Friday, December 20, 2013

Dancing with disco delight to the Australian Hustle ...

(Above: because everything's a laugh just before Xmas, here)

The best thing about David O. Russell's American Hustle is that it provides viewers with a reason for having lived through the 1970s.

Usually that's completely inexplicable, but when Mayssa Karaa turns up singing a version of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit in Arabic (Starship only if you're into wretchedness), it's quintessentially funny.

And the rest of the musical samples are littered with equally good humour and bad taste (and more on the compiling of the soundtrack here).

Oh sure the story is only loosely connected to reality (The Real Story and Lesson of the Abscam Sting in 'American Hustle'), and it's not really a comedy so much as a parable - replete with endlessly exploited shaggy dog ice story - which celebrates a particular American mythology, the hustler on the make. (And more on that interaction between reality and dream in How much of American Hustle Actually Happened?)

Never mind, the cast is great, even if you fear for Christian Bale, and the way he tortures his body into various shapes for his movies, while Amy Adams is a perfect mix of neurosis and lasciviousness, and Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect evocation of a certain kind of blonde-ness. In later years she could have gone on to a sterling career on Fox News or the Nine network, but instead her character prefers to go off with a Mafia mobster - which come to think of it, amounts to much the same thing.

Bradley Cooper also delivers the goods as a crazy undercover agent, and thank the long absent lord Jeremy Renner gives up being a lightweight stand-in action man to play a corrupt mayor willing to do anything for the people of Camden New Jersey.

Sure the movie plays out slowly in patches, and the relentless plotting of scam and counter-scam results in an overlong 138 minute run time that tests even Russell's visual inventiveness, but the pleasures are abundant, especially if you lived through the era, and took your culture from American movies.

And especially if earlier in the 1970s, you'd enjoyed all the ripples and wrinkles of the Whitlam government's Tirath Khemlani affair, which also featured mysterious oil-rich sheiks with oodles of money (How the loans scandal became an affair to remember).

So how come the Americans can make a film about hustling and shakedowns and no one in Australia has done Khemlani and Rex Connor and Jim Cairns fucking Junie Morosi and Gough and the rest of the Australian 1970s circus, perhaps with a never resolved shaggy dog story of an Australian outback kind?

Why you could throw in a gag about breaking shop windows in Newtown to keep the glass business afloat and you'd tap every level of absurdity in this wondrous land ...

Well the industry here is fucked and wouldn't know what to do with it, how to celebrate it and have fun with it, and that's the real tragedy of Australia. No feeding of our cultural heads here ...

What's that you say? The pond's beat is the crazy crony commentariat and we should get back to pounding the pavement?

Oh okay, we don't do film reviews, so you can always revert to The New Yorker and David Denby celebrating the film under the header Grand Scam (outside the paywall for the moment)

Sheesh, it's Xmas, and everybody's got the right to walk down memory lane, even if it means the hideousness of the 1970s.

And as a bonus, everything that's happening right now in the awful 20teens will look just as hideous in a few decades time - Britney Spears has produced a new album and one of the songs is Work Bitch? Well there you go, there's the soundtrack for our current times, right there ...

You could hum it while reading Akker Dakker, furiously scribbling Tony Abbott keeping his enemies far too close for comfort:

Far from presenting as the arch-conservative he was made out to be by Labor and its media arms, the ABC and Fairfax, before the September election, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is beginning to appear weak and vacillating 
The first rule of conservatism is simple. Stick to your guns.

With friends like that, who needs enemies? Oh have a snort of cocaine Akker Dakker, it'll help you get through the Xmas period.

Akker Dakker is of course outraged that lickspittle fellow travelling Natasha Stott Despoja was given a job - what were they thinking, seeing how Miranda the Devine would have been the perfect person to wear the jackboots in style - and then there's Greg Combet invited to look at SPC, and as for Brendan Nelson, why the man is just a fop and a fool and he was never a true conservative, and some might say he wasn't actually a Liberal, which makes his leading of said party truly wondrous, a bit like virgin births and all the rest of the Xmas nonsense.

You see this is the way it goes with the haters. They just love to hate, and it doesn't matter who you've got they'll knock them down. It's classic, enclosed, windowless, airless ideology of the kind practised by institutions like the Stalinist Communist party, the Catholic church, and yes it has to be said, Hitler's Nazi party, not least on the night of the long knives.

First you need an airtight theology come ideology come faith, and then you can spot and expose and revile the splitters, the deviants, the perverts, the heretics, anyone outside the walled garden of righteousness. No compromises, no surrender as the Buzz Lightyears go about their business of exiling the wicked ...

It's a truly weird psychology, one long on view in fundamentalist Christians in the southern United States, and latterly in the walled bunker known as Fox News, and now routinely visible in the worst excesses of the lizards at the reptile Oz and in the Daily Terror.

The key motifs are rage and paranoia, and an urging on to an even greater fundamentalism:

Attempts to appease such people with token appointments look stupid and waste opportunities to provide better alternatives. 
The Abbott team needs to recalibrate over the holiday season, abandon the tortuous contrivances of spin, and go back to basic conservative principles that speak for themselves.

Inclusive? You mean appeasement.
Someone with a different worldview? You mean heretic.
Basic conservative principles? You mean tar and feather them, and cast them into the wilderness, hanging's too good for 'em.

And yet nobody seems to be at home at the Daily Terror, able to wonder why their circulation is in death spiral mode, and why they'll be eaten alive by the click bait of the Daily Mail when it lands on these shores ...

Dear sweet absent lord ...  it takes exceptional skill to become the least trusted newspaper in the land (and yes in another part of that survey, the ABC scores a total of 73%, daily newspapers a humbling 48%, commercial TV a lowly 44%, commercial radio talkback a mortifying 32%, and internet blogs a very accurate 23% - well if you believe what you read in the pond, by definition you're barking mad - more here, inside the Crikey paywall).

It's much like the Ten network and their general fumbling and their bizarre desire to keep the Bolter as window dressing on a Sunday, which helped turn the network into the basket case of 2013.

And it's much like the problem the lizards face at fortress Oz. Here's Crikey on Chris Kenny's woeful efforts this year:

Worst columnist of the year: Chris Kenny 
No, it’s not Andrew Bolt. While many readers despise his views, Bolt is the Right’s most effective communicator. By contrast, Piers Akerman looked like a goose for decrying the “weirdly feminist” Peppa Pig and Gerard Henderson never got the blood pumping with his columns. If only Hendo would unleash the wry humour and cheekiness he shows in Media Watch Dog. The Australian’s Chris Kenny is a former senior staffer to Alexander Downer and Malcolm Turnbull, but instead of insider insights he seems to reheat a predictable attack on the “love media” every other week. Slogans may make for effective political campaigning, but not great column writing. C’mon Chris, show us a bit more variety in 2014! (here, behind the paywall)

So what do we cop at the top of the fickle digital splash?

Chris Kenny praising Tim Wilson?

Oh sheesh Tim, the pond is so sorry, so very sorry. With friends like these, you really do need some decent enemies ...

And when you look a little deeper, the header says it all: Paranoid disdain of the digital Left at work.
(the rest is thoughtfully locked behind the paywall to keep the rest of the paranoia hidden from prying eyes).

What was that Crikey said about a mind that could only deliver simple minded slogans?

And the opening par provides more in the same vein:

When Tim Wilson arrived in Sydney for his introductory meeting with the Human Rights Commission yesterday, we caught up for coffee. Minutes after our friendly chat, I saw firsthand on Twitter how his appointment as the new "freedom" commissioner has made him a prime target for the paranoid disdain of the digital Left. Someone had surreptitiously snapped a picture of us and tweeted it with the comment: " 'Freedom Commissioner' briefing News Corp just now. Easier to bypass the middleman I suppose."

But here's the rub for Tim Wilson and his coffee-drinking buddy.

Kenny has recently taken legal action against the Chaser lads, as you can read here, and here (paywalled because you have to pay to read about legal actions).

Here's Wilson blathering on: broad principle, defamation law comes from a direct conflict between free speech and people's ownership over their earned reputation - essentially a property right. Defamation law makes it justifiable to limit speech when it unjustly harms that reputation and the right for an individual to earn from it. 
The question for government is: where do you set the bar? If the defamation bar is set too low free speech is curtailed. Too high, then people can destroy other's reputation without recourse. I think it's clear that, right now, the bar is too low. 

Uh huh. Well in due course we might we might witness the poignant sight of a valiant Tim Wilson defending the freedom of speech rights of the Chaser lads ... against Chris Kenny.

Meanwhile, for a smack down of Wilson's vague verbal heroics, try out a dose of Richard Ackland in Tim Wilson's appointment to Human Rights Commission has nothing to do with 'rebalancing':

... I was ... struck by a confusion inherent in one of his tweets: ''Free speech and a free media are interchangeable and essential for a free society.'' 
Are they interchangeable? For me, free speech is an individual interest, but a free media is very much a corporate interest. Individual and corporate interests are not ''interchangeable'', and it's a massive leap of faith to say they are ''essential for a free society''. 
We saw this eliding of quite different interests at the time of the overindulged outrage and misinformation about press standards and how they might best be self-regulated. Media law guru Associate Professor David Rolph pointed out recently the real work to be done on freedom of expression is not with s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, but with its defences and with the Defamation Act. 
Australia's largely uniform defamation acts are an affront to a civilised society, but that has gone largely unremarked by the institute and the new commissioner. Britain has recently overhauled and modernised its libel legislation to such an extent that ours looks like a 19th-century relic. There is a new serious-harm test, a single-publication rule and a new defence for websites that contain defamatory comments from readers. 

If nothing else, 2014 promises to be an exciting year, if only to see the result of Kenny v Chaser v Wilson v Abbott v Murdochians, and the outraged howls about the Bolter matter turned to equally outraged concern about the matter of the Chaser lads ... and the right of all to do obscene jokes and tell shaggy dog stories of all shaggy kinds ...

Speaking of bars, the pond always remembers that it was the lizards and Bill Leak in particular who set the bar, and they set it pretty low:

As for Kenny?

“The ABC has refused to apologise or make amends, leaving me with no option but to take this action. We all value robust debate, but disgusting, fabricated and offensive attacks aimed at silencing fair criticism are intolerable.”

Silence Kenny? Now that's a good one, a bit like that one about silencing the Bolter ...

Oh yes, it's going to be a good year, and by golly the Australian Hustle, as played out by the whole gang of cacophonous voices is likely to make an excellent comedy ... please, put on Britney, and let's boogie the year away ...

(Below: and speaking of comedy, who better than David Rowe, and as always more Rowe here. Rowe has, for the pond, now nailed the coalition's key figures in a way that would leave David O. Russell gasping in admiration, if only Russell knew that Australia was one gigantic Atlantic City).


  1. I'll bet Wilson and Kenny had a short black, definitely not a latte

  2. I realise that the digital left (as opposed to the analog left????) are infernally tricky creatures but how exactly do they go about exhibiting paranoid disdain?

    Paranoid disdain: An extreme irrational fear of something unworthy of ones consideration

    Very tricky

    Diddy Wrote

  3. Operation Sovereign Borders and its Procedural Protocols implemented by the right (dis)honourable Scott Morrison is choking on its vomit.

  4. Tim Wilson - the plural of water cannon is water cannon.


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