Thursday, March 31, 2016

MICF- Charlie Pickering, Mel Buttle and Alex Edelman

To celebrate Belinda's birthday we decided to once again hit the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for an evening of shows. First up was Charlie Pickering with How To Tame A Wild Squirrel at The Comedy Theatre. As host of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering (sort of an Australian version of The Daily Show) and previous host of The Project, Charlie is known for his sharp and hard hitting observations on politics and current events. This was a looser evening of comedy, with Charlie stating he wanted it to be more of a conversation. At times these audience interactions seemed to derail the show they went on for too long with no real comedic pay off. His bits around Tony Abbott, racism, how the internet has changed the way we live, and instructions on how to tame a wild squirrel to be a pet were more successful.

We then headed to the Melbourne Town Hall to see Mel Buttle in Up To Pussy's Bow. In this year's show Mel has had enough and goes after people who are annoying or rude, including ladies of leisure with small dogs, body corporates, girls playing at a public swimming pool and an annoying American tourist in Hawaii. Mel also included stories about her family, and had a very funny bit about her dad who likes to scavenge around for dumped treasures. In addition, Mel's love for selling things on Gumtree resulted in some unique items on offer for the audience.

Our final show of the night was American comedian Alex Edelman with Everything Handed To You. Raised Orthodox Jew in Boston his show dealt with identity and family. He used a meeting with his twin brother (a bodybuilding, frequent flyer mile runner) and precocious 13 year old brother at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to tell them he's moving to the UK as a jumping off point for different anecdotes throughout the set. The show was very funny and well written, and had me laughing out loud throughout - definitely my highlight of MICF so far.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

MICF- Joel Creasey and Luisa Omielan

For Saturday night at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Belinda and I attended two very entertaining shows. We started off at Max Watt's to see Joel Creasey in The Crown Prince. The show began with a bit of a video highlights package before Joel hit the stage. His shows are like sitting around gossiping with your best friend, and he did not disappoint with some hilarious stories about his celebrity feuds with Russell Crowe and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, acting as Kendra's Aussie best friend for her reality show, and what really happens behind the scenes at award show red carpets and telethons. Joel even turned the pain of getting dumped by his long term boyfriend overseas into an expertly woven series of events about the highs and lows he experienced both professionally and personally during that period of his life. Joel's show was fast paced and very funny.

Next we headed over to the Victoria Hotel for UK comedian Luisa Omielan's show Am I Right Ladies?! As we entered the room Luisa was already up on stage singing and dancing around as she had her sound person running through a playlist of songs. Once the show started it was a solid 70 minutes of female empowerment as Luisa tackled issues around body image (even stripping down to her bra and underwear at one point), sex and mental health in a very powerful and honest way. The show was fantastic and ended with a hilarious recreation of a scene out of the movie Dirty Dancing with some help from the audience.

Friday, March 25, 2016

MICF- Hannah Gadsby and Nick Cody

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival officially began yesterday and will run until 17 April. I've already booked into a number of shows and tonight were my first two at ACMI down in the Beyond Room. First up was Hannah Gadsby with Dogmatic. Unlike previous shows Hannah promised no woe this year. Loosely inspired by Taylor Swift's 1989 world tour Hannah has changed things up by telling short stories about different events in her life such as renting a cottage from a gay couple in North Carolina who were gun-toting 9/11 deniers, her family's use of boxes of discarded plastic corn cob bags during her childhood, and a dog sitting excursion in New York that went horribly wrong. Just like TayTay's tour we were treated to videos of Hannah and her pet (a dog named Douglas) while she did a few costume changes. The show is very well done as Hannah gradually reveals the truth about her "underdog" muse and the hypocrisy of her "feminist" stance with an epic speech at the end. It's definitely a show not to miss (unless you are a big Taylor Swift fan).

MICFNext was Melbourne comedian Nick Cody and his show Come Get Some. Nick delivered more of a traditional stand up set revolving around a few themes such as his lack of a driver's license at the age of 28, his girlfriend's magical ability to stop him before even he realises he's about to swear at someone, traveling the globe and the unreliability of frequent TripAdvisor reviewers. His material was more blokey in topic matter but did have a couple good threads running throughout the set that tied together well at the end.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

French Film Festival 2016

Over the past week I have been attending movies that are part of this year's Alliance Francaise French Film Festival. I bought myself a five film pass and have checked out the following films:

La Belle Saison is set in 1970s France as Delphine (Izia Higelin) moves from her family's farm in the country to live in Paris. While there she becomes involved with a group of women in the feminist movement and falls for Carole (Cecile De France). When Delphine's father becomes ill and she has to move back to the farm, it tests her relationship with Carole as well as her family.

The Anarchists is a crime drama set in Paris at the close of the 19th century. Jean (Tahir Rahim) is a low level cop who is asked to go undercover and infiltrate an anarchist group. He befriends members through his job in a nail factory and slowly gains their trust. As time goes on he gets more involved in the group's crimes and falls in love with the ringleader's girlfriend Judith (Adele Exarchopoulos). One is left to wonder where his real loyalties lie at the end of the day.

Chic! is a modern day romantic comedy focused on iconic fashion designer Alicia Ricosi (Fanny Ardant) who threatens to give it all away after her most recent break-up. In order to get her to complete her collection, her assistant Helene (Marina Hands) tries to set her up with a younger man, but instead Alicia ends up falling for the landscape gardener Julien (Eric Elmosnino) that Helene has just fired from working at her home. Helene has to try to convince Julien to come to Paris to be Alicia's muse in order to save not only her job but the fashion house.

All About Them is a complicated romantic comedy revolving around Melodie (Anais Demoustier) who is having an affair with her friend Charlotte (Sophie Verbeeck) and is surprised one day when Charlotte's boyfriend Micha (Felix Moati) answers the door as he is back in town. Soon Micha also admits his feelings for Melodie and each couple is sneaking around behind the other's back trying to avoid detection. At times highly comical this film does reach the plot point you think it will, but in the end who will end up together?

Lolo is the latest film written and directed by Julie Delphy. She plays the neurotic Violette, a sophisticated Parisian who falls for country bumpkin Jean-Rene while on holiday with friends. This unlikely couple starts to see each other as Jean-Rene takes an IT job in Paris. Everything is going smoothly until her 19-year-old son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste) once again secretly starts to play havoc with his mother's love life. Will Violette finally realise the root cause of all her failed relationships? This fast-paced and very funny film was probably my favorite of all the ones I saw.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Charlatans- Australian Tour 2016

It's been over 20 years since I last saw The Charlatans play live in the early 1990s in San Francisco. They were one of my favorite bands during high school, so I was excited to finally get the chance to see them again on their Australian tour in support of their latest album, the wonderful Modern Nature. The opening band for their show at 170 Russell tonight was six piece The Harlots, who put on an energetic set.

The crowd had really built up by the time The Charlatans hit the stage. I managed to position myself front and center on the barricade and had the perfect view for the whole show. The band started the evening with "Talking In Tones" and then played a couple of old favorites with "Weirdo" (and its instantly recognisable organ opening) and "North Country Boy." Tim Burgess has really not aged that much and was interacting with the crowd throughout the night. He even multitasked by taking pictures and tweeting them throughout the show. I made it into his crowd shots.

The tracks from Modern Nature fit right in with the rest of their back catalogue, with highlights being "So Oh," "Let The Good Times Be Never Ending," "Emilie," "In The Tall Grass" and "Come Home Baby." The older songs though got a huge reaction from the crowd, with the floor becoming a mosh pit at times as they played "Tellin' Stories," "Can't Get Out Of Bed," "One To Another," and "The Only One I Know." The encore featured two tracks from their debut album Some Friendly with "Then" and my absolute favorite song of theirs "Sproston Green" to finish the night. This concert was almost like reliving my youth and I had such a great time (despite the crush of the crowd at times).

Here's the video for "So Oh"

Saturday, March 05, 2016

C.W. Stoneking and Marlon Williams- Zoo Twilights

The Zoo Twilights series over Friday and Saturday nights during the summer months at Melbourne Zoo helps the fight against wildlife extinction. Tonight Onagh joined me for the excellent sold out double bill of Marlon Williams and C.W. Stoneking. There was a huge line even before the doors opened, but once we got in we set up our picnic blanket on the lawn and settled in for the evening. Thankfully the weather wasn't too hot today, and despite a few drops it stayed dry.

Marlon Williams was up first and began with a cover of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" solo on guitar. He then played "Lonely Side Of Her" before inviting out his band The Yarra Benders. They did a couple bluegrass numbers with their covers of The Stanley Brothers' "Nobody's Love Is Like Mine" and "If That's The Way You Feel." Songs from Marlon's debut album were featured with "Strange Things," "I'm Lost Without You," "After All," "Dark Child" and "Hello Miss Lonesome." They also played "The State Hospital," "Heaven For You, Prison For Me" and "The Ballad Of Minnie Dean." Marlon finished the night with a beautiful solo rendition of "When I Was A Young Girl."

As darkness fell C.W. Stoneking took to the stage in his all white outfit and bow tie. He was joined by his band and Vika and Linda Bull and Maddie and Memphis Kelly on backing vocals. They played the entirety of his last album Gon' Boogaloo throughout the evening, with highlights including "The Zombie," "Get On The Floor," "Tomorrow Gon' Be Too Late," "Good Luck Charm," "We Gon' Boogaloo" and "On A Desert Isle," where C.W. had to stop mid-song because a bug climbed up his pant leg. The middle of the set was appropriately jungle themed with "I'm A Jungle Man," "Jungle Lullaby," "Jungle Blues," "Talking Lion Blues" (which had a few stops and starts as C.W. got lost in his yodeling) and "The Jungle Swing." It was great to get to hear "The Love Me Or Die" and a lovely cover of The Soul Stirrers' "He's Been A Shelter For Me." To close out the night C.W. played "Jailhouse Blues" solo and invited the crowd to sing along to the chorus. This was such a great evening of music in the beautiful surrounds of the zoo (with the occasional lion roar in the background).

Here's a live version of "The Zombie"

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