Aug 11

RAW: The Expendables – 4K

The Expendables is a light hearted movie to the good old action movie formula. The Hero(s), the big guns, the fist fights, the fiery explosions and the girl in distress who needs rescuing. Add to this an ensemble of stars including Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Eric Roberts, David Zayas, Gary Daniels and Mickey Rourke with appearances by Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Charisma Carpenter.  Rumours are that some other well known actors where considered or offered roles and declined, what a pity.

It’s a story presented very entertainingly about a team of elite mercenaries known as The Expendables who get hired to overthrow a ruthless dictator, which does not take itself too seriously, with some good one liners as well as poking plenty of fun at itself, the characters and the Action Hero. Stallone co-wrote the screen play which is by Dave Callaham and also directs with himself as the main hero, of course. Both old, those that grew up with the 80’s & 90’s action movies, and young will enjoy this flick.

The only let down of the movie is the budget, which is unfortunately very obvious in the special effects.

Dolph Lundgren sums it up well as “an old-school, kick-ass action movie where people are fighting with knives and shooting at each other.”

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Aug 09

RAW: Fugitive's Eamon Farren & Louisa Mignone Interviewed

The stars of The Fugitive: Robin Hood Retold, speak to Kryztoff about the play and their roles in it.

Aug 09

RAW: Waterhouse Nat History Art Prize – SA Museum Till 5th Sept – 4K

The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize commemorates the SA Museum’s first curator, Frederick George Waterhouse and this is its eighth year and already it has become Australia’s richest prize awarded for natural history or wildlife art.

There are three categories, paintings, works on paper and sculpture and objects, with a Youth competition also included.

What strikes one immediately upon entering is the great variety of the works and approaches, even within each category. None could accuse the 104 finalists (chosen from 684 entries) of attempting to pander to some preconceived notion of what the judges or even the viewing and buying public might be after. (This may stand as a contrast to competitions such as the Archibald Portrait Prize.)

This year’s overall winner is Nikki Main’s Flood Stones which appears as shiny mid-sized mineral infused rocks but is in fact blown glass with silt and powders to give a sense of silt, sediment and running water in order to celebrate the flood phase of the hydrological cycle. Some works are monuments to wild life such as Indiana James’ Restraint – Wedge Tailed Eagle, others far more political such as the Youth Prize winner, Tessa McDonnell’s Owl In Victorian Bell Jar and Terry Jackson’s Not So Different, a pencil sketch of hand that is part human and part primate.

With a purpose of celebrating the intricate and complex world of global biodiversity as well as encouraging excellence in natural history art, the Waterhouse 2010 competition is a success on all fronts.

Kryztoff Rating – 4K

Aug 04

RAW: SALA Ann Newmarch – Flinders Uni Art Museum (State Lib) – 3K

Cultural Pattern and Human Fragility By Ann Newmarch – Flinders Uni Art Museum (State Library) – Till 29th August

Ann Newmarch’s 25th solo exhibition comprises 16 works and opinion may well divide on their merits. To be sure they are complex, any one incorporating many motifs that span on one axis of thought cultural items like Afgham rugs, rosettes, Italian and Greek monuments and on the other images of war and death such as the silhouettes of rifles, the photo of Kim Phuc fleeing a napalm attack in the Vietnam war and a trader falling to his death from one of the twin towers on 9/11.

There is also a beauty about them in that they hang well together and can sustain individual curiosity as well filling a space on a wall. However, the repetition of the images across all 16 works and overall feel somewhat confound the individual and often distinct titles and commentary associated with each.

Newmarch speaks in the catalogue of how ‘these images grew bit by bit without much consideration for the big picture. I felt like I was dissolving into each area I altered or added (a bit like a quilt, the complexities of each stitch.)’ Janet Maughn speaks of ‘the messages appear not so obviously. These are pictures that reward close inspection of different parts of the picture surface; that hint at relationships and encourage the viewer to make connections across cultures, across time and across events.

Thus the divide on these works is either they are a hotch potch of icons that will resonate from one’s consciousness that holds together as complex and colourful or the trained eye will make out these connections of culture and war and tie them in with their titles. But if the artists didn’t seem to know where they were going, I am unsure why viewers should or would.

Kryztoff Rating  3K

Jul 29

RAW: Film – Me And Orson Welles – 4K

When as a 17 year old, Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) gets a call up to be in a new 1937 Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar he immediately happens upon the massive ego and figure of Orson Welles (Christian McKay) and his crew of actors, stage hands and producers. In the course of the hectic shambles that precedes opening night, Richard gets infatuated with Sonja (Claire Danes) and observes at close range the actor’s world of ego (sometimes fragile), bluff, the lure of the next thing and its brutal impermanence.

To be sure, the ‘Me’ in the title is the star and Welles is relegated to just one of the next lead performers. Whether this is a design flaw will be a matter of taste. Danes is dazzling and immensely charismatic, being flirty but not exploitive. McKay wonderfully channels Orson’s bravado, brilliances and brittleness and Zoe Kazan as Greta, Richard’s off stage friend, is the model of youthful enthusiasm laced with self doubt and an endearing personality. As for Efron, it is rare for a teenage heart throb to develop into a genuine actor but Efron is one such novelty – he is a real actor and will be a star for audiences of all ages for years to come.

This is the third ‘play within a play’ this year (after NINE and I, Don Giovanni) and probably the best. The production is excellent all round. Richard Linklater’s direction is tight, shot in a brown sepia and Holly Gent Palmo’s screenplay (based on a Robert Kaplow novel) is a feature with dialogue that cuts to the essence of the personalities without stereotyping – Welles for all his bravado has his moments of self doubts, genius and cowardice, Richard and Greta have their youthful excesses without marking them juvenile. And who can go wrong with the music of era resonating throughout.

A failure as a biopic of Welles but a simple joy as entertainment.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Jul 28

RAW: European Masters: Staedel Museum – NGV – Till 10th Oct

Continuing the great series of Melbourne Winter Masterpieces, this year’s European Masters features almost 100 works by 70 artists from the Staedel Art Museum in Frankfurt, one of Germany’s oldest and most respected museums. The works are here, exclusively to Melbourne, as a result of the host museum undergoing renovations.

What’s on offer is unlike most curated exhibitions, being works with a tight collective theme, but rather what it is, a selection of the Staedel’s permanent collection of some 2700 paintings, 600 sculptures and more than 100,000 prints and drawings. As such it has items from across two centuries, with a strong Germanic core and spanning all manner of styles. Unlike perhaps how the publicity posters feature it, this is not another Impressionists wonderland, with items from that genre limited to about a dozen. Nonetheless, real artistic treats await the visitor.

The exhibition opens with Tischbein’s Goethe in the Roman Campagna from 1786, perhaps paying homage to Frankfurt’s son, regarded by many as Germany’s finest author. Amongst the Impressionist works is the stand out Renoir, La Fin du Dejeuner, though just what its meaning is remains unclear. The only artist with a true focus throughout is Max Beckmann. Born in 1884, Beckmann was profoundly affected by his involvement in World War 1 that altered his traditional depictions to distortions of both figures and space. These changes and many of his self and other portraits are featured in their own room. His Double Portrait (1923) portraying the wife and the mistress of the then director of the Staedel is notable if nothing else for its audacious subject matter.

As a tour through styles across 200 years, European Masters stands on its own. It certainly begs the question what will the next 100 years produce to match the upheavals and development of forms of this era. But, as a result, visitors will need to maintain an open mind and not allow their own preferences to prejudge works or rooms.  This is helped by copious notes on the audio guide that both explain the specific works as well as place paintings in their context of both the exhibition and art movements generally.

Another Melbourne art treat this winter.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Jul 24

RAW: Ziggy Diagne – Nexus – 23 July

Unfortunately only a sparse crowd came to Nexus last night to hear Ziggy Diagne and his four piece ensemble play his high energy fusion of African, Salsa and other Latin rhythms. The setting was also not helped by a late start due to Ziggy et al losing their way, drums tumbling over during songs and musicians tripping over cords on stage. However, the second half was worth the wait.

Then Senegalese, Ziggy, (who, in a white jump suit adorned with small flags and with his hair in a bun on the top of his head looked like a cross between Whoopi Goldberg and Buzz Aldrin), got into his stride with brilliant control of his formidable kora that seemed to inject boundless hand energy into his two drummers, Funkalleros and Dunumbra. The interplay between them was spellbinding as the reggae funk, rap and jazz beat grew in intensity, the groovy M’balah rhythms, unique to Senegal, roaring through.

Before moving to WA in 2000, Diagne played and toured internationally for ten years in the Baaba Maal band as a drummer, dancer and choreographer. He has also performed on stage with the likes of Carlos Santana and Youssou N’Dour and has recorded with Assane Thiam (regarded by many as the world’s best talking drum player.)

Before a small, mostly middle aged audience, getting reciprocated energy from the dance floor before him was always going to be a struggle. However, one could imagine a WOMAD crowd going absolutely silly at the height of a performance (with good gunja only adding to the tsunami of energy and power and chills of ecstasy that would ripple through such an audience.)

Ziggy and friends deserved more support than they got last night but it was a richly rewarding experience nonetheless.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

Jul 16

RAW: ABBA World – Melbourne – To End Oct

Elitists may cringe at the thought that such a topic be a major exhibition but given their role in world music in the 1970s and 80s and in various guises since, ABBA makes for a fascinating revisit.

This exhibition in Federation Square, in the old Racehorse Hall of Fame site, covers everything you would want to know and wish to indulge with the Swedish Fab Four (other than perhaps having them over for dinner.) The material from their folk singing days through to the final chapters of their time together is all there – interviews, the recording studios, how they toured, the get-ups etc etc.

Adults and children alike can indulge themselves in remixing, singing and recording their own versions of the hit songs as well as appearing on stage with Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida and then collect their own DVD of it all to take home at its conclusion. Oh the wonders of modern technology and what it can do for interactivity at exhibitions.

I was surprised to learn what an important role Australia played in their success, adoring the group in the wake of the Eurovision Song Contest triumph with Waterloo when most of Europe was only luke warm. It was this hype from down under (at least allegedly) that reignited interest in the group in the Northern Hemisphere and saw them surge again – another Molly triumph? – I just can’t remember.

But ABBA World also reminds you of what excellent songs Benny and Bjorn produced and how superb the girls were singing them, both vocally and visually. That complexity and competence is often lost in the apparent ease and excess of their performances.

Not cheap at $35 for an adult but one can spend a good two hours wandering the various levels and if all that downloading stuff takes your fancy, then good value abounds. A great visit back in time to timeless popular music but expect to be humming Ring Ring long after you have got home.

Jul 01

RAW: Bill Viola’s Observance – Samstag Art Museum – To July 14

A column of people comes, one by one, towards us to observe for themselves and be emotionally affected, absorbed by grief, horror and / or sadness, by a scene playing out below where we stand. We don’t know what it is but by their reactions we too come to be observers of their grief and thus for those immediately involved.

Observance is one of a series of works by Viola comprising The Passions created over three years from 2000 to 2002. His art generally explores themes of human experience, memory and the mystery of existence and he creates compelling, voiceless narratives where their effects are magnified through the slow motion of their movements and expressions.

As much as we too may become infected by the reactions, there is a voyeuristic disposition of these people that is also unsettling for they seem to neither know the players suffering nor, in most instances, those around them as they almost jostle for their chance to gain a clear view. The reassuring touches and anxious glances seem to be mostly towards those who are joined only by this experience. Interestingly, while people of all colours and ages are represented, Viola does not have children in the mix.

This is interesting art that poses questions about how we react when confronted with the grief of others, whether known to us or not, as well as how we can share in the reactions of others. Combined with the Mirror Mirror exhibition, Observance promises that a walk to the West End will again reward you for the effort.

Until 14th July.

Jun 30

RAW: Tim Burton – The Exhibition – ACMI Melbourne

Any lover of modern, edgy media or graphic design will wish to make a bee line to Melbourne for Tim Burton – The Exhibition at the Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI) in Federation Square before 10th October.

This exhibition, straight from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is the complete retrospective. To its credit, and what is usually rare from such a display, is copious material from his pre-fame days when growing up as the outsider kid in Burbank, Ca. The first two rooms highlight the array of Burton’s mental and physical doodling and concepts that would become consistent and now famous motifs of his work, all well before he carried studio support – the dark settings, the wiry fingers, arms and legs, the bits that stick out from heads, his love of black and white working together in rings and leafless, winter beaten trees.

Also fascinating is the almost child-like way he presents film concepts to producers and his, at times, very clever sense of humour. Certainly Burton has a distinctive personal artistic vision evoking humour, fantasy and nightmares, living often in between worlds. While some regress to child like stories and fantasy as a comfort zone, Burton says his films are not an attempt at recapturing a childish impulse but a way to make the world fresh and interesting.

While mentioning at the outset media buffs and graphic designers will wish to ensure they see it, a great many other starting points will also attract attendance. Kids will love it, though this is probably more for adults than may be expected, psychologists will have a field day and film buffs generally will be intrigued. Certainly, as much as Burton’s genius is front and centre in his films, one comes to appreciate there are standout performances that actually make those movies hits such as from Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice), Johnny Depp (various) and Jack Nicholson (especially as the Joker).

There is great deal to do on any weekend in Melbourne this winter but this should be a priority.

Kryztoff Rating 4.5K