Last December, I found myself (ooh, did he really find himself? they ask) in Manila, knee-deep in bizarre performance-devising workshops and reasonably hefty amounts of trans-Pacific galavanting. As a side-note to all of this, my fellow playwrights and I were invited to perform as part of the Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s every-now-and-then open-platform performance evening, the spectacular and curious Strange Pilgrims. The performance was on Friday, December 2nd, and we each had a week to work out what shape (or lack of shape) our individual pieces were to take. Spending time with David Finnigan, raconteur and gentleman wordsmith, inspired each of us to try our hand at spoken word. You can find an entirely soulless definition of what spoken word actually is hereand if you’re new to the concept, as we all were, then spend some time getting to know this guy, and you might start to develop an appreciation.

A few nights before Strange Pilgrims, I similarly found myself (ooh!) at an exorbitant night out in the business district of Makati, surrounded by LA Galaxy players and Filipino women who could apparently afford platform shoes. I also realised where all the other white people had been hiding all this time. Amongst the crowd was the indefatigable Daniel Darwin, hula-hooper, international playboy and spoken word artist of some note, who slipped me bourbon and cokes and Marlborough Reds until my eyeballs nearly fell out, told me to move to New York, speak from my heart, try anything once. At 5am, we arrived back at our hotel on Adriatico Street, where I slipped my laptop from its sleeve and sat in the quiet, predatory company of about a billion engorged mosquitoes in the hotel courtyard, and bashed out my piece. The sun came up. I re-read it the next day, corrected some drunken spelling errors, then performed it the following night.

Here it is in living colour – if you’re in to that kind of thing.

The transcript is also available here.

The question of who will be there to witness your final moments seems especially pertinent given that tonight is the opening night of the Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s highly-anticipated Battalia Royale, an almost indescribably gruesome, utterly insane theatrical brouhaha, the devising and penning of which was the very purpose of our trip. Tonight, all 177 pages of our stage play adaptation will be battled out on the ramps of the monolithic Cultural Centre for the Philippines by 40 of the most talented and frighteningly dedicated young performers you could ever hope to find in either hemisphere; I can only assume along with a shitload of pyrotechnics, short skirts and blood packs.


There is a comprehensive blog, a sort of behind-the-scenes companion piece to the show, which profiles every character, each story arc, the premise of the entire piece, and also details how the collaboration came to be. Yesterday, my mini-essay on the advent of social media storytelling, specifically with regard to the 40 fictional high school students I’ve been reading Facebook status updates from for the past two months, and the potential ramifications of imbuing fictional people with a virtual existences, was posted there.

Bit of a head fuck? You have no idea.


I walk through the park on my way to work, and two weekends ago I spotted a curious fellow sitting alone on a bench. This bench is near the park’s fairly notorious public toilets, which, at times, will see between 15 and 20 young-to-middle-aged men standing around within a 100-metre radius, clearing their throats, awkwardly checking their wristwatches and guessing who, out of all the other men there, may have been responsible for the writing on that toilet wall which they are now there to collect on. Those days, I find it’s best to keep your head down, your headphones on, and ensure your walk has enough purpose to it that these gentlemen are immediately clear that you’re walking home, and have no intention of stopping for a chat. Otherwise, the looks they give you will just get you down.

Sunday mornings are a different matter though, and as I traipsed through the park, entirely by myself, I see this young man sitting on the bench near the toilets. Even at a distance, I can tell he’s got it rough, so I prepare to respectfully avert my eyes the way we all do when passing the homeless (spectacular to think though, isn’t it, that if it were a wounded puppy or a flightless dove, rather than a homeless man, we might very well STOP EVERYTHING and rush to its aid).

As I pass, I get a proper look at him; a startlingly, almost frighteningly good-looking young Aboriginal guy, with perfect bone structure, thick black hair, and a shimmering black eye. He sits with his legs crossed on the bench, his bare feet resting on the worn-out knees of his track pants, one hand resting over a collection of important-looking garbage bags. He is topless but for a massive, bright red, crushed velvet cape, slung across his shoulders and fastened around his neck with a dull gold clasp. I can’t help but stare at his cape. It’s an amazing cape. And it doesn’t look as if he knows he’s wearing it.

The cape was this colour:

His skin, like this:

His eye a little something like this:

And the grass was:

And the sky was:

And the garbage bags were:

And my shoes that day:

As I pass him, he says something to me. Jimi Hendrix is freaking out in my ears about turning in to a merman, so I remove my headphones, double back, and say, “Sorry mate?”

He repeats himself: “You don’t want your dick sucked?”

“Nah, mate,” I say, as if refusing a free lunch at a Hare Krishna temple, and I turn and head to work. But as the day wears on, the encounter wears away at me. Why did he have to phrase it quite like that?

“You don’t want your dick sucked?”

His glassy look, and the natural emphasis on the “ck” in “dick” and “suck” almost inferred a sense of betrayal, like I was suddenly and quite unexpectedly reneging on a pre-arranged contract. Perhaps my mere presence, in that park, by those bathrooms, at that time of day, and in those shoes, had led him to a very simple conclusion, no doubt backed up by a glut of historical evidence.

“You don’t?”

Not – “Don’t you?” Not – “Do you?” But – “You don’t?” As if I’ve just gone and changed all the rules on him, and completely thrown off his schedule. His tone reminds me somewhat of children being told they’re not allowed to have something which they’ve, up until now, been allowed quite freely – and I realise it’s taken a lot of men in less of a rush to get to work and with fewer moral qualms and less noble morning moods than me to walk by and accept this gentleman’s offer for him to reach the point where a passer-by without such intentions constitutes an almost offensive contradiction to his worldview.

Again – this was the colour of his cape:

Here are a few small things.

1) The other day I had a full series of spinal x-rays performed, and the x-ray technician asked for my business card, citing that a “sharp young fella” like me, could be a “good sorta fella to know.”

2) In my jacket pocket I found a coaster from a bar I’d never been to. So I went there.

3) Night before last, my phone started ringing at 2.49am; the number was blocked and they left no message. I instantly assumed it had something to do with the crowd of hanged-to-death corpses standing immediately outside my bedroom door, in need of my skills as a chiropractor.

4) I also thought up what I consider to be possibly the perfect visual metaphor, but I have nothing to apply it to. It goes:

“It’s the same as driving past a house you used to live in, and seeing the people who live there now setting up their Christmas tree.”

I feel like it could be extremely powerful, like, one of those metaphors you can use in casual conversation that just makes the person you’re talking to go, “Fuck! I know what you mean!” if I could only work out the right experiential moment to link it with.

5) In November I fly to Manila with three friends to adapt a Japanese pulp-thriller novel in to a site-specific stage play to be performed by 50 trained Filipino actors in an abandoned, underground Spanish colonial-era prison, assisted by a wushu master and a pole dancer. I think about how I’ve never been to the tropics before, and the things people say and the stuff I read about malaria medication, and about the dengue fever outbreak and the crime waves and frequency of kidnappings in Manila, and I think about how they shot Apocalypse Now in the Philippines and then all I can think about is Francis Ford Coppola speaking at Cannes in 1971, saying: “We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little, we went insane.

This, I think, is the colour of jungles:

I might be wrong.


Your skin feels thin, as thin as the things you’re wrapping it up in. Seeing Black Swan right before you went to bed may not have helped matters. At first you dream that you’re standing in a narrow, well-lit bathroom, and your mother, à la Barbara Hershey, is standing behind your left shoulder, watching you shave, making certain you haven’t missed a spot. Lately you’ve only been trimming that facial hair (it makes you look older, and prevents shaving rash), but you cut too much, so you have to cut it all. The lower half of your face is now bare, tight and tingly, then you realize you haven’t shaved the other half. You drag the razor across your forehead, down the bridge of your nose, across your eyelids, peeling away the thick dark hair that has taken root, and your mother watches breathlessly.

It’s 3:15am or something; you’ve woken up, feeling regret, a kind of a non-specific kind of an umbrella of regret. Should you spit on your skin to cool yourself down? Reason kicks in, you go wash your face instead. You’re composing letters in your head to ex-girlfriends. If the sensation of your skin, the tightness, the compression, could be somehow physically manifested, what would it look like? Would it look like chains? Thornbushes? A big, clammy, cardboard box? You know there’s something pressing in on you, so you’d better thrash about a bit, shake it off, but not too loud, because the neighbours downstairs once wrote you a note saying they could hear you typing, keep the typing down, your typing keeps us awake all night, so imagine how this sounds. What is it stopping you from sleeping like a normal person, you fucking clown?

You pick up your phone. What to do, what to do? If you took the device and threw it off the balcony, would you be much freer?

You dream of your friend in Paris. You think maybe if you lie in the exact same position you slept in that night, your second-last night there, in that little hotel in Montmartre, just down the hill from Sacré-Cœur, if you lie in that exact same position, then maybe you’ll be back there, all of a sudden, maybe that’s the trick. That was the morning you woke up at dawn, and went and took photos of the man with the beard doing Tai Chi near the cathedral, with the stray cats running about with the sun coming up.

The sun’s about to come up – you decide to check Twitter. It turns out Simon Pegg is snowboarding in Whistler, and you start thinking how can I – how can I – how can I get to sleep, and how is my immune system meant to function, when I know that Simon Pegg is snowboarding in Whistler, right this very second? What do you do with this information? There must be some evolutionary gap between the days, not so long ago, when all you knew about was your family, your village, perhaps the goings-ons in your local capital by way of the weekly paper – and sucking on your fingers so as to cool them down, thinking about working the next day, and whether anyone in the world really, truly hates you, and the inflatable dinosaurs outside your door that don’t look so threatening by the daylight but at 4.30am are quite a different story, all the while having to digest the information that Simon Pegg is snowboarding in Whistler.


You’re happy to let the sweat soak in to the sheets, because there’s an echo in your head telling you that’s good, that you sweat it all out, but then you know you’ll only dream about swimming pools. What is it called when you dream about a dream you had before?

So you kick the blanket off, and you look down at yourself. Could you pick your own skeleton out of a line-up, do you think? How much of you is really necessary?

There is jealousy in you, so heavy and cruel it feels like a bomb somebody has sewn in to your chest, and the corners are visible, pointing up through your skin, in your stomach. It’s a smoggy, rusty, unstoppable machine. It sounds like your old lawn mower. Remember all your dead pets? The jealousy makes it hard to walk, doesn’t it? It presses you down on the mattress, and creaks like coffins in old horror movies (We can hear you typing! We can hear everything!) But why think about it now? It’ll be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. There is no sweating it out.

You’ve been reading a book lately, comprised only of questions, all 120 pages of it, so that’s how you’ve started thinking, how you’ve started talking to yourself in your head. The book begins:

“Are your emotions pure? Are your nerves adjustable? How do you stand in relation to the potato?”

“Are your emotions pure?” That’s kind of a tough one. Your emotions are true, but will that get you by? Is the difference between purity and truth worth going in to? Sure, you could say your emotions are true at all times, that is simply a question of not lying to oneself, but pure? Do you not think they’re asking a little bit much?


What better way to celebrate my 25th blog post than by combining the content from every single previous entry in to one document, then feeding it to the inexplicable and ever-amusing AutoSummarize function in Microsoft Word? There isn’t one.

These guys offered to throw me a party, but they freaking celebrate anything.

People are unimpressed. I’m going home soon. I’m going home soon. From the ceiling hang streamers, Dream-catchers, balloons and fake cobwebs. Anyway.

If only I knew. Broken shit. Oh, fuck. Oh, fuck. “Hm, good point Australian Painter Of Some Note.” In time, I came to respect the Italian people again. Perhaps the artist had merely died before he had time to paint the boy’s clothes on. Imagine the pressure! Hey, Scarecrow, you big douche! You cry in like, every scene of this film. The shoe thing went away, some time in 2008. Home.

Is it age? Oh wait – that’s right. The second is if she simply didn’t care about that kind of thing. If your Dream Stalker is in fact already a vet, and not a racist one, then I’m afraid I’m unable to help you.

God, I wish she’d stop invading my freaking dreams, it’s been like four years now. “How awesome that they’re in my dream!”

So to recap our four-pronged story here: boring, crisis, crisis, crazy/crisis.


Valid question. Whale? Tick. Hot-air balloon? Tick. What the fucking fuck? Are you just playing Eye Spy, dude? Crazy bohemian beach party? Tick. Tick? Tick?

I’d like to know if other writers, or rather, people that write things, feel like this.

SERAPH: ‘Scuse me, God.

GOD: Yes, what? Well, this is simply mental!

SERAPH: I wouldn’t, sir, not if I were you. Perhaps best if we, uh… let them sort this one out.

All people did was smoke, paint, and fight the occasional war! If I may go so far: Bourne’s amnesia beautifully symbolised the action genre itself waking up from a deep sleep, full of fantastical, far-fetched dreams, in to the real world. Times do change indeed.

The other morning saw me wake up from a dream in which I was inexplicably cast in a new film alongside Russell Crowe. Shit!, says Russell Crowe.



The other day at work I was overcome by an inexplicable yet fanatically strong desire to cut off my right index finger with the pair of scissors we keep in the drawer at register 2. Normally reserved for the purposes of gift wrapping, I grasped the scissors, having wished another satisfied customer good day, and regarded the finger of my right hand, trying to calculate the force, time, effort and expertise required to effectively pull off such an act of pointless self-mutilation. I can’t say that I’ve ever hacked through bone with household stationary, let alone a bone I was connected to, so I figured really it would take far more force, time, and effort than I might have initially expected, or was willing to invest. I abandoned the scheme altogether.

I’ve had something of a love/hate relationship with the index finger of my right hand most of my life; it was savagely jammed in by a fly-ball during a tee-ball training session when I was in Year 3, leaving it with a permanent look of distention and a curious bend to the right. Given it is the finger I use for most things, and above all others (such as typing, playing the piano terribly, jabbing people in the chest when I really want them to understand the point I’m making, etc.), I will often find myself staring at it, silently criticising it for its looks. Like an old terrace house in a super-hip suburb whose 90-year-old owners have refused to gentrify the place with venetian blinds, a canary-yellow front door, and fresh eco-friendly paint on the wrought-iron balconies, the index finger of my right hand really brings down the overall value of the neighbourhood, if you get my meaning.

So how would it go down? A quiet day in the shop, and the fellow at register 2 starts calmly laying in to his finger with a large pair of scissors. I suppose someone would notice soon enough, a browsing customer, or a colleague; but when someone starts a random act of un-anaesthetised amputation in a gift shop, what exactly is the protocol? The person has clearly gone stark raving mad, and also happens to be wielding a pair of (sharp enough) scissors, so your first thought, understandably, might not be to rush valiantly to his aid, in case he chooses to have a go at your precious digits next. I suppose you could call someone, but who would you call? The cops, or the cleaners? And as for the headcase with the sloppy, hacked-up knob sticking out from his right hand and the ragged, twitching finger in the palm of the other, what’s to do next? Once you’ve brutally and nonsensically removed one of your very own limbs in a public space, my question is, what more is there even left to do?

See, this is why no-one does anything spontaneous anymore. It’s just too damned easy to get caught up in the details, and by the time you’ve finished sorting through them, the moment’s passed, and your senseless, barbaric self-disfigurement just wouldn’t make sense to anyone anymore.


The other morning saw me wake up from a dream in which I was inexplicably cast in a new film alongside Russell Crowe. The details are sketchy now, of course, but it was some manner of post-apocalypitc survival epic in which Crowe, the leader of a small battalion of humans, had to lead the group to a “promised land” of sorts, where the earth was yet to be overtaken by the unexplained sub-zero temperatures that had descended on the rest of the planet. Imagine a sort of The Day After Tomorrow sequel, crossed with a Romero zombie flick, but with me as the roguish supporting character who never quite does what the sagely leader (Crowe) says, and gets in to all sorts of mischief. The dream started out as the negotiations between my agents and the production company (no doubt fuelled by my recent excitement at the Entourage season 7 finale) but, before I knew it, my dream had become the film itself.

I couldn’t tell you how exciting this film would be in reality, given there were, in fact, no zombies, or phantom low-pressure systems, or really any antagonistic force at all, it was just me and Russ in an enormous modified snowtruck (think the Dead Reckoning vehicle from Land of the Dead) pretty much just zooming through desolate, snow-fucked North America. If memory serves, the other survivors were just recycled members of the laughably enormous cast of Lost, which I have been filling my dead hours with lately.

(110 minutes of this? What's not to like?)

I do remember that the enormous snowtruck was fitted out with secret cameras and audio surveillance equipment, and that in one scene I sat beside Crowe in the cockpit as he monitored the other members of the group discussing which Russell Crowe films they liked and disliked. Crowe, bestubbled and with chewed cigar clamped firmly between his teeth, gave a gruff kind of as snort as Dominic Monaghan, somewhere else in the truck, made snide comments about A Good Year and how Ridley Scott hasn’t done anything good since Black Hawk Down. I can’t recall if there was later a scene of Russell Crowe chopping off Dominc Monaghan’s head and leaving it in the snow, but Monaghan wasn’t there later, so it’s quite possible.

After a good average run-time’s worth of paranoia, post-apocalyptic brooding and Mr Crowe’s Thinking Face, we arrive at the site of some enormous ruins, including a huge stone gateway that leads up a mountain path. Crowe, the fearless leader, and I, his trusty yet not-entirely-to-be-trusted sidekick volunteer to investigate, and alight from our snowmobile home and head up the mountain path. After some time we arrive at a spot on the mountain where the snow has melted, and huge pine trees and waving groves of bright green grass greet us. This is it, Crowe says, we’ve reached the last remaining outpost of civilization. But where are all the people?, I ask (I’m totally phoning it in by this point). At that moment, two men who are obviously holograms, I mean you can just tell that they’re holograms, emerge from the forest in Star Trek uniforms with big, smart-ass grins.

They deliver a message from some alien overlords or something, saying that earth was purged of the blah blah blah and that now we were here we can friggin’, I dunno, I honestly don’t remember this part very well and it was easily the most boring scene of the whole thing. It got a little more exciting as the holograms began to malfunction, flicker and die, and then all of a sudden Nicolas Fucking Cage leaps from the shrubbery, dressed like some kind of caveman with his signature flowing, ratty locks, scrabbling after Crowe and I like some deranged crab-cum-Gollum-esque creature. Shit!, says Crowe. Shit!, I say, I didn’t know he was in this movie! Crowe responds with something witty like, it’s Nic Cage, he’s in every movie, and I’m fairly certain I would have chuckled in my sleep at that point, because let’s face it, the dude is.

(Is it because he is so totally Bangkok and/or Dangerous? Perhaps we'll never know.)

After a long and idiotic struggle on the rock face, we get Cage pinned down in a crevice of some description, and he’s just growling and scrabbling at the rocks. Dude doesn’t even have any real dialogue. You hold him at bay!, shouts Crowe, I’ll get reinforcements! And then Russell Bloody Crowe pisses off down the mountain, jumps in to our oversized snowmobile with the supporting cast of Lost still aboard, turns about face and fucks off back in to the snow, leaving me with a deranged Nic Cage in his 76th role of the year, trying to bite my ankles off. It’s too much, and he overpowers me, and now I’m frantically backpeddling across the rocks, when I conveniently remember that my humble USB key that I keep on my keychain (and obviously thought to hold on to after the meteorological apocalypse) also doubles as a flamethrower. Nice, hey. But, alas, as with all inexplicable miniature flamethrowers, the activation switch and start-up sequence is extremely fiddly, and I can’t seem to get it going.

And so, immediately before my alarm sounds, and I eat my jam on toast and depart for another day’s work, I am left with the mental image of my action-hero alter-ego, tripping backwards over rocks in flight from a savage, long-haired Nicolas Cage, fiddling with a pen-sized flamethrower, shouting at the top my lungs, I’m gonna flamethrower the shit out of you, Nic Cage! I’m gonna flamethrower the shit out of you!


At the start of the year, a dude who’d been a few years above me at my high school got in touch about making a film clip for the fledgling (but increasingly successful) band he’s a part of, Hancock Basement. You may check them out here. I went to a gig of theirs here in Melbourne, and afterwards I asked if they had any ideas for their maiden music video. Their only real request was to have stuff thrown at them in slow motion. Was I interested?

Obviously I was, so I did it, and now it’s done, and here it is:

It certainly looks the part, I think.

The clip would not have been possible with the tireless efforts of cinematographer David Rusanow, editor and effects guru Dan Jobson, stalwart 1st AD Jonnie Leahy, 2nd AD Lee Young, costume designer Nicci McGuffog, hair and make-up artist Samantha Bennett, audio wizard Lil’ Rossco and a first-class technical team of Asuka Sylvie, Michael Latham, Ryan Lloyd, Kai Smythe and Ben Ryan.

It was shot at the Open Channel facilities at Shed 4 in the Docklands, using a Canon 5d for 25fps shots and a Canon 7D for 60fps.

It stars Thomas Larkin as The Bossman, with Alexander Brunacci, Neil Triffett, Luke Richardson, Dan Jobson, Patrick MacAleavey, Elliot Heatwole and Aaron Rajamoney as the overly-enthusiastic crew, Hannah Vanderheide, Lexi Gillard, Lisa Wright and Lisa Gloufchis as the dancing girls, with myself and Sam “The Wizard” Burns-Warr as the fellows in yellow.

Y’all dig?


The death of James Bond came in 2002 with the release of Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity. Within just a few months, depending where you were on the planet, came Die Another Day, the absurd fart that tragically rounded out Pierce Brosnan’s squandered turn as the world-revered British spy – 2 hours of silly invisible cars, laser-shooting satellites and Halle Berry’s Oscar-winning cleavage. The franchise had turned so far in on itself, aware of and responding to the very clichés and set pieces that it was responsible for bringing in to existence, that the whole thing was just a sad, self-conscious farce. Like with many celebrities, and franchises even, fame was not healthy for James Bond. People only went to the cinemas to see Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, I believe, to try and remember what Bond used to be, like picking up a picture of your beloved great-grandparents before they went mental and died.

In the awkward, collar-fiddling echo left by our 60-year-old protagonist lying on a beach picking flawless diamonds from the belly-button of his delicious, mocha-skinned, 30-year-old sidekick, Jason Bourne woke up on a fishing trawler in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea with three bullet wounds in his back and no idea who he was, and all of a sudden the way in which we engaged with action movies changed. We left the world of self-assured, glossy action, where our heroes may well take out a battalion of nameless henchmen without even getting a trace of gunpowder residue on their cravat, and had suddenly been thrown in to a world where our hero didn’t even know who he was, let alone how action heroes should behave in his, or any, situation.

If I may go so far: Bourne’s amnesia beautifully symbolised the action genre itself waking up from a deep sleep, full of fantastical, far-fetched dreams, in to the real world. In this world, our hero’s abilities are indeed still fatal and slick (and thus, still entertaining to watch), but he is unaware of these abilities’ origins, he is reluctant to use them, and there is no back-catalogue of movies, spin-offs, video games or fan fiction to inform him or his writers how they should be applied. The knowing wink, the cheesy green, the hat-off to tradition and the reflexive nostalgia have all been, quite literally, forgotten.

Similarly, our villains are no longer cartoonish millionaires stroking cats in underground lairs, or platoon after platoon of uniformed cannon-fodder. Instead, the enemy is the government, the enemy is a result of one well-meant experiment that went terribly wrong, and the people responsible are just as unsure of how to handle the whole affair as our hero is. Compare this dissonance and underlying sense of governmental ineptitude to, say, oh, I dunno, a film called On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Times do change indeed. Our hapless henchmen, the supporting villainry, are now either innocent policemen simply doing their jobs, or, if we’re lucky, full-blown, well-rounded characters the likes of Clive Owen’s extraordinary and compunctious hitman who goes after Bourne in a tense farmhouse seige, then reflects with Bourne on the nature of their pointless, violent, shared existences before dying a meaningless death—as meaningless as the deaths of any of the hundreds of jumpsuit-clad Japanese henchfolk in the volcano climax of You Only Live Twice, but at the same time profoundly meaningful, because there is only the one of him.

Essentially, Bourne is an action hero in a world where action heroes quite simply don’t exist, and therefore there is no well-trod path to follow (should one wake up in the Mediterranean Sea as one). It is this contextual shift which allows Bourne’s adventures to delight, excite and amaze, through their tension and innovation, by exploiting moralistic grey areas surrounding notions of nationalism and duty, and throwing our characters in to real, recognisable cities where the people around them aren’t just women prime for the shagging and second-class enemy spies ripe for the garrotting, but hell, just real people, oblivious to the death and turmoil and subterfuge having taken root in their world. It’s as exciting as it was the first time Mr Bond donned that white dinner jacket, saved the world and won at poker, all in time for tea. But just for very different reasons.

The Bourne Identity was shot and edited, almost expressionistically, in a manner befitting the psychological conundrums of its protagonist. The action is gritty, fast-paced and extremely brief but, like real-world violence, when it arrives it is unmistakeable and incredibly watchable. Even Bourne’s specific martial arts style, a Filipino discipline known as Kali, is based on the implementation of everyday objects in combat, allowing us the pleasure of watching Bourne putting down Euro-trash hitmen with kitchen knives, flower vases, telephones and rolled up newspapers alike. Like the film itself, Bourne in combat is drawing from the real world to make everything a little more practical, a little more down-to-earth, to suspend the disbelief of increasingly well-entertained and film-literate audiences just that little bit more convincingly. What’s more, the action and intrigue is all there to illustrate a personal and harrowing character journey; throughout the Bourne trilogy (let us pray they leave it at that), Bourne will discover who he is, the things he has done, and he will fight to redeem himself, even if it kills him. It all makes the emotionless, patriotic mass-murder of the enigmatic Mr Bond sound like rather bad cinema, doesn’t it.

Of course, let us not overlook who was hired as director to round out the Bourne trilogy. Identity was a hit, but ostensibly a fluke – it was Paul Greengrass who really nailed this rebirthing of the genre in The Bourne Supremacy. Paul Greengrass, known also for Bloody Sunday and United 93, both films of extraordinary emotional impact, detailing with profound grit and realism two shocking events of cultural and historical significance; the 1972 Irish civil rights massacre and the 9/11 terrorist attacks respectively. Amusingly, the clout and seriousness with which Greengrass approached the Bourne films seemed to trigger what I thought an absurd advertising campaign for his and Matt Damon’s next collaboration, Green Zone, labeling it as “Bourne Goes Epic”. It seems the masses are more willing to accept the world of Jason Bourne as credible and watchable than they are the Iraq War.

And look, that’s all fine. But the fact remains that Bourne killed Bond. And I liked James Bond.

2008′s Quantum of Solace was essentially indistinguishable from its trailer -

- but trailers are supposed to be rapid-fire, non-sequitous shots of things exploding in places you don’t know the significance of. In fact, the only real time the film slowed down long enough for me to recognise goodie from baddie was a scene in which Bond spills his heart to the smouldery love interest Olga Kurylenko, about his lost love from the previous film, and his pain, and his mission for revenge, and she nods, and agrees that revenge is awesome. I am able to catch my breath, yes, but then it also hits me – what the fuck is going on here? You’re James Bond, dude, if she’s the good girl, then just shag her already, and if she’s the bad girl, then just shag her now and casually allow her to die in some horrific fashion later. You can even make a quip about it, so what’s the hold-up? In all seriousness though, I don’t actually have that much of a gripe with the content or plotlines of either of the post-Bourne Bond films, Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace – if crying about your feelings in a cave in the South American desert is what it takes to redeem the franchise, then hey, go for it.

But as well as taking the majority of their emotional cues from Bourne, modern action films, of which Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are two very profitable ones, also seem to be copying and pasting Greengrass’ visual style, and herein lies the real problem. If the scene is a lonesome, troubled hero, throwing down with a lone assassin in a kitchen somewhere in Berlin, then please, by all means, put the camera on your shoulder, whip-pan till your fingers fall off, shoot tight, cut fast, give the viewer a scintillating mess of immersive action. We are here in the character’s mind, in the real world of Robert Ludlum, Doug Liman and/or Paul Greengrass, where these things don’t actually happen, so to approach the scene with a level of naturalism is perfectly acceptable, even admirable.

If the scene is James Goddamn Bond, throwing down with a billionaire Eco-terrorist in an exploding hotel in the middle of the Bolivian desert, then put the camera on a fucking tripod and let us see what the fuck is going on. Quantum of Solace, though I found it immensely enjoyable, forgot that it was a James Bond film, and forgot that James Bond can be done well, but still be a romp, a hedonistic delight. We are never going to know James Bond, because he is a myth, a role played by many actors, who has appeared in film, literature and video games since 1953 and most likely will ad infinitum. He stands for enjoyment, the birth of blockbuster cinema, even. How can we ever, possibly, in the space of 100 minutes come to know him? And if we do not know him, then how can we ever enjoy his exploits without being shown their true scale and spectacle? The neo-Bond films stole the Bourne formula, but tried to retro-fit it to a cinematic emblem that is too strong and recognizable to be changed in a few short years by one minor trend. It only curdles the milk.

It is not only the Bond franchise that believes itself capable of Bourne’s “thinking man’s action film” heights. Just the other day I sat through The Expendables, Sly Stallone’s puzzling excuse for him and a few other aging pals to wear Ed Hardy, blow up some Spics and smash a crate or two of creotene in between every take. But plot aside, you’d think maybe the reason for assembling a dozen of the badassest living action icons on one soundstage would be so that they could do all their own stunts, you could shoot the shit out of it, and at the end of the day you’d have a real meal of an action film on your hands. Yeah? Yeah?

No. Despite its wheelbarrows full of mindless action, The Expendables was shot as if by a blind boy holding a camera phone at a Prodigy concert. Our dear cinematographer seemed content to hold one extreme close-up shot of Mickey O’Rourke’s quivering lips for his questionable-at-best character monologue, but as soon as Meathead #1 threw a fist at Meathead #2, no-one knows what the fuck’s going on. Occassionally you would catch a telling glint from off of Eric Robert’s silver helmet of hair amidst the enormous explosions and animated squibbage, but other than that, no dice.

The trend only gains momentum. And it pains me greatly to broaden the circle of perpetrators to include one of my absolute favourite filmmakers, but…

Batman Begins: awesome film, wretched fight scenes. The Dark Knight: incredible film, let down only by fight scenes that, whilst decent, still belonged to a lesser film. And now, the almighty Inception: absolutely extraordinary film, but again, I found the action sequences themselves visually lacklustre. A friend of mine pointed out, following our second viewing of Inception, that Christopher Nolan had created an action film where you sat patiently through the obligatory action scenes and car chases, waiting with baited breath for another scene of people talking about stuff. Go figure. But he was right. For a film so thoughtfully and magically executed, and with cash coming out of its ears, I expect more than a slipshod chase down a few snowy mountain slopes where I literally cannot tell our hero from the henchmen. Wally Pfister and Chris Nolan upped the ante on nearly every cerebral level with that film, but, alas, the action scenes were shaky, wide-angled, edit-fucked ring-ins.

Does Nolan lack confidence? Or is he merely following the trend? Have a gander at the final showdown from Batman Begins, a flurried assortment of juicy foley effects and slick cutting. You know who wins in the end, but you have no idea how it happened. Could they not afford a real fight choreographer or something? Just follow this link right here that I have highlighted with a rather funky blue.

See? Even Adam West is confused, and he's the Goddamned Batman.

In conclusion, I suppose, when a franchise or a genre kicks on for long enough, it must adapt to the changing times in order to remain hip, profitable and further sustainable. But this assimilation may require the selling of that franchise’s soul, like the resurrected James Bond, and the technicalities of such a trade may defy the well-loved and long-established hallmarks of that genre. Francois Truffaut said that the first James Bond film, Dr No, marked the beginning of the age of decadence in film and the death of true cinema. What shall we do, then, when that decadence that killed true cinema dies also? Action films, spy films, films that aim to entertain for entertainment’s sake, are usually safe from the definitions and physics of the dreaded real world; that’s what makes them decadent. But now that the real world is inherently trendy, we might see even the modern age of pleasure-seeking cinema fade in to a de-saturated, hand-held ether, purely for the sake of the hip-pockets of the male American 18-25 demographic. May they all collapse in simultaneous epileptic fits the next time Daniel Craig raises so much as an eyebrow, my sorry self included.


Okay, seriously now.
Here’s a film I made with my criminal companion Sam Burns-Warr at the end of last year, and have finally put the finishing touches to.
It started out as a plotless class exercise for Reinis Traidas, ex-classmate and Latvian Of Some Cinematographical Note. He was given a single roll of 35mm film (Kodak 250D, if I remember correctly) and an Aaton of some description for a weekend. No-one was ever even going to see the thing, he was just meant to go out and expose correctly for a sunset or some shit.
However, quintessential Player that he is, Reinis asked Sam and I if we had any ideas for a story that might fit in one roll of film. We didn’t, but we tried our best, and I think the resulting film is some sort of paradoxical meditation on doom and/or predestination. I could very well be wrong, though.


This morning, much to my horror, I had jam on toast for breakfast. There is nothing particularly horrible about having toast with jam per se, and I know millions of people around the world do such a thing each morning; but I’m not a jam on toast guy. I have had it maybe… mmm, two times in the last three years, and both of those times it has been made for me. Yet, this morning, as I made my toast, I glanced in the fridge and saw an old jar of strawberry conserve left over from the catering for a recent film shoot, and WITHOUT EVEN THINKING ABOUT WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING, I took it from the fridge and schlepped it on my toast, devouring it on the way down to the tram. I have nothing – I repeat, nothing – against jam on toast. It is simply not normally to my liking. But this morning, apparently, it was.

I have long maintained that, at some point in your mid- to late-twenties, a guy creeps up behind you and presses a small button in the back of your head, which suddenly changes everything about you, and makes you OLD.

I imagine the process is something akin to this (just click for the larger, grander version):

How else do you explain the radical swing toward mellowness of ex-college football jocks, pill-popping techno junkies, passionate wildlife advocates and pro-abortion rioters in later life? What makes a rock star hang up their leather, a thief put away their lock pick, and a man who used to have such worldly tastes in breakfasts as to devour meat pies, Indian curries and roast beef alike before 9am to suddenly spread strawberry jam on his freaking toast and be content with that? I may as well take out a mortgage on a Delfin house and start saving for my triplets’ college funds.

Surely it’s a little too early for me to already be consigned to a life of DIY workshops at Bunnings, holidaying in Adelaide and saying condescending things about video gamers. And I could just go home and throw the jam away but, by blazes!… it was really very tasty.

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