Fake it so real: Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Colette


“It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit,” goes Noël Coward’s famous line from his 1941 play, and later film, Blithe Spirit. In real life, it was a paradox that the publicly guarded, privately homosexual bon vivant knew all too well. Perhaps fittingly, Coward was one of the cultural luminaries whose personal letters were embellished by the American writer-turned-literary-fraud Lee Israel, who, for a brief period in the early 1990s, successfully passed off forgeries purporting to be the letters of such noted artists. Israel was also queer, and developed a knack for performing to, and duly subverting, society’s expectations. Continue reading


The Monthly music wrap: November 2018


November was all about breaking up, moving on and self-empowerment: three of the month’s brightest and best pop singles – Little Mix’s “Joan of Arc”, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Party for One” and Ariana Grande’s ubiquitous smash “thank u, next” – celebrated the power of newfound solitude, dancing with themselves into an irrepressible dawn. Or maybe they’re bracing for the encroaching festive season, with its glut of forced revelry, annual life stocktaking and attendant loneliness – not to mention all the repackaged greatest hits and Christmas cash-ins. Continue reading

I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story

boybandJessica Leski’s affectionate tribute to pop music fandom, I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story, couldn’t have arrived at a better moment. Conversations about music are no longer the exclusive domain of ‘knowledgeable’ men and their tired notions of rock ‘n’ roll authenticity. Today, the cultural discourse is finally making way for a refreshing inclusivity — a world of both Allys and Jackson Maines — and pop music feels like it’s getting the critical respect it always deserved. Continue reading

The Windy City is wild and weighty in Widows

widowsBritish contemporary-artist-turned-feature-filmmaker Steve McQueen went all the way to the Oscar podium with 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, an austere, empathetic retelling of a grim episode in American race history, which collected him the trophy for Best Motion Picture. Validated by cinema’s most middlebrow accolade, what was a self-respecting, Turner Prize–winning art-school guy to do? At first glance, McQueen’s decision to take on the heist genre – an adaptation of a Lynda La Plante TV serial, at that – would seem like a sly subversion of the respectable career arc, an inclusive gesture toward the multiplex in the service of reaching the widest possible audience. Make no mistake, though: Widows intends to be every bit as important as McQueen’s previous work. But the film’s gallant play for genre thrills wed to wideranging social commentary proves trickier to execute than to imagine. Continue reading

A bigger, shinier cage: Julia Holter’s Aviary

julia“The first thing I ever recorded was a cover of Britney Spears’ ‘Crazy’,” the avant-garde musician Julia Holter tweeted recently. “Really emphasized the ‘crazy’ aspect. I remember people thinking it was scary.” Like Spears’ candy-coated, lovesick intimation of madness, there’s a restless duality to Holter’s fifth and latest record, Aviary, an unpredictable sonic landscape where a sudden exaltation of love can interrupt a tumble into the abyss – and vice versa, often within the same song. Continue reading

Bohemian Rhapsody: Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?


Not too far into the slick new Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody – it isn’t a film of considered pauses, to say the least – the band find themselves embroiled in a dispute over which single to release from their 1975 album, A Night at the Opera. The group wants to go with their six-minute operatic epic, but the portly, Hawaiian shirt-clad label executive is adamant that it be “I’m in Love with My Car”. “That’s the kind of song teenagers can crank up the volume in the car and bang their heads to,” he says of the now relatively forgotten track. “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ will never be that song.’” Continue reading

The Monthly music wrap: October 2018

robynIt was like a secret communion from five minutes into the musical future. Last week’s visit from a true British royal, Charli XCX, saw the micro pop queen preside, like a Powerpuff Girl on Fhloston Paradise, over a handful of sold-out solo shows in Sydney and Melbourne. (She plays again, this Friday, at The Oxford Underground in Sydney.) Though here in support of mainstream princess Taylor Swift, Charli’s sound is forged from an ever-so-alternate dimension: the forward-thinking artist and her collaborators, among them PC Music’s A.G. Cook and emergent avant-pop star SOPHIE, have taken pop’s elements and reshaped them into gleaming, hyper-synthetic new shapes. Her hits (“I Love It” with Icona Pop, “Boom Clap”, “Fancy” with Iggy Azalea) don’t compare to her fan “hits”: the candy-coloured experimental synth pop of the recent “Focus” or last year’s masterful mixtapes Number 1 Angel and Pop 2, which dictate the majority of the evening’s setlist. While sometimes duetting with a digitally disembodied Carly Rae Jepsen (on the majestic heartbreak of Pop 2’s “Backseat”), Australian singer Troye Sivan, or even herself, Charli’s main partner tonight is the audience, who know and chant every line of these songs like the bizarro-world smashes that they are. Continue reading