Friday, 29 February 2008


My contribution to the letters page of today's Sydney Morning Herald ...

"A "state significant project" runs the caption to your artist's impression of the $51 Burwood development.

Significant in money terms it may well be, but to my eyes it still looks like a block of flats with some shops underneath. Woop-de-do."

From 1981, Siouxsie & The Banshees "Happy House"

Thursday, 28 February 2008


The Pitch – “Down South, a black man finds an abused and discarded petite, young white girl suffering under some type of perpetual sexual conniption fit. To save her from a life of hellfire and purgatory, he chains the girl (clad only in her underwear) to a radiator and proceeds to play the blues.”

The Response to The Pitch – “Are you fucking insane? You want me to be picketed and protested against by every goddamn interest group in the fucking country? From the NAACP to ... to ... to women’s groups and ... and ... A black guy chains a ... a ... a white girl ... ? ... The fuck outta here!”

Craig Brewer made his film, calling it “Black Snake Moan”. And, predictably, ...

“I'm sorry, but in the age of Abu Ghraib and Alberto Gonzales torture memos, it seems important to say it again: Chaining people and holding them against their will is not the right thing to do.”
Dana Stevens at Slate

“His inversion of long-discredited stereotypes smacks unintentionally of nostalgia for faithful servants.”
Richard Brody at The New Yorker

“A lurid exploitation flick that features long, loving sequences of Christina Ricci writhing around in her knickers, Black Snake Moan is Southern Gothic at its trailer-dwelling trashiest ... It’s so profoundly, mind-blowingly offensive that you almost have to admire the writer/director Craig Brewer’s nerve.”
Wendy Ide at Times Online

“Maybe it's all meant to be funny, but the sight of Ricci's bruised and near-naked body (she's barely clothed for much of the film) didn't make me want to laugh. She howls like a banshee and writhes like the Devil himself is within her; what she never does is create a character, because there isn't one there.”
Moira MacDonald at Seattle Times

“A feverish Christina Ricci in full B-movie mode, as itchy Tennessee nymphomaniac Rae. While it's impossible to know what drew her to such a demeaning role, it may have a little something to do with the attention any actress would get from writhing through a movie half-naked and chained at the waist, begging for a man's - but I digress.”
Elizabeth Weitzman at New York Daily News

One of the problems I have with a vast number of film critics these days is that, inevitably, they will attempt to place the “entertainment” they have viewed into an ideological context, whether it be political or social in nature.

Drawing a link (so to speak) between this film and events in Iraq as Dana Stevens from Slate attempts to do is simply stupid. One is a war in which people devote their time to punching bullets into the heads of other people for reasons almost impossible to fathom (religion has something to do with it, apparently). The other is indeed a “lurid exploitation flick” for which we pay a number of dollars to sit in the dark and eat popcorn as we watch, after which we are free to leave (or indeed leave at any time during it’s duration if we so choose) and go home. “Black Snake Moan” is a fantasy, a fairy tale, a fable of sorts featuring characters who are no more “real” than Bugs Bunny “is” a rabbit.

As for stereotypes, Tennessee Williams had
them in spades. And it never did him no harm, no ma’am.

Christina Ricci, a fine and excellent actor, would have been very well aware after an initial reading of the script and subsequent meetings with the director that she would be required, for much of the movie’s length, to “writhe around in her knickers ... half naked and chained at the waist”, which seems to be a prominent point of complaint from many of the aforementioned reviewers. Yet that is precisely what she chose to agree to by taking on the role. Should she have waited for one of those other typically juicy and demanding parts that Tinseltown so often provides its female stars ... another wife maybe, another girlfriend, perhaps somebody’s mother ... all of them no doubt suppliant to favors from heroic men folk who, as per usual, will save the maiden from whatever evils threaten to engulf her so that she may live to cook another day?

Ricci tends not to play it safe in her choices ... witness her turn in
“Monster” or her upcoming role in “Penelope” where she plays a woman born with the nose of a pig, so it should really come as no great surprise to anyone that she would challenge herself, and ourselves, by taking on a part such as that of Rae in this film. Additionally, many critics took time to register their shock and alarm at Ricci’s slight and undernourished appearance as Rae, yet, as she has pointed out, this was deliberate in order to make the character look unhealthy. Of course, such devotion is perfectly fine and admirable when Christian Bale or Robert de Niro do it, but heavens to betsy’s murgatroids that a woman undertake the same process sans prostheses or CGI ...

“Black Snake Moan” is indeed a “B” picture; and most definitely is it a lurid melodrama of sin, sex, sweat and southern Gothic exaggerations underscored by a, no doubt “stereotypical” blues soundtrack.

It’s also very finely made, acted and filmed and perfectly suited to an afternoon’s viewing curled up on the couch with a six-pack and a pizza. Or a pigfoot.

From 2007, “Black Snake Moan” (Trailer).

Wednesday, 20 February 2008



“The toilet habits of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's pets have featured in the year's first round of Senate Estimate Hearings in Canberra.

Liberal Senator
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and her colleagues last night questioned what impact Mr Rudd's cat, Jasper, and his golden retriever, Abby, would have on the state of the lawns at the Lodge.

Special Minister of State Senator John Faulkner says the pets are well supervised. "Dogs do go outside for the odd toilet stop, as has been described," he told the Senate. "I can inform you, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, that Abby is free to go outside, but she generally only goes outside when she is accompanied by a member of the family or staff ... apart from a brief toilet trip."

Senator Faulkner said he was unaware of any ruling that staff were required to escort the animals outside.

"All I can tell you is that these are indoor pets that sometimes go outside," he said.”

Yes, Concetta ... indoor pets sometimes go outside, unless, of course, your indoor pet happens to be a goldfish. And bears shit in the woods and the Pope is a Catholic. Extraordinary, I know, and extraordinarily disturbing to boot, but what's a person to do?

What I just simply can't wrap my head around is that people actually pay this silly cunt for farting about with this type of rubbish and she no doubt labors under the illusion that it actually constitutes "work".

From 2007, Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Down Boy”

Friday, 8 February 2008


Browsing San Francisco’s Village Voice the other day, I came across this headline and could not but help click on it ...


Q. Do you know any lawyers willing to take on a personal-injury suit concerning fisting-induced fibromyalgia? When I call local personal-injury lawyers here in Eugene, Oregon, they get all flustered. —Fisting Fallout

A."It is a little controversial whether fibromyalgia is a real disease at all or just a mysterious constellation of symptoms," says Dr. Barak Gaster, Savage Love's resident medical expert. "Most mainstream doctors accept it as real, but it's still in the slightly dubious category." Fibromyalgia's constellation of symptoms include fatigue, generalized pain, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and roughly 400 other complaints. But you fibromyalgia sufferers have arrived: There's a new drug on the market with a goofy name (Lyrica), an annoying ad campaign (courtesy of Pfizer), and its own constellation of possible side effects (hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, dizziness, sleepiness, blurred vision, etc.). But fisting-induced fibromyalgia? Maybe skidmarkalgia can be induced by fisting, FF, but not fibromyalgia. "That would NOT be considered credible in any real way whatsoever," says Dr. Gaster. You may have fibromyalgia, FF, and you may have been fisted before your diagnosis, but there's no relationship, and no personal-injury lawyer is going to take your case.

Righto, then. That clears that up.

From 1980 “Cruising” Trailer

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


In 1996, Mary Harron directed “I Shot Andy Warhol”. Four years later, she directed one of the finest book to film adaptations yet seen in “American Psycho”. Five years after that (and a full seven years until its Australian cinema release last year), Harron gives us her feature for HBO, “The Notorious Bettie Page”. There you have it; 3 films in 12 years.

On the other hand,
Michael Bay, during the same time span, has delivered 6 films – “The Rock”, “Armageddon”, “Pearl Harbor”, “Bad Boys II”, “The Island”, and last year, “Transformers”.

What is wrong with this picture? For, it seems to me, something is seriously awry in Hollywoodland when Harron, a writer-director of obvious intelligence, imagination, wit and talent as evidenced by her output to date can only get 3 films up in 12 years whereas Bay, whose work at best runs no deeper than a puddle of camel piss in a desert, can continue to have squillions of dollars thrown at him so that, every two or three years, he may make shit.

Oh, well. So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut was wont to say, and say often. So it goes.

Unlike so many biopics of late, “The Notorious Bettie Page” does not outstay it’s welcome in length. It seeks to be neither hagiography or hatchet job as regards its subject, nor does it attempt to psychoanalyse in that twee fashion so beloved of the genre, that is to say, it does not ask “What dark matters of the soul did haunt Page so that she would do such things as she does?”.

She did such things because she could, and no harm was caused in the doing of them. Yet, we watch “The Notorious Bettie Page” fully expecting that, as has been traditional, the “naughty” girl will eventually be punished for her transgressions against the public morality of the time and she will be shown suffering mightily for her sins until, finally, the good burghers of the township relent their disapproval and offer the now humbled (read, humiliated) lass redemption. Happily, however, Harron resists this type of witless twaddle leaving the film, and the character of Page, at, not a moment of moral redemption, but a moment of choice, that choice fully entered into as a matter of the character’s free will.

And, while it is true (at least as far as the film itself implies) that Page had, in her earlier pre-fame life, endured certain horrors of abuse, she is never portrayed as victim. Instead, as directed by Harron and played by
Gretchen Mol, she is a person who simply picks up and moves on with things and does so with a refreshing lack of tortured angst and introspection.

Mol is excellent in the title role, unselfconscious, simple and joyous, avoiding silly actor tricks like the temptation to layer her interpretation with “moments” of moody business that may “assist” an audience in a deeper understanding of the subject when no such thing is, or should ever be, required. And, Chris Bauer and Lili Taylor, as Irving and Paula Klaw (the brother and sister most responsible for Page’s infamy) are an engaging duo. The only false note, for me, was Jared Harris’s portrayal of fetish photographer John Willie. Harris appears to have settled on an impersonation (a very good one) of Peter O’Toole for his character, and while this must have been great fun to play (it’s fun to watch, too), I couldn’t help wondering why they just didn’t ask O’Toole to do it.

The soundtrack is also a treat in its own right, featuring tracks by Clifford Brown, Art Pepper, Charles Mingus and Julie London among others. Irritatingly, however, the region 4 DVD omits the commentary by Harron and Mol available to US viewers.

Here’s what some others had to say ...

Urban Cinefile (Australia) (Andrew L. Urban)

"Gretchen Mol is sensational as Bettie, a most contradictory character, yet one that rings true precisely because she is so self contradictory - at least at first glance. But Mol's performance is the more stunning because she makes it seem like a superficial reading - until we begin to recognise the absence of depth to Bettie is part of her being. A simple Southern girl is the perfect, trusting (too trusting, as the opening scenes underline) innocent who stumbles into the world of sexual deviation and hardly notices. Naïve with a capital N."

The New Yorker (David Denby)

"... This movie ... is lively and sweet-tempered and often funny. “Bettie Page” was produced by the enterprising HBO, and the filmmakers’ workup of the period is modest in scale but affectionately detailed: the black-and-white, fifties-New York night scenes have the noirish excitement of the Times Square episodes in “Sweet Smell of Success.” The urban jungle gives way to Miami Beach (where Bettie retreated now and then) as a wondrous paradise, with dazzling beach scenes that look like Technicolor and interiors in soothing pastels. It’s the American fifties as depicted in the movies of the time, in a visual style shaped by a fascination with the corrupt pleasures of the city and a yearning for clean-washed nature. In one way, however, Harron and her crew are realists. They have created a kind of comic archeology of postwar smut, and the exuberant, casually lousy aura of that world feels right ... some scenes that might have been borderline exploitation, or just corny—Mol purring at the camera, or romping in the woods with a pair of cheetahs—turn out to be ineffably beautiful. When Mol pulls off her clothes and goes starkers in the great outdoors, we get a burst of visual glory that provokes something less than lust but more than awe."

Salon (Stephanie Zacharek)

""The Notorious Bettie Page" -- which was written by Harron and Guinevere Turner, the writer, producer and star of the 1992 film "Go Fish" -- maps a landscape of joy and pleasure in the face of prudery and repression ... a true feminist movie, but one that avoids cant and facile theories about victimization. Harron and Turner find a great deal of friendly good humor in the Bettie Page story, and Harron has framed that story beautifully ... Mol ... plays Bettie's lack of self-consciousness with the kind of boldness that you rarely see in young actresses these days. In a world where many actresses still won't do a sex scene without the protection of an artfully draped sheet, Mol holds nothing back, emotionally or physically."

From 2007, Trailer for "The Notorious Bettie Page"