Two Flat Whites

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PARKES ELVIS FESTIVAL

Oooh-oooh-oooh we all felt our temperatures rising, as the thermometer soared to 42 degrees last weekend but fans flocked to central NSW to share their burning love for the King of Rock and Roll. A sea of Elvis’s flooded the streets and a feverish carnival of enduring love for a rock god engulfed this country town.

Damien Mullin was the show-stopping impersonation performance of the festival. I managed to catch him twice at the Parkes Leagues Club (once in a copy of the 1968 Comeback Special black leather jumpsuit, the other where he sweltered in skin-tight polyester). He planted kisses on the squealing sexagenarians in the front row, bestowed sweat-soaked scarves on the giddy fans and belted out tunes that caused rockabilly riots on the dance floor.

The five-day festival is a major boon to local tourism. A local man working at the Coachman Motel in town, said “With this Elvis thing gEstelle Pigot_ Two Flat Whitesetting bigger and bigger, Parkes has changed a fair bit in the last 5 years.” With evident pride, he added, “A lot of country towns in NSW are drying up but not us – there’s heaps going for Parkes right now.”

Established 21 years ago and held every year in the second week of January to coincide with Elvis’ birthday, the event is booming. It attracts a bigger and weirder crowd of grey nomads, die-hard fans, boot-scooters, bikies, queer rockabillies and everything in-between, each year. But Bogan Elvis – the prevailing look of choice for attendees – reigns supreme at Parkes, putting a distinctly Aussie spin on the quintessential son of the US of A. He and his companions strut and stumble down the main street, too skinny to fill out his jumpsuit adequately, cigarette in hand, his synthetic black wig slipping over one eye, seeking out chicken devil wings to soak up that bellyful of beer.

The town takes Elvis very seriously with one known resident so ardent a fan of Presley who, with APN ONLINE PARKES ELVIS FESTIVALhis mother’s permission, changed his name to Elvis by deed poll. Formerly known as Neville, he travelled to Gracelands and returned with 6 suitcases of memorabilia which is displayed during the festival. Other highlights included look-alike and impersonator contests, the unbelievable street parade, wedding vow renewals presided over by the King himself and over 150 other whacky events.

It seemed disrespectful not to visit The Dish while in town, where we copped our dose of nerdy science history while slurping on our ‘Mercury Milkshakes’ and tucking into ‘Eggs Benedish’ served by teenagers sporting beehives and Hawaiian skirts.

If the aliens invaded Parkes during festival week it would be at the empassioned beckoning of the statue of Sir Henry Parkes. Revellers mock his dramatic stance, turning it into an Elvis-style move; bedecking him in oversized gold sunnies and drape a satin cape across his shoulders. Nobody would notice extra-terrestrials as this quirky jamboree takes place  – they would fit right in.

henry parkes aliens

Mentally Friendly – Mental

Mental – Film Review

Mental

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

Ejected from my house by a tiler who needed to remove asbestos, where else to turn but the Dendy?  9:30 am, Cinema One, seven people (their very breaths echoing before the thing started).  Mental.

Lots of ads for coffee and coffee-appropriate food.  No fewer than four jewellers (including one touting a range of Paralympic promotional material) and an expensive menswear shop. If they spoke to anyone, it was not me.  I had already bathed in coffee, wear only Rivers clothes and (having been dumped*) have no need for jewellery.  The previews included the seriously woeful-looking Pitch Perfect. Also, Parental Guidance has Meryl Streep and Billy Crystal as an old-but-new couple trying to interact with her daughter and family.   Bring your own Quick-Eze and maybe a bucket.

The feature spends a bit of time cannibalising the soundtrack of The Sound of Music and the deeply affecting imagery of Lost in Space.  Setting is Dolphin Point somewhere on the northern NSW coast but maybe with bits elsewhere.  It’s the age old story of a father who is a small town king with no time for his family.  If his put-upon wife, her sanity leaking at the edges, had wanted fidelity she’d have bought a new sound system.  They live among the anally-tidy and repressed, and the poor mother is mocked wherever she goes.  The happy couple has five daughters, all of whom imagine themselves insane.  It is, of course, All Dad’s Fault.  Mum goes away for a while (we all know it’s not really to Wollongong) after a pretty good meltdown and Dad recruits a feral hitchhiker to care for his daughters so he can continue to neglect them. mental2

Meanwhile, the eldest daughter is falling for a surfie-dude who writes songs and plays them on an acoustic guitar and works at the same cheesy funpark she does.  The daughter has just been sent to work in the shark exhibit with a Steve Irwin-gone-gruff bloke called Trevor Blundell**.  Anyhow, we all know where things are going as the wacky outsider leads a pack of self-described losers.

I read that the story had some personal elements for PJ Hogan, the director.  Apart from the main story, there is a social inclusion theme, a hiss at McMansion world and some dredging of past pain.  There’s also a few outings for a previously taboo four letter word*** that would probably cause discomfort to some older folk.

It’s quite funny in parts, and it raises some serious issues.  But there’s not enough of either.

FPB

 

* – see previous reviews for earlier whines about this.

** – Liev Schreiber, doing a wonderful job with the Oz accent.  Really, he could say that a dingo took his baby and sound way more credible than La Streep.

*** – though I understand some feminists may see its use in general speech as a sign of empowerment or something.

USEFUL THINGS THE HOLIDAY SEASON HAS TAUGHT US

cheeseonWhile Sydney braced itself for the heatwave of a century, Lora-Dana DiRuffio (still hungover from the season’s revelries) and Mavis Daze (also hungover… scrap that, still drunk) were trying to procure the last known, legal cheese-on-a-stick in the Eastern Suburbs.

“How could this essential food stuff be outlawed? Do these people have no hearts?” cried Lora-Dana as she furiously typed search terms such as ‘Cheese-on-stick Bondi’ ‘specialty deep-fried foods’ into her iPad.

“Probably not,” Mav replied, “Those lobbyists who pushed the ban through are probably all sitting on waiting lists for transplants. It’s always those who have indulged the most who deny rest of us” she opined through a fug of cigarette smoke.

“But I’m dying, Mav, ddddyyyyyyyyiiiiinnnnngg.” Lora-Dana threw down the handful of Panadeine Osteo capsules passed to her. “You know that nothing soothes my New Year’s hangover but cheese-on-a-stick. Hey, you don’t suppose you could call that Easter Show carnie you once had that little encounter behind the Gravitron with?”

“Don’t even think of it, LD.”

“Goddammit.” She slumped into her antelope kid lounge and squinted from behind her over-sized Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses at the sparkling panorama of sea before them. “Life is putrid,” she sobbed.

Mavis took pity on her fragile friend and proposed an activity that she promised would be such a lark that the mother of all headaches would be forgotten. She suggested they begin 2013 wisely, by listing the most important lessons they had learnt over the silly season.

With some coaxing, Lora-Dana produced the list, thus,

USEFUL THINGS THE HOLIDAY SEASON HAS TAUGHT US

  1. In which, party shots are not for you. ‘Tis not the season to become the only idiot you know who actually tried a vodka eyeball but missed your eye, only to end up with an unsavoury ear infection.
  2. Whereby, you are not a bad person if you hate the Moonlight Cinema. You might be, though, if you attend Moonlight Cinema sessions a little on the sloshy side and locate the projector so that you can contribute to the onscreen action with your shadow puppetry.
  3. In which drunk dialling should be avoided at all costs when you are too blind to correctly distinguish between ‘Sexy Jake’, ‘Study Jake’ and ‘Cousin Jake’
  4.  Beware the rum pig. Dark spirits will bring out the dark spirit.
  5. Whereby, inebriated eBay shopping will yield surprise packages over the Christmas season. Being your own eSanta can be cause for confusion in the bright day of sobriety. 42 cases of Mylanta could be seen as excessive, along with the numerous vintage wedding dresses, however acquiring enough abmachines to fill a gym might come in handy for next year’s corporate (re)gifting. As for acquiring someone’s virginity, only to discover that it was your own, posted the night before after the work Christmas party failed to yield any successful sexual conquests …victimless crime.

 

Amore, Alessi – To Rome With Love Review

To Rome With Love – Film Review

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

Saturday evening at Dendy Cinema 5 for To Rome with Love. Lots of people, a date-related crowd rather than film buffs.

The usual aspirational Dendy ads: expensive menswear, coffee, restaurants, jewellery, designer homewares and salsa lessons.  Previews for The Sessions (a couple of repetitions of this one, especially William H Macy and I’m moving to a probable).  Less likely for The Hobbit (aka NZ’s desperate grab for tourism relevance, Mark IV*).  CGI and Martin Freeman, which is much the same thing.

Having watched Margaret and David do the soft-shoe-shuffle-with-Blunnies on it, I held out great hopes of being able to heap scorn on To Rome with Love.  And it deserves some chastisement for lack of imagination and for dispersing what imagination and energy there was over a couple too many story themes.  From the third row**, it looked an awful lot like tourism-by-the-numbers with Rome’s friendly citizens and well-managed traffic suggesting something less than complete objectivity.  A roundup of the usual ancient ruin suspects, plus Woody Allen. But there was a bit more wit and maybe even some love in the nods to Cinecitta, the 50’s and 60’s, the bookending with Volare, the opinions of knowing local narrators and the collection of short stories exploring some common theme.

The core plots of each explored the possibility of transformation over a brief time through experience in a place of ferment.  The ageing American opera director*** who cannot let go, and his spiky wife; their daughter and her fiancé; the fiancé’s parents, especially his talented but content father.  The older architect**** and the student, his girlfriend and the girlfriend’s best friend; the anonymous clerk who briefly becomes someone; the young honeymooning couple with a Penelope Cruz-shaped explosion in the midst of the straight-laced relatives. To-Rome-With-Love_11

Some of this stuff could have been lost without any effect on the major narrative and maybe that would have allowed a little more depth.  On the other hand, that might have created a little less room to move the action and distract the viewer from seeing where the fabric was frayed or badly joined.  There are apparently poor people and ugly buildings in Rome but not in this version of it.

But the film’s Rome is beautiful and the movie will do no harm to any but the most sensitive of souls.  Yes, it’s safe for my mother or yours.

On to the Tongue and Groove for a Grolsch.  Then home before the young people started to take over Civic.

FPB

 

* – after the Lord of the Rings exercises in grandiosity.  No-one ever goes to the places where they filmed Once Were Warriors.  I wonder why.

** – I said there were lots of people.  Most of them seemed to be enjoying it immensely and at a considerable volume.

*** – Woody Allen, showing his remarkable dramatic range by playing an opinionated neurotic, a character he has tried only about a hundred times.  If he’s going to act, he should resume the style of his old, funny movies.

**** – Alec Baldwin, doing a fair job as a sort of Greek chorus though his support team just seems to disappear, raising a question of why they were there in the first place.

 

Don’t Blame It On The Moonshine – Lawless Review

Lawless – Film Review

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

I’m one of a handful in the 10am audience at Hoyts. No previews screened that I had not previously seen – Dredd:3D, End of Watch, Seven Psychopaths,the third of which might be worth a look.  Ads for multi-coloured housewares, discount curtains and for flavoured milk.  I have no idea what this means, assuming it is meant to be a code for the people they think might be watching*.  Maybe Canberra is full of healthy cheapskates who redecorate.  Whatever.

And the Iron Chef ingredient this morning was bootleg whisky made of pretty well anything that may once have fallen within the vegetable class**.    Franklin County, Virginia, appears as beautiful as Virginia can be.  The Depression is not having so large an effect on people who have pretty well nothing anyway.  Prohibition is failing utterly to do anything useful except redistribute money and get people killed***. Lawless_jpg

Three Bondurant brothers, the eldest reputedly immortal, engaged in the production of the local distilled product.  A tough girl on the run and a highly protected daughter of the local minister provide the love interests for two of the brothers, Forrest and Jack****.  They manage a stable, respectful, cooperative and corrupt relationship with the local law.

Cut to scenes of the carnage in Chicago.  Then the apple cart***** is overturned by changes in the larger world, wanting the rivers of corruption to flow a different way.  As a consequence another, human-sourced, fluid provides a comprehensive red spattering.  A new State Attorney with a Special Deputy who has more charm than scruples or mercy, has.  The feeling is apparent pretty quickly that no-one is playing for a win/win outcome.  The music is exceptional, varied within the types found in the region, and suggests that the soundtrack would be a smart choice for those who don’t fancy the violence.

Oz watchers note.  Guy Pearce as the Bad Cop******.  Mia Wasikowska as the virgin-with-religious-father.  Noah Taylor in a small role.  Nick Cave did the screenplay and gets a music credit.

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* You know, the way some of the more bogan end of television is increasingly populated with ads for insurance products (specifically funeral insurance) and few questions asked personal finance.

**Pauses to bite yellow capsicum. Adopt supercilious smile.

***Speaking of which, the SBS series – currently placed just before Boardwalk Empire – is a beauty.

****The other brother, Howard, is a couple of steps above Mongo from Blazing Saddles.  (I saw that Alex Karras, the footballer/actor who played Mongo, died recently without having emulated OJ SImpson’s career).

***** Which would be empty, all the apples having been converted to something resembling calvados or palinka, except that it’s sold in jars like all the bars do now in Melbourne.

****** An inch, or an ounce, more and he’d be channelling every elegant but sadistic Nazi ever seen on screen.  “Acch! Herr Bigglesworth.  We have your friend Algy and plan to have our vicked vay vit him”  etc.  Nothing at all like Jack Irish.

 

JEP & DEP – Deep In Newtown

Jep and Dep are the delightful folk duet, Jessica Cassar and Darren Cross. Their melodious sound is inspired by the folksy, country music of the 1960’s. They say they are just a boy, a girl and a guitar but the commercial potential of this group who have only been performing together for 8 months, suggests that they are so much more than that.

Recently returned from a 6-week tour of Berlin, they played last Thursday night to a heaving Union Hotel in Newtown for ‘Proper Music Social, A night of Folk and Country at The Union’. So far, they have been happy to tour the local music haunts and drinkers dives that are the standard stomping grounds for anyone seeking out live music in their hometown, Sydney.  Listening to their  sweet harmonies  and mournful heartbreakers as they sing pretty ditties about ‘love gone right and love gone wrong’ you might be tempted to think of Regina Spektor and Jack Dishel.

While I was lining up at the canteen for chocolate milk and paddlepops with Cassar, Cross was fronting 90’s alternative group – Gerling – and selling out the Metro. But he seems to have journeyed, musically, far away from those heady days where he was playing Big Day Out with Ben Lee standing in as the guitarist. Gerling is currently on an indefinite hiatus and if that means that Cross has more energy to throw at Jep and Dep, it’s not such a bad thing.

jep_and_depThe potential is obvious and free for you to behold tonight at Oxford Art Factory where they will be playing along with new talent, the Battleships from 8pm.

 

You can check out more of their music here > http://jepanddep.blogspot.com.au/ and https://soundcloud.com/#jep-4 or stalk them on Facebook to find out how to be a groupie.

Help Our Heroes

The Smith Family is a national, independent children’s charity helping disadvantaged Australians to get the most out of their education, so they can create better futures for themselves.

www.thesmithfamily.com.au/littleheroes

Stolen Words… Stolen Minutes of My Life – The Words, a review

The Words – Film Review

REVIEWED BY RESIDENT CRITIC, FILM BUFF & BEER CONNOISSEUR

F.P. BLUCK

This is one I really wanted to see, and that I really wanted to be crunchingly good to the last mouthful. The usual weekday morning scatter of older folk, better dressed because this was, after all, Manuka. There were no choc tops.

The previews were about as much help as usual i.e. quite a lot. The Intouchables – rich but paralysed French bloke has his life turned around by a tough black carer and some of what one could call “the action” in The Words did, in fact, occur in France. Safety Not Guaranteed, an amusing-looking thing which seems to combine time travel and learning to be a writer. The Words had a bit of a time-ago thing and a disturbingly large amount of stuff about the Craft of Writing*.

Bradley Cooper plays Rory Jansen, a struggling young writer who is still parasiting off his old man for the rent while he tries manfully to produce the Great American Novel or somesuch in between hanging around New York like a ‘writer’. He describes himself at one inconsequential point as an angry young man which is sort of funny because anger would require a bit more acting. For heaven’s sake, his unbelievably tolerant girlfriend loves him because he is so serious all the time which probably says a fair bit about her and even more about Mr Cooper’s** dramatic stretch. He does, however, have intense eyes.

Without giving away more of the plot than the preview did, young Rory finds a beautifully crafted manuscript (so much better than his Great Work) in an old satchel and undertakes the heartbreaking task of putting it through the keyboard onto a screen. He becomes a literary superstar and is accosted by an angry*** old Jeremy Irons who claims to have written the thing. Uh-oh, Rory! Dennis Quaid ties it together nicely as a literary lion who has written about the thing****.

This could have had some cute tricks in it – but it didn’t. And that made it a little better than it was. Or it could have used its space and the minds of its audience to ask some really gristly questions about artistic ownership/borrowing/reflection/parody/tribute and maybe the possibility that we all steal from others every time we use a cliche or, indeed, use a word or a gesture we have learnt from another.

If it had jumped into the deeper water, it might have been a better movie.

*-the capitalisation is deliberate, sort of like the pace of the movie.
** – Breadley Cooper… Gary Cooper (famous for saying things like “yup, ma’am” with all the expression of something from Bunnings). Coincidence?
***– yes, he can do “angry”, and resignation and pathos and, pretty well, whatever is needed.
****– OMG! Quade/Quaid and Cooper. Cue the X-Files music and the weird green lights.

The Dandy Warhols Video Interview with Design Federation

Our wonderful, talented and irritatingly hipster friends over at Design Federation nabbed themselves an exclusive interview with The Dandy Warhols at Harvest Music & Arts Festival in Melbourne last week.

Just too cool for school. Congrats to them and yay for us!  They have let us share and share alike. Enjoy :)

Interview by Paris Thompson.

 

We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday – Crowne Plaza Recharge Deal

It’s road-trip season, kids! So back the cut lunch and beach-towels and squash in the back because Crowne Plaza thinks you’ve earned a good old-fashioned summer holiday. Their ‘Recharge’ promotion is on now and is giving you  up to 20% off the best available rate*.

Available for stays of two nights or more, the package includes complimentary full buffet breakfast for two, with stays starting from AU$132 per night.

A family wedding (of the traditional, wild descendants of Irish convicts kind) required a recent stay in Terrigal and thank heavens for the Crowne’s soft pillows to nurse our throbbing heads. Seaside views of the quaint and lovely kind… and you just need to see this breakfast to believe it.

Everything from traditional continental breakfasts to the (rarely available at other hotels) delicious healthy options, the spread had my companions’ eyes bulging out of their heads and required a number of returns to the buffet. There’s even a little coffee stand with a snaking line for your barista brewed fix, in case you’re missing your morning commute rituals. But don’t worry, you won’t feel like you’re still in town because as you wait, you will be gazing out the arched windows and through the pines to the sea, to the sea.

If you have overindulged at breakfast slim down in the sauna or sweat it off at the gym facilities which we took advantage of, hoping to purge the evils of a night of slurred speeches and far too many toasts to the happy couple.

Terrigal Crowne Plaza isn’t the only destination included in this deal.

 

Participating Crowne Plazas include:

New South Wales & ACT

  • Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach from AU$200
  • Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley from AU$190
  • Crowne Plaza Newcastle from AU$190
  • Crowne Plaza Norwest from AU$132
  • Crowne Plaza Terrigal from AU$180

Queensland

  • Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise from AU$159

South Australia

  • Crowne Plaza Adelaide from AU$160

Victoria

  • Crowne Plaza Melbourne from AU$190

West Australia

  • Crowne Plaza Perth from AU$179

Packages are bookable from 19 November, 2012 through to 27 February, 2013 for stays between 1 December, 2012 and 28 February, 2013. For more information on Crowne Plaza’s Recharge packages, or to make a booking visit –  www.crowneplaza.com/recharge.

* Packages are subject to availability. Terms and conditions and blackout dates apply. Minimum two-night stay.

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