Cultural highlights – September / October 2015

1510 Books
Things I’ve readThe Kills, a thousand page story in four parts, unfortunately only one and a half parts (first and second) were particularly engaging, rest was a bit of a confusing slog. We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, the fifth and final volume of the collected short stories of Philip K. Dick, terrible writing, poor characterisation, gender views very much of the time, but such amazing ideas! Remembered why I love Jonathan Coe so much with Expo 58, not his best but very readable and useful reminder of a very different time. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is another extraordinary novel, she may not be prolific but maintains a dazzlingly high standard, the most gripping work of fiction I’ve read in a long time. Swimming with Crocodiles by Will Chaffery was the highlight of the six Australian books I read there, helped by being set in The Kimberley, the area I visited, but also contained some thoughtful writing and real sense of adventure. The others were Thomas Keneally’s huge and baggy Australians trilogy, Di Morrissey’s interesting if a little sappy Tears of the Moon, and Nicholas Rotherwell’s insightful Another Country on modern aboriginal culture.

1510 Theatre
Things I’ve seenHeroes, an inoffensive and cosy comedy from Auckland Theatre Comedy, nothing particularly memorable but passed an hour and a half fine. Fun Run, a painfully unfunny comedy, in which the only vaguely comic character died ten minutes into it. Some impressive if wasted tears on demand from one of the actors though. All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever wasn’t quite as brilliantly original as it probably thought it was, but it came close and had a couple of immensely emotionally powerful scenes. Manifesto 2083 was effectively the mirror of The Events, telling the same story from the view point of the perpetrator, rather than the victims. Deeply thought provoking, and insightful into what what drove Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik to kill 77 people, if a pretty disturbing audience experience.

1510 Films
Sicario was tensely paced, with some stunning cinematography (the scene of silhouettes of soldiers against a setting sun was probably the single most memorable shot I’ve seen this year), but ultimately the film felt curiously unrewarding. I found Everest, particularly at the IMAX, much better than the critics said, even if almost all the Kiwi characters (nice to see a film full of them) were played by Brits or Australians. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl got better reviews but I thought was too smart and smug for its own good, though the in movie short films were brilliant if very Wes Anderson like. The Martian was watchable, but deeply annoying in so many ways, with an excellent cast wasted on B grade dialogue and plotting, disappointing. Macbeth had a great cast, incredible visuals, and powerful soundtrack but I continue to find Shakespearean language impenetrable.

Places I’ve been – Travelling from Darwin to Broome was wonder filled and took me completely outside of my comfort zone, a good, if exhausting, thing to do. Closer to home the Bungalow Tour run as part of the Bungalow Festival was a generous free event run by Albert Eden Local Board, involving taking a coach load of people around four bungalow extensions, expertly guided by Nicole Stock, author of a beautiful book published on bungalows last year.

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The  in Wynyard Quarter was well worth seeing, though feels quite cramped housed in a few shipping containers. It was better paired with the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at Auckland Museum, but sadly the hosting rights for the later have been lost to Tauranga Art Gallery.

At The Beach at Auckland’s Maritime Museum (free for Aucklanders) has added some much needed colour to the informative if somewhat dry maritime exhibits, by scattering 120 beach outfits (mainly for the ladies) around the museum. If you’ve not been (and I seem to know few who have) this is a good time to spend an hour or two visiting the museum at the Viaduct.

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The Fall at the Powerstation were exactly how I imagined The Fall would be live, but it was still a bit too intense for my liking. What is manageable on record, became overwhelming repetitive and single tone live, though that’s probably the point.

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Coming up
Whitecliffe End of Year Exhibition – mid-November, usually plenty of work of interest from Whitecliffe’s latest graduates
NZ Music Awards – 19th November, get to see the best of the New Zealand music scene for only $25, and some no doubt very funny stuff from host Taika Waititi
Art in the Dark – usually a highlight of this time of year as Ponsonby’s Western Park fills with illuminated artworks, sadly not happening this year due to lack of funds

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