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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

1 Comment
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?

Oscar Romero's cinematic sainthood

11 February 2015 | Tim Kroenert

The late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who as of this month is one step closer to beatification, has long been regarded as one of modern history's great champions of the poor. In 1989 he was 'canonised' on celluloid. The production has not aged well but is elevated by the late Raul Julia, whose conflicted, heroic portrayal of Romero is surely as iconic as the man himself.

Linguist's life and language lost to Alzheimer's

04 February 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Julianne Moore in Still AliceThe brilliant linguistics professor Alice Howland and her biologist husband, John, sit down to break the news to their adult children: Alice has early-onset Alzheimers. At first Alice maintains a fragile, trembling stoicism. But when she tells them the disease may be passed on genetically, the façade slowly implodes. 'I'm sorry,' she weeps, horrified by the prospect of what she clearly sees as a betrayal.

Grieving pilgrim's wild days in the wilderness

1 Comment
28 January 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Reese Witherspoon in WildCheryl Strayed is haunted by her past — by her own sins, and by tragedies that have befallen her. As she walks, she hums, and the music she hears in her head leads her in and out of the past. Her solo 1600-plus km trek along America's Pacific Crest Trail is a metaphor for her life: each hardship she overcomes brings her a step closer to facing down the fierce regrets that gnash at her heels.

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