Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The week that was #24

One of those weeks where a few things have happened but none of them, alone, warrants a standalone blog post. I saw a film and a couple of plays, saw a lecture by one of the world's leading public intellectuals, and had one of my tweets get retweeted a surprising number of times.

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen's latest, it is the story of Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter on holiday in Paris with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams); he is hoping to switch from script-doctoring to novel-writing, and finds himself nostalgic for the glory days of Paris in the 1920s, when it was a haven for the world's artists and intellectuals.

Of course, magical realism1 kicks in and, while wandering the streets at midnight, Gil finds himself transported to the 1920s he longs for, where he encounters F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Gertrude Stein, amongst others; Hemingway suggests he give Stein his novel to critique. However, when he leaves her salon to get it, he finds himself back in the present day.

Excited to share the experience with Inez, he tries to take her with him, but he can't find his way back – however, as soon as she leaves him alone, the same old car that transported him to the 1920s rounds the corner and collects him.

After more visits, and more conversations with great historical figures (including Salvador Dali, played by Adrien Brody), he finds himself falling in love with Adriana, a Frenchwoman who begins the story as Pablo Picasso's mistress. Will he stay with her in the 1920s Paris that he adores, or return to the present day and a life he's slowly realising he doesn't enjoy?

While I wouldn't call myself a Woody Allen fan – mostly because I've only seen three of his films2; I don't feel that's enough to make a judgement – but I've liked those I've seen. It's also the most I've enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson in a film since either Zoolander or The Royal Tenenbaums, and he does a great job with Woody Allen's clever dialogue.

It helps to be a bit of a fan of artists from that period, since a lot of the humour stems from how they're portrayed: Hemingway, for example, talks like he writes (sparsely and determined) and always wants to start fights; Dali is hilariously bizarre and obsessed (at this point in time) with rhinoceros.

A couple of things didn't quite sit with me, particularly the overly-long opening scene that moves through Paris; if it were half as long it would have been twice as enjoyable. And Inez's parents are almost over the top in their Ugly American-ness; that could have been toned down a bit without it being any less clear.

But those are minor issues; overall, it's a very enjoyable film. Kind of mild compared to most of what else is on the screen, but still worthwhile.

1A genre of literary fiction that boils down to 'a little bit fantasy' and includes the works of people like Franz Kafka, Gabriel García Márquez, Louis de Bernières and Thomas Pynchon.
2The other two being Mighty Aphrodite and Sweet and Lowdown.

Broken Pot

I'd been assigned to review Broken Pot, a production by Spotlight Theatre of a locally written work by a Sudanese man. It got a little more complicated when the woman playing the lead dropped out and my good friend Shannon Gray took the part; I tend to avoid reviewing shows my close friends are involved in. But sometimes that's the way it is.

You can find the review here.

Trending on Twitter

While the Qantas shutdown debacle was taking place, wits were active on Twitter. I tweeted a few before coming up with this one:

As you can see, it's been retweeted 91 times since I first posted it. That was apparently enough to get my name to rate as a trending topic in Australia; i.e. it showed up in enough tweets rate on the metrics the system has in place to monitor such things.

I, of course, had no idea of this until I got this tweet:


Sexual Perversity in Chicago

Accidental Productions were putting this early David Mamet play on at the Bakehouse – I knew because I'd posted the notice on the ATG – and, given Mamet's a playwright I'm interested in and haven't seen much of – and I was hoping to get to see it. So, when my friend Tracey suggested I have dinner with her and her boyfriend Sam, I suggested the play and they agreed.

We had intended to try out Conetopia – apparently they do some sort of cone-shaped version of a pizza – but they unhelpfully weren't open, at any of the two locations we went to. So, we cursed them at length and went to find an alternative; we ended up at Pizza Capers (on The Parade), which turned out well, since they make awesome pizzas.

Anyway, we made our way to the Bakehouse (as usual there were a bunch of people I knew in the audience, include three of the Macbeth cast) and sat down for some sweary mid-seventies American black comedy.

It's about four twenty-somethings, living in Chicago3; without going into too much detail4 it's a dialogue-heavy look at the 'dating' scene at the time. While it was funny with great dialogue, it was also kind of discomfiting – the men are a pair of misogynist assholes (though one is far worse than the other) and the women fairly thin characters are mostly there to allow the story to progress.

But I'm glad I saw it; it makes me look forward to seeing the later Mamet plays.

3Yeah, I know that probably comes as a shock given the title.
4Because a) it's not that interesting on paper, and b) I'm lazy.

Noam Chomsky

Not a something I ever thought I'd be writing: I attended a lecture by Noam Chomsky in Adelaide on Saturday. He was invited here by the The Australian Friends of Palestine to deliver the seventh annual Edward Saïd5 lecture.

Chomsky, if you're unaware, is one of the world's leading public intellectuals: Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at one of the USA's top colleges, MIT, and an outspoken political activist – and he's extremely critical of US foreign policy, domestic affairs and the media. As we were reminded at the lecture there was a point not long ago where he was the most cited scholarly source in the world.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

The lecture was mostly about the current state of affairs in Palestine, and how this (and many other situations in the world) is overwhelmingly determined by the United States and its policies. While there are issues in the world I personally consider more pressing, many of them are related – governments acting irresponsibly and against both the wishes of the people it supposedly represents; the privileging of religious groups and other special interests; the manipulating of the media for political and financial gain and so forth.

I'm glad I got the opportunity to see such a legend in person. And afterwards I had dinner with my friends Jordan and Ian, and we went to Dumpling King, which I've been meaning to try for months now.

A good night out indeed.

5You can read more about him here.

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