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Joy. The oldest trick in the book.

I love film. Let me start there. I’ll continue with the caveat that this review is colored by my most recent film excursions, including the story of a woman overcoming tragedy and defamation to bring retribution on an Australian country town, and the story of a woman who loses house, home, income and reputation to bring about votes for women in the early 1900s. Joy is about a woman who must stand up to her family’s expectations (or lack thereof) and invent a mop. I left disheartened by these producers who promised me an uplifting, relatable tale of feminine strength and success, and did not deliver.

I can pinpoint three things about this film I thought did more damage than good for the causes its advertising proclaims to endorse.

  1. Every female character in this film is depicted as either weak-willed and self-doubting, or a manipulative, self-serving bastard. And what little bit of that felt like satire was patronising to the audience in its Luhrmann-esque opulence.  For all that Joy is a woman we can relate to: a goodhearted, hardworking mother with twentieth-century-disease. Flung along the milestones of marriage, mortgage and motherhood, her story is all too familiar; perhaps this is what the opening notes about how the story is inspired by countless women who have triumphed over adversity meant. But I call foul, and maybe I am wrong, because for all the obstacles, she did smarten up, she did stop presuming advice from those around her was good, she did end up in he big house with the kids who loved her and there was no love story. But I call foul: Joy is not the only woman in this film, and her story is one where her success is impeded by bitter people around her who never change, or feel like they should change and in real life, it shouldn’t be like that. Joy’s entrepreneurial spirit is the only good thing about this movie (aside from the nod to Joan Rivers) and it is continually drowned out by dream sequence and sickening scapegoating by the other characters. Which brings me around to…
  2. Some have said that Joy‘s intrigue and modernity are based around a lack of resolution in the film, it’s a real “real-life” picture. I call foul again because nowhere in the content do we find remorse or victory over the agonising-to-watch mistreatment of parent upon child in the film. Optimists like me in the audience will see that the fact Joy never cast out or reprimanded her father for his remarks on how worthless she was, nor her underhanded sister, nor her victim mother, is an indication that true resolution comes from abject forgiveness. Optimists like me will recognise that although Joy directly and violently cast the same cynicism and shutdown of self-esteem inflicted upon her to her daughter, the fact that they’re still the image of loving at the end of the film probably means she turned out OK too. But it matters what we say to our children, it matters what sense of hope or importance we foster in them – that is apparently the message of the film but the titular character continues the vicious cycle in the scene and this is never resolved or commented on.
  3. The grandmother narrator character was poorly constructed and poorly written. The cool speech from the trailer isn’t even in the film (fair because the film’s structure makes that speech redundant).

This film is a remark upon what must be overcome by women to achieve success, what expectations and crises of faith in oneself. And then it isn’t. See it for yourself, because I think films like this should be seen. And be entertained by it, for it is entertaining enough. But I believe we still have a responsibility to respect our audiences when we make abundantly clear the value of women in home, workplace, education centre and political stream. I fear this offering to the film industry’s representation of women is tokenistic, lazy and misguided. Joy is better than no joy. But Joy‘s lesson is hard to make out, and talking about things it only thinks it knows. Erin Brockovich would be rolling in its grave if it were anything close to dead. Now there’s a movie.

The cinema played this advertisement before the film about how terrible an adolescent boy felt after he hit his girlfriend as a deterrent to abuse. The whole ad was about how bad he felt. Think about that.

 

If you’re a woman who wants to do something great, check out these places:
http://www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/10000women/about-the-program/index.html
http://thestoryexchange.org/
https://businessfamilies.org/en/education/?l=en&co=bff-prepare-propel-your-venture

If you’re the victim of domestic violence then you can speak to someone. It doesn’t to be physical violence to make an impact on your life. That is one thing to film makes clear:
http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/finding-help
http://au.reachout.com/tough-times/bullying-abuse-and-violence/abusive-relationships
http://www.amnesty.org.au/svaw/comments/2239/

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Sisters Unite! A Review of ‘Suffragette’

When Suffragette opened in London, a woman I know was there, waving her banner and fighting with fervour for the rights to safety of women everywhere. When it came here to Australia, I waited three days and joined perhaps eight people to see the film that is part of revolution in cinema: films that gather and mobilise women in their production, their distribution and their attention. Eight wasn’t enough, but it was better than one, and better than none.

The film is wonderful, I suppose that’s why you’re here, to see if based on my opinion that the film is worth forking out a fair cop of money to see. And it is worth it, not because of my opinion, but because if you do spend the money, you’re telling conglomerates and industries that this is a good thing: telling these stories, hiring these women on merit and demonstrating what equal rights look like in the artistic domain.

The term ‘suffragette’ has been somewhat archived, though there are still suffragettes now, rightly so. The term refers to a movement of women (and some men) seeking the right to influence law and political leadership of the countries they work, produce children, and contribute to the sustainable environment of. In the film, we see the movement through the perspective of Maud Watts, excellently portrayed by zephyr Carey Mulligan. Suppressed actively by her boss and passively by her husband, Maud is haphazardly brought into the inner sanctum of the suffragette movement thanks to local insider Edith – yes Helena Bonham Carter can absolutely still act – and the encouragement of suffragette icon Emmeline Pankhurst, played by Meryl Streep. You could say she loses everything, but then having it was a fragile façade built with brick and paper by the men who thought nothing of her strength and importance.

Maud Watts isn’t everywoman, nor everyman; someone who sees the iniquities around them and for all their pain and pity, can’t muster the strength to stand up to those with more power, more influence. But with friendship, resilience, and a sense of integrity unable to be ignored, finds themselves doing the work in this life that will change lives beyond them. Maud Watts isn’t a reflection of each of us, for all that she should be.

The movie does not end happily, but you knew that already because we are living the ending: each day, where 1 in 3 women will be killed by her partner or ex-partner. The story of this film is true, and ongoing. There is bred in us a gentle apathy, cleverly painted with compassion and naiveté to fool our mirrors into throwing a picture of benevolence in our faces that we wear with pride, not knowing what Emperor’s New Feminism some of us parade the streets with.

Don’t mistake Suffragette for a period piece, nor a skewed biopic. It is a film to remind us how history repeats, and snowballs as it does. It is a film to enlighten us to the battles that bore a fruitfulness we greedily feast on, with the skirmish forgotten behind us in the newspapers, in our Facebook feeds. It is not a film to be heartened by, but one to be awakened by. One to walk away from calling our mothers, and sisters and friends to make sure they’re alright, to tell them they’re not alone in whatever struggle they face now. A film to go home from and start showing people our bruises, holding people accountable for their prejudices. We are ten times more fortunate than we can comprehend or be taught, and infinitely more than we deserve.

Many points are to be made about the rise of films that are led by female heroes, host female-dominant casts, and are made by female-dominant crews and financers. Much of the representation has balanced, but the inequity exists still in the shadows. I say the same thing to people talking about how much has improved for the gay community: it’s not better, it’s just quieter. The diseases of prejudice and discrimination aren’t dormant, they’ve merely become immune to the floodlights of social media and mainstream television. Violence against women, political and domestic, has only finessed into certain hours, certain rhetoric, certain communities and become slipperier to grasp at and tear apart than ever before. Injustice against women hasn’t reduced, it’s simply adapted, become better at hiding itself. Applauding our successes in doing whatever part we have, passively or actively, to create the environments for female-focused films is crucial to the continual pursuit of complete parity, not a laurel to rest on. Know the difference. Please.

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Let it last be said that I am a man, with a privilege that may be ingrained, but not impotent. I don’t intend to use what gifts I’ve innocently been born to against a cause that truly must be run by those it will provide equality to. But as someone who will benefit from feminism, my stance is in firm, active support. And if yours isn’t, whoever you are, and whatever disillusion you live under, then go see the film. Wake up.

 

Here are some places to learn about and contribute to the safety, agency and equality of women globally:
http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/finding-help
http://www.bigsteps.org.au/about
https://unwomen.org.au/
https://sistersuncut.wordpress.com/

Here is another review of the film I enjoyed reading:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/suffragette-reminds-us-why-its-a-lie-that-feminists-need-mens-approval

Here is one I didn’t:
http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/arts-and-entertainment/film-and-tv/movie-review-suffragette-2015-20151224-glujye

Please share your comments, links and stories x

REVIEW: Spiegelicious at the Spiegel-Zelt Sorrento

Stars Shine in Sorrento Spiegel Spectacular

Yes, the alliteration was completely necessary! If ‘Spiegelicious’-the brainchild of Three Palms’ James McPherson and Aussie dance-deity Jason Coleman-engenders anything in its audiences, unabashed revelry and shameless self-indulgence is it. A night of Montmarte-era raucousness, modern-style musical passion and the classic cabaret delight that is Wayne Scott Kermond await you at the Sorrento Speigel-Zelt, a nice jaunt from the summery claustramania of Melbourne.

There’s something so extravagant about the almost 100-year old European Spiegel-Zelt perched alongside the beach shack style of Three Palms restaurant, a meeting of ancient charm and Australian cheek. Stepping through the adyton into that world sparks the first energy as we are treated to the cutting-edge vocal musing of Jude Perl, whose ethereal tones were made to be resonated in that space from an obscured part of the stage. Her reimagining of all things ‘-icious suffix’ blends much more familiarly into the Cabaret introduction of showbiz-shaman Wayne Scott Kermond.

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Coleman has curated here a true gem- although some moments tread the line of being expected or predictable, they are given just enough time to warm the cockles of your heart before Seann Miley Moore comes out to beat the burlesque shit out of them and take the audience to new planes (the styling of ‘Putting on the Ritz’ had us all checking iTunes). Moore’s is a reign we do not question as an audience, sporting the diva-command with utmost authority-which is no small feat considering the intimacy and reputed conservativeness of the audience- even through the most stunning rendition of ‘Beautiful’ I have ever heard, and mashed-up with ‘Nature Boy’ to boot.

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Now a word on Wayne Scott Kermond. Never mind this man is a stage-legend, and without wanting to spoil his ode to song-and-dance-men (real tears were going on here people), the comedy and energy Wayne brings to Spiegelicious gives the audience a truly personal experience with the performer. Being in his presence is something I’m sure many took for granted, but was truly special to witness. There are stacks of reasons to make the journey down the Victorian coast for this extravaganza, but seeing this performance-piece-du-resistance up close ranks pretty damn high. He’s magic in the role of Emcee, even more so as himself.

Before I get to the former Cirque du Soleil acrobats and the chameleonic vocals of Catherine Hancock, word must go Ministry of Dance’s fantastic ensemble. For all that Spiegel Zelt is an intimate cabaret space, and its stage having barely enough room for Wayne’s stage presence, let alone his person, Tim Barnes, Hara Papoulias, Anna Magrath and Romy Vuksan make it look like Broadway in there. Bringing the commercial flavour we’ve come to know and love Coleman for, these guys bring back the freshness with boundless energy from curtain up to down. Kudos.

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The Spiegel-Zelt is the smallest Spiegeltent on the circuit (for those of you who are familiar), but somehow Rachel Kmetko and Dan Power bring the same level of awe you’d see in a full circus. And all the better for us to see the actual technique of true cirque up close!

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Ok so if I haven’t managed to convince you of the absolute ball you’re going to have at Spiegelicious with stage legends, contemporary circus elite, and the nightclub dancehall divas, then let’s talk Catherine Hancock. This woman takes you right back to the Hollywood glamour we’ve missed since Monroe, hankered for since Hayworth, bereft of since Bacall. But our prayers for a modern-day Ekberg have been answered. Providing vocal grace and power to a plethora of characters, Hancock is all-class and all-the-more-talent. Needs close watching for her absolute character-prowess, combined with singing chops and a darling spirit.

For this Prahran-residing Adelaide expat, the actual trip to Sorrento added to the mystery and intrigue of the evening. The highlight was absolutely the Jurassic-Park-stomping Can Can, performed flawlessly by dancer and audience alike! Rustle up four friends and get down there while it lasts in such close quarters because this show has legs as long as Anna (got to be seen to be believed).

Spiegelicious is showing from Dec 27th-Jan 25th from 9.30pm at 154 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento 3943, about 1.5hrs drive from Melbourne. Contact Three Palms for dinner and show bookings. Book at Ticketmaster.

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credit to Belinda Stodder for images.

5 Reasons Why Tomorrow Needs Tori Amos: An Open Letter to The World’s Successful Artists Past, Present, Future

You don’t necessarily need to be living under a rock to be missing one of modern music’s greatest and most lasting figures currently leading a nomadic movement across the planet. Tori Amos is finally back in Australia, presently delivering yet another epic tour for Unrepentant Geraldines her fourteenth studio album; seven dates include two phenomenal shows with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and an all-request show (that’s right, throw in whatever you want!).

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Having discovered Tori not too long ago myself, I have been making the most of this visit and am repeatedly completely blown away by this artist-the calibre of whom is dwindling or developing depending on how you choose to look at the industry, creative consciousness and contemporary demands on musicians. It strikes me that in the same way we have all mourned and deeply missed the likes of legends recently passed, I sat in stalls of these shows knowing that this creative master would be incredibly missed and not likely succeeded by another quite like her. Sustainability is not the objective of the global artistic industry, let alone the commercial end, so I feel it within my faculties to use what technical savvy the timing of my birth has afforded me to address some things about Tori Amos, those she is like, and those like her. Precisely, I want to make clear five reasons that this type of art be an expression we make as prominent as possible, and remind widely of the value it brings and pervades.

NB: stay with me on this, I know we Ears With Feet (Tori’s version of Little Monsters est. 1996 for those of you playing at home) can be on the intense and sometimes obstinate side but this is an open discussion about music, artism and life. I’ve just used a favourite for a lens. Thank U.

1. She’s a Griffin
Like seriously, and I know that might make no sense to you, but if you’re across the mythology of griffins then you’ll be nodding right now. What I’m getting at here is that according to mythology, it is impossible to tell a lie in the presence of a griffin. When I first met Tori at a Meet and Greet, the sensation of absolute authenticity was both onrushing and incapacitating. I confirmed with many other people I met at the event that it’s a common feeling, as though when faced with her, all you can do is be your ultimate and original self. I lost all functions of articulation, syntax, humour, conversation, anecdote or connectivity. Now I imagine that for some, that simply becomes them for a humble and grateful individual, innocent at heart; I know for some it’s a swift reduction to tearfulness and overwhelm. For me, it was a lot of stumbling words (from someone paid to talk and personally coached in rhetoric!). This is really a thing, there is a whole page dedicated to anecdotes entitled Tori Turned Me Stupid. I believe this is simply due to the concept of Tori providing an open, completely generous and present essence. I have no idea how this woman can come into a group of intense, oft-far-travelled, some traumatised, all excited and potentially anxious people, bringing with her no expectations into the throng.

I feel that presently, many an artist (and almost exclusively a celebrity), strategises their goals around the platform of character (think Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Sacha Baron Cohen, Australia’s Chris Lilley, even Lorde), and are frequently linked to the greats who also seemed to dress up in new identities. But it is my perspective that Madonna, Prince, David Bowie, Kylie Minogue to an extent, and yes Tori Amos all transitioned into new creative incarnations from a place of intimacy, not luminosity. I got the sense that every new dimension to these artists’ reinvention actually came from a lived place, as opposed to a separation from or extension of self. Hopefully we see this going forward from performers getting their commedia happening!

2. The Secret is the Piper’s Pipes
There is a special look of confusion that crosses people’s faces when I tell them that what really hooked me into Tori was her drooling. But the fans get it!! At the end of the day, artists like Beyonce, P!nk, Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Darren Hayes, Sia, Kate Miller Heidke will stand up with the Jeff Buckleys, and the Stevie Nicks’, the Shirley Mansons, Dallas Greens and Annie Lennoxes of the world because each and all push their voice continuously, breaking and re-setting their instruments to have a strong and diverse life on shelves and in hearts. When Tori drools in shows, it is always at the moment where the note is so powerful, and so emoted that whether she chooses to or not, the music and the sound takes any and all priority over the spectacle or the appeal. As it happens, I find it incredibly sexy! Now we may buy the work of musicians, comedians, actors that make mark of the time in which they rose to prominence because they remark on the development of industry and content. But Audrey Hepburn can be watched any day of the week, as Marilyn Monroe can if you’re not a Hepburn fan (yeah I’m calling out that dichotomy!). Having fans is one thing, a following quite another. But few artists have a force. You don’t need it to be big, and in spite of trend you don’t need to give it its own corny eponymous nickname, you don’t even need it to identify itself. But if that’s what you want, then the work of the mastery of the instrument is up to you to do, and to share, and trust. Many an artist lost momentum and fell quickly off the rising star platform because they didn’t believe in themselves enough to work on their craft. Reality television will have a bit to answer for on that front (watch the “losers” of those shows: Ella Henderson, Adam Lambert, Jessica Mauboy, Justin Timberlake, even One Direction-loathe though I am to reference them).

3. They Ain’t Heavy, They’re FaNily
Every family has one oddball, except the Toriphile Ears With Feet family who has maybe one straight-lace. Without belabouring the point about fandom, what I have loved most about attending a Tori Amos tour is the people you meet; the diversity amongst them, the openness to meeting one another that Amos herself delivers by osmosis in all she does to communicate with her fans as though they are old friends (seriously I felt like we were reuniting, not first interacting). The fan-crew itself as open and fair with each other for the most part, and I have heard many a recount of how Tori brings her committed listeners into the energy of the entire production, sharing them amongst privileged audience positions and picking up conversations at one meet and greet you paused at the last. Even the crew and tour team make a note of remembering you cross-tours. This is a power all big acts will have the choice to wield, wear or wish for, or perhaps just enjoy. Your choice.

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4. Every Day is a School Day
What I enjoy most about Tori’s music is how it manages to be so personal, and yet to the neophyte eye, so vague or obscure. Tori’s references go from art, to nature, to myth, to religion, back to literature then pop culture then true crime into lived experience via botany and politics hanging a left at historical events. I feel I know more about America by listening to Tori than conducting myself through thirteen years of formalised education. I certainly know more about myself.

Sure artists should use their talent to express themselves, doubtless. But what truly impresses me is an artist who can not only express themselves, but also contribute to the knowledge bank of their listeners, viewers, contributors. Artists like Bjork who teach musicology, like Amanda Palmer who has made and continues to make an art form of collaboration itself, Sinead O’Connor’s spiritual tutelage, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam who refuse to dumb down their craft for the buying power of everyman. Tori Amos was accepted into a premier music conservatory at the age of 5. She’s a freaken progeny, but she’s seen no take-out for lording it over us with that knowledge. She shares it, divides and distributes it to us in music that is made for the smart, for the deeper perspective.

5. #itsneverover
I don’t know if Tori Amos was ever destined for obscurity. A shaky start with an 80s pop record that she turned around into piano-power 90s icon-hood just shows how much she was meant to become what she is today: creating from a place of self-awareness, self-authorship and self-honesty. The Unrepentant Geraldines tour has celebrated her early-fifties years. A time when even the invincible Madonna is facing upturned noses and pursed lips (technically the way she always has, but now for age not outrage), when Prince’s philandering status overtook his most recent creative projects, and questions about whether Kate Bush’s stage tour earlier this year would have held the weight it did if it hadn’t been preceded by the mysterious and thrilling hiatus are avoided by fan and ignorant alike (no knock to Kate Bush-woman’s incomparable).

Now sure at the meet and greet a lovely woman of about 40 years old walked over to me and said “I’m sorry to be asking, but…who is she?”. I feel that what has made Tori’s half-century release such an indomitable and wicked worldwide attention-grabber is how this woman has taken on the tech! Delivering on the #unrepentantselfie and using instagram clips to make the evolving video for her third single ‘Weatherman’. Continual photo updates and a diversification into twitter AND tumblr has brought new relevance to this femme du force. One meet and greet saw an age range of as young as 10 through early twenties, mid-thirties, late sixties and beyond (and in a completely different way from a Taylor Swift concert where the parents have to go). To evolve your penetration is a mark of humility and confidence in the ongoing value of your work and we subconsciously receive that as listeners and viewers. I think this is why digital age artists are doing the same thing but in reverse to show their own (d)evolution: I give you Taylor Swift’s polaroid album cover, Katy Perry’s hippie lovechild vibes, Coldplay’s art-ode to Fleetwood Mac. Now remembering that what flew Tori, faltered for U2, but we will love them still for their bravery, and generosity at the heart of traversing this new and light-speed changing environment to create in.

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Unrepentant Geraldines Australian tour dates continue Tuesday 18th November in Perth, Thursday 20th November in Sydney (Request Show) and Friday 21st November in Brisbane. Details can be found at toriamos.com and you may want to jump aboard the good ship undented.com for insider scoops and updates.

Big love. Forgive, Love, Apologise, Thank. bg2yx.

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photos courtesy of Andreas Heuer and Rip it Up, AU Review, adelaidenow.com.au, Tori Amos and Ben Hughes d’Aeth respectively. Please contact me with any permission concerns.

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