Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Exclusive: Outback Bowie – Let's Dance

EARLIER THIS YEAR, we made the long trek out to Carinda, NSW – a remote, former cotton-producing community, 400-odd miles north-west of Sydney – to find out what had become of the outback town that David Bowie visited more than 30 years ago.

Bowie had turned up out of the blue, in March 1983, to shoot the video for his comeback hit Let's Dance – which, to this day, remains his biggest-selling record. 

The country town featured in the clip has seen better days – the drought has seen to that – but there were still several locals who recalled the bizarre moment when Bowie and a film crew rocked up in the local pub, seemingly out of nowhere. 

The pub itself, the Carinda Hotel, remains virtually unchanged today (although, like the town, it is in dire need of financial assistance from state and federal agencies). At the time of publication, there were tentative plans to turn the site into a tourist attraction. 

You can read the full story – and watch the accompanying video – HERE.

(The Carinda Hotel has since set up its own Facebook page, which you can like here.)


First published by BBC News (UK/Worldwide).

CLOSED CIRCUIT – In Conversation with Eric Bana, Sydney, Australia

A HIGHLY expectant, sold-out audience welcomed (and nearly mobbed) Eric Bana, when we brought him onto stage for our In Conversation for CLOSED CIRCUIT.

The espionage thriller, screening as part of last year's inaugural British Film Festival of Australia, received mixed reviews in its native England, but it went down very well with audiences in Sydney – no doubt helped by this rare live session with the man himself.

Bana, who opted to release the film locally, happily discussed his career, from stand-up comedy to studio pictures, his love of cars, his content family life and what he hoped for in the years ahead. A few images from the event feature here – my report on the festival appeared in a subsequent issue of Empire.


First published in Empire Magazine Australasia. 

Byron Bay International Film Festival 2014 – Live Q&A events + jury duty

RETURNING to the idyllic coastal town of Byron Bay, in northern NSW, earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hosting a further series of live Q&A events – including a lively industry session on crowd-funding and a colourful In Conversation with Armen Ra – before joining my fellow judges to assess the festival's official competition. A handful images from the events can be found below. Further details on the festival can be found via the official website.


The Aston Shuffle: Photographs – review

LONG-TIME Triple J hosts and local dance-music favourites, Vance Musgrove and Mikah Freeman demonstrate their aptitude for absurdly infectious grooves on this follow-up to 2011’s Seventeen Past Midnight. 

Joined by a myriad of friends and supporters, including Mayer Hawthorne (on indie-pop would-be summer anthem Never Take it Away) and UK rising star Joel Compass (on the Bruno Mars-esque Astronaut), the Canberrans deftly generate a crowd-pleasing set that radiates a warm, hedonistic glow, while thematically doffing their caps to early Cut Copy, mashed with classic Ministry of Sound-sized hypnotic beats. 

The album’s singles – Tear it Down, Comfortable and Can’t Stop Now – amply demonstrate the apparent and effortless ease of the duo’s club-friendly talents. Plus, there are a clutch of female-driven standouts – the deceptively simple Back & Forth featuring Sydneysider Elizabeth Rose, the funky Restart with Lila Gold –that remind us that house music is anything but a boy’s club in 2014. They’ll have to upgrade from ‘shuffle’ to ‘shakedown’, at this rate. 

Critical Rating: 4/5


First published in The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).

Mia Wasikowska, Robyn Davidson and John Curran talk TRACKS

JOHN CURRAN’s desert odyssey Tracks, based around Robyn Davidson’s historic trek from Alice Springs to the West Australian coast in 1977, is about to hit Australian screens, following an enthusiastically received festival run in late 2013.

The new film, which premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival before going on to screen at Telluride, Toronto, Adelaide and London, features a nuanced turn from Mia Wasikowska, who stars as the so-called ‘camel lady’, who walked 2,700km with only camels and a pet dog for company.

Wasikowska admits she was apprehensive when she first encountered the real Davidson, who was the same age as Wasikowska, 27, when she undertook her trek.

“I was very wary about meeting her,” Wasikowska says, “but everybody was like, ‘Oh, you must meet Robyn.’ She was very unobtrusive, but she was there if we needed her advice. It was incredibly comforting to hear her perspective on it, to know she was OK with this being an abstraction of her experience.”

Tracks, which co-stars Adam Driver (HBO’s Girls) as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan (who recorded her progress at key points for the magazine), was first optioned on the publication of Davidson’s 1980 memoirs of her experience. But it took almost 30 years, and the pull of The King’s Speech producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning, to bring it to the big screen. Time has helped Davidson, who hitherto shunned publicity, look at her adventure objectively.

“In a way, it’s easier now, because it’s not just about me,” she reasons. “It’s their film, their version of the journey. I don’t feel the light is so much on me.”

Davidson admits such a journey would be impossible today. Which partially explains its charm and intrigue.

“It’s always been this mythical story, so it has that draw for people,” she says. “The journey, the self-proving – I can understand it on that level. But why it’s proved so resilient to changing times, I don’t know. Maybe people are just fed up with the noisy culture we live in, and are trying to escape to something simpler and more authentic.”

Director John Curran believes audiences will be as taken aback as he was at the similarities between Davidson and Wasikowska.

“I was struck by how they’re the same type,” he says. “There’s a reserve, an immediate intelligence, a sort of a strength and a vulnerability. They don’t suffer fools gladly. But they’re very quiet about it. They don’t impose themselves on you. I found hanging with Mia was kinda the same as hanging with Robyn.”

Davidson, who’s currently working on a memoir about her mother (whose untimely death formed part of the impetus for her nine-month desert trek), says she wouldn’t change a thing – either on screen or on foot, were she to ever attempt the journey again.

“I’d do it exactly the same today,” she says, matter-of-factly. “Except I’d take a beautiful bone-china cup to drink my tea out of.”


First published in Time Out (Australia).

Bruce Dern talks NEBRASKA

DELIVERING a career-best performance via Alexander Payne's bittersweet ode to his home state, Bruce Dern earned his second Oscar nomination, as serial no-hoper Woody Grant.

It was a joy sitting down with Dern to reflect on a remarkable 50-year career that includes assisting Alfred Hitchcock behind the lens.

You can read the interview here.

(My review of the film can be viewed here.)


First published in Time Out (Australia) and The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).

Judi Dench talks PHILOMENA

A HOT favourite on this year's awards circuit, Stephen Frears's PHILOMENA many not have replicated the runaway success of THE QUEEN, but it did deliver a touching true story with just the right amount of whimsy. 

During the film's press activities, I spoke with Dame Judi Dench (who remains as lovely as ever), her co-star Steve Coogan and their director about the film.

You can read the interview with Judi Dench here.

(My review of the film can be viewed here.)


First published in Time Out (Australia) and The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).

Colin Firth talks THE RAILWAY MAN

CHARMING beyond the call of duty, Oscar-winning star Colin Firth remains the quintessential English gentleman: suave, sophisticated and eloquent, yet with a everyman touch that endears him to critics and audiences alike.

During a typically hectic itinerary at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, I sat down with the star to discuss his slate of projects, including THE RAILWAY MAN, and what keeps him engaged in the business of film. 

You can read the Sunday cover story here.

You can also read my interview with Firth's co-star Jeremy Irvine here.

(I also reviewed the film for Empire.)


First published in The Sun-Herald (Australia).

Daniel Radcliffe talks KILL YOUR DARLINGS

HAVING laid the ghost of Harry Potter to rest, Daniel Radcliffe continues to flex his acting chops in whatever manner appeals. In one of his most recent turns on screens, the WHAT IF star proves that no matter the demands of the material, he'll do whatever is necessary. 

Much was made of the (very brief) sex scene in KILL YOUR DARLINGS, but to dwell on that would be missing the point. Radcliffe has proved his naysayers wrong, emerging as a likeable, versatile actor with a whole new career ahead of him. 

You can read the Sunday cover story here here.


First published in The Sun-Herald (Australia).


MUCH has been made of Daniel Radcliffe, the actor formerly known as the mighty wizard from Hogwarts, signing on to play homosexual Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Gay sex for Harry Potter? Surely not!

In truth, Radcliffe – who was first attached to the project during his lauded turn in Peter Shaffer’s Equus on the London stage – attacks his latest out-of-the-box turn with gusto and intelligence, far beyond any headline-grabbing man love. Given the film’s as much about the horrific aftermath of an affair between Lucien Carr (rising star DeHaan) and David Kammerer (Dexter’s Michael C Hall), one almost forgets Radcliffe’s ‘grinning and bearing it’ with Ginsberg’s sexual leanings for the sake of art.

The Beat poets, as they became known, were born out of New York’s Columbia University during World War II. Ginsberg, whose fascination with Carr almost echoed Kammerer’s, found likeminded literary minds in Kerouac and Boroughs. Although they all ultimately headed off in their respective directions –the Carr-Kammerer affair forcing that outcome – the three shared interests in drugs, jazz, sex and the written and spoken word. Freeform, non-conformity was the way to go.

Some have claimed the three to be little more than draft dodgers – a reasonable enough jibe, up to a point – but Krokidas does well in highlighting the spark that drew then threw them apart.

Visually faithful to the period in costume and design, Kill Your Darlings feels far more energetic and engaging than the other Beat biopic dramas that have preceded it (notably, the ponderous On the Road and the faux-experimental reading of Howl).

Indeed, Radcliffe needn’t be too concerned about banishing the ghost of Hogwarts, either. His is a particularly strong performance – set during a pivotal moment in literary history – and is conveyed with enough verve to see to that.

Verdict: A convincing, evocative drama that captures a key moment in history with aplomb.

Critical Rating: 4/5


First published in Empire Magazine Australasia.