Sunday, August 2, 2015


What I've been watching

Orange is the New Black S2 - picks up directly where S1 finishes up, but in a different way, so much so it leaves you wondering what is going on. It took me a few episodes to get back into the rhythm of this exemplary drama. It's all about the supporting characters to me, they are wide and varied and simply wonderful. This is just superb viewing and the ending, woah, what satisfaction!

Death comes to Pemberley - this is based on PD James' books about what happened next in Pride and Prejudice after Elizabeth married Darcy. I love Pride and Prejudice but have never really gotten into all the sequels that have appeared over the past few decades...and there is a lot! I started off enjoying this story based on a death in the woods at Pemberley before a ball, but found it dragged on too much and didn't hold my attention.

Downton Abbey S5 - nowhere near as brilliant as S4 but still better than the first three seasons, S5 continues on into the 20s with the younger characters moving on with the times and the older ones holding back. It is interesting to watch things we take for granted like radios and shorter dresses or haircuts being looked down upon. Downton Abbey is like a comfortable old cardigan, nice to wear occasionally and dream about in.

Nashville 2.1 - Continuing on where we left off, no one died in the cliffhanger car crash but it has set a series of pain in motion for the key characters. I call Nashville, Dallas with country music rather than oil. It's definitely a soap opera, but it sucks you in and the music is great. Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere are outstanding as the leads, singing their own songs too. Also the supporting cast, in particular the two actual sisters that play Britton's girls are brilliant, stars in the making.

Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries S3 - Is there anything Miss Fisher can't do? I wouldn't think so and what a great role model. It's always more about the fashion, the relationships, and the stunning attention to detail with the remarkable Deco sets than the mysteries, but that's what makes the show!

Glitch - I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this unique homegrown drama. It's only 6 episodes and it's stunning, easily the best new series I have seen in a long, long time. Basic premise is a handful of people rise from their grave in a country town. The local cop and doctor find them, the cop's recently deceased wife is one of them. They are all from different eras and times, some being dead for over 100 years. It is played for real, as opposed to a fantasy, zombie type film. it's a drama/thriller with outstanding stories and acting, the production values are outstanding. It has you on the edge of your seat wondering what next, and is a little bit creepy. Why and how did this happen and what does it mean? I shall say no more!

Julia Zemiro's Home Delivery - great new series from Julia, she is such a natural, and interviewing interesting people like Jo Brand (oh I adore her!), Kurt Fernley, Alan Davies, Ian Thorpe, and Leigh Sales. Humorous and heart-warming, something for everyone.

Locke - this is brilliant, easily my pick for movie of the month. Set entirely in a car over one particularly life changing night for Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy). The film is him driving and taking phone call after phone call, which sounds ridiculously boring, but trust me, it is not. It is a thriller of sorts and you will be on the edge of your seat wondering how things will end!

The 100 Year Old Man - I loved this book but the movie was a bit of a let down. No surprises there, the book is fully packed with two intertwining stories that would be very difficult to get right on the screen. The main story is about an elderly man who climbs out of the window of his nursing home on his 100th birthday and sets out for adventure and boy does he find it. He basically gets himself unwittingly caught up in a hilarious and slightly dangerous caper. The other storyline is a series of flashbacks about his life, his love of blowing up things and the people he met along the way (mostly notorious figures from history - think Zelig). The story is equal parts drama and equal parts comedy, but the movie eases up on the drama, and concentrates on the comedy which I think is a shame. But it's a fun little flick, worth having a look at all the same.

Map to the stars is a bit of a mess, but that doesn’t mean it is unwatchable. Watch it with the humour it was supposedly written in and you will get some broad laughs. It follows two storylines, one about the Weiss family, an atypical Hollywood family with a large secret, the other an older actress desperate for ‘that’ role. The link between these storylines is Mia Wasikowska. The Weiss family consist of Dr Weiss (a consultant, guru, therapist, cult like figure played a little bit too well by John Cusak), his momager wife, and their young son, a precocious child actor just out of rehab. They are all recovering from the actions of their daughter, a pyromaniac – amongst other things – who is in a sanatorium, or so they thought. Julianne Moore is Havana Segrand, a precious, over the top, older actress, desperate for any attention and particularly interested in playing her own mother in an upcoming biopic about the deceased actress. She hires an assistant at the suggestion of Carrie Fisher and things start to unravel.

Moore is by far the stand out in the flick, she seems to reveal in the cheapness and ridiculousness of Havana. The storylines are melodramatic and when a truly shocking event takes place you aren’t sure whether to gasp at the drama or laugh at the bizarreness of it. This is not Cronenberg at his best, but you can see what he is trying to do. I didn’t love it, but it was a bit of fun to ponder over.

Hawking - this is the original biopic about Stephen Hawking with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead. it focuses more on his younger life, at University, and meeting his first wife, and then the initial part of his disease. It's good, but more a movie of the week, compared to the newer academy award version. Cumberbatch is good though.

The Judge - urgh, what a lot of drivel this was. Robert Downey Jnr and Ed Duvall deserve better, I suspect they jumped at it as it looked like Oscar bait, but it was a melodramatic mess, give it a miss!

Life itself is a documentary made about Roger Ebert, the legendary US film critic. It was filmed during the last year of his life and whilst that aspect can be distracting, the film is a love letter to the great man and his love of film. It traces his rise at the Chicago Sun-Times as a film critic from 1967 until his death in 2013. His writing was formidable and was the source of praise from Pauline Kael, the doyenne of film criticism. He won the Nobel Prize for criticism in 1975, the first award of its type. He was also a womaniser and heavy drinker. And in the 70s he scored a role as film critic on PBS, a few years later joined by Gene Siskel, film critic from “across the road” (The Chicago Tribune). The pair sparred about films, often arguing intensely with each other.  

The documentary explores Ebert’s private life and interviews and interactions with his wife and family and is well presented. It goes into the films he championed or dissed and you get to hear and see spectacular writing in action. His theory was to write intelligently about film but in a such a way all films were accessible to any person. Martin Scorsese was a friend and a fan, and he is interviewed with tales of being reviewed by Ebert, still suffering the pain from the harshness of the review for The Colour of Money, but he also said Ebert reignited his career by writing and talking up Raging Bull. Errol Morris believes he wouldn’t even have a career had it not been for the championing of Ebert (and Siskel) and their love of his first documentary, Gates of Heaven.

If you love film and know of Ebert, this is a must see, it made me smile, laugh, and cry.

Ken Burns, Statue of Liberty - this is a short documentary by maestro, Ken Burns, about the Statue of Liberty, with old footage and stills and an array of talking heads explaining their love of the monument and all she stands for. What I didn't know was she was originally designed as an Egyptian statue for the foot of the Suez Canal, as a love letter to the Sphinx, a monument Bartholdi (The statue's sculptor) admired.

Cobain: montage of heck - this was a rough documentary to watch. Watching the downfall of a deeply talented but deeply flawed human being is always devastating. What made this documentary different was the huge amount of stock footage, stills, old home movies, footage of Nirvana and other personal footage. And it was either sheer joy to watch, young Cobain as a kid or him playing with Frances which made the fact he is no longer here more difficult and just horrendous to watch. They used a lot of his drawings, and writings as animation which added to this. There were some interviews with his parents, his father in particular very disturbed by it all, and other players like old girlfriends, Courtney Love, Krist Novoselic. It's not bad and worth watching, and what I got out of it was what a prolific artist he was, how great the music was, and how much we have lost without him continuing to write.

What I've been reading

She's having a laugh: 25 of Australia's funniest women on life, love, and comedy. This book of humorous essays was an excellent read and had me actually laughing out loud, but with funny writers like Fiona Scott-Norman, Clementine Ford, Annabel Crabb, Monica Dux, Tracey Spicer, Sarina Rowell, and Anita can you not laugh!

Fury: women write about sex, politics, power, and violence This is a collaboration that I found disturbing, for the subject matter and mostly the fact something like this even has to be published today. But it does, focusing mostly on rape, domestic violence, abuse, and men's power over women, writers including Anne Summers, Margo Kingston, Van Badham, Mandy Sawyer, Helen Razer, and Natasha Stott-Despoja write about the statistics, the stories, and the wrongfulness of the ill-treatment of women. Powerful stuff indeed.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer I love Amanda Palmer, there is no denying. She does push the boundaries and at times make you squirm, but that's a good thing. I have had this for ages and started it a long while back, but thought it would be good for our Book Club, so held off getting into it until I could schedule it. There was so much to love in this book, but also a lot that made me (and some other book clubbers) a little put off. It is a self help book of sorts on the back of her popular Ted Talk, mostly about freeing yourself up and asking for help. For her this related purely to her career and the things she did to get through harsh economic times. This was fascinating, especially in terms of her busking/bride phase early on in her career. I felt she didn't show how you could utilise these skills in other circumstances well enough. She is lucky - privileged even - to have a supportive fan base, so her successes have been high and lows few and far between. I also felt at times, she didn't present herself in a positive way, although I am sure she would beg to differ. I wept at the beauty of her realtionsip with Neil Gaiman, but does she even realise how lucky she is, maybe I am biased for my love of Neil knows no bounds. Ultimately I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it for sure, there is much to love in there, but the bits that made me frown may have had Amanda drop a bit in terms of my love for her. But we shouldn't put people we don't actually know on a pedestal, so I guess that's not such a bad thing. 

Something quite peculiar by Steve Kilbey - I loved this autobiography, it is so beautifully written, especially the section about his childhood. This really should not be a surprise as Kilbey is quite the wordsmith, not only with his haunting lyrics, but his poetry and talks. I was lucky enough to see Kilbey talk about his life and work a few years ago and he was magical in his ability to tell a story. This book is an extension of that, the honesty and realness of his life is portrayed beautifully. This is worth reading, regardless of whether you are a fan of him and The Church or not.

The World of Post Secret by Frank Warren Post Secret has been around for a long, long time. It is Frank Warren's baby. People post him postcards annoymously with their deepest and darkest (though sometimes light and amusing) secrets written on them and he publishes them in book form. There was a website, unsure it still exists, but I think there was some controversy surrounding it and some trolling of the secrets. Anyway, it's always a thrill to flick through these books and read what goes on in the deepest recesses of our minds. 

The Men who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson Jon Ronson is fast becoming my favourite author. He writes subversive non-fiction, mostly in essay form. I read Lost At Sea last month. This is a full formed book on one subject, that can most aptly be described as weird shit that happens in the military that people try to cover up, mostly to do with paranormal and the occult and it is absolutely fascinating. I listened to this on a talking book, and at first I wasn't sure but by the first 10 minutes I was hooked. Ronson goes down a worm hole of crazy, fucked up characters, who tell stories that seem true but really make you open your mind and think. I love how he writes and presents this material, he goes on the trip with the characters, following them into crazy situations and yet never judges, he simply presents his findings and the stories in the most real and yet enjoyable way, with just a slight hint of dry humour. It's simply perfection!! 

What I've been listening to

24 Karat Gold (songs from the vault) - Stevie Nicks  - this is superb album, songs never finished, but retrieved and made new. You can hear her soul from over the years of her recording but the voice is of today. It's an album of beauty, and well worth a listen, even if you are not a Stevie fan. I, of course, worship Stevie, and have since I was a kid. Lovely to hear this album of gems so late in her career.

Style Council - been getting my groove on this month to their best of, so cool, so funky, makes you want to get up and dance. Paul Weller will never go out of style!

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