July 2007

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Shithouse

It has been correctly pointed out by Daniel (he who shall sell the rights to his functional MIFF program for nine trillion dollars) that I have named all the films I liked and have in fact been remiss by not naming the one I have shitbagged.

There are two films I have not enjoyed this festival. They are:

The Primo Levi documentary, which I frankly don't know why I thought I'd like anyway, excecpt that I'm interested in Holocaust literature and have never read Primo Levi so wanted to be inspired. I did not feel inspired. I instead felt tired and (as I have said earlier) I slept fitfully throughout. It was a baffling, disjointed, badly thought out documentary, in my humble opinion and full in the knowledge that I am not among the demographic it appeared to be aimed at (those obsessed with Primo Levi).

The second film (the one I took my friend to) was also a documentary, and it was a case of "which venue can we get to fastest". It was a documentary about a Viennese fair, much like Luna Park or the Royal Melbourne show. It would have made for a fantastic seven minute documentary, but my GOD it was a dull two hours. Shot after shot of old, dead fairground "highlights" with a deadly serious narration about the "room of mirrors" changes people's lives forever as their imaginations run wild. Extremely depressing, richly bizarre in about three parts (those were the parts you'd keep for the short documentary - they were mildly entertaining) but if you can imagine a feature length documentary about the royal melbourne show, where each ride is examined in forensic detail but with no irony... you're almost there.

That'll teach us for picking at the last minute.

Saw two films last night. Exit (baffling) and Yella (baffling).

I am no longer in the mood to be baffled, and have decided that films whose sole result is the entire audience going, "So, hang on, he was the guy from before, with the gloves. Right? And he killed the first woman but her husband was the dude in the carpark making the telephone calls. Or were they the same person"? are now, officially, boring to me.

With that in mind, I will continue from here on with fresh eyes. Any one else got any recommendations?

Ups and Downs of MIFF

Sometimes, the Melbourne Film Festival lets you down. Of course it does. If it didn't, it would be peopled entirely by the same demographic. This is not the case. Sometimes it's a comedy film and there's a comedy crowd. Sometimes it's a religious film and it's full of people wearing tiny gold icons under their windcheaters. Sometimes it's a music documentary and there are people in heavy metal t shirts wandering in with popcorn.

But it doesn't let ME down often, because it's fairly hard to let me down. It's fairly difficult for me not to find even the bits that I don't find interesting kind of... interesting... on account of the fact that someone else is finding them interesting.

Anyhoo. So there's this friend of mine. I spend each festival thinking, "Oh, she would have LOVED that film! That film was MADE for her!"

Then she calls me up and says, "Can I trail along to one of your films?" and I say "Oh, you're going to WET YOUR PANTS this film will be SO GOOD".

Anyway, last year she came to three. Two of them were terrible. I only saw two truly terrible films last year. One of them was so badly projected we got our money back. The third film? Ace. Unreal. Really excellent.

Which is why I thought it would be safe to assume I could "let her trail along" tonight to see a film about... well, now, that would be telling.

It was a film that should be shown to anyone who thinks they're creative, because it's an interesting eight minute film. It went for two hours. It's a film that teaches people that you should always edit more than you think you should out of whatever it is you're creating.

My friend is beginning to think she is cursed.

Otherwise today I saw Eagle vs Shark, a New Zealand film, which was gorgeous and hilarious and which is on again on August 12. Funny as hell.

The last film I saw today was about Alexander Litvinenko, I am SURE I am spelling that wrong but I'm too tired to even use google... Anyway I have written here previously about him and I've always been fascinated by his story and the connections between Putin and the secret service/death squads/terrorism within Russia. Anyway, wow. Writers and people who say things about politics that people in power don't like can get themselves into some serious trouble in some countries.

Good to remember when you're complaining about deadlines. Which I will hereby refrain from doing. Good night.

Film Festival

Well, the Film Festival has redeemed itself from a rather baffling and deeply disturbing (yet still effective) opening day.

Yesterday I saw: a New Zealand sheep zombie movie. Hilarious on so many levels, not least of which was the screaming pile of Melanie and Rita sitting next to me.

War Tapes - excellent war journalism - in which American soldiers were given their own cameras and told to shoot what they saw in the Iraq war. Horrible, funny, politically complex. Really should be compulsory viewing (although might need a few blown-up body shots to be removed before it gets a wide release).

A Mighty Heart, starring Angelina Jolie (who is very good in it) about the journalist Daniel Pearl who was beheaded in Afghanistan. Very well put together and it's a story I've always been interested in.

I also "saw" a documentary about Primo Levy - or, actually, not about Primo Levy. It must have been about something, but I certainly couldn't figure it out and I have honestly NEVER done this before, I am ususally unable to, but I slept right through it. Genuine REM sleep for about three quarters of the film. I'm sure it's interesting to people who are obsessed with Primo Levy but since my association with Primo Levy is that "I really must read his books", and since the quarter of the documentary that I saw shed no light on him whatsoever, it was an excellent opportunity for some shut-eye.

Other films I've seen since Thursday:

Teeth - a genuinely hilarious film about vagina dentata. Possibly my favourite so far. Go and see it at the second screening, I promise you will not be unsurprised by the events that transpire in what looks (at the beginning) like it could be "Mean Girls" or something similar. Another movie in which Rita and Melanie's (and Baggins') screaming was just as much a part of the experience as the film itself.

Savage Grace - a film starring Julianne Moore and "based on real life events". This fact alone is the reason the film works because Oh. My. Lord. Anyone who thinks their family is dysfunctional should check this out.

The Simpsons Movie. Shut up. After seeing Ex-Drummer, we deserved it. Including The Simpsons, that's ten movies since Thursday. Also, the more you see, the more you want to see. This could be a long couple of weeks.

HONESTLY

Here it is, folks. My first official backdown. My first genuine complaint about the State Library, previously listed as one of my Favourite Places On Earth.

WHO THINKS IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO TUNE A PIANO IN A LIBRARY WITHIN EARSHOT OF THE PEOPLE STUDYING IN THE DESIGNATED QUIET ROOM (many of whom have left) FOR A PERIOD OF (so far) AN HOUR AND A HALF BY PLAYING ONE NOTE OVER AND OVER AND HITTING THAT EXACT SPOT IN YOUR BRAIN THAT IS TRYING TO CONCENTRATE.

I think I have officially lost the last quiet, untouchable, peaceful writing haven left on this earth. So long as there is the possibility I will EVER have to endure this TORTURE again, it is, officially, dead to me now.

WHY IS THERE A PIANO IN A LIBRARY ANYWAY?

Oh, please, make it stop.

PS. Any friends who are cheeky enough or members of my family reading this can feel free not to use the word "melodramatic" in relation to any or all of the above, for fear of me imposing stringent sanctions in the future.

PPS. The piano tuner has moved from a middle C to a high C. This is both a relief and a sign that we may be putting up with this for another hour. The dude at the desk across from me has officially discarded his laptop in favour of a skateboarding magazine.

Films, Deadlines, The Guilt

Too many deadlines to see enough films.

Too many films plus too many deadlines = too little time to eat and get giggles with friends.

Too much of The Guilt to entirely enjoy the deadlines or the films or the friends.

What happened to my gay abandon?

Why am I again confronting the dual parts of my personality: the obsessive antisocial nerd versus the social hedonist? Why can't they both just get along?

Films I've seen so far:

The Happiest Day of His Life - short film purporting to subvert gender stereotypes but actually just relying on them. It's a shame. It was a good idea and I do think the phrase "dick-whipped" should be introduced to society.

The Armstrongs - a documentary about a small business that actually had me groaning aloud and crawling around in my chair, much like I do when I watch shows like "The Office", which this was disarmingly similar to, although this was real. Hilarious and depressing at the same time. Probably my favourite so far.

Ex-Drummer - a really well conceived, well-shot, entirely hideous film that made me quite ill. I'm still not sure if it was sending things up or celebrating them.

Yo - well acted by possibly the nicest, kindest, sweetest-looking actor on earth. Kind of been done before though, story-wise. There's something about the subtly and the slow reveals in films at MIFF though, which make the story not always the point. Which, coming from me, is usually an insult.

Anyhoo. The Guilt, The Guilt. I'm off. Seeing Teeth tonight with a collection of my favourite people on earth.

For someone with such a heady concentration of inner turmoil, my life really isn't that bad.

Ghosts of campuses past

Things you see when you wander through your old university to get a fragment of a beer bottle removed from your bike wheel and to use the library:

1. Religious groups, everywhere. When did this happen? What brought this on? The answer is probably VSU, but I do not recall even the POTENTIAL for people with T shirts tucked into their jeans to talk loudly about Christ outside the library back in my day.

2. A couple breaking up on the "break up" bench nobody otherwise sits on outside what used to be the law library.
Him: What, and you can't understand why I'm angry?
Her: Yes, I understand. I told you I understand. You don't see how your behaviour effects people when you drink.
Him: I can, but I was angry.
Her: No, because if you could see, you'd stop doing it.
Him: Oh my God. (Spins around to see if there's an audience. Discovers there is, in the form of a protest)...

3. ... The "protest" consists of a crowd of (I'm not exaggerating) six people with a megaphone and a banner saying "Stop The Melbourne Model". Someone shouts through a megaphone, "Wake up, People!" A dude wearing boat shoes sails past on a scooter eating a free sausage from the commerce BBQ and looks disgusted. Some things never change.

4. Meanwhile, a pizza is being delivered to someone on the other side of campus by the pizza shop, which has purchased (from our clever friend at unibicycles) huge three-wheeler bikes with which to transport pizza anywhere across campus.

5. The library is equally full of people researching the psychological consequences of genocide and people looking at facebook while drinking coffee they have snuck into the library under their jackets.

6. It's my grandma's birthday so I call her from the downstairs phone I always used to call her from. She recognises the background noise almost immediately.

Now I'm back online researching the Australian political system, the more broad-brush details of which I seem to have forgotten since studying it at the above esteemed institution. Tonight, off to the film festival to enter other worlds. Ones I've never been a part of.

Asylum in Canada

Hey so check it out.

Seeking asylum in Canada, huh?

Everyone is stealing my ideas - and for those of you who didn't see For We Are Young And Free, just take it from me that we were shockingly prescient and very clever. And we probably need to go international with this. A Tony might be nice.

The Tax Men

I often wonder what the tax department must think of me. Over the past two weeks, I have purchased the following tax deductable work-related items:

1 Book about literary women, which I've already read but some bastard borrowed it and never gave it back and it's a cracker. Ten bucks on the Readings bargain table, it's extremely well written by someone who used to write for The New Yorker and I can't remember what it's called but I recommend it if you want to know about Ayn Rand or Gertrude Stein in a way that makes you feel like you went to school with them.

1 CD of Maya Angelou reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (cos she speaks good).

1 Dawson's Creek DVD (for listening to the infernal but sometimes funny dialogue and attempting not to shout through everything Katie Holmes says).

1 Degrassi Junior High DVD (for listening to the dialogue, checking how clunky the "themes" are, and revisiting my early crush on Joey Jeremiah).

1 Flight of the Navigator DVD (oh my childhood self wriggles with delight).

1 Full pass to the Melbourne International Film Festival, including tickets to a documentary about the American health system and a female revenge fantasy comedy horror.

1 uni-ball fine liner (green).

1 ticket to "Knocked Up" (shut up, I needed a break from the highbrow intellectualism not reflected anywhere in this list).

1 ticket to "Blades of Glory" (again, it was a weekend break - what are you, the thought police?).

And some costs brought about by an upcoming trip for the law talking job.

So, a Will Ferrell film and the Romanian goat herding documentaries of MIFF... together at last. My kind of universe.

In other news: I finished my book, Vernon God Little, which of course everyone else in the known universe has already read. Guess what, world? I liked it, too! Really well written, funny as hell, smart and thought-wrangling. I do like a thought wrangle.

He's won the booker prize and now he's been praised by me. DPC Pierre must be pinching himself.

Having checked out the wikipedia page on the book, I am even more proud of finishing it on account of the fact that 35% of all Britons polled who read it did not finish it. Slackers.

Oh, the other thing I claimed on tax: expensive internet. Better go and use it to do some actual work.

PRESS GANG!

Anybody who has heard my ringtone knows the depth of my obsession with the '90s TV show, Press Gang.

Well, guess what, Press Gang nerds? There's talk of a relaunch!

Oh, heady days.

Melbourne

Bit of a heads up, to those of you living in Melbourne...

It's raining outside. Or, in my case, it's raining inside.

Weather is always such a conversation in Melbourne, due to its erratic nature, and I must confess to having had a rather less productive day than usual on account of it. Riding your bike to the library is not such a delicious prospect when staying home in front of the heater is an option. You can still write, right? Right. And I will, when I get these other nine million things done.

My bike looks inviting, as always, but the prospect of riding home in the sleet, with wet handlebars, a wet bike seat, and drenched hair is a little unappealing, even for me (someone who does not normally have any objections to unattractive public displays such as going out for lunch in a tracksuit).

So, it's an inside day. I'm glad I'm not a postie.

Post Show Slump

Wow. Just when you think you're on top of things, someone goes and bees clever.

Thank you to the very dedicated Daniel, who has made my life approximately nine thousand times more liveable by creating this, which I hereby propose the Melbourne Film Festival PAY HIM to turn into a website.

Excellent work.

So far I have only booked two films, which is hoplessly slack of me, but I will make up for it in the watching, oh yes I will.

I have noticed lately that I am FINALLY experiencing the "post show slump", which until now I thought I had escaped.

I think every autobiography or biography of a writer has the word "antisocial" somewhere in the index. For someone who is usually very social, the post-show slump and period of reinvention after having written something and before writing the next thing must be a very surprising period for the writer's friends (if the writer still has friends, having inflicted this period on many of them over a period of years).

My mobile phone is broken. Normally, this would have been fixed immediately. Thus far, I have had a broken phone for three weeks. This is both a metaphor for my inability to fix things, and the side effect of my belief that the grumpy introspection of this post-show slump period should not be inflicted on anyone.

Having said that, the only way to fix the post show slump is to swim against the tide. Bring on the friends, I say, and possibly a new haircut.

Exploding heads (MIFF)

Each year, my head explodes when the Melbourne International Film Festival Guide comes out. It really does literally explode, clear off my shoulders.

And today is the day.

THANK YOU to whoever at the film festival listened to the requests for everything to be listed on the same page. I know I, for one, filled out hundreds of individual response slips with responses like PLEASE LIST THINGS PROPERLY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD written on them in red pen. Last year, it was like a computer game. It was like a quest. It was a feat of mental gymnastics just to get to the movie in time.

If you look closely at this photo, you can see "PLEASE FIX FESTIVAL PROGRAMME" written in red pen. This is one of the forty-seven versions of the same request that I wrote (literally - I saw forty-seven films and I filled in a form for each of them). Like so:

IMG 0293

Which brings me to the problem with having a full festival pass: it enables you to go to everything. And yes, if you go to twenty films over 19 days, you have justified the $300 ticket, BUT...

If someone says "Buy this credit card for three hundred bucks - now, go to your favourite shop. The credit card is unlimited."

What are you going to do?

You're going to go completely bezerk and buy as much stuff as you can. You'll be buying things in a size 24 JUST IN CASE YOU MEET SOMEONE who is a size 24.

So, you want to see EVERYTHING (with a few exceptions, the sight of which fill you with enormous relief) because you CAN.

Greed, I suppose, is what I'm describing. Film greed. One very time-consuming sin.

Let the games begin....

Dawons

For "research purposes", I am currently reading about Dawsons Creek.

I never watched Dawsons Creek, but may I now commend it for utilising the insult, "sexist toad" in the primetime market.

That is all.

Donations

Yesterday I donated blood.

Not having a regular income, I have decided that donating something I DO HAVE is probably as good an idea as any, and so with the blood.

Do you know what they say to you when you donate blood? They say, "Thank you for saving three lives".

Then they give you a milkshake and a party pie.

How good is that?

I get to feel a sense of achievement while lying back in my lunch break reading Paris Hilton's jail diaries from a dreadful magazine I would normally scorn. I wonder if reading Paris Hilton's jail diaries actually effects the blood I'm donating. Whoopsie. Next time I will take a book.

Donate blood - I tell you, it's the lazy person's way of saving the world: go here if you've never done it.

Harry

Saw Harry Potter tonight. Me and five trillion other people squashed into too many hours worth of epic.

Did you know that epic does not mean long?

No. Epic means: noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style.

Nowhere in there does it say epic needs to involve between two to three hours of facial grimacing.

I don't mean to knock the film, or the kids in it, or, you know, fun in general, but MY GOD there was a lot of pomp and not a great deal of circumstance in the last few movies I saw described as "epic".

Please stop with the epic. It makes my eyes tired.

There is bike riding to be done.

Movie Reviews

Anthony Lane on the Transformers movie: oh yes.

Also, I note with interest and a certain degree of horror that The New Yorker now has fiction podcasts, where you can listen to stories being read while you're supposed to be writing them yourself. Go here if you need to lose even more time than the internet already demands of you.

Favourite bits from Anthony Lane so far:

"There are two types of Transformers: the Autobots, who are fine, upstanding citizens in pretty colors, and the Decepticons, most of whom are mean, vengeful, and beige."

... because I very much enjoy the use of beige as an insult.

And also:

As a passerby exclaims in the midst of the film, “This is easily a hundred times cooler than ‘Armageddon’!” To be proud of your achievement is one thing, but to plant film critics inside your movie and review it favorably as you go along: that takes genius.

... almost makes me want to see the film. Almost.

And he links Transformers to Werner Hertzog, which is no mean feat, just quietly.

Not that, and I hasten to add this before someone else does, I have seen either film or have a right to an opinion about them. Still. Never stopped me yet.

Deadlines

Recently, due to various factors beyond my control, I have missed two deadlines.

There is something about the feeling of having missed a deadline which is a little bit like the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors. All you have to do is slightly tweak the wikipedia plot description and you've got a version of my life every time I miss an opportunity that could have been something great, and could have been a complete disappointment. Like so:

Lorin's life splits into two parallel universes which run in tandem. In one universe, Lorin manages to get her proposal/application/script in on time, and in the other she misses it. In the former, her application isn't successful anyway and she finds out that someone she went to university with is staging a three part opera using sock puppets and a glockenspiel instead; she promptly flees the scene, and meets (and falls in love with) an entirely new concept she hasn't thought of yet. In the latter universe, she carries on oblivious in a miserable and constant struggle to coexist with The Guilt that constantly plagues her on account of missing her deadline.

Towards the end of both scenarios, she discovers she is pregnant with her respective partner's baby.

Okay, well, apart from that last bit. I don't have respective partners. But all that other stuff, that's totally how it is, man.

Imagine the life I could be leading. Imagine the life you could be leading. What are you doing just sitting there? Come ON! Get on with it!

Into the Sunset!

So I was riding my bike into the sunset the other day (literally, straight into the sunset - I know what those flat earth guys were on about - sometimes it feels like you're going to ride straight over) and I remembered something.

I remembered the main difference between riding a bike and driving a car or walking. It's not the lactic acid in your thighs. It's not the lack of a dashboard and a glovebox or an ipod and an umbrella.

I was riding my bike into the sunset and I looked up and I remembered! The greatest thing about riding a bicycle is that you CAN look up. You can look up and take in the whole sky and the entire 180 degree view of the universe and you won't have an accident or fall over or crane your neck peering through half an inch of windscreen.

It's an unreal thing to be able to do. There really is no other way to travel, at least not for the truly self-righteous such as myself. "Yes, everyone," I think as I ride along, "I am getting excercise AND helping the environment AND getting from A to B, all for a few hundred bucks I otherwise would have spent on petrol, thus promoting the oil market and continuing the divisive global resource war which the government today admitted was the reason we are at war in Iraq! Huzzah! What are you fools doing in your four wheeled horror boxes? You can't even see the sunset, you complacent boxed-up morons!"

Bear in mind, until a week or so ago, I myself was a boxed-up moron of the highest order.

Thank you again to the prince among men who sold me my freedom at a bargain price. Want some? Go here.

Meanwhile, I'm counting down the days to the film festival, to and from which I will of course cycle. Presuming my joy extends that far into winter, which is a noble presumption indeed.

I'm in the library. I'm going to go and do some work so I can meet my appointment with this evening's sunset. Hooroo!

Taxing Times

Last week for me was tax week.

Tax week for me means finding all my officeworks receipts, my movie tickets, my half-torn theatre stubs and my dvd receipts and promising myself that next year I'm going to be more organised.

Anyway, so next year I'm going to be heaps more organised.

In the meantime though, I'm going to pause and reflect on HOW MUCH STUFF I see, read, eat (sadly not tax deductable) and do not throw out like a sensible person would (including boxes from dvd players that i no longer own, notes from people I can't remember in classes I swear I never went to, wrapping paper - seas of the stuff - and of course theatre programmes).

I don't think I have ever EVER had a moment where, pausing in the middle of something very important, I have thought to myself, "Now. Where is that theatre programme from that play I saw in 1998 at the Malthouse. I simply must find that programme immediately, for there is no possible way I can continue on into the future without it".

I don't think that has ever happened. Now that I have discarded several of these programmes during my tax time tidy up, however, I have no doubt that over the next few weeks I will in fact undergo the above experience and find my programme collection wanting.

Nevetheless. All this purchasing got me to thinking. I thought:

1. I have a lot of stuff.
2. A lot of people don't have any stuff.
3. I should give a whole lot of my stuff to people who need it (for instance, the two giant stuffed toys that someone-whose-name-most-people-will-guess won in a country fair and decided to bestow upon me by way of the beginnings of a collection).
4. I should drive my car less. I pay too much money in petrol and I am not helping the environment, despite the carbon offset thing where there are trees planted for me every time I drive anywhere (also purchased for me by person-whose-name-most-people-will-guess).
5. THEREFORE perhaps on the way to the brotherhood of st lawrence in order to give away stuff, I should purchase more stuff, in the shape of a bike.
6. Perhaps I should purchase a very excellent bike from my truly most favourite shop in the world (here), from one of my favourite people, who makes me laugh and updates me on campus news.
7. Perhaps I should then ride it around like a child with a new toy.
8. Perhaps this renders my "I should own less" mentality somewhat redundant.
9. Perhaps it is even more so if I am too lazy to ride home from my parents' place and I put the bike in the back of the carbon-offset car and drive it home to mine.
10. Perhaps these things can be over analysed and I should be simply grateful that I now have an excellent excuse to wear all my glow in the dark clothing again (it's been too long).

So yay for riding your bike!

In terms of consumption by way of books and cinema THIS financial year, I am currently reading DBC Pierre's book Vernon God Little, about twelve centuries after it was cool to do so. It is, as most people have already said, a very good read. I am, however, NOT seeing the Transformers movie, despite the legion of nerds who surround me, trembling with excitement at the prospect.

So far, that's one mark in the "CONSUMER ADDICTION" column (consumption of book) and one mark in the ABSTAINING FROM PURCHASING UNNECESSARY THINGS" column. Of course, as with all record-keeping, this is not a true reflection of the way things work. The truth is, abstaining from the Transformers movie is hardly a sacrifice, since I am bored to death at the very thought of it, and the book, although living in my bookshelf, technically belongs to someone else.

This is why tax time is confusing. Reality plays a very small and self-conscious role, and I end up with an empty wallet, a slightly more organised office, and a brand spanking new bike. How on earth did that happen?