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

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

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The Monthly music wrap: November 2018

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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 The Monthly music wrap: November 2018″

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 “The Windy City is wild and weighty in Widows

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 “A bigger, shinier cage: Julia Holter’s Aviary

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

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

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 The Monthly music wrap: October 2018″

Eternally Cher

cherTime-travel fiction maintains that the ability to move through the space-time continuum requires a constant, unchanging vessel, ideally of durable design. In popular culture, this has variously manifested as a police box, a glowing ball of neon energy, a 1980s sports car, and even a platinum-wigged diva. Not coincidentally, one of the more striking images of the American singer and actor Cher depicts her in flaxen ringlets and cavegirl two-piece, looking mannequin-serene and flanked by two gruff simian centurions from Planet of the Apes. It ostensibly comes from a goofball skit on 1972’s The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, parodying the original film, but such is Cher’s ability to slip in and out of time as a constant that it could be from 2018 or 3978 – so fluidly has she moved, Zelig-like, across a 54-year career with near-ubiquity. There she is, executing a perfect robot move next to a free-spinning teenage Michael Jackson, bringing a besotted David Bowie to his knees, pioneering the outré Oscar ensemble, tirelessly advocating for LGBT rights or casually inventing modern pop via Auto-Tune. For sheer cultural scale, consider that Cher was one of the back-up singers on The Ronettes’ 1963 urtext “Be My Baby”, which is the pop equivalent of being in the control room when the architects of the universe flipped the switch for the Big Bang. If there’s a person left standing when the apes do inherit the Earth, you can bet it’ll be her. Continue reading “Eternally Cher”