Sunday, April 2, 2017


What I’ve Been Watching
Star Trek Beyond – this was an enjoyable film, would’ve been better on the big screen. Loads of action and humour and more enjoyable than the last one.
Independence Day: resurgence - this was an enjoyable film, would’ve been better on the big screen. Loads of action and humour and more enjoyable than the last one. Ha Ha, see what I did here..Star Trek was the better of the two of course! Although I loved seeing Goldblum in this one.
A Force of Destiny – this was a solid drama from Paul Cox starring David Wenham, a sculptor who needs a liver transplant after being diagnosed with cancer.
Rio I Love You – another from the I Love You series, set in Rio with a range of short films joined together and a cast of seemingly thousands. I enjoyed this a lot.
Elvis and Nixon – this was a crazy film about when Elvis Presley met Richard Nixon. This actually did happen, and the premise of why (I’ll leave that for you to find out!) is also true. I imagine some of it has been fleshed out liberally, but still it was much fun to watch. Michael Shannon is great at Elvis, and Kevin Spacey is perfect as Nixon.
The Man Who Knew Infinity – this was an interesting film based on  true story about mathematics. Starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons.
Remember – this is my movie of the month. An incredible drama by Atom Egoyan about an elderly, dementia suffering, Holocaust survivor who breaks out of his nursing home to find the nazi who killed most of his family during the war. Christopher Plummer is superb as the lead, and I’m totally gobsmacked he was not nominated for an Oscar, let alone the winner that year! There are many twists and turns and surprises in this movie, but I shall keep them to myself. It is harrowing, and sad, but such an impressive film and performance, it is a must see!
Louder Than Bombs – this is a quiet little drama, about a family coming to terms with the death of their wife/mother, Isabella Huppert, a war photographer, who died in a car accident after early retirement. It is three years later, the family (Gabriel Byrne and two sons) are trying to get on with their lives and a documentary film about her life is being made and looks likely to spill some family secrets. This is an interesting and dramatic film, anchored beautifully by Byrne.
Winter at Westbeth – is a great documentary about a building of elderly artists and the art they keep creating, from dancing, to painting, to filmmaking, and everything between, the doco features some of these amazing people. Some were stars back in the day, others never quite made it, but all are luminous, extraordinarily talented, and unique humans. Joyous!
Star Talk  - this is my favourite show at the moment. A documentary series where science meets popular culture and hosted by the magnificent Neil Degrasse Tyson, from the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Each episode has Neil interviewing a celeb, Bill Clinton, Whoopi Goldberg, Buzz Aldrin, William Shatner, Ben Stiller etc. The interview is broken up into bits throughout the show and Neil and his panel – of a comedian and a expert on whatever subject they are discussing. – dissect the interview and add to the discussions. Fascinating, funny, and at a level anyone can understand.
Call The MIdwife S6 – I love this series, despite the subject matter lol, it is well written and acted. And whilst it brings me to my knees on many occasions, I find that period in time fascinating.
Big Bang theory S9 – this is simple fun, at times annoying, but mostly ok. A guilty pleasure.
Walking Dead, Girls, Crashing, Nashville, Atlanta, Broadchurch, Big Little Lies, Feud, Newton’s Law, Legion -  Currently loving these shows, more on them next month when their season is up.
What I’ve Been Reading
Songs of a War Boy: My Story by Deng Thiak Adut with Ben McKelvey – this is the remarkable story of Adut’s childhood in Somalia and being captured as part of the youth army, a killing machine to becoming a lawyer in Australia. Harrowing, sad, thrilling, and heart warming, this story is just unbelievable. What a brave and incredible man.
Stories I Tell Myself: Growing up with Hunter S Thompson by Juan F Thompson –  This is a great biography of Hunter S Thompson and his son Juan, written by Juan. Juan is an IT dude but oh boy he has his father’s talent for writing. This took the 9 years after Hunter’s death to be written, and it is beautifully written. Juan’s style is honest and literary, not Gonzo, but he really showcases his father, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Broken up into periods of his life, you see the journey he has gone on to appreciate a man, who was not always loveable or even visible in his life. You gain real insight into Hunter the man, did anyone really know him, Juan comes very close. It is quite harrowing in parts, Hunter was a difficult man to be around, and that haunted Juan as a kid, as he grew older he initially grew away from his father but came back and attempted to really get to know best as anyone can, and he did. The final chapters leading up to Hunter’s suicide, the aftermath, and that infamous funeral are some of the best biographical chapters I have ever read (I read a LOT of autobiographies, and biographies). They are confronting, terribly sad, and hilariously funny. To capture such an enigma is remarkable, and Juan has done a superb job. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
Poum and Alexandre: a Paris Memoir by Catherine De Saint Phalle – this was a difficult read in terms of its density. It is a memoir about the author’s eccentric parents and her childhood in Paris. Her parents adored her and each other and lived a hedonistic and bohemian life. When her beloved nanny was let go, she started to spend more time with her father and learn about her mother, her father, their families and backgrounds. This is where the density of the memoir appears, with much past history, French history and the like. The memoir takes on many tangents and turns to give background to the stories told by her father. Also, you need to dissect, what is real and what is fabrication. As father and daughter bond more, the true story of her parents and their relationship appears. As a Francophile I loved this book, but I also wondered how the author remembered so much intricate detail from her childhood. It made you question the questions, as the entire book is about questioning’s one past and family. This is shortlisted for the Stella Prize this year and very worthy of the nomination.
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose – I loved this fictional book set against the back drop of Marina Abramovich’s The Artist is Present at MOMA in Manhattan. It tells the stories of two middle aged people who are at crossroads in their personal lives and find themselves drawn to the MOMA and Marina. After noticing each other in the audience to the ‘performance’ they strike up a conversation and an unusual friendship. This covers art, love, loss, life, and commitment in such a beautiful and meditative way, all the while against this remarkable backdrop. The story is told from different points of view and is utterly unique. As a fan of art, Manhattan, and Marina (I – completely out of character – participated in her Sydney residence of The Artist is Present a few years ago) I guess I felt this novel singing to me in many ways, but even so, this is a great read. One of the best novels I have read in a long time. It is also shortlised for the Stella Prize and my favourite!
The Stella Prize for Women – by chance I have read 4 of the 6 shortlisted titles, the two above and two outstanding memoirs, Dying by Cory Taylor and The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke. I truly have loved all four book, and cannot even imagine being a panelist trying to select a winner. All I have read so far I have loved, some will go into my all time favourite lists (The Hate Race and Museum of Love) and are all just thoroughly enjoyable. Musuem of Love is my favourite, Dying is utterly gut wrenching and real, Poum and Alexandre is an epic masterpiece, and The Hate Race should be made compulsory for all Australians. I am currently halfway through Between a Wolf and a Dog by the late great Georgia Blain, a fictional story about a family in crisis. This is stunningly beautiful, well written, and most likely the winner.
The Restorer by MIchael Sala- I first came across Michael Sala as a panelist on memoirs and how reliable they are at the inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival. He spoke about his book, which was actually a piece of fiction based on his life and had Newcastle as a backdrop. It was an interesting and compelling story. So I was keen to read his second novel, which has gotten good reviews. I found it similar to the first in terms of style and feels, and with that inner city backdrop of Newcastle in the late 80s. It is the story of a young family trying hard to pull itself together after an incident a few years earlier, they have moved to an old home in inner Newcastle and with restoring the property hope to restore their family. It is a well written book with a page turning feel to it but is ultimately predictable. Despite being a different story to his first book, I could not help but feel he was repeating himself in parts. Having said that, it was a great read and worthy of a look!
Seinfeldia: how a show about nothing changed everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong – this was a fun read, moreso about what happened after Seinfeld, but ultimately didn’t show me anything I didn’t already know.
Hotel Heaven: confessions of a luxury hotel addict by Matthew Brace – I listened to his fab book on CD in the car over the month. It is about luxury hotels and luxury hotel writer, Matthew Brace. This is a hilarious and sassy book. Brace firstly takes us through the history of hotels and the rise of the luxury hotel, with some famous examples and of course the famous people that stay in them. Then he takes us around the world with his favourite luxory hotels and resorts. Oh the opulence and money, the tales and secrets. This was a fab and fun read/listen, one I didn’t want to end and made me long to afford to be able to stay in just one of his suggestions!
Still Life With Teapot: on zen, writing, and creativity by Brigid Lowry – this is a lovely memoir/self help book by teen author Brigid Lowry. Essays, snippets, lists, suggestions, Brigid tells us all, and it is a great little read.
Rock This City: LIve Music in Newcastle, 1970s-1980s by Gaye A Sheather – this is an interesting and fun read about the music scene in Newcastle. It features music, bands, musicians before my time but many were familiar to me. If this is your era, I am certain you will love this book. I hope there will be a follow up volume!
What I’ve Been Listening To
Martha Wainwright –  been listening to her 6 record back catalogue including the superb new album, Goodnight City. This was in the lead-up to seeing Martha at Lizotte’s.
First Aid Kit – work has been hectic, so I have been listening to the girls, to help calm things down and give me a bit of zen.

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