Tag: Australia

MUSIC REVIEW | Mia Dyson – The Moment (2012)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “The amazing husk in Dyson’s voice can stand out amongst screaming guitars and thundering drums, and sounds even better when she gets little moments of quiet.”

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I don’t listen to enough Australian music.  More accurately, I don’t listen to enough new Australian music.  In my teenage years, the 90s, I was all about local, alternative rock.  And I still listen to those bands and those albums constantly today.  These days though, I find myself reading American pop culture sites, focusing on American music, which then heavily informs what music I take a punt on.

But I also happen to live in Melbourne, Australia’s live music capital. Which means amazing bands are playing within a tram ride of my house every single week.  The problem is, I’m an old rock fan who doesn’t keep up enough to know who these bands are.  But now, thanks to The Moment, I know that Mia Dyson is someone I’ll definitely be seeing next time she plays somewhere that’s just a quick tram ride from my house. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TOM WEEK*** Quigley Downunder (1990)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s the kind of movie that I only know it was attempting to be drama because the dialogue and characters tell me that.  It says a lot, but doesn’t actually do a great deal.”

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“This ain’t Dodge City. And you ain’t Bill Hickok.”

American TV and movies have never got Australia right.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single American actor do a half decent Australian accent, and the clichés their views of us are built on are beyond dated.  Even The Simpsons, possibly the greatest TV comedy of all time, couldn’t help resorting to the cheapest, easiest, most played out jokes when they set an episode here.  And it was that terrible track record that had me kind of intrigued with the idea of Quigley Downunder.   A dodgy 90s movie, starring Tom Selleck as a cowboy who travels to colonial Australia just seemed like too much of an inevitable train wreck to miss.

Answering an ad looking for the world’s greatest sharpshooter, all American cowboy Matthew Quigley (Selleck) hops a ship, and three months later he’s in Fremantle on Australia’s west coast.  Putting his nice guy credentials on show, Quigley gets into a brawl, saving Crazy Cora (Laure San Giacomo) from some local lowlifes.  Local lowlifes who it turns out also work for Quigley’s new boss.  So now Quigley is aboard their carriage, with Crazy Cora, for several days journeying across the outback to finally meet his new employer. (more…)

***2015 RECAP*** MUSIC REVIEW | Robert Forster – Songs to Play (2015)

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Growing up in Queensland, and claiming to be a serious music fan, it’s pretty much a prerequisite that I love the Go-Betweens.  They were the Brisbane boys who defied the town’s 80s backwards, redneck reputation by making clever, sensitive music that could be played on mainstream radio, and at parties by pretentious students studying Arts at UQ.  They were a little before my time, and I even missed out on their brief reunion at the turn of the millennium before the death of co-founder Grant McLennan.  But in the years since, I’ve developed a real appreciation for the band, and for the continuing work of surviving co-founder, Robert Forster.  Which is why I was more than just little stoked to hear his latest, Songs to Play.


The guitar jangles and driving bass line don’t sound like the work of a song writer well into middle age, making Learn to Burn a great way for Forster to open an album and let us know straight away that being well into middle age doesn’t mean this is gonna be a record of quiet introspection and melancholic reflection. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK 3*** Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

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“Still in all, every night we does the tell, so that we ‘member who we was and where we came from.”

In 1979, first time Aussie director George Miller, and up and coming young Aussie actor Mel Gibson made a no budget, C-grade exploitation flick called Mad Max. It was the little movie that could, becoming a hit in Australia and turning enough heads in America to warrant a bit more money for a bigger budget sequel. A sequel that came two years later with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Bigger, crazier, campier, it ramped up everything approaching insane in the first movie and went balls out over the top in the best way.


In 2015, George Miller defied all the odds by returning to the franchise 30 years after its last entry and making a genuine hit that was universally loved, with the Tom Hardy lead reboot, Mad Max: Fury Road. But today, it’s the movie that made Fury Road such an unexpected hit that I’m writing about. A movie that killed the franchise for three decades. A movie that could be the epitome of franchise exhaustion… Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK 3*** Archie Roach – Charcoal Lane 25th Anniversary Edition (2015)

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A quarter of a century on, the world weary voice of Archie Roach is still just as mesmerising as he runs the gamut of troubadour acoustic sounds from folk, to country, to balladry, to (inexplicably) a sea shanty. Even when tackling some of the ugliest parts of the country’s history, Charcoal Lane sounds like love letter to Australia.


READ FULL REVIEW

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MOVIE REVIEW | AUSSIE WEEK 3*** Breaker Morant (1980)

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“The fact of the matter is that war changes men’s natures. The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations.”

If Australian war movies have a common theme or connective thread, it’s that we always seem to be at the mercy of some more powerful country, throwing us head first into a war and giving us the worst jobs. The Australian soldiers in The Odd Angry Shot seem mainly oblivious to why they’re fighting in Vietnam or the not so justified reasons for the war in the first place. Gallipoli is the Australia’s most famous war story, as the Brits made our soldiers cannon fodder for the Turks in WWI. And now, I’ve found another one to add to the list of movies where Aussies get fucked over during a war, Breaker Morant.


In South Africa at the turn of the 20th century in South Africa, the Beor war is being fought between the British and the Dutch colonialists. As was British tradition at the time, they sent in Aussies to do their dirty work. With Dutch farmers taking up arms and practicing a kind of guerilla warfare, the poms had to develop new ways to fight an enemy that wasn’t always there in plain sight, wearing a bright uniform to identify themselves as the enemy. Which is where the Bushvelt Carbineers come in. The first group of soldiers ever referred to as commandos, they fight behind enemy lines and resort to any measure to get the job done. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK 3*** My Brilliant Career (1979)

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“I think ugly girls should be shot at birth by their parents. It’s bad enough being born a girl…but ugly and clever…”

The Australian cinematic New Wave of the 70s kicked off with Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. It set a tone for a kind of film making and story telling that was uniquely Australian. At the turn of the 20th century, Australia was a strange place. It had well and truly started to form its own identity, but was still well and truly part of the British Empire in a way that meant Englishman were a kind of nobility, and the whites born and raised here were a step below. It was also a time when old fashioned British ways of propriety were still trying to survive in the harsh outback and desert environment that would eventually win out in the end.   It was a fascinating setting for the off putting dreamscape of Picnic at Hanging Rock. And it’s just as fascinating for the more grounded story of My Brilliant Career.


At 16, the confident and defiant Sybylla (Judy Davis) is living in a time and place when confidence and defiance in a woman is seen as a burden. Her parents have decided that they can’t afford to keep her anymore and that she needs to make a living until she can find a husband. But for now, they send her to live with her grandmother (Aileen Britton), uncle JJ (Peter Whitford) and Aunt Helen (Wendy Hughes). Here, she meets pompous English jackaroo Frank (Robert Grubb), and local well to do property owner, Henry (Sam Neil). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK 3*** Bliss (1985)

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“Harry, where exactly are you going to draw the line?”

I had never heard of the movie Bliss before watching it. Well, actually, that’s a lie. I must have heard of it, because I acquired a copy of it a year or so ago. But by the time I decided to actually watch it, I couldn’t remember why I acquired said copy in the first place. A quick google tells me that Bliss caused a bit of controversy here in its native Australia when it came out, and that it inspired mass walk outs when it played at Cannes. So based on that, I knew even if I wasn’t in for something good, I was at least in for something interesting.


Harry Joy (Barry Otto) is an ad man. He makes commercials for products with no regard for what good or harm they may be doing to the planet and its inhabitants. After a heart attack, Harry dies. Or does he? Is Harry alive and insane? Did he die and go to hell? The world Harry lives in after his heart attack is just normal enough that it could be reality viewed from a slightly off perspective, but just strange enough that it could be the afterlife. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK 3*** He Died With a Falafel in His Hand (2001)

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“Let’s just get this straight. You’re 20-something years old, you have no job, no money, very few prospescts.”

Whenever a writer writes an obviously semi-autobiographical story about a “writer”, there’s always a very fine line between naval gazing wankfest, and genuinely raw emotion.   “Write what you know” is a very common piece of advice for aspiring writers, but not everyone’s years as young, starving artists lend themselves to compelling stories. But sometimes, those young, starving writers, writing about their young, starving existences, works just right. Sometimes, you get stories like He Died With a Falafel in His Hand.


Danny (Noah Taylor) bitches at housemate Flip (Brett Stewart) for having the TV on too loud in the middle of the night. But it’s not Flip’s fault, because Flip is sitting in front of the TV, dead, with the titular falafel in his titular hand. Flashback to sometime earlier, and Danny and Flip are living in a rundown share house in Brisbane with at least half a dozen other people. The main one being Sam (Emily Hamilton). Between rounds of cane toad golf, bucket bongs and being a frustrated writer, Danny joins his deadbeat housemates in not paying the rent, until their debt catches up with them and it’s time to leave. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Robert Forster – Songs to Play (2015)

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Growing up in Queensland, and claiming to be a serious music fan, it’s pretty much a prerequisite that I love the Go-Betweens.  They were the Brisbane boys who defied the town’s 80s backwards, redneck reputation by making clever, sensitive music that could be played on mainstream radio, and at parties by pretentious students studying Arts at UQ.  They were a little before my time, and I even missed out on their brief reunion at the turn of the millennium before the death of co-founder Grant McLennan.  But in the years since, I’ve developed a real appreciation for the band, and for the continuing work of surviving co-founder, Robert Forster.  Which is why I was more than just little stoked to hear his latest, Songs to Play.


The guitar jangles and driving bass line don’t sound like the work of a song writer well into middle age, making Learn to Burn a great way for Forster to open an album and let us know straight away that being well into middle age doesn’t mean this is gonna be a record of quiet introspection and melancholic reflection. (more…)

MUSIC REVIEW | Fanny Lumsden – Small Town Big Shot (2015)

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Country meets folk with an Aussie twang that only makes it all the more charming on Fanny Lumsden’s Small Town Big Shot. This is the sound of road trains on the edge of town, morning tea and cake on a formica kitchen table, songs heard in the distance while you watch the wood chop at the local show.


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Other Opinions Are Available. What did these people have to say about Small Town Big Shot?
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MUSIC REVIEW | Josh Pyke – But For All These Shrinking Hearts (2015)

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According to the press notes for Josh Pyke’s latest release, “Creativity isn’t bound by physical laws of nature and science”. That’s a pretty lofty thought to attach to a record. And it opens Pyke up to any critics who take joy in taking shots at such grand ideas. The good news is, as good an ear as Pyke has for melody, his knack for lyrics and turning a phrase might be even more honed. But For All These Shrinking Hearts is a series of dense, rich tales, expertly told.


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MUSIC REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK 2*** Sunnyboys – Sunnyboys (1981)

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Discovering old music isn’t hard, but what is hard, is discovering the alternative, underground older music.  Well, technically, the internet makes it a piece of piss, but it still requires some active looking.  The old music that’s easy to discover is the mainstream successes that were also good.  Not shitty number ones from shitty bands with no shelf life, but legit, great bands.  Then there are the legit great bands who never quite cracked the mainstream. They’re the bands I tend to love at the time.  So I’ve decided to seek out those kinds of bands from before my time.  Starting with a band that certain dudes a few years older than me seem to revere, while I couldn’t name single song.  The band is Sunnyboys, and the album is Sunnyboys.


Straight away, I can hear why these guys have stuck around in the minds fans from back in the day.  They were pretty ahead of their time.  I  Can’t Talk to You and My Only Friend don’t sound like 1981 to me.  They sound like the jangled guitars of the post punk 80s.  They sound like an early step towards the gentle rock of the shoegazing British 90s.  They sound like the singer / songwriters of the years since, who traded in their acoustic guitars for full backing bands. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK 2*** The Man From Snowy River (1982)

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“It changes so suddenly. One moment it’s paradise, the next it’s trying to kill you.”

Sometimes a movie is so iconic, I just assume I’ve seen it before.  When I was a kid, The Man From Snowy River seemed like the biggest Aussie movie in history.  It had spawned a sequel, a TV show and the image of a dude riding a horse down a really steep hill is one of the most recognisable images in Australian movie history.  But the thing is, I recently realised that I’d never actually seen the movie.  I’m not sure how it passed me by, because I think watching it was compulsory in the 80s, but I somehow got away with it, until now.


It’s latish in the 19th century, and Jim (Tom Bulrinson) and his dad Henry (Terence Donavan) have a farm in the mountains somewhere in the Australian bush.   One night, they see a band of wild horses lead by a black stallion.  Henry wants to shoot the leader, but Jim convinces him that they should catch the horses, break them and sell them.  The next day, they give it a bash, and Henry is killed in the process. While mourning his father, Jim is told by some locals that while he may have inherited his father’s land, he hasn’t earned the right to it yet.  For some reason, Jim takes that to heart and heads to the low country for a bit of the ol’ coming of age. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

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“Meanwhile, I was chasing a girl I had recently fingered to sleep”.

When The Inbetweeners TV showed up on Australian TV, I avoided it for a long time. A lot of people told me it was hilarious, but I resisted. While no one does big, broad, over the top, silly, character humor better than the British, it’s also important to remember that no one does big, broad, over the top, silly, character humor worse than the British. For every piece of awesomeness like The Young Ones, or Blackadder, or Spaced, or Father Ted, or The IT Crowd, you get twice as many shit bombs, like My Hero, or The Thin Blue Line, or Gimme Gimme Gimme, or The Vicar if Dibley, or George and Mildred, or My family. If you haven’t heard of any of those clunkers, I apologise for alerting you to their existence.


By the time I finally caved in gave The Inbetweeners a whirl, the TV show had run its course and a spin off movie had also come and gone. I burned through all three seasons of the show and the movie in a over a week. It was big, broad, over the top, silly, character humor, and it made me laugh, a lot. But even then, the first move felt like it was losing some of the charm of the show. Which is why I wasn’t really in a rush to see The Inbetweeners 2. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Death in Brunswick (1990)

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Aussie movies about being Aussies can be a bit of a gamble. When they go wrong, they rely so much on the Aussieness of it all, that they come off as a tone deaf outsider looking in, and you get something Australia or Welcome to Woop Woop. But when they get it right, they get it right by telling a universally relatable story, just with a little local spin or flare. Death in Brunswick is a story that could happen anywhere, but to justify the name, they give it the perfect amount of local flavour to make sure it’s a story that can only be told this particular way, by setting it in this particular place.


Living in a rundown dump in the titular Melbourne suburb, Sam Neill’s Carl seems like a bit of a depressed mess. He has no job, he’s obviously been through a serious break up, and his overbearing, overly critical mother is staying with him, pointing out his every foible. Things look to be improving when he gets a job as the chef at a local night club where he meets cute bar girl Sophie (Zoe Caridis) and indifferent kitchen hand, Mustafa (Nick Lothouris).

After just one shift, Carl is on the doorstep of his best friend Dave (John Clarke), needing a friend to talk to as he processes his immediate love for Sophie. Once his feelings are reciprocated, things start to get complicated. There’s Sophie’s strict Greek father, Mustafa’s dodgy dealings in the night club kitchen, as well altercations with shifty night club owner Yanni (Nicholas Papademetriou) and bouncer Laurie (Boris Brkic in what be the worst performance I’ve ever seen in a well made, professional movie).

Sam Neill and especially John Clarke are both really great. A little too great. As an Australian, my patriotic pride is a little bummed that these quintessentially Aussie characters were played so well by a couple of kiwis. But I got over that pretty quick once I realised almost every single line of dialogue delivered by Clarke would make me laugh.

I currently live in the next suburb over from Brunswick, but when this move was made, I was a 9 year old kid in small town Queensland. So an added point of interest for me was seeing how my current hood has changed over the last quarter of a century. And, physically, it kind of hasn’t. The main drag where so many of Death in Brunswick’s exteriors were shot looks pretty much the same with its weird blend of industrial and retail. And Carl’s dump of a house isn’t much worse than some of the shit boxes I looked at in that area last time I was looking for a place to rent.

Progress Theatre (1990) - As Depicted in the film, Death in Brunswick
Progress Theatre (1990): As depicted in the film, Death in Brunswick

But the people have certainly changed. It’s still hugely multi-cultural and there are still plenty of people like Carl and Sophie. But these days, the hipster gentrification means there are also a lot of moustaches, skinny jeans and fedoras paying way too much rent to live in the same run down mess as Carl.

Progress Theatre (2014) - As depicted when I walked my dog the other day.
Progress Theatre (2014): As depicted when I walked my dog the other day.

At first, the immediate relationship between Carl and Sophie struck me as just too convenient and lazy from a story point of view. But by the end, a revelation hit me about the kind of movie Death in Brunswick really is. These are heightened characters, living heightened, crazy lives that juts so happen to be set in this very mundane world of 1990 Melbourne. The convenient plot elements are all part of the pulpy story and are what make it so fun, even amongst a lot of dark humour. It’s a delicate balance that rarely gets executed as well as it is here.

Death in Brunswick
Directed By – John Ruane
Written By – Boyd Oxlade, John Ruane

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK*** Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

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After auspicious beginnings at the turn of the twentieth century, the Australian film industry had all but disappeared by the 1920s.  But half a century later, a renaissance occurred with the Australian New Wave of cinema.  Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock marked the arrival of possibly Australia’s most successful film maker, and the prestige picture of the Aussie new wave.


It’s the dawn of the 20th century, and the students of Appleyard College, a prestigious all girls school, are taking an excursion to the titular rock.  Miles from any civilization, the girls and their teachers picnic in the bush land around the rock before taking a nap in the blistering Australian sun.  When they wake, three girls and one teacher have disappeared.  Soon, the entire town is consumed by the search for these missing women.

While it tells the story of the disappearance of several school girls and their teacher, and how those left behind react, it’s more a story about the struggle of colonial Australians, stubbornly trying to bend the land to their way of life.  Their new, but ancient home, is epitomised by the titular rock and the bush land surrounding it, while in constant contrast with the people and their old world ways.  This is seen in the opening shot, starting on the unrelenting outback, the camera then pans to show the girl’s private school, an oasis of European elegance.

The way Weir frames the rock, almost always from a low angle, means it’s constantly intimidating the characters.  When shot from above, it’s to highlight the labyrinth of caves, crevices and corridors that will eventually swallow two girls and their teacher forever.

In Picnic at Hanging Rock, the sun and heat encourage the afternoon nap and complacency of the teachers.  The sun and heat are implied to play their own roll in the hypnotising of the girls by the rock.  And the sun and heat propel the ever increasing distress of the search party who, recognising their own exhaustion, come to believe there’s no way the girls could ever survive past the first day or two.

Weir goes to great lengths to show how out of place the old, European ways are in this new land.  Before the girls leave for their picnic, they are shown in the safety of Appleyards School.  Graciously appointed, it is a spec of elegance in this mass of outback.  When the girls arrive at the rock, their foreign intrusion is announced by a flock of rosellas taking flight and the beginning of an almost constant buzz of insect sounds that will fill the rest of the movie whenever in the elements.  Later, the coach driver and head mistress both notice their watches have stopped while at the rock, almost as if these modern gadgets are no match for nature.

More than just naturally dangerous, Picnic At Hanging Rock gives the rock, and by extension, the outback surrounding it, almost super natural powers as well.  There’s a clear distinction between those who represent the struggle to fit the square peg of European culture into the round hole of Australia, and those who are adapting, or have adapted to, what is more recognisable as an Australian today.  All the while reiterating just how Australian the story is with the unrelenting encroachment of the outback and bush with every shot.

Weir’s efforts to make the Australianess almost a sensory overload, combined with a national identity so heavily based on colonialisation give the outback that much more power and Picnic at Hanging Rock it’s real power as a compelling, haunting mystery.

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Directed By – Pete Weir
Written By – Cliff Green

MUSIC REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK*** Midnight Oil – 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (1982)

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For me, Midnight Oil has always represented a slick, over produced sound of the 80s and early 90s that I’ve never been able to get on board with.  For a band that has such strong views on such serious issues, the too-clean sound seems to contradict the raw, gritty message that they’re trying to convey.  There’s nothing edgy about the super polished sound, with every single drum beat, guitar note and vocal cleaned up and engineered to within an inch of its life.  And that overall sound, along with the bombardment of their music on the radio in my formative music listening and taste defining years, has always made me avoid them.  But I also recognise the huge impact they’ve had on Australian music and thought it was time I gave Midnight Oil a go by giving their fourth album a spin, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.


With Outside World, it’s like the Oils are trying to prove all of the above preconceptions correct and almost tell me not to bother listening any further.  Everything is so precise and pristine, it’s hard to imagine real people played any of it.  It’s also flat out boring.

Things really pick up though with Only the Strong.  It has a bit more realness to it.  The drums are a little less booming, the guitars actually have a hint of attitude and Garrett’s vocals have real power and passion…  See what I did there?

Then comes the double shot of Short Memory and Read About it, two of the radio friendly unit shifters that were shoved down my throat so much as a kid, that I admittedly have no perspective on whether or not I might actually like them if I heard them for the first time now.  They’ve just been too run into the ground for me to have any objectivity. The same can be said for US Forces and Power and the Passion when they pop up a few tracks later.

Scream in Blue sounds like it only exists because either Jim Moginie or Martin Rotsey got a new guitar effects pedal for Christmas and wanted to make sure they used it.  That is, until it turns into a weird piano based crooner.  This is possibly the farthest away from the kind of song I would usually like, but within the context of this album, its weirdness and the total surprise it gave me, make it possibly may favourite track on 10 to 1.

The weirdness doesn’t payoff so much though with Tin Legs and Tin Mines, which sounds like it’s straight from the original cast recording of the soundtrack to a terrible stage musical about some hot button issue.

So I’ve done it, I’ve listened to my first ever Midnight Oil album from beginning to end.  I tried to approach it with an open mind.  Really I did.  But all 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 did was reaffirm all the negative things I’ve thought about the band over a lifetime of having them forced on me through radio airplay and best-ofs lazily thrown in CD players by friends of friends and old dudes.

It’s such a perfect encapsulation of an 80s sound I’ve always hated.  I have a feeling though, that if I saw them play these same songs live, without all the layers of artificial perfection, I’d probably like them a lot more.  Or maybe hearing them stripped down would just highlight how much lipstick was slapped on that pig in the recording studio.  We’ll never know, I can’t imagine myself ever paying money to see Midnight Oil live.  Have they even played live since the 2000 Olympics?  I don’t care enough to google it.

Midnight Oil