BYE BYE POSSUMS!!
April 2012: It has been announced that Australia’s favourite housewife Dame Edna Everage, will soon be withdrawing from public life. Australian actor, writer and film producer Barry Humphries AO, CBE – creator of the much-beloved stage character (and her counterparts Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone), feels at age 78, it is time to retire gracefully. Humphries’ upcoming tour – Eat Pray Laugh will be his last. The show commences a two month run in Australia in June, followed by performances in Britain and New York.
Whilst he is remarkably sprightly, the travelling and performances are physically demanding and Humphries wants to exit at the top of his game. He plans to focus on his many other interests which include painting (he is an accomplished landscape artist).
Since her debut 57 years ago, Humphries’ alter-ego, Dame Edna, the self-proclaimed housewife/superstar from Moonee Ponds (a Melbourne suburb) has evolved into an international phenomenon.
Dame Edna’s personal style could best be defined as “flamboyant” – her striking purple bouffant hair, signature winged rhinestone glasses and unique costumes delivering as much impact as her no-holds-barred political and social satire. Having graced the great stages of London’s West End, the Sydney Opera House, Broadway and beyond, the jet-setting diva has also managed countless television and film appearances, published several books and given the odd Royal Command Performance. It is no wonder she now lays claim to giga-stardom!
In 2000 Barry Humphries received a Tony Award for his Broadway show – Dame Edna, The Royal Tour.
Humphries is a man of sophisticated intellect and incisive wit. Retiring his iconic characters will bring an end to an era of wonderfully original entertainment (though he muses that Edna may occasionally resurface in the media offering her unique perspective on things social and politic).
I’m sure we all hope we’ve not seen the last of this grande dame of the Antipodes or her extraordinary wardrobe – those outrageously extravagant costumes are true “works of art” and will hopefully end up on permanent public display.
23rd August 1924 – 10th November 2011
Boyd’s work is very much in demand – exhibited at the National Gallery of Australia and represented internationally in public and private collections.
Many of his paintings are instantly recognisable – possessing a dreamlike quality – whimsical, surreal and child-like – in fact, naïf, romantic depictions of children proliferate much of his work. The rendering however is deceptively complex and sophisticated. His stylised motifs and techniques bear recognisable similarities to those of his brother – renowned landscape painter, Arthur Boyd.
David Boyd was born in Murrumbeena, Melbourne – the third and youngest son of artists Merric and Doris Boyd. As a child he was introduced to pottery, painting and piano and, like his brother Arthur, destined to pursue a creative career. In 1944-5 Boyd attended the National Gallery of Victoria Art School and also studied at the Melbourne Conservatory of Music.
In the 1940’s his talents were focussed on pottery and ceramics. This work carried over into the early 60’s – he and his wife (artist Hermia Lloyd-Jones) became well-known for their pottery and sculpting. Together they established pottery businesses in Australia and London producing “Hermia Ware”.
With family in tow, Boyd and Hermia also worked extensively overseas – Rome, London, Spain and France, eventually settling back in Australia in 1975. From 1993 to 1996 Boyd was Artist in Residence at the School of Law at Macquarie University in Sydney. Throughout his illustrious career Boyd’s achievements have been recognised with various accolades including the OAM for his Services to Art, awarded in 2008.
David and Hermia had three daughters, Amanda, Lucinda and Cassandra, all of whom became artists. He is survived by two of his daughters (Amanda died in 1998 and his wife in 2000), five grand children and four great-grandchildren.
THE GUARD (Reviewed 27th September, 2011)
It’s not often I get this excited about a movie, but I have just seen John Michael McDonagh’s debut feature film – “The Guard”. Delightfully subversive and bursting with dark humour and bad language, this is a totally engaging tale of drug smuggling, corruption, sex, blackmail and murder, set against the bleak landscape of County Galway, Ireland.
Middle-aged Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a small town sergeant with the Irish Garda. Paunchy, pragmatic, slightly world-weary and more than a little bent, he has a refreshingly uncomplicated perspective of life, love and death. He also has a healthy disrespect for conventional policing and a blatant dislike of big city cops. Investigating a local murder and a major drug-smuggling operation, a racist and belligerent Sergeant Boyle finds himself in an unlikely collaboration with the rather uptight and politically-correct African-American FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle).
Agent Everett is a man completely outside his comfort zone, in a place where his rules and methods do not apply – much of the humour flows from his predicament. This prickly alliance is initially fraught with cultural and philosophical differences, but over the course of their investigations these men find personal commonalities and develop a mutual understanding and respect.
“The Guard” is a riveting adventure thriller with action and violence aplenty, but even at its most brutal there is wonderful black comedy at play. The dialogue is superbly crafted and I really enjoyed the musical score. No one disappoints in this wonderful ensemble – Liam Cunningham and the mesmerising Mark Strong are perfectly cast as the chief gangsters and David Wilmot is outrageous as their psychopathic sidekick, Liam O’Leary.
But along with all the action, corruption and gloriously dark humour, there are poignant moments of great tenderness and honesty. Brendan Gleeson gives a masterful, full-bodied performance – his character is totally beguiling – flawed, frank, un-orthodox, sensitive and funny. McDonagh has delivered an intensely perceptive insight into relationships and the human condition.
Now the most successful independent Irish film of all time (eclipsing “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” – 2006), “The Guard” was nominated at the 2011 Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals – no doubt more accolades will follow. Clever, funny, brutal and whimsical, this is the sort of film which demands more than one viewing and my enthusiastic recommendation.
MARGARET OLLEY – 24.6.1923 – 26.7.2011
Australia’s art world is a little less colourful with the passing yesterday of beloved artist and National Treasure, Margaret Olley. Aged 88, Margaret died at her home in Sydney where she was working on paintings for her next exhibition.
Renowned for her gloriously colourful still-life studies, with her subject matter often the flowers, crockery, fabrics and bric-a-brac that cluttered her Paddington house, Margaret Olley was the sitter for friend Ben Quilty’s winning portrait in the recent Archibald Prize competition.
A woman of fierce independence and strong opinion, she was a fascinating and much-loved personality who battled depression and alcoholism to pursue her art. The subject of more than 90 solo exhibitions she also sat for several of her prominent artist friends including Russell Drysdale and William Dobell.
Olley was a great philanthropist and also dedicated herself to encouraging young and emerging artists in Australia. She donated over 140 works (valued at over $7 million) to the Gallery of NSW and helped fund the gallery’s acquisition of many important paintings including those by Cezanne, Morandi, Degas, Freud, Matisse and Picasso.
A State Memorial Service will be held in her honour, at the Gallery, in August. I recommend her biography – “Margaret Olley – Far From A Still Life” by Meg Stewart and published by Random House, Australia.
British artist Lucian Freud has died peacefully at his London home, after a short illness, at age 88. The Berlin-born son of an Austrian-Jewish father and a German-Jewish mother, Freud was also the grandson of ground-breaking psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (regarded as the father of psychoanalysis). Lucian and his family came to England in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism.
Working in the realms of realism, surrealism and expressionism Freud is now considered one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. His paintings fetch huge prices at auction with one of his female nude studies selling for a staggering $33.6 million.
Famous for portraiture and his “warts-and-all” figurative paintings, his work is often compelling rather than attractive. His dis-inhibited style is instantly recognisable – that uncompromising, even brutal, presentation of flesh. One is reminded of the visceral style of his friend and contemporary – Francis Bacon.
Freud’s nudes often border on the grotesque, but at the same time are an eloquent, if not confronting representation of reality. There is, one senses, an expression of an innate compassion for and awareness of, the human condition as well as a deep fascination with the human form and sexuality. Freud exhibited a real mastery of tone and texture, working in bold impasto with an often muted palette of colours. He was totally committed to his art, painting in his Holland Park studio right up to the end of his life.
Lucian Freud was a complex character – a great artist, a gambler and an incorrigible philanderer. He was twice married and indulged in many extra-marital relationships. Between his wives and lovers he is known to have fathered at least 13 children, though rumour has it that the number could be as high as 40. Many of his dalliances were with his models. Some of his off-spring are well-known in their own right – Bella Freud – London based fashion designer, Esther Freud, a writer and Paul Freud and Jane McAdam Freud – both artists.
SOTHEBY’S AUCTIONS GUARDI MASTERPIECE
In the late 1760’s Francesco Guardi produced four monumental works portraying aspects of Venice and on Wednesday night (6th July) at Sotheby’s in London, “A View of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North, from the Fondamenta del Carbon” sold for 26.7 million pounds ($42.7). This impressive painting, measuring115 x 199cm, is considered one of Guardi’s most important works. It was secured by an anonymous buyer after a protracted contest with another telephone bidder.
The sale price is the highest achieved so far in 2011, for any work of art sold at an international auction house and sets a new record for Guardi, a contemporary of Canaletto. It was Canaletto’s “Venice – The Grand Canal from Palazzo Balbi” which fetched the previous highest price for a Venetian painting – 18.6 million pounds, in 2005.
With a pre-sale estimate of 15 – 25 million pounds “A View of the Rialto Bridge” had never gone to auction before. The painting was sold on behalf of the heirs of the late Conservative politician Paul Channon, who died in 2007. The masterpiece has an interesting history of ownership. It is one of a pair of Guardis bought in Venice in 1768 by Chaloner Arcedeckne (the English Grand Tourist). In 1891 the paintings were acquired by the Guinness family and thence, by inheritance, passed to Paul Channon.
On Tuesday, at rival London auction house Christie’s, the 1765 George Stubbs equine painting “Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, a Stable-Lad, and a Jockey” sold for a record 22.4 million pounds ($35.9 million).
MORAN NATIONAL PORTRAIT PRIZE 03/05/2011
Renowned Melbourne-based artist Vincent Fantauzzo claimed the $150,000 prize with his compelling portrait of Australian film-maker, Baz Luhrmann.
Entitled “Off Screen”, it is a study of vulnerability, with Luhrmann, captured in an unguarded moment. With a sticking plaster on his forehead, eyes closed and hands pressed to his face (in a moment of “creative stress”), the lower half of his visage is all but obscured. Executed in a dinstinctly muted palette, the painting is exemplary of Fantauzzo’s trademark mastery of light and texture, with the hands in particular, beautifully rendered.
Thirty three-year-old Fantauzzo won the popular Packing Room Prize in the recent Archibald competition for portraiture, with an engaging picture of his friend – celebrity chef and restaurateur Matt Moran. He has worked and exhibited internationally, with shows in New York, Los Angeles, India, Vietnam, Australia and Hong Kong.
Now in its 23rd year, the Moran Prize is the richest in Australia’s art world. It is held concurrently with the $100,000 Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize (launched in 2007) which was secured by Jack Atley with his poignant image “World Rare Disease Day – Steve Waugh and Sarah Walker”. This was a candid shot of the Australian cricket legend interacting with the three-year-old (who suffers a chronic disease requiring round-the-clock oxygen). Atley (formerly a photographer with the Australian cricket side) was taking a series of photographs for The Steve Waugh Foundation – a charity dedicated to the identification, study and treatment of rare diseases in children.
The exhibition of the thirty one Moran Prize winners and finalists is displayed at the State Library of New South Wales till 26th June, after which it will tour nationally.
To view more of Vincent Fantauzzo’s work, go to www.vincentfantauzzo.com
2011 ARCHIBALD PRIZE - 15th April.
Sydney artist Ben Quilty has won Australia’s prestigious Archibald Prize for portraiture, with his compelling study of much-loved Australian painter, Margaret Olley. The work has a deceptive simplicity – its sometimes sparse daubs of thick impasto on primed canvas capture superbly the personality and essence of the sitter.
Margaret Olley is a keen supporter of Ben Quilty, awarding him the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship in 2002. She is the only Archibald subject whose portrait has won twice – the previous work was by William Dobell in 1948.
Olley, at 87, is still a prolific painter, her still life studies and interiors instantly recognisable for their brilliant colour and wonderful composition. Quilty asked his friend and mentor if she would pose nude for him – a request at first declined but now under consideration. Early in her career she famously posed for Dobell in a series of drawings wearing nothing more than a large floppy hat!
About the Archibald
The $50,000 Archibald Prize is Australia’s premier award for portraiture and originated in 1921 after a bequest from journalist J. F. Archibald, who was co-founder and editor of the Bulletin Magazine. At that time the prize money was 400 pounds. Whilst not the biggest prize for Australian artists, (The Doug Moran National Portrait Prize is the richest – in the world – at A$150,000) it is the Archibald competition which captures the attention of the public and press. This year initial entries numbered 798 works of which only a few dozen were selected for judging.
The entries this year were of very high calibre – the famous “Packing Room Prize” – a popular prelude to the formal award, was won by celebrated painter, Vincent Fantauzzo, with an engaging portrait of his friend, celebrity chef Matt Moran. The exhibition is on show at The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney until 26th June 2011, followed by a lengthy regional tour.
Hollywood and the world has lost one of its most legendary and beloved personalities.
After surviving many health crises throughout her life, actress Elizabeth Taylor succumbed to heart failure on Wednesday March 23, 2011 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, California, aged 79. She passed away with her four children beside her and will be mourned by millions. Famed as much for her eight marriages as her illustrious film career, Elizabeth Taylor seems to have spent most of her colourful life in the spotlight.
Born on 27th February, 1932 in London, to American parents, she first came to prominence in the1943 film “Lassie Come Home”, where she starred alongside a young Roddy McDowall (who remained a lifetime friend). However, it was the MGM production “National Velvet” with Mickey Rooney that really launched her career. More adolescent roles followed, but as she blossomed into a great beauty with a strong personality and obvious sex appeal, she was cast in meatier roles, starring in dozens of movies, many now regarded as classics.
Taylor was renowned for her dark, sultry beauty, blessed with magnificent violet eyes and a voluptuous figure. She worked with Hollywood’s leading men in many notable films – “Giant” – with Rock Hudson and James Dean, “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” with Paul Newman, “A Place in the Sun”, “Raintree County” and “Suddenly Last Summer” – with Montgomery Clift.
Whilst her lifestyle was glamorous and extravagant, privately she dealt with much tragedy and ongoing health issues. Her first marriage in 1950 was to Conrad (Nicky) Hilton (playboy heir to the Hilton Hotel empire). It lasted only nine months. In 1952 she married English actor Michael Wilding – 20 years her senior. They had two sons together – Michael and Christopher, but divorced in 1957.
Taylor married the first of the “two true loves of her life” film producer Mike Todd, in 1957 and gave birth to a daughter – Elizabeth (Liza). The marriage was tragically cut short when Todd was killed in a plane crash in 1958. Grief-stricken, she sought solace with Todd’s best friend, actor Eddie Fisher – the then husband of American sweetheart Debbie Reynolds. Despite the scandal this created, Taylor and Fisher married in 1959.
In 1960 Taylor won her first Academy Award (as Best Actress) for her role as a troubled call-girl in “Butterfield Eight”. Her marriage to Fisher unravelled in 1964 when she starred opposite the renowned classical Welsh actor, Richard Burton, in the hugely extravagant production, “Cleopatra”. Theirs was torrid and intense affair, providing endless fodder for the tabloids – she was still with Eddie Fisher and Burton, too, was married (with a daughter, Kate). Taylor divorced Fisher that same year and quickly married Burton (the other “great love of her life”).
This marriage was played out in the full glare of the spotlight – a glamorous and extravagant lifestyle – Burton showered Taylor with jewels, and bought her a magnificent yacht – the “Kalizma” (named for their three daughters – they adopted a little girl, Maria, in 1964). They amassed an impressive art collection and commanded huge salaries for their movies. Of the several films they made together, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” drew most praise. Elizabeth took a big career risk as a screen siren by padding up for the role of the blousy, sex-hungry, middle-aged Martha. It paid off, garnering her much respect as an actress and her second Academy Award.
After 10 years of an often rocky relationship, Taylor and Burton divorced. They remarried 16 months later, but that was short-lived.
Two more marriages were to follow – from 1976 -1982 to John Warner, a US Senator from Virginia. Elizabeth did not take to life in Washington. Her last marriage was to Larry Fortensky, 1991 – 1996.
In later years Taylor dedicated herself to many charities and spearheaded campaigns to raise awareness of AIDS, using her high profile to raise millions of dollars to support research. She appeared occasionally in cameo roles in film and television, but her failing health saw her gradually withdraw from the limelight.
In May 2000, in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth Taylor was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, by Queen Elizabeth II.
In spite of her compromised health, she remained stoic and defiantly upbeat to the end. In this current age of instant celebrity and short-lived fame she remains a magnificent icon in entertainment history. Elizabeth Taylor was the first and last Superstar – we will not see the likes of her again.
As was expected, the much-lauded Anglo/Australian production “The King’s Speech” was the star of the show at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre today. The cast of this finely tuned masterpiece is a veritable who’s who of British stage and screen. The film collected Oscars in the major categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor and Writing (Original Screenplay). The only surprise was that Geoffrey Rush did not win the Best Supporting Actor Award for his sublime portrayal of the eccentric Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, but as a co-producer he still has much to smile about.
THE 83RD ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS – 2011
BEST PICTURE - “The King’s Speech”
BEST DIRECTOR - Tom Hooper - for “The King’s Speech”
BEST ACTOR - Colin Firth - in “The King’s Speech”
BEST ACTRESS – Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED) – “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM – “Toy Story 3”
ART DIRECTION – “Alice in Wonderland”
CINEMATOGRAPHY – “Inception” – Wally Pfister
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY) – “The Social Network” – Alan Sorkin
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) – “The King’s Speech” – David Seidler
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “In A Better World” – Denmark
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) – “The Social Network” Trent Resnor and Atticus Ross.
COSTUME DESIGN – “Alice in Wonderland” – Colleen Attwood
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT) – “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon.
DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE) – “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) – “God of Love” – Luke Matheny
VISUAL EFFECTS – “Inception” – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb.
FILM EDITING – “The Social Network”
MUSICAL (ORIGINAL SONG) – “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3” Music & lyrics by Randy Newman.
SOUND EDITING – “Inception” – Richard King
LONDON – 13th February.
It came as no surprise that the awards were dominated by “The King’s Speech” which garnered seven of the prestigious accolades –
Best Film – “The King’s Speech”
Best Leading Actor – Colin Firth – for his very sensitive portrayal of the awkward, stuttering monarch-by-default, King George VI (“Bertie”).
Best Supporting Actor – Geoffrey Rush – a truly engaging performance as the unconventional Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue.
Best Supporting Actress – Helena Bonham-Carter – convincing in her role of lovingly stoic royal consort.
Best Original Screenplay – David Seidler
Best Original Music – Alexandre Desplat
This quiet masterpiece also secured the Outstanding British Film Award.
Best Leading Actress went to Natalie Portman as the tortured ballerina in the disturbing psycho-drama -“Black Swan”.
“The Social Network” won three BAFTAs – Best Director – David Fincher, Best Adapted Screenplay by Alan Sorkin and Best Editing by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter.
Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller “Inception” was well rewarded for Special Visual Effects, Sound and with The Orange Rising Star Award - won by Tom Hardy. “Alice in Wonderland” scored awards for Costume Design and Hair and Makeup.
Best Animated Film was “Toy Story 3” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” won in the “Film Not In The English Language” category.
Whilst I give more credence to the BAFTA Awards as a measure of true talent and quality in film-making, I await the up-coming 83rd Annual Academy Awards (27th February) with much interest.
Best Motion Picture – Drama
Best Director – David Fincher
Best Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin
Best Original Score – Motion Picture – Trent Resnor and Atticus Ross
I critiqued this movie in October 2010 (see below) and am delighted that this fine production has been duly rewarded at the GGs. This bodes well for its chances at the Oscars. The 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be presented in Hollywood on Sunday, February 27th, 2011.
Must See – The Social Network.
Everyone is talking about this movie – the birth of Facebook. Directed by David Fincher (Alien 3, Seven, Fight Club, Curious Case of Benjamin Button), this slick production offers fine performances from Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg (the brains behind the project), Andrew Garfield as his collaborator Eduardo Saverin and a star turn by Justin Timberlake (playing Sean Parker – the savvy entrepreneur and co-founder of Napster, who guides them to the next level). This account of a bunch of Harvard University students with a brilliant concept translates to a pacy and polished drama with all the intrigue and treachery of a spy thriller. Trent Resnor (NIN) and Atticus Ross collaborated to deliver a gutsy soundtrack, reinforcing the tempo throughout. This is a fascinating insight into the evolution of the global phenomenon that is Facebook.
Length: 120 minutes
(7th Nov 1926-10th Oct 2010)
We mourn the passing of La Stupenda at age 83. Pavarotti called her “The Voice Of The Century”. She died at home in Switzerland, survived by her husband Richard Bonynge and son Adam. Over 2000 people gathered for a State Memorial Service at The Sydney Opera House.
Dino de Laurentiis
(8th May 1919 – 10 November 2010)
The film industry has lost a true giant.
Italian American film producer Dino de Laurentiis has died at his home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, aged 91. Notable among the hundreds of films that he produced were Serpico, Blue Velvet, King Kong, Barbarella and 3 Days of the Condor.
However it was La Strada early in his career in Italy, that established him as a true force in cinema. During his illustrious career, he collaborated with directors such as Ingmar Bergman, Vittorio de Sica, Federico Fellini, Sydney Lumet, David Lynch, Robert Altman and John Huston. In 2001 he received the Irving G. Thalberg Award for his remarkable contribution to film. De Laurentiis is survived by his third wife Martha Schumacher, and their two daughters, as well as three daughters from his marriage to Silvana Magnano. A son Federico, died in a plane crash in 1981.
“Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century” Season Five Trailer