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The amazing grace of Joan Baez

09 September 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Folk legend and renowned human rights activist Joan Baez's fire hasn't dimmed. Today she rages at the 'disgusting' state of race relations in America — 'police violence, mass arrests of people of colour, torture in prisons' — half a century on from the Selma civil rights marches, in which she took part. Yet amid these horrors, Baez still finds herself able to be moved by examples of 'amazing grace'.

Spiritual enlightenment on the transplant waitlist

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02 September 2015 | Tim Kroenert

In part, these hallucinogenic, metaphysical digressions are a product of Robert's medically-altered state of consciousness. Chemotherapy brings a sense of disorientation, which often leads patients' minds to wander in directions they wouldn't have otherwise. Through this, Robert discovers an Eastern spiritual and cultural approach to death that informs his own confrontation of mortality.

Rock star Streep and the uphill battle for Hollywood diversity

26 August 2015 | Tim Kroenert

There's a running gag that in Hollywood there are few roles for women over a certain age, unless you are Meryl Streep. Of course it isn't really a joke, if you consider the consistently dire statistics regarding gender, age and race diversity in mainstream American films. Whatever you make of this deplorable inequality, there can be little doubt that Streep is an actor singularly dedicated to her craft, who works hard and throws herself with aplomb into the wide range of roles that come her way.

Former Xavier students' love transcends AIDS horror

19 August 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Timothy Conigrave's memoir Holding the Man is a classic of contemporary Australian queer literature. Originally published in 1995 a few months after Conigrave's death from AIDS, it is an account of his relationship with John Caleo, whom he met in 1976 when they were both students at the Melbourne Jesuit private boys school Xavier College. Conigrave and Caleo were together for 15 years until Caleo's death (also from AIDS) in 1992. This film adaptation of their story is nothing if not bold.

Teen girls learn the language of love and violence

12 August 2015 | Tim Kroenert

The characters, black and poor, inhabit a world where violence is as an expression both of material want and of dignity. One scene sees Marieme and the members of her all-girls soccer team walking home after dark. The girls are garrulous. But in the shadows of the flats, male voices utter vaguely threatening suggestive remarks. The chatter dissipates to silence as the group dwindles to individuals. It's a quietly harrowing picture of women's too-frequently justified fear of violence from men.

A euthanasia parable in the outback

05 August 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Michael Caton in Last Cab to DarwinDismayed by the prognosis that he has only three months to live, Broken Hill cabbie Rex abandons his work, home and mates and sets out for Darwin to seek the help of prominent euthanasia advocate Dr Nicole Farmer (a fictional Dr Philip Nitschke). The story is as much about the journey as the destination, although there are those who would argue that its pat 'choose life' message just feels too easy.

Skank-shaming Amy Schumer

29 July 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in TrainwreckIt's not hard to see why Amy Schumer was offended. Last week, Melbourne KIIS FM breakfast co-host Matt Tilley earned the ire of the proudly feminist comedian by suggesting one of her characters is a 'skank'. The sleight comes not just from Tilley apparently missing the fact that the story is semi-autobiographical. It sits far too easily in a tradition of harmful double standards regarding male and female sexuality.

Why Marvel was wrong to whitewash 'wifebeater' Ant-Man

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22 July 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Hank Pym Ant-Man strikes his wife Jan Van Dyne/The WaspIt is the most kid-orientated of the recent Marvel films — so maybe not the right forum for deconstructing the domestic violence sins of a key character's past. Still, considering the whole Black Widow/slut-shaming debacle that followed The Avengers: Age of Ultron (and that film's alleged gendered stereotyping of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow), it is not a good look to note that Marvel president Kevin Feige last year literally laughed off the prospect of spousal abuse being touched on in Ant-Man.

Love and violence in Thomas Hardy’s England

15 July 2015 | Tim Kroenert

Carey Mulligan in Far From the Madding CrowdEnglish literary journalist Lucasta Miller noted that Hardy's title, Far From the Madding Crowd, with 'madding' taken to mean 'frenzied', is an ironic nod to idyllic perceptions of rural life; Hardy 'disrupts the idyll'. At the heart of the story is Bathsheba, a proud and independent young shepherd who becomes the new proprietor of her late uncle's farm. Her story unfolds against stunning rural landscapes that provide a sublime stage for violence both physical and emotional.

Confessions of a news junkie who hides the news from his kids

09 July 2015 | Barry Gittins

Child media junkie cartoonFielding questions about the latest shark attack or car crash, or government culling of charities, is relatively straightforward. But not the horrific patricide committed by Cy Walsh, son of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh, and the wounding of his wife Meredith. It baffled my family and I couldn’t come close to explaining it.

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