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Oscars to screen live

Posted March 2nd, 2010 by debritz

No need for Australian free-to-air viewers to wait until nighttime this year; Channel 9 has announced it will screen the Academy Awards live on Monday, March 8, from 11am. According to a Nine media release, the coverage will start with the Today Show’s Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson hosting a red-carpet special, crossing to Richard Wilkins at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles at 11am. The award ceremony proper, hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, will start at 11.30am.
Update: I spoke to Richard Wilkins today and, ironically, he says, as a viewer, he'd much prefer to wait until the nighttime broadcast, like a footy fan who turns away when the scores are on the news. However, he says, the internet and other news sources has created a demand for a live broadcast. And, of course, he'll be in LA, so there'll be no escaping it. (Still, it's hard to feel sorry for him.)

Brisbane cinema: some good news

Posted March 1st, 2010 by debritz

The old George/ Lyceum Theatre in George Street is reopening on March 11 under the name Tribal Theatre. Films already programmed range from Casablanca to Pulp Fiction. Details here.

A musical called Wanda

Posted February 28th, 2010 by debritz

An email from John Cleese reveals that the former Monty Python member is working on a musical version of his hit film A Fish Called Wanda. Cleese writes to his fans:

"It appears that my daughter, Camilla, is doing her best to outpace her dear old dad at every turn. We've just completed the book for the musical of A Fish Called Wanda and I'm pleased that Camilla hasn't completely stolen all of my dignity in writing so brilliantly. She's left me a few scraps to hang onto to keep me warm at night. Soon, we'll start to work on the songs for the show with Bill Bailey, who, among his many achievements, is an honourary member of the Society of Crematorium Organists. This musical is destined to be a hit amongst funeral directors."

Who will replace Michael Gow?

Posted February 24th, 2010 by debritz

According to a tweet from the Queensland Theatre Company, its artistic director, Michael Gow, will not renew his contract and will leave in August after programming the 2011 season. While Gow has led the company to some great artistic heights, his departure creates an opportunity for the QTC to renew itself. I think he's been wise to step aside while he's on top, although some will undoubtedly say that he stayed a little too long. No doubt there'll be a lineup of the usual suspects when the job is advertised, but true theatre lovers will hope the QTC board mounts a thorough search and brings in an AD who can lead the company to great success on the local, state, national - and international - stage.

Trouble in Wonderland

Posted February 23rd, 2010 by debritz

The Odeon chain has refused to screen the new Johnny Depp-Anne Hathaway film, Alice in Wonderland, at its cinemas in the UK, Ireland and Italy, because the studio wants to reduce the film's cinema-only window from 17 weeks to 12 weeks. The Disney Studio wants to release the film on DVD in May, and the cinema chain says this would set a precedent. Disney says that in some cases, the window is too long and there is increased piracy between the time films stop screening at cinemas and are available on DVD. This showdown between a cinema chain and a distributor is not the first, nor will it be the last -- and it has ramifications beyond Europe and beyond the film industry. In this rapidly moving world, many consumers want to dictate how, when and where they see a TV program or movie, or listen to music or some other broadcast. Quite simply, the people who produce a work want to make as much money as they can, and increasingly they will take the product directly to the market that will allow them to do that.

Where's Alfred?

Posted February 6th, 2010 by debritz

Just for fun, here's a YouTube clip editing together Alfred Hitchcock's cameos in his own films. Can you spot him?

Des puts down his pen

Posted January 27th, 2010 by debritz

Des Partridge, photo from Courier-Mail websiteBrisbane journalist Des Partridge has retired after 53 years in newspapers, mostly at The Courier-Mail, where he has been the film reviewer for four decades. Spencer Howson spoke to Des on his 612ABC breakfast show, and you can hear the audio here.

Back on the air

Posted January 21st, 2010 by debritz

My weekly spot on 612ABC's Breakfast with Spencer Howson show starts for 2010 on Friday, January 22, at 6.50amAEST when I'll give my spin on issues affecting Brisbane, the media, the arts and whatever else comes to mind. Spencer's program is the highest-rating AM breakfast show in Brisbane and was the No.1 show in its timeslot five times out of eight radio surveys last year (three times on its own and twice tied with Nova 106.9, which won the other three surveys). You can listen online at 612live.com.

Joe Jackson: right or wrong?

Posted January 12th, 2010 by debritz

A few years ago Joe Jackson, one of my all-time favourite musicians, made the decision to move from New York City to Berlin. He cited, among other reasons, the fact that he could no longer smoke at his favourite places in NY. (Here's an article he wrote for the New York Times about the smoking issue. I found two relevant videos on YouTube. In the first, below, comedian Sara Schaefer rallies New Yorkers to urge Jackson to return:

In the second video, Jackson shows us around some of his favourite places in the German capital. Embedding has been disabled, so you'll have to follow this link to watch it.

Phantom of the theatre

Posted January 10th, 2010 by debritz

Is Brisbane's Arts Theatre haunted? The Sunday Mail has a fun video here featuring the theatre's president Alex Lanham, who says he can feel the presence of the company's founder, Jean Trundle, back stage. Meanwhile, in the world of the living, the Arts Theatre's latest production, a revival of John Birmingham's He Died with a Felafel in his Hand, is doing a roaring trade. Last night's performance was a sell-out, but tickets are available for performances for performances on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Details here. Later this year, the Arts will host the premiere of Birmingham's The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco.

The Australian way

Posted January 5th, 2010 by debritz

This is very exciting. Australian media is now reporting the arts like it reports sport -- i.e. telling us that the Aussie lost before telling us who actually won. Here's how thecouriermail.com.au reported the result of the Costa poetry prize (and yes, they did leave off the "d" on award in the headline):

Commisserations to Clive James, who didn't win, and congratulations to Christopher Reid, who did.

A Dae to remember

Posted January 3rd, 2010 by debritz

January 14 will see the Australian premiere of Bran Nue Dae, the movie. The Brisbane opening of the stage musical on which it is based remains one of my favourite nights in the theatre, and if the film - starring Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Ernie Dingo and Geoffrey Rush -- goes any way towards recapturing that magic, it will be brilliant. Here's the trailer.

Bold knight

Posted December 31st, 2009 by debritz

Congratulations to Patrick "Captain Picard" Stewart for receiving a knighthood in the New Year's honours -- presumably for his outstanding work on American Dad.

Brittany Murphy reported dead

Posted December 21st, 2009 by debritz

TMZ.com, the website that broke the news of Michael Jackson's death, is reporting the death of Clueless and Sin City actress Brittany Murphy of cardiac arrest at the age of 32. Murphy starred in a string of teen-oriented TV series and films and her voice featured on King of the Hill, Futurama and the movie Happy Feet. According to imdb.com, she has several projects pending.
Update: The report has now been confirmed, with speculation that her death involved drugs. Not a surprise in Hollywood, but a tragedy nevertheless.

BAT: out to launch

Posted November 15th, 2009 by debritz

As I post this, the Brisbane Arts Theatre is about to launch its 2010 season. Rather than me tell you what's in store, here's a video explaining it all:

Leave Lindsay alone, too

Posted November 12th, 2009 by debritz

Experts* say that Britney Spears may be driven to the brink by the criticism she has received for lip-synching at her Australian concerts. Of course, many journalists not-so-secretly hope this will be the case, because that makes a better story. They're the same ones who won't be happy until Lindsay Lohan, who apparently was dating Heath Ledger at the time of his death, becomes Paula Yates to Ledger's Michael Hutchence. It's a cruel business.

* That's a term we journalists use to describe anybody ranging from an opinionated Twitterer to a person with actual qualifications. And, even though we usually only speak to one person, we always use the plural form.

Monopoly: the movie

Posted November 12th, 2009 by debritz

A film from a board game? Yes, apparently Alien and Gladiator director Ridley Scott is preparing to add Monopoly to his CV. The LA Times notes that it's not so crazy. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was, after all, inspired by a theme-park ride. One character in the movie will be the top-hatted little capitalist known as Rich Uncle Pennybags or Mr Monopoly. I hope his recent nemesis, The Simpsons' Monty Burns, will also make an appearance.

Busting Out all over Tassie

Posted November 10th, 2009 by debritz

The producers are calling it "the show the Thetare Royal didn't want you to see". After being rejected by Hobart's most historic theatre, Simon Bryce and Andrew Guild have found a new venue for their show, Busting Out, and a planned Tasmanian tour will go ahead next year. It will run at the Derwent Entertainment Centre, in "lyric mode", on June 11, along with dates in Launceston, Burnie and Devonport. Bryce said in a media statement: “I’ve taken it as a personal challenge to get this production to Tasmania. Why should a show that’s been seen by over 230,000 people in over 50 other theatres around Australia and New Zealand, miss out on coming to Tasmania?” You can read more about the saga and the show, starring Emma Powell and Bev Killick, here and here.

Gwyn's deep thought

Posted November 4th, 2009 by debritz

You may have already stumbled across these quotes from Gwyneth Paltrow in Vanity Fair:

To be or not to be. That was the question posed by one great man. It’s a tough one. My choice? To be.
I love being. There’s so much wisdom in it. You wake up in the morning and you think, Hey, isn’t it great just being?
But not to be would be just as great too, I guess.

Brilliant! Except they're not by Paltrow, they're from the imagination of humourist Craig Brown. Such a shame ...

A tale of two critics

Posted November 2nd, 2009 by debritz

Two quotes from different writers:

This production is QTC's triumph of the decade, so see it and be prepared to be taken out of your comfortable world and sit shivering on the edge of your seat - that is, when your heart starts beating again.

Powerful moments of fragile vulnerability are drowned out by yawning dullness. Provocative subtext is lost by basic presentations of the script. Moments of high drama seem contrived and uncomfortable ... And so the audience is left with awkward embarrassment.

QTC image of The CrucibleBoth are reviews of the same theatre production -- Queensland Theatre Company's revival of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, directed by Michael Gow and now playing at the QPAC Playhouse in Brisbane. The first quote is from the A Little Gossip arts newsletter and written by Alison Cotes, who I have known for a long time and has been reviewing theatre in Brisbane for more than 30 years. The second quote was published under the headline "How the Queensland Theatre Company crucified Miller's Crucible" and was published on the Brisbane Times website. It's written by Katherine Feeney, who I don't know but I believe has been writing for the BT website since its inception a couple of years ago, and pens a sex and relationships column called CityKat. While I have read arts interviews and listings under her name, I can't recall reading a review by her before. Readers who rely on published reviews to shape their ticket-buying choices would be confused by such a stark contrast in critical assessment, the likes of which I have not seen in years. Of course, I'm not claiming that one is right and one is wrong. I haven't seen the play but, from what I can gather online, the audience reaction on opening night was very positive. Another critic well known to me, Katherine Lyall Watson, says at ourbrisbane.com that the play is "not without its flaws, but the joys of the production far outweigh them". And Eric Scott, a vastly experience journalist whose opinion I also value, says at his absolutetheatre.com.au website: "This is the most powerful production from the Queensland Theatre Company I think I’ve seen. Director Michael Gow’s casting was perfect in this 20 character play, which used 19 actors, and he moulded them brilliantly into a gripping, suspenseful piece of theatre drama. It was the finest piece of direction I’ve seen from the company’s Artistic Director." At the end of the day, if you're thinking of shelling out the money for a show, I guess you have to trust the people you know and/or whose assessments have generally aligned with your own. After all, nothing can replace seeing it for yourself.

Farewell, Don Lane

Posted October 22nd, 2009 by debritz

Don Lane, the "lanky Yank" who became a TV staple in Australia in the 1970s and early 80s, has died at the age of 75. With sidekick Bert Newton, who he inherited on Channel 9 from Graham "The King" Kennedy, Lane was the complete entertainer. He also attracted controversy when he told magician James Randi to "piss off" when the latter challenged the talents of self-styled psychics such as Uri Geller and Doris Stokes. Lane died at age 75 after several years of suffering dementia.
Update: Channel 9 will air a tribute to Lane at 8.30 tonight (Thursday).

Still censored

Posted October 21st, 2009 by debritz

Four of the five surviving Monty Python troupe appeared on The Jimmy Fallon Show last week. I caught up with the performance yesterday and a few things struck me. One was the fact that John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle don't seem overly comfortable in each other's company; another was the fact that, despite having four geniuses on the show, Fallon was too keen to make it all about him; and the third was that the show, which is screened very late at night in the US, still censored the word "shit" in Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which Idle sang as the end. It amused me because, way back when Life Of Brian was first released, I wrote a story for the university students' paper Semper about how unenlightened Brisbane radio stations were bleeping that very word when playing the song. While cable shows in the US don't seem shy of four-letter words, it seems the free-to-air stations still play it very safe.

Arts issues

Posted October 21st, 2009 by debritz

1) The Queensland Theatre Company has, no doubt, spent a lot of money on the billboard promoting its 2010 subscription season. It's strategically placed on Milton Road so it can be seen by motorists and train passengers. It's such a shame that a big chunk of it is impossible to read by somebody passing by at a moderate speed because it appears to employ white type on a yellow background. This is one of the worst combinations for legibility.
2) As Spencer Howson pointed out this morning on 612 ABC, The Queensland Orchestra has changed its name to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra -- which was the name of one of the two ensembles that merged back in the 1990s. As Spencer says, it's disrespectful to the former Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra and its members, some of whom still play with TQO. In fact, the media release that came with the company's 2010 launch season doesn't even mention the Philharmonic. Additionally, I'd like to know how much money was wasted on TQO stationery and signange that now can't be used and the costs of converting to the new name, including commissioning a new logo (pictured). It's public money, so we should be told -- along with the reasoning for the change in the first place.

Busting Out was censored: producer

Posted October 16th, 2009 by debritz

Simon Bryce, the producer of Busting Out, has posted a comment on this site, reaffirming his position that the Theatre Royal in Hobart did censor the show and would not hire the venue to him based on its content. He says he received communication from the theatre saying "the majority of our team were not in favour of proceeding with this hire. ... It was a decision based on whether or not this show aligns with our board's artistic policy and the majority (not all) of the management team believe it is not a good alignment, as such I’m afraid that the Theatre Royal will not be prepared to present this show". Bryce adds: "Theatre Royal receives significant funds from Tasmanians through taxation and as such they are funded to provide a facility for all Tasmanians. My belief is whether individuals personally choose to see Busting Out or any other show is a matter and right for individuals. When agencies of government start using public funds to decide what free thinking adults can and cannot see, then I believe accountabilty warrants that these matters be discussed in the public domain."

Jessica's Deadly!

Posted October 15th, 2009 by debritz

Congratulations to the winners of the Deadly Awards for indigenous Australians, including singer Jessica Mauboy, actors Leah Purcell and Luke Carroll, and musicians Gurrumul Yunupingu and the Saltwater Band. There's more here.

Tasmania bans breasts

Posted October 15th, 2009 by debritz

Busting Out!, the show about women's breasts, has apparently been banned in Tasmania. A press relase from the producers says:

The management of Hobart’s Theatre Royal today banned the critically acclaimed theatre show, Busting Out! from performing at Hobart’s Theatre Royal. Producer, Simon Bryce said: “Here we have a show that has been seen by over 200,000 people around the country in more than 40 theatres, that has been applauded by critics and audiences both here and overseas, and has raised more than $50,000 for breast cancer research and is now banned from showing in Hobart. Given the number of Tasmanians who have asked us to bring the show to Tasmania, this decision is dumbfounding.”

The director of Brisbane’s Twelfth Night Theatre, Gail Wiltshire, is quoted as saying: “Busting Out! was the most successful new Australian work to play in Brisbane this century. Our audiences loved this show. As a survivor of breast cancer, it is appalling that the Hobart Theatre Royal has banned a show that has so much to positively say about women’s issues. Has anyone from the theatre actually bothered to see the show?” Directed by Terence O’Connell and performed by Emma Powell and Bev Killick, the show is currently playing in New Zealand before a return Australian season and a European and UK tour.
Update: According to this comment, it may be a matter of the theatre not being able to accommodate the show, rather than actually banning it. I wonder what's showing instead...
Update 2: The Mercury has a story here.
Update 3: Producer stands by his claim.

Not just for the elites

Posted October 13th, 2009 by debritz

“I thought we can’t only do what highly educated readers of the arts pages want to see. We’re subsidised and everybody in the country pays taxes, and therefore a national theatre has to be available to everyone.”

So said former National Theatre boss Trevor Nunn when asked why he staged musicals such as South Pacific and Anything Goes alongside works by Tom Stoppard and Shakespeare. Some of the people at Australia's subsidised theatres should take note.

Remembering Rob Guest

Posted October 11th, 2009 by debritz

The first annual Rob Guest Endowment concert will be held in Melbourne tomorrow (Monday, October 12). The event, hosted by Bert Newton and Marina Prior, will include performances by the casts of Wicked (led by Lucy Durack) and Chicago (with Caroline O'Connor), plus Anthony Callea, the Australian String Quartet, Rhonda Burchmore, Tina Cross and Peter Cousens. Awards will be handed out to the successful young finalists and the ticket price will go towards helping the next generation of musical-theatre artists in Rob's memory. Details here.

Hamish and Andy: Austereo's dilemma

Posted October 11th, 2009 by debritz

Austereo picture of Hamish and AndyIt's been an intresting week in radioland, and especially for market-leading FM broadcaster Austereo. Hamish Blake has been named Australia's favourite personality according to the Q Score survey, and he and on-air partner Andy Lee have swept the Commercial Radio Awards. Meanwhile, Kyle Sandilands has limped back on to the airwaves, well aware that Austereo bosses will be watching the official ratings surveys and their own audience tracking very carefully. At last night's awards ceremony, Austereo content director Guy Dobson described Hamish and Andy as a "phenomenon", saying: "They continue to deliver original and entertaining content which we are constantly impressed by." Sandilands and his Sydney 2Day partner Jackie O didn't show at the awards and, despite three nominations, didn't win anything. So, Austereo has a damaged breakfast team in Australia's most important market but a wildly successful national drive team. If Sandilands' and O's ratings continue to slide, there will be a push from some in Austereo to parachute Hamish and Andy into 2Day breakfast. Some in the Austereo boardroom may even be tinkering with the idea of the comedy duo hosting a national breakfast show, although they will be well aware that networking breakfast has failed before because radio is still essentially seen as a local medium. And, of course, the Austereo breakfast shows in other states (including Labrat, Camilla and Stav on Brisbane's B105) are doing quite well. But, as media budgets get tighter, the huge savings to be made by networking must be attractive and, as Dobson said last night, these guys are a phenomenon. And when you've got the hottest act on radio -- most likely the hottest act in the country in any medium -- wouldn't you want them to play to the widest possible audience in the most profitable shift?
PS: Please note, the above comments are made with my management hat on; personally, I remain totally committed to live and local radio. I'd hate to see it go the way of television.

Who's new look

Posted October 10th, 2009 by debritz

Doctor Who is not only getting a new Doctor, it's getting a new logo. Here it is and here's a little about it. There's a video, too, but sadly we can't watch it in Australia.

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