Category Archives: annual reviews

The Blue Room’s Best Movies 2018

2018 gave us ‘Juliet Naked’ and ‘Normandy Nude’, but by far and away the best ride we’ve had for many a year in a cinema house was ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. It tops the list down below and deserved all the gongs garnered during the award season earlier in the twelve months just past. It was perfect in every way, from its casting to its over the top blaspheming. I just adored it. So best movies 2018:-

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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2. A Star is Born – Lady GaGa is mesmerising and what a set of pipes co-star Bradley Cooper possesses.

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3. Bohemian Rhapsody – Freddie comes back with all his strut with Rami Malek almost as mesmerising as the Lady.

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4. The Shape of Water – an odd fish of a movie, but wonderful with Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon standouts.

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5. Ladies in Black – This Aussie delight took all of us who can remember back to a nostalgic place in time.

6. Custody – Brings to the movies, in sledgehammer fashion, the scourge that is domestic violence.

7. Ladybird – Saoirse Ronan is so unbearably and achingly beautiful in oddball fashion.

8. Tully – a bravura performance from Charlize Theron when all is not how it seems

9. Phantom Thread – ‘Das Boot’s’ Vicky Krieps lights up this 50s fashion house affair with great performances from Daniel Day Lewis and Lesley Manville.

10. The Wife – for Glenn Close revenge is so sweet

The Best of the Rest – Chesil Beach, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet Naked, The Party, Back to Burgundy, Molly’s Game.

The Blue Room’s Best Music 2018

Not sure how I came across him, but I reckon I must have read something or other about him in the print media. I vaguely remember that someone described him as an Aussie version of a young Leonard Cohen. Anyway that would have piqued my interest and sent me to YouTube to have a listen/watch – and from there I was hooked enough to source his CD. Certainly there are similarities to the great Canadian poet/songsmith, but the local product has more strings to his bow than just that. After two EPs, this is the Melbourne lad has now a fully realised long play, and what a gem it is. Hopefully 2019 will be his break out year, taking his music and sublime voice to a much wider audience. And so to the best music of 2018:-

1. Ryan Downey – Running

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2. George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s. Just that superb voice.

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3. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel. The part-Tasmanian’s sophomore collection has all the spit and polish of the first.

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4. Jack River – Sugar Mountain – Another new discovery for 2018 and another Aussie to boot. Thanks Paul.

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5. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Live from the Ryman. Culled from his sold out shows in 2017, this alt country discovery has the ‘it’ factor in spades.

6. Cat Power – Wanderer. She’s had a troubled time of late but has hit back with this collection of well honed tunes.

7. DMA’s – For Now. On first appearance these guys look like rap artists, but they’re something else entirely.

8. Marlon Williams – Make Way for Love. Bradley Cooper plucked the New Zealander from semi-obscurity for a cameo performance in ‘A Star is Born’, but those in the know have been with him for years.

9. Lucy Dacus – Historian. A vibrant new voice just hitting her straps.

10. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams. Music to make you sweat is a good call.

The Best of the Rest – Sarah Blasko – Depth of Field, Catherine Britt and the Cold Hearts, Kenny Chesney – Songs for the Saints, Willie Nelson – My Way, Mia Dyson – If I Said Only So Far I Take It Back, Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It, Kasey Chambers – Campfire, Missy Higgins – Solastalgia.

The Blue Room’s Best Television 2018

A gay woman from the north west tip of my island had a year to remember for all of us. It started with her contemplating retirement from stand up and ending with her being in the running, in the light of ‘Me Too’, to host the Oscars. Hannah Gadsby is a true original and moved the planet on its axis and changed the face of her profession with the searing ‘Nanette’ for Netflix. She is thankfully no longer contemplating giving the game away. She is marvellous. Do we all now say a collective ‘Sorry’ for what never should have been and hopefully never will be again?

But its getting ridiculous, the good stuff that keeps lighting up our small screens, from a plethora of platforms. And the beauty is that most who now read the lists below can, by pressing a few buttons on a hand held device, view most of the items at any time they desire. And so to television 2018:-

1. Nanette – Netflix

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2. Babylon Berlin – Netflix. Germany just before Hitler was a goldmine for those on the make as well as the bohemian.

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3. Bodyguard – Netflix. Action, action, action at a frenetic pace – and the surprises! Love Keeley Hawes.

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4. Killing Eve – ABC. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer spectacular as the odd couple in this violent delight.

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5. Endeavour – ABC. Every episode eminently watchable and atmospheric of a time that we can only hanker for.

6. The Bridge S4 – SBS. Sad to see her and it go. It was the epitome of Scandi-noir.

7. Black Mirror S1- 4 – Netflix. Uneven, but at its best this omnibus is terrific for imagining what lies ahead of us in the digital age.

8. Squinters – ABC. Such a simple concept of mates, travelling together through the traffic, just having a chat.

9. The Kominsky Method Netflix. Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin taking us on a different sort of journey through the pitfalls of old age.

10. Monash and Me – ABC. Peter Greeve brings a wartime hero back to earth.

The Best of the Rest – The Ozarks – Netflix, The Sinner – Netflix, Simon Reeves Burma and Russia – SBS, Shetland – ABC, Get Shorty – Stan, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Netflix, Spin – SBS, Howard’s End – ABC, Cardinal – SBS, Food Safari Water – SBS, Great British Food Revival – SBS, Shameless (US version) – Netflix, Jack Whitehall Travels with my Father – Netflix, Apple Tree Yard – ABC, The Split – ABC, Line of Duty S5 – ABC, Poldark – ABC, Loch Ness – ABC, Das Boot – SBS, Tick, F***ing Tock – ABC, Joanna Lumley The Silk Road – ABC, Dying Laughing – SBS, Jimmy Barnes Working Class Boy – Seven, Springsteen on Broadway (Netflix), A Private Life (Netflix),Vikings (SBS).

Guilty Pleasures – Doctor Doctor – Nine, 800 Words (sad to see it go) – Seven, A Place to Call Home – Fox..

Special Mention – the Noni Hazlehurst and Ernie Dingo episodes of Who Do You Think You Are – SBS.

The Blue Room’s Best Books 2018

In 2018 the reading public saw Tim Winton return to the top of his game, but the highlight of the year, of course, for me was the publication of my daughter’s beautiful release ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’. Stay tuned for more from her in the new year. So best books 2018:-

1. Kate Gordon – Girl Running, Boy Falling

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Tim Winton – The Shepherd’s Hut

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2. Richard Glover – Flesh Wounds. Hilarious, poignant – it rivals Clive James’ ‘Unreliable Memoirs’.

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3. Gregory Day – A Sand Archive. Features love amidst the sand dunes of France and the Great Ocean Road.

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4. Alex Miller – Passage of Love. Autobiographical or not, there’s few better than Miller when he’s on song.

5. Roger Averill – Relativity. A son endeavours to escape the shadow of an infamous father. Terrific.

6. Carrie Cox – Afternoons with Harvey Beams. Have we the new Nick Earls?

7. Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine. Perfectly fine she isn’t, at least to start with. A great journey.

8. Holly Throsby – Cedar Valley. A sophomore novel every bit as good as the debut.

9. Gabby Stroud – Teacher. What a farce is NAPLAN!

10. Bob Murphy – Leather Soul. Tall tales and true of AFL from a footy icon who can actually write.

The Best of the Rest – Tex Perkins – Tex, Joanna Trollope – An Unsuitable Match, Colin Melloy – Wildwood, Martin Flanagan – A Wink from the Universe, Gayle Foreman – I Have Lost My Way, William McInnes – Fatherhood, Susan Midalia – The Art of Persuasion, Steven Herrick – The Bogan Mondrian, Julie Murphy – Puddin’, Josephine Wilson – Extinctions, Michael Robotham – The Other Wife,

2018 – Twelve Months in the Year of Wonder Weeks

1. Nervous. I was decidedly nervous. Not pacing up and down nervous when the nerves are almost on top of me – but nervous nonetheless. For, you see, I hadn’t done it in this fashion for decades. Babysit. She was so tiny – just a year old and a bit. I’d agreed to it. Why wouldn’t I? I loved her dearly and as 2018 has progressed, I can see she is going to be someone so special, my second born granddaughter. My son and his wifeare busy people, but they care so well and much for this darling imp, lavishing love and attention on her. She is secure in her world of the big gentle dog (with new addition) and a town/business tied to the sea and sea-faring, as well as with her grandparents on the other side. But, that morning, it was me taking on the responsibility of that precious little being for a few hours as Mum and Dad beavered away preparing for another sailing north to the Furneaux Group. Ollie’s incredible mother had bustled in and placed her in her cot up in the nursery and with a cheery, ‘You’ll be right Steve.’ she was away.

And I knew it would be. They were only down the road if required. But I still wondered how would she react to me on waking for, after all, I couldn’t be the presence in her life I would love to be due to distance. I wondered, when the magical alerting device told me she was awake, if she would cry with gusto and displeasure that it was me coming to bring her back into the world outside her bedroom? Would she be irritable, crotchety or worse, sob inconsolably at this unforeseen change in her routine? So yes, I was a tad on edge, waiting.

But there were no cries to tell me she was no longer in the land of nod, just quiet murmurings and soft chortles. There seemed to be no resistance to this semi-foreign old fellow picking her up and cradling her out into the lounge room. I sat down on the sofa and arranged her on my lap. She seemed content enough just to look up into my eyes as I whispered words of affection and praise to her. It was a cherished time, a time to be repeated on several other occasions when I was able to visit during the year. Eventually she grew a little restive so I delved into her book draw and retrieved several tomes to read to her. She remained very at ease as I worked my way through the small pile, just occasionally reaching out to turn a page or to pull down a flag to see what it revealed. And then, little by little, she wearied of that as well, so we turned on the big screen and tuned into ‘Where is Spot’. When Mum returned we were both happily snuggled up together, watching the canine’s mild adventurings. I had had the loveliest, loveliest time. Nothing beats being a grandfather.

2. Money doesn’t buy happiness. I’d be happy with my Leigh even if we were were dirt poor living in a hovel. But, with retirement approaching, I knew she was, if not exactly worried about finances post that event for I would would always have her back, but wondering just how careful she’d have to be. She’s has always been independent in this regard and was resolved to continue to be. Then, out of the blue, a few days into ‘18, we were called into the back room of a newsagents and told some astonishing news. The amount wasn’t huge huge, but it was enough. And I know I am not biased by saying that it couldn’t happen to a more deserving recipient. Leigh is just so giving – giving in her personal relationships; giving in her working situation. We all know that.

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3. Presents come in all forms and I have received some glorious ones over the last 12 months. A highlight were the hugs and back pats I was gifted from my other beloved granddaughter with her greeting to me on the occasion of turning yet another year older back in August. She is a radiant sunbeam in my existence. Leigh presented me with tickets to ‘We Will Rock You’ which I thoroughly enjoyed, perhaps not quite as much as I did, though, watching Jimmy Barnes unwrap his life on stage. That was a wonderfully thoughtful present from my son last Xmas. Did I say enjoy? Perhaps not the best word for some of the tales Barnsey told that evening. And this Christmas Katie gave me the best t-shirt ever. Again, from Richard, came the best gift of all in 2018 – news that, in a brand new year, I am going to be a grandfather again. Another granddaughter? My first grandson? It doesn’t matter. I am just so chuffed. To make the year complete my gorgeous, gorgeous niece across the water will soon give my sister/brother-in-law another grandchild. Some reading this will know just how special that is.

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4. My life is being continually enriched by friends. Some, from Sydney, are newly back in my orb after a long absence. Anthony W, Andrew I and Andrew R’s re-entry have given my existence some extra polish. Whisk and Co is the venue for my regular coffee and treat with Rob W and I relish it, as do I the sharing I have had this year of a Coogee residence with old mate Chis B. Leigh and I have reconnected with past Burnie pals Karin and Michael C. Denise W (with Stefan) and Denise G continue to be a wonderful presence in our lives, as do world’s best neighbours Noel and Jane S. All these people add the lustre that continues to make our planet such a treat to be on. Thank you.

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5. It is the Golden Age of Television and our extra platforms this year have given us much to talk, as well as write, about. Some of it I savour on my tod, but it gives an extra tinge of pleasure to watch with my beloved. I adore her input. She was never one for a running commentary, just a comment or barb here and there. Often she has to clarify for me just exactly what is going on. I love her commentary on Jo, the news reader’s, fashion sense; ergo Portillo’s utter lack of it as he boards yet another train to blind its passengers. We’ve recently started watching the US version of ‘Shameless’ and I receive the benefit of many audible comments of disbelief, even horror, at Frank Gallagher’s antics. But my Leigh saves her best for when evil family member Regina appears on screen, with her nasty, nasty machinations, to bring chaos to the House of Bligh in the two seasons of ‘A Place to Call Home’ we watched over the winter. There were many, many mutterings of ‘the cow’ emanating from her chair across the way from me. There’s countless reasons why I love my Leigh so much – this is just a minute one.

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6. There were some great stories to emerge from the AFL during Season ‘18, but a West Coast premiership, for me, was not one of them. I did, though, think it fantastic, for several reasons (departed Collitragics, my next door neighbour, a mother who loves the coach) that Collingwood made it through to the big dance. There were statements made by various players in various ways, Aliir Aliir and Majak Daw – so sad about his post-season woes; Adam Saad and Bachar Houli; Alex Johnson, as well as, on several occasions, classiness from the Richmond Football club. There were some great games with nail-biting finishes and my Hawks were in the mix into the finals. And, turning to cricket, wasn’t it great seeing Tim Paine leading us to a non-boorish test win?

7. I love stays at Sisters Beach and Bridport, both now second homes to me – so thanks to Kim and Ruth, Rich and Shan for putting up with me. For some of that time, at the former, I’ve had my precious mother come stay too. That truly is a blessing.

8. A very special canine I am lucky enough to be in the company of, as I write, is now a century old in doggy years. She’s at present snuffling quietly in her bed in front of the tele. She is a remarkable and beautiful staffy, much adored by owners, Phil and Julie. It’s always a treat being responsible for her well-being over the yuletide period, together with her furry mate Bronson. I remember my first meeting with Summer, also answering to the Pie, many, many years ago now when Leigh’s brother/sister-in-law lived on the Gold Coast. She won my heart then and still holds it now. Gemma, from a greyhound rescue source, entered my world this year, as did my son’s new addition Pat the Dog (aka Round Hound, aka Square Dog). He’s going to be a ripper. Days spent with Sammy the Spoodle were, as always, delightful and I am looking forward to my dog-sit of another very fine and personable dog, Jasper, early in January. That’ll be a treat.

9. Out and about in Hobart there are terrific people selling wares in various outlets around the city. These give service well above the norm – contact with them being always an enhancing experience. Eleni has looked after our travel requirements at the RACT for years and she’s irreplaceable. My stamp man David, at his Trafalgar Arcade premises, always has time for a chat and what a trove of treasures his premises are. The cheery smile and greeting of Jess at Harvey Norman Glenorchy is always valued as she hands over the endless number of snaps I have developed there. And then, there’s the beautiful Adeleen whom I love encountering at Woolworths, Claremont Plaza. She puts some joy into the often fraught business of shopping for groceries. She goes beyond the call as well.

10. It is my usual routine of a Sunday morning to visit Northgate, mainly to collect the Age and treat myself to a flat white and date scones at Banjos. I’m always greeted out the back, where I normally park, by a cacophony of birdnoise – it’s hardly birdsong. The Australianness of this racket always places me in a more positive frame of mind – as do the efforts of the avian-life of Sisters and Briddy when I visit. And the joy I receive from the blue wrens on our front lawn is endless.

11. Again I have had the pleasure of keeping in touch with many friends through snail mail, so my gratitude goes to all who have received my letters and take the time to read my humble scribings. I love putting them together and will always be thankful to my Katie and her Leigh for giving me the wherewithal. And Lisa, I break out into a great big smile every time I see the contents of my envelopes looking back at me from Instagram.

12. Again I’ve had the pleasure of spending time at Aberdeen and Sheffield on Christmas Day ‘18. Ta muchly Laurel and Craig, Ilsa and Keith. In Laurel’s superb garden, at the former, Tess came up to me, gave me a hug and stated, ‘Do you know what Christmas is really about Poppy? It’s all about family and love.’