Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Advice For The Day (Flaubert to Maupassant Edition)

You complain about fucking being ‘monotonous’. There’s a simple remedy: cut it out for a bit. ‘The news in the papers is always the same’? That’s the complaint of a realist – and besides, what do you know about it? You should look at things more carefully … ‘The vices are trivial’? – but everything is trivial. ‘There aren’t enough different ways to compose a sentence’? – seek and ye shall find … You must – do you hear me, my young friend? – you must work harder than you do. I suspect you of being a bit of a loafer. Too many whores! Too much rowing! Too much exercise! A civilised person needs much less locomotion than the doctors claim. You were born to be a poet: be one. Everything else is pointless – starting with your pleasures and your health: get that much into your thick skull. Besides, your health will be all the better if you follow your calling … What you lack are ‘principles’. There’s no getting over it – that’s what you have to have; it’s just a matter of finding out which ones. For an artist there is only one: everything must be sacrificed to Art … To sum up, my dear Guy, you must beware of melancholy: it’s a vice.

From this, which is well worth a read.

The Sublime (1983 Edition)

I don't know what Stipe is singing about. I've read the lyrics. "Yellow like a geisha gown"? Who knows.

But the mumbling / soaring glory / yearning / mystery of this thing will not be denied.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Recently Seen / Briefly Noted (non-Chris Marker edition)

Whatever Works (Allen, 2009)

Coasting. Laziness. Echoes of echoes. And yet, one of his better films of the last decade. Credit this to Larry David, who spins a wonderfully vitriolic variation on the familiar Allen gripes. But let's not dwell on the film's third-act contrivances. There's playing loose with plot, and then there's outright insult to your viewer's intelligence.

A Nos Amours (Pialat, 1983)

"Devastating", as the cliche runs, but it's earned. And what's more, the film lingers and nibbles at you. As debuts in modern cinema goes, Bonnaire's is one of the greats. Also, it's one of the best films I've ever seen about the listlessness at the heart of so much "desire" - think of it as a warm-blooded, non-didactic version of Bresson's The Devil, Probably. Susan and I have more Pialat planned - um, "stay tuned"?

Silence of The Lambs (Demme, 1991)

Hadn't seen it since I was 18, in an edited TV format, and became curious again after reading some of the Harris source material. Was surprised at its strengths - Foster's exceptional performance, and Demme's wonderfully subjective camera strategies in the film's first half. Once it turns into an outright thriller things grow quickly wearisome, but nonetheless, so much stronger than I'd remembered / comprehended as a dumbass kid.

Aliens (Cameron, 1986) / The Abyss (Cameron, 1989)

Blame it on Avatar excitement, which had me scuttling for yet more revisiting of teenage memories. These are even stronger - I've probably seen Aliens three or four times, yet even my as-established junior self couldn't have comprehended what a masterpiece this film is. It's a machine, slow-burning, with a credibly (spatially, psychologically) established first act leading up to one of the most brilliantly sustained last hour's in "action" cinema. Though, as you can tell by the quotes, that dimwit genre doesn't deserve it (nor is sci-fi a neat fit here). Still, the film has the momentum of a boulder descending a mountain. Astonishing. As for The Abyss, it's my Cameron fear writ-large - sentimentality killing off awesomely impersonal technological gifts. This is the first film he got truly goopy on us, leading to the dead-end of Titanic. The underwater footage and sustained compressed atmosphere is all brilliantly done, and has not dated in the slightest. Everything else leaves me very cold two decades later. File Under: The Perils and Payoffs of Nostalgia.

Moon (Jones, 2009)

A couple of weeks later, all that lasts beyond the borrowed Kubrickisms and weak third act is Sam Rockwell's performance. He's wonderful, and needs to be - this thing's a chamber piece, and I found the scenario around Rockwell fairly tired and familiar. But he's good - it's the sort of performance would should a bunch of awards, for what it's worth.

Shock Corridor (Fuller, 1963)

Possibly Fuller's best - his crassness and hectoring having found the perfect subject matter, he proceeds to ratchet up the personal melodrama and treat Stanley Kramer social issues with the tact of a drunken uncle. Your reactions to it veer from laughter to shock from scene to scene, never certain if it's a patronising laugh or a laugh of sympathy. And Cortez's cinematography turns the whole starker and more lurid still. Wonderful.

White Dog (Fuller, 1982)

The whole thing should collapse under its clumsiness and heavy-handedness, yet nonetheless there's a curiously poignant quality to the film that sails right by anything as stock as "ideas". Once that dog goes wild and Fuller responds by rhapsodising in slow motion, whatever message you care to chew over later in the lobby becomes a solely physical, irrational force, way beyond speechifying. And a great closing shot too.

Hypothesis of A Stolen Painting (Ruiz, 1979)

I was tired, and should have called it quits there. But instead I've now got this cinematic puzzle (far too easy to call it a filmed Borges short, but what else can you honestly come up with foolish brain!) making me feel exceptionally slow off the mark. Often referred to as a good entry point to Ruiz's daunting (in so many ways) body of work, I wouldn't recommend it personally - it's archness without laughter, play without joy. Other Ruiz films as an undergraduate charmed me greatly, though they exist for me now as mere fragments. File Under: My Head Hurts.

The Smiling Lieutenant (Lubitsch, 1931)

Wonderful piffle, in a way which seems so beyond our current filmmakers abilities and so removed from our own sensibilities as viewers as to qualify as some kind of semi-masterpiece. I mean really, it's the art of no-art, the illusion of ease. The view of marriage is puzzling at best. I found Maurice Chevalier to be quite charming after some initial hesitations. There's a great song about lingerie near the end. Duck Soup makes more sense now. Bring on Monte Carlo!

Paris Nous Appartient (Rivette, 1960)

My first Rivette - a sprawling, dense, piece-together pit of cinephile paranoia that seems to demand a replay the second you're done with it. After all the hype and expectation, it didn't disappoint. However, I have no idea how to approach it just now, and need more time wandering through Jacques' lengthy cine-world. I have Celine and Julie Go Boating ready to go. File Under: Continuing Research.

Tetsuo (Tsukamoto, 1989)

I actually recommended this to a guy I work with - that'll be the last time he turns to me for film suggestions. However, if you for some reason take my word as cine-bible, can I recommend you track down this demented piece of possibly-subtext laden insanity and enjoy it solely on a visual level (oh the naivety!), paying special attention to the disruptive editing and mixed-media thrills and spills. A drink or three beforehand will not hurt your enjoyment.

New York Ripper (Fulci, 1982)

I don't trust you Lucio Fulci. Your cult status is, well, undeserved. Sure, you deliver some graphic kills (ah those fanboy favourites), and that fight with the shark and the zombie underwater in Zombie 2/Zombie Holocaust never fails to amuse, but is that really enough to hang your reputation on? I've never found your highly regarded The Beyond scary - silly and overblown yes, but never disquieting or crassly effective as it should be. As for this film, your most "notorious" effort, well, it can go right back to amusing dipshit teenage nihilists and AICN readers as far as I'm concerned. It's dreck, and maybe the old me would give you some leeway, but now it plays worse than ever. Then again, I hear your earlier efforts like A Lizard In A Woman's Skin and Don't Torture A Duckling are quite special, and less beholden to tired giallo tropes. So maybe later.

Julie and Julia (Ephron, 2009)

A Nora Ephron movie? I'm there. I'm there in the same way that that I'm there for any slop Woody Allen wants to serve up. But when I hand over my $16.50 to see Whatever Works what I'm really doing is paying off a debt I owe on Annie Hall and at least a dozen other films that give me joy until this day, and that's ok. With Ephron, though, it's different. She's written (not directed) only one great Rom Com - When Harry Met Sally... (Reiner, 1989), but her parents wrote Desk Set (Lang, 1957) so all is forgiven. Women's porn, basically: food, frocks, French scenery, women friends with the wit of Dorothy Parker, men friends who understand beyond all understanding - and that feeling of having been cheated somehow. It made me want to cook, but it made me want to own Julia Child's cookbook more. In other words, it made a 1950s housewife out of me. Can't be good.

Monday, November 2, 2009

This Guy Lives In My City

I've never heard someone with absolutely no skills at all. When people say this or that rapper is boring/crap/the worst evah, they usually mean he's substandard compared to Ghostface or Q-Tip. At a local battle or spitting over a borrowed beat, he'd probably do just fine. This guy, however, has a flow like none I've ever heard before. He doesn't really observe the traditional rules of rhyme or even rhythm - that's how far past your petty notions of good taste and convention he is. He's out there. He doesn't even have to make sense. He's walking into a crowd and firing a gun. Or posting a video of the same act on youtube, which is much the same thing in our age of remove.

In fact, I'm going to come right out and say I've never seen anything like this before. Ever. I've seen hip-hop clips bogged down by too much inadvertent self-parody to stand up straight. I've seen some truly odious local hip-hop. I've seen youtube would-be fame before. But nothing even close to this. It's like a fever dream of power and talent, stripped of pretense and drowning in a sea of rock bottom production values and delusion. I can't stop watching. I think it's a work of genius.

Rae To The Motherfucken D Y'all...

P.S. If you fail to find this is rib-tickling as I do, I sincerely apologize for wasting just under seven minutes of your time.

For The Noo Yawk Hipster Power Couple

The White Album, Single Serve

Yes, it does possess a kind of rambling perfection as two discs / records, but after listening to the entire remastered lot of it the other night in a single sitting, I’ve gone all George Martin and cut the thing down to an album of knockout tracks. You lose the sprawl and the stories, the sound of a band tearing itself apart and being pieced back together in an epic programming session, but for the kids who don’t need the story, and the folks who only ever wanted the songs to begin with, well, here you go. I know this is a familiar game to play not only with this very record, but with others. I nod discreetly to my predecessors.

I’ve kept the original album opener, which fits nowhere else and which is still, in this blogger’s opinion, still one of the album’s highlights. Otherwise there have been some drastic overhauls, starting with the loss of “Revolution 9”, both the album’s spirit of ’68 centerpiece and its most disposable track. Ringo loses his single tune. I’ve ditched the traditional album closer “Good Night”, but I’ve replaced it with a sufficiently epic track to fade away with. And I’ve played a great deal with the traditional running order, meaning some of the old segues are ditched. But, in my head, connections and transitions still run smoothly. Or smoothly enough. Ian McDonald in the essential Revolution In The Head opines that without its brilliant sequencing, The Beatles would be an even bigger mess than it finally stands. Well, he did warn me.

Retaining vinyl “sides”, the new albums runs as follows:

Side One

Back In The U.S.S.R.
Glass Onion
Savoy Truffle
Sexy Sadie
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
I’m So Tired
Mother Nature’s Son
Long Long Long

Side Two

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me and My Monkey
Dear Prudence
Martha My Dear
Happiness Is A Warm Gun
Cry Baby Cry
Revolution 1
While My Guitar Gently Weeps

As you can see, it’s evenly split along Lennon and McCartney songs, though outside of personal favorite “Long Long Long” (possibly Harrison’s greatest Beatles composition – no, I’m not forgetting “Something”) John nicks off with the album. My Side Two features three of the album’s best songs – “Monkey”, “Cry Baby Cry” and the still astonishing “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”.

Complaints? Outrage? Bemusement at my hubris? Alternate running orders? Ladies and gentlemen, the floor is yours.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

You'll Like It If You've Never Seen Another TV Show Before

Seriously, I know I'm super late on some pop-cultural phenomenons, but is Underbelly not kinda the worst thing, like, ever? That is, for something that isn't widely considered the worst thing ever. I mean, we can all agree on 20 to 1. But this...

I tried, I really did.

My initial impressions of the show were dismal. My sister loaned me the whole set, and I lasted about fifteen minutes into the first episode. What exactly was the appeal of this frenetically cut and clumsily scripted mess? I stopped it right there. Only later, after my sister had given me a stern talking to (she's to-the-point and somewhat scary) did I promise to give it a fair shot. And hey, I'd just moved to Melbourne - I'd be learning something about my new home, right?

And now, for some reason, I've seen all thirteen episodes of the thing, though at no point did I feel compelled to keep going. At no point was I hooked on the narrative. At no point did I get that wonderful "I need to go bed, but just one more episode" feeling. I kept plodding on, until I'd reached a point where I sadly realised I was going to watch the whole sodding thing. You know, to see what happens. Though I didn't care. Though I could see the bullet coming.

Where to start? The voiceover which tells you what you already know? The complete lack of insight the show offers into either police surveillance or the modern drug trade (don't think about The Wire, it'll only increase the pain, I assure you). The Benny Hill style of coitus everyone in the show partakes of, made doubly unwatchable by a reliance on zooms the likes of which haven't been seen since late 70s chopsocky? The inconsistent character psychology? The preposterous overuse of slow motion? The preposterous overuse of opera-laden montage?

You walk away from the show dazzled that someone as dim-witted as Carl Williams lasted five minutes on the streets of Carlton. The Victorian Police, famously "somewhat corrupt", are both white-washed and poorly treated. You get no sense of their investigation, or why they couldn't crack these losers sooner. This would be fine if the show suggested it was aware of the fundamental ridiculousness of the situation, but Underbelly is no friend of dramatic irony or comic understatement. For example: only in the last episode do they lean on a known associate of Williams for case-breaking information - someone, incidentally, who was arrested five episodes ago. Did they forget he was in prison?

What's curious to me is the level of hype that attached itself to the show's caboose, and the popularity of the DVD release. I can understand lazily watching this thing on TV, but I remember the first day it was released on DVD. I was working at Canberra Borders at the time, in the "prestigious" Multimedia Director position (aka "the guy who stocks the CDs and DVDs") and we couldn't keep it in the store. From memory our original shipment of 500 copies was sold out by the first afternoon. Dear God, why? Is it plain cynicism to put this down to the Australian public's on-going fascination with crims and other various morons. What's harder to explain is the media's love affair with the show - after all, it got excellent notices from otherwise sane scribes. Too much TV watching just might convince you this stuff was anything other than time-passing fluff. Perhaps everyone was coming off a Two And A Half Men marathon...

On the plus side, Kat Stewart (as Roberta Williams) is great in an underwritten role, and Damian Walshe-Howling as Benji completely steals the show.

Fans of the first series say the second series is terrible. I shudder at the implications.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This blog was intended to keep me connected to the world. That I’m refusing to let it die – or merely sit on a ho-hum final entry, as good as death in the blogosphere – is, I suppose, an attempt to honour a promise I made to myself. I’ve started these things before and let them fade out on such ill-played notes. I’m going to try keep that from happening for just a little while longer.

A supreme loathing of technology has overcome me lately. Or, to be exact, a supreme loathing of noise, waste, distraction, selfishness and celebrity, which all gathers and spins and spouts so wonderfully well online. A desk job doesn’t help things – you go looking for a little distraction, and you end up with a headache. I tried to cut back entirely. Or I promised myself I would cut back. More promises. This notion was solidified by my genuine and slightly neurotic concern about the future of literary fiction and its home, the book. As in, like, the physical object, and not a Kindle. The web is wonderful for many things. I don’t think we can count literary fiction and the effect it has upon concentration as one of them.

And so I stopped blogging, and tried to visit my standard sites less. I looked back at what I’d blogged. I took in those sentences – and was not happy. For the most part they were rushed and slapdash and breathless and artless. They have enthusiasm on their side. They have little else. And this is part of the problem: the enormous rush I find myself in so much of the time. Always contemplating the next new cultural object; always writing the next novel when the first one still lingers so very far from completion. I still regularly knock myself sideways with Stendahl Syndrome – it’s giddy fun, but exhausting. It is not sustaining, not for an adult life with genuine long-term aims.

So I sat on these thoughts and turned away for a little while and I was still depressed; or, to put it less melodramatically, in a funk. What was wrong?

I wasn’t writing. Simple as that. There was no output for my input. I was a bloated body without recourse to discharge. Or, to put it another way, I was writing without focus or aim.

So I’ve tried to pick up my private work, and honour the expectations I have of myself. I’m getting melodramatically serious about this. These are things I practically demand of myself, and which I’ve let slide for too fucking long.

And this – to keep things shortish – is why this entry is now here, and why, in the near future, if things stick to plan, there will be entries that are bound to appeal to someone out there on James Ellroy, James Cameron and James Hird. This is the complimentary flipside to my non-discussable attempts at some lasting words. These are “the other words”. My fretting about fiction (the death of the form, readerly drop-off, my own feeble jotting) remains, and my plans to keep the online intake levels to a low setting also remains, but my love for stuff, pure and simple, has not waned. It’s part of what keeps me going – the next novel, film, album, football game. It sustains me, and needs to be honoured, under numerous personal delusions and exaggerations, by words returned in kind. I will try to honour this with carefully chosen words, and considered ideas. This shit is as much for me as anyone else, so I might as well make it count, and make it something I’m not constantly deriding with the familiar “that – oh, I just tossed that off in half an hour”. I’ve got to rediscover sincerity and hard work and dogged tedium, and move away from pop buzz and flux. This isn’t a change-up of content. I’ll still be banging on about the usual low-to-middlebrow jazz, with some high-priests and half-forwards thrown in. But it’s a change of attitude.

And so out with self-pity and nail-chewing and gloom-laden prognostications, and in with exuberance, hunger and a useful criticism.

Let’s go.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Cinema of Responsibilities

Oh what immaculate, complicated, not-quite-clean-fun Inglourious Basterds is. Whatever issues you might have with Tarantino's ego or his purported film-geek immaturity (more on that in a second), this thing fucking sings. Playing with material that's both enormously complicated and already wrung-dry-for-Oscars, Tarantino turns the movie into nothing but a show of what movies can do: plotting roundabouts, violence, monologues, title cards. The film is about nothing but movies, really, about how fucking lovely characters entering a frame are, about the delight of tension, about an audience's need for tension, about montage, about slow fades to re-establish the same figure from a slightly different angle; about bullets to the face, about preposterous not-in-real-life borrowing from history; about digressions for the sake of introducing characters, about super-imposition, about voiceover, about in-jokes, about misguided love; about slow-motion, about action that's cut too quick for the eye. To paraphrase Scorsese on Sam Fuller, if you don't like this, you probably don't, in some fundamental way, like cinema.

There's two dozen things I love about this film, and about about half a dozen that don't sit well at all with me. Yep, some of the violence is tough-going, brutal and unnecessary. I'm tempted to say "that's the point", but that's glib and obvious. But it's kinda the point anyway. Plus Eli Roth isn't improving as actor. I'll think of the other four later.

But back to the pros, from which let me select one thing to praise: Quentin knows how to write long multi-character dialogue scenes. The scene in the underground tavern should be shown in film classes from tomorrow to eternity - its slow-build premise, its secondary support/relief characters, its promise of release, its withheld knowledge. I wanted to applaud by the end of it. Oh, and by the way, next time you hear some hack talk about Tarantino's admittedly violent films as raw meat for the baying idiot filmgoing hounds, show them this scene, then make them sit through the entire film. Twice. If Quentin really wanted to sell out and make uberviolence for the multiplex, would the film really be loaded up with such endless talk? At points in the film, the would-be showdown and resolve is ruthlessly sidetracked for yet more digression. It's cruel, but brilliantly done. And it's not easy-going either. This is "sell-out" the way that Miles going electric was supposedly selling-out. It's an easy talking point to spout until you're faced with something as unyielding as Live-Evil or as vapourous as "He Loved Him Madly". At that point, silence reigns.

One more point: I'm now officially sick to death of critics (and myself, for I've done it too, and recently as well) using "the film is only about film" line of criticism. These critics apparently quake and thirst and practically fucking shake and shudder for "real life", which is why, of course, their love involves being alone in the dark. Film critics (and I'd know people) practically gave up real life long ago, and carry a guilty conscience on this one. It's guilt which makes them moralise about other people's (other artists) duty to serve some utterly dubious notion of "the real" instead of paying homage to Tarantino's mirror-show as they should be. On your knees! Praise art, or damn art, but loudly!

They want real life? Plenty out there guys. And plenty of other films too. Not all work serves a purpose beyond its own existence and assertion, and if it's art for art's sake we're coming to, so fucking be it. The film geeks and critics alone know how powerful work like this is, about its absence of morality, its power of influence. "Real life" is the watering down of sensibility. And people who get paid to sit in the dark shouldn't be telling honest working people ("real life", tee-hee) how to appraise works of semi-genius like Inglourious Basterds. Write it up honestly, or feed the homeless. Or make your own work, you fuckers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Brief Note Before The Big Game

Dear Adelaide, Brisbane, Collingwood and Western Bulldogs,

To all 88 of you brave and goodly soldiers playing semi-finals this weekend on the hallowed turf of the MCG, please remember to acquit yourselves with grace and suitable conduct. Conduct your sporting affairs like demented warlords, yet remain gentlemen the entire time. Be firm yet fair, passionate yet self-aware. And most importantly, please don't be completely egotistical fuckwits and follow the above example of Alan "Crime Lord" Didak when you luck one through the big sticks. The opposition supporters on the receiving end of your hubris will not forget it, and most of your fans will simply be embarrassed for you. It really is the most conceited, asinine, American act imaginable.

Best Wishes,

Susan and David.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Larry David Reviews The New Wilco Record‏

Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty boring, he thinks.

I couldn't help but agree with him. We were both fans of the much-derided Sky Blue Sky, which Larry in particular felt was unfairly labelled a middle of the road record. That was all bullshit, he figured. It was OK that Tweedy and co. were cooling down a little, and it was better than a feigned attempt at regaining summerteeth's ebullience, or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's anguish and noise. You've gotta be honest to yourself, he said. But then Larry always said that. He told me this was what had gotten him into trouble so often, and with so many people. Still, he said, I never compromised, not once. But now that I'm hearing this rather-too-cutely-titled Wilco (The Album), he says, I'm thinking there is such a thing as a middle of the road, and I don't doubt Jeff is plonked right down in the middle of it. If this is them being honest, do they mind if I go and buy that new Dirty Projectors record I've been hearing so much about? Once more I concured, and not just because Larry had repped for me when it came time for my panel interview at the Ocean Way Golf Club, whose back nine we currently found ourselves negotiating. I concured because I too never compromised and I too thought the new one sucked a little. How weak and polite, I thought. How unexuberant and dull. A Feist collaboration? Sure, the opener "Wilco (The Song)" was catchy in its own way, but in that jingly-jangly inane way the Macarena and Agadoo were. We sure as hell weren't talking about the stirring melodicism of "Pot Kettle Black" or "Misunderstood". I pitched that idea at Larry after he'd skied a Titleist deep into the rough. Damn Fucking Straight, he cursed. This new one's vanilla through and fucking through, he said. I frankly can't even bring myself to play it again, and you know what a fan of those bastards I was in my younger years. And having said that, off he marched down the fairway in search of his Titleist.

(something from the very recent vaults - apologies to the friend who's already suffered through it once...the review, that is, not the record...)

Suicide Is Painless

The initital idea behind Stuff White People Like is pretty clever, if you enjoy the sort of snark and knowingness that ultimately renders you unable to enjoy your own life. But we're all very clever nowadays, so there you go; we love knowledge=power, even if it results in the kind of self-awareness that has us knowingly consuming steaming piles of cultural shit, whittling away post-show blues with caustic cliche-spotting superiority. Hard is hard, but everything else will either pass the time or take our punches. We're lazy, really.

But anyway...

David has indeed dipped into this well from time, and had others guide him there on others. I'm right up the alley readerwise of SWPL. Apparently my tastes and predilictions are both rare in my particular environment and crushingly obvious and generic in the wider world. And honestly, some of the shit SWPL rips into deserves it, but after a dozen or so rounds of you're-not-specialness, this idea plays out with deadly force. Read through the entire site/book and you'll soon enough come up against harder, fiercer, sadder truth: everything's been cordoned off as generic, as obvious. A lot of this boils down to supposed notions of "hipsterdom", a truly noxious notion that's been picked up and used as a weapon by everyone from Armond White to, gee, every second poster on Metafilter / The A.V. Club et al. The knowingness (that again) with which it's deployed doesn't make it any more palatable.

Hipsterdom is the web's there's-too-much-out-there fear (inevitable, considering the nature of the beast) experienced as constant ear-shredding feedback, the idea that somebody else's niche interest is a secret joke on you. That the niche's are smaller and harder to find these days is beside the point - all you need is attitude and a chip on your shoulder, and soon enough everything from Merzbow to Spike Jonze to literally-anything-that's-in-the-entire-world is made solely to make you feel out of it.

SWPL, now cited and used as an example by various idiot journalists, is the endgame of this affair. Both the in and the out, the hipster and his mark, melt like Roger Rabbit in dip (allusion not too obscure, not to hipsterish, I hope). Everything is a big fucking laff.

It's love that won't speak its name in public. It's cowardice. It's very self-conscious fun. It's waiting to make you the crowd. It's there to flatter you. It doesn't really believe in quality, or evne in the idea of belief. It believes, then, in the reflection of popularity, cultural guesswork, and back-row spitballs. Christ, it's really saddening and infuriating and not worth all these words.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Good Intentions, Quickly Scuppered

Oh how the would-be mighty have invisibly fallen - a couple of days and no new posts, and after such an initial burst of activity! Excuses? Well, the introduction to Arthur Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamophoses isn't going to read itself, is it? Still, there's raw copy waiting for discreet editing before it reaches you, rest assured. The world needs my thoughts on Generation Kill and John Cheever's short story "Goodbye, My Brother", and have them it will! Soon. For now, however, I need* to watch a shitload of Jacques Rivette films, polish off some short stories and work up some "hilarious"** rants about things that annoy me***. Back soon.


P.S. Susan has her thoughts too, but last I heard she was vanishing from the face of the earth for the next five weeks. She wishes you well.

* "Want" might be a better or more exact word, but when you truly lust for art and quake at the thought of finally, after years of waiting, tackling a master's oeuvre, the nature of the desire needs to be explained passionately. I need to see his films. It will save me / redeem me / inspire me, etc. And you too, obviously, should you sit down with him, in your own good time.

** I hope so, at least.

*** Short list: Stuff White People Like, online cinephilia, political correctness in book reviewing, football players who "shush" the crowd when they kick a goal, etc.

**** Yep, for real.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

In Honour of The People Who Recently Gave Me Full-Time Work

At the plant, there are only two positions available, and three applicants, Homer and two other men. Smithers recognizes the other two as frat brothers at Alpha Tau. They do the frat handshake, then sing a college song. Homer tries to join their singing, but fails miserably.

Smithers: What would each of you say is your worst quality?
Man 1: Well, I am a workaholic.

Man 2: I push myself too hard.

Homer: Well, it takes me a long time to learn anything, I'm kind of a goof-off...

Smithers: Okay, that'll do.

Homer: ...a little stuff starts disappearing from the workplace...

Smithers: That's enough! There's a problem with the reactor. What do you do?

Homer: There's a problem with the reactor!? We're all going to die! Aaaaaaaugh!

Melbourne's Coffee Culture?

We moved here, led to believe Melbourne had a great coffee culture. Sure, the city has lots of cool cafes, but we've got to say, we've been very disappointed by the quality of the actual joe. Even our very favourite local haunt, North (left) doesn't always get it right - though we heart its poached eggs and its smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese and capers. Really, even Canberra had better coffee. (Belated thanks to the guys at Tonic for getting us through those 2 years of purgatory.) Now, we don't want to buy into the whole Sydney/Melbourne thing, but we can think of plenty of places in the harbour city where coffee means a velvety, caramelly brew, not bitter, thin dishwater.
Well, Susan and David were pleased to see John Bailey bursting the bubble on Melbourne's coffee pretensions in last week's The Age:

Melbourne: you don't know coffee. I know it comes as tough news. Earlier this year Lord Mayor Robert Doyle made the outrageous claim that our bean culture was overrated. The city's acclaimed cafes went into defence mode, but those at the frontline still admit that there's a gap between our notion of the city as a macchiato mecca and the reality you're faced with when the brown stuff in a cup arrives at your table.
At the mo, we can really only rely on 2 joints for our daily caffeine fix: Seven Seeds and Auction Rooms, both in North Melbourne (also out of the finals series). But we hope to be proved wrong on this - put us on to your good brown liquidy thing now...

Recently Viddied / Briefly Noted

Drag Me To Hell, Sam Raimi (2009)

After the earnestly enjoyable Spiderman series (ignoring the frenzied and unsatisfying third installment, the first two are all sunshine and clean lines - narrative, architectural - and pure heroism with nary a borrowed nihilistic streak in sight), some pure Raimi. He's such a joyous horror filmmaker, if that doesn't sound overly contradictory. Here is a moralistic tale buried in mud and bodily deposits, E.C. terror filtered through human sympathy. And it's wickedly good fun in a cinema, as the full row of Japanese schoolgirls who sat behind me during the film will attest. Easily Raimi's best film since Army of Darkness.

Public Enemies, Michael Mann (2009)

The Scorsese Syndrome - for anyone else a masterpiece, for Mann, merely decent. The problem here is his inability to make the Depp/Cottilard relationship resonate, which means the film's final third, played for tragic love, just...sits there. And the DV cinematography, which was so lustrous and sudden and swoonworthy on Miami Vice (and Collateral to a lesser extent), here is jerky and simply an aesthetic misstep. Still, when the gunfights kick up, always Mann's speciality, you understand his decision. The man captures the fleeting moment better than almost anyone else working in cinema.

The Magick Lantern Cycle, Kenneth Anger (1948-80)

A massive jumble, obviously, going from Anger's early Genetesque Fireworks to his ridiculous Lucifer Rising, all Egyptian codswallop and mystic portentousness. But what a creamy middle - the blissed out texture of the unfinished Puce Moment, the hallucinatory Inauguration of The Pleasure Dome, and the rightly famous Scorpio Rising. Though the last is a little longer than it needs to be. Still, across its varied moods and ideas, from non-narrative sexual worship to borrowed Crowleyisms, some kind of "history of the 20th century". Dirty secret: all of the good stuff was at the beginning. Sucks to be young, eh?

Art School Confidential, Terry Zwigoff (2006)

Outsider schtick with little charm, and a stacked deck that's positively no fun to deal. Needs to be harder and meaner with the delusions and phoniness of art schools, and not merely self-pitying and sour. Plus Zwigoff stills knows fuck-all about narrative and tempo and basic filmic "feel". Bad Santa has its charms, but Ghost World is one of the decade's most overrated films, mockery of white blues bands notwithstanding. Still, there's always Crumb. Sometimes subjects really do all the work. Oh, and Sophia Myles is pretty gorgeous too.

Mr and Mrs Smith, Alfred Hitchcock (1941)

God, what oddness. Not necessarily Hitch's worst film, but his least distinctive, almost completely devoid of his usual visual/verbal wit and narrative force. When he unleashes an occasionally magnificent moving camera shot, it's almost totally unjustified. And for a screwball, this one plays out at about half the pace required. Still, there's Lombard, and a nicely insouciant opening ten minutes of silliness. But that's about it.

Exiled, Johnnie To (2006)

Only lasted half an hour on this one before our DVD trigger got itchy. He's close to worshipped on certain film blogs we've been known to frequent, but this one is recycled Woo with an extra dash of poseurishness and self-consciousness. Which, I think you'll agree, is already enough unbelievability for one night. Just rent Hard-Boiled if you haven't already seen it, and The Killer for the really transporting emotional moments (i.e. flat-out maniacal melodrama). Still, I won't judge To until I've seen his supposedly wonderful Sparrow.

Monday, August 31, 2009

September: The Cruellest Non-April Month

Well, it is when you're not playing Finals, and for Swans fans, it's been a little while. Since 2002, in fact, which in football years is close to eternity.

Let's face it: we've been spoiled by success. Even our bad years of late have been pretty good. Last year, for example. We battled and slogged and could barely play consistent football week-to-week, and we somehow ended up making a semi-final. Most clubs aren't as lucky.

When you're up, you look at your playing list and wonder how anyone could imagine beating you. The Swans of 2005 to 2008 made us feel like this. We weren't always the best, but we were phenomenally competitive, and rarely beaten comprehensively. A look at our list at the end of 2009 gives you a different feeling: uncertainty, trepidation. The excitement of Jesse White can't make up for the absence of Micky O. The promise of Nick Smith and Daniel Hannebery is still that: promise. The certainty that this list will bring us future premierships has to now butt heads with the reality that for a year or two at least, we're tinkering with the new blueprint.

But really, it's all about finals. The whole game boils down to four weeks worth of games. All the money you spend on beer and pies. All the time wasted on BigFooty trying to turn wishes into reality. All the untold and untellable daydreaming. One quarter of even a lowly elimination final trumps six or seven high-quality home and away matches. Everything sharpens, and grows in consequence and intensity. It shames the weekly certainty of viewership that for almost half a year dominates and dictates the lives of so very many Australians.

We took our run of success for granted just a little, and now The Age liftout has nothing for us, beyond small off-season trades and draft pickups. It could be a while until we're back in a crucial top four spot - I don't think so, or don't want it to be so, but a seemingly short exile from glory can last a surprisingly long time. Ask Richmond, or their long-suffering supporters.

For what it's worth, Susan and David throw their growing weight behind the Doggies and the Saints, losers and battlers both. Anyone but Collingwood. No, really: anyone but Collingwood. The sight of Alan Didak and Dale Thomas on the podium come the last week of September would be too much for us, or any vaguely sentient creature, to take.

For Laziness' Sake: A Susan and David Top Ten For A Monday Night

Movies of the Decade

The New World, Terrence Malick, (2005)
Lorna's Silence, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, (2008)
Innocence, Lucile Hadzihalilovic (2004)
There Will Be Blood, P.T. Anderson (2008)
What Time Is It There?, Tsai Ming-Liang (2001)
Mulholland Drive, David Lynch (2001)
The Circle, Jafar Panahi (2000)
The Wire, David Simon (2002-2006)
The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson (2001)
The Werckmeister Harmonies, Bela Tarr (2000)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Playing Through

Susan and David have arrived, and things are already falling apart. Hang around for further updates.