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Family's bipolar drama is a laughing matter

01 April 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Mark Ruffalo and Imogene Wolodarsky in Infinitely Polar BearCameron's illness is severe enough that he has been institutionalised at least once. He is on lithium but tends to neglect it, preferring to self-medicate with alcohol. His sensitive but strong-willed daughters do not make his life easy, but neither are their mother's absence and their father's illness easy on them. Still, there is a good reason why these events are viewed with nostalgia, and a good deal of humour.

Protestant and Catholic corruption in 1971 Belfast

25 March 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Jack O'Connell in '71At the height of the Troubles in Belfast, a young British soldier becomes separated from his unit and spends a night lost in one of the city's most dangerous locales. The city is fractured along numerous lines: it's not merely Catholic versus Protestant; the radicalised youths of the Provisional IRA are at odds with their established forebears. Rarely have the Troubles been so grippingly portrayed.

Ode to the death of hippie idealism

18 March 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent ViceIn 1993 Joaquin Phoenix's brother, River, died of a drug overdose, in front of a club owned by Johnny Depp. Depp later starred in an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's drug-addled Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, prompting one film critic to wonder how Depp could see much humour in the material. One might now be tempted to ask the same question of Phoenix, who was present during his brother's fatal overdose.

God's bikie trashes New Age feelgoodism

12 March 2015 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

A new book by counter-cultural warrior and Christian God Squad motorbike club founder Rev John Smith says that feeling good about yourself may not actually be that good for you in the long run. It's not that he wants you to be depressed, but rather let your discomfort prompt self-reflection.

A larrikin look at sinful sugar

11 March 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Damon Gameau doused in sugarGameau's quest takes him to the Northern Territory, where the prevalence of high-sugar beverages has taken a dire toll upon Indigenous communities, whose access to nutritious foods has been stymied by government policy. Also to America, where he yarns with food industry spin doctors and witnesses the excruciating dental procedure a Kentucky teenager endures to reverse the effects of 'Mountain Dew Mouth'.

The dark side of a migrant's American Dream

04 March 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent YearAbel's life is pointedly contrasted with Peter's, a young truck driver who has been the victim of several violent assaults on the job. Peter idolises Abel, for whom the Dream has apparently come true — if Abel can make it, so too can Peter. The problem is that Abel's Dream stands on the backs of ordinary workers like Peter. Peter is a tragic antihero coming to learn that for many, the Dream will remain just that.

Birdman or (The Totally Expected Sin of Hollywood Narcissism)

28 February 2015 | Michael McVeigh

With Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) winning the Best Picture Oscar, a lot of people are pointing out the fact that three of the last four Best Picture winners are about movies, or the act of making them. That's not including 2011 winner The King's Speech, which was about the art of performance. That Hollywood loves itself a little too much is an obvious, and probably valid, conclusion to draw. But the deeper question to ask is why films like Birdman resonate so strongly. Read more

Edward Snowden's lessons for a secure Australia

25 February 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald in CitizenfourSnowden is both passionate and highly articulate, wanting nothing less noble than to see the delineation between those with power and the people over whom they wield it redrawn. The real meat of the matter is not the revelations themselves, but how in their light governments and societies desiring security will move to decide just how much freedom they are willing to surrender in order to acquire it.

Living and dying for Martin Luther King's dream

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18 February 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Oyelowo as King with protestorsThe theme song from Selma references Rosa Parks and Ferguson in the same breath. Indeed this is a powerful period drama that resonates loudly in a modern age where the injustice against which Martin Luther King raged continues to haunt Black America. Oyelowo's King is charismatic and proud, but plagued by doubts and capable of great sadness when even one of his followers falls in the midst of the struggle.

Helen Garner's 'Best Essays' triumph

12 February 2015 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Cover of The Best Australian Essays 2014The Best Australian Essays 2014 finely illustrates the unnervingly unclear line between essay and short story, but no-one plays with form quite like the indomitable Helen Garner. She offers such a brooding, aching ode to her mother. Proof again that good writing is an inexorable, spiritual exercise that seers itself into the reader's memory. How does she do it?

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