One Last Radio Interview for 2019 & Seasons Greetings

Rainbow across kunanyi/Mt Wellington from my backdoor a few weeks ago

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I probably won’t be writing much for the blog between now and next year. 

But I have been asked to come in and talk to the wonderful Ryk Goddard on ABC Radio Hobart about the year in film, my high points and what I’m looking forward to seeing next year. If you’re not in Hobart (or even Australia) the ABC offers excellent ways to listen online, either through their app or via the website for Ryk’s program (which also has an archive of shows). I’ll be on air about 9:10 am (Australian Eastern Summer Time) if you’d like to listen in live or catch the interview afterwards. 

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for bothering to read my meandering musings – more about films at the moment than anything else! – but there are other exciting (to me at least) projects on the horizon for the new decade, so stay tuned. All in all, it’s been a tough year and your ongoing support means so very much to me – so huge thanks from me!

Over the southern summer, I’ll still be watching movies in between harvesting fruit and vegetables, making pesto from the jungle of basil and reading books for pleasure again – probably in my old deckchair under the chestnut tree. There might even be blog posts about some of my other creative pursuits – who knows?

Meanwhile, I wish you all a peaceful and relaxing holiday wherever you are on this wonderful planet ❤ 

 

Streaming – The Changing Landscape

Yesterday, I was asked to talk on local ABC radio about streaming services and what they mean to average consumers, and I thought it was a great opportunity to expand on that and offer some alternatives to the big names – ie: Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney +

Here in Australia, with different licensing agreements, it is slightly different. We have region specific versions of Netflix and Amazon Prime plus local player Stan, which, along with the highest level of AU content, has held the license for a lot of Disney properties since last year. Foxtel Now provide a number of HBO titles here and HayU offers wall-to-wall reality TV shows, if that’s your thing. There’s also AppleTV+, YouTube Premium, 10 All Access and Kayo (a subsidiary of Foxtel) for sports nuts. Add in the free services, SBS On Demand, ABC iView, 10play, 9Now and 7plus and it gets even more complicated.

The problem is, particularly with the advent of Disney +, how is that going to affect local media consumers? Streaming video on demand (SVOD) was supposed to be the cheaper alternative to leaving the house to actually go to the movies (perish the thought) or the video store (may they rest in peace) but it’s rapidly turning into something of a digital dilemma and if you watch a lot of screen media, a potentially expensive undertaking. The other thing to remember in all this too, is as consumers, we only ever own the right to watch, not a hard copy of the media, and there is no guarantee that our favourite films or shows will stay on those services. 

For my household of two tech-savvy adults, we share Netflix with another family, which halves the cost of a premium subscription. I signed up for Amazon Prime a few months ago simply to watch Good Omens (and it was worth it just for that) and the Suspiria remake because I was doing a screen studies major and I love horror movies. But I don’t know if I’ll keep it on past the new year. If I see things I particularly love – Good Omens being a perfect example – I go and buy DVDs or Blu-rays. I know in this age of minimalist living I’m being very old fashioned, but I like being able to put a disc on with all the extra features – just like I love real, physical books! And I have a loyalty card at my local independent cinema and I still love going out for dinner and a movie. 

Having said that, I also subscribe to MUBI, which provides 30 films on a strict 30-day rotation. This service is curated to provide independent, foreign language SVOD and it remains my favourite paid subscription for several reasons. Firstly, I never suffer from the usual paralysis of what to watch because everything is only there for 30 days. The films come from all over the world and have given me a chance to delve into cinema I would never have thought of looking at – thinking of directors like Ruth Beckermann, Ciro Guerra and Krzysztof Zanussi as well as favourites like Peter Strickland, Agnes Varda and Ben Wheatley – it’s great for broadening your mind and getting away from the somewhat generic fare on offer through the major services. But when I’m looking for something less demanding, I go to TUBI. There’s a little of everything but it ranges from fairly good to absolute trash movies and television. The horror section is particularly worth sifting through and the bonus is, it’s free. 

So, what’s going to happen with SVOD? I think there’s going to be some casualties along the way. From what I’ve seen so far, I think Stan might fail as they lose content to Disney +, and in turn, they may well struggle to keep subscribers outside of school holiday times when kids require entertainment and I can’t see AppleTV+ keeping up with their initial business model of original content. Unfortunately, a lot of people in Australia simply won’t be able to afford multiple subscriptions and could revert back to pirating content – something we were infamous for in the early seasons of Game of Thrones, which was only available on Foxtel on first release. 

Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching MUBI and SBS On Demand, going to the cinema and dreaming of a day when the Criterion Channel and Shudder are available here in Australia – and spending more time out in the garden or reading books…

So what do you think? Are you a media junkie like me? Are you obsessed with The Crown or Carnival Row? Do you still buy DVDs or Blu-rays? Let me know – I’d like to hear your thoughts too.

And here’s a photo of me and Neko, because he’d far sooner have my complete attention than compete with a screen, even if it’s cat videos!

The Embrace of Now

So, I’m a week past handing in my final project for uni. All things being equal, I should pass and be able to graduate next year. Seriously, I’m too tired to cheer, and I’m still not sure if I want to travel up to Queensland for a couple of days, dress up in a funny gown and hat just so someone can hand me a piece of paper. Having said that, it would be nice to meet a few people in person, some tutors that were outstanding and some fellow students who’ve become online friends.

I uploaded a 4000 word research paper concerning villainy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I feel my work only scratched the surface. The last couple of weeks were intense but really, last week spelled the end of six years of online study. It’s been a mammoth undertaking and while I got a lot out of the experience there are some things I would’ve done differently and others I’d rather not have done at all. But that’s part of the study journey and it’s different for all of us. 

Despite what most people think, I only give a reasonable impression of an organised person, and some of my 3rd subjects were very demanding on my time as well as my attention. Combined with too much work, a laptop that kept crashing whenever I opened a pdf, increasing levels of anxiety and depression and rampant insomnia, the last three months have certainly been a struggle. 

But I got there. I did what I could, when I could – and when I couldn’t, I didn’t. 

Sounds so simple when I type it out like that but believe me, it wasn’t. Trust me when I say, I agonised over every single bit of it, but (fingers crossed) it’s done now and the big question looming on the horizon is what’s next?

Who knows? There’s a number of projects starting to take shape, some of them more realistic and better formed than others. But rest assured, it’ll be a ride – and as ever, I’ll stress about the smallest details like I always do. And while I stress, I’ll be holding every moment of it dear, imbuing it with passion, like I always do. 

Meanwhile, today is my birthday. I have a new laptop that I’m still getting used to (another kind of stress), I had the most wonderful dinner cooked for me and the wine was a perfect match. There was cake too that I didn’t make and I watched my favourite Ben Wheatley/Amy Jump movie, Kill List – not for the faint hearted. I should write a movie review about it but not right now. 

Now is for embracing the passion of time off, chilling out and enjoying it for what it is – now. 

Because, as I said to a friend tonight in Italy, now is all we ever have. Let’s enjoy it ❤ 

The new laptop for new projects

 

Sneak Preview ‘Behind the Curtain’

While NSW & parts of Qld are on fire and I’m chipping away at my final project for university, here’s a preview of the latest radio play I’m involved in.
This is the pilot for ‘Behind the Curtain’, a comedy/soap opera that is set in Tasmania but has relevance to any small city. Tons of fun to be part of as an actor but a slick production thanks to the excellent writing by Matt Dean​ and sound effects, production and theme tune by Mike Raine​!

Hope you enjoy it – and please let me know what you think!

I’ll get back to being academic now and see you all in early December, when I hope to be in a position to write regularly for this blog!

Take care lovelies ❤

Suspiria (1977) & Suspiria (2018)

I have to confess, the original Suspiria (1977) has always been one of my favourite horror films and Dario Argento a director I generally enjoy, despite the unevenness of his oeuvre. So when the remake was announced, I was a little concerned that anyone should mess with one of the movies that ushered me into adulthood.

On the plus side, Luca Guadagnino has made some good films, such as The Protagonists (1999) and Call Me by Your Name (2017). He’s a regular collaborator with Tilda Swinton and I’d read enough to know that he wasn’t going to try to do a shot-for-shot remake. I decided finally to watch both in the same day, starting with the original.

I can’t remember where I saw Suspiria when it finally arrived in Australia – it might have been at a film festival – but I know it was in a cinema. I do remember being awed by both its astonishingly bright colour palette and the really wonderful score by prog-rock band, Goblin. Jessica Harper stars as the virginal Suzy Bannion, who arrives as the new American student at a dance academy in Freiburg, all to the background of the Munich hostage crisis. There was also an absence of men, which was unusual for most horror films of the era, let alone giallo – a traditional domain of the leering, usually psychotic, sex-crazed maniac! Instead, male characters are sidelined and the screen is dominated by women of all ages, body types and dispositions ranging from the ridiculously innocent to the truly evil. Harper is sublime as the ingénue whose dewy eyed innocence is so lovingly captured in Argento’s frame.

While many aspects of this film haven’t aged particularly well (even back in the day it could be read as camp) it has an undeniable atmosphere, a creepiness that builds throughout to a climax that is ridiculous, gory and oddly satisfying all at once. Every time I’ve watched this over the years, I always think of it as a drug-fuelled, psychedelic Alice in Wonderland horror for the late 1970s.

Guadagnino’s Suspiria is unsurprisingly, a completely different beast. To start with, the academy has been transferred to Berlin, though in the same time period. Interiors are muted and drab and exteriors are predominantly in rain or snow, which gives a bleak coldness to the film. There are sub-plots involving Baader-Meinhof terrorism and Germany coming to terms with its Nazi history which I found muddied the central theme of the dance academy as a home for an ancient coven.

Dakota Johnson takes the central role of Susie and while I like her as an actress, I found it difficult to connect with her in the role of the innocent ingénue (Mia Goth as Sara seemed to fit this role with far more ease and believability). Nevertheless, there is a sincerity that Johnson brings to Susie, applying herself to the bizarre tasks required for the sake of the dance. And dance is a major theme in this version.

Where Argento used it only as a mechanism to provide a house full of women, Guadagnino milks it relentlessly, particularly as a means of controlling and manipulating the bodies and minds of the young dancers. Head of the academy, Madame Blanc is played with equal parts relish and menace by the always wonderful Tilda Swinton. It also made me realise she is undoubtedly one of the most graceful women on the planet and it’s worth watching just for her. She also plays a prominent male role (albeit under a lot of make-up) which works up to a point.

Thom Yorke provides a good musical score as expected and Jessica Harper makes a welcome appearance in a small role, but where this film fell down for me was in attempting to make something much deeper than the material allowed.

Throughout, I felt Guadagnino was trying to dig down deep into the psychological underpinnings of horror but in an altogether far too knowing manner. The result was for me, a ham-fisted and overly long mess – and turning what should have been an emotional and (literally) gut-wrenching ending into a pastiche of 21st Century nihilist cinema with added red.

Worth watching if only for Swinton and it has some good moments – but for me, ultimately a disappointment.

Suspiria (1977) is available to watch in Australia on Tubi and Suspiria (2018) is currently on Amazon Prime

Baw-da Farce – A Radio Satire

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Australia, I live in Hobart, the capital of the southern-most state, Tasmania. While it’s a small city (just over 200, 000) it’s really quite an extraordinary place for creative endeavours and recently I’ve been reminded of the many amazingly talented people I’m blessed to rub shoulders with.

One of them is Matt Dean, originally from the UK (via Western Australia), a fellow songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist, stand-up comedian, educator and generally decent human. The last few months he’s been quietly writing, recording and producing a radio show which satirises some of the issues we’re currently facing locally and as a nation. The episodes are quite short (all around 10 minutes) and have provided quite a lot of laughter in my house these past months.

Last weekend, I had the immense privilege of recording three episodes in an afternoon with Matt and his ensemble. The first of these, ‘Rolf Creep’ is up for listening now on Soundcloud and I think it’s laugh-out-loud funny. It harks back to radio satire that I grew up with and still love.

Please note this is for adults. There is bad language (some of it from me), very questionable themes and Australian references that should travel well – but don’t hesitate to ask if you need a translation! I hope you enjoy it ❤

Apollo 11

Apollo 11 (2019)

Directed by Todd Douglas Miller

Like so many kids of my generation I was obsessed with space and space travel, something that has persisted in my love of pure science as well as science fiction literature and film. One of my earliest preschool memories was running around our yard in rural Australia with an empty cereal box as a helmet, telling anyone who would listen I was going to be the first singing astronaut.

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and my local, the State Cinema in Hobart has joined with a few other independent cinemas to run a Moon Festival. This short season of moon-related features opened tonight with the documentary Apollo 11.

As a child of the 60s (I was 10 when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon) this film bought back many memories, such as having the day off school in the middle of winter, sitting with my friends on our couch, all with our legs raised trying to put our foot on the ground the same time as Neil Armstrong. And long conversations with my beloved father about physics, space travel, what we might find there and the hope the Apollo missions represented for humanity.

So, as soon as the pre-mission countdown began at Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral) and the luscious sound design started to work its magic, I knew I was being emotionally manipulated by a very cleverly made documentary – and I welcomed it with open arms! Rather than filling screen with facts and figures, this film explores more the feeling of the time and the profound nature of the mission. Even though I know how the story goes, I felt the tension build in me as the astronauts and their ground crews approached crisis points.

Everything about this film is big – the opening scenes of the Saturn 5 rocket sitting on the launch pad, the crowds who came to Florida to watch the launch, the sound of take-off and the beautiful, insistent score by Matt Morton that doesn’t intrude but blends beautifully with the overall sound design by Eric Milano and the superb film editing by Todd Douglas Miller.

Unsurprisingly, this movie won the editing award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize (documentary) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I have no doubt it will go on to earn further industry accolades. If you have an interest in the moon landing, space exploration, lived through the event or just an interest in modern history, this is a great film. See it on the largest screen you possibly can, (there is an IMAX version) preferably one with a very good sound system.

This superb film has taken archival footage and made it meaningful for new audiences half a century later, no mean feat! I found it stirring and incredibly uplifting but I left the cinema with a profound sense of sadness that my generation never followed through on the promise of truly going to the stars.

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