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Culture is good for you, so shut up and read this stuff... reviews of films, books and such like.

Withnail and I
A British movie made in the eighties
Directed By Bruce Robinson
Starring Richard E Grant and Paul McGann


‘Don’t threaten me with a dead fish’

There are movies and television shows that, like old soldiers, do not die. Their humour remains buried under the latest dross until, like something buried then unearthed, they are unearthed and shine again and a whole new generation claims them as their own. I am of course talking of the comedy cult classic: Monty Python, The Goodies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Young Ones, The Goons, Doctor Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb, Red Dwarf, Fawlty Towers and some others. These guys are the energizer bunnies of comedy. They keep going and going and going: So on the spot, so insightful to the human condition, so true that you cringe, so memorable that you quote them at parties and feel good because everyone laughs with you, so relevant to any being who has ever felt the necessity to breathe, so utterly stupid that they make you spurt milk out of your nose.

‘There is a certain something special about a firm young carrot’

Withnail and I is one such movie. It has all the elements for a comedy cult classic – drugs, booze, out of work actors and attempted buggery. It is a pitch black comedy about substance abuse, the sixties and coming of age.

‘I must have some booze. I demand to have some booze’

Withnail (Richard E) is a self absorbed irritable out of work actor eager to ingest any form of drug or alcohol he can get his hands on. He is manic, likeable, very unlikable, hilarious, and also tragic in a manner of almost Shakespearean proportions. His straight man, ‘I’ (Paul McGann), is the hero of the film. For him it is a coming of age movie as he realises that Withnail’s sad and ultimately doomed world is not for him.

Plot wise this is the Seinfeld of movies: The two out of work actors go on holiday in the country, Withnail gets drunk a lot, ‘I’ spends a lot of his time trying to keep out of the clutches of randy bulls and randy raving homo uncles and that’s about all there is to it. However this doesn’t matter as the joy of the film comes from its surrealistic characters in surrealistic situations, the grotty ashtray ridden realistic style and the razor sharp dialogue full of eminently quotable quotes.

‘We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now’

Why this movie is an absolute milk spurting kick ass classic is just too hard to describe for mere mortals so C.A. thought we would move straight on to the drinking game? You get a truckload of alcohol (Sherry, cider, whiskey, wine, beer, and for the more intrepid, lighter fluid), as many student mates as you can find, a copy of Withnail & I and an ambulance. Then you watch the film matching the characters drink for drink, and if you are still alive at the end of the film you get straight into the ambulance, straight down the hospital and get a liver transplant
 
 

Worse Than Watergate

 

A book by John Dean, a man who was at the centre of the Watergate scandal

 

President Nixon once remarked how the whole Watergate scandal would never have occurred if only his men had not broken into the Democratic Party headquarters to steal information, then got caught and confessed the whole thing, his entire staff hadn't also confessed, there was no Senate inquiry and those two journalists hadn't written a book about the whole incident.

 

It is amazing at the transformation that happens to people when they get into positions of power (I could use that quote about absolute power corrupting absolutely, but that would be clichéd). Politicians seem to feel that little things like ‘the law’ and ‘ethics’ do not apply to them (just look at Howard – kiddies… overboard?). This meant President Nixon of the USA didn’t see anything wrong with telling a bunch of guys to go break into his opposition’s head quarters and nick their campaign strategy. Unfortunately this is illegal in so many interesting and varied ways.

 

Nowadays we catch politicians doing ‘bad/illegal/immoral/contrary to all known humanitarian laws’ things all the time. We seem to be used to it and it doesn’t seem to worry us all that much: ‘Yes there were no actual weapons of mass destruction. Yes it is probably a bad thing to torture people. Look I’d love to stay and chat about it but I have Pilates at four…’.

 

But Watergate was really the first time when a politician got caught – big time – doing something highly illegal. Back then people didn’t just accept it as we do now. Everyone got very very upset. John Dean, the author of this book, went to jail. And that is probably why he feels so upset: ‘Hey I covered up one little break in and I went to prison. The Bush administration gets to mindlessly violate, torture, maim, cripple and kill – and no one gives a damn?’

 

So Dean decided to write a book exposing just how hideous, corrupt, inept, etcetera the Bush administration actually is. Unfortunately we have all guessed this minor detail by now so it isn’t going to make a very big splash.

 

File under: I have no recollection of that incident.

 

 

Vernon God Little

 

By Dirty, but Clean Pierre

 

An ex con/drug addict writes a cutting edge novel about an American high school massacre and the book wins the Booker Prize. It sounded fantastic: Then I read it.

 

It is the Australian Pop Stars version of J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye: On the surface it looked the same (translation: ripped off Salinger’s style), but underneath it there was no bite. There is none of the talent that made Catcher a classic and, just like Pop Stars, also very little entertainment value.

 

The main problem is the main character and narrator Vernon. He is a totally undefined dweeb. Maybe this is an accurate reflection of your average American high school student and therefore a cutting edge reflection on American society, but it makes for a very dull central character.

 

DBC tries to make up for the hollow sucking void that is Vernon by making everyone around him as unpleasant as possible (perhaps yet another brilliant comment on modern day America). However his ‘nicked from Salinger style’ trips him up. He hasn’t got the literary talent to pull it off. After a while it just gets ‘let’s find the author and bash his head in with a shovel’ irritating. Seeing the other characters through the eyes of Vernon ‘dweeb’ Little is like looking through the bottom of a beer glass after twenty three pints – you don’t see much and what you get is a little fuzzy around the edges and generally makes you want to go and have a nice lie down.

 

I was tempted to just put it down around page 50 and subject you all to Doctor Who: The Novelisation of the Movie. But I dutifully ploughed through to the end and, while the plot began to get exciting the characterization remained as one dimensional as ever and the prose made me feel as if I was seeing the story through a kaleidoscope.

 

However don’t pay any attention to me as every reviewer and his dog has loved this book – fantastic themes, wonderful perspectives, yada yada yada.

 

File under: You know when you have lost the TV remote and you spend half an hour looking for it. You manically turn the house up side down. You eventually find it down the crack of the sofa and slump down exhausted. Then your partner walks in and you complain loudly and bitterly that you have spent so long looking for the remote you have missed your programme. Your partner then rationally and calmly asks why you didn’t just use the manual switch on the TV or perhaps read a book instead. 

 

 

Alien Cubed

 

A film starring Sigourney Weaver and some other people who all die horribly

 

It could be an interesting cultural question as to why we get off watching lots of wonderful British actors getting eaten by a giant space alien while Sigourney Weaver (confidant in the knowledge that Alien 4 can’t be made without her) just stands around going ‘I told you not to go down that dark scary looking corridor, but did you listen to me – no!’

 

However, deep and meaningful analysis aside, the joy of this movie comes with the Bladerunnerish style. It is dark, dank and depressing. Then just to change pace it gets even more dark, dank and depressing.

 

Alien 3 has been called the ugly duckling of the Alien series, ie everyone hates it. But recently people far more qualified than I have hailed it as a classic bit of science fiction so who am I to argue. It has now been released on DVD with the director’s cut and this version a testament as to why people should listen to directors rather than producers when it comes to determining what makes a good movie.

 

File under: The cinematic equivalent of sticking your head in a bucket of water as a nihilist protest about how complicated things are now days what with those large nasty aliens running around all over the place and trying to kill you.

 

 

 

WARNING WARNING DANGER WILL ROBINSON:

 

This page contains material of a political nature. These reviews may be upsetting to those who are not affected by politics in any way. This includes all members of the Australian public who do not drive on roads, do not use any public amenities such as transport, water or the telephone, do not receive a government allowance, do not watch television or are/have been university educated. This message was brought to you by the political sensory advisory board.

 

 

Dark Victory

 

A book by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson

 

‘Put down the Socialist Weekly and come down off the soap box.’

‘No. It is important what with the upcoming election, that the voting public are made aware of how they were manipulated by the Howard government in the lead up to the last election.’

‘Manipulated! That’s a strong word. You better have some proof to back it up. And why are you bothering? No one cares.’

‘Don’t you watch ‘Media Watch’?’

‘Media what?’

‘Watch, like tick tock. You know that show on the national public broadcaster fronted by David Marr (who also wrote this book) that reveals when the journalists, who supposedly report the news without fear or favour, lie, just can’t be bothered and make it up or succumb to corporate and political pressure?’

‘Do you mean that the media does not tell the truth all the time? But I saw the promos – Nine tells me so, Ten is the one and the ABC has that stupid wiggly line thing. They would never lie to me.’

‘Just suppose, for a minute, that they could and might…’

‘Do you mean that those lovely people on The Block and Big Brother DON’T have my best interests at heart, but that they just want to sell Ikea furniture and crappy holidays at overpriced theme parks?’

‘Er, no, not at all – Gretel Killeen loves you, and no one else. But the media is a business, just like anything else. They are not impartial.’

‘But not Eddie McGuire...?’

‘Even Eddie.’

‘Noooooo!’

‘So I suppose you don’t think the government would ever lie to you either?’

‘But isn’t the government meant to be really really impartial. Even more impartial than the judges on Australian Idol?’

‘Um?’

‘So what’s this book actually about? I don’t really remember the last election. It was a long time ago – weeks ago. Anyway I voted for Rove McManus. He wasn’t on the election ballot but I voted for him any way. And why don’t you come down from that box. You look silly. A rolled up piece of newspaper is not a megaphone.’

‘Okay, I will come down. But don’t you remember the fridge magnets and how scared we were of terrorism. John Howard told us that we were about to be overrun by fuzzy wuzzies… er sorry – illegal asylum seekers.’

‘Oh yeah, it was really funny cos that ship – The Tampa, sounded like tampons – and that is rude.’

‘Well David Marr’s book looks at the somewhat considerable differences between what the Australian public was told about the Tampa affair and the actual truth of what actually happened.’

‘But why would the government lie to us?’

‘Ah… Do you mind if I get back up on the soap box to answer that…’

 

 

 

Let Freedom Ring

 

Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism

 

A book about America post Sept 11 by Sean Hannity

 

Let no one say Getamungstit is the bastion of the left wing hippies. Let Freedom Ring is a book written by a very nice clean cut man somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun. Sean (I don’t think he would mind if I called him Sean) is a very influential right wing American conservative radio pundit who has written a book dealing with why everything bad in the world is the fault of those nasty left wing liberals.

 

If you overlook his demonisation of anyone who doesn’t think using the poor as a low cost pet food slurry as a step forward for the American economy, ie liberals, he does provide a well thought out and insightful view of life through conservative love goggles: simplistic. Now that sounded mean didn’t it? I am sorry, but after reading this book I can’t help it. It just reminds me too much of the ‘let’s blame the Jews for everything’ argument.

 

What does Sean (I am sure he wouldn’t mind me calling him Sean) mean by liberalism, who are liberals and why is this important to Australians: Well we have conservatives over here too! It is tricky in Australia because our Liberals and The Nationals (a la John Howard – mom, pop and a cooling apple pie) are our right wing conservatives and the Labourites, Greens, and Democrats (a la Mark Latham – saving forests, Peter Garett, a decent health care system, namby pamby ‘social good’ stuff ad nauseam) are our left wingers.

 

However, there is an easy way to tell where you fit into Sean’s (Do you think he would mind if I call him Sean? I don’t think so) world view. If you earn under fifty thousand a year consider yourself potential Meaty Bites. In his book Sean (I don’t think Sean minds me calling him that. Judging by his picture on the cover he is a nice young man) feels that Meaty Bites – sorry liberals – are those who value education for all, actually consider the abortion debate, don’t think it is vitally important to the American way of life to own an AK47, are students, are gay, are women, are short, are people who listen to U2, are people who read and are people into namby pamby stuff like human rights.

 

File under: On the down side you may fit into one of those categories. On the bright side you will give some really rich guy’s dog a shinier, healthier coat.