Daily Bite September 2010

By Nicola Harvey

This month in the Daily Bite: We discover the essence of cool; Joaquin Phoenix shares a joke; Gucci, Rodarte and Luella Bartley shine at fashion week; and Gaga goes gaga.

30.09.10: Coolness

What’s it like to be cool? In fact what is cool?  What makes one cool? Is it cool like Fonzie or Bond or Jarvis Cocker?  I most certainly don’t have the answers so I defer to the people at Coolbrands, who this week published their annual list of the 500 ‘coolest’ brands in Britain. The list is compiled by a council of movers and shakers, considering qualities such as innovation, originality and style, and then voted on by a cross-section of the public.

Coming out at number one is the 100 year-old car brand, James Bond’s vehicle of choice, the aston martin. But if you can’t afford to be that cool, then you might find more affordable inspiration below.

The top 10 CoolBrands 2010

1. Aston Martin

2. iPhone

3. iPod

4. BlackBerry

5. Bang & Olufsen

6. Harley-Davidson

7. Nintendo Wii

8. Google

9. Ferrari

10. Dom Perignon

Nerd nation

Of late, obsessive fans of Flight of the Conchords have had to settle for repeats and DVD episodes since the Kiwi comedians / singers-songwriters-actors pulled the plug on their hit series after two short seasons.

Now we discover Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement  have popped up on the season 22 premiere of The Simpsons (which aired in the US on Monday) doing what they do best: rapping like hyper-literate white boys and living like starving artists in a hipster Springfield borough dubbed Sprooklyn.

McKenzie and Clement, with deadpan humor and acoustic guitars at the ready, played counselors as Lisa Simpson lived a summer dream of singing, dancing and acting at a theater camp with fellow geeks. Nerd nation rejoice!

28.09.10: The Hobbit just can’t catch a break

The attempt to prequelize the Lord of the Rings saga famously lost director Guillermo Del Toro in May after troubled MGM couldn’t guarantee a green light, and since then, there’s been one new problem after another. The two-film production is still without a director and a lead actor — series godfather Peter Jackson remains commitment-phobic about helming The Hobbit himself, and intended star Martin Freeman is committed to the BBC show Sherlock — and now several actors guilds have told performers to refuse work on the non-union production.

Jackson has responded by threatening to move the production to Eastern Europe (even though sets are already standing in New Zealand), but there’s another option he has that might be better. Is this Peter Jackson’s chance to shut The Hobbit down for good?

27.09.10: Glorious Gucci

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, news that a democratising movement is afoot in the fashion industry has being meet with rapture and sighs of relief from those who hold the travel cheque book.

From Paris to New York, livestreaming runway shows is becoming a ubiquitous trend. Acne did it first this season, and Burberry continued to up the ante, streaming its show in 25 of its boutiques around the world. Now Gucci, one of the industry’s more traditional brands, has set the gold standard for livestreaming.  With a newly renovated homepage (18 months in the making), Gucci Connect debuted a livestream event in conjunction with its Milan spring / summer 2011 fashion show. To ring in the brand’s new e-commerce site, Gucci invited fans from across the globe to take part in a revolutionary virtual show presentation.

Guests accessed their virtual seats from platforms as wide-ranging as web cam, Facebook, Twitter, and live chat. We can happily attest thanks to the livestream, that Gucci’s latest collection is an absolute treat with touches of equestrian style, vivid colour and tribal-inspired beading. My pick of the collection are the short, pencil skirts in dazzling emerald or fuschia, paired with blazers in bright orange or lapis-blue, and camisoles in violet. Divine! 

24.09.10: Kea Festival of Kiwi Short Films


A hit in Cannes and Sundance, the kiwi-made short film The Six Dollar Fifty Man has gone from strength to strength after having its world premiere in 2009. A ‘Special Distinction’ at Festival de Cannes in France and the ‘Black Pearl Award 09’ for ‘Best Narrative Short’ at the Middle East International Film Festival in the United Arab Emirates are but two accolades bestowed on this delightful film.

Written and directed by Wellingtonians Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland and produced by Wendy Cuthbert, The Six Dollar Fifty Man tells the story of a gutsy 8-year-old boy who retreats into a make believe world to deal with playground bullying.

“Plot-wise, Six Dollar Fifty Man is about Andy, a gutsy, anti-social eight-year-old boy who has to stand up to school bullies and a scary primary school headmaster so he can keep his closest friend and face his biggest fear. As far as themes go, it deals with isolation and determination,” Albiston explains.  

The Six Dollar Fifty Man will be screening, along with three other top-notch short films, in Brisbane  and Melbourne in the coming weeks as part of the Kea Festival of Short Films.

Screening details as follows:


Tuesday, 28th September 2010

6.00 pm pre-screening drinks, for 7.30 pm – 9.00 pm

Palace Barracks, 61 Petrie Terrace, Brisbane

$25 Kea members – $30 Non members

(Includes movie ticket, welcome drink, ice cream, goodie bag to the value of $25 and prizes!)

Find our more


Thursday, 7th October 2010

6.00 pm pre-screening drinks, for 7.30 pm – 9.00 pm

Capitol Theatre, 113 Swanston Street, Melbourne

23.09.10: Popping up in Sydney

What is WLG you may ask ? It’s the latest pop-up restaurant concept to hit Sydney. Open for two weeks only it is an attempt to showcase the best of Wellington’s food and wine to picky Sydneysiders.

Everything served over the two weeks is genuine New Zealand produce produced by some of the countries leading chefs including Rex Morgan, head chef at Boulcott Street Bistro, Shaun Clouston,  head chef at Logan Brown, Jacob Brown from The Larder and Tom Hutchinson, head chef of Capitol.

As an ex-Wellingtonian I can attest to the brilliance of these chefs, but there’s not much time left to experience their culinary delights. WLG is only open until the end of this weekend. 

SO HURRY ALONG  TO  32  BAYSWATER ROAD, KINGS CROSS. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

22.09.10: Hear her roar

After only a brief announcement on Twitter to her 6.4m followers, Lady Gaga made an appearance at the rally at Deering Oaks Park in Portland, Maine on Monday evening, part of a campaign to scrap the government policy that bars gays and lesbians from serving openly in the US military.

Wearing a relatively conventional suit and dark-rimmed glasses, and speaking in front of a giant American flag, the singer told the crowd: “I thought equality was non-negotiable,” and explained:

“I’m here because they inspire me… I’m here because ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is wrong, it’s unjust and fundamentally it is against all we stand for as Americans.”

She then descended into a confusing diatribe about the constitution and civil rights: “Equality is the prime rib of America, but because I’m gay, I don’t get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer.”

Huh? What’s with the buffet metaphor?

I appreciate what Lady Gaga was trying to accomplish in this speech – getting two Republican senators from Maine to vote for cloture on a bill containing a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” US armed services policy.  But surely she should have employed a speech writer to bridge the gap between her outrageous style and her new found role as a political advocate.

21.09.10: London time

Luella Bartley’s return to the London catwalk, after six years in New York, has been reason for celebration for fans new and old. Lily Allen, speaking from the front row at the Luella catwalk show yesterday, was typically forthright in her judgment of Luella Bartley’s latest collection, the first she has shown in her native London since defecting to New York fashion week six years ago. “It’s amazing,” gushed Allen. “I love it. I want the pink dress, the black dress, and the yellow dress. Actually, I want all the dresses.”

Allen, snapping gum in a cocktail dress throughout the show at Claridges ballroom, personifies the naughty St Trinian’s schoolgirl attitude at the heart of the Luella brand. Despite a stint in New York British style references were peppered throughout: tiny Liberty-esque florals on a silk tea dress here, a Mod-check on a handbag there.

20.09.10: Great television

David Letterman was in on the Joaquin Phoenix joke, according to one of his writers.

Casey Affleck has claimed that nobody except for Phoenix’s agent knew he was faking his bizarre behaviour for Affleck’s documentary-style film I’m Still Here, which was released on September 10.

But one of Letterman’s writers, Bill Scheft, said in an interview last year: “Dave knew about it and Dave loved it because he could play along.”

“It was great television,” he added.

17.09.10: Rock stars

George Michael’s chequered history with motor vehicles caught up with him this week. As punishment for crashing his Range Rover into a branch of Snappy Snaps while stoned, he was handed  down a sentence on Tuesday to eight weeks in Pentonville prison, of which he will spend four in custody and four “on licence” in the community.

Still, those worried as to how Michael will cope in the clink can at least take comfort in the fact that he’s far from the first musician to spend time inside; the list includes Sid Vicious, Chuck Berry, Rick James, Paul McCartney, James Brown, Gil Scott Heron, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards (although it was only a night in 1967), Johnny Cash (although, again, it was only for a night and he was never interred) Pete Doherty, and most recently, Happy Mondays’ Bez.

What’s with rock stars and the clink?

16.09.10: California dreaming

The Mulleavys may have moved on from their days of artful dishevelment but they’ve not abandoned their whimsical and quirky cultural references entirely. Showing at New York Fashion Week Kate and Laura Mulleavy sent their models down the runway in uncomplicated yet accomplished looks including an hourglass dress with cutaway shoulders; a cropped jacket and matching wrap skirt in stamped leather; a wood-grain-print blouse sliced high on the torso to reveal a provocative flash of skin above pleated trousers; or, even more simply, a black lace blouse tucked into a tiered mint skirt.

The highlight though amidst all this sensible attire was a gorgeous blue and white Ming vase evening dress.  May I have one, please?

15.09.10: The Row a no show

The Row, a luxury fashion line helmed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, has been forced to postponed its Spring 2011 show due to a delay in the delivery of its samples, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to a statement from the brand’s publicists, The Row’s Tuesday presentation in New York was cancelled and the line will now be shown during Paris Fashion Week, though no specific information was given as to when. In a separate statement, the Olsen sisters added that in spite of the mishap, they were “excited and looking forward to presenting [their] collection.”

Both Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have been vocal about their passion for design while transitioning from their television success to the more behind-the-scenes role of a designer. Most recently, Mary-Kate told Marie Claire that she prefers her work at The Row to cinematic pursuits. “I still read scripts, and if something great comes along, that’s great…but this is my day job. The Row is where I go every day,” she explained.

14.09.10: Gaga

When Lady Gaga took to the stage to accept an award at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards in hat, dress and boots apparently made of various cuts of raw meat, it was a touch outré, even for the queen of extreme. (You know you’re in trouble when Cher casts a doubtful look at your way.)

The singer’s decision was fiercely criticised by animal rights campaigners. Ingrid Newkirk, the Peta founder, said the outfit – which is thought to have been real meat, although that has not been confirmed – could have a detrimental effect on the artist’s record sales.

“In her line of business, Lady Gaga has a hard time being ‘over the top’, and wearing a dress made from cuts of dead cows is offensive enough to elicit comment, but someone should whisper in her ear that more people are upset by butchery than are impressed by it – and that means a lot of young people will not be buying her records if she keeps it up,” she said.

13.09.10: New Wave champion

Claude Chabrol, one of France’s most eminent film directors and a pioneer of the influential New Wave style that revolutionized French cinema, died on Sunday at the age of 80.

Chabrol, a close friend of legendary New Wave directors Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard who broke with French cinematic tradition, was a prolific film-maker with some 60 movies to his name, including Hell and The Butcher.

News of Chabrol’s death, just a year after he released his last feature film “Bellamy” with actor Gerard Depardieu, was greeted with outpourings of sorrow from France’s cultural and political elite.

“The whole of French cinema and France has lost one of its giants,” said Martine Aubry, leader of the opposition Socialist party. “Claude Chabrol’s cinema was one of the works which constructed our society’s vision of itself.”

12.09.10: Our buddy Tarantino

Venice Film festival jury president Quentin Tarantino faced charges of favoritism today after he handed out two major awards to his friends, including best picture to his ex partner Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere.

Another friend and mentor Monte Hellman landed a special career award, and Spanish entry Balada Triste de Trompeta, which picked up the director and screenplay prizes for Alex de la Iglesia, was widely panned by critics on the Lido waterfront.

Add to that a best actor award for Vincent Gallo in Essential Killing, during which he uttered not a single word, and no prizes for Italian films, and Saturday’s closing ceremony was one of the most unpredictable in years.

09.09.10: Such actions cannot be condoned by any religion

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin have joined the condemnation of a small US church which plans to mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning a pile of Korans.

The Dove World Outreach Centre in Florida says it will burn the Korans as a warning to radical Islam, ignoring appeals by US authorities and condemnation by governments around the world.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said Mr Ban believed the planned book burning contradicted the efforts of UN and could endanger aid workers in Afghanistan.

“The secretary-general is deeply disturbed by reports of a small religious group which plans to burn copies of the Koran,” Mr Haq said.

“Such actions cannot be condoned by any religion. They contradict the efforts of the United Nations and many people around the world to promote tolerance, intercultural understanding and mutual respect between cultures and religions.”

Ms Palin called the proposed burning an “insensitive and an unnecessary provocation” and “antithetical to American ideals”.

08.09.10: Fishy business

A Russian circus has been forced to cancel an act in which a woman swallows a live fish and regurgitates it after Australian officials deemed it cruel.

The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Industry and Investment put a stop to the act by the Great Moscow Circus which is performing in Sydney after receiving complaints from the public.

Officials said the trick was in breach of the Animals Protection Act.

“Circuses operating in NSW must comply with prescribed standards for the welfare of animals,” said a statement from the department.

The decision was welcomed by animal rights campaigners.

“Scientific research shows fish are capable of suffering and are therefore protected under the NSW Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act,” Animals Australia executive director Glenys Oogjes said in a statement.

“Far from educational, this was an inhumane and foolish act which reflected badly on the Moscow Circus.”

Greg Hall, general manager of the Great Moscow Circus, said the ban came as a surprise.

“The act has been only going for four or five weeks and we haven’t had any complaints until today,” Hall told Reuters.

But he said live fish would not longer be used in the act.

07.09.10: Quake shakes Hawkes Bay

Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa have been hit by two earthquakes this morning but there have been no reports of damage.

The quakes measured 5.2 and 3.6 on the Richter scale, and have been widely felt throughout the area.

The 3.6 quake hit 40km south of Hastings at 10.03am and had a focal depth of 40km. It had been reported by 70 people on the GNS website less than an hour-and-a-half after it stuck.

The 3.6 quake was followed by the 5.2 at 10.48am further south in the Wairarapa. It had a focal depth of 15km and was widely felt through-out the Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa and Manawatu areas.

Data centre manager Kevin Fenaughty said central Hawke’s Bay gets an earthquake that size about once a year.

“It would be a drawing a long bow to say that they are connected,” Mr Fenaughty said.

“The two can’t really be compared. The Canterbury quake released 900 times more energy than the one in Hawke’s Bay.”

Mr Fenaughty said scientists knew a lot about the type of earthquakes that occurred in Hawke’s Bay, whereas the Canterbury quake was very new.

04.09.10: I’m still here

Whether a hoax or not, a new documentary about Joaquin Phoenix and his transition from acclaimed, brooding actor to bearded, shambolic hip-hop wannabe has captivated viewers at the Venice film festival.

I’m Still Here was directed by Casey Affleck, a successful actor and Phoenix’s brother-in-law.

The guessing game over whether the picture was genuine documentary or ironic “mockumentary” poking fun at an intolerant and narrow-minded public and press began long before the release of the movie.

It mirrors internet chatter following Phoenix’s now infamous television interview with David Letterman last year, when a confused, mumbling performance also prompted suspicions that it was all an elaborate act.

“I can tell you that there is no hoax,” Affleck told reporters after his directorial debut was screened to reporters in Venice, where it is out of competition.

03.09.10: New Chums

To develop or not to develop. This seems to be the question confronting New Zealanders on the Coromandel Peninsula following Queenstown developer John Darby’s application to build 20 houses near New Chums beach, regularly described as one of the most pristine beaches in the world.

Our readers are certainly concerned about the issue.  Lisa Crandall emailed us over night with this heartfelt response:

“I have been visiting this beach since my childhood and it keeps drawing me back, because it is undeveloped and unspoilt, a pristine gem which truly allows you to escape from all the trappings of society for a day. There are so few undeveloped beaches like this left on the Coromandel. The scenic value of this beach has been recognised by many. On an international level, Lonely Planet ranked it as one of the world’s best beaches, and Britain’s Observer judged it to be in the world’s top 20 deserted beaches. I am devastated by the thought that the beach is in danger of being developed.”

Gill Day was more concise, but no less sincere: “Definitely NO to developing New Chums Beach.”  

Support the campaign.

02.09.10: Happy feet

The tap choreographer-dancer Savion Glover is by all accounts the most famous tap dancer to have emerged from America in decades. He has even been hailed as the greatest tap dancer who has ever lived by some people in the know, and he’s still only in his 30s. Most people outside the US will simply know him as the tap-dancing penguin ‘Mumble’ in George Miller’s 2006 Oscar-winning animated film Happy Feet.

Glover is in Sydney at the moment performing at the Sydney Opera House with his buddies and fellow tappers extraordinaire Marshall Davis Jnr and Cartier Williams. I watched Bare Soundz on Tuesday and after a long day in front of my computer it was a rare joy to be immersed in a room pounding with the beats and fluid riffs that these three men manage to coax from their feet.

I must admit I know very little about the history of tap. It has roots in Africa, England and Ireland by all accounts, but was made famous in the 19th century when folks in the southern states of America merged buck-and-wing dancing with southern clogging and soon created the theatrical feasts we see today.

I think perhaps the different roots are evident in the styles of Marshall Davis Jnr and Cartier Williams, one laconic (in that Southern, Delta kind of way) and the other smooth (in that up-town New York kind of way). They were extraordinary and, forgive me, out-performed the man whose name is in lights. 

The strange thing about Glover is for all his lyrical virtuosity, swinging arms and rapid-fire foot movement I think perhaps his heart belongs to another art form.  His movements pump out heavy thumping sounds. So it came as little surprise to read that at the age of seven he was a drummer in a band that played weddings and parties – including the Broadway Dance Centre, where he trailed tap dancer Lon Chaney into his dressing room. “He’d heard me playing the drums and he said, ‘You ought to translate that to your feet and do dancing’,” Glover told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper in 2008.

For us it’s just as well he followed Lon Chaney’s advise because he performs with two truly terrific tappers, but I wonder if he’s ever really given up on his boyhood hobby.

Find out more about Bare Soundz here.

Corrine Day

British photographer Corinne Day, who spent her career capturing the messy, gritty side of fashion, and made famous a 14-yer-old Kate Moss, has died aged 48 from a brain tumour. Her documentary work was plain, and plaintive. Her fashion shots, even her recent, formally glamorous sequences for Vogue, have a sense that the girls, the gowns, the gorgeous locations are transient, and likely fake anyway.

“In photos,” Day said, “we’re usually laughing and happy and having a good time. We don’t normally see the other side, when we’re not having such a good time.” It was always visible through Day’s lens.


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