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Richard Flanagan sorts suffering from virtue

20 November 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Book Cover - The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthWinning the prestigious Man Booker prize has given Richard Flanagan's 2013 novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North precious new shelf life. I've long considered Flanagan an alchemist - giving everyday words an unmistakable verve and turning a phrase until it takes flight. But he's also a proud Tasmanian storyteller who now has the world's ear. 

Grieving women rock immutable Islam

19 November 2014 | Tim Kroenert

The sisters and their mother on a sofa in Rock the CasbahThe three recently reunited sisters are immersed in whispered conversation, during the second day of mourning at the house. In the next room, older men in ceremonial garb chant a mourning ritual. Suddenly, the sisters get the giggles, only to be angrily shushed by one of the men in the next room. But grief can't be stage managed, and it seems only natural that the process should be guided by normal human interaction.

Male spirituality in Kiwi portrait of mental illness

12 November 2014 | Tim Kroenert

'Dark Horse' stillNew Zealand filmmaker Robertson’s latest feature has been described as a cross between modern antipodean classics Once Were Warriors and Shine. Like Warriors, Dark Horse considers masculinity, violence and spirituality in the lives of urban Maoris. Like Shine, it offers a moving portrait of a character whose mental illness appears to be the dark reflection of esoteric, obsessive genius.

Good guy alienated from God

05 November 2014 | Tim Kroenert

James Gandolfini and Tom Hardy in The DropBob dutifully attends Mass but never takes communion. He's a fundamentally decent working man, as generous as he is taciturn. He is not the kind of man to, say, turn a blind eye to the plight of an injured dog. But Bob has sinful secrets that he feels alienate him even from God.

Kabul love story

1 Comment
29 October 2014 | Tim Kroenert

decorated eyeOrphan Abdul loves Fatemeh, but her father is demanding a prohibitive dowry for her hand. The financial wrangling between Abdul's guardian Mahboba and Fatemah's father Nik, and all this implies about the ways in which young women's futures can be sold and traded as part of an archaic cultural norm, seems crass and is more than a little disturbing to witness.

Australian history through the eyes of a dirt digger

23 October 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Cover of Girt The Unauthorised History of AustraliaSatirist David Hunt's best-selling Girt The Unauthorised History of Australia prompted Joe Hockey to offer him a job as speech writer. There’s plenty of dirt. Australia was the place to be, writes Hunt, 'unless you were black. Or a woman. Or gay. Or suspected of being Irish. Or even worse, all of the above'.

Journalist martyr's war on drugs

1 Comment
22 October 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb in Kill the MessengerIn 1996, US journalist Gary Webb claimed in the San Jose Mercury News that the CIA and US State Department had supported the smuggling of crack cocaine into the US, as a way to help fund Contra rebels against the revolutionary government of Nicaragua during the Reagan era. This 'dark alliance', Webb claimed, contributed significantly to the crack epidemic in Los Angeles, and fuelled the War on Drugs that Regan himself famously escalated.

Same-sex marriage on trial

15 October 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Sandra Stier, Kristin Perry, Jeffrey Zarillo and Paul KatamiMothers-of-four Kris and Sandra had wed before a contingent of family and friends, only to be later advised by post that their marriage was void. Paul and Jeffrey refused to embrace an alternative form of legal recognition of their relationship that would render them as 'second-class citizens'. Their conservative lawyer Ted Olson argues that marriage is a fundamentally conservative institution that would only be strengthened by extending it to same-sex couples.

Gone Girl promotes conversations about misogyny

08 October 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Ben Affleck in Gone Girl'If we strapped a bunch of Men's Rights Advocates to beds and downloaded their nightmares, I don't think we'd come up with stuff half as ridiculous as this plot,' wrote one blogger. Dogged by charges of misogyny since the release of her novel (and now film) Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn nonetheless maintains her right to create interesting, complicated female villains.

Self-absorption dressed up as romanticism

01 October 2014 | Tim Kroenert

'Wish I Was Here' PosterIt is almost impossible to sympathise with Aidan and his flailing ‘dream’. He decides to take the kids’ education into his own hands. He calls this ‘home schooling’, but it pretty much consists of taking them for trips into the desert or conning the salesman at a luxury car dealership into letting them take a car for a spin, while spouting trite platitudes about life, death and the getting of wisdom.

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