intraspace: the review lounge

Friday, February 15, 2008

nz culture down ya

it's time to get some new zealand culture down ya. here's a round-up of some recent kiwi dvds and cds i've noticed...

cd - liam finn: i'll be lightning. this has been out for a while now, but i hear it's being released soon in the usa. to the mention the usual patter first: liam finn is the son of crowded house's neil finn. even though this fact has been said a million times before, i think it is quite important. there is a musical heritage at work here - liam's uncle tim is also a key nz musical figure, having started the seminal nz band split enz. i have a photo book that came out in 2000 called 'once removed', essentially a behind the scenes look at neil finn's touring life. the young liam lurks in the background of lots of the photos in the book. he's been immersed in music all his life and this matures in 'i'll be lightning'. it's a brilliant, eclectic album, and i have a hunch that it will get pretty big in the states.

also, i need to mention the cover art for this cd which features liam's own very cool photography. given that he plays all the instruments on the album and also provides the artwork for the cover, we have one seriously talented kid here. check out the liam finn cnet in-studio appearance here.

cd - little bushman: pendulum. this is little bushman's second album. i'm not sure how to describe it. the band is the baby of former fat freddy's drop member warren maxwell, who is rapidly cementing a fine reputation in the nz music scene. while fat freddy's drop is a roots-dub experience where maxwell played the saxophone (i think), little bushman is a different kettle of fish. maxwell explores all kinds of musical styles but somehow manages to make it all gel into a unique style. the underlying rhythm tracks are incredible. a socially-conscious album with forward momentum and musical skill.

oh, and one dollar from the sale of every cd goes to unicef to help support gareth morgan's water management project in tanzania. gareth morgan is principally using the proceeds that he received from the sale of a little company his son started called 'trademe'.

dvd - out of the blue. in november 1990, the year of nz's 150th celebrations, the country was rocked when a gunman went on a murderous rampage in the quiet otago town of aramoana. that's only 17 years ago, and it's still pretty fresh in people's memories so it was always going to be a gutsy call to make a movie about it. if the subject had been treated with even a little bit of the sensationalism of hollywood movie-making it would have been a total failure - a completely tasteless and inappropriate project. i have rarely seen any subject handled with the tenderness that director duncan sarkies achieved in making 'out of the blue'. the film doesn't pull any punches but is completely free of sensationalism. even the soundtrack, a minimalist piano piece, doesn't attempt to stimulate the emotions of the viewer. karl urban in the role of the first police officer on the scene is brilliant - urban, in my opinion, is the finest actor produced by nz in the last 10 - 15 years. 'out of the blue' is one of the best films i've ever seen from anywhere in the world. as dominion post reviewer graeme tuckett said, "impassioned, dignified and damned near flawless."

dvd - flight of the conchords. and now for something completely different - from the other end of the nz cultural spectrum. i've talked about flight of the conchords before in my post about eagle vs shark. anyway, to recap, jemaine clement and bret mackenzie are two incredibly talented nz musican-comedians who, incidentally, just won the grammy for best comedy album of 2007. they were given a contract by hbo in the states to create a comedy sitcom based on their live act. the result is very good - not perfect - but very good. always entertaining and sometimes outrageously funny, the dvd of series one (yes, they've been given a second season) has just been released in nz. not a bad valentine's day present, thanks anna.

that's your nz culture round up for feb 08. get it down ya!

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Death of Aussie Cricket

(time to be controversial)

Well know that we in Aussie land have a new more touchy-feely, environmentally friendly (about time!) Prime Minister, it seems that our Aussie cricketers are no longer allowed to win at all costs. Yes, the hard-edged, never give up spirit of the displaced Aboriginals, early settlers, and Diggers is now suddenly out of fashion.

let's face it, in cricket, Australia had some lean years before Alan Border re-developed the gutsy never say die attitude that allowed moderately skilled teams to go on with later star bowlers (Ooh Ah and that spinner) to conquer the world. While the tough attitude was suitable and needed in Border's day, now that Australia has been on top for so long however, the same attitude has seen the team attacked from all quarters.

Apparently having fun is now supposed to be more important than winning. Sounds good - but as India just showed, when the team was forced to play a bit nicer, it started to lose... Does this mean the team must slide down the rankings for a while, suffer in confidence, and then be re-vitalised at some future point by the tough attitude again when it will be ok?

Personally, I think a high level, test-based competition should actually be tough. Otherwise, what's the point of watching a game where both teams are trying harder to be friendly than to win. Its the dare to win attitude that makes the game compelling in the first place. So say we all, except now that toughness is out of style. But we did sign Kyoto!

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