Now this is music #118: Wafia, Kero Kero Bonito, Dillon Francis, Demo Taped, Raleigh Ritchie

 

We’re in love. Out of love. Trying to find it. Watching others find it. Wishing we had some time in a tree (this will make sense later, trust me).

As always, music has a way of taking myriad emotions, all of which swirl in and out of hearts and minds at one point or another, and sometimes, rather unhelpfully, all at once, and making some kind of sense out of them.

Ot at least enough time that they don’t feel like albatross-weight anchors around our souls.

For that we can thank countless music artists but particularly these five people, all of whom has been there and done that with life and lived, and had the talent just as importantly, to tell the tale.

Enjoy and hey, that tree? Could be just what you need.

 

“I’m Good” by Wafia

 

Wafia (image courtesy officially Wafia Facebook account)

 

An Australian singer songwriter of Iraqi-Syrian origin, Wafia, or Wafia Al_Rakibi to her friends and family, has crafted a superlatively-good post-breakup song.

Experiencing something of an epiphany about her ex, which let’s face it happens to most us, just not this eloquently, she details all the reasons, to a brilliantly-insistent beat, why she’s so much better with the person who put her through hell and was no good.

Now, you don’t usually feel that great in the aftermath of a failed romance but in this instance Wafia is fairly cock-a-hoop, striding the streets of her neighbourhood with the sort of confidence that comes from having dodged a giant heart-shaped bullet.

Not at all possess this breezy joie de vivre after the end of love less-than-sweet love, and let’s be honest maybe Wafia didn’t until this therapeutic song poured from her, but if you’re stuck in the bluesy mess of romance gone wrong, especially if it was with someone who was way less than ideal, then this song is your ticket to clear-eyed 20/20 hindsight and sweet, sweet release.

Sass your way to healing people!

 

 

“Make Believe” by Kero Kero Bonito

 

Kero Kero Bonito (image courtesy official Kero Kero Bonito Facebook page)

 

Hailing from possibly soon-to-be Europe-less London, England, Kero Kero Bonito is a band consisting of singer Sarah Midori Perry and producers Gus Lobban & Jamie Bulled.

Their song “Make Believe” is a bright, fun confection with a fuzzily distorted sting in the tail and some loving visuals as SPIN describes ever so beautifully:

“The fuzzy electropop of “Make Believe” makes for a cheerful and bubbly track, with vocalist Sarah Midori Perry’s twee, high-pitched voice adding to the sugary charm and sweetness of the record. The James Hankins-directed video is adorably low budget and effectively works as both goofy comedy and experimental virtuosity.”

Perry’s playfully-light voice fits the song to a tee, lending it even more of a cute otherworldly air that’s perfect for the daydreamy parts of our days and nights.

 

 

“White Boi (feat. Lao Ra) by Dillon Francis

 

Dillon Francis (image courtesy official Dillon Francis Facebook page)

 

Oh my lord but this song is fun – from the alternating stripped back/lush as hell pop of the incredibly catchy melody through to the celebration of a special kind of cross-cultural love by Colombian singer Lo Ra, “White Boi” has a lot of very cool stuff going on says the singer in a statement:

“This is an ode to the white boys in my life and how exotic and endearing they are to me. Think Dillon loved the fact that he was a white boy himself. The song might be about something else tho, but that’s for you to find out.”

The Dillon she refers to is electronic musician, producer, and DJ, Dillon Francis from Los Angeles, California who is best known as a proponent of moombahton, a genre of music created by DJ Dave Mada as a fusion of house music and reggaeton, which itself originated in the late 1990s as mix of hip hop and latin American and Caribbean music.

The combination of these two very talented artists makes for an enormously-listenable song that you will be playing on repeat until your backspace finger gives out (may it be never in this case).

 

 

“Everyone Else” (feat Jaira Burns) by Demo Taped

 

Demo Taped (image courtesy official Demo Taped Facebook page)

 

Adam Alexander comes from Atlanta, Georgia and is better known as Denmo Taped, and in “Everyone Else” he explores that horribly bittersweet feeling of loving someone desperately but grappling with the fact they don’t love you back.

In this song the fairytale ending never quite arrives, and he and American singer Jaira Burns sing exquisitely-well about the fact that the object of their considerable affection “loves everyone else but me.”

Of course these feelings are far more amplified in our interconnected digital age as Demo Taped told Complex:

“We wake up and immediately go to our app of choice to see what our friends, crushes, lovers, etc. are doing at every moment. We’re so conditioned that we do it without thought. To me, this song is about feeling neglected and unwanted while dipping into the feelings behind what we do with these devices and how we sort of torture ourselves.”

The simple answer is to just switch off but that’s easier said than done given how addicted we are to our devices, and besides, even if you could cut the virtual cord, would the feelings magically go away?

 

 

“Time in a Tree” by Raleigh Ritchie

 

Raleigh Ritchie (image courtesy official Raleigh Ritchie Facebook page)

 

Ever get that feeling that you just need to get away? Somewhere far away from the madding crowd who can’t seem to leave you alone long enough to form a coherent thought?

British actor and singer Raleigh Ritchie does, and his fabulously quirky and atmospheric song “Time in a Tree” captures that sense of need to run away from life absolutely perfectly.

So well does this idiosyncratically-wonderful song do its thing that We Are: The Guard rightly argues that it “makes listeners feel a bit more comfortable with the thought of finding themselves”.

This brilliant piece of very clever catchy pop helps you understand what it feels like to try and find yourself, find your place in life and those things that makes you happy and all to a gorgeously-loping beat and melody that will capture your heart as much as your ears.

Oh, and you might even find yourself chilled enough to contemplate wearing an astronaut’s helmet. Maybe …

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

Did you know there’s such a thing as the Eurovision Equinox? Well, there is now and it’s ingenious and really quite true …

 

Meet Ducky and Bunny! Toy Story 4 drops 3 new posters and a very meta trailer

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

Woody’s journey in Toy Story 4 includes a visit to a carnival where he meets Ducky and Bunny, two carnival prizes who are eager to be won. But when their plans are rudely interrupted by Woody and his friends, they find themselves on an unexpected adventure with a group of toys who have no idea what it feels like to be tacked to a prize wall. Toy Story 4 is directed by Josh Cooley (Riley’s First Date?) and produced by Jonas Rivera (Inside Out, Up) and Mark Nielsen (associate producer Inside Out). (synopsis via We Got This Covered)

Barely have we recovered from the unexpected joy and delight of a teaser trailer and a hauntingly-sweet poster showing Woody (Tom Hanks) standing alone, waiting, as we all are, for June 2019, than Disney delivers up a very meta longer trailer which manages, as We Got This Covered explains, to bring together the new and the old in a wholly-hilarious way:

“Things get a little meta in this latest promo, viewable above, which sees carnival toys Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele) reacting to the first trailer before struggling to remember Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase. When Buzz and Woody themselves show up to remind them that it’s ‘To infinity and beyond’, the newcomers laugh off the idea for its mathematical impossibility.”

 

 

If that isn’t enough, three posters have also been offered up, showing Ducky and Bunny in all their wisecracking glory (yep, they’re so well-wrought so quickly that one look at the poster and you get a sense of who they are; Pixar, once again, at its absolute best), Forky, who we met in the teaser trailer, looking as anxious as ever, and Buzz who manages to be so Buzz in his poster that you can’t help but smile.

If you were excited by the teaser trailer, which was funny, sweet and brilliantly-chaotic all at once as only Toy Story can manage, you will be beyond thrilled by this trailer which serves as a reminder that the franchise which began it all for Pixar is well and truly alive and going places … perhaps even to insanity and a blond?

Toy Story 4 releases 20 June 2019 Australia and 21 June 2019 in USA.

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

(image via IMP Awards)

Movie review: Set It Up

(image via IMP Awards)

 

There’s a good reason why falling in love is so popular in the movies – real life romance, lovely though it can be at times (most of the time if you find the “right” person), rarely comes close to the magnificently-confected perfection of the average romantic comedy or rom-com.

The vastness of the gulf between what is and what we dream of becomes most obvious in the better-crafted rom-com where every last aspect of falling gloriously in rosy-hued love is writ large and in colours so glitteringly beguiling that you would have to have a heart of blackened concrete not to be swept in the Cupid-ian machinations.

Example A, in this instance at least, is Set It Up, a Netflix-exclusive release starring Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell as two beleaguered personal assistants, Harper Moore and Charlie Young respectively, whose lives are most definitely not their own.

They work seemingly impossible hours with one scene seeing Harper required to wait until midnight at her desk to wake her demanding sports journalist star boss, Kirsten Stevens, from a nap; in another Charlie has to rush across town to meet his boss at an exclusive club, thinking he has one errand to run and then he’s off the clock.

He’s not of course with his boss, Richard “Rick” Otis (Taye Diggs), first wanting not wanting dinner then wanting it and then tossing it away.

It’s not an easy life, and honestly so monstrously-caricatured are Kirsten and Rick that you wonder how either Charlie or Harper haven’t taken out a contract on their boss’s life or at the very least resigned and gone to join a peaceful hippie commune somewhere.

Of course, the mercurial nastiness of both bosses, a lawsuit waiting to happen in anyone’s language, is all in service of a plot that is basically a paint-by-numbers rom-com narrative, as are Harper and Charlie’s lives who, it is clear, from the moment they clash over a delivery meal in the lobby, are destined to be A Thing.

 

 

What makes Set It Up a cut well above your average rom-com is that for all the been-there-done-that narrative functionality, and there’s plenty of slavish adherence to convention, it manages to take its tropes and do something magically delightful with them.

So well-executed is Set It Up, so adroitly does it summon the kind of romance we all wish for ourselves, naturally set in either New York or Paris with a large budget and elastic days that dare 24/7 normalcy to constrain them, that it’s well nigh impossible to resist being swept up in its abundant charms.

Helping matters considerably are Deutch and Powell who enjoy chemistry so perfectly-beguiling and enchanting to watch that it reminds you of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves.

There is an ease and joyfulness, even in those scenes where the idea of freedom from the tyranny of their bosses and a return to some sort of personal autonomy seems like an impossible pipe dream, that powers the film, with Deutch delivering her snappy oneliners with the kind of comedic energy that makes you smile every time, and Powell displaying the kind of suck-it-up vulnerability that is appealing because it hints at the fact that he’s not really such a corporate sell-out after all.

So natural and unaffected is their rapport that you buy all kinds of narrative twists-and-turns that otherwise wouldn’t, and probably still don’t when objectively examined, make sense such as the time, nearing the final act, when Harper and Charlie decide to go to the engagement party of Harper roommate Becca (Meredith Hagner) despite the fact that Charlie has a girlfriend Suze (Joan Smalls) with whom he is supposed to be hanging out and who has been oft-neglected up to this point by her boyfriend’s insane schedule.

Naturally, Suze is nice enough but not a fit for Charlie not really and so when they decide to go to the party and then blow off the party after a short time to eat pizza and act goofily cute together, an act which might seem a little over the top given their current circumstances, you totally go with it.

How could you not? Harper and Charlie are a delight and as they plan for their bosses to fall in love and get off their backs for a while – yeah it’s kinda of selfish and eventually messy but honestly if you have managers like that, you’d throw the ethics out with the spurned dinner too – you totally root for them to succeed so they can have their lives back, preferably with each other.

 

 

Set It Up manages to feel both aspirationally blue sky-fabulous and grounded all at once, a mesmerisingly-good mix that you can likely attribute to the fact that two women wrote and directed the film.

The screenplay by Katie Silberman and direction by Claire Scanlon radiate the sense that life can be remorsely-demanding and full of all kinds of moral and ethical compromises – refreshingly some of the questionable tactics pursued by Harper and Charlie are called out and Rick and Kirsten are not complete ogre archetypes – but there is the capacity for something wonderful to happen too.

It’s this one eye on what is and the other on what we’d like to be that comes from an ability to see the full emotional panoply of life in all its gloriously contradictory complexity that defines Set It Up as something special, and at the risk of sounded misandristic, is something that women writer and directors such as Scanlon and Silberman, and the late great Nora Ephron seem to capture more expansively and fulsomely than men.

Whatever the drivers of its rom-com perfection, Set It Up is one of those films that sweeps you up in its hastily-constructed glittering universe so completely and unashamedly that its tropes and cliches feel organically real and possible rather than contrived and silly, marking it as an exemplar of its genre, that rare re-user of the conventions of its cinematic type, and let’s face it, all rom-coms are to some degree, that feels fresh, original and most of all transportively and reality-defying romantic.

Best of all, for all its otherworldly rom-com-ness, it feels weirdly and appealing possible, which for all of us, in love or otherwise, is probably its greatest gift of all.

 

My Grandfather’s Memory Book: A touching tribute to a much-loved artistic heritage

(artwork via Vimeo (c) Byron Levy/Colin Levy)

 

SNAPSHOT
…the memory book was different. It was like all his sketchbooks compressed into one — an impressionistic retrospective stretching back to early childhood. There were stories of long-lost friends next to struggles at work, moments of historical significance flowing into prosaic family vignettes: kaleidoscopic portals into moments of my grandfather’s life. (via Laughing Squid)

When my granpa died almost twenty years ago, I, like so many people before me, realised that I didn’t know anywhere near as much about him as I wished I did.

We’d talked sure but I still didn’t fully appreciate the length and breadth of the life of a man who was warm, rich, friendly, funny and talented at baking, a man who talked to me like I was his equal at an age when few people did.

So I can well understand the joy of artist and filmmaker Colin Levy when he came across his grandfather Byron’s series of memory books in which he, a talented artist like his grandson, had chronicled and illustrated so many key parts of his life.

It opened not only an unexpected and much-valued window on his beloved grandfather’s life, but helped Colin to understand better his own life as an artist.

As treasured gifts go, they honestly don’t come much better.

 

Once Upon a Deadpool: Way less raunch, far more charity fundraising

(image via Bleeding Cool)

 

Deadpool 2 returns!

But it is not as you remember it; specifically it is coming back into theatres, sans the expletives, the raunchiness, the hilariously crass irreverence and yes, everything that made it the scourge of conservative parents groups everywhere.

What you might ask is the point of all that profane neutering which is so complete that star Ryan Reynolds, on social posts advertising the poster that graces this post, made joking reference, notes Bleeding Cool, to “the lack of F-words in the movie including ‘the only F word in this movie is Fred Aaron Savage’ and ‘a fairytale that gives zero F’s.'”

Well, my good friends, it’s all comes down to a sudden spare spot in 20th Century Fox’s schedule which needed filling and the studio’s need to fill it.

 

 

The brand-new squeaky clean cut was only agreed to under a specific condition by the man who is, and forever more shall be, Deadpool.

“This isn’t just a version of the movie that could air on TV hastily thrown into theaters. This is a version with new footage, likely a framing device, hastily thrown into theaters. However, $1 from every ticket sale will go to the “fuck cancer” campaign as per star Ryan Reynolds conditions for releasing the cut.” (Bleeding Cool)

So yeah, Christmas is madly busy so should you go and see Deadpool 2 all over again, now with added cleanness and family-ness? In any other instance, I’d say no but hey it’s for charity so definitely worth a viewing.

You can just swear inside your head while you’re watching it OK?

UPDATE 20/11/2018
We have a trailer. A Princess Bride/UP trailer that may not be raunchy but is still ridiculously, wonderfully funny, and possessed of a rather wicked wit as Nerdist notes:

“Though the trailer may be free of Deadpool‘s trademark cussing, the film has definitely retained the original’s edgy sense of humor. When Fred mentions that he prefers Marvel movies, and Deadpool tells him this is a Marvel movie, Fred responds, ‘Yeah, but you’re Marvel licensed by Fox. It’s almost like if the Beatles were produced by Nickelback. It’s music, but it sucks.'”

Yeah Deadpool still got it! Laugh away … non-obscenely, if you please …

 

Determinism vs. free will? The Good Place S3 asks the hard questions … and has fun doing it

Determinism? Free will? Or just plain old avoiding the forking issue? (image (c) NBC)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A WHOLE LOT OF FORKING GOOD FUN …

Much as I am a fan of sitcoms, there is a dearth of entries in the genre that manage to be both hilariously funny and immensely clever.

When you think of shows that satisfy both criteria, shows like The Mary Tyler Moore ShowCheers, Frasier, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm what is immediately apparent is that the creators have managed to hold the two seemingly-disparate elements in audience-pleasing tension, proving that it is possible to simultaneously tickle the funny bone and engage the mind.

To this august number, and other besides, you can continue to add The Good Place, a witty, endlessly-malleable exploration of life after death which has entered its third season on NBC (USA) and Netflix (internationally) with its philosophical head held high, its characters are lovably-flawed and yet capable of of surprising change as ever, and its sense of the humourously-absurd firmly in place.

Now, you may not think there’s a great deal about dying and thoughts about the afterlife, of which there are many on your religious or philosophical bent, that would be laugh out loud, brain-pleasing fun but Mike Schur (Community) and his team have not only found a way to elicit much mirth from heaven and hell and that awkward place in-between but to get us thinking about the human condition into the bargain.

It’s quite an achievement, one that has undergone all kinds of changes during the first two seasons where we have scene the four main protagonists – Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Tahani Al-Jamil and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) – think they are in the good place, find out they’re actually being tortured in the bad place as part of a demonically-inspired piece of social experimentation, become better people in spite of a system that says once you’re dead that’s it and escape the bad place after which a celestial judge (played with comedic perfection by Maya Rudolph) has returned them back to earth, at the urging of reformed demon Michael (Ted Danson) for another crack at accruing the points needed to get into The Good Place for real.

 

It’s all fun and games and romance … until you’re doomed to hell for all eternity by a slip of the tongue (image (c) NBC)

 

If that sounds like a lot of narrative pivoting , then you’d be right.

In the time that most sitcoms would devote to keep the established show on the road exactly as promised in the pilot – very few tinker with the “sit” in the “com” – The Good Place has happily pivoted like crazy, galloping ahead with all kinds of revelatory changes for the characters, and by extension, the audience.

Season 3, of which the first seven episodes has been watched so far, continues that tradition of taking the characters, including Michael’s all-knowing sidekick Janet (D’Arcy Carden), on journeys that are both surprising and very human, mixing the silly with the sublime, the heartfelt with the ridiculous with consummate ease.

With everyone back on earth and alive again, part of an agreement between Michael and the Judge, whose decisions are binding on both Places (though the demons led by Shawn played by Marc Evan Jackson are, as you’d expect, seeking to subvert things left, right and torturously-centre) and blissfully unaware that they must get their second chance at living right or end up back in the Bad Place all over again, the pressure is on Michael and Janet to make their bold, hastily-cobbled together experiment work, and work spectacularly.

The future of the way people are allocated to the Good Place or the Bad Place, essentially heaven or hell though the show is loathe to say that’s what they are preferring a more oblique approach to the afterlife, hinges on how well the oblivious four do on their go-around.

More importantly though, for Michael who has gone from callous demonic architect of the cruel experiment where hell looked like heaven to transformed people-loving demon, the fate of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason, who retain none of their memories from the first two seasons, rest on whether they can become, all over again, the good people who left the Bad Place wholly changed.

The Judge forbids Michael and Janet from interfering (save for averting the events that led to their original deaths) but of course, they can’t abide by that, and much of the fun of the first few episodes is watching them try to get around a system where, in theory at least, the Judge is all-seeing and all-knowing (and bingeing NCIS but that’s a whole other story).

 

That’s the way we became the Brainy Bunch (now with extra mischievous demon) (image (c) NBC)

 

The brilliance of the show, though a little diminished in the third season, remains very much in force, with one episode, “A Fractured Inheritance”, where Eleanor, with Michael by her side, has to confront the fact that her once-douchebag mother is now not only not dead but the ideal mother Eleanor always wished her to be, leading to a very funny and very clever back-and-forth discussion about whether its determinism or free will that governs our lives.

As she struggles with the fact that her mother, the subject of an attempt by the intrepid Soul Team of Eleanor, Tahani, Chidi and Jason (together with Michael and Janet) to save as many people as possible by helping lead better good point-gathering lives, has got herself onto a better path anyway, Eleanor has to grapple with some fairly weighty emotional issues, the sort of fare that many sitcoms would see as far too weighty and emotionally-intense.

Not so The Good Place which mixes these moments of raw humanity in with Jason’s dopey but in touch with what really matters humanity (and a family that is a joy to watch in their inspired, heart-in-the-right-place idiocy), Tahani’s name-dropping and yoyo-ing self-awareness and Chidi’s epiphanic highs and lows which see him undergo one of the funniest, most heartfelt (and sexiest; those pecs! That tight T-shirt!) of breakdowns ever that instructively reminds us that you should probably avoid mixing chilli and candy.

It’s a sublimely funny brew of the insightful and the insanely funny that manages to be both irreverent and observant of the human condition without one ever cannibalising the other and season 3 illustrates that, even newly-pivoted, The Good Place hasn’t lost its knack of hitting the head, heart and funny bone in equal measure.

Most sitcoms, funny though they are, would struggle with this balance, but not so The Good Place which, replete with supremely-good writing (the amount of throwaway oneliners will have you cackling away near-constantly), brilliantly-realised characters and the ability to morph its premise over and over again without once skipping a beat, remains as funny and clever as ever (despite the abysmal Australian accents), proof positive that you have your sitcom cake and eat it too (preferably with Sting or Bono; unless you’ve deleted their phone numbers, right Tahani?).

 

“I don’t belong here!” Toy Story 4 teaser trailer and the messy business of belonging

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.  (synopsis via YouTube (c) Disney-Pixar)

When you really love a toy, I mean really love a toy like Andy and now Bonnie loves Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the rest of the toy room gang who have delighted and moved us over three brilliantly-realised movies so far, it feels as if no time at all passes between the times you’re with them.

After all, it’s been nine years since that deeply-moving end to Toy Story 3 and yet as Disney sneak debuts the teaser trailer to the upcoming instalment, yup Toy Story 4 – about as imaginatively-named as my childhood toys Teddy, Little Teddy, Donkey and Dog but hey, I’m not complaining – it feels like no time has passed at all.

That’s how it is with old friends; although as this hilariously schmozzle-y trailer gloriously shows, not so much with the new friends, particularly if they have identity issues and upset the whole rhythm of long-established patterns of play.

But perhaps all that change is what it’s like to be a toy, especially an older, much-loved one?

Guess we’ll find out when Toy Story 4 releases 20 June 2019 Australia and 21 June 2019 in USA.

 

Weekend movie poster art: The colourful cast of Aquaman

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
From Warner Bros. Pictures comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas. The film, starring Momoa (Justice League, Game of Thrones) in the title role, reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime — one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king.

Aquaman also stars Amber Heard (Justice League, Magic Mike XXL) as Mera, a fierce warrior and Aquaman’s ally throughout his journey; Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man 2) as Vulko, counsel to the Atlantean throne; Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring films, Watchmen) as Orm/Ocean Master, the present King of Atlantis; Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables films) as Nereus, King of the Atlantean tribe Xebel; Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Baywatch, The Get Down) as the vengeful Black Manta; and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours, Lion) as Arthur’s mom, Atlanna. Also starring is Ludi Lin (Power Rangers) as Captain Murk, Atlantean Commando, and Temeura Morrison (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Green Lantern) as Arthur’s dad, Tom Curry. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

 

 

Aquaman is my favourite superhero.

There I’ve said it; it may be a quirky choice given the near-omnipresent popularity of the likes of Superman and Batman but then I’ve never really got with the flow with any mainstream pop culture trends so why start now?

As a kid, who interestingly enough wasn’t that into superheroes, at least the comic books which gave them life and prominence, Aquaman (and Wonder Woman) reigned supreme in my affections which is why I can’t wait to see James Wan’s take on the master of the underwater realms do his thing.

While the trailer gives me hope that the film will be a rip-roaring thriller with humour liberally-sprinkled throughout, these posters give me a tingling sense (not a Spidey one thank you – wrong superhero) that the film will be every bit as bright, colourful and otherworldly as you’d hope from a film that takes place in a realm removed from our own.

Aquaman opens 13 December Australia, 14 December and 21 December USA.

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

(image via IMP Awards)

Book review: Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

(cover image courtesy Harper Collins Australia)

 

If life had a damn good PR team, and it does in a way if you pay any attention to the glass-half-full, carpe diem, bluebird of happiness souls of the world, they would be constantly rabbiting on, with Hallmark-esque gleeful abandon about the limitless possibilities it offers.

It’s a captivating idea, one that speaks to our wish fulfillment fantasies that if we just think it it will happen, that reaching out to grab what it is what we want pretty much guarantees our grasp will closely firmly around it, and life will be something we do, rather than is done to us.

Of course, it’s never that simple – sorry Disney – and Trent Dalton’s luminously-poetic debut novel Boy Swallows Universe makes that very clear even as it rather magically suggests that perhaps, just perhaps, all those good things you long for might just come to pass if you believe strongly enough.

For all its tantalisingly positivity however, and it exists pretty much in defiance of all circumstances to the contrary, the novel inhabits a hard, rough world where nothing is guaranteed, it seems, other than that life will royally screw you over.

Not quite the picture perfect postcard PR image now it it?

“The engine rattles into life and my head bangs against the crate floor. Breathe. Short, calm breaths. No time for one of those nasty panic attacks of Dad’s. This is living. This is what Slim used to call living life at the coalface. All those other saps standing back from the coalface worried about the rock wall caving in, but here I am, Eli Bell, scraping the walls of life, finding my seam, finding my source.” (P. 256)

Life in Darra, Brisbane in the 1980s is hard.

It’s even harder if you’re Eli Bell and your mum long ago split from your dad whom you barely know, and who has issues of his own, your stepdad Lyle who adores you and you adore right back is a drug dealer working for the ruthlessly creepy kingpin Tytus Broz and your mum and Lyle are recovering heroin addicts who love you but haven’t dented their parenting credentials with their drug habits.

Two big points that Eli has in his favour is the undying, protective love of his older brother by a year August, who gave up speaking when he and Eli’s parents split and who communicates via finger-written messages in the air, and his capacity for storytelling, which includes a healthy ability to believe the best even when everything screams at you that it’s a fool’s errand.

For a kid most definitely on the wrong side of the tracks, who dreams of living in a house in happily, leafily middle class The Gap, Eli manages, much of the time to stay reasonably upbeat, helped in no small part by August’s willingness to watch his back and to set Eli right when he is about to get things very, very wrong.

Where Boy Swallows Universe excels, one of many ways in which this uniformly-brilliant book flies long and high, dead blue wrens aside (trust us, this makes, and doesn’t make sense in the book), is the magical realism that is whipped through a very real, authentically-tough tale that never pretends for one minute that an optimistic mindset guarantees you a damn thing.

Certainly not a career as a crime-reporting journalist with The Courier Mail which is where Eli is aiming if the life of crime that snakes around and through his life more often that it doesn’t, manages to leave him along long enough.

 

Trent Dalton (image courtesy official Trent Dalton Twitter account)

 

The book also somehow manages, again almost magically, to balance the in-your-face grim realities of life in a world populated by drug dealing, organised crime and brutalistic violence, with the hope that the hope that comes from August’s indefatigable assurances to Eli that everything will be all right.

Eli wants to believe, he really does – he is a storyteller after all and with the predilection and mindset comes a rich, imaginary belief that anything is possible – but time and again events conspire, including all kinds of loss and rebuilding that tests Eli every time, to snipe away at this remarkable young man’s sense that maybe his hope is pointless after all.

In a story that is never less than rich, transportively immersive, and simply beautifully, impressively and gasp-worthy well-written – if you’re not stopping every page or two note a gem of a sentence or passage, you’re clearly not paying enough attention to the sheer meaningful lyricism of Dalton’s exquisite prose – Eli, moments when, like all of us, belief succumbs to pestilent reality aside, somehow keeps going, determined to clutch that happy ending, or at least, a not awful one, and see if August and that voice on the other end of the mysterious red phone actually know what they’re talking about.

He is the sceptic much of the time, the Scully to August’s Mulder, but he is also the one that defies all signs of the contrary, continually reaching for the fabled brass ring that is often not just out of touch but in another suburb altogether.

My brother, August. My eyes are closing. Blink. My brother, August. Blink.
He whispers in my right ear.
‘You’re gonna be okay, Eli,” he says. ‘You’re gonna be okay. You come back. You always come back.’
I can’t speak. My mouth won’t let me speak. I’m mute. My left forefinger scribbles a line in the air only my older brother will read before the line disappears.
Boy swallows universe.” (P. 465)

What makes Boy Swallows Universe such a compelling read is that Dalton keeps the reality and the hope in perfectly-marvellous tension all the way through, never once promising us some fairytale ending but somehow keeping our hope alive that maybe, just maybe, that’s what Eli will get.

That’s quite a sleight of writing hand there but it works, with Dalton’s ability to be unstintingly authentic somehow sitting cheek-by-jowl with Eli’s largely-adaptable sense that life will deliver on its limitless promise.

All the way through, via a series of positive adult relationships with the likes of Lyle, his mum, his dad and babysitter Slim, an aging ex-con with a whole lot of sage advice learned in the toughest place possible, Boggo Road Jail, Eli is encouraged to do time before it does you, to go forth and swallow the universe before it swallows you whole.

It’s an activist approach to life that stands hard against up a world that seeks to crush and belittle, to lessen and degrade, one Eli mostly embraces, save for the time when the awful weigh of life’s dark side weighs on him more heavily than he can bear (this is where the sheer love and devotion of August to Eli, and back again, comes to fore, as moving a tale of selfless brotherhood as you’re likely to read anywhere).

A substantial, breathlessly-good tale of life lived in the worst of places with the best of mindsets (but not in any kind of Pollyanna fantasy, thank you), Boy Swallows Universe is unutterably brilliant, superbly-written, suffused with wisdom, insight and robustly-moving emotional resonance and a persistent sense that while life might throw the very darkest of things at you, it still possesses the capacity to deliver on the possibilities it has up its considerable, seemingly-inexhaustible sleeve.

The agony and ecstasy of being just Five Feet Apart

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Directed by star of The CW’s Jane the Virgin Justin Baldoni, Five Feet Apart stars Haley Lu Richardson (Split) and Cole Sprouse (Riverdale), who step into the roles of the diligent rule-following Stella and the determinedly rule-defying Will, respectively. The movie follows the journey of the two teens as they live within the confines of a hospital to manage their cystic fibrosis diagnoses. The two eventually fall in love, because of course they do, despite having to maintain a six-foot distance at all times to prevent cross-infection. (synopsis (c) Paste)

We have, in a very real sense, seen it all before.

Rule-observing girl meets rule-breaking boy, which is sometimes reversed (think John Green’s Paper Towns), they butt heads, find common ground, fall in love, all the time with some kind of life-ending Sword of Damocles hanging above their witty, articulate and pretty wisely-observant heads.

And yet there is something about the trailer for Five Feet Apart that takes all those well-worn tropes and makes them infinitely charming and life-affirming in a way that makes me really want to see this film.

Quite whether it will play out as I expect – mine is a reaction of the head more than the head; that’s what the trailer wants, of course – is only something we’ll find out when the film is released (assuming it reaches Australia).

Still, it’s nice to think that there are still people out there taking tropes and having their successfully merry way with them and I can only trust that the producers of this lovely film are among that number.

Five Feet Apart releases 22 March 2019 in USA.