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Charming & off-beat comedy/drama
24 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
OK 5 stars, but this is becos I am no longer attracted to "romantic" or charming films, so says more about me than the film. Saw this on free-to-air TV last week. A very sweet & charming film with an endearing heroine, beautifully played. Mia, who is very lovely (dunno what Finnish definition of beauty is), has such low self-esteem that her personality is submerged beneath her need to "fit in" with her bitchy female friends & her sexually exploitative boyfriend. In this well written & cleverly crafted "rites of passage" film, her desperation with her situation finally blossoms into nihilistic anger; which - rather than being off-putting - actually has the opposite effect on her life. The film traces this effect on her various relationships - with her aging hippy parents, her feminist vegan girlfriends, her bourgeois faux-punk drummer boyfriend, potential new guy & most unexpectedly of all, the troubled youth her socially committed parents are fostering. The film has many comic moments & cleverly satirizes the self-consciously hip & politically correct members of society. Mia is adorable - tiny, energetic & bouncy - & stays in your mind long after the film ends. And yes, the film does contain the F word. Like half the programmes on telly & most films. (Remember 4 Weddings etc.) See it!!!
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Sebastiane (1976)
Derek Jarman's lovingly erotic & humanist vision of St Sebastian
29 July 2008
I first saw this when it came out in 1976 & had almost forgotten it. Derek Jarman's first feature film & one of his superlative creations. Intensly erotic and shot with loving attention to the beauty of the male body. The seemingly endless stretches of white sand create an idyllic & almost dreamlike atmosphere. However it also acts as a stark backdrop, that forces our attention onto the only too realistic actions & emotions of this isolated group of soldiers.

The characters are complex and cannot be just categorised into "good" & "evil". Even Severus has repressions which have festered into hatred by being internalised. Saint Sebastian shines on his journey towards piety & to the iconic image of his body pierced with arrows. But Jarman always retains the realistic humanity of this playful, loving and courageous character.

Don't want to harp on the bodies beautiful, but as a general comment it is a rarity to be able to enjoy the male nude. Male film-goers are oversupplied with boobs, bottoms & pubes, while women (half of humanity) usually have to make do with "tastefully posed" shots. Thank God for directors like Derek Jarman, Ken Russell, Pasolini, Fellini & most European film-makers who don't believe the audience will be struck dead if they see a penis.
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Spiral (2005– )
Complex, dark, gritty murder and political thriller
24 July 2008
Forget formulaic shows posing as violent, dark and gritty. Spiral shows how the genre should be done. The French title means cogs or gears which trap the characters into ever more convoluted situations. No good & bad here - the naively honest prosecutor facing his first job is drawn ever deeper into a conspiracy which forces him to make increasingly dangerous compromises. The initial mystery underpinning the entire series, unfolds each week to offer us more fascinating pieces of the puzzle. Even the weekly murder - often solved within the episode - has repercussions that continue on. This is compulsive viewing – the end of the hour feels like ten minutes.

Tho' shot in colour, the drab settings and costumes often give the impression of black & white, till a bright handbag or scarf pull us back to reality. The mood is edgy and challenging. Caroline Proust and Philippe Duclos give particularly outstanding performances. Although a police lieutenant, the stunning Proust (as Laure Berthaud) has the direct wide-eyed look of a bewildered naïf. Duclos' Roban, looking somewhat like an ironic vulture, is the judge determined to unearth the truth despite sinister political pressures.

Spiral is uncompromising in its presentation of violence including sexual paraphilias (tho' I thought the French might have had their own word for Laure's "fist-f**cking?") Despite the graphic violence & frequent coarse language, which is only noticeable in programmes with sub-titles, this 8.30 pm free-to-air show - competing with the very tame "Gil Mayo Mysteries" still only attracts an Aussie M (parental guidance), not an MA (over 15).
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The Silence (2006 TV Movie)
Superb and engrossing multi-layered mystery
18 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Part mystery, part character study - this gritty and realistic story is presented with great delicacy and deftness of touch. Richard is a policeman suffering post traumatic stress, after finding his female informant viciously killed underneath her Hills Hoist. While recuperating he has been transferred to the Police Museum, where he is setting up an exhibition of murders from the sixties. Searching through the grainy black & white post-mortem photos of victims in settings from a very different Sydney, he is absorbed by the repeated appearance of the same woman in many pictures. The plot gathers speed as each layer is peeled off and the Sydney of the new millennium vies with old Sydney for attention.

Richard Roxburgh gives a sensitive and detailed performance as the cop still torn up by the horror of his previous case and Essie Davis walks a fine line as the Scottish psychiatrist fighting her own demons. For me, a joy of this picture is the presence of Emily Barclay (In My Father's Den) as Richard's Goth assistant. This girl is in line for a fantastic career.

The other character that cannot be ignored, whatever the era, is Sydney. The pubs, the low life, night time ferries, boxing rings, the Cross & the Pyrmont wharves become a living presence (and this from a Melbournite).

Thought this was brilliant the first time around. Realized it was a repeat last night but just could not find the moment when I could turn it off.
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Posh Nosh (2003– )
Hilarious satire destroying TV chefs forever
6 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
When I checked my TV guide for tonight there were at least four cooking programmes, two of them back to back. After watching Posh Nosh one feels freed from the intestinal distress caused by this oversupply of culinary "experts" for ever. No more Delia, Nigella, Jamie, Gordon Ramsey, the Two Fat Ladies, Iain Hewitson, Maggie Beer et al.

Simon & Minty are hilarious as they disturb,distress & interrogate their ingredients; teaching us very little about cooking but a great deal about their marriage. As the series progresses, the subtlety with which their desperate disfunctionality is revealed is of the type that can only be achieved by the British.


Lower middle-class Minty, hoping to climb the social ladder by marrying into the Marchmont family, but whose every utterance discloses her background is complemented beautifully by "born to the aristocracy" Simon, who undercuts her with his withering sarcasm at every turn. Simon's motive for marrying Minty is a little less clear - possibly to deflect attention from his relationship with his dog and his tanned tennis coach Jose-Luis, and to acquire a wife prepared to be chained to his beloved mother's Aga forever.

The accuracy of the satire is increased by the promotion of the compulsory range of Posh Nosh "products". There is also an actual website where one can obtain every recipe used in the programme.

Writer Arabella Weir and Richard E. Grant are perfect in the roles of this couple, who delineate fine social distinctions through the use of cuisine.

This show will leave you laughing helplessly. A gem. And please, why only one series? Like all good food, Posh Nosh cries out for seconds and even thirds.
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Gripping plot & well rounded characters, let down by weak ending.
13 October 2004
From the first frame, this film glues you to the screen, with a gripping plot that is full of potential. As we learn more about the victim's wife and the university professor she employs in the role of reluctant detective, we are determined to delve further into the minds of this mysterious woman and the laconic southern gentleman, who is forced to confront his own past demons.

Regrettably, this strong foundation is undermined by the failure of the film to shine any light on the personalities of the victim or his abducted companion - elements that are essential to understanding the fate which overtakes them. And sadly the denouement is glaringly obvious - a limp ending to what should have been a superb thriller.
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Billy's Shout (1991 TV Short)
An informative interview with a relaxed and articulate Ozzy
16 September 2004
In this half hour programme, Ozzy Osbourne is interviewed by the elder statesman of Australian rock, Billy Pinnell. The setting, in a small takeaway in Collingwood (a working class suburb of Melbourne), creates a relaxed tone to the meeting, as lunchtime customers pass to & fro.

Ozzy is in terrific form, speaking with candour & clarity about all areas of his life, both funny & serious, and recounting anecdotes with the dry wit that is his trademark. No mumbling or stumbling here - this is an articulate man with a sharp mind, a quick tongue & full control of his coffee cup. There appears to be little editing, giving the audience a chance to compare the real Ozzy with the "Ozzy" character created by MTV manipulation.
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