No Small Parts: The superlative acting style of Sally Hawkins #TheShapeofWater

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water (image courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures)


On IMDB the following is described as one of her trademarks; an apologetic and grateful presence with a shy and nervous demeanor that’s pretty accurate but there are still a few surprises …Sally’s role as as Elisa in the ‘Shape of Water’ suits her perfectly. Elisa has elements of some of Sally’s past characters there’s a nervous apologetic energy tour but in her relationship with the creature in the film she flourishes. (synopsis via Laughing Squid (c) No Small Parts)

I fell in love with Sally Hawkins when I saw her in Mike Leigh’s battle of delightfully tart and charming 2008 film Happy-Go-Lucky where she played the bubbly Poppy to the irascible Scott.

It was a part written especially for her, as Brandon Hardesty, host of IMDb’s series No Small Parts, notes, but she more than made it her own, taking a fey giddily upbeat character and giving her real grit and substance.

She went to a slew of memorable roles including that of Ginger in Blue Jasmine which, like Happy-Go-Lucky before it, earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and even more excitingly, her first Oscar nod (followed this year by one for Best Actress for Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water.)

That official acknowledgement merely confirmed what those of us who have been following her career, which has reached a milestone with the lush, retro-romantic fantasy The Shape of Water – though she was equally wonderful in last year’s touchingly resonant Maudie – have known all along — that Sally Hawkins is an enormously talented, multifaceted actress who will have a long and brilliant career.

(source: Laughing Squid)


Movie review: BPM (120 Battements par minute)

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


We often forget in the cold, reflective light of history, that there are real flesh-and-blood people in the events we’re examining.

People who stormed the battlements, fought in wars, made bold scientific discoveries, and in the case of Robin Campillo’s BPM (120 Battements par minute), made repeated and concerted attempts to bring about profound social change against considerable odds.

It is these people that are celebrated in this engrossing film which, even at 140 minutes long, never feels bloated, and never once loses sight of the fact that it’s not documenting events alone but the people, the earnest, passionate, committed people, who made them happen.

People like HIV-positive Sean Dalmazo (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and his boyfriend Nathan (Arnaud Valois) who meet up as members of the Paris arm of ACT UP, the former a founder, the other a relatively new recruit, and fight, in ways deeply-considered and sensationalist – they felt they had no choice in the face of a seemingly indifferent French government and health bureaucracy – for a better people for the HIV-infected people of France.

It is a doggedly uphill fight much of the time with the French government reluctant to admit the country has a serious problem – at the time of BPM, its infection rates are outstripping that of its neighbours Germany and Italy – or to put in place badly-needed preventative measures and policies.

What is an academic and political exercise for the powers-that-be is anything but for the likes of Sean, Sophie (Adèle Haenel) and haemophiliac Marco (Théophile Ray) and countless others like ACT Up’s leader Thibault (Antoine Reinartz), all of whom have a very real and abiding interest, the fate of their own lives, in what transpires from their efforts.

By taking a macro issue micro, and taking us into the heart of Sean and Nathan’s life together, their bedroom conversations and their moments of romantic joy and mortal endangerment, we come to appreciate exactly what was at stake, that it wasn’t simply angry people looking for something to protest about but people whose lives were being deleteriously affected by the inaction of the French administration.


(image courtesy


The screenplay by ‪Robin Campillo‬ and ‪Philippe Mangeot‬ makes it clear though that there wasn’t wild, selfish activism at work nor the work of anarchistic mobs simply looking to make a statement for the sake of it.

ACT UP, whatever you might think of its sensationalist methods, and to be fair they had to be sensationalist to a large degree since they felt, often justifiably, that no one was listening to them, actually had a well thought-out, much-debated program of action, all of which was hashed out in weekly meetings where various viewpoints were listened to, absorbed and turned into plans of action.

BPM opens with one of these sometimes consensus-rich, often fractious meetings where debates happen in front of everyone or not at all – at one point later in the film when tensions are noticeably higher the debate spills into the hallway and is promptly shut down; as democracies go, ACT UP was admirably pure and idealistic – and where the lives of many of the characters play out as their opinions and viewpoints are influenced by the state of their health at the time.

These meetings, which are far more riveting than you might think thanks to the rich, fulsomely-expressed nature of the rapid-fire back-and-forth exchange of ideas, are one of the punctuating elements that Campillo uses in BPM, both to give the narrative structure, but also to help us understand that motivated ACT UP and its members, and how ideas expressed in a meeting ended up as history-making events out in the real world.

The director takes these meetings, and microscopic images of the AIDS virus multiplying and ACT UP’s letting down their hair on the dancefloor – a frequent means of blowing off steam but also bonding anew are relationship were strained by their intense battles for justice and equality – and uses them to mightily bolster an already-strong storyline, reinforcing again and again that the fight wasn’t motivated by ideology alone but by real, impaired, sometimes broken lives in danger of breaking altogether.

Theirs is no dispassionately remote struggle but in-your-face and materially of-the-moment, and Campillo brings that vividly to life, especially as HIV-positive finds his health deteriorating and HIV-negative Nathan is often forced to stand by and watch the man he loves simultaneously fight for what remains of his life and fight a bureaucracy that didn’t seem to realise how great a foe they were up against (or, as ACT UP alleged frequently, didn’t care).


(image courtesy ‪Numéro‬)


The brilliance of BPM, which brings history alive in epic moments such as massive (and joyful) protests during PRIDE parades and attacks on big pharma companies who, ACT UP asserts, are withholding vitally-needed drug results, is that it never forgets that it is the people at the heart of these events that matters.

What they are fighting for is vitally important and absolutely necessary, and the film gives due coverage to this most momentous of fights; but it was, and remains, a fight by people for people, by individuals fighting for themselves, their friends and family, and BPM captures that in all its contrary, messy but intensely personal glory, helping us these events not just as historical markers but as the outworkings, the products if you like, of peoples’ lives.

Just like in any war, and ACT UP believed that’s what they were fighting, every battle, every skirmish and head-to-to-head piece of combat a step forward or back in a struggle they had no choice but to wage, it’s the people at its heart who fuel it, give it emotional resonance and make it grindingly, confrontingly real, something forgotten by the chroniclers of history at times.

But Campillo does not forget that for one moment of this utterly immersive, all-too-authentic film that perfectly captures what it is like to fight for your own life, not just in a personal sense but in a societal and global sense, and how great change only truly comes when people realise they have no choice but to fight, and go into battle with hearts and minds engaged, and everything that matters to them on the line.

From such conviction springs life-changing events and graphically beautiful films like BPM which chronicles the ups and downs, the wins and loses of one epically pivotal moment in history, and helps us to better understand, with passion, conviction and profoundly-moving storytelling, how personal and true, how intimate and profound, even the biggest, most noticeable moments in history are.


The present, the future … or both? Can Barry have it all? (trailer)

(image courtesy HBO)


Barry is a dark comedy starring Bill Hader as a depressed, low-rent hitman from the Midwest. Lonely and dissatisfied in his life, he reluctantly travels to Los Angeles to execute a hit on an aspiring actor. Barry follows his “mark” into an acting class and ends up finding an accepting community in a group of eager hopefuls within the LA theater scene. He wants to start a new life as an actor, but his criminal past won’t let him walk away – can he find a way to balance both worlds? The eight-episode series also stars Stephen Root (HBO’s All the Way), Sarah Goldberg (Hindsight), Glenn Fleshler (HBO’s True Detective), Anthony Carrigan (Gotham) and Henry Winkler (Arrested Development). (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Who, at some point or another, hasn’t take a good long hard look at their life and found it spectacularly wanting?

Hands up everyone right?

Odds are though, and trust me on this, you probably aren’t a depressed hitman from the Midwest who doesn’t know what’s missing until he stumbles across it one day to Road to Damascus-level epiphanies.

For the rest of us mere mortals changing the course of newly-recognised deficient lives isn’t easy but for Barry it’s another level of complicated altogether, almost fatally so.

But hey when you see the truth about your life you can’t un-see it, and I have a feeling that watching Barry seize the existential bull by the metaphorical horns is going to be a very satisfying journey indeed.

Barry premieres on HBO on 25 March at  10:30 p.m. ET


Weekend pop art: Solo – A Star Wars Story character posters

(poster courtesy IMP Awards)


Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes. (official synopsis via Coming Soon)

Han Solo might’ve grandly claimed back in A New Hope that he “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” but there’s a fair chance Star Wars fans everywhere will be hoping that the Millenium Falcon is capable of even greater feats.

Like compressing the two or so months between now and the release of Han Solo’s origin story movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story down to, oh say, tomorrow.

Alas that’s highly unlikely to happen, meaning we will have to wait until the end of May rolls around, and we get to see if the kerfuffle surrounding the production of the film – original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were replaced mid-production by Ron Howard in somewhat controversial circumstances – has given us a superlative film or merely a meh moment in the great and enduring Star Wars canon.

Until that moment, we have some brilliant character posters, featured on We Got This Covered, that give us an entirely artful new look on the much-loved antiheroes of the film, including everyone’s favourite titular rogue, Han Solo, who will be joined by the likes of Thandie Newton (Westworld), Paul Bettany (Avengers: Infinity War), and Woody Harrelson (Venom) in the galaxy far away star-studded cast.

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens in Australia on 24 May and US/UK on 25 May.


(poster courtesy IMP Awards)


(poster courtesy IMP Awards)


(poster courtesy IMP Awards)


(poster courtesy IMP Awards)

Book review: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

(cover image courtesy Allen & Unwin)


Ah, the endlessly expansive possibilities of youth!

There are a lot of things in our younger years that might make us cringe – the lack of knowledge about life, stunted self-awareness, naive belief in the goodness of others – but there’s one thing that we likely still have a fondness for, possibly tinged with regret, and it’s the unfettered belief that there were no limits on what we could do.

It was a giddy feeling, one not tarnished by sage understanding of realty or the time-wrecked weight of disillusion, and it’s captured in beguilingly perfect detail by Jason Rekulak is his 1987-set debut novel, The Impossible Fortress.

So beautifully does Rekulak evoke the idea that anything is possible, that it’s hard not to be swept up by a revival of the idea that life, messy, contradictory, weighed down by routine, can take you anywhere and be anything.

“I would lie to Mary. Not after all the help she’d given me. Not after our sunset walk on the roof, and not after the way she’d touched my hand in the blackout. I knew that something extraordinary was happening and I didn’t have a name for it yet, but I wasn’t going to let Alf or Clark screw it up.” (P. 135)

That’s certainly the spirit that fuels 14-year-old friends Billy, a computer programmer wanna-be with real talent, his friend Alf, who has chutzpah to burn, and yes resembles everyone’s favourite 1987 sitcom alien, and Clark, a drop-dead handsome guy with a deformed hand which means his social looks don’t match up to his movie idol good looks.

But being teenage boys, impelled by the heady early days of puberty, they decide to put all this boundary-less ambition to use by trying to secure a copy of the latest Playboy issue, featuring the aspiring pin-up of the day, Wheel of Fortune‘s Vanna White.

But here’s the snag, a gigantic, dream-stopping snag – the boys are too young to buy a copy, and when they do try to convince an older guy to help them out by buying, he absconds with their money and leaves them right where they started.

Only with way less money and even less opportunities to claim their much-longed for prize.

The only solution? Well, in the minds of three teenage boys anyway? (Alf in particular.) Stage a daring heist worthy of Mission Impossible and take copies, paid of course (of course!) from Zelinsky’s, the local stationery/magazine store in their small New Jersey town.


(image via Simon & Schuster)


Problem solved right?

Well, naturally, nothing is ever that simple, and as this utterly charming, alternately funny and earnest book goes on, you can’t help but fall in love with the way, Billy in particular but also Alf and Clark, won’t let anything get in their way.

Billy however is different to his friends in that his initial zest for obtaining a copy of the venerated Vanna White issue soon gives to something altogether more pure when he meets the daughter of the own of Zelinsky’s, Mary, who is as avid a gaming programmer as Billy – keep in mind too this is the late ’80s when the electronic games industry is in its infancy and the sky’s the digital limit – and nothing like any girl the young aspiring gaming programmer has ever met before.

The plan to get the code to the store, break-in – in their mind, since they’re paying for the magazines, they’re not really breaking the law; odd logic but remember, they are proto-adults, with the embryonic good judgement that implies – and live happily porn ever after, comes a-cropper when Billy realises he likes Mary and wants to be her friend, and work on a new game that could get the attention of a big-name software developer, far more than he wants to see Vanna White’s naked body in its speculated glory.

“That morning was the last time I was ever fully candid with my mother about anything. I talked for a good hour. I told her everything. It was hard to tell the truth, but every detail seemed to revive her, even the embarrassing ones. Especially the embarrassing ones.” (P. 206)

The Impossible Fortress is a delightful read in every respect.

You love everyone in the book, but especially Billy with his kind heart, his earnest ambition and his passion, almost instantly thanks to Rekulak’s gift for capturing the truth of his characters with immediacy and depth, glory in the ’80s nostalgia which, because the kids are living, feels fresh and vibrant, and be enjoyed by the renewed sense of hope rekindled.

That perhaps is the book’s greatest gift, apart from compellingly immersive writing that draws you completely and quickly and never wavers, falters or blessedly lets you go – it’s tapping into and articulation of the kind of passion many of us once had, but which, while not lost exactly, has ended trapped under layers of banal, necessary, sometimes stultifying adulthood.

Through the good and bad, the well-judged and the most certainly not, and a thousand heartfelt emotions – The Impossible Fortress is suffused with adorable, exuberant emotions that remind how good, and scary, it is to be on the enticing cusp of adulthood – Rekulak channels, celebrates and brings to the fore the kind of limitless expectations that make being young such an exciting thing.

The book is warm, bright, alive and giddily possible, an onrushing mix of reality and possibility that leave you happy to have spent time with Billy, his family and friends, and perhaps reminded of the thrill and excitement of entertaining the “what ifs” rather than consigning them to the has-been bin.

Billy, despite everything he’s up against refuses to live there (and he’s got a number of reasons why he should’ve given up now), so why should you? The Impossible Fortress is a wonderfully joyful tap on the shoulder to grab those dreams, tap into some some carpe diem youthfulness and see where it takes you.

Like our young protagonist, you might be surprised by just how far you’ll go.


(image via Simon & Schuster)

It’s time to go wembling again! Fraggle Rock comic books return

(image (c) The Jim Henson Company)


Fraggle Rock is one of those shows that you sink into with warmth, nostalgia and a comforting sense that, all evidence in the real world to the contrary, everything is going to be all right.

The show itself is long over (1983-1987), although not even close to being forgotten, but it has found expression, as so many TV shows do (those that aren’t being revived anyway) in comic form (the first issue came out in 1985), with new tales of friendship, love and belonging, not to mention sage life lessons, coming to life in colourful 2D.

Jared Cullum, who will write and illustrate a new 4-part comic book series from BOOM! Studios’ Archaia imprint, perfectly captured everyone’s love affair with this whimsically-engaging show when he spoke about why bringing back Fraggle Rock comics back after a seven-year absence was a complete no-brainer:

“Fraggle Rock was an exceptionally unique show where the characters were never 2-dimensional. They have authentic feelings, character flaws, and learned, as we do in life, through stumbling to the right decision in a very immersive and connective way. It will always resonate with our hearts.”


(artwork via CBR (c) BOOM! Studios)


Cameron Chittock, Editor, BOOM! Studios echoed this sentiment when he spoke about the new series:

“We’re proud to celebrate 35 years of Fraggle Rock with all-new stories from an eclectic group of creators. Each issue captures the spirit of the series in an exciting way, honoring the tradition Jim Henson established of telling stories with genuine heart and a confident belief that what we share outweighs our differences.”

With a typically heartfelt story – “Mokey Fraggle is losing her love for creating her art and needs her friends’ help to rediscover her inspiration.” – these new Fraggle Rock adventures look set to be every bit as wonderful and heartwarmingly inspiring as anything that’s come before.

You get your hands on the first issue when it releases in May this year.

(source: Newsrama / CBR)


(artwork via CBR (c) BOOM! Studios)

Movie review: Tomb Raider

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


As a group, cinematic archaeologists and adventurers of the treasure-hunting variety are not the brightest of people.

Sure, they’re brave, intrepid, a little reckless and with chutzpath to burn, but bright? Not so much.

Time and again, adventurers like Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander in this iteration), who returns in Roar Uthaug’s Tomb Raider 15 years after Angelina Jolie’s second outing in the role in 2003’s The Cradle of Life, go racing into situations that, with a little more considered thought, would be avoided like the plague.

Which is apt in this instance since the great threat in what is effectively Lara Croft’s origin story, where we meet the young tomb raider-to-be on her first grand adventure to a remote island off Japan called Yamatai, is more plague-like than evil per se.

The real threat, as always, though are people, something Lara, who is living rough off food delivery courier wages because she refuses to accept her father is dead, an admission that would legally release her father Richard’s (Dominic West) considerable inheritance, discovers when she picks up on a clue left by her father in a puzzle trinket and sets off to find out what happened to him.

It’s been said that Lara has “daddy issues” but really she is like any daughter or son, especially one whose father is unbeknownst to her a tomb raider of longstanding, who sees a way to prove her father isn’t dead, or at the very least, find out he is and how.

Who could resist a chance to seize back something from the vast chasm of unknowable, meaningless death, one of life’s great certainties that often leaves more questions than answers for the living left behind?

Certainly not Lara, and in no time flat, she’s pawning her extremely expensive jade necklace, and jetting off to Hong Kong to find the mysterious ship owner Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) who was the man brave enough to take her father into the infamously-named Devil’s Sea to find Yamatai and the buried sorceress, Japan’s first empress Himiko who, legend has it, killed her people off in such numbers that the country’s rivers regularly ran red with blood.



Himiko sounds absolutely charming, her allured enhanced all the more, said tongue-firmly-in-cheek, when you find out that digging her out from the tomb in which her generals encased her would unleash untold terror and evil on an unsuspecting world.

As plots and premises go, Tomb Raider, with a screenplay by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, is not going to win any awards for their blistering originality; however, what it does offer up, and be warned it’s so heavy with tropes and cliches it’s a wonder Lu Ren’s ship doesn’t sink enroute to the island, is handled rather nicely by Uthaug.

In many ways, Tomb Raider is a good old-fashioned ’80s/’90s blockbuster, and to be fair to the film’s writers, the plot would have been refreshingly fun and nicely post-modern back in the day.

Now, of course, it’s been-there, done-that, got the meme and it’s gone viral, but even so, the movie makes merry with the story such as it is, using it more as a way of helping us to get to know Lara Croft than as an Indiana Jones-ish adventure in and of itself.

There is a baddy, naturally, who could there not be, in the form of Mathias Vogel (Walter Goggins) who makes sure that Lara’s baptism into the world of extreme tomb raiding is a violent and unwelcoming one, replete with postured threats, gun-toting and vicious snarls.

Again, not seeringly original and you could well argue Goggins just phones it in – although to be fair, his phoning it in is pretty damn good and fits the film just so – but in the context of giving someone for a quickly-wising-up Lara to bump heads up against, he is a worthy foe and one who, you will not be surprised to learn, is bested by Lara on her rookie outing as a tomb raider.

The beauty of this film, which is anchored by a soulful, nuanced performance by Vikander who brings necessarily intense emotional gravity to a role than is far more than that of a plasticised video game heroine, is that it lets itself be dark and thoughtful when it needs to be.

Again, no Oscars are in the offing but what Tomb Raider sets out to do it does well, and that is to give us Lara Croft at the start of her rich and fantastical life when much of the bravery and skills-and-experience heavy self-assurance you saw in Jolie’s performance is yet to coalesce.



Vikander makes this transition from naïve newby who has no idea what her father does on his trips to gutsy adventurer who does what needs to be done, especially against the evil cabal of Trinity who are behind the Himiko exhumation and with whom Croft has a more intimate connection that even she is aware, seem authentic and real, which is quite an achievement when you consider how desperately unreal much of the film’s action set pieces are.

At various points, Croft survives a shipwreck in a storm that should have pummelled her to fish food smithereens, gets to safety after falling into a raging river and getting caught in a teetering rusty WW2 plan wreck atop a waterfall and dodges an impossible number of bullets, but because the film takes the time to establish her as a living, breathing, in-over-her-head person, much of the absurdity of her adventures attains some kind of tenuous believability.

And by tenuous, I definitely do mean tenuous, but it works because blockbusters like Tomb Raider, in common with many of their much older genre mates, mix some humanity in with the rampant suspension of belief, in the process offering up a film that is giddy and silly fun to watch on one hand, and a study in innocence shattered and life remolded in the furnace on the other.

Again, searing existential drama this is not, and you could well argue it’s paper thin in many respects, but it works and works brilliantly, buoyant, escapist adventuring that has just enough rich, emotive characterisation and substance to sustain it’s more light and trope-warped moments.

Like any blockbuster of this ilk, you need to walk in with the expectation that you are not going to be treated to a rich and sustained examination of the human condition; Tomb Raider is not that movie, and nor does it purport to be but it is a highly-entertaining story of one woman’s journey from novice to not-so-novice, all set against a very entertaining and at times, winningly, bleak adventure.

In that respect it has a great deal in common with Spider-Man: Homecoming, which also gave us a rip-roaring coming-of-age tale in quite extraordinary circumstances.

Tomb Raider, much like the legend as its heart, is that rare combination of fanciful and substantial, over-the-top and heartbreakingly down to earth that never forgets, even in its most sustained flights of mythic fancy, that there are real people involved in its exaggerated meandering including one once-wide-eyed talented young lady who discovers there is far more to her and the world around that she could ever have imagined, and takes us engagingly along on her larger-than-life voyage of self-discovery.



The short and the short of it: Things go bump in the night in I’m Scared

(image (c) Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins / C4toons)


8-year-old insomniac Ralf warns his little brother Crumbs of all of the dangers that lurk in the shadows, waiting to devour the two of them. (synopsis via YouTube)

Be honest – when you were a kid you were convinced there was plenty to be scared of in the depths of the night.

No assurances from your parents, no matter how sincere or repeated could dissuade you from the deep conviction that somewhere in the blackened void of your bedroom lurked monsters innumerable.

In I’m Scared, filmmaker Peter Levin‘s delightful stop-motion, literally poetic tale of an older brother regaling another with everything there is to be deathly afraid of – sharks swimming through the air or red-eyed rabbits anyone? – which was the subject of a successful Kickstarter to get the $65,000 needed to finish the film, we get a gorgeously epic rundown of everything a kid could possibly fear.

With monsters that plentiful, what is there to be done? Ah, but you’d be surprised with the ending of the film inventive, fun and as perfect as you could for.

(source: Laughing Squid)


All aboard! What’s happening with Eurovision 2018? (update 2)

(artwork courtesy Eurovision,tv)


Time is tick-tick-tocking on with the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 less than 2 months away!

Preparations at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, where Portugal will host its first ever Contest after Salvador Sobral won with the exquisitely-beautiful “Amar pelos dois (Loving For Both of Us)”, are well under way as are all the events that lead up to Europe’s musical night of nights.

Key among them are the pre-parties that litter the Eurovision schedule like glitter scattered artfully across the floor with Riga, Latvia (24 March), London, UK (London Eurovision Party), 5 April), Amsterdam, Netherlands (14 April), and Madrid, Spain (21 April) gearing up to get everyone excited about the event to come.

At each of the events, a carefully-created number of actual Eurovision entrants will entertain the crowds – ZiBBZ from Switzerland and Laura Rizzotto from Latvia are performing in Amsterdam while London plays host to the likes of Rasmussen from Denmark and Cesár Sampson from Austria – giving everyone a great idea of what lies in wait come the middle of May.

You could argue that all this concert/party hype takes away from the impact of the event itself but that seldom seems to be the case with enthusiasm building, after each of the nights; and besides with the focus on all the national contests and the megaphone virality of social media, the musical cat is already well and truly out of the bag.

In the end, it’s all about marketing an event that has been around since 1956 – it was established as a way of culturally knitting together a war-torn Europe – and which, thanks to events like this continues to grow bigger and brighter with every passing year.



In other big news, and given the time to takes the tally the televotes and jury votes – the ultimate vote tally for each country is a 50/50 split between national juries composed of musical luminaries and the votes of the general public – this is a BIG DEAL, the acts who will keep us entertained on the night of the grand final on 12 May have been announced.

As Belén García (Spain) reports from ESCplus, Salvador Sobral, the man who gave Portugal its first Eurovision win and who is fresh from a successful heart transplant – he was so weak last year that his sister, fellow singer and co-writer of the winning song, Luísa Sobral stepped in at rehearsal and joined him for his post-victory performance – will be performing “Amar pelos dois (Loving For Both of Us)” along with a new song from his upcoming album.



Joining him on the entertainment roster will be acclaimed fado singers Ana Moura and Mariza who sing in a genre that is peculiarly Portugese, dating from the early 19th century, with songs that are mournful in both lyrics and melody. and Beatbombers who are going to give the country flagbearers in the opening act a suitably percussive entry.

Finally Portugese DJ, Branko, whose first album Atlas drew its influences form around the world, will take into the electronic music of  Cape Verde, Angola, Portugal and Brazil, all areas with which this artist is intimately familiar.

For full details, go to ESCplus.


(image courtesy


Now should be fortunate to score any of the fourth and final wave of tickets that go on sale on 5 April, and are one of the fans duly accredited by the Eurovision powers that be, you, along with  journalists, delegations and artists will gain hallowed access to the beat-heavy surrounds of the Euroclub.

Situated in one of Lisbon’s most fashionable night clubs at Terreiro do Paço (Praça do Comerçio), and running from 6-12 May, this rather exclusive venue, located but a pyrotechnic blast from the 2018 Eurovision Village, will be the place for all the beautiful people of the Contest to chill, unwind, dance and forget that less than perfect semi-final performance.

If you’re a member of the general public however? Best fire up your favourite Spotify playlist, close the curtains on your hotel room and put your hands in the air like your un-accredited self just don’t care …


Commerce Square in front of Arco da Augusta in downtown Lisbon.


Can past winners come back and triumph all over again? A Wiwibloggs correspondent asked that pertinent question in the light of Alexander Rybak being chosen to represent Norway, after a 9 year gap with the song “That’s How You Write a Song”.

Rybak is a special case of course since he won Eurovision back in 2009 with 387 points, the highest vote telly ever under the old system, repeating that victory, at least in spirit, in recent Norwegian selection trials for the Contest known as Melodi Grand Prix where he attracted a landslide number of votes.



But even he may not be immune to the reality that Eurovision lightning very rarely strikes twice – although c’mon! LOOK AT THAT SMILE! – as this fascinating article makes clear with a number of past victors such as Lena from Germany (2010, 2011) and the great Niamh Kavanagh from Ireland (1993, 2010) failing to grab the crystal microphone in their return appearances.

The lessons of history are not always doomed to be repeated and when you have a song as upbeat and bouncy as “That’s How You Write a Song” and a singer like Ryback who has boy-next-door charisma to burn, it’s easy enough to stare it down.

All will be revealed come semi-final on 8 May when we find out if Rybak has a “Waterloo” moment (check the lyrics for the reference) or defies past form and emerges victorious, infectious smile and all …


(image courtesy


I am in love with a woman (beside Sandra Bullock who is, as well know, gorgeous and completely beyond reproach).

Now before my boyfriend wonders what the hell is going on, and my family and friends laugh at the very idea, let me be clear that the woman I am in love with is Israel’s entrant to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Netta Barzilai aka Netta, who is all kinds of animatedly fabulous singing the #metoo movement-influenced song “Toy”, written by Doron Medalie and Stav Beger.

Playful, quirky and incredibly infectiously addictive, “Toy” is that marvellously impressive combination of serious intent and bright, fun execution that delivers a real oomph if you’re paying attention.

Look for this song, and Netta who is simply superb in the very entertaining clip, to do very well, and perhaps even win, yes win, you heard me, this year’s Contest.



The world as a whole may still have some way to go to embrace full sexual diversity but in Ireland, the debate has been largely had, love has won and the country now celebrates its LGBTQI residents.

This is most beautifully evident in the country’s entry to Eurovision this year, “Together” by Ryan O’Shaughnessy, who was a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012, the clip for which feautures a touching and carefree gay romance as its centrepiece. Granted the romance doesn’t run its course with the song a sweetly melancholic musing on past love but it’s a beautiful statement all the same and should enusre Ireland moves to the grand final after four years of failing to escape the semi-final round.



ABBA is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic, if not the most iconic, winner of Eurovision.

After their near-legendary win with “Waterloo” in Brighton England in 1974, the Swedish super foursome have become inextricably linked with the event that brought them to worldwide prominence, and so it’s entirely fitting that when the UK selected its 2018 Eurovision entry at the BBC-run Eurovision: You Decide 2018, hosts Måns Zelmerlöw and Lucie Jone opened with an ABBA medley.


How’d they do that? The stop-motion animation puppets of Early Man

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


Set at the dawn of time, when dinosaurs and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of how one plucky caveman unites his tribe against a mighty enemy and saves the day! (synopsis via Coming Soon)

I am, and will always be, a fan of stop-motion aniamtion.

It’s not simply because I know hard-won this artform is, how much effort goes into each and every second of action on screen; it’s also the sheer look of characters coming alive in a way wholly distinctly captivating way that is nothing like drawn animation.

I love drawn animation of course as even a cursory glance at this blog will attest but there’s an extra special something that comes with stop-motion, a little extra humanity or quirkiness which has found its apex – the work of Laika (Kubo and the Two Strings, Boxtrolls) aside – in the giddily offbeat, sweet and heartfelt works of Aardman Animations.

The creation of Peter Lord and David Sproxton in 1972, and most famous for the work of Nick Park who joined the team in 1985, Aardman has gifted the world the sublime delights of Wallace and Gromit, Creature Comforts, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep, and now the goofy prehistoric silliness of Early Man.



In this movie, which you pretty much know is going to be an idiosyncratic joy from the trailers alone – athough the reviews have been pretty fabulous too; see exhibit A and exhibit B – a plucky cave man named Dug, his sidekick Hognob and his entire tribe of Stone Agers have to square off against Lord Nooth, leader of the Bronze Agers, who wants their land and their labour to enrich himself with mined metals.

It’s a classic David vs. Goliath story, one that, quite literally, plays itself out in a way that is imaginative, heartstoppingly tense, and yeah, completely and gorgeously bonkers silly.

How could you not love it?

Underdogs triumphing, and c’mon how could that not happen, is always a joy to watch since it doesn’t always happen in real life, and that’s why creators like Aardman and films like Early Man are necessary and so good for our soul.

An added treat is having Adam Savage, late of Mythbusters and now Tested, who spent some quality time hanging out at Aardman’s studios with senior model maker Jimmy Young, finding out how they make the magic happen and bring the characters we know and love to enthrallingly beguiling life.

It’s fascinating and will only added to our rich enjoyment of the film.

Early Man opens in Australia 29 March.

(source: Laughing Squid)