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Cinema: Wild

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

With few exceptions, the noted actresses of this award season have all given us characters that have one thing in common. They’ve all been involved in a search for safety and peace, and all those searches have been underpinned with desperation. As artist Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes, Amy Adams has to take her brutish husband to court to reclaim her identity and her life. Marion Cotillard has to bury her dignity and beg her co-workers for leniency and generosity in Two Days, One Night, and Julianne Moore in Still Alice (opening next week), slowly descends into the hellish pit of Alzheimer’s and grasps at any straw in an attempt to regain control. Even Rosamund Pike’s Amazing Amy seems to be on a search in Gone Girl, a search to the death, as it were, and while all these women venture into some kind of wilderness looking for their own perch, none travel as far as Reese Witherspoon in Jean-Marc Vallee’s new film Wild. She really does hit the dirt, and she tramples it in her own bid for peace.



Cinema: American Sniper

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

American Sniper, the story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal marksman in US war history with over 160 confirmed kills, is a huge disappointment. As Clint Eastwood demonstrated in Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, his corker of a double feature from 2006, he can grasp the essence of war and the meaningless and insanity of it, whether he’s on the front lines or examining the backstage chicanery. Those films were richly detailed, superbly acted, and so affecting it was impossible to walk out and leave them behind. American Sniper, which stars Bradley Cooper, is another film altogether, superficial, reserved, and one I was relieved to leave behind. There is undoubtedly a great film waiting to be made about this man but American Sniper isn't that film. 



Cities, State and Globalisation: City-Regional Governance in Europe and North America



Reviewed by Isabelle Hugo

 In what ways are city-regions the geographic containers for 21st century politics and economics?  Herrschel's book is an extended meditation on this question, and it is structured by a conception of the city-region as a political and economic entity that lies somewhere between two scales--the level of the state and the level of the global.  The city-region is also between being an actor and being acted upon: in the well-worn cliche of the structure/agent problem, city-regions both shape the actions and processes of the state and globalization and are shaped by actions stemming from national and global scales--a point which Herrschel returns to again and again throughout his book. 



Elvis has entered the building


Reviewed by Jill 

Ian Abdulla’s art is his story, made for and to his children. He was determined not only to provide for them, but to ensure they knew their own traditions.  We the viewers and readers learn the stories too.  The subtitle of this book  ‘Elvis has entered the building’ is the first clue to Abdulla’s character.  A powerful triad of two essays and an image gallery complete the picture.  Readers familiar with his books As I grew older, and Tucker will recognise many of the paintings in  Ian W. Abdulla: Elvis has entered the building.  They may now be meeting for the first time an engaging and thoughtful person.





Reviewed by Dorian Stranger Rix

‘Two years ago, something terrible was unleashed in an Australian mining town. Thousands died.’ The blurb starts with this line and persuades the reader to look further into the story, to read Lexicon is to understand: words have power. 


Cinema: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

You have to give Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu points for consistency. Notorious for overlapping storylines in masterpieces Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel, his expertise at maintaining the loose narrative strands and plugging them in for a grand finale has always been an exercise in audacity. For the majority of his latest film, we’re restricted to a theatre (The St. James Theatre of New York City). Inside, an actor, desperate for career respectability, haunts the narrow, dim hallways where an ex-wife, a daughter fresh out of rehab, his manager, and a competitive thespian lurk. We’re made privy to his wild imagination, one built out of despair and loathing. He meditates suspended in midair, he debates with his bruised daughter, he softly engages with his ex, and he crosses swords with the actor. This is Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a comic phantasm of uninterrupted takes, and on its own terms it’s an electrifying experience, built out of technique and fuelled with unbridled energy. Inarritu wants to lock us up with his hero, and get us inside his head, right inside. Blessed only this morning with 9 Oscar nominations, the trailer makes it look magical and euphoric, but the reality of this unreality is sadness and confusion.



Blu Ray/DVD: What We Do in The Shadows

The question in What We Do in The Shadows, the new mockumentary about four vampire housemates is, what do they do? Well, they smirk, they seduce, they levitate, they scold, and they attend a yearly ball for fellow vampires and zombies. Whittled down from 120 hours of improvisation this funny, clever movie, written and directed by its stars Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement from Flight of The Conchords, is destined for cult status. Stemming from a short film made in 2005, you’ll either find it humorous, irreverent, and immature, or just plain immature. The comedy is built out of double takes and satire so for example, if you’re well versed on Gary Oldman’s seduction of Winona Ryder in Bram Stoker's Dracula (“See me, see me now…”) you’ll get this. Much like the breakout hit Team America World Police, this is a movie we didn't know we were waiting for.



My Brilliant Friend


Reviewed by Leanne Weymans

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is the story of enduring friendship, through highs and lows, spanning over 60 years. Set in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples, this tale is a moody and intense recollection by a woman of another woman’s friendship, whom she felt influenced her life profoundly. Raffealla Cerullo (Lila) and Elena Greco (Lenu’), both from poor, working class families live in the same neighbourhood and go to the same school, while they are not immediate friends, a bond eventuates and the two friends establish a connection to last forever. Ferrante employs devices such as narration, structure and descriptive imagery and language to tell a story of their friendship. 


Beyond pots and pictures


Reviewed by Jill

'Bravura’ in a musical context refers to a passage requiring great spirit and technical skill from the performer.  It is the perfect word in the context of ceramicist Stephen Bowers.  Bowers, his life and his works are showcased in Stephen Bowers : Beyond bravura.   The book’s jacket is a taste of the luscious forms and colour within.  Essays by Damon Moon and John Neylon detail Bowers’ life, his artistic development, and the evolution of his signature designs, marks and colours.  The reader will recognise familiar themes in Bowers’ work – willow pattern, blue and white, Adelaide motifs, Australian icons and Stubbs’ kangaroo.  These were all triggers.  Bowers takes them many steps further.  And originally all he ever wanted to do was ‘make pots with pictures on them’ [24].


Party and Society


Reviewed by Isabelle Hugo

If you've ever sought to understand the crossroads of political change in democratic societies--namely, the sweet spot between social movements, party politics, and electoral change--Party and Society by Cedric de Leon, is an excellent roadmap through this terrain.  Why is it highly relevant?  Along with providing a useful outline of the intersection of party and society through the lens of a diverse array of theorists, it creatively demarcates the contours of new political realities as well.  For instance, the author cites Hezbollah, Hamas and the African National Congress (ANC) as examples of political massing that exhibit characteristics of states, parties and social movements simultaneously.  In de Leon's terms, these political authorities are "Omnibus Parties" because prior to their assumption of state party, they had already provided many of the services and securities of the state.



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