (sort of), he made a fairly well known and paint the numbers story look edgy and interesting, although for Fincher this film could hardly be called edgy. Also working with one actor playing two parts is pretty clever and it looked seemless, however that is hardly a first. I want it to be Hooper or Aronofsky but for betting sake, I am going with Fincher....YIKES!!!!!!
Documentary Feature
It would appear Exit through the gift shop is the front winner, but I am going with Inside Job
Documentary Short
The shorts are always difficult, I read a couple of industry articles and selected Poster Girl.
Film Editing
This almost always goes with Best Picture, so The King's Speech.
Foreign Language Film
All my sources give all sorts of suggestions, no freaking idea. Will go with the film I know and Javier is nominated for Best Actor, so that would mean a lot of Academy voters have seen the film !?! So Biutiful it is!
Make Up
I am thinking Wolfman.
Original Score
I have no idea, going with Trent Rezner, be cool to see him accept, so The Social Network it is.
Original Song
Shit, I will go with Gwennie - bloody hell!!! Coming Home from Country Strong. Although Randy Newman is always a favourite.......
Animated Short Film
Day and Night
Live Action Short Film
Na Wewe
Sound editing/Sound Mixing
These almost always go hand in hand and I am going with Inception.
Visual Effects
Again, Inception, this movie was visually stunning, and were it not for The King's Speech, my vote for best Picture!.
Adapted Screenplay
Going with Arkin and The Social Network.
Original Screenplay
This almost always goes with Best Picture and whilst you cannot get more original than Inception (my original choice) I feel it will go to The King's Speech. And this is mainly because of the story I heard today, the writer had hung onto this story for many years as he promised the Queen Mum he would not tell it until after she passed - it was still haunting and upsetting to her after all those years. That alone, makes the film itself all the more poignant and deserving to win. In this day and age of beating people to things, the honour of keeping such a lovely story to himself and then presenting it correctly makes him all the more deserving AND it is a great story!
Best Picture
An absolute no brainer, The King's Speech, a great story, amazing acting from each and every actor. Fabulous casting - Derek Jacobi (famous for playing the stutterer Claudius) pushing Bertie out to a field he was uncomfortable in, knowing he was a stutterer - great film irony... AND Jennifer Ehle, as Rush's wife, being shy and embarrassed to meet Bertie - Ehle, of course, played Elizabeth Bennett to Firth's Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice all those years ago. Perfect attention to period detail, humanity and humour, the kind of film that will stand the test of time and is an instant classic and by god, my favourite film of the year!!!!

So, I will wait until lunch tomorrow and see if I am right - I look forward to seeing how well Anne Hathaway and James Franco roll. I also hope in their rush to attract young audiences the Academy do not forget their history and give the true viewers like myself something old and marvellous to look at, I wait with baited breathe as usual!