‘CHERNOBYL’ REMEMBERS AND REMINDS

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The 25th of April is a sacred day in Australia. It is in remembrance of Australian and New Zealand soldiers lost in war, a reminder to help and honour all veterans, those of them still with us, and their families and to remember always that there is no glory in war –  Only loss. The day is borne out of the first day of the Gallipoli landings in 1915, appropriately the beginning of a failed military campaign, just one part of the Great War that forever marked a generation and left repercussions that have been felt down throughout the 20th century. It is a day of significance and remembrance to be spent solemnly.

The next day is the 26th of April and it holds significance too. On that day another generation would be called to sacrifice themselves in a huge undertaking that if it did not kill them outright would forever leave its mark. Thousands who through their efforts saved thousands more – maybe millions. In the Ukraine, in Russia, in greater Europe, throughout the rest of the world how much do we stop and think of the Heroes of Chernobyl?

What really grabbed me and held me were the incredible stories of the human beings who lived through it, and who suffered and sacrificed to save the people that they loved, to save their countrymen and to save a continent, and continued to do so, against odds that were startling and kept getting worse. I was so moved by it. It was like I had discovered a war that people just hadn’t really depicted, and I became obsessed.” -Craig Mazin

The five part mini-series from HBO and Sky UK, written by Craig Mazin a graduate of Princeton and the writer of the Hangover sequels may not be a perfectly written series. Despite strong critical notices and ratings, there have been dissenters no doubt put off by the slow pacing and the stories of some characters. It can be a bit of a slog at times, composite characters standing in for the nuanced reality of multiple individuals, and thematic points hammered home in the dialogue.

Yet the story of Chernobyl is remarkable and Mazin has articulated a fascination he had about two things. Firstly the power dynamics of a communist society that allows for such a disaster to take place and is not well placed to react quickly to it. Secondly, the communal and bitterly stoic nature of the people of the Soviet Union. As Mazin has pointed out in interviews, maybe only the Soviet people could have dealt with such a disaster this way. The two world wars, Stalin and Chernobyl. It was a hard century for the Soviet Union and the Ukraine took more than its fair share. Mazin knows this and knows it well.

The lesson of Chernobyl isn’t that modern nuclear power is dangerous. The lesson is that lying, arrogance, and suppression of criticism are dangerous.” –Craig Mazin

The series starts off in the morning of the 26th of April, 1986 when all hell broke loose except people didn’t quite react like it had. The first episode is about that first morning, reactor workers scrambling around their damaged facility not wanting to believe what is really happening, firemen arriving on site with no protective gear and locals gathered on a bridge looking at the impressive blue light in the sky.

Subsequent episodes spread out the timeframe and show the longer ongoing implications and developments. I was reminded of Tom Clancy and his everyman hero Jack Ryan in the situation faced by Valery Legasov as played by Jared Harris. A mid-level civil servant with some intelligence forced to communicate what is really going on during a crisis to foolhardy men of power. The character of Emily Watson’s Ulana Khomyuk gets similar scenes but isn’t flown in to Chernobyl via helicopter which is more akin to a Jack Ryan tale. There are a lot of stories and characters in Chernobyl; some may resonate more than others. Liquidators cleaning up the countryside afterwards, workers volunteering or “volunteering” for dangerous tasks, soldiers drinking their vodka straight, scientists and politicians smoking cigarettes in dimly lit rooms debating what is the next solution before it’s too late, wives relying on their wits and courage to be reunited with their radiation stricken husbands only to…

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Some subplots may resonate more than others but the tragedy of Chernobyl reveals the character of a people that are long overdue for some recognition in facing the greatest man-made catastrophe in human history. The relationship at the heart of the story is the one between the pragmatic party man Boris Shcherbina in charge of the whole operation and played by Stellan Skarsgard and Harris’s scientist Legasov who is just trying to do the right thing. Their growing respect and understanding of the other and what they do is the best relationship depicted in the series. Emily Watson gives another great performance and as does the rest of the cast, in episode four she delivers a line about Chernobyl that kind of breaks your heart.

The filmmakers seem invested in practicality as much as possible, including shooting in Lithuania at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant which resembled very much the appearance of Chernobyl itself. As a child of the 1980s I was enthralled by how much the lighting and colour grading of the series resembles film form that period.

Barring two significant sequences too, it feels very much like the shot composition and editing is very similar to that time period as well so that any variation from it has an impact and is in service to the story being told. One is a drone aerial shot that would have been done via helicopter or crane back in the day to reveal the evacuation of Pripyat. By making that choice it reminds that time has passed on and allows to move out from close ups in a way not possible when being done any other way. The second involves a 90 second sequence shot in real time that will not be spoiled here. All episodes are directed by Johan Renck who made his bones on several prestige television series and music videos; Chernobyl suggests more big things to come.

The series will not be for everyone, not least of which are due to some harrowing hospital scenes but if Chernobyl touches you it definitely leaves its mark.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. I would recommend the podcast by Craig Mazin and Peter Sagal as well. The first episode can be found here.

 

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RED JOAN REVIEW AVAILABLE AT X-PRESS MAGAZINE

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On the 13th of May I was lucky enough to be on assignment for X-Press Magazine to attend a preview screening of Red Joan. This was my first assignment for X-Press in 2019 followed by checking out John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.

Red Joan in some ways was a refreshing take on the way we approach spy thrillers but a real slow burn of a film. I can’t say I was riveted by say the quiet but visually dynamic and stylish Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. By the way are they going to do a sequel to that or not? Still I think there is  a lot to recommend in Red Joan not least of which are the performances of the cast led by Sophie Cookson and Dame Judi Dench.

You can read my review here http://xpressmag.com.au/red-joan-gets-7-10-past-secrets/

X-Press Magazine was established in 1985 and at one point was Australia’s highest circulating free weekly entertainment publication with over 40,000 copies reaching 1,0000 outlets every week.  On the 24th May, 2016 Issue 1527 hit stands. Like many publications of its ilk X-Press Magazine is now foremost an online magazine engaged globally and making the most of the possibilities that new digital technology offers. It’s roots though are tied to its home city, love of local artists and productions and music which it supports wholeheartedly. Perth a capital city most isolated from all the other capitals is continuing to grow and develop culturally and artistically with its own identity and talent. X-Press has always been there to capture this growth and will continue to do so.

-Lloyd Marken

100 POSTS PUBLISHED WITH SCENESTR

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The night of my first assignment for Scenestr magazine 21MAR207. Copyright Karen Marken.

Last Friday I reached a milestone with Scenestr magazine, I have now had 100 posts published with them online or in their printed copies on the street. This all started with a review I submitted to them of Hidden Figures that Karen had won tickets to see. The review was published 23 February, 2017.

Within a couple of months I realised if I wanted to make the most of my opportunities there I would have to put my hand up to do interviews. Despite having done this in the past at university I was still quite nervous when I did my first interview with the stars of Grease: The Arena Spectacular Meghan O’Shea and Drew Weston almost two years ago. Knowing it scared me made me confident it would be truly rewarding and that turned out to be true.

In 2018 there were 50 posts published online of my work, it is doubtful I will match that output moving forward, there are things I am currently pursuing away from Scenestr but I am grateful to continue my work for the biggest street press magazine in the country.

The opportunity Scenestr gives writers and how that flows onto the rest of the print industry is extraordinary. I hope to be working for them for a long time yet.

Of the 100 posts published, 10% were reviews of stand-up comedians and their shows, 29% were theatre reviews, 28% were film reviews, 32% were interviews and 1% were reviews of Cher concerts.

Allow me to indulge in pointing out some personal highlights such as interviewing DeAnne Smith, Ali McGregor, Palace Cinemas CEO Benjamin Zeccola, Gravity and Other Myths circus performer Jascha Boyce, theatre director Row Blackshaw, Cassie George, talking to director Clare Watson about Our Town, an interview with comedian Sammy J, and my cover story with SNL star Michael Che.

Going to the Young Australian Filmmakers Programme at Byron Bay Film Festival and talking to young director Cody-Cameron Brown about Don Ritchie, OAM, introducing my wife to the cast of Aladdin backstage, a dinner with Lauren Weisberger where my friend Karen B was also in attendance at the Brisbane Writers Festival, slugging back premium blended whisky and sliders at the Kingsman: The Golden Circle preview screening, attending the opening nights of the 2017 Cine Latino Film Festival, the 2018 Italian Film Festival, Brisbane International Film Festival 2018, taking Karen to see Cher last year in concert, having stand-up Tom Gleeson share my review of his show on Facebook.

Some of the best shows I saw were Circa’s Humans, seeing Love/Hate Actually debut at Wonderland 2017England by Tim Crouch at Metro Arts, seeing The Duke by Shon Dale-Jones, Randy Writes A Novel by Randy Feltface, Tim Ferguson’s A Fast Life On Wheels and my first assignment with Scenestr reviewing Queensland Ballet’s Raw.

If you’re been along with me for part of the journey I hope you have enjoyed the ride, I thank you for your support and I hope to continue with you by my side. Two years ago this milestone seemed very distant if even possible and it has been one of the great joys of my life to have had this happen to me at 36 when I was feeling that life was kind of passing me by. I feel very grateful to my editors for their support and knowledge and to all our readers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

http://scenestr.com.au/blog/Lloyd-Marken

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

 

GODZILLA II: KING OF THE MONSTERS REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be back on assignment for Scenestr magazine to review Godzilla II: King of the Monsters. This was in the Gold Class cinemas at Chermside cinema, usually I demure from such things but this time around I ordered dinner from their menu and had it served to Karen and I in the cinema – delicious. It was easily the highlight of the night because the film frustrated me no end.

The flawed Hellboy came out recently and has closed out its box office run quickly and with very little gross. I felt more engaged and energised by some of the inventiveness of that film despite its many faults. I have no doubt Godzilla II will meet with more success than Hellboy.

We’re in June and I’m yet to see the first great film of 2019 but I don’t want to be too old and grouchy. I think for fans of Godzilla there is enough Easter Eggs and visual splendour to enjoy. Also the filmmakers seem to be addressing some of the criticisms of the 2014 original by giving the humans more agency here but make no mistake it is the human story that is lacking. During the finale set in Boston I really could have used some colourful Bostonian character reacting to Godzilla. “Hey you think ya bedda dan meah?!”.  You can check out my review here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/godzilla-king-of-the-monsters-review-20190531

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

 

ROCKETMAN REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

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It was my pleasure to be on assignment for Scenestr magazine again to attend a preview screening of Rocketman on a Saturday evening up at the top of the Myer Centre in town. Karen and I both came from other work with Karen doing well to make it before the screening began.

Rocketman is an interesting film for me, there were some moments that dragged on and felt weren’t not very well thought out. Then there were others that were… well just sublime. The emotional through line of the story is well served, a little boy growing up and feeling unloved and how that led to the addictions that almost killed the man.

It is not a perfect film far from it but it is the kind of film that makes me excited to have others watch it and tell me what they think. Because some things are done so well. I will be interested to hear your thoughts, for mine you can read the review here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/rocketman-review-20190529

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

‘TITANIC: THE MOVIE, THE PLAY’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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Long term readers will note I’ve seen a few productions of Act/React and have enjoyed their work. For Anywhere Festival this year they have brought back a production they mounted back in 2016 before I knew of them called Titanic: The Movie, The Play.

After checking out Chris Martin’s Claw Machine at Pincadia, Karen and I headed off to the nearby Queensland Maritime Museum to see a late performance of the comedic take on the film.

Unlike their production of Kiss of the Vampire Squid which was performed on HMAS Diamantina last year as part of Anywhere Theatre Festival 2018 this was not a fully improvised production but scripted. It did feature some mainstays of Impromafia and the newly formed The Shadow Collective in the cast so there was lots of laughs had from on the moment developments.

The immersive aspects of the production mean no two performances will be the same and create a real joy in the audience. I thought there was a real charm to the production and following the excellent Love/Hate Actually I expect big things to continue happening for Act/React. Amy Currie and Natalie Bochenski are taking Love/Hate Actually to Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year for starters.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a review I wrote of the show published with Weekend Notes. You can read it here here https://www.weekendnotes.com/titanic-the-movie-the-play-anywhere-festival/ and if you’re local you can still purchase tickets for this weekend if it sounds like your bag.

The Anywhere Festival for 2019 is a marvellous thing that happens in my city and I feel very grateful to have taken in two great shows this year at such interesting venues.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM REVIEW AVAILABLE AT X-PRESS MAGAZINE

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It was a lot of fun to be on assignment for X-Press Magazine for the first time this year to review John Wick: Chapter 3 -Parabellum. Karen and I returned to the Myer Centre in the Brisbane CBD to check out the sequel at a preview screening the night before opening day.

To give a comparison I would say John Wick was a pleasant surprise I enjoyed late one Friday night after getting the DVD from my now defunct local blockbuster. John Wick Chapter 2 I know got around to at some point either DVD or steaming. I thought there was less to that film than there was to the original but I still marvelled at the action in particular a fight scene featuring Keanu Reeves and Common.

You can find out what I thought of the third chapter in my review which can be found here http://xpressmag.com.au/john-wick-chapter-3-parabellum-gets-7-10-doggone-violence/

X-Press Magazine was established in 1985 and at one point was Australia’s highest circulating free weekly entertainment publication with over 40,000 copies reaching 1,0000 outlets every week.  On the 24th May, 2016 Issue 1527 hit stands. Like many publications of its ilk X-Press Magazine is now foremost an online magazine engaged globally and making the most of the possibilities that new digital technology offers. It’s roots though are tied to its home city, love of local artists and productions and music which it supports wholeheartedly. Perth a capital city most isolated from all the other capitals is continuing to grow and develop culturally and artistically with its own identity and talent. X-Press has always been there to capture this growth and will continue to do so.

I do my best to get my car after work and travel to and from these events that way, but on occasion I catch the train home instead. Sometimes we have dinner after a show too before we head home but not this time. As we arrived at central station and were heading towards the escalators for our platform I noticed something off-putting.

In a split second I came to realise there was someone on the ground. I dropped the bag of Karen’s I was carrying and jogged over and got to my knees next to the body. Somethings are a blur and can be coloured by our own perceptions but I will try to recall to the best of my perspective what happened next.

There was a small middle aged Asian woman on the ground too lying next to the fallen person who was an older white woman. Her husband was leaning over the scene. I asked if she was okay and she said she was fine, she had taken a fall. She explained that she was on medication and I had drunk a little too much which had led to the fall. I think I told her we should get her up, of course I was concerned that something was broken or sprained.

Her husband carried the air of someone who had to deal with such concerns from time to time and his wife’s personality. He bent down and put back one of her shoes that had fallen off her foot, he struggled to get past the heel initially but was soon successful.

The woman’s pants were made of soft material and her legs slid across the floor. Initially when I had gotten to her she was pushing her top half up off the ground almost like she was just hanging out at a picnic.

This was a setback and she now almost had her face on the ground and was lying down on her front completely. At the sound of my worry she said “I just need to rest here for a minute, I’ll be fine.”

I don’t know what got into me next but I leaned over her and in a calm voice said into her ear “Ma’am I used to be a hospital wardie, I don’t think you should stay in this position, I would like to roll you onto your back. Okay?”. I think she nodded and I could hear her husband agreeing and urging her.

I placed one hand on her hip and one on her shoulder and attempted to pull her onto her side but her positioning and mine were not well placed. I didn’t move her far but then she moved with me and she was now on her back and she raised her torso up.

Her husband grabbed both of her hands and she anchored her feet pushing the soles down on the ground. I clambered up behind her squatted on my feet and put both my arms underneath her armpits. The Asian lady who had been with us throughout held onto her left arm and as we lifted a young man raced to our side and grabbed her right arm.

Then she was up.

Throughout her husband had known what to do, gotten the shoe back on, talked to her and kept calm in what any one of us would find distressing. Both he and she had really played the most important part in positioning her body correctly and most importantly with the anchoring of her feet for the lift. For me she was light as a feather and I think part of that might have something to do with the husband lifting her with her hands. The other woman had stayed throughout and reacted with nimble swiftness as the body got moved around and when the young man arrived we had gained someone with more strength than any of us three.

She repeated she was alright to me, she had just had something to drink with her medication and it had caused her to lose balance a bit. I was thankful she was not in any real pain otherwise my untrained involvement could have been a disaster.

She looked over at me with a smile and touched my cheek and thanked me. Given how little I had helped I felt a bit undeserving but I suspect it was due to the calmness and confidence I had given her when I whispered in my ear.

Looking back there was a lot I would’ve liked to have done differently but it was a good feeling to have done anything and to have it turn out alright. I asked if she felt anything kind of broken or really painful and to maybe look for an escalator. The stationmaster was with us now and she repeated her story that she was alright. I and the husband suggested she go with him just to be sure.

I think I asked again if she would be alright, to see if there was anything I could do and she smiled that smile. I joined Karen and looked back one last time as they moved away with the stationmaster.

On the train home I told Karen a story, many years ago I was in Queen St Mall in the middle of the day and I saw some middle aged business men help someone back into their wheelchair or stop them from falling out. One of them had reacted the fastest and helped the most. He was middle aged, overweight and in a nice suit. I don’t remember which year this was, it could be anywhere from 1998 to 2007 I guess. I can’t even really remember what happened. Afterwards as they stopped at the lights to cross the street, I saw the middle aged man look back at the person in the wheelchair. There was a haunted look on his face. Was he shaken by what could have happened had he not been there? Did he think therefore but the grace of God go I? Had it triggered a memory of someone he cared about? I don’t know but I remember that look and I suspect I always will.

-Lloyd Marken