I was a casual on call hospital wardsman from September 2002 to February 2006 at the Royal Brisbane/Women’s Hospital.
On the 12th of October 2002 a terrorist attack killed 202 people from over 20 countries in Bali. Two suicide bombers positioned themselves at nightspots The Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar while a remote bomb was detonated outside the American consulate. In what remains the largest loss of Australian life due to a terrorist attack 88 Australians were killed.
Hundreds more were wounded, in the largest aero medical evacuation carried out by the Royal Australian Air Force since the Vietnam War 66 survivors were flown to Darwin within the first 24 hours of the bomb blast. Some were transported further on from Darwin.
I had not been in the job for a month when I met two of survivors of the Bali bombings.
When I began work at the hospital there had been construction of several new buildings, the Ned Hanlon Building was the main one and the maternity ward on level six and the special care nursery on level five were already operating there. There was also X-Ray on level three.
The RBH as it was for me growing up still stood but we were in the process of moving and opening up new wards in the new building. One ward at the old building was set up to receive patients coming down from Darwin from originally Bali.
I was working evening shifts 2:30pm to 10:30pm. One night I was paged to go up to that ward, it was to be my first experience dealing with young patients that I would see naked and burns victims. I was 21 and didn’t know how I would react, I was a little nervous.
I came in and was instructed to put on a green robe. I did bed turns with two patients as the nurse cleaned and dressed them. One was an older gentlemen, one was a blonde haired woman in her mid 20s.
I found to my surprise I was not embarrassed by the nudity even in a young member of the opposite sex nor was I horrified by the burns.
I was there to do a job and was concentrating on doing it right.
Having the nurse helped too, I just did as she told me. I do remember seeing black poking out from under bandages wrapped around hands. I remember the redness all over the skin of the woman’s torso.
I would go on to deal with worse burns victims. I remember thinking the gown was more a precaution given it didn’t seem to get that messy compared to some patient handling I had already experienced. Of course it was for their protection as well.
I remember talking to the female patient, she was a member of the Australian Federal Police. I assumed she had been in Bali on holidays but didn’t ask.
That first month at the hospital I worked full time hours before deciding I couldn’t balance it and my studies. I did work the rest of the week in that area but I never got called back to that ward.
I oddly found some comfort and took some pride in those few minutes of doing bed turns. My country had endured its worst terrorist attack in history and I had been given an opportunity, however small, to help the survivors directly.
I never had to worry about my own safety the way current health care workers have and will during this pandemic crisis.
Many have and will get COVID-19 because there isn’t enough equipment to protect them.
Some of them are going to die because there won’t be enough equipment to save them when they get sick.
They’re running into the jaws of death right now for us.
On Friday the 13th of March, 2020 I was on assignment for Scenestr magazine at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. I was there to see famous stand-up comedian Dave Hughes.
At 9am Friday, the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. McLaren had pulled out the day before following a team member testing positive.
The Home Affairs Minister in Australia Peter Dutton tested positive to COVID-19 having recently returned from America where he met with Ivanka Trump and senior White House personnel.
There was a Council of Australian Governments Meeting with the Prime Ministers and state Premiers that day. Following on from that the Council decided they would convene that Sunday a National Cabinet meeting of state heads and federal leaders.
It was announced that starting the following Monday there would be no mass gatherings of 500 people or more after the weekend. The Prime Minister originally intended to attend the footy over the weekend to see his beloved Sharkies play. Later that day he advised to avoid confusion over his actions he would not go. The Cronulla Sharks lost that match.
The World Health Organisation reported on the 13th of March, 2020 189 cases of COVID-19 in Australia with 49 of those cases reported that day alone. There had been three deaths in my country at that point.
Earlier in the week the World Health Organisation had labelled the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic. Italy hit with several cases had shut down the country to having people only going to work. France shut down children attending school.
Friday morning the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been urging people to attend the weekend football. By afternoon he was saying that come Monday no large crowds of 500 or more could gather in public.
A member of his cabinet, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had tested positive for the virus. The Formula 1 in Melbourne had been cancelled as had the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Wall Street had seen the biggest falls in stocks in one day of trading since the crash of 1987.
Heading into the weekend there was no doubt we were about to experience an economic recession, see our country shut down travel, business and events as much as possible. The most vulnerable in our community to the disease are also the most vulnerable to the pressures that will come to supermarket stocks, health care support or temporary employment.
I headed to the Brisbane Comedy Festival that night with Karen. Hot off the press was the cancellation of the Melbourne Comedy Festival originally scheduled to kick off on the 25th of March. Travel company Flight Centre had announced plans to shut down 100 of its 900 stores. It was just one of many companies announcing store closures, staff reductions and slow down.
We caught up with some of our friends and grabbed a table out on the river far from crowds. One of our friends shared hand sanitiser she had brought with her. This was becoming a way of life.
We discussed how the situation was escalating and talked about precautions. Earlier that very same day Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had stressed that the virus was “10 times more deadly” than the regular flu.
We all had on our minds that the most vulnerable in our society were going to be even more vulnerable, that unemployment was going to rise and that our health care system and the workers who take care of us were about to be put through the ringer.
It was the last time I would see these friends in person for a while. I miss them.
I saw Dave Hughes in the large Powerhouse Theatre on assignment for Scenestr magazine. We grabbed a row at the back of the front section. The venue was close to full but there were a few chairs empty most likely due to people not showing rather than not being sold. Karen and I had nobody sit with us. Dave Hughes came out and was very funny. There was a sense in the air that things were changing and that this might be it for a while. Hughesy wondered how it all worked, less than 500 people and all of a sudden no one is sick? That we can’t go out Monday but tonight is fine? Does the virus know? Later that night another friend Rosie who you may recall coming with me to the opening night of BIFF 2018, was out and about in the clubs and Hughesy showed up where she was and performed some stand-up.
It felt a little like seizing the day which in hindsight can also seem selfish and stupid. We followed government advice I guess but regardless Friday the 13th of March, 2020 was a turning point in Australia. The ripchord had been pulled, a global economic recession had been kicked off and clearly too many people were dying. Government was taking action and they wouldn’t be doing any of this if they saw an alternative. It seemed like the possibility of a world leader coming down with the disease was all too real. We knew the world was changing, an anxious next few days would reveal in what ways and just how much.
We’re in for some rough days ahead and so it was some comfort to find quite a few people out at the Brisbane Comedy Festival ready to laugh and to see Dave Hughes a stand-up as recognisable and reliable as any stand-up in this country.
My pepperoni pizza. A friend enjoyed a Italian sausage one. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Karen’s “basil” pizza. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Karen and I before the show in the Powerhouse Theatre. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
On my way to the Brisbane Comedy Festival 2020 for the last time. Note the bus from Speed: The Movie, The Play. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
My baby. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Outside after th show. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Karen and I caught up with some friends beforehand and enjoyed our beloved snack bar menu pizzas from the Powerhouse. Then we were off to the Powerhouse Theatre, the largest venue at the Powerhouse reserved for big stars, like Hughesy, to perform.
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.
The following Monday, the Brisbane Comedy Festival was cancelled. In addition to big name comedians, there are a lot of shows and acts there that run on the smell of an oily rag with performers who sometimes work other jobs during the day. Such cancellations are going to provide them with significant challenges in the weeks ahead too but I know we all want to keep each other safe.
I hope you’re safe, I hope you are able to get toilet paper in your part of the world, I hope we treat each other right and help each other in the weeks ahead. I’ll try me best to do so.
It is time once again to do my annual favourite films of the year list which allows for late 2019 American releases to reach Australian shores. What was a little interesting for me this year is I saw less films on the big screen or through their streaming services. From a total of 57 last year I went down to only 45 this year.
There were a lot of good films I saw, and it was no struggle to think of a top five but I did find it difficult to fill out a list of 10 films for the Honourable Mentions. Maybe the depth of quality wasn’t there this year or maybe as in every other year I missed a lot of good ones.
I hear good things about Waves and Honey Boy, I’m intrigued by The Peanut Butter Falcon and I have just seen on DVD Best Picture winner Parasite. I really want to see Apollo 11, Ad Astra, Booksmart, The Lighthouse, Richard Jewell, Pain and Glory, For Sama and The Farewell. Just a random observation, some of the best films I saw this year centred around men in crisis.
With the close of the fourth decade I have lived through I got thinking about an end of decade list which also got me thinking about how certain films are lauded in their year of release but you don’t often go back and think on them. If anyone is interested I couldn’t imagine Warrior and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy not featuring on that decade list. I think Black Swan, The Tree of Life, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inside Llewyn Davis, Dunkirk would all stand a good chance of making it. 20th Century Women I think too and maybe Nocturnal Animals. Films like Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, Ladies in Black and In The Aisles have stayed with me. But high fliers like First Man, In This Corner of the World, Eye in the Sky, A Star Is Born, Blade Runner 2049 would not be a given but I sure like to think they’d be in that list. It is interesting how time redefines classics.
Star ratings are on a four star scale as per the reviews I read from the late great film critic Roger Ebert.
Hobbs and Shaw is fine perfectly fine fun entertainment. There is no real sense of stakes even though apparently the world needs saving, there’s no real characters here but just the established personalities of Statham and The Rock that we enjoy hanging with and seeing playing off of each other.
I was surprised after seeing how crazy cool Idris Elba was as Luther that he did not make much of a compelling nor threatening bad guy. Even winning a fist fight in an early scene doesn’t make him a threat because our heroes always manage to get away from him. Early Terminator films managed this while still maintaining the villain was a threat.
For a series that has done a lot of things practically the Fast and Furious series is really embracing the CGI these days and it just makes the action scenes have less impact. Still Vanessa Kirby knows the value of a good stare down the lens, there is still wit in the dialogue, two great cameos and some fun with the action choreography.
Alita: Battle Angel almost made the grade instead, for all that film’s flaws I think I cared more about the characters in it but Hobbs & Shaw is a more streamlined product. The fact this film made the list reflects poorly on the list rather than well on Hobbs & Shaw but it was fun to watch.
Another perfectly fine blockbuster, this one a sequel and a comic book film. What director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers still get right is the teenage stuff. The previous Spider-Man film worked as a high school comedy and this one suffers from a couple of issues, first a lot has happened in the MCU since the last film and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is suffering a loss and needing guidance as he matures but the metaphor doesn’t land as well as it did in the last film.
Jake Gyllenhaal is kind of the older cool kid who betrays you? Whatever. Still there are some cool sequences, great laughs and at least here the filmmakers invest in giving their character a real arc and growth compared to most other 2019 blockbusters.
Sadly the MJ (Zendaya) love story had a lot of beats we’re become familiar with after two decades and three iterations of the couple on screen. I’m hoping the filmmakers can right the ship for the trilogy closer and get back to bringing something new to the screen that is still true to Peter Parker. But a perfectly enjoyable comic book movie.
This documentary which I caught at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2019 worked best when telling the life of screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. It was interesting to look at such a celebrated film as Alien and analyse how its themes are still relevant and hear some of the stories behind the scenes.
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat, John Wick 3 isn’t even the best John Wick movie, I’m not particularly excited at the prospect of a John Wick 4. There are a million things I could complain about in this film. Yes it is an example of style of substance but God damnit could we please have some substance. Atomic Blonde is cut from the same cloth and is a better film.
And yet… and yet I think about the fight with the library or in the knife museum and my heart just swells to know there are still people prepared to put this much thought and wit and inventiveness and craft into their action scenes. If they could do the same to the rest of their filmmaking we’d really have something on our hands here but for now this film will nonetheless be talked about 10 years from now for the fight scenes. There is a lot to enjoy here.
As a fan of cinema this documentary was quite interesting, it give a brief summation of the history of sound effects in film and how much it adds to the cinematic experience.
There was a heavy focus on films from the 1970s and the genius of Walter Murch and Ben Burtt who added so much to classics from that era and revolutionised the industry.
However there were some great stories of trailblazing women in the industry like Barbara Streisand and Cecilia Hall and I wondered what other stories there are to tell form more recent times.
Ford vs. FerrariNot Reviewed ***
My Uncle raced cars and bikes and God knows what else. A mechanic by trade he ended up becoming an Engineer. I hear my Grandfather when he got his first car as a middle aged father was a bit of a boy racer. My father was not a boy racer and yet when I mentioned this film to him he told me all about Le Mans in the 1960s and the showdown between two legendary car companies and families.
The trailers will have you believe this is a racing car movie and I suppose that is fair. There is racing in it quite a bit and it is done well. Yet in telling a real life story director James Mangold does not skirt some harsh realities that transpired here.
This is really about the passing of a time where great individuals could do great things but they had to navigate the corporate world to do it. Company boards and stocks were becoming a thing and visionaries couldn’t just build the fastest car in the world in their garage. If the film is to be believed they could still sure as hell rip apart the engine in the shop with a wrench and hammer and figure out how to make it go faster than a computer. But that time was coming to an end and this film is about how to navigate the new world with an old dreamer’s ambition.
It’s funny then to finding ourselves rooting for the designer/former racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver/mechanic Ken Miles (Christian Bale) working for the car company Ford that made its name on the innovation of the factory production line going up against Enzo Ferrari who truly loved cars and racing and whose company today still makes their cars “by hand”.
In Shelby’s struggle to get the GT40 made and to have Ken Miles race it at Le Mans, James Mangold and his team have obviously seen similarities to their own struggles to realise visions in storytelling within the workings of a major film studio. Miles is the best racer for the job and that is not a good enough reason for Ford to have him behind the wheel though it should be the ONLY reason.
A wonderful tale about pursuing excellence in your life and the possible costs that come with it, this is a film that strives to solidify the legacy of Miles and Shelby and does no favours for Ford Junior.
At one point this was film to be shot by Michael Mann with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. I sure would have loved to have seen that film. Yet it should be said that Damon and Bale are great in this as are the rest of the cast.
The film is shot naturalistic without the film colourisation of other recent period pieces. There are obvious CGI additions which is disappointing and stand out in the trailers but during the film the editing and sound come together well to get you caught up in the moment.
It’s easy to mock this as the Dad movie of 2019, a tale boomers will recall and can share with their GenX kids however there is a message here for all dreamers to take note of.
“There’s a point at 7,000 RPM… where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless. Just disappears. And all that’s left is a body moving through space and time. 7,000 RPM. That’s where you meet it. You feel it coming. It creeps up on you, close in your ear. Asks you a question. The only question that matters. Who are you?.”
There are moments in this Elton John biopic directed by Derek Fletcher starring Taron Egerton and Jaimie Bell, Richard Madden and Gemma Jones that are transcendent.
The moment when the song Rocketman arrives in the film’s narrative is sheer perfection in terms of visual storytelling and emotional resonance. If all the film was at that level it would easily make the top 10 but for me that is not what happened here. Whole scores of scenes and songs felt dreary, uninventive and unnecessary. Maybe that’s just me but there is too much to recommend here to not say you should see it.
As an exercise in capturing what we have loved about this extraordinarily talented, passionate, big hearted, temperamental and damaged man and his music this film hits its target and reminds even rock stars were just once little boys who want love and we all want love don’t we?
A romantic comedy for the 21st century with the star power of Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen.
There is a lot of delving into privacy, political campaigns and male/female dynamics in this film and not just surface references but actual thoughts about these subjects. Yet it retains a light touch (okay it gets a little gross but overall), gets big laughs and has a sweet heart and a smart brain.
It’s not the best film of the year but it shows the romantic comedy is far from played out and why we enjoy them.
Kriv Stenders is one of the best directors working in Australia right now having made the excellent Australia Day and the even better The Go-Betweens: Right Here both in 2017. So it was good news to hear he was doing a film adaptation of the Battle of Long Tan. In a rubber plantation in Vietnam in 1966 an Australian infantry company held off an attack of a numerically superior force. It’s the kind of against the odd battles that make for great storytelling and there are many important stories about Long Tan. Sad stories, touching stories and inspiring stories like there are from all of the Vietnam war.
Danger Close can’t do them all justice and Stenders seems to have been stuck in the middle of waiting to be honest about the nature of soldiers, the futility of war, the politics of the military and telling an exciting rip roaring yarn. He is not without ambition and if he doesn’t quite pull it all together in a consistent and affecting masterpiece he certainly honours certain individuals who were there on the day and maintains some technical fidelity to history and military practice.
Where he fails is in finding a character to follow through the battle and display an affective arc. Even though the film is based on real life, it amazingly stays true to certain war film clichés of rebels who will make good, guys with gals at home who may not be long for this world and hard nosed leaders who will soften around their men and harden even more around the enemy.
Students of the battle will recognise the crucial points are conveyed more or less for what they were and heroic acts and the heroes who carried them out are remembered. Not a perfect film it is an admirable attempt at doing justice to the story of Delta Company, 6RAR on that that day.
The greatest feat Stenders can hang his hat on is how he gets the blood pumping in the lead up to significant actions, he knows how to stage a battle scene and Hollywood should take note, this was one of the most exciting action films of the year.
Avengers: EndgameNot Reviewed ***
What does it matter what I think about the highest grossing film of all time? I preferred Infinity War to be honest, that was a story told on the run, banking on a cinematic history to fill in the gaps of characterisation and earn emotional buy in.
It was fun though and Endgame to the Russo brothers credit actually wants this to be less fun. They want this to have resonance, to have impact and to matter and they accept that happy endings are not a given, some things can’t be magically reversed. There is a finality to this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I hope they stick with rather than go for the cheap cash grab.
I’m sure smarter minds could unpack about how this is not cinema. Sorry, but I had to because I get it, why he said it and I understand why some people disagree and that’s fine too. Yet compare this to say The Return of the King, that is better storytelling more organically unfolding and building towards a climax and yes also a blockbuster.
On the other hand Star Wars and Game of Thrones both ended in 2019 like this iteration of The Avengers and there was a lot more dissatisfaction with those wrap-ups. It’s hard to stick the landing for something that taps into the zeitgeist so much and in a world of increasing split fanbases, identity politics, disparate audiences and general disconnect, it’s kind of nice to have these blockbusters that most people enjoy and share together and are all relatively happy with.
Looking back over the film it feels like a string of moments rather than a story but when I think about where some of these characters ended up at the end of this and how it made us all feel I do smile. It’s almost one of relief but it is one of satisfaction.
We haven’t really talked about the effects, the story or the performances. But why bother, you saw it, I liked all the same things you did. Seeing Peggy through the window, getting a little girl all the cheeseburgers in the world, Rene Russo inspiring fat Thor, oh yeah-fat Thor!, the Avengers assembling and Tony Stark being Iron Man one last time. I love you 3,000 and finally seeing a girl about that dance.
10.BombshellNot Reviewed ***1/2
I was surprised to find how emotionally affecting I found Bombshell which may come as a surprise given the harrowing subject matter. I thought maybe the film would get the cliff notes and be about the actors transforming into people we know from the media world. I had watched and had a lot to recommend from The Loudest Voice which told the story of Ailes and Greta Carlson.
Russell Crowe played him as a fascinating and terrifying figure in that mini-series. A man who changed the media and political landscape of the United States of America granting him power and wealth which would be terrifying to take on if you suffered abuse from it.
I had heard that story and I was not sure if I wanted to revisit it, but the focus here is different. Ailes was a giant in The Loudest Voice, here he is a boss in a workplace that is about to have a reckoning with its culture, excesses and injustices.
At the centre of it are three women and something that Bombshell does well is understand the nuances and complexity of us as individuals in a workplace with ambition, competitiveness and alliances. I knew Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie would be brilliant with it, I did not know the latter would move me to tears after knowing what Ailes was capable of but she did – she’s that good.
Director Jay Roach probably does not get enough credit given his stellar cast who double as producers taking reign about the kind of stories they want to work on but he should. He’s made some good HBO films about Presidential campaigns that feature stars looking exactly like the real life figures they play. His choices aren’t flashy but they are in support of the story and the point of the story being told. This is more than just the movie where Charlize Theron nailed her portrayal of Megyn Kelly, this is good movie and you should see it.
9.Uncut GemsNot Reviewed ***1/2
I don’t know if I’m recommending this movie for you to see.
When we meet Howard Ratner, New York jeweller, we get the sense of unease almost from the get go. Not just from him but from the people that surround him. His store seems to be full of customers and staff who can’t quite be trusted, they push hard for their own needs, take up the space in the room, shuffle their feet and lean forward, they’ve got friends with them, their clothes are good but not well maintained and they’re sweating in the North Atlantic.
They’re sharks and Howard is right at home with them, because in his mind he is a shark too. There are people in his life who would not disagree. Then we see quite clearly that Howard is a gambler. Life is a hustle and he is a hustler, life has been pretty good to him so he probably has come to the conclusion to keep hustling. The film is an examination of how he might be right but maybe not quite.
Life is a gamble, we’re all gambling in that sense and that is fine but Howard IS a gambler and that is not living a life. That is ruining one and all the lives that circle it. The difference between us and a gambler is not about when they say no and when we do. Everybody makes bad calls and has to deal with bad luck. The difference is the gambler never says no – they can’t.
The fact that Sandler makes you care about the outcome of a man who is self-destructing at maximum warp is kind of a miracle. Maybe, we like Howard, like the thrill of seeing if a bad bet will pay off? Well researched, the film captures a certain New York energy I thought the city had lost with all the foreign capital put into it (albeit this is set a few years ago).
Watch out for clothing designer/model/photographer/director and actress Julia Fox who yes is sexy as hell in this film but brings a lot to the role of Howard’s mistress and fellow hustler Julia. Are they playing each other or is there real affection there? What is she hoping to achieve for herself? Eric Bogosian is in this too and he’s always good. Directors the Safdie Brothers have arrived.
8.JokerNot Reviewed ***1/2
Joker is a good example of how sometimes when a film is released there wis a lot of conversation around it that may have nothing to do with what you think of the film. To be fair I think director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix intended the film to be ambivalent of what it was saying to a degree that what audiences get out of it will depend on what they put in.
Men’s Right Activists, Feminists, the left, the right, mental health advocates, the rich, the poor, civic responsibility, crime, fake news, anarchy, the Fourth Estate, corruption. If these things are near and dear to your heart the film may well be a rallying cry for them, I think it’s more thoughtful than that.
Maybe, just maybe it’s a call to reflect on all of these things and how we’re all a little lost and need to help each other and see things from other perspectives. Or maybe that’s just my agenda.
In any event Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerising in this film, vulnerable and terrifying in equal measure. I often remark how Charlize Theron is currently at the height of her powers, well I think Joaquin belongs in that group too.
The film is well lit, not a single frame does not seem to have been meticulously planned out in location, set dressing and lighting. I think the period setting of the film is even deliberate criticising nostalgia and the rose coloured glasses that get applied to history which is full of injustices and calling on historical references.
There’s symbolism galore and neat touches throughout, notice how we see Arthur repeatedly banging his head against walls while he is also trying to free his thinking and socially break through barriers. The way Arthur metamorphoses before our eyes has become instantly iconic too.
I also think the filmmakers are very direct in what they think of murder and violence and how where the Joker ends up is not a happy ending but a cautionary tale. The Joker is not a fantasy for me, not a defiant rebel chant either but a sad reflection that we need to do better.
Good Boys is one of the funniest and best gross out mainstream comedies in years. In fact I’d say the good ones are in short supply and this is one of the great ones. There’s real depth and insight into it and a lot of thought and care has gone into it as a visual piece of entertainment as well as a story that strings together a series of jokes.
But at the end of the day what you need to know about it is it will make you laugh, often and hard.
Marriage Story is, yes, about a divorce but it is also about also about marriage and being a parent. I’m painfully aware there are a lot of men right now suffering because they have lost their families and try as they might they can’t find a way to get them back in the current system. Marriage Story might speak to them but it might also speak to a whole lot of women who feel unheard and unappreciated by their husbands who find their voice and independence when they leave them.
What I liked about this film maybe most of all is that I understood both Scarlett Johansson’s Nicole and Adam Driver’s Charlie. The film opens with a sequence that shows how each views the other in a good way. Everything that follows reflects this, they may not work as a couple but they understand the other person very well.
There are cutaways we as the audience see but the other spouse does not and we wish that maybe they had found a way of communicating better and if there is hope to be found in the ending it is that maybe they have.
Noah Baumbach makes impressive films with performances that comes across as natural in the moment but are more likely painfully rehearsed to get to this point. One absolute stand-out moment is when Nicole unpacks why she has left Charlie prompted on by lawyer played by Laura Dern. It feels so off the cuff and yet it is perfect. I would have been more than happy if Driver or Johansson had walked with Oscars for their respective performances. This is a grown-up film for grown-ups and I hope they continue to get made and find audiences.
One of the great films of the year 1917 at one point appeared to be the frontrunner for Best Picture. Mythic in its technique and singular and everyday in its focus. Lots will be made about Roger Deakins cinematography in service to making the film appear as one long continuous take but the film is also a master class in acting. Exciting, moving and personal for director Sam Mendes it cracks the Top Five with a bullet. Simply a must-see.
In Mexico City there is a family of ambulance paramedics named the Ochoas. Director Luke Lorentzen has made a documentary about their lives in this work and in a city of nine million people that has 45 official ambulance vans and crews.
The Ochoas are effectively small business owners trying to survive in a market and corrupt system that makes them have to hustle. They’re also saving lives on a daily basis. As someone who worked in hospitals I was quite touched by this movie and the people in it. I also enjoy seeing a city at night in the way only an ambo sees it. A great documentary to check out.
The Irishman is a film about what is coming for us all eventually. Some of us won’t have time to reflect in that moment but all of us reflect throughout our lives about how we are living them. Whole years can become a series of fleeting memories that fell away in short order while small moments loom large.
Frank Sheeran tells us the story of his life and it’s pretty sad to think that of his big moments are conversation in bars with middle aged men and the people he shot dead for them. Not even most of those murders register for him but one does. The narrative of the film opens up and closes like an accordion. The closer we get to a day in the 1970s the more the film slows down and before and after the narrative kicks into a faster gear. This is how Frank remembers his life.
Sheeran wanted to be a good father but what does he really remember about his time with his children? It is fascinating to have the man who made Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino and The Gangs of New York make this film at his current age with his fellow contemporaries including most of the people he made those films with.
The CGI used to make this cast appear younger is not always effective but there is a weight lent to the cast portraying a whole life of a character having lived much of one themselves. Joe Pesci who often has played motor mouths and physical guys here is deafeningly quiet as a different type of mobster and in a certain way the real partner of Sheeran’s life Russell Bufalino.
There is a scene in this film that is almost like a proposal even though Scorsese wisely plays it straight. In the end Sheeran is looking for absolution and love from his family but he gave up his soul and love to two giants in his life and one made him choose between them and its haunted him ever since.
I love a lot about this movie. I love the shots that frame putting a watch on like you would every morning and how that watch would mean a lot to you and yet these are things you can’t take with you. About how a certain way something was cooked at a certain place that you ate on a given day will be front and centre in your memory as much as the events of that day.
Some love has been given to Al Pacino and Joe Pesci but Robert De Niro is really good in this movie. I think we sadly take him for granted a little bit and this film reminds us he’s still got the chops. It’s kind of small miracle that his film got made and that it is this good. Scorsese has remained a great artist long into his eighth decade, others have given the game away or lost their edge but Scorsese is still one of the all time greats and this film can only grow in stature as time goes on. I saw this at New Farm Cinemas on my 39th birthday and it was a great present.
2.Once Upon A Time In HollywoodNot Reviewed
If The Irishman was about looking back over a whole life then Quentin Tarantino’s film is a love letter to a time and place. Or maybe more accurately how we remember a time and place in our mind. Tarantino is 56 years old, its fair to say the kid who made Reservoir Dogs has matured as a filmmaker and gone through different phrases over the years. He is now one of a handful of auteurs left in a Hollywood where a corporation like Disney owns a third of the market share.
I can’t say I’ve always been a fan but with nine films to his belt I’d care to wager most are outright classics. Up until now I’d liked his earlier films more so than each successive one that followed while finding a lot to recommend about them all. That has all changed now.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood may be my favourite Quentin Tarantino movie!
Sure it holds a nostalgia for a time and place that I have an interest in but the lesson of the film is it is all so beautiful and fleeting, as your time passes be open to the idea of moving with it and enjoying the next stage. Set in 1969 this is a Hollywood in upheaval with Easy Riders taking over from the old moguls, a society reckoning with old prejudices and new opportunities.
Actor Rick Dalton is not doing too well in this new world, he’s a square jawed face with a haircut with no interest in method acting and the type of realism that the new breed of filmmakers want. He’s also a man on the wrong side of 40 who might have missed his chance. Think Steve McQueen if he hadn’t done The Magnificent Seven and suddenly everybody wants to make Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson (of course McQueen, Kirk Douglas and Paul Newman all made the transition through this era but they were stars already and often classic trained actors too). Understandably Dalton wishes it was 1961 again and he was cool and they were no Goddamn hippies about and he was still on the rise.
His only friend in the world is Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) who was his stunt double but is now more his Batman. Like a lot of Batmen, he’s more capable and reliant than the one he serves. Both are loyal to each other though and have that kind of friendship you develop sometimes where you’re a buttress of support for the other one. The film for the most part follows a day in their life that will provide important lessons for Dalton and see Booth meet some unsavoury characters. Then months later we come to the night of the Manson murders.
I won’t spoil the plot but I like the way Tarantino paces this film. There is a scene where Booth feeds his dogs and it shows a lot about his life and circumstances. The period details are nicely done and there are some great set-ups and pay offs throughout. I like the things alluded to but never answered and the repetition of themes.
There is also meta commentary on Tarantino and his career and influences as well. It feels like the kind of film you make late in your career when you’re at the height of your powers. With this Tarantino proves he is.
This was my favourite film of 2019, the little seen Blinded By The Light. Whenever I bring it up with people they ask about if it’s Yesterday? No it’s not Yesterday, it’s a lot better than that.
It’s about Javed Khan, a teenage son of Pakistani immigrants coming of age in Luton in 1987. He becomes inspired and finds direction in his life through the music of Bruce Springsteen. Yesterday is a love story with two lead characters in it who don’t know what they want and banks on the nostalgia we have for Beatles tunes. There is a big difference.
The film does delve into racism and economic downturns and is more authentic and affecting for it but this film made my heart soar. It’s about love and family and following your dreams. This was the most emotionally moving film I saw all year and I dare you not to be moved.
Well that is it for another year, I hope you enjoyed reading this list. I would love to hear what your favourite films of the year are. Any that you would recommend, some you are surprised didn’t make the list and any that you think are overrated?
Until next time, take care, we are in the midst of interesting times but we will get through them together. Stay safe.
Interestingly enough this production made it’s debut years ago before all of these shows and before I had even heard of Act/React or was working as a freelance writer. It maybe the best one out of the lot of them, it was certainly fun to finally get to see it as part of this year’s Brisbane Comedy Festival.
Karen was unable to make it due to a sore back so I took a mate of mine. We certainly made the cute couple leading to us being asked by one of the performers during the show if we were a couple. We both shrugged and answered “Sure, why not?”. This led to an offer to come back to his place to enjoy some sandwiches. I later advised my mate proudly that I would bring the salami. He correctly pointed out that would make me the meat in the sandwich. While disembarking the bus I cheekily signalled to the performer to call me but alas the moment had passed.
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Me and my mate. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
On the way to the Powerhouse. See the bus. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
The bus was provided by the Queensland Omnibus & Coach Society. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Where the explosive finale takes place. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
Cast taking photos with fans after the show. Copyright Lloyd Marken.
It was a little bit of a shame to have Karen miss the show. At one moment I was asked to relay messages over the phone to ‘Keanu’ on how to defuse the bomb and my mate had his haircut commented on. I’m happy to report my friend had a good time and I was glad he could make it.
The annual Brisbane Comedy Festival has kicked off and I was lucky to attend stand-up comedian Aaron Chen’s new show at the Turbine Studio, Brisbane Powerhouse on assignment for Scenestr.
I came across Chen last year when I attended After Hours and reviewed it for Weekend Notes. After Hours was hosted by Dusty Rich and featured artists with shows doing medleys or their best number or scene and stand-ups effectively doing a tight 5 set. That night Rhys Nicholson absolutely killed and was the best on the night but Chen caught my attention with his swagger commanding presence on stage milking laughs out of thin air on the sheer strength of his persona. So I was keen to see his show and am happy to report everything I thought of Aaron Chen after those five minutes last year remains true.
My customary photos from the event I am sad to report are lacking because I left my phone at home. Thankfully Karen has stepped in and come to the rescue so there are some photos thanks to her. Hope you enjoy.
A preview of a coming attraction. Copyright Karen Marken.
About to ascend those familiar steps where magic awaits. Copyright Karen Marken.
Copyright Karen Marken.
I’m not growing a beard, just hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. With my girl. Copyright Karen Marken.
The Brisbane Powerhouse at night. Copyright Karen 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.
A couple of years ago I heard about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, those who spoke about it really seemed to dig it but in an age of disparate audiences I alas was a Netflix customer and Mrs Maisel was available on streaming service Amazon Prime in Australia. With so much content to choose from in the world I decided I could make do without Mrs Maisel.
How wrong I was.
The show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a delight, I easily feel it is one of the best shows I’ve seen in the past three years of its run, but this is not a show that should come billed as the best show on TV. A label that misleads and heightens expectations. What makes The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so good is the way it grows on you and the way it builds to jokes.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, what the hell is the show about? We meet the newly minted Mrs. Maisel at her wedding reception in the mid 1950s. She’s holding court doing a speech, it’s a big reception, she regales us with tales of the courtship of her husband while she was at college. We learn a lot in that opening scene, we learn Midge as we will come to know comes from a well off family, is educated, likes to perform to an audience and is a passionate individual not ready to conform to society’s expectations and always up for a laugh. Its important that we meet Midge right at this moment in her life. This is supposed to be her crowning achievement, she’s graduated, gotten married to a good man and is going to pump out 3 kids by 30 and be a good mother and wife in a well to do family. Except well none of that is going to happen and what is going to help this young, intelligent, witty and ambitious woman survive the ordeals ahead is everything we see she is in these opening moments.
Midge is going to be a stand-up comic and God help me I know this is true – she is going to be a star. To become the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge’s life possibly has to get blown up because without that she doesn’t come to realise she has been living a lie and possibly the biggest lie of them all that she is happy in a life that she was not meant to live.
I don’t want to give too much away but Midge’s husband walks out on her and the first season is about dealing with the repercussions of that. We meet both families and their friends and personalities of the late 1950s underground comic scene (fyi Luke Kirby as Lenny Bruce is brilliant). You can tell a lot about a show by how much energy is put into the supporting characters. People with one scene that serve a purpose are given wit and charm and a whole lived in history thanks to the writing and the wonderful performers. There are throw away scenes that are some of the best in the series and then other laughs that make you nod and reflect yes that’s so much like so and so.
Out of the terrific ensemble cast, I want to give a shout out to Marin Hinkle as Midge’s mother Rose who is so subtle in her delivery. However even more than that, this show made me realise how much of a national treasure Tony Shalhoub is. I first noticed Shalhoub years ago as a tough FBI agent in The Siege (a change of pace for him as he was already established as a comedy sitcom star) and then I saw him as a laid back space travelling actor in Galaxy Quest. Here… he is Dad and he makes you smile and cry in equal measure. Like all fathers he is far from perfect, but he’s pretty close if you know what I mean. Hinkle and him give gravitas to scenes that are elevated by their presence and deliver pitch perfect comic timing to all the others.
Lead Rachel Brosnahan as Midge had been cast in some prominent roles in House of Cards and The Blacklist but here she gets to be the star and she makes the most of it. Midge is not perfect, she likes the spotlight a bit too much and drinking might be an issue down the road but for the most part she is quick witted, resilient, optimistic and giving to others. Something that I admire deeply about her is how she stands up for herself and keeps pursuing goals. You can’t make it in this business if you can’t roll with some heavy punches.
I think what I love most about the show is at the centre of it are two women with an impossible big dream who chase it because they’ve got nothing to lose. Alex Borstein plays Susie Myerson who sees Midge perform stand-up comedy and decides to become her manager although she’s never been a manager before in her life. The juxtaposition of these two is regularly played up in the show with great results. Midge is well dressed in fashionable outfits and has her looks regularly commented upon. Susie dresses like a man and gets mistaken for one or even just ignored. Midge comes from a lot and is about to lose a lot of it forcing her to show a new independence she has always inherently had. Susie has come from nothing and so had nothing to lose but upsets the stability of the life she had established for herself by deciding to chase something larger. They’re both betting on the other to come through for them in a big way and they’re doing it because they believe in each other and doesn’t that just make your heart soar.
The most recent season three ended with a setback for the two as they looked up at a plane rising into the New York skyline with their dreams seemingly on board leaving with it. All I could think was, “they’ll be okay, they’re gonna make it, they’re together.’
The production values are big for a TV show and there are lots of neat ways they frame things, take for example how a trip from New York to Paris is represented. The sound track is wonderful, fans of The Gilmore Girls (a show I missed but had a well off family at the centre of it, whip smart dialogue and establishing tracking shots that panned around a set and was also run by Amy Sherman Palladino) will recognise the work of the Palladinos here (her husband Daniel works on her shows too) but I think this might even be a show for people who didn’t appreciate Gilmore Girls.
There are flaws, Midge’s children only seem to be around when it is important to the plot, sometimes I wonder if favorite characters are consistently drawn or if we spend a little too many episodes in a setting because they’ve shelled out the budget for it and damnit now they’re going to make the most out of it. Catskills and Miami anyone?
Yet it is a series that grows on you, pays off little bread crumbs it left for you a million years ago. Truths that rarely go spoken but give so much satisfaction when they’re said at the height of a pivotal scene by a character. Sometimes this show is so good it warms your heart-it really does. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is my favourite TV show and you should definitely see it.