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Cancer teens in love and death

1 Comment
11 June 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our StarsAugustus and Hazel meet in a support group for cancer sufferers. During the course of their ensuing romance they both prove to be pragmatic about their own mortality. They share frank discussions about God and the afterlife, and gain little comfort from them. It's an inherently sad story, but to parallel the individual horror of their cancer with the experiences of Anne Frank during the Holocaust is a step to far.

Atheist Clive James' hymn to God

09 June 2014 | Philip Harvey

Dante's Divine Comedy translated by Clive JamesRumours of his death are greatly exaggerated, but Clive James has since 2010 made a public art of dying. It is in this intense moment of re-evaluation of life that we read his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Possibly no great poem is so immersed in the connections between our life here and now with life after death. It's striking that an avowed atheist produces the best poetry in Paradiso.

Veteran muckraker wrestles with God

05 June 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Living With a Wild God, by Barbara EhrenreichWhen journalist and activist Barbara Ehrenreich was a young woman she came face to face 'with something vast, terrifying and unknowable'. We mustn't take for granted the courage this admission took coming from such a committed atheist. While noting science can 'dismiss anomalous 'mystical' experiences', she wrestles her discontent into submission by boldly declaring that it 'is not unscientific to search for what may not be there'.

White messiah rides Rwanda's cycle of hope

1 Comment
04 June 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Rwandan cyclistIn 2002 US Cycling Hall of Famer Jock Boyer was convicted of lewd behaviour with a minor and served time in prison. Today he is the coach of Team Rwanda, a team for Rwandan cyclists, associated with aid organisation Project Rwanda. In Rising From Ashes, the traumatic experiences of his team members, all of whom were living witnesses to the 1994 genocide and lost family members to it, are footnotes to Boyer's redemption story.

Sex and alienation in Scotland

28 May 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Scarlett JohanssonThe succubus of medieval legend is a female demonic being, sexual intercourse with whom can result in sickness or death. This resonates uneasily with the attitudes of contemporary 'men's rights' movements who view women as social and sexual aggressors. The greatest irony confronting the 'succubus' of Under the Skin is that the femaleness that she had wielded as a weapon proves also to be what marks her out as a victim.

Feelgood celebration of white male privilege

1 Comment
21 May 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty on a skateboardGiven last week's unequivocal iteration of the dire state of Australian politics, perhaps we've earned the right to a bit of escapism. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty proves adept at turning the warm-and-fuzzies up to 11. Still there's no escaping the sense that Walter's ability to jet around the world in order to find himself is implicitly an expression of affluent, white male privilege.

Malcolm Fraser whacks lackey Australia

15 May 2014 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

'Dangerous Allies' by Malcolm FraserFraser was a ruthless, conservative political animal who today is one of our most prominent human rights champions. The elder statesman is quite the angry young man in print. He delights in telegraphing his haymakers and following through with a well-placed elbow or two. Put bluntly, Fraser suggests we need to shed our lackey status. 'We need the United States for defence,' he argues, 'but we only need defence because of the United States.'

Seeing double in Hockey's dystopia

14 May 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Two Jesse Eisenbergs in The DoubleThe Double proffers a nightmare vision in which the human spirit is no match for the corrupt and corrupting power of a society obsessed with productivity and material achievement. In a week where we have seen an Australian Budget that gives favour to economic rationalism and the wellbeing of the wealthy, over that of some of our society's most needy citizens, such cynicism resonates powerfully. That is a tragedy.

Hugo Weaving's grief and healing

07 May 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Hugo WeavingWeaving's latest character is inspired by a real-life minimum-security prison officer whose daughter had died. This man helped develop a program for rehabilitating injured raptors, that would be overseen by prisoners as part of their own rehabilitation. 'The program encapsulated the positive side,' says Weaving, 'of someone trying to deal with their own grief, and healing himself by setting up a kind of living memorial to his daughter.'

Dangerous, sensual young love and sex

30 April 2014 | Tim Kroenert

Marine Vacth in Young & BeautifulDuring the summer of her 17th birthday, Isabelle manufactures the circumstances of her first sexual encounter. Not long afterwards, she finds herself working as a prostitute. By making men pay her, Isabelle exerts control over the manner and circumstances of her objectification. These are drastic and tragic measures that condemn the everyday exploitation of women by men, from pop culture to pornography.

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