Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Semi-Productivity and Gene Kelly on a Sunny Afternoon

I say "semi-productivity" for a reason.
My opinion of a  Productive Day is probably in direct contrast with that of the vast majority of people I know. Some people I know are able to cram an absurd amount of large tasks and errands into 24 hours, and still get enough sleep to function. I myself am occasionally in possession of this skill, but it seems that it gets more and more difficult a power to muster.

Today I got up "early" (9.30, y'all), gave Elvis (he's a dog) a bath, took him for a walk, did some washing, got my crap out of the living room, made a salad for tonight's dinner, and did some tidying up.  So in the early afternoon, I congratulated myself on a job well done on being a functioning twenty-something who Gets Shit Done on a day off. Popping the top off a cool beer, I sat down on the couch, put on some Kinks and settled down to read some Harry Potter.

Mid-sip, however, my inflated feeling of self-accomplishment suddenly left me. I cast my mind back to the days when I was able to fit two jobs, a social life, uni work and internship work into a single day without a second thought. It seemed as if as I grew older, the level of responsibility I am able to handle was diminishing. In fact, after a day of small tasks, I was giving myself a pat on the back. THIS IS WRONG! I thought, panicked. It's supposed to be THE OTHER WAY AROUND! In my panic, I took another swig of beer and pondered to myself. I was congratulating myself on a day well lived, and the day was barely half over. For shame. How did I once upon a time keep this up for weeks on end? I was puzzled, and frustrated with myself.

So, I'll write another blog entry before heading to the ol' cinematorium to watch Machete.

The other night, thanks to my off-kilter sleeping patterns, I found myself in front of the TV quite late at night, not feeling in the least bit tired. On this particular night I did the usual flick-through-channel routine, but stopped abruptly when on the screen I spied two names in the opening credits of an old-timey looking film. Those names were Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The film was Anchors Aweigh, an MGM musical from way back when in 1945.

The first thing that struck me about Anchors Aweigh was how skinny Frank Sinatra was. I'm serious. He's really skinny. I guess that's because both Sinatra and Kelly look pretty damn young, what with the film's release being in 1945. Anchors Aweigh was the first of a series of buddy type films Sinatra and Kelly made. This, shamefully, is the first that I've seen of those films. The second thing that grabbed my attention was the fact that Sinatra's character, Clarence Doolittle, is shy, awkward, and unsure of how to act around "dames". Given the persona of Ol' Blue Eyes throughout his career, the sudden image of Sinatra onscreen acting so timidly was a surprise to me. His Clarence is all "gee, whiz!" and "that sure is swell!", while Kelly gets all the jaunty-hat bravado of the film. 

At any rate, Anchors Aweigh follows the antics of two Navy men on leave in Hollywood. Joseph Brady (Kelly) is on a mission to meet up with his gal Lola, while Clarence just wants Joe to show him the ways of the "sea wolf" (as Joe is known) so he can meet some of those aforementioned "dames". A spanner is thrown into their plans when they meet Aunt Susie (Kathryn Grayson) and her nephew Donald (a very young Dean Stockwell). Of course, Clarence promptly falls for Susie, and through attempts to get his pal a date with her, so does Joe.

Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Winnerduo.

Anchors Aweigh picked up the Oscar gong for Best Original Musical Score as well as being nominated for Best Picture and earning Gene Kelly a nomination for Best Actor. It's pretty easy to see why. Really is. After the initial puzzlement I felt upon seeing Sinatra acting so un-Sinatra like, I was positively swept up in the charm of the film, and especially of the leads. Sinatra and Kelly make a superb duo, both singing and both dancing, both obviously dripping with that on-screen presence that made them the huge stars that they were and still are. It might be surprising to some (myself included) that Sinatra could - and would - dance in this film. While obviously he doesn't leap as high or as gracefully as Kelly, it's a real joy to watch him keep up with Gene in the numbers they share. It's also worth remembering and noting that back in the glory days of Hollywood musicals, most dance numbers were filmed in quite long takes, a far cry from the quick-cut musical sequences of more recent years. So, with that in mind, seeing a clip like this one even more impressive given that Sinatra wasn't exactly a dancer prior to this film. Under the tutelage of perfectionist Kelly, it's not surprising that Ol' Blue Eyes mastered those moves. Kelly apparently had Sinatra rehearsing night and day for weeks before production started, and Sinatra claims he'd never worked that hard in his life. Indeed, he probably wasn't worked that hard by anyone afterwards either. 

Of course, while Sinatra spends much of the dance sequences glancing at his and Gene Kelly's feet, he obviously seems much more at home during his opportunities to croon. Supplied with a handful of superb ballads by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, Sinatra positively owns the screen. Particularly great is his rendition of "I Fall in Love Too Easily", which was nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars. I guess it's worth re-remembering occasionally exactly how amazing a voice Frank Sinatra had.

What Anchors Aweigh is probably most well-known for however, is a ridiculously adorable and charming sequence in which Gene Kelly dances with Jerry Mouse (of Tom and Jerry). Wikipedia tells me that Mickey Mouse was originally going to be Kelly's co-star in the scene but thanks to Disney being a spoil-sport, Jerry stepped in at the last minute. In my opinion, he's probably a better choice. The Gene/Jerry dance number is impressive for a few reasons. Firstly, it really shows off how innovative Gene Kelly's choreography and creative vision was becoming at that stage of his career (remember, he'd go on to be a director as well as one of the best choreographers in Hollywood history). Secondly, Jerry Mouse is really well animated. Watch the clip twice. Once for Gene, then another for Jerry. Thirdly, it's a prime example of how amazing a dancer Kelly is. Note the fact that there's only a handful of cuts during the entire number. That's impressive. Lastly, this clip is full of pure, undiluted joy. Anchors Aweigh might be a film full of glorious Hollywood escapism, but this number even more so. I sat there with a huge grin plastered on my face, utterly entranced. This is the reason I love old musicals.

Curse "embedding disabled by request" ...
I think I've rambled enough. After Anchors Aweigh I went and re-watched Singin' in the Rain, so much was my newly rediscovered love of Gene Kelly and his Smile. Anchors is a lovely example of a great MGM musical, as well as Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in the earlier years of their respective careers. Go find it. It's pretty damn good.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Remarkable Discovery

I just had my mind blown into a million pieces. Well, a thousand pieces might be a little more accurate. A million pieces would probably be warranted by something along the lines of Bob Dylan turning up at my doorstep. This though, is still pretty exciting.

Remember Jurassic Park? Of course you do. It's a goddamn classic film. It has velociraptors. It meant I was obsessed with dinosaurs for my primary school years. Right, so now please cast your minds back, past the T-Rex and the raptors. Back, to the two kids in the film.  Now, focus your mind on the boy.

That boy.
I can often be a little on the slow side when it comes to noticing these sorts of things. But I finally finished watching The Pacific (verdict: not quite as good as Band of Brothers). I also just watched The Social Network. It has now just clicked in my brain that "Jurassic Park Kid" has evolved like some sort of gorgeous Hollywood Pokemon into this:

Two incredibly improbable things have occurred in front of our eyes. Firstly, notice if you would, a former child star with a career that is still alive and kicking. Secondly, this fanta pants is one very fine piece of eye candy. Joseph Mazzello, I tip my hat to you. I tip my had emphatically. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010


So I cut off my hair
And rode straight away 
For the wild unknown country 
Where I could not go wrong

"REB. Do you WANT to look stupid??
As my dear petite mother raised her voice to a volume that seemed altogether out of proportion to her size, I held the phone away from my ear and smiled up at Daniel, more than slightly embarrassed. He continued to add more red gunk and foil to my hair, but seemed somewhat perturbed. 

It seemed, I would face some resistance when I got home. I thanked the hair gods that a typical trip to the hairdresser for me takes about three and a half hours. That was three and a half hours for Mum to calm down, and for me to formulate a reasonable and logical response to her anger. Them's the breaks it seems, when you choose a trip to Europe over moving out, and live in your parents' backyard. Then shave half your hair off.

At the risk of sounding somewhat cliched, I think there's something quite liberating and cathartic about cutting one's hair off. Not just a trim, mind you. I mean, taking the length of your hair and chopping it right off. Again, excuse any trace of something cliched and corny, but it's as if along with the locks of hair falling to the floor, so too does the weight of it, and any baggage that might be cramping your style.

Old hair.

At the beginning of this year, I cut my long hair into a short bob. It felt great. Drying my hair suddenly took considerably less time than the hour I would regularly have to spend battling it. It was easier to manage. But as well as that, I felt as if I'd turned a new leaf, that I was a somewhat new Reb to go along with the new look. It was sort of as if, university had finished, it was time to get it together... time for a new Reb world of newness.

I wonder if that's how Britney Spears felt when she shaved her head? I am not sure. I do know however, that getting back from overseas, realising it was ACTUALLY time to Get It Together, and having to deal with some unpleasantness of really quite epic proportions upon returning home, meant that I felt compelled to do something different with my hair, my entire look as it were. I feel that I might be over-dramatising what really is essentially just "a haircut", but I found it interesting to note to myself exactly how much I wanted to cut my hair off, to change it right up. Leave behind the Reb of the past few months and those experiences.

So. As I spoke to Steve and Daniel (Yes, there's two of them. I have learned the hard way that when it comes to hair, you get what you pay for) at Rokk Ebony I got more and more excited about the prospect of looking different ... and then Steve whipped out the clippers. He turned it on, and suddenly I heard the whirring, whizzing sound next to my ear. I actually let out a little yelp and my hands rushed to my face as the first clumps of hair fell to the floor. As he moved around my head, my terror-excitement turned into gleeful excitement. My hands then went to my head and felt the remnants of my thick Chilean hair. Awesome.

This really doesn't do any justice to the sheer amount
of  hair that was on the ground around me.

Three hours later, I emerged, with shaved underneath, short locks on top, and a newly resplendent red fringe, sans ratty re-growth. Both Daniel and Steve looked extremely pleased with their handiwork, and chuffed with my reaction. Which, needless to say, was one of complete, undiluted delight.

Derp derp. New hair.

It's fun to stroke.

Muy bien.

And what of my mother's reaction upon my arrival back home?
"Oh! Reb, that actually looks nice!"
Then I turned around and lifted up my hair.
"Oh god... shit. Reb. Your hair is gone!"
Mum then started speaking a hilarious mix of Spanish with a few English expletives, as she is wont to do when slightly riled up. My dad and I couldn't help but laugh at her reaction. She soon though, conceded that my new 'do looks rather good. She couldn't help but impart the following words of wisdom:

"Reb... please. Make sure you wear make up. Look pretty. Wear bows and ribbons, please. Otherwise you'll look ... tough."

Thanks, Mum.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting It Together

A while ago now, I occasionally contributed to a film website called Cut Print Review. Run by wunderkind Anders Wotzke, it's really quite rad. Unfortunately, a whole lot of working for the man got in the way and I stopped writing. Which is incredibly annoying. 


Now, in my efforts to Get It Together and again do something creative so I don't go completely crazy, I've begun writing again. Get ready for some filmic ramblings guys, I feel some epicness coming on! Watch that space.

EDIT: My account of attending a midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bizarre Things I Like #1

Country Music.
It's true. So often, when people are asked "what kind of music do you like?", they respond with "everything except rap and country!" ...  and you know what? I used to be the same.

Somewhere, at some point during the last three or four years however, something changed. I can't give you a solid date, or a point of epiphany. But somehow, I became a lover of both kinds; country AND western.

Know what? I lied. There probably was a catalyst. In around 2007 my obsessive personality finally moved on from Star Wars (it's true) to none other than the pre-fab four themselves, The Monkees. The TV show, the albums (from the third album onwards, they DID play their own instruments, so you can shut up thank you), the merchandise. I know for a fact that I'm still puzzled what exactly began my obsession with Davy, Micky, Mike and Peter but I do know that this bizarre love led me to banjoes and Dolly Parton and Ray Price. Exploring the careers of each Monkee after the hype died, I made a discovery. Firstly, that there's not much to find in the way of post-Monkee gold. Secondly, that the gold that there is to be found belongs to Michael Nesmith. After the death of the Monkees, Texas-born Mike released a great number of AMAZING country albums. I bought them, not knowing what to expect. Certainly, I did not expect my mind to be blown. I bought that string of albums because of my love of ol' wool-hat, and I loved them, in spite of my so called hatred of country.

The unlikely catalyst for my love of country.

To the non-believers, hear this. They're really fucking good albums. Michael Nesmith and the First National Band ... Michael Nesmith on his own, with Red Rhodes. They're REALLY good. So began my love of country.

I devoured everything I could. From Ray Price to Dillard and Clark. The Louvin Brothers, Patsy Cline, fucking Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton. The Statler Brothers, Ralph Stanley, Keith Whitley, The Carter Family, Earl Scruggs. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, and a lad that since has been named The Charming Man, my iTunes library became thoroughly hillbilly.

Ray Price. Hero, y'all.
So why on earth do I love country music so much?

Is it the gaudy nudie suits? Is it the redneck comments that go with each of the youtube videos I watch?


Gram Parsons, badass.

  • Those harmonies are .... amazing. There's something about those country harmonies that just makes a part of me go to a happy place. I can't describe what exactly it is, but it's definitely true.
  • That accent is pretty great, y'all. 
  • You know what? I have a feeling that a large portion of the reason I love country, western, bluegrass, hillbilly shit so much is to do with the subject matter of a great deal of the songs. I'm not a particularly religious person, nor am I a citizen of the American South but I know that during times of woes and hardship, there's something really quite reassuring about listening to The Carter Family singing about keeping on the sunny side, or Ralph Stanley singing "Angel Band". Simple beliefs and earnest singing. 
  • By that same token, country music just seems to capture broken-hearted woes absolutely precisely. Nothing like a bit of Ray Price to help you nurse a battered heart and ego. 
  • I need to put a disclaimer here. I don't particularly like modern country music. To me, it's all about those old-timey sounds and harmonies. There's something about that old timey sound that is really ... I don't know. Comforting. As well as plain ol' entertaining and lovely to my ears. 
  • Also, I really, really like banjos.

Feast your ears on this:
Firstly, Johnny Cash, the Carter Family, Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers performing "Keep on the Sunny Side"

Now, Ralph Stanley, Keith Whitley, and the Clinch Mountain Boys .... damn embed code disabled. I can't be bothered doing it the long way via the scenic route.

AAAAAAAND. Lastly. Ray Price, with "Heartaches by the Number"

It's hard going trying to find like-minded, country-loving twenty-somethings ... but goshdarnit, am I ever going to try.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Affleck Redemption

Does Ben Affleck want to be the next Clint Eastwood? Epic leading man turned serious director? Having won an Oscar for penning Good Will Hunting, he has points to his name. However, the Ben Affleck I know in my mind is one of annoyance that is somewhat difficult to ignore. For years now, Mr Affleck hasn't been much more to me than a big-chinned semi-dudd. We cross paths briefly and amusingly during my annual Michael Bay movie marathons, and he has a bit part in my love affair with Matt Damon.  Then, he became the lesser Affleck, the Affleck in the background, making room for the greater Affleck, Casey.

That is, until he directed Gone Baby Gone, starring his Greater Affleck younger brother. "Well done, Ben!", I thought. "The road to redemption is long and fraught with peril, but may the filmic gods smile down on you!" ... and you know what? Ol' Big Chin has made some considerable ground on that journey with his latest (sophomore, if you will) offering, the Boston-set crime thriller The Town.

It's been decided. I'm going to Boston. I need to hear this accent IRL.

Not only has Affleck directed and co-written this tightly wound, suspenseful winner of a film, but he also has cast himself in the role of brooding leading man. I tip my hat to that, most definitely. Well done Ben, indeed.

The titular "town" of the film is that of Charlestown, a suburb of Boston that the opening titles claim has produced more bank robbers and car jackers than any other place in the world. Or was it America? I can't remember. That claim to fame may or may not be true, but certainly the Charlestown that the film places us the audience in is that of a rough, loyal and well and truly Irish neighbourhood in which trouble with the law is a rite of passage.

Affleck stars as Doug MacRay, a seasoned bank robber and leader of a four-piece heist crew. This crew includes Jim Coughlin, portrayed superbly by Jeremy Renner, the closest thing Doug has to a brother. Blake Lively is Jim's trashy slut sister Krista, and Doug's ex-flame. (I'll say this now; Blake Lively is (in my opinion) the weakest link of The Town. And it's not because I find her mildly irritating in Gossip Girl. Her boobs are nice yes, but at times her accent sounded almost Russian. Ugh.)

Anyway. The boys hold up a bank at the film's opening, setting off the inevitable chain reaction of events that gives one that sinking feeling that says, "this ain't gonna end well."

Thanks to Jim's role as the renegade-wildcard-loose cannon of the ensemble, the boys take themselves a hostage during the initial bank robbery, the manager of said bank, Claire (Rebecca Hall). To make sure she hasn't seen anything, or said too much to the feds, Doug follows her. They soon - of course - begin a relationship that only serves to deepen that ominous, sinking feeling in one's stomach. Hot on the heels of Doug and co. is FBI agent Frawley, Mad Men's Jon Hamm. Rounding out the cast (and certainly worthy of mention) are Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper.

The Town is pretty dense. Never a dull moment, with the tension tightly wound almost constantly. The film is at its best during the action, with the bank robberies and car chases well-executed and pretty fooking exciting. I mean, they're nothing mind-blowingly amazing, but they really did have me on the edge of my seat. It's a little Michael Mann, it's pretty win.

Chiseled jawlines abound in The Town.

And surprisingly (for me at least), the romantic scenes and storylines were far from irritating or spew-worthy. This is mostly due to Rebecca Hall being completely charming (and having a fucking great smile), and Affleck's thankfully rather more understated performance than say ... Armageddon. Well done, Ben. Speaking of the acting in The Town, it's really rather fucking good (Blake Lively aside). Affleck as I just mentioned, gives one of the best performances he's managed in years. His Doug goes from aggressive to remorseful to redemptive over the course of the film, without hitting the audience over the head with the change. Pete Postlethwaite is superbly menacing as the neighbourhood head honcho, and lights up the screen during his short time on it. Jon Hamm is solid as the FBI agent. But to this nerd, the real cheers on the film deserves to go to Jeremy Renner. It's no secret that I've been somewhat in love with him ever since The Hurt Locker ... but his Jim Coughlin, to me, steals the show. He's aggressive, loyal, a loose cannon that keeps the audience tense, wondering what the hell he's going to do next.

I may have a couple of gripes with the last three minutes or so of the film, but shit son, I gotta tip my hat to Ben Affleck. To someone who has probably immediately written off any poster with his name on it as rubbish for the past ten years ago, he has risen a considerable amount in my filmic esteem. The Town is a literate, mature, admirable directorial effort, with a result that is thoroughly entertaining and really, really tense. Gone Baby Gone wasn't a fluke, and Mr Affleck is back on the road to tinsel town redemption.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Captain's Log

A night spent with my laptop, browsing Reddit, not sleeping. Oh Reddit, if you were a person we would be wed.

Cheap thrills, y'all!
Internet thrills.

Spent a small portion of this afternoon on the phone to Mitch, who is settling in over yonder in Perth. He told me of his exploits the night before, that he's looking for a place to live. I told him about Linc's gig. He's got a job at a rad prohibition-themed bar, I'm not nauseous every morning anymore. Wins all round! He was on the phone whilst driving, and so our conversation was peppered with shouted abuse at fellow drivers, as well as cackles of laughter as he swerved onto the footpath to attempt to run over Steno, his partner-in-crime.

Speaking to him brought not only the lulz, but a certain amount of sunshine and cheer that was lacking as the day wore on. While we were separated for a long time while he was in Ireland, then when I was all over and around Europe, it seems that now that he's in Perth, being apart from him is at it's most sucky.

New shoes, new beard.

 When I got back, I took a "wilderness sabbatical" to Geelong, to spend a couple of days with Mittens. Recharging, getting over jet-lag, watching a few films, sitting in the sun. Maybe doing a bit of sulking about being back, but that's okay. The shock of being back took far longer than I expected to adjust to. Wondering "what now?" and "...should I want a proper job?"

Luckily, hanging out in good old G-town while the boys got themselves prepared for the road trip to Perth made all back-home anxiety completely dissipate, at least for a couple of days. We spoke of potential scripts, of insane plans, of various conquests we each managed to notch up during our time apart. I also spent almost the entire time wearing a sleeping bag suit. Which is rad, I think, in anyone's book.

No McConnaughey-ing the night away, or Michael Bay marathons, at least for a while. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Flashback ... Dos.

So, last week I let y'all know that I'll be dedicating a small portion of my Friday day or night to re-remembering a song that may have been unfairly relegated to a forgotten, dusty, dingy corner of my memory and music collection. Call it an obsession with memory, but I'm getting a real kick out of it so far.

This week, I give you "Awaiting on You All" by George Harrison (otherwise known as my favourite Beatle).

To be honest, I didn't even notice the religious subject matter of this song until an almost embarrassing number of listens. I'm not a particularly religious person, and am not usually one to go out of my way to seek out Christian rock. Instead, I was drawn to the sheer joy of the music. There's really no denying George of that. It's an infectious song, nigh on impossible to resist. I adore all of George's "All Things Must Pass" record (required listening for any self-respecting fan of good music), but there really is something about "Awaiting On You All" that strikes a chord with me.

What does it make me think of? Driving back from a Christmas lunch with my family, of walking through my neighbourhood with Elvis my dog, on a sunny day and thankfully avoiding the sniffling and sneezing that usually comes with springtime.

The video I've included isn't of the album version, but rather a live performance by George from his Concert for Bangladesh (which is well worth checking out in itself). Because it's much more fun to watch George Harrison sing and play a guitar than watch an album cover.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trolling the High Seas

This guy is an absolute champion.

Troll of the seven seas, marry me please.

My hero.

In fact, that's my new aim. Next romantic conquest will be someone as rad as that. That's what love should be, someone to merrily troll with.