Madman releases Jasper Jones trailer

Madman Entertainment has finally released the trailer for Jasper Jones, adapted from Fremantle author Craig Silvey’s best-seller and featuring an all-star Australian cast including Hugo Weaving and Toni Collette.

Silvey is also known for his debut Rhubarb, but I and most people I speak to agree Jasper Jones is by far the favourite: a novel you never forget. It’s done the book club rounds because it’s that rarest of combinations, a literary novel and a thumping good read.

Now from Bran Nue Dae director Rachel Perkins, Animal Kingdom producer Vincent Sheehan and Goldstone producer David Jowsey comes this eagerly awaited adaptation.

It feels like it’s been a long time coming, with my anticipation heightened by Barking Gecko’s stage version a couple of years ago at the State Theatre Centre of WA, and more recently by hearing about the advance premiere screening of this adaptation at CinefestOZ in Margaret River some months ago.

The movie, set for theatrical release in March, follows Charlie Bucktin, a bookish 14-year-old misfit living in a small Australian town in 1969.

In the dead of night during the scorching summer, Charlie is startled awake by local outcast Jasper Jones outside his window, pleading for help.

Jasper leads him deep into the forest to show him something that will change his life forever, setting them both on a dangerous journey to solve a mystery that will consume the entire community.

In an isolated town full of secrecy, gossip and thinly veiled tragedy, Charlie faces family breakdown, finds his first love and discovers the meaning of courage.

But don’t think this is going to be boring and worthy. This was a seriously funny and vibrant book – that’s why its following is so loyal.

As well as Collette and Weaving, stars include Levi Miller from Pan and Angourie Rice from the excellent These Final Hours. Just looking at the stills makes me think they’ve cast this movie perfectly. I’m excited!

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The Casual Vacancy (J. K. Rowling, 2012)

Obviously I very much wanted this book to be awesome, and I’m pleased to tell you that it WAS.

Rowling opens with a series of brief character snapshots, which get you completely hooked by the time she plunges into the sordid depths of a town and a council filled with people you mostly hate, but are fascinated by and perversely rooting for, all the same.

In this, it reminded me of Christos Tsolkias’ The Slap, which I must admit I didn’t get much more than a couple of chapters into; because that really was too ugly for me, though I’m prepared to concede that I might have felt differently had I pushed on with it.

There was never any question about pushing on with this novel. It is one compulsive read, and every bit as suspenseful as anything of hers I have ever read, despite its conspicuous lack of wizards.

She gives the most accurate representation of the machinations of an insular community that you could ever hope for – its government, its festering wounds and the age-old prejudices between its haves and have-nots. She articulates so perfectly the enraging, hackneyed arguments of the small-minded and privileged that I found myself getting worked up on many a character’s behalf.

She captures what can be the mad mental anguish of being a teenager, not to mention just being a person, or a part of a family, so well that I found it a little confronting, to be honest.

But at no point was there any danger of me putting the book down, no matter how close to home it sliced.

An extraordinarily intense reading experience, ideal book-club fare, and a satisfying kick in the pants for all who have ever tried to tell me she wasn’t a great writer.

A Chorus Line (Burswood Theatre), October 26, 2012

IMG_0585One thrilling combination?!?

In a word, no.

Having said this, I really have no specific fault to find with this show. Perhaps it’s a case of something you’ve built up in your mind to be so powerful being inevitably disappointing.

And truly, it was only very slightly disappointing and I’m still trying to put my finger on what it was. Was I secretly hoping Michael Douglas would actually appear onstage? I don’t think so…

The staging was minimalist, as befits a show about the stripped-down, unadorned story behind the scenes.

The dancing was undoubtedly very tight and very slick, and a joy to behold. Cassie’s tortured solo, as she tried to express her frustration with both her impassive ex and her situation, was a powerful bit of dancing, and they did a little something with the lighting that made this part really stand out.

There was plenty of humour, as there should be, and the characters were as fleshed out as they should be in such a dialogue- and character-driven musical.

But with the word musical, I’m inching closer to the source of my dissatisfaction. Because, honestly, there was only a whisper of dissatisfaction. I’m “praising with faint damn”.

It just wasn’t… musical enough. Not one of those vocal solos – and the show is basically all vocal solos – really had my spine tingling. The singers, though certainly competent, just didn’t seem that memorable. Remembering Jemma Rix in Wicked, and how her voice made me want to weep and made my skin prickle even the second time I saw the show, makes me realise that not one of these numbers moved me in the way I wanted.

I waited and waited to hear Nothing, the song Diana sings, and look, it was good, but it just wasn’t great. And the dancing is all well and good, but the singing is what makes you really care about those people, and if you don’t really care, it’s a long time to sit and listen to emotional stuff.

Happily, spine tingles eventually came… One was introduced slowly, almost spookily, and in general given the attention it deserves.

By the time the (damned fine) chorus line finally hit the stage, the Ministry and I started to wiggle in our seats and grin at each other. They did an awesome job on that ending, even down to working the performers’ final bows into it. Just seeing those high kickers strut their stuff made it all worth it, and I grin to remember it.

So, overall, I’m happy.

 

Turbo Blog

  • The Sending: The Obernewtyn Chronicles, Book 6 (Isobelle Carmody, 2011)

I might have to read this again from the beginning before the last and final book in the Obernewtyn series comes out. I just dont think I can wait long enough for my appetite for this series to be sated. I think I got the first book in the series nearly 20 years ago, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the writing and the plots that I enjoy it as much, if not more, now.
Of course the books have gotten bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and could now double as weapons, or crook-stoppers, as the Ministry calls them.
I confidently predict that even those who don’t get into fantasy would love this epic post-apocalyptic series.

  •  Gabriel Iglesias’ Stand-Up Revolution (Astor Theatre, October 14, 2012)

Phwoar. This guy is not the world’s most You-Tubed comedian for nothing. If you do nothing else today, Google Fluffy and be prepared to laugh your ass off.
This show was more like a rock concert than a stand-up gig – Fluffy’s support acts were awesome, and then the main act, the lovably obese Latino himself, ran nearly an hour over. He ended up talking until his on-stage “reminder” clock ran out at 99 minutes, at which point he giggled and happily pulled its plug out.
Then, and only then, did he stop with the brand-new material and obligingly do all the fans’ most beloved routines, which they deafeningly requested then nearly sang along with everypunchline.
It was a powerful, positive, bizarrely touching event to be a part of, and I laughed until I nearly passed out.

  • Dark Shadow (2012)

Tim Burton’s latest (I think) offering would surely be a deep disappointment to any fan of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands or The Nightmare Before Christmas. Noticeably lacking the dark, disturbing quality of his earlier work (even his relatively recent work, like Willy Wonka), the movie is stylish but shallow.
It’s not stylish enough to be watchable purely as eye candy, and it’s too shallow to be enjoyed even as B-grade fluff. Johnny Depp is peculiarly lacklustre, and even his visual gags about being an ancient vampire struggling to understand a modern-day society are barely enough to raise a snicker.
The villain is so two-dimensional and lazily thought-out she is ridiculous, without any feelings or motivations except a deeply irrational desire to be loved despite being a murderous witch.
Only bother watching this if you are so hungover you can’t get off the couch and change it to something else.

Misfits (2009)

I know I’m about a thousand years behind the rest of the world (yes, a THOUSAND), but hey, whatever.

After another berserk week, I have just enough energy to quickly tell everyone that they should stop what they are doing to binge-watch Misfits.

This TV series is laugh-out-loud funny and the plot, though random, is cool enough to keep you caring (in the opposite way to how the plot of the latest season of True Blood is random enough to stop you caring).

A freak storm gives a bunch of twenty-something reprobates on community service orders a bunch of superhero powers, and they have to figure out basic life skills such as how to control their powers, how to keep them hidden, how to hide a rotting corpse… the usual.

As well as developing powers, the characters actually develop as people.

Amazing!

Tried both this show and Sons of Anarchy recently, as instructed by numerous people, and Sons of Anarchy was good, but a little ugly and depressing for what I’m after right now.

At the moment, I want lighthearted, funny and sexy as well as unpredictable, but I don’t want it to be dumb.

I still want it to be awesome and have good dialogue, and Misfits has this in spades.

The Supply Party (Martin Edmond, 2009)

Part biography, history and travel narrative yet surpassing all in sum, Martin Edmond’s story of the Burke and Wills expedition is told through the life and death of its scientist, naturalist, collector and artist, Ludwig Becker.

Reflective and atmospheric, Edmonds’ descriptive work fleshes out the human side of Becker and the expedition and teases out the tragedy at the heart of what I previously thought of as a rather dry story, told to death.

Snippets, anecdotes and quotes taken from Becker’s notes illuminate the atmosphere and humanity (both good and bad) Edmonds picked from the story’s bones. Edmond makes Becker real and immediate, so much so that by the end I really don’t want to hear the rest; for it’s not a particularly happy story.

Nevertheless I am compelled to go on.

Now it has taken a place in my mental collection of haunting representations and stories: alongside Sidney Nolan and Peter Carey’s Ned Kelly; Capote’s In Cold Blood; and Joan Lindsay and Perer Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Past and present blend as the narrative alternates between Burke & Wills’ expedition and that of the author following, albeit much more safely, in their footsteps years later.

The land he is seeing draws the author’s thoughts repeatedly back into the story of the doomed expedition, and one of Edmond’s major achievements is to give you a sense of not only what the land looks like today and how it looked 150 years ago, but 50 000 years ago before he, Ludwig, Burke or Wills ever walked upon it.

A finely worked sense of ominous inevitability grows in the reader as we hear the now-familiar details of the party’s demise.

Discord grows between the dwindling numbers of men in the party. Gradually, and necessarily, they discard the camels, trackers, people, other supplies and hundreds of litres of rum which were catalogued with such pride at the journey’s beginning.

Becker is eventually required not for his artistic services but for the extra pair of hands that may make the difference between life and death. He is forced to leave behind the careful records, the tasks and equipment that constituted both his life’s work and his purpose for being on the expedition.

Edmonds draws a vivid, heartbreaking picture of Becker: ill, injured, bullied by the sadistic Burke and forced to make his observations and artworks at night. His love of his work, and unshaking commitment to it, is fully realised as we are shown the completeness of his exhaustion yet his absolute determination to continue with his mission as long as he is able to pick up a pencil.

The uniqueness of this book is its marriage of the human story with art history; Edmonds clearly has a deep respect for Becker’s artwork. I was as affected as he by the uniqueness of the work, which Edmond describes as in the tradition of miniaturing and portraiture – mixing scientific precision and detail, yet illuminating its subjects with whimsical, the fantastic and the grotesque.

In this crucial aspect the book is let down by its publication in trade paperback with a few measly reproductions in the centre, so small that the reader is forced to read the words and use the pictures as a sort of imaginative aid to help fill in details and colours described and vitally important to the story thematically, yet invisible in the versions shown.

I would love the opportunity to buy this in a coffee-table, hardcover format, with full-page glossy reproductions and more illustrations taken from Becker’s notes, already so painstakingly sourced by Edmond.

As Edmond’s background to this process recounts, he says to the librarians who want to know why he wants to access Becker’s jealously guarded sketchbook and poorly lit paintings that there is no substitute for seeing the originals. And why block access to art the public doesn’t know or care about anyway?

Therefore, it is a shame the scale and pathos of these rare reproductions weren’t given justice, though I recognise the market for such a book would be almost negligible.

To give the art community access to a book that rests firmly in the Australian history section would achieve Edmond’s goal far better – to give Becker his rightful place and recognition in art as well as history. As it is, the book is forced to be less than it was originally capable of, much like Becker at the close of his journey.

Yet this cannot undermine the subtle, scholarly elegance with which Edmond has written his elegy; it will certainly remain in my consciousness, as will Edmond himself.

Turbo blog

Presenting my guide to what I’ve been consuming recently. You’ll be happy to know I’m not including foodstuffs. I don’t want anyone to know these. 

  • Parrot and Olivier in America (Peter Carey, 2009)

Sadly, the picture of the cover is not that of the incredibly DROOLINGLY HANDSOME BLACK LEATHER-BOUND WITH STAMPED TITLE LIMITED EDITION SIGNED BY AUTHOR WITH RED RIBBON BOOKMARK copy that I have been reading. But I can’t really take a photo that will showcase its beauty.

I haven’t finished this yet. But as his novels get bigger and weirder, the more I love them. Even if you start a Peter Carey book thinking “oh, this is set in a place/time/culture that I know” you will soon leave your own realities far, far behind, scrabbling for footholds in Carey’s completely unique universe. No two books are the same, except for his reliably amazing writing, and – so far – this one has not disappointed. It’s talked about By Jennifer Byrne and the team on the ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club Christmas Special, 5/12/10. Watch the video here: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/firsttuesday/

  • SAS: The Search for Warriors. Two-Part Documentary: Military History, 2010 

For the first time in 25 years the SAS has allowed documentary photography. The resulting two-hour-ish experience spread over two episodes is unrelenting, adrenaline-filled, clear-your-schedule viewing and should not be missed. Whether you’re a military history devotee or absolutely not, you have my personal guarantee that you will be fascinated by every solitary minute of this deeply impressive and thought-provoking doco. Watch it here: http://www.sbs.com.au/documentary/program/sasthesearchforwarriors

  • Independence Day. Movie: Science Fiction/Action, 1996

Once again, the L.A.P.D. is asking Los Angelenos not to fire their guns at the visitor spacecraft. You may inadvertently trigger an interstellar war.

You can’t go wrong with this movie. You need to watch this intermittently throughout the whole of your adult life to retain top mental functioning and psychological health. An admirable choice for your Boxing Day stupors, now and in the future.