Saturday, November 29, 2008

A horsey Englishwoman and an Oz man on a horse

from w
Well, we went and saw 'Australia' and the film was very entertaining. Overacting a bit and stereotypes. I wonder if Baz the director was taking the mickey out of us at times. Lovely scenery OF COURSE! Even the Bungle Bungles. The tension between the guy and gal wasn't as important as the story of the part-Aboriginal child, Nullar, who was the pivotal character in my opinion. The 'Stolen Generation' theme was the major plotline, not the Mills and Boon love story. Humour too at times and a smart way of linking with the Wizard of Oz. Now I've seen it I can recommend it, despite the over the top acting by the adults! I liked the magic realism and the point of view as respect for the Aboriginal people.

Marcia Langton has written a review in a WA paper as follows:

Faraway Downs fantasy resonates close to home• November 23, 2008
Baz Luhrmann's Australia offers a frank and fresh take on outback lore.

IN HIS fabulous hyperbolic film Australia, Baz Luhrmann has leaped over the ruins of the "history wars" and given Australians a new past - a myth of national origin that is disturbing, thrilling, heartbreaking, hilarious and touching. At its centre are two forbidden love stories: one a romance between the English Lady Sarah and the Drover; and the other, which carries the film and all its historical and social subtext, is the love of Lady Sarah for the mixed-race boy, Nullah.

The film sparkles and shines and, even at its most melodramatic, this eccentrically postmodern account of a recent frontier delivers a few gut punches. The predicament of Nullah's character is a credible rendition of the plight of thousands of Aboriginal children of mixed-race descent in the Northern Territory who were hounded and chased by police officers whose duty it was to remove them from their families and place them in the institutions for "half-caste" children.

The tale is layered by the surreal character King George, played by David Gulpilil. King George is Nullah's grandfather, and the uncle of Nullah's mother. He is a sorcerer from Arnhem Land who surveys Faraway Downs from his eyrie on the peak of the mountain range overlooking the homestead. Falsely accused of the murder of Lady Sarah's husband, he subverts the idea of the lurking savage made famous in much colonial literature and, as the hunted and despised ritual leader, represents the power and fragility of Aboriginal religion and culture.

The superb effect of the film, reading it through the lens of post-colonial literature, is its pride in the ingenuity, bawdiness and larrikinism of Australians of Aboriginal, British, Chinese and European descent living side by side in a complicated caste system during the period leading up to and amid World War II in the Top End of the Northern Territory and the east Kimberley where the fictional - and symbolic - Faraway Downs is located.

The plot hinges on the competition between King Carney, a cattle baron played by Bryan Brown, and Lady Sarah Ashley, who inherits Faraway Downs from her murdered husband, each determined to get their herds of cattle to Darwin to win the contract from Australian Defence Force officers who need beef to feed the army. King Carney orders his future son-in-law, Neil Fletcher, played by David Wenhem, to stop Lady Sarah from succeeding. She appeals to the Drover, a role brought to life by the superb horsemanship and physical presence of Hugh Jackman. He gathers together their unlikely team, Magarri (David Ngoombujarra), Bandy Legs (Lillian Crombie), Kipling Flynn (Jack Thompson), Sing Song (Wah Yuen) and Nullah (Brandon Walters) to drove the 2000 head of cattle to Darwin.

This long cattle drove across the plains and rivers provides the magical scenes for Neil Fletcher's treachery, the triumph of Aboriginal sorcery, and the build-up of the romantic tension between the Drover and Lady Sarah.

Luhrmann depicts with satirical sharpness the racial caste system of that time. The scene in the Darwin cinema is especially delightful for me. The Wizard of Oz has come to town, and Dorothy's escape from Kansas to the dream world is a metaphor for Luhrman's own artistic struggle with the prosaic facts of history. In his imagined cinema of the 1940s, the spatial and social shape of racism is reconstructed with such exact detail, I felt I had been transported back to my own childhood. His white townsfolk are in their designated whites-only seats in back rows under the roof and the Aboriginal and Chinese members of the audience are in the front rows under the open sky, and I found my eye drawn to the location of my own seat on a bench in the cinema of my childhood in western Queensland.

The bombing of Darwin is the setting for the crescendo of the plot in which good triumphs over evil. Whereas the Gallipoli legend captures the birth of a national myth born of the sacrifice of thousands of Australian lives in World War I in distant Turkey, the history of the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1941, soon after the Pearl Harbour raid in Hawaii, took place on Australian soil. The threat of invasion was real. Darwin was the only theatre of war on Australian soil, a fact often overlooked.

Luhrmann brings these events to life with gusto and emotion, responding to the persistent concerns about the nation's past and how it should be represented.
The poetry that gave us the droll, lyrical and fatalistic Australia observed by Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson celebrated the people on the land, the graziers, the drovers and the wanderers. Such writing memorialised the long drought and the post-Depression poverty of rural Australia. In the '40s and '50s our film industry - often in partnership with the UK Ealing Studios - also celebrated these Australian staples in a series of "frontier" films in which white settlement progressed as intended by God and state. Baz Luhrmann's hand in the screenplay is evident. He brings a fresh, bold approach to these familiar tales, and presents a radical departure from conventional outback lore. The film provides an alternative history from the one John Howard and his followers constructed. Luhrmann's fellow writers, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood and Richard Flanagan, must have had fun developing the details of this epic set in the mesmerising northern landscapes, intertwining the system of racial segregation, World War II and the cattle barons with the story of a child eventually captured by police and placed in the "half-caste" institution at Garden Point on an island off Darwin.

This adventure into the soul of the nation succeeds with powerful cinematic craft, passion and humour.

Marcia Langton is professor of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

A stroll around the Mall

from w
I took the camera to town today as I had to buy another USB stick to give files to printer. Santa was there with howling kids, terrified of this old man but my camera failed to capture one such kid! Here are some pictures I took around the Market Square Mall (NOT Bay City owned by the capitalist Westfield!) It all reminded me of a movie I was watching the other night about a couple who decided NOT to do Christmas one year but to go on a cruise to the Carribean and the neighbours all got mad as chips about their stinginess. I didn't see the ending, but if I was writing the script I would have ended it with them giving away their cruise tickets to the neighbour with the sick wife. Jamie Lee Curtis actor was in the movie. Christmas with the Kranks was the name I think.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter tree

from w
A wimpy drawing here from a lost sketchbook that was found today. I realized that the tree was slap bang in the middle which doesn't make for a good look. Though it does work for a Geelong artist who designed the picture of the rotunda in Johnstone Park. The formal look perhaps suits a poster type of picture.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have you seen Australia yet?

from w
I guess it is a must see movie, but from what I've heard it does sound full of cliches and like a Mills and Boon plot. Lots of great scenery of course. I reckon it ought to end up with the drover belting along on a horse, being tipped into a billabong etc. and his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong....etc. etc.

Here's a bit of one review:
From Times OnlineNovember 18, 2008

Review: Australia, the movie
(Twentieth Century Fox)
nne Barrowlcough, Sydney
It has every Australian cliché you could hope for, from kangaroos and Nicole Kidman to aborigines going walkabout and, yep, Waltzing Matilda. There is even, within moments of the opening scenes, Rolf Harris's wobble board.

But Baz Luhrmann's long-awaited, and over-budget epic Australia manages, against the odds, to avoid turning into one big sunburnt stereotype about Godzone country. Instead, in what turns out to be a multi-layered story it describes an Australia of the 1940s that is at once compellingly, beautiful and breathtakingly cruel.

Described as a cross between Gone with the Wind and Out of Africa it bears, in fact, little resemblance to either movie – apart from a similarly spectacular landscape as Out of Africa and a plot line that loosely resembles that of Gone with the Wind.

In this case, Lady Sarah Ashley, a passionless English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman), inherits a vast cattle station in the Northern Territories only to find that the station is the target of a dastardly takeover plot.

Much against her will, she is forced to enlist the help of a local stockman known only as Drover (Hugh Jackman), to save the station by driving her huge herd of cattle hundreds of miles across the Kuraman desert to Darwin. Which is then bombed by the Japanese.

In the worst Mills and Boon tradition, Lady Sarah – whose emotions are as frozen as Kidman's forehead – and the rough neck Drover loathe each other on sight but, as they endure the harsh and rather dusty travails of the cattle drive they quite quickly fall in love. She even teaches him to dance. Under a boab tree.

But if it sounds shallow and predictable, Australia is, in fact, anything but.

The cliches are saved by little jokes and asides, as if Luhrmann is saying 'Yes, I know, but what can you do?' In an early scene, as the newly-arrived Sarah drives toward her station, Faraway Downs, with Drover, a herd of kangaroo lopes alongside their vehicle.

As Sarah “oohs” and “aahs” with melodramatic wonder, a shot rings out and one of the kangaroos falls, killed by an Aboriginal stockman riding, literally, shot gun on the roof of the car. The horrified aristocrat spends the rest of the trip staring at the hind leg of the kangaroo hanging disconsolately over the windscreen, and the trails of blood that trek through the dust on the glass.

Later that evening she pops her head out of her tent door to behold the kangaroo being roasted for dinner plus (more importantly) the sight of a half naked Drover soaping himself down; a scene that will only do for Jackman what James Bond's swimming briefs did for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, and will ensure Jackman as Craig's only viable cinematic rival as the heart throb du jour.

But what gives the film its heart is something else entirely. This is also the story of Nullah (Brandon Walters), a mixed race Aboriginal boy left orphaned by the inhumanity of Australian law. The 1940s was the time of the Stolen Generation, when mixed race children were banned from living either with their Aboriginal families or within the white community, but were taken from their homes to be brought up in church missions.

Nullah's increasingly frantic attempts to escape from the 'coppers' and his symbiotic relationship with his grandfather, the mystical King George, played with awesome power by the renowned Aboriginal dancer and musician David Gulpilil, is treated with a stark honesty and is what actually makes this film truly Australian in both its best and its worst sense.

etc. etc.
We may go to the movies tonight but the only thing on that I've ever heard of is the James Bond film and this new guy is just too serious. I like the humour of the early Bond films - perhaps that shows my age eh?


Monday, November 17, 2008

Our front garden

from w.
Peceli took some quick pictures this morning before we head off for Donation in Kind to fill a container to Fiji. It's a very ordinary garden but there's a bit of colour at the moment.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two day flowering

from w
We have a dozen or more very unattractive succulants in pots, very shabby, full of holes or broken, really grouse, but.... every now and then they flower with red and pink blossoms which last about two days. I can't recall what the plant is called. Anyway before another one bites the dust, here's an oil pastel I did this afternoon. I think it's rather symbolic - don't judge a book by its cover, don't jump to conclusions about people. They may have their day in the sun. They may find grace in their life, even if only for a moment. Oh, too many cliches there!
(later: Is it called a cereus?)

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Friday, November 14, 2008

No time for drawing

from w
I'm too busy researching, writing, scanning, for a local history project, to do any fresh drawings since Wednesday. On Thursday I took the train to Melbourne, a second train to Elsternwick to find the Uniting Church Archives. Told to find an old church south of a certain road. I found a really deserted church without a noticeboard, went into the building next door to ask is that it? 'No,' says a woman, 'but we get asked all the time.' This was a Jewish school! Anyway I walked 'north' or so I thought, and found it quickly and the archivist and helpers were really cool people, mostly retired and I knew a couple of them.

What a pleasure to read through the 1950 and 1960s archival material in a very cool air-conditioned room when outside it was about 35 degrees! Every Thursday there are about eight volunteers at the Uniting Church Archives busy sorting material and I was the only 'researcher' for the day. Reading the minute books was like seeing the social history of the time. The names of people were familiar but today's elderly were just young people in the stories. I wasn't on the Australian scene those days - I was in my adventurous years in the South Pacific, developing a love of world music, and in an environment of living with missionaries and high schools. I wanted the students, especially girls to 'have a life'!

Anyway the story is coming together nicely though it's turning into 'Ben Hur' instead of a casual Sunday afternoon gig about 50 year memorials and memorabilia displays! December 14th is the special day so I don't have long to write a booklet and get it published, and scan and print out hundreds of beaut photos. I have several helpers coming and going to give me their stories and photos also. We ought to have a band playing 50s music. I'll put the idea to some of the guys tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Time for painting today

from w
Because of a computer glitch and the need for a repair job today, I did have time on my hands as I couldn't read the Fiji news etc.! So I did some painting though it's a bit hard to control details. I bought four fine pens for $2 at one of those junk shops so used pen first. The roses are wonderful at present and I don't usually pick them, but, hey, visitors were expected. After four days though, they wilted and the petals fell. The other picture was made by making the outlines in pencil of a drawing I did yesterday - by using a window to see the drawing underneath. Then add paint. They are not exactly like the original as I used 'Illustration' when scanning the pics.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Thirty nine years ago

from w
At Ba hospital in Fiji, a chubby little boy was born about 11 p.m. 11th November, thirty-nine years ago. Our second son. This photo was taken in Bendigo, Australia when he was about three months old and Peceli was on deputation work for the Methodist Church.

Rob had a beautiful life, was beloved by many people, but then the accident happened on Malolo Island.

Rob - 11.11.69 - 10.7.2000.

The photo was taken at the resort with a friend from Geelong.


Cakes and colour

from w
I added colour to the picture of the cake stall, forgot to paint in the plastic though. Though the variations here are minimal, using Picasa as illustration instead of photo makes a difference. Illustrators these days have it easy don't they>


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Near Osborne House

from w
While Peceli sorted boxes for a container to go to Fiji, this morning I did some sketching near Osborne House in North Geelong. The Rotary Donation in Kind depot is the old council area next to Osborne House, a historic building which now accommodates some adult classes and a local history project, and in the stables a maritime museum. It used to be the Corio Council offices until the Geelong area councils amalgated (except for lucky Queenscliff). It's not a swimming beach but seems to be used by fishermen and boat people. Looking north there are the wheat silos but these days the ships rarely come in after all the droughts. The Captain Cook from Fiji used to come every month to deliver coconut oil and pick up wheat to make into flour in Suva for bread, biscuits, roti.

The plan for this area is apparently a hotel and marina - private investment I suppose.

After adding watercolour/gouache I used the Picasa 'Illustration' instead of 'Photo' so the painterly effects are exaggerated.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Sketching at a fete

from w
This morning the Noble Street Uniting Church held their annual fete and as usual it was a happy occasion with morning tea, cake on sale, stalls for plants, jams, crafts, books, White Elephant, hamburgers, buskers and so on. I liked the wooden toys one man has been making for many years and I am sure they are better Christmas gifts than the tacky rubbish plastic toys that fall to bits within days. I know quite of a few of the Noble Street people because a while ago I helped them out by assisting with their music by playing the organ or piano on Sundays.

Many churches run annual fetes for fundraising and social networking although it means a lot of work for some of the aging congregations. In East Geelong, we have decided to abandon a fete this year and instead organize cake stalls at the once-a-month car boot sale mornings which are held in the drought-dry grounds of our church on the hill.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Melbourne Cup as seen by Mark Knight

from w
One of Australia's best cartoonist/artists is Mark Knight so here is his take on the Melbourne Cup where the human 'fillies' go crazy in their awful high heels. The chiropedists and foot specialists make as much money as a bookmaker they say. It's only going to be 20 degrees today but I am sure some will bear skimpy, almost nothing dresses and the inevitable bone crunching shoes.
And by another cartoonist, this time about the favourite:
About 315 p.m. Well, it's all over for another year. Some horse called 'Viewed' won it apparently and stunned the experts. Someone said it came last in a couple of recent races! The trifecta - whatever that means - is enormous so some people, but not many, will be happy! Bart Cummings' horse of course. The betting was at 45 to 1! Peceli picked Bauer (which lost by about 2 inches nose) I think because it won the Geelong Cup, which Peceli watched a week or so ago. Not that we ever really go to the races, but that day he was doing a gig for his Rotary Club, looking after the officials car-park full of Mercedes and Rolls Royces and so on. I've never been to the races though as a young kid we lived a block away from a country town racetrack and after the race program we used to go and collect the horses names on cardboard. Don't know why. Maybe to decorate my playhouse which was actually a full sized room!

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pastel, paint and pencil

from w
I printed out two of the pictures in black and white, then played about with pencil, white oil pastel and paint. A bit messy but it passed the time instead of watching
TV. Sometimes I wonder what a painting or drawing is really for. Is it just playing with shapes and colours or trying to communicate something? When it succeeds in showing 'Hey, it's a beautiful, amazing world' maybe it works. Of course often paintings confront us, stretch us to reimagine something, show us something of the human condition, but lately I've just been making marks on paper, that's all.
(Later - I painted a cropped picture of the vase of flowers - forgetting that they were really white and pink - anyway painter's license to change anything! Then I altered the colour ofone using Picasa.)

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

What would Matisse do if he had a computer?

from w
I am sure that those impressionists and post-impressionists would have a good time with the editing programs available. Here are some variations that Matisse might be interested in, still keeping his flat surfaces and decorative shapes. I am avoiding getting down to doing a painting using one of these variations!

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Flower arrangements

from w
At a Fijian wedding in Melbourne yesterday I really liked one of the flower arrangments - firstly in the church, then on the stage at a hall in Oakley. The first one looks a bit like a Matisse painting with the background shapes (after I cropped it as I wanted it.) There's quite a difference because of the two contrasting backgrounds.