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Cinema: Amy

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Surely it’s a father’s responsibility when they see their daughter suffering and seemingly hellbent on destroying herself to reach out and pull her back from the brink? In Asif Kapadia’s no holds barred documentary Amy, which maps the rise, mammoth success, and eventual downfall of the remarkably gifted singer Amy Winehouse, the superstar’s father Mitchell is lurking somewhere off-screen or on the edges of it, seemingly nonplussed. He abandoned her when she was nine years old only to reappear when her star was ascending. Fully aware she was in trouble, he rejected the idea of rehab when Amy’s loving manager Nick Shymansky suggested it for as far as he was concerned, she didn’t need it. Rather, he exploited her as evidenced in a sequence towards the end of the film where Amy takes a holiday to straighten out and he shows up with a camera and audio crew to record it. Its no surprise he’s dismissed this film as “misleading” and unbalanced”. Aside from the love of her life, Blake Fiedler-Civil, her husband, fellow drug fiend, jailbird, and finally ex-husband, and the hovering support of her two closest friends Juliette Ashby and Lauren Gilbert, her father was the only potentially positive influence in her life. This is a shattering, infuriating story.



Cinema: The Scandinavian Film Festival: The Absent One

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

If you loved Mikkel Norgaard’s The Keeper of Lost Causes, the superb 2013 Danish thriller where two detectives found themselves in the cold cases department in Copenhagen only to wind up battling the clock to save a girl’s life, The Absent One belongs on your must-see list at this year’s Scandinavian Film Festival. From the opening shot of a man in a blank mask wielding a knife across a green screen, Norgaard primes us for the horror: This will be darker, more dangerous, and more deadly. Carl Morck (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and Assad (Fares Fares, who took a supporting actor trophy at the Danish Film Gala for his work here) are still in their dusty basement office, still ill-matched, but bound together by mutual respect. Spicing things up a little (this is a sequel), the duo now have a capable assistant, wide-eyed Rose (Johanne Louise Schmidt), who can Google and narrow a list faster than a speeding bullet.



DVD: Citizenfour

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Citizenfour might be branded a documentary (it took the Oscar for it a few months back) but Laura Poitras’s exploration of Edward Snowden’s whistle blowing regarding America’s implicit betrayal of its citizens functions more like a thriller. There’s a bogeyman, bogeymen actually, liars, epic shadowplay, and conspiracies to beat the band. It all began in early 2013 when Poitras received an encrypted email from a person identifying himself as Citizenfour. It contained information regarding illegal wiretapping and the unbridled monitoring of Internet activity by the US NSA (National Security Agency) that was so outrageous it beggared belief. Together with investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and later joined by Ewen MacAskill, a reporter for The Guardian, Poitras travelled to Hong Kong to meet Snowden and for eight days, they cocooned themselves in a hotel room. Four days later, he made his identity public.



Blu Ray/DVD: The Homesman

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Those rolling plains of Nebraska! For filmmakers they’ve been the perfect landscape for pain, conflict, adventure, and romance. But more than that, they’ve been a dusty trail for life-affirming journeys. In 2002, Jack Nicholson’s weary eyes were opened to a world he'd never appreciated in Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt while tireless perfectionist Tracey Flick used it as a launching pad a few years before that in Payne’s superb Election. The stars of Tommy Lee Jones’s latest film The Homesman have travelled it before too. Hilary Swank masqueraded there in Boys Don’t Cry while Jones settled up his marriage to Meryl Streep in Hope Springs. Here they’ve travelled back more than a century to an impoverished 1850 and teamed up to transport a trio of women, driven insane by the desolate prairie, to civilisation. Harsh, and realistic, this sounds like a depressing experience yet the darker it gets, the more enticing it becomes.



I'm very into you: Correspondence 1995-1996



Reviewed by Jay Daniel Thompson

Hot female flesh on hot female flesh. And it doesn’t go anywhere: flesh. Flesh. For the cunt opens and closes, a perpetual motion machine ... Roses die faster, roses die faster than you, you whores in my heart.

(Kathy Acker, cited in Acker and Wark, 2015, 8)



Mmm, baby, I’m so into you

 (Mariah Carey, ‘Fantasy’)



I want to open this review with a personal reflection. I became interested in Kathy Acker’s writing during the late 1990s, after reading Justine Ettler’s The River Ophelia (1995). Acker was cited as one of that novel’s chief influences, and it wasn’t difficult to see why: after all, Acker’s punk/pomo/feminist prose was irresistible. Anyway, who couldn’t love an author who penned novels with titles like Blood and Guts in High School


Shadows: The Rephaim, Book 1


Reviewed by marni 

What do you do when you’ve lost your memory and found a whole new world?

Gaby is a typical 19 year old backpacker who has settled in a sleepy beachside town after nearly dying in a horrific car accident that took her twin brother’s life. Working in a library, hanging out with her best friend and flatmate Maggie, and drinking at Rick’s Bar, Gaby’s trying to put her life back together. It’s nearly a year since Jude died and she is deeply grieving his loss. Just as disturbing as the reality of Jude’s death, is the recurring nightmare of battling the denizens of hell. When her nightmare comes to life in every gory detail, Gaby must question if anything she thinks she knows is real.


Creative Writing in the Digital Age


Reviewed by Hazel Menehira


The steady push to integrate digital technology in the classroom has led to complex discussions amongst educators. These are often focussed on just how to implement it. Marrying digital tools to assist students in the classroom teaching of creative writing is a major challenge. For these teachers Creative Writing in the Digital Age is a game changer about meeting that challenge. That said, though this is a valuable text and reference book with language and terminology targeting a well defined readership others may struggle. 





Reviewed by Mike Clarke


Ross Gittins is the Economics Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and an economics columnist for The Age. The son of a Salvation Army major, Gittins was a late comer to journalism, his first career being accountancy. Since that defining career change, he has, in the last forty years, covered forty budgets delivered by thirteen treasurers and observed national politics under no fewer than eight prime ministers. 


Palace of Tears



Reviewed by Ian Lipke


It was an absurd hotel, really. A huge, elegant structure stuck far away in the Blue Mountains inland from Sydney. On a certain January night in 1914 at the close of a sweltering day, Adam Fox is throwing a party in honour of his son. All of their friends are there, soaking up the party atmosphere, all that is except Angie, the girl from the cottage next door. Angie is unimpressed at being left out. Next door was a fantasy world and she knew that she was part of it. This sense of entitlement was to lead to tragedy at Sensation Point. 


In Certain Circles



Reviewed by Leigh Coyle

It’s shameful to admit that I’d never heard of novelist Elizabeth Harrower, particularly as her current publisher, Michael Heyward of Text Publishing, compares her stature to that of other Australian “postwar literature giants” Patrick White and Christina Stead. However, there is an excuse: Harrower completed In Certain Circles, her final novel, in 1971, yet it was only published for the first time in 2014, and her four other novels have also only recently been republished, having languished for fifty years or so at the outposts of the Australian literary canon.  Even if part of the reason for Harrower’s long-term invisibility was of her own making (apparently many of her friends did not even know she was a writer), it is comforting to learn that now, in her mid-eighties, she is still around to receive the plaudits she has long deserved. 


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