I watch a lot of
movies and read a lot of books. I want to do more of both but all the time I
have to do stupid shit like uni and eating and spending time with my
girlfriend. (No that’s unfair, we watch everything together, one of the best things
about us. Having to see friends and family is the killer).

I should write
more about what I see/read. I enjoy reviewing and collecting my thoughts. It
makes me think, it gets me writing. I just don’t make the time to do it (see my
huge piles of DVDs to watch and Netflix queue for a reason why). There’s just
always more to write and to do, you know?

I guess I get a
bit burnt out thinking and writing about films at uni. Reviews are dangerously
close to uni assignments. At least I’m still in love with movies, which wasn’t
always a sure thing with the shitty year I had at uni in 2015. Anyway that’s
another story for my memoirs.

I’m starting with
a best of 2015 list and hopefully keep it updated throughout the year. I’ll
divide the films into 2015 release and classics I just saw last year and wanted
to write about. The TV is also a best of list and books is pretty much
everything I read because I’m making the rules that’s why.


Obviously I haven’t seen everything so this list is not complete. And
I’m not saying this these are the very best films of the year. They’re just the
ones that connected with me the most. I mean I thought Inside Out was great but it’s not personally my favourite film.

I’ll maybe write something about all the awards season’s films when I’ve
seen them all as well. But most of those pictures don’t need any help anyway.

Also, I often despair of people who write their opinions on Facebook.
Like, really, who on your friends list gives one shit that you thought
Fantastic Four was crappy? Not me, not your grandma, not your friends from Year
Six. So if you think that about my reviews, that’s totally fine. I’m doing this
more for me than you anyway.

I guess my real problem with Facebook reviews is when the person thinks
they know better than movie studios or a famous director or something: “Aha!
Another mistake from Sony! When will they learn?!?” Superiority gets to me. Or
when the status is sarcastically directed at someone in particular. “Michael
Bay, stop making movies, goodbye.” He’s not reading your status. No one is.
Except me. Hating it. Anyway.  

Spoiler warnings as well. I don’t really go into depth about plot points
and I’ll try not to reveal anything important, but I’m discussing my personal
reaction to the piece so some things are gonna come out.

2015 FILMS


Nothing I say will really add to the commentary around this film. It is
fantastic on a technical and visual level as well as narratively and textually.
This film is the reason we all love going to the movies. It probably won’t win
Best Picture (although, can you imagine?) but is easily one of the most
memorable films of 2015. A bottle of lightning captured. For the whole opening
sequence I was literally on the edge of my seat, holding my breath. Not every
film can be like this of course and that’s what makes the achievement even


The difference between some films, for me, is that some I love a lot but
I appreciate them as an actively engaged audience member, while others I love
even more, but I sort of hate them as well because they’re something I wish I
had done myself. I’m probably never going to make a Mad Max but I loved it. Me
and Earl…
, however, is wonderful but upsetting because now I can never make
it myself.

It ticks many of the boxes for me. A high school setting, great, quirky
humour, nice, inventive filmmaking and storytelling playing with conventions
and expectations, a clearly told narrative, a wonderful soundtrack (always good),
a melancholy tone (can’t get enough of it), death as a subject… what else is
there to write about? It’s probably a dance sequence and superhero away from
being perfect for me.

The word relatable is thrown around a lot in films but I think Earl is
that for me. Greg is just trying to get by in high school without making
enemies, trying to be a part of every clique. I was a bit of a nomad myself
(except for D Block kids, you guys sucked). Greg has trouble doing the right
thing, like everybody all the time. His life is trampled upon by pretty girls.
Guilty. Greg loves visiting obscure book/DVD stores which is my dream
afternoon. Mums love Greg and I’m the one always stuck talking to parents at
parties. He’s self-centred and makes bad films. Me, exclusively. I too have a
black best friend, although he isn’t as cool as Earl.

Fortunately though, I’ve never had a friend dying of cancer but I
imagine I’d deal with it as awkwardly as Greg does. That struggle between doing
the right thing and being a weirdo and not even knowing what the right thing
might be is expressed so clearly and is really the point of most movies.

Death is a big topic, obviously, and terminal illness is heartbreaking.
Ever look at old people and think, “You’ve got ten years, tops”? I do that all
the time. I can’t fathom being old and almost dead let alone young and
terminally ill. How could you do it? How does Rachel do it in this film? It is
a tragedy and really the traumatic elephant in the room in every scene.

I’ve read the book since viewing the film, and it holds up well. I
enjoyed one as much as the other. The book goes a lot deeper, as you expect,
into Greg’s family and especially Earl as a character. The same tone and spirit
is upheld which I think is the test of a good adaptation. The references to
classic films work better on screen. The same goes for the boys’ own crappy
films, which are a real treat. Normally pop culture allusions annoy me as they
date really easily, but in this context they work as they add to the story. The
soundtrack of course adds something the book can’t do alone so I’d recommended
experiencing both the film and the novel.

I think all the main characters are stuck in one way or another. Rachel
with cancer, Earl by his family and their poverty, Greg in his own insecurities,
his dad stuck inside his own head, his mum by the family, Rachel’s mum with her
daughter’s illness.  There’s a chance
some will break out, but who knows? That’s life.


A beautiful film about a troubled genius. Is there ever a well-adjusted
genius? Probably not, it’s probably why they’re geniuses. Or maybe they’re just
not dramatic enough to make films about.

Brian Wilson was the brains and soul of The Beach Boys, a group of which
I confess I only know the hits but enjoy all the same. Wilson struggled with
touring and the celebrity of pop music in the 1960s, and was more at home in
the studio. His mental health deteriorated and he ended up in the care of a
crooked doctor who took total control of his life. Dr Landy was in charge of Wilson’s
meals, medication, relationships and seemingly everything else. Manipulation of
this extent is frightening, made worse by Wilson’s seeming acquiescence. It’s
left ambiguous to whether Landy even realised the scale of his abuse or simply
believed he was helping. I reckon he knew but his own problems prevented him
from stopping. Landy’s steadfast belief in the correctness of his actions
remained until his death, supposedly. How sad.

The film is not really about the abuse though. It’s about Wilson’s salvation
in the form of Melinda, his girlfriend and later wife and overall best thing to
happen to him. Melinda realises the influence of Landy and slowly but surely
rescues Brian Wilson. Elizabeth Banks is the true star of the film and her
quiet resilience is what makes the film work. Love can be enough to save
someone, love and mercy. My girlfriend can attest I’m no fan of Banks usually (it
goes back to her time on Scrubs, she was cruel to JD, it’s a whole irrational
thing), so my affection for her character is remarkable. She’s simply amazing.

Strangely for a biopic, two different actors portray Brian Wilson in two
different time periods. Paul Dano is Wilson of the 1960s, at the beginning of
mental health trouble while still creating great new music, and John Cusack in
the 1980s, already well under Landy’s thumb. Of course child actors often
portray young versions of characters in biopics, but it’s not common for two
established actors to take on the one role. But it works, certainly better
than, for example, Dano in old age make up. I already like both actors, which
helps, but I thought the choice was brilliant because Wilson really was like
two different men because of the trauma he went through.

Dano is superb in the 1960s musical genius phase, in brilliantly
realised studio session scenes. The soundscape, mixing the original tracks with
ambience and new music, lets us into Brian’s head as he records the music only
he hears. It doesn’t always seem to be a nice place. The film seems to be
making the case that Brian doesn’t necessarily record music because he wants
to; rather, he has to.

Cusack plays the older Wilson. But he’s not just old. He’s post nervous
breakdown, and allegedly spent three years in bed, his weight ballooning
considerably. This weariness is there in Cusack’s performance. His Wilson wants
help but he just can’t bring himself to get it. Not an easy role and he pulls
it off.

This is all without discussing the performance my favourite character,
Paul Giamatti, as the disturbed Dr Landy. He is intimidating and scary and
pathetic, petty and jealous of Brian’s success, struggling to secure the high
moral ground. Could anybody do it better than Giamatti?

Really one of my favourite films of the year.


Forget tonally dissonant The
, this is the best Australian film of the year. I saw a
performance of the play at La Boite two years ago and it blew me away. The
heartbreaking true love story of Tim Conigrave and John Caleo should not be
forgotten. It’s nothing major in a lot of ways, not that uncommon, but it is
representative of so much more, namely the AIDs crisis in 1980s Australia, but
really they represent everybody in love who’s ever faced adversity and come out
of it more devoted.

The story begins in the 1970s boys’ private school and continues through
all manner of obstacles (prejudice, career change, infidelity) until it is cruelly
ended prematurely. How beautiful to meet your soul mate and how awful to watch
them die. I’ve read stories about AIDs, how entire communities were destroyed,
just all gone. I can’t fathom it though, not really. I look at the real life
photos of Tim and John and I’m shattered.

Ryan Corr and Craig Stott acquit themselves well, even if they’re not at
all believable as teenagers. Who knew Guy Pearce plays middle aged dads now?
I’m not sure how to explain it but the film really fits well together. I suppose
it displays well thought-out film form, although no one has ever really
explained that concept to me in a well thought-out way. The direction is strong
then. Nothing feels out of place.

The most remarkable part of the remarkable story is that it is so universal.
We’re all privileged to know Tim and John.


I know it was technically in last year’s awards season but I wanted to
include it anyhow. Back off.

I’ve never felt uneasier while watching a film, and never wanted a
protagonist to fail their goal so badly. I fundamentally disagree with
Fletcher’s teaching approach. He might achieve results with fear and
intimidation but at what cost? A student’s sanity? I think you attract more
flies with honey, you should teach with humour and respect  (while not being a push over, being in charge,

I still find this film fascinating though, and I’m not sold on where
exactly it stands on the issue. Andrew ends up on his way to being the next
Charlie Parker but without his dad or girlfriend. And by proving Fletcher
right. The cycle continues.

Whiplash has a lovely atmospheric feel in both visual
(all the yellow and grey of New York) and sound design, which is obviously
fantastic. If it’s not already being studied for sound design and editing it
should be. Miles Teller walks a tightrope where he lets you root for him or
baulk at his determination, however you feel. And what else could I say about
J.K. Simmons? The best.

This film has something important to say and is very well crafted.
There’s no fat in the script. And it’s just endlessly re-watchable.


I’m not as familiar with Noah Baumbach as I should be. I saw this film
for my birthday (a nice tradition I have with my girlfriend) and what a great
choice it was. Mistress America
captures what it means to be young, off at uni, finding it kind of sucks,
trying to be something cool and new when you don’t really have the experience
to be anything at all. Louis CK said when you’re twenty you’re a piece of shit;
all you’ve done is “take” your whole life. No one’s fault, it’s just how it is.
And sometimes it doesn’t get better.

I identify with Tracy’s endearing fascination with Greta Gerwig’s
Brooke. I like how Tracy doesn’t even really like Brooke as a person she just
finds her interesting to be around and endlessly quotable. I like how this
phenomenon Brooke encapsulates all of those people who just glide through life,
seemingly at will, not aware of themselves or their impact on others. Who are
they anyway? Why is it so easy for them when the rest of us are trying so
hard?  The answer obviously is that it
isn’t quite so easy for them either, and they’re not that different at all. But
the mystery remains.

The film’s narration flows like a great novel and the film feels real
and alive in that alternate universe that is NY on screen. The extended
sequence in Mamie-Claire’s home could be a great one-act play on its own. While
there aren’t traditional gags or comedy set pieces, a sort of whimsy carries
the picture, even in its darker moments. It’s 21st century screwball
comedy, you could say.

And this is how you do women in comedy – as real characters. They don’t
need to be grossly overweight or smart-sexy or pooing on the street or
screaming. I mean it’s cool that they can. They just don’t need to. Not all the


Not a lot to say apart from it is one of the funniest films you’ll see.
Twilight was good for something then if it inspires this sort of comedy. Some
of it plays like an extended sketch but it proves that sometimes if your
writing and performances are strong enough, it all comes together.

2015 TV


I like superhero stories. I like the heroes with god-like powers, in
part because of the moral implications. How does Superman stay decent when he
could literally destroy the whole planet if he wanted? When even just slightly
losing his temper could flatten a whole city?

I like Marvel and DC. I think Marvel has the better extended universe
and range of characters but DC some of the better stories and better films. And
Superman and Batman are obviously the best heroes but the X-Men the most

Superhero stories aren’t everything, though, and that’s okay. I also
like crime, sci-fi, westerns, political thrillers, comedy, romance,
documentaries and everything else. I like a lot of things and everybody should.
Enjoy everything, it makes everything better.

Anyway, probably my favourite superhero stories are the street-level
crime stories. I prefer Batman beating up thugs and taking down gangs rather
than battling aliens on Zurg or whatever. I also love a well done long-form
drama, so Netflix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones were basically made for

Having watched the 2003 film as preparation, then this series, then
delving into some of the comics, Daredevil is quickly becoming one of my
favourite characters. (I don’t like saying I’m a fan of something unless I’ve
experienced a good chunk of it. That band with one song I like? Let me listen
to their whole 12 album discography, maybe attend a couple of concerts, before
I feel comfortable having an opinion. I don’t like phonies, alright?)

I’m not religious at all but it is fascinating to see a hero saddled
with Catholic guilt, trying to reconcile his belief with taking the law into
his own hands. Is begging for forgiveness enough? Batman seems to only truly
believe in himself so it’s easier to go along with his brand of justice.
Daredevil has to literally take on the mantle of Satan to justify his crusade.
And I mean obviously Daredevil is working on the side of good but where is the
line? Why put on a costume when you could just put double effort into your legitimate
law firm, where you really are helping people? Because that isn’t always
helping, because the criminals aren’t working inside the law and sometimes you
need to break the rules to help the little guy, I suppose. But how are you
different to the baddies, or how do you know when you’ve crossed the line? And
what does baby Jesus think of all this? Matt Murdock is the Devil of Hell’s
kitchen because he wants to help, yes, but also because he has a devil inside
him that he wants (needs?) to take out on some goons. Fascinating, the contradiction.
I can’t wait to see Matt argue his moral stance against the amoral Punisher
next season.

The show itself is just great. Performances spectacular all around but
of course it would be nothing without Vincent D’onofrio’s Wilson Fisk
(Kingpin). Villains with depth, antagonists who reflect the protagonist,
characters with interesting backstories – this is what’s missing, by and large,
in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is understandable, given 13 hours of a
television versus 2-hour movies, but you know. Couldn’t hurt to try.

Charlie Cox is handsome and slightly aloof, as you’d expect of Matt
Murdock. He’s got a lot going and has to carry the show, which he pulls off
well. You’re sure that Matt thinks he’s doing the right thing, even if you have
doubts yourself. Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson is left with most of the comic
relief, for which he’s perfectly suited, but also shows off some dramatic chops
too. He’s also the heart of the show, Matt’s conscience. Karen is elusive but
you get that with her and Ben Urich is just a wonderful bloke.

A few complaints I had – the Russian villains are a little stock
standard and Madam Gao a bit “eh”. The handling of Ben was disappointing but I
see what they were going for. And I’d love more courtroom drama but that’s just

The positives far outweigh the negatives though: it looks amazing, the
NYC feel again, Rosario Dawson as Claire elevates every scene she touches, the
supporting cast (Wesley, Stick, Matt’s dad) all knock it out of the park, the
hallway fight scene, Wilsons characterisation, downfall montage and monologue
in the police van, everything Foggy does… I also like how the resolution wasn’t
just ‘punching harder’ although of course there is quite a lot of nicely choreographed

Not to mention Daredevil’s powers. A blind superhero with
overcompensated remaining senses sounds a little trite, but it’s handled well.
First he’s not super strong, so he has to train and take those hits like a
regular well trained dude would, although worse, given the hypersensitivity of
his other senses. The echolocation radar is a benefit as well, but it isn’t
perfect – when you hear everything, you really hear nothing. It’s a cool catch-22
set of powers really, and makes more sense than kryptonite. I love you Supes
but it’s silly, we all know it.  


Which brings me to Jessica Jones,
another example of small time powers equaling big time success. If Daredevil is “what if a religious lawyer
decided to break the law to fight crime as a vigilante?” then Jessica Jones is
“what if a PTSD sufferer and general all round misanthrope is forced to be a
(generously titled) hero?”

Jessica Jones is a messed up lady. She drinks, she’s mean to everyone,
including her friends, she’s violent and petty. And she’s been through some
real shit. Like a lot of heroes, she lost her family at a young age. Jessica’s
foster mother was a real piece of work. Manipulation everywhere. Most
significantly, though, Jessica has the worst ex-boyfriend of all time (unless
somebody dated Hitler in primary school or something).

On paper, she doesn’t much sound like a nice person, like someone you’d
want to be around. But she is compelling to watch, equal parts because of her
flaws and because of Krysten Ritter’s performance. She has a knack (at least in
what I’ve seen here and in Breaking Bad)
of revealing the humanity of scarred characters. In Breaking Bad she is likeable and tragic, but here, those qualities
make her worth rooting for. Because Jessica Jones isn’t someone you’d want to
hang out with and her misanthropy isn’t an act. But despite herself she tries
to do the right thing, even if she doesn’t really see the point. Like the best
film noir protagonists, she’s on the side of the little guy because no one else
is, and the little guy needs the help. The audience is on her side not because
of pity, but respect.

Jessica Jones is also powered by her indefatigable quest to stop the mind-controlling
psychopath Kilgrave. This journey gives the show so much focus, it is hard to
imagine another season without him. Whereas Daredevil obviously has a quarrel
with Wilson Fisk (and the comics have made this battle quite personal over the
years), it isn’t so much his raison d’être as ‘protect Hell’s Kitchen’. Jessica’s
assignment here is pretty much ‘stop Kilgrave’. What else does she stand for?
Her private eye gig seems more due to having no other options rather than a
great desire to help the city; however I’m more than happy at the end of the
series to see a slightly more personable Jessica Jones inspired to help people,
or at least more likely to be dragged into helping by others. I just worry it
might not achieve Kilgrave levels of success because their history and conflict
were so intertwined. Anyway, prove me wrong, show.

Kilgrave has to be the best MCU villain and one of the best superhero
villains, period. Creepy rather than scary, he doesn’t have some big scheme to
take over the world, and he’s not chasing an all-powerful gem stone thing, or
selling new technology to the military (yawn), or whatever Ultron was even
doing in the last Avengers. The conflict is personal, but not personal in the
sense that Jessica accidentally killed his dad, or they were stepsiblings and
Jessica got all the attention or some such. No, Kilgrave loved her, she
resisted, and now he won’t stop until she loves him back.

Clearly there are reasons this isn’t a regular trope and yet I’m sure
it’s been used before, but it’s still so compelling to watch. Most of all it is
scary realistic – how many of us have held onto a past relationship longer than
we should have? Or seen stories of the desperate people who can’t let go?
Probably a little too close to home for most of us. I’m also not sure what the
domestic violence situation is like in the United States (can’t imagine it’s
wonderful) but the themes of abuse and relationship control seem very topical
in Australia, where we’re going through something of a social awakening in
regard to domestic violence.  

Throw in the fact that Kilgrave can issue unbreakable commands,
effectively mind control – I mean, The Joker would screw you up real bad and
Zod can go toe to toe with Superman, but they are still somewhat beatable in a
fight. Kilgrave could just tell you to break your own neck or command ten
strangers to commit suicide if you look at him funny. I’m not telling viewers
anything they don’t know and yeah mind control isn’t something new, I guess I’m
just impressed at the effectiveness of its use here. Again, you can’t just
punch your way out of this fight. Indeed the episodes where Jessica has
Kilgrave confined in a torture chamber (because how else do you fight him?) are
deeply unsettling.

It’s all made worse of course with David Tennant in the role. One of my
childhood heroes (my Doctor), it is
more than disturbing to watch him be so creepy and, frankly, evil. He knows
what he’s doing is wrong, but it’s his life. Recreating Jessica’s family home –
shudder. And all the while I’m waiting for him to crack a smile, run down a
corridor or bloody save the day with some technobabble. You belong with Rose
Tyler, dude, not Jessica Jones. Fuck off River Song, Rose is the Doctor’s true
love. Rose saved him and she was just a girl from a council estate. Hell, he
has better chemistry with Donna than River Song. Anyway.

I would have liked Kilgrave to go full Purple Man (not just the hints,
go all the way, show) and maybe his finish wasn’t quite as exciting as what
preceded it, but overall, the show handled Kilgrave excellently. Is anyone ever
really dead in a comic book universe? Maybe. This is one instance where maybe
I’d be okay with a return from the dead. Maybe.

All up, I really liked the noir atmosphere, the sax and voice over, the
NYC set up, the tonal connection to Daredevil,
Kilgrave’s backstory, every single scene involving Luke Cage, the appearance of
Claire Temple. The couple of episodes from Jessica’s childhood home to Kilgrave
in the torture chamber were my favourites.

The supporting characters aren’t as strong as in Daredevil, which is a shame. They’re not entirely awful, I just
don’t care as much as the show thought I should about Jeri’s divorce or the
weird girl upstairs, or even (the very sweet) Malcolm’s shape shifting. Nuke
wasn’t really handled as smoothly as Kilgrave but it’s still nice to see him on
screen. I loved Jessica as a private eye taking on cases but I understand why
this wasn’t a Law and Order ‘case of the week’ kinda show. At the same time
though, some of these cases seemed a bit like padding and distracted from the main
Kilgrave storyline.

What a successful year for Marvel and Netflix – two of the best dramas
out there, positive contributions to the MCU, and really, just thoughtful,
well-done, superhero dramatization. Who’d have thought ten, twenty years ago?

I can’t wait for more seasons of both shows, and Luke Cage’s solo round
next year as well.

Are Jessica and Matt heroes? They do more good than harm, but they
certainly skirt the line. How they justify their actions is what interests me.

Hypothetically, is a cop who beats on defenseless suspects to get info a
good guy? Certainly not. But if the guy he’s beating on is a terrorist, or a
child molester, and the cop is able to save more people from what he finds out?
Not so easy now.

Nietzsche apparently said “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that
in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into
an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” I don’t think he was talking
about superheroes but he might as well have been.


I saw this wonderful series back in 2012 when it first aired and fell in
love immediately. It is as close to seeing my own life on screen as I’ve ever experienced
– a white middle class (crazy) family is seen celebrating Christmas over six
years and boy do they do it well. Or badly. Very badly.  

I know white middle class males aren’t exactly underrepresented on
screen but I’m talking here about distinctly Australian aspects that are done
so well, as least in relation to my life.

Family Christmas lunch with paper bon-bon supplied crowns. Backyard
cricket. Hot summer. A dickhead older brother. A grandparent not really part of
the action but watching on, happy, bemused. I don’t have an Uncle Terry but
plenty of crazy aunties. Everyone trying to enjoy themselves but the stress of
Christmas bringing them down. The importance and peculiar specialness of
Christmas to an otherwise irreligious family. It’s all there.

I read once that Christmas is really two holidays in one. It is the
Christmas holy day and also a secular family holiday. I don’t care much at all
for the Christian part of it and overall I think your affinity for family
celebrations depends entirely on your family. But there is still something nice
about a large part of the world celebrating something together, a good
something, and even nice to see your experience of it reflected on screen.

There’s a lovely professional feel to the show – Australian made, but
not, you know, shitty. Those long takes tracking around the party are superb
and the writing, from the well-defined characterisation and witty dialogue to
the large character arcs – it’s just all so well done. The premise, the hook,
of each episode taking place a year apart is ingenious. It’s so interesting
seeing the changes that have happened off screen and you actually pack a lot
more narrative into the six episodes – the Christmases themselves, and also
what’s gone on in-between. Fascinating.

The original version of The Office,
though ostensibly about boring office life and the boss from hell, was in
actuality grounded in a love story. Tim ‘the only sane man’ and stuck in a
crappy relationship, Dawn. Their romance really drove the overall narrative
arc, not David Brent – the show doesn’t end until they’re together.

A Moody Christmas owes a real debt to The Office here as the crazy antics of each Christmas really only
serve to further the relationship of Dan and Cora, a fictional relationship I
admire more than most. Perfect.

Performances are spectacular throughout and feature career
making/reviving turns for Darren Gilshenan as Uncle Terry and Patrick Brammall
as Sean.

The less said about follow up series The
the better (in short, it just didn’t get what the first series was
or what made it special) but a disappointing sequel can’t make an original
success bad. Every Christmas is a Moody Christmas for me.


Sarah Ferguson is a national hero and I will watch any new documentary
series with which she is involved. Her two efforts this year set the standard
for Australian TV.

The Killing Season told a story most of us know well and made it
seem a lot more interesting than it really was. Maybe that’s not true – Rudd
and Gillard are intriguing and their rivalry something to behold – but when
you’re living through it, you kind of wish the leaders of the country would
just focus on running the country, not battling each other. In retrospect, and
through the guise of this program where the main players are cast as characters
in a House of Cards Shakespearean
tragedy, it’s a little easier to digest how so many smart and talented people
(from every political persuasion) put the country on hold for their ego.  

Jenny Macklin’s comment about Kevin Rudd, in response to his
overwhelming compassion shown during the 2008 Victorian Bushfires in contrast
to his less than stellar people skills elsewhere stuck with me. She simply
said, “People are complex.” It’s a remark I think worth remembering and
applying to all politicians, anyone really. People are complex. That’s why
they’re so interesting and so great and often so flawed.  

Gillard should never have toppled Rudd. Rudd shouldn’t have white-anted
her so harshly. Abbott shouldn’t have done a lot of what he did (beginning with
those bloody onions). People are complex.

I can’t fault the production values and presentation. Top notch, worthy
of the best BBC or American productions really (which is sadly a comparison we
have to make here in Australia). I do think another episode could have helped
flesh out Gillard’s tenure and the 2013 election, which is barely touched upon
here. But these are minor quibbles. I just can’t wait for the follow up series
about Abbott and Turnbull. Now there’s a series that’s still writing itself.

Hitting Home was another experience altogether. Domestic
violence is an issue that is gaining a lot of attention in Australia recently,
and rightly so. It’s a crisis. Ferguson delves into the victim’s stories, the
police initiatives, the court process, women’s refuges, the prison system and
the men themselves. It’s one thing highlighting and identifying problems but
another attempting to solve them. And one program obviously can’t solve the
problems of domestic violence. But at least we’re shining a light and speaking
intelligently about it. I read once that real societal change takes two
generations of education. Hopefully it doesn’t take that long but documentaries
like this are a mature, heartfelt, sobering beginning.    


Some comedies are stupid but still funny. Some comedies are stupid and
not funny at all. Some comedies are clever. Some comedies are kind of tragic

The Thick of It and Veep
are clever, not just because they’re about an intellectual subject (politics).
It’s in their construction. The stories are farcical but not too far away from
being realistic, sadly. The performances are tremendous and amazingly
understated. Even though Peter Capaldi receives all the plaudits for his
explosive searing rants, the best moments in both shows aren’t the big obvious
shouty ones, but the tinier comedic touches, the bits between characters. A
look from Teri or a put down from Dan to Mike, or nearly antthing Gary does –
that’s where the real genius is.

The shows are kind of tragic too, in their satirical takedown of
politics. The obsession with image is examined time and time again. Innocent
moments are blown out of proportion and the good of the country is placed
second to ego and point scoring. I suppose that’s politics, but it’s still
depressing to see governments held hostage by bullies and spin doctors, even in
a comedy. It’s all hidden behind a hilarious workplace comedy but it’s still
there, always the subtext.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the best she’s ever been as Selina Meyer – not an
incompetent politician, just not very competent either. Rebecca Front’s Nicola
Murray is similarly hamstrung in The
Thick of It
– they’d get on very well. There’s not a dud among the cast but
I have a soft spot for Glen and Gary. They are both fundamentally good men just
trying their best in a system that doesn’t reward goodness. Ollie and Dan are
interesting bastards but bastards nonetheless. Mike, well Mike needs a less
stressful job.    



Truth be told I did see this a few years ago so I’ve immediately lied in
this section. But I did watch it again recently and fell in love again so here
we are. This is a magnificent, melancholy, emotional film. I like most of what
Charlie Kaufman does but I do find it a little inaccessible. This story
combines high concept intelligent ideas with real character emotion. It’s about
what being human amounts to and the cost of relationships. One of the best
films you’ll ever see.

I’m still torn about the ending. Are Joel and Clementine doomed to
repeat their same mistakes over and over? Or will true love win every time,
eventually? I don’t know, but not in a disappointing, ambiguous way. The film
basically says if you’re optimistic about love, it’s a good thing they end up
back together. If you’re not, well, it’s not. I’m probably cut either way. I
need to watch it again.


Before 2013, the only thing I knew about Clint Eastwood was that he was
in some old Westerns, he was Dirty Harry,
Gran Torino
had a good reputation and he had recently made a fool of
himself at the 2012 Republican National Convention, talking to an empty chair.
Of his films I think I had only seen Invictus
and J. Edgar; both was pretty
good but not mind-blowing.

One day in 2013 I ended up with a copy of Gran Torino and discovered yes, in actual fact, it is amazing. And
after devouring most of Eastwood’s other work I’ve come to appreciate him as
one of the best American (with all that word signifies) artists. I like the
cleanness and clarity of his storytelling, the professionalism of his approach
to directing and acting and the wonderful performances he gains from actors.
It’s entertainment with something to say. As well as enjoying his films (for
the record, Gran Torino, Unforgiven, The
Bridges of Madison County
and Mystic
are my favourites) Eastwood’s directorial methods are an inspiration.
But I still agree the empty chair thing was pretty stupid.  

Anyway I delved back into the Dirty
series and have to say I enjoyed them immensely. They’re not great
art (except maybe the first), but they know what they are and they do that
well. The accusations of promoting fascism are unfounded in my opinion. I’d
have to question the motives of those throwing around accusations like that. I
mean the question of ‘How far do you go when fighting crime?’ is obviously at
play and is without doubt one of the struggles Harry Callahan faces. But if a
hero bending the rules equals fascism, we might as well stop most cop shows and
nearly all superhero stories. In the second film, Harry even takes down a rouge
group of motorcycle cops who are operating outside the law, executing

I think only first film can really be described as a classic but the
others are enjoyable enough. The sequels suffer from weaker villains and less distinct
storylines. The Zodiac-inspired plot of the first film gives it a clear
motivation, and nearly all the iconic moments of the series really come from
this one film, namely the Magnum .44 monologue and, “Are you feeling lucky,

In my view here are two breathtaking moments that don’t get hardly
enough attention: First, the helicopter assisted pull-back of Harry harshly
interrogating Scorpio on the floodlit football field at night, set to eerie
discordant jazz music (is it all just a game? Harry and the criminals merely
players on different teams?). Second, the heart stopping image of Harry waiting
on the bridge as Scorpio approaches driving the bus of school children. I get
chills thinking of it. One man against the world, holding back evil. That’s the
appeal, not fascism. Or is that what fascists would say?


Can film be powered by personality and star power alone? Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid makes
a strong case for just that. Not that it isn’t helped by a wonderful script,
strong direction and photography. Paul Newman and Robert Redford exude charisma
and carry what feel likes a decidedly contemporary film – it sparkles along
like it could have been made last week, not in 1969. That doesn’t make it
modern though; it just makes it timeless.


The Joker once said that we’re all one bad day away from being just like
him. Falling Down exemplifies this
notion – Michael Douglas’s character is just a regular dude who falls down a
rabbit hole of misfortune and bad decisions after some very terrible luck. He
doesn’t consider himself a bad man, he’s just in a bad world. But he does do some
very bad things. Robert Duvall is beaten down by the world in other ways and is
his unassuming best as the good cop nobody respects. A terrifically well put
together picture that never aims to excuse the protagonist’s behavior, just
explain it.


Paul Thomas Anderson is a great director and he works an ensemble cast
better than almost anyone. Keep an eye on the directors that actors kill to
work with. They’re onto something. This is his most mainstream film and that’s
saying something, given it’s about the 1970s porn industry. It’s not a film you
watch with your grandma (well, depending on your grandmother I guess) but it is
a captivating dark tale. Burt Reynolds has distanced himself from the film
recently, stating that he feels it glorifies pornography. I don’t think anybody
watching Boogie Nights can think it
glorifies any of the characters, but who am I to argue with Burt? And I can’t
get enough of Philip Seymour Hoffman, ever.


By all accounts David Fincher is an intense, methodical, borderline
tyrannical director. But could a gentle, lovely, amiable guy make films like
him? Who knows. I suppose we’ll never find out, and when the standard is this
good, who really minds? Zodiac is a
frightening mystery and famously unsolved. The film is suitably scary but in a
foreboding kind of way, and fits the story well. Creepier than most horror and
no catharsis. Like real life.



I like reading but I admit sometimes it can feel a bit like a chore,
especially compared to more passive entertainment like films or video games, or
less intellectual reading like browsing social media.

However, that is not the case for Gillian Flynn’s work. It is
exhilarating to read, effortless but still complex, basically insatiably great.
It’s just so damn good and so much fun, even though it’s very, very dark. Not
only do the plots race along with twists and turns but the characters are real,
like we’re reading their own personal thoughts. There’s something voyeuristic
going on here. The thoughts aren’t always the ones you’d share.

GONE GIRL, which I actually read in 2014 before the film, is obviously famously magnificent so
I won’t waste time on it. The Cool Girl piece is worth the price of admission alone. And, somewhat rarely, both the film and the book are independently

For the record, of all Flynn’s writing I like SHARP OBJECTS the best. I cared so much for tragic Camille,
disastrous Camille and despised her horrible family. It is apparently being
adapted into a television series. I was disappointed when I heard it was being
adapted into a television series – not because I think it’ll be bad but because
now I can never adapt it myself. I look forward to it immensely.

Apparently the film adaptation of DARK
was not very good. I haven’t seen the film myself but I didn’t enjoy
the book quite as much as the others. It was well plotted and everything but
there’s something of a hard edge to it and the characters not quite as
engaging. I liked how the dual timelines played out in the novel but I’m not
sure how it would work on screen. One day soon I’ll watch it and see, I

I read THE GROWNUP in one
sitting and, like any short story, it suffers from brevity – there’s just not
enough time to build up to the reveals so they feel unearned. Half the fun in a
mystery story is thinking about how it was done. In a short form, you don’t get
time to wonder. This makes the story sound awful – it’s not, it’s really great.
It’s just like a beginning of a new story and I want to read that.


A nice story about a family reuniting to sit Shiva after the death of
their father. I thought it was well written and the characters likeable. I get
the feeling a lot of the emotional moments will hit me harder when I’m older.
And the main character Judd is one of those great guys that everyone loves and
everyone wants to screw, which is a little annoying. I mean, he is pretty cool,
there’s just not much tension when everybody loves your protagonist. Anyway,
still a good read and an equally fine film adaptation.


I liked the film a lot more (Oscar Isaac does something to me) but this
is still a well-told story. Once I’ve travelled around Europe I’ll probably
appreciate the locations more. How far can one bad decision take you? Down the
rabbit-hole of lies, mistrust, double-crossing and murder, naturally.


Possibly the best detective story I’ve ever read, and one of the most
moving. Based on the famously unsolved true case, this is supreme historical
fiction. James Ellroy’s Los Angeles is its own world, a seedy underbelly of
crime etc. I wonder how factual it really is.

I was grabbed by the very first chapter and sucked into this grimy
unkempt world. Bucky is a terrific character and as much as I wanted him to
crack the case, I equally wanted him to walk away and protect his own sanity.
What wonderful writing to achieve such a dichotomy.

I’m having trouble describing how great the novel is so I suggest you
just read it and love it. It is hard, not as in difficult but as in tough,
resolute. These men are all bastards. Some are just slightly better than

There’s a place at my uni that does a book exchange on Thursdays, a
dangerous temptation for a book lover like me. I found The Black Dahlia and The
Basic Eight
at this exchange, and they were both terrific, which begs the
question: what sort of crazy person is going around giving these classics away
for free? Do I have a guardian book angel?


Daniel Handler (as Lemony Snicket) wrote some of the best books of my
youth. As it happens, Daniel Handler (as Daniel Handler) has also written a
bunch of other equally impressive novels.

Apparently THE BASIC EIGHT was
rejected a bunch of times before it was published and I can see why publishers
would be frightened by the general conceit of a debut novel about a teenage
girl murderer. However, the novel is so much more than that. It is a satire of
moral panic in America. It’s poking fun at the faux sophistication of snobby
teenagers. It’s a young adult drama and most of all, a black comedy. The fact
that all these things work is a testament to the writing, as is the fact that
Flan’s voice is so well captured. She remains a sympathetic characters despite
being so annoying.

I appreciated the straight YA romance of WHY WE BROKE UP a lot more, however (what does that make me?).
Handler again takes on a teenage girl in Min Green, a decidedly sweet,
romantic, naïve young woman. She’s not really of any clique or stereotype
(people describe her as ‘arty’ which she denies), when one day she falls for
the basketball co-captain, Ed, who is a nice enough guy but not good enough for
our Min. It happens sometimes though, people fall in love all mismatched, and
instead of quickly disintegrating, like they should, they are somehow
paradoxically strengthened by the wrongness, by the disapproval of friends and

The narrative device of Min directing the writing to Ed, explaining how
each item contributed to their break up (and therefore, the whole story of
them) works well. It seems repetitive early on but once the story gets going,
it’s fine. I didn’t care much for the illustrations but I suppose they were
nice enough. Min’s descriptions of fictional film scenarios as metaphors grates
after a while, though they are clever.

And enough though it’s all in the title and Min provides a whole book’s
worth of reasoning why they did indeed break up, part of me was still hoping
for a happier ending. I was hoping that both of would prove to be what they
could be for each other. But that’s life and that’s young love and being a
teenager.  Terrific.


Neil Gaiman is one of those authors I’ve always wanted to read and I’m
happy I’ve now finally started. He has that strange quality, something unique
in that it takes some time to get used to his writing. You can’t just pick up a
book and read it in one day (or at least I couldn’t). It’s not that it’s bad,
it’s that it’s indisputably his own and that’s tremendous.  

Ergo, AMERICAN GODS took some
getting into but it’s definitely worth the effort. The general premise – old
and new gods do battle in America – is probably the best thing about it. Like
most road trip stories it meanders a bit, but Shadow is an interesting guy.
He’s hard to crack and comes with a fair amount of baggage, but he trudges
through the story trying to do the right thing, hardly amazed at what he sees,
bemused by the crazy characters he meets. As the title suggests, an interest in
myth and folklore probably enhances your experience, but not knowing much
doesn’t preclude you either.

The short story collection FRAGILE
again proves Gaiman’s charming singularity, but like all short story
collections it was a little hit and miss for me. A Gaiman miss is better than
most though. I loved the American Gods
story ‘Monarch of the Glen’ more than American
itself. Other stories I liked include ‘The Problem With Susan’ (an
attempt to give Susan from Narnia some closure), ‘Sunbird’, ‘Keepsakes and
Treasures: A Love Story’, ‘A Study in Emerald’ and ‘Goliath’.      


It is manifestly unfair that every new fantasy YA book should be
compared to Harry Potter. That’s just
the way it is though and actually any book that holds its own is clearly quite
brilliant. Author Ransom Riggs (who actually sounds like a Harry Potter character) crafts a nice narrative and inventive mythology
around real life peculiar photos, which are included in the book. These are old
black and white pictures of weird people, sourced from garage sales and
collectors. A photo of a boy with bees in his mouth becomes a character. It’s an
enjoyable touch. While not the most original plot, there are lots of lovely
elements. There are riffs on time travel classics and a cool X-Men vibe. I can’t wait to see the Tim
Burton film and to finish the other books.


I’m far away from Jeffery Archer on the political spectrum and I know
he’s been to jail and done some shady things. But boy can he write a novel. FIRST AMONG EQUALS might be my
favourite of the half a dozen I’ve read and it is surely begging for a
contemporary TV adaptation. The four protagonists are a little hard to keep
track of at times and some events are treated quite expediently. Whole
elections are summarised in a few sentences, which I kind of like but it is
jarring. But this is the story of 30 odd years in parliament, times four, so
it’s a lot of time to cover.

A better knowledge of British political history from 1950 to the mid 80s
would have enriched my reading, but lacking it didn’t detract much. I was
gripped trying to figure out who would become the first among equals. I was
impressed at how Archer reached a satisfying conclusion for each


Another hit and miss short story collection. Not as many of these
stories grabbed me as much I hoped but still worthwhile. The ‘Rare’ portion of
three alternate endings to ‘One Man’s Meat’ is the best thing I read all year –
sweet, funny, fruitless.


I could fill a novel with all the books I want to read, then another
just with graphic novels. I didn’t really get into reading comics until after I
finished school, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do. And I’m just talking
DC/Marvel superhero stuff; this isn’t even mentioning all the other terrific
indie comics I need to work through. Isn’t being alive tough?

Anyway, I began last year with the extended X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST collection. It includes the original story,
which is fantastic, and some other related stories, which were less exciting,
although I really recommended the Hulk DOFP story ‘Out of Time’. All up, X-Men always examine the big issues and
I really like the 1980s art in the main story..

Also in my collection were the two ‘final’ Batman and Superman stories WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER?
They work well together and would be splendid farewells if the
two characters were ever to truly retire. Somewhat unlikely though.

As I’m going through a bit of a Daredevil thing at the moment it’s only
fitting I delved back into the Matt Murdock archives. I’ve been impressed with
what I’ve read so far – BORN AGAIN, GUARDIAN DEVIL and the beginning of MARK WAID’S 2011 RUN. Daredevil has
certainly been though some shit so it’s good to see a lighter Matt in Waid’s
work. I’ve said most of what I need to in the TV review so just know I’m keen
to read more.


So that’s that. Although I started writing this just after New Years,
it’s taken me until February to get it all finished, so it’s lost some of its
meaning already. But reviewing has been fun and I’ve liked it even if nobody
else has. I will post my film reviews on Letterboxd, which is a great site that
I don’t visit hardly enough.

Selfishly, I’ve also enjoyed writing about films I really like. You
wouldn’t always get to do that if criticism is your main profession.  Everything I’ve said has come from a good
place, I think, from an appreciation of the aspects I adored. I’ve tried
(perhaps in vain) to not be a dickhead early 20s guy who thinks he knows
everything and thinks he could do a better job. Those kind of people suck. I’ve
tried to work out why I decided to write about these stories, what made them
stand out to me. Any film made or book written is a triump,h and any criticism
I’ve made is only a thought on what I thought could be improved.

It’s been interesting reading back on what I’ve written. I’ve tried to
restart with each piece, to treat each review as its own. But I have noticed a
few recurring themes in my criticism. I am more concerned with the narrative,
character and themes of a story, over nearly everything else.

I also seem to boil down a story into whether the protagonist is a ‘good
person’ or not (whatever that means). There’s an old saying that there’s only
one story ever told: “Who am I?” and I guess that’s what I’m picking up on. And
it’s not a bad way of looking at things. People are complex – are they ever
really good or bad? That’s the point of fiction.

I hope to write something about each of the Oscar/award season nominees,
and some other books I’ve read, but I’m not sure I’ll have time. Surely I’ll
scribble down something before the end of the year though. Surely.          

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