Julieanne Moore as Sarah Palin
TOP PICK \ TV
Showcase, Saturday May 19, 8.30pm
Sarah Palin becomes a politician for the celebrity age in this compelling docudrama. Shoved into the spotlight by a Republican campaign desperate to counter Barack Obama’s star status, Palin (Julieanne Moore) is quickly revealed as all show, no substance. She might clamour after the vice-presidential limelight but has none of the knowledge or skills to do the job.
Not that it matters. She has the personality of a star in waiting, and the public laps it up. Her team realises she’s a talented actress, capable of learning her lines without knowing what they mean. But her core audience – who, as Palin’s husband notes, have even less idea what her lines mean – turn a dignified campaign into one ugly enough to split a nation.
Despite the big names (Woody Harrelson and Ed Harris), this is a TV movie. The script rarely s sparkles and the direction is as flat as the news footage it cleverly borrows. Yet it’s all strangely irresistible.
As with most coverage of Palin, we’re mainly here to giggle and gape. Moore takes a while to settle in, but gives a sometimes sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of a seriously deluded woman. At times, it feels like we’re watching a satirical comedy where the village idiot is inadvertently crowned queen.
Were this fiction, we might cheer. Here, we cringe. The final scene, in which the spotlight refuses to shift away from her, sends chills down the spine.
The Woman in Black
Opens May 17, Rated PG
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young, widowed lawyer, sent to tidy up a deceased estate (at the evocatively titled Eel Marsh House) in a remote seaside village. He finds the locals aren’t too pleased to see him, worried he’ll invoke the wrath of the local ghost – a vision in black whose appearance signifies the impending death of a child.
This is the second time the Hammer Horror studio has filmed this tale. Last time it was a superb, creeping dread affair, scripted by legendary writer Nigel Kneale (Quatermass). This time around, Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass) ramps up the action, to the point where the bumps and scares are so frequent that they lose any impact. The film works so hard to frighten that there’s little space for genuine terror to fester.
Still, the film looks great and the supporting cast make the most of their villager stereotypes.
But, ultimately, it’s as if Goldman doesn’t quite know what sort of story she wants to tell. The ending attempts to bolt a Hollywood hero narrative onto a gothic horror tale. The result is as soggy and grim as the marshes inhabited by our titular spook.
Eliza Hull (Independent)
The debut from Melbourne’s Eliza Hull manages to live up to the liminal beauty of its title. Final track Lately slowly unfolds into something stunning, while Hull sings of new loves and beginnings. There’s a sense throughout of emerging, of changing, of waking up. The instrumentation too is halfway; somewhere between pop and electro, its unpredictable surges and explosions evoking the ethereal glamour of ’90s outfit Lamb.
It’s an assured, unfussy record. There are moments of high passion, but for the most part Hull is happy to let things simmer. Without Words is a slinky, seductive number, her vocals taking their time building from a smoky purr to a fiery holler. Hull certainly has an impressive voice.
On Falling, she throws out every instrument but a piano, relying on her pipes to draw us through on of the EP’s more powerful pieces.
Stonnington Jazz Festival
Stonnington Jazz is back again for 10 days showcasing all the shapes, sizes and styles the genre contains. Proudly featuring 100 per cent Australian artists, the festival is a great chance to get acquainted with some impressive local talent. There’s the cocktail-sipping, thigh-slapping party jazz of the Jelly Tub Rollers, the be-bop of the Fly Right Trio and the classic New Orleans jazz of Allan Browne. Traditionalists might enjoy Tim Davies’ Big Band while the adventurous should check out the Firemen — an offshoot of soul-funk band the Bamboos, they evoke the dancier moments of acid jazz.
Listening \ Of Monsters and Men. My Head is an Animal. Wonderful, quirky, chest-thumping Icelandic pop.
Watching \ Game of Thrones. It’s as good as ever, but is getting ever more brazen with the fantasy elements.
Attending \ All That I Will Ever Be. A rare production of a sexy Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under) play at Chapel Off Chapel.
Follow Myke Bartlett on twitter @mykebartlett.