REVIEWS


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Sad story of a tragic opera wannabe

3 Comments
20 April 2016 | Tim Kroenert

Socialite and amateur operatic soprano Marguerite cuts an intriguing and tragic figure, devoted to her craft but oblivious to her lack of talent. Yet the joy she gains from believing she is a great singer doesn't depend on the reality or otherwise of that belief. Is it right or wrong for those who care for her to allow her to continue in her delusion? The question echoes the concept of a life-lie, invoked by Henrik Ibsen to argue that human beings are sometimes better off living in at least partial ignorance of reality.


Singing and subverting White American history

1 Comment
13 April 2016 | Tim Kroenert

Lin-Manuel Miranda in HamiltonThe show's implicit subversiveness runs deep. It is embodied in the fact that its cast consists of mostly Black and Latino performers portraying White characters, using a vernacular and musical styles popularly associated with these cultural groups. It thus stands as a riposte to the history of black/brownface and whitewashing in popular entertainment. Crucially, in a show about 'founding fathers', it is the story's women who not only provide its emotional core but are also the most fundamentally heroic.


Icelandic farmers like rams to the slaughter

06 April 2016 | Tim Kroenert

When a remote valley in the north of Iceland is struck by an outbreak of scrapie - a fatal, degenerative disease that affects sheep - Gummi, Kiddi and their farmer neighbours must face the prospect of conducting a mass slaughter. This is very much a communal crisis, and a consideration of the socioeconomic hardships of traditional Icelandic sheep farmers in modern times. But it's also a teasing-out on the personal level of Gummi and Kiddi's emotional and practical responses to this turn of events.


Sherpa Spring challenges Western privilege on Everest

30 March 2016 | Tim Kroenert

If Peedom was expecting to find signs of a growing sense of self-agency behind the docile facade of the legendary 'Smiling Sherpa', she couldn't have predicted a rawer or more tragic scenario against which it would play out. Predictably the turn of events does not sit will with the Western climbers and tour operators, who feel that the outlay of time and money, not to mention the 'bucket-list' imperative to conquer the peak, entitle them to proceed. Polite facades peel away to reveal ugly attitudes.


Eye on the messy ethics of drone warfare

5 Comments
23 March 2016 | Tim Kroenert

With more than 30 dead in Brussels just a few short months after the horrors in Paris, the Western world again confronts an assailant in ISIS who deals in fear and bloodshed. In contemplating our responses to such attacks we recognise the historical and current geopolitical realities that have bred the ideologies that fuel them. This messiness is the stuff of a new British film that arrives in Australia this week, which explores the plight of those who might be 'collateral damage' in the hyper-technological 'war on terror'.


Great white filmmakers can't dismiss diversity

6 Comments
09 March 2016 | Tim Kroenert

When questioned about diversity in his films recently, Joel Coen replied: 'You don't sit down and say, "I'm going to write a story that involves four black people, three Jews, and a dog".' The answer is disingenuous at best. Filmmakers choose what stories to tell and how; with a few exceptions, the Coens tell stories about white men. Just as Quentin Tarantino ought to continue discussing the role violence and misogyny play in his films, the Coens should engage meaningfully with questions of diversity.


Humanity found in ritual amid death camp horror

02 March 2016 | Tim Kroenert

In the history of the Second World War and the deathly screed of the Final Solution, the Sonderkommando cuts a pitiable figure. These Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz and other death camps who were forced to perform the logistics surrounding mass murder - the carting and disposal of dead flesh - though patently victims, were viewed by some as collaborators. Son of Saul provides an immersive and impressionistic extrapolation of this ethical and actual horror.


Marriage interrupted by a life-lie disrupted

24 February 2016 | Tim Kroenert

As Kate plans a party for their 45th wedding anniversary, news arrives that the body of Katya, Geoff's long-dead first love, has been discovered in a Swiss glacier. The 'life-lie' that emerges turns out to be not so much a concealment but rather a minimisation of truth. The disruption it causes to an ostensibly happy marriage comes not in the form of shocking revelation, but slow-dawning realisation; not that Geoff isn't the man he purported to be, but that Kate may not be what she believed herself to be, to him.


Harper Lee and the death of moral certainty

7 Comments
21 February 2016 | Ellena Savage

Go Set A WatchmanMy friend Z lives in Detroit and is rocked by the racial segregation she's exposed to there. When we were 15, she and I bonded over the passionate conversations Mockingbird inspired. 'I was in awe of Atticus,' she recalled as we reflected on Lee's death. 'I desperately wanted him to save the accused black man. Maybe if I had read it at my age now, I'd substitute the black man for the hero.' She articulated what I couldn't: that as moving a piece of rhetoric Mockingbird is, it is no longer adequate.


Gentle view of an Irish-American migrant experience

1 Comment
17 February 2016 | Tim Kroenert

Eilis' profound homesickness is evoked by the letters she composes for and receives from her long distant sister and mother. Her sense of awe at this new world is revealed in her interactions with the other, more brazen boarders; and at work, where she is chided by her manager for being too shy with customers. Gradually, familiarity and opportunity allow her to grow in confidence. Her coming-of-age is defined as gradual self-empowerment through the making of small, and sometimes large, choices.


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