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Small stories of redemption in Laos

28 August 2013 | Tim Kroenert

Scene from 'The Rocket'. Young Lao boy and girl, old lady and man in purple suit riding in a motorcycle side car through picturesque Laos mountainsA psychologically scarred war veteran struts about dressed as James Brown. An annual 'rocket' festival sees men celebrate explosives, in a country riddled with unspent American bombs. And a ten-year-old boy, who is accused by his grandmother of being a bad luck charm, sets out to prove that he is not to blame for the tragedies his family has endured.

Torn by Chopper's inner torment

22 August 2013 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Artistic depiction of Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read with pistols crossedChopper's a racist, self-billed sociopath with acknowledged mental and physical health issues and a highly evolved if bizarre set of moral principles. A raconteur ever-ready to discuss the robbing, bashing, torture, murder and disappearance of various peers and colleagues. Yet he is also a man who recognises the damage done by the spiritual, emotional and physical abuse he took as a child.

Smiling face of a quarter-life crisis

21 August 2013 | Tim Kroenert

Mickey Sumner and Greta Gerwig smile and drink beer in Frances HaFrances and Sophie had been virtually co-dependent; a celibate lesbian couple, they'd joke. But with a new circle of friends and a new fiancé, Sophie is quickly outgrowing Frances, and this throws Frances into disarray. She approaches life with wide-eyed wonder, and tries to maintain the wonder no matter what life throws at her. But endless optimism can be wearying work.

Blowing up the people smugglers

14 August 2013 | Tim Kroenert

Woman played by Alice Braga carries a young unconscious girl watched over by a futuristic looking military manAs social commentary Elysium clearly has in mind any country that receives 'unwanted' arrivals of refugees. But it seems particularly timely in Australia, where the political response to asylum seekers who arrive by boat is simply to stop them. The response by the fictional bureaucrat Delacourt, to blow the smugglers' ships out of the air before they reach Elysium, certainly takes the 'stop the boats' mentality to its extreme.

Human faces of Monet's demons

08 August 2013 | Benedict Coleridge

An impressionistic portrait of Jean Monet on her deathbedMonet, in a period of deep grief and loss, made what was in his career a rare decision: to paint other people. The artist forgot himself in contemplating the faces of his wife and his son, in depicting the faces of death and of incomprehension. We need icons like this — icons of incomprehension, reminders of the fragile self that, behind its virtual armour, is beset by doubt and demons.

Crime kids served celebrity gods

1 Comment
07 August 2013 | Tim Kroenert

Emma Watson blithely holds a handgun in The Bling Ring'God didn't give me these talents and looks to just sit around being a model or being famous. I want to lead a huge charity organisation. I want to lead a country, for all I know.' In 2008–2009 a group of teenagers stole $3 million of jewellery and clothes from the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and other Hollywood stars. Coppola portrays this as an outcome of materialism centred on celebrity worship.

Flawed humanity of a police shooting martyr

31 July 2013 | Tim Kroenert

Michael B. Jordan carries young girl Ariana Neal on his back in scene from Fruitvale StationOn 1 January 2009, police in Oakland, California shot dead an unarmed African-American man, 22-year-old Oscar Grant. The event sparked riots, and renewed tensions around race and debates about police procedure. Underlying this politicised context is the story of a young father and former drug dealer who was trying, with mixed success, to turn his life around.

Angry ghost of Gillard past

25 July 2013 | Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk

Julia Gillard looks stern and resolved on the cover of Kerry-Anne Walsh's book 'The Stalking of Julia Gillard'What we have here is a memoir of a woman wronged. And by that I don't mean our former PM. Well, not exclusively, anyway. Journalist Kerry-Anne Walsh may deny either a relationship with Gillard or an outright allegiance, but they're connected where it counts: at the heart of injustice. Both have been let down by a party that has seen much, much better days.

Exploiting Van Nguyen

24 July 2013 | Tim Kroenert

Remy Hii as Van Nguyen stands spreadeagled as he is searched at Changi airportMany Australians feel ownership of Nguyen's story, who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005. Khoa Do more than most Australian filmmakers has the moral authority to tell that story without being accused of exploitation. Yet it is hard not to sympathise with the objections of Nguyen's family to Do's SBS new miniseries. Which mother would want public property made of her private grief?

Conversations about a damaged marriage

17 July 2013 | Tim Kroenert

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walk down a street of rural Greece in Before MidnightJesse and Celine head out to enjoy a final night in Greece. In conversation, the fray and fineness of their relationship are revealed. Discussions of philosophy and art illuminate ways in which their individual worldviews impact on their lived reality. They land in a hotel, where the conversation goes from intimate, to pragmatic, to something akin to exorcism.

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