Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oh no we spilt again!

I'm not going to write too much about the switch in leadership of the Federal Labor party and the return of K-Rudd to the prime minister-ship. For myself I see the act of voting to be largely a pragmatic act rather than an emotive one; the leader of the party matters little to me as I don't in most cases get to vote for them directly. What I care about is the policy direction that the parties will take and their relative likelihood of winning seats in our two houses of Parliament. The wonderful thing about Australia is that we have a preferential (or instant Runoff) voting system that allows us to in fact do both, protest and still lodge a pragmatic voting choice.
What do I mean? I don't necessarily agree with a chunk of the Federal Labor platform for example, but I agree with them much more than I do the Coalition. Now in many countries I could vote for a 3rd party, but if that party were to have a very low chance of winning by comparison I would effectively give the winning party I didn't like half a vote by denying their opponents one. In Australia however I can do both, vote in protest for a 3rd party and place a preference with the major party I prefer. Whats the use of this? Primary vote is a factor that people watch and should shifts happen Parties will often adjust their platforms to compensate. The primary vote is a measure of where the Overton window sits and as such is a useful tool in moving it without throwing half votes towards the major party you really don't like...
So even if you have some disagreements with them but don't want a LNP government; VOTE 2 ALP!
(The senate is different, may go into that one day. I just really get annoyed that we have a great election system in this country that most people don't know how to use...)

It is ultimately sad that Julia Gillard was forced out, she did not get a far shake from the media or the public and her term exposed some still very ugly strains within out culture. With luck her term will make it easier for the female prime ministers that will come after her.

But there are a couple of net positives from last nights events...The loss of Steven Conroy as Senate leader brought me no small amount of delight. Also it has shown Tony Abbott's total lack of balls, he is no longer as eager for a vote of no confidence now he has a parliamentary opponent who is both popular and relatively unbattered by the Murdoch puditocracy.

Tomorrow is another day...

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's not everyday you loose a true Master






I just found out that Jeffrey Smart died.
Often imitated by professional illustrators and paint students alike; Smart has been a prime influence on my (these days meager) artistic output. Smart is easily one of the most influential Australian painters and his flat , still, detailed urban landscapes are constantly reflected in our visual culture. (In the same tangential ways that we also reference De Chirco and Magritte in our zeitgeist)
Smart's work tackled with a realization that the larger Australian culture has still been almost incapable of doing even to this date; that we are an extremely urban nation.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

I am (not) Iron Man aka. Review: Iron Man 3


Themed review today, I wanted to wait a little while as my thoughts on IronMan 3 are more than a little spoilerific. (So stop reading if you really care about that sorta thing) But why themed? Well good reader I have been a little ill of late (since returning from Nihon) and one of the primary symptoms of my illness was elevated iron, really elevated. So for a while there was a possibility that I was a sufferer of inherited Hemochromatosis, but I'm not apparently and the whole thing was most likely down to a case of glandular fever.

But anyway, onto a summer (for us) blockbuster review. (queue fireworks)

The Marvel films are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me; in the same way that so many people watch Hoarders or Doomsday prepers or one of the endless list of dancing/talent/singing shows. I was always a Marvel rather than a DC kid so seeing the characters on the big screen hits at some old neural connections of arguing with other kids about which brand was better. The new Marvel films adaptations are big glossy and visceral recreations of those Marvel characters I defended in the playgrounds. Not smart films but I don't think at any point do they try to be anything more than what they present themselves to be. They give me exactly what they promise, which is actually refreshing in these days of compulsory plot twists and pop philosophy being used to make up for modern film makers repeated inability to tell stories articulately.

The Iron Man films are really Robert Downey Jr. films. Tony Stark; much in the same way as Batman was shifted to fit Tim Burton's aesthetic in our culture, is now Robert Downey Jr. inheriting his snark and irreverence forevermore. Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is probably the last time a comic book character and an actor become this synonymous with one another, Christopher Reeve and Superman would be another. (Ron Pearlman was *so* Hellboy before the films :p But another good example) So while you could (and have) switched actors for Batman, the Hulk or any other member of the Avengers gang it will be hard to do Ironman without Downey.
The third Ironman film is designed to round off an Ironman "trilogy" of films and honestly is also a massive satire of the third film in the very serious Nolan Batman trilogy "The Dark Knight Rises". It is also written and directed by Shane Black, the man behind Lethal weapon and as a film it does feel much more like an 80s blockbuster than a 21st century one. There is a bunch of CG but it's used sparingly apart from the finale; for much of the film Tony Stark is without a functioning Iron Man suit.
The plot itself is very simple and made up from a couple of woven together strands. First the US is under threat from a Terrorist mastermind known as the Mandarin who has made several attacks on military bases in the middle east and the US and taunts the president via cryptic videos. Second Tony Stark blows off a disabled vet, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pierce), at a party many years before he become Iron Man who approaches him with a Business proposal at a conference. Third, at the same conference Tony hooks up with a biologist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) who is working on a cellular regeneration technique that will revolutionist medicine. Finally Stark is suffering from PTSD after the events of "The Avengers" and his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is strained as a result. Killian and Hansen reappear in Stark's life, Killian trying to sell the discovery he and his company AIM has made to Pepper as CEO of Stark industries and Hansen trying to warn Stark of what Killian has used her discovery to create.
The film slow burns at the start, putting all it's pieces in place until Stark calls out the Mandarin and has his home and lab destroyed by a group of Helicopter gunships. Separated from his suits (kinda) and stuck in Virginia (the last place he had Jarvis plot a course to before the sudden attack) he attempts to uncover and stop the Mandarin with only a plucky kid as an ally. Fortunately Shane Black actually seems to like the material  he is writing and said plucky kid is used as a foil for Stark and blown off by our protagonist as required. (and those scenes that seem to build towards a schmaltzy surrogate father thing are quickly deflated in a number of amusing ways by Downy and the script)

This is where my theory about Shane Black writing what is basically a satire of "Dark Knight Rises" comes in. The basic elements (outside the Killian/Hansen plots) are the same as the Nolan film; Stark is a technologically brilliant, rich, vigilante with daddy issues. The threat is a charismatic, vaguely middle eastern terrorist who threatens to overturn the American way of life and always seems one step ahead of the authorities and our hero. The resolution however seems to speak to Nolan's o-so-serious Batman film directly. Stark is depicted here riddled with doubt, he is just "a guy in a suit" and he just saw "real" superheros fight an alien Invasion in the previous film. He sees himself as a weak link compared to the Hulk, Captain America and Thor, a far cry from the Bruce Wayne visits the doctor seen in Dark Knight Rises. Stark is actually worried about his own mortality on a subconscious and later conscious level, fighting bad guys is risky business.
The most controversial element is the Mandarin; a far cry from a madman with super scientific rings he is a quasi Islamic terrorist who wants to bring the US down for its wicked ways. Much like Bane he is wanted by the authorities but is always one step ahead, like Bane he wants to overturn society although the Mandarin's focus is not just one major city but the entire country. The Mandarin also seems to command fanatical loyalty from his followers and is able to take over public address systems such as television. Unlike Bane however, the Mandarin is fake, an actor used by the real villain of the film Aldrich Killian. At first it was a coverup to disguise the "explosive" side effects of Killian and Hansen's Extremis treatment for disabled soldiers. (apparently if a body can't metabolize the treatment it explodes...) The mercs that Killian/the Mandarin uses are fanatics because they are addicted to the treatment and Killian has expanded his scheme to encourage US defense spending. Like Stark and Bruce Wayne, our villain is a Defense contractor who is creating a crisis to boost his business. It is a flip on the evil league of shadows from Dark Knight Rises, the conspiracy isn't shady villains trying to fulfill a madman's legacy but a Defense contractor after a quick buck. (Oh and a corrupt Vice President) The film also has a plane scene akin to the Nolan film...

It's a good superhero film, the ending (with the dozens of Ironman suits vs Killian's superpowered minions) is a weird shift in tone that I felt jarred a bit. The film successfully managed to keep the effects understated but effective up to that point; but Tony Stark being rescued by Pepper at the end is a very cute turn around. Plus the end begs the question; if he had a dozen Iron man suits in the secret Vault under his house why didn't he get one earlier? Why did he and Rhodes go in Lethal weapon style when they could have both strapped into one of a variety of Iron men? Also AIM and no Modok? wtf?

Till next time...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Strange hits and misses

I know I know, more Hiatuses than an automatic Hiatusing machine. (That's not a word I know, don't write) Things are pretty overwhelming at the moment so I've found myself stuck in a kind of reverse writers block; too many things to comment on and not enough real life typing time to do them justice.
So we continue Australia's slide into Conservative governance, it doesn't seem to be because anyone actually likes Abbott or the opposition just that we have been told how bad a job Gillard has been doing so much that the populous believes it. There are honestly no words. We have an opposition who are proscribing the exact answers to the current economic, social and environmental issues we face that the rest of the world just took four years figuring out are utter disasters. Let me know how that works out...

On the bright side even while I don't post this little mass of incoherent opinions, pictures of cats and movie talk keeps getting hits. Apparently people still agree that three monkeys riding dogs is the best thing to happen on the internet since porn.

Will speak very soon. (Have some reviews and something about Doctor Who on the boil.)