Jane Austen’s Guide to Pornography / Glorious Bastard

This was experimental theatre and then some on a low budget but it worked.

While the plays souns outrageously profane, and the playbill featured a leather harness clad muscle hottie, the plays themselves while witty and clever, weren’t nearly as salacious as we’d been led to believe. My friend Peter was particularly upset at the lack of male nudity but that wasn’t the main reason the rest of us went away. The word play in both plays was clever and playful (no pun intended) and while the sets were cheap and cheerful, the skill of the actors meant that was never an issue.

Great fun stimulating theatre

Morning Glory

This is a fun movie (Open Air Cinema, 17 February).
No, it won’t win Oscars, and doesn’t canvas any great social issues – unless you consider fragile egos, and media vacuousness to be crushing issue that are about to doom society as we know it; although watching some of the tabloid schlock that passes for news these days makes you wonder if one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse isn’t employed by Murdoch et al – but it does look at the issue of media identities, ratings, work/life balance, and what really matters in life in an amusing way with lots of witty banter.
It won’t change the world but it will make you laugh…. and it will make you eternally glad you don’t work in breakfast television. Watching it is bad enough but working in it looks even worse! But in the hands of Rahcel McAdams et al, funny, very funny.

Les chansons que j’aime (Songs That I Like) : Elaine / Should I Laugh or Cry / by ABBA

Bet you didn’t see that one coming as the first song I chose!
When people think of ABBA they invariably think of Dancing Queen, Fernando, Mamma Mia or The Winner Takes It All, and why not? They are all brilliant slices of sparkling pop, daring you not to like them…. and I do like them.
However, it’s ABBA’s more obscure songs that seem to have captured my imagination and my heart – songs like Elaine, which when I first heard it sounded indescribably dark, dangerous and almost raunchy to a very sheltered Baptist pastor’s son (not so sheltered now but it still has an edge)), not to mention threatening, desperate and sad, something that other earlier songs seemed to lack. But it seemed that as ABBA moved on with their career, their albums grew progressively more musicaly sophisticated, lyrically mature, and while they didn’t completely lose the sunny upbeat feel of earlier material, many of their later songs did dwell in the darker shaded areas of life.
Songs like Should I Laugh or Cry, which detailed a woman trapped in a relationship which seems to be equal parts frightening and darkly amusing, and The Visitors, which talked about dissent being crushed in a dictatorship. For some reason despite my eternal optimism, the darked and more troubled the songs, lyrically and musically, the more they captured my attention, and captured me with their emotional intensity.
Most people may not have heard of them, and perhaps I am an ABBA tragic and gay drama queen who loves nothing more than emotional intensity ramped up to levels so high my heart bleeds hysteria, but I like to think that I am simply appreciating very good songs that speak to me, and never really got their moment in the pop sun.

Born This Way – Lady Gaga

I am not a massive fan of hype.

Odd you may think since we extrovert creative types generally all the over boiled melodrama we can get our hands on, feast on it for months till the marrow is all sucked dry, and then moe on to the next over wrought incandescent piece of hyperbole. But too often I find that hype does a disservice to the event/film/song etc being promoted, and rather than lifting it up, almost succeeds in tearing it down, or lessening it’s impact. The product may be the bext thing since sliced bread, but with peoples’ expectations build up by a relentless tide of “This will be HUUUUUGE!!!!”, the only realistic outcome is disappointment.

I would much rather the merchants of hype simply promoted it and let the event etc fall or rise on it’s own merits. Generally, if it’s good, it will shine anyway, go viral on the internet, clog airwaves everywhere, and become it’s own piece of self-sustaining pop culture fun, floating into everyone’s consciousness till it is supplanted by the next sparkly piece of zeitgeist-ness. But somehow, I think my hope is forlorn, and we will continue to get bombarded by ceaseless hype till you cease to care about what’s being promoted, or doggedly keep caring, and find the song etc diminished by the expectations placed around it.

Such is the case with Born This Way by Lady Gaga. The way it was promoted you would have assumed she, Jesus and Buddha had got together, made a baby who became the Messiah mark 2 and was coming to make us all joyfully happy and eternally love with mung beans and marmots. It verged on the ridiculous. I like Lady Gaga’s music a lot, love her idiosyncratic style and find her fun and interesting, and a definite talent who leaves other female popsters looking pallid and talentless in comparison.

But the insane level of hype that accompanied this song means that while it is very good, with empowering lyrics that speak to me as a gay man, and a catchy disco vibe, I am actually disappointed by it, and I daresay, much like other things before it – Jurassic Park springs to mind – once I distance it from the hype, and let it stand on it’s own two sonically pleasing feet, that I will love it. Possibly….

But right now it’s a victim of hype, and I am not happy that some trigger happy publicist has soiled what could have a been a moment of shiny pop perfection….

Hereafter

This is an intense movie…. but also a curiously uninvolving one (@ Open Air Cinema – with Steve, friends, Warren, and Sue – Wednesday 9 February).
The first part is to be expected given it’s subject matter of death and the after life, and for the most part the movie succeeds in not letting the emotionally heavy subject matter drag it’s narrative into a melancholic mire. Which is quite an acheivement given that it starts with a horrifyingly real recreation of the 2004 tsunami, in which the character of Marie Lelay is swept away to an almost certain death, during which she sees into the realm of the hereafter with profound effects on her life. It then moves after this emotionally jarring start to Marcus, a London school boy who suffers a traumatic loss and withdraws into himself, desperate for answers….. and finally there’s Matt Damon’s character, George Lonegan, a psychic who actually does speak to the dead, unlike the charlatans featured elsewhere in the movie, but struggles with his gift, which he feels is a gift that robs of the chance to a real life.
With all that emotional heaviness suffusing the film, which has only a few lighter moments to leaven the weight of the subject being discussed, does sometimes feel a long, sad stroll through emotional neighbourhoods you would much rather avoid. It is, at times, hard to really get involved in the lives of the characters, and you feel a certain remoteness from them despite the writer’s & director Clint eastwood’s obvious intention to draw you in deeply and completely. Even so, despite that, and the somewhat cheesy, too neat ending, I ddi find myself engaged with the movie for the most part, locked into it’s world, and forgetting for once at the Open Air Cinema (hard with the stellar Sydney views before me) where I was.
This is a film to make you think about a subject that most of us work very hard to avoid.

True Grit

What a wonderful movie.

I have often had a difficult time with Coen Brothers movies – enjoying how articulate and clever they are, and enjoying immensely the great subtle (or not so subtle) wit they bring to their creations but also finding their odd take on things a little too odd at times – but this movie resonated with a depth of emotion that rang real and true, and impacted you quite powerfully.

At it’s heart, True Grit (@ Dendy Newtown, Saturday 5 February with my boyfriend and friend Fahmi) is the story of a 14 year old girl, Mattie Ross, who, imbued with a simultaneous naivity about life even as she takes on adults many times her age and usually wins through sheer force of will, determines to track down and capture her father’s killer, Tom Chaney with the aid of a very unorthodox US Marshall, Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn, played superbly by Jeff Bridges, who is given very little in whether he participates or not. The unusual duo are joined by Texas ranger La Boeuf, who provides some of the comic relief, on their trek into the Indian Lands where they encounter numerous obstacles in their hunt for Chaney.

The touching aspect of this movie for me was watching Mattie grow from an over confident child who, despite her pluck and vigour is as easily scared or bewildered as any one her age would be, to a somewhat scarred young woman who realises that sheer determination and belief is not enough to win the day. Her optimism at the start of the movie is inspiring but you soon realise just how out of depth in the gritty arena of life she is, and how far she has to travel both literally and figuratively. The movie is less about her quest for vengeance in the end, which she discovers is neither as easy or satisfying as she had assumed it is, than her growth as a person and the way this impacts Rooster and La Boeuf, who despite themselves form an attachment to her, a bond that is crucial to her survival.


It is somewhat sad watching her coming back as a 39 year old to find Rooster Cogburn, reduced to pretending to be a man of the Wild West in a travelling show, but also touching seeing that this event in her life had made so much more of an impact on her in ways she hadn’t expected, than she realised it would when she first bravely, and foolishly you might argue, rode across the river to avenge her father’s death.

If you want a movie with heart, and depth, and an articulation of the human condition in a way that is heart warming without being mawkish this is the one.