Daily Bite October 2009

By Nicola Harvey

This month in the Daily Bite: Ole blue eyes gets a make-over, Sex and the City has a bad hair day, Sean Penn, plastic water bottles, and much more.

31.10.09: The art-house sci-fi star

The Australian actor Sam Worthington has recently been touted as Hollywood’s “next-big-thing”, which in the fad-prone movie world translates to about 18 months of fame. But there’s little doubt he’s making the most of it while he can.  According the LA Times, Worthington will star with Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes in Clash of the Titans, which hits theaters next year, and he has just completed two other films, John Madden’s The Debt, a war-crimes thriller with Helen Mirren, and Last Night, a New York romance with Keira Knightley, which was shot in 2008.

He was also slated to star with Charlize Theron in another thriller, The Tourist, but that project may be in flux… stay tuned.  But while we wait for all of the above we can watch the former bricklayer ply his trade in Avatar, the highly anticipated new si-fi creation from Titanic director James Cameron, due in Australian cinemas this December.   Staying true to his dramatic roots the actor had this to say: “If you’re going to do blockbusters, you have to find the human in them or else you’re just making a video game. I’ve always said if I’m going to make these things, I’m going to do the thing I can do in a $4 million Australian film — a dramatic piece — and bring that into the action film. If you do that, the audience feels it and then they’ve got a way in. They see themselves up there on the screen.”

30.10.09: The great crusader

Sean Penn, the award winning actor and director, reportedly flew to Cuba this week to chase what would be the biggest scoop of his career as a part-time journalist: an interview with Fidel Castro.  No western journalist has seen let alone interviewed the 83-year-old leader since an intestinal illness forced him from public view three years ago. But critics say the actor is too soft in the interviews and should leave journalism to professionals. “Why does someone like Penn think he can do this job, which isn’t his job?” asked The New Yorker. 

29.10.09: Plastic boys and waterside sculptures

Bondi beach’s annual Sculpture by the Sea prepares to open on Thursday. About 500,000 people are expected to see the display during its 2½-week run. But in a year when the Perth version of Sculpture by the Sea extended its duration, the Sydney original has done it tough financially. Quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, David Handley from Sculpture by the Sea said, “The sculptures cost every artist an average of $15,000 to make, transport and install, but they would this year receive only a minimum of $2000 each for being in the show.” 

But for the lucky winner an award of $60,000 is on the horizon.

28.10.09: Ole’ Blue Eyes gets a makeover

Three of Hollywood’s leading men, George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Leonardo DeCaprio are all fighting to land the top role in Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming Frank Sinatra biopic.

Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, has her own view of how her father should be portrayed, which critics feel would be a sanitised life story. She favours Clooney as a safe pair of hands.

Reports in America suggest she is worried that Scorsese, who did not flinch at portraying the dark side of boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull and billionaire Howard Hughes in The Aviator, may favour giving Sinatra the same treatment. The New York Post quoted a source close to the Sinatra family saying: “Marty wants it to be hard-hitting and showcase the violent, sexually charged, hard-drinking Frank, but Tina wants to show the softer side of her dad and let the focus be on the music. The 60s were a very swinging time for Frank – he was having sex with a garden variety of bimbos and cementing his Rat Pack status. It’s a really key time to his mythology. And Tina really wants to make sure that a sanitised Frank comes through, and that it’s not overly negative.”

At least whoever wins does not have to worry about singing. Any music in the film will come from Sinatra’s own recordings, after Universal and production partners Mandalay successfully spent two years negotiating with Frank Sinatra Enterprises for the right to use his voice.

27.10.09: Down with the arches!

The golden arches may still be on the hunt for new territory (the Louvre in Paris being the most recent target) but according to the Associated Press, all three of Iceland’s McDonald’s restaurants in the capital Reykjavik will close next weekend, as the franchise owner gives in to falling profits caused by the collapse in the Icelandic krona.

26.10.09: Beds are Burning around the world

If the environmental movement has been looking for an 80s We are the World-type anthem; this celebrity-fueled remake of the classic Beds are Burning song.

The effort is all part of The Global Humanitarian Forum’s ‘Tck Tck Tck; Time for Climate Justice’ campaign — which seeks to demand climate justice at the UN’s Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in December.

The song is available as a free download — with the intention that every person who grabs the file is signing a first-ever global musical petition; adding their names to demand world leaders reach a fair, binding and global deal at the UN Climate Change Summit. So far, over one million people have joined the campaign.

25.10.09: Nothing behind the eyes

The enigmatic Canadian-born director Mary Harron has an uncanny way of finding projects to work on that will become, years later, iconic moments in music, film or television. While attending Oxford University she reportedly dated former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and that’s a low point in her career. She moved to New York and helped start the formative Punk magazine, in which she published the first feature length interview with The Sex Pistols.  Then taking a turn as a screenwriter / director she made I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page before jumping behind the camera to direct episodes for the cult TV series Six feet under and Big Love.

Now, in a recent interview with Blackbook magazine, Harron has unveiled the source of inspiration for one of the most chilling characters in recent filmography: Christain Bale’s Patrick Bateman in the film adaptation of Bret Easton Elli’s American Psycho. In doing so she’s also put her finger on just why Tom Cruise is so dam creepy. 

The acclaimed director spoke about the work that she and Bale did in bringing Bret Easton Ellis’s most famous antihero to life onscreen, saying:

“It was definitely a process. We talked a lot, but he was in L.A. and I was in New York. We didn’t actually meet in person a lot, just talked on the phone. We talked about how Martian-like Patrick Bateman was, how he was looking at the world like somebody from another planet, watching what people did and trying to work out the right way to behave. And then one day he called me and he had been watching Tom Cruise on David Letterman, and he just had this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, and he was really taken with his energy.”

And there it lies: Tom Cruise / Patrick Bateman / Tom Cruise  / Patrick Bateman…

24.10.09: A talented lady

Multi award-winning New Zealand singer Ladyhawke (Pip Brown) has ruffled a few feathers in Australia this week following the announcement that she is not only up for 5 gongs, but has also been invited to perform a solo at the glitzy music bash. ARIA organisers confirmed that Ladyhawke had been chosen as one of the main acts over Sarah Blasko, Kate Miller-Heidke and Lisa Mitchell. 

Industry experts are in a fluster claiming that Ladyhawke is not even eligible for the event. In previous years Kiwis including Neil Finn and Evermore have been banned from performing.

According to ARIA Awards criteria, an artist must be an Aussie citizen or have gained or applied for permanent residency in Oz and resided in Oz for at least six months during the past twelve months.

Commentators pointed out that the singer might rent a flat in Sydney, but she has actually been living in London for the past two years and calls Wellington home on her Myspace.

However, her label Modular is coming out swinging claiming she satisfied the criteria that you must be an Australian citizen or have “gained or applied for permanent residency in Australia and resided in Australia for six months during the eligibility period”. But offered no further explanation.

The plot thickens.

23.10.09: Spy news

Leading American scientist Stewart Nozette has been arrested and charged with attempted espionage, according to the ABC. The 52-year-old scientist had worked at the Department of Energy, the Pentagon and NASA, where he was the principal investigator in the team that found water on the moon. The US Justice Department says he tried to pass on top secret information to a person he thought was an Israeli intelligence officer, turned out it was an FBI agent.

To run with the Hollywood plot we reckon the cash in the bag was likely just a stack of cut up Walmart catalogues. Bad luck Nozette, it pays to be good.

22.10.09: Similar but not the same

Despite the relative ease in which New Zealanders can relocate to Australia without visa restrictions, the Sydney Morning Herald has uncovered a darker side to the rosy Australian dream.  New Zealanders, the report states, who have lived in Australia since childhood say they are facing discrimination in the job market and are lodging, and winning, race discrimination complaints.

They cite as an example the case of Mike Belich, a doctor from Byron Bay, who is taking Federal Court action against the Department of Health and Ageing after he was classified upon graduation from medical school as a foreign doctor who must spend 10 years working in rural Australia. Mr Belich moved to Sydney aged 14, was schooled here and studied as a local student with HECS at the University of NSW.

It would seem the open door policy is not quite as welcoming as many kiwi’s believe.

21.10.09: A lunch date with Julia

Having arrived from India to commence filming on her new film, Eat, Pray, Love (based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir of the same name) Julia Roberts was reportedly meet by dozens of angry Indonesian villagers demanding thousands of dollars.

According to the ABC, officials say that when the crew arrived in Bali’s Bentuyung village a month ahead of schedule, locals blocked roads and demanded $US32,000 ($A35,000).

“There was a misunderstanding. The crew came in 20 trucks … earlier than their scheduled shooting on November 10, so the villagers were offended and blocked the roads,” district chief Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati told AFP.

“They asked for 300 million rupiah to use the location for filming.

“I was very embarrassed and told them this was unacceptable.”

He says the problem was resolved and the crew allowed through, but added he would like to make it up to Roberts by inviting her to lunch at his house.

20.10.09: Encouraging a social moral code?

For the first time since Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections nearly four years ago, the group is trying to Islamise Gazan society, according Associated Press.

It began with a rash of unusually assertive police patrols. Armed Hamas officers stopped men from sitting shirtless on the beach, broke up groups of unmarried men and women, and ordered shopkeepers not to display lingerie on mannequins in their windows.

In public, Hamas leaders say they are merely encouraging a social moral code, and insist they are not trying to imitate the religious police who operate in some other rigid Islamic countries. But to many it feels like a new wave of enforcement in what is already a devoutly Muslim society.

19.10.09: The wonders of reality TV

If you were wondering why a small boy would stay hidden in a box in his garage in Denver Colorado, while concerned citizens scoured the skies and the hills for traces of the helium balloon he was reportedly trapped in, then wonder no more.  In a sad turn of events it has transpired, according to NY Magazine and CNN, that the whole thing was a hoax meant to land the boy’s eccentric family back on reality TV. In response to his dad’s question about why he didn’t come out of the box even though he heard his parents shouting, Falcon said, “You guys said that we did this for the show.”

18.10.09: I’ll be in India if you need me

Music rag NME has reported that Kanye West is venturing to India to take stock of his life following the much publicised, Cognac-fueled protest at this year’s MTV Music awards. Like the Fab Four before him Kanye is seeking inspiration, according to NME.  “He feels terrible about hurting Taylor Swift,” an insider told Star Magazine. “[He] sees it as another sign that his life is going in the wrong direction since his mother died.” NY Magazine further muses that his time in an ashram in Pondicherry will likely spawn “a kaleidoscope double album’s worth of classic new material”.

17.10.09: Smart, savvy television

Happy days for Melbourne author Christos Tsiolkas. According to ABC online his award-winning novel The Slap (it scooped the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Australian Book Industry, the Book Association’s Book of the Year award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2009) is to be turned into an eight-part series for ABC television.

Tsiolkas’ accessible, colloquial prose lends itself well to screen adaptation. And, as Helen Bowden from Matchbox Pictures’ points out, the content is laden with topical concerns, “Christos has created a fascinating set of characters and a riveting tale … that explores issues of race, class, family and relationships in contemporary Australia and we hope to do it justice.”

16.10.09:Milk Day

Reported on ABC online, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill creating an annual day of recognition for pioneering gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

The designation of May 22 as Harvey Milk Day encourages schools around California to commemorate the murdered gay politician, whose life was the subject of the Oscar-winning 2008 film Milk, starring Sean Penn.

While gay rights groups praised the governor’s signing of the bill, conservative groups reacted with scorn.

Deriding it as Gay Day, the Pacific Justice Institute criticised the bill and said it “offers no opt-out provisions for parents who might not want their children to focus on sexuality for an entire school day”.

15.10.09: Ruscha anyone?

The Obama’s may be struggling to convince the US public that health reform is good idea, but they are certainly making great strides in shaking up the cultural scene.

According the UK Guardian, they have filled their private spaces with more modern and abstract artwork than has ever hung on the White House walls. 

Here’s a sneak peak at the collection.

14.10.09: A profitable business

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has threatened to sue a local taekwondo athlete who plans to finance his 2012 London Games bid with the proceeds from a brothel.

Logan Campbell, whose participation in the Beijing Olympics last year cost him NZ$150,000 – most of which came from his parents – opened a brothel with a friend in Auckland earlier this year.

Campbell went public with the scheme in July and the 23-year-old said he hoped to raise NZ$300,000 to alleviate any financial burden on his parents and to have more time to concentrate on training.

Owning and running brothels is legal in New Zealand, where laws governing prostitution are relatively liberal by world standards.

An obvious question is if the NZOC has such an aversion to the money making scheme, why are they not be taking issue with New Zealand’s sport funding organisations?  If an athlete is of a calibre where they qualify for the Olympics than they should be supported in some manner, or at least have the opportunity to raid Rugby player’s coffers once in a while.


13.10.09: Tracking Apophis

Apparently an enormous asteroid was threatening to collide with Earth in the year 2036 causing unprecedented damage (as in the end of the world as we know it).  But you’ll be pleased to know NASA has downgraded the threat and “there is now a one-in-250,000 chance of a collision with Earth”. 


11.10.09: A unique solution

Vaccine-like shots to keep cocaine abusers from getting high have been tested in the US yielding positive results, according to the trail researchers. On BBC radio, David Oxlade, chief executive of Xenova said, “this is the third study in the US that we are reporting on today, and it shows that almost half the addicts were able to stay cocaine-free for six months.”

The cocaine vaccine is not intended to prevent addiction but instead is designed for use with other treatments, such as behavioural therapy, to assist people in recovery. The vaccine is among a number of research projects relying on similar technology to treat nicotine, heroin and methamphetamine addiction.

10.10.09: A sure bet

The ever vigilant Forbes magazine – those wise characters who compile the greatest lists in the world – reckon Naomi Watts the Aussie / English / LA actress of King Kong and 21 Grams fame offers the best return on a studio investment.

She may not be the highest paid but her movies consistently do well at the box office, and according to Forbes her last three movies made US$44 for every US$1 she was paid to appear. This puts her just ahead of the second ranked Jennifer Connelly and miles ahead of the usual suspects Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts, who might be the brightest stars but come with a hefty price tag.

08.10.09: Curves and all

Germany’s most popular magazine is banning professional models from its pages, according to the UK Guardian, and replacing them with images of “real life” women. 

In a decisive stand against the fickle fashion world, Andreas Lebert, editor-in-chief of Brigitte, said: “From 2010 we will not work with professional models any more,” adding that he was “fed up” with having to retouch pictures of underweight models who bore no resemblance to ordinary women.

“For years we’ve had to use Photoshop to fatten the girls up,” he said. “Especially their thighs, and decolletage. But this is disturbing and perverse and what has it got to do with our real reader?”

Could the tide really be turning?

07.10.09: Fashion fodder

A favourite on the fashion circuit, Australian designer Richard Nicoll has been diligently plying is trade and wowing fashion commentators in London for a number of years. Now it appears the struggle to maintain his independent vision has paid off. Nicoll has been appointed to the helm of Italian label Cerruti (formerly lead by Narciso Rodriguez),  and will show his first collection for the label at Paris Fashion Week in March. Of the news Nicoll stated, “I just met a 12-year-old aspiring designer who asked me to sign in her autograph book, I’ve never been asked for my autograph before. That was pretty cool.”

Bravo Nicoll, we think you’re pretty cool too.

06.10.09: On the Kokoda trail

An Australian woman aged in her 60s has been evacuated from the Kokoda Track a day after an Australian man in her group died from a suspected heart attack Sydney man Phillip Brunskill, 55, died while trekking on Sunday, making him the fourth Australian to die on the track this year.  Long considered one of the toughest treks in the world, a local guide explained the recent spate of deaths: “There was only 100 people who did the trek in 2001 to 6,200 last year and so that means the type of people who are doing the trek have changed.

“It used to be hardcore trekkers, perhaps ex-military personnel. Now we are seeing your mums, dads, grandfathers and grandmothers doing the trek and that perhaps is contributing to these incidents.”

05.10.09: Number two… for now

Norway retained its status as the world’s most desirable country, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) index released today, followed closely by Australia , which is expected to surpass its Scandinavia competitor by next year.

The index was compiled prior to the global economic crisis and used 2007 data on GDP per capita, education, and life expectancy.

04.10.09: The end of civilisation

News that McDonald’s is about to place its ubiquitous golden arches near the entrance to the Louvre is the end of civilisation as we know it. If the American hamburger chain can breach the defences of one of the world’s greatest cultural cathedrals, nowhere is safe. Funnily enough, for a country that prides itself on gastronomic excellence, France has been conducting a secret love affair with McDonald’s. Paris has as many McDonald’s restaurants as London, with only one third of the population.

03.10.09: Raising the hackles of Scotland Yard

A nude photograph of a 10-year-old Brooke Shields due to be displayed at the Tate Modern in the gallery’s new Pop Life exhibition has been withdrawn following a visit to the gallery by officers from the obscene publications unit of the Metropolitan police.

The artist responsible, Richard Prince, first used the image in 1983, by which time Shields was a household name, but the photograph itself was part of a set taken by Gary Gross seven years earlier, when she was only 10.

Shields’s mother authorised the shoot for a fee of US$450, and the photographs appeared in a Playboy Press book entitled Sugar and Spice. In 1981 Brookes launched an unsuccessful legal action aimed at preventing further usage of the pictures.

The incident reveals the gaping divide between the culture of art in 21st century Britain and the culture of policing, suggests Guardian writer Charlotte Higgins. “On one side the curators, who talk like this: ‘When Prince invites us to ogle Brooke Shields in her prepubescent nakedness, his impulse has less to do with his desire to savour the lubricious titillations that it was shot to spark in its original context … than with a profound fascination for the child star’s story.’

On the other side the police, who talk like this: ‘The officers have specialist experience in this field and are keen to work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offence to their visitors.'”

Throughout his career Prince has borrowed images, from Marlboro Man ads to New Yorker cartoons. It would be too simple to say he is commenting on the American psyche; or simply trying to provoke, simplicity is not Prince’s style.

If Spiritual America is a comment on the commodification and premature sexualisation of Brooke Shields, who was complicit in turning her into a 10-year-old sex object? Not Prince. That had happened almost a decade before he re-used the image.

In the artist’s own words, the image is first and foremost about “Brooke Shields.”

He goes on to elaborate: “Gary Gross who originally took the photograph found himself in court ten years after he took the picture fighting over who owned the rights to the picture.

Terrie, Brooke Shields’ mother recognised what this picture could possibly suggest, (not about Brooke, but about her). In a word:”pimp”. When the picture was taken, Brooke was ten years old but Gary Gross made her head up to look like an older woman. Then he went to the trouble of oiling her body to heighten and refract the presence of her “he-she” adolescence. Now we’ve got a body with two different sexes, maybe more, and a head that looks like it’s got a different birthday. We’ve got a couple of million dollars in court costs and another possibility of million in projected sales from a poster that Gross is trying to sell of his image of Brooke.

You’ve got the management of an image, the questions of ownership of an image; finally you’ve got a big celebrity, someone who turned out to be the princess of the United States. And it’s all happening because of the truth or consequences of a photograph. The ecstasy of communication. It sounds like a bizarre game show. I don’t know if any of the principals involved recognise exactly where the heart of the darkness is located.”

02.10.09: What’s with the hair?

Oh glorious hype and conjecture.

Sex and the City fever has gripped NYC and rumors are abound. But you don’t have to be in New York to experience it. Countless websites are being constantly updated with all the on-set developments. Everything has been reported, analysed and picked over, from the 1980s flashback sequences to the accidental plot revelations about Carrie and Big’s split, rumours of a rift between SJP and Cynthia Nixon (or between SJP and Kim Cattrall, just take your pick), and speculation about SJP’s facial mole. (For continuity purposes, make-up artists have, apparently, made a fake one after the actress reportedly had hers surgically removed last year.) So much has been seen and talked about that, by the time the movie comes out next year, it will be as familiar as one of the many reruns of the show.

Ah, but we love it nonetheless.

10.10.09: Library matters

Here’s a strange little snippet of information.  Apparently every year in the United States almost 4,000 requests to ban books from library shelves are lodged with the American Library Association (ALA). Titles that have made it to the ALA’s banned list in recent years include JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (it includes too many “f**ks”); John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (for its strong language and political message that riles conservatives); and The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (people have objected to its homosexual theme and offensive language).

The Harry Potter books have also been a mainstay of the ALA’s banned list since the late 1990s; in Georgia a Christian missionary is still waging a one-woman battle to have them removed from all state schools.

It’s safe to say conservative attitudes still abound in the US.  Consider this prime example reported in the Guardian: “In recent years, the ALA has spotted a growing intolerance towards children’s books that deal with homosexuality – a quality most famously displayed by Sarah Palin who tried in the late 1990s as then mayor of Wasilla in Alaska to have Daddy’s Roommate, a tale about a gay father, removed from the town library.”


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