The West Wing cast

It’s fascinating to trawl through the full cast list of The West Wing—a list of hundreds of actors who had at least one line – or at least a recognisable gesture.

Inter alia: Milo O’Shea, b. 1926.  His last screen role was in this, as Chief Justice Roy Ashland. He nearly dies, fictionally, aged in his 80s, in his second ep., in 2004 (when actually 78). And then really did die (in his actual 80s) in 2013.

He was Leopold Bloom in the 1967 Joseph Strick film of Ulysses – which means he will live ‘forever’ – as long as does human culture.

Closer to (my) home, he was also Inspector Bott in Theatre of Blood – the film on which my cousin Coral Browne met her second husband, Vincent Price, of whom you may have heard.

Also in the list: James Brolin, who played Governor Robert Ritchie in 2002. He has apparently been married to Barbra Streisand since 1998. I just watched his performance in Westworld (1973) – all blowwaved hair. Michael Crichton wrote and directed this – which means the ideas are intriguing – but not that it’s a good film.

Another is Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays the Israeli ambassador – with an unmistakeable German accent. He was David Helfgott’s martinet father in Shine – the film that won an Oscar for the currently ‘disgraced’ Geoffrey Rush.

Cinema 1962

My cinematic epiphany occurred in 1962. In that year, I saw The Virgin Spring as part of the Perth Film Festival at the Windsor Theatre Nedlands 15-20 January 1962. It changed my life – or at least that part of it concerned with the appreciation of art.

Other films screened that year included The World of Apu, Hiroshima mon amour, L’avventura, and Shadows.

The World of Apu (1959) is the third part of Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy. It was probably quite a while before I saw Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) and Aparajito (Satyajit Ray, 1956). Hiroshima mon amour is Alain Resnais’s take on Marguerite Duras’s novel. I didn’t, and still don’t, like either. I was much more impressed with his next film, L’année dernière à Marienbad (1961). Whereas in 1962 we saw the third of Ray’s trilogy, it was the first of Antonioni’s we saw, in L’avventura, which I saw again recently, and still found (somewhat) impressive. Shadows may be John Cassavetes’ best film; it wouldn’t have to be very good – but it certainly made an impression.

Gulpilil

Derek Rielly, Gulpilil, Macmillan, 2019.

This is like a long obituary (tho a short book) as the subject is so close to death, and much of the book is set in the present (rather than the past as is normal for a biography)  as the author is concerned to make clear how intimate he is with his material.
It’s not a great book, but it does cover the actor’s career, and gives a sense of what he is like, and also of what it means to belong to neither of the two worlds: black and white.

Benjamin Gilmour

The entirely remarkable Ben Gilmour was interviewed for a whole hour on the ABC the other day. The topic was well worth the time. He’s just published a book about his experiences as an ambo – a paramedic – stationed in Sinny at Bondi. This meant that he and his partner were usually the nearest to be called to a suicide attempt (or success) at The Gap – the most popular spot in the country for offing yourself. I bought the book (which is called The Gap) and read it in a day. It’s one of the most gripping books I’ve ever read.

But that’s only half of my point here. The other half was not mentioned by the interviewer at all (unless I missed the very beginning of the interview) – namely, that Ben Gilmour has directed and had released two feature films! Son of a Lion (shot in Pakistan) was released in 2007, and Jirga was shot in arguably the most dangerous place in the world, Kandahar Province in Afghanistan, and released in 2018.

Which of the Two Popes

I was at first bemused, and then amused at the idea that Jonathan Pryce was being nominated for Best Actor while Anthony Hopkins was only getting the Best Supporting nomination. Makes sense in terms of the proportion of the story occupied with Francis as opposed to Benedict, but not at all in terms of who owns the film in terms of acting. I was totally absorbed in every syllable uttered and every gesture made by Hopkins’s Ratzinger, whereas I was noting where Pryce fell short in charisma, accents, in being generally wishy-washy.

The Lion King

I’m one of the last people in the world to see The Lion King – or at least the first ten minutes of it. Plus – trust me – apart from it being a Disney film, I did not know what kind of thing it was.

I happened to visit Disneyland in 1997 when they were still promoting the film in street parades, so I knew it was some kind of big deal – I just didn’t know what kind.

It started off looking like a nature doco, with real animals (that’s how good the animation is) until I quickly realised that not even David Attenborough can get that cosy with wild animals.

And then someone started singing something repetitious, and I found I was a watching … an animated musical.

I was still quite impressed with the production values … until quite a bit of the dialog got going – and the enterprise bogged down into treacly Disney values – wholesome, sentimental stuff … at least on the surface.

Having discovered what TLK was about, I could gratefully switch it off and write this instead. …

I’m still impressed with the animation, but 🙂

The King

Night before last I watched (most of) The King, which is based on Henry IV Parts 1 and 2,  and Henry V, but without Shakespeare’s dialogue, and wanted to ask “Why was this film made? We didn’t need it. It’s pointless.”
To which you could reply, “You didn’t have to watch it.”

AACTAs 2019

I predicted that the nominees for AACTA Best Film in 2019 would come from among these eight films: Ride Like a Girl, Danger Close, Hotel Mumbai, The Nightingale, Storm Boy, Palm Beach, Top End Wedding, I Am Mother. I even dared to say, ‘in that order’. Now that the noms have been announced, I see that I got only four right.

Danger Close did not make the cut (and I am sorry for Kriv Stenders, after all his hard work), nor Storm Boy, nor I Am Mother, nor – and I am really surprised – did Palm Beach.

But Judy and Punch has got in, and The King (the king, in this case, being Shak).

I shall have to continue to rethink my ideas about the real criteria. I started to in my previous post.

Girl Rides Horse

Cinema is an industry. Its income depends on the number of people paying for films, which logically depends on their popularity. Which in turn depends on the extent to which it conforms to the expectations (of a film) of a large number of people. Their mores include things they really care about (sport, money, life and death, nationalism—perhaps in that order) and things they think they should be seen to care about because of political correctness (indigenous issues, feminism, animal welfare).

This year’s top Aussie film has had an exemplary ride. It did very well at the box office, making far more millions than any other in 2019 … until the scandal hit the media. Never having thought about it, people were shocked to discover that horsemeat is being used for pet food. Not only that, people were actually killing the horses first.

The film will still finish first, but now rather ignominiously. I expect there will be demonstrations on AACTA awards night, and that people will say disparaging (or defensive) things about the racing industry in their speeches.

Footnote. What is done to racehorses during their working lives is far worse than what happens to them in the minutes before their deaths.

Mary Magdalene

Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus

One of the reasons I wanted to see this is to get some idea of what Judaea might have been like back then – so, for historical reasons. And the opening scenes encouraged me to think that I might learn something – Greig Fraser’s photography is very good, and the landscape looked suitably unhospitable.

The only work that seems to be going on is herding and fishing, and Mary M seems to be a fisherman’s daughter. Everyone seems to be living in hand-to-mouth abject poverty. But as soon as ‘the Healer’ appears on the scene, everybody stops working. Mary literally drops the tool she’s using to mend a net and goes to join the merry band of disciples. Well, at least one of them seems to be inappropriately merry, as Jesus himself seems to be pretty miserable, and probably a bit deranged.

Joaquin Bottom (his birth name) is 43, but looks older – and much older than the 30-33 Jesus is supposed to have been, and not nearly as turn-the-other-cheek as the guy in the Bible. In fact, he does look quite like a rebellious insurgent – what we would now call a ‘terrorist’.

My main gripe about the film – as it was about Lion, Davis’s only other film – is that he clearly cannot direct actors, and has no global concept of the artwork (the film) as a whole (yes, I realise I can’t claim to know that – let’s say I intuit it). Phoenix is all over the place emotionally, and it’s hard to see that he has a lived-in core idea of what his version of Jesus is like.

Joaquin’s partner IRL is … Rooney Mara. It was probably contractual that if she took a role, so did he – or the other way around. Do they have sex in the film? … How dare I mention it! Of course they couldn’t. It would be something like sacrilege.