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Blunder Years – A Film Review

boyhood

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Dendy Civic, Cinema 1

PIC: Boyhood

PEEPS: 3 present in a venue that would take a few hundred

 

Such is Monday, such is Canberra and such is the problem of long and thoughtful films. Aside from the $%^&ing meerkat, of which I have written previously, the usual short Dendy ads. Expensive menswear*, booze in Fyshwick, a restaurant bar with (apparently) about two customers and slightly smeared glassware, pancakes. sushi, a framing gallery**, a club that supports women in sport. Previews for Wish I Was Here (Zach Braff, routine voyage of self-discovery, small role by Jim Parsons), The Judge (great cast – Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio – in a Grishamish, but written by someone else, thriller about a judge charged with murder, his son the feral criminal defence creature, small towns etc) and Love, Rosie (girl and boy, friends since childhood, I think we all know where this is supposed to go). From which one might deduce that Boyhood is about relationships, possibly also involving alcohol, eating and art***. Well done, Dendy. It’s also about three hours, including pre-show, so sustenance may be required****.

I’m not sure my childhood lasted as long as this movie could have been, and it certainly had fewer highlights. Most people know by now that Boyhood has a bit of a Seven Up riff, with filming with the same cast spread over 12 years*****. Ellar Coltrane, who grows from cute little boy to 16 year old young man, is Mason, younger brother of Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Their parents, who married way too young, are played by Patricia Arquette (Olivia) and Ethan Hawke (Mason Sr). They split and head off on their own trajectories. Both study and work to make the best of difficult lives; Olivia crashes through a tangled series of difficult relationships while Mason Sr gradually turns into the man Olivia thought she was marrying. In the meantime, Samantha and Mason Jr are exposed to emotions and issues that it would probably be best avoided by the young and tender. Their parents compete and conflict over the way the children should behave, the children watch the rawness of hope turning to pain and learn the sorrow of broken promises. Somehow, they make it through the milestones and start to understand those around them and become stronger people, capable of functioning in a world more complex than the generations before (represented by Libby Villari and Richard Andrew Jones outstanding in their small roles).

Boyhood has imperfections, in part due to its episodic structure and lack of a single defining event or resolution. It does not always take the easy way out – there are cues to the passage of time, but they vary and are less obvious than they might be. There is an underlying, and very American, optimism about the capacity to achieve success through hard work that may misunderstand the injustices, rigidities and handicaps inherent in any hierarchical society. For a non-American, studying a map of Texas****** in advance might be advised. Coltrane is solid and confident in his role and Hawke does great things with a talented character who manages to defer everything including adulthood for a time. But it is Arquette who comes through strongest, creating a vivid memory of a good and clever woman trying to find the best way through a life alone. Many will find it hard to watch this engaging actress at times.

Four flat whites, but one of those is just for trying something worthwhile though really hard and doing pretty well at it.

FPB

 

* – it’s one of those success-by-association ads – “Armani, Ted Baker, Hugo Boss, Whoever’s House of Clobber”.

** – amusingly situated near the police station and courts.

*** – there are, however, no meerkats.

**** – before the 11,00 am session, I chowed down on a sausage roll and a pot of tea from the bakery below.  Tastier, if no healthier, than popcorn.

***** – whatever else it may be, this is seriously courageous cinema for that reason if no other.

****** – it’s big and genuinely diverse in geography and population, but it could be difficult to know the significance attached to places that enable them to become shorthand for attitudes.

Face to Face – Now Playing at The Concourse

jackmanning

REVIEW BY CULTURE VULTURE & INTREPID TRAVELLER, MARK PIGOTT

PLACE: The Concourse, Chatswood

PLAY: Face to Face ( part of the Jack Manning Trilogy by David Williamson)  

PERIOD: On now, closes 27th September 2014

 

Face to Face is one of David Williamson’s plays from his Jack Manning Trilogy. The Trilogy is based on community conferencing, where victims and perpetrators of a crime are brought together to attempt to achieve a resolution and to avoid the court process. This might sound like good and worthy material for a typical left wing Williamson play and it could be viewed as such but the sharp and intriguing dialogue lifts it to a higher level. As could be expected the boss is exploitative and the workers treated badly but these are secondary issues to the main drama.

Glen Tragaskis, in a catching performance by Andrew Cutcliffe, a young scaffolder has been fired and then rams his car into the bosses Mercedes. A community conference is held to try and resolve the situation and avoid court and gaol. Jack Manning, in an excellent performance by Glenn Hazeldine, starts nervously as he facilitates the conference, but generally directs the conversation assuredly as various unexpected side issues emerge. Bullying and pranking are common practices at the scaffolding site and these lead Glen to reacting violently and consequently being fired. These issues are further investigated and explored in the conference and it emerges that just about all of the characters in the play have acted dishonourably or inappropriately.

Willamson is in his best form writing the heartfelt, emotional and witty dialogue. Sandra Bates’ direction utilises this fine writing to encourage strong performances from the talented cast.

Adriano Cappelletta is excellent as Luka, a workmate of Glen, involved but not a ringleader in the bullying.. Jamie Oxenbould, Erica Lovell, Kristian Schmid and Catherine McGraffin  give strong performances. Warren Jones, Fiona Press and Jessica Sullivan each bring fine performances to the production.

There is a lot to enjoy about Face to Face. It feels as if the conference could erupt into a wild brawl or an all out screaming match, or possibly proceed in the opposite direction and with excessive hugging and crying but Williamson’s well crafted script avoids melodrama and keeps the audience fully engaged.

Face to Face, is part of  Williamson’s Jack Manning Trilogy along with two other plays, A Conversation and Charitable Intent. All three are showing until September 27.

Storytiller

2503_JohnKnowles-800px_EFUL_GUIDE

Review by culture vulture, Mark Pigott

John Knowles’ one man show draws extensively from his childhood in Nova Scotia. The rambling monologue features many tales of his father, who ran away from home when he was fourteen to become a cowboy in the Rocky Mountains, his bizarre recollections of his school friends, his mother’s incomprehensible sayings and his many brushes with death. The humorous stories are mixed with some poignant tales, which is initially a little disconcerting considering this show is part of Sydney Fringe Comedy. However, Knowles has struck a good balance which works very well as a one hour piece of entertainment.
Knowles’ father was a larger than life character and as we discover cowboys don’t make good fathers. A good father wouldn’t replace the bow and arrow, which was confiscated after nearly killing someone, with a rifle. This one of John’s many stories that are funny but also quite chilling.
It is amazing that a self confessed nerd was bootlegging when he was in high school, exploding home made bombs and mocking an armed robber. Fortunately, Knowles weaves these events into an engaging and surprisingly sweet narrative. There are lots of quirky stories but the sense of shared intimacy lifts this show to different level.

Storytiller is on at The Factory, Marrickville until 14th September. The Sydney Fringe Festival runs until 5th October.

Gleaming Teeth

What We Do in the Shadows – A Film Review

what we do in the shadows

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Dendy Cinema 3

PIC: What We Do in the Shadows

PEEPS: About 50 present

I hate the #$%^ing meerkat ad. We got it, along with the usual bunch of short bites (sushi, menswear, framing, gifts, pancakes, booze) and the serious looking one for bar and restaurant that is curiously unlikely to inspire attendance*. Previews for Dracula Untold (lots of CGI and a script that sounds like it came from a random word generator), The Interview (James Franco and Seth Rogen set out to kill Kim Jong-Un who seems to get ridiculed a bit as well**) and Sin City (darkly luscious noir and a big cast that will need a pretty good story to justify it). So, the lesson is that the feature would involve humour, vampires and darkness***.

What We Do in the Shadows is set in the present day in NZ’s pretty capital city, Wellington, although it could be pretty well anywhere with a population in four of more digits. Inside an old house live four vampires with vaguely central European accents – seriously old Petyr (Ben Fransham), old and formerly powerful Vladislav (Jermain Clement), needy and annoying Viago (Taika Waititi) and youthful and lazy Deacon (Jonathan Brugh). They constitute a normal group house, with the usual tensions over housework and visitors that are explained by Viago to a visiting documentary film crew. Sometimes they go out, though they need to be invited into clubs**** and their need to snaffle promising people and drain them dry is a bit of a social handicap; sometimes they have standoffs with Wellington’s burgeoning werewolf community. Sometimes they, or their thirty-something female familiar, persuade people to come to the house where they will be attacked and drained after being subjected to the lads’ limited hospitality. The high point for the supernatural community is the masquerade ball, to be held in fairly ordinary premises. It cannot be an exciting life, but it’s eternal.

It’s not wholly satisfying, though the sketch comedy works well. Think of The Young Ones with very long teeth. Individual tropes work well, though scene endings can be a little ragged and there is not a consistent theme to follow. The script is amusing for the most part, with reactions to the social blunders of a newbie vampire being a high point. A feature film may not have been the right format; alternatively a film may have been better had it contained more unifying material or spent some time exploring the comedy inherent in much documentary-making.

The audience laughed like drains and a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating (on a small sample) suggests there is a market which will lap it up like blood from an artery.

Three flat whites. Black pudding.

* – I have been to the premises in question, during the daytime when it attracts older people, and thought the place pretty good.
** – I’m guessing they’re not shooting for the Pyongyang Film Festival.
*** – the last two of which go together anyway.
**** – it’s a vampire thing. They can’t just walk in to someone else’s place.

The Wharf Revue | “Open For Business”

openforbusiness

Reviewed by culture vulture, Mark Pigott

 

Open for Business (Back In 5 mins) was staged against a Monopoly board backdrop and floor with a variety of topical squares to land on. Go To ICAC, Australian Water Holdings, Catholic Church, Slush Fund, Salvos and Commission Into Union Corruption were some of the tantalising options on the set.

The Wharf Revue follows a familiar format of sketches satirising, ridiculing and lampooning the Canberra politicians and a few other national figures. The audience were welcomed to the House of Review to the strains of Advance Australia Fair by the speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, played by the fabulous Amanda Bishop, and this was followed by a steady stream of impersonations and ridicule of politicians and media personalities.
The performances by Amanda Bishop and Jonathon Biggins were exceptional and were well supported by Phil Scott and Douglas Hansell. Phil Scott also displayed his considerable skill as a pianist.

Open For Business is not the funniest version of The Wharf Revue produced over its fifteen year history but there many amusing impersonations and some hilarious and very clever sketches. Jonathon Biggins as Bob Brown singing and dancing to Get Back Your Green Thang, Everybody Dance Now was bizarrely wonderful. Inbedded With The Morrisons in which Scott Morrison is in bed with his wife deflecting her questions as if she were a hostile journalist was very clever. Other highlights were a torch song from Miranda Devine and an opera sung in German gibberish but with very funny surtitles. Paul Keating’s speech to his fellow irrelevant Australians and his dance routine with Julia Gillard was classic Keating at his vitriolic best. Lines such as “the brains of the organisation left when Wilson Tuckey retired” are pure gems. However, a lot of the humour is of the Benny Hill ilk and a fair amount is just an impersonation relying on the audiences’ dislike of politicians. The writers may have been so despondent about the dire state of Australian political discourse that they felt it was inappropriate to make jokes about it.

The show will be touring around for the coming months and by the time it reaches The Wharf (Sydney Theatre Company) in October, I expect it to be a funnier more consistent show. The Wharf Revue opened at Penrith’s Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre on Thursday 4th September and after at other venues.

Happy Families

August: Osage County– A Film Review

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK
PLACE: Sunday, 1:00 pm. Limelight Tuggeranong, Cinema 2
PIC: August: Osage County
PEEPS: About forty present, 90% armed only with X chromosomes

Quite distinct from the mauling mass in the foyer, awaiting one of several serves of animated children’s fare. No-one who appeared to have been diverted from attendance at SummerNats, Canberra’s local BoganFest that attracts the mullet-wearers of much of the rest of Australia.

This is Tuggeranong, aka Tuggers, known as Canberra’s Nappy Valley until about fifteen years ago, so we had ads for fast food, an apartment hotel for visitors and, as is apparently required by law in Canberra, a jeweller. Previews for Divergent (a movie about some kind of genetic difference and why it leads to actors having to go through really tedious looking explanatory scenes) The Monuments Men (a bunch of comic actors dress up as soldiers and rescue great art from the Nazis) and Noah (Our Russ* works wonders for genetic diversity in the face of climate change). Nothing resembling a pattern.

August: Osage County is an adaptation of a play by Tracy Letts, and its bloodline shows in a production that is, inevitably, full of talking and high-profile acting. Out in the American West** poet Beverley Weston (a he, played briefly by Same Shepard) is a drunk, married to Violet (Meryl Streep), who has cancer, a prescription medicine habit and a talent for unrelenting nastiness that belongs in Australian politics. Beverley goes missing, and this brings the couple’s daughters and the rest of the family into the same zone. There’s Barbara (Julia Roberts), in the last days of her marriage to Bill (Ewan McGregor), accompanied by their teenage daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). There’s scatty Karen (Juliette Lewis), about to marry the sleazy Steve (Dermot Mulroney). And there’s Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), still at or near home and in love with her cousin, Little Charley (Benedict Cumberbatch), the son of Violet’s sister Mattie Fay (Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper). It’s an ensemble cast, and a very good one, well directed, playing wounded people, all at pivotal points in their lives.

Apparently unaided by CGI and special effects***, the plot that advances is one where secrets and deceits are revealed, the thin covering destroyed by the acid and bile that spews from Violet and, at times, from the other family members. It’s an opportunity to reflect on whether we survive as a society and as families because of the lies, or despite them. It’s savagery below the veneer, and one might wonder why unhappy families, despite being unhappy, get all the best lines in drama and in real life.

As indicated, the film is not unlike a stage production**** and at times it seems slow. But those slow passages are like watching the clouds gather for the next, inevitable, thunderstorm. Set mostly inside a poorly lit house, it may seem claustrophobic, but again this adds to its ultimate value as drama.

Four flat whites, at least one of them to wash the pills down. Not a date movie, unless one’s surname is Borgia.

FPB

* – the very fine and gifted Australian actor and sometime loudmouthed EnZedder boofhead.
** – specifically, Oklahoma, near its northern border with Kansas.
*** – I assume there were some effects, but that they fitted in and progressed the story, rather than creating it.
**** – compare 1982’s very fine Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (with a much weaker cast than this) and filmed adaptations of Tennessee Williams.

Wallow, wallow, wallow: What’s All This Then?

Filth – A Film Review

Filth film

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Dendy

PIC: Filth

PEEPS: About a dozen.

 

As well as the usual Dendy ads, we were greeted with a couple that involved retail booze.  There were none for tobacco, cocaine, bribery, violence or diverse practices related to close interpersonal physical relationships (including those featuring only the participant), so we had few hints from them.  Suffice to say that the feature did not include the jewellery, quirky gifts and healthy food that are the staples of the Dendy pre-show.  The correlation between an ad for a picture framing business (operating in consort with a retail art gallery) and a subplot involving a harmless little man may have been unconscious wit.

There were no previews and, in retrospect, it is difficult to think of what may have prepared an audience of lonely souls, huddled in the darkness in the hours following the farewell lunches that have become, again, a regular feature of life in Canberra.

Filth is strong stuff, deserving of its R rating.  It is a comedy, of sorts, about a relationship but don’t turn up expecting something like, About Time.  Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is an Edinburgh cop with more issues than the Times of London.  He may be bipolar, but those around have been happy to feast off his successes.  He is a detective sergeant, looking for the promotion that may buy him a few more months or years in the chilly sunshine of the love of his wife, Carole (Shauna McDonald) who has left him but features heavily in his imagined life. He is contemptuous of his colleagues and rivals for the position.  He is capable of compassion and action, but not for longer than the heartbeat of an impulse.  Robertson has occasional allies. but no friends other than those that come in bottles or in powdered form, snorted with a rolled banknote. He is crude, corrupt, bigoted and brutal, but seems to be capable of being effective at bringing other appalling people to some form of justice.

Filth

Robertson’s prospects depend on a result in a murder investigation and in resolving a nuisance to one of his brother Masons.  It is at this moment that his stretched lifestyle and fragile mind catch up with him and the nightmare becomes more intense.  Some may suggest that this takes the plot too far, but once the line of excess is crossed, it is all a matter of degree.  The subplots are needed to show the depth of his ambition and his degradation.

The soundtrack is strange, atmosphere larded with the more trivial end of popular.  The dialogue may sometimes have been assisted by subtitles but the intent is always clear as is the trajectory.

 

Three flat whites.  Additional substances optional.

 

 

FPB

Vegan Special, With steak; Rare – The Family movie review

 

the family

REVIEWED BY CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR F.P. BLUCK

PLACE: Hoyts, Woden

PIC: The Family

PEEPS: Six present.

The winter PillowTalk ad, plus one for a club and another for a builder/developer. Oh, and how Army officer training teaches women to walk backwards and do quick changes. Previews for Bad Grandpa (an old codger and a small child engage in some of the imbecility that has made Jackass into a franchise, but failed to turn Johnny Knoxville into an actor), Insidious 2 (a horror film, with shocks and surprises for anyone who has not previously seen such a movie) and Thor: The Dark World (Our Chris, as I should now call him, given that he’s a star and all, saves the world from CGI). The previews created the faintest possibility of a movie about relationships, with suspense and violence.

The Family attempted to deliver on this promise, but the chasm between the safer ground of any of its possible genres was too great for its flabby direction and rote performances by the leads. It fell, like Wile E. Coyote when he realises he has blown up the narrow spit of cliff that connected him to the heights and is plummeting to a desert floor accompanied by an anvil.

thefamily2
The set up is simple. Giovanni Manzoni (Robert de Niro), his wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeifer) and children Belle and Warren (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) are in a cute little village in Normandy*, masquerading as an American family called the Blakes. They are there because Giovanni was a serious mafioso who ratted on the Mob and now has a price on his, and his family’s, heads. They are protected by FBI Agent Stansfield (Tommy Lee Jones) and a couple of other affable agents who really never get a scene going. They have had to skip in a hurry from other places of refuge, because they persist in acting like serious mafiosi**, or maybe just Americans, and they resume the pattern in their new home. Amusant, non? Well, some of it is, and some of it is just laboured and repetitive. Inevitably, things go bad, but mostly for innocent bystanders (and they’re mostly French, anyway), so that’s ok.

This could have been funny or cleverly plotted, but it’s far more witless than Witness. It’s a mess of attempted humour and excessive violence; the family that slays together, stays together. De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones pretty much phone it in, and we’ve all seen (for example) De Niro as a hardass and Jones as a weary, decent man before. The younger roles require a bit more, and mostly Agron and D’Leo deliver; it’s not Agron’s fault that she gets cheesy lines and some hammy situations***.

Two lukewarm flat whites.

FPB

* – which we are told a few times is Normandy, France. Just in case one might confuse it with Normandy, Missouri, which would be quite possible, because almost everyone speaks English, albeit with a French accent.
** – you know the sort of thing. Lots of talk about being disrespected, followed by brutality without warning or limit.
*** – but as part of a bur

Win tickets to the 2013 Japanese Film Festival

This month sees the return of the Japanese Film Festival which is now in its 17th season, and Two Flat Whites in association with the Japan Foundation Sydney are giving our lucky readers the chance to win 1 of 5 Double passes to the event (excluding opening night).

There are some fantastic movies at this year’s festival across all genres, including, the latest Takashi Miike (13 Assassins) offering ‘Shield of Straw” and Hideo Nakata (The Ring) latest movie “The Complex”.

To enter the competition, just head to our Facebook page and follow the post.

The 17th  Japanese Film Festival is on:

  • Broome: 17 Sep – 18 Sep
  • Perth: 23 Oct – 27 Oct
  • Hobart: 13, 14 & 16 Oct
  • Canberra: 30 Oct – 3 Nov
  • Townsville: 26 Oct
  • Sydney: 14 Nov – 24 Nov
  • Cairns: 3 Nov
  • Melbourne: 28 Nov – 8 Dec
  • Brisbane: 16 Oct – 20 Oct
  • Darwin: TBC

For more info on the festival click japanesefilmfestival.net

Bright Sparks Conference | Keynote Speaker Clare Bowditch

Clare Bowditch

ARIA winner Clare Bowditch is set to inspire attendees of this year’s creative business conference

ARIA-award winning singer, Clare Bowditch, will be a keynote speaker at Murray Arts’ Bright Sparks 2013 conference in October.

This unique event brings together a talented line-up of industry professionals who are succeeding across the spectrum of creative industries in a program aimed at inspiring, motivating and offering practical advice and skills to people who work or aspire to make a living in a creative field.

It’s a subject close to the heart of Clare Bowditch who understands the challenges faced by creatives striving to achieve commercial as well as artistic success. The singer-songwriter stars in hit TV show Offspring and was named Rolling Stone Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 2010. She launched Big Hearted Business this year, offering mentoring and practical business skills training to groups of 20 creative people trying to make a living from their artistic talent.

For Bright Sparks, she will offer a singing workshop as well as a keynote address: Sensitive Creative Types – A Real Life Survival Guide.

Celebrated furniture designer, Mark Tuckey, will also share the benefit of experience at this year’s Bright Sparks. Tuckey embarked on his road to success 25 years ago with $200, a blue F-100 truck and some recycled timber. Now with a staff of 45, showrooms in Melbourne and Sydney and a homewares store on Sydney’s northern beaches, he qualified to talk on the subject of  Turning Your Passion into your Business.

The program includes a number of other creative industry practitioners who will share their insights through workshops and panel discussions, to cover a raft of topics including social media, building business plans, networking, business partnerships and digital software.

Now in its second year, Bright Sparks attracted more than 60 graphic and fashion designers, publishers, writers, film makers, visual and performing artists to the inaugural event event in 2012.

Full program details & bookings here 


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