Hereditary

Went to Girls School Cinema in East Perth to see Hereditary on Sunday night. I had missed it at the mainstream movies but I’d heard it should be seen on the big screen if possible.

It’s the story of a family – Annie (Toni Collette), Steve (Gabriel Byrne), their son Peter (Alex Wolff) and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). The death of Annie’s mother begins a series of grisly and disturbing events that leads her to the heart of a generations-old mystery.

I’d psyched myself up, because I had seen the trailer, which made it look like a combination of every fucked-up horror movie you’re ever seen, times 10. Amusingly, if you haven’t heard, at Event Cinemas they mistakenly played it during the previews for Peter Rabbit, totally freaking out a bunch of children and their mums (probably mainly the mums).

And I’d heard from my friend Sigrid, who is intimately acquainted with horror cinema, that it was one of the most disturbing movies she’d ever seen either. So, grimly prepared, I only let out one terrified mewling noise during the entire thing, which I was rather proud of.

The Ministry of course let out muffled snorts of laughter throughout, which we know was only his male pride deciding to view awful things as funny in order to protect himself emotionally. Right?

Because probably what was worst about this movie was its raw depiction of loss and grief and the terrible dynamics that can fester within families. It’s the combination of that with the intense horror scenes that made it so unusually confronting a movie.

All the performances were excellent, particularly Alex Wolff as the guilty, fearful and confused teenager Peter, but Collette was the obvious standout. She should win an Oscar for that performance. Her pain was awful to behold. It just remains to be seen whether an Oscar could go to a performance in a genre film.

It should! This is a smart genre film, with a dense plot. I’ve decided the use of the miniatures Collette’s character is crafting is just to keep you guessing and kind of freaked out by them (alternative theories welcome in the comments). But there were other elements of the storyline that didn’t seem to make sense, or that we thought were maybe just included for gratuitous horror purposes. We had to Google them before going, “ooooohhhhhh” and concluding that yes, it all made sense. It makes a nice change when a movie makes you work for it just a little.

This is required viewing for horror fans and Collette devotees. I fit both categories and so I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen for the full effect. It was an excellent film. But if you’re not in either category, maybe give yourself a break and pick something funny instead.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Equalizer II

Saw this on Friday night. For the uninitiated, it’s basically hyper-violence in which Denzel Washington plays a CIA agent turned vigilante.

The Ministry calls it Black Jack Reacher.

The movies follow a 1980s TV show. I haven’t seen that, but I really liked the first The Equalizer movie, which broke new creative ground in its depiction of Denzel mentally calculating his fight sequences.

Denzel Washington turns everything he touches to gold, and this sequel is no exception, but it’s been turned into a straight-up action thriller, without the nuance of the first. But hey, what’s not to love about a straight-up action thriller, with Denzel Washington subjecting bad people to toe-curling, knuckle-biting levels of violence? 

Special mentions:

  1. A woman gives as good as she gets in a vaguely realistic fight scene. Rare.
  2. A commendable lack of car chases.

 

13 one-line book reviews: non-fiction edition

Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor E. Frankl (1959)

A psychiatrist trapped in Nazi death camps observed that people retain power to choose their own reactions, even in the worst of circumstances. A must read, a classic still in print six decades on.

 

 

Everywhere I Look, Helen Garner (2017)

An essay collection; memories, reflections, observations on all kinds of topics from one of Australia’s most celebrated authors. Utterly breathtaking writing from a master of the craft.

 

 

Work Strife Balance, Mia Freedman (2017)

Funny, insightful, generous memoir, a necessary contribution to feminist debate. I already reviewed it here.

 

 

The First Stone: some questions about sex and power, Helen Garner (1995)

Narrative nonfiction true crime – think Capote’s In Cold Blood. This discomfiting investigation of students’ sex assault allegations against a lecturer is still relevant and compulsively readable.

 

Joe Cinque’s Consolation: a true story of death, grief and the law, Helen Garner (2004)

Immediately needed more. Another unique investigation, this time of the bizarre murder of Canberran Joe Cinque. Possibly even more compulsively readable than the last.

 

Draft no. 4, John McPhee (2017)

On the art of long-form nonfiction writing by the legendary author, New Yorker writer and Princeton professor. Fascinating insights into his structuring process. Hardcore writing nerds will love it.

 

 

Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss (2017)

Autodidact collects short passages of life advice from 100-plus famous people. Fun, more accessible than previous Ferriss and full of amusing, inspiring and useful nuggets. Great gift idea.

 

 

French Women for All Seasons, Mireille Giuilano (2006)

I read French Women Don’t Get Fat last year, loved it and craved more. These are only nominally diet/style books. At heart they are about our culture and our ability to celebrate and enjoy food.

 

 

Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick (audiobook, read by author) (2016)

If you don’t love her, watch The Last 5 Years. Her memoir is hilarious, a glimpse inside Hollywood weirdness. Liked it so much I watched entire Twilight franchise just for her awkward-friend part.

 

A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis (1961)

The notebook the great Narnia author kept after his wife’s death. A fierce cry of pain and insight into the process of mourning someone vital: so personal, and yet so universal an experience.

 

 

The Passion Trap, Dean D. Celis and Cassandra Phillips (1990)

A psychologist examines the power dynamics and traps involved in both romantic relationships and friendships, and how to alter them. Should be required reading. Fascinating, sensible and practical.

 

The Boy Behind the Curtain, Tim Winton (2016)

Autobiographical essays reveal WA’s most famous writer’s early life, career formation, relationship with land and insight into WA environmental politics. Exquisitely written, frequently funny.

 

 

How to Be a Writer: who smashes deadlines, crushes editors and lives in a solid gold hover craft, John Birmingham (2016)

Refreshingly modern, useful advice on business, and craft, of being full-time multitasking Australian writer. Tough, like a face-punching Mr Money Mustache for novelists, and laugh-out-loud funny.

 

Further reading:

Peter Craven reviews ‘The Boy Behind the Curtain‘ by Tim Winton – Australian Book Review

The biggest problem with Joe Cinque’s Consolation [movie]? Helen Garner didn’t make it – The Guardian

New trailer for Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald is out

I overuse exclamation marks. That is the only reason why I have not added ten exclamation marks to this headline. Be assured, I am thinking them.

To me, this looks like it’s going to be way better than the first Fantastic Beasts. Maybe I just like maximum mayhem.

New Zealanders: surely the world’s funniest people

Went to the preview of this last night. The story of two women who run a service breaking up with people for the gutless.

Literally the only thing that could get me out of the house was the reasonable certainty that a New Zealand movie made by the same people who made Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople would be funny.

And it was. Go see it. Look for James Rolleston, who’s all grown up since he charmed us in Boy. He’s even more hilarious now. And thank me when you roll out of there holding your sides at the show-stealing performance of Ana Scotney as Sepa (in the middle, below). You’ll have to go to Event or a smaller cinema, because it’s not showing at Hoyts. 

In other movie news the trailer is out for the new Robin Hood movie. I’m a bit underwhelmed by the trailer. What do you reckon?

 

Seven months’ worth of one-line book reviews. Go!

All the fiction I’ve read in the first half of 2018, reviewed for you here in a series of pithy one-liners. Well, they all fit on one line when I wrote them in Word.

Also available in free audiobooks from Librivox.

Entire series of 8 Anne of Green Gables novels, L. M. Montgomery

This series is classic and never fails to bring me joy. You don’t like it, you have no soul.

 

 

Dustfall, Michelle Johnston

Reviewed this for WAtoday here, so I won’t repeat, but an awesome read by a local Perth author.

 

 

 

 

 

Finders Keepers, Stephen King

Sequel to Mr Mercedes. Enjoyed almost as much. Fun, quick crime novel, but not my favourite King.

 

 

 

 

Extinctions, Josephine Wilson

Exquisitely written tale of ageing and renewal. Perth author, won Miles Franklin, Dorothy Hewett awards.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sisters’ Song, Louise Allan

Family saga that vividly evokes womens’ challenging lives in rural Tasmania in 1900s. Perth author!

 

 

 

 

 

Survival, Rachel Watts

Sci-fi novella: evil corporations rule world after Bible-style Flood. Reviewed here. Perth author!

 

 

 

 

 

You Belong Here, Laurie Steed

Sensitively told story of family love and lies, that brings Perth suburbs to life on page. Local author!

 

 

 

 

 

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

Begins world-famous series by Italian recluse about hard life in 1950s Naples. Wasn’t sure I liked it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante

Part II. Definitely more readable than first. Began to see why global audience found so compelling.

 

 

 

 

 

Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King and Owen King

Father-son team! Classic King. Huge book, authentic characters in wild plot. Flew greedily through it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (audio)

Ghosts bring up human boy in a graveyard. Beautiful, whimsical, touching. A must. Read by Gaiman.

 

 

 

 

 

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

Classic Austen. Clever and full of dry wit. So relatable: idiots back then are just like idiots now.

 

 

 

 

 

NW, Zadie Smith

A very literary style for Smith. Even as a devoted fan I found it slightly hard going, but worth reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen

Highly enjoyable like all Austen, but not my favourite plot. Some quirky breaks through “fourth wall”.

 

 

 

 

 

Body Double, Tess Gerritsen

Rizzoli & Isles crime series. Like a drug. I inhaled this, four hours later needed more. Then, got more.

Vanish, Tess Gerritsen

See above. Nice and graphic, these novels, very easy to read, and Rizzoli and Isles good characters.

The Mephisto Club, Tess Gerritsen

See above. Sick of Tess Gerritsen after this. Crave meatier crime, like Val McDermid or Ian Rankin.

 

Afternoons with Harvey Beam, Carrie Cox

Reviewed here. A funny and highly readable first novel by a Perth author.

 

 

 

 

Now reading… Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Stay tuned! 

Simon Baker’s Breath, and Perth’s latest pop-up cinema – no summer required!

It’s like the universe heard me bitching publicly about how there wasn’t a cinema in Perth city. It has now indignantly dropped one on my doorstep, 700 metres from my house.

The Girls School Cinema is run by the same lot who run the Rooftop movies in Northbridge each summer, and I can’t tell them how grateful I am that the penny has dropped and Perth is now providing a pop up cinema experience in winter. It’s small, colourful, comfortable and it’s on until September 29.

I was thrilled to see Breath on there as I’d missed its run at the big movies.

We didn’t know it yet, but we’d already imagined ourselves into a different life.

Tim Winton released Breath in 2008, a coming-of-age novel about two teenage boys from a country town in southern WA, about their discovery of and obsession with surfing and their relationship with their mysterious surfing guru Sando. They all grow close, and then one of the boys, Pikelet, has an affair with Sando’s wife while he is away on a surfing trip.

It’s a deceptively quiet storyline, in which everything is happening below the surface. And yet it’s quite a long movie, and even more impressively it doesn’t drag. Simon Baker (from The Mentalist) makes an impressive directorial debut, pulling you on with quiet force and a constant undertow of tension. Tim Winton himself provides the voice of the narrator. Baker is also starring as Sando, and is pitch-perfect as the laid-back, yet intense man anxious that the boys understand and respect the magic of becoming one with the water, and pushing them to take risks that will change their relationships with themselves and with each other.

His costars, the boys Pikelet and Loonie (played by newcomers Samson Coulter, of Manly, and Ben Spence, of Margaret River) gave revelatory performances, and The Great Gatsby’s Elizabeth Debicki was spot on as Sando’s angry and troubled wife Eva, a woman living like a trapped animal after injury derailed her own daredevil sporting career.

Filmed in Denmark, it showcased the wild and lonely surf, cliffs and forests of southern WA as though they were part of the cast; appropriate for the works of Winton, in which landscape is always integral. It was positively soaked with moody colours and heaving dark-blue seas and sunkissed, loose-limbed youth. It was one of those films so lovely it makes you ache inside, sad and happy simultaneously and full of a nameless longing. So beautiful I forgot my Australian cultural cringe, and just felt proud to live in such a place and grateful someone had the skill to bring its beauty alive.

Breath is available on iTunes here

More on Girls School Cinema here.