Tuesday, June 7, 2016


What I’ve Been Watching
The Walk – this is the fictionalised version of Philippe Petit’s highwire walk between The Twin Towers in the early 70s. I have always been a fan of Petit, or rather mesmerised by his death defying feats. I really loved the doco, Man on Wire, from 2008, and whilst this showed us nothing more, it was fun to watch, especially as it got to the point of the walk. The delightful Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Petit and caught his youthful brazen and French cheekiness perfectly. Highly recommend
Walk in the Woods – why do people have to ruin great books? Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is one of the funniest travel stories and indeed my favourite by the great man. About the ill-conceived walk Bryson took in his youth along the Appalachian Trail with an old friend, Stephen Katz. The movie swaps the story when they are older men, and has Robert Redford and Nick Nolte play Bryson and Katz. Whilst the movie is ok and quite amusing at times, it is nowhere near as tremendous as the book and Redford has nothing on Bryson. He was never going to pull off Bryson’s wry wit nor his innocent charm. Such a shame, as this could have been a great movie, had they not mucked around with it.
Last Days of Chez Nous – I decided to revisit this classic Australian film from 1992 and it was great. Directed by Gilliam Armstrong and starring Lisa Harrow and Kerry Fox as sisters, also Bill Hunter, Bruno Ganz, and a very young Miranda Otto. It’s about love, friendship, relationships and the drama they bring. All performances are strong but Kerry Fox shone, what a star she was!
Antman – this was fun, with Michael Douglas adding a bit of kudos.
Grandma – This was good, a dramedy starring the fabulous Lily Tomlin. Her latest partner has left her, she is broke, and her pregnant granddaughter turns up on her doorstep in need of money for an abortion. This leads to a road trip of sorts for Grandma to visit people from her past in hope of gathering the money. It is funny and edgy especially in terms of subject matter. It’s a great movie.
Phoenix – heartbreaking story about a young women who was completely disfigured and burnt during the war and is the only remaining person alive in her family. After plastic surgery and reconstruction she returns to Berlin to see if she can track down her husband. She does, but he does not believe it is her.However, he knows no one from her family survived and if she poses as his wife, he can get the inheritance. So she poses as herself! Utterly compelling and heartbreaking to see where this heads.
Broken Circle Breakdown – this is my movie of the month, and an Academy Award nominated Belgium film from 2012. It follows the relationship of Didier and Elise and what a great love at first sight, intense relationship it is. She is a tattoo artist, he a singer in a Bluegrass group which she eventually joins. The story is told in a non-linear fashion and it really works, and adds edge to an already edgy story. This is not your usual romance, it is dark, and wild, and crazy, and beautiful and real and takes a huge hit when tragedy strikes the pairing, how will they get through this , will they make it. I have not been so intensely invested in a movie or characters like this in a really long time. It made me feel every possible emotion from elation to devastation, and then some. The music adds to the beauty of the film. This is an instant classic and an absolute must see.
Iris – Iris Apfel is a 90 something New Yorker with more style than most of NYC. She is out there, edgy, bright, and very much an individual. Iris is most well known by her signature Large round black glasses and her spectacular colourful jewellery collection. The documentary follows Iris during a very busy part of her life, but also key aspects of her life and her romance with her husband who turns 100 during the filming. Her collection of fashion is extensive and she is at a part of her life that she is donating key items to galleries for exhibitions and to keep. She works with a lot of great institutions in and around New York. Everyone adores Iris, she explodes with colour and energy and uniqueness. She actually started off as an interior designer and had a very successful business. She had a keen eye for reproduction of fabric from the past and the business ended up doing a lot of work for the White House over the years. But it is her generosity and spirit you admire when you watch this great documentary. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Being Evel - Evel Knievel – I was a pretty big Evel Knievel fan as a kid, something I had forgotten about until I started to watch this superb documentary. So much of the footage in it was so familiar to me it is really amusing, I really was quite an odd little kid. The doco traces Evel’s story, how he became Evel, the forces that moved him, and interviews key players along the way. It shows footage of most of his craziest jumps, regardless of whether he made them or not. But then, that was the thing about Evel, what if he crashed...and he often did! Such an icon of the 70s and such a nutter – he had to be to do half of what he did. This was like time travelling to another time and it was glorious!
Penny Dreadful S2 – Penny Dreadful is marvellous, and Eva Green is everything in this dark Victorian Fantasy/Horror show. Set around book characters from that period, Frankenstein, his creations, Dorian Gray, Van Helsing, Vampires and Witches, Penny Dreadful is dark and clever and scary and amusing. The overlap of characters are leading to many great reveals in this season. Including some deliciously spooky scenes, and some scrumptious Victorian opulence. The sets are divine, the acting amazing, and the stories leave you on the edge of your seat. 
Game of Thrones S6 live – what a joy to be able to watch this show live each week while I am trialling Foxtel. Although the wait between each episode feels long, after inhaling each season in one go previously. So much is happening this season but it would be rude of me to share. This show just gets better and better. So much to be revealed, so many amazing interwoven stories and characters. This is the epic masterpiece of all time.
Orphan Black S4 live – Orphan Black dips back in time occasionally this season to tie in to what Beth was up to before she committed suicide. And Sarah is still trying to hide from those after her, yet investigating what is going on with the clones. I am still enjoying this great show but it is starting to lose a little of it’s lustre and lacking the lightness that kept it from being too dramatic in S1.
The Affair S1 – I really like the premise of this drama, where each episode is split in two and told from the pov of each person in the affair. Dominic West is a father of four, an author, and on holidays with the family staying with his wealthy in-laws. After an interesting lunch at a local cafe he become obsessed with a local waitress (Ruth Wilson). At first you understand why he has an affair – his life is so full of mediocrity and domesticity, but not with the girl he does. Over time her character becomes far more complex than you would imagine and the he said/she said premise really kicks in. Also there is a subplot of the pair in the future, both being interviewed by the police over something that has happened. It is complex, intriguing, but ultimately annoying, as the characters seem hell bent on destroying anything good they have. Having said that bring on S2 so I can find out what is going on!
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – This is a load of fun. Kimmy (Ellie Kemper, The Office) escapes after years of being hidden underground with other women but a religious nutter (Jon Hamm). She decides to build a new life for herself in New York. Yes, this is a comedy, seeing New York and modern life through the sweet, but very odd eyes of Kimmy is something to behold. A great supporting cast of Titus Burgess (what a voice), Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski and many other cameos throughout the season. The series is created by Tina Fey, and whilst this is no 30 Rock, and it takes a few episodes to find its groove, this is a great little comedy and worth checking out.
Safe House – This is a melancholy drama about an ex cop (Christopher Eccleston) and his wife who live in this house that is hidden in the country. They take in a family who need to be hidden after a failed kidnapping. Local cops are trying to track down the kidnapper and the case brings Eccleston back into the fore adn you see what happened to him when he was a cop. This reminded me a lot of Broadchurch, and whilst nowhere near as good as that, Safe House was compelling and worth watching. Plus anything with Eccleston is is always worth looking at.
The Night Manager I taped this mini series off Fox and it took a while to get into but by the end of the second episode I was hooked. Set in exotic locations it follows two men, Dickie Roper, a wealthy, slimey arms dealer played to perfection by Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Pine (Tom HIddleston), an ex soldier, night manager of an Egyptian Hotel. Their lives intertwine when Angela Burr (the great Olivia Colman) hires Pine to go under cover and expose Roper. And so begins a twisty plot of intrigue and subterfuge. If I say anymore, I will give away key points of the plot. This is based on a John Le Carre novel and is of the highest of production values. It will suck you in and you will sit on the edge of your seat until the last few moments of the series.
Kitchen Cabinet S5 – caught up on the latest series of this cute show. I adore Annabel Crabb, her style, her intelligence, her kindness. And this is shown in abundance in this show, especially when she is dealing with some of the ‘lesser’ politicians, she is so lovely with them. 
Meet the Mavericks – Great Australian series that pairs similar creatives for a chat about their art, eg Magda Szubanski and Grayson Perry, Ben Quilty and Warwick Thornton, Leah Purcell and Miranda Tapsell, Phillip Adams and Tim Minchin, and Jon Ronson and John Safran.
AIDA: live on Sydney Harbour how I wish I had seen this phenomenal performance of Verdi when it was indeed staged live on Sydney Harbour. With the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and skyscrapers paling in comparison in the background to the magnificent Egyptian mask on the large stage, it looked remarkable on tele, moreso in the flesh I would think. Of course along with large props, sublime costumes in bright colours with loads of gold and guild, sets that were out of this world, and actual camels gracing the stage at one point. And then there was the opera itself, perfect cast and perfect songs. Heavenly!

Sinatra 100: an all-star Grammy concert was a great production, 90 minutes of super stars singing Sinatra’s best! John Legend, Harry Connick Jnr, Adam Levine,  Carrie Underwood, Tony Bennett, Seth McFarland, and Lady Gaga amongst others polished their swagger and sang for Frank. Bennett and Connick nailed their tunes, McFarland shone as he showed his other talent as a singer but Lady Gaga stole the show with her show stopping finale of New York, New York!
What I’ve Been Reading
My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout – this was a little novella and Strout’s latest offering. About a young woman in a prolonged stay in hospital after a routine procedure goes awry. Her estranged mother come to sit with her, and the woman through her mother and left alone with her own thoughts, thinks back over her life so far. At times interesting and odd and bleak, this is a fascinating look into the soul of a person, but compared to previous works, this lacks the depth and thought. A light version of what it could have been.
The Anti-Cool Girl – Rosie Waterland  - I really wanted to hate this book. I am not a fan of anything even remotely related to the Mama MeMeMe stable, and Waterland was very much attached to that group. But I had heard good things and gave it a go, it is her memoir and the poor girl has lived quite the awful life, due to many family dysfunctions. And yet she write with humour and grace, so as she tells you something gut wrenchingly awful, you cannot help but smile! There is a fine art to that kind of writing, and she nailed it!!!!
The perfect meal – John Baxter – This is another lovely little book from Francophile, Baxter, this time lovely stories of him chasing down the elusive perfect meal in Paris...well, actually not at all elusive. Warning...do not read on a empty stomach!!!
Too Far From Home by Chris Jones (Talking Book) – this is about the 3 men left on the International Space Station after Columbia crash landed in 2003. It is about their lead up to the mission, their time in space, the tragedy of Columbia, and the aftermath of their indefinite stay until rescue is decided upon. And then their edge of the seat decent back to earth. I love hearing about space travel, and this is a great true story.
The Lacuna written by and spoken by Barbara Kingsolver
I cannot begin to say how much I loved and enjoyed this sweeping novel. It tells the life story of Harrison Shepherd from young boy to young man. It begins with his childhood, moving between living with his father in the US and his mother in Mexico. It is in Mexico that his talents of cooking and making fine batter are transformed into making the best type of plaster for one Diego Riveria. From there he meets and befriends Diego’s young wife, Frida Kahlo. In time he moves in with the couple as hired help and through them meets and begins to work for Leon Trotsky. Harrison is a writer and takes notes about his life in his diary every day. Later in life the returns to the US, as an usher of Kahlo’s works, accompanying them to the gallery they are to be exhibited at. He moves to North Carolina and commences life there as a novelist. His books are immediately popular. But in time his past catches up with him, as the House of UnAmerican Activities investigate him as a communist. The story is ‘taken’ and retold by his faithful secretary, Violet Brown, from the diaries and papers she found written by Shepherd. And what a remarkable story and life it was, but not without holes or gaps or Lacunae. Kingsolver has created the most marvellous fictional character in Shepherd, an innocent but wise young Mexican lad and placed him in the centre of Mexican and Russian history. The Lacuna is historical, romantic, funny, intriguing, and was an absolute pleasure to listen to in the car for the past few weeks. I sobbed as it ended, as I just couldn’t bear to part with it. Highly recommend.

What I’ve Been Listening To
Music Complete – New Order – this was really good, I enjoyed it on first listen and it felt familiar and comforting to listen to. Dancey and up, like good New Order should be. Highly recommend.
Women of the Hour – this is Lena Dunham’s podcast and it is exceptional. It covers topics such as women, friendship, love, sexuality, bodies and so forth. It is open and honest and educational and glorious.
Picking up the pieces – Jewel – love the new album by this country gal. A return to form after a few odd pop albums which never really suited her stunning voice. Here she goes back to her ballads, melancholy and a little but of country and it’s great.

This is acting – Sia – I can take or leave Sia, I get she is a great songwriter and has written loads of hits but her as a person, singer, I dunno, she has never really grabbed me. But I really liked this album, it’s mixed for sure, but well worth a listen.

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