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Archive for February, 2013

Suspenders – ‘Hitchcock’ film review

Hitchcock – A Film Review

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

The local baseball club ad is really awful and I want to attack my eyes with a sharp object when I see it*. Previews for The Impossible (scarily real tsunami-stuff with Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts playing roles occupied in real life by Spanish people) and Zero Dark Thirty (interrogators nearly as brutal and effective as parents, leading to the death of Osama Bin Laden).

[Corpulent old guy appears on screen similar to though better dressed than your scribe. Speaks fluidly as one would imagine an unfit beagle speaking, if it could, in a palimpsest of an East End accent.]  “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight’s production tells the tale of a prolific director, no longer young, and his well-organised wife as they develop a new film for presentation to the public. There is also some ambiguity about the nature of their relationship, and you may notice some references to the work of the late Mr Hitchcock”.

What follows is a fine piece of work setting the context in which Alfred Hitchcock directed Psycho. Serious film historians can debate bits of the story – the extent of studio support, the extent of Alma Hitchcock’s control over the creation – but most of us will see it as sound storytelling. That story is of a self-centred auteur with a flock of personal demons and an unshakeable faith in his own specialised genius, who realises he needs to recover from some relative failures. He receives support from his long-suffering wife Alma, who manages what he cannot, and who acts as the mother figure which so troubled the director**. He fights the minions and titans of the corporate film world and outflanks the naysayers of censorship who inexplicably object to possible scenes of a naked woman being hacked to death with a knife. His most consistent ally is not always Alma, but the spirit of Ed Gein, the perpetrator of the macabre crimes which inspired the book and the film.

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The performances are strong. While Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) and Helen Mirren (Alma) should receive most of the praise, they provide only a robust structure. There is sound work putting flesh on the bones by Scarlett Johansson (as Janet Leigh), Toni Collette (as Peggy Robertson, the assistant director), James D’Arcy (as Anthony Perkins) and Jessica Biel (as Vera Miles). The settings are limited, but attractive (the Hitchcock home being a semi-Gothic masterstroke). “In Hollywood, you are only as good as your last film”, Hitchcock at one point intones. Hitchcock’s last film, in real life, was Family Plot, a poor example of his work (I saw it in 1976 or 77, and do not want to repeat the experience. Ever). This is a much better memory.

Three flat whites and a babycino, with a 1960-style chocolate eclair.

FPB

* – no objection to baseball, for those who can’t understand cricket and don’t care about their duty as Australians.

** – look at Psycho, and at this film’s references to betrayal by actresses who preferred to be mothers and its depiction of Hitchcock’s direction of actresses.

The Hub House Diner – Deep-fried Dreaming

The Hub House Diner – Dulwich Hill – Restaurant Review

Fries

Fat has never been so photogenic since locals rushed the doors of The Hub House Diner which opened in Dulwich Hill last month. The crowd-pleasing Yankee diner cuisine has food bloggers and Instagrammers snapping the golden, mouth-watering morsels and singing high praised ‘hallelujahs’ since the burger joint came to town. Dean and Daniella Papas opened with head chef Joseph Sergio who is still tweaking his fried fantasia but has essentially nailed the ultimate ‘dude food’ menu.

The staff are young, fun and friendly which shouldn’t bear mentioning but makes a mighty impact on a seasoned Sydney diner these days. Daunted by a mouth-watering menu of burgers ($15 – $18) we went for the house plank ($22) and the pulled pork sliders to share in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. The waitress offered us wise counsel when it came to our choices, whipped our beers out to us before we could bat an eyelid, very quickly followed by our meal.

The sliders were not as thrilling as we had hoped. It is true that they had to gently break the news to us that the cute little brioche buns had sold out and instead the chef cobbled together a slider-esque attempt by quartering a larger bun. They were a bit dry and more about the bun rather than the so-called pulled pork.  The saving grace was the share plank which had splodges of American-style mustard, the house chilli sauce, coleslaw, creamy aioli, a steel bucket of buffalo wings, zucchini fritters and popcorn chicken.

Underneath a fantastic, tooth-crackingly crunchy batter were plump pieces of delicious chicken (we had heard a rumour that the owners’ father ran the local BBQ chicken place… but this remains unconfirmed) and the zucchini fritters with orange gel and sour cream were tasty little examples of the rare possibility of a vegetable inspired heart attack. Mopping up the creamy lashings of dip with salty fries and licking our oily fingers with the same immense satisfaction that everyone else in the warm-glow restaurant had on their faces. It seems the Papas’ are on the pulse when it comes to people’s demand for gourmet grease and the rise of ‘anti-health’ cuisine in Oz.

They’re getting a lot of things right at this place. Dulwich Hill hasn’t stopped raving about the coffee since the first day of trade. Barista Nick Xipakis serves Di Bella coffee with a secret twist that people are loving. His specialities include the Cold Drip Espresso Blend on the Rocks and his ¾ Latte.  If coffee’s not your thing, maybe you could be tempted by the artery clogging indulgence that has set the social media mentions afire; the peanut butter and banana smoothie.

 

The Hub House Diner

404 New Canterbury Rd

Dulwich Hill, NSW 2203

Can Do Kandos

 A weekend escape to The Town That Built Sydney

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The Dubbo XPT chugged into station after a carefree hurtle over the mountains and my travelling companion remarked “Oh, it’s cold.” to which a passer-by replied, “Welcome to Lithgow.” We braced ourselves against the mid-summer chill for a brief wait before switching to a Mudgee-bound bus which delivered us  out the front of the Railway Hotel, Kandos (population 1306). The bus was necessitated by the fact that the Gwabegar railway line hasn’t run through Kandos since 2007.

We had arrived in The Town That Built Sydney – home to NSW’s most productive cement works until it was abruptly shut down in 2011, never to be reopened. The local abundance of lime deposits in the Capertee Valley inspired the opening of the works in 1913. The town’s original name – Candos – was an acronym based upon the names of the six directors of the company and in their time, the works were the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

Just west of the Great Dividing Range, Kandos is 3 hours from Sydney, the town features imaginative structures built in the ‘Spanish mission’ architectural style popular in California and whimsical Federation-era construction curiosities. Visiting for the inaugral Cementa 13 art festival, we discovered that the orderly company village facade (40 wide streets, all scrubbed and freshly painted, not a skerrick of litter in the gutters) does not do justice to the quirky township’s personality.

On the back of a Twitter tip-off, we tried our luck with the delightful hospitality of Marie and Barry Trounson of Kandos’s Fairways Motel (est. 1975 with the first guests through the door being the directors of the cement works) and found that there was room at the inn.

marie_barryMarie, was born in Kandos and destined to be the town’s hostess with the mostess. Her determined work ethic, vivaciousness and generosity are all part of a personal philosophy to, ‘Do everything you can for whoever you can’  We were her good deed for the day when she arranged for us to catch an earlier bus home and with her husband driving like only a country man can, ensured we got to our connection in Ilford with time to spare. If only the dour barmaids at The Railway Hotel had been apprenticed in hospitality by the charming Marie!

She remembers the shock of the Cement Works closing, “It was like losing a member of the family.”  Although she notes that it hasn’t affected business at the motel which overlooks a tranquil 18-hole golf course and is on the fringe of the town (only a short walk to Angus Street). Marie’s sense of community is strong and it’ no wonder;Barry has been strongly involved in local business for many years, serving on the council and working with his son in the younger’s an award-winning winery (now closed, however the beautiful property is for sale if this article convinces you to take up a tree-change. Contact Richard Traunson, manager of the mixed grocery and fuel business in Capertee.)

The museum is a carefully curated trove, and one must make a stop to meet the exuberant proprietress of Shady Lady Hats who with a few expert adjustments (and side-cracks to boot) will have you be-hatted in style. For snacks, cheeky sips of lovely Mudgee wine or hearty breakfasts, you will be cared for graciously at the Clock Stop Cafe by the defunct train tracks. A coverted train station, the deco is so authentic you might feel like you’re about to be ushered aboard an Agatha Christie mystery.

Or, if it’s Mother Nature you yearn for, take a trip out to Dunns Swamp. Manmade in the 1920’s to provide water for the Kandos Cement Works, it forms part of the beautiful Wollemi National Park and is a picturesque camping, fishing or picnic spot (don’t forget to pop into the Kandos bakery and stock up for the picnic on their delicious treats).

Dinner may warrant a drive to neighbouring village, Rylestone, where a culinary surprise exists in the form of the funky 29 Nine 99 restaurant which knocks visitors socks off every day of the week. Outstanding yum cha, with dumplings to die for on offer served up by couple Na Lan and Reg Buckland. But if it’s simple fare that you seek, step into the Hotel Kandos for classic pub grub at its country best.

Enclosed on one side by an enigmatic escarpment, the finest hour is sunset in Kandos. With a drink in hand on the balcony of the Railway Hotel, tourists and locals watch the sky softly burn to an orange glow that illuminates the cliff face to a fierce blush. Glossy cockatoos shriek from the boughs as the shadows of the gums lengthen to streak across neatly mowed town parkland. Maybe it’s a little rose-tinted, but the world sure looks lovely from here.

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HOTEL

Fairways Motel
Cnr Ilford Rd & Henbury Ave
Kandos NSW 2848
Telephone: (02) 6379 4406

WINE BAR & CAFE

Clock Stop Cafe
37 Angus Ave
Kandos NSW 2848
Telephone: (02) 6379 4180

By Estelle Pigot

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