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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Down the rabbit hole with: Jane Austen

One of my favourite things about the world of books and movies is the way they lead you around by the nose, back and forth between them.

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An author, genre or entire series can form a rabbit hole, some I emerge from in a matter of weeks, others forming a whole warren that can take years to traverse, interconnecting with other related authors, genres and series. I fell into a warren of Stephen King books and adaptations about five years ago I’m yet to clamber out of, blinking. It doesn’t help that he is master of the cross-reference, meaning new works constantly lead you to back catalogue. Nice sales tactic, King!  

My most recent rabbit hole, literary biographies, saw me off crashing down side route after side route, and I have emerged from one as convert to the cult of known as Janeites.

Three literary biographies survived 2016’s Minimalist Challenge and 2015s Curing of a Bibliomaniac. My experience over the past year writing my own first novel has led me to poke with increasingly greedy interest into the lives of the authors I most admire.

So I devoured A. N. Wilson on the life of C. S. Lewis, Peter Ackroyd on Charles Dickens and my beloved Carol Shields on Jane Austen with gluttonous pleasure, wondering how did they write even one book, which bitter experience now informs me is a gruesome, impossible task?

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Deserves its own post. A standout biography.

All these were outstanding and made me determined to fill in the blanks of my reading and to re-read favourites. Starting with the blanks, I’m two-thirds through Oliver Twist and have now read Lewis’ sci-fi novel trilogy. Yes, he wrote space books! (They are a bit heavy. Strictly for extreme Lewis or sci-fi nerds).

Knowing the depth of the rabbit hole Lewis’ non-fiction list represents, and ditto for re-reading the entire Dickens canon, I tackled Austen first, since she was the only  one I’d never read at all. 

Another profoundly affecting book.

Another profoundly affecting book.

The story of her life – and untimely death – moved me and captured my imagination. Lewis and Dickens, while they certainly struggled, at least were born men. All the world wanted from Jane Austen was for her to get married and procreate, but with the encouragement of a lovely Dad she forged her own path, sometimes a lonely and difficult one, and in doing so gave the world gifts it still treasures.

And all to be struck down in her prime. This author who had suddenly hit national fame with just a few works of brilliant insight was struck with sudden illness and wasted quickly to a death at about 40 years old, without so much as a diagnosis. They now think it was perhaps breast cancer, the Shields biography explained.  

It’s hard for a modern soul to comprehend how such a woman, famous, beloved and blessed with a rare genius just flowering, not to mention committed to succeeding despite some serious odds, could simply be permitted to expire without any fanfare or medicine or even a knowledge of why she was dying. And yet this is what happened to Jane Austen, who was denied life and whose further works were hence denied to humanity. 

Struck by these ideas and by the social constraints that inspired Austen as much as they confined her, I picked up a giant omnibus and worked my way delightedly through Sense and Sensibility, then Pride and Prejudice. I found their intelligence and wit, their painstaking evocation of a world complete in and of itself, as utterly worthy of inclusion on any required reading list of English literature – and a damn sight more enjoyable than many other books on said list.

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A very large book.

I stopped here, however, having failed to get through the omnibus in six weeks, but now dying to see it all recreated on screen. I had a stab at Mansfield Park, on Netflix, which utterly failed to hold my interest, then turned to the BBC Pride and Prejudice.

This is in itself required viewing, as Bridget Jones’ dedication to Mr Darcy in a wet white shirt shows, and hits the jackpot. Glorious escapism and a near faultless adaptation, with excellent scripting, casting and story transmission. It even preserved the essential humour. The Ministry, who I was by episode three confident enough to drag into it, turned to me and said, “Is this supposed to be a comedy?” “Yes!” I replied, joyfully.

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My cheat sheet to get the Ministery up to speed on the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

Next we debated Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I don’t want to go there. It might ruin my pleasure in the BBC series. It got 5.8 on IMDB, encouraging for a zombie movie, but all things considered it’s low priority. After all, there is The Walking Dead to provide zombies as required when the interminable mid-season break ends. 

Next I’ll probably read Emma, then re-watch the film for 90s nostalgia purposes. I’ve discovered the Ministry hasn’t seen it; terribly remiss, since his only reason is an irrational fear of Gwyneth Paltrow. He hasn’t seen Sliding Doors, either, so we’ve clearly got some remedial work to do these holidays.

Then maybe I’ll hunt out a good screen adaptation of Oliver Twist.

See what I mean?  The rabbit hole is a delightful place to be. It’s amazing I ever come up for air.



 

 

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.

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Those with short attention spans rejoice! I’m low on time this week, so I’m keeping it snappy with a handful of snippets.

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  • 3rd Rock from the Sun (1990s)

Working through it all over again. As good as ever. Pluses: baby Joseph Joseph Joseph.

  • movie: Kid (Disney schmaltz), 2000

Watchable, harmless couch fluff. Pluses: Bruce Willis being suave, and a funny fat kid.

  • Stranger than Fiction (2006)

Funny and clever. Win. Have never liked Will Ferrell but he does a great job in this. Win. Also, movie has Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. Win, win, win. Also, is about literature and baked goods. ALL THE WINS.

  • Hope Springs (2012)

Entirely watchable, but don’t bother seeing it at the movies. Funny but cringey. Would be worthless without Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones (who plays his usual crusty old bugger with an intimacy problem).

  • Easy A (2010)

I know, I’m so behind the rest of the world. Fun, with racy dialogue and a Mean Girls-ish flavour. Highlights: Emma Stone is nice to look at, and one of her adorably dotty parents is Stanley Tucci who even The Lovely Bones couldn’t stop me trusting.

  • Body Melt (1993)

My partner – let’s call him the Ministry of Magic – had a birthday so watched this as a gift to him, cause he’s been talking about it for ages. Worth watching just to see various Blue Heelers cast members and Harold from Neighbours being younger, but still wobbly-jowled. Also, of course, for the bodies melting. Would make a great drinking game.

Ten Canoes (2006)

One hundred and fifty spears, ten canoes, three wives… trouble.

The Matriarch and I settled down to watch this Rolf de Heer movie after loving his latest, The King is Dead!

We’d had the DVD lying around for ages and it seemed the perfect time to get around to Ten Canoes, set in Arnhem land in a time before Aboriginal people made contact with whites.

The narrator tells the story of a group of men making bark canoes and hunting goose eggs. The leader of this group tells his young relative a story (which quickly seems to be shaping up as a cautionary tale) about a young man back in ancient days who longed for his brother’s wife.

The movie is entirely told in a subtitled indigenous dialect. A quick Google says it is Ganalbingu language, and if I had any presence of mind I would have retained the DVD cover to make sure. It’s worth getting this on DVD, because there are extensive and interesting-looking special features.

I’m immediately charmed by the story-within-a-story-within-a-story format. To me it seems to reflect Aboriginal culture itself, which apparently perceives time as a far less linear thing than does European culture.

Whether or not it’s intentionally significant, it’s innovative, and immediately gives the film a new way to communicate that the themes that run through each tale are linked.

It’s naturalistic in quintessential de Heer style, with all the hallmarks of painstaking research.

Yet at times it seems to relish drawing attention to the artifice that goes into the telling of the stories: not only through the three different stories, but by introducing the innermost story’s characters with a rundown each in which they stare awkwardly at the camera, occasionally giving a chuckle or embarrassed look to show they’re listening.

As well as being engaging, this gentle joke shared with the viewer reveals the characters’ humanity, a task that would be difficult when portraying people of an unfamiliar culture in long-ago time.

This emotional connection made the story hard-hitting, incredibly so – I cried, and cried, and cried. No spoilers, but jeez, it tore at my heart.

But I also laughed a lot. De Heer doesn’t seek to make the characters mysterious or venerate them. They’re just people. They have their fart jokes and their deep spiritual side just like everyone else.

What I love most about Rolf de Heer’s storytelling is – and you know I love action in my movies –  he can take his time about things.

He doesn’t have to pull punches in every shot. There’ s something about the way he tells a story that makes you enjoy the journey. He settles you down, he slows you, relaxes you into his own world. This is a rare talent in a filmmaker, and if you didn’t get it absolutely right it would be disastrous.

The tracker shows this trait off stunningly, to the best of my recollection, and to finish off the de Heer kick, we’ll definitely be watching that.

His is a beautiful, quiet way of telling a story and it brings me back to the whole notion of circularity. You’re not rushing towards something, you’re circling around it, getting ever closer to the heart of it, and yet in a way, the whole time, you’ve been there before.

It doesn’t reward impatience. The second storyteller, the lead goose-egg-hunter, tells his young relative he needs patience, and drags the story out for days. The narrator of their story tells the movie-watcher amusedly that he supposes they are impatient too, but finally takes pity on them and gets on with the end.

I wanted to know the end, but I felt patient. I was busy looking and seeing and thinking and feeling and noticing.

And the end, when it came, was just as unexpected as the rest.

Five stars!

 

The Newsroom (Season 1, 2012)

This morning, on my beloved ABC 720AM, Ross Solly won my eternal esteem (well, he already pretty much had it) by mentioning Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom on the air.
The finale of this series has just shown and it was rockin’, as has been the rest of the series.
If you’ve seen The West Wing, you’ll know the format: talky, clever, breathlessly paced, funny and topical as all get-out.
The first episode deals with the Deep Horizon disaster, so it’s a fascinating thing to watch fictional, idealised news coverage of real, and not-so-long-ago, events.
I won’t name them all, because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who are HOPELESSLY BACKWARD: but suffice it to say, The Newsroom covers it all.
And it is idealistic. It’s a look at how the news could be, not in a perfect world, but in brave one where the purveyors are ready to risk their ratings, their necks and their jobs to get it right, keep it ethical, and not report news that ain’t news just because it’s what the rednecks expect to be fed.
It values truth over balance, a shocking idea for those of us in the business who’ve been taught the maxim that you’ve got to give the opposide side of an argument the same airspace… even when it’s totally, hopelessly dumbarse.
Needless to say, it’s like manna from heaven to a little journo who hasn’t quite forgotten all those uni ethics lessons, and it still a little bruised from the quick, hard lessons that ethical guidelines are really very hard to follow in the real world of zero money and zero time.
So, just as I salivate over The West Wing, I have salivated over every episode of The Newsroom.
Jeff Daniels was born to play the lead, and the Ministry and I have immediately formed deep attachments to the other characters too, already bestowing upon them all manner of nicknames and expectations.
I have heard tell it is viewed by some as sexist, but when following these accusations to their sources (as best I can) I think people think of Aaron Sorkin himself as sexist and are mainly applying this view to his other works, especially The Social Network.
I don’t see it, personally, and I’m one whose hackles often rise when a woman’s not given any cool job in a show or movie except to look pretty.
Sometimes the newsroom women act silly, but they’re not represented as less clever than the men, who often look pretty silly themselves.
I think the show represents the real world. And you know what? The real world is a bit sexist.
Any show worth its salt should represent how things really are, not how they should be.
It’s just like how the show doesn’t try to make it look like reporting the news without fear or favour is easy or always possible.
It’s the real world, Sorkin-style… by which I mean, crazily accelerated and reliably addictive.
FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS.