ERN – Australia’s Greatest Hoax

June 28, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | AUSTRALIANIA, THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

Festival Theatre, Adelaide, 25 June 2021

First, the back story.  The Ern Malley affair is Australia’s most famous literary hoax. Max Harris was a precocious Adelaide poet who edited Angry Penguins, a literary review in the style of the Wyndham Lewis-inspired Blast from several decades before. A couple of traditional poets, Harold Stewart and James McAuley, on a slow day in 1943 at the Melbourne barracks where they were stationed, fabricated a brief folio of poems by an obscure artist, Ern Malley, who had died tragically at the age of 25. Imitating the modernist poetry they despised, the hoaxers wrote hilariously bad and hackneyed verse in the ‘new’ style. They also confected a letter from Ern’s sister, Ethel, to Harris, enclosing the collection and stating humbly “I am no judge of it myself...”

Unfortunately, this ‘discovery’ was to have no bittersweet ending such as the publication of A Confederacy of Dunces.  Harris was enchanted and thrilled with the collection, seeing in them authentic traces of Kafka, Owen, Rilke (yes and no doubt Eliot, Pound and Rimbaud besides).  Nearly all artistic work is derivative, of course, but Harris should have dug a bit deeper before going out and publishing an entire edition dedicated to the genius of Ern: all that came of it were opprobrium and ridicule, an early end to his poetical ambitions, the eventual folding of an heroic literary periodical and a 1944 conviction for publication of ‘indecent’ material (£5 fine; £21/11 costs).

Malley’s faux oeuvre did not vanish, however (unlike the original manuscript that, intriguingly, did). In fact, many artists, poets and critics regarded the surreal effusions and literary allusions as having real value, and they would in time provide inspiration for a new generation of poets as well as poetasters. Which brings us to last Friday evening.

ERN: Australia’s Greatest Hoax, was created by the singer/songwriter Max Savage in collaboration with composer Ross McHenry and realist oil painter Josh Baldwin. A mini concert of songs that alternated between the leisurely long works of Peter Gabriel and the white-hot concise rockers of punk and grunge, Savage and his entourage synthesized rather than transcribed the works of Malley, the painting created during the performance a sort of obbligato to the music. The Varnished Culture, revisiting Malley’s poems later, couldn’t detect them in the actual lyrics presented on the night but no matter – the homage was symbolic rather than literal.

Savage has a real presence, a raw but clear voice reminiscent of Tom Waits singing Tom Traubert’s Blues, and a stage presence hovering between Joe Cocker getting-into-the-song, and a swaggering-and-exhorting-of-band á la Mick Jagger. The band was very smooth and handled the cut-up style of the songs (jazz, rock and roll, country and soul thrown into the pot): they were: Julian Ferraretto (violin), Brenton Foster (piano), Ross McHenry (Bass, Moog), Steve Neville (drums), Adam Page (clarinet) and Django Rowe (lead guitar, banjo).  Unfortunately, we had to leave about 10 minutes early to attend another show, so we trust we have done the performance justice: A solid effort.

The Ern Malley Affair by Michael Heyward - Penguin Books Australia

You can read all about the hoax in Michael Heywood’s 1993 book, the cover featuring Sydney Nolan’s “portrait” of Ern (aptly housed in the Art Gallery of SA)

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June 25, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, FILM, HISTORY, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by Bob Fosse) (1972)

Adelaide Cabaret Festival, 24 June 2021

Inspired by the Weimar work of Christopher Isherwood, Cabaret is perhaps the last great movie musical. A brilliant rendering of the last days of chaotic democracy in Germany, the long shadows of Nazism entering stage left, the Kit Kat Klub becomes a trope for the death of heady, insouciant decadence, about to be replaced by something far more depraved. Fosse’s direction is faultless, as are the period feel and production values.

The cast is superb, led by Liza Minnelli, perfect as the brash and wide-eyed Sally Bowles, an American making her way in Berlin, man by man; with Joel Gray as the Mephistopheles who will doubtless lose his Faustian bargain; Michael York in the Isherwood role as ‘Brian’, and Helmut Griem as the debauched aristocrat, Maximilian.  In a sub-plot, crypto-Jewish Fritz (Fritz Wepper) woos Jewish Natalia (Marisa Berenson), which causes complications in a country soon to be subject to the Nuremberg laws.

Cabaret (1972) - IMDb

ménage à trois

The musical numbers and choreography are terrific, symbolizing the era and serving as faux narrative. Particularly good are Gray’s knowing and humourous  “Willkommen,” “Two Ladies,” “Tiller Girls,” and the creepy “If You Could See Her“; Liza’s dramatic “Mein Herr,” “Maybe This Time,” “Money, Money” (with Gray) and her great finale in the title track.  And then there’s the terrifying yet stirring song outside a gasthaus, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” roundly belted-out by a Hitler youth, in which almost the entire throng joins with annihilating fervour, prompting Brian to ask complacent nobleman Max as they decamp: “Do you still think you can control them?” The film’s finale reminds us of the answer to that question.

Cabaret remains the grandest musical outside the genre’s golden age.

A special screening of Cabaret enabled us to revisit the film in its proper setting. With a guest appearance by Adelaide Cabaret Festival darling Kim David Smith (looking appropriately louche – see below), we were invited to “dress the part, bowler hat and suspenders in an immersive experience” à la The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Some ladies did that in spades, even trying to get a ‘Songalong‘ going during Liza’s eponymous finale. KDS, now a resident of NY, introduced the film à la Joel Gray and explained how he had loved it and channeled Sally Bowles from an early age in his beautiful hometown of Traralgon (if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere).  His voice is very good and while doing a take from the title song (“Put down the knitting, the book and the broom“) he asked the musical question ‘why did you bring a broom?’ All up, a lovely evening.

KDS…a male Marlene Dietrich

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Chekhov Goes Feral at The Belvoir – The Cherry Orchard

June 23, 2021 | Posted by Guest Reviewer | THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Reviewed by our learned NSW correspondent, Margo Jakobsen)

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, Belvoir Theatre, June 2021 – directed / adapted by Eamon Flack

The burning question is about the adaptation of The Cherry Orchard. The Larrikin tradition was evoked.

Examples: the Zumba style dance, the MC calling the partygoers a bunch of c..ts, the f…k you conga line. Missing the subtle humour of the original, the 2 ladies next to me left at interval. [I’d probably have joined them – Ed.]

The audience, a full house, was split between those of penshionable age and secondary students. In their innocence, the latter were shocked by the sexual references and not shy about expressing themselves. The atmosphere was raucous and fun. Enjoying the real-life personality of Pamela Rabe in the Q&A after the show, I’d like to have seen more of that power in her portrayal of the flawed matriarch, and not the more fragile one asked for by the director. Diversity was clearly a priority in the casting. New, fresh, a must-see!

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

May 27, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classic Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by John Ford) (1962)

We accept violence in the defense of life, liberty or country, on the sports field, or in delivering the brutal, hurtful truth. We get all of this, in various forms, in John Ford’s most intriguing film.  When it first came out, the critics hated it – ‘dull’ and ‘predictable’ was the general consensus. But after one gets over the shock of James Stewart playing a young law student, or John Wayne wooing young-enough-to-be-his-daughter Vera Miles, we can see that this film is really a classic, the Monolith of all westerns*, focused on the genre’s key trope, the old ways giving-in to the new, save only for myth: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That statement doesn’t make sense as read, but when you watch the film, it makes perfect sense. A lie can travel around the world while the truth is still putting on its boots, but living a lie makes for a life of sadness.

Movie Review – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance | constantscribbles

“Liberty Valance is the toughest man south of the picket wire…next to me.”

Shinbone is a frontier town. What would bring an important man, a Senator (Stewart), here, all the way from Washington? So ask the press men from the local newspaper, and their curiosity is piqued further when they find Senator Ransom Stoddard is attending the funeral of obscure rancher Tom Doniphon (Wayne), lying forgotten and bootless in a plain pine box. After all, Stoddard is the State’s most famous son, a driving force behind statehood who stared down the greedy cattlemen, an elected official of good standing, and most crucially, the man who shot evil thug Liberty Valance (a great and savage Lee Marvin) – why someone didn’t shoot him earlier is unexplained, although he is a scary guy and seems to have affluent backers. And why does the Senator’s wife Hallie (Miles) wear such a haunted expression?

To learn the answers to these questions, we have to go back a generation (which in Hollywood, means a ‘flashback.’) Shinbone was not then a cute little town; it was a dirty hole, tended by a useless coward of a sheriff (a raspy, comic Andy Devine), ruled by Valance, a gun-slinging Caligula who robbed and pushed people around with impunity. Stoddard’s introduction to the region consists of being robbed, whipped, and having his law-book shredded by Liberty and his goons (or as Dutton Peabody would express it, ‘his myrmidons‘, played by Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin). Recuperating under the tender mercies of restauranteurs Pete and Nora (John Qualen, Jeanette Nolan), Ranse has his eye on illiterate waitress Hallie, who regards her ‘Pilgrim’ as preferable to crass rancher Tom, despite the lovely sun-room he is building, and because of lines like: “You’re awful pretty when you get mad.”

The Many Rantings of John: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

When Ranse hangs up his shingle and starts civilisin’ the folks, Valance objects, monstering the town’s journalist (Edmond O’Brien) and eventually calling on the ‘young’ man to face him and draw. We won’t relate what happens, but there is a twist, which is revealed later and torments certain characters for half a lifetime. And John Wayne ends up lonesome, a bit like in The Searchers. The ending seemed to us entirely satisfactory, wistful, and apposite.

The film is at times just a little too leisurely, a smidge too long, but then, we can’t think what should be cut.  Moreover, its broad, unhurried pace enables us to take in the richness of a saga which covers much more than a love triangle. Valance and Doniphon represent the Old West, passing into history (i.e. myth). Shinbone is learning how to read, exchanging guns for the power of the press, exercising its vote, and going to law, not war. Of course, women are still confined to the kitchen, and black servant Pompey (Woody Strode, in a fine performance) has to wait outside while the white folks eat, drink or vote, but then, equal rights were still a hundred years away. ‘”That all men are created equal.” That’s fine, Pompey.” “I knew that, Mr. Rance, but I just plumb forgot it.” “Oh, it’s all right, Pompey. A lot of people forget that part of it.”

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962 | More Obscure Train Movies

“Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance.”

Guns and booze, those great consolations of American life, loom large. (“Courage can be purchased at yon’ tavern!”) The local doctor is a drunk. The newspaper editor is a drunk. The Sheriff is a drunk, and it doesn’t even give him courage. One of our favourite scenes features Tom teaching Ranse how to shoot, and how to cheat. It reveals the lawyer’s emerging defiance, and also that he throws a good punch. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance mops up all of the clichés of western movies (and then some), dips them in warm gravy and spoons them in with mashed potatoes, but this is a meal that ‘sticks to the ribs’. Wonderful stuff.

The Gene Pitney song (by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) was recorded shortly after the film’s release, but is an impressive and accurate summary of the story…

[* Some of the greatest westerns are Stagecoach (1939), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) My Darling Clementine (1946) Red River (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Gunfighter (1950), High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Searchers (1956), Gunfight at OK Corral (1957), Rio Bravo (1959), The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), and True Grit (2010).] Continue Reading →

Please Don’t Go: I Think You Should Leave

May 21, 2021 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Comedy, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, TV SERIES |

I Think You Should Leave (By Tim Robinson, et al) (Netflix, 2019)

The Varnished Culture has long been a fan of the Theatre of Embarrassment. I Think You Should Leave, created and driven by newcomer Robinson, adds demented anger and Kafkaesque punishment to embarrassment, and it’s the funniest thing in years.

A collection of sketches involve a central character who is the carnal embodiment of the current zeitgeist, in terms of obsessive egotism, transferred anger, rampant obscurantism, excessive fussiness and florid querulousness. We cannot wait for a commissioned but Covid-delayed second series.

Our favourites:

  1. The job applicant, meeting at a café, refuses to accept that you exit by pushing rather than pulling the door (he just failed the interview) [below top right];
  2. The old-timer on the plane, waiting since 1982 to exact his revenge on a fellow passenger [main image];
  3. The man in the hot dog costume, having driven his weiner-mobile through a shop window, avoids censure by observing how we don’t take the time to interact with our fellow man anymore…”we’re so – buried in our phones…”
  4. The Ford focus group [below top left] demonstrates that there MAY BE some wrong answers, after all;
  5. Dan Vega’s Mega Money Quiz [below, bottom left] is a format badly needing work.  In particular, “Chunky” has to figure out what he does;
  6. After laser spine surgery, folks can spin their wives again, play with their dogs again…or get their “money back from Robbie Star at Superstar Tracks Records…” (“Moon River rock; Moon River roll…”);
  7. [Below, bottom right] A birthday party gift-giving bizarrely rebounds on the host in an appalling manner…

I Think You Should Leave: the shortform sketch show breaking the rules of TV | The Independent | The Independent

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Ship of Fools

(By Tucker Carlson) (2018)

The brilliant TV pundit Carlson (one of the few Americans in the public square who understand irony) is perhaps better on screen than in print. Still, this is an amusing, engaging, stimulating and un-footnoted overview of America’s political and corporate elites, and how they, like the Emperor with no clothes, disport their naked ambition with a staggering immunity from introspection. Carlson is a rock-solid conservative, and has plenty to say about American liberal idiocy and childishness, but that doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t train a metaphorical AR-15 on the Republican Party as well. In fact, his thesis (a fortiori 3 years after the book came out) is that there is a rift in America, not along party or factional lines, but “between those who benefit from the status quo, and those who don’t.”  In other words, a dangerous state of affairs, a class system (the very concept is uncomfortable to Yanks) as “institutionally torpid, economically immobile, culturally atrophied and socially stratified“* as the Ancien Régime in 1789 France.

Fox News - Breaking News Updates | Latest News Headlines | Photos & News Videos

Written in the breezy and familiar American style, the author gives us a fact and opinion overload (again, we say, sans footnotes), making clear that whilst he’s no Trump fan, the forces that produced him, did him down and now replace him, are far less palatable. In 2021, the U.S. is in crisis: entropic decline of its international stature, sagging under the weight of public debt so terrible that no-one mentions it, growing class divisions fomented by a insouciant and ignorant cabal of the nouveau riche, cities on fire, race-baiting, flourishing inflation, gashed and breached national borders (physical and digital), contempt for traditional values and authority, a vibrant cradle of lies in the public square, a pliable and narcoleptic Fourth Estate (and President), an Orwellian suppression of dangerous ideas via monopolistic social platforms and mob rule. Amid this catastrophic environment, President Biden‘s carers act like Emperor Nero. And the Republicans seem to sulk and wait for Joe and Kamala to self-immolate.

Plenty of people hate Carlson but everyone needs to hear what he has to say, because a lot of it makes sense and sense is valuable even when it bruises. In what Democrats celebrate as America’s ‘diversity,’ in cities throughout the country nervously marketed by real estate agents as ‘vibrant,’ Carlson asks why a country with no shared language, ethnicity, religion, culture, or history would remain a country.  Here are some sample quotes from Ship of Fools on the various issues arising from that premise:

Trump’s election wasn’t about Trump. It was a throbbing middle finger in the face of America’s ruling class…

Free speech is the enemy of authoritarian rule…That’s also why our ruling class seeks to crush it.”

The meritocracy, it turns out, creates its own kind of stratification, a kind more rigid than the aristocracy it replacedIn Chelsea Clinton’s world, nobody tells her she’s wrongThe best thing about old-fashioned liberals was how guilty they were. They felt bad about everything, and that kept them empathetic and humane. It also made them instinctively suspicious of power, which was useful. Somebody needs to be.”

[For the elites, illegal immigration is] the perfect arrangement. You get to feel virtuous for having a housekeeper; she walks the dog while you’re at SoulCycle. You can see why affluent moms tended to hate Donald Trump and his talk of building a wall. For Americans in the top 20 percent of income distribution, mass immigration is one of the best things that ever happened – cheap help, obedient employees, more interesting restaurants, and all without guilt. There’s no downside, at least none that you personally experience. You don’t take the bus or use the emergency room for health care or send your kids to overpopulated public schools that have canceled gym and music to pay for ESL because half the kids can’t speak English.”

Elites choose to live in cocoons white enough to burn your retinas…Meanwhile, the identity politics they espouse makes the country easier to govern, even as it makes it much harder to live in.”

“[When Edward] Kennedy…an absolutist on legal abortion…died in 2009, feminists celebrated his life. The Huffington Post ran a piece asking, ‘What would Mary Jo Kopechne have thought of Ted’s career?” Its conclusion: “Maybe she’d feel it was worth it.” Mary Jo Kopechne had become an abortion martyr.”

It is possible to isolate the precise moment that Trump permanently alienated the Republican establishment in Washington: February 13, 2016. There was a GOP primary debate that night in Greenville, South Carolina, so every Republican in Washington was watching. Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump articulated something that no party leader had said out loud. “We should never have been in Iraq,” Trump announced, his voice rising. “We have destabilized the Middle East.” Many in the crowd booed, but Trump kept going: “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none.”

Politically, the decision to become a prowar party paid huge dividends for Democrats. From 1968 through 1988, Democrats decisively lost five presidential elections and narrowly won another. Since Clinton took the party back in a hawkish direction, the Democrats have lost the popular vote only once, in 2004…With both parties aligned on the wisdom of frequent military intervention abroad…America has remained in a state of almost permanent war…Less than a year into his first term, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, apparently for the transcendent achievement of not being George W. Bush. But the prize had no lasting effect on Obama.” 

No matter how often they’re [the foreign policy establishment] wrong, no matter how many disasters they unintentionally create, they never seem to feel bad about it. They certainly never blame themselves.”

The core belief in transgenderism is that biology isn’t real: sex is not determined at the DNA level; it’s determined by appearance…It’s a measure of how bovine our ruling class has become that educated people fall for nonsense like this especially hard. Employees of Facebook came up with more than seventy gender choices for their site. The choices include asexual, gender neutral, polygender, agender, bigender, gender fluid, gender variant, neutrois, pangender, transmasculine, as well as something called two-spirit…There’s not a person on earth who could define all of these categories. Some of them don’t really have definitions. It doesn’t matter. Their legitimacy is defended with determined ruthlessness by the arbiters of gender politics…the small group of unhappy people in charge…”

With every passing year, the goals of the environmental movement became steadily more abstract…Environmentalism as a religion is more compelling than environmentalism as a means to save birds or clean up some river in Maine…Few preachers live up to the standards they set from the pulpit, and [Leonardo] Di Caprio is no exception. In the summer of 2016, Di Caprio was scheduled to receive an [environmental] award…He was in Cannes attending the film festival at the time, so he chartered a private jet to fly from France to New York and back…Billionaire investor Richard Branson tells audiences not to “be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment” with carbon. To spread that message, he travels on his own Dassault Falcon 50EX…Caring deeply is the only measure that matters. That’s why their consciences remain untroubled, no matter how many times they violate the standards they demand of others. Once you understand this, the Paris climate accord makes sense. An international agreement designed to curb carbon emissions, negotiated next to Europe’s busiest private airport. Nobody in attendance flew commercial. Nobody seemed to feel bad about it, either.”

You can’t enforce enlightenment by fiat.”

What it's like to be a little-known journalist who is suddenly the target of a Tucker Carlson Fox News rant - PRIMETIMER

[* Simon Schama, Citizens (1989), p. 184.]

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May 14, 2021 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by Joe Penna) (2021)

Commander Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), scientist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) and medico Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick) set off on a two-year mission to Mars, unaware until they are past the point of no return, that they are carrying a stowaway [Shades of Dr. Zachary Smith! Oh, the pain of it all – Ed.].

The stowaway, an engineer, Michael Adams (Shamier Anderson), somehow got himself accidentally hidden behind a panel, and just wasn’t noticed during takeoff. He has unwittingly damaged a device necessary for production of breathable air.

Netflix Acquires Sci-Fi Thriller 'Stowaway,' Set For 2021 Release | Downright Creepy

“Need Another Seven [Four] Astronauts?”

What could be a sinister or suspenseful premise develops into a silly and contrived story. Adams’ (apparently true) explanation of how he got himself there is garbled nonsense. Incredibly, the crew shrug their shoulders, say “oh well” and bend over backwards to be kind to Adams. After all, he’s a damn nice man with the scars to show it. Clearly the writers (Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison) wanted a fourth man on a spaceship to create a moral dilemma, no matter how far-fetched the mechanism. (“Here’s an idea! What if there was – somehow – an unexpected passenger on a micro-managed spacecraft…?“and so there he is.) [Or just watch Event Horizon? – Ed.]

Putting aside these ludicrous aspects, Stowaway is a mixed bag. Despite the small world and the four characters, it is not claustrophobic; there is a nice quietness during the moments when the overly-dramatic music is not cranked up to 11. The space-walking scenes are too long for suspense, and owe a lot to Gravity and Tron 2. Toni Collette has an easy authority as the commander, although it is unlikely that she would be the only crew-member able to land the ship (an important plot point). Anna Kendrick is fine, and not at all annoying. The moral dilemma, when it comes, is over with in moments.

Reviews of Stowaway have complained that it is a clichéd ‘unexpected participant in a remote expedition‘ film. Unfortunately it is not. The Thing or Alien it is not. More’s the pity.

Netflix's Stowaway Tangles with Morality in Space | Time

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Mare of Easttown (Foxtel)

May 14, 2021 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Drama, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, TV SERIES |

(Directed by Craig Zobel) (HBO; Foxtel, 2021)

There are more sombre crime series on streaming services than a world-weary detective can poke a blood-stained stick at.  How then to choose which to watch – and why watch at all?  Pull up a rumpled armchair, push away the AA booklets; give this one a go.

Mare of Easttown, a Foxtel series written by Brad Ingelsby, has held our grumpy, misanthropic attention for four of its seven episodes.  Mary-Something ‘Mare’ Sheehan (Kate Winslet,) an unsmiling Philadelphia small-town detective, tramps along, bottom lip dragging on the muddy ground, six-inch-long dark roots (seriously?) pulled back off her make-up-free lemon (sorry, face). The town is redneck, poor, cold, wet and full of weirdos. Mare is dogged by a personal tragedy, of course. She is in a personal legal fight, of course. She can’t stop vaping, of course. An out of town detective, a young and perky guy (Evan Peters, excellent but miscast) is assigned to follow Mare round, of course. You get the picture.

But we watch because Winslet is affecting and we feel that the story is going somewhere. The fear is that finally it will disappear up its own clichés of predictability or that it will blow up in a shower of fireworks and unlikely reveals, (which would be worse).

But in the meantime, Winslet is naturally engaging.  Guy Pearce (as an unlikely love interest) smiles a lot and we wonder if he is untrustworthy or merely smug. Angourie Rice (Mare’s daughter Siobhan) overacts. She will soon rival Toni Collette in Hereditary or Rene Zellweger in….well, everything…for twitching as a method of demonstrating deep felt emotion. She also, unfortunately, features in two scenes meant to leaven the misery – a tooth-achingly sweet teenage pickup and a parachuted-in slapstick scene.

Julianne Nicholson as Mare’s friend, Lori; Cailee Spaeny as the hopeless single mother Erin; Jean Smart as Helen, Mare’s caustic mother and Jack Mulhern as Dylan, convey just the right levels of repressed anger and disappointment. Otherwise the be-bearded and be-anoraked men can be difficult to distinguish. The real stand-out in the cast though, is Mackenzie Lansing as Brianna Delrasso, Dylan’s fabulously nasty girlfriend. So limited that she’s even resentful of poor Erin, Dylan’s ex. The malice oozes out of the screen.

Perhaps the story will be predictable (did we mention the possible child-molester priest?  Did we say that Mare was once the town’s sporting sweetheart?), but it’s the ride.

Mare of Easttown: Who Killed Erin? Every Suspect Ranked

It’s like ‘Peyton Place’ for the lower classes [Ed.]

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Hamilton – The Musical

(Directed by Amy Campbell, Lyric Theatre, Sydney, 2021) (Reviewed by Margo Jakobsen)

Masked-up and entering the Sydney Lyric Theatre in an orderly fashion, I was eager to see if the musical justified the buzz. Some already knew, a couple of fans wearing period costumes of their own. Others were clearly familiar with the moments. For example, a cry went up at the ‘immigrants get the job done’ line and Brent Hill’s crassly, juvenile King George, made a popular and delicious contrast with the rawest emotions of Chloe Zuel as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza. The play ended with her enigmatic gasp.

Hamilton (musical) - Wikipedia

Amazing songs, such as Hamilton‘s opener and the classic, ‘my shot’ song. Throughout, the wordy, clever rap was crystal clear, tight, fast and eminently suited to packing in the dense detail of this American, colonial story without losing us along the way. I’d strongly recommend familiarising yourself before the show, with a basic outline of the events and main political players around the time when the national government starts. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s much-awarded achievement in writing the music, book and lyrics and also playing the role of Alexander Hamilton on Broadway has given him a stratospheric, global reputation.  The choreography was energetic, disciplined and expressive while the revolving stage added a fluidity to the dramatic transitions. Some have criticized the set as ‘drab’, but I think it was traditionally and effectively used, and kept the focus on the characters and action. Full-marks to the Australian cast. First and foremost, Jason Arrow as Hamilton and Lyndon Watts as his friend, Aaron Burr, a relationship that disintegrated into jealousy and a duel. There was not one weak performance. They all deserved the sustained, standing ovation.

Masked-up at the Lyric Theatre, Sydney. Photo by M. Jakobsen.

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Hot Air

May 3, 2021 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Directed by Frank Coraci) (2019)

Steve Coogan revels in his image as a hard-edged playboy.  But he also want us to think that there’s a soulful, sentimental man in there somewhere. The footloose, cynical womanising Steve Coogan character in the ‘tour’ movies with Rob Brydon is leavened with wistful moments of loneliness.  Alan Partridge is a wishy washy, desperate side of the same man.

Hot Air | Film Threat

(Actual image of the TVC crew watching “Hot Air”)

Unfortunately, when Coogan steps out of one of his alter egos, his desire to make us love him turns into an absolute puddle of gel.  Witness the ghastly soppiness of his Martin Sixsmith in Stephen Frear’s Philomena (2013) or the mawkish Stan & Ollie.

We hoped for the ‘hard’ Coogan and not the lachrymose one in Hot Air.  We should have known better.  It’s a fairy tale along the line of Elf without the humour or humanity. Coogan does a good job as an abusive, philandering American conservative radio host. His best moment is his speech on a talk show hosted by his protégé Gareth Whitley (Skylar Astin) although it owes a great deal to Peter Finch’s unhinged rant in Network. But the film as a whole is a mess of predictable, lefty mush.

Image gallery for Hot Air - FilmAffinity

Lionel’s niece Tess (Taylor Russell), whom he has not met, turns up at his exclusive Manhattan apartment when her mother is sent to rehab for addiction. How she gets there and why is all a bit dark but it’s convenient, because now Lionel has someone other than his long-suffering girlfriend/assistant Val (an under-used Neve Campbell) to hold up the mirror to him. Conveniently also, Tess is biracial, pretty and feisty.  Just as well!  There is some nonsense about Tess’s mother having disappointed Lionel years ago, more nonsense about a deal Tess has made with her mother, and yet more rubbish about a completely uncharacteristic attempt by Lionel to have Tess ’emancipated’ from parental care. It all ends well. Lionel mends his evil ways and Tess goes to college. We poor viewers however are left wishing that Coogan would stop trying to assuage his conscience and convince us all that he’s really a softy.  He’s not and we don’t care anyway.

[Ed.: Tend to agree. Steve can’t do a Hannity or a Rush Limbaugh. Coogan’s best moments really are as Alan Partridge (see, e.g., Alpha Papa), Tommy Saxondale, and Tommy Wilson in 24 Hour Party People.] Continue Reading →

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