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I'm looking forward to seeing these. Links go to trailers:

StarDust
Bee Movie [ignore the first two trailers which are Seinfeld being an idiot. The third trailer is the animated film trailer]
Across the Universe
DayWatch

Across the Universe looks particularly stunning. Hair for the naughties, I think.

DayWatch is of course the sequel to the equally gobsmacking Nightwatch. I just finished the book thanks to the wonderful [profile] crystal_storm. Wow.
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1. The Laramie Project, produced by the Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group, written by Moises Kaufman

This ambitious play tackles the beating and aftermath of Laramie, Wyoming resident, Matthew Shepard in 1998. Anyone who was an adult back then will remember the shock of the news and the revelation of the motives behind it: that Shepard was gay. His attackers deceived him into thinking they too were gay, drove him from a bar to a remote area out of town, tied him to a fence and beat him to a pulp. Then they left him for 18 hours in the chilly weather until a passing stranger found him.

I wasn't sure how this play would tackle such a tale. "Replaying" any of the events would just seem tacky. Instead, the writer has cleverly written his company into the action: through their diaries, we meet the actors of the original production as they visit Laramie six times and hear extracts from the more than 200 reviews they conducted. Slowly, Laramie's residents become real people to us: not just Shepard's friends or the attackers, but the witnesses and his teachers and the cop who attended the scene first and had her own near-tragic outcome from it. And then there are the regular townsfolk who are changed by this: Laramie's other gay and lesbian residents, Laramie's taxi driver and the guy down the road. The attackers girlfriends, their friends, their parents.

It's a very long play at three hours. It needs to be: it has a lot of ground to cover. If the production was simply a string of spoken scenes, I can imagine it would be dreary and drag. Instead, complicated lighting and slides of Laramie in the background, myriad costume changes and an excellent use of the eight actors to play 50-odd characters as we shift from moment to moment in Matthew's story makes it fascinating. The physical work of the actors is unbelievably good, especially Jeanne Snider, seen in one moment shifting in front of our eyes from a New York company member to a teenaged boy, complete with hunched shoulders and snotty nose.

Amazingly, the play is not depressing or crushing; instead, it presents a whole cloth woven with tragedies and triumphs. Don't expect to get away without tears, however. An amazing work. (On till Saturday. Go see it. If only to support [livejournal.com profile] anthonybaxter who did the lighting design.)

2. Bobby, currently screening in cinemas

An impressive drama with an incredible ensemble cast (is there anyone not in it?), this film covers the day at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, when Senator Bobby Kennedy was shot on the day of the California primary. Stock footage of Kennedy is interspersed with the modern film (there is no one 'playing' Kennedy) and this works for the most part, although there are times, particularly towards the end, where I wished the film-makers had had just a little more money and could have added noise to the modern footage to make the splicing seamless.

This is one of those films that feels a little like a film that needs to be made right now because no one is remembering and because we need this message to be heard again. It's also a beautiful biopic of the little people behind the scenes -- although that's undercut in the credits when we are not told what happened to each of them after that night. I want to know: who are these folks? Who did they go on to become? And I'm worried that they were mostly made up for the benefit of the vehicle for Kennedy's story.

Other than these minor issues, the film is extremely worthwhile, well acted and captures a sense of a generation and indeed a country at a turning point. After this, America had Nixon and Watergate and after Carter, the Greed is Good years of the 80s. This is where hope left the country, perhaps. And maybe it's just now coming back...

3. Why didn't anyone tell me Gotan Project were playing Hamer Hall last night? I've sort of seen posters aroound but I thought that was for a new album. I'm *sure* I checked those posters and saw that they were only for a new album! Arghhh!
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When I haven't been catching up on work recently, I've been watching film festival films. The weekend has been particularly rewarding: I highly recommend Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth about climate change and global warming which I saw yesterday, and the three films I saw today: C.R.A.Z.Y., a Quebecois production about a family of five boys, with the fourth one, Zac (the Z in the title) dealing with his sexuality and a homophobic father as he grows up through the 60s and 70s -- the soundtrack is superb; Zizek!, a mad, rambling documentary of everyone's favourite Marxist Lacanian as he travels the world on a lecture tour; and the utterly brilliant Global Haywire, Bruce Petty's animated/live action doco about where the world machine managed to go from what seemed like a relatively good idea (borrow some science from the East, start the Enlightenment and throw off the shackles of Catholic fundamentalism) to the utterly catastrophic shemozzle we have today. The detours through excellent theorists and writers (George Monbiot, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Gore Vidal, Arandhati Roy) are compelling and well put together, the metaphor (the freedom machine) is great. A must-see film.

In between I've been stealing every second to work, so I apologise to those whose social functions I didn't make it to. I *did* make it to [livejournal.com profile] qamar's hen's night, which was amazing -- divine dinner at Soul Mama and then ritual on the beach followed by karaoke -- and to Matt's party last night.

Matt's party was fun, and it turns out, bizarrely, that a guy there from The Age who was pointed out to me but who I didn't end up chatting to is the guy our new ad manager mentioned to me as a good friend. Small world!
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There are certain moments that stand out after a political film about intense emotions, telling human gestures and moments of trust or intimacy or courage. In the case of I Know I'm Not Alone, Michael Franti's new film, those moments include the way the Israeli soldier's hand keeps twitching after Franti asks him to take his finger off his gun trigger and he slings his rifle over his back instead. The soldier has had that finger on that trigger for so long now, it's a comfort blanket and without it, the finger seeks blindly for it, jitters and moves, the whole hand dancing around so I lose track of what Franti is saying to him.

Another is Franti going in and singing "Bomb the World" for US troops in Iraq. He's nervous, never sung this to people like this before, and here they are with their American flags on their sleeves, literally, as he sings those opening lines "Tell me the reason behind the colours that you fly/love just one nation and the whole world we divide". For them, he changes one line: "We can bomb the world to pieces, but can we bomb it into peace?" making it a question rather than his usual bald statement that it's not possible...

And then of course there are the victims: the children without legs, the mothers of suicide bombers and officers, the young soldier who has told himself over and over he won't cross this moral line and finds that he can, he has...

Franti seeks out the poets, the musicians. A child recites a love poem, all smiles. Franti jams with Sheva, and it's odd to see Mosh Ben-Ari (who I've met) talk about how Israel will always be in his soul even though I know he's now living in Melbourne with the woman he 'wed' at Woodford a couple of years ago.

There's a moment in a pirate radio station in Uday Hussein's old apartment where they're listening to that line of "We Don't Stop" where he says "And if I was in Baghdad, I would rock Iraq" and they all laugh. To some extent, that's my only criticism of this film: here he is, in Baghdad, and he makes some lazy excuse that he couldn't learn a whole song in Arabic so he creates a one word chant on 'habibi'... To really rock Iraq, he only needed a line, a sentence, something more than that. And that song, if he really made that effort, could be released and give the same message of peace and tolerance to the Arabic-speaking world as he gives to us.

In the end, it's a tragedy that it's the olive trees that the Israelis are tearing down to build their wall: that olive branch that has for so long been a symbol of peace.

As usual, it's up to all of us to refuse to partake in the processes and proceeds of war, to stand up and be refusniks ourselves. That has its price, as Penny pointed out to me: the soldier who refused to return to duty in an illegal war because he thought it was immoral to do so has just been convicted by a British court martial.

This isn't about sides, about being pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, anti-American or anti-Iraqi. This is about peace and finding common ground. This is about doing the right thing. This is about love and forgiveness and putting aside retribution and revenge.

I was going to write a separate post about the Passover dinner at [livejournal.com profile] raven_'s place, but actually, it's all related. Carla, Thorf, Georgia and I had Seder dinner on Wednesday. None of us is particularly religious; it's about culture and heritage. We told stories about refugees and personal stories about our families and suffering, Georgia's family getting out of Poland just before the war thanks to a personal sponsorship from King George IV, my grandfather escaping from Ukraine after the pogroms, Thorf's grandmother getting married to his grandfather to avoid being taken as a comfort woman by the Japanese, Carla's grandfather being jailed as a conscientious objector in Holland. It's not about what your background is. It's about human rights, about dignity and freedom from fear. It's not easy. It is worth it.
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Finally got a chance to read this article [livejournal.com profile] hyperpeople sent me. It's a superb sociological analysis of Eyes Wide Shut, one of my favourite films ever, and certainly my favourite Kubrick.

I'd discussed the first line issues with Mark before (Alice's first line is "How do I look?"; Bill's is "Where's my wallet?"). The rest of the article makes equally excellent observations about the nature of Kubrick's commentary on late capitalist consumerism and the shallowness of a psychological response to this film. I loved it at the time: I commented to many people about the discussions of female desire that were rarely addressed in reviews. Despite the length of this essay, it doesn't really address that here either. And given its stress on Alice as voyeuristic object, I would have thought her line about women's desire ("If you men only knew...") would be somewhat relevant, although it does mention that she is only an agent in her life when drugged or dreaming and this line is uttered while stoned. That (tiny) gripe aside, this is easily the best piece I've read on the film (some of the subtleties! I had no idea that when Szavost is trying to pick Alice up at the party at the beginning that he uses a pick-up technique that's straight out of the Ovid book he asks if she's read.)

The discussion at the end about audience projection also recalls for me the French film innocence that Jack and I saw at MIFF which implicates the audience in pedophilic desire where there is none on screen.

Note: this article contains spoilers for half of Kubrick's films and a couple of others, but it's a superb essay.
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Last night, [livejournal.com profile] crystal_storm and I went to a session of MQFF and watched the boys' short films. As a whole it was good: the first few films were the usual fare, narratives of first love and teen crushes, of older man meets younger man, of older inexperienced man seeking love through a hotline -- although each had its twist... I especially liked the film about a young English guy who's out enjoying himself in the grass near his Mum's house when a spacecraft crash lands and on investigating, he finds a NASA astronaut. "Mum, I've brought home an astronaut who crashed. He needs to use the phone." "Oh, okay, love, does he want dinner?" When the astronaut is happy to share his bed, too, it's a dream come true -- or at least, his prayer to Ziggy Stardust answered.

But the last two films, both from New Zealand, were in a class of their own, sensual and magical and beyond the realms of the ordinary tale.

The first was "Little Gold Cowboy", Michael Reihana's first film, six minutes of magical bliss as the cowboy with the sexy eyes gets a letter slipped under his door, carefully puts on his gold paint and his eyeliner and his six-shooters in their glittered holsters, strokes his raised, scarified sheriff's badge, cut into his skin and stitched with black thread to look a little like barbed wire, puts on his white angel's wings, packs his pulsing heart into a water-filled bag along with a guardian goldfish and sets off on a walk through the New Zealand country town, filled with disapproving old men, Bonnie and Clyde in full 30s get-up with a classic car, two sexy school girls making out on the side of the road, walks into a saloon where he encounters his mirror image and succumbs to the risks of carrying your heart in such an unprotected way. Even better for me, our cowboy had shoulder-length dark brown hair and gorgeous green eyes. Pity I can't find a photo online...

The second was "Boy", written and directed by Welby Ing, a meditative film of dreamy horror, a poetic film of broken dolls with black angel's wings, a hit-and-run, boys' cruelty, sordid sex in beats, the quiet stifling silence of a small town and the cross-fading phrases in bickley script, carved in white out of the heat of the New Zealand summer, speaking of angels and silence and truth. A truly creative and innovative film and possibly the saviour of poetry as a written form.

And then we went and talked about friendship and the universe and the connectness of all things until 3 in the morning. It's all good.

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January 2011

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