Category Archives: Television/DVD review

Sex, Chip and Briefly Hugh

Remember ‘About a Boy’? I do, both the book (Nick Hornby) and the 2002 movie. It was the film that stuck most, which is no reflection on the prominent author’s wordsmithery. It was so well done with Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult. I recall it, though, mainly because it was the first time many of us realised that Hugh Grant could act; could show some emotion on the cinema screen. Prior to this title he was typecast as the ladies’ man pretty boy. In the offering he plays Will Freeman, initially a layabout fop with no fulcrum to his life, except his father’s royalties to fritter away – and there’s the nub. Will’s dad wrote a Christmas song – an earworm of a ditty that connected enough to become a yuletide classic. Son Will therefore will never have to lift a finger to earn a living – his father’s song being a gift that keeps on giving. Those familiar with the story know that it’s a lad coming into his life that changes all that. But the point of the exercise is that it takes only one song to hit and one is set for life.

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Remember ‘About a Boy’? I do, both the book (Nick Hornby) and the 2002 movie. It was the film that stuck most, which is no reflection on the prominent author’s wordsmithery. It was so well done with Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult. I recall it, though, mainly because it was the first time many of us realised that Hugh Grant could act; could show some emotion on the cinema screen. Prior to this title he was typecast as the ladies’ man pretty boy. In the offering he plays Will Freeman, initially a layabout fop with no fulcrum to his life, except his father’s royalties to fritter away – and there’s the nub. Will’s dad wrote a Christmas song – an earworm of a ditty that connected enough to become a yuletide classic. Son Will therefore will never have to lift a finger to earn a living – his father’s song being a gift that keeps on giving. Those familiar with the story know that it’s a lad coming into his life that changes all that. But the point of the exercise is that it takes only one song to hit and one is set for life.

Now consider these two tunes that have stood the test of time ‘Angel of the Morning’ and ‘Wild Thing’. Two very disparate offerings, but nonetheless monumental hits. Keep them in mind. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to them. But now the sex bit.

With that – well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If you’re looking for a massive actual dose of it and nudity, you won’t find it here – despite the opening scene. That being said, it is almost totally about sex, watched by countless others on the Netflix domain. You may be a tad offended by it, but it does take an honest look at youthful coming to grips (sorry) with masturbation, penis-fear and anxiety about the act itself. Asa Butterfield plays Otis who, in the digital age, is trying desperately to lose his virginity. He’s not assisted in this by the fact that his mother – a very comely, confused and wanton Gillian Anderson – is a sex therapist. So the boy knows one or two things, but little more, about the mechanics and can exhibit a common sense approach to the mental aspects. He’s manipulated by wild child Maeve (a bravura performance by Emma Mackey) into becoming, guess what? Yes, his school’s very own on campus sex fix it man, despite his lack of actually ever actively participating in the process to its culmination. Still, she espouses his expertise in all its facets. If this all sounds marginally naff, just give it a go – and like its legion of fans you may also find yourself enchanted by its good writing, positive vibe and warm examination of the human condition. I loved it – and it bought me to Chip, with the assistance of my beautiful writerly daughter Kate.

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Over one of our regular city brunches she asked if I had ever heard of Chip Taylor. I replied in the affirmative that I had, but only in the vaguest way. When I in turn inquired what her interest was, she told me she had picked up on one of his songs on the soundtrack to ‘Sex Education’, emphasising how much it appealed to her. Back home I duly YouTubed it and yep, it was a ripper. But we’ll go there later. Let’s concentrate on the singer/songwriter for a while.

Now here’s a list:-

Wild Thing’ – a hit for the Troggs, Jimi Hendrix, the Runaways and the Muppets.

Angel of the Morning’ – a hit for Merrilee Rush, Juice Newton and Chrissy Hynde.

I Can Make it With You’ – a hit for Jackie de Shannon.

Try, Just a Little Bit Harder’ – a hit for Janis Joplin

Enough to live on for several lifetimes, I’d say.

Now, add into the mix that Chip is also the brother of Jon Voight so therefore is the uncle of Angelina Jolie.

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The man was born James Wesley Voight in Yonkers, New York in 1940. Originally he wanted to become a professional golfer, but teed off instead with ‘Wild Thing’, so it was goodbye to the golfing greens. He really wanted his own singing career in music and although he had some minor success, becoming a rock god eluded him and he turned to professional gambling. With his weathered voice he has now found his niche and a cult following (as well as a Norwegian Grammy nomination) on his return to the stage, back in the 90s. As for his ‘Sex Education’ contribution, here I feel I must state that I am not usually a fan of a certain word on the airwaves and in music – but it just seems, well, appropriate for once. It certainly caught Katie’s ear and my attention, did ‘Fuck All the Perfect People’. With its exposure on a high rating series, it has purchased for Taylor another signature song, this time one for his second coming.

To be or not to be
To free or not to free
To crawl or not to crawl
Fuck all those perfect people!

To sleep or not to sleep
To creep or not to creep
And some can’t remember, what others recall
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I’m not talking about you!

To stand or not to stand
To plan or not to plan
To store or not to store
Fuck all those perfect people!

To drink or not to drink
To think or not to think
Some choose to dismember, you’re rising your thoughts
And fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!

To sing or not to sing
To swing or not to swing
(Hell) He fills up the silence like a choke on the wall
Fuck all those perfect people!

To pray or not to pray
To sway or not to sway
Jesus died for something – or nothing at all.
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!

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Check it out on-line – his performance of it – or, even better, treat yourself to ‘Sex Education’. A gem of a series produces a cross reference to a gem of a performer with a gem of a tune

Listen to the above tune here = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt9GBafFzjE

Trailer for ‘Sex Education’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o308rJlWKUc

March Marvels

The weather’s cooler so it’s back into jeans, socks and an extra layer on top. The cinemas have turned off their air conditioning (always a bane), but it’s too early for firing up winter heating. At the State the seats are comfy, as they are at home in front of a tele, so it was time to settle into watching what we hoped would be March marvels. Were they?

Could there ever be a more perfect husband than Armie Hammer as Monty Ginsburg? He features an All-American square jaw, is broad shouldered and as tall as a redwood. He plays equal in every way to his famous wife, supportive of her career aspirations that were ahead of their time – after all, these are as the 50s morph into the 60s – and never a cuss or a harsh word crosses his lips. His better half (really), Ruth, opened up American law to embrace equal opportunity from her exulted place as a high court judge. She was diminutive as he was opposite, but what a team they made.

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On the Basis of Sex’ examines our heroine’s progress from an almost token law student, gender-wise, to the highest legal office in the land, ushering in an era of progressive decision making (which Trump has swept away with his ultra-conservative appointments). But in Ginsburg’s day remarkably forward-thinking souls, like her, paved the way for all that Trump and his cronies abhor. Liberal America will always thank her for that.

There’s nothing wrong with this bio-pic. It just doesn’t set the world on fire is all. But when Ruth succeeds by pushing through, in an unusual way, a law enshrining equal rights, it is worthily emotive. Consider a visit if it comes to one of your platforms at a future date.

Now Bill Nighy is one of my very favourites in the acting world and he shines, with all his tics and idiosyncrasies, in ‘Sometimes Always Never’. He is superb as a tightly bound man, addicted to Scrabble, living a highly ordered life. This starts to break down when he receives a call to come view a John Doe who may or may not be his long missing son. Said son stormed out during an argument with his dad over said game and hasn’t been seen by the family since. Nighy’s character Alan, a Merseyside tailor, cannot get over it and his other son Peter suffers as a consequence. At the viewing he encounters a couple with the same intention. Alan immediately fleeces the husband with his hustling ability and has a relationship of sorts with his missus, ‘Call the Midwife’s’ Jenny Agutter. Great to see her out of her habit and being just a tad naughty.

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But it’s the great thesp who delivers in this outing, in his natural element, as Alan. It’s a small film so therefore he may not get the kudos his performance warrants and it is a far from perfect film – but it is great viewing to see a mature actor at the top of his game.

And, as we turn to the small screen in March, someone else of mature years, at the top of his game, is Hugh Grant. Like Nighy, he’s another consummate Britisher, but he plays against type here in this biopic of controversial politician Jeremy Thorpe. Once, as leader of the Liberal Party, Thorpe had the political world at his feet. Then his sexual proclivities caught up with him in an era when homosexuality was against the law and it all came tumbling down. For a time he kept his true self well hidden behind marriage, but when he discovers and is titillated by Ben Whishaw’s Norman Scott, in a rich man’s stables and they take a tumble in the hay, he lets down his guard. To him Norman is just a plaything to be disposed of at will. To the younger, by far, man the relationship was much, much more – and thus, when jilted, his revenge was unforgiving. He wasn’t going to take it lying down. Whishaw matches Grant for brilliance in ‘A Very English Scandal’. Hopefully this title will be up there with HG’s other signature roles, although it’s at variance to what we normally associate with him. We watched this from a DVD and if unavailable on one your platforms, it is excellent value for the purchase price.

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Also well warranting a looksee, small-screen wise, are another two guys who have well and truly paid their dues. It’s a Netflix product and recounts the story of Bonnie and Clyde from the perspective of the hunters, not the hunted. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson are like old whisky – they get better with age – just like your scribe.

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Trailer ‘On the Basis of Sex’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28dHbIR_NB4

Trailer ‘Sometimes Always Never’ -= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22R-JQRov_U

Trailer ‘A Very English Scandal’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggDTJc470Co

Trailer ‘The Highwaymen’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH6vC-BBKOc

Eight, Over and Out

I won’t grieve. I won’t miss it. It’s not ‘Mad Men’, ‘Downton’, ‘West Wing’ or ‘Californication’. No longer sharing my world with Don Draper, Violet CrawleyCountess of Grantham, Joshia Bartlet or Hank Moody still pains me.

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That being written, ‘Game of Thrones’ is a magnificent and remarkable beast. We have been blessed to have had it for so long and now, with Season 8 about to commence on our small screens, the end is nigh – although spin-offs have been promised. Parts of it were simply breathtaking – and for me not only the bits Ms Sandlier listed. Like her, for much of the time, I didn’t have a clue what was going on, or who belonged to which family. But, unlike with her, re-watching it all again in preparation for the final hurrah is out of the question, although I know she’s far from alone doing so in the build-up to April 15th. There are scenes, though, I’d love to see again, especially those involving Emilia Clarke and the dragons. Love the dragons.

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I also will not be busting a gut to see it as close as is possible to the release date. I can wait. I’m a patient man.

What I relish about the thing is that, for most, it is the pinnacle of our Golden Age of Television. It is our ‘Gone with the Wind’; our ‘The Birth of a Nation’. It’s something we can pass on to our kids; our grandchildren as Tegan S is now doing with her fifteen year old. My Katie will do that for Tess; Rich for his Ollie and the one about to be – just as long as they don’t kill the dwarf!

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Tegan Sadlier’s opinion piece = https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=tegan+sadlier+tv+stories+game+of+thrones

Me and MAFS

My dear mother, at 92, loves Martin Clunes – and what’s not to like? ‘Doc Martin’ is beloved in my household and millions of others globally. He’s aced curmudgeon, has Clunes. In his Cornish sea-fronted village he’s surrounded by lovable dolts and irritating patients. The blood-fearing doctor is in a constant state of exasperation at the world he’s found himself in. It’s pure escapism – he transports us to another place; we can get away from our worries by being entertained by him and his foibles.

Now whereas this fitted perfectly in with the ABC at an accessible, for all, time-slot of joyously uninterrupted viewing, the actor’s latest offering, ‘Manhunt’ has gone to the dark side. It’s gone to ad-drenched, free-to-air commercial television. It was set to follow the reality behemoth ‘My Kitchen Rules’. My mother was looking forward to seeing the English thesp in a different role.

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And she tried to watch it, she really did. She was soon defeated. Of course it started later than it’s slated starting point at 9pm, as reality shows seem to have the right to go on as long as they wish. Evidently not keeping to published times is a ploy to somehow prevent one from changing channels – most would give up and go to another platform, but my mother hasn’t that luxury. Nor has she the mechanism to store it for later and fast forward through the interminable ad breaks slicing and dicing the show into five minute sections. My dear mother gave up as tiredness overcame her. No doubt a family member will gift her a DVD of the series, knowing her tastes, at a later date. There are shows we all recommend to her, but many are on far too late for her as reality series these days take centre stage. They are comparitively cheap to make and if the jackpot is hit with the public, they’re a rating and therefore an advertising bonanza. But for my mother she, rightly or wrongly, calls them ‘reality rubbish’, not worth her time. So she’ll bury her nose in a book or slot in a DVD. Pity.

Reality rubbish’ has taken over the television landscape. It’s easy to knock it and people like Tim Elliott who watch the genre. His opinion piece revolved around ‘Married At First Sight’ and it leads the pack, popularity wise, at the moment. On paper it seems ludicrous and for that alone it would have never featured as part of my viewing – never. But here’s the rub. Sometimes you’re captive; not in control. Now I can say I’ve never watched ‘Master Chef’, ‘MKR’ or ‘The Block’, the other huge raters, but I have MAFS and several of the other ‘finding true love’ variety, ‘The Bachelorette’ and ‘First Dates’ – all in somebody else’s loungeroom.

And I soon discovered each of them, despite fully realising I was being manipulated by their contrived natures, to be eminently compelling.

In the wee hours a few nights ago the radio had on a British human relations expert speaking to the topic of MAFS’ hold on the Australian viewing public. She had worked on several UK shows of that ilk. When asked if it was really true love the contestants were after, she laughed and went on to explain it was mainly about a way to get richer than they were; to have their fifteen minutes of fame and/or notoriety. Of course, as we all know, a few have succeeded. Most, though, disappear back into obscurity. She, the expert, was illuminating on all the boxes they have to tick before they make it on to the set – mostly to do with body shape, appearance and how to behave, or misbehave. She said it is forbidden to rig the outcome, but there’s nothing to stop contestants being strongly advised.

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Now I must admit I was fascinated during the hour I spent recently with ‘Married at First Sight’. The wonderful couple I was with explained to me, in detail, as we went, how the show operated. There did seem to be a couple of pairings who were seemingly besotted with each other. One such featured a fellow who claimed he came to the show as a virgin and had that weight quickly lifted off him soon after their confected vows by the damsel he was matched with. Regular MAFS watchers will know how quickly their togetherness dissipated. But at the time it seemed so sweet and genuine. Knowing myself, I could quite easily have become caught up in it all. That was shattered, though, at the end by a couple whose relationship had turned rancid. Each clearly despised the other. So when, at the end of the show, they were given the choice to stay or go it should have been obvious what was to occur. Both clearly had to depart, but if one wanted to stay, it forced the other to do stay ‘married’ under the show’s rules. Guess what – one required just that bit more infamy. I couldn’t leap that hurdle, so I didn’t persevere with this vehicle in my own abode.

Again ‘The Bachelorette’ was similar. I had great company for a few episodes of the ‘17 series too. And it was quite easy to lose yourself in it, that is, till she (Sophie Monk) chose the exact type of man she’d been telling us had, to date, ruined her life. Again many of you dear readers will know how that went for her. Blind Freddy could see the mistake she was yet again making .

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For me the best of the shows was ‘First Dates’. Contrived too, of course, it did seem to have more heart; the contestants, well, more real. If it resumes I could get hooked.

So you never know. I might easily become a Tim Elliott too. In the world we live these shows give an escape, despite their motivations and manipulations. And that’s no small thing. No different to ‘Doc Martin’ in fact.

Tim Elliott’s opinion piece = https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/there-are-lessons-for-the-whole-family-in-trashy-reality-tv-20190319-p515gi.html

Hollywood Endings at Home?

In recent weeks I’ve entered hitherto foreign territory with the popular platform Netflix. Up until now we’ve been immersed in its vast array of small screen series, keeping Leigh and myself mightily entertained. But, some recent house/dog sits have freed up my time to venture elsewhere and spread my wings. As a result I’ve come away with a long list of movies from it, as well as, to a lesser extent, from Stan. The former, though, houses the first two viewed – very different, but both worth of the time spent with them.

Paul Giamatti’s Richard and Kathryn Hahn’s Rachel are in relationship hell. It’s not that they don’t love each other, but any sort of enjoyment from sex has disappeared long ago. For this forty-something couple its sole purpose is to produce a longed for offspring – but the usual means is not working. Finally, other solutions are sought and we are taken into a warts and all look at the world of IVF, adoption and surrogacy. Eventually there’s a giving young relative, Sadie (Kayli Carter), willing to lend a hand, or her body.

Private Life’ takes us to the nitty gritty of the often heartbreaking decisions that have to be made in the pursuit of the goal of mother/fatherhood. When all seems out of reach in this film that pulls no punches, suddenly a ray of hope emerges – but will that too be snuffed out? It’s all passion killing stuff treated with no airbrushing whatsoever. Paul G is superb in his demanding role, Kathryn Hahn simply brave, I would have thought, beyond the call.

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There’s a no doubt deliberate drabness to the tone of this film – one that does not detract from its quality, but seems wholly fitting. Director/writer Tamara Jenkins underwent fertility treatment herself and her first hand experience shows. It’s engrossing viewing as our ever-hopeful pair try so hard to be positive when all the signs point to failure.

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Little drabness, though, in the offering from sunny Argentina that was huge in its homeland, largely for all the wrong reasons. The on-set affair between ‘The Red Thread’s’ two leading protagonists outraged a nation, but sure bought the punters, in their droves, to the megaplexes.

There is an ancient belief that there is an invisible scarlet thread (thus the English title) that people, who are meant to be together, in this case vinter Manuel (Benjamín Vicuña) and air-hostess Abril (María Eugenia Suárez) will eventually be. The duo make contact over Amy Winehouse and then a flight to Colombia. A customs mix-up see the pair separated, preventing any possible continuation of an obvious mutual attraction and they go their separate ways. She weds a rock star; he successfully raises a family and quality vines.

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Then the thread comes into play and a chance meeting at a resort location sees them reunited and how; lustily forgetting any consideration of the supposedly loved-ones back home. Perhaps it should have happened years before, but what now for our love struck pair?

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Both leads are appealing to the eye, although the movie brings little new to the theme of attraction lost and regained in in awkward circumstances. There’s obvious chemistry between the pair which, as it turns out, resulted in an ugly confrontation during film making between Vicuña’s then wife and Suárez. The pair are now together. The film is not as testing to watch as ‘Private Life’ if some light relief is the order of the day.

Be aware that both movies display a fair amount of nudity and sexual activity and of the two, the first is the stand out. Also viewed, but of lesser quality were ‘The Devil’s Mistress’ (Goebbels takes a lover) and ‘A Spanish Affair2’ (definitely helps to be Spanish and know regional idiosyncrasies). Still, if my list is anything to go by, there would seem to be some fruitful movie watching from Netflix to last me quite a while.

Trailer for ‘Private Life’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1orjA9Z8g4

Trailer for ‘The Red Thread’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1pQeMaCV7E

Puddin’ and Dumplin’

They are gorgeous, these girls. Willowdean Dickson and Millie Michalchuk would turn heads in any situation for their sassiness and plus-sized curves. They possess a beauty that is radiant and their allure appeals to any number of the opposite gender. Pat of the issue, though, is often the owners of such charm and comeliness just can’t see it.

Julie Murphy’s ‘Dumplin’ was a NY Times bestseller and hit a chord with a YA audience craving for ‘real’ role models. This wasn’t lost on director Anne Fletcher, star Jennifer Aniston or songbird/national treasure Dolly Parton. They have combined to present a film version now streaming on Netflix.

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It’s a production with a heart as big as Texas. Willowdean, played with elan by Aussie Danielle Macdonald, is a 17 year old student of Clover City High and a diner waitress. Her mum (Aniston) is a fading local beauty, running the annual pageant Miss Teen Bluebonnet, being a former winner back in the day. She tries to be a good mother but is not entirely tactful when it comes to her daughter, throwing around the family’s pet name for her. Dumplin’ is not always impressed. The younger Dickson, partly in retaliation, spunkily decides to enter the beauty/talent contest, but her spark of defiance quickly morphs into something else. It becomes a rallying cry for a few other outsiders – the larger than life Millie and lesbian goth Hannah.

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Bo (Luke Bernard) is the love interest here. He obviously adores Willowdean’s curves, as well as her other more cerebral attributes, but it takes a while for our heroine to accept his advances as genuine. It is a delightful journey, this adaptation. We know exactly how it will all pan out in the end – and that doesn’t take away the shine at all. It is a comfortable way to spend some time with a small screen. The author gets a minute cameo (can you spot her towards the end?) and it is also worth checking out Dolly on YouTube performing ‘Girl in the Movies’ from the soundtrack. Just beautiful.

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Meanwhile Ms Murphy has produced a companion volume to coincide (deliberately or otherwise) with the release of ‘Dumplin’. ‘Puddin’ is certainly a match for its predecessor in the readability department, focusing on Willowdean’s mate Millie. It’s basically an odd couple tale as circumstances bring Miss Michalchuk and school dance queen turned bad girl Callie together. This tome, despite its 400 plus pages, is an easy peruse as Millie works at chipping away Callie’s rough edges, as well as trying to figure out what is going on with her hot and cold beau-hopeful Malik. It features many characters from the first book and it is interesting comparing the movie’s version of Millie with how one pictures her in print. With ‘Dumplin’ featuring in many awards on release, its follow-up should be equally popular. Maybe there’ll be a version on a big or small screen of it too!

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Netflix site for ‘Dumplin’ = https://www.netflix.com/au/title/80201490

Julie Murphy’s website = http://juliemurphywrites.com/

Dolly Parton performs ‘Girl in the Movies’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdSKR8EHnXY

Edna and Sam, My Hero

Look at the image of her amidst the magnolia blooms during her Vassar years. She was gorgeous. After her graduation, a friend remembers seeing her, flame-fired red hair flying, as she ran down a street in Greenwich village, ‘…flushed and laughing like a nymph.’ Another remembered nostalgically her lips shaped like a valentine. She turned heads. It was the 20s and the world was opening up for women; to young women like her prepared to take it on with their words; young women prepared to take it up to the menfolk with their vivacity and sexuality, often in unconventional fashion. Her love life certainly became a talking point.

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Her talent was spotted early. A rich benefactor paid for her education and by 1923, at age 31, she was the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Later came the Robert Frost medal for lifetime achievement. She was friends with all the literary giants of the era, refusing proposals from her male admirers until she met Eugen Boissevain, whom she married and cohabited with for 26 years, both taking lovers on the side. She managed to find time to regularly publish tomes of poetry and prose until her death in 1950 as a result of a fall down the stairs at her home. This was Stapleton. It went on to become a colony for artists and now it, together with its extensive gardens, is open to the general public.

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The great Thomas Hardy once wrote that America had two great attractions – the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay. In 1928 she wrote the haunting elegy ‘Dirge Without Music’.

It was cheap in JBs and I purchased it because he headlined. I’d never heard of this 2017 film although the blurb suggested it was his finest performance. I doubt that, but nonetheless ‘Hero’ is a worthy vehicle for the talents of one of America’s finest. He’s recently resurfaced in a role playing Jackson Main’s (Bradley Cooper) much older brother Bobby in ‘A Star is Born’. His Netflix release, ‘The Ranch’, is also popular.

In ‘Hero’ he plays faded star Lee Hayden, a Western icon with a golden set of tonsils. His best days are well behind him and in any case, he really only had one significant role for which he is remembered. He gets by these days on weed and whisky. His drug dealer, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), is his best friend. At the dealer’s place he runs into Charlotte (Laura Prepon of ‘Orange is the New Black’ fame), a much younger woman – thirty-something to his 70, an age gap he’s not at all at ease with. She chides him not to dictate who’s she has to fall for, so the unlikely couple become lovers. This is compounded by a cancer diagnosis and a tribute speech that goes viral, bringing the limelight back again. Meanwhile he thinks he finally discovers why Charlotte is bedding him. Eventually he is forced to come to terms with some monumental changes in his life and at the pointy end of the film, Charlotte sits him down and reads to him Millay’s ‘Dirge Without Music’. It is a poignant and moving moment. Sam’s Elliott’s face, as this happens, is mesmerising.

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This actor is one of my movie heroes and Laura’s character is right in being so taken with his voice and moustache. The poem led me to Millay – another bright star who, unlike Lee, will never f-f-fade away.

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Millay’s poem ‘Dirge Without Music’ = https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/52773/dirge-without-music

Trailer for ‘Hero’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjZ3af65fwk

David Desbois and GofT

For most of it I’ve had no idea about what’s going on; no idea whatsoever. I feel as if I need one of those family tree thingees, the sort some books provide to help out with tons of characters. I can’t get my head around those houses – House of Stark, House of Lanister, House of Baratheon and so it goes on. It puts me in a spin that I am so clueless. My lovely lady has no such trouble, but I don’t like to keep on asking for fear of spoiling it all for her with constant interruptions of, ‘What’s going on?’ So I’ve just sat back and let it wash over me – the whole glorious shebang with its, to me, mess of characters, hideous deeds, rapturous gore, triumphant and not so triumphant nudity and Machiavellian plotting. And I love it. I just love it. It’s the visuality, the immensity, the convolutedness. Is it the pinnacle of present day small screen viewing? After all, the experts now refer to these times as our golden age of television.

‘Game of Thrones’ is a marvel of the age, but it is only with this last released season that I have any notion of a handle on events as we close in on the final showdown. There is so much to relish – the dwarf, Emilia Clarke’s beauty, the stoicism of those guarding the Northern Wall, the White Walkers, those wildly gory weddings and the fact that, at any given moment, a major hero of goodness and chivalry can be hideously dispatched. I was talking to an acquaintance, just the other day, who has refused to watch any further seasons because they beheaded Sean Bean at the end of the first series. But anybody is considered fair game, as long as they don’t dispatch the dwarf. They wouldn’t, would they? Then there was the battle. You all know what I am referring to – the most amazingly choreographed clash that we have ever witnessed in our lounge rooms. The pile on pileness of it left me breathless. And then there are the dragons. I adore the dragons.

Canadian artist David Desbois has been caught up in it too. His regular job, appropriately, is in film and television. He plies his art part time, struggling to keep up with demand for his character work built around GofT and other iconic offerings of our popular culture. He, using coloured markers, creates collector card sets of the major stars of multiple series and franchises that may be readily viewed on deviantART. As well as his work on the behemoth that has emerged from George RR Martin’s sagas, he’s also come up with product from several other of my favourites, including my current obsession, ‘Dexter’, as well as ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Downton’. There’s also character studies for ‘Star Wars’, ‘Harry Potter’, the Marvel and DC comic super-hero gangs, together with much, much more. Check him out.

There will come an end, all too soon, for ‘Game of Thrones’ and no doubt I’ll feel the same way as I did when ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Mad Men’ and the other series I became fixated on over the last decade ceased. After each, for a while, there is a tiny hole in my life, leaving me to seek something to plug it with. But I fail to see, I really do, how GofT will ever be bettered.

David Desbois on deviantART = https://daviddeb.deviantart.com/

The Blue Room’s Best Television 2017

According to the pundits we are in a golden age of television. Quality, quantity and multiple platforms make it so. Our personal viewing habits have been enhanced this year by the recent addition of Netflix and Stan to our own platforms. Already we have enjoyed ‘Riverdale’ (S1 and 2 – the Archie Comics for the digital age), ‘Stranger Things (S2 – I adore the kids), Billions (S2 – Wall Street machinations) and ‘Designated Survivor (S1 – ‘West Wing’ on steroids). SBS on Demand remains a cornucopia of delights – ‘Angelby’ and ‘Blue Eyes’ being engrossing shows viewed there.

There were still many old favouties we continued to savour on free-to-air, including ‘Cold Feet’ (7two), ‘800 Words’ (Seven), ‘Doctor Doctor (Nine), Offspring, Graham Norton (Ten), Michael Portillo’s train trips around the UK and US, ‘Vikings’ (SBS), ‘DCI Banks’, ‘Would I Lie To You’ (ABC) – the list goes on. Sadly we said goodbye to ‘George Gently’ (ABC) and ‘The Legacy’ (SBS) in ’17. The jury is still out on ‘Offspring’. The Doctor Blake Mysteries’ is, inexplicably, about to leave Auntie (the ABC’s constant quest to appeal to a younger demographic?) and cross on over to the dark side, but his Cornish medical colleague, ‘Doc Martin’, thankfully keeps rolling on. There was the terrific ‘Girl Asleep’ telemovie (ABC), as well as two excellent and moving episodes of ‘Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery’ (ABC), featuring Sam Neill and Colin Hay.

But there were standout shows, with these being the best to reach me the old fashioned way in the last twelve months:-

1. ‘The Young Pope’ (SBS) – it was a hard call for top possie, but this just pipped the following, possibly only because it was new to our screens. Jude Law was exceptional.

2. ‘Fargo’ (SBS) – just gets better and better. In Series 3 Ewan McGregor is terrific larking about relishing his double adventures in frosty Minnesota.

3. ‘This is Us’ (Ten) – sadly the struggling network cannot afford to renew this potential American classic with a heart of gold.

4. ‘The Handmaids Tale’ (SBS) – Elisabeth Moss has been touted as the first superstar of the television medium for the new century. What a CV – ‘The West Wing’, ‘Mad Men’, ‘Top of the Lake’ and now an out and out bleak masterpiece. Is this what the US will resemble post-Trump?

5. ‘Victoria’ (ABC) – Rufus Sewell steals the show as Lord Melbourne, but overall a biopic to relish.

6. ‘Unforgotten’ (ABC) – a police procedural with a stellar cast, including Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhuskar, Trevor Eve and Tom Courtney. More of it is coming. Let’s hope it’s here for the long haul.

7. ‘Simon Reeves Turkey’ (SBS) – he’s always compassionate, is this guy. In Turkey he demonstrates the humanity of the country which gives its refugees hope, so unlike our callous overlords who deprive them of even a glimmer.

8 ‘Back’ (ABC) – David Mitchell in rude form in the best new comedy of the year for my money. It’s coming back too.

9. ‘Spring Tide’ (SBS) – a pregnant lady’s tortured death on an isolated beach is the cue for more impressive Scandi-noir’

10. ‘Utopia’/’Rosehaven’ – just two words – Celia Pacquola

During 2017, with ‘The Crown’, we watched, on DVD, the most expensive television ever made, being wholly caught up in it. Season 2 is now showing on Netflix. Watch both if you can.

Mick, Rick and the Garden Party

Imagine being booed off stage for presenting an audience with a cover of the Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Woman’. Maybe it was the addition of a country twang that he gave the song, but the audience felt, with his long hair and refusal to stick to the formula of the evening, that the performer was out of line and they told him so in no uncertain terms. He fled the stage. The reaction was not as iconic as that given to Dylan when he swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric one, but with this performer it did give the world a song that has lasted down the decades, remaining a staple on classic rock radio world-wide. The song tells of a rocker who remained frustrated at the reaction to him that evening at Madison Square Garden.

I once saw Weddings Parties Anything perform live. It was at a venue, a pub I think, somewhere round my home town of Burnie. Due to come on at ten, if my memory serves me correctly, they eventually did so so much later. By this time many of the patrons were tanked and therefore seemingly intent on spoiling it for those of us who were there for the music. Mick and the lads – maybe there was a lass involved too – still did their their best to give us value for money from their rollicking fare, including their only major hit, ‘Father’s Day’. I guess you’d call them our own version of the Pogues, although I think Mick Thomas’ teeth, unlike Sean’s, were in much better nick. The Weddo’s were a pretty tight unit too and I doubt there would be any of the shambolic evenings in their history that the Irish collective are notorious for. Over the years, despite a lack of chart action, WPA’s famous Christmas shows at Richmond (Vic) venue, the Corner, have become legendary on the pub rock circuit. Despite the yobs that night and the lateness of the hour, I enjoyed their performance.

Something I also enjoyed, when I was much tenderer in years, back in the days when rock was young, was a certain television show, one in which the aforementioned entertainer on that MSG stage first had his name up in lights. When he first started out in it his music wasn’t to the fore – that developed as the show, stretching across fourteen seasons, wore on. He was on screen in all but the early days of the popular series – 435 episodes were produced in all. It was a contemporary of such wonderful fare as ‘I Love Lucy’, ‘Father Knows Best’, ‘Our Miss Brooks’ and the most legendary of them all, the hilariously poignant ‘The Honeymooners’. In contrast his show was supposedly a true take on what it took to be the US’s ideal family, headed by Ozzie, with wife Harriet. That was its eponymous title – ‘Ozzie and Harriet: the Adventures of America’s Favorite Family’. Most knew it simply as ‘The Nelsons’.

It began as a soap on radio in 1944, running until its move to television in 1952, starting a marathon that only finished in 1966. Ozzie and Harriet played themselves and until 1949, voice-actors their two sons. The real David and Ricky joined in then and the US settled in to watch, from their living rooms, the two lads grow up.

Today it would make for tame television, but back in the day the punters couldn’t get enough as the family involved itself with minor disasters and arguments that we all knew would be resolved by the end of the half hour. Ozzie was the slightly distracted, vague and amiable patriarch, Harriet his no nonsense and wise spouse. David was the sensible son, Ricky subject to flights of fancy – at least that’s my recollection of it. Critics reckoned later it truly was a show about nothing resembling any important issue of the day, was thoroughly WASP and insipid. Others likened it to an olden day ‘Truman Show’ – real people playing out their lives on national TV. The difference was that the Nelsons knew they were doing so – and in private, it wasn’t always to their benefit. As a result the two boys had nothing like a normal childhood.

The father, who died in 1975, was in fact a control freak who subjected his family to the demands of churning out the hit series; this taking priority over every other aspect of their lives. Ozzie had been a successful band leader in the thirties and was an out and out workaholic. Once he started in television he wrote the next day’s script through the night, cracked the whip on the long hours of recording and later, when his sons requested a desire to quit the series, they were bluntly forbidden to do so. They gave up any hope of attending college with their peers. They were famous – what else could they possibly want?

Harriet, pre-wedlock, was a nightclub and radio star whose future seemed very bright in her own right. She found fame, of course, but not as those who knew her, including Ginger Rogers, would have hoped. A trouper since the age of 13, Harriet Hilliard married one O Nelson in 1935 and gave up all her independent aspirations

Son Ricky’s profile grew on the show once he started strumming his guitar and showing the vocal aptitude to go with it. By the end of its years he was its real star with a huge teenage following. Eventually he found enough wriggle room to start building a life away from ‘The Nelsons’ as dad came to realise that, without his second boy’s input, his life’s work would go down the gurgler. It was his popularity as a musician that was his ticket to the independence that had been denied other family members. It was because he was television’s first teen idol. He had a string of hits in those pre-Beatle days when rock had blanded out. These included such ditties as ‘Hello, Mary Lou’ and ‘Travellin’ Man’. Eventually each episode of the family saga revolved around setting up a scenario whereby he could sing, usually at some frustration or other over a girl. Once the British invasion hit, though, his star waned; as did ‘The Nelsons’.

With his childhood effectively stolen by his over-bearing father, in his adult years the cracks started to show for Ricky, or Rick as now he preferred to be called. He experimented with drugs, busted up a marriage and generally entered a downward spiral – becoming a far cry from his public persona, as perceived by the public, from his television show. The legacy of it seemed like a millstone around his neck. As many did, as the sixties morphed into the seventies, he attempted to reinvent himself as a country-rock performer, putting together the Stone Canyon Band.

Rock revival by this stage was where some money could be had as well. It was something Rick Nelson usually eschewed, but in 1971 he accepted an invitation to appear at MSG, NYC, along with fellow stars from the 50s – Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Bobby Rydell. But Rick failed to do his homework. He didn’t realise this was a hits only show, so when he started to play songs off his latest album, including the Jagger/Richards cover, the crowd reacted negatively. Rick, piqued, pulled the plug and stormed off, vowing never to give any audience the satisfaction of him ever performing his old hits. It’s an interesting side story that his two sons, twins Gunnar and Matthew, who had a few hits of their own last century, now tour singing their dad’s songs as well as their own. And in any case, Nelson senior forgot about his vow in later years.

Such was RN’s funk after his disastrous meltdown that he decided to write about his feelings on the matter in lyric form. The result – ‘Garden Party’. For those in the know – now including your good selves dear reader – it is obvious what the ‘Garden’ bit refers to. The song became his first top ten maker since his golden years – and his last. Rick Nelson kept on playing for the rest of his short time on the planet, his life cut short by a plane crash in 1985. He was only 45. As someone who followed his countrified career after the demise of his parent’s television vehicle, this event greatly saddened me. But the legacy of these leaner years remains with a very fine song.

In its lyrics are many very interesting references, including a line name-checking one of his hits – ‘Mary Lou…She belongs to me’. Then there’s ‘Mr Hughes hid in Dylan’s Shoes’. This was a hark back to the times when George Harrison, who Rick believed was his friend, tried to go incognito around the world’s cities, calling himself Mr Hughes. At the time the ex-Beatle was working on a project that didn’t eventuate – an album of covers of tunes by his Bobness.

Went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
People came from miles around, everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air
And over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Played them all the old songs, thought that’s why they came
No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same
I said hello to “Mary Lou”, she belongs to me
When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode
Playing guitar like a-ringin’ a bell and lookin’ like he should
If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck
And it’s all right now, learned my lesson well
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself

These days ‘Garden Party’ is now the crowning glory of Rick’s career – the one that’s lasted. It has had innumerable people covering it including, in recent times, John Fogerty on his own excellent collection of covers, ‘The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again’

And the connection between Rick N and Mick T – it’s probably obvious by now. The Weddos man has knocked out his own engaging take on the classic.

On the local scene Mick Thomas has had a long and illustrious career, not only with his singing, but in writing for the stage as well. He performs as a solo artist and as part of bands such as The Sure Thing and The Roving Commission. He is a survivor. He’ll perhaps never regain the type of exposure ‘Father’s Day’ gave his band, but he has a solid following and his product still sells, standing up to critical scrutiny. But, of course, you’ll never hear him played on mainstream radio. Mr Thomas’ latest release is ‘These Were the Songs’, largely a retrospective of his work post Weddings Parties Anything. There are several covers, apart from GP, including a lovely, lovely version of Dylan’s ‘Most of the Time’; Thomas dueting with up-and-comer Ruby Boots. And as with Nelson, his inclusion of the former child-television star’s song is an up-yours too. It’s a thinly veiled criticism of the big players on the scene and their refusal to take Mick’s newer music seriously. And it is perhaps his fear that, along with ‘Garden Party’s’ songsmith, he will be regarded as essentially a one hit wonder. But with both that song and ‘Father’s Day’ on non-stop rotation somewhere and instantly recognisable, is that too bad a legacy?

Rick Nelson performing ‘Garden Party’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAHR7_VZdRw

Mick Thomas performing ‘Garden Party’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GhsEFluOUo