"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause."
-Theodore Roosevelt

30 January 2010

The World's Fastest Indian

The Kiwis are an amazing bunch of creatives, and are certainly punching above their weight as far as film is concerned. The World's Fastest Indian is a magnificently-crafted piece of cinema that showcases the country's talent and attention to detail perfectly.

It's the true story of Bert Munro from Invercargill, who has spent decades carefully modifying his 1920s Indian motorcycle, and in 1967 travels to Bonneville, Utah to run it on the salt flats in the annual Speed Week competition.

Anthony Hopkins gives a splendid performance with a surprisingly appropriate accent, not only for the character's New Zealand origin but also his age and personality. And the precision of his performance is simply a footnote to the carefully composed script that really demonstrates the characteristic strengths of the New Zealand mind.

25 January 2010

Theatre offerings in 2010

It's shaping up to be a good year. I'll soon be starting work on the production of a new play by young Canberra playwright Seth Robinson, called When He Was Famous, which is going to be a lot of fun. So, I figure it's time I gave some thought to what I must see, what I should see, and what I may see on Canberra's stages this year.

The obvious place to start is of course the Canberra Theatre Centre, but after next week's encore performance of The Musical of Musicals (The Musical), I don't see an awful lot that interests me. Pennies from Kevin has one of those titles that makes you wonder whether the show can be as good as the title, and King Lear is for old people; it will be a while before I can make head or tail of it! The Walworth Farce, however, looks like a worthwhile investment, and I think the season may potentially be redeemable from total boredom by Bell's continuation of their cross-dressing theme in Twelfth Night and Andrew Bovell's When the Rain Stops Falling.

Canberra Repertory's closing play of the 2010 season has me very interested: I did sound for And Then There Were None in Theatre 3 while I was an undergrad at the ANU. I'm also looking forward to Moon Over Buffalo, a comedy planned for the brave month of May along with SUPA's production of Spamalot, which is sure to be a blast, especially since they were wise enough not to cast me! Queanbeyan Players, on the other hand, were wise enough to cast my brother-in-law in Fame, which is also one of those ubiquitous May shows!

Everyman Theatre continue their great run with Richard III in March, so I'll be looking forward to that along with Free Rain's classic A Streetcar Named Desire later in the year.

But by and large, the most impressive material I've seen yet belongs to The Q. Including a curated season of interstate productions as well as a few local offerings, I want to see just about everything in their aptly named Simply Irresistible season!

And that's not to mention the fact that I'll be taking the munchkins to Melbourne to see Mary Poppins on stage later in the year, that I just have to pop up to Sydney for Belvoir's Namatjira in September, or the great films I'm anticipating such as Bran Nue Dae (I know it's already open, but I haven't see it yet!), Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II. No doubt I will be enjoying some of these at Tuggeranong's new Limelight Cinema! Yes, I know it seems like a bit of a plug, but I'm in favour of anything that puts the boot into Hoyts!

So, I hope I'll see you about the theatres this year!

24 January 2010

Lucky Miles

If I told you I had watched a film based on trues stories about boat people entering Australia on the northwest coast, you'd probably yawn. I expected something more like a docudrama when I sat down to watch Lucky Miles, but was pleasantly surprised to encounter a comic drama set in the outback.

There is no sense of that superficial ocker-ness to this film, just a great story, impeccably filmed, and filled with dry, cackle-till-my-throat-hurts humour. Kenneth Moraleda gives an excellent performance as something of a straightman who balances the sardonic humour of the rest of the characters. He provides that balance between comedy and drama that Australian film makers have perfected.

This was a lucky find: I never heard about Lucky Miles when it was in cinema release, but wow! How do the greatest films always seem to miss out on media coverage? It's a crying shame; find the DVD!

01 January 2010

Sherlock Holmes

Film interpretations of literary works are unfortunately subject to comparison with their wordy counterparts and generally make a poor comparison. Sherlock Holmes' three writers deftly sidestep this risk by taking Arthur Conan Doyle's characters and situation and giving them a new plot. The result, I think, is a crime story that the master crime writer would have been proud of.

This film departs dramatically from the tradition of depicting Holmes as a Victorian aristocrat and instead shows him as a hero not unlike Spiderman or Mr Incredible, but with substantial flaws that both endear him and make him repugnant to a twenty-first century audience. Robert Downey Junior plays him admirably, but Jude Law's Watson is the star performance here. Just as in Doyle's novels, where Watson is the link between the reader and the aloof Holmes, Law's Watson gives the audience a central character that makes the detached genius accessible.

This film is unmistakably a product of the twenty-first century, but it manages at the same time to illicit that same sense of intrigue from me that reading Doyle's stories does. The makers of this film have been bold, even brazen, in their interpretation of Doyle's characters and situations, but the gamble has paid off, and Sherlock Holmes is, as a result, the first film to do Arthur Conan Doyle's characters justice.