Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “Reviews”

Ten Movies that changed my life.

This is another one of those “pick ten” impossibilities. I’ve been watching movies constantly since I was four years old. I have over a thousand DVDs in my collection. But once you add the rider “changed your life” I think I can cut it down a bit. I still don’t think I’m going to be able to keep it to ten.

OK, here goes.

When Harry Met Sally / The Truth about Cats and Dogs / My Best Friend’s Wedding

I’ve always been a bit of a romantic. When Harry Met Sally was the first DVD I bought. I also had it on VHS and I can pretty much quote it from start to finish. I have a soft spot for Rob Reiner, Nora and Deiiah Ephron. They write brilliant characters.  The other two just caught me. I would watch them almost weekly. Watching them again, they were some pretty dysfunctional people, but maybe that’s what I identified with.

 

Casablanca / Breakfast at Tiffanys / The Philadelphia Story

Some of the classics. Casablanca came out of watching When Harry Met Sally. But these old movies have always been close to my heart.

 

Heathers / Hudson Hawk / True Romance

The movies to quote. I was ecstatic when Heathers was turned into a TV show. The first episode was incredibly referential and quite reverential as well. Everything was turned on its head but it kept that basic style of conversation and surrealism that made Heathers so cool.

Hudson Hawk just tickled me. I quoted Hudson Hawk constantly. I’m sure I drove everyone crazy.

True Romance was recommended to me by Bruce Carboon. He also got me going on a few different arthouse movies. But he would quote Christopher Walken all through our rehearsals for Pirates of Penzance. I thought he was amazing. So I had to watch True Romance. And watch it again. The movie outlasted  any contact I had with Bruce.

 

chasing amyChasing Amy

Kevin Smith is another one who knows characters. There are Smith-ish dialogue pieces in a number of my short stories. He was so cool and philosophical. For a twenty-something just getting into film. Looking back at the movies I still love them but I can start to see what Smith was trying to get out into the world as well. He had demons, that man.

thematrixThe Matrix

This was the first time I thought that a new Superman movie could be done and done properly. Apart from that, it was just a life changing movie that was let down by the sequels. Not to say the sequels weren’t great movies, just that they weren’t worthy of the movie that had come before them. What an amazing thing to come into the world, and all of the advanced it brought to cinema.

When Night was Falling / Naked Lunch

I got right into arthouse. Spent lots of time at the Valhalla being wanky and conceited about the discoveries I had made. Naked Lunch was an incredibly freaky movie that spoke to the confusion and turmoil that I was feeling at university, as this greater world was dumped on me and all of the choices I could make were laid out. I just chose everything and it came back and bit me on the ass. So movies like the Naked Lunch resonated nicely with a world that made no sense.

When Night was Falling was a gorgeous Canadian movie. All of my friends were gay or bi or experimenting and this film again fitted in nicely with those experiences. It works as a movie even when you’re not in a state of inner turmoil. Give it a look.

 

holy grailMonty Python and the Holy Grail / life of Brian / Meaning of Life.

I got into Python in Year 9 and have never looked back. They insinuate themselves into all areas of my life. They have influenced my reading habits, the philosophers I studied, my writing and film studies. Changed my life? Bloody oath!

 

BrainDead/Meet the Feebles

Peter Jackson before he decided to ruin the Hobbit for me. He was cool and edgy and disgusting and almost local. I used to wag school and watch movies with my friends at home. Now I’m a Media teacher. It all worked out ok.

 

color of nightColor of Night

Bruce Willis keeps popping up. He made some great choices. Apparently he’s a bit of a dick, but at the time, he was the coolest man on the planet. Color of Night was an incredible story, crafted to perfection with a twist I never saw coming. And no, I don’t want to hear if you saw it coming. Let me have my enjoyment of the movie.

220px-Arachnophobia_(film)_POSTERArachnophobia

Changed my life by giving me arachnophobia. It scared the crap out of me. It was rated PG. I didn’t sleep for a week after watching it. I was a paper boy and my job consisted of riding through spider webs to deliver newspapers. I’ve had night terrors ever since about  the bed being covered with spiders. This is not an ok movie. I haven’t seen it again since it came out.

Jurassic Park

Another one that was just awesome for cinema in general. It still holds up, but at the time, it was just spectacular. Movies changed completely. I got into CGI with this in the back of my mind.

 

Strictly Ballroom

I was working at the Kyabram Plaza cinema when this came out and I saw it twelve times and loved it eleven times and then got over it. My over it hasn’t lasted. I love it and like watching it on regular occasions. Again, Baz before he got too big for his boots.

rocky jorrorRocky Horror Picture Show

We used to act this out on stage. It was part of our subculture. It allowed us to explore our sexualities under the guise of having fun on stage. It was a musical and a movie! And it was Tim Curry. What’s not to like?

 

ferrisFerris Bueller’s Day off

I don’t think I know anyone my age who wouldn’t put this on their top ten list, although I’m sure they are out there. I saw it in Year 9 and watch it at least twice a year. Matthew Broderick was my hero and Mia Sara was my greatest crush.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey / Encino Man

More movies to quote. Stupid stoner buddy movies have always had a place in my movie collection. It’s interesting to see who went on to big things and who got left behind in comedy limbo.

 

Aliens

This one was another world changer. It had a larger scope than Alien, and I’m pretty sure I saw this one first, when I was in Year 9 or 10. And of course it has Captain Hollister in the extended version, which helps. Game over Man!

 

Jaws

I saw this in grade 5 or 6, and my brother and I hid behind the couch for this and American Werewolf in London, peeking over the edge to see what would happen next. I’m glad I saw it. I’m not so glad I saw it then. I got into a huge argument with my parents because they wouldn’t let me see Jaws 4 because I wasn’t sixteen yet.

starwarsStar Wars

Again, people my age had their worlds changed by this. I had hundreds of figurines and treated them all badly enough that I wouldn’t be able to sell them even if I still had them. It fired my imagination like nothing that came before it.

 

bambiBambi

The first movie I saw on the big screen, although I think I saw Superman II at the drive in before I saw this one. I remember the experience. It led to my love of movies in the cinema. Another one I haven’t seen in twenty years or so.

gremlinsGremlins

Watched this too young and stayed in a caravan that night with friends. Dad crept around the caravan scraping on the windows and scaring us half to death with little gremlin cackles. It scarred me. But I love it and it is a regular Christmas choice.

Akira / Lupin III / Cowboy Bebop

My foray into anime. I watched everything I could get from the Kyabram video store, which wasn’t much. It was part of the reason I was keen to go to Japan.

 

01_Fight_ClubFight Club

Story telling done well. There are few movies out there that really get  you. This and the Sixth Sense (and Color of Night) stand out as being “oh wow. Oh wow!”

Nightmare on Elm Street

I’ve seen every one of these movies a hundred times over. We used to have marathons in Year 11 and 12 watching all the ones that were out. Being a bad sleeper, I was fascinated with dreams and nightmares. You can find my dream journal entry further back here on Finding Damo.nightmare


Well there you go. There are hundreds more movies I could mention. There are probably many more that have had a far more significant impact on me. But these are my stream-of-consciousness ones and that is what Finding Damo has always been about. Not too deep, not too reflective.

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Dessert Island discs

A dessert island from Writers Write
I just want to live on an island make of cake and listen to music. This is the second of my “Facebook friends asked me to do lists of things so here it is” series. This time, the post was “Post your all time top ten albums” I couldn’t do this with any honesty, so as always, I changed the rules: Ok. My top ten albums* Actually no. These are ten (and a couple more) albums that came to mind when asked what my top ten albums were. There are hundreds more than flash through my head even thinking about it again now, but I’m going with these ten because they had a massive impact on my life and are still in rotation. For example, I could have added Madonna’s Immaculate Collection – which changed my life, but which I rarely play now. I could have added Use Your Illusions 1 and 2 and Best of Queen 1 and 2 (I came late to music and had to do some serious catchup) but again, they’re not in constant rotation any more. The Twelfth Man series, Weird Al albums, especially Fat, Bill n Ted’s Bogus Journey, and The Muppets Christmas (but I’ll leave that for my top ten Christmas albums post). And… why aren’t Monty Python on this list? You see what I mean? Anyway, here are the ten as posted in April 2018 on Facebook.
Flood - TMBG album cover
#10: They Might Be Giants Flood. I’ve seen them do it live. It never gets old. I’ve talked about They Might Be Giants before. They bring me out of a bad mood almost every time. I came back from Japan early to see They Might Be Giants play and went two nights in a row because they were doing the Flood album start-to-finish the following night.
#9: I’m saying Stormy Weather by Grace Knight. I just listen to it over and over. It was the second CD I ever bought and by far the most played. After posting this on Facebook I went out and bought it again on eBay. It’s still good. —
#8: Barenaked Ladies – Gordon. If I had a Million Dollars is so catchy. I asked friends what I should be listening to if I liked They Might Be Giants and they made me buy this. That was maybe 1995. I’ve been listening to this album ever since. Again, a life changer. It made me feel Canadian again. —
#7: Doug Anthony Allstars. Dead and Alive. I used to listen to DAAS on the Big Gig – I could almost see the TV from my room through two windows into the loungeroom. I’d leave the door open so I could hear. I was absolutely not meant to be watching it. It was brilliant. Again, I came to DAAS properly just as they were wrapping up. Dead and Alive was my first album and is still my favourite. The Last Concert and Icon also get a lot of play but this one just has a great combination of music and general mayhem. —
#6: Tripod. Open Slather. The first Tripod I was exposed to. Still gets more play than any other album. Dave played this at a party when we were living in Clifton Hill in the apartment we called The TARDIS (it was bigger on the inside). From here we started going to gigs at the Pat. They signed my VHS copy of Tosswinkle the Pirate when Dave told them he was bringing it to me in Japan. They are great. And Open Slather has always been my favourite album, followed closely by Tripod versus the Dragon. —
#5: Billy Joel. An Innocent Man This may not be the best Billy, but it is my Billy. It always makes me feel better. It’s been a companion on many family trips, so it has family connections as well as person connections. I’ve had it on tape, vinyl and CD. The Stranger and River of Dreams come close seconds. I’m very aware that these may not be the best albums. As I said, I came to music appreciation late. My friend Craig introduced me to Queen in Year 12. Dad played ELO and heaps of Beatles and Stones around the house. But I was into Summer 87 and Through the Roof 85 and Funbusters. and Rolf Harris. And Bill Cosby. Wow. —
#4: Paul Simon – Graceland. An absolute ripper of an album with incredible rhythms and melodies. Love every single song. I remember listening to this on trips up to Queensland. I know every word in every song. It’s phenomenal. None of his other albums have hit me the same way. —
#3: Carter USM – 1992. The Love Album It’s always a tossup between this and 30 Something but 1992 gets more airplay on my set list. Dave played these guys to me. We would get drunk and sing Is Wrestling Fixed and Who Killed Bambi (by Sex Pistols). Never been hugely into punk, but these albums are fantastic. —
2: Cake – Prolonging the Magic. I almost put Fashion Nugget (and had to fight between Cake and Cat Empire and Bloodhound Gang) but Sheep Go to Heaven pushed me over the edge. That song fires me up every time. Maybe Presidents of the USA should be in here too. I think they’re more Dave than me, but the Dune Buggy album is still on regular rotation around the house.

And in the top spot: 1. Whitlams – Eternal Nightcap I listen to this almost weekly. It got into my brain at my most musically susceptible and has never left. God it’s a good album. And again, I could have put Ben Folds Five in here, but it hasn’t stayed in my rotation. So anyway, thirty or so albums in my top ten list. Go and listen to all of them. Let me know just how bad my music taste actually is.

What are the most influential books in your life?

Post one a day. No comments necessary be damned.

This is what I put up on Facebook, with all of the various comments added in. It is published here as one post for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.


Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan7 books in 7 days. Definitely no order here.
Dad brought this back from a trip to Canada and I devoured all of them up to around Path of Daggers. From there I struggled through until Brandon Sanderson took over.

But this one I love.


roofworld
OK. I am not good at daily. I could post books by Pratchett and Gaiman and other well known loves, but I wanted to post some that are life changing or less known.

My English teacher gave me this in Year 11. Shay and I went to his room above the pub. I have loved Fowler ever since. Mr Kennedy was a dodgy teacher but he gave me some great books.


OtherlandThis is a series of four really thick books that my aunty Joan gave me. It is a phenomenal idea that seems to be getting closer to reality. And it came out decades before Ready Player One.


The Man on Platform 5Last one for tonight, but I have eight more to go.. I don’t want to nominate people. If you like the idea, do it.

Thin He Was and Filthy Haired was a great autobiography of the wonderful Kryten. This one is Robert doing Pygmalion. It’s a great book, and I was intrigued by just how graphic the sex scenes were.

It led me into Ben Elton and other British TV comics who write books. It was well worth it.
See also: Ben Elton, Adrian Edmonson, Eric Idle’s Road to Mars, Hemingway’s Chair by Michael Palin and A Little Bit Marvellous by Dawn French.


The Eyre AffairSure I am not the only person who will put this, but it was a world changer for me.
The Skidmore family gave it to me and I have devoured them ever since.

It’s very clever and very funny.


My Year of MeatA couple more tomorrow but I will finish tonight with this one. Read it and be scared of the meat industry.

For me it was a great look at Japanese culture as well as an expose on meat companies but mostly it is a riveting read that I have loaned to dozens of people. At one stage I had three copies of it.


ImajicaOh my many dark and wonderful gods! This is an amazing book. Clive Barker’s mind is a terrible place. This was my first foray in horror outside of King, Straub and McCammon. It led to a deeper love of horror as well as all types of fantasy.

This book specifically is epic. It was of a scope I hadn’t seen before and I highly recommend finding a copy from before they split it up.


The Years of Rice and SaltThis guy wrote the Mars series of books (which are good) but this one details what might happen if the West was wiped out by plague and the world was colonised by the eastern/middle eastern countries.

It’s an eye opener and beautiful writing.


UgliesOk, where am I up to?

I hate this cover, but I love this series of books.
I don’t know what made me pick up Westerfeld, but I loved this series. Set in a not-too-distant future, it was one of the early dystopias, and still one of the best. He is great at characters and I love his descriptions.

And then, he has a re-imagining of World War II with genetically altered creatures and steam punk robots.

And then he has a series of vampire novels based around parasites.

Go. Explore.


The other covers


Dead BeatI keep recommending this series and getting a mixed response. I love them. I love the stories. I love the action and the humour. I don’t *love* the writing but the rest makes up for it in my eyes. I’m sharing Dead Beat because this is when most people start agreeing with me. This or Grave Peril. But I still have a soft spot for Fool Moon.

Pokemon Go.

me in a PokeballI wanted to look at this issue from two perspectives – me the blogger and me the teacher (who is also a blogger). So I’ll put something up here and then do something similar but slightly different over on the PerryPerrySource.net – and then link the two.

Pokemon Go was an incredible effort by Niantic. A year ago, it exploded into the public consciousness. We took over Lilydale Lake chasing Dratini. We scared the penguins down at the St Kilda pier and got shot at by the owner of the Glen Waverley Golf Club while chasing Charmander.

Finding Damo and his buddyLooking at my buddy stats, with one of my Pokemon buddies, I walked over 300km, and that’s just one of many Pokemon companions I have had over the year.

It has been really exciting to see the evolution of the game from a buggy, crashing mess to a completely different buggy, crashing mess.

I kid. The stability of the game has improved out of sight.

I understand that Niantic completely underestimated the impact that PoGo would have on the world. They couldn’t deal with the influx of customers. And then they couldn’t deal with the tracker they had implemented. And then they couldn’t deal with the spoofers and hackers and cheaters who flooding the game with fake names and hugely inflated Pokemon.

When Niantic decided to do a huge event to celebrate the first year of PoGo, I predicted that it wouldn’t go well. I hoped that it would, but I assumed that it wouldn’t. Sure enough, the phone towers couldn’t handle the traffic, people who had flown in from all over the world were left high and dry and the lawsuits have begun.

I want to say “It’s just a game, get over it.” But it seems like more than that. Niantic wanted to create a phenomenon. They created a phenomenon. And they let it loose on the world without any way to control it.

I’m still playing a year later. I take my family on raiding parties to catch legendary Pokemon. We go on long walks to hatch eggs and incidentally explore and discover new places. It’s like playing a board game or participating in a family activity. We’re spending time together, being active and having fun.

I really want to see what comes next. The Harry Potter AR (PottAR?) game seems to be on the cards. There’s a fantastic-looking horror game that uses your phone, although it seems to have been lost in development hell. And there are a HEAP of other AR games that were already well established before PoGo reared up out of nowhere, including Niantic’s own Ingress. There’s a market for augmented reality. With Trump running a country, we need to insert a bit of fantasy over the top of the weirdness that is real life.

TrumPokemon

What in the multiverse?

the mighty avengers.The world has gone mad for comic books. I believe it’s because technology has finally reached the point where the super feats the heroes undertake no longer look fake. But we are inundated with Leagues and Avengers and Squads and vigilantes, mutants, inhumans, anti-heroes and all sorts of other costumed characters. We have comics and TV shows and movies and computer games. Even the Simpsons have gotten in on the act.

I have a couple of students at school who are massive fans of comic books. Every week we get new graphic novels, collections and standalone stories from Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Deadpool, Spider-man and the Green Lantern Corp.

It’s given me a good chance to catch up.

If my memory is correct, I read heaps of comics as a child. But I never really got into the collection aspect. And I don’t think I read the “right” type of comic.

Archie ComicsIn my younger days, I read lots of Archie, lots of Duck Tales and Darkwing Duck.

As I got older, my memories are of Moon Knight, Lobo and the Silver Surfer. I read the What If… comics, where the Watcher showed us what would happen if Peter Parker married Mary Jane, or didn’t marry Mary Jane.

turtlesI bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – the Eastman and Laird graphic novels to start with, and then the cartoon adaptations once they ran out. I read Cerberus the Aardvark and Groo.

And then I moved onto Heavy Metal and National Lampoon. I read Cracked and Mad, which gave me a good round education on what was going on in movies without having seen a lot of them.

I read the odd Batman. I read quite a few Superman one offs. But I wasn’t around for any of the big things that happened in comics.

deadrobinIt’s weird, looking at it from the outside. I remember seeing the covers when Robin was killed by the Joker. That was huge. I mean HUGE. My comic reading friends were devastated. The issue in mint condition was worth a fortune.
deathofsupermanI remember when the front page of the newspaper told us that Superman had died. I saw the comic covers and I saw the hardcover book adaptation, but I didn’t read either of them.

I remember finding out that Peter Parker had stood up in front of the press and outed himself as Spider-man (or was it Spider-man outing himself as Peter Parker?). But I still haven’t read through that story. That was part of the first Civil War wasn’t it?

I missed Crisis on Infinite Earths, but by the time Flash and Arrow were on TV, I at least knew what that was all about. I didn’t realise it was so long ago.

I have a lot of catching up to do. But it’s worth it. It’s worth doing it now, with all of the stories collected into handy graphic novels, instead of subscribing to ten different comics just to get one story.

knightfallNow I’ve read Knightfall and I wish I’d read it before the movie came out.

I’ve read Dark Knight Returns and Year One and The Killing Joke and they are absolute masterpieces (but I get why there is such a controversy over the Killing Joke).

I read Red Son and I think I missed some of the references due to not having been in touch with comics for so long.

I read the Death of Superman and I have no idea who Lex Luthor is meant to be or why he was speaking in an Australian accent.

And then I started in on the new stuff.

flashpointI read Flashpoint, and loved it. I liked how they rebooted the universe, especially as I didn’t have decades of backstory stuck in my head. Most of what I know of Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash comes from TV and movies (I still like the 80s Flash show and I’m glad so many of the cast came back for the new show).

And from Kevin Smith. He’s given me a much better appreciation for the DC universe, both from his podcasts, from references in his movies (which made me look stuff up) and from his Batman comics (write the third one, damn you!).

And I started catching up on the New 52. Most of that comes from the two boys in the library who regularly put forward suggestions for me to read next. So I was just getting into this rebooted universe…

rebirth-0b86eAnd then Rebirth happened.

I’m lost again. There are too many Flashes and too many linked story-lines and I have to buy seven series to make sense of the basic timeline. I have to let it go and wait for the good stuff to float to the top and get collected into omnibuses again.

While that happens, I still keep to my eclectic reading schedule. I might be over the madness of intertwining titles, but I still love comics.

walking deadI’m just behind the TV series in Walking Dead and loving it, although I don’t think they should be out for just anyone to borrow in the school library.

I love the adaptations and new stories in the Dresden Universe.

The comic book adaptation of The Stand is phenomenal and the prequels to the Gunslinger books are absolutely worth it.

I love stories written in comic form more than I like universes written into multiple series. Standalones like The Watchmen and…

samdman

Oh, God help me, I forgot about the Sandman.

I found out about the Sandman at university. My friend Shay was living with some really cool people, interested in things my Kyabram bumpkin self hadn’t even heard of. Sandman was part of that. Sandman was a gateway drug to the rest of Neil Gaiman, along with Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens. Those two things lifted me out of the staples of Stephen King and Tolkien and into a whole new realm of writing. Comics are cool. Anyway, back to the list.

Oh, and the continuation of the Buffyverse. Oh, just anything with Joss Whedon in it.

Speaking of which, I’ve almost completely ignored the Marvel universe.

deadpoolI suppose most of that is that the boys in the library don’t seem to care about Marvel beyond Marvel Zombies (which I hate) and Deadpool (which is great, but so full of multiverse backstory I can’t get right into it).

All of my Marvel knowledge comes from the TV shows and movies, post about 1984.

I want to know what’s going on, but even reading collections like Age of Ultron still has me at a major disadvantage. I need to go back. I need some new library monitors with a Marvel fixation.

What series keep you up until late at night?

I’m your only friend…

At the end of my first year of university, I was having a bit of a rough time. I’d had very little sleep. I’d just told someone how I felt about her and been unrequited. I wasn’t sleeping (completely self-inflicted) and had fallen asleep during an exam. It was a low point.

In fact, it really wasn’t a low point. I’d had a great year. But being out of home for the first time, I’d gone a little bit mental at university. Sleep and study were secondary to booze and this wonderful new thing called “The Internet”. By the end of the year I was at the end of my tether and was completely strung out, emotionally.

The Internet was new and wild (bear with me, I’m getting back on track), mainly text-based and incredibly addictive. We were learning to program. We were discovering how to interact with other systems and other schools. We all had online personalities in an age before online personalities were mainstream. We were talking to people in other countries and other universities. The world had opened up and I wasn’t planning on missing any of it.

comprehension!Side bar: When I first found out about the Internet, our mentor Fiona took us to a computer room where dozens of students were “online”. A number of them were playing a MUD – a Multi-User Dungeon. It was called Discworld, and as I watched over one guy’s shoulder, he chatted freely with people in a number of different countries, all trying to solve a quest and making random conversation. Each sentence ended with a colon and a right-bracket.

“Is that some sort of sign-off thing?” I asked. The guy looked at it in puzzlement for a while, then laughed and told me to turn my head to the side. Thus I was introduced to the smiley. And its overuse. Oh, and incidentally, to the Discworld. It all comes together.

ytalk exampleBack to the narrative and the slow trundle towards a point. Using a tool called ytalk, I was chatting with a girl called Haggis, who went to uni down in Melbourne at La Trobe. We’d arranged to meet up during exam week. She arrived in the middle of this low point. I was lying on my bed, my friends were making commiserative noises. I really didn’t want to see anybody. And probably wasn’t in the right frame to meet this girl I’d been chatting with online.

She came in, realised I was upset, reached into her bag and stuck a cassette tape into my tape player:

And my life was changed forever.

I’ve never been so instantly cheered up as I was by that song. Lorraine’s (that’s Haggis’ real name) tape contained a number of songs from a few different albums, including Shoehorn with Teeth and of course Lighthouse in your Soul. It was a mix tape, and I still have my copy of it hiding somewhere in the house. It has been chewed up and wound back in. It has been taken apart and replaced in a different cassette tape case. And it was the beginning of an obsession that would only be rivalled by Red Dwarf and Terry Pratchett.

They Might Be Giants have been a major influence on my life. They sing in a manically cheerful fashion, even as they talk about skeletons and people’s heads falling off. They have been used in Tiny Toons animations,

wrote the theme song for Malcom in the Middle,

did the sound track for the Power Rangers movie and Coraline…

And they’re back in Australia for the first time since I came back from Japan in 2001.

When we found out that they’d be coming back to tour with Nanobots, the Facebook messages went wild. We had the option of going to see them at Groovin’ the Moo in Bendigo, or at the Corner Hotel in Richmond.

“A true fan,” you say, “would do both!” Which is true. But a true fan, with a child and a mortgage, has to choose. So we chose the Corner Hotel. One night only, when we bought the tickets. Since then, a number of new shows have popped up.

I’ll transcribe this later:
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I was introduced to the Whitlams through They Might Be Giants. They supported TMBG at one of their shows, before No Aphrodisiac shot them to stardom. They also gave me The Lucksmiths, although they didn’t ever really rocket, so much as saunter gently upwards and out of sight.

We went to the Factory Showroom tour, still raw from my breakup with Cath. As an act of revenge I picked up a girl who was only there to see the support act.

When I came back from Japan, TMBG were doing their Mink Car tour. I even left Japan a few days early so that I wouldn’t miss the concert. We rocked up to the concert with pink letters on our forehead. At the end of the show, they announced that they would be performing a rare Flood show – the entire album from start to finish – on the following night. We left the concert, jumped online and bought tickets to the following night.

The number of nights my friend Shay and I would lie under the trees outside the Kyabram Fauna park, singing Whistling in the Dark and other TMBG classics.

They Might Be Giants have been the soundtrack to my life, from the end of my first year of university until pretty much the present day. Having said that, and in all honesty, I am no longer even in the slightest bit obsessed with them. The last couple of albums have had a couple of catchy songs and a couple of very thoughtful songs. They still know how to put together an album. But they’re not going to bring me instantly out of a depressive funk as they used to do. And I didn’t go to Groovin’ the Moo as well as the Corner Hotel. I didn’t buy the new album as soon as it came out. And I don’t have a t-shirt that still fits.

My iPhone signature still says “I don’t want the world, I just want your half.” I can still sing Flood from start to finish (and sometimes this happens in Greek restaurants late at night). But I don’t have the energy to get as excited about them as I used to. Or they aren’t providing me with the songs to get excited about. I was going to end the blog saying: “Either way, it was fun, but the love affair is over.” And then I went to see them love and a little fire rekindled inside my heart. I’m still a fan.

And we’ll always have Istanbul (not Constantinople).

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Bad Hobbit

This isn’t a movie review blog. I don’t want to make a habit of this. But I really feel the need to unburden myself after living in delighted expectation of “the movie event of the year” (as if there’s ever only one) and then having to sit through three hours of absolute tripe as my hopes died, torn apart by  my ravaging frustration at a talented director getting it OH SO WRONG!

bilbo_640x960But anyway.

I’ll start with the general stuff, and then anyone who doesn’t want spoilers can depart and come back after they’ve read the book or seen the movie or both. No, actually, if you haven’t read the book, leave now. Spoilers abound. For those that have, I’ll try and avoid spoiling the movie for the first bit.

Peter Jackson has proven that he’s a good director. Heavenly Creatures  was a marvellous movie that linked fantasy and reality in a feast of visual and imaginative delight. Dead/Alive  was gory and funny and very well written. And King Kong  . . .

Ah, there’s the problem. I think Tripod  said it best when they sang “Get to the f***ing monkey!”

But even so. He has a great concept of space and the epic. He knows how to elicit emotions from his actors and the audience. His pacing is always good (except maybe for King Kong) and there is no way that he should have been able to screw up The Hobbit.

Jackson’s Hobbit, how did I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

Bringing back the old cast

I think I read an interview with Jackson, where he was overjoyed at being able to work with “all the old gang” again, and I winced. And then we saw trailers of the movie with Galadriel, and I thought “well, ok, it’s a stretch, but it might have happened”. And the cast list included Elijah Wood and I decided that a little introduction at the start might be deemed necessary for the uneducated masses who didn’t know that the movies were also books and needed some linking. Which is what they did. And it was terrible, and boring, and didn’t add anything to the movie, but there you go. As I said, maybe the studio demanded it.

And once that bit was out of the way and the story started properly, I was quite happy with Gandalf and Bilbo and a stack of dwarves. And they sang the songs, and I relaxed, because I had hoped that the songs would be a big part of the movie. And if they changed a couple of story points, then that wasn’t too bad, but I was starting to be a little nervous.

Unable to put together a realistic backdrop

Let me back up a bit, because you know that that’s what I do.

When the old Bilbo (from LOTR) is sitting there writing his little book, and Frodo wandered in and made some twee comments, all I could think was “This looks fake!” I was wondering whether it was because we were watching the movie in 48 fps, in 3D. Everything looked like it was on a sound stage. The hobbit hole was too clean and incredibly fake. Frodo looked like he was lit badly and in front of a green-screen half of the time. Any time there was footage of people talking to each other, in caves or houses or on rocky outcrops, my mind was screaming “Made-for-tv movie! Made-for-tv movie!” And so, as my first confession: it could be that the combination of a high frame rate and 3D technology killed the movie for me. And if that’s so- no, there’s no excuse. Jackson chose to use these technologies and probably saw rushes and dailies and test screenings and all sorts of other footage. There is no way he could have watched this movie and thought “yeah, that looks real.” I was never really in the action. Never allowed to let myself believe I was in Middle Earth. And that killed the movie for me.

They were filming in New Zealand for Bob’s sake! A land full of rocky landings and lovely caves. Natural backdrops and fantasy settings. Why did everything look like it was made out of Styrofoam?

Turning a PG movie into an M movie

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been reading The Hobbit to my 8yo daughter. My niece has been reading it. They’ve both loved it from start to finish. I read it myself when I was in Grade 2. These kids should be able to go and see a movie based on a book written for children.

Every sequence that I found unacceptable for younger audiences was one pasted into the storyline by Jackson and had nothing to do with the book. Which leads me to:

Making shit up

Oh, I hate swearing in a blog, but I am so angry right now! Oh, and this is where I’ll probably make some comments on stuff that happened in the movie, so if you want to remain completely spoiler free, run away now.

At some point, it came out that Jackson was making the two movies into three, using “unreleased source material and indexes” and everybody sighed. I thought it would be tacked onto the end, maybe as part of the Battle of the Five Armies (seriously, if you haven’t even read the book, you don’t want to be here right now).

Firstly, there was a massive battle between the dwarves and the orcs – again, giving the movie context in the greater world of Middle Earth. It was bloody and violent and introduced a giant white orc.

Without saying too much more, I’ll say that that orc became the bane of my existence on and off for the next three hours.

What I didn’t know and didn’t care about was that Jackson has incorporated information and story from The Rise of the Dark (the story of Sauron) as well as the backstory of the dwarves. There’s also a lot of backstory for characters from LoTR, and a good chunk of White Council as well, for good measure.

And I get it. Jackson is trying to link The Hobbit to the LoTR trilogy, making a much greater world out of a lot of different source material.

But that isn’t The Hobbit. That story is light-hearted and small. A story of friendships and adventure. A children’s story with a wider appeal.

Changes in tone

Throughout the movie, the tone changes with no apparent reason. There is an amusing run through the goblin tunnels, completely at odds with the seriousness of the situation. There is a completely ridiculous scene involving the knees of a stone giant. There is an unscripted battle scene when the wargs and goblins have the party trapped up a tree. There is not nearly enough singing. The elves are way too serious. It doesn’t look like there will be any speaking eagles. . . I need to stop now.

Seriously, screw the backstory, screw the appendices and the rise of Sauron. Let me have The Hobbit. Let me have my childhood. Peter Jackson, get your grubby fingers out of Middle Earth.

PS I liked Tintin.

Another perspective:

http://io9.com/5968455/the-hobbit-is-a-lot-better-once-you-realize-its-a-war-movie

Guards! Guards!

Last Friday night I went to see Guards! Guards! As performed by the GemCo Players. I was excited, looking forward to seeing a giant dragon setting things on fire all over the stage, and to see our Chair, Carmela, playing Sybil Vimes.

Well, I got to see Sybil!

If you haven’t seen (or read) Guards! Guards! then… well, I think this review will be almost completely meaningless to you. But basically, it is the story of Carrot, a human raised as a dwarf, come to the big city to join the Watch – he had heard it would make a man out of him.

And then, there’s a bloody great dragon terrorising the city.

The show was an outstanding success. It is always a bit of a gamble, watching Pratchett plays on stage. A director with no sense of humour, or a cast with no comic timing can really destroy the master’s work. This was not the case in this production. The crowd were roaring with laughter in a number of places, and chuckling for most of the rest of the show. I was infatuated with the stage, the costumes and the actors. They have a fantastic little group there and I’d love to see their next show.

The biggest bones my wife and I had to pick with the show were the length (it started at 8 and the first act finished at 9.30. The second half dragged a little as the jokes thinned out and the hour got later) and the Asterisk.

I get it. The Asterisk is a very difficult plot device to use on stage. It is completely necessary when trying to put across the essential Pratchett-ness of a show, but as a completely written device, it often doesn’t translate well.

But it was overused in this production. The actor (I’m sorry, you’re probably a fine actor!) wasn’t comfortable in the role, was very forced in her humour and folded her glasses one too many times. The director could have easily dropped at least half-a-dozen of the interruptions, letting the cast take some of the exposition, or letting the audience fill in the gaps.

Apart from that one little “*” the cast were mostly excellent. There were a wide range of ages involved, but for the most part, age had nothing to do with talent.

Obviously I thought Carmela did a great job, especially when we first saw her – or the heavy dragon armour that surrounded her. She had a good relationship with Vimes* and a great stage presence.

I was surprised to see that four of the characters were played by a Grade Four student, but happily, he was one of the stand-out comedy parts in the show. His Brother Dunnikin especially had me in stitches as he mumbled about chastised thurribles and the three dollars he would never see again.

Dibbler was my next favourite. During intermission he mingled with the audience, selling chocolates (sometimes for double the price) and assuring us that he was “cutting his own throat”. He had a real presence on stage and played three very different characters. My wife felt that his Thieves’ Guild Head was a little over the top, but I was happy.

The Guards were (again, mostly) well-cast. Colon was very amusing, Vimes had a great physicality and good comic timing. Carrot took awhile to get used to because of all of the guards he is the one that is described the most in the books. But he had a goofy, innocent expression that was instantly endearing and he played off against the other characters with a real skill. Nobby was a case of mis-casting rather than bad acting. He was out of place in the ensemble, but wasn’t a bad actor, just a bad Nobby.

Vetinari and Wonse were both well-cast and Wonse’s range of expression was excellent as the play progressed. He worked well with his secret brotherhood, who in turn, played a number of bit parts throughout the play.

Who have I missed? Of course, the Librarian! His costume wasn’t the best, and he forgot that she was a mon- er, an ape, some of the time, but he was hilarious, especially when playing charades. He made Ook mean exactly what he wanted it to mean, every time. Apparently he also doubled as Death – a seven foot robed skeleton with glowing blue eyes and scythe. Very effective.

And the dragon puppeteer! The swamp dragons were characters in their own right. Very cute, very well designed. Lots of personality. But no jolly great, mechanical, monstrous dragon head lumbering onto the stage! Still, maybe that was for the best. The devices the director used to get around that were very clever and sometimes funnier than if there had been a real dragon on the stage.

The costumes were delightful. I found myself eyeing off the Guards’ costumes and will have Carmela ask leading questions in that direction once the show’s over. And Death was great, glowing in the darkness. The sets were very detailed, very clever, with swinging scene changes that made fantastic use of the stage. The team that put it all together should be congratulated. And then given presents.

All in all, I enjoyed myself immensely. My seven-year-old daughter loved it. My wife loved it. It was definitely worth the drive out to Emerald. Go and have a gander. They finish up on the 24th November.

http://www.gemcoplayers.org/

* Oh, I’m doing this out and about without access to a programme. Please insert the names of actors into your brain as I talk about their characters.

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